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Final thoughts on WOPN 2014

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World of Pinot Noir was a very great success despite 3 days of continuous rain (I hope all those poor people living in the foothills of the San Gabes are okay). The Bacara Resort turned out to be a lovely new venue; their staff was awesome. Personally, I want to thank the Uber people for taking such good care getting me back and forth. I stayed at Fess Parker’s Doubletree, a 25 minute drive from Bacara, and it would have been very difficult for me (and for Gus) without my wonderful driver, Ariane. Thank you, and thanks also to Andy.

WOPN has been such a great success that I wonder why more wineries from beyond California don’t participate. I think if Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand and other Pinot-producing countries knew more about this event (and the upscale crowd it attracts), they’d come. As for tasting, I spent most of my time concentrating on the New Zealand and Oregon wineries that did attend. Partly, that was because I don’t taste much non-California wine. I also felt sorry for the non-California wineries, many of whom were stuck in a side room that frankly didn’t attract much of a crowd. People were lining up at the likes of Kosta Brown, which seems rather lemming-like to me. I mean, hey, okay, if you’ve never tried KB, fine, but why not go outside your critical comfort zone and discover something else? Isn’t that what wine is all about: discovery, surprise, evolution? It’s boringly easy to taste something that critic X or Y gave a million points to and then go home and yada yada about it. Well, if that’s the outermost limit you can soar to, my sympathies.

It was great to see Bob Cabral pouring at Williams Selyem. As most of you probably know, Bob gave them his notice, and will be moving on to unknown adventures, although he’ll oversee their 2014 vintage. The two of us had a good long talk–we go back a ways and Bob’s always been one of my favorite people, both for his superb attitude as a human being, friendliness and warmth, and because Williams Selyem’s wines rock.

Just a brief word on the Burgundy seminar. I had some favorites: Domaine Collotte 2012 Marsannay Rose. What a great wine for $18 retail. I wrote “I wish there were more California rosés like this, especially Pinot Noirs, which tend to be too heavy.” I loved the Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret 2010 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Les Narbantons,” not a Premier Cru but a gorgeous wine, rich and spicy and ready to drink now, at only $30. But my top wine was  Domaine Jean et Gilles Lafouge 2010 Auxey-Duresses “La Chappelle” ($36). I just couldn’t get enough of it: dry, acidic and spicy, with firm tannins and oh, so complete and wholesome. To me, it beat out the Grand Cru on the table, Domaine D’Ardhuy 2005 Corton Clos du Roi, which I called “very hard, undrinkable, all about tannins and acidity, showing no generosity, austere.” I have no idea if it will age, and neither, apparently, did Don Kinnon, who once again moderated this outstanding panel. He seemed almost apologetic about it. Of course, if you know this is a Grand Cru, and from a celebrated vintage, you’re going to hedge your bets and give it a great score, probably with a line like “Nowhere near ready, best after 2030.” If you don’t know what it is, you’ll just go “Uggh” and turn to something else, like the Auxey-Duresses, at one-third the price. This just shows that tasting occurs, not merely in the mouth, but in the mind.

  1. any oregon favorites?

  2. Tony Soter’s new reserve is killer.

  3. i’ll have to swing by Soter for a tasting. Glad to hear that you are coming around on 2011; in my humble opinion, that was the most delicate and beautiful vintage of pinot noir I’ve ever experienced

  4. Chuck Hayward says:

    Just an FYI–The “les Narbantons” cru is a premier cru vineyard in Savigny-les-Beaune and considered to be one of the best sites in the appellation.

  5. Don Kinnan says:

    Steve, Thank you for your observations, I agree that the Lafouge Auxey-Duresses La Chapelle was a favorite of mine, too. I am sorry if I seemed “apologetic” regarding the showing of the 2005 Domaine d’Ardhuy Corton Clos Du Roi. I really thought it represented that vintage and Grand Cru very well at this stage of its development. I felt that although it was cloaked in layers of tannin, that it would mature into a remarkable wine. I was impressed with its richness and power. It does come from one of the most prized climats on the Corton hill. A better drinking window is 2017-2030 for that wine. I believe it will reward the patient owner.

    Don

  6. Bob Henry says:

    Underscores “why” wines should be reviewed and rated single-blind:

    “. . . the Grand Cru on the table, Domaine D’Ardhuy 2005 Corton Clos du Roi, which I called ‘very hard, undrinkable, all about tannins and acidity, showing no generosity, austere.’ . . . Of course, if you know this is a Grand Cru, and from a celebrated vintage, you’re going to hedge your bets and give it a great score, probably with a line like ‘Nowhere near ready, best after 2030.’ If you don’t know what it is, you’ll just go ‘Uggh’ and turn to something else, like the Auxey-Duresses, at one-third the price. This just shows that tasting occurs, not merely in the mouth, but in the mind.”

    We won’t have had the Judgment of Paris upheaval without it.

    Bibliography:

    http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2009/12/15/blind-tasting-at-wine-spectator-again-an-issue/

    http://buyingguide.winemag.com/

    [See “How We Taste” and “How We Rate” sections.]

    http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/48354

    http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/48125

    http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/48149

    http://images.winespectator.com/wso/pdf/WShowwetasteLTR.pdf

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drink/2007/11/in_blindness_veritas.single.html

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/frontal-cortex/2012/06/wine-taste.html

    (Aside: at my winetasting luncheons, the participants knew the desired tasting line-up in advance — that’s what motivated them to attend and contribute “barter bottles.” [One exception: the “ringers” thrown in.] But no participant knew the pour order of the wines. One person brown paper bagged the bottles to look as “anonymous” as possible. And a second individual “randomly” assigned a pour order number to the bottles. “Top 3″ preference votes were recorded after each flight, and once again at the end of the tasting. Only then were the bottles unveiled.

    That level playing field debunked the myth of so many “cult” wines.

    And elevated the reputation of many no-name-recognition “sleeper” wineries, whose retail selling price was less than the California state sales tax on a “cult” wine.

    Partial list of comparative “theme” tastings: http://www.kirktech.com/bob_henry/ )

  7. Good report, thank you Mr. Heimoff.

    I decided to no longer attend the now remote event after the lack of “World” representation last year. It seems that the global participation is lacking more and more each year and was practically non existent last year outside of Don’s seminar (Don, btw, is an incredible teacher and one of the greatest blessing to the event).

    The folks lining up for new world stars like Kosta Browne are some of the people many of us wish could be enriched by the powers of beautiful burgundies…but, alas, WOPN is a business, and perhaps the event’s changes and regional focus reflect such necessity regardless of the name or past venues.

  8. Bob Henry says:

    Steve, et. al.:

    Just returned from the Sonoma in the City trade tasting in Beverly Hills, and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein’s moderated presentation on Sonoma AVAs.

    Whenever proffering judgments on wines, one is operating in the realm of personal opinion.

    Your “take,” had you likewise been at the same event, might lead to different affinities.

    These 2011 vintage Sonoma Pinot Noirs showed well — better than one would have guessed/feared, based on the troubling wine media reports of mold and mildew:

    “Far Sonoma Coast” flight “A”:

    Peter Michael “Ma Danseuse” Estate
    Red Car Zephyr Farms Vineyard

    “Classic Russian River Valley” flight “B”:

    Benovia Winery La Pommeraie
    Davis Family Vineyards Starr Ridge Vineyard
    Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery Bacigalupi Vineyard
    Paul Hobbs Winery Katherine Lindsay Estate
    Sojourn Cellars Wohler Vineyard
    Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard
    Williams Selyem Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard

    “Representing the Range” flight “C”:

    Keller Estate La Cruz Vineyard
    Iron Horse Vineyard Winery Block

    In my humble opinion . . .

    The Iron Horse was the most subtle (a hallmark of “still” Pinot Noir coming from a sparkling wine house, where over-ripeness and the extraction of skin tannins is actively avoided).

    The Joseph Swan was the most elegant. (The hallmark of a “heritage” old vines — 1967 planting — clone?)

    The Paul Hobbs was the most seductive, given its oh-so-supple mouthfeel.

    Bob Cabral was in attendance at the event. During the Q & A, I cited your news report [above] of his leaving Williams Selyem, and asked him what his future plans were.

    He said (and I surmise it was tongue-in-cheek) that he was off to Albania to participate in a winery venture. But foresaw his continuing contributions to Williams Selyem for the next year or so.

    He did not volunteer who his protégé/heir apparent is.

    So the “take-away”? For those Pinot producers closest to the coast where mold/mildew was less an issue, the 2011 vintage presented challenges — but none insurmountable.

    Growing grapes further inland presented a greater problem.

    Steve. how does this list stack up with your tasting experience at WOPN 2014?

    ~~ Bob

  9. Hi Steve, We’ve been showing our NZ Pinot Noirs at WOPN for the last 8 years. Sometimes our table is segregated like this year (International Room!) sometimes the tables have been arranged alphabetically. Thanks for making the comment about NZ, Spain and France being separated. We think that more international Pinot Producers would attend if we were treated with the same emphasis as California – making it more of a “World” event. But all in all we find it worthwhile because when the folks that find us are tired of California Pinot Noir, they are very refreshed by the New Zealand Pinots!

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