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Friday Fishwrap



Dr. Loosen, the famous Mosel vintner, is right to be concerned “that someone will get a flawed bottle of our wine without already knowing how the wine should taste.”

If the customer doesn’t know what TCA is, or can’t tell that a wine is oxidized, it spells commercial disaster. That customer might conclude that the winery sucks, or that particular variety or region, and never buy it again. The solution in most cases to these threats is the screwtop, but I think we may have reached a tipping point in their use. That closure has gotten as far as it’s likely to for quite a number of years.

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I’ve been tasting a lot of red wines, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and blends of the two, from the newish Coombsville appellation, in southeastern Napa Valley. This would be one of Napa’s coolest appellations anyway, due to its proximity to San Pablo Bay; but the fact that the current vintages are mostly 2010s and 2011–two chilly years–makes the wines even more cool-climate than usual. And they are noteworthy, wines for people who don’t like the bigger, fatter, more opulent style found from Oakville to Calistoga.

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More and more evidence continues to mount that that Morgan Stanley report of a “global wine shortage”  was bogus. Here’s the latest: We’ll never know what really prompted Morgan Stanley to put out that panicky prediction. But speaking personally, I no longer believe anything that any investment bank says. I think they have only their own pecuniary interests in mind, and don’t care about their impact on the greater society. It’s funny, this is one area where the Tea Party and Liberals can agree. By the way, two days ago we learned that U.S. wine sales have hit an all-time high. But keep in mind that California, which provides about 90% of all the wines consumed in the U.S., is coming off two gigantic harvests (2012-2013). I think our state’s wineries will be able to keep the public’s appetite satisfied.

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Speaking of Coombsville, I reviewed an amazing Cabernet yesterday, Marita’s Vineyard 2007 Select Private Reserve. I’d previously given exceptionally high scores to their wines, so there’s something going on there. I didn’t know anything about the winery, so I looked them up: What a great story. It’s a project of the Montes family, run by two brothers, Bulmaro and Manuel, Jr., along with winemaker Kurt Niznik. This is a winery to watch.

Have a great weekend!

  1. Steve,

    Could not agree more on the Dr. Loosen comment. I still believe that most wine consumers, even knowledgeable ones, can’t detect TCA most of the time. I think this also truly skews statistics about the actual percentages of ‘corked’ wines out there . . .

    Tipping point, eh? Until consumers refuse to accept faulty wines as ‘part of the process’, you are probably right.


  2. Steve,

    Earlier this week, upwards of 50 Cabernet producers assembled in Beverly Hills to sample the trade on their wines.

    One winery — Ackerman Family Vineyards — was from the Coombsville appellation.


    Ackerman poured their 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008 Cabs.

    The 2003 favorably reminded me of mid-1980s Beaulieu Vineyard “George de Latour Private Reserves” Cabs. It was ripe “enough” (but not overly ripe), had crisp overall acidity, and a slight to moderate tannic grip. I didn’t inspect the bottle for the listed alcohol level, but I would project around 13.5%.

    Those of your readers seeking a return to less ripe, less “extracted,” less alcoholic Napa Valley Cabs should investigate this wine.


    “Full disclosure”: I have no monetary investment in, or marketing relationship with the winery.

    ~~ Bob

  3. Larry and Steve,

    Repurposing a comment I left at W. Blake Gray’s blog, and his posting titled “Individual tastes differ: About 10% of drinkers prefer corked wines.”


    According to the Anosmia Foundation, some 2 to 3 million Americans [circa 10+ years ago] were thought to suffer from this affliction.


    If a consumer is unfamiliar with the smell of cork taint, then s/he would have no “internalized” reference standard to identify that defect.

    Similarly, if a consumer has no vocabulary for describing cork taint, then s/he would have no words to articulate the experience.

    The smell would be perceived as intrinsic to the varietal grape or the style of the wine.

    First aside: In certain professional wine circles, it is believed that Mourvèdre has an intrinsic smell akin to brettanomyces — separate from any consideration if a particular Mourvèdre-based wine is actually contaminated by that spoilage yeast.


    Consider some of the words used by the wine press to describe TCA: moldy, mildewy, wet concrete, wet cardboard.

    These are smells and words outside of the normal vocabulary of most wine consumers.

    Second aside: Consider the words used to describe brett in a wine: band-aids, barnyard, horse stable, antiseptic, bacon, spice, cloves, smoky, sweaty saddle, cheese, rancidity.


    How many of these words are found in the lexicon of most wine consumers?

    A consumer walks away from an unsatisfying drinking experience questioning her-/himself, rather than the bottle.

    (Aside: A related topic worthy of wide discussion on the blog-o-sphere: a consumer’s right to take a “defective” bottle of wine back to the wine merchant who sold it for a store credit or refund. [The merchant gets a credit from the local distributor.]

    W-a-y too many consumers wrongly “assume” such purchases are “caveat emptor.” That makes them even more risk-averse to trying different wines, diminishing their potential wine consumption.

    The industry needs all the habitual drinkers it can get . . .)

    ~~ Bob

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