One of the things I enjoy most about the Wine Experience is the chance to meet readers, old and new, and talk about what I’m (or we’re) doing right or wrong, or how we might improve.
In the span of nearly four days, I ran into dozens of readers, producers, restaurateurs and retailers at the walk-around tastings, dinners, restaurants, lunches and seminars—even in the coffee line at the Starbucks kiosk at the Marriott.
One topic that came up on several occasions was my critique and analysis of the 2003 Cabernets, since that appeared in the Nov. 15 issue, which many people had just received and just read.
Although I’ve consistently called 2003 a mixed and challenging vintage for Napa Cabernet for years, and even written several pieces on this subject, some people were surprised by my reviews.
Well, I have to say I was surprised by some of their comments and conclusions.
For instance, a couple of people said, effectively, “Boy, you really trashed the ’03 vintage.”
Really? I gave the vintage an 85 rating, which puts it at the low end of very good. I did say it’s a weaker year than either 2001 or 2002, and I compared 2003 to the 2000 vintage, which, in general, yielded lean, less ripe wines.
Other common comments related to specific ratings for specific wines. Some readers concluded that when I gave a high-profile wine an 83 that I hated it. An 83-point rating means I thought a wine was good, not horrible. You have to use, and respect, our scale to get an accurate picture of where a given wine falls in our rankings.
I'm sorry other critics rarely go below 85 points and don't tell you about wines they don't like, or wouldn't recommend. That makes those of us who use a fuller range of the rating scale look like we're the only ones who don't like certain wines. Truth is, other critics apparently don't want to weigh in on these wines, and that's their choice.
Yet another observation came after the two nights of Grand Tastings and seminars at which 2003 Cabernets were tasted. Previously, many people hadn’t tried the wines I’d reviewed in the issue, and once they had the opportunity at our events, most said they agreed with my reviews. And those who attended my Cabernet seminar also learned that there were some out-of-this-world 2003s.
I find it impossible to debate with people who haven’t tried a wine, but want to rely on a winery’s reputation or assign a motive on my behalf. Any talk about me losing enthusiasm for Napa Cabernet, or trying to correct the market by giving “low” scores to big-name producers (as if an 88 or 89 is dumping on a wine), is simply wrong.
My goal is to provide you with my most accurate impression of a given wine. I taste virtually every wine twice, blind, and have one of my colleagues taste it blind as well. If I think it’s an off-bottle, I retry it. If an off-wine comes from a good producer, I retry it. Sadly, the issues of bad corks, bottle variation (including storage) and undesirable microbial activity in wines make it harder for all of us to know if we are tasting exactly the same wine.
If you have new comments or questions about the Cabernet issue, I’ll take my best stab at answering them.
John Wilen — Texas — October 24, 2006 6:43pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 24, 2006 6:45pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 24, 2006 6:54pm ET
Mark Mccullough — GA — October 25, 2006 12:42am ET
Colin Haggerty — La Jolla, California — October 25, 2006 9:46am ET
Matt Devan — Fairhope, Alabama — October 25, 2006 11:00am ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 25, 2006 11:32am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 25, 2006 12:06pm ET
Jonathon Wagner — San Francisco, CA — October 25, 2006 12:13pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 25, 2006 12:35pm ET
George Pallas — Arcadia, Ca — October 25, 2006 12:57pm ET
Mark Mccullough — GA — October 25, 2006 2:03pm ET
Mike Vessa — East Williston,NY — October 25, 2006 2:25pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 25, 2006 2:35pm ET
Michael Russak — October 25, 2006 2:53pm ET
Jason Kadushin — Seattle, WA — October 25, 2006 4:01pm ET
Jason Kadushin — Seattle, WA — October 25, 2006 4:04pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 25, 2006 6:15pm ET
Richard Wilson — Texas — October 25, 2006 6:29pm ET
Robert Fukushima — California — October 25, 2006 7:38pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 25, 2006 7:51pm ET
Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA — October 25, 2006 8:14pm ET
Thomas Altmayer — October 26, 2006 1:11am ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 26, 2006 8:05am ET
James Zalenka — Pittsburgh PA — October 26, 2006 8:48am ET
Jason Kadushin — Seattle, WA — October 26, 2006 2:36pm ET
Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA — October 26, 2006 4:45pm ET
Jason Kadushin — Seattle, WA — October 26, 2006 7:39pm ET
John Lindsay — San Diego, Claifornia — October 26, 2006 7:56pm ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — October 27, 2006 6:20am ET
Michael Russak — October 27, 2006 11:50am ET
Matthew Letson — Wilmington, NC — October 27, 2006 6:19pm ET
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