Blog commenter Chris Buddress asked if I share my thoughts, notes and scores with the winemaker in a situation similar to my visit last week with Jayson Woodbridge of Hundred Acre, and if so, how did he respond? (He also asked about my yet-to-be-released hot list that he should keep his eyes open for.)
And commenter Brian Peters, who is making commercial wine at a custom-crush facility, asked me if I would taste his wine and give him my opinion about its quality.
I keep tastings with winemakers in what I consider a professional context. I never give winemakers scores, specific notes, or detailed opinions about wines I might be writing about. Since any reviews must come out of a blind tasting in my office, telling a winemaker a score is inappropriate, since it won’t be part of an official record. I do discuss the wines and typically enjoy hearing the winemaker’s views; we talk about vintages, winemaking methods and a wide range of related topics. It’s a situation of give and take, of learning for both them and me.
When tasting with a winemaker such as Woodbridge, we tasted blind and then discussed the individual wines, while still bagged, and which attributes each had (or lacked). I singled out two wines that I thought were either off (as in corked) or flawed (one wine being a bretty mess).
There are some instances when I get into more detailed discussions about wines with winemakers. One example is if a winery is pouring a vertical at an event such as the Wine Experience. I often taste the wines and help choose, or suggest, which wines might be of the most interest for the tasting (such as a great wine from a great vintage, or a great wine from an off or lesser year).
As for Brian’s request, a situation like that puts me too close to the role of a consultant, and if I did it for him I should do it for anyone else. If, on the other hand, I were writing a story about a custom-crush facility, I might taste someone’s wine (to assess quality) and say it was terrific (as in, "Brian made deep, savory Syrah in his first crush"), or terribly made ("This wine had a high level of VA"), without necessarily revealing who made it.
A few years ago, a home-winemaker stopped me in the middle of a run to ask me if I’d taste his wine. In order to be polite I said sure, and he brought a bottle by the office, which turned out to be pretty good. Why taste it? Just curiosity about the state of home winemaking, of which there is a lot of where I live in Napa.
But then, to my surprise, the winemaker invited all his winemaking buddies to send me their wines for “informal reviews,” and that tipped the boat. So unless I’m at a social event where homemade wines are served, I don’t taste them, good as they might be.
Roy Piper — March 17, 2008 9:46pm ET
Chris Buddress — March 18, 2008 3:55pm ET
Arshavir Kouladjian — Los Angeles, California — March 18, 2008 5:04pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — March 18, 2008 6:36pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 18, 2008 7:26pm ET
Dave Reuther — Deerfield, Illinois — March 19, 2008 11:57am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — March 19, 2008 12:20pm ET
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