After our post-Wine Experience discussion of optimal berry size during a cab ride (discussed in my last blog post), my fellow Pinot producer Adam Lee was primed for more discussions once we arrived at the Bubble Lounge and met wine directors David Mokha and Kevin Vogt.
As the evening played out (while sipping 1997 Laurent-Perrier Rosé Alexandria and 1995 Taittinger Rosé Comtes de Champagne), we got around to a favorite topic: single-vineyard wines. At Siduri, they taste through the individual barrels from each vineyard and then determine which ones will make up the single-vineyard wine. The rest are put into an AVA blend.
At Loring, Kimberly and I just blend all of the barrels from a vineyard together. Adam questioned that method, since he thinks we could make a better wine if we used only the "best barrels"--those that blend together in some special way. I countered that we feel we could make a different wine, but not necessarily better. That I think it's too invasive to impose our "vision" of what the vineyard's profile should be.
This has been a topic of discussion with Uncle Sid before. Adam firmly believes that by deleting some barrels from the blend, he can make a better single-vineyard wine. I’ve heard Adam say the barrels they cull aren’t necessarily worse than the others, but that they don’t represent the vineyard if placed in the final blend. I’ve never really understood that concept. How can they not reflect the vineyard? They might not reflect Adam’s view of the vineyard, but to say they aren’t representative doesn’t make sense to me.
I guess I could understand if the barrels were flawed. We’ve dumped barrels that were flawed, with volatile acidity, for example. And I literally mean dumped--they went down the drain. Maybe I could see deleting a barrel if they’d tried some new cooper, or maybe some new yeast that didn’t work out.
There are a lot of variables that go into making single-vineyard wines. One vineyard may be shared by many different wineries, all of which get different sections. More often than not, we get a different mix of Pinot clones. For each vineyard from which we source grapes, we process the wine differently and use different barrels. And while I understand and appreciate that, we still can’t bring ourselves to do a barrel selection in the winery.
I guess we feel we have to take the random chance that the fruit we get, and the process we use, create a representative snapshot of the vineyard. If we were to further define the wine by our personal viewpoint of what the vineyard should be like, I think we would remove some of the magic, the mystery, the fun of single-vineyard wines.
This isn’t meant to disparage Adam and Dianna in any way. I love the wines they make, especially the single-vineyard wines. I respect them beyond my ability to describe. But I disagree on culling barrels when it comes to making Loring single-vineyard wines.
I can’t say what they do is wrong. In fact, Kevin seemed to vote for Adam’s approach. Furthermore, I can’t say what we do is right. It’s hard to explain how such different paths lead to wines I enjoy equally--just another one of the mysteries of wine.