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Marcassin's 2008 Pinot Noir Goes Up in Smoke

Owner John Wetlaufer has announced that Marcassin will not release its 2008 Pinot Noir due to smoke taint
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 23, 2013 5:40pm ET

The summer 2008 wildfires in Sonoma County have claimed another victim: Marcassin Pinot Noir.

The winery has decided not to release its 2008 vintage, it announced in its latest newsletter. "We are passing on the 2008 Pinot Noirs," wrote John Wetlaufer, who owns the Sonoma winery with his wife, winemaker Helen Turley.

Wildfires burned along the North Coast for most of the summer in 2008 and many wineries, most from Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley in Mendocino, were victims of the heavy smoke.

Some wineries have sold their 2008s; many declassified them. Others tried filtration. Most winemakers took the wait-and-see approach, tasting their wines in bottle in hopes the smoke taint might dissipate. I've met a few people who liked the smokiness.

The loss of an entire vintage is a financial hit for small wineries. Marcassin's Pinot sells for $125 and it typically makes several hundred cases.

Wetlaufer said the winery's 2008s were marred by "atypical and exogenous smokiness attributable to the early summer brush and forest fires centered in the Anderson Valley," north of Sonoma.


Jeff Ames
Napa, Ca —  May 24, 2013 2:09pm ET
Not surprised that they would do that. They have always done whatever it took to maintain quality. Its why their wines are so routinely excellent.
Rob Shanahan
Carlsbad, CA —  May 25, 2013 1:15am ET
It's not like wineries don't have enough business risks, without having to worry about wildfires ruining an entire vintage. I often fantasize about having my own winery, but I can't imagine a tougher business.

So what will happen to that wine? Will it be sold under a second label, sold off to another winery, or maybe just poured down the drain?
Mitch Goldstein
Atlanta GA —  May 29, 2013 5:53pm ET
That's a real shame. Will they be able to file an insurance claim?

On another note James, any idea if/when Kosta Browne will be sending over the 2011 Pinot Noirs for tasting?
James Laube
Napa —  May 29, 2013 6:26pm ET
I'll ask. Seeing them Friday. All KBs reviewed, published very soon. Fine vintage, a shade lighter that what we've come to expect. Very complete, exciting wines.
Troy Thomas
Newport Coast, California —  May 31, 2013 6:33pm ET
James, any reason why their 2008 chardonnay avoided the problem?

I hope they don't pour it down the drain. I tried many 2008 pinot's from the area that taste great. Nothing wrong with the 2008 KB's.
James Laube
Napa —  June 3, 2013 2:45pm ET
Troy, Chardonnays avoided the taint because they, unlike Pinot, are not fermented on their skins for days or weeks. Usually just pressed.

Vintners can buy insurance against a crop loss (frost, etc.), but apparently not for smoke damage.

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