Generally speaking, when you’re attending a Pinot Noir masterclass-style tasting hosted by one of a wine region’s most historically significant properties, it’s not considered good form to giggle like an eight year-old girl.
Which, of course, didn’t stop me from doing it.
The trouble was, I just found the irony so damned funny, it was like being back in my Oblate grade school church, the nuns patrolling the church aisles, my buddies and I joking around and trying hard to suppress laughter that would most certainly get us into major trouble. Which just makes it funnier…
Here’s the thing: when you’re tasting through a retrospective of the Pinots representing those produced by our host – The Eyrie Vineyard’s Original Vines Reserve Pinot Noir – in a masterclass session that’s supposed to highlight vintage variation, it’s just freakin’ funny.
Not that there isn’t vintage variation – there is, for sure, vintage variation in Eyrie’s Pinot. It’s just that when the style is (thankfully) one of the entire wine world’s most consistent, the irony of trying to highlight that variation is… well, it’s freakin’ funny.
So, I was giggling. Don’t judge me (I know, it’s probably already too late; fine, whatever).
Anyway, I now probably owe one to second generation vintner Jason Lett (who hosted that masterclass), so let’s talk about how freakin’ interesting these Pinots were, already…
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“We sing the same old song
Just like a vintage car,
You can look, but you won’t ever drive it.
We drink the same old wine
From a brand new jar,
We get hung-over, but we always survive it.”
– “New Song” by The Who
Some tasks are just… unenviable.
Take, for example, trying to say something new about iconic California producer Ridge that’s not already been said. Go ahead, give it a shot; it’s not easy, folks. Some people are adept at taking the same few chords or themes and churning out something that sounds totally new; The Kinks, The Who, John Grisham (okay, maybe not Grisham). I am not one of those people. The Ridge story has been told several times in print, and from a wine perspective equates to something like “these are excellent, potentially long-lived reds, go buy some; the end… why are you still here?”
And so in recapping my visit to Ridge Lytton Springs in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, I find myself entertaining a sense of dread that I’ve not felt since I’ve had to turn in a term paper in undergrad, the kind that you avoid for as long as possible because you know it’s going to be a bitch to write. I can offer at least one take on Ridge that is original, though, since it happened to me personally; so I suppose I’ll start there.
A couple of years ago, when interviewing the equally iconic California stalwart Kermit Lynch at his Berkley area shop, I noticed a shelf of old empty bottles on a wall in his office. I pointed out to him that only one of those bottles was from an American producer: Ridge. “Yeah!” he exclaimed, “and check this out!” taking the bottle from its display and showing me the back label, pointing to the small text that proclaimed its sub-14% alcohol by volume. I then tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to convince him that Ridge was still making elegant, long-lived, balanced wines that despite an uptick in abv, and that I’d had several aged examples over the years to prove it.
Interestingly, my host at Ridge’s DCV winery was winemaker John Olney (onboard at Lytton Springs since the 2003 vintage), who once worked for Lynch… see, I knew if I tried hard enough there’d be something new there…
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Some of you asked for it, so here it is: our panel on how the pros taste wine from the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. Or most of our panel, anyway; as much of it as could be recorded before my video camera lost its juice.
More thoughts on the wines that we tasted during that panel, as well as on WBC14 itself, later this week. In the meantime, you now have about 50 minutes of vid to peruse if you’re curious as to how Steve Heimoff, Patrick Comiskey, and I suck the joy out of wine by tasting it critically!
1WineDude.com TV Episode 61: How The Pros Taste From WBC14