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Robin Garr

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WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Robin Garr » Fri May 12, 2006 12:09 pm

Remember <i>Sideways</i>?

Alexander Payne's wacky romantic comedy about wine is yesterday's news now - you can own the DVD for only about 10 bucks - but the publicity lift that it gave Pinot Noir just keeps on keeping on.

Last month, based on its annual Restaurant Wine Poll, <i>Wine & Spirits</i> magazine declared that the great grape variety of Burgundy has "officially entered the big leagues," jumping from 10 to 14 percent of wine-list favorites at 300 top U.S. eateries.

For the last five years, said <I>Wine Business Insider</i>, commenting on the <i>Wine & Spirits</i> report, "Pinot Noir has been tracking upward, hand-sold by sommeliers. This year, the 40 percent increase in Pinot Noir's share is largely attributable to the continuing influence of the 2004 movie <i>Sideways</i>."

As the national palate becomes more sophisticated, the magazine's Editor Joshua Greene opined, "... most end up at Pinot Noir. The current popularity of the variety shows a significant maturation in Americans' taste in wine."

You <i>think</i>? Call me a cynic, but I'd say the <I>Sideways</I>-generated Pinot boom has more to do with the impact of movies on popular culture than any kind of seismic shift in the national maturity level; if the effect was borne on sophistication, then fine Burgundies wouldn't still have to be hand-sold.

Other highlights from the report, which is available on the Wine & Spirits Website only to paying subscribers:

• Merlot, roundly dissed in <i>Sideways</i>, declined to 6.5 percent of the most popular restaurant varieties, its lowest rank since 1991.

• The Chardonnay boom appears over, too, as it dropped to 16.2 percent, down from 24.8 percent in 2001.

• These 10 restaurant wine brands ranked most popular in the poll, a market-driven listing that varies markedly from retail-shop favorites:

1. Cakebread Cellars
2. Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
3. Kendall-Jackson Vineyards
4. Silver Oak Wine Cellars
5. Jordan Vineyard & Winery
6. Duckhorn Vineyards
7. Stag's Leap
8. Caymus
9. Santa Margherita
10. Rombauer Vineyards

Speaking of Pinot, today's featured wine is a decent item from Oregon that gives a sample of the grape's potential at a midrange price.

<table border="0" align="right" width="160"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/henr0330.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Henry Estate 2003 "Umpqua Cuvee" Oregon Pinot Noir ($15)

This is a clear ruby-color wine, on the light side as is typical of all but the most extracted Pinot. Also typical of Pinot are the rather delicate aromas; red cherries and spice are pleasant but subtle, far from fruit-forward. It's a bit more assertive on the flavor side, crisp and bright, tart cherries and zippy acidity. (March 20, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> It would work fine with steaks or chicken from the grill, but Pinot's also a masterful match with mushrooms, and it went beautifully with a quick, meatless batch of white mushrooms and porcini over conchiglie (baby shells) pasta.

<B>VALUE:</B> It's actually a fair value at the mid-teens price I paid at the decidedly non-discount Whole Foods Wine Shop, but Wine-Searcher.com suggests a street price closer to $10. (The winery Website shows it at $39 plus $9 shipping, which seems almost certain to be a mistake. It would certainly be a mistake to buy it at that price.)

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Ready to drink and showing very well. Pinot is unpredictable in the cellar, and this lighter style isn't really designed for aging, but there's no hurry to drink it up.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The Henry Estate Website is loaded with information about the winery and its wines, including online sales, a wine club and international distributor information. Comparison-shop with care before you buy, though, as the winery's online prices appear shockingly high.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Compare prices and find online vendors for Henry Estate Umpqua Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher.com
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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Jenise » Fri May 12, 2006 1:15 pm

Robin-- bad fact check. The website price is correct--it's just that $39 buys you three bottles, not one. I know because I ordered some of the higher-end barrel select just a few weeks ago. Henry Estates is one of my favorite Oregon wineries, rather unique flavors from the Umpqua Valley and more traditionally styled than most. And they age nicely in good years. This was actually our first big love among domestic pinots--the 88 vintage. My how time has flown.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by John Tomasso » Fri May 12, 2006 1:20 pm

Robin Garr wrote:but the publicity lift ........ just keeps on keeping on.


You're not kidding. A self storage place that is being built on the very site where our two heroes attempted to crash their car advertises on their coming soon sign - AIR CONDITIONED - INDIVIDUAL ALARMS - HOME OF THE SIDEWAYS TREE
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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Hoke » Fri May 12, 2006 1:49 pm

I would caution against using Wine & Spirits---and especially the W&S Annual Restaurant Poll as the definitive voice, or even the loudest voice, when you're determining what the wine trends are.

First, even though it is a powerful and valued indicator, and does exert tremendous influence in the restaurant fine-dining segment, it is still based on a very, very small survey base of accounts. It's only one indicator, and a fairly narrow one at that.

Second, some of the indicators that are coming from other sources, such as sales figures in different channels, indicate we shouldn't be writing off Merlot so quickly. Yes, the sales may have dropped---but not that much overall, and perhaps are no more than a blip. There are lots of signals coming from trade journals and analytical entities that are indicating Merlot is still going strong.

Chardonnay, yes, Chardonnay has slipped---but that had nothing at all to do with Sideways. It has to do, I firmly believe, in the change of cuisine this nation has been undergoing for the last several years, along with the public's desire to get away from heavy, oppressive, overstated, overmanipulated whites because they (the trend developers) are getting tired of them. They simply aren't very capable of matching with a wide variety of foods, and they tend to dominate rather than harmonize with the foods that are now on our plates.

I also never try to underestimate the bland and simple tastes of the majority of drinkers. How else to explain Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio and its taking a bite---a huge bite---out of the Chardonnay share?

Pinot Noir? No one was more happy than I that a movie phenom gave some props to Pinot. We geeks have labored long and hard to do that, with little apparent effect. Whether it will stick or not, I honestly do not know. I suspect it won't, in a big way, but it will improve the overall aspect for a wider range of Pinot. And that is a very good thing.
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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Robin Garr » Fri May 12, 2006 4:51 pm

Hoke wrote:I would caution against using Wine & Spirits---and especially the W&S Annual Restaurant Poll as the definitive voice, or even the loudest voice, when you're determining what the wine trends are.


Hoke, I guess my "Ya think?" comment was too subtle. ;-)

I've never considered Wine & Spirits a leading source of information. Still, the survey made a useful hook to hang my hat on ...
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Robin Garr » Fri May 12, 2006 4:52 pm

Jenise wrote:Robin-- bad fact check. The website price is correct--it's just that $39 buys you three bottles, not one.


Thanks, Jenise ... several readers have pointed that out. I can only say that the Website sure confused me!
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Re: WTN / Wine Advisor: Remember Sideways? (Henry 2003 Umpqua Cuvee Pinot)

by Jenise » Fri May 12, 2006 4:53 pm

I can only say that the Website sure confused me!


Yeah, I did a double-take, too.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov

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