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WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by TomHill » Wed May 31, 2006 12:33 pm

The new WS arrived yesterday and it was a bit more vapid than usual, took me all of
20 min to read. But, as usual, Matt Kramer's column, about their only writer that has
anything to say, had a few gems worth commenting on.
His column was in response to a letter from Adam Lee defending the quality of his
Novy SantaLuciaHighlands Syrah, a wine that I find extremely attractive. Kramer panned
the wine because it lacked "characteristic" black or white pepper of Syrah. Adam defended
the wine because it displayed the "terroir" of SLH Syrah.
Kramer likened the wine to a dog (well...not literally). If it's a cocker spaniel,
then it damned well better look like a cocker spaniel. And, if it looks what the
American Kennel Society defines as a superior or great cocker spaniel should look like,
than, by damnies, it IS a GREAT cocker spaniel. There you have it, folks. If your
cocker spaniel is just a wee bit ugly, or walks with a gimpy gait...you better send it
off to the dog pound and get one that is worthy of 96 pts...no matter how much you love
that pup!!
Facetiousness aside, his point boils down to what he claims are "standards". And if a
wine aspires to "greatness", it must meet his standards. If the wine is labeled
SantaLuciaHighlands Syrah; he claims that the Syrah character MUST have primacy. Adam
claims that if SantaLuciaHighland terroir has primacy, then that does NOT automatically
preclude it from greatness.
I think Kramer lives in a boxed-in world of his own choosing. Which I find kinda sad.
If you're a stunningly handsome stud-muffin like Kramer, than you have the option
of allowing into your world only stunningly beautiful Paris Hilton look-alikes. But there
are some slightly frumpy brunettes, some somewhat insouciant redheads, out there in whose
company I'd far prefer to be than Paris Hilton's.
So....you have an ElDorado Syrah. If it has that typical earthy/mushroomy character
of ElDorado reds, but lacks the pepper character of Syrah; it's only worthy of an 89.
But suppose it is merely labeled as ElDorado Red; THEN it may be worthy of a 92? How, I
ask, can the score of a wine differ merely because of the words on a label??? Seems a
bit bizarre to me.
To Kramer, any wine labeled Syrah MUST show the white or black cracked pepper that
only GREAT Syrah can have. I, too, like that character in Syrah when I come across it in
a wine. But the absence of it, to me, does not preclude that Syrah from aspiring to
greatness. There's a lot of Syrahs out there that have loads of blackberry character,
or very spicy DryCreekVlly character, or gamey/meaty character, or smokey/roasted
character, that I would truly label as "great".
So..... Kramer worships at the altar of varietal typicity. To him, it's all about
"standards", and his "great" Syrah MUST show pepper. I think such a narrow/confined/
shallow view of the Syrah world is preventing him from appreciating some mighty fine
Syrahs. What happens when he is presented with a Friuli Picolit Neri??? What "standards"
is he going to use then in deciding if it's an 82 or a 93?? What if Syrah had originated
in the WallaWallaVlly...what would his "standards" for Syrah be then??? Maybe if the
law required all red wine be labeled simply "RedWine", then what would his "standards"
be??? For me, I'm all for MORE diversity in the wine world. If that SantaRitaHills
Pinot tastes like Syrah; that's not going to prevent me from liking that wine.
TomHill (stirring the pot a bit on a Wed morning)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Wed May 31, 2006 1:23 pm

Cool rant, Tom! You go, guy.

One thing though:

How, I
ask, can the score of a wine differ merely because of the words on a label??? Seems a
bit bizarre to me.


Heck, that happens all the time. Tell me the words "Domaine Romanee-Conti" or Chateau Latour Pauillac" or "La Montrachet" haven't changed or influenced a score of a wine. (Stoutly denied by the good folks at the WS, of course. Totally objective, they are.) :)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Steve Edmunds » Wed May 31, 2006 1:24 pm

If it reads like a bloody pulpit, looks like a bloody pulpit, sounds like a bloody pulpit, but doesn't say bloody pulpit?...
87 points! :P
I don't know just how I'm supposed to play this scene, but I ain't afraid to learn...
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Wed May 31, 2006 1:45 pm

Like you I think, I always marvel at those folks who are so rigid as to insist that any grape variety should always show one specific set of characteristics (whether real or imagined), and should not be allowed any expression beyond that rigid set.

Same folk, I think, that criticize California, Oregon and New Zealand Pinot Noir for not being like Burgundy Pinot Noir, or criticize California or Washington Syrah for not being either like French Syrah or Australian Shiraz? Or, in a puzzling about face, criticizing California or Washington Syrah/Shiraz as being too much like Australian Shiraz (guess you just can't win with some folks, no matter what you do, eh?).

For me, I long ago reduced my expectations about good wine down to my trinity of Grape/Place/Person: that is to say, every wine worth consideration should be a reflection, in some way, of the grape from which it is made, the place from which it came, and the person or persons who made it. That handily allows me to encompass Bernard Morey, William Fevre, Jerry Luper, and Terry Adams within the realm of Chardonnay, for instance.

Or with Syrah/Shiraz, everything from the Sierra Foothills, Mendocino, Sonoma, the Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles,Walla Walla, Maipo Valley, New Zealand, Australia, Tuscany, Campania, Sicily, Canada, Languedoc-Rousillon, Rhone, Provence...in short, from pretty much anywhere in the world. Also allows me to imagine there might be a Syrah/Shiraz somewhere that does not showcase either white pepper or black pepper, oddly enough.

My problem with what Kramer wrote, Tom, is that I can easily imagine him, on any given day, writing a treatise on exactly the opposite: the dominance of place over variety.

That's why my stool rests on three legs, instead of just one. I can tilt it in any direction I want. :D
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by wrcstl » Wed May 31, 2006 1:57 pm

Tom,
I sorta want to agree with both sides. On Saturday I had a 95 NSG that I liked very much, the WOTN. The problem was that it did not taste like a Burgundy and PN would have been about my 3rd or 4th guess much more like a merlot or aged cab but too soft and silky for a Bordeaux. I really do not like wines that do not show their grape and even though I may thoroughly enjoy them I would not tend to purchase them. Could it be that the terroir of SantaLuciaHighlands may have made a better PN even though it was a "nice to drink" syrah?

Now that I think about it maybe I am more on the Cramer side. I like my syrah to taste like syrah, PN to taste like PN and a norton to be easily identified with the bottom of the Missouri river. Could it be that a wine best shows terroir when it is planted in the grapes that allow for the best development. Isn't this how sangiovese got to Tuscany, Riesling got to Germany and PN got to Burgundy. Where else would you like your great sangiovese, riesling and PN to be from?

Now I am sure Hoke will not agree but I can't always agree with my elders. Great topic for discussion.

Walt
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Wed May 31, 2006 2:55 pm

Not disagreeing so much as discussing, Walt (you young whippersnapper).

I don't disagree at all that different grapes show better in different areas. Why should I?

I'll simply reiterate, for clarification, what I said before...well, I guess I'll iterate it slightly differently than before:

Any worthwhile wine (that which requires any consideration beyond gulping and forgetting)----for me---has to be considered through the triumvirate of variety/place/maker. And that is because all three of those elements influence the final taste of the wine.

Yes, I expect a Pinot Noir to taste in some way of Pinot Noir. But I would also reasonably expect a Pinot Noir grown in one place to exhibit some different characteristics from Pinot Noir grown in another place. I would also expect that if you had a viticulturist in Burgundy using time-honored traditional techniques as opposed to a young and questioning grower in California or wherever using different techniques of growing (different canopy management, for instance), that would strongly influence the taste characteristics of the grapes. If you then had two winemakers who had specific but different ideas (traditional only versus 'let's see what happens if') as to how to ferment and age the wines, you'd have even more variation from some mysteriously determined "norm".

For instance, let's look at Pinot Noir. If you were to take a lug of Pinot Noir from DRC, say, and process it under carbonic maceration a la BoJo, you'd have a considerably different wine than what you'd expect from DRC, right? It would still be Pinot Noir from the hallowed ground, but the style would have been altered through the human technique chosen. Still Pinot, but different. You might not like it, Walt (in fact I seriously doubt you would), but it would still be Pinot, and it would have just as much incipient "terroir-ness" as it had originally. You just wouldn't be able to discern it, I imagine.

All I'm really saying, I think, is that we human beings allow ourselves to get locked in to such limited expectations (Burgundy Pinot Noir is the template for Pinot Noir because it is the first Pinot Noir I was exposed to and I learned that it would forever after define Pinot Noir in my mind, and now I unconsciously or consciously compare every Pinot Noir I have against Burgundy Pinot Noir), when we should strive to 'open the envelope'. Well, that, and that much of this debate is from a lack of time and patience. We talk about the "terroir" of Santa Rita Hills----but how long has Pinot Noir had to develop anything like a terroir in the brief time the land has been cultivated with that variety???? I think it's safe to say that none of us have any real and practicable definition of what "Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir terroir" IS! Do you? I don't think I do.

So I fall back to the three-legged stool of variety/place/person, leaning in either direction necessary. It's a nice, safe, comfortable stool. Very stable, actually. :)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by wrcstl » Wed May 31, 2006 4:00 pm

Hoke wrote:For instance, let's look at Pinot Noir. If you were to take a lug of Pinot Noir from DRC, say, and process it under carbonic maceration a la BoJo, you'd have a considerably different wine than what you'd expect from DRC, right? It would still be Pinot Noir from the hallowed ground, but the style would have been altered through the human technique chosen. Still Pinot, but different. You might not like it, Walt (in fact I seriously doubt you would), but it would still be Pinot, and it would have just as much incipient "terroir-ness" as it had originally. You just wouldn't be able to discern it, I imagine.


Hoke,
That is my point exactly although your example is a matter of maker than place and not sure that is what Kramer is talking about. I am looking for wines that show the variety and place, OK if my stool must have a third leg the maker but I want it to be the least intrusive leg. Who are the major wine makers in la BoJo anyway? I accept PN from the west coast and Burgundy and on a good day can tell the difference. I can accept Syrah from OZ(but don't drink it) and N Rhone and can even more frequently tell the difference. It is the extremes in your example and lesser situations that I have a problem with. Don't know what/where la BoJo is but they probably should not be making PN as I also feel that the US can't/hasn't made good sangiovese and CB from anyplace other than the Loire tends to fall on its face. There is no law against it and they certainly have the right to do it but man, have we no standards? I am trying to think outside the box but don't think the size of the box should be the world. I am saying that the best wines are made in a "place" that is suited for the variety and therefore is somewhat recognizable. What grapes are grown in what regions have evolved for a reason, the region/climate/soil is best suited for these varieties. I am very impressed with Adam and have enjoyed talking to him about wine making. He is a wine geeks winemaker. My only point is that it may be possible that a different grape grown in the same area as his PN would have shown the terroir very well and may have been a better drink and Kramer may actually have a point. I understand your point but have a somewhat more conservative view of wine. When I open a bottle or drink a glass of wine I would like to have something click in my head that relates the drink to my past experiences.

Next week our wine group is tasting Sangiovese. What region of the world do you think I should purchase from?

Walt
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Randy Buckner » Wed May 31, 2006 4:33 pm

When I open a bottle or drink a glass of wine I would like to have something click in my head that relates the drink to my past experiences.


Ditto. In my world, the first obligation of a wine is to taste good. Pretty simple concept. The second obligation is that it taste remotely like the grape it is made from. Seems this concept has gotten blurred.

I opened a sample last night that tasted quite nice. I thought to myself that this Sauvignon Blanc would go well with grilled shrimp. The only problem is the wine was a Viognier. What a disappointment it would have been if I was looking for a typical Viognier.

More power to Adam Lee and gang if they want to make Pinot Syrah. They're selling it to someone -- just not me.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Wed May 31, 2006 5:19 pm

Next week our wine group is tasting Sangiovese. What region of the world do you think I should purchase from?


Good question, Walt. The answer depends on what you want to hear (or taste) though.

If your idea of Sangiovese is Tuscany, which it probably is, and even closer in than that, Chianti and Brunello, then the answer clearly should be.....uh, Tuscany?

But if you are open-minded and looking for the different evocations of Sangiovese, the answer gets quite a bit more complicated. For Sangiovese, second probably to Pinot Noir, is one of the most notorious grapes for mutations of clonal variations. Heck, just look at the aformentioned Tuscany and the relatively easy divide into Sangiovese Piccolo and Sangiovese Grosso. Then factor in that with Chianti, unless you have the blueprint of the wine in front of you, don't kow exactly how much Sangiovese there is in the bottle you are drinking. Then factor in that Sangiovese is the widest grown red wine grape throughout the twenty provinces of Italy, with sublte and some not so sublte differences (due, I would say to differences in terroir and the local styles of winemaking in those thousands of different areas---the other two legs of the stool). Now it's waaaay complicated, for there is usually a difference between Sangiovese da Toscano and Sangiovese da Romano.

There's Sangiovese in California too. If I was doing a comprehensive Sangiovese tasting, I'd have to include some of those to establish a frame of reference (unless we decide to ignore that Sangiovese---even, or especially, if it's Sangiovese that we don't care for or respect overly much---is grown in other areas of the world. And that terroir can only come from a grape that has been in place for thousands of years.



Don't know what/where la BoJo is but they probably should not be making PN as I also feel that the US can't/hasn't made good sangiovese and CB from anyplace other than the Loire tends to fall on its face. There is no law against it and they certainly have the right to do it but man, have we no standards?
Ah, there's the problem: you're talking about your own personal preferences...what you personally like and dislike...and not the potential varietal characteristics that might come from a grape variety that is outside your preference zone. I'm talking about looking at the many different mutational varieties of Sangiovese (or whatever grape you want to use, as that doesn't really make any difference), and assessing those characteristics as being indicative of the variety-----as it is expressed from different terroirs around the world, and in the hands of different growers and winemakers around the world.

You see, I don't accept that Tuscany is the single, or only, possible example to use to define what Sangiovese IS (or can be). Now that is a totally different thing from saying that Tuscany by and large produces the best overall wine from Sangiovese as compared to other areas, Walt. That is a personal preference. And that's fine; I have no problem with that. But it's not what I'm talking about.

Please understand, I have no truck with wines that are made to be something they are not. One of the (true) stories I often tell, to show how ridiculous that is, is the occasion in Dallas many years ago where a series of wineries were showing their wines off with different foods. I happened to be sitting next to the winemaker whose wine was up next. He poked me in the ribs and gleefully said, "Watch the reaction of all the people, Hoke. My wine is Sauvignon Blanc.....but everyone thinks it's Chardonnay!!!" And so help me, he giggled when he said it. No, thank you, if it says Sauvignon Blanc on the label, then I have every expectation of something in that bottle saying "Sauvignon Blanc" to me. Not Chardonnay. That's the winemaker talking too loud.

But you absolutely cannot oversimplify wine into being one straightforward expression. Otherwise we wouldn't be fascninated with it nearly as much as we are. Wine is much, much more than a singular set of varietal expressions. It's also the place (climate, in the broadest sense) it was grown, and the particular year it was grown, who grew it, and who made all the many hundreds of decisions involved in the winemaking and blending of the wine.

Let's shift over to Syrah: I personally have two fairly large definitions, or groupings of Syrah. And no, it's not "French/Rhone" and "Australian, as you might think. It comes down to heat. There's warm climate Syrah, and there is cool climate Syrah (I'm oversimplifying to make the point, of course). And when I look to, say, a cheapie but decent quaffing wine from largely overcropped vineyards in the Central Coast, like Delicato, I use one set of definitions for what Syrah "is". When I consider Syrah from the larger area of Callifornia, I have differing definitions. I don't hold Steve Edmunds and Delicato and Grange and Hermitage and Cote Rotie to the same expectations. The difference is not the grape variety: the difference(s) is/are where it is grown and who makes it.

You say you want as little influence or evidence of the winemaker as possible in your wines? Well, I think you'd probably include someone like Steve Edmunds as exemplifying the minimal intervention school of winemakers you admire, right? But from my point of view, Steve Edmund puts a definitive fingerprint on his wines---so that his Syrahs are pretty much equally of a variety, a place and a person. Whereas some Syrahs are almost totally of a person who imposed a style on a wine. Or of a place, like Cote Rotie. But the great wines combine varietal tipicity, evidence of the place they are grown in, and evidence (either in what is there...or what is NOT there) of the winemaker's style.

Let's talk about Sauvignon Blanc: It's easy to taste, say, Chalk Hill SB, which is heavily influenced by oak, and say, "That's not my style of SB. It doesn't have that typical grassy-herbal note that says SB to me." But what you're really saying is not that it isn't typical of SB, but that it's not the type of SB that YOU like. It's still SB. And there's not one single style of SB; there's lots of SB, from lots of places, made by lots of people. For someone to sniff and say, "This isn't SB!"...sorry, that means nothing more to me than "This isn't the style I like."

So, yes, I guess I am saying the world is the scope when it comes to wine grapes. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

(And sorry, "BoJo" is my shorthand for Beaujolais, which uses a lot of carbonic maceration for their Gamay. And I know that some Burgundies have been made using similar techniques; but I don't think you'd consider a full-on carbonic macerate PN as a "real" Burgundy.

Which, come to think of it, asks another question: is Burgundy more about Pinot Noir, or more about place? What would Burgundy be today if the monks hadn't patiently developed their chosen grape there? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. :)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Thomas » Wed May 31, 2006 5:46 pm

I agree with Hoke.

In my view, these kinds of argu-er-discussions illustrate the difference between wine writers and wine critics. The former understands the product as something living, evolving, and with the capacity to present variations on a theme; the latter quantify wine based on their own desires--and sometimes, they don't even know what they are talking about ;)

If each Syrah tasted like the next one, why bother to produce more than one? Is this truly the desired result of classifying wine by grape names. I'd rather rely on the producer's name and the regional style. I can still like a wine that does not present itself forcefully as the grape it represents on the label--in a judging I would likely feel differently, but I don't perform as a wine judge anymore.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Dale Williams » Wed May 31, 2006 7:31 pm

Thomas wrote:IIn my view, these kinds of argu-er-discussions illustrate the difference between wine writers and wine critics. .


Actually, Matt Kramer is a wine writer, not a critic, isn't that so? I don't think I've seen him reviewing wines.

I'm in the middle of the range of views here (as most of us seem to be). I don't think "does it taste good" is all that matters, nor do I expect my Syrah to have to fit a very narrow taste profile. I find it limiting to say yea or nay to a wine based on picking out one piece of the flavor profile. But I don't want my Pinot Noir to taste like Syrah (or vice versa). I want a wine to be of its place, grape, and producer (yes, producer- I like both Angerville and Lafarge Volnays, Mugnier and Roumier Chambolles, Arlot and Chevillon Nuits, etc).

Lots of good points, thanks everyone.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Randy Buckner » Wed May 31, 2006 9:29 pm

I find it limiting to say yea or nay to a wine based on picking out one piece of the flavor profile. But I don't want my Pinot Noir to taste like Syrah (or vice versa). I want a wine to be of its place, grape, and producer


Well stated, Dale, as have been many other points. I can be happy sitting down drinking a St. Innocent Seven Springs Pinot, just as well as I can enjoy a d'Angerville. I can drink a McCrea Boushey Syrah, and I can drink a Guigal La Mouline. Different styles, both recognizable for what they are, which is the key point for me.

I don't expect as much when a bottle says Red Blend or White Blend. I do expect a label that says Cabernet Sauvignon to taste like a Cab and not a Petite Sirah.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Bernard Roth » Thu Jun 01, 2006 2:33 am

Kramer is worth the read, but too often I find myself grimacing. He tries too hard to be ahead of the curve, whether trend spotter, trend leader, or critic. More often than not, his writing seems contrived - formulaic - designed more to get a reaction than to get to the truth.

This kind of rant - about varietal correctness - comes across as so retro, so stodgy, so, um, British. (No offense to my British friends!) It's the kind of column that makes me want to say, "Matt, get a life!"
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by wrcstl » Thu Jun 01, 2006 10:45 am

Hoke,
Thanks for all the comments. Philosophically we may not be all that far apart but when I make comments I tend to relate it to what I like or dislike. I don't like big fruit, I don't like noticable oak, I don't like butter/malo in chards and I don't like winemaker manipulation that makes all wines taste the same. I like acid and I like wines that show complexity and evolve with age. I do not speak for the world, I speak for what I like. As stated earlier I tend to like to recognize place and variety which is why I feel the best sangivese is fromTuscany and the best CB is from Loire. Other regions can make a drinkable wine from these varieties but they seem too different to fit in my "preferences" My biggest sin is generalization but if you are trying to drink your way around the wine world it is a big task and some generalizations seem appropriate. I do not buy Austalian Shiraz because of my past experiences. The problem with this is that I never get to try the really good or new OZ Shiraz. Too many wines, too little time.

There's Sangiovese in California too. If I was doing a comprehensive Sangiovese tasting, I'd have to include some of those to establish a frame of reference.


The tasting is 100% blind and I would be glad to bring a CA sangiovese but have no idea which one may be interesting. We have a rather large selection in St. Louis so give me a couple of names. and I will bring one.


Let's shift over to Syrah: I personally have two fairly large definitions, or groupings of Syrah. And no, it's not "French/Rhone" and "Australian, as you might think. It comes down to heat. There's warm climate Syrah, and there is cool climate Syrah.


I agree but isn't saying Rhone and Australian the same thing as saying cool climate and warm climate. I have nothing against our friends in OZ but generally speaking shy away from most warm climate areas as it tends to produces a "big fruit" and high alcohol style that I do not enjoy.

Well, I think you'd probably include someone like Steve Edmunds as exemplifying the minimal intervention school of winemakers you admire, right?


Yes I am a fan of Steve Edmunds and minimal intervention is what I mean by a small/skinny leg of the stool. What I cannot understand is how he gets so much complexity out of what are relatively young vines. The only explanation he has given that makes sense is when he picks, going for mature vs ripe and sweet. Guess when to pick is in the winemaker leg.

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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Sam Platt » Thu Jun 01, 2006 10:59 am

I had a chance to read the Kramer article last night and found it to be thought provoking. The "standard of the breed" arguement does make some sense to me in terms of identifying the "best of show". I may love my Cocker Spaniel with his excessive length, sloppy gait and patchy coat, but I have to recognize that he will never win Westminster. I don't much care though, because I like him just the way he is. Similarly I can love a non-peppery, Kramer unfriendly Syrah without caring that it will never hit 95+ on the Parker scale. I may even agree that it should not approach triple digits as I'm happily guzzling it down.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Fri Jun 02, 2006 1:17 am

I don't like big fruit, I don't like noticable oak, I don't like butter/malo in chards and I don't like winemaker manipulation that makes all wines taste the same. I like acid and I like wines that show complexity and evolve with age.


Uh, does that mean you don't mind winemaker manipulation if it makes wine taste different? :?

Hey, looks like we pretty much like the same thing.

The tasting is 100% blind and I would be glad to bring a CA sangiovese but have no idea which one may be interesting. We have a rather large selection in St. Louis so give me a couple of names. and I will bring one.




Well, let's see: if it is available you might try Unti, from Dry Creek Valley. Or Seghesio, also from Sonoma.

I agree but isn't saying Rhone and Australian the same thing as saying cool climate and warm climate. I have nothing against our friends in OZ but generally speaking shy away from most warm climate areas as it tends to produces a "big fruit" and high alcohol style that I do not enjoy.


Sure, if you want to stay within the realm of gross generalities. But what if there are hot places in the Rhone? Or cool areas in Australia? Is California hot or cool? Depends on where you are talking about in California. Wider range than many people might think, unless they look at maps and consider the heat summation zones, and such things as river maritime-influenced valleys and mountaintops and such. Is a Syrah grown in Monterey the same as a Syrah grown in Paso Robles? Probably not. Is a Syrah grown in the Central Valley the same as a Syrah grown in Mendocino? Probably not. You might also reconsider your thinking about the Rhone as a "cool climate".

And yes, I also tend to shy away from most over-the-top, big, flat, floozy wines---but that is as often as not the winemaker's style or preference as much as it is the place. Reference our mutually respected friend Steve Edmunds Syrahs. I think Steve's gift is a combination of a genius for picking the right variety growing in the right place, and working with the owner/grower to coax the best out of the variety, then being perceptive and intelligent enough to not get himself overly involved in manipulating the juice with extraneous stuff. You might say he's simply allowing the variety to express itself. I say it's much more than that. It's Steve striving to reach the perfect combination of that variety/place/person I keep harping on.

[/quote]Guess when to pick is in the winemaker leg.

Hey, I agree with you that knowing when to pick is crucial, Walt. But I think once again you're trying to oversimplify by looking at one isolated element of what is a complex situation. Knowing when to pick can come only after a lot of leg work, sweat, focus and concentration throughout the growing season. Steve, has to pick the right combination of an awful lot of elements, and control as many of them as he can to get to the poing where he can pick that fruit at the right time.

And I'd argue that what Steve does is not "minimal intervention". If you're talking about actually making the wine, yeah, sure, he tends to not jigger around with the wine a lot, sure, but what he does is not my definition of minimal intervention. Steve intervenes a lot---not with chemicals or throwing lots of oak or forcing total malolactic or that kind of stuff, no; but by getting involved in the vineyards throughout the whole year. If you don't think Steve intervenes a lot, you might want to ask him how many miles he puts on his car and his body every year running around the state to his carefully selected vineyards.

You're right: we are pretty close philosophically, Walt. And in our preferences too, I think, for the most part. I'm just saying you can't (or shouldn't) reduce wonderful wines down to one single element and say things like "varietal tipicity is the one most important thing in a great wine". It's significantly more complicated than that. Thassall.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Mike Filigenzi » Fri Jun 02, 2006 1:28 am

wrcstl wrote:The tasting is 100% blind and I would be glad to bring a CA sangiovese but have no idea which one may be interesting. We have a rather large selection in St. Louis so give me a couple of names. and I will bring one.


If the regular Vino Noceto bottling is available, give that a try. Best Sangio in California, IMHO.

Mike
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Isaac » Fri Jun 02, 2006 1:51 am

"stunningly beautiful Paris Hilton look-alikes"

I'm not sure how this fits in, but, if it looks like Paris Hilton, then it cannot be stunningly beautiful.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by wrcstl » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:54 am

Isaac wrote:"stunningly beautiful Paris Hilton look-alikes"

I'm not sure how this fits in, but, if it looks like Paris Hilton, then it cannot be stunningly beautiful.


Issac,
Now there is a wine I would not want in my cellar.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Adam Lee » Sun Jun 04, 2006 6:47 pm

More power to Adam Lee and gang if they want to make Pinot Syrah. They're selling it to someone -- just not me.


Hey Bucko,

We definitely don't want to make Pinot Syrah. And, interestingly enough, Kramer in his column argued just the opposite - that Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot is very different from Burgundy but still tastes like Pinot.

And since we aren't selling it to you I'm not even sure how you wuld know that is what we are trying to make! :lol:

My point to Kramer was simply that typicity needs to be a very broadly defined thing. For example, when Kramer talks about Pinot typicity he mentions berry flavors and finesse. Those are broad terms.

But "pepper" is a very narrow term in defining Syrah typicity and, imho, too narrow. You then end up with cases such as Thevenet's in the Macon where he cannot label his wines Macon because they are not judged as "typcial" enough.

Adam Lee
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Randy Buckner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:03 pm

And since we aren't selling it to you I'm not even sure how you wuld know that is what we are trying to make!


There are such things as trade tastings and IPNC, where I talked with you a while back, if you think back.

Sorry, I lean towards the Kramer side, but can apppreciate a little more diversity.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Adam Lee » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:20 pm

Randy,

I know - but that was a long time ago. We haven't been at IPNC in 3+ years (and there we only pour 1 wine) and haven't been up that way to do a trade tasting in more years than that.

Wineries grow and, hopefully, improve with the passage of time and vintages. I don't know how you would specifically define "Pinot as Syrah" but don't think that is what we are doing.

As I stated, no problem with some definitions of typicity but think too narrow a definition creates a multitude of problems.

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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Randy Buckner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:35 pm

Wineries grow and, hopefully, improve with the passage of time and vintages. I don't know how you would specifically define "Pinot as Syrah" but don't think that is what we are doing.


I don't think either of us care to get into that long, drawn out argument again. Make wines the way you like them -- just don't expect everyone to like them or find them typical or to agree with you.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

by Hoke » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:57 pm

As I stated, no problem with some definitions of typicity but think too narrow a definition creates a multitude of problems.


Hi, Adam. Good to see you pop in here.

Wanted to ask you a question about the SLH and Pinot Noir.

I was just this week down there, albeit tasting through 35 Chards with the Monterey growers/producers, and was quite impressed by both the attention to/focus on site specificity and 'tuning' the clone to the rootstock to the site, as well as looking at blending different sites to achieve certain styles.

So my question to you is: what led you to focus on the SLH, and the particular vineyards you use, for your Pinot Noirs? Are there specific characteristics you get from there that you don't find in other places?

I for one am pleased that these days folks can find differing expressions of PN from around the world---Burgundy, California (Anderson Valley, RRV, Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Monterey, Santa Barbara, to name a few), Oregon, New Zealand...heck, even the Languedoc, Chile and Australia. I figure no variety---or style---is so sacrosanct that there can't be some range of expression allowed. So it's interesting to see, just here on the West Coast, that there is a range developing.
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