March 21, 2014
I was thinking the other day about cult wineries and why I can only think of one Oregon producer who qualifies and they don't make Pinot Noir. Okay, maybe I can think of one small Pinot producer in the Dundee Hills who is in the realm. But it got me thinking about the bias in mainstream wine media towards bigger, specifically Cabernet based wines. I think the scores in general for Pinot Noir don't match the scores for bigger California Cabernets. Why is that? Is Cabernet better than Pinot?
Are California Cabernets better wines or just bigger wines? I am admittedly Pinot Noir biased and the fact is that even after a glass of really good Cabernet I once again turn my sights towards Pinot Noir. Most Cabernet drinkers eyes rolled after reading that but the fact is that my palate gets more satisfaction from Pinot Noir. Maybe I'm just not drinking enough Screaming Eagle. Sure, the wine press gives cult status to Romanée-Conti but what about Oregon? And haven't you seen that Oregon winery who advertises that it routinely beats Romanée-Conti in blind tastings?
Maybe I am placing the blame in the wrong place. Maybe Cabernet is just the easiest type of wine to rally around. Lets face it, there is nothing subtle about the flavor explosion you get with the first glass of a California cult Cabernet. I just like the way really good Pinot Noir feels on my palate, dancing across it, really good ones stopping for a visit on the mid-palate, but never forcing you to sucumb to its power. Apparently though, Cabernet is where the real demand is and perhaps why they get so much press and generate more cult brands. Give the people what they want? They are rich, bold, flavorful, full of alcohol, in your face and make a big first impression.
Lets face it, Pinot Noir is different and I say vive la difference. I don't think I have ever heard it said much better than Miles to Maya, in the movie Sideways, describing his passion for Pinot Noir:
"It's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet."
I guess thats the part I get, haunting, brilliant and thrilling. Now if we can only get the wine press and consumers to feel the same.