I read an article today from a friend and great writer (unlike me) that talked of classics in terms of a wine region or even a wine producer. (See Matt Kramer’s column Drinking Out Loud for full details.) For those who have not read any of his pieces, you are missing one of the most gifted writers in the industry. He doesn’t rate wines with numbers, but if you’re mentioned in an article, his use of the English, French, Italian and Spanish languages (among others) could start or end your business. Words are powerful and put into the right hands can be devastating, liberating, profitable and enlightening all rolled up into one. As a side note, Matt is as honest an individual as I know, and has more integrity than one could imagine.
At the very heart, most of us are followers. Very few of us are leaders. I know it’s hard for you to imagine, but true leaders are rare. So don’t get mad. I think we all like to listen to the noise and get caught up in someone else’s opinion. In all due respect to my friend Matt, we don’t always agree. But that’s a good thing. I make wines for myself first and can only hope that others agree. It’s good to listen to some of the writers, wine merchants and wine directors at your local establishment. After all, they do it for a living and cut through the noise. Remember, I said it before, trust your palate first! Is there the next great region untapped and ready to be world famous? Sure, why not. Is it the Central Coast of California? A region that only started planting the right clones and root stocks with the proper spacing 15 years ago, and some only 5 to 10 years old. Sure, why not? Matt is right in his piece. We can’t be classic until we have time measured in decades to prove such a theory. So, it will be long after I’m gone, but we have the potential.
Let’s draw some comparisons, if I may. Our three finest Pinot and Chardonnay growing areas on the Central Coast are: Santa Maria, Santa Rita, and Arroyo Grande. All three regions have the influence of the ocean’s cooling effects and it’s off shore that the warm waters of Mexico crash into the cold waters of Alaska. I am reminded of this sitting in a local restaurant looking over the Ocean and about two o’clock on some days watch the fog rise all around us. The average temperature in Santa Rita and Santa Maria as well as parts of Arroyo Grande are 74 degrees in the mid summer for the past one hundred years. That is 10 degrees cooler then the Russian River and Sonoma Coast and 20 to 25 degrees cooler than Carneros in the summer. Why is that important? Because we have a three to four week longer growing season and that makes for better grape development, especially the Pinot Noir grape that dislikes heat! Our natural Acids are higher, Ph lower which adds to our complexity. It can be argued that in many places our soils are sandy, too sandy. I would argue they drain much better and will not hold unwanted moisture. But we’ve also planted many of the new vineyards in the hill sides where the soils are much thinner and range from Volcanic, to Diatomaceous to Clay. Remember, wine grapes produce better wines when they struggle. The soils of the greatest vineyards are usually very poor. No better example can be made than that of Burgundy. I believe that with the advent of many of the younger winemakers that believe in lower yields and lower sugars with the raw materials we now have, there is an awaking upon us. More to the point, the best is yet to come!
The detractors will say, as a community, we have fallen short, always the underling to the North. Maybe so. I say look out, because 2007 was and is the start of something special. And if more of us take advantage then even our detractors will have to open their eyes or be nothing more than a foot note in history. Change never comes easy for the vineyard, the winery, the press. But the future is promised to the bold who will take us to the pinnacle, the precipice and yes maybe the classic!
Drink well, or stop drinking,