Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

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Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#1 Post by Brandon R » May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm

I have been browsing the recently published Exploring The Best New Releases from Sonoma and Beyond article on Vinous by Antonio Galloni. I was amazed by how many wineries are cranking out a crazy number of different bottlings each vintage, many of them from single vineyards. I'm noticing this is far more prevalent in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays than other varieties. While I understand that's partially driven by the fact that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most widely-grown varieties in and around Sonoma County. A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.

How many is too many? I'm admittedly a relative Burgundy novice, but I don't believe most houses in Burgundy do that many different bottlings. What do you all think?
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#2 Post by Bill G » May 20th, 2019, 3:21 pm

You bring up a point that I struggle with on a regular basis.... there are so many single vineyards that its tough to collect and try them all. I need a larger wine allowance from the Mrs! :)
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#3 Post by M. Dildine » May 20th, 2019, 3:23 pm

Sonoma Co. is actually much more geologically and climatically complex than Burgundy, but I can relate to your concern. However, I’ll let the marketplace sort out the question!
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#4 Post by c fu » May 20th, 2019, 3:33 pm

8 different vineyards is a light tuesday for most burgundy producers.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#5 Post by Mike S. » May 20th, 2019, 3:42 pm

Mosr Burgundy procucers make between six and twenty different wines from different vineyards..Many Burgundy holdings are a hectare or two. They have been purchased little by little over many years, one small parcel at a time. Here in California, the vineyards are much larger, but on very differnet kinds of soil or elevation, or climate locations.. If we look at Kutch pinots the difference between the McDougal abd the Sonoma Coast wines is very different, I like both..A New York and a filet are both beef steaks but very different.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#6 Post by Adam Lee » May 20th, 2019, 3:43 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#7 Post by Kevin Sidders » May 20th, 2019, 3:58 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
How many is too many? I'm admittedly a relative Burgundy novice, but I don't believe most houses in Burgundy do that many different bottlings. What do you all think?
Other Burgundy fans are more expert than I am, but several producers (mostly negociants) make dozens of single vineyard wines.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#8 Post by Markus S » May 20th, 2019, 4:56 pm

Yeah, it's crazy. And I'm sure they're not all "equally good".
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#9 Post by TomHill » May 20th, 2019, 5:29 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm

How many is too many? I'm admittedly a relative Burgundy novice, but I don't believe most houses in Burgundy do that many different bottlings. What do you all think?
Well, Brandon...it make ultimate sense to me.
We’ve been told by the experts that PinotNoir reflects its terroir more than any other grape variety. The mantra from any & all winemakers is to reflect the origins of the grape. Why, for chrissakes, would you want to blend away all that terroir? So, of course, there’s a lot of single vnyd Pinots out there. If you can’t tell the difference in the terroir between KeeferRanch and Rochioli, the you should resign from WB’s!! [snort.gif]
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#10 Post by SteveG » May 20th, 2019, 5:53 pm

I think that the observation “...it’s a lot like Burgundy” is probably about right, but some folks just like to segment their production into a bunch of distinct cuvees.

JP Ganevat, in the Jura, has about 35 acres of vineyards, and regularly produces 40 or so cuvees in a given vintage, although admittedly Jura handles 5 distinct grape varieties and approves white/red/rose/sparkling/vin de paille/macvin/vin jaune, and since JP isn’t busy enough he sometimes brings in Cru Beaujolais grapes to blend into additional vins de France.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#11 Post by Wes Barton » May 20th, 2019, 6:03 pm

As Mike states, this is something the market can sort out. Brandon's examples are producers with strong loyal customer bases who revere them for their range of quality SVDs. It's hard to criticize success. There are a lot of people out there who are happy buying from one or a handful of producers. It's a good business model that plays to that.

Another point - any quality winery producing a range of wines will have customers with different preferences. You can be a Pinot Noir specialist, or a range of types of wines. I know enough regular buyers of some of these PN specialists that different friends buy different selections from those producers. Burg geeks do that, too. You don't need to go all-in.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#12 Post by R. Frankel » May 20th, 2019, 6:18 pm

Wes Barton wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 6:03 pm
Another point - any quality winery producing a range of wines will have customers with different preferences. You can be a Pinot Noir specialist, or a range of types of wines. I know enough regular buyers of some of these PN specialists that different friends buy different selections from those producers. Burg geeks do that, too. You don't need to go all-in.
This is what I do. The nice thing about living in Northern California is that I can actually visit and taste across the range of bottlings from my favorite producers. Over a few years I figure out my preferences. It’s a bit painful, sure, with a producer like Littorai that makes no bad wines, and definitely has a consistent style. But some vineyards I love, while other I merely like a lot ;). I can’t buy them all, but some are must buys. I wonder if I lived near Burgundy I would buy even more with the same process. A horrifying thought!
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#13 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 20th, 2019, 6:37 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
I have been browsing the recently published Exploring The Best New Releases from Sonoma and Beyond article on Vinous by Antonio Galloni. I was amazed by how many wineries are cranking out a crazy number of different bottlings each vintage, many of them from single vineyards. I'm noticing this is far more prevalent in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays than other varieties. While I understand that's partially driven by the fact that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most widely-grown varieties in and around Sonoma County. A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.

How many is too many? I'm admittedly a relative Burgundy novice, but I don't believe most houses in Burgundy do that many different bottlings. What do you all think?
Lots of Burgundy producers make a large number of wines. Even smaller Bugundy producers often make 6 or 8 wines. If you don’t think the wines are distinctive enough then skip them. I know that for certain producers there are specific vineyards that I never buy, as I have discovered that I do not care for those wines. I apply the same logic in Burgundy.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#14 Post by Markus S » May 20th, 2019, 6:44 pm

SteveG wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 5:53 pm
JP Ganevat, in the Jura, has about 35 acres of vineyards, and regularly produces 40 or so cuvees in a given vintage, although admittedly Jura handles 5 distinct grape varieties and approves white/red/rose/sparkling/vin de paille/macvin/vin jaune, and since JP isn’t busy enough he sometimes brings in Cru Beaujolais grapes to blend into additional vins de France.
That is because FanFan is simply having fun, not to slap a vineyard label on a product. If you've tried these different wines you realize they are really quite distinct from each other.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#15 Post by Gary York » May 20th, 2019, 9:24 pm

You are correct, and it is too much of good thing. It is funny how often the top scoring wine is also the highest priced wine.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#16 Post by GregT » May 20th, 2019, 9:35 pm

You are correct and it's because it's . . . it's. . . Pinot Noir! And you're supposed to think that's the greatest of all grapes.

They should bottle it by vine.

Sarcasm aside, there are many grapes that would be expressive of the vineyard or vineyard blocks. But nobody cares.

Still, if you were to sell Zinfandel or Syrah like that, you'd at least have some variety. But they didn't plant Zin in France in the 1600s.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#17 Post by Rory K. » May 20th, 2019, 9:52 pm

I think it has gone too far, but hopefully time and the consumer will have a net postive influence. Burgundy has had centuries for those vineyards to develop a track record/reputation/history. California's situation is single-vineyard=more $$$, so just invent vineyards and block names as you go along to charge more, which leads to a lot of middling wine.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#18 Post by Gary York » May 20th, 2019, 10:07 pm

As much as I like some of them, others seem like a waste of time and glass. 
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#19 Post by SteveG » May 21st, 2019, 5:15 am

Markus S wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 6:44 pm
SteveG wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 5:53 pm
JP Ganevat, in the Jura, has about 35 acres of vineyards, and regularly produces 40 or so cuvees in a given vintage, although admittedly Jura handles 5 distinct grape varieties and approves white/red/rose/sparkling/vin de paille/macvin/vin jaune, and since JP isn’t busy enough he sometimes brings in Cru Beaujolais grapes to blend into additional vins de France.
That is because FanFan is simply having fun, not to slap a vineyard label on a product. If you've tried these different wines you realize they are really quite distinct from each other.
You are I am sure correct, I did not mean to leave the impression that I think Ganevat has no basis for this segmentation; of the 40+ bottles of his wine I have enjoyed, they span (according to CT) 18 different cuvees, so I am apparently all on board, just in awe of his ambition. FWIW, I think the whites are not only the most accomplished but also the most distinct between bottlings, and all my bottles have been pristine, they are amongst my favorite wines overall. His reds, although I enjoy them (minus the odd spritzy/funky bottle), I find less compelling, certainly worth the drink but not necessarily the price.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#20 Post by Scott Jameson » May 21st, 2019, 8:38 am

Rory K. wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 9:52 pm
I think it has gone too far, but hopefully time and the consumer will have a net postive influence. Burgundy has had centuries for those vineyards to develop a track record/reputation/history. California's situation is single-vineyard=more $$$, so just invent vineyards and block names as you go along to charge more, which leads to a lot of middling wine.
The first single vineyard California Pinot Noirs I can recall are the Calera's from 1978 and the Acacia's beginning in 1979, and I'm sure there are earlier examples. While not the centuries of history that Burgundy has, that 40 years is several generations in CA wine time. This is not a new phenomenon and there doesn't seem to be any drop off in the ever increasing number of single vineyard offerings. Given this trend, I don't know why today would be considered more "out of control" or "gone too far" than when we had this same discussion 5 or 10 years ago, or when we'll have it 5 or 10 years from now.

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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#21 Post by Anton D » May 21st, 2019, 8:49 am

If they didn't have all those single vineyard designates, they couldn't keep production low enough to support the price.

Who wants "1,000 Barrel" pinot noir? We want "Four Barrel," or less!
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#22 Post by Mike Grammer » May 21st, 2019, 9:56 am

Isn't part of the problem potentially one of perception these days? A "Sonoma Coast" or "RRV" cuvee is almost always priced lower by most producers and thus brings with it the thought or concept of a lesser wine or a "well, we didn't have enough of these grapes to run out a SVD/didn't know what to do with the grapes, so we "bulked" them into an AVA designate". I think in the era of having to "cool up" to the customer, the customer wants to say they own a piece of something unique or individual. SVDs play right into that. Take Jamie---now, in his case, I've tasted both cuvees of Bohan and absolutely have been startled at the differentiation so I get why *he's* doing it, but he's going to run out a "regular" Bohan and then a "Graveyard Block" Bohan Pinot. Rochioli has been doing block-level releases for years. As others have opined, I suppose the customer base will determine how much is too much. But I *will* say that some winemakers that I talked to on my trip last summer are cutting back on their SKUs.

It's a worthwhile question, Brandon, and I'm glad you got discussion started on it.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#23 Post by Brandon R » May 21st, 2019, 9:58 am

Adam Lee wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:43 pm
Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#24 Post by Brandon R » May 21st, 2019, 10:01 am

After reading so far, I should've used the term "cuvees" instead of "bottlings." Darn it.

Part of the reason I posted this question is that it can be frustrating as a consumer to have to guess what cuvees to buy because, unless you have an unlimited wine budget, buying one (or more) of each isn't possible in some cases (pun intended). That's why we have professional reviewers, though, right? They can tell us which cuvees to buy. deadhorse
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#25 Post by Scott E. » May 21st, 2019, 10:05 am

The number of available SVD's boggles the mind. Many have noted that the market should eventually sort this out, but with all the individual taste preferences out there, maybe not. I feel fortunate to have finally zeroed in on about six producers and I no longer need to chase/search for the next big thing (unless current pricing gets out-of-hand). Although I have also zeroed in on some favorite SVD's from these producers, I also enjoy the complexity provided by some appellation blends too (I'm pretty sure that puts me in the minority on this issue). Cheers!
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#26 Post by Jim Anderson » May 21st, 2019, 10:36 am

Coming from what I believe is the winery with the largest number of Pinot Noir bottlings in America (27 in 2017 and again in 2018) I can say that it is in what you can produce, what you can sell and what your customers enjoy. The amount of pushback we have at this point is zero. I believe we can show totally distinct characteristics in each wine, have themes of commonality and distinction, have wines that are all complete wines on their own and still offer excellent, high-quality, single vineyard bottlings for very fair prices. We work with 13 top notch, largely older and historically relevant (by Oregon standards) and we take insane levels of care in our sites and the winery to ensure the sort of SVD program we have actually works for us, our direct buyers and our wholesalers across the country.

Are there too many SV Pinots around? Probably. There are plenty of wineries all over the world where even 1 wine is 1 wine too many so anything that is a sub-set of that certainly is going to bring about an affirmative answer. To some extent the market will figure things out for everyone but winery economics are not always as straight forward as just regular economics.

I would say if you are bothered by this occurrence that seems strange. It doesn’t really impact anyone at all. If you don’t want to pay a high price for a small bottling you don’t have to. Perhaps some wineries have out-priced people and you’re annoyed by that. I get it. I used to buy quite a lot of Grand Cru Burgundy and simply do not/cannot any longer. I would hope other folks making a large number (whatever you consider large to be) have a justification for it. I think we do and have no qualms backing it up either in print or via tastings.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#27 Post by Eric S n y d e r » May 21st, 2019, 1:05 pm

It’s only a “problem” to me if a given producer could have made a better wine by blending.

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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#28 Post by J e s s e C » May 21st, 2019, 1:38 pm

Yes and no. Its not the sheer number that is problematic. Its how many of them (1) don't add meaningful insight into the differences of that vineyard and (2) just aren't good, yet are bottled with "xyz vineyard" on the label because that is supposed to sell better. As others have pointed out, burgundy producers often have several single vineyard bottlings (Fevre, PYCM, Lamy all come to mind). If you can draw out a meaningful distinction between California pinot vineyards, by all means do it. Certainly some do that very well. But how many sonoma coast pinots just taste like every other sonoma coast pinot? (maybe this is just a reflection on my unnuanced palate).
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#29 Post by Howard Cooper » May 21st, 2019, 1:57 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
I have been browsing the recently published Exploring The Best New Releases from Sonoma and Beyond article on Vinous by Antonio Galloni. I was amazed by how many wineries are cranking out a crazy number of different bottlings each vintage, many of them from single vineyards. I'm noticing this is far more prevalent in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays than other varieties. While I understand that's partially driven by the fact that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most widely-grown varieties in and around Sonoma County. A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.

How many is too many? I'm admittedly a relative Burgundy novice, but I don't believe most houses in Burgundy do that many different bottlings. What do you all think?
To me, the question is are the wines distinctive from each other and are they really good or would the wines be better if the various vineyards are blended together? My sense is that wines are best made separately where the vineyards are great and each gives a distinctive and complete wine while maybe blending is better for lesser vineyards to balance out the deficiencies of each vineyard and make a more harmonious whole. So, how much of this is separating out great parcels that have something to say and how much marketing. Only you can say for yourself. And, this is true worldwide. For example, Grand Cru and Premier Cru Burgundies (the best vineyard land) are generally bottled separately by vineyard (there are some premier crus that are blended together, for example, to make Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru but this generally when wineries have insufficient holdings in one or more premier cru sites to make wines separately). And, while a few producers separate out specific sites in what are villages wines, that is much less common.

You really are taking a huge step in learning wine here. You are beginning to realize that there is so much wine in the world and even in your favorite regions that you cannot buy everything or even learn everything. Frankly, wine writers generally are of limited help. They can tell you what you what is objectively the better wine, whatever that means, but not which one you will like better. Learn where the individual vineyards are from. For example, I tend to like wines from Morey-St. Denis more than wines from Nuits St. Georges, so I tend to buy a producer's wines from MSD over his wines from NSG. I tend to like Ridge Geyserville more than their Pagani Ranch, so I buy Geyserville. If you tend to like wines from Russian River more than Sonoma Coast, when confronted with a choice for a new producer or a new offering from an favorite producer, pick a vineyard in the Russian River over one from Sonoma Coast, etc. Find out about vine age if relevant. In Burgundy, one tends to prefer wines from producers where the vines are older. One reason certain Zinfandels are prized so much is that they come from very old vines. It probably is rare that California Pinot is from old vines because so much of it has been planted relatively recently, but when you get a chance to buy wines from old vineyards, grab it unless there is reason not to do so (the terroir is not good or the wines are going to be ripped out soon, etc.).

When you get a chance, visit Sonoma or wherever and taste through the portfolios of your favorite producers. Use the knowledge you get to figure out what wines to buy in future offerings.

None of this guarantees or even suggests that you are going to get the very best wine but that is impossible. It should mean that you drink wines you really like.

And, eventually, the market will sort a lot of this out, as it has in older wine regions. Demand will go up for wines from the special vineyards and so will prices. Wineries charging premium prices for wines no more distinctive than their general cuvees will have unsold wine and will drop those vineyards as separate wines and go back to bottling them as part of their general cuvees.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#30 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 21st, 2019, 2:04 pm

J e s s e C wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 1:38 pm
Yes and no. Its not the sheer number that is problematic. Its how many of them (1) don't add meaningful insight into the differences of that vineyard and (2) just aren't good, yet are bottled with "xyz vineyard" on the label because that is supposed to sell better. As others have pointed out, burgundy producers often have several single vineyard bottlings (Fevre, PYCM, Lamy all come to mind). If you can draw out a meaningful distinction between California pinot vineyards, by all means do it. Certainly some do that very well. But how many sonoma coast pinots just taste like every other sonoma coast pinot? (maybe this is just a reflection on my unnuanced palate).
Who decides which ones “just aren’t good”?

I would be happy to never see another Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir for the rest of my life. Other people really like how that vineyard expresses Pinot Noir.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#31 Post by Howard Cooper » May 21st, 2019, 2:06 pm

Jim Anderson wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 10:36 am

I would say if you are bothered by this occurrence that seems strange. It doesn’t really impact anyone at all. If you don’t want to pay a high price for a small bottling you don’t have to. Perhaps some wineries have out-priced people and you’re annoyed by that. I get it. I used to buy quite a lot of Grand Cru Burgundy and simply do not/cannot any longer. I would hope other folks making a large number (whatever you consider large to be) have a justification for it. I think we do and have no qualms backing it up either in print or via tastings.
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When I have visited Burgundy, I have actually found that many producers seem to have too many buyers for their Grand Crus and have a harder time selling their villages wines and regional wines - where many producers have much more in the way of quantity. For example, last year when I visited Domaine Bernard Moreau in Chassagne Montrachet, the biggest reaction I got from Alex Moreau (a very big smile) was when I told him that I really like his Bourgogne Blanc. I almost had the feeling that he viewed the higher cuvees as producing great grapes where his job is not to screw up what nature gives him but that it was with his lesser wines that HE is making a difference. And, a lot of offerings of Burgundy both there and in wine stores here require people to buy up and down the line to get the limit quantity wines from the top vineyards.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#32 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 21st, 2019, 2:18 pm

Just for fun I would like the OP to tell Ted Lemon at Littorai that he has too many single vineyard wines, then fly to France and say the same thing to Aubert de Villaine. ;)
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#33 Post by Brandon R » May 21st, 2019, 2:34 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:18 pm
Just for fun I would like the OP to tell Ted Lemon at Littorai that he has too many single vineyard wines, then fly to France and say the same thing to Aubert de Villaine. ;)
Hey, Man, I simply posed a question.

I do like what some others have said in that it depends. If all of the various cuvees are distinct and unique and make better wines than what would be made by blending, I guess that makes sense. However, that's an "if" that will likely never be fully answered. It would be interesting to see what revenue would look like when factoring in the premium that some smaller batch cuvees can command versus the revenue made from an appellation cuvee with larger production. Based on what I'm seeing, I assume the former is more profitable than the latter.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#34 Post by Howard Cooper » May 21st, 2019, 2:45 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:34 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:18 pm
Just for fun I would like the OP to tell Ted Lemon at Littorai that he has too many single vineyard wines, then fly to France and say the same thing to Aubert de Villaine. ;)
Hey, Man, I simply posed a question.

I do like what some others have said in that it depends. If all of the various cuvees are distinct and unique and make better wines than what would be made by blending, I guess that makes sense. However, that's an "if" that will likely never be fully answered. It would be interesting to see what revenue would look like when factoring in the premium that some smaller batch cuvees can command versus the revenue made from an appellation cuvee with larger production. Based on what I'm seeing, I assume the former is more profitable than the latter.
I am not sure what "answered" means. If you like one wine better than another wine and are willing to pay more for it, it is answered for you. Over the decades or centuries, it has been similarly answered by lots of people in the same way. For example, it is my recollection that Burghound has said that Clos de Beze has been recognized as a special vineyard since at least 1200 or something like that.

The market makes this determination. And, truly, hope and pray that what you like best is different from the market likes best because this means you can get the wines you like best for less money than the wines the market likes best.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#35 Post by Brandon R » May 21st, 2019, 2:50 pm

All I mean is that I can't foresee a situation in which a winery would actually go from producing a dozen different cuvees and charging $60 per bottle to three different appellation wines at four times the production and charging less.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#36 Post by Wes Barton » May 21st, 2019, 2:52 pm

Scott Jameson wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 8:38 am
Rory K. wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 9:52 pm
I think it has gone too far, but hopefully time and the consumer will have a net postive influence. Burgundy has had centuries for those vineyards to develop a track record/reputation/history. California's situation is single-vineyard=more $$$, so just invent vineyards and block names as you go along to charge more, which leads to a lot of middling wine.
The first single vineyard California Pinot Noirs I can recall are the Calera's from 1978 and the Acacia's beginning in 1979, and I'm sure there are earlier examples. While not the centuries of history that Burgundy has, that 40 years is several generations in CA wine time. This is not a new phenomenon and there doesn't seem to be any drop off in the ever increasing number of single vineyard offerings. Given this trend, I don't know why today would be considered more "out of control" or "gone too far" than when we had this same discussion 5 or 10 years ago, or when we'll have it 5 or 10 years from now.
Most earlier examples were working with estate fruit, so single vineyard with no reason to say more than estate. Calera is really blocks of one single vineyard, so must be the first to have subdivided distinctive sections of a vineyard in the U.S.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#37 Post by Wes Barton » May 21st, 2019, 3:11 pm

Mike Grammer wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 9:56 am
Isn't part of the problem potentially one of perception these days? A "Sonoma Coast" or "RRV" cuvee is almost always priced lower by most producers and thus brings with it the thought or concept of a lesser wine or a "well, we didn't have enough of these grapes to run out a SVD/didn't know what to do with the grapes, so we "bulked" them into an AVA designate". I think in the era of having to "cool up" to the customer, the customer wants to say they own a piece of something unique or individual. SVDs play right into that. Take Jamie---now, in his case, I've tasted both cuvees of Bohan and absolutely have been startled at the differentiation so I get why *he's* doing it, but he's going to run out a "regular" Bohan and then a "Graveyard Block" Bohan Pinot. Rochioli has been doing block-level releases for years. As others have opined, I suppose the customer base will determine how much is too much. But I *will* say that some winemakers that I talked to on my trip last summer are cutting back on their SKUs.

It's a worthwhile question, Brandon, and I'm glad you got discussion started on it.
I don't see love for Furthermore, but they're PN specialists. A friend (Shalini Sekhar) was their winemaker when they were awarded SF Chronicle Winemaker of the Year a few years ago. (I bottled for them back then.) They have some SVDs from elsewhere, but put the best barrels from their five Sonoma Coast vineyards into a higher end cuvee (in a crazy big/heavy bottle) called Alchemy. Iirc, it goes/went for around $80 when the SVDs are/were around $45.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#38 Post by Wes Barton » May 21st, 2019, 3:26 pm

J e s s e C wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 1:38 pm
Yes and no. Its not the sheer number that is problematic. Its how many of them (1) don't add meaningful insight into the differences of that vineyard and (2) just aren't good, yet are bottled with "xyz vineyard" on the label because that is supposed to sell better. As others have pointed out, burgundy producers often have several single vineyard bottlings (Fevre, PYCM, Lamy all come to mind). If you can draw out a meaningful distinction between California pinot vineyards, by all means do it. Certainly some do that very well. But how many sonoma coast pinots just taste like every other sonoma coast pinot? (maybe this is just a reflection on my unnuanced palate).
Jim touched on that. There certainly are a lot of mediocre Pinot producers out there. If a producer sucks, why should you as a consumer care how many sucky wines they make? Who cares if they're bumbling along trying to mimic someone else's successful model, but in reality making 8 indistinct wines that aren't worth the price?
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#39 Post by Wes Barton » May 21st, 2019, 3:37 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:34 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:18 pm
Just for fun I would like the OP to tell Ted Lemon at Littorai that he has too many single vineyard wines, then fly to France and say the same thing to Aubert de Villaine. ;)
Hey, Man, I simply posed a question.

I do like what some others have said in that it depends. If all of the various cuvees are distinct and unique and make better wines than what would be made by blending, I guess that makes sense. However, that's an "if" that will likely never be fully answered. It would be interesting to see what revenue would look like when factoring in the premium that some smaller batch cuvees can command versus the revenue made from an appellation cuvee with larger production. Based on what I'm seeing, I assume the former is more profitable than the latter.
Not necessarily. It's very complicated. With some producers, the top-tier wines can be essentially break-even. But, the prestige they get from those wines helps sell the much higher volume QPRs, where the profit is.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#40 Post by Poppy Davis » May 21st, 2019, 4:30 pm

I think much of this is simply that most California pinot noir producers don't own their own vines. So many producers just make whatever they can with whatever grapes they can purchase.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#41 Post by TomHill » May 21st, 2019, 4:33 pm

Wes Barton wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:52 pm
Scott Jameson wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 8:38 am
Rory K. wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 9:52 pm
I think it has gone too far, but hopefully time and the consumer will have a net postive influence. Burgundy has had centuries for those vineyards to develop a track record/reputation/history. California's situation is single-vineyard=more $$$, so just invent vineyards and block names as you go along to charge more, which leads to a lot of middling wine.
The first single vineyard California Pinot Noirs I can recall are the Calera's from 1978 and the Acacia's beginning in 1979, and I'm sure there are earlier examples. While not the centuries of history that Burgundy has, that 40 years is several generations in CA wine time. This is not a new phenomenon and there doesn't seem to be any drop off in the ever increasing number of single vineyard offerings. Given this trend, I don't know why today would be considered more "out of control" or "gone too far" than when we had this same discussion 5 or 10 years ago, or when we'll have it 5 or 10 years from now.
Most earlier examples were working with estate fruit, so single vineyard with no reason to say more than estate. Calera is really blocks of one single vineyard, so must be the first to have subdivided distinctive sections of a vineyard in the U.S.
That would be DiamondCreek, Wes.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#42 Post by Howard Cooper » May 21st, 2019, 5:06 pm

How different is any of this from BV Private Reserve and Inglenook Cask, which go back much, much further.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#43 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 21st, 2019, 5:18 pm

Brandon R wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:50 pm
All I mean is that I can't foresee a situation in which a winery would actually go from producing a dozen different cuvees and charging $60 per bottle to three different appellation wines at four times the production and charging less.
If people buy the wines, why would they do it? One of the key things that is rarely mentioned on line is that the wineries really don’t need the Berserker entitled class.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#44 Post by Chris T. » May 21st, 2019, 6:13 pm

Adam Lee wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:43 pm
Brandon R wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 3:08 pm
A few of these numbers are crazy, though! For example, it appears that Williams Selyem release twenty distinct Pinot Noirs in 2017. Twenty! Rivers-Marie has eight. Aubert looks like it's releasing eight Chardonnays. Maritnelli has seven Pinots.
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This is awesome haha!!

Adam - do you mind giving some background on why you guys produce so many different single vineyards? Did you guys always pump all of these out or is the KJ family asking you to?

Why are Pinot single vineyards produced at variancwa much greater than Cabs?
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#45 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 21st, 2019, 6:18 pm

There was a huge selection of Siduri single vineyard Pinots long before the buyout.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#46 Post by Mike Grammer » May 21st, 2019, 10:50 pm

There certainly were.

I like, Howard, that you combined distinctiveness and good in your response. Distinctiveness alone is probably not enough. I remember a fine conversation I had with Paul Sloan at Small Vines last summer. We were talking about making a pinot from a single clone and he answered in the negative---he had tried a bit and the wine simply wasn't interesting/good enough that way.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#47 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » May 22nd, 2019, 3:19 am

The market will dictate whether a SVD bottling is worth producing. "Good," "Interesting," and "Distinctive" are all subjective.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#48 Post by Howard Cooper » May 22nd, 2019, 4:03 am

Brandon R wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 2:50 pm
All I mean is that I can't foresee a situation in which a winery would actually go from producing a dozen different cuvees and charging $60 per bottle to three different appellation wines at four times the production and charging less.
The time would be when nine of the twelve cuvees do not sell well at $60 per bottle and the winery discovers that three of them would sell well at $100 per bottle.
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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#49 Post by Adam Lee » May 22nd, 2019, 6:20 am

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 6:18 pm
There was a huge selection of Siduri single vineyard Pinots long before the buyout.
Very true. For Siduri it was, in part, geographic diversity. Sourcing grapes from the northern end of the Willamette Valley to the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County made it easier to bottle different wines. If we were getting all of our grapes from, say the Russian River, it would have been more difficult to justify that many offerings. Per larger area (such as the Russian River Valley) I think the most bottlings we ever had was 5 or 6.

Does that make any sense?

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Re: Is the number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs being produced in Cali out of control?

#50 Post by Jim Anderson » May 22nd, 2019, 6:39 am

Mike Grammer wrote:
May 21st, 2019, 10:50 pm
There certainly were.

I like, Howard, that you combined distinctiveness and good in your response. Distinctiveness alone is probably not enough. I remember a fine conversation I had with Paul Sloan at Small Vines last summer. We were talking about making a pinot from a single clone and he answered in the negative---he had tried a bit and the wine simply wasn't interesting/good enough that way.
I believe of our 27 PN releases 17 are from a single clone. Sometimes it is the point, sometimes that’s all there is. Regardless, differing point of view and it seems Mr. Sloan and I would disagree.
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