Neal is an excellent critic. He is diligent and very thoughtful. He was very open about starting coverage and being a newbie for the region- this was his first published review. Given the context of his new assignment, do you expect him to be ‘the authority’ right out of the gate? He is not stating this entitlement anywhere. Gotta start somewhere right and he didn’t fall off of the turnip truck so why not give him a chance versus auto-alienation? Hey, no one seems to know him anyway so why such a fuss about his efforts?
BTW, I read it and noticed his commentary and scores for Antica Terra (of which I know and like) which ranged from 91-94 and thought about right. Especially as Neal is a more conservative grader. I will probably get blasted somehow for pasting this below but anyway, here is his writeup on Antica Terra Ceras 2012 (94pts, window 2015-2023 ) do you not see value or atleast hints of it in this type of effort?
"The 2012 Pinot Noir Ceras is Maggie Harrison’s mineral take of Pinot Noir (she actually uses the word “aerial” in her technical sheet). It does indeed offer an ethereal bouquet that is just so succinct: a carapace of dark cherry and blackcurrant fruit interspersed with cold granite, walnut and smoke scents that are beautifully defined. The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannins, a lot of salinity and superb tension all the way through to the finish. What a wonderful Pinot Noir - the kind of wine I can guarantee you will finish to the final drop.
Never judge wine by the look of the winery. Pulling up outside Antica Terra, there is no sign indicating that this austere, drab warehouse in downtown Dundee is de facto home to some of Oregon’s finest, most thoughtfully and meticulously produced wines. Winemaker Maggie Harrison’s rise from assisting Manfred and Elaine Kankl at Sine Qua Non in California, to Antica Terra in Oregon, has been well documented by my predecessor. It is clear that Manfred’s philosophy permeates her own vision toward winemaking, and vision here is the most appropriate word, even if stylistically the wines are not contiguous from Manfred’s. Maggie’s personality is tangible from afar. You sense the energy before seeing the person: petite with a mass of corkscrew black hair and large 1980s spectacles that confer an air of erudition that is realized as soon as you embark in conversation. During our exchange she came across as a person who contemplates not just wine, but its central place within life. Ergo our ping-pong conversation had a tendency to spin off tangentially and revert to wine with unerring frequency.
Not wishing to sound banal, but my immediate impression of Maggie’s wines were that they were “interesting,” insofar that these are not wines you simply want to drink, but wines that halt you in your tracks and subliminally say: “Hold on a minute. Think about me. Then knock me back and enjoy.” There is an intellectual dimension to Antica Terra’s fermented grape juice allied with a meticulous approach that I suspect is uncommon not only in Oregon, but anywhere. I asked her how the two vintages differed in terms of her own perspective…
“In 2011, there was a moment earlier in the year where it felt you were not going to get your fruit ripe,” Maggie explained. “So much was uncertain, so there was a huge amount of risk in taking decisions earlier. We dropped fruit before flowering so there is a large risk - but you get the biggest impact. Even having dropped the fruit, you did not know whether you would get there. If you told me I would get these Pinot Noir or Chardonnay I would have stopped crying. In 2012, it was the first time when there was a lot of conversation about alcohol and so forth, but I did not want to force it into something that it didn’t want to be. You had to be unafraid what the vintage gave you and lavish attention on it and that was super-exciting."
Tasting through Antica Terra’s current releases, one has to approach each on their own merit because there no leitmotif runs through her range, save for attention to detail and complexity. For want of a better phrase, these wines have something to say, whether it is the transparency of the “Botanica," the intensity of the “Antikythera,” or the precision of the “Aurata." Yes, there is terroir expressed in these wines, yet there is strong guidance in the winery, a kind hand ushering them toward their personalities in the glass like a child being guided gently into the correct classroom on their first day at school. For example, the rosé, under the name “Angelicall” is inspired by the Pinot Noirs of Northern Italy, fermented on the skins for a week until there comes a day when the bouquet seems to explode, at which point the juice is drawn and transferred into barrel. It’s a wine that crosses genres and you spend time deliberating upon whether you are drinking red or rosé. I’ve encountered very few wines cut from a similar cloth and it was quite bewitching.
Overall, these wines might not come cheap, but you often get what you pay for. Apart from the eye-catching labels, the wines inside are strongly recommended. Even so, you have the feeling the Antica Terra has only finished its first chapter. I look forward to reading the rest of the book."