question: serious domestic pinot drinkers who are also burgundy lovers

I love Burgundy and I’m a fan of US Pinots but I’d rather have a US Pinot made in the typical California/New World style. I’m generally not a fan of US Pinots that they try to make in a Burgundian style. It’s kind of a Ricardian economics thing for me.

Of course there is terroir influence in California. How many times have we discussed the cola element that shows up in RRV Pinots? Yes, that’s a macro terroir, but RRV could be analogous to a village classification.

Many of the vineyards in CA are too large for the micro terroir discussion in my opinion. Jay Miller mentioned Clos Vougeot earlier, and I think the issues with that site are magnified in California in any search for terroir. Between the vineyard sizes and the relatively short history we have too many variable that have not yet settled in.

That being said, if we get over the idea that fruit is not reflective of terroir (it is part of terroir expression, or there would never be fruit flaors in wine), then the differences in California sites become a bit clerarer. We don’t have the history (as has been said) to identify which sites are GC versus 1er Cru, etc Right now it’s based on which wines we liked from particular producers. I could see people arguing for Skyline Vineyard or Swan Terrace as a GC site, but despite my love for the Rhys wines there is virtually no track record. We don’t know what those wines would evolve into with 20+ years of age, or what will happen as the vines approach even middle age. I like to think that those sites will produce wines that stand the test of time, even if that time is somewhat shorter than Burg time so to speak. The structure is different, so the wine’s longevity will be different. Right now I would like to think that a bottle of 2008 Skyline Vineyard Pinot will be utterly delicious at age 10-15. I have no way to know that for sure. Once we get into the 10-15 years of age with positive development, anything beyond that is a parlor trick.

When we discuss the relative merits of California sites (or sites in Oregon or anywhere else) I believe it is instructuve to recall the wide variance in 1er cru style and quality across Burgundy. Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques and Beaune Bressandes are both 1er cru. They are radically different wines. So what does that provide for us in terms of evaluation context for Clos Pepe and Skyline (just to name two)?

For those saying that pinot in California can not show terroir, I very much disagree. Even a producer like suduri which can push the ripeness envelope, terroir distinctiveness is very much on display when you try a lot of their wines at once during their open house…

I agree, in fact I think Siduri is one of the best producers for my palate in the new world…and I have seen the different styles with their wines which I appreciate…though my domestic pinot experience is limited…I think Siduri has been overlooked by the influx of newer hyped labels…I have had a few of these darlings and have found myself wishing I was rather drinking a Siduri for half the price…

Indeed, but I’d argue that CA Pinot is so much in its infancy that the vineyard hierarchy has yet to sort itself out, and often a wine is bottled as a “single vineyard” not because that particular plot of land has anything particularly distinctive to say, but instead because there happened to be a large enough commercial investment made there.

I do agree with you, that regions such as SCM, the “true” Sonoma Coast, deep end Anderson Valley, are all asserting themselves as distinctive quality regions, but the groundwork for establishing the great vineyards is only recently underway and will play out over the coming decades.

I couldn’t agree more - which makes following the progress of CA Pinot vineyards all the more interesting to me. Some very good people are passionately involved in this process and it is fun to watch.

Because we know more now than the French did centuries ago and we can learn from their experience (and the experience of others), I expect the learning curve will be greatly compressed. Amazing to watch this play out in real time.

Agreed, that’s one of the things I find most fascinating about the Rhys project. They are not content with saying “Santa Cruz” or “Anderson Valley” but are breaking them out by what they consider to be distinctive terroirs. Before that I would have said “I’m a big fan of Santa Cruz pinot noir”. Now that seems lazy :slight_smile:

Terroir does exist, granted not a pinot, just look at Dunn Howell mt. Cab…yowza…now that’s terroir…so it’s def. out there

Great point Jay. I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it, but I feel I can pretty accurately recognize some signature characteristics of SLH, RRV, True Sonoma Coast, and Anderson Valley pinots. SCM on the other hand, I don’t think of specific characteristics, and (for me) that’s because Rhys has already broken it down to more granular parts which highlight the differences within that region.

SCM is too varied, geologically, soils, altitude, climatically … to characterize easily. Many times over more complex than Burgundy.

So you can envision the challenge of say a Kevin Harvey … trying to uncover and bring to life that magical niche within that broad and complex mosaic.

I’ve been to Red/White Burgundy blind tastings where CA ringers were inserted.
These tastings included several Burg-Hounds.
Mount Eden Pinot and Testarossa Chard were thought UNIVERSALLY to be from Burgundy.

Sometimes, not so easy to pick out when tasting blind.


P.S. Love to insert a 2006 Rhys Swan into a Volnay tasting!!

And this is why it’s really hard to answer the question, as framed; when only a producer or two (or few) are making wines from the vineyard, it’s really difficult to suss out exactly what in that (those) wine(s) is terroir-related, and what is producer-related.

The Burgundy analogy might work better if you’re willing to compare CA appellations to Burgundy vineyards.

I don’t get this. If a Burgundy producer came to CA and made Pinot Noir the exact same way as they make their Pinot Noir(s) in Burgundy, then wouldn’t the resultant wine be expressing its site just as clearly as do a lot of Burgundy vineyards?

Rhys, IIRC, utilizes the precise same winemaking techniques on all of the wines from various vineyards they source. It’s my understanding that they are attemping to isolate sensory variations to the site, not the winemaking.

I hope Marc corrects me if I’m wrong, but I think he’s looking for {x} CA vineyard is the Musigny of CA, or {xy} CA vineyard is the Suchots of CA.

Slightly different question than merely, “What are the best?”

Answer: we don’t know yet.

And that’s a really good start to understanding those terroirs, for sure. But, if nobody else is making wines from those sites then it’s still difficult to know which overarching Rhys decisions are affecting all of the wines, alike.

Let’s say Rhys (or any producer) makes two wines – one each from two different sites. Both of these wines are made identically, but they taste the same (or very similarly).

Another producer makes two wines – one each from the same two sites – and they make those two wines identically, but they do not taste the same (or similar).

So, which wine(s) are clearly expressing its (their) terroir(s)? IMO, it’s an impossible question to answer without more data points.

Totally agree.

Good to know! In fact, I think this would be an interesting thread topic: CA wines have been mistaken for Burgs. when tasted blind. {off to start the thread} [cheers.gif]

Not true… whole-cluster and new oak percentages can vary significantly across vineyards and vintages. For example, I believe Bearwallow Pinot no longer sees any new oak (or maybe 10%) while juice from other vineyards might see 60%+.

OK - that is different than my understanding. Perhaps Kevin can stop by to clarify.