Suckling's Napa 16' Report

Although many of the big boys have not yet been reviewed, none in this morning’s report garnished a 100pt review. Could this be a small shift in the Suckling scoring model? I’ll definitely be scooping up some 2016 Ulysses and glad to see the Realm Houyi breaking out of the pack, love that vineyard. However, some of the report left me utterly confused. I can understand Carter’s Weitz receiving 93pts, but the GTO receiving the same score? Maybe the tasting occurred on a root day? [scratch.gif]

I don’t worry purely about “the number” Suckling puts on a wine, except as it relates to the numbers he puts on that wine’s peers. It’s the relative score that matters. I really like the guy for Brunello and think he does a great job of rank ordering the wines. I can generally trust that his 100 pt wine > his 95 point wine > 90 point wine. Just start buying at 95 points, if that’s all I have to go on, and I’m good.

They’re not Italian. He knows who butters his bread.

Speaking of Suckling:

Last Friday I stopped by Total Wines for their one cent wine tasting.

The guy from Amici Winery (Calistoga) was there with 5 wines, 2 of them from Olema, their second label.

All had description cards with James Suckling review scores.

First 2016 Amici Sonoma Coast Chardonnay - $16 - light with some fruit, not much complexity but a little acid to balance - I’d give it an 87. J. Suckling 91pts.

Next was 2016 Olema Sonoma County Pinot Noir - $17 - light and a little fruit forward without much else going on - I’d give it an 86. J. Suckling 92pts.

Then 2017 Amici Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - $40 - the best wine of the group - nice body and fruit with good balance - I’d give it a 90. J. Suckling 92pts.

2016 Olema Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon - $23 - reminded me of the Amici pinot noir a little - light and fruit forward with some body but not much else for a cabernet, ready to drink now, not worth over $20 - I’d give it an 86. J. Suckling 92pts.

Finally 2015 Amici Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $45 - fruit balanced with oak and tannins - not bad but could use a little bottle age, seems overpriced - I’d give it an 88. J. Suckling 92pts.

All rated 91 or 92 points by Suckling. How can you put any stock in his ratings?

Or yours? Or anyone’s ? Just so subjective .

Except no one is lining Mike’s pockets in exchange for a high score. Objectivity is everything.

[wow.gif] [shock.gif] [shrug.gif]

Obviously, he had an off day.

You’re right, it’s all subjective.

I reviewed high end audio equipment for a magazine (TAS) for 16 years - everyone’s taste in music reproduction and wine isn’t the same.

The key is finding a reviewer who has the same biases or tastes you do.

It’s telling to me that Suckling’s rating for a second label $17 pinot noir is exactly the same as the main label’s $40 one.

I would suggest you seek out a bottle of the Olema pinot or cab and taste them for yourself - let us know how you would rate them.

Compared to Lisa Perotti Brown’s vintage 2016 assessment, James Suckling’s and his Senior Editor Nick Stock’s verdict differs substantially IMHO:

"Napa Valley is releasing another outstanding vintage for reds with the 2016, making it the fifth top year in a row for the Sunshine State. After tasting almost 500 wines from the year, we believe that 2016 compares beautifully in quality to the other excellent vintages such as 2012, 2014, and 2015, although the 2013 remains the best of the five vintages.

“We have a theory that some winemakers picked very late simply because they could so they did, to make behemoth wines.”

For us, the quality of the wines in both vintages (2015 & 2016) seems to be heavily influenced by those who made them. A good number of wines were overdone with sultana and dried fruit character where wineries obviously intentionally picked as late as possible. We have to wonder who drinks these wines anymore (but there is still demand in the market). On the other hand, some wineries obviously worked very hard to pick at the right times and finesse their winemaking to emphasize the goodness of their vineyard and the vintage, regardless if it was the 2015 or the 2016. A good example of this were the wines from Tod Mostero who made wonderful reds at Dominus and Ulysses in both 2016 and 2015. The 2016 Ulysses is the best ever — 99 points. “We simply try to do the right things at the right time whether in the vineyard or the winery,” says Mostero.

Realm Cellars is another winery that is pushing the limits for quality and, despite its wines showing Napa richness, there’s a purity and precision to the wines that underline deft winemaking. “We could pick anytime we wanted in 2016,” admits winemaker Benoit Touquette. “But this was a vintage that you could really show the true character of the wines — so you needed to pick at the right time.”

Indeed, the growing season of 2016 was a beautiful one with hot and dry weather but no extremes or heat spikes in the summer that often mark vintages and leave a fingerprint on wines. We have a theory that some winemakers picked very late simply because they could so they did, to make behemoth wines. Others dialed in their terroirs by quality picking the grapes at the right time and fine-tuning their winemaking to emphasize the goodness and character of their vineyards.
“It’s a bummer when people missed the opportunity to make vineyard-and area-specific wines in an excellent year like 2016,” adds Touquette."

I’m sure there will be a handful of 3-digit wines published from Suckling as well, as the big guns are evaluated, but I do not think it will be even close to the vast numbers of perfect wines Lisa found.

I’d like to see him change his ratings system: 1 to 5 scarfs.