Saturday, June 28, 2014

One of the ten best red wines I've made in thirty years, but I like it too!

Behold, the amazing 2013 Stillman “Zeppelin” Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County.

100% Clone 777 Pinot Noir, alc. 14.9%, $60 retail – for strangers, which you are not.  (Vastly preferable club price via email, with mention of the Secret Password, at the bottom of this post.)  The vineyard is extremely cool-climate and very low yielding,  1.6 miles from the Pacific, above the town of San Simeon;  I've had my eye on it for several years but only picked twice.

This is a very powerful but balanced style of Pinot Noir, both very ripe and deliciously tart.  Denser and riper than almost any other example of the variety, with very ripe red cherry, blackberry and pepper, and a moderate amount of once used French oak.  The nose is blatantly Pinot Noir; the structure is rich, full and balanced with minimal tannins.  It’s definitely one of the ten best red wines I’ve made in my thirty years of enological malpractice.  I’d be happy to prattle on and on, and may write a long blog post about the wine, but it’s time to share it:  $209/6 bottles, $399/12 bottles, temperature controlled shipping included.  Orders and questions, email me at
The secret password is:  lignification

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wine competition judges and critics explained by an actual expert?

As I thought it might, the 2014 Orange County Fair Commercial Wine Competition gave the 2013 Chateau d'Abalone Verdejo a silver medal;  I received the notice by snail mail today.  Having judged this California-only event since 1990, and other judgings open to international entries as well, I didn't take it too hard.  The OCF is not a consensus judging, where assorted winemakers, chefs, sommeliers and writers bicker and bargain over what to give, say, PN#105 in price class M.  The OCF has winemaker-only judges who score wines independently without discussion;  numerical scores are crunched in a non-smoke-filled back room and medals are awarded later.  At lunch, I overheard a judge on the panel that tasted the Vermentinos admit that she'd never had one before:  not exceptional, but unfortunate, as she certainly judged a wine I made for a client who'd entered several.  (Just found out that it actually did get a gold medal, so I really shouldn't complain.)

The Syrahs and Tempranillos I've done for this client have done exceptionally well in the last few years, by the way, and the Syrah, Tempranillo, Counoise and Vermentino did in fact win a gold medal at this same competition - the excellent Viognier only got a bronze despite that category being judged by my panel!  If the other three judges gave the Verdejo 92 points and she gave it 82, it gets a silver - in a consensus judging it gets a gold.  Oh well...

I only entered the wine at the direct request of the organizers, who guilted me into it.  Making very small amounts of wine means running out, and regretting giving it away for unneeded hype when a customer wants a few bottles and there's none left.  Critics ask for fewer bottles than competitions, but they naturally expect you to subscribe to or advertise in their publications, and that adds up too, and some of them are prima donnas who hold grudges against their betters for mocking them.  (Some of them are even more arrogant than winemakers.)  In the words of the great Rik Mayall (who passed away extremely recently) as Lord Squadron Leader Flashheart in "Black Adder": "Right! Let's dig out your best booze and talk about me till the car comes."

Band practice

Band practice