The hot topic in the Pinot-loving wine world right now centers on one word: balance. Indeed, a debate has erupted over the definition of “balanced Pinot,” as illustrated in this NY Times wine column by Eric Asimov and the subsequent Twitter-fueled fallout.
One of the most eagerly anticipated tasting events, In Pursuit of Balance (“IPOB”), has helped spur the discussion. And it seems there is strong demand for this type of dialogue (at least among the Bay Area wine drinking community): tickets to the public tasting sold out in a few work days.
I’m not going to weigh in on the “balance” debate at this point, but will do a post-IPOB wrap-up next week. For now, I just thought I’d provide some resources for those of you interested in learning more about the “balance” issue.
IPOB Panel Discussion Webcast
Prior to the IPOB public tasting, there will be a distinguished group of panelists discussing (you guessed it) balance and Pinot Noir. You can watch the live webcast through GastroTommy – http://www.gastrotommy.com/webcast – from Noon – 1pm PDT on Monday, March 28. You can even submit questions for the panel by logging on to Twitter and using the #IPOB hashtag.
Vanessa Wong (Winemaker/Owner, Peay Vineyards)
Wells Guthrie (Winemaker/Owner, Copain)
Jeffrey Patterson (Winemaker/Owner, Mount Eden Vineyards)
Sashi Moorman(Winemaker, Evening Land Vineyards)
Geoff Kruth, MS (Director of Operations – Guild of Sommeliers and Wine Director – Farmhouse Inn).
Below are a few articles, mainly from the point of view of those promoting lower alcohol Pinot Noir.
- March 2009 NY Times article by Eric Asimov regarding California Pinot producers going championing a more restrained style. Props given to many of the IPOB participants including Au Bon Climat, Calera, Copain, Littorai, and Peay. See also Asimov’s related blog post on the same subject, and providing more details regarding his preferred Pinot producers.
- Key quote: “In the current issue of Wine Spectator, the highest-scoring pinot noir from California is described as ‘superrich, bordering on syrupy.’ Those are apparently compliments. Now, I haven’t tried that wine, but I can’t say those qualities are what I desire in a pinot noir. I prefer words like elegant and energetic….”
- March 5, 2011 Vinography summary of “Alcohol Levels and Balance in Pinot Noir” panel during World of Pinot Noir Conference. The panel was moderated by Eric Asimov, and included Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Adam Tolmach (Ojai Vineyards), Josh Jensen (Calera Wine Company), Rajat Parr (RN74 Restaurant), Adam Lee (Siduri Wines), and Michael Browne (Kosta Browne). Make sure to read the comments section, too, especially Adam’s explanation of the events that transpired.
- Key quote: “I personally don’t like higher alcohols . The sign of great wine is complexity, not horsepower.” – Josh Jensen, Calera Wine Co.
- March 13, 2011 SF Chronicle article by Jon Bonné regarding same, and mentioning upcoming In Pursuit of Balance event.
- Key quote: “What’s quietly losing favor, then, are those inky, oak-loaded Pinots made for flash and impact, for success with a handful of critics who are slowly fading into the background. These wines have contributed to the de-Pinoting of Pinot as much as the bottom-shelf stuff.”
List of Participating Wineries
For your continued reading pleasure, here are links to the different wineries that will be participating in the IPOB tasting. I’ve included the names of the current winemakers and the source of at least some of the Pinots produced by these wineries.
Alta Maria Vineyards (Central Coast)
James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins
Ambullneo Vineyards (Central Coast)
Au Bon Climat (Central Coast)
Calera Wine Company (Central Coast)
Ceritas Wine (Sonoma Coast)
Chanin Wine Company (Central Coast)
Cobb Wines (Sonoma Coast)
Evening Land Vineyards (various sites, including Sonoma Coast and Oregon)
Flowers Vineyard & Winery (Sonoma Coast)
Freestone Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Hirsch Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Kutch Wines (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Russian River Valley)
LIOCO (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Monterey / Russian River Valley)
Littorai (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Russian River Valley)
Miura Vineyards (Monterey / Santa Lucia Highlands) [no website]
NOTE: Miura is doing a winemaker’s dinner at 1300 Fillmore on April 13.
Mount Eden Vineyards (Santa Cruz)
Native9 (Central Coast)
James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins
Peay Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Sandhi Wines (Central Coast)
Soliste Wine (Sonoma Coast / Russian River Valley)
Claude Koeberle & Donald Plumley
Tyler Winery (Central Coast)
Wind Gap Wines (Sonoma Coast)