How to choose the BEST wine? A golf lesson.

mickelson13shotWEB.jpgThe Masters was exceptionally dramatic this year. Many years it can be a total bust. But the return of Tiger to the Tour to face a resurgent and mature Phil Mickelson promised to deliver a worthwhile show. AKimbuckleWEB.jpgAdding the most fun player on Tour – Anthony Kim – and the promise was more than fulfilled.
tBoW does not wish to discuss Tiger’s redemption, forgiveness or even his pathological psychology. This is a WINE BLOG mister madame so we look for how the Masters can also function as a medium for appreciating wine. [ed. you wrote the same column last year LINK]
Even If you only watched the Masters for the back nine on Sunday you had to have noticed the galleries; the legions of seated fans that huddle around a certain spot for the entire day or even all four days. As happens with wine the fans of golf make choices about where they want to sit based on assumptions, beliefs and personal identification.
What am I saying to you?
18thgalleryWEB.jpgWhat kind of fan chooses to sit on the 18th green? Sometimes, though far from always, the winner is decided by the time the players reach the 18th. Sitting on the 18th green is really about pomp and circumstance. If you like to witness a coronation then place your fold-up chair on the 18th green where you are guaranteed some kind of “drama” even if it is canned.
When it comes to wine you probably like sure-bet wines with Parker-approved cachet and far more drone than buzz. opus05WEB.jpgYou are a Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet Sauvignon collector. Keep it simple. Guaranteed approval from the Middle of the Road. Safe and B-O-R-I-N-G. Except that one year when Opus really is special or Lafite or Mouton hit the heavens.
16thgallery3WEB.jpgWhat about the 16th green? Sitting on this par three guarantees excitement. This hole produces more thrills and excitement per minute than any hole on the course. Even when an also-ran group comes through there is always the chance somebody makes a birdie or even a hole-in-one. This hole plays a role in the winner’s score far more often than 18.
This is like hunting down great Rhone wines. lachapelle03WEB.jpgThere are always winners and the search can produce true finds if you are lucky. The best houses like Chave, Jaboulet or Rostaing always excel. The hole is something like La Landonne and La Chapelle. We expect greatness from this terroir and we always get it.
12thgalleryWEB.jpgThen there is the 12th hole; the most diabolical par 3 at Augusta. Short distance with a wicked green and sand traps placed in just the right spots to punish a careless goffer. Somebody always gets hurt on 12. So beautiful. So evil.
Anyone who searches out bargain priced Burgundies from lesser sites and duffer producers – like a Santenay from Rene Engel or any Mercurey – is taking risk like the tee shot at 12. In an off vintage (when the wind is shifting) the risk is even greater and all hope can end up in the creek.
The shot of the 2010 Masters was Phil Mickelson’s approach on 13 [ed. the actual shot at top]. His errant tee shot landed in the trees right. He had a window through two thin poplars with 204 yards to the green and the flag cut just off the front edge past the water. He stuck it showing supreme confidence and Masterful skill.
jayecrosparantoux89WEB.jpgWhat about the people who were seated in those trees? There was a group of 30 fans sitting behind Phil the Thrill when he lined up and struck the shot that won the tournament. They had the best view to witness the most thoughtful and hotly debated decision in all four days. How did they know to be there? Would it be too much to credit them for figuring Phil sprays the ball off the tee AND is supremely confident on this particular hole which he historically dominates? Did they know all this and decide to be there if and when?
Burgundy collectors face decisions as tough when they decide to spring for the pricey Pinot Noir from a top producer in a lesser know site. One thinks of Cros Parantoux or Mazis-Chambertin from Henri Jayer or Armand Rousseau, respectively. These are wines that require careful thought and a deep well of tasting knowledge, your own or someone you trust. And the price is not cheap but it also is not pumped up because a big name producer is on the label [ed. he means Leroy or DRC].
We sit in the trees waiting for the perfect convergence of circumstances that produces the most sublime and satisfying experience. Such as 1989 when Jayer and his nephew Emmanuel Rouget both produced a Cros Parantoux allowing the most interesting assessment of heritable winemaking style. When these kinds of stars align it is like nothing else. Like falling into a jeroboam of 1982 Talbot just to show we are not always too cool for Bordeaux.
For even more thoughts on Burgundy Dotoré suggests reading the recent bellepente07WEB.gifSlate post on Bordeaux versus Burgundy by Mike Steinberger.
Having written all that, here are a few wines recently tasted that may illustrate some of these points. Or not.
2007 Belle Pente Oregon Pinot Noir Willamette Valley $18: Just ripe enough which is true to this under-appreciated Oregon vintage. Light weight, dark fruit, some funk on the nose. Not a hearty wine, more like a Beaujolais. Sweet and smoky. Good U20 value. 12.9%
overtheedge08WEB.jpg2008 Over the Edge Pinot Noir $12: Kiwi Pinot Noir that is lean and tight. Earthy, acidic, light weight. Does not impress well. A U20 but not probably worth the investment. Begs the question should one buy Pinot Noir under $20? Answer: only if the pedigree and risks are known. See 12th and 16th holes. 13%
2002 Ojai Vineyard Santa Barbara County Vogelzang Vineyard Syrah $35: Purchased as a future at the now defunct Wine Cask futures tasting in 2004. This wine is soft and balance but still has some tannins. Beautiful royal red color. Very nice fruit, elegantly rustic, a bit lean. This wine has settled down quite a bit from when it was last reviewed here in November 2008. 14.5%
echezaux96WEB.jpg1996 Domaine de Perdrix Grand Cru Echezeaux $110: A notable house that produces wines from three regions in France including Burgundy and especially this very special site. Amazingly fresh, some delightful funk on the nose, rich dried cherry fruit in the mouth. Showing some age but light a mature male dancer blending strength with grace and what remains of former power. Classic 13th-hole-at-Augusta wine.

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