If there is one truth in wine it is that every vintage must be sold. The most common storyline trotted out to meet this goal is vintage of the century or decade. You never see vintage of the epoch or vintage of the era. The 2008 vintage might be more aptly described as the vintage that ends an era; the era of silly prices and sillier wine talk.
Speaking of silly wine talk here is an excerpt from the web’s most prolific talker Mr. Gary Vaynerchuk. Before you knock me for taking the easy route to a blog post and call me a lazy-ass journalist, just keep in mind I am lifting this from another lazy-ass journalist which includes the video interview of the “big blue vayner” with current tBoW favorite winemaker Toby Hill.
News about more than 200 lightning strikes and a full month’s worth of hovering smoke over Anderson Valley caused many in the wine industry to cast a skeptical eye on the quality of 2008 wines. Winemakers started exploring methods such as reverse osmosis and filtration to remove smoke taint from wines that originated from the most heavily affected areas. The problem with these methods is that they not only stripped away much of the smoke taint, but also removed quite a bit of the pleasant fruit components in the process.
The point we are getting to is that 2008 presented a special challenge to Mendocino premium winemakers. While we have not taken a survey or even made a few phone calls we have noticed the creative efforts undertaken by two of our favorite Mendocino wineries to move product from 2008. Toby Hill – the artist turned winemaker – has decided to release his 2008 Pinot Noirs at full price whereas Navarro -the friendly family winery – has chosen a more conservative path; effectively de-certifying the wine and selling it off at huge savings.
The SF Chronicle recently covered a couple handfuls of 2008 wines from Anderson Valley sent to their tasting panel for review and scoring. Yikes.
During the summer of 2008 hundreds of wildfires raged in California and were named the Lightning Complex. During June and July there was a distressing loss of lives, property and wildlife habitat…As a result, our 2008 red wines have a smoky undertone that is uncharacteristic of Navarro usual reds. Because these wines have developed this uncharacteristic nuance for Navarro, we have decided to offer all remaining 2008 Navarro red wines under our secondary label, Indian Creek with savings up to 65%. We are offering three Indian Creek wines that won 10 Gold and Silver Medals when they were judged as higher priced Navarro bottlings: 2008 Zinfandel, 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir and 2008 Pinot Noir…for $29.51 including the penny shipping charge.
So here is the question. Which would you buy if any at all? Did the fires of 2008 put the best Pinot Noirs in California beyond buying? Of course, like any wine fiend tBoW bought the higher priced spread [ed. he means he bought the Philips Hill offerings and feels a bit stupid about it] but is afraid to go low for Navarro. Needing more data we pulled one of the 2008 P-H corks and one from Navarro, I mean Indian Creek.
Just to be fair we must note vinifera was not the only cash crop threatened in 2008. Mendocino’s other agro-gold mine received unwanted attention not only from the fires but from the FBI as well.
2008 Philips-Hill Ring of Fire $40: First wine to go into the glass. First comment from a taster, “tastes like barbecue”. Charred, like season salt. Flawed. This is nothing like the 2007 vintage wines from Philips-Hill we have enjoyed. The weight is medium-light. Color is dark. Not integrated well. Would like to know if it underwent the reverse osmosis procedure used by many local Anderson Valley winemakers. 14.1%
2008 Indian Creek Reserve Pinot Noir ~$10: One of three wines Navarro sold as a unit for $29 under the Indian Creek label. Thicker juice and more pronounced smoky flavors. More tainted, too. A Pinot Noir for grilled steaks. 13.7%
As backup we also opened several other Pinot Noir wines, all superior.
2008 Couer de Terre Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $22: Tasted and purchased at 2010 Portland Indie Wine Fest. Should have gotten more. Maybe we still can?!? Rich Willamette fruit. Sophisticated, pure, some forest floor and earthiness but not gamey. High tone. Medium light in weight. Outstanding. 13.7%
2006 Cardwell Hill Willamette Valley Estate Pinot Noir $24: Last wine we opened and it still had enough going on to catch the tasters’ tongues. Strong fruit from a lighter but elegant vintage. Quite lovely and masculine. Cardwell Hill Winery becomes a must visit because it is located in a region west of Carlton with about a dozen others. A prize at 13.2%
2005 Domaine A. Machard de Gramont Savigny-l√®s-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Guettes $35: Discounted at Total Wine, a new chain of premium wines discounted 25% or more. Led to a discussion about how much to spend for good to very good Burgundy and where you can expect to find it; not any chain we can think of. tBoW and Dotor√© contend you will find the “bargains” [ed. Burgundy bargain...more rare than an Oregon Duck place kicker] in the top wine shops who have the requisite relationships with the top distributors and importers. It is the latter that provides the close-outs and “lovers’ spat” specials. This is a nice enough bottle of French Pinot Noir. Beautiful blue-red color. Light weight juice. Gingerbread flavor, earthiness, even clove. Quite lovely BUT we would rather have either of the two Oregon wines.
[ed. Two years later I am still itchin' to revisit Mendocino and the Anderson Valley!]