‘Tis the Season: Five Wine Truths

santa-sleighVINOWEBIn Vino Veritas must be the vanity plate on Santa’s sleigh. It is also a muy popular phrase among the cogniscenti du vin. Something about truth and wine. This blog is hardly averse when it comes to understanding more about our wine tastes and habits. Here is what the vines told us at a recent holiday party.

antica07WEB ayres10WEB Lesson #1: Palates change, or at least they should if you prefer truth to hype. The truth here is we are done with Oregon wines. We plan to drink thru what’s in the cellar. Not a knock on Oregon Pinot Noir. Just a move in a new direction.

2007 Antica Terra Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pioneer Pinot Noir: Five years ago these Oregon Pinot Noir wines were at the top of our list. Had to have them. Nummy num nums. So delicious. So manipulated. Both wines are quite enjoyable. Antica still seems to the be the top PN in the New World per the party guests. We just see no further reason to purchase wines from the region.

latourmersault05WEB Lesson #2: Pierce the veil of personal bias. Consider all the data. As Inspector Clouseau might say “I suspect no one and I suspect everyone.” I suspect me. 2005 Louis Latour Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru: Forget the pedigree of the producer and especially the wine press. This bottle had everything going for it when purchased: big name producer, big name vineyard, should have checked the vintage, and deeply discounted. The most important red flag was the wine shop, now out of business. We had never bought a decent bottle from the site. The wine was flat. Over the hill. Some said premox. Some said too cold. When it warmed up it was chalk and dust with little fruit. Buy the wine you like, note wines you are supposed to like. More signals “The family-run company of Maison Louis Latour is one of the most highly-respected négociant-éléveurs in Burgundy. Renowned throughout the world for the quality of its red and white wines, the company has built a reputation for tradition and innovation. This Domaine has the largest Grand Cru property in the Cote d’Or with a total of 28,63 hectares (71,58 acres).” Large vineyards is not necessarily a detractor BUT a smaller vineyard is often associated with smaller producers who are more concerned with quality than quantity.

ranchero-vig-10WEB Lesson #3: Look at the small producer who is reasonably inspired. Amy Jean Butler is a case in point. From her website: “Founded by way of endless infatuation and intellectual curiosity, Ranchero Cellars is my just reward for years of making wine for others. I have lived and breathed winemaking on all levels – from the storied and venerated Napa institutions, to the intrepid Paso Robles startup – and have come to understand that this is where I belong. Over the past 16 years I have fallen in love with certain vineyards, particular varieties, specific styles and methods.” This is what inspiration reads like. And she signs off “XOXO Amy.” 2010 Ranchero Cellars Viognier: This 4 y.o. Viognier wine from Paso Robles is delicious. It has improved with a couple years. Proof that the New World/Old World distinction which we constantly cite has little meaning in the hands of a true winemaker.

santelenamag06WEBLesson #4: Cabernet is not Napa. 2006 Sant’ Elena Cabernet Sauvignon: An Italian red from the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy. Delightful. Served in mag so it has soft tannins 8 years later. Middle weight tasting just fine. There is another lesson here: if you know the wine and not the region, and the price is right ($40 for the mag), then give it a try.

stcosme12WEB Lesson #5: If spooked by too much information when considering a new prestigious brand, start at the intro level. St Cosme is a value label from the Cotes du Rhone. The label is intimidating with an ancient hut obviously hand illustrated. Old shit. Too much for us. We don’t know what to do… flight or fight! Recent release wines can purchased from $14 to $80. The site is ancient as in 15th century. Romans get a mention. 2011 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone: The entry level wine that is 100% Syrah. We worried it might be “hot” [ed. high alcohol], too big being from Gigondas a region we imagine is noted for “size” [ed. too rich]. What we got was a fairly exotic red wine that failed to meet any of our weenie-shaped fears. Great value too. Wine tasting can be so silly!

Please excuse this sentimental moment. Nat King Cole and Frank’s World are hard to resist.


  1. Wavatar
    doctore says:

    re: Oregon Pinot Noirs….”both wines are quite enjoyable. … see no reason to purchase wines from the region”. Ultimately, what better reason than enjoyable? And while were at it…”truth to hype?” Whose “truth”? Palates do change because taste is subjective, eh? Please refer to recent article on wine snobbery.

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      Bacchus says:

      Let me sharpen my vision and strengthen my resolve. “Were” is a contraction of “we are” and requires an umlaut as in “we’re.” That was exhausting. First I must rest then return to this reply.

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      Bacchus says:

      You did it! You said you would and you did! You did it! A “firmly committed palate” is a new oxy-Moron. But you have done it before. You converted your own family member from hyped up California to veritas-like France. Subjective is subjective. It is what…. I can’t do it. You did it!

      You mean this article on wine snobbery


      I know exactly which gets your foto. And I have the foto.

      Thank you for your comment.

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        Kris-B says:

        I too am confused why you are down on Oregon. That 2007 Antica Terra was awesome because it had age and was from a cool year. Just stick with the cold years, like ’07, ’10, and ’11. Avoid the big and heralded years like ’08, ’09, ’12, and ’13.

        The Sant’Elena mag was $30 BTW.

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    Betsy says:

    I’ll come over and help you drink down the Oregon stock.

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    mouse says:

    I pre-rated a St Cosme Cotes du Rhone blanc last month. Now for the actual report. Excellent liquid! A four-part blend, with roussane, Grenache blanc, viognier and clairette. Not insipid dishwater like many of these types. Viscous and pineapple. One solid mouse!

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    Bacchus says:

    Thank you all for the FINE comments mi cognoscenti. Meeska – where can I get this St Cosme Blanc? A job for Le Large. Kris B – The gap between NW and OW Pinot is wider than I can hurdle in my declining (reclining?) years. Help me pull thru the lot (handful or 07 Anticas in cellar I traded Napa wines to acquire). I thought blended Nebbiolos had eclipsed red Burgs until I opened one (the Burg) last night. Now I am on the internet hunt. 2011 Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy. Job for Mouse. Finally, Betsy – hurry! Quick like a bunny with screwpull in hand. Mele Kalikimaka.

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    The Large says:

    I have a feeling Santa will deliver this Christmas… or perhaps Honukkah for a twist…

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