This is an issue I’ve been contemplating writing about for a few years now, but it appears Dan Berger beat me to the punch! He writes:
I’ve heard winemakers and wine geeks say: “A pinot noir isn’t wine until it’s five years old. Before then it’s like robbing the cradle.”
Tasting many of the 2010 pinots recently, that particular phrase came to mind! Many are tasty (partially a result of the cool temperatures throughout California that particular year), but terribly “backward.” In fact, some of the most expensive pinots, selling for $60+ a bottle, are so young that even these wineries’ 2009’s aren’t yet developed to the point where they are drinkable compared with what they’ll be in two to four more years.
It therefore came as a shock to me when I recently visited Clouds Rest Vineyards, a tiny producer atop a west-facing ridge on Sonoma Mountain. The winery has just released its 2007 pinot noir. True, at $100 a bottle this is one of the priciest of pinots, but as owner John Saemann notes, had this wine been released three years ago (as many wineries did), it too would have been backward and hard to appreciate.
“The wine wasn’t really ready to be enjoyed then, and we won’t compromise on that,” he said. In fact the winery’s now-spectacular 2006 pinot noir, also $100, is still available from the winery. Clouds Rest release their wines so late, most reviewers don’t know what to make of them!
As I said, this is a topic that’s been on my “to do list” for a while now. Personally, I think there’s a HUGE problem with wineries releasing wines whilst the ink is essentially “still wet on the label,” but once again, we need to remind ourselves that a winery is also a BUSINESS!
As ideal as it would be for wineries to hold onto their bottles until they personally believe it’s time to drink, it must be extremely tough to pull that off, at least when a winery is first starting out! Imagine investing a huge amount of money in a winery and not being able to sell your product for 4-5 years!?!? That’s a concept that’s unfathomable for most businesses!
This news story really only picks fault with Pinot Noir producers, but I see the problem as being widespread throughout the world (but mainly in California), in wineries of all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, is it really the fault of the winery for releasing their wine before it’s ready? Maybe we need to start laying partial blame on the consumer!
If you’re the kind of person who’s dropping $100 on a bottle of Pinot Noir, and that wine is vintage dated 2010, there must be a thought somewhere in your head saying: “You know what!?!? This might be crazy talk, but MAYBE this bottle would benefit from a little time in my cellar; rather than me popping it open immediately after buying it, and then bitching about how ‘young’ it tastes!?!?”