A Night Out with Wine Spectator

Last night was the Wine Spectator Big Bottle Party. This is an annual event held at the Hotel Healdsburg, just prior to the Napa Wine Auction. It's a virtual who's who of the Sonoma County wine industry and an ideal place to perfect one's schmoozing skills.  (Sadly, The HUSBAND couldn't join me due to the Little League championship game he was coaching. So, try as I did to hobnob with the best of them, I felt guilty the entire time. Except when sipping, rare wines from magnums @#*!)

One of the more interesting conversations I had was with the Associate Editor, Tim Fish. Tim qualifies as “one of the nicest writers” in this industry. And, despite his success and following, he's managed to retain his down to earth honest approach. That doesn't mean he minces words though. Last year, he bluntly told me he thought our Zinfandels were too “thumby” for his taste. Try as I might, I couldn't figure out what he meant. This year he told me he thought they had improved. I smiled and nodded knowingly as if we had intentionally removed the “thumbiness” from our wines. (At least they weren't pinky waving!)

We also discussed the future of the Dry Creek Valley. Specifically, why as a region we have not achieved the critical acclaim and status of other appellations and what we can do to change this.  (As the region's namesake winery, I wholeheartedly believe that our future success is connected to the reputation of the entire valley.) It all boils down to quality and focus. In Tim's mind, our region is a bit too splintered.  Wineries should be focusing on one or two varietals that they do best. Until we focus ourselves in this way, it will be difficult to achieve the kind of prestige that other regions have garnered. So there you have it, practical advice straight from an expert's mouth.

It all makes sense, but honestly, it's hard to imagine life without our adored Fumé Blancs. Or, Zinfandels without Petite Sirah. Or, Cabernets without the subtle enhancements of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. And, what about our dear little Chenin Blanc? While the grapes are grown in the Clarksburg area, (Sacramento Delta) and not the Dry Creek Valley, why on earth would we stop producing this sensational summertime sipper?  I suppose Tim is right. Regions that have achieved super star status do only concentrate on a singular variety. Maybe two. Just look at Burgundy, Chianti, etc. But, how DULL is that?  I for one, am holding out for the day when Dry Creek Valley is known for more than just Zinfandel. 

But then again, I like my ice cream in a variety of flavors.  

| | Comments (3)


Jack said:
June 4, 2008 8:12 PM

Only Carlisle (a small Santa Rosa winery) is really getting the big scores from Parker for Dry Creek Valley wines. So, Dry Creek wineries could make more wines like Mike's to (perhaps) get bigger Parker scores.

Unfortunately, most Dry Creek wineries make every varietal that a passing consumer might like to buy. How many of these wines are excellent? Very few. I'm not saying they're bad, but very few of the best wineries in the world make wines from more than three varietals. Dry Creek needs to focus on just a few varietals and make the best possible wines from these two or three varietals, rather than trying to sell chard or chenin to every car passing by.

Frankly, I don't think it would be dull if the quality of the wines went up a big notch in Dry Creek.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
June 5, 2008 9:23 PM

The whole subject is an interesting one. And, in many respects, I completely agree with you Jack. If we were starting the winery today, we'd definitely only make a few wines. But that isn't feasible for a winery like Dry Creek Vineyard with a 36 year history. While we've eliminated a bunch of wines in recent years, we've also chosen to stick with others but only if we could ratchet up the quality dramatically. That has been our sole goal; make the most exciting wines we can no matter what. And, only make what we're passionate about. For ex. with Chardonnay, we cut the production by 50% and moved all our vineyards to Russian River Valley. That combined with awesome winemaking talent, the right barrels, etc. is turning heads again for our Chardonnay. (And, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one at $20 too! Just my humble opinion.) But I know what you mean, since the varietal doesn't excel here, the fact that we're making it from our vineyards in RRV, does nothing to help the DC Valley. Same is true for our Chenin, but damn, that wine is delicious and it would be a crying shame to stop producing it just because the grapes aren't grown here. I think it also comes down to passion. We make what we're passionate about. And, I think that's how it is for most winemakers. So as long as passion is what fuels us, we'll continue to see a variety of wines coming out of this area.

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
June 6, 2008 2:39 PM

I think the thumb was from a timber harvester song by James Stevens 1951:
"I see that you're a logger,
And not a common bum,
For no one but a logger
Stirs coffee with his thumb."

full lyrics, chords, key of C.

Price point is key for the DCV label's concept, traditionally, and similarly so for many of the longtime growers in Dry Creek Valley. For zin, I would contemplate some sourcing from vineyards with elevation, though soils become an issue; maybe Laughlin series would have enough perc. For me one of the pointscore hurdles with zin relates to the attributes of fruit from oldvines grown at altitude. For the AVA, I thought DCV's early design of its products was apt.

As for the thumb, better than the boot volatiles, if I had to select a standard of excellence.

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This page contains a single entry by Kim published on June 4, 2008 5:31 PM.

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