Top 12 Pinot Noirs
I’m not sure of who needs to be reminded of this, so I’m going to go ahead and state what should be the obvious: Innovations and leaps of quality in the wine business are almost always a result of small artisan producers who’s drive and motivation is the result of a one person’s passion.
This point was driven home to me the other day when I read through the Pinot Noir Report’s list of "The Top 12 Pinot Noirs of 2004."
In nearly every case, the wines that made this list were from very small, relatively new producers who made around 300 cases of the wine. There is no way to make a 300 cases of any particular wine than to do it "by hand". And to make a mere 300 cases of a particular wine you really must have quality in mind because of the ration of effort to output that it takes to produce such a small lot. The amount of work involved also tends to fall on one or two individuals. We are talking real passion here. And clearly it pays off.
The Top 12 wines?
1. Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Hellenthal 2002
2. Siduri Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard 2002
3. Testarossa Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard 2002
4. Arcadian Winery Pinot Noir Monterey County Pisoni Vineyard 2000
5, Roar Wines Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2002
6. Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Pommard Clone 2002
7. Morgan Winery Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Double L 2001
8. Tandem Winery Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Halleck Vineyard 2002
9. Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Windsor Gardens 2002
10. Kosta Browne Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Cohn Vineyard 2002
11. Longoria Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills Mt. Carmel Vineyard 2002
12. Babcock Winery & Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills Cargasacchi 2002
I’m not suggesting that great wine can’t or isn’t being made at larger, even corporate, wineries. They can and they are. But these larger wineries are usually celebrated for making very large amounts of very good wine. The above is a list of very small wineries making very small amounts of World Class, region-defining wines. The former is a statement about the state of greatness in the industry, the latter is a statement about the future of greatness. And in the case of wine, the future always means better because the future always reflects more knowledge and more experience.
Finally, look at these wines. Five of them are from Santa Barbara. Five from Sonoma. There is significance in that breakdown. The only thing that bothered me was the lack of any wine from Anderson Valley.