Rooting For Carneros


I keep rooting for Carneros. I can’t help it.

Over the years it got bad raps from critics, has experienced an identity crisis, seemed to be at the top of the Pinot heap before being overtaken by other regions and has to dance between between being both Sonoman and Napan. Those are some big chips to carry around on your shoulders.

But have you tasted the wines?

Check out this list:

Saintsbury, Schug, Etude, Acacia, Donum Estate, Sangiacomo, Hudson, Durell, Hyde, Ceja, Pats & Hall, Talisman, Ancien,

There are some pretty devoted folks, esteemed wineries and hallowed ground associated with this appellation that suggests we ought to pay perhaps more attention than we tend to.

The folks in Carneros think this is the case too and they are taking their case to the trade in the form of  the upcoming Pinot Plus Trade Auction that the Carneros Wine Alliance is putting on. It’s a beauty show that is likely to pull out all the stops. Napa Valley does the same sort of thing with it’s "Premier Auction" happening this weekend. It’s a chance for the Carneros producers to pull put on their game face and remind folks why they were among the first appellations to be noted for true, terroir-based quality.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with two establishment Carneros wineries; the type that helped define the appellation early one and continue to demonstrate its enormous potential and it’s place as one of the top sources for great California wine: Saintsbury and Schug. Both are Carneros Icons. Both have folks at the helm who have zero faith in the appellation, but rather experience to back up their contention that the region is where great grapes are grown.

I’m looking forward to Pinot Plus. Not just because it’s a chance to taste through a number of the region’s Pinots, but because I’m going to taste through the other wines that the region seems to have found great success with: Syrah and Merlot. Carneros is a hugely varied appellation with micro climates abounding over each hill. There are spots that deliver varying degrees of warmth and others that are bone chilling and wind swept.

I guess what I’m rooting for is that Carneros take on a separate identity from Napa Valley and Sonoma. I want to see it understood as a source of unique wines (particularly the vineyard designated sort). Part of this desire must relate to the associations I’ve had with some in Carneros and with it being pretty close to my back yard.

Posted In: Events, Terroir


3 Responses

  1. Joe - February 24, 2007

    I have tasted a variety of California Pinots, and I have been most impressed with the Carneros region. While I am disappointed that it is being overshadowed by some other California regions, I am hoping (selfishly) that this has a good impact on Carneros prices…Cheers!

  2. M J - February 25, 2007

    Funny, that I was at a weekend Food and Wine Event and walked around with some fellow wine reps and we had a good discussion on why Carneros Pinot Noir is doomed to end up on the wine scrap heap (as we were tasting the recent Sinskey PN release). The reason is plenty obvious…Carneros PN is just not very good compared to its like priced brethren. In fact, Carneros PN is at best, “unmemorable”. Why would you buy Carneros PN when you can buy a much, much nicer example of the grape from the Russian River Valley or way better wine from Santa Lucia, Santa Rita, or even most of Santa Maria, or Oregon? Pinot from Carneros is usually light, thin, aromatically deficient and lacking texture. I HAVE tasted the wines, over and over again, and come to the same conclusion each time…Spend you premium dollars for Pinot Noir elsewhere. Keep roting all you like, but I don’t think it’s going to help much.

  3. Tracy Hall - February 28, 2007

    MJ, just FYI, if you check the link for the event you will see that it’s not only Pinot being poured at this event. The focus as stated on their site:
    “Pinot Plus will offer a remarkable array of unique premium and ultra-premium wines. Ranging from barrel samples from the ’06 vintage of Carneros Pinot Noir to lots encompassing the region’s unassailable Chardonnay, Syrah, Carneros Merlot, new variety reds and crisp whites, Pinot Plus will showcase the distinction of the appellation’s grapes and the diversity of its wines.”
    I don’t want to take away your hard earned belief of dislike for Carnero’s Pinot, to each his own, it’s what makes wine fun.
    I did want everyone to know that it will be a great opportunity to taste all the varieties from the region. Possibly re-affirm your like/dislike for Carneros Pinot!
    Mia Klein and I will be there, at the wine tasting event pouring our 2006 Selene ‘Hyde Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc. The 2006 Selene SB celebrates the 15th Anniversary of our vineyard designate SB from Hyde Vineyards. Yup, 15 years of great Sauv Blanc from Larry Hyde’s Carnero’s ‘Hyde Vineyard’.
    Selene, like many other wineries, will be pouring wines other than Pinot, and are donating wines for the auction as well.
    It’s going to be a great party, see you there!
    Tracy Hall
    Selene Wines

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