A Spectator’s View of 2005 CA Pinot

OK…more than likely we are all buying up 2005 California Pinots because they have largely all hit the market. At least those of us who enjoy experimenting with CA Pinot are looking to this vintage.

Being a guy who appreciates statistics and being further a guy who understands that the Wine Spectator is an important trend setter for quality considerations, I decided to take a look at what the Wine Spectator has had to say about CA Pinots from the 05 vintage.

Here’s what we have.

2005 CA Pinots Reviewed by the Wine Spectator
(Appellation, % w/ 90 Points or more, % w/80 pts or less, total wines reviewed)

California Pinots—-26% w/90pts—-(7% less than 80pts)—–417 wines reviewed
Russian River-——-27% w/ 90pts—-(6% less than 80pts)——179 wines reviewed
Carneros—————14% w/ 90pts——(6% less than 80pts)……35 wines reviewed
Sonoma Coast——-30% w/90pts——(3% less than 80pts)——67 wines reviewed
Santa Lucia———–41% w/90 pts—–(0% less than 80pts)——-34 wines reviewed
Santa Rita-————30% w/90 pts—–(4% less than 80pts)——-55 wines reviewed
Anderson Vly-——-42% w/90 pts—–(4% less than 80pts)—–24 wines reviewed

Interesting isn’t it. Look at Santa Lucia and Anderson Valley.

Now, you can take this as an indication of what the folks over at the Wine Spectator like in their Pinot and what they think of the Pinots from these appellations OR you can take it as an indicator of quality from these different regions. This all depends on how well your palate matches up with the palate of the Wine Spectator critics.

That said, I’m pretty darn proud of my favorite little appellation that could: Anderson Valley. I did a similar comparison with the 2004 vintage that’s a bit more extensive. You can find it HERE.

7 Responses

  1. Jack at Fork & Bottle - February 5, 2008

    Tom, these numbers are statistically not very significant. Are you telling that there are only 24 pinot noirs in the Anderson Valley, for example?
    If anything, the data says that Carneros should de-emphasize pinot noir.

  2. Tom Wark - February 6, 2008

    I know a number of folks, including some wine reviewers of decent girth, that have suggested that about Carneros. But they are wrong.

  3. Jerry Murray - February 6, 2008

    I find it interesting that the regions with the highest rates of 90+ wines had the lowest number of submissions to the WS. I suspect this reflects the overall production of wines in the AVA’s, that is the regions with the lowest number of wineries have higher average scores. This may well reflect the attitude of growers; more quality focused and less volume oriented than other AVA’s specifically RR and Carneros.
    If these trends reflect the superiority of the regions ( Anderson and Santa Lucia ) we would expect these averages to stay the same as overall production ( and an ensuing increase in submissions for scores ) increases. If they however decrease as production increases, then it suggests a shift in the mindset of the average grower/maker in these regions.
    I also suspect a vintage effect. Correct me if I am wrong ( I may well be ) but didn’t some producers in the Sonoma Coast AVA have a challenging year in 2005? Being an Oregonian I am aware that the best climates for Pinot Noir are also the most variable and risky. A recent visit to the Sonoma Coast showed me that this AVA is indeed marginal for Pinot Noir. I think the result of this is that more marginal AVA’s such as the Sonoma Coast, while haveing the greatest potential for quality Pinot Noir, may also have an overall lower average quality due to vintage variation. So though I find your analysis interesting it also highlights the problems with evaluating regions over a short period of time.
    I am not trying to minimize any regions accomplishments, nice work. I am interested in your thoughts on what this data is really supposed to mean.

  4. Morton Leslie - February 6, 2008

    These results might be significant if the numbers in any 100 point scoring meant anything. Even if there were actually 90 quality elements that each of these wines possessed (I would like to see that list) a comparison by region also would only be valid of the wines were not grouped by region for the tasting, rather all 417 randomly mixed and tasted double blind. (But that would give unpredictable results and things wouldn’t always work out the way they were supposed to.) If readers actually knew about the way that the WS groups samples and tastes them, they wouldn’t waste their time doing such math on the results.

  5. Lorne Mews - February 7, 2008

    Another interesting comparison would be scores compared to price and production level. I would choose a $20 88 point wine over a $40 92 point wine any day if I actually cared what one editor at the spectator thought about it. Also, what is the point of reviewing wines with less than 500 case production? it means that the winery is cherry picking the best barrels for a high score and also that consumers will largely be unable to find it.

  6. Jerry Murray - February 7, 2008

    I take some issue with your assertion that wine produced in quantities less than 500 cases aren’t worthy of consideration. What is wrong with someone wanting to make the best wine possible? Technically Reserve wines are cherry picked. Are you also opposed to second labels? As these are ways to improve the quality of a blend just as Cherry picking is? What about small producers? What if a producer can only get a couple of tons ( 120 cases ) of fruit from a really great vineyard, are they then supposed to blend the wine away with some other innocuous stuff? Are all producers just ‘cherry picking’ in order to get scores? What about a new vineyard that doesn’t have enough production to produce 500 cases?
    Is it really the responsibility of wine publication to make sure wines they rate are affordable or available? Tell me what winery in the world doesn’t want a wine so in demand that most consumers end up shit out of luck in terms of getting thier hands on it.
    I also think this is to some extent an argument against producing wines that express ‘terrior’. We tend to think of ‘terrior’ as reflecting a region or vineyard. As a winemaker I draw even smaller circles, parts of a vineyard. Am I too ignore these differences and confine my explorations to only parcels that would make 500 cases?
    What about wines that are just ‘miracles of nature’ such as German Beerenauslese or Trokenbeerauslese that are often made in quantities of 10 gallons are less. Do these wine not deserve public comment?

  7. Jason_H - February 10, 2008

    Interesting. Thanks for taking the time. I know this is not perfect but it is funny about AV and SLH showing the best. Love AV … SLH … not so much … at least when it comes to pinot.

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