What Makes a GREAT California Pinot Vineyard?
And your mission is, if you choose to accept it:
Create a criteria for choosing the top ten (the "Grand Cru") Pinot Noir vineyards in California.
Not Top Ten Producers, but Top Ten Pinot Noir vineyards.
This topic of building such a criteria came up today when I was speaking first with a pretty well known Pinot producer and it arose again when I was speaking with a very knowledgeable wine writer who has a real passion for Pinot.
All three of us agreed that the following criteria would be essential:
1. Wines produced from the vineyards should be highly rated, consistently, from a variety of critics.
2. The price of the wines produced from the vineyards should reflect the quality and demand.
3. The vineyards should be in production for at least 7 years.
But here’s where we got stuck: Should one criteria be that the vineyard’s fruit has been used by a variety of different winemakers? I personally say, Yes! In the first place, I think the endorsement of a vineyard by a variety of winemakers is an important indication of its strength and attraction. I also think that you control against a critic’s potential bias in their ratings for a single winemaker’s style of wine by demanding that the vineyard’s fruit has been used by multiple winemakers.
Now, excluding vineyards from which only one winemaker has successfully produced wine is a problem. This, for example, means that Marcassin and Kistler Estate vineyards are both out of the running for Grand Cru status. That sort of strikes me as wrong, but there are still the issues I brought up above.
So, again, here’s the question:
WHAT CRITERIA WOULD YOU USE FOR NAMING THE TOP PINOT NOIR VINEYARDS IN THE CALIFORNIA NORTH COAST?
This is of course a game, similar to naming your all time baseball dream team. But, just like this favorite pastime, trying to name the Grand Cru Vineyards of California makes one think about WHAT MAKES a vineyard great. And this is a question any self respecting wine geek must be attracted to.