Writing the Book on American Pinot Noir
It's not unreasonable to ask if John Haeger is finally tired of Pinot Noir. In the course of just four years he has produced not just the most current volume on Pinot Noir in North America ("North American PinotNoir)", but has now updated that terrific survey of the continent's engagement with the the grape with the publication of "Pacific Pinot Noir".
The new volume is indeed an update as well as an expansion upon "North American Pinot". The fact that there was a need for an updated version of the benchmark volume on Pinot Noir in the Americas either tells us that state of the grape in these parts is rapidly evolving or about the publishing opportunities that have come Haeger's way.
The former possibility is unquestionably true. Pinot Noir, as a varietal, is most certainly evolving. Far more people have discovered Pinot since Haeger's first book on the subject, and that means that many more vintners have stuck their toes into the mysterious pond of Pinot. This latter fact is demonstrated at least by seeing that the number of winery profiles in "Pacific Pinot Noir" has more than doubled over the number that appeared in "North American Pinot Noir". I also suspect the magnificent work Haeger put into his first work occasioned additional publishing opportunities.
There is no excuse for any serious Pinot Noir lover not to have this new book (along with the first) in their library. The new volume is by far the most comprehensive work on America's greatest, most interesting and most consistent Pinot Noir producers, and we aren't just talking lists here. Haeger leaves the reader with nearly all they need to know about the great producers of Pinot Noir from history and vineyard descriptions to personnel, winemaking philosophies and tasting notes from recent vintages.
Of course there are many more dedicated Pinot producers in in the Pacific growing region than the 200 or so wineries profiled in "Pacific Pinot Noir." How one would choose those for inclusion is an interesting dilemma and the author gives a somewhat detailed and rational explanation for how he approached the problem. In large part, he relies on the a group of the most dedicated, Pinot-centric restaurant wine buyers and most serious wine retailers in the country to guide his selection. It's a successful approach.
The most compelling discourse in the book is Haeger's chapter entitled, "The State of North American Pinot Noir." So much has changed with regard to Pinot Noir since the publishing of his first book on the topic that Haeger in this chapter is compelled to address the impact of the doubling of producers since 2003, the impact of the extraordinary interest shown in Pinot Noir post-Sideways, as well as delving into the various controversies that surround the grape and investigating the competitive impact of terroir vs. the winemaker's hand. It's a just and well-developed look at where Pinot is and where it might be going.
"Pacific Pinot Noir" officially releases on November 17, but can be had by November 4 if you order from Amazon decides to dig even deeper into American . This is both a scholarly as well as flippable work by a man clearly dedicated to exhausting a subject. I don't think he has done that yet. I least I hope he hasn't. What I hope is that John HaegerPinot Noir and provide us with an even more granular look at the subject by taking on a review of the best and most interesting Pinot Noir vineyards in America.
The folks at GrapeRadio have provided us with a wonderful interview with Haeger that provides added context for this new project.
While at UC Davis, we read John’s first book and spent an evening with him discussing it. I completely agree with everything you have said. I’m looking forward to getting his next book (and hope the Pinot I help make gets mentioned).
Oh thanks Tom. Now I feel compelled to add another book to that pile next to my bed.
Maybe I will take it to Thailand for New years…certainly won’t be drinking any wine there so might as well read and dream about all the Pinots I can buy upon my return.
My advice for a Thailand New Years is to leave wine behind completely; put it out of your thoughts. Think only of street foods, beaches and sun. Thoughts of Pinot will only distract you.
I love the shot on the front cover, where is it taken from?
Sea Smoke Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills.
I’ll have to get a look at the new version, but Tom, does Haeger cover East Coast PN in this edition?
Tom, I had the privilege of getting an advance copy myself from a neighbor friend, himself a winemaker and writer, and I spent a wonderful weekend in Santa Lucia Highland reading the book cover o cove in between vineyard visits. I could not agree with you more. This is a must have for any Pinot lover. The level of details, from wine making methodologies to clonal selections and vineyard practices, is impressive. Although many producers he writes about follow the ‘consensus-protocol’ as he calls it, the ones that do not are fascinating to read about and produce exceptional wines. The Pinot terminology section at the end is also very helpful!
Interesting and informative thanks.