Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What is a grape supposed to be?

Do you take first impressions seriously? I do. Very much so. When I meet someone for the first time, how they act and talk to me tells me a lot of what kind of person they are. I take things very personally. I suppose it's the result of a childhood where you're reminded of your minority status every single day. So I don't forget things very easily.

Anyways, enough of that. Enough. On to wine. I only recently learned that we were talking to Mr. Jeff Aubry, President of Coyote's Run Estate Winery. I was asking him about their Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir. I was remarking how soft the wine was. It's what Mr. Aubry said to me after that really.......turned me off to their wine. He said, "That's what pinot noir is supposed to be. It's supposed to be more fruit forward and supple. Pinot noir isn't supposed to have a lot of structure." I apologize if those aren't the exact words, but the general idea is correct. Mr. Aubry believes that their wines are what pinot noir is supposed to be. That's where I disagree strongly, and I really emphasize that.

Wine isn't supposed to be anything. You can't say for certain what a certain varietal is supposed to be. With the proper equipment and technique, the winemaker can make the grape varietal taste like whatever they want it to be. You can make pinot noir into a montrous 16% alcohol fruit bomb, or make it delicate and structured. Certainly, pinot noir has common characteristics, whether you grow it in Cote de Beaune or in Niagara, or in Russian River Valley. But to say that pinot noir should be a certain style is misguided and naive, at best.

What I can't stand is the lack of honesty behind that statement. Why can't you just say that this is the philosophy of winemaking that Coyote's Run believes in? I respect that very much, when everyone in an organization believes in the same ideal, from the top down. Don't try to put a marketing spin on it, and say that this should be the standard for pinot noir. Wine isn't supposed to be anything but a conjunction between what nature provides and what man's hand creates. In the worst of cases, that balance is tipped more to the heavy hand of the winemaker, but that's for another post.

This is my point of view, and I stand firmly behind it. From what I remember, Coyote's Run makes an agreeable wine, particularly their unoaked Chardonnay. I just hate the spin on things. Maybe that's not what Aubry meant. But if it is, then I take issue with that statement.

So, Mr. Aubrey: if you're still reading this, I challenge you to correct me. And by the way, do you really not remember us coming in? I mean, 6 Chinese people coming into Niagara wine country in the middle of winter doesn't raise eyebrows?

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