Monday, October 18, 2010

Appreciating Appellations

When I arrived in Napa Valley in 1994, I thought I had a fairly broad knowledge of wine. What I didn’t know is that it could evolve and expand so quickly. For instance, when I showed up there were 69 different AVAs (American Viticulture Area) in California –– and most produced completely different styles of wine. I’m not just talking about varietals here - one region often produced a distinctly different wine from the neighboring area. Fast forward not even a quarter of a century later to today, the Wine Institute lists 107 AVAs in our great state, and several hundred nationwide. And, it seems like they’re adding more and more each year.

I’ve travelled and drank through many AVAs in my time – I bet you have too. For me it’s not just a viticulture area, but rather a precise geographic location with specific attributes that alter or define the wine from that region – or it should. After all, technically it’s a legal term that is required on all wines produced in America. However, its true meaning today is becoming harder and harder to understand. There was a time when I could taste through a roomful of Cabernets from Napa and tell you which ones were Oakville and which ones were Rutherford with ease. It’s not the terroir that’s changed, it’s just that within each sub-appellation (i.e. Oakville) we’re starting to see and taste the differences down to the microclimate and vineyard level. This is starting to feel like a lot of “inside baseball” that only wine geeks can keep track of.
For instance, the 2007 Screaming Eagle Cabernet (east side) is a lot different from Janzen’s 2007 Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet (west side) and the 2006 Tamber Bey Oakville Cabernet (south) is worlds apart from Nickel and Nickel’s 2006 “John C. Sullenger Vineyard” Cabernet (north). Wines in the northern part of Oakville are more similar to Rutherford – those in the south are more similar to Yountville. Perhaps this situation calls for sub-appellations within sub-appellations. While geologists and viticulturists would probably agree, they are probably the only people who would care, and the results would leave all of us thoroughly confused and bored. While I am still amazed at how people can appreciate and understand theses differences, and I look forward to what the next 20 years studies and research, I’m not losing sleep over it. Sometimes it feels like the more you know, the less you really know…ya’ know? My motto – if I like it, I drink it. If not, I pour it out.

That works for me.

--Mark Steven Pope, Founder & CEO

No comments:

Post a Comment