Skip to main content

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I haven't tried a Nickel & Nickel wine. However, I find that my taste in California reds is very much in line with Laube's, for the most part.

Like rhone warrior, I don't see an issue here. I'd expect those wines to be very good given their price points, and the fact that the winery gave him a private tasting is certainly NOT an uncommon experience for a wine critic. When the LA Times did their profile of Parker a few years ago, it was the norm for wineries in France to invite him for tastings; obviously they set things up in advance and undoubtedly picked their best bottles for him. To do otherwise would be ridiculous. I don't think this impacts on Parker's credibility one iota, and the same goes for Laube. Free tastings would seem to be one of the little perks of being a wine critic, wouldn't it?

It's extremely doubtful to me that Laube shows up at tastings like those with an advertising contract in hand, and then rates wines according to advertising dollars spent. How absurd for anyone to believe that it happens this way. You'd be better off suggesting that he actually accepts cash bribes. At least those would be more self-serving and beneficial to him.


Last edited {1}
I must be missing something.
1)Are the scores wrong for the wines that were rated? (by the way, which N&N wines were they, since they have several and the Stelling is not the same as Tench for example). If the scores are "wrong", could it be differences in palates? I think that's a key point in all wine reviews.

2)Has WS been publishing inaccurate info on their tasting/rating methodology? Published in every issue is a description of how they conduct their tastings, and they lock the scores before unblinding any wines. I've heard lots of comments about ads influencing scores, but I've never heard anyone give an accurate/actual example. In fact, having some experience with advertising, I'm aware that advertisers often try to get advertisers lined up based on their editorial content for a specific issue which is known well in advance, and it is far more likely that ad placements coincide with reviews because WS clusters reviews of specific varietels with editorial content on the same types of wines. I'd love to hear facts that demonstrate otherwise.

Even though the original commentary was on the RP board, this board also tends to jump on reviewers that don't give reviews matching our perception of wines (look back at the Viader discussions). I just had a white Burg on Sunday that had a 9pt spread between WS and WA - who's right? ME. Both reviewers judged the wine based on their palates and reported. Bottom line, if you don't agree with JL's ratings that's fine, but post a TN to explain why rather than post a conspiracy theory.

(I'm not really pissed off, and I don't mean to sound paternalistic, even though it might sound like it. I think we just need to realize that not everyone tastes wines the same and accomodate those differences rather than bash those who we don't agree with.)
Last edited {1}
Another point I will make, is that advertising is there for all the world to see. However if Robert Parker was taking bribes on the side no one could see it.

I am not accusing RP of taking bribes. I am pointing out that "independant critics" with no advertising links have been caught taking bribes from commercial interests for favourable comment over the years.

The fact of advertising doesn't automatically make one critic more or less credible. What makes a critic credible is how their judgements stack up aginst the populaces' opinion over a period of time.

No one goes around accusing RP of taking backhanders whenevers he rates D'Arenberg (for example) higher than other people do.

I, for one, am sick and tired of these threads that pop up every now and again accusing WS of impropriety without evidence to back it up. If you are going to make the accusation put up evidence that money changed hands and that a higher review eventuated.

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. -Herbert Spencer
Mr. Matthews described these allegations as "weeds" that appear every now and then. Mr. Parker's lawn is nice and green, with no such weeds. Why?


What's worse, I have reason to believe (PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, MR. MATTHEWS!) that WINE SPECTATOR makes unsolicited advertising proposals to wineries. These are usually of the five-figure, multi-ad campaign variety. IF THIS DOESN'T REALLY HAPPEN, PLEASE SAY SO, SIR! Now, how would you like to be a winery owner or manager... the phone rings... "Hello, this is so-and-so from WS's advertising dep't, and we'd like to talk to you about an ad campaign that we think would REALLY boost your sales!"

Surely it must come to one's mind... what are the ramifications of saying "no"? Are these advertising salespeople on commission? Do they get paid only for results? What promises might they make (or infer) in order to close the sale?

As I told an irate, high-ranking official at WS on the phone last week, I think that WS is the single greatest resource for wine information in the world. If WS could just manage to do wean itself from winery advertising, its integrity would be above reproach.
The 2 posters on eBob that actually tasted the wines in question thought Laube's scores were spot on. Ironically, I thought the eBob guys "defended" him quite well.

In the prior thread where Mr. Matthews responded, someone did make the point that advertising dollars might perhaps "buy" your way into the (blind) tasting line-up. That seems plausible to me, and I have no problem with that, because if the wines are terrible they'll get a bad score.

I'm sure we all appreciate how difficult blind tasting can be; it's almost like the best way to taste blind is to focus on the wine you're tasting, rely on your tasting ability without making presumptions, and try to be as honest and objective as possible. Pretty radical idea eh?
Everyone who reviews anything can be made to look suspect, especially in the anonymous world of cyberspace. Dannymay, did any of those anonymous sources ever stand up and make their accusations against WS like a man? Guess not.

No reviewer is above criticism for their approach. Take RP, people complain all the time that he does not review wines blind. That allows him greater opportunity to play favorites. Others accuse WS of playing favorites with advertisers even though they taste their wines blind. In my mind, both approaches are valid.
Here's a concept to try on for size: maybe James Laube really liked the wine.

Hey Margao and Dannymay: someone who is afraid of repurcussions assured me that you were members of a secret pederast society. Hey, that was easy, wasn't it? I didn't need evidence, facts, or anything but a suspicious nature and a mean spirit to write that.
Last edited {1}
my comments have nothing to do with nickel & nickel wines. i for one haven't had a single one of their wines. i was just making a statement about wine spectator in general. there are plenty of wine related items out there they could sell advertising for. not to mention other goods that fit the target market of wine drinkers. i just feel if ws stopped taking money from advertisers then this controversy would end. correct me if i am wrong, but i believe consumer reports does not have advertising in their magazines. just a simple conflict of interest imo. would you dare give you biggest advertiser a bad rating? Confused
Nickle & Nickel is good stuff.

Having said that, I don't see what the big deal is. The producers of this wine recognized that getting a good score from Laube or Parker was going to be a boon for their wine. They figured (probably correctly) that Laube was more likely to give them good ratings than parker. so they targeted him.

What's the big deal?

"Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too."
I would imagine with Laube "stationed" in the Napa area that he probably gets good treatment from many of the high profile producers...its just good business.

And on that note, when Parker does his tastings of Bordeaux, he often times does them at the Chateau, and you dont honestly think they make him sleep on a roll-away out in the barn with the cows, do you? lol

These wine-makers are trying to make a living. In my opinion, as long as the wines are tasted blind and compared/rated against wines in their "peer groups," there's nothing wrong here.
True, to what others have said above.

Parker does do tastings "au chateau". I remember the the one instance he described where the winemaker... maybe of owner of Haut Brion (I think it was Haut Brion... it was an article interviewing Parker) called him up and asked him to come by in the evening to re-taste his wine after Parker gave it a "less than stellar" review. The gentleman sicked his dog on Parker and treated him like he was under question from the FBI as he went and fetched a sample for Parker to try. I believe Parker rated the wine higher after this sample. The link to this article was on his (Parker's) website awhile back. Correct me if I'm wrong.

And, I agree w/ the above that a 91 pt rating isn't exactly spectacular for a $60 to $100 bottle. I recently spoke w/ a rep from a local wine shop. He said they recently tried some of the 2000 single vineyard cabs from Nickel & Nickel... he said they were very good, but he would not pay $75 for them. He had similar comments for the 2000 Far Niente cab. Sounds right on the money w/ Laube's rating if you ask me.

Although I don't see a big deal w/ this... a question for Thomas Matthews... how often does this happen? I only ask because of your repeated comments of WS tasting wines blind all of the time. What exactly does that mean? If Nickel & Nickel bagged the wines they sampled for Laube, does that consist of a "blind tasting"?? Just curious.


"Drink up, me hardies, YO HO!"
Last edited {1}
I, too, view RP as an objective reviewer (and well aligned with my palate for some wines). I also see him as having a fairly strong potential for bias in rating any Oregon Pinot Noir because of his connection to Beaux Freres. I don't think he has stopped reviewing other Oregon PN's, but nobody seems to get too concerned about this potential conflict.
Last edited {1}
Straight from the front of THE WINE ADVOCATE:

"Neither Robert M. Parker, Jr. nor Pierre Rovani has an interest, direct or indirect, financial or otherwise in the importation of wine, the wholesale distribution of wine, or the retail sale of wine except Mr. Parker's one-third interest in an Oregon vineyard that was commercially bonded in 1992 and began selling wine in 1993. Becasue of an obvious conflict of interest, the wine produced from this vineyard will never be mentioned or reviewed in anything written by Robert M. Parker, Jr."

Of course, he can still trash his competition, can't he?

"Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too."
Last edited {1}
I sat with a friend and tried each of the new Nickel & Nickel releases when they first came out and came away very disappointed. To me these wines, Opus One, Quintessa and many others can be held up as examples of what is wrong with California wine and some California wine producers. The producer here had a grandiose vision and went ahead and fulfilled it - fom HIS point of view. These wines at these prices are an insult to the consumer. I found them to be angular, tart, hard wines of a quality level no higher than many wines costing 1/4 of their bloated price tags, and indeed, lower than many $15 wines. The label is sure cool, though.
Originally posted by cdr11:
The producer here had a grandiose vision and went ahead and fulfilled it - fom HIS point of view.

cdr -- don't mean to be too harsh, but isn't this exactly what EVERY SINGLE WINE PRODUCER in America is guilty of? You just happen to like the "gradiose vision" of some wine makers better than others.

"Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too."
I’d like to clarify a few points regarding the thread on Nickel & Nickel and my reviews.

All of my reviews of the Nickel & Nickel wines were from blind tastings at my office, in flights with similar wines.

On the day I visited Gil Nickel to tour his new winery, I didn’t taste any of his new wines. After interviewing Gil, I asked him to submit the wines for review, which he did. (I have not read the aforementioned article that apparently sets up this debate).

I subsequently wrote a column about his new venture, “Single Minded,” that appeared in the June 15, 2003, Wine Spectator. That column raised questions about whether the wine world really needed another winery with 25 single vineyard wines and the inherent risks or challenges facing Nickel. Nickel admitted it was a demanding venture and he also allowed that he wanted to make bolder, richer wines – both at Far Niente and N&N.

I knew Gil Nickel for 25 years and we had a good professional working relationship that both of us honored. Gil never wanted a free hand out or gratuitous review. He wanted to earn whatever accolades his wines received. Over those 25 years we agreed on some wines, disagreed on others, and agreed to disagree on some others.

One last point. From time to time there is speculation about my integrity, or about the integrity of Wine Spectator. I wouldn’t work for a publication that traded editorial for ads. In my more than 20 years with the magazine, this has never happened.

You wrote:
Mr. Matthews described these allegations as "weeds" that appear every now and then. Mr. Parker's lawn is nice and green, with no such weeds. Why?

Perhaps you are overlooking the following weeds:
1) The Agostini scandal
2) The Burgundy libel suit many years ago
3) The fact that he reviews his competitors wines in Oregon or has the power to hype Oregon wine in general (if not his own winery)
4) The fact that many (if not most) of his tastings are not done blind
5) The fact that Parker tasted many Italian wines with the importer of those wines in the past (a serious conflict which resulted in flawed reviews in my opinion).


Thanks for the response. I remember the Nickel article well, and I found it consistent with other positions you've taken - ex: Mondavi at the crossroads..., shake up your cellar....,

The money for ratings topic will exist as long as there is a "business". We acknowledge our satisfaction with your "product" by subscribing to, and buying from, you and your sponsors.

The only thing we can do is calibrate our tastes against people like you and learn to use the service you provide to improve our experiences. Where I find your taste and mine to be a mis-match, I note it, learn and move on. You can't help but have preferences and influences, but that is precisely what I find interesting about you and most other Pro's. I look for your notes, books and articles because they are some of my data points in my own wine journey. Sometimes I wonder if you are too soft on some average wines, and sometimes I think I like bigger, rougher cabs than you. It does not occur to me that you are anything but James being James.


Aw gee, Vino Me, if you're going to start bringing up the truth, of COURSE you're going to find a few holes in dannymay's position. Why can't you just accept his comments at face value, instead of trying to find their flaws? Big Grin

I'll join dbw4 in thanking you for responding, JL. I wish that all WS staff had more time or inclination to participate here.


Last edited {1}

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.