Skip to main content

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Just to clarify to everyone else responding, do you mean the same grapes as in all the grapes are cab, or do you mean the same cab grapes from the exact same vineyard?

By choosing the latter, the differences will become a bit more narrow, but there are enough significant differences that even a discriminating palate like MINE would be able to discern. Big Grin

Let's hear from all the UC Davis people on this! Wink
I think it makes all the difference...

If you took ten non-interventionist winemakers, with at least some experience, gave them the same grapes -- all destemmed, gave them the same barrels, told them how long to age the wine in the barrels, and gave parameters for lees stirring, etc, I suppose it wouldn't make a gigantic difference.

However, this is never the case.

While vinyard site, vintage, and vinyard manager are all crucial components to a wine, remember it is the winemaker who performs the magic of turning grape juice into wine. Without going into a lengthy process which I do not begin to pretend to fully understand, let me simply point to some winemakers and their impacts on wine:

Michel Rolland has managed to produce Clos Apalta (WS #3 WOTY, probably the best Chilean wine) Yacochuya (one of the best Argintinian wines) consults for CA Cabs/blends such as Harlan, and produces many of the best St. Emillons and Pomerols

Ricardo Cotarella is responsible for the *majority* of Central and Southern Italian wine I have enjoyed over the past few years. (La Carraia, Di Majo Norante, Morgante, Falesco, Monti, etc all use him)

I simply cannot come up with a reason why some of Helen Turley's wines taste as good as they do; but, Pahlmeyer has not been the same since she left.

There are many great winemakers out there and these three were just ones which I could make an obvious point with. The truth is that I do not believe that there are any winemakers so good that they cannot be replaced (for example, Landmark has continued to thrive since Helen Turley's departure). However, just because there are many great winemakers, does not mean there aren't a whole lot more bad ones.

(I'm sorry if this post seems argumentative, I'm really tired and I did not mean it to be so, if it is.)


"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?" -- W.C. Fields
Originally posted by tlily:
You know what's funny is none of the winemakers have commented yet on this post, but I bet when they do, they give credit to the grapes and the growers way ahead of themselves.

Yep! Big Grin I wish I could claim credit for the wines, but it's the people that grow the grapes that make it good.

Winemakers do play a role. There are lots of decisions to make along the way that make the wines turn out differently. I'm not sure that I'm willing to say better, since that's a subjective thing. As long as there are no mistakes made, then the wines should be equally good - and often are. Stylistically different due to the different process used to produce the wine, but still all good. Of course, this asumes that we're talking about winemakers with similar goals. The Helen Turley vs Fred Franzia comparison isn't really relavent, given they aren't trying to produce the same "type" of wine.

Loring Wine Company
Last edited {1}
I agree with Brian, and I lean a little more to the side of "grapes make the difference" than many of you. Give an accomplished winemaker bad grapes and he/she might be able to turn them into barely drinkable wine. Give a less accomplished winemaker great grapes and the wine produced will likely be pretty good.

The fallacy here is the notion of a "great" winemaker vs a "bad" winemaker. Are there really any "bad" ones? Give Fred Franzia an unlimited budget, hand-picked clusters from a $500K acre vineyard, and tell him to make the best wine money can buy, with cost being no object whatsoever, and I'll bet the finished product would be excellent. Folks seem to think that the Helen Turleys out there walk on water. While they might be "better" than most winemakers, that doesn't make the other winemakers "hacks". She is blessed with high-profiled and monied clients who tell her to damn the torpedoes and make the best wine that money can buy. But what could she do if she had to produce 100,000 cases to sell for $4.99?

If the question is, can a "great" winemaker be worth a few WS points in the ratings?, then I would agree wholeheartedly. (See Bryant Family). But just because Melka isn't Helen doesn't mean that Bryant Family will now be plonk.
rather than discuss the intricacies and what if's, there's a very easy way to answer this for yourself, and definitively: if you want to know how different wines can be made by different winemakers from the same variety and vineyard, go buy some Pisoni Pinot Noirs. If you want to know

100% Cab? Go pick some up from different wineries in the same appellation and vintage, and see for yourself.

Periodically I see posts about people asking more experience tasters to describe something.....if I don't post, I think the same: just find out for yourself, it's a lot more gratifying, and you internalize what you learn, instead of merely knowing about it.

-Vitis Vinifera

Member #19
In one of my books that I use quite often for reference, the author suggests that the following factors are most important in turning out a great wine. They are (in order of most important to least important) Geographic location, Soil, Weather, grapes, and vinification. Take it with a grain of salt, but hey, I thought it was interesting.
Posted by Vitis:
if you want to know how different wines can be made by different winemakers from the same variety and vineyard, go buy some Pisoni Pinot Noirs.

Well, I don't have the supply at retail to actually take this challenge. But I guess the next best thing would be to look at the WS database.

For the 2001 vintage, WS lists 3 different wines from the Pisoni Vineyard. They were:
Siduri--91 pts
Tantara--90 pts
Roar--87 pts (and I think this one was underrated.)

For 2000, there were 5 wines:
Ojai--93 pts
Siduri--90 pts
Patz & Hall--89 pts
Scott Paul--88 pts
Testarossa--88 pts

For 1999 there were 6 wines:
Siduri--90 pts
Arcadian--89 pts
Patz & Hall-- 89 pts
Testarossa--88 pts
Tarius--87 pts
Scott Paul--81 pts

With the exception of the 1999 Scott Paul, the statistical range is very small. So this might lead to the conclusion that if you give a competent winemaker great grapes from a reknown vineyard, good to excellent wine will result.

But it aslo reveals, at least for the wines that appear in multiple vintages, that the winemaker's skills play an important role in eeking out those last few points. Siduri always bested Patz & Hall, and Patz & Hall always bested Testarossa. Of course, this could have as much to do with J. Laube's personal style preference as anything else.
Last edited {1}
JimmyV, thanks that's a good comparison and was exactly what I was looking for.

On a similiar note, are their less expensive wines that are made from the same vineyards as some of the "great/high scoring wines"? Or at the very least a vineyard next right next to it? For example I really enjoyed my taste of the ramey jericho, and was looking for similiar wines, or wines form the same area.
The side by side thing is actually one I enjoy a great deal and do often. Last summer in fact VitisVinifera was subject of such a tasting when I served @ 20 people 2001 Viognier's from the Ripken vineyard from Vino Con Brio and Rosenblum, single blind.

It was an interesting exercise with a split almost 50/50 amongst the group and everyone noting a differance in style.

This summer I'm planning on 2001 Zinfandel's from the Monte Rosso Vineyard for an event and have 3 producers lined up so far. This debate is very interesting in an academic sense, but tasting through wines from the same vineyard and different producers ends up being much more rewarding I feel.

Santa Cruz Mountains Vintage Chart
Good grapes can be made into great wine, or bad wine. Bad grapes can be made into bad wine or drinkable wine. I think the mark of a "switched-on" winemaker is someone who can salvage really crap grapes (mouldy or rain-affected) into truley drinkable wine. This is bloody hard to do. The real test would be to give a group of winemakers, say, 10T each of 11 baume chardonnay, with 20% Botrytis infection after 2 inches of rain and papery skins. It really is who puts in the most effort.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.