The San Francisco Chronicle’s New Wine Editor est Bon

Jon Bonné, of MSN fame, is officially the new editor of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine section (announced on October 11th by Jon himself), and has jumped in head first with the front page article: North stars – Washington wines reach for the stratosphere. A nice piece, and a great first effort, but the caliber should come as no surprise to those familiar with Jon’s work. Jon has also been a part of the Wine Blogging revolution, and has offered up a plethora of wine related gems on his site, Amuse-Bouche.

Good things are in store for wine lovers who tap into the expertise of one of the best resources for wine education hidden within a daily newspaper. (Why pay a monthly fee for an online resource that does the same thing?) But let’s not forget the legacy of Linda Murphy, who was able to capture our attention almost every week for the last few years. Her hard work and dedication to wine could be seen in her columns, and that has motivated me to do the same. Jon is probably aware he has some big shoes to fill, but all of us in the blogosphere are pulling for him.

(Note: After reading Jon’s column, make sure you check out Blake Grey’s interview with Ted Allen, who recommends a wine pairing for Popeye’s chicken. You gotta love that!)

Free Access to Winespectator.com Until October 31st, With No Registration!

To celebrate 10 years online, Wine Spectator is offering free access to it’s website until the end of the month. When signing up, they require an email address to send a link to (a smart way to get some new subscribers if you ask me). Since I’m not a fan of mailing lists, I signed up using a fake email, [email protected] If you’d like to receive access without giving them your email, Click here. If that doesn’t work, try this:

  1. Go to www.winespectator.com
  2. Enter any name you want @mailinator ([email protected]) as your email address
  3. Go to Mailinator.com
  4. type the email address you choose @mailinator.com into the box at the top right
  5. Click on the email from: [email protected]
  6. Click the link

Enjoy!

2004 Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2004 Merry Edwards Pinot NoirMerry Edwards has been in the wine industry for a long time. She had a run at Mount Eden Winery in 1974, received acclaim while making wine at Matanzas Creek Winery, had a rise and fall in the 80’s with the family run Merry Vintners, consulted for a while, and finally started and has stayed at her now acclaimed winery in 1997. Merry has built her success on the finicky Pinot Noir grape, which grows exceptionally well on the Sonoma Coast. She is also one of the pioneering California winemakers that experimented with different Pinot Noir clones, thanks to a funded trip to France before starting work at Matanzas Creek.

Merry proceeded to the University of Beaune where a major study of Pinot Noir clones was underway. She surveyed the experimental vineyards, and the nuances of clonal variation captured Merry’s attention.

Now this winery receives accolades every year and is even being filmed this vintage by the Wine Spectator Video Program.

Here are my notes on just one of her many offerings of Pinot Noir.

Wine: Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Vintage: 2004
ABV: 14.1%
Price: $30 (buy)
Notes: A lovely light cherry red color, this wine is very fragrant, offering hints of tobacco, cherry, and oak, with a tannic mouthfeel that reminds one of green tea. The wine is medium to full bodied, and would definitely benefit from some more time in bottle. Hints of mushrooms, rock and more red fruit on the palate come together in this nice wine.
Score: 90 pts JAT

Website: www.merryedwards.com

The Consumers Mistake

We’ve come to rely on this system for our wine purchases. It’s only human nature that we look for approval and quality in the products that we buy, and for wine, the 100 point system meets those needs. Robert Parker devised the system that became the backbone of his highly recognized bimonthly publication, the Wine Advocate. Ratings start with 50 Points (So in effect it is just a 50 point system) and points are added based on color, aroma, flavor, finish, and age-ability. Others followed suit including Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast, etc. and have since immortalized this way to rate wine. Alongside the point rating, journals offer up extensive notes, which are proclaimed to be as important, if not more, than the score, but consumers don’t always see it that way.

However, the system has not gone without critique, and many wineries refuse to allow their wines to be dumbed down to a simple number rating. Critics argue it is impossible to decipher a 1 point variation in a wine, and that perhaps a broader system should be used. I have taken up the methodology of using the 100 point system, but only with even numbers from 50 on, thus creating a simpler 25 point system., i.e It’s either a 90 or a 92, I’ve got to decide. But regardless of how the system is tweaked, it remains flawed. How so?

Many have stated that you shouldn’t listen to critics because everyone’s tastes are different. That may be so, but there are so many wine critics nowadays, that surely you can find and align yourself with someone whose tastes are similar to yours. But that isn’t the problem. The problem lies with the consumer. Many consumers fail to explore, only purchasing wines highly rated. In turn, wine has become a material object to brag about owning, and instead of truly enjoying, a competitive outlet. If consumers didn’t cling to the 100 point system it wouldn’t be around today, but the fact of the matter is, they have, so it is.

Can wine truly be enjoyed without confirmation that it’s good? Can you be your own critic, and simply rate wine yourself? Is it possible to tell a friend about a wine you enjoyed without spouting off a critics score? The answer to all of these questions is of course, yes. But here I stand, caught in the middle, as both consumer and critic. The critic hopes that their comments are taken with a grain of salt, taken for what they are, merely an opinion. A critic hopes they can save you from buying a bad bottle, and point you toward the good. That has always been one of my goals. But do you really need saving?

As a consumer, I tire of having to keep up with ratings. I tire of having to pay higher prices every vintage, as my favorite winery raises prices 10% after receiving a great score the previous year. I tire of competing with my friends over who brought the better bottle to dinner, as determined by someone we both don’t know. So, I have decided to take ratings for what they are, an opinion. I will enjoy wine without wondering how many points it’s received, and I will continue to tell my friends about good wines I have enjoyed. I won’t obsess about the label I’m drinking or the one I am not. I will fully enjoy this amazing beverage, and I hope you will too.