Skip to content

Helen of Oy

2011 August 9
by Mike

Dr. Vino posted an item on his blog last week about the latest newsletter from California’s Marcassin Vineyard. Marcassin is the pet project of famed consulting winemaker Helen Turley and her husband John Wetlaufer and has won rapturous praise from Robert Parker for its Sonoma Coast pinot noirs and chardonnays.  The newsletter recounts a tasting that Turley and Wetlaufer did with Parker, in which their 2006s supposedly humiliated two heavyweight ringers from Burgundy, the 2006 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche and the 2006 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet (there is no indication that the wines were tasted blind, so I assume they weren’t). Using this “victory” as their jumping-off point, Turley and Wetlaufer then launch into a disquisition on Burgundian viticulture, the gist of which is that the Burgundians are incompetent farmers who don’t obtain sufficiently ripe fruit because they mismanage their vines. Once you are done lifting your jaw off the floor, you should read this remarkable document, which really ought to have been titled Notes From a Parallel Universe (and be sure not to skip the endnotes!). Needless to say, the Marcassin missive has caused a stir, both for its off-the-charts hubris and its bizarro claims.

During my years of scribbling about wine, I’ve had two dealings with Turley. The first was back in 2000; I was heading to California, was thinking of doing a story about the suddenly very fashionable Sonoma Coast, and called her to request an appointment. She initially agreed, but then backed out a few days before we were due to meet. She had evidently discovered that I was friendly with a winemaker whom she disliked, and she no longer wished to see me. She left a rambling phone message telling me in a quivering, agitated voice that she was cancelling and that I couldn’t possibly do my story without her cooperation and input. Le Sonoma Coast, c’est moi. I ended up not doing the story, but only because of some scheduling conflicts. At any rate, my first experience of  “the Wine Goddess,” as Parker calls her, was a memorable one.

A year later, I was back in California, attending a food and wine festival in Carmel that happened to include a tasting of Marcassin led by Turley and Wetlaufer. I was among the 25 or so people who took part in the tasting, which featured a dozen wines—6 chardonnays and 6 pinots. After the event ended, I went up to Turley, introduced myself, and reminded her of our aborted meeting. She didn’t look terribly happy to see me but gamely made some small talk. I also spent several minutes chatting with Wetlaufer, who didn’t exude much warmth himself but was a bit more forthcoming. When he asked what I thought of the wines, I decided to fib rather than insult him: I said that they were impressive. The terseness with which I responded probably gave me away, but so be it.

In fact, the wines were terrible. The whites were typically overblown California chardonnays—too ripe, too fat, too oaky. They were charmless and exhausting. But the Marcassin pinots were in their own special category of vileness. These were cloying, completely disjointed wines that exhibited almost no varietal character. For a moment, I found myself wondering, only partially in jest, if Turley had mistakenly bottled her Martinelli zinfandels in the Marcassin bottles. The pinots were hideous confections, their inadequacy underscored by a vertical tasting of Domaine Dujac’s brilliant Clos de la Roche that was held the same weekend. I was fairly new to wine writing at the time, and I recall being shocked that Parker had compared one of the Marcassin pinots to a Clos de la Roche. Looking back, I think this was the moment I first began to question the whole Parker thing. It was bad enough that he thought so highly of these execrable wines, but to liken one of them to a Clos de la Roche? Apart from being derived from the same grape, the Marcassin pinots had nothing in common with red Burgundies. Sure, taste is subjective, but this was like comparing, oh, peanut butter to lobster—it made no sense.

Parker posted a lengthy comment on eBob regarding the Marcassin controversy. I won’t reproduce his remarks in full here, not least because every time I read one of his posts, I hear the voice of Keith Olbermann doing his Bill O’Reilly-as-Ted Baxter riff, and I then can’t get it out of my head. Parker tried to strike a tone of reasonableness, saying that people should consider Turley and Wetlaufer’s remarks in a “fair and responsible manner.” Of course, this was two sentences after he called Romanée-Conti fans “sycophants and apologists,” which was preceded by his claim that “the Burgundians have refused to change anything for several hundred years,” a statement so comically asinine that it ought to disqualify Parker from ever being taken seriously again on the subject of Burgundy. In fact, he should do himself a favor and no longer comment on Burgundy.  He is clearly nursing a grudge on account of having become persona non grata there, and Burgundy’s soaring popularity, which represents the triumph of an aesthetic far different from his own, is apparently only adding to the bitterness. He simply cannot resist taking potshots at Burgundy and Burgundy enthusiasts. It’s kind of pathetic, and he should give it a rest.

114 Responses leave one →
  1. November 30, 2016

    hi!,I really like your writing so a lot! share we keep up a correspondence more about your post
    on AOL? I require an expert in this space to resolve my problem.
    May be that is you! Looking forward to peer you.

  2. October 25, 2015

    Normally I do not learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so!

    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article.

    crema hidratante

  3. October 24, 2015

    Be it any place in world, Diwali is considered to
    be the festival that brings a festive aura into the environment.
    This Diwali in 2015 will once more deliver equivalent experience within the hearts of individuals and obtain all of them illuminated because
    of the light of real information.

  4. October 21, 2015

    one for laptop, one for iphone, tablet andd so,
    you ill have to update all the versions of the site whenever
    there are any modifications. Therefore, if it turns out you valued
    this piece I do think that you may want to cheeck
    out the various other pieces I have penned. These simple insider secrets can help you overcome
    a lot of hurdles that new companies oftn face while designing their websites.

  5. October 13, 2015

    Deer Hunter 2016 is available for free on iOS and Android devices.

  6. October 13, 2015

    No dejó su tratamiento médico formal, pero en paralelo comenzó a tomar el aceite: una
    medida como una grano de arroz, tres veces al día.

  7. October 12, 2015

    I’ve not discovered what I needed

  8. October 10, 2015

    There are three types of serviced apartment Paris that are available
    and each has certain benefits. You can also get some discount on rates if you book online.
    Today one can get reasonably quoted furnished Paris apartment rent.

  9. October 8, 2015

    Lactobacillus Acidophilus La-14 is a probiotic that iis located naturally in the body.
    For most people, this is about 6,000 to 12,000 mg per day.

    1%) – Obagi Tretinoin Cream stimulates cell turnover and
    is a derivative off Vitamin A and the active ingredient in Retin-A.

  10. October 6, 2015

    Lactobacillus Acidophilus La-14 iss a probiotic that is
    located naturally in the body. People that decide to remove their scar
    wjth surgery will have to decide between punch excision and subcutaneous incision. We have been looking for an effective and affordable product
    to compliment the Clearskincare himecare skin roller range that willl maximise the benefits of skin needling.

  11. October 4, 2015

    You can find these brands in your dermatologist,
    plastic surgeon, oor medical spas office. Moreover, pollution and
    otherr environmental stressors also cause the skin pigmentation to increase.
    It is gentle that there is no need to worry about suffering from unwanted side
    effects.

  12. October 1, 2015

    Because most people aare content with thee guidelines of the governmental agencies,
    the benefits of much higher doses are rarely considered.

    Fibrocystic Breast Disease is one of risk factfors forr breast cancer.
    1%) – Obagi Tretinoin Cream stimulates cell turnover and is
    a derivative of Vitamin A and the active ingredient in Retin-A.

  13. October 1, 2015

    To make your internet business a success, take the time to evaluate the competition. There must be the training and support in place to make it work.
    Multilevel Marketing (MLM): With the right company, you
    can make a lot of money.

  14. September 25, 2015

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this amazing site
    needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be
    back again to read more, thanks for the info!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS