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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.

104 Responses leave one →
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  5. Donn Rutkoff permalink
    August 30, 2011

    I would love to read more Marcassin newsletters. After all, that is what started this entire bean hill. Would like to direct the venerable Mr. English Language Lederer, or as prev. mentioned, Strunk or White, to the boiling pot of newts ear in a Marcassin newsletter. Methinks old Ben Franklin had premonitions of what to come from our fine hubby & wife writing duo, when he penned his Dogood #4. Check, I say now I say, check, it out.

    More seriously, you all ought to spend an hour or so studying Clark Smiths piece on brett. That is worth spending time.

  6. August 26, 2011

    Terrific post. Finally someone has the balls to call RP out for what he has become: a bombastic egotist whose self adoration has almost by itself destroyed the pleasure of wine drinking for millions of Americans (what other country outside of the US would ever give him credibility for his rantings?) who are so afraid of voicing their opinions that they find it easier to simply “sip by the numbers”. For over thirty years many of us in the trade have voiced our warning that while using RP as a “guide” to balance our own opinions it is even more important not to blindly give oneself over to any individuals “ratings” as a final road map to making choices of wines to consume. Unfortunately, unless more articles like this one get printed, the hoax perpetrated by RP and others of the same ilk will continue and the hapless US consumer will only have themselves to blame when they pay a ridiculous price for a bottle of wine and then are left to wonder as they drink it “where’s the beef?”

  7. Michael permalink
    August 16, 2011

    I appreciate all the passion in this blog. Quite fascinating. I ordered a case of burgundy recently from Dan at Grapes The Wine Company
    and hope to have some enlightenment as I try different vineyards.

  8. August 16, 2011

    Looks like we’re done on this one.

    What did we learn?

    Do not – REPEAT – do not – enter the pinot wars wearing only a helmet made out of watermelon.

    Needs tinfoil at the very least.

  9. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 16, 2011

    David R, I certainly respect your point of view, but submit to you that you are either a tad naive or just not focused on the larger historical picture of the phenomenon of Robert M. Parker, Jr. Does any of this matter? Maybe not. Wine IS a “bloody beverage”. On the other hand, a man came out of the sticks of Monkton, Maryland with no background and no credentials, started drinking wine and ultimately became the arbiter of taste in wine for much of the English-speaking world, as well as the man whose scores determine the pricing, timing and quantity of releases of Bordeaux, and whose narrow-minded philosophy of wine, coupled with his scores, have shaped the style of many wines worldwide, dominantly so in California. The man has so many medals hanging on his chest that one would think that he was a war hero. If that does not qualify as power, influence or whatever you choose to call it, I am not sure what does. Obama would settle for that degree of influence just now, I suspect. Like it or not, I can assure you that I have the firmest possible “f*cking grip” on this phenomenon, having studied it for the “32+ years”. I do not need you to tell me what I should and should not discuss.

    P.S. I am never much impressed with the “it’s only a beverage” line of discourse. While that is factually true, it is also the most popular copout employed by Parker and his minions to avoid answering critics and hard questions about ethical and other behaviors.

  10. David R permalink
    August 16, 2011

    Bill Klapp
    Please, it’s a bloody beverage. Parker’s use of extremist when objecting to those of differing opinions is just as useless as yours. As much as I despise Turley’s wines, the concepts of “absolute power” and “extremism” in wine just represent vacant histrionics unless we are talking about prohibitionism and regulation based on some grand fiction, monotheistic or otherwise.
    By all means, let’s debate taste. Let’s even taunt. Still, at the end of the day, let’s get a f*cking grip

  11. August 15, 2011

    Dear Bill,

    If everything said here is done tongue-in-cheek, then I have mis-read and apologise, but I suspect not.

    I have indeed spent thousands of hours on another passionate sub-culture called English Football (soccer). Yet I have never come across the sense of self-importance I’ve encountered here. I have definitely never seen anyone trying to defend the world against the tyranny of 4-4-3 formation against 4-4-2. Extreme views are deemed to be either funny or crazy, but never evil that needs to be defeated, for it is just football. We just have a really good laugh.

    If you are interested to see how a passionate sub-culture could be inclusive rather than exclusive, listen to the ‘s Football Weekly podcast. Passion, absolutely. But also self-deprecating humour, wit and the implicit respect that amateurs don’t know as much as the professionals.

    As for Latin, I am not well educated, so I always assume that people will know what I know. It would have been very wrong of me to assume that this forum would not be familiar with that old Latin maxim. It succinctly summarised what I wanted to say.

    Interestingly, for those that were not familiar with that idiom, the translation is only a few free Google clicks away. This makes it infinitely more accessible than a bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy. And yet was met with derision … says it all really.

  12. August 15, 2011

    Wow, there it is- the Philistine Creed.

  13. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Anybody notice that the Marcassin newsletter has been posted in its entirety on eBob under “Articles of Merit”? Since when does a private newsletter become an “article of merit”? Such dissembling and mendacity belongs in a Shakespearean tragedy, not in the world of wine criticism. If Parker has become so extremist and downright unhinged in the wake of his reversal of fortune, are we supposed to believe that his tasting notes are any less extreme these days? Consumer advocate, my ass. Absolute power has corrupted absolutely…again!

  14. August 15, 2011

    Paige M. asked, “I can understand why one might want to drink an amazing import, but given the environmental and financial concerns, why not drink local?”

    1. What environmental concerns are there that would prevent someone from drinking imported wine? As far as I am concerned, supporting viticulture anywhere in the world is a net positive for both the environment and for our civilized culture.
    2. Drinking California wine over European wine due to “financial conerns” is even more puzzling. You ordinarily have to spend $40-$80 in California to get the quality that any number of European regions can routinely deliver for under $20.

  15. August 15, 2011


    This is a sub-culture of enthusiasts and hobbyists. There’s a common understanding among wine geeks that the blowups, dustups, controversies, etc. of this little world don’t really amount to a hill of beans, but as Lt. Frank Drebin once said, “but this is our hill, and these are our beans!” Seriously, half the fun of sub-cultures is making hay out of nothing, and we all know that, so we don’t need to be scolded or provided perspective or be given lessons on civility (in Latin no less!) by folks like you.

    Why don’t you visit the online communities for sports, model trains, Civil War re-enactment, comic books, or knitting, and I’m confident you’ll find equally heated debates over equally inconsequential subjects. You can deride them for their “childish, peurile” comments, remind them that everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and inform them that their petty squabbles pale in comparison to the weightier problems of the world, like starvation. I’m sure they’ll appreciate your invaluable perspective as much as I did, which is to say, not at all.



  16. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Dan, I tried to teach Parker my elliptical technique, but I failed. As you may have noticed, he uses ellipses to avoid ever finishing a complete, coherent sentence. (You may also have noticed that his acolytes on a certain wine board, let’s call them Jeff Leve and John Lahart (not their real names), have adopted their leader’s penchant for misemployed ellipses and incoherent sentences (and indeed, paragraphs), whether complete or not.) In my case, the ellipsis at the end of a post is to alert the reader to the fact that I WILL be posting again, thus dashing any hope that any reader may harbor that he or she is reading the last post ever by Bill Klapp…

    And Tai-Ran, I have perhaps a better sense of Mike Steinberger than you claim, and he has many fine qualities. While he may have occasional moments of reasonableness (just as I have occasional moments of lucidity), I can assure you that he is not now, nor has he ever been, “lovely”. I think that Mike himself can agree with my assessment! :)

  17. August 15, 2011


    1) I have already acknowledged in my previous posts that there are lots of people on this forum who were very constructive. And even before I did, those that were will know my “contempt” were not directed at them.

    2) The term “chatterati” was coined by Oz Clark, who wanted to highlight the fact that the vast majority of wine consumers (take a guess, 80%?) do not engage in wine media. Why? One reason is the sheer intensity with which the notion of “taste” is debated, usually descending into personal attacks. Elements of that was reflected in parts of this forum. Surely, you’ve seen the attempts at picking on spelling mistakes? And, “if you can’t afford the wines don’t be here”.

    3) The last time I checked, Ms. T and Mr W were wine-makers. With a newsletter following of less than (guess) 100,000 people. How pray-tell can any amount of self-serving hubris and what they say about the ripeness of grapes matter in any meaningful way to most wine consumers, let alone the lives of 6 billion people in the world? And yet articles and comments are written to either “defend Burgundy” or “stop them convincing the WORLD”. Does that not indicate an element of “delusion of grandeur” and being “narcissistic”?

    You do realise that my bottle of Dujac will taste the same, with or without the newsletter. Needs no defending. In fact, to the man on the street, the term “narcissistic” could be applied to everyone with a blog or in media?

    4) We live in an age where a million, if not more, people are literally dying of starvation this very second. Would it be fair to say that anyone who is personally insulted by a newsletter about ripeness of grapes, or by a wine-writer who uses the phrase “anti-flavour elite”, have lost some sense of perspective? I agree the same applies to the author of the newsletter. Pot, black, etc. Everyone takes themselves oh so seriously. Which is another reason why consumers shun wine media.

    5) I have not kept track of the multiple Michaels (is there more than 2?), and it would not surprise me if Michael S. (who I don’t know personally) is a reasonable and lovely person who does much to enhance the community in which he lives. More than I ever will. But you cannot deny that we are all taking ourself a touch too seriously?

  18. August 14, 2011


    A few things in response:

    1) You drop post after post deriding the folks on this blog (including Mike) as being a nasty bunch of childish, inconsequential “chatterati,” screaming our opinions into the ether. But I’ve been reading and contributing to the blog since its inception, and what you say doesn’t square with the altogether good-natured tone that’s standard here. You claim Michael Cat Helmet got “horrendous” treatment from this “mob,” but mostly he just got recommendations, which didn’t seem to satisfy him, and even though his original questions/complaints were rudely worded. Funny you missed that, given how adept you’ve been at pointing out everyone else’s “smugness.”

    2) You also grossly mischaracterize Mike (Steinberger, not Cat Helmet). This is a guy who only a couple months ago wrote an entire piece for Slate imploring folks to just “agree to disagree” when it comes to preferences in wine (, and he’s been exceptionally fair to Parker over the years, even though they don’t share remotely the same palate. To imply that he’s somehow motivated by jealousy of Parker is absurd. Parker gets criticized here and elsewhere precisely for the reasons you (wrongly) knock us: his faux-objectivity and his willingness to slam those who disagree with his taste as being outright wrong (e.g., those who like Burgundy or Loire reds he regularly mocks as the “anti-flavor elite.”). Mike doesn’t share Parker’s taste in wine, but he’s never gone around saying those who disagree with his taste are wrong. Read that Slate article and try to tell me otherwise, and do your homework before you go casting aspersions about.

    3) The Marcassin newsletter was more than just a poorly worded document or an innocent expression of their personal taste. It was a self-serving exercise in hubris dressed up with a bunch of claptrap about superior California farming methods. How is Mike taking them to task on their nonsense “a pot calling the kettle black?”

    4) Sorry if your feelings were hurt by me lumping you in with Greg. He’s truly a man apart, so that was unfair, but every one of your posts was dripping with either contempt or schoolmarmish lessons on how we “chatterati” should be behaving, and I felt compelled to push back. Plus, you were knocking my boy, Steinberger, and on that, The Dude does not abide…



  19. August 14, 2011

    Ah Bill,
    But in your case such usage would be merely stooping to conquer.
    And stooping to conquer has its own legitimacy of sorts; it is really the basis of the Wetlaufer letter under discussion here, and it is also the basis of my favorite topic- failures of political leadership.
    But I am now so curious about your usage of “…” . Is that an unattributed Parker quote?
    Or did you teach it to Parker?
    Shame really that he cannot do more with all that rage, and a stage. You could have taught him to write like this:

    “All the infections that the sun sucks up from bogs, fens, flats, on bloggers fall, and make them by inch-meal a disease!”

  20. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 14, 2011

    Tai-Ran, you make a fair point. If the widespread love of a particular wine made it the best, then Bordeaux would be the best wine and Parker would be the best wine critic, neither of which is remotely true. (Although I do believe that brother Steinberger has made Haut-Brion an honorary Burgundy!)

    Dan, you do well as a lay person, but as Jack can confirm, we lawyers would use not only the radical font, not only boldface, but also double or triple underscoring to make our points. We also used to take off our shoes and bang them on the table, before Khruschev spoiled it for us. This is what we lawyers refer to as “belt and suspenders”…

  21. August 14, 2011


    Major typo for which I apologize : my previous post should have read “… NEVER suggested that you are not allowed …” now it flows.

    As for “contempt”, I only joined in the conversation after the horrendous way in which Michael (cat with the helmet) was treated by the mob. He only asked for wine recommendations, which quite a few respondent kindly provided. Quite a few others though were patronising, obnoxious and mean, down to the point to picking on his spelling!

    The main charges as far as I can see, was that Ms T and Mr W were narcissistic and arrogant, and yet the behaviour of a lot of people on this forum is exactly the same!! Its just that they were patronising to the people who don’t like Burgundy, rather than to the people who do.

    Pot calling the kettle black.

    I have never defended the newsletter (which is just an amusing and badly written document), but the idea that all Burgundian wine are good is as ludicrous as the charge that all Burgundian wine are bad.

    I really don’t understand why there is that constant, childish, puerile, insecure need to establish which palate is the best? Take a chill pill, enjoy wine, and remember : de gustibus non disputandum est.

    Opinions about matters of taste are not objectively right or wrong, and hence that disagreements about matters of taste cannot be objectively resolved.

  22. Paige M. permalink
    August 13, 2011

    Consider me naive, but I love wine. I can understand why one might want to drink an amazing import, but given the environmental and financial concerns, why not drink local? As a California native, I feel so fortunate to have access to great wines at all price points. I wonder why more people don’t make connections with local wine merchants. I live in Santa Monica as well. I can easily walk out of my door and within five blocks find a few wine merchants whom I can honestly query, “What pinot/zin/Burgundy/Barolo do you have that is at “X” price point?” I often don’t have a specific request for a particular wine. One of the aspects of wine that I love best is learning from others. Given the history of both taste and winemaking itself, it seems more interesting to be curious than judgmental.

  23. Wilfred permalink
    August 13, 2011

    Parker should learn how to be a bit more subtle. Its amazing how transparent he is with his axe to grind regarding Burgundy. I guess being thrown out of there hurts.

  24. August 13, 2011

    Bill & Jack,
    As lawyers both, you should be happy with Greg’s Pro Bozo defense of the couple in the docket here. As to my lay person self, I don’t take issue with what sort of wine people like, nor with how they choose to defend it if they so choose. Excepting that, if he should denigrate my fragile intellect one more time with UPPER CASING his most ill-considered arguments, I would be forced to hammer back at him with some vicious bold font. Provocation must have limits.

  25. Jack Bulkin permalink
    August 13, 2011

    Klappy, you beat me to it. I do admit that this thread was a fun read. Hey Greg, do you happen to live in Bel Air?

  26. August 13, 2011


    I have NEVER suggested that you are allow to express a preference. I am merely pointing out the fact the people loving Burgundy does not logically equate to Burgundy being the “BEST”.

    I love Burgundy! I really don’t like Ms. Turley wines. But I will never feel the need to scream that I am “RIGHT”. Because in the matter of taste, no one is “right”.

    As for technical aspect of viticulture, I have worked two harvest and pruned in winter, and yet I can honestly say I know v. little and will defer to people who knows more.

    As for arrogant obnoxious people, yes, that are so many in wine, writing a blog to point them all out will be pointless.

  27. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 13, 2011

    I feel cheated. I really wanted to post more on this thread, but I see that it already has a resident asshole, so I will let Greg clean up here and I will wait for the next thread!

  28. Warren Wu permalink
    August 13, 2011

    Bill Moore: you are my hero…

  29. August 12, 2011

    Wow! All of sudden this blog’s got more trolls than Lord of the Rings! Anyhow, thanks Mike (and Dr. Vino) for calling out that absurd, narcissistic newsletter.

    Greg and Tai-Ran, thanks for gracing this corner of the web with your unbridled contempt! All of us armchair vignerons who don’t have dirt under our nails like you guys clearly have no authority to voice strong opinions about wine. We should, as Tai-Ran states, comport ourselves with more humility and just cede the argument to those who’ve worked the fields and have a “better grasp of the fundamentals” like Greg says. And to think, I was just about to sell my right kidney to get some ’99 La Tache! Thank God Helen’s newsletter intervened to show me (in exhaustive, self-congratulatory detail) how delusional I really was.

    So, to recap, even if my palate tells me that the Cali-style (“better living through science!”) pinot generally tastes like a combo of blueberry pie and cola, well then, I should merely accept that as the purest expression of the grape! And when I drink a Burgundy, I should be remembering Greg’s fundamentals: the green berries, the presence of Rhone varietals that I never detect, and the harsh green tannins, instead of savoring its awesomeness as I usually do. Frankly Greg, it looks like you’ve uncovered the greatest case of mass self-deception ever. Millions of people over many centuries have been wrong about Burgundy. Mike, I’m afraid you’ve been living a lie.


  30. Dave Brookes permalink
    August 12, 2011


    You come across as a bit a lot like a Marcassin wine and staff…..brash, un-palatable and fairly full of himself.

    “Amazing how anyone with a keyboard and ‘net access is an expert these days…”….no?

  31. Keith permalink
    August 12, 2011

    Here is an article by Clark Smith a noted expert;

    This is an article on Brett. I’m not an expert by any stretch, but I have been making a little wine since 1981.

  32. SteveLG permalink
    August 12, 2011

    Amazing how anyone with a keyboard and ‘net access is an expert these days…

    isn’t it just?

  33. August 12, 2011

    OK, I got it. Thanks for this reminder, Greg.

  34. August 12, 2011

    Greg, what is your answer to Mike’s query: if the producers in Burgundy are doing everything so wrong, why do so many experienced wine drinkers find their wines so compelling? And if producers like Marcassin and other California producers are doing everything so right, why do so many experienced wine drinkers find the wines to be undrinkable abominations?

    Your comment on the California winery reviewed by Meadows also calls out for some specifics. I believe I have an idea what winery you were referring to, and if I have guessed correctly your insinuations were wrong: (i) of the four wines they released from the 2004 vintage, just one of them had reports of brett (I’ve tasted the wine several times and never noticed any myself, but if the human brett detectors are buzzing, I won’t doubt them); (ii) not one of the wines they have released since has had reports of brett; (iii) Meadows didn’t even review their 2004 lineup, which would seem to negate your insinuation that he did any kind of disservice to his readers by not pointing out the brett in that single 2004 wine.

  35. Greg Piatigorski permalink
    August 12, 2011

    Amazing how this discussion keeps including more and more clueless people.

    Martin, for the last time, and please read this statement as many times as needs be until you understand: HELEN Turley HAS NOTHING TO DO with Turley Zins, Her brother, LARRY TURLEY, owns the label and makes ZINFANDELS.
    Daniel, no, we never met. I just know a lot of people ITB, even if only by name.

    Tai-Ran, good pick up! Yes, yoo picked it up correctly, I am in the business, mostly Pinot Noir and Syrah from colder climate vineyards so the subject is known to me, if a little bit :-) And obviously, not as much as to the experts here such as our blogger and some of the Old World brigade, they obviously spent way more than I do in the vineyards and wineries. And display plenty of cluelessness in the process, still.
    Keith, you fall into that same trap Parker et al have. There is no such thing as “little brett”, no one can control how it spreads. I don’t think you buy spoilt fruit/food, have no idea why it is “normal” to consume spoilt wine. I will offer you same challenge I offered Parker (he made a vanishing act rather fast): I will pour you as many wines as you want, blind, all infected with brett, the only thing you need to tell me is one simple thing, What varietal is the wine made of? Please read your post again, way too many IFs and suppositions, IMO. Just another layer of excuses…
    Mike, as the saying goes, Don’t wish for something, it may come true. Interesting that you only had one quibble with my answers to your questions. But I suspected as much.

    Anyway, the thread seems to prove there is nothing one can say, even from a practical, hands on point of view, to counter the usual New World sucks, Old World rules and beaten to death discussion. Carry on, blind leading the blind wins another round, nothing new here to see.

  36. August 12, 2011

    Holy cow. This reminds me on my first encounter with H. Turley wines in 2007, as David Schildknecht was in Berlin and I organized a Riesling-Tasting at my home. At the end we had some red wines including a 2003 H. Turley, Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard.
    Honestly I couldn´t drink this stuff with around 16%. I thought, is this port or wine?!


  37. August 11, 2011

    Oh wow. 63 comments! I hope no-one’s withdrawn the punch bowl before I’ve turned up.

    I doubt it – wine aesthetics = warfare.

    I’m staying out. But Mike, I liked the post.

    Here’s the thing that grabbed me in two seconds reading the newsletter, and no-one has commented on, either on this board or others.

    HTF did anyone manage to finish reading it? I mean, seriously? I have read Court of Appeal judgments that read like The New Yorker compared to that.

    Anyone who needs to interrupt their thinking with that many parentheses shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a pen or a computer.

    Oh, and value Burgundy Michael? One of my best QPR propositions of all last year – any region – 2002 Jadot Clos de la Barre. 25 quid UK pre-tax. Ok, it’s Jadot, so no “too cool for school” points for me, but wow, if that wine didn’t have just about all the elements there that you want, you’re in the wrong game.

    I have little time for complaints about hit-and-miss or high priced Burgs I’m afraid. Go down to Chambers Street (or whatever equivalent you can access under the messed up liqour laws you guys have over the pond – sorry but it’s just bonkers to non-US people) and ask them to put together a dozen bts at under 50 each. If you don’t hit gold I’ll be amazed.

  38. August 11, 2011


    No worries!

  39. August 11, 2011

    I see where you are headed…I can agree with most of that!

    This is all about opinions.

  40. August 11, 2011


    As I mentioned in my 3rd paragraph, of course you are allowed to express an opinion!! But it is an opinion of an amateur consumer. And there should perhaps be an element of humility that goes with that fact? btw – James Laube and Suckling (and practically all wine writers) are also merely amateur consumers. They may live there, but they have never made wine. But of course they can say which wine they like!

    As for Parker, he has also never in his career intellectually, philosophically, logically been able to express anything more than the following: “I like this wine”.

    There is a huge difference between “expressing an opinion” and “seeking a moral high ground”.

    Read Jancis Robinson or Andrew Jefford. They never write with a believe that THEY are right. They openly admit that there is much they don’t know. They write with an intellectual rigour and analysis that explores. That their palate is just simply theirs, without any attempt to justify whether it is “superior”. They write to try and share rather than to delineate “THEM vs US”.

    Most sports fan understand this perfectly. No matter what they say about their team, or another team, there is always an element of humility that comes with knowing that they will never be able to do what the professionals do.

    As Lawrence Osborne puts it “.. Very often the most severe of wine activists and moralists are not those who actually toil on the land .. “

  41. Keith permalink
    August 11, 2011

    They get around rules in California too, when they pick the raisins they call “ripe” grapes they spend a bit of time washing out the picking bins in to the crusher, just to make sure they get everything out of them. It is legal to do that. Every one has their own taste. But the trend of ripening grapes evenly and overly to “me” leads to very simple fat wines. They sell a lot of them, thanks to Mr. Parker. As for underripe picking in Burgundy, I think the spread of ripeness leads to more compounds in the mix that can if done right lead to more complexity, and if a little Brett gets in that can help some too, as long as it is a very light infection. With wine of all types, especially very fine ones they seem to have a lot of stages of development, so excuses are often made and can be relevant. I have tasted wines that at one time are absolutely horrible and later try them and something happened and am totally amazed with the positive change. I’m much more used to the opposite with much of the more modern sort of winemaking methods in use today. Did I misspell anything? I did ignore the pallet spelling.

  42. August 11, 2011


    So, if we have not lived in a wine region, we can have no opinion of the wines?

    So, the only wine critics that know anything are James Laube in NoCal, and James Suckling in Tuscany?

  43. August 11, 2011


    This is not a site for trafficking in innuendo. In your first post, you leveled a serious charge against Burgundy producers, and you repeated the accusation in your second post. Let’s hear some names, or you should acknowledge that you are talking out of your derriere, as they say in Beaune.

    You have now aired a very serious accusation against Allen Meadows. You acknowledge that you have no proof of this rumor, but you repeated it anyway. Am I entitled to ask when you stopped beating your wife? Cough up some names, or you should retract what you wrote. I don’t want to delete comments, and have yet to delete one since I started this blog. But unless you are prepared to offer some evidence regarding Allen or retract what you said, I am going to remove the comment.

    With regard to your other points, let me just be sure I understand: so basically, anyone who thinks Marcassin stinks has an agenda or lacks a functioning palate? And from your comments about Burgundy, I gather that you think that anyone who is a Burgundy enthusiast also lacks a functioning palate?

    And again with regard to your comments on Burgundy: so if all this is true, why do you suppose so many seemingly intelligent and discerning people seem to like the wines of Burgundy? Steve Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, Michel Bettane, Antonio Galloni, David Schildknecht, Jasper Morris, Daniel Johnnes, Larry Stone, Rajat Parr, Matt Kramer, Eric Asimov, Jon Bonne (I could go on here, but I’d run out of space)…. How do you account for this?

    If all that you’ve said about Burgundy is correct, then I think you really owe it to wine consumers to start a blog that reveals the truth that has been concealed from them by know-nothing, no-palate bloggers like me.

  44. August 11, 2011

    Is it me, or does anyone else think that almost all the discussion here resemble kids in a playground shouting : “I like red!!!” “I like blue!!!” “Red is the best!” “No, blue is the best!”

    Greg on the other hand has highlighted an important issue … I suspect hardly anyone here has ever cultivated a cool-climate Pinot Noir vineyard or made wine commercially (or if so, for more than 20 years). Equally, I suspect hardly anyone here has lived in Cote ‘d Or permanently over the last 20 years, and worked harvest at the thousands of wineries there.

    Not that having no practical experience whatsoever means that you cannot express a preference for a wine. By all means scream as loud as you want as to what you like to drink. After all, it is no different from expressing a preference for a colour, or Cubism vs. Impressionism, Italian opera vs. Mozart, Chinese vs. Indian cuisine, Kobe vs. LeBron, there is no moral high ground to be gained.

    But when it comes to a heated debate on the finer points of viticulture and enology … especially with reference to a region 5000 miles away that most people would not have spent more than a combined total of 5 years in … a softer tone of voice may be more appropriate?

    As for making fun of people’s spelling mistakes … that definitely betrays a level of patronising smugness that can only be born of a highly insecure ego.

  45. August 11, 2011


    I am not sure why the generalizations here? I, too, have had many bad btls of Burgundy.

    Heck, check out my negative notes on 2007 DRCs, when I tasted them last year.

    But that is my point…you said that I had no “palate” if I found Marcassin awful. So, I found Marcassin awful. Heck, I returned it at a restaurant, and still offered to pay for it.

    I did not say the same about those that found Burgs undrinkable. These are opinions.

    I do not know you, but you sound a lit like Parker, with the defenses on. What is your SSN? 😉

  46. Greg Piatigorski permalink
    August 11, 2011


    I hope you meant no PALATE, I am sure you have plenty of pallets in your store.

    I have tasted way too many a Burg I disliked. You don’t see me blogging diatribes about how “terrible” they are, do you? Sure, I guess I don’t understand how a wine lacking in mid-palate and finish can ever be great, but what the hell do I know about wine, I am not a blogger…

    I find it hilarious every time I attend a Burg tasting, the number of excuses one hears about almost every bottle tasted is stupefying. This one is off, this one is too young, this one had bad storage, etc, etc, etc. Yeah, Old World wines rule! Brett is king!

  47. August 11, 2011

    I am happy to be part of the, “I have no pallet” regime…

    Seriously, the broad judgement can be quite astonishng.

    The note was posted over one year ago…there was no agenda then, nor is there one now. There is my opinion…Marcassin PNs are not very good. At least the ones that I have had.

  48. Greg Piatigorski permalink
    August 11, 2011

    OK, one at a time.

    Interesting that you bring up Burghound. For a number of reasons. Main one and pertinent to this discussion and my point above. When his first Cali Pinot reviews showed up, he gave pretty high scores and reviews to a recent start-up producer. Although there were and are ramblings he is a friend of said producer, this reached me as a rumor and I have not confirmed it either way. Not that it matters in the end. Key to this is that first few vintages of said Pinots were tainted by brett, easily detectable on the nose and palate (and verified by subsequent Vinquiry plating) and making wines more than undrinkable and yet, there was absolutely nothing in the reviews to suggest that. As one of us commented at the time while tasting, As a consumer I would be seriously insulted if I had to pay for this wine. So, you tell me, agenda or lack of palate? And why should I , no any paying subscriber, care one way or another what Allen Meadows thinks of Marcassin? And come to think of it, any Cali Pinot? AFAIAK, he should stay with Burgs, one area he probably knows.

    Farming in Burgundy. Not sure what in my post was so difficult to understand. Let’s go through FACTS one by one, then. Do they pick underripe, green berries? Yes. Do they pick with underripe, green and harsh tannins? Yes. Do they frequently chaptalize to “compensate” for the first 2 points? Yes. Oh, and by the way, they water AND chaptalize as needed as well, never mind the law against it. Do they under report actual alcohol content in their wines? Yes. Sometimes by a rather large number. Do they spike up their wines to gain better color and body with non-Pinot varietals? Yes. No amount of sugar added in can compensate for lack of physiological maturity, I can’t recall last time, if ever, I bought underripe table grapes to eat. Have you? Something tells me both know the answer. If they are so happy with the fruit they grow, why chaptalize at all? Why spike the “properly” grown effort? The answer is right there in front of your eyes, yet you and others refuse to accept simple facts of life. So, again, you tell me, do they know how to farm? If you believe that green, harsh tannins is a good thing, then there is nothing to discuss further. Not that there was any hope up front that you would understand any of this.

    Your own agenda wise, from where I sit, and as I pointed out before I have not met Helen and John, nor am I looking forward to it, but I have yet to try any Marcassin that isn’t at least a solid wine. It may not be the best wine at a tasting, but at the least it is usually near the top. In your case, have no idea what your agenda may be, but if you insist that you have no agenda, then the only reasonable explanation for your POV is lack of palate. But you’re not alone in this…

    Amazing how anyone with a keyboard and ‘net access is an expert these days…

  49. August 11, 2011


    I’m glad you’ve found some pleasure in the Marcassin wines. A lot of very experienced and knowledgeable tasters do not think highly of them. Allen Meadows has scored most of the Marcassin wines he’s reviewed in the mid- to low-80s and high 70s. I guess he should be in the market for a palate, too?

    I’m curious about your “agenda” comment. What would be my “agenda” here? Please enlighten me, when you have a moment.

    I’m also curious to know about these scandals in Burgundy that you claim we still see. Can you provide some details?

    Lastly, I gather from your comments about Burgundy that you agree with Turley and Wetlaufer–that you believe the Burgundians are incompetent farmers and that all these people who swoon over Burgundy are delusional (or lack good taste). Is that a fair statement?


  50. Aaron M permalink
    August 11, 2011

    Michael, David White’s selections sound good. One can order Peay, Anthill, Copain, and several other Sonoma Coast pinot noirs (rated 90+ by Steven Tanzer) for $20-50 from K&L Wines.

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