A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 7/23/11        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Geez, I had barely got my Underground Wine Line commentary “What Is Wine” out
and I get an email offer saying “Stay tuned…This Could Get Interesting.” If you have
not already read my “What Is Wine?” article I encourage you to do so. (To read the article click here) And, then please consider the following which was contained in the aforementioned email:

First, there is information on the Napa Valley Cabernets from Robert Craig. The
comments are about how the wines are “old school” and there is an offer for the 2008
Infinity at a reduced price of $33 per bottle by the case. I have a lot of older Robert Craig
Cabernets in my cellar from the 90s and I love them. Many I reviewed years ago with
glowing notes. They have certainly lived up to expectations and have aged beautifully.

Next is the discussion with the current young winemaker at Robert Craig, Keith Emerson
who is described as a “…young Napa Valley Turk who is quietly challenging what
we believe to be a ponderous and very dangerous direction taken by too many Napa
wineries.” The discussion was initially focused on questions about “…the trend of hyper-
concentrated, overly alcoholic wines that’s taken too much of the valley by storm.” But,
Mr. Emerson was reluctant to say too much, confining his remarks to “…even if my
approach to the vineyards is a little edgier, I’d say the wines we are making here are
far more true to those early days than modern trends.” Then he added, “I’m not about
bashing someone else’s wines, but you have to wonder about the future of Napa Valley
if so many wines taste the same – even if they are grown in completely different places.”
But, then that conversation ended with no smoking gun.

However, like the name says at the beginning “Stay Tuned…This Could Get Interesting”,
it does get really interesting. And, here it is: “The new buzz in the Napa Underground
has it that a few veteran winemakers with far less to lose than young Emerson, have
run lab analysis on a handful of awfully Port-like 95+ point Cabernets. If the results are
what’s expected, and these hit the web, they’ll blow the lid off Napa’s sweetest secret.”
Indeed. It looks like the Underground is about to strike and answer at least part of my
question of “What Is Wine?”

Concluding, the email posts a few questions: “…the best question may not be ‘are
these wines really sweet?’ It may just be ‘does anyone care?’ Will the realization that
high residual sugar sits at the core of so much of that high scoring ‘concentration’ cause
collectors to ask questions before they drop hundreds? Will there be a clamor for lab
results on back labels? Or will the well-heeled buyers just say, ‘I like the stuff and I can
afford it, so if it scores, bring it on.’”

Well, if I may be so bold (and I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, but
shrinking violet is not one of them!), the answers are:

Does anyone care if the wines are doctored and overly sweet? YES.

Will people ask questions? YES

Will there be a clamor for lab results on back labels? YES

Will “collectors” care less and continue to buy only numbers? NO, not the smart
The rest who knows? Some may parrot the dunce, who said, when told that the
wine he was drinking (that cost thousands of $) was absolutely a fake, “I don’t care. I like
it.” Or the well known wine writer when asked about fake wines replied “I don’t know if
they are fake. But, if they are, they’re really good.” The logic (if you want to call it that)
in these comments is just insane.

But, make no mistake the Underground is rumbling. Indeed, stay tuned to the
Underground. Like I said at the conclusion of my article What Is Wine?, “As the
renowned investor and sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet famously said ‘When the tide goes
out, then we get to see who is swimming naked.’” Now it looks as if the tide will recede
much sooner than I thought! And, when the tide does go out there will be a lot of naked, embareassed
(yes, in this case, it’s em-bare-assed), sunburned bodies looking for a place to hide!

In Vino Veritas,Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

John Tilson

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