The Pinot Showdown – Part 3

Joe Davis Joins the Mix

Joe has entered the building. Joe arrives up just in time to answer some tough questions about Pinot Noir from his fellow wine makers.

Find out more about the contributors to today’s show:

– Brian Loring: Loring Wine Company
– Adam Lee: Siduri Wines
– James Laube: Wine Spectator
– Joe Davis: Arcadian Winery

Sponsor: Hospice Du Rhone

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Show #69
(32:12 min 15 MB)

31 Responses to “The Pinot Showdown – Part 3”

  1. 1 Murray Jan 22nd, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    This has been one of the more interesting series of shows to date. The discussion between the differing styles of wine is rather relevant to me, given that we have similar areas (climate wise) here in Australia as you guys in California.

    I dont feel that Joe has done himself many favours to date, you let him slip out of the question about wether the “old style” wines have more value or are somehow superior to the “new style” wines. Seems he arrived for the interview with his politicians hat on.

    Looking forward to the final installment!

  2. 2 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 22nd, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Murray, it was fustrating as you could probably detect in my voice.


  3. 3 Jason Adams Jan 23rd, 2006 at 8:33 am

    Great discussion so far. I see politics on both sides of the table and the wrong parties arguing a scientific defense, ahh… better living through chemistry.

    Joe describes himself as a wine grower, the French have the proper word vigneron. He crafts his wine in the vineyard, not the cellar. The wine is to be an expression of the grapes, the climate, the soil – the terrior. And yes, the consumer does taste the grapes.

    Brian’s wine is crafted in the cellar. He freely admits to the manipulations of the grapes, adding water, acid, non-native yeasts, etc – and asks to judge the product in the bottle, not on the vine.

    Joe makes an argument for terrior but I believe Brian is probably better at expressing the actual California terrior. The Pinot Noir grape is historically cultivated in Burgundy for the same reasons all specific grape varietals are cultivated in the Old World – these were/are the varietals that were best suited to the specific climate – and we are not talking clones here. My point being is that California is not Burgundy (but with global warming maybe Burgundy will become California) and the Pinot Noir grape alone does not make Burgundy.

    California wine makers need to stop obsessing on varital names (the Australian’s got it right by changing the name to Shiraz) and focus more on expressing California’s many terriors and cultivating the varietal that best expresses such. But it’s all about money right? Fifty dollars for one bottle?

    Looking forward to the conclusion.

  4. 4 Douglas Griffin Jan 23rd, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Is it possible that Joe is experiencing a Market share drop because of the more approachable style of these newer Pinots? I know there is much pride involved but money usually is the bottom line.

  5. 5 Rick Johnson Jan 23rd, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent knowledge represented on the panel. Fine educational value; fascinating insights into the fine points of wine making. Discussions comparing various styles are interesting even though subjective and therefore by definition inconclusive. But good heavens, what could be more tedious then three wine makers pitching a hissy fit over semantics and who said what (or did what) to whom. All three produce excellent wine but suited to different individual preferences. Let it go at that. This is my favorite wine blog. Thank goodness Jim Laube was on hand to periodically restore some sanity.

  6. 6 Steve Jan 23rd, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    This is getting more heated than a congressional hearing. Two of the three wine makers were previously flayed. They were there to defend their wines, and subsequently their names.

  7. 7 Chad Jan 23rd, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    One thing that worried me about my potential reaction to this show has come true – that the wine maker’s discussion would somehow jade my opnion (or desire to have an opinion by purchasing a bottle) of the wines. I’m honestly going to have a hard time picking up a bottle of Arcadian the next time I’m perusing wine to buy. I’m sure the wine is outstanding, but from a consumer’s perspective, I don’t have much interest in supporting this guy. My impression of Loring and Siduri wines from the first interview with Joe Davis was manipulated to be pretty low. I knew very little about either producer and had nothing to go on other than Joe’s ill-researched facts and opinions represented unfairly as truth. There is too much wonderful selection in the wine world for me to waste my money on Joe’s product.

    And am I the only one who enjoys drinking *both* styles of Pinot? The discussion implies there’s some extreme Lilliputian dichotomy between the big-endians and little-endians.

  8. 8 Murray Jan 23rd, 2006 at 4:21 pm


    If “professional” reporters have trouble getting politicians to actually say what they mean, then what chance do the “amateur” guys have!

    You did well getting all these people together for a discussion, keep it up.

  9. 9 750mL Jan 23rd, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    I keep all of your shows on my iPod. Thanks for making them available in the podcast format.

    Could you please keep the files consistent, though? Some of your podcasts have GrapeRadio as the artist, others have your actual names as the artist. The inconsistency makes it difficult to keep track of the shows. It doesn’t matter how you name them, but please stick with one style.

    Best regards,

  10. 10 Phil Jan 23rd, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    Joe may have shot himself in the foot in this episode by failing to articulate his viewpoint well. However, it seems to me that his argument is correct. If it were true that different levels of greatness were not possible from a wine–for instance that it does not grow (when done well) into a more sublime substance over time– there would be no need to age and cellar wines. The promise of the 2002 Insignia, for instance, is not its quality out of the bottle today (although it is very good today), but that because of its balance and structure and the skill of Craig Williams, in 10 years or more, if cellared and cared for and allowed to grow into its fullest expression, it will become a transcendent bottle of wine, something that cannot be replicated by a winemaker’s lab experiments today. If this were not true, the whole concept of wine as a living thing that is capable of growing into something greater than it initially was becomes moot. Wine would then be just another fungible product meant for immediate consumption.

    It is also true that pinot noir (when made well) can evolve into a substance that is more complex, subtle and sublime than it is out of the barrel today or after being taken home from the wine store. There is nothing wrong, of course, with fun, fruity, high alcohol wine meant to be consumed upon purchase. Boxed wine can be good as well. Brian, I would be willing to bet, believes that his wines are more subtle, sophisticated and evolved than the $10 boxed wines. Thunderbird, high in alcohol and sugar and a mainstay of the wino, also can taste pretty good if you want a quick buzz and something sweet. But no one would pretend it is anything other than what it is. This is my favorite wine blog.

    Joe’s point is that he does not want CA pinot noir producers to be so overtaken by the higher profits and quicker returns that can be had by the “new style” of pinot that CA stops producing, and consumers forget, the transcendence of which pinot noir is capable. Such transcendence requires obsession and skill by the winemaker and time and care by the consumer. Each year Joe walks the fields trying to make that transcendence possible once again, even if he and the consumer will not reap the full reward of those efforts for many years to come, and, for that, I respect him.

  11. 11 Michael Barnhill Jan 24th, 2006 at 10:16 am

    Chad hit the nail on the head twice. I agree that Joe has not done well by his 2nd interview and that will come to play a little when I am looking to try something new. But I am open minded and will try anything once. I also agree that there is something to enjoy in both styles of wine. This is my favorite wine blog.

    I am looking forward to this series ending, while it is interesting and I like the parties involved, I am starting to miss the playfulness of some of the earlier (non-controversial) grape radio episodes. Let’s talk about champagne again!!!

  12. 12 Dcubita Jan 24th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks to the Grape Radio crew for highlighting an often-overlooked dynamic to consider when selecting wines: the personality of winemakers!

    A friend and I often talk about how impossible it is to try all of the great wines available today and how little things can eliminate or add wines to our “lists.” I’m with Chad… this interview has eliminated Arcadian from my list.

    I find Joe’s passive-aggressive use of analogy and personification to criticize his colleagues very unprofessional. His weak scientific rhetoric in this episode confirms that this is exactly the type of winery I prefer not to support, on principle. Enough with the holier-than-thou attitude in this industry; it antiquated and counterproductive.

  13. 13 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 24th, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Boy, you guys are a tough crowd. I think that Joe is a poor communicator. I also feel he lacks tact. However, does that make him a bad person? I am not ready to write him or his wines off yet. Maybe he will learn for this and come to grips with how his passion could be seen is a negative light.

    That being said, lots of choices out there to be sure. No reason to buy form someone that you would not want in your home.


  14. 14 Kristin Jan 24th, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    This was a fascinating, insightful series, and altogether unfortunate in a way.

    Wine, like anything else, is a subjective matter. Books, movies, television. Some people will love the blockbuster, other people would refuse to watch it even on a plane and would rather stare at the window if it’s not an underground indie film. The point is, there is an audience for all degrees of wine as well. And for those of us that are here it’s hard to believe but some people just really don’t care about wine, other than how pretty the label is and how much it costs. Somebody has to buy the Fat Bastard Chard, you know? And I can roll my eyes, but am well aware that those people can’t believe how hard I’ll track down a bottle I want, or the lengths I’ll go to. Different strokes.

    But it’s sad that as proud as California winemakers were to finally feel the French could no longer look down their nose at them, some of them are resorting to turning the nose on their neighbor – and that an elegant, beautiful craft was reduced here to a fast food fight. Quite frankly it’s these kinds of “debates” that lack the sort of poetic intelligence that winemakers can have, that turn off a whole segment of the market who is terrified of never getting it.

  15. 15 Brian Loring Jan 24th, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    I wish we didn’t need to have the “debate” with Joe. But as Chad said above, he’d come away from Joe’s first interview with a low opinion of Siduri and Loring. My hand was forced – I had to counter Joe’s misleading and false statements. I apologize if I came off sounding mad… but I was rather upset over the whole thing. I know it lacked much poetic intelligence, but I felt it necessary to protect something I’ve worked very hard to build. I just hope once these shows air it’ll be done, and we can move onto more fun discussions. Did someone say Champagne? 🙂

  16. 16 Kristin Jan 24th, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Brian – I had neglected to say that I personally do not feel this way about your wine. I’ve tried it because of this program – and enjoyed it very much! I was astonished that it was entirely barrel created and you don’t have your own vineyards that you’re nurturing through fog and heat. I admire that you’ve found a way to be a winemaker on your own terms by trusting the growers. It’s inspring, and collaborative. I think the romantic days of everybody having their cottage on their own vineyard is going the way of the natural cork. It’s not the way everybody can do it. It would be like scolding Alice Waters if she ever put something on the menu she didn’t grow herself instead of conceding that vision is just as important as materials and origin. Just keep doing what you believe in and everything else will fall into place. There has to be a price point for everybody to enjoy wine, and sometimes you just want a good mouthful of wine, not an academic exercise in fermentation. The reason wine exists is to enjoy it together.

    Yes, Champagne is ALWAYS the answer.

  17. 17 Fiona Jan 24th, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks guys! I have to say I’m loving the Pinot Showdown. I actually found the last show really exciting (possibly need to get a hobby?)! I’m loving the winemakers getting down to the real nitty-gritty of winemaking and learning about all of the different factors that contribute to the differences in wines. As a newbie I always find something new in each show, but this one really got a lot of information out there and being discussed.

    I have to say, it’s not put me off any of the wines being produced by any of the interviewees (or should I say combatants 😉 ), rather it’s made me more eager to try them.

  18. 18 Steve Jan 25th, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    Brian likes Champagne! I do remember that from his first GrapeRadio show.

    Brian, I think you acted as a gentlemen under very difficult circumstances. That is the biggest thing I remember from part three. You are an example of how I can improve the way I manage tense conversations and adversaries. So, thank you.

    By the way Michelle Pfeiffer was in Grease 2 and Married to the Mob.

  19. 19 Robert Jan 25th, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Joe was having trouble deciding whether he was concerned about the septic qualities of others wines or whether he was just afraid to come right out and say what he appeared to feel that Burgundian styles of wines to him are superior. Too bad, because both types of wines are great in their own right. As some of the other listeners have pointed out that considering Arcadian wines may be put on the back burner due to a bad taste in ones mouth from the personality implied by and of the winemaker.

    I personally run into this same issue with other wines and winemakers. As a retail wine buyer I will occasionally run into a personality of a winemaker that is unpleasant however intrinsically good the wine is I still associate the bad feeling imparted by the person associated with the wine, thus I refuse to purchase that product.

  20. 20 Jonathan Jan 25th, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    I think the point raised about stability has real merit. I think Joe tries to raise this as the core issue. Unfortunately, having an academic debate at this point after he represented his peers in an unclassy way the first go around is tough…

    Sometimes I think the breakdown is that winemakers only taste their own wines and they have never left the winery – is this true?

    In that situation I think the wine will always show to best advantage. But if the wine has been shipped across the Country could this trigger things like VA or negative micro bacterial development?

  21. 21 Brian Loring Jan 26th, 2006 at 12:17 am

    Joe didn’t have a core issue to debate. His premise was that winemakers like Adam Lee and myself are making risky wines, given that the wines are high pH (meaning low acid) and that we can’t add enough SO2 to make them “safe”. That’s wrong on sooooo many levels. First, my wines aren’t high pH wines. We add acid so that our finished wines are right in line with the pHs of Joe’s wines. Second, Joe seemed to imply that neither Adam nor I were aware that SO2 effectiness is based upon pH. DUH. All winemakers know that. In fact, we all have charts showing how much SO2 to add for any pH level…. so even without a chemistry degree, all you need to be able to do is READ A CHART. Not rocket science. There’s simply no debate to be had.

    And even after Joe was told what my wine’s pHs are, and that I have a chemistry degree and that I’m COMPLETELY aware of what was going on… he STILL kept claiming that my wines are risky. Either Joe is deaf, or he was calling me a liar.

    Now to the question… can VA or other issues develope due to shipping wine across country? Any wine that that has bacterial issues (acteobacter, brett, etc) could have growth accelerated due to exposure to heat. One would hope that wineries test their wines to make sure they don’t have any critters… and if they do, they filter them out. And, of course, that they add the safe amount of SO2. So, while the shipping could cause the problem to show sooner, it would still be there nonetheless, and would eventually show even if the wine never left the winery. But just to be completely clear… this type of problem has nothing to do with the style of wine being made. Joe would be just as likely to run into this as Adam or I. And all three of us would do the right thing to make the wines safe.

  22. 22 Robert Jan 26th, 2006 at 6:33 am

    I think Joe’s issue with bacterial issues is his excuse to cover his love for burgundian style and his opinion that burgundian style is superior. Grasping for any reason to cover the ego that is associated with the burgundian style. Come on how many bottles out of the thousands and thousands of bottles tasted out there really have problems with bacterial issues? I know I taste several thousand bottles a year at least and many are the style of Brian and Adam but have encountered very few bacterial issues in the wines.

  23. 23 Murray Jan 26th, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Joe definitely would have served himself better by coming right out and saying he beleives “old world style” wines are superior to “new world style”. At least then he would have others who feel the same way on side!

    I must admit I am somewhat surprised to see that so far, nobody commenting on this post has come out and said they hold views similar to Joe in that regard.

  24. 24 Joseph Jan 26th, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    I have enoyed listening to this debate very much. I am a big fan of Pinot, in all styles. However, I will have a very hard time drinking any of Joe’s wines. He strikes me as very arrogant and condescending. It seems to me he keeps trying to impress others with all of his technical talk. Hell, let’s just drink the WINE!

    Still trying to get my hands on some of Brian’s wine here in “Hotlanta!”

  25. 25 John Weippert Jan 26th, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    I am actually enjoying my drive home with great discussions like these. When is part four and what are you doing for your next round table topic?

  26. 26 Bill Curtis Jan 26th, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    I like the new twice a week (Monday and Friday) show release schedule.

    This has been an interesting and informative discussion on different methods of style of winecrafting. Joe seems to be able to better express his thought in the method of the old world master/apprentice anaolgies, where Brian has a more new world cut to the chase directness when he speaks. I think both make valid points (some with more tact than others) and obviously both appear to be successful in marketing their styles of wine.

    I have not yet tasted any of the wines from the gentlemen that were speaking, so I can not yet compare the rhetoric to the finished product but the show is interesting.

    I don’t suggest that this style of show become the dominant format for Grape Radio overall – every now and then it is interesting, but there is so much more out there that I would hate to get bogged down in a discussion between these 3 same winemakers on a regular basis.

    Bill Curtis

  27. 27 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 27th, 2006 at 7:43 am

    Part 4 is now up!

  28. 28 paul Jan 27th, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    i disagree with everyone wanting to get back to champagne! this episode was great! educational, informative and with great drama… what more could one want in a podcast?

    i think joe davis took a lot of risk saying the things that he did. i am more inclined to try his wines now than ever. he may have been wrong in what he knew and said about brian loring, but i respect the man and would not hesitate to buy his wine.

    brian loring made a very clear point. come on and talk about your wines, that’s what we all do. why come on and spew mis-information about other winemakers? i agree with that statement, although then we would not have had the greatness that this show was. i had no idea how much of brian loring’s wines are made in the cellar (i have tasted and immensely enjoyed his wines in the past). why did i find out more information about brian loring’s wines in this episode than i did in the earlier grape radio episode in which he appeared? was i not listening astutely? or did the grape radio crew not question him thoroughly? or did brian omit some of his winemaking techniques in the discussion? mind you, i love his wines… but i had no idea how much they could (although not necessarily are) created in the cellar. for me, that is a very interesting bit of information.

    perhaps joe is somewhat envious of the success of loring and other “newer” winemakers (pure conjecture on my part). but i think he brings up interesting points. ultimately i would love to try joe’s wines. i think he has done everyone a service by expressing his viewpoints on pinot.

  29. 29 Diana Sinclaire Feb 22nd, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    This show opened my eyes to the arrogance of some wine makers. The assumption that a wine that hasn’t proven it’s ability to age well means it is less worthy of enjoyment is ludacris! Brian and friends were very gracious in the way they treated Joe. I probably wouldn’t have been as diplomatic. I will buy three times as many of Brian’s wines so I can enjoy them today. I will probably buy one of Joe’s just to see if his wine is as great as he touts. Frankly, I doubt it. It’s too bad he used inflammatory descriptors when comparing his wines to others. At this point, the focus is off his wine and onto him…too bad.

    Most new wine drinkers don’t trust their palates enough to make a 3-6 bottle commitment for something that they hope will age well. One of the great things about Brian’s wine is that you buy it today and enjoy it now, next week, month, quarter, and year. It helps new wine collectors to have the option to buy a current release and enjoy it today and also buy to store for tomorrow.

    Though the styles are different, I don’t believe one to be better than the other.

    I do feel that Joe’s ego ran away with him in his interview. Pride is one thing but what Joe did was inappropriate. The other winemakers handled themselves with grace and diplomacy while taking exception to Joe’s statements. I was impressed.

    Joe, next time you talk out of school and are expected to discuss your comments-SHOW UP ON TIME!

  30. 30 Eric May 15th, 2006 at 10:35 am

    Hmmm…I am just going back to listen to some of the Podcasts that I have missed and I must say that I am disappointed with some of the comments by Joe Davis.

    I favor the Burgundian style of Pinot, but I must say that my money will never pay for an Arcadian wine, regardless of how grand, sublime, and superior Mr. Davis thinks it to be.

  31. 31 GrapeRadio Bunch May 16th, 2006 at 4:30 am

    Do not be too hard on Joe. Some people are just poor communicators.


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GrapeRadio is a wine talk show. Show topics cover issues such as the enjoyment of wine, wine news and industry trends - the hallmark of the show is interviews with world class guest (winemakers, vineyards owners, wine retail / wholesale leaders, restaurateurs and sommeliers). The scope of the show is international so expect to hear many guests from around the world.

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