The Pinot Showdown – Part 4

Brian and Joe in the Aftermath of the Showdown

Brian and Joe battle it out to the end in this final installment of the Pinot Showdown. Topics include: Farming practices, ripeness levels (Brix), adjustments and the associated “risks” with those choices.

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

– Brian Loring: Loring Wine Company
– Joe Davis: Arcadian Winery

Sponsor: Hospice Du Rhone

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Show #70
(29:58 min 14 MB)

25 Responses to “The Pinot Showdown – Part 4”

  1. 1 Tim in Austin Jan 27th, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Thanks guys (Joe and Brian et. al.) for a great series on the Pinot showdown. I believe the main sticking point with Joe’s position had to do with wine making styles (new vs. old). His assertion is that making wine in the old style is more “right” and should somehow be rewarded as such, while new style techniques are akin to alchemy and witchcraft. I can see where Brian took issue with this claim and he had a right to do so.

    From a winemaker’s perspective, each winemaker/winegrower should make wines that they want to make/drink and not assert that another’s products are inferior because of good/bad technique or riskiness. Because we all know that the consumer has the final say and doesn’t award “style” points. No one knows what style will be in vogue in a few years.

    With that being said I look forward to trying Brian’s, Joe’s, and Adam’s wines and judging for myself. What was that they taught in Marketing 101? “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”

    Thanks again and guys, “be passionate about what you make, it shows in the final product”!


  2. 2 Mike K Jan 27th, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    The discussion of unstable wines and bacterial issues made me think about some “off” wines I have tasted in the past. There were several comments saying that these wines could be dangerous. What’s the worst that could happen? Would someone actually get sick from a sip of the wine, or would they just say “yuck” and thow out the bottle? Also, would it be in the consumer’s interest to know how much SO2 remains in the bottled wine?

  3. 3 Mike K Jan 27th, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Sorry, another question. There didn’t seem to be a concise, fair definition of this “new school” of winemaking that its proponents can agree on.

    Beginning winegrowers/winemakers are taught that, ideally, we should harvest at a point of physiological maturity, ideally with balanced brix and acid levels, and hopefully good concentration. Those levels are anticipated and aimed for by grape and clone selection for the site (which includes the soil, exposure, microclimate) and good vineyard management (spacing, trellising, thinning). When the weather doesn’t cooperate 100% (it never does), you have several choices: let the vintage speak for itself, sell the grapes, blend, severe selection, lab manipulation, or a combination of these. The safety thing should fall out from your choices above.

    So what is specifically different in this brand new style? Is it that they want to start from a higher sugar level, which results in a higher alcohol level to better transport the flavors? Or is it lab manipulation to aim for higher concentration? Or lab manipulation to ensure a consistent style?

  4. 4 Kristin Jan 27th, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the more civilized conversation guys! Although as a lover of words I could have used more analogies 😉

    So I have a question. Living in NYC I just don’t have access to get out in a vineyard (at least one that in this humble reporter’s opinion is worthwhile) and learn the nitty gritty, a vintner tutorial. But it fascinates me to no end. I have some basics down but I’d love to dig deeper. Or at least understand, say, 60% of what Brian and Joe are saying. Could somebody recommend some resources? Not “Winemaking for Dummies” (god I hope that doesn’t really exist) but a nicely written, not snoring, scientific and agricultural perspective to winemaking. From the vine to my glass, what the hell happens?

    And I have’ed Arcadian and know where I can get some more Loring – tasting in my future!

    Seriously, you guys were both troopers to come back for another round. Kudos to you both for an enlightening series. Cheers.

  5. 5 Brian Loring Jan 27th, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Wine can’t harbor human pathogens, so you’ll never get sick from a bottle of wine. It will just taste bad.

    While it’s true that the ultimate goal would to be able to pick grapes at some heavenly defined harmonic convergence of flavor, tannin, sugar, and acid. The truth is that situation rarely, if ever occurs. You always trade off one for the other. The newer school says we’d rather deal with higher sugar and lower acid, since we can add those back in order to acheive our desired balance. We can’t do anything about undeveloped flavors.

    To be fair to Joe, I think he’d say that through careful vineyard management, he might be able to get ripe flavors at lower sugar levels. He talked about working the soil to affect that condition. Maybe. But how does that work with the concept of terroir? Is making manipulations to the soil somehow less invasive than letting the fruit ripen a bit longer than they do in Burgundy?

    And let’s talk about balance a bit. The “standard” that’s always used is France. Why? Because they were first. But I’d argue that standard only applies to France. And I think a French terroirist would agree. Maybe the true balance in grapes grown in California might result from grapes reaching 27 brix. Maybe that’s what California fruit is “suppossed” to be. Who knows? The only standard that people seemed to accept up until recently wasn’t based on California at all. I think we’re just at the threshold of trying to actually investigate what it means to be Californian. The French have had hundreds of years to define themselves… we’re just infants compared to them when it comes to knowing our terroir. Or even figuring out what grows best where.

    Everything comes down to style preference. While Joe may claim the winemaking high ground, the truth is we all have EXACTLY the same goal in mind: To make great wines that truely reflect a sense of place, or terroir. We just disagree on what that sense of place is. If you taste some of the different Loring single vineyard Pinots side by side, I think you’ll see that they are markedly different. And that they are also different from year to year, reflecting the growing conditions. You would also see the same thing from a set of Siduri Pinots. If you tatsed Loring Garys’ vs Siduri Garys’, I think you’d also see similarities. What we do doesn’t mask terroir. I would argue that by letting the fruit get ripe each year, we’re actually allowing the vineyard terroir show through. If we picked only by the sugar level, then some years the wines might taste “green” or bitter. That masks terroir in my opinion.

    All of this is of course VERY subjective. You, as the consumer, have to decide what works best for you. Just like picking your favorite pizza place. Oops, sorry for the analogy 😉

  6. 6 Mike K Jan 27th, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Awesome, thanks. It would be really interesting to peek into the future to see what standard California has settled into, if any!

  7. 7 Michael Meagher Jan 27th, 2006 at 6:44 pm


    You did a great job on the show.

    The main point (that Joe did not seem to grasp?) is that wine and winemaking is very subjective – no one really has all the answers. Everyone has a spin on what they like and in the winemaker’s world how to make it. We may think the other guy is nuts for doing what they do, but the results speak for themselves – if people like it, they buy it. Let go.

    It seemed to me (IMHO) that Joe may have a case of “sour grapes” – Here comes this rocket scientist (in your case) or other so called newbie and starts making wine that gets ratings and publicity that overshadows the work of an “old school” winemaker. Who knows.

    I would like to disagree with you however regarding your assumption that the grower always knows what’s best for the wine. As a winemaker, I am visiting the vineyards I buy fruit from every two weeks or so putting my spin on the growing practices – I feel this is where I have tremendous influence on the finished product.

    Good job to the whole Grape Radio crew – these four episodes, I feel, will be your “killer app”.

  8. 8 Brian Crabtree Jan 27th, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Enjoyed the show…very thought provoking. I enjoy both styles of wine, but I guess I do respect winemaking that comes from the grapes as they arrive from the vineyard, for better or worse, without addition, subtraction, replacement, whatever. It just seems to me to represent harmony with the land. This may be naive from a business point of view, but I appreciate it anyway. This series was very educational and will help me to ask better questions when I’m making buying decisions.

  9. 9 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 28th, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    I loved doing this series, but I must confess, I am ready to move on to other topics.


  10. 10 Michael Barnhill Jan 30th, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Nice wrap up. Look forward to the next show!

  11. 11 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 30th, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Way ahead of you Michael.


  12. 12 Bill Curtis Jan 31st, 2006 at 12:02 am

    Just curious – Adam and James abruptly left the conversation (they were both on the phone in the earlier parts) during this series. Did it have something to do with Joe showing up, or was it just something during editing that the listeners missed?

  13. 13 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 31st, 2006 at 4:07 am

    The power went out at Adam’s winery. Laube decided to leave the convesation when that happened. Nothing so dramatic.


  14. 14 Bill Curtis Jan 31st, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    I figured something like that happened – it was just left unmentioned in the podcast, so I thought I would raise the question.

    I was able to locate Siduri wines at my local wine shop, and I have ordered some Acadian wines as well. The series has peaked my interest enough try both styles (and Loring’s as well if I ever run across them) and see what style my palate prefers (or if there even is a preference, they might both be wonderful in different ways). I am looking forward to trying the Siduri (2004 Russian River Pinot Noir) this weekend, probably with some leg of lamb on the BBQ.

    I do enjoy the Palmina wines that Loring speaks highly of on his website – so I imagine I will like his wines as well.

  15. 15 keith lanpher Feb 1st, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    The educational aspects of the “showdown” were enlightening, but the Jerry Springer mood of the show did not make for an enjoyable listen (although I’m sure you guys loved the mountains of PR apparently garnered from the controversy). I can also see why you may have felt the controversey need airing, but I’ll look forward to less confrontational shows you will now doubt continue to put out.

    Thanks for all the effort.

  16. 16 Kell Brigan Feb 1st, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Just got through listening to the whole Pinot Showdown Saga, including the original interview. I was kind of impressed that the parties involved managed to settle this without lawyers, given the amount of potential economic impact.

    Personally, I’d like more science.

    And, I was disappointed there was no point where were treated to a discussion of how different wine varietals can be expressed as various penis lengths/girths. And, if CS is a rapist, does that mean Pinot Gris, say, goes around cutting penises off? And, if so, what exactly does being violently maimed sexually (being raped, or having your penis cut off — either works) mean in terms of a wine drinking experience? Is he saying that all CS has potentially lethal amounts of poison in it, or takes years to recover from, or that CS bottlers should all be executed and/or jailed? What the hell is this guy talking about? Overall, Davis just made no sense in his comparing various forms of maiming violence to various wine types. He not only seems to think rape is about sex, but that it even is a form of *consensual* sex. That’s kind of like calling murder a form of consensual birth. Pretty strange, especially when juxtaposed with the breast fetish. Should we be checking the wine country sex offender lists to see if he’s on them?

  17. 17 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 2nd, 2006 at 8:49 am

    As mentioned earlier, I really am sorry that you feel that way about us at GrapeRadio. We have never censored our guests or comments on our site. Hopefully, you will continue to listen.


  18. 18 Diana Sinclaire Feb 2nd, 2006 at 4:28 pm


    Talk about over reaction. Kell (or should I say Hell) sure does not speak for me or any of my friends. She is right that Joe was insensitive but I did not get that from the host or other guest?

    Maybe it’s time for her to go back on her meds.

    Diane Sinclaire

  19. 19 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 2nd, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks Diana. My wife and daughter have told me I could be more sensitive at times. They are right. Not an excuse, but sometimes I get caught up in the moment and do not reflect on things.

    I hope that people will “get to know us” as time passes.


  20. 20 Ryan Podolak Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Came across these statistics while I was reading Harper’s Index – thought they related perfectly to the discussion.

    Number of degrees Fahrenheit that temperatures in California’s wine country have risen since 1971: 1.6

    Percentage change since then in the average alcohol content of the region’s wines: +18.4

    Perhaps the higher alcohol content is simply unavoidable and actually a representation of terrior?

    Here is the link of the site I pulled these from, you can also find the source of the information on the website:

  21. 21 Joel Singer Feb 4th, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    I thought you and your listeners might be interested in the comments below quoted from the February 2006 Newsletter from the Dehlinger Winery. To my reading they seem to echo some of the sentiments expressed by Joe Davis (with a much different tone).

    “Our goal is simple: to make wines that are a pleasure to drink at dinnertime and that will become better and more interesting with good cellaring. We see many of our colleagues focusing on creating products which will impress someone tasting them very early, before they are even bottled. This is a dubious approach for several reasons. Wines with very low acidity, little tannin, or having residual sugar may seem agreeable in the artificial situation of swirling the product in one’s mouth and then spitting it out (which professionals sampling dozens of wines per day must do for obvious reasons). If one moves these same products to the dinner table and actually serves them, they often fail to complement any food or to cleanse the pallet.
    A wine bottled with a very low sulfur dioxide content will show more flavor and color for a few months, but then may not be able to stand up to any cellaring without oxidizing or falling apart. Our strategy is to bottle wines with a moderate but sufficient sulfur dioxide content, and then hold them in our bottle aging cellar for nine to twelve months before releasing them to our customers, or letting wine critics taste them. Over this period the wines regain a balanced flavor and should be able to live and improve for many years.” Quoted from the February 2006 Dehlinger Newsletter

    Joel Singer
    Toronto, Ontario

  22. 22 Erik in NYC Mar 14th, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Absolutely loved the showdown (getting to it late). I though it was all very dignified and I have to admit being frustrated that Joe didn’t have the balls to admit that, yes, he does think the “new” pinots are crap (although he seems to be strangely out of touch and prejudiced without real experience). Instead he wouldn’t defend his absolutely clear analogies (jeesh, they were all so unsubtle and obvious) and retreated to “science” where it seems he was on shaky ground anyway by making assumptions based on…what exactly? not facts.

    I loved that Joe seemed so taken aback when Brian reveled he had a chemistry degree. It’s clear he never gave Brian any real respect and just assumed he was a know-nothing and that’s not cool. But what’s worse is it shows how closed down he is to what’s in front of him. Here’s a guy who will assume you’re a dope unless you act like an a-hole and list your credentials. “You never mentioned you had a chemistry degree…” Oh what? Now you’ll cut me some slack ’cause I have a degree?

    Ugh. Get over yourself.

  23. 23 Rasmus Rodney Apr 3rd, 2006 at 11:33 am

    The Pinot shows are the first I have heard from you guys and I loved them! I´ve been into wine about 7 years and have only started to get into US Pinot Noir. I´m from Denmark and heard about you through Mark Squires Wine bulletin Board. Thanx for a really great program 🙂

    Rasmus Rodney

  24. 24 GrapeRadio Bunch Apr 3rd, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Looks like we are drawing some new people to our site. Thanks to all of you that have spread the word about GrapeRadio. This show in particular generated more email than I ever expected. I guess that is a good thing.


  25. 25 Kell Brigan Jun 12th, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Diane, or I should say, “Aunt Tom,” has apparently bought the lie that Good Women Like Being Beat Up. Watch your karma, girlfriend. By abandoning victims of sexual assault and murder, you’re setting yourself up to have no support system when/if (probably “when”, since you obviously have no self respect) it happens to you.

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