LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

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LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:17 pm

Interesting article in today's LATimes by CorrieBrown featuring AdamTolmach on high alcohol wines. He's decided to kiss off of the big scores on his wines from Arpy in favore of lower alcohol/earlier-harvested wines. Shocked...I am...shocked, I tell you.
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LATimes: AdamTolmach On High Alcohol Wines
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:28 pm

Great article and couldn't agree more. At some point arpy's influence on making huge high alcohol wines will diminish. There are people who drink wines other than 95+ point wines and this is a common criticism. I like The Burghound's comments.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Brian K Miller » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:54 pm

Great article. It may be a struggle for less well-known winemakers, though, as a lot of people seem to love those big goopy wines!
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:06 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:Great article. It may be a struggle for less well-known winemakers, though, as a lot of people seem to love those big goopy wines!


Brian,
Do they love the big goopy wines or just drink what gets lots of points? I know very few wine geeks that support the high alcohol, up front fruit wines. Maybe my sampling of wine drinkers is not typical. At the same time I go places where someone opens a wine of this type and quickly state "Parker gave this wine 94".
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:15 pm

wrcstl wrote:Brian,
Do they love the big goopy wines or just drink what gets lots of points? I know very few wine geeks that support the high alcohol, up front fruit wines. Maybe my sampling of wine drinkers is not typical. At the same time I go places where someone opens a wine of this type and quickly state "Parker gave this wine 94".
Walt


I, for one, like some of those wines. In their place and in the right context. And I also like wines w/ elegance and finesse and restraint...
in their place and the right context.

I've seen so often what you describe.....somebody opens a wine and says Arpy gave it a 96....as if to annoint it and guarantee
that it's up to standards. I'll often respond.."And what did you give it"?? I'm often given this puzzled expression as if to
ask why does that matter!!

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I Done See'd The Future....

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:27 pm

My notes on Adam's two ClosPepe PinotNoir '05:

11. TheOjaiVnyd PinotNoir ClosPepeVnyd/Sta.RitaHills (EarlyHrvst; SaH: 24 Brix; 14.0%)
2005: Very dark color; very strong black cherry/PN some boysenberry/blackberry bit toasty/
oak nose; very tart/zippy brighht cherry/black cherry/PN appley some toasty/oak flavor;
very long bright cherry/black cherry/PN slight blackberry some toasty/oak finish w/ modest
tannins; needs several yrs; more acidity and brightness and more high-toned cherry
character and less oak than the regular; lovely Pinot. $48.00
___________________
12. TheOjaiVnyd PinotNoir ClosPepeVnyd/Sta.RitaHills (SaH: 26 Brix; 14.0%) 2005: Very dark
color; strong black cherry/PN/blackberry fairly toasty/oak bir riper more chocolaty nose;
tart strong black cherry/blackberry/PN rather toasty/oak flavor; very long black cherry/
cola/blackberry/PN/riper more toasty/oak some tannic finish; also needs a few yrs. $48.00
___________________

I liked the wines equally well at this tasting, but I strongly suspect I'd prefer the EarlyHrvst at table w/ food. But then...when are wines with high scores supposed to go with food??
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Brian Gilp » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:46 pm

Sorry but this continually bothers me and I finally have to say it. High alcohol does not necesarily imply out of balance just like low alcohol does not automatically imply in balance. last weekend I opened two pinots from 2003, one a low level burgundy from a well respected producer and the other a California (Mt. Veeder fruit) from a smaller Napa producer. According to the bottles the Cali PN was over 2% higher in alcohol but if I had to pick out the better balance of the two it was the Cali bottle. Not saying that one datapoint proves anything but it does show that the higher alcohol wine is not always out of balance when compared to the lower alcohol wines. Balance in a wine, like most things regarding wine is more complicated than just the alcohol content.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Keith M » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:54 pm

wrcstl wrote:Do they love the big goopy wines or just drink what gets lots of points?

Walt,

If I may indulge the more contentious side of my nature for a moment . . . I find it hard to believe there are significant numbers of people drinking wines they don't like--just because major reviewers find them appealing. Much more likely, I would guess, is that the way they approach wine (using prominent reviewers to map out the winescape) would encourage their palate to appreciate and prefer the wine styles appreciated by those reviewers. I think that the verb 'develop' applies as much if not more than the verb 'discover' with the experience I have over time with my palate and drinking wine. I just don't see folks holding their noses and doing shots of Mollydooker which they find distasteful just because everyone else is doing it--I see them letting information beyond what is in this glass shape how they evaluate the wine (as I am certain I do--what environment I drink the wine in, how much I paid for it, what my experience was at the winery/in the region of origin, what a friend said about the wine, et cetera).

Of course, your comment may be based on personal experiences with folks who admitted that they systematically seek out and drink wines they don't like--if so, I'd love to hear them. But without further evidence I'm dubious.
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Yup...

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:04 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:Sorry but this continually bothers me and I finally have to say it. High alcohol does not necesarily imply out of balance just like low alcohol does not automatically imply in balance. .... but it does show that the higher alcohol wine is not always out of balance when compared to the lower alcohol wines. Balance in a wine, like most things regarding wine is more complicated than just the alcohol content.


Ahmen, Brian. Couldn't have said it better myself. Balance is far/far more than just about the alcohol content.
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Re: Yup...

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:27 pm

TomHill wrote:
Brian Gilp wrote:Sorry but this continually bothers me and I finally have to say it. High alcohol does not necesarily imply out of balance just like low alcohol does not automatically imply in balance. .... but it does show that the higher alcohol wine is not always out of balance when compared to the lower alcohol wines. Balance in a wine, like most things regarding wine is more complicated than just the alcohol content.


Ahmen, Brian. Couldn't have said it better myself. Balance is far/far more than just about the alcohol content.
Tom


You are both obviously correct. How about a statement that says "a large percentage of high alcohol wines tend to be out of balance." We do not dissagree on this issue, just the degree.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:35 pm

Keith M wrote:
wrcstl wrote:Do they love the big goopy wines or just drink what gets lots of points?

Walt,

If I may indulge the more contentious side of my nature for a moment . . . I find it hard to believe there are significant numbers of people drinking wines they don't like--just because major reviewers find them appealing. Much more likely, I would guess, is that the way they approach wine (using prominent reviewers to map out the winescape) would encourage their palate to appreciate and prefer the wine styles appreciated by those reviewers. I think that the verb 'develop' applies as much if not more than the verb 'discover' with the experience I have over time with my palate and drinking wine. I just don't see folks holding their noses and doing shots of Mollydooker which they find distasteful just because everyone else is doing it--I see them letting information beyond what is in this glass shape how they evaluate the wine (as I am certain I do--what environment I drink the wine in, how much I paid for it, what my experience was at the winery/in the region of origin, what a friend said about the wine, et cetera).

Of course, your comment may be based on personal experiences with folks who admitted that they systematically seek out and drink wines they don't like--if so, I'd love to hear them. But without further evidence I'm dubious.


Keith,
I wish you were correct but maybe in St. Louis there is a higher percent of lemmings. Obviously nobody drinks a wine they do not like but many convince themselves they like a wine with high point ratings. Marketing drives preference and in the wine world a high score, from whomever, is marketing and defines the wine as "good". People bought these wines because of the rating and I doubt they would have bought it, opened it and then said "try this wine, I think it is great." I turned 61 two days ago so maybe I am becoming too much of a curmudgeon but don't think so. This is a dead horse that I am probably beating to it's 8th death so I will move and try to figure out what "outlier" means.
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Yup/Yup...

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:38 pm

wrcstl wrote:You are both obviously correct. How about a statement that says "a large percentage of high alcohol wines tend to be out of balance." We do not dissagree on this issue, just the degree.
Walt


To that I would agree, Walt.
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Re: Yup...

Postby Brian Gilp » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:42 pm

wrcstl wrote: "a large percentage of high alcohol wines tend to be out of balance."


I will completely agree with that statement.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby TomHill » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:51 pm

wrcstl wrote:
Keith,
I wish you were correct but maybe in St. Louis there is a higher percent of lemmings. Obviously nobody drinks a wine they do not like but many convince themselves they like a wine with high point ratings. Marketing drives preference and in the wine world a high score, from whomever, is marketing and defines the wine as "good". People bought these wines because of the rating and I doubt they would have bought it, opened it and then said "try this wine, I think it is great." I turned 61 two days ago so maybe I am becoming too much of a curmudgeon but don't think so. This is a dead horse that I am probably beating to it's 8th death so I will move and try to figure out what "outlier" means.
Walt


Walt,
The wines we "like" is, to some degree, a learned response. Why do we like the smell of a rose?? Because, way back in our youth (which was not that long ago), we saw our Mother pick up a rose, take a strong smell, and have a very pleasurable look on her face. So that learned experience is why you like the smell of a rose. However, if that same Mother cut off a branch of that rose bush and gave you a severe lashing across a bare hiney with that branch...I suspect your response to the smell of a rose would be a whole lot different.
I think our response to wines is a learned experience much along these lines, to a certain extent. When we first taste a steely/minerally/chalky/austere Chablis, as a novice, with an experienced taster, and he goes ape-$hit over the wine, we "learn" that this is what a great Chablis is supposed to be about. When I taste a K-J'd modern Chablis, with RS, it makes me wretch.
I think it much the same way w/ many novice wine lovers. You taste a wine, for the first time, that Arpy scored a 96, you tend to abandon your critical facilities. "So this is what a 96 pt Priorat wine is like? Then I must like it, too." And then when you taste a traditional Priorat Rancio....it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll not like it...because it doesn't taste like Arpy's 96 pt wine.
Just my random phylosophically thoughts, anyway.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby wrcstl » Wed Jan 09, 2008 3:18 pm

TomHill wrote:
wrcstl wrote:
Keith,
I wish you were correct but maybe in St. Louis there is a higher percent of lemmings. Obviously nobody drinks a wine they do not like but many convince themselves they like a wine with high point ratings. Marketing drives preference and in the wine world a high score, from whomever, is marketing and defines the wine as "good". People bought these wines because of the rating and I doubt they would have bought it, opened it and then said "try this wine, I think it is great." I turned 61 two days ago so maybe I am becoming too much of a curmudgeon but don't think so. This is a dead horse that I am probably beating to it's 8th death so I will move and try to figure out what "outlier" means.
Walt


Walt,
The wines we "like" is, to some degree, a learned response. Why do we like the smell of a rose?? Because, way back in our youth (which was not that long ago), we saw our Mother pick up a rose, take a strong smell, and have a very pleasurable look on her face. So that learned experience is why you like the smell of a rose. However, if that same Mother cut off a branch of that rose bush and gave you a severe lashing across a bare hiney with that branch...I suspect your response to the smell of a rose would be a whole lot different.
I think our response to wines is a learned experience much along these lines, to a certain extent. When we first taste a steely/minerally/chalky/austere Chablis, as a novice, with an experienced taster, and he goes ape-$hit over the wine, we "learn" that this is what a great Chablis is supposed to be about. When I taste a K-J'd modern Chablis, with RS, it makes me wretch.
I think it much the same way w/ many novice wine lovers. You taste a wine, for the first time, that Arpy scored a 96, you tend to abandon your critical facilities. "So this is what a 96 pt Priorat wine is like? Then I must like it, too." And then when you taste a traditional Priorat Rancio....it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll not like it...because it doesn't taste like Arpy's 96 pt wine.
Just my random phylosophically thoughts, anyway.
Tom


Tom,
Way to philosophical for me but think what you are trying to say is that "Budweiser defined what a beer should taste like and everyone drinks it even though it tastes like cat pee" . Had to add this since being in St Louis we have a very good corporate citizen that makes some very bland and uninteresting beer. As a side comment to your example I still have '95 and '96 Clos Erasmus and still can't coax out a great wine from the bottle.

I will never forget 30 years ago my wife and I decided to learn about wine. We were living in So CA and went to a small wine store, actually a deli that was owned by Ron, the now owner of Wine Club. He sold us some examples in 1/2 bottles to try. Started with a Beaujolais and it was a big departure from Mateus but still OK and I knew I should like it so I did. We then were sold a French white that I forget and then we moved on to a 1/2 bottle of a '61 Bordeaux. I was so convinced that the wine was bad that we poured is down the drain (it was expensive for poor people). That wine was probably good but my palate did not understand. I did recover and several months later bought a case of '61Bordeaux for $8 per bottle and drank it over the next 15 years with lots of memories.

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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Keith M » Wed Jan 09, 2008 3:21 pm

TomHill wrote:You taste a wine, for the first time, that Arpy scored a 96, you tend to abandon your critical facilities. "So this is what a 96 pt Priorat wine is like? Then I must like it, too."

I don't know if you abandon your critical facilities (faculties?) as much as try to create ones that did not previously exist. Being open to learning new things and developing one's palate requires, I believe, some suspension of disbelief--some relaxing of the initial yum-or-yuk reaction--to being open to learning something: hey, people are crazy about Jasnières/oysters/single malt scotch/stinky cheese and though it is so different and unfamiliar to me, I'm going to be open and see if I can find something to like about it, though my initial reaction may be: "this is unfamiliar, be suspicious," this may change with time and experience to "this is now familiar, this is certainly delicious."

In any case, it should be obvious that my bias is toward thinking that people drink the style of wine that they drink because that is the style they have 'learned' to like--but they really do like it, in the overwhelming majority of cases.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Brian K Miller » Wed Jan 09, 2008 3:34 pm

Keith M wrote:I don't know if you abandon your critical facilities (faculties?) as much as try to create ones that did not previously exist. Being open to learning new things and developing one's palate requires, I believe, some suspension of disbelief--some relaxing of the initial yum-or-yuk reaction--to being open to learning something: hey, people are crazy about Jasnières/oysters/single malt scotch/stinky cheese and though it is so different and unfamiliar to me, I'm going to be open and see if I can find something to like about it, though my initial reaction may be: "this is unfamiliar, be suspicious," this may change with time and experience to "this is now familiar, this is certainly delicious."

In any case, it should be obvious that my bias is toward thinking that people drink the style of wine that they drink because that is the style they have 'learned' to like--but they really do like it, in the overwhelming majority of cases.


I think this is a great summary! I would say people explore a lot of different wines and then over time begin to nail down their palate. At least that's been my approach as a novice.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Dan Donahue » Wed Jan 09, 2008 4:30 pm

Tom, I think you can only take learned response so far. My whole family loves macaroni and cheese. Except me that is. No matter how many smiles I saw around the table on mac nights, I hated it and I still do.

BTW I've had some Ojai Thompsons and White Hawks a few years back and I did not find them particularly out of whack. I wonder if Adam is overstating the case for effect? I hope not, because--to me--the Parker-Spoofilated bandwagon lends itself to the same kind of uncritical, sloppy thinking that slavish point-chasing does. Trust you own palate.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Dan Donahue » Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:27 pm

Adam has responded to a thread on Squires basically disavowing the article. Two parts stood out for me:

"I have never made wines to please wine writers. I make them for myself and my customers. I was misquoted and my statements utterly misconstrued in The Los Angeles Times article."

"A few of our pinot noirs have been too big for my taste, that is to say, I don't get great pleasure drinking them."


An interesting read; I guess I'll wait a little more on that bottle of '01 Ojai Clos Pepe PN.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Mike Pollard » Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:54 pm

wrcstl wrote:
Brian K Miller wrote:Great article. It may be a struggle for less well-known winemakers, though, as a lot of people seem to love those big goopy wines!


Brian,
Do they love the big goopy wines or just drink what gets lots of points? I know very few wine geeks that support the high alcohol, up front fruit wines. Maybe my sampling of wine drinkers is not typical. At the same time I go places where someone opens a wine of this type and quickly state "Parker gave this wine 94".
Walt


A Frenchman who works for me knows I love wine and often will give me bottles of what he thinks is good (inexpensive; <$20) French wine; Bordeaux, Bandol etc.. Its almost always thin, fruitless, uninspiring plonk; one bottle in particular made both my wife and I nauseous after only a couple of sips. I return the favor with some good (actually cheaper) Aussie Shiraz (even Sparkling Shiraz) or fortified and the response is that its too fruity! Horses for courses, but I bet I know which wines will continue to prove the most popular with wine drinkers. And you don’t have to guess which have the higher alcohol.

Mike

EDIT: The most telling comment about the article is "Tolmach isn't interested in going back to the early 1980s when his Ojai Vineyard wines contained 12% and 13% alcohol. With many California wines now weighing in at 16% alcohol and higher, he considers 14% restrained." What I would like to see is some numbers on just how many wines are 16% and above. Most of what I see (of those big goopy Aussie shiraz anyway) are 14-15%, at least on the label.
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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby Mike Pollard » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:26 pm

Just to add further fuel to this fire there is a post on the Decanter article about this that is (apparently) from Adam Tolmach - its starts out "I have never made wines to please wine writers. I make them for myself and my customers. I was misquoted and my statements utterly misconstrued in the Los Angeles Times article."

If this is actually correct then its the second time in the last month or so that a journo has totally misquoted comments in an article about alcohol levels and wine. The first was in Australia in Nov/Dec. LINK. Is this simply poor reporting (in both continents) or is it agenda driven?

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Re: LATimes: AdamTolmach On Alcohol...

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:39 pm

Mike Pollard wrote:Just to add further fuel to this fire there is a post on the Decanter article about this that is (apparently) from Adam Tolmach - its starts out "I have never made wines to please wine writers. I make them for myself and my customers. I was misquoted and my statements utterly misconstrued in the Los Angeles Times article."

If this is actually correct then its the second time in the last month or so that a journo has totally misquoted comments in an article about alcohol levels and wine. The first was in Australia in Nov/Dec. LINK. Is this simply poor reporting (in both continents) or is it agenda driven?

Mike


Could it be that when the winemakers read the quotes they went "Holy crap I can't say that!"
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Re: Yup/Yup...

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:51 pm

TomHill wrote:
wrcstl wrote:You are both obviously correct. How about a statement that says "a large percentage of high alcohol wines tend to be out of balance." We do not dissagree on this issue, just the degree.
Walt


To that I would agree, Walt.

I'll sign on to that too ... heck, in Monday's Wine Advisor I praised Carol Shelton's KarmaZin, a nice little drop at 15.2% well-handled ABV. Woooeeeee!

I do have a theory about the Arpy-praised blockbusters and those who love them, though: I rarely see this mentioned, but it appears to me that a lot of the people who swear by them are in the habit of drinking wine as a cocktail, not as a beverage with meals. It makes a difference.
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Re: Yup/Yup...

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:56 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
I do have a theory about the Arpy-praised blockbusters and those who love them, though: I rarely see this mentioned, but it appears to me that a lot of the people who swear by them are in the habit of drinking wine as a cocktail, not as a beverage with meals. It makes a difference.


I disagree with this. I have seen more bottles of 96+ point wine opened with food than without. Whatr it does to the food is another matter, but also many folks choose the food to go wit hthese wines rather carefully. I see a lot of braised beef ribs, steak, rare lamb, etc. being cosumed with blockbuster wines.
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