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March 16, 2009

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Evan,

Look into Heron Hill Ingle Vineyard wines. I believe theirs were the first Farm Winery single vineyard wines in the region--started them in the late 1980s.

Heron Hill is at Keuka Lake, with its own vineyards there, but the owner, John Ingle, lives at Canandaigua Lake, and he is a dedicated horticulturist. His are spectacular vineyards.

Thomas,

Since writing this, Ingle was the first wine that came to mind. And Lenn reviewed the McGregor single-vineyard Seyval last week. Thanks for the note -- I've had, and enjoyed, the Ingle before. I'll certainly do so again.

Evan & Thomas,

Thanks for mentioning John Ingle's Vineyard on Canandaigua Lake. The IV series; Riesling, Chard, Cab Franc and Chardonnay are all single-vineyard wines. We've been working together on materials about Ingle Vineyard, it truly is a special part of the winery, John is very passionate about it. This is what we have so far: http://www.heronhill.com/heronhill/news/show_news.jsp?id=1027

Cheers, Kitty

Great post, Evan.

I am grateful to Fred for making the distinction between 'microclimate' and 'mesoclimate'. All wine writers, present company excepted,please take note. The former term is way overused, and needs to be preserved in its true definition.

Kitty,

Thanks for the information. Considering the fact that Heron Hill was one of the first (perhaps the first? is it known?) winery to produce a single-vineyard wine in the Finger Lakes, how do you and John view the new trend?

Peter -- Funny that you mention mesoclimate. When I spoke with Fred last week I asked him to explain the difference among macro, micro and meso. Enlightening indeed.

You have written so eloquently about "somewhereness," Peter, and I wonder if you have any more thoughts about this single-vineyard trend.

It has been really exciting seeing these couple of single vineyard bottling come on line. I have been wondering for years why this was never pursued. I feel this is a good step toward getting a better understanding of all the differences in the Finger Lakes. More broadly I feel more wineries should let you know where the grapes are sourced from. For example most of Ravines juice comes from Seneca and Skaneateles Lakes. Not from Keuka Lake which is where the winery is located.

Brian -- I'm with you 100% regarding the value of information. The more consumers know, the more they'll understand what they like and don't like, and the more they'll appreciate the story of the wine in the bottle. In the case of Ravines, the winemaker has certainly never hid where his grapes come from. In fact, he talks about his various growers with unabashed enthusiasm. Now that he's starting to separate the wines by vineyard, his consumers will know even more.

I'm with Peter. How are you Peter? Still minusculing us microwriters to death ;)

I think every single vineyard designated wine should list first the mesoclimate and then the coordinates for each vineyard row of the microclimates, with corresponding variations among the microclimates to give a better understanding of what each vine row gave to the particular wine.

The consumer can't know enough...


"You have written so eloquently about "somewhereness," Peter, and I wonder if you have any more thoughts about this single-vineyard trend." (Evan)

I love the idea, as long as it always means something; that is, it delineates a plot of grapes that actually make special wine. Here at Fox Run, we have 7 or 8 discrete blocks of Riesling, and there's usually one that makes a "foxtastic" (SORRY) wine -- but it's not the same one from year to year. Plus, the blocks don't have sexy names at this point.

Hi, Thomas. I'm fine.

Peter,

Actually -- ha! -- I can barely think of a sexier name for a single-vineyard Fox Run Riesling than "Hanging Delta." And besides, I thought it had something distinctive, no?

We're doing similar things with Sauvignon Blanc on Long Island. For 2008 we have 2 single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc wines from the North Fork slated for release in May. I think the flavors of the vineyard terroir are quite interesting and we will continue to explore it.

"I can barely think of a sexier name for a single-vineyard Fox Run Riesling than "Hanging Delta." And besides, I thought it had something distinctive, no?"

Hanging Delta block did in 2005, but in 2006 another competing block got top honors, then in 2008 it was yet another.

You have to be so careful with wine names. We were all ready to call one of our wines 'Innuendo', till we discovered that that's the Italian word for 'suppository'.

Rich,

Thanks for jumping in with some LI perspective. Did you decide to isolate Sauv Blanc blocks because you find that the varietal shows best on LI? It's always interesting to hear what individual winemakers say when it comes to which varietal makes the best wines in specific vineyards.

Peter,

HEH. Funny stuff.

Evan: Once again, great post my friend. Great discussion too.

I think that most winemakers, Rich included, will say that among white wines, sauvignon blanc is the future on Long Island.

A few wineries down here do vineyard-designate wines, but often they do it every year and only do one version of that variety, so it's more a brand name than true vineyard designation. Macari Vineyards "Katherine's Field" Sauvignon Blanc is one example of this...it's always called that and is really a brand.

Channing Daughters makes 3 roses every year though, one each of merlot, cab franc and cab sauv, each from a different vineyard, which is listed on the bottle. It would be more education for the consumer they were made from ONE grape across three vineyards.

These Finger Lakes wines, to me anyway, seem to be a slightly different animal. They really seem to be highlighting the uniqueness of these vineyard/mesoclimates.

No, no. 'Suppository' interprets as 'inmyendo.' To apply a suppository to someone else is 'innuendo.'

But, Peter, you bring up a good point about the year-to-year.

I'm sorry to say, but from experience with wines from other parts of the world, after a number of years have gone by, 'vineyard designation' loses its claim unless there really is an outstanding characteristic on which to pin the singling out--consistently.

I believe that 'vineyard designation' is a fine way to establish a site but the producer should not overplay that hand.

Incidentally, did you know that vineyard designated wines were quite the norm throughout ancient wine production? And like its modern counterpart, many producers in the ancient world overplayed their hands and they bastardized the concept.

Thomas,

If you listen to the words of Fred Merwarth and Morten Hallgren, I think it's clear that they appreciate the importance of a single-vineyard wine demonstrating its character year after year. By making such a designation, they're effectively placing those wines under the microscope, and I think they welcome that. These single-vineyard wines have been wildly different and extremely high quality. Like you, I hope it continues and I hope the unique qualities never flag.

Lenn,

I'll have to start drinking some LI Sauv Blanc...

The move toward single vineyard designations is welcomed by this wine drinker.

When I just read "Finger Lakes" on the bottle, it doesn't quench my desire to know which lake, which side, what vine spacing, ect, ect...

From a marketing perspective, it seems like FL rieslings are consistently getting rave reviews and it's not just Wiemer and Dr. Frank these days. So the move towards these labels helps differentiate their wines in a sea of good rieslings (and pink riesling flags).

Bryan,

That's exactly the potential problem.

As single designation becomes the de-facto to consumers, it also becomes a marketing term, and that is when the problems begin.

In some cases, it really is up to the consumer to do the legwork, or else American marketing ingenuity kicks in.

Evan,

I know Morten well, and I know his sincerity. That is not an issue. To me, the issue is with consumers more so than with producers. Consumers have a tendency to gain their security by what they are told rather than by what they go out and discover for themselves. That makes it much easier for good PR to tell consumers what theyw ant to hear, and that is a slippery slope.

Not that I expect a slippery slope--just that I don't necessarily buy the prospect that designation is a guarantee. Personal taste is THE guarantee, as is personal responsibility.

Thomas,

I love the points you're making; this thread needs some contrarianism, and not just contrarian-for-contrarian's sake (ahem, slate.com). Regarding your point about PR, I'll attempt to agree and disagree.

First, the vast majority of wine consumers -- and I'm sure I'm in this group at least on occasion! -- is led down a desired road by PR. No doubt about it. Sassicaia is a revolutionary wine, right? You should drop 150 euro on a bottle because you could easily taste the difference between Sass and, say, Petrolo Torrione, right? That's where confirmation bias sets in. Not only are we told that a wine is X or Z, but we've now spent so much money that we're begging ourselves to believe it. It's a nice spiral. Very effective.

I have long said and will always say that more information is power for consumers. My favorite wine label in the world belongs to Calera -- not for the front side, but for the back. Now, does the average wine drinker know or care what brix is? Does that drinker care how many tons per acre, or harvest date, or any other number of factors? No. But I believe that a big part of why they don't care is because no one has ever attempted to communicate those things to the average consumer. And, in fact, in most cases it's wise for producers not to communicate those things. Unless you're into the whole 6 tons per acre, or a thousand percent new oak, or 31 brix kid of thing. Heck, some people love that.

But where you and I diverge is this fear that consumers might somehow be led astray by these designations. Sure, some designations will be rather meaningless, and a consumer might be led to believe they are consistently X when, in reality, that vineyard produces wines that are all over the map. But thus far, the producers releasing these designated wines have detailed stories to tell, and the consumers can judge the reality in the glass to see if it corresponds with what they're told. Can confirmation bias creep in? Sure. But making single-vineyard wines is a rather daring and confident thing to do, and it will be easy to expose the pretenders given a large enough sample size.

Thomas,

How's this for coincidence? I see on your blog that you're reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I started reading it this past weekend. I didn't want to read any further on your blog to make sure my reading pleasure is not tainted by, er, confirmation bias. There it is again!

Evan,

After reading almost to the end of Omnivore's Dilemma, I may never eat food again...

To be clear, my problem is not with the vineyard designation concept. My problem is with the consumer crutch concept.

I've been in this biz for 25 years. I know how easily even trained wine tasters can be confused. It's too easy for consumers to dupe themselves into believing that what they tasted last year is what they this year in a 'named' wine.

After decades of consuming wine, I've come to the revelation that what matters is what's in the glass in front of me, and how I feel about it at that moment. Everything else is chasing an illusory perfection. Don't get me wrong: perfection is a marvelous wonder. It's just that if you spend your time chasing it, the marketers will have your money and you will have your belief system--perfection will still be out there waiting to be discovered.

I think we spend a lot of time worried about the "average" wine drinker. Too much. I would suggest that the "average" wine drinker tends to drink average wines, and that's fine, someone has to. (It's usually the guy who says "I don't know wine, but I know what I like...blah blah.)

The concepts that drive a producer to recognize the individual sites is his personal exploration of his terrior - and that is an invitation to the "above average" drinkers (like us) to explore them with him - it isn't just marketing I would hope.

I take issue with idea that seemingly everything is driven by marketing - driven to make more money. Well for goodness sakes, it's been like that for a thousand years. The vineyards of Vosne-Romanee were divided in the dark ages to recognize their qualities - not only because one was more nuanced or complex than the other, but because it ripened faster, made darker wines, had higher alcohols, and ultimately brought a better price in the market. The populist notion that all wine should be cheap will get you nothing beyond a glass of Glen Ellen - and certainly teach you precious litte about the wine.

Single-vineyard wines, and the information it provides to the consumer (who cares enough to read the label,) is a GIFT from the winemaker to his fans and should be considered as such. If JJ Prum only made "Riesling" and not a Graacher or a Wehlener, or if Jacques Seyess only made Morey St. Denis, not Clos de la Roche and Clos St. Denis, what fun would that be? It would be cheaper yes, but much less interesting.

To me, some people buy a wine for its variety, some are following producers, and some may even follow a site. (I follow Beaune lieu-dits for example.) Giving the consumer a chance to follow all of these will endear them to the producers - and fully justifies a somewhat higher price.

While I don't really agree with Thomas so much, he's right that a lot has to do with how you feel (and that every glass is different), and how easy it is to believe that you are tasting the same thing year after year in a particular site, I DO taste similarities year after year - and that's fun for me. I'm not chasing perfection, and I'm not personally funding "marketers." I just an enthusiast. I believe in terrior.

(Hurray for ROH with the Sauvignon Blanc - I look forward to trying them.)

Jim,

We all have a tendency to personalize a conversation about wine. But our perception is ours alone.

As for the 'average' and 'above average' concept: after considering the percentage of wine that is consumed by each, it's clear that there's only so much room in the US for wineries trying to make it on the income provided by the 'above average.' Even the wineries that produce special reserves, single vineyard, et al, often produce a much higher volume to appeal to the 'average.'

Consumers personalize; producers sell wine. And because personalizing can create a form of blindness, it's best that the former educate themselves rather than rely on the latter to do it for them.

Thomas,

You're going a bit overboard on the whole notion that "our perception is ours alone" or wine is unique to each individual who drinks. While the old adage is certainly true -- there are only two kinds of wine; those you like, and those you don't -- it's not true that there aren't discernible qualities in wine that should be evident to most consumers. You and I might drink from the same bottle, and I'll declare that a wine tastes like chocolate and cherries, while you detect espresso and mushrooms. But we're in the same ballpark here; I'm not saying it tastes like mountain dew. If I said as much, I would be wrong -- even though we all have our own perceptions.

The point is that, yes, we all experience wine in different ways. But wine is not so amorphous that it doesn't make sense to attempt to monitor its consistency from year to year when made from the same vineyard. And even if the flavors vary (as they certainly will), the profile is likely to remain the same from year to year if a vineyard is consistent and distinctive. It's why Hermann Wiemer's Magdalena always bricks out at two degrees higher than HJW, which is why HJW produces a leaner style, etc.

We realized the value of single vineyard wines when we established the business. We planted our own vineyards so we would truly have control of the source of the fruit. Try Rooster Hill's '06 or '07 single vineyard Gewurztraminer when you get the chance. Cheers! - Amy Hoffman

What if you only have one vineyard?

Amy,

Thanks for commenting -- What kind of characteristics do you find in your Gewurz? Is it too young to build a track record?

Evan,

I fear the discussion is getting into outside--and maybe deep--waters.

Suffice to say that I agree with the producer concept that vineyard designation must have and retain meaning. I take it a step further and say that consumers must also know what purpose the meaning serves or else the meaning will be lost.

Incidentally, I love Jason's question.

Evan,
I agree with the important point you are making. In order to discern characteristics of a vineyard, that set it apart from surrounding vineyard in a significant way ( not just different clones or other superficial label) I would think that a vineyard would have to be at least 10 years old. This way, the winemaker and grapegrower would have at least a handful of vintages to draw conclusions from. Similarly, I would have to add that the wines would have to be finished in a dry style in order not to mask the very characteristics, we seek to distinguish. This brings me to my last point, which is this current obsession of defining the So-called "terroir" of the Finger Lakes. Writers everywhere are stomping all over this notion in order to describe Finger Lakes wines. Why not leave the descriptions as cool climate specifics and admit that we simply have not had enough time to talk intelligently about the ties between vineyard specifics and the resulting wines. The same would hold for California by the way !

Morten,

As you and I have discussed, terroir is a vague and malleable notion, finding varied definitions all over the wine world. I believe deeply in the impact that a place has on wine, but I agree with you: Trying to pin one large, catch-all label on the Finger Lakes is simply not helpful.

Even with the benefit of 200 years, we might find that the impact of place varies as you move from site to site in the Finger Lakes. Thus, a single-vineyard bottling goes further to educate consumers about a specific sense of place than an overarching definition of terroir for the entire appellation.

Hello Morten. Let's have a friendly argument...you know that I have no opinions of my own, just like you ;)

Quite often, we are talking philosophy or belief systems and that isn't always the place to discover sweeping truths.

Who decides which specifics from a 10 year-old vineyard merit attention?

Isn't it true that if you asked a dozen winemakers to explain this concept, you'd probably get a dozen separate reasons or philosophies?

And what if a specific designated vineyard site consistently produces wines that lack a regional identity? Where would that product fit in?

Love these discussions. And I think we have a new item for our lexicon: bricking out.

Thomas,
The answer would be the customer over time. If the customer will consistently pay more for wines from these specific vineyards, then they should be considered worthy of the designation. Otherwise, the vineyard designated label will disappear anyway.
As I think we have discussed before I'm in favor of an appellation type system with a panel review of wines.

Evan,

I am also exploring single vineyard merlots as well. It just takes a little bit longer to bring the results to the market ;-) Sauv. Blanc is much like Riesling here on L.I. in that it allows terroir to shine through very clearly and you can begin to smell and taste the results fairly quickly.

The single vineyard concept is an evolution of sorts. I began producing reds by looking mainly at blending high quality lots between different vineyards, allowing the best characteristics of the sites to become more than the sum of its parts. I always had single vineyard wines in the cellar - the continuation of that work is keeping some separate so both the consumer and the winemaker can follow their development and enjoy the subtle differences.

Morten,

You know that I agree with you about establishing the appellation type system in America with panel reviews, and that would validate the ancillary concepts like vineyard designation.

We don't want vineyard designation to go the way of Meritage, at least I don't. When I found out that to be called Meritage a wine can be up 90% of any one variety and can contain a minimum of two varieties, I asked: so what's so special about a Meritage wine? A zillion wines on the market are 90% one variety.

Peter,

When I worked harvest for a week this past fall I started saying "bricking out" to describe the brix levels, and sadly none of your ilk put an end to that nonsense! It was a lazy way to say it, and it stuck for me.

Evan,

To my Italian mind, "bricking out" is what happens to an old Barolo ;)

Thomas,

Ah, you've touched on one of the true joys of wine. The brickish rim in a glass of Barolo is difficult to beat. I agree -- that's where the term should stay.

I think that the consistency from year to year is an important point that needs to be looked at with these Finger Lakes wines that we're talking about.

Is this the first time (2007 vintage) that these wineries have done this? What was the impetus? I know that 2007 was a year unlike any other (here on Long Island too), does the increased ripeness from the hot, dry year mean that these individual vineyards showed their uniqueness more than in cooler, wetter years?

Or, as has been implied above, are wineries taking this opportunity to laud these wines as special without using the ubiquitous "reserve" designation?

I don't know. I don't have enough experience tasting these wines over many years to say.

I think that Jim is onto something, however. We do talk sometimes as if the 'average consumer' is the only consumer. We also talk about the average consumer as if he or she is dumb sometimes too. They aren't. They just might not be a big of geeks as we are.

Single-vineyard wines, the first time they are put out into the marketplace, are interesting, unique and do offer a sense of "Hey, this is a special wine from a special place." But, that sense of specialness only means something (and thrives long term) if those blocks show the same specialness every single year.

If those are only special wines in the best vintages, they the designations are no more than a less lame version of "reserve."

Several winemakers that I've spoken to, both in the Finger Lakes and here on Long Island, tell similar tales to Peter's. Each year, there is a block or vineyard that shows best or shows true uniquness, but it's not the same block consistently. Thus, no vineyard-designation.

This is a great conversation, especially considering I just got a set of samples from Red Newt -- 6 wines, all from 2007 and all with a single-vineyard noted on the label.

Lenn,

Are those Red Newt wines from 6 separate vineyards?

Lenn,

It stands to reason that you should review those wines side-by-side and shake things up. That would be fun to see.

Regarding the "average wine drinker," I don't think anyone is saying the average wine drinker is "dumb." There's nothing wrong with discussing the way different consumers might perceive a new idea, such as a single-vineyard wine. Of course they're not dumb, but average wine drinkers will not immediately gravitate toward single-vineyard wines the way intensely interested consumers will. We're not snobs for pointing that out. In fact, pointing that out only highlights the need to provide more information for all consumers, so that the average wine drinker might eventually find more meaning in things like vineyard selection, climate, hang time, etc.

The bottom line is that there are not many vineyards with enough history to warrant single-vineyard wines as yet. The sample size remains small at most sites. That's why I'm guessing this trend -- if it's a trend at all -- will be slow and appropriate. And that's why it's something to appreicate.

Thomas: There are a couple overlaps in the Red Newt wines, meaning that a couple of the vineyards are represented on a couple different wines.

Evan: Perhaps I over-simplified, saying that we shouldn't assume that the 'average wine drinker" is dumb. Maybe the problem is even pretending that we can define an "average" one? Wish you lived closer, btw, we'd be tasting these wines side by side (blind) together.

I've really enjoyed this discussion and I wanted to add a few thoughts.

Lenn, you wrote, "That sense of specialness only means something (and thrives long term) if those blocks show the same specialness every single year." I think it should be said that the wine shouldn't taste the exact same every year. I had the chance to taste some the Hermann Wiemer wines with Evan and my feeling was that Fred Merwarth has identified qualities that will be similar every vintage, but let's face it: The weather is unpredictable. That has an impact. If someone were making a single-vineyard Cab Franc, of course it would taste different from year to year. We should want the wine to taste different from year to year. My point is that a single-vineyard wine (like the Magdalena that we tasted, for example), should have similar body and style, but we shouldn't get carried away thinking it has to be the exact same wine every year.

I'm curious about the labeling laws. If I buy a vineyard-designated wine, I assume it's 100% from that vineyard. Is there any legal definition, similar to appellation law, that covers vineyard designation? I would hate for single-vineyard wines to have 30% of what's in the bottle come from somewhere else.

Do I think a consumer might be swayed to buy a bottle of wine just because it's from a single vineyard? Sure, but add that to the long list of tools used to attract a consumer's attention. That consumer still has to like the wine to buy it again, and that's the bottom line. And at least the consumer knows a very, very specific location for where the grapes were grown. I can appreciate that.

Morgan: Thanks for chiming in...I'm sure Evan put you up to it ;)

If you'll notice, I said "same specialness" not "same taste." Important distinction. You're right though, the only way we can get wines that taste exactly the same is to drink stuff that tastes consistenly bad from YellowTail and the like.

What I meant (and maybe this didn't come through clearly) is that there has to be the same "special thing" that comes from that vineyard every year. Maybe it's big-but-integrated acidity. Maybe it's a distinct minerality. Maybe It's a floral-violet note on a cab franc. That vineyard just has to be special and unique every year. Maybe not in to the same degree every year, but special nonetheless. Otherwise, it's just a brand name for the wine that comes from that vineyard.

I actually don't know about those labeling laws, but I'm guessing Thomas, Peter, Rich or Morten do.


Evan,
The first vintage was 2005 so we are now working on our fourth vintage (2008). We are pleased that consistently we are getting violet/wildflower on the nose, mid palate layers of spice and a creamy honey finish. These traits have been pretty consistent. '05 and '07 were both smaller harvest and flavors and aroma's were more pronounced. '08 is very similar to '07.

Lenn,

Anyone who has met both my wife and me knows that I do not put her up to things. ;)

Regarding labeling law, it's a good question, though my guess is that there is no law or limitation. I'd love to be wrong about that. I hope we'll get an answer from one of the winemakers or industry folks who have participated in this thread.

I think your idea of consistency is good, though perhaps an inch or two too rigorous. By that I mean, let's give these single-vineyard wines a large enough sample size to judge fairly. Now, "large enough" is a rather arbitrary distinction, but I think we need about a decade to get a good feel for it. If a single-vineyard wine shows the same profile in 7 or 8 years out of a decade (or more), we should start feeling pretty confident about it. But luckily for us, we don't need that first decade -- if we trust the judgement of the winemakers who have chosen to go ahead with these bottlings. Morten and Dave and Fred have spent years tasting and watching and observing the differences, and I respect them more than enough to think they've got something.

Amy,

See, this is what I think this blog does best. We learn so much from industry professionals. I'm surprised and fascinated to hear that your '08 is very similar to '07, given the difference in weather. I'm tempted to grab a bottle of each when they're available and do a comparison.

A minimum 95% of the wine must come from the designated vineyard--if the wine is Estate Grown, 100% of the vineyard designation is required.

Question: If a particular vineyard-designated wine consistently offers a profile that is routinely consistent for the grape variety and for the region, what makes the vineyard special?

Evan: Yes, and anyone who knows me (especially if they've met me in person) knows that I'm insanely sarcastic.

I'll bend a little and agree with you that if 8 out of 10 years a vineyard shows that "specialness" (I hate re-using that word, but it captures what's in my head on this), we'll go with it. (with all this "out of ten" talk, Johannes would be proud)

But, I'm bending under protest. What about those off years? Are the vineyard designated wines still bottled as such? Why SHOULD they be called out if there isn't anything special about them in a particular year?

Of course, if in off years, they aren't made/bottled as single-vineyards, that means that the designation was being used merely as a stand-in for "reserve." Which is the danger.

I don't know about that, Lenn. Morgan and I were talking last night, and she made a very good point: On its most basic level, a single-vineyard designation provides more information to the consumer. At that point, it's up to the consumer to find out why that wine was separated and what was special -- if anything -- about the vineyard. But at least there is no question as to the source of the grapes.

Now, in a perfect world, we'd get more of that information on the back label, not the front. In my mind, putting it on the front label is an indication that you find something special about that vineyard. I would hope that more wineries would list, on the back label, information on grape sourcing, harvest date, brix, pH, etc. Only the winemakers that found something consistent about a vineyard would decide to bottle it and highlight the vineyard on the front label.

But if you give two choices, those being:

1) Every single-vineyard wine is labeled as such on the front label, or

2) No single-vineyard wine is labeled as such on the front label,

Are we certain that 2 is better than 1? I appreciate Morten's concern that a proliferation of this kind of labeling would destroy the meaning, but I can tell you that I'm always going to gravitate toward quality. If there were 50 single-vineyard wines from the FL, that wouldn't change how outstanding the Argetsinger is to me.

(Again, not saying this scenario is ideal, but nothing is ideal when companies are looking for marketing power and increased share).

Evan: I don't really like either of those choices.

I think that if it's going on the front of the wine, it has to mean something beyond "Hey, this where it was grown."

I'm 100% with Morten on this. If EVERY wine has the vineyard listed on the front, it no longer means the same thing. If I put "Thompson Vineyard" on the front of my wine, even if I have a mediocre location, only source from one vineyard...does it matter?

Sure, it tells you that it came from the Thompson Vineyard, but does that really matter?

There's no right answer here.

I wish that wineries would forgo the sweetness labeling initiative and make the leap to listing sourcing, other grapes that are blended in (because some wineries blend hybrids into FL riesling to stretch it), additives (acid, sugar)... even how much SO2 they use in the making.

I'll dig it out, but I think Randall Graham has started doing some of this with his wines.

I don't think you and I disagree, Lenn. Just adding that more information is generally good; I just wish it would go on the back label, whereas winemakers who have carefully selected vineyards for quality and consistency can highlight as much on their front label.

This is a great discussion, thanks Lenn and Evan. I'm a little late in joining, but I have a few thoughts on how we went about conceptualizing a single vineyard bottling. A vineyard needs to show exception regardless of the vintage (cold, hot, wet, dry). Vintage differences will obviously show through. Two factors need to remain true, 1. There needs to be consistency from those grapes with respect to ripening, acidity, structure, pH, tannins, botrytis, etc which is proportionate to other vineyards sites as well as other mesoclimates within a region across vintages. 2. The grapes produced and thus resulting wines must show uniqueness and "quality" (slippery slope) regardless of vintage. Therefore, single vineyards need to be repeated every year either internally or in the market for them have an impact as such and within the greater terroir debate. Ultimately, and I can't emphasis this enough, the most important aspect to any single vineyard bottling is your management and understanding of your vineyards with respect to vintage.

There is also a time element to our decision which allowed for us to look at differences in vintages. I feel that a vineyard site needs to go through one replanting in order to truly know whether that is the right site for that variety on the right rootstock, so on and so forth. To that, the time element was critical for us to really see the differences and the consistency from each of our sites. From Hermann’s original planting in 1973 until this year, we have gone through at least two planting on each of the three vineyard sites. The goal was to: 1. Eliminate varieties that didn’t work 2. Take aspects from the original Riesling planting at that site that worked or did not work then replicate or change it in the new planting (introduce different rootstocks, clones, orientation of vineyard, spacing, etc.). Only after this, did we feel that we had something unique.
Again fantastic discussion! This discussion has to be had for our regions to continue to gain awareness on the International stage (ie NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Fran, and beyond).

Thanks Fred, for that explanation, as it epitomizes exactly what makes vineyard designation more than meets the consumer's eye (what's on the label).

Just the separate clone issue is enough to make the concept suspect when it appears on a label without explanation.

I fear that, until some sort of appellation regulation, as Morten touched on, is in effect, vineyard designation will remain a scattered concept, with wineries and winemakers applying their own interpretations for the concept.

That takes me back to my original thoughts on the issue: consumers should not assume that a vineyard designation offers any sort of detailed information or guarantee--it takes further research on the consumer's part to understand what each individual vineyard designation is trying to tell them.

I don't think most consumers will do that, and that's how marketing can gain its grip.

First I find it very funny that no one caught the mistake on the Argetsinger Vineyard Designate Riesling produced by Ravines Winery...the soil is miss stated it should read lime stone soil not shale stone...I know this for a fact, as I own land a stones throw away...

Next lets determines what vineyard specific or select really means...

In the USA you can have a vineyard with many different types of soil...so from this select vineyard comes different wines...in Europe each soil is a new vineyard...in the USA it will be a marketing tool only...that's the way I see it...

Fred and Tom -

Fred's explanation is exactly why I'm so excited for the single-vineyard wines that are just now coming out. I can't help but feel that Thomas is taking a bit of a defeatist tack here. Just because an idea is corruptible does not make it suspect; I don't intend to put words in your mouth, Thomas, but it that's the tone I've gotten from your posts. I understand the points you're making, but I wonder if you even find the practice worthwhile in the end, given its malleability.

Or, shorter: Consumers ought to do more to understand what they're drinking. We ought to give them as much as we can, but it's also caveat emptor.

Evan,

Yes, I don't find the practice worthwhile unless it stems from stated and sanctioned parameters, as in an appellation control system. But let's forget that for now and just take the clonal difference that Fred spoke about, which came up during his trials (incidentally, I applaud his trials, because long running trials are necessary for identifying true consistency).

If one vineyard is planted with one particular clone of Riesling and another is planted with another clone, are the characteristics of the wines from each vineyard the result of the clones or of the terroir, or of a combination of the two? Only long-standing trials can prove the answer.

I don't doubt one bit that each vineyard site offers its own angle of the sun, its attraction to hail and moisture, its angle of slope, its soil erosion, its level of drought resistance, and so on, but as others have said, there really hasn't been enough time in the Finger Lakes for spot-on identification of vineyard-specific work in order to pin down the true reason behind certain characteristics.

I've gotten to identify a few of the growers over the years by both the way they operate and the quality of the product that comes from their vineyards. I have no compunction recommending wine produced from certain growers because I know that there careful passion is best for producing quality grapes. But that doesn't mean that I could identify a separate vineyard designation by a simple tasting--it takes deeper study to make that determination, and I cannot see how the general consumer could do it either.

Therefore, if the consumer can't easily do it, it's up to the producer to ensure that the consumer is indeed receiving the specialness that any given vineyard offers--the way to do that is to codify after careful study and analysis.

Even after hundreds of years, the general concept of terroir remains mostly misunderstood and mainly fostered through a great deal of hype. What do you see that would make a vineyard designation any different?

Of course, I meant to type "their careful passion" not "there careful passion."

Thomas,

I'll concede an important point: clonal variation could muddy things up. I've been assuming that clones are the control here while site is the variable.

Evan,

Although quite important, clones are only one important variable. Cluster and leaf thinning in one vineyard and not in another, extending or shortening hang time, mulching or not mulching between the rows, etc. may increase or decrease the effects of what we might blindly refer to as "terroir."

If controls and variables are codified and thus identified in the research--that could make all the difference.

It is a bigger issue than meets the eye--or the wine label ;)

Thomas,

I'm operating under the assumption that we are all well aware that leaf thinning, canopy, hang time, weeding, spraying et al are all impactful components. That's sort of obvious on its face.

I'd add that I sort of doubt that many growers or winemakers would take vastly different approaches from one vineyard to another unless they were experimenting, and in that case, they're not likely to bottle single-vineyard wines. Heck, we have about half a dozen single-vineyard wines as it stands.

The bottom line for me is that consumers and, especially, wine writers ought to carefully observe single-vineyard wines when they are introduced. As a consumer I'm enjoying the benefits of people like Fred, Morten and Dave seeking out unique sites and offering their wines in individual bottlings. You can keep pushing for codification; I'll be content to keep an eye on the trend, happy with the results so far.

Evan,

You might remember that I recommended Ingle Vineyard wines. I do that because I know John's passion and I know the quality of his vineyards. I think he deserves to have his name on labels--even if he didn't own Heron Hill. ;)

I'm happy with many results, too. But that isn't what I've been discussing.

To bring it back to what I originally posted way back when: it's the consumer I'm thinking about, and I don't mean geeks. A vineyard name on the label doesn't tell the general consumer enough.

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