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October 27, 2010


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Major props to John McGregor for this. As a wine lover in VA, I've had very few NY wines to date, but this definitely has me more interested in trying wines from McGregor Vineyard & Winery in the future. Wines aren't perfect and they do change in the bottle - sometimes for the better, and sometimes not so much. I appreciate that he's trying his wines as they age and updating customers on where they are as far as drinkability. Too few winemakers/wineries do this. They say to cellar the wine and then never say anything about it again. I hope more people fall this example of keeping customers informed on an ongoing basis and being honest with winemaking struggles and disappointments as well as triumphs.

I think this is great. For me it shows a few important things..

First, it shows that John cares about his wines. He routinely is tasting them and even going back to a 2004 vintage he spends the time to understand why a wine is behaving the way it is.

Second, he states HIS disappointment with the wine but doesn't completely dismiss it. He recognizes the subjectivity of tastes and encourages his customers to act upon new information in the manner they see fit.

Finally, he educates. He discusses the typical reaction to Brett and also points out areas where it is more accepted.

All around great way to share information. BTW: In the New World, us beer drinkers don't mind a little Brett once in awhile! :)

Kudos to John for being honest with his fans and explaining what was going on in the wine.

Customers purchase wine and when they open the bottle 6 months to a year later it doesn't taste like it did when they had that initial taste. Customers might think that the "flaw" means the bottle is not good. That can be a PR nightmare and result in an unhappy customer(s) All to often it has been my experience that I am told I stored the bottle incorrectly. It was my fault. (Yes,I have a temperature controlled wine cellar)

Educating your fan base and explaining what has happened to the wine, will bring customers to see your wine in a new light and give them more understanding of the winemaking process.

Hopefully other wineries can see this as a positive and communicate to their customer base as well as ask for their customers feedback publically.

This is great indeed, but let me play devil's advocate here...

What if the customer who purchased a couple of cases of this specific wine now is very disappointed with it... would the winery offer a refund or at least an exchange?

Ok, this is Brett, which is fairly tolerable to some as stated. But what if it was for example another common wine fault such as MLF in the bottle? Is it ok for the winery to tell customers to "drink up" fast before the bottles start exploding? Would the winery admit that it was their fault and offer a refund? Maybe a recall? (thought that would be risky... lots of bottles exploding in the back seat on the way back to the winery)

How many times can a winery actually admit to a problem before customers begin thinking that maybe it's too risky to buy your wine, especially to cellar it?

Again I want to say that what Mr.McGregor does is great, but just wanted to bring up some important aspects to consider.

Paul: You raise an interesting question, I wonder if John would work something out with a customer who does NOT like Brett if he/she has several cases of the 04s. Perhaps he'll chime in later and let us know how he'd handle that.

Evan: The funny thing is, this makes me want to try both the 04 Rob Roy and the 04 Cab Franc now. You and I end up talking about Brett fairly regularly, and we both enjoy a bit -- wonder where my threshold is compared to John's.

You're absolutely right though. This is refreshing behavior in a world where much of what we read/hear from wineries has been infiltrated with at least a bit of spin.

I really applaud the owner's honesty and guts in extending his thoughts on these wines to the public. As far as Paul's question... I'm not sure what the right move would be regarding brett contamination and a return/exchange... I would not think the winery has an obligation to that effect. The comparison with MLF in a bottle is not really on par with brett contamination though. Sound winemaking can and does inhibit brett to a point, however this is a complex issue that continues to challenge winemakers, technology and academia... basically brett is not fully understood or easily contained. MLF is very well understood and controlled... although I don't necessarily think that MLF happening in bottled wine is a "common" flaw, I would classify it as the result of risky or unsound winemaking and thus the (monetary)responsibility of the winery. I do not think the owner is "admitting a problem" as you state it, more so observing the development of his wine, addressing a challenge or issue and moving to educate his customers (which goes a long way).

Great discussion. And very important to wines from the Finger Lakes. Good for John. Leadership in action. I happen to accept and enjoy and certain amount of Brett in a wine - comes from being seduced to the dark side by Burgundy, Rhone and Bordeaux. So not a problem unless the wine is a glass of wine flavored Brett. My. Next thing you know we'll be on to some variant of 'So tell me, just what did you really do to produce that wine?'

Bob Madill

Bob - I agree that Brett can be enjoyable as long as it doesn't overwhelm the wine. That's subjective, of course, and now I'm dying to taste these wines that John McGregor describes.

Daniel - While Paul is thinking pragmatically, I think you're absolutely right in this case. This is a winery owner who is willing to communicate openly with his consumers, and there is a valuable educational component there.

We can compare wine to art or other luxury items, but wine is alive. There is no real comparison, and it is changing constantly. Honest observation, even while acknowledging subjectivity, is a great service to consumers.

It is nice to see someone being so honest but if I don't hear another "it has brett...you know, like the wines from Chinon, Burgundy, Rhone, South of France, Bordeaux, Cahors, St. Chinian, Pic St. Loup and essentially any red wine made in France" it won't be soon enough.


I really appreciate the various lines of thought that Evan's post has created and appreciate even more the kudos sent my way. Thanks! I'd like to offer up a few additional thoughts as a result of the posted remarks- forgive my inability to be brief. First, the Finger Lakes is a very young fine wine region and we are all still learning what works here and what doesn't and for many wines, I'd suggest that you can only find this out through time! I have the good fortune to have wines from the region (primarily our own, but sprinkled with others) dating right back to our first vintage in 1980- thank god my folks had the foresight to hold on to some! I got serious about tasting these 10 years ago and have found many big surprises (1980 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer at 19 years old remains one of my favorites) mixed among wines clearly over the hill. Ultimately, I am now gaining confidence in tasting young wines of ours and offering sound advice on its age worthiness. The point? This is incredibly interesting education and it would be foolish not to share! Not many have 30+ years of Finger Lakes wine at their disposal. I really didn’t give much thought to the idea that being honest with these experiences would garner surprise and praise. Clearly not all wine develops into the greatness we strive and hope for, so why beat around the bush? Evan, your point about wine being alive captures the essence of this entire conversation…
As for the devil’s advocate…If a seriously disappointed person approached me over the wine, I would certainly exchange it for a current wine- why risk losing a good relationship over a few bottles of wine? This is no different than a wine shop’s expectation of a winery replacing a bottle returned by a customer for whatever reason. Granted, I don’t think I would make these exchanges for everything- if someone found a 25 year old Chardonnay and it had oxidized, I don’t think I’d be so quick to replace it. As for how many times to admit faults and unintentional consequences? I have no idea. If there were a wide spectrum of problems on wines that should be fine, perhaps the question would become "Should I be in this business?" As for evaluating aged wines from a library collection, I'll discuss warts and all!
Rick…I’m not sure I get your point? Aren’t those wines, generally speaking, riddled with the stuff? You might intimately understand this but not everyone is as versed in their knowledge of wine. I figured it’d be helpful to point to some areas where Brett is common and, in some cases admired, for those interested in learning and experiencing a bit more. My newsletter’s audience spans the spectrum- neophyte to expert…Cheers!

Maybe this will put it into context - "all the wines of the Finger Lakes are either sweet and taste like baby aspirin or smell like green bell peppers".

Chinon and it's neighbors (Saumur, Bourgeuil) have many small producers. Do some of those producers have brett issues...certainly, but to paint an entire AOC with a broad brush does not help neither the neophyte or expert.

Considering how often I have to defend our region from being painted with a broad brush I just think we should be sensitive to doing it to others.

Keep up the good work.


Excellent point Rick...I agree completely and will keep that in mind in future writings and discussions! Thanks.

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