Pinot Noir, for some reason, it’s the one varietal that leads to the highest amount of conversation-yes, even more so than Cabernet. Here’s some of what’s happening in the land of Pinot told through 4 unique growing regions.
Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So today I’m joined by four bottles of Pinot Noir, which are surprisingly hard to get into this shot and still talk with my hands. So we’ll see how long this takes me to probably knock half of these over.
So anyway, a couple questions came up. I had a customer who really likes Pinot, and who actually subscribes to our monthly wine club, but they only ask that they get Pinot Noir. So they receive pretty much any Pinot that goes out in any of the three wine cubs, so that’s kind of a fun one. So they are kind of wanting to know what do I think happens next for Pinot. So here’s the state of the industry now is that you have guys like Bourgogne, i.e. Burgundy, you have the Central Coast, you have Sonoma, and you have the Santa Cruz mountains. Those kind of regions seem to dominate at least the conversation around pinot noir with some other international folks kind of stealing some sales and some conversation along the way too. New England, or New Zealand is a great example of that.
So what happens next? I think it’s fair to say that if you remove Sonoma and Burgundy from the conversation that you could say that those are largely built out. What happens when a wine region is built out around a specific varietal is that if you want to continue planting that varietal you’re having to look in what are considered at the time as less desirable vineyard locations. Sonoma I can speak to much better terms than Burgundy. So Sonoma for the longest time if you look at how they divided the AVA, the Sonoma Coast, and I’ll use that in parentheses because there are parts of the Sonoma Coast that are nowhere at all near the coast. They’re actually east of the 101, which itself is at least 10 miles inland. So anything west of the 101 was considered 50/50 hit or miss. If you went significantly west of the 101 it was considered too darn cold to ever grow.
Well the market has kind of caught up to that. It may be global warming a degree or two has helped, but in reality what’s happened is that the market has started to accept an increasingly acidic Pinot Noir from Sonoma. So these folks that maybe came into the game late, or had more of a financial incentive to have to buy it closer to the coast as opposed to inland and kind of areas where people thought it was a better place to go, they’ve had the markets come into their laps. So you will see some of that happen. What’s considered a less desirable vineyard location today might not be a less desirable vineyard location tomorrow.
The Central Coast, the one thing that they have that other folks kind of at the table here don’t have is they have enough space. So you’ve seen if you drive the 101 say Santa Barbara up here to the Bay Area, the most profitable vineyards in the state of California are the ones right along the highway. Those are not the highest class, highest quality vineyards. Those are the ones that produce a lot of grapes that can create a lot of $20 and $30 Pinot that’s actually really darn good. So you’re going to see continuing building out of vineyard space like that.
Santa Cruz mountains almost reminds me more of Burgundy than of any other American wine growing region because it’s damn hard to plant there. It’s hard to get grapes in. It’s hard to get grapes out. It’s hard to get approvals for planting. You can’t cut down a Redwood tree an put a vineyard in. You can’t cut down an oak tree, et cetera, et cetera. So this is really going to be a piece meal kind of thing in the Santa Cruz mountains. You’re going to see folks that have the incentive to do so, and they do based on prices that you can get this big basin bottle is close to $60, although well worth every penny if you want a kind of world class Pinot from your backyard. So you’re going to have smaller vineyard sites on the mountainside, and you’re going to have people really having to do it by hand. There’s not going to be any huge scale vineyard projects. Although, I guess we said that about Alice Peak and we were proven wrong.
So in any case four distinct Pinot Noir destinations. If people want to know hey what’s the future of Pinot? Pinot sales continue to grow, however each region is really something in and of itself. I think it’s hard to make broad generalizations because every, kind of in every space you have some unique kind of qualifiers that happen. In Sonoma it’s these less desirable vineyard locations which have become more desirable, which in some ways has just allowed the industry to expand. Santa Cruz it’s really hard to expand it based on how vineyards have to be planted. Central Coast is exploding, but it’s not necessarily exploding with the type of highest quality fruit that people got the know from Santa Barbara, so that’s going to be something the industry is very careful of, especially wine makers don’t want to be known as a cheap Pinot destination. They want to be known as the Pinot destination. So how do they encourage higher end plantings. Lastly, Burgundy is Burgundy. It’s the ancestral home of the varietal, what are you going to do.
So once again Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are having a good one.