Kermit Lynch and Importers Important Role in Developing Regions

A Food And Wine Revolution Begins

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants was a ground breaking importer of French Wine to the West Coast

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants was a ground breaking importer of French Wine to the West Coast

This is an adjunct to the Domaine Leon Barral post, the producer that Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants imports and sells both through it’s own shop but as a distributor nationwide. Barral is located in wine backwater of Faugeres, and Lynch has been steadily raising the status of this bio-dynamic producer for the past couple of decades. Today the estate has a significant and loyal following in the United States, thanks to  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants tireless work to promote it.  It is much easier import wine than to create a demand for it, and this ability to do so has been key to the firm’s continued success. As a retailer who bought from them, I quickly learned that Kermit Lynch’s reputation for importing only the best wines, could alone sell wines off the shelf, just by consumers seeing the importer’s wood cut logo on the strip label. 

Kermit Lynch was a ground-breaking revolutionary in early 1970s, when be began importing many previously unknown French wines into his Berkeley, California wine store. It wasn’t a sure thing, but the fertile intellectual ground of Berkeley allowed the food and wine scene to germinate, and Lynch, along with fellow visionary Alice Waters nurtured fledgling businesses that grew and prospered only a few miles apart.  It was perhaps inevitable they would become friends, along with  noted food writer, the late Richard Olney, who would help spread the word.

For his work importing and promoting small, emerging producers, often from  unheard of French appellations, Lynch has received two James Beard Awards. As much impact as he has made here in the states, he made even a greater impact on winemakers and regions of France that he represented. How much so is revealed by the fact that the French government  Knighted him! Being awarded him truly prestigious medal of “Legion d’Honneur”, illuminates the immense impact his relationship with so many small vignerons has made. He may not have made the wine, but he made it possible for others to make and elevate quality and reputation of their wine.  He has also been influential in directing wineries to make cleaner, more acceptable styled wine for a world-wide stage, ensuring their success, and in many cases creating their legacy. Some of the producers he has been involved with have become iconic and legendary in the industry. They include Vieux Telegraphe, François Raveneau, Coche Dury, August Clape, not forgetting to mention the winery which Kermit Lynch is most closely associated with, in part because of Richard Onley’s book “Lulu’s Provencal Table”, Domaine Tempier.

A new subterranean cellar takes the money of success, something a good importer can help attain.

A new subterranean cellar at Kermit’s producer Leon Barral in Faugeres takes the money of success, something a good importer can help obtain.

It is not simply true to say that Kermit brought these producers into the limelight, because these producers would not become the great winemakers without his promotion, and the money it brought. With his promotion, and their new ability to raise funds for re-investment, allowed them to become producers of great wine. You can see a similar parallel of the Burgundy producers represented by another early importer of French wines, Chateau & Estates. C&E’s producers included Ramonet, Roumier, Grivot, d’Angerville, Niellon and Courcel which were all to become leading estates in Burgundy. It is no accident that Kermit Lynch and Chateau and Estates represented so many top producers while the rest of the area struggled through the 1980’s. It was with the promotion and money these importers provided they could re-invest in their vineyards and cellars. As the quality improved, these up and coming domaines (fields) could raise their prices. It was these producers who had distribution and financial support in the 1980s, which are the ones we consider to be the legendary estates today. Many other producers have caught up qualitatively, but it is these few that came to prominence first that command the most attention, and the highest prices.

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Lovers of Amarone, Blogger/Sommelier Marina Betto Has Something Worth Reading!

There are some really talented wine bloggers out there, often somewhere half a world away and you need to use the translator (if your French or Italian isn’t up to snuff.)  Here is an example of one such blog by Italian blogger Marina Betto, sommelier and writer for Italian Sommelier Association and on-line publications about gastronomy, botany and gardening. She collaborates on Glocal Vini & Terroir with Sommelier Massimo Sacco, from the Fairmont Monte Carlo.

Italian Wine Writer Marina Betto

Italian Wine Writer Marina Betto

 Vini & Terroir : Pianeta Amarone

Amarone, today, begins to have a certain appeal, especially on some Asian markets and in some areas of the U.S. market. Abroad is often associated with Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello.It ‘a modern wine that has ancient roots, produced in the Veneto region in the area of ​​Verona to Lake Garda to the west and north to Soave. This territory has always cultivated the vine and wine product, chasing quality; these valleys ancient heart (Valis Polis Cells) are, for centuries, an area of ​​wineries. We are located on the territories of high, medium and low hills, if not plain. The hillside vineyards are most suitable because without fog, which do not facilitate the quality of the grapes, the richest of the skeleton, calcareous, give more minerals, texture and fragrance. read more

 

My comments to Massimo’s post are below (with a little editing:)

“Marina, I really liked your post.  Even through the computer translation, it has a wonderful rhythm and great verbal illustration. You have terrific knowledge of the region and it really shows in your writing and discriptors.  Here are a couple of thoughts I have on the wines you write about; three of which I know fairly well. imgres

Masi is probably the most “wine-like” of all the Amarone’s I’ve had, generally being dryer and slightly less alcoholic, and no aldehydic or acetic qualities, being very clean and elegant. I sold Masi for nine years for a distributor, and I find it to be a very unique voice in the field of Amarone. They rarely get the scores they deserve because they are not as opulent as wine tasted next to them. They are however very beautiful with a tapestry of complex flavors and silky textures. This style trans

imagesBrigaldara is a wonderful producer, and he seems to be on his own path stylistically (at least from what is brought into the United States.) I get a tremendous breadth of flavors from him, from green tobacco notes through ripe blackberry and into raisin and prunes. His are a kaleidoscope of flavors, and the alcohol I never though was much of an issue. At least I don’t remember it being hot. I got the impression that he had clones that ripened unevenly, or he picked certain lots at different ripeness levels intentionally. The effect is brilliant whatever the reason. His are intellectual wines with an ungainly, nontraditional beauty.

image_1141755_full Bertani is a house I written up in one of my first blog posts (which you may have seen). Until I was able to experience a depth of Bertani Amarones in a flight together, I didn’t have a fair impression of them. Bertani is a big house, with lots of traditionally commercial wines, but their Amarone is traditional in the best way – it stands the test of time. Here Bertani stands out. Although their Amarone doesn’t have the body and density, and as the French say “gras” of other houses, they have a purity and complexity that won’t fade over time. Because they don’t grow and pick their grapes for extraction, and then bottle their Amarone after seven years in botte, which allows the wines an excess dry extract falls out before bottling, the wine that goes into the bottle will remain complex and stable in the bottle. But while this robs the wine in the near term of its mid-palate and makes a more acidic wine, it also allows the wine to age virtually unchanged for decades.  Beautiful stuff.

Accordini,which I’ve had a few times (and briefly sold them when they were imported by one of the suppliers we represented) I never could really wrap my head around them, stylistically.  They tended to be denser and blacker, with blackberry fruit and some earth, a bit more port-like (or even somewhat Priorat-like) is my recollection, than Amarone-like. They’ve been getting top notes from American critics recently, but although the quality is good, I’ve never really been drawn to them.” 

Thanks for a great post,

Dean

Bordeaux and Burgundy’s Relevance on the American Wine Scene

P7141848

P7141848 (Photo credit: cumi&ciki)

Bordeaux and Burgundy have been in something of the doldrums in terms of relevance on the American wine scene since the recession began in 2008. It was at this time that, while the near collapse of financial markets in the west, there was an influx of new wealth in China.  The Chinese nouveau riche with their insatiable appetite for the best Bordeaux had to offer, drove prices up at a time when budgets were shrinking here. Also at the very, most wealthy, in America and Europe and Russia just continued to gain wealth – snapping up blue chip wines for their cellars. The result the rarest of Burgundies and the most highly celebrated Bordeaux climbed, and climbed in price

The resulting wine trends in the United States was a combination of a rejection of Bordeaux’s pricing, and focus on wines from other places. For the generally stayed Bordeaux drinker, Brunello di Montalcino was an easy retreat.  Comparatively, Brunellos were cheap, delicious, and some of the very best producers weren’t much more than $60. With their excellent international reputation, softer tannins, Brunello was a socially acceptable down-sizing for the Bordeaux drinker.  For a more adventurous Burgundy drinker, there was a lot of thrilling options to choose from, most notably the remarkable Barolos and Barbarescos coming from Piemonte, and Aglianicos from Campagna and Basilicata.  Although for inexperienced tasters these wines have more challenges of in terms of structure and bitterness, their aromatics and texture are a huge draw with those wines, surpassing Burgundy in quality and complexity at each price point.

“The wines from the more traditional producers, really resonated, because they are flavors that cannot be produced anywhere else in the world.”

This economic dynamic created a scarcity of the top wines, while most of the lower and middle tiered wines sat, lingering in distributor warehouses and retailers shelves.  Of course this has always been the problem. The top 1% of wines has an eager market, the rest are more difficult to sell. Only now, this disparity is much more acute.  Now, as the stock market soars and the housing market moves back toward record highs, we can predict that this trend will continue.  The difference I think, is the wine in the next tiers down will be forced to lower their prices because the most of the middle class is not gaining wealth in the recovery.  There will not be an increased market for middle tier wines, rather these wines will need to retreat some in price.

In the past, the first growth and second growth Bordeaux were not so expensive that the middle class wine buyer could buy them occasionally, and the same went with Grand Cru Burgundy.  But I have always felt the soul of those appellations are those below those haut crus.  In Burgundy, I have always felt, that if you don’t know the premier cru’s you don’t know Burgundy.  Sure the Grand Cru tasted great.  They were ripe and succulent – anybody could like those.  The true soul, the heart and character of Burgundy is in the terroir, and if the wines got too ripe, this would be covered up, and the aromatics would be buried. For that reason I have always been a fan of the ”off years.”  To me, they seemed to retain more aromatics and just seemed to age better. The ripeness of the Grand Crus, at least to me, often masked the vineyard’s terrior.  As for Bordeaux, I have always been a fan of the 3rd through 5th growth Bordeaux and Cru Bourgeois. I know, it’s an underdog thing, but they were really good then, and today they are much better even now which in many cases justifies their price increases.  Besides, what hasn’t gone up in price?

Having just started to go out into the marketplace this week with some of these Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, it is fun to watch the light bulbs go off as the wines are tasted.  In many cases, the reactions I got are as if these buyers had suddenly remembered that Bordeaux and Burgundy even existed.  That’s how far removed the wine industry in many places has become from these two regions.  The wines from the more traditional producers, really resonated, because they are flavors that can not be produced anywhere else in the world. It makes you wonder if part of the problem with the relevance of Bordeaux is not only the prices, but the extreme modernization of the wine making, and the resultant fruit-driven styles that have taken hold there.

Givry vineyards 3

Givry vineyards 3 (Photo credit: Max xx)

Tasting the wines from these two classic French appellations is like a re-awakening. They are beautiful, full of personality and character. Sure, because of my new job I have a vested interest in the success of Burgundy and Bordeaux in the market place.  But I left my buyer’s position at The Wine Club precisely so I could immerse myself in the amazing portfolio at Atherton Wine Imports. While there certainly is a lot more competition for their attention, but I think Burgundy and Bordeaux are, and will again gain in relevance in the American wine consciousness.     Dean 

Calling It Quits: Galloni Could Have Changed California’s Wine Trajectory

In Case You Missed it Last Week. 

Antionio Galloni Resigned From The Wine Advocate.

This was disappointing news.  In his new, powerful, position of writing for The Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni was our greatest hope of allowing a diverse spectrum of winemaking styles to flurish in California.  California Cabernets, in particular, had been pushed into a very narrow definition of style of what could be considered great Cabernet. It was a definition that had been shaped over twenty-five years, by a singular, authoritative, voice. Robert Parker’s.

“Galloni had a vastly different palate than Parker.”

Two years ago, when Galloni was given the assignment of  reviewing California wine for the world’s most powerful and influential wine publication, we began to see a momentous shift in the editorial stance there. Galloni had a vastly different palate than Parker, and it show in his very first reviews. With these more diverse reviews, we saw the possibility that winemakers could escape from the pressures to make the uniformly fruit driven, immensely concentrated, and almost monolithic style that has come to characterize Cabernet here.  The question was, would Robert Parker continue to allow such a diversion from the style that was essentially synonymous with his publication? I was incredulous that it would be allowed to continue.

But Galloni was not relieved of his duties.  He was not muzzled.  And for a time, it appeared that the arc of California winemaking might forever be altered for the better. Now, winemakers that desired to make more refined, detailed California wines, would be financially encouraged to do so. There were already dozens of winemakers out on the fringes , making wine in niche styles, that could really benefit from these changes in thinking.

“There was no doubt now, California was poised to create the most brilliant wines in its history.”

Galloni‘s second major review of California Cabs was published in late 2012, with many stars of yesteryear among the list of high scoring wines. Imagine, if you will, that the Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet got 92 points from any publication -other than the Enthusiast.  It happened in the Wine Advocate!  It was thrilling that so many wines were rewarded for showing honest complexity on leaner frames, while many of Parker’s former favorites struggled to stay above 90 points. Galloni simply did not seem to be impressed by their bombastic, viscous fruit, if once you got past the all the flash, they were ultimately simple wines. There was no doubt now, California was poised to create the most brilliant wines in its history.

And then, just like that, he is gone.  The Wine Advocate put him in the position, and I suppose, The Wine Advocate could take it away. But before making accusations, let’s go back.

*       *       *

From The Wine Advocate’s humble beginnings, Robert Parker’s message was clear. He challenged winemakers around the world to increase their quality, by pointedly writing that specific wineries needed a “wake up call“.  He never shied away from confrontation, and insisted they clean up their winemaking, reduce their yields, and stop doing whatever lazy, careless, or penny-pinching things they were doing.  I don’t think it was his intention for them to make wine his way, he simply wanted winemakers to care.  He tirelessly fought this crusade, making fierce enemies along the way. He called winemakers out on shoddy practices, and forced them to pay attention to the details.  His words resonated across the wine world; and not just with the winemakers whom he challenged, but also with his ever-growing, subscription-paying public, who enforced his words with the power of their wallets. The readership followed his every word, not only because he was beyond reproach in his candor and honesty, but because they could identify with the reliably accessible, big, rich, sweetly fruited wines he favored. 

“Imagine, if you will, that the Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet would get 92 points from any publication -other than the Enthusiast…  It happened in the Wine Advocate!”

As the years rolled by, Robert Parker’s legions of fans bought what he recommended, and winemakers financially felt the enormous power of his pen. They discovered being a favorite of Robert Parker brought financial success, so winemakers sought to make wine to please him.

Traditionalists were alarmed.  Wines everywhere were becoming homogenized and uniform, and nowhere was this more true than among California’s premier Cabernets from Napa Valley. So when Robert Parker, who was positioning himself to retire, named his Italian specialist, Antonio Galloni, to write his the reviews of California wine, there was a great deal of surprise.  I can’t help but think Parker was very aware of the impact of his choice.   

The Traditionalist View: Funny Youtube Video  Hitler reacts to Robert Parker scoring a Napa Cabernet 100 points

But the winds were changing. In late 2012, Robert Parker announced the sale of The Wine Advocate for $15 million. The new ownership, a group of Singapore businessmen, named The Advocate’s Asia Correspondent, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, as the publication’s new Editor.  Antonio Galloni, whom many had considered to be Robert Parker’s heir apparent, had been passed over. He resigned, with plans to start his own website.  Did he quit, or was he pushed out?

I am certain that the wine industry will embrace him as a valid spokesperson, and critic.   Another voice is welcome, even though he will no longer have the high pulpit of The Wine Advocate to preach from.

About Antonio Galloni:

Antonio Galloni, born in Caracas, Venezuela, was the son of an Italian wine importer. American educated, he began writing about the wines of Piemonte, in a blog he named The Piedmont Report. He has already launched his new website, antoniogalloni.com, and will report on Italian, California and Burgundy wine, in short media-driven format.  It’s hard to imagine he will ever have the reach he had two weeks ago when he worked for The Wine Advocate.

The Wine Advocate

The Wine Advocate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tasting Cain, part II

Part II:  Winemaker Chris Howell, Cain Winery, and the Taboo Subject of Brett

Cain Winery sits 1800 feet above St. Helena on the valley floor, way up on Spring Mountain Road. A sign with an arrow and the words Cain Winery, marks the longest single-lane, curvy, road/driveway imaginable.  The winery is so far out there, that after two miles down this twisting, blind-cornerd driveway, the there is a county sign that reads, road ends. Yet you still are not there yet.  Go farther; you will find Cain. There is an intense sense of quiet and isolation on the estate, and one can only imagine that has had some profound influence on the unique philosophies that guide the Winemaker and GM, Chris Howell in his quest for the true expression of this piece of land.

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery - Rutherford, ...

Rutherford, Napa Valley (Photo credit: –Mark–)

I have found a commonality to the wines from this section of the mountain.  Two of Cain’s most immediate neighbors, Guilliams and Keenan, have very similar profile of making classically styled Napa wine, and all have unusually fine, silky tannins.  I cannot say with certainty that these fine tannins are the result of terroir speaking, but I tend to believe that they are. While I talked to Chris, (read part 1) we tasted the three wines being made at Cain. The winery’s flagship, Cain Five, is made entirely from estate fruit. The Cain Cuvee, which is part estate fruit, and part valley fruit, shared distinct commonality. The Cain Concept, is made from puchased Napa Valley fruit, was decidedly different in character and structure, although the winemaking is the same.

“both showed character rarely matched in California Cabernet”

Midway through the tasting, I introduced my feeling that the wines had improved from those Chris had made in the late eighties. Soon after I told him I thought they were cleaner and more enjoyable, and he admitted there had been a lot of brett in the winery, Chris decided to show me an older example of Cain Five. He produced a bottle of Cain Five from 1999 vintage, perhaps to show that the change has been minimal, or maybe he wanted to put the matter to rest. I don’t know, but I was excited to try it. This wine certainly had more brett than the 2007 we were tasting, but not nearly as much as I seemed to remember in the wines, and the nose was remarkable. It was captivating.

The vineyard has been replanted section by section since 1995, so the 1999 Cain Five will have been made from fruit off the old, phylloxera- infested  plantings, whereas the 2007 would be mostly from the new, high-density plantings that are now trained low to the ground to speed physiological ripening, and utilizes vertical shoot trellising. Additionally, pruning methods have been improved. All of these things affect fruit quality. That said, both Cain Fives were truly beautiful wines, showing so much depth, impeccable balance, and both showed character rarely matched in California Cabernet.

Chris was very generous, and allowed us to take all the wines to dinner that night, at Bar Terre in St Helena, where we tried the wines with multiple courses, often with superb results. versatility with food is something I don’t expect from California Cabernet-based wines, due to their typical extremes in terms of weight and concentration, so the fact that Cain Five could, certainly surprised me.

I have rated these wines, something I rarely do, and usually don’t feel don’t feel is appropriate. In this case, because California Cabernet has a fairly uniform style, and I feel scores have more relevance, and may convey the quality I feel these wines possess.

Cain Cuvee NV8 

This Merlot based (48%), dual-vintage blend, is drawn primarily from the lush, but brooding 2008 vintage, with the addition of the brighter wine from 2007. The Cain Cuvee is an impressively svelte wine, designed to drink young.  Blended from a combination fruit from the estate, and purchased benchland fruit, it carries with it more fresh fruit character than Cain’s higher end bottlings, yet maintains the wineries  trademark of class and perfect balance.  Bordeaux-like is the goal, and Winemaker Chris Howell has great success here, giving the wine understated poise, yet detailed, persistent fruit. The nose, with its fresh cranberry and blackberry fruit, has an almost raw, carbonic element to it, when compared to the other wines, although I doubt this was the case. Chris’ practice of picking a bit early, is particularly evident with this wine, with its yin and yang of deeper, ripe notes, and slightly under-ripe fruit, and a hint of briar and dusty road.   Lean and long, this has just enough sinew to bind it all together, with its smooth tannins. This is a wine, that will age effortlessly for 15 to 20 years, due to its impeccable balance. It is the very end of the vintage, and there should be some on retailers shelves, but the distributor, Henry wine group is shipping the NV9.  91 points

2008 Cain Concept, “The Benchlands”

Cain “Concept”, which the winery has subtitled as ‘The Benchlands” because it is maded from all purchased fruit from the valley. The fruit for the “Concept” sourced from several top-flight vineyards, including Beckstoffer Georges III and To-Kalon.  If any wine is intended to be a Cabernet, this is it.  A soft, broad nose of berries, dust, perfume, blueberries, fresh herbs, and California olives. Typical Cain, with rich soft fruit, some classic, old school,(but not assertive) California Bell Pepper, earthy, berry fruit, dusty tannins, touch of peppercorn, and a creamy texture.. Really lovely, so perfectly balanced. Andre Tchelistcheff would be proud.  This wine will improve with a few years in the cellar.  92 points.

2007 Cain Five, Estate, Spring Mountain

All estate fruit, primarily of Cabernet from near the top of Spring Mountain at 1400 ft. Blackberry fruit, coupled with brown sugar, cream, toast, cocoa nibs, and fennel, but this is so integrated, that it’s difficult to separate the aromas. The mouth is more so this way, with mocha and the burnt sugar of toffee taking a more of the center stage. Texture is of black velvet, with a dusky, notes of wet earth, and musk to it, with complex notes from the brett wrapping up the impressive package. Balance is again paramount, with Chris’ fine tannins coming into play. The vineyard was replanted close to the ground, giving better ripeness to the tannins. An easy twenty year wine, but this shows exceptionally well now, and may or may not, improve with age. 95 points

1999 Cain Five, Estate, Spring Mountain

The aroma was so intoxicating, with its undefined floral, herbal, woodsy, and fruit aromas, it almost required no tasting. The palate is very broad and rich, with the earthy loam coming to the forefront, which was somewhat exacerbated by the wine’s cool temperature. The wine wass sweet, and herbal tones in the mouth, with the tannins gripping a bit more after it had been open a while. As it aired, the loam, herbs, and mocha, and spices have overcome much of the blackberry and raspberry fruit.  The earthy-musty quality of brett is  more evident in this bottling, along with some green notes, molasses, allspice, and clove began to stand outeven more  over time, some of which can be contributed to the aged quality which is expected of a 13-year-old wine.  The wine is immensely complex, and quite fabulous, particularly with the braised lamb (at Terra in St. Helena). With a black cod, notes of cranberry fruit tended to stand out (an even older Cain Five would have been even better with this dish). This wine is capable of  aging another fifteen years, easily. 95 points

Winemaker Chris Howell, Cain Winery, and the Taboo Subject of Brett.

harvest 2005 Spring Mountain District above th...

harvest 2005 Spring Mountain District above the Napa Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Cain Winery, and taste their wines with its longtime winemaker, Chris Howell. Chris has been at Cain for the past twenty three years, starting there as a consultant in 1990.  In the  past, I had dismissed these wines, as having muddied flavors, and rustic tannins, particularly from their flagship wine, Cain Five.  But over the last few years, the wines here definitely improved. Today, these wines really impress me for their elegance, beautiful complexity, and silky, fine tannins. I wanted to find out what had changed there.

“This is where the story really begins. This is where he drops the bomb.”

Of course, I began by telling him that I think he is making the best wines I’ve ever had from the winery.  I ask him what he feels he is doing differently, from, fifteen years ago, when the wines weren’t nearly as clean and polished. He answered by saying “Not much has really changed in my winemaking. Small things mostly.” That, and the vineyard had been replanted, with the rows being planted closer together, and the vines are trained low to the ground with vertical shoot trellising, “which allows us to pick earlier than anyone else; without over-ripeness.”

He hesitated. And then began again, this time in earnest, explaining that for the most part he had cleaned up the cellar of brettanomyces.  Brettanomyces, often referred to as Brett, is a bacteria that infects wine, gets embedded in barrels, and is easily transferred from barrel to barrel, and tank to tank.  A whole cellar can quickly be infected through careless cellar practices, and even if the wine is sterile filtered, the aromas and flavors of brett remain behind.  Brett tends to obscure the fruit in wine, and give wine muddy, musty, re-fried bean aromas and flavors. The English, who have learned to appreciate Brett, used to describe it as giving a wine Barnyard aromas. The French, being more direct, simply described Brett as Merde (shit).  Wineries have spent hundreds of thousands, and some big wineries have spent millions of dollars, trying to eliminate it.

This is where the story really begins. This is where he drops the bomb. In the future he said he wants to increase the amount of Brett from what is currently is in the wines. Chris feels that Brett, in small parts-per-million,  adds tremendous complexity and cohesion to a wine.  These are statements that are unthinkable to most winemakers, and I have to say, it’s not what I wanted to hear having recently become a big fan of the winery.

To this he added a note of caution: before he would open his cellar to brett, he wants to better understand it, and to have better control of it. “You can’t add a little, and expect it not to propagate,” he added.  He admits that there is not a lot known about Brett, if for no other reason that researchers don’t tend to study what most seek to eradicate, and can do so already. 

“Today’s winemakers have a sole focus on making a perfect wine, by selecting  perfectly ripe bunches, and from that, the most perfectly ripe berries.”

Chris expounded on a feeling I’ve increasingly had over the past few years: Today’s winemakers have sole focus on making a perfect wine, by selecting perfectly ripe bunches, and from that, the most perfectly ripe berries. Wines, as a result, are becoming much less interesting, and ultimately beginning to tasting all the same. He wants his wines to be a holistic entity, reflecting the vineyard, and the vintage; carrying with it, a much wider array of flavors, like more red fruits, earth, and some herbal components. there should be elements that make the unique and of a particular place, rather than the current quest for the perfectly ripe and ultimately homogeneous fruit character. He says he is using fewer new oak barrels, rather than running the risk of over-oaking his wines. His ideal of perfection, is to create a wine of great character, with great texture, and he thinks brett can be a tool to get there.

Chris is very  cerebral, and is constantly evaluating, probing, and fine tuning the winemaking at Cain. This is a common thread I’ve found among many of the very best winemakers. . But deliberate introduction of brett, this was a lot to swallow.  I, for one, will certainly be tuned into Chris’ work in the future. He is definitely not a trend follower and is certainly is blazing his own trail here. Maybe he will be the one who can learn to use, and tame Brettanomyces. The results will be intriguing to watch and I’m rooting for his continued success.