"Questions answered. Answers questioned." All about Pinot (1 of 2)

“So why would somebody choose cane pruning, given all the labor involved?” I asked Webster. Perched on a hillside vineyard hundreds of feet above the valley floor, we were ignoring a view in favor of the task at hand. Stepping from vine to vine, we’d select the two best grapevine canes, trim off the rest, and tie the strongest one to the trellis, reaching horizontally towards the neighboring vine. Finally, if we succeeded without breaking the cane, the second “back up” cane was cut off, leaving a single “cane trained” vine.

“Cane training is more labor intensive, and can only be afforded when the wine’s price supports the cost” Webster explained, “Cane training involves either two canes extended in opposite directions from the trunk or in more densely planted vineyards, a single cane extended towards the neighboring vine.”

Webster is a partner in a small Pinot Noir producer – the kind we like to discover and support. Some such producers tend vineyards owned by others in order to assure their grape quality – sort of a modern version of share cropping, but more equitable. My wife and I had spoken with the partners many times as we passed this vineyard, but this time I’d offered to help with the manual labor in exchange for some knowledge.

Webster continued, “By training a new cane each year instead of simply growing canes from a permanent cordon, or trained branch, the new growth is less likely to be diseased, and we feel it produces better quality fruit (Illustrations). Of course, such decisions are driven by the style of pinot you have in mind and the results of experiments in your own vineyard – each pinot vineyard responds a bit differently to each decision you make…”

This is but one example of why wine drinkers find pinot so alluring – it responds differently to so many conditions, from the vineyard to the glass. As such, the number of decisions an artisinal producer can make is constantly increasing, and their combined affect on the wine is like no other.

Mirroring the fervor of the producers they adore, true pinot lovers are constantly driven to seek “the next great producer”. Old-time pinot lovers look on the wine’s recent popularity with some dismay, feeling as if the whole world has discovered their great little hobby and made it more difficult to acquire their treasures. But newbies and veterans alike agree that our pinot selection service is useful. We take our responsibility seriously, tasting new pinots almost daily on behalf of our subscribers. Here are some new releases we are proud to introduce:

New Releases!

  • Roessler Cellars, 2004 La Brisa Pinot Noir still just $28.
    This lovely wine from cool Sonoma Coast vineyards was a sell-out hit when we introduced the 2003, and we wouldn’t have this allocation of the 2004 if I hadn’t called and bugged the winery for more. The original release date for the ’04 was this summer and when I learned it had been moved up by four months “because it’s tasting so great now”, I wondered if it was the cash-flow talking. But pulling a bottle from our precious allocation quickly qualmed my cynicism – I should have known the Roesslers wouldn’t release a wine that wasn’t great! An amazing price from this reliable pinot-only producer. I haven’t seen production numbers for this new release, but the ’03 produced less than 600 cases.
  • Casa Baranca 2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Organic) $30 (“Miles’ Selection” subscribers will see this wine in April shipments!)
    I first tasted this wine at the 2006 Pinot Noir Shootout in March – a blind tasting of 40 Pinots selected from 230+ entrants. My notes said "Likely expensive and highly popular. Opulent, with mouth-watering sweet-tart cherries, pleasantly integrated sweet spices and a touch of gaminess. Nice acidity!" I was pleased to see that this wine was in fact, NOT expensive, as pinot goes! But I do believe my intuition was right about it becoming popular – time will tell. Just 350 cases produced!


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    Quote of the Week:
    "Small and mid-size wineries are driving the changes in California wine. They are the market innovators…"
    Vic Motto, Wine Industry Consultant