Friday, December 11, 2009

Trend Report: Single-Vineyard Bottlings

It’s probably a statement of the obvious, but one of the trends you’ll see more and more of in the coming year is an increasing focus on site-specificity, on bottlings that express the unique character of a particular terroir. And in few places is this more true right now than in the United States, particularly California, Oregon, and Washington.

It only makes sense, of course: As vineyard managers and winemakers continue to understand their land better, they become better able to match it up with the perfect clone of the perfect grape variety, coax out its essence through smart vineyard practices and well-considered winemaking, and create wines that, ultimately, hopefully, only could have come from that unique piece of the earth.

This is nothing new in the wine world--the Burgundians, for example, have known about it forever--but the increasing frequency with which it’s happening on this side of the ocean is an excellent sign.

And, in fact, some of the most exciting wines I’ve tasted in the past year have been from single vineyards. I recently had a chance to sample the wines of Knights Bridge, whose single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons were stunners. Their Knights Valley estate vineyard, Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, and Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard bottlings were nothing short of profound. Dutton-Goldfield, the standout Russian River producer, crafts great wines (I love their Pinots) from a number of single vineyards, including Sanchietti and Devil’s Gulch, among many others.

Heading north to Oregon, one of my favorite producers is Bergstrom, whose powerful and often Burgundian Pinot Noirs typically find a way to both be tied to their land and to nod in the direction of a thousand years of elegant Pinot tradition across the Atlantic. Their Bergstrom Vineyard, de Lancellotti Vineyard, and Shea Vineyard bottlings are some of the best this country has to offer. (Their 2007 Bergstrom Vineyard, in fact, was recently named one of the top 100 wines of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle.)

In the end, great wine is often separated from merely good wine by its honesty and by the way it expresses either the vision of the winemaker or the land in which its fruit is grown. When those two come together--well, that’s when the real magic finds its way into the bottle.


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