IPNC 2016 continues with a Pinot panel called Genetics 325: Evolution of House Style. It has near to nothing to do with genetics, but oodles to do with the human influence on wine.
The panel includes Adam Campbell of Elk Cove and Antoine Gouges of Domaine Henri Gouges. But the real elephant in the room is Jim Clendenen. The adorable local and Frenchman have no chance against Jim, of Zaca Mesa and Au Bon Climat. Here’s a bit of his life story:
Jim aside, we taste six wines, two from each maker, highlighting variations in their house styles.
Elk Cove Vineyards’ Mount Richmond 2012 is young, purple, and clear with medium aromas of caramel, raspberry syrup, and spiced nutmeg. Acids are high but in check. The alcohol worries me. But with time this will become interesting. Whole cluster picking add some spice. Very good (4 of 5).
In comparison 2009’s Elk Cove Mount Richmond shows more complexity and mellowness. Rhubarb, cherry skin, and toffee come through. This is very good as well (4 of 5). Yet I don’t care for this caramel thing in their wines.
Next, big Jim. He is certainly more of a figurehead these days, but still has much passion for where wine is going. His 10-15 vineyard blend Isabelle is most certainly their house wine. Terroir is secondary to creating their style. Made for his daughter Isabelle, he even sourced fruit from Oregon for the first vintage.
2013 Au Bon Climat Isabelle looks a bright ruby color. Pronounced but taut aromas of all spice, caramel, dry cedar, and mint lay over ripe cherry. The palate is bright, light, and layered. Very good (4 of 5).
Au Bon Climat’s 2008 Isabelle comes from a frosty, brittle vintage. Nonetheless, it drinks beautifully. For all Jim’s bombast this garnet colored wine flaunts dried mint, anise, worn leather and oodles of raspberry fruit. Their are hints of fading glory but it still has a few powerful years in it. All balance. Outstanding 5 of 5.
Next, the soft spoken, matter of fact Frenchman: Antoine Gouges: 4th generation winemaker from Nuits Saint Georges.
2006 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Les Vaucrains vineyards was his uncle’s last vintage. It is all dark, medium plus ruby colored core. Aromas and Flavors are beefy and ripe, redolent of blackberry syrup, rubber, and cinnamon. The tannins are grippy. It is very good (4 of 5) but entirely due to a house method of heavy punch downs during fermentation.
In contrast, Antoine’s first vintage, 2006, looks, smells, and tastes lighter, brighter, subtler and cleaner. Think cherry skin, anise, black mushroom, but refreshing and lean. You can thank closed concrete tanks. It is very good (4 of 5) and far more flexible a wine.
In sum, House Style was a great panel. They broke from our obsession with terroir. Although I wish they would have mentioned yeast selection, as that is a great tool to tailor a wine with.