Review Philosophy

 

The major wine publications employing any sort of numerical rating system - typically a scale of 100 points - do no have, nor do they follow, any clearly stated, empirical methodology or criteria for awarding their scores. These numbers are: 1) based on preference and enjoyment of a particular wine in a comparative tasting, and 2) usually are the product of the author/taster arbitrarily assigning a point value based to their own notion of quality.

Our philosophy is that people want concrete descriptors of wine rather than poetic laudations and out-of-the-blue points that do not give a clear picture of the wine's characteristics: its smells and tastes, its mouthfeel and body and whether its components marry well or not. For this reason, each review gives a detailed, objective, description of each wine tasted. This is then followed by our opinion of the wine which takes into consideration the composition of the wine, its age worthiness, food friendliness and concludes with a food pairing suggestion. The detail section of the review gives production, cooperage and aging details. Background information on the component grapes, the year they were grown, the vineyard source and the winery are intended to help the reader gain a broader understanding of not only the wine at hand, but also of Central Coast wine in general.

There are those who feel that tasting, describing and evaluating a wine is like describing shapes you see in clouds: whatever one perceives is valid. That would be the case if each bottle with the same label contained a different liquid. The fact is that each wine grape variety is genetically programmed to expresses a specific set of aroma and flavor characteristics. These expected aromas and flavors are the result of the presence of substances produced by the grape berry during its time on the vine. Variations in the production, quantity and proportion of these substances are, in the whole scope of things, quite minor but attributable to clonal differences, farming methodology, microclimate and weather in combination with the winemaker's decision to harvest and their choice of vinification techniques. Just compare a Chardonnay of the same vintage from different producers.

These smell and flavor compounds are unchanging and they need to be learned in the absolute as one learns a language. The very same applies for wine flaws. These smells, flavors and textures may initially seem impossible to learn, but it can be done. It is an active learning process. There are a number of variably priced aroma kits available on the market. While these may offer a good starting point, it is important to note that some of these kits reproduce aromas with more fidelity than others. Since many of the aromas in wine can be traced to fruits and spices as well as other consumable products, a trip to a store to purchase those things may prove to be a more informative and more rewarding way of building one's aroma and flavor memory. Whatever your choice of reference aromas and flavors, being familiar with them and being able to identify them in wine for yourself allows you and us to understand each other. When we have this common language, our descriptions and reviews of wine will help you know what to expect of a given wine and allow you to make better informed purchasing decisions - not ones based on guesswork. Additionally, in the process of earning these things you yourself will learn not just more about wine but you will learn what it is in wine that you like.

Another trend in the wine writings of our time is one which asserts that if one enjoys a wine, the wine is good. While this is fine for personal enjoyment of any product, it is not a reliable way to communicate wine quality. This "enjoyment = quality" philosophy disregards the fact there are absolute standards of quality for any product or service: cars, hamburgers, doctors, toothbrushes and wine. Additionally, it disregards the fact that people have differing preferences. Many people enjoy wines that are imperfect and these wines can be interesting in their own right. We do not seek to invalidate people's enjoyment of a particular wine nor do we seek to in any way ridicule them for choosing a specific wine. We are not attempting to tell you what wines to like. However, we strive for accurate descriptions of the wines we review.

Nonetheless, people still want some kind of opinion of the wine in question. This is where interpretation comes in. Interpretation seeks to extract meaning from the findings. While accurate identification of the aromas, flavors, acidity, tannins, alcohol and textures leads to accurate description of the wine and better purchase guidance for readers, it also leads to advising the reader about the longevity of wine as well as its potential to pair with food and, most importantly, alerting the reader to the fact that the particular characteristic in the subject wine is a flaw - the result of faulty production or contamination of winery facilities. It is not uncommon that people will enjoy flawed wines, but it is the responsibility of the wine writer to hold a wine to the highest standards and scrutiny - irrespective of the taster's own preferences.

Arthur believes that while there is a level of artistry to winemaking, wine is as much the product of the growing region and conditions, farming methods and production techniques. A winemaker's stylistic inclination guides the whole process and the myriad of choices that result in the finished wine. Certainly, there are different standards for different types of wines produced in different parts of the world and even within California. Nonetheless, individual style should strive to showcase the local character of the wine, not mask it. Arthur has arrived at a way of judging a wine in a way that does not interject a single individual's preferences or tastes. Instead, he judges wines on the merits of component grapes, region grown and generally accepted expectations of a particular variety or blend. This rating system also considers what the wine was intended to be in addition to the traditionally accepted reference points for wine evaluation. This makes for a fairer evaluation of the wine. Some wines are made with lofty standards in mind and others are made to be average, approachable and straightforward. This means that not every wine will appeal to all. Whenever applicable, we indicate if a wine is likely to have very narrow and focused appeal.



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