The 93pt Sonoma Coast Apology
Today, we begin with an apology. Members read our daily missives for many reasons. Some just like the stories. Others actually think we know what we're talking about and enjoy the educational tidbits. But most tune in every morning because a) we're sticklers about quality, and b) we're intransigent negotiators. Most of the time, all of this works in our favor. Not this morning.
We first tasted the 2010 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour early last fall. There's an old adage about Pinot Noir vintages. In the coolest microclimates, the warmest growing seasons are often the best. But in warmer spots, it's the cool years that provide all the floral magic. Compared to the other top Pinot Noir names on Sonoma Coast -- Kistler, Peter Michael, Morlet and Radio-Coteau -- Landmark, striving for a richer, denser, more full-throttle style, draws its fruit from earlier ripening vineyards.
In hot vintages like 2004, to our palates, Landmark underperformed. But in 2010 -- the coldest growing season on record -- the winery turned out one of its richest, most compact, Grand Detour Pinot Noirs to date. Glistening deep ruby in color, with explosive aromas of black cherry and raspberry preserves, the attack is broad, marvelously juicy and focused, all braced by the scintillating blackberry vibrancy of the vintage.
Almost nine months ago, we reached tentative agreement on a quantity to be earmarked for WineAccess. In theory, 1800 bottles would be set aside for us. But as to the offer price, we politely agreed to disagree. Landmark was at $30/bottle (25% off suggested retail). We held firm at $25, twelve dollars less than the lowest price in the country. Jointly, we agreed to revisit the price discrepancy in a couple of months -- after the critics weighed in.
First it was Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar that raved, calling the 2010 Grand Detour "lively and precise, with good depth, appealing sweetness and slow-mounting spiciness." But the 90 point addendum -- while a high praise from the stingiest Pinot Noir critic in the world -- wouldn't do anything to spike demand. One down, we thought. Two to go.
Then it would be James Laube of Wine Spectator who called Landmark's brilliant 2010 "intense and persistent, compelling yet begging for a cellar slumber. Best from 2013 through 2021." While we wished Laube had curbed his enthusiasm a tad, we figured we were still in the driver's seat. The adjectives were stunning, but Laube's 91 points would hardly ignite a buying frenzy. Two down.
For the better part of two decades, James Suckling was Wine Spectator's most revered critic. Suckling built a massive following, then left the publication to launch his own. When we read James's review of the 2010 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour, we wondered why Suckling hadn't simply retired in outside of Siena, basking in the Tuscan sun, drizzling cold-pressed olive oil over his morning bruschetta.
It was just fine with us that Suckling reveled in the 2010 Grand Detour's luscious black cherry opulence. Totally ok that he too was mesmerized by the luscious combination of red fruit juiciness and bracing, cool season acidity. By WHY did he have to compare Landmark's Pinot Noir with Chambolle-Musigny? And far worse, WHY did he have to lob on the 93pt rave that sliced our allocation in three, setting the stage for today's apology?