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California Burgundy

heartyburgundy Here's a riddle for you: When can you make Echezeaux in California? The answer: You can't, you have to wait until California comes to Burgundy. That's exactly what happened in 2003. I was living in Italy that year, our house tucked into the foothills of the Alps, and we baked for months. The television was full of the horrible news from France as thousands died from the heat. Burgundy was not one of the fatalities of that hot summer, but the vines and the wines did suffer as they did throughout Europe.

My gracious host for dinner last Saturday, winemaker Tony Rynders, brought me back to that sultry summer when he pulled a bottle of 2003 Echezeaux Domaine Dujac (find online) from his cellar. I admit I can't help but be thrilled by the appearance of a Dujac at any time.

Let's make no mistake about it, this is a very fine pinot noir. However, there is little to remind you of Burgundy, much less Echezeaux in this wine. Perhaps I'm nitpicking, but at $200+ a bottle I think picking a few nits is allowed. This is big pinot in the California style and I don't mean that as a criticism of the California style, although I prefer it in my California wines and not my Burgundy wines. While touches of stemmy whole cluster fermentation lighten the wine in a blind tasting you'd be hard pressed to spot this as a Burgundy. This comparison is interesting because it does not so much put down the Echezeaux as remind you how good the best California pinot noir can be.

While the best vintages are always from warm years, which produce ripe grapes that become rich, complex wines, it is also true that more is not better especially when it comes to pinot noir. Extremes of all types overwhelm terroir, in this case erasing Echezeaux and replacing it with an excellent pinot noir of indeterminate origin. As I remember the brutal and deadly heat of that summer it is amazing that Dujac produced a wine as good as this very hearty Burgundy.

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