David Shaw, on the Case (of Wine)

Move over, King-Drew! Today in his ‘Matters of Taste’ column, David Shaw brings the full force of the LA Times‘s investigative resources to solving the mystery of an obscure local Pinot vintage, which, in an upset, may have won a wine tasting competition in France in the seventies. When Shaw hears rumors about this almost-three-decades passed incident, I think he speaks for all of us when he writes:

Wow! Like most wine lovers, I was, of course, familiar with the celebrated ’76 Paris tasting in which a 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet and a ’73 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay stunned the wine world by beating their French counterparts in a blind tasting. That event put California on the global wine map. But I’d never heard of a Pinot-Burgundy tasting with a similar outcome.

Shaw then sets out to locate this obscure long-lost vintage. Without spoiling the fun, let me just say that he finds his quarry. But in the final analysis, he sounds a little disappointed, although he uses the opportunity to once again a) brag about his wine cellar, and b) mention that he likes to drink low-cost wines with fried chicken, which to me just sounds gross. (Excerpt after jump.)

And what about Culton’s first vintage, that ’02 Hoffman Mountain Ranch Pinot?

I poured it a few weeks ago for guests at a casual dinner. For comparison purposes, I also poured a few other ’02 California Pinots I had in my cellar — a Bonaccorsi Pinot from the Santa Maria Valley, a Brewer-Clifton Melville Vineyards Pinot and a Williams Selyem Russian River Valley Pinot.


The Hoffman Mountain Ranch Pinot was perfectly pleasant, the fruit very forward, the length good. It was easy drinking, almost like a liquid bowl of strawberries, albeit a touch vegetal on the finish. But when tasted alongside the others, it didn’t fare any better than its “legendary” predecessor did in Beaune 26 years ago. No one among our crowd of seven ranked it No. 1, and only one person ranked it better than fourth among the four wines.

On the other hand, at $25, it was the least expensive of the four — the others were $34, $39 and $40 — and it was drinkable, especially with the fried chicken we’d bought at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.

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