Re "California wine? Down the drain," Opinion, May 5
Alice Feiring claims that "today's California wines are overblown, over-alcoholed, over-oaked, overpriced and over-manipulated," and she lays the blame on wineries' desire to please the critics. Perhaps Feiring doesn't know that there are almost 3,000 wineries in California today, according to the Wine Business Monthly. In addition, there are about 100 different American viticultural areas in California representing distinct grape-growing areas. It is ludicrous to lump all of these together with one label -- "California wines."
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, a festival dedicated to wines from all over the world made from grapes (such as Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne) originally grown in the Rhone Valley of France. Having met many of the California winemakers, I can tell you that most of them make the wine they want to make, not the wine they think is supposedly "dictated" by a wine critic.
I couldn't agree more with Feiring. I had a similar conversation with some friends over the weekend. There are plenty of non-rated, great-tasting and reasonably priced French and Italian wines to go around. My boyfriend and I haven't opened a California wine for years. We just cannot justify the price with the quality. For the same or similar price, I will always pay for a French Burgundy rather than a California Pinot Noir.
The subtle complexity of the European wine is what wine lovers enjoy. The process of letting the wine open, the slow sipping and the change of smell and taste as the wine opens up make wine tasting such a joy of life.
The simplicity of most California wine, with its ready-to-drink quality, takes all the myths and joy out of wine tasting.
"Shockingly elegant." "Gorgeous herbs." "Miraculous." While Feiring assaults "overblown, overpriced" California wines, the hyperbole of her screed is further over the top than the alcohol content in any of the Golden State vintages she cannot seem to enjoy. One of the wonders of wine is the variety of options available to those who enjoy drinking it. Her inflated use of language muddles what should be clarity of expression.
Jerome S. Kleinsasser
Feiring's slam at California wines, though entertaining, is sure to have many of our state's winemakers up in arms. A most fitting punishment would be to bind her to a Louis XIV chair while slowly dripping the 2005 Tobin James "Ballistic" Zinfandel into her mouth until she apologizes.
Wineboarding is not torture.
Dana W. Aswad