Marcassin swings at La Tache but ultimately breaks arm patting self on back

The most recent newsletter from Marcasin (pdf), written by owner Helen Turley and husband John Wetlaufer, makes for fascinating reading. Consider some of the tidbits. Readers learn:
* They are avid observers of golf.
* Marvin Shanken asked Helen Turley to increase his personal allocation of Marcassin while presenting her an award from his magazine, Wine Spectator.
* Robert Parker tasted the wines with winemaker Helen Turley. I guess these weren’t among the “more than 60%” of wines that he purchases.
* Robert Parker loved them! More than La Tache 2006!

Really, the newsletter is shocking in the aggressive swipes it takes at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti-La Tache. At their tasting together, the Marcassin owners poured the ’06 for Parker alongside their ’06s. Predictably, Parker continues his cartoonish recent trashing of many Burgundies, calling the La Tache calling it “almost undrinkable (stemmy, metallic, frightfully tart because of green acid, and obviously made from underripe fruit.” Meanwhile he heaped praise on the Marcassin handing out high scores and calling it “prodigious.” It’s not that DRC wines are beyond reproach; rather, even though I have not had the pleasure of trying it myself, the wine has received praise from Burgundy fans. I suppose that it could possibly be acceptable of Turley and Wetlaufer to quote Parker’s reaction to their little experiment, no matter how self-congratulatory or unbalanced their reporting. Yet in the next section of their newsletter, they trash not only DRC for inconsistency but also all of Burgundy! Really, if this is really one of America’s best pinots, why just stand on your own accomplishments and not lash out at Burgundy?

Of course, whether Marcassin is, in fact, one of America’s best pinot noirs is highly debatable. Parker has not reviewed the wines of Burgundy personally for over a decade and was even sued by Faively, which united many producers in the region against him. The Wine Advocate lost much of the credibility the publication had for Burgundy. (I asked the Advocate’s new Burgundy critic Galloni what he was going to do try to recapture that; Galloni will also review California wines for the publication and it will be interesting to see his opinions of Marcassin.) But the Wine Advocate’s dearth of coverage in the region left a significant void for Allen Meadows and his publication, the Burghound. Marcassin’s strident newsletter has a certain fin-de-regime character, as if they feel the tectonic plates shifting in the wine world and know they are heading out to sea.

The Marcassin style is controversial. Consider these tasting notes. Here’s Robert Parker on the 2006 Blue Slide Ridge:

Extraordinary blueberry, raspberry, floral, and forest floor aromas jump from the glass of the 2006 Pinot Noir Blue Slide Ridge. This cuvee always possesses a fabulous texture, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and superb fruit concentration. The 2006, atypically evolved and complex at age three, is showing well already. This wine will be a huge success when released given its burgeoning complexity and amazing texture as well as richness. 97 points

And here’s Allen Meadow’s review of the same wine, but the 2005:

Burnt vinyl, alcohol and menthol aromas push the fruit to the background to reveal extremely dense and suave big-bodied flavors that coat the palate on the hot and short finish. This is difficult to like and it’s hard to see it aging well. 79 points

Incidentally, Meadows found the 2006 DRCs “indeed quite impressive as the natural elegance of the vintage and the traditional vinification approach melded to produce wonderfully aromatic and refined wines.” He called the 06 La Tache a “don’t miss!”

I know which of the reviews I will pay more heed to.

Read the July 2011 newsletter from Marcasin. (pdf)

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76 Responses to “Marcassin swings at La Tache but ultimately breaks arm patting self on back”

  1. I saw this and I was speechless. Not quoted here are the gratuitous shots taken at the Baroness de Rothschild, Corinne Metzelopoulos, the Duchesse de Mouchy and–really!–Tom Watson.

    The writers also explain just why the Burgundians don’t know anything about viticulture and casually mention that Randal Graham and Aubert de Villaine don’t understand winemaking and, by the way, the latter has terrible taste. It reads like a parody.

  2. Good post. I’ve had several Marcassin Pinots in the last five years. Most recently, I tried the 2006 Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters last month. In short, it was a mess. A disjointed, high alcohol, roasted dark fruit bomb. Marcassin should not even be mention in the same sentence with DRC or any other world class Burgundy. I also know which review to which I’ll pay attention.

  3. Marcassin is free to make what ever style Pinot Noir they chose to make and there will always be people who chose that style. What a sad world if everyone had the same taste in food, wine, books, music, etc. But to publicly denigrate an entire wine region is just poor sportsmanship. I’m sorry that Marcassin feels they can not celebrate their own style with out knocking others. That’s called insecurity where I come from.

  4. I have tasted Marcassin alongside Allen Meadows and agree: it is one of the worst, foulest California Pinot Noirs I’ve ever encountered. I think Parker [and others] painted himself into a corner when he first praised it, and then for years didn’t dare to appear inconsistent by trashing it. It will be extremely telling of Galloni’s honesty and taste to see how he reacts to his first dose of Marcassin.

  5. Not surprising. My wife worked for years at restaurant in Santa Rosa frequented by Helen and John. She said their arrogance was only matched by their cluelessness.

  6. A while back I had the good fortune of tasting three vintages of La Tache (96, 89 and 83) and then discussing each year with Aubert de Villaine. Now, every time I read a negative review of a young La Tache I am reminded that the best tasting wines were 20+ years old and the younger ones tasted like they were made of pieces that are still coming together, albeit delicious pieces.

    I’m not interested in hero worship, but if a house likes DRC makes something that is not blatantly obvious, don’t they, or doesn’t the bottle, deserve the benefit of some cellaring and further review? My notes on the older wines and my conversation with de Villaine are here:


    ‘Nuff said!

    But points sell…no one buying Marcassin is actually tasting it blind against a La Tache. They are drinking it, and saying, “This 98 point Pinot Noir is amazing!”

    It is very sad that someone like Helen Turley feels the need to resort to those kind of tactics, but I cannot say that I am surprised.

  8. What childish arrogance. Marcassin (and Martinelli, another (until recently) Turley monstrosity) make what are probably the most miserable examples of Pinot Noir that I’ve ever had.
    She’s done bad things for American wine over the years

  9. Unbelievable on so many levels. Just loved the way they tell us all that the Burgundians have got their viticulture all wrong.

    And then in the footnotes, the swipe at us Brits.

    Either arrogance, or ignorance – on a colossal scale

  10. My notes on the 2006 la tache:

    La Tâche 2006
    Quite a beautiful, aromatic nose: it’s super-elegant with sweet cherry fruit, as well as some notes of chocolate and roast coffee from the oak. The palate has a lovely density of elegant ripe cherry and berry fruit with spice, tar and mineral characters. Beautiful depth here: long finish with some tannic structure. Brilliant. 95/100

  11. What is so absurd is that, once again, Parker lied about his tasting methodology.

    Then, he lets a winemaker, with an ax to grind, pour him La Tache.

    How do we know the provenance of that btl? Maybe it cooked somewhere, and that is why they opened it for him?

    Parker, ever the pawn.

  12. Jamie,

    If you have never met John Wetaufer, then you just did.

    I attended an EWS tasting years ago, with Helen and John…he was so arrogant.

    I suggested some of the Chards were oxidized, and nearly went to the guillotine.

  13. He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself,will be exalted

  14. The Marcassin Pinots are always too high in alcohol and destroy a meal with their volatility. Pinot is about finesse and nuance….not getting your head knocked over by overly explosive high octane flavors!

  15. One wine is made for instant gratification, “atypically evolved and complex at age three”, while the other is meant to be cellared for at least 10 – 15 years before it will remotely be ready. This is a comparison of apples and oranges, and I would like to see the same reviewer revisit these wines in 2021 where I suspect he will find the former is vinegar while the latter will be fantastic.

  16. Wrongo Dongo, Alex! 😉

    Parker has the drinking windows for the Marcassins at 10-15 years…

  17. Perhaps DRC should start using cheap high toast American Oak I am sure their scores will improve!

  18. Marcassin’s wines are not even fun for immediate consumption. I’m by no means a “Burgundy or nothing” drinker of Pinot Noir; for example I quite like Lynmar who are hardly “Burgundian” in style. Marcassin (and Turley’s other Pinot monstrosity, Martinelli) are rarely recognizable as being Pinot noir.

  19. Daniel,

    Yes, just like so many other of those over-extracted and manipulated California and Australian wines which are supposed to live for at least a decade and which in reality fall apart after a few years in the bottle. I lost count of how many times I have been burned by his drinking windows for these wines!

  20. Mr. Wetlaufer, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  21. I’ll sum it up gracefully so that almost anyone can understand. What a crock of shit!

  22. Your style remains extremely negative, Dr. Vino. You continue to mock RMP’s WA. Parker has, by and large, uplifted the wine industry for the lifetime of the Advocate. Your transparent jealousy does not endear you to anyone. It also occurs to me that professional doctors are seldom NEGATIVE to their patients or their fellows. In your own words “if this is really one of America’s best…, why (not) just stand on your own accomplishments and not lash out at…? Perhaps YOU should make your reputation on your own rather than on the backs of successful professionals.
    Parker DOES buy 60% of his wine, at least. RMP has always championed that Burgundy has never done tremendous work on quality/richness, the Faiveley controversy was that he implied the wines received Stateside might not be what he tasted in barrel resulting in a $100,000.00 settlement. However, the WA was not diminished in reputation or popularity. In fact, Parker immediately dispatched another representative (at the time Pierre Rovani, a trade expert buyer for DC’s MacArthur Beverage)to cover Burgundy in his stead.
    I’m sure NO ONE sends you samples to TASTE (different than buying, tasting with a winemaker is an instrument of critical review). Here you manage to disparage Marcassin, Parker, Turley, Wetlaufer, Shanken. Nothing is wrong with Burghound or other reviewers and they have artistic license to publish their own personal opinions. These persons delight in the beverage and uplift wine as a luxury and as an industry.
    You should do the same and get off other people’s backs. You are obviously 1) not a doctor, 2) know nothing about vino, and 3)without your own palate.
    You bring nothing to the table but bother.

  23. Last time I had a Marcassin wine it tasted like a chem lab experiment, but it cured my cold.

  24. Mark

    It is great to offer your opinion, but on what basis of facts can you offer to show that Parker buys 60% of his wines?

    He tastes in CA for free. He tastes in the Rhone for free. He tastes in Bordeaux for free.

    When he reviewed Spain, he organized massive tastings of these wines, with various importers, on different days, at the Oregon Grille, in Maryland. All of the wines were poured gratis.

    When he reviewed Australia, he organized massive tastings of these wines, with various importers, on different days, at the Oregon Grille, in Maryland. All of the wines were poured gratis.

    Besides the occasional winery not sending him wine, so he has to go out and purchase it (and by occasional, I mean seldom, or almost never), how can you show that he is, in fact, paying for these wines?

  25. Congratulations and thank you on a terrific and fearless scoop.

  26. What wonderful reading while I eat my lunch!

    I have had one Marcassin, the 03 chard, and I loved it. Even though I will always pick French wine over anything else offered, the Marcassin was great.

    However, after reading the newsletter, I have lost all respect for the owners.

    Grower Champagne is my business, but I would never rip the big houses, or even Cali sparkling. Poor taste, Marcassin.

  27. I was at that tasting. The provenance of the La Tache was perfect. Freshly delivered from Young’s Market (shipped reefer).

  28. Why a California Cult Cab maven thinks she can produce a Pinot Noir is far beyond me. Oh, because she can sell it for inflated prices with her name on it…… ah right, carry on.

  29. So I read Dr. Vino’s post first, thinking that it might have been a little harsh towards Turley and Wetlaufer. Then I read the newsletter. The amount of arrogance in it is shocking…apparently Helen and John (in their own minds) know more than all of Burgundy’s vignerons combined.

    Oh, and Lee–you’re forgetting that Marcassin IS a cult cab…just read Parker’s tasting notes!

  30. Scott, you’re out of your mind to call it a cult cab.

    It’s a cult syrah.

  31. Cab? Syrah?? The problem is, her wines are so overripe, that one is hard pressed to know what grape they are made from (other than reading the label)

  32. You’re right, Craig! Parker does mention “spicy”, “blueberry” and “blackberry” notes…

  33. Never seen an arrogant newsletter like the one made from Marcassin estate. Really don’t see the purpose, they are not in the same market as DRC. Parker and Burgundy never worked, so it’s not a surpise, he should stick to Rhone and other heavy wines with high alcohol, he certainly understand them better than me.


  34. What is gained by comparing markedly different growing and wine-making techniques? Both are argued reference points in their style so why put them up for review without a panel of similar wines. I would draw the analogy of comparing a tweet to a hand written letter – both means of communication but crafted in a completely different medium.

    WA espouses judging the wine in the glass rather evaluating the wine’s roots, trajectory, and respect for tradition. Applying either filter to tasting and planning wine purchases should direct buying decisions easily.

    Where do I stand – to paraphrase @shitmysommsays “If you age that Parker 100 pt wine 3 years you will have the finest Oloroso”

  35. What a foul, rotten newsletter! I have never tasted the Marcassin, but after reading this, I’ll certainly avoid this wine. Who wants to drink a wine made by such loathsome (and clueless) people?

  36. THIS Helen Turley?

  37. Ah, yes, Helen “Everybody’s Out Of Step Except Me, So Sue Me” Turley. What a ridiculous broad. She has been fired from more jobs than I have had in my lifetime (including the paper route and counting each lawnmowing job seperately). And what does Mr. Helen Turley have to be arrogant about? He does the cooking and cleaning in their household, doesn’t he?

    Somebody needs to tell Parker that only a hayseed like himself would consider drinking the 2006 La Tache right now. You would think that David Schildknecht (94 on the wine) or Neal Martin (95-97 on it) would try to talk their boss, Wo Fat, down from the ledge, but apparently not. I suppose that you cannot blame them; utter anything other than “yes, Bob” at staff meetings, and no soup for you!! No Flannery’s 75-day aged prime ribcaps, either, nor any pastrami smoked salmon from Russ and Daughters, nor any Joselito jamon iberico de bellota (“black ham”, as Parker calls it, having never understood that it is the pata negra PIG, and not the ham, that is black). But I digress…

    I do rather admire Parker in his gout-ridden dotage, however. With every word that he utters these days, he shows us what fools we were for ever paying any attention to him. A newsletter chock full of absurd posturing by a pair of amateurs that the wine world (including all California estate owners, apparently) finally has the good sense to reject.

    Tyler, I was saddened to see you pulling punches in quoting Allen Meadows on Marcassin Pinots. Virtually all of his Marcassin reviews mention “burnt rubber” or “burnt vinyl”, along with such things as “odd note of talcum powder”, “menthol and cherry cough syrup” and “dill weed”, while noting overripeness, excessive alcohol and excessive new oak throughout. And the funny thing is, Meadows does not have in it for Turley. If you read through the reviews, he struggles every time out to say as many good things as he can find about the wines.

    And Mark Nichols, if you like wine, stop drinking the Parker Koolaid. Parker has not purchased 60% of the wines he tastes since his first couple of years of tasting, circa 1978-79. The reason for that was that a nobody was simply not allowed to taste in the winemaker’s cellars. He not only drinks for free, but he often places his orders for the wines that he praises with the winemakers, at the wineries. Who knows whether he pays for that wine or not. Your remarks are childish and naive, putting you squarely in the middle of what is left of Parker’s loyalists…

  38. This just in: I see that Marvelous Marv Shanken, having put Parker’s personal winemaker, Helen Turley, on the cover, has put Parker’s personal chef (well, for anything not cooked by Cindy Wolf or the kitchen at Vito’s Cafe, plus his wife’s lump crabcakes in season), Daniel Boulud, on the cover of the latest issue. Could this be Marv’s tribute to Parker upon the occasion of the latter being unceremoniously bounced into the street of passe wine critics? And does Boulud know that Molto Mario is the Galloni palace chef?

  39. I worked a harvest with Helen and while I signed a confidentiality agreement, this newsletter has gone too far. While this isn’t my real name, I feel obliged to spill the beans.

    Before she puts wine into her barrels, she had us pour 5 gallons of nail polish remover, exactly 12.5 cups of cherry flavored Kool-Aid, 1 pint of brandy and 1 pint of vodka into each barrel. After they were readied, only 90% of the the remaining barrel would be filled with wine for the life of the aging process. She openly told us that she wanted to maintain extra space in the barrel so the VA could grow to an astronomical level. This she said was how she maintained her 98 point scores.

    As for that special burnt vinyl flavor which is so distinctive, to accomplish this she would simply removes all of her clothing and lavish in each tank for up to 5 minutes. She never allows anyone else to do this work believing that only she had a distinct enough flavor that could impart that special vinyl note. She always maintained submerging herself past her waist.

  40. Anybody who has had the bad fortune to meet John Wetlaufer knows that this is pretty normal behavior on his part. He’s an angry, nasty piece of work. And universally loathed in the California wine community, as he should be.

  41. Salut Tyler,
    Super article! Ton approche est excellente et il est certain qu’un tel comportement dans le monde du Luxe est assez surprenant. J’ai pour ma part une grande admiration pour les grands Pinot Noir des USA comme Littorai…C’est vraiment dommage que Marcassin se positionne ainsi.
    Guillaume Jourdan

  42. […] the growing divide between fans of Robert Parker and members of the anti-flavor wine elite, Dr. Vino lambastes the most recent newsletter from Marcasin. Can’t we all just get […]

  43. I think most of you are missing the point. You have to think of this newsletter in the context of something like Fox News. This letter is going to people who are on the Marcassin mailing list and have been for probably some time. They LIKE the style of wines that this winery produces. Probably love them. I find them overly ripe and extracted personally, but they have their devoted fans. Wetlaufer (though admittedly arrogant and certainly deluded) is expressing sentiments that likely all of his subscribers share if not sympathize with). Wetlaufer is the Glen Beck of Pinot Noir, and must be appreciated as such: ultimately, a caricature.

  44. But Glen Beck is an asshole!

  45. Too all:

    Anyone that takes a shot at Randall Grahm (#1 hypocrite in the wine world) is all right by me. I thought the letter was well written, quite entertaining and would make anyone on the mailing list happy to be in the club which is the purpose of these things isn’t it? His viticulture philosophy is sound but to lecture Burgundy on viticulture and winemaking is childish IMHO.
    Whether you like the wine or not (and plenty of people do) show some respect for someone who follows her own vision of winemaking without compromise. Badmouthing the wine and the producer doesn’t elevate your presumed wine expertise or your self titled “wine coinsurer” image of yourself, all the things you criticize the dynamic duo of doing.

  46. I haven’t tasted the Marcassin wines, and after reading the newsletter, I am not sure that I care to (other than perhaps being curious if they are as bad as what is being claimed by many here). I do agree with most of the comments about the arrogance, pompousness and ridiculousness of the newsletter’s content; these don’t seem like people I would want to be associated with, personally or professionally.

    Unfortunately, much of the criticism is undermined by the fact that so many of the comments here reflect what is a larger (and apparently growing) problem in this online community of wine lovers – the petty rancor, venom and personal animosity that seems to lurk behind every comment.

    Mr Yarrow – you have a great blog. You contribute very positively to the larger experience of wine for many like myself. Why turn this into something political? It’s not necessary and undermines your objectivity and – ultimately – your credibility.

    Comments such as those by Mr. Klapp reflect a different, more troubling level of immaturity. His contribution – if that is what it can be called – comes off as a drunken rant from the wide eyed mob.

    I recognize the obvious personal joy many of you seem to get from being petty. But it’s really too bad in the long run.

  47. Mark,

    No intention to be political in the slightest. Regardless of your political affiliation, you have to acknowledge the sensationalist and dogmatic slant of both Fox and Mr. Beck.

  48. Last week, a good friend asked me if I had read the Marcassin newsletter accompanying the order form for the 2006 pinots. I had not yet received it, but I indicated i would read it when it arrived. He said he had read it, and also that he had reviewed the comments on the newsletter on this website, and he suggested I might want to look at them, as I have been a long-term fan of Marcassin wines, and also because I know John, Helen, and Bob Parker.
    The newsletter arrived yesterday, and I read it. Then, I opened this website and read the blogs regarding the newsletter and Marcassin wines in general. Having ‘blogged’ wines only once in my life, I feel compelled to provide an interpretation of the newsletter, as well as to the comments I have read on this site.

    First, with regard to wine newsletters in general, I read only a few of them, of which Marcassin is one. I find this newsletter both educational and exciting, written by genius winemakers dedicated to nothing short of perfection. Geniuses are in short supply in any field and are often defined by their beautiful, often bizarre, eccentricities. Their worldviews are always exaggerated because they are not like the rest of us, and often they do not suffer fools gladly. Most people are intimidated by geniuses and naturally tend to be defensive and critical of their quirks. Rather, we should embrace genius, as it is in somewhat short supply in these days of homogenized performance and mass communication. So, when one opens the envelope from Marcassin, one should expect — and hope for — an outrageous, challenging message of some sort, accompanied by detailed footnotes ‘proving’ the veracity of the commentary.
    Second, focusing on this particular newsletter, I was impressed by the humor and balance John and Helen exhibited. In the first paragraph, John appropriately lauds Helen for receiving recognition anyone — wine personality or otherwise — would love to receive. He also pokes fun at both of them by calling themselves ‘Calistoga recluses,’ thus setting the scene for what is to follow in the newsletter, namely, the reference to April Fools Day — again poking fun at themselves — and recognizing that they are not known to be warm and fuzzy people by way of reference to ‘being exposed to less than ideal circumstances of clients and colleagues.’ Yet at the end of the second paragraph, they tip their hats to Sonoma County artist Bruce Johnson, something they did not need to do, thereby exhibiting the personal warmth and appreciation they often can and do feel toward others. These are reclusive, protective people who generally keep to themselves and follow the beat of a different drummer, unlike so many followers and lemmings who walk the earth today.
    Third, all this was done to set up the commentary on DRC. Leading with the seemingly innocuous golf observation in the third paragraph ‘What once seemed so certain now seems to be fading fast…’ and ending the paragraph with the comment ‘Bad taste isn’t dead, it’s only sleeping (see below), and seemingly, can always be revived,’ they set the table for their pungent remarks regarding their perception of the poor quality of the 2006 DRC La Tache, a brand icon which meant so much to both of them in their personal history together and particularly in their joint journey which led directly to their winemaking careers.
    Fourth, they realize exactly what they are doing in the fourth paragraph, noting in bold letters this is ‘Not Your Standard Rant,’ and nodding to the immediately preceding statement at the end of the third paragraph that this will no doubt be considered to be in ‘Bad taste’ by many readers. However, the commentary on DRC reads more like an Old Testament lamentation rather than an indictment of all of Burdungy. As they say, they ‘have struggled with what, if anything, I wanted to say about it….’ the ‘1962 La Tache was the very first great Pinot we ever tasted, that we drank over a few decades, an anniversary case of 1966 with pleasure, and that bottles of 1978, 1980, and 1985 have been tasted or consumed without apoplexy or outrage.’ These words are written from the heart of two great winemakers who had been influenced tremendously by some great DRC burgundies, and who, having become great winemakers, are seriously disappointed by the declining quality they perceive to have occurred with one of the world’s iconic wine brands.
    Fifth, what follows in Section III of the newsletter is nothing less than a plea made directly to DRC to consider reviewing its winemaking and viticultural operations in an effort to deliver the kind of delicious and motivational wines they had come to know and love in the formative years of their careers. Is this ballsy? Somewhat pugnacious? YES! Is this arrogant — PERHAPS. But then, we are reviewing the comments of two ‘Calistoga recluses’ addressing an iconic brand they consider to be ‘fading fast’ in a manner which most will consider to be in ‘Bad taste’ when in fact the statements — anything other than a ‘Standard Rant’ — are provocatively brilliant insights into what might assist one of the great wineries in world history to recover its traditional greatness.

    So, my perception is different from most of those who have posted on this site. Viva la difference! We should all embrace disagreement, as it is from disparate views tht personal growth occurs. However, having read all the comments posted, I have to ask the following questions: Where is the civility? Is not wine about civility? Is not wine a beverage of culture? A beverage about which people can reasonbly disagree and have a great time doing so? The world of wine is huge and can accommodate every taste. I joke with the wine friends I know who I consider ‘burgundy guys,’ and they in turn joke with me about being a lover of ‘fruit bombs.’ At the end of the meal, we agree to disagree, hug one another, and feel the glow of conviviality all the way home.
    What I have difficulty understanding is why all the vile, hateful, malicious personal attacks on the likes of John, Helen and Bob Parker, professionals who have arguably changed the world of wine for the better and have helped all wine lovers by raising the bar of performance and wine criticism? Reasonable people can, and should, disagree. However, to engage in reputation bashing and scurrilous gossip goes way beyond crossing the line. Again, it is difficult being a mere mortal when in the company of genius, and I guess it is a natural reflex to want to diminish that which is beyond our own capabilities. However, we are all God’s creatures, made in His/Her likeness, and meant to enjoy what I consider to be the God-given beverage of wine.

    In Vino Veritas!

  49. Mr Facciani,
    You through around the term “genius” far too liberally. These winemakers do not play in the same intellectual arena as Gauss, Feynman, Dirac etc.

    As for your allusion to the “colossal fiction” at the end of your writing, I’ll leave that alone

  50. Gerry

    Love you man, but you lost me at calling these folks, “geniuses.”

    So, my A.D.D. kicked in, and I stopped reading.

    Where are the cliff notes?

    I do not think anyone faults anyone who questions the winemaking techniques of Burgundy. Heck, winemakers over there struggle with the traditional laws, that will not be changed. So, you work around it.

    I think the bigger disagreement comes with the comparison of 2006 La Tache versus 2006 Marcassins. I can speak to the validity of some DRCs not being great wines. I wrote a blog entry about the poor quality of the 2007s, after tasting them in NY. I was not invited back to taste the 2008s this past year. But, that was my honest assessment of the wines. I did not care for them, as a whole.

    The problem with the newsletter is the chest pumping caricature that Parker, and The Turleys play. The “We are never wrong mantra” about wine that is growing so tiresome amongst wine lovers.

    These are opinions, and should be treated as such. But, if you are friends with these folks, you should tell them to talk a few humility pills. Geniuses, they are not.

  51. The fact that many geniuses are assholes does not in any way imply that all assholes are geniuses.

  52. John and Helen are, as far as I know, both quite well educated, and, it seems to me, not in need of explanation of their remarks by other people. They said what they said. They’re grownups, for Christ’s sake.

  53. Yes, they are educated. And they are assholes. Educated assholes but assholes nonetheless, especially Wetlaufer. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people who would piss on him if he was on fire.

  54. QUOTE>>
    when in fact the statements — anything other than a ‘Standard Rant’ — are provocatively brilliant insights into what might assist one of the great wineries in world history to recover its traditional greatness.

    Just to be clear, Gerald, the viticultural observations and recommendations noted in the Marcassin newsletter pretty standard points, probably known to very wide cross-section of today’s grape growers.
    Now one might assume (as the newsletter has) that the folks at DRC are completely ignorant about basic concepts of vine balance, basic vine physiologival responses, etc.
    Alternatively, one might raise the possibility (again, as is done in the newsletter) that DRC simply cannot afford to keep a skilled staff of vineyard workers.

    I’d like to propose a different scenario, though.
    I find it hard to imagine that the domaine is ignorant of the matters discussed in the newsletter. I also find implausible the suggestion that the domaine can’t afford a properly trained staff.
    So, what we are left with is a situation where the people at DRC already know which steps to take to make their wines more like those of Marcassin, yet they refrain from implementing thes techniques.
    I’d invite Ms. Turley and Mr. Wetlaufer to think long and hard as to why that might be…

  55. Wine Advocate #186
    2006 DRC La Tache
    David Schildknecht
    94 Points

    Domaine de La Romanee-Conti’s 2006 La Tache possesses a sense of sheer density and a viscosity – by no means precluding energy – that go beyond the other wines in the Domaine’s current collection. Scents of bitter-sweet floral perfume, citrus oils, white pepper, peat, and black fruit distillates pungently, almost aggressively fill the nose. The marrow and beef gelatin aspect of this Pinot is salient, but is allied on a palpably tannic palate with similarly impressive concentrated cooked black fruits, dark mushroom stock, forest floor, smoky Lapsang tea, and licorice. For grip and power, too, this surpasses its stable mates. But a glance back at the Romanee-St.-Vivant suggests that you can’t have it all, and that this La Tache cannot approach that wine’s finesse or quite equal its mystery. Still, I suspect this will be worth following for at least two decades.

  56. @bob levering. Ha! It is interesting enough to compare the language employed by Mr. Parker and Mr. Schildknecht, much less their opinion. Parker’s voice is that of a sophomoric enthusiast–filled with redundancy, hyperbole, and judgement. While I would read a collection of Schildknecht’s reviews like I would a book of poetry. They are transporting. They take you there–to the experience–regardless of his preference.

  57. Neal Martin, also of the WA, scored 2006 La Tache, 95-97 points…”This barrel sample has a crisp, arresting nose of blackberry leaf, a hint of red cherries, a stalky element that lends it a sense of urgency. The palate is sensuous on the entry leading to an overtly minerally mid-palate with hints of Doris plum, blackberry and blueberry. Like all great Burgundy wines, it has a telling crescendo of intensity towards the finish of boysenberry, blackcurrant and briary. Great potential: I suspect that this might actually be better than the 2004 La Tache.”

    Way up the line, this was my point that is now being mentioned…It would appear that Bob Parker is out to sabotage the wines of Burgundy. He went 4 years with virtually no coverage of it in the Wine Advocate, as David Schildknecht’s notes never made the print edition, were never timely, and Parker did not seem to care.

    How can anyone take his comparison seriously? So, why did Helen and John do this? Has DRC really changed its wine style from thos legendary 1985s that they mention? No, in fact, John and Helen’s issue is that that they have not changed. Well, if it worked in the 1980s, why can’t it work now?

    No true Pinot lover is turning to Marcassin as its benchmark. YOu may like the wines, but do not say that they resemble Pinot Noir.

    Let’s also not forget Parker’s TN on 2006 Clos de Tart. While Neal and David both scored it 93 points, Bob gave it 76 points and had this to say…”The biggest disappointment was the 2006 Clos de Tart. Like so many red Burgundies from 2006 seem to be, it was underripe, excessively acidified, and almost textureless. It’s a sham, and it’s amazing how few people are willing to stand up and admit such stuff exists.”

    It was paired with Veal Parmigiana at Vito’s Cafe.

  58. Vito’s Cafe better have their defibrillator gassed up. They might want to call their concrete guy to set up a wheelchair ramp as well.

  59. OK, so I am reading thru the Marcassin newsletter (per the link at the start). It is a bit narcistic. Or narcicistic. OR whatever, self involved. Go kiss your own mirror. On Burgundy, they claim that Burgundy is not really a region I or II, but is really a region 3 as far as heat goes. Really???? Then how come the DRC wines keep coming in as green and too acidic? Same with Leflaive? Actually, the first question should be, why are Helen & John serving DRC and Leflaive to Parker??? Can’t he afford them on his own dime?

    OK, back to the newsletter. 17 inches of rain on average during the growing season? IN Burgundy?? During the growing season? Do you include March & April when heavy rain has a lot less impact on ripening? 17 inches? I wonder. Wait, didn’t the newsletter say it is too hot? With all that rain too? Why don’t they just quit grapes and grow avocados? Or, at least, olives? Like those dummies in Italy.

    Then, the “fact” of how Burgundy vignerons run their vineyards. All the same? No differences among growers? No fights between old & young on how to do it? No fights between neighbors? Really? All of Burgundy operates the same way, and they are all wrong? They don’t know nuttin bout photosynthesis, sugar, carbo, and fruiting versus vegetative growth? Still in the dark ages on what these crazy vines do when you turn your back on them for just 10 minutes?
    Must still be shell shocked from too many Brigitte Bardot movies, coming right after being overrun by U.S. GIs liberating France, yea, that’s right, those yucks in Burgundy are still in shock.

    I can’t wait for “the Book”. Maybe they will get Henny Bogan to write the intro? Teach Amerine and Roessler a thing or two about chemistry. Are there any school teachers out here, Strunk, or White, in blog land who could offer some insider opinion regards the fine prose and sublime style in the newsletter?

    Sheesh. I have had the good fortune to taste Leflaive a few times, no DRC, but spent a few years peddling Robert Groffier wines, some Roumier, some Bruno Clavelier, Hudelot-Noellat, and such. To a few Frenchmen in the San Francisco market. Oh, yeah, a few locals would also occasionally buy a bottle or 2 of Bonnes Mares or Clos de Beze, or Romanee St. Vivant. Some Batard Montrachet. (Oh, my, what heaven!!!) Neither I nor most of my customers would call those wines green and acidic. I can try, but, no, not gonna happen. Call me naive, but I jus don gettit.

    Why, oh why, is it so important for them, in a newsletter that is 3 months late, to spend most of it taking an uncalled for swipe at Leflaive and DRC???

  60. “Comments such as those by Mr. Klapp reflect a different, more troubling level of immaturity. His contribution – if that is what it can be called – comes off as a drunken rant from the wide eyed mob.”

    Mark, first of all, let me assure you that everything that I post is posted stone sober, so mark that one off of your list. Also, I assume that you must have meant the “eyes-wide-open mob”, to distinguish people like me from the denizens of the Mark Squires Bulletin Board on, most of whom comprise the “eyes wide shut mob”. They inhabit a closed board of closed (and very, very small) minds, devoted to the blind worship of their hero, The Emperor of Wine himself. You do not have to like what I say or how I say it. Fair enough, that. But to attribute your dislikes to my “immaturity” is something of a non sequitur, methinks. I have read virtually everything written by Robert M. Parker, Jr., as well as every other major wine critic, for almost 30 years. When I lay waste to Parker, it ain’t always pretty, but I will assure you that it is also rarely refutable. Whatever Parker might have been once, he has become an arrogant, self-absorbed man who surrounds himself with yes men and lives the high life (well, his rural, middle-class fantasy of what the high life should be) at the expense of people like me, who have been paying his bills for the past 30 years. Not exactly my choice for “the independent consumer’s guide to fine wines”. There is little evidence of the vaunted “gifts” that he was claiming in the early 80s, and mounting evidence that he is little more than a passionate snake oil salesman who was in the right place at the right time. He does make a charming drinking companion for the likes of Turley and Wetlaufer, however.

    Here is the deal, Mark: Parker is on his last legs as a professional wine critic. When he disappears, the anti-Parker voices, strident like mine and otherwise, will disappear with him. You need to read some of Parker’s posted material over on eBob, which make the BS in the Marcassin newsletter seem quite tame. He gives as good as he gets, and might prove a worthy foil for his many critics were he not so narrow-minded and self-righteous…

  61. Parker promotes technological wines which taste
    concentrated, sweet, round and woody. This is rather cheap to achieve and easy to sell.

    Parker’s wine approach is the absolute counterpart of traditional Burgundy wines which are terroir wines: i.e. their flavor comes mainly from the soil. To get the complexity of the best Burgundy terroirs (marl,red earth etc…) Pinot Noir should not be harvested too late, extractions should be soft and wood is not part of the picture.

    Pinot Noir properly done can truly reveal the best of the terroir. For geological reasons
    parcels distant from 100 meters can yield really different wines. This has been known for 1500 years in Burgundy when Monks started enclosures (Clos de Beze). Parker did not exist at that time.

    I think that there is enough bad wines for Parker and co to sell. I also think that his influence in Bordeaux have been very negative
    yielding very standardized industrial and vulgar wines. I am talking also about the “grand crus”

    Fortunately Burgundy producers have been wise and quite reluctant to do business with him.
    I heard long ago about stories with DRC and Parker: I understood that they refused to send him samples (to be confirmed ? this is not first hand)… I think that Burgundy just does not net need him. Hopefuly wise guys in Burgundy won’t change the way of making wines there that has been understood for 15 centuries.

  62. […] Vino posted an item on his blog last week about the latest newsletter from California’s Marcassin Vineyard. […]

  63. […] tons of buzz, so regardless of where you come down, check it out. (For background, check out Dr. Vino’s take on the most recent newsletter from Marcasin.) For the record, I’ve never tasted a Marcassin […]

  64. I kind of agree with Alder here – not that it’s an excuse for the newsletter and its tone, but it is a publication meant for the already-converted, isn’t it? So we shouldn’t be all that surprised that it takes the tone it does.

    Tyler – you know I love your blog but damn, bro, you need to upgrade this comment system so people can follow along to threads within the posts and reply directly to one another… I know, in your spare time, right? 😉

  65. Interesting debate. I’ve never had a Marcassin Pinot that I’ve enjoyed, while the 06 La Tache is a great wine in my view. To take a swipe at Burgundy when you haven’t the first idea about how to make nuanced Pinot Noir is risible. Keep up the good work, Tyler.

  66. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have both been used to make an increasingly wide range of wines since they were first exploited in places like the Americas and Australasia. Marcassin is at the opposite – caricature – end of a scale to, say, genuinely weedy green examples of these grapes from Champagne in a cool vintage. What is interesting about this story is the need by the Turleys to lay into Burgundian winemaking some 25 years after that kind of shot might have been valid (and in days when the DRC did make wines that were less impressive than they are today.
    Anyone who knows anything about Burgundy, or Pinot Noir, will have seen an extraordinary revolution in winemaking in the region, comparable only to what we have witnessed in Italy and Portugal. This has always been a region of individuals who did their own thing (I lived there for 5 years in the 1970s/80s and I remember neighbours using very different techniques) but today they do so with the benefit of knowing what is being done elsewhere. Thankfully – very thankfully – few of them see any need to mimic Marcassin

  67. Indeed, Marcassin is the style of Pinot Noir that I venture as sweet, lacking vitality and thus, ‘drinkability’. One glass, ‘is too much!’, I tell my Japanese students. Of course, they will decide on their own. But for all their derision of Burgundy, perhaps the Turleys & Wetluffs of the world could taste the likes of Farr Rising, By Farr, Bindi, Eyrie & other NW luminaries with real drinkability, before stepping in it! They too, perhaps, don’t have their viticulture right! Thx Tyler


    Looks like Helen, Johnm and Bob are making a difference in Burgundy! 😉

  69. Hey, Dr. V, has any other post generated as many comments as this one? It has been very interesting to follow.

  70. On one point I agree completely with Helen and John: Bruce Johnson is a great artist, and a great guy.

  71. If only Bob and friends would admit their bias, this politicking would all be so much more forgivable.

    I feel there is plenty of room for both wines in this world. One pairs well with food, and the other with cigars. It’s unfortunate that the latter is already so entwined with the arrogant attitude of Marcassin’s creators.

  72. […] controversy came to light through Dr. Vino, wine’s foremost pot-stirrer who has a great eye for this stuff, and was whipped up further […]

  73. […] looks at the kerfuffle that has erupted over the most recent newsletter from Marcasin, led by Dr. Vino and Slate’s Michael […]

  74. Even with Bob putting their letter on his website in the hall of fame (or whatever he calls it), I don’t see prices or demand for DRC falling. LOL

  75. […] are right Emile, I like the context of the original article – though. I was going to do a bit of Friday Parker-bashing in the diary (cartoonish was a good […]

  76. Hi, great blog however there is a problem whereby sometimes I get redirected to the root page when I view different pages within your website.


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