Would you pay the master’s price for a local apprentice?

Have you ever said, “I cannot wait to get home and pop open a bottle of red California Trousseau!” It’s not likely since the grape that hails from the Jura region of France is pretty rare in California: Only 49 tons were crushed last year (compare that to 400,000 tons of zinfandel; but since it fetched as much as $1,700 a ton vs an average of $442 for zinfandel, maybe the premium will attract future plantings). But maybe you should? Assuming the wines are done well, I think the expansion of grape varieties beyond the Big Six is potentially one of the most exciting stories to come out of California, nay, all of America.

A while back, I tweeted about Trousseau (noir) from Arnot-Roberts, a wine that I liked. The Sonoma-based winery sources the fruit from Luchsinger Vineyards in Lake County’s Clear Lake AVA. Bryan Garcia, a savvy 24-year-old wine geek from NYC, tweeted back exclaiming that California trousseau is more expensive than the Jura masters!

It’s a fair point. But if all the Trousseau lovers of America bought only Jura wines, who would buy the domestic Trousseau wines–zin fans? Somehow, I doubt it. And without demand for offbeat wines, producers would would likely give up making them commercially.

More broadly, what do you think: do you have any sense of obligation to buy local or domestic wines because you like the idea or the story, even if you find them not price competitive–or even quality competitive, as Bryan suggests by invoking the “masters”?

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19 Responses to “Would you pay the master’s price for a local apprentice?”

  1. Don’t even get Bryan started on Riesling from the Fingler Lakes vs. Mosel!

  2. An obligation to buy locally produced? Who knows, maybe there’s a market for Chicago Shiraz or a Cook County Cab!

  3. Bryan only buys stuff Chambers tells him is cool 😉

  4. The best part of Chambers is that they don’t tell you what to buy!

  5. I always try to get local wines or offbeat grapes as often as possible – good way to broaden the palate!

  6. I think Bryan brings up a valid point price wise. I would be more than willing to try multiple bottles of Arnot-Roberts Trousseau if it sold for $19-$25 a bottle, but instead it’s $35+, and for me that’s expensive wine. The most I have ever spent on a single bottle for myself is $45-$50. I have a couple of bottles of Bourdy Jura wine, and they cost me $18.

    To answer the question more directly, no I do not think I have any obligation to buy domestic wines, well priced or not. I have limited income and I will buy the wine I like or I think I will like, and I usually only experiment in the $15-$25 range. I feel the same way about this issue as I do with cars. If Ford wants me to buy American, then make a cheaper car that runs better than a Honda for the same price.

    I wanted to jump on the Arnot-Roberts bandwagon after your posts because they excited me, but their prices are just too much. I know it’s limited production, but I feel I can get just as good of wines in the same style from elsewhere for cheaper.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with Sam. That being said, today I bought a Dolcetto from Bonny Doon for $20. I don’t even pay that much for an Italian Dolcetto. But the advice I got was positive, and I like the story (it’s Randall Grahm after all). And if I’m disappointed by the wine, I’ll go back to Euro-only wines.

  8. I’ve had the Trousseau in question, and it is quite good.

    For American wines one has to simply ignore QPR – sad, but true.

  9. You gotta be kidding. Obligated?

    One fact Roberts hesitates to disclose: His grandmother is Margrit Biever Mondavi, Robert Mondavi’s widow, who helped design the Arnot-Roberts label. His mother, Annie Roberts, was executive chef for 25 years at Robert Mondavi Winery.

  10. How many Trousseau lovers are there in America? They should be allowed to find their Trousseau where they like, without guilt.

  11. What’s the sudden interest in Trousseau? Last year I spent a week in the Jura, and didn’t think much of Trousseau, although it was better than Poulsard. On the other hand, the Bonny Doon Dolcetto I had tonight was quite good.

  12. Feeling a sense of obligation towards buying Californian Trousseau is kind of like feeling an obligation towards buying CA pinot so that it might compete against the Côte d’Or.

    Markets are a beautiful thing. If the stuff coming out of Cali is competitive and well-received, it should do well. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t do well. And if it’s a matter that Roberts and Meyer are overpaying for their Trousseau grapes and overcharging for their production, both should come down too.

    Trying to support a varietal just for the sake of innovation seems silly to me.

  13. The concept of obligation is too demanding to apply to this issue. It might be a good thing to support innovative, local wines if you can afford it but I don’t see the basis for an obligation.

  14. No obligation. As a consumer, though, you’re limiting yourself if you don’t acquire a strong knowledge of what is available locally. And in fact, that’s what bothers me most regarding the local wine situation: Restaurant managers and store managers often fail to show much support for local wines – without having much of a clue of what they’re talking about.

    Now, if they don’t dig the wines, I don’t think they should carry them. If they find the wines to be of poor value, I don’t think they should carry them. But outdated assumptions and laziness drive me nuts. So the only obligation I see is to make an effort to stay current.

  15. I live across from Fanucchi Vineyards where the Trousseau Gris comes from, and did a small amount (30 gallons)this year for a orange wine full skin contact fermentation.

    As someone who lives in the area as a blogger for 3 years, and now is a vintner, your fruit price comparison is off.

    Your comparison of whats paid for fruit isn’t really portraying the market. No one in Sonoma County is paying $400 a ton for zin – that may be the state average, is my guess, which is weighed down by the massive guys buying in Central coast etc.

    Good zin will be ~2k a ton, which is normal.
    I pay 2000-2400 a ton for 5 different varietals here, 2k is pretty normal for a white, so $1700 a ton is actually below market for a rare varietal in my opinion.

    Btw Wind Gap has been making Trousseau Gris for a few years as well, and just released their full skin contact ‘orange’ version – check it out.

  16. ah Trousseau noir, not Trousseau gris…then heck $1700 a ton is a Bargain!! 🙂

  17. I would support local wineries that provide varietals that may be unique or rare (relatively) in the US. I buy Tannat, Vermentino and Picpoul Blanc from Tablas Creek (Paso Robles) and look for different varietals from other producers. Several years ago I asked a wine maker in Madera, CA why he did not bottle his carignan as a single varietal and his answer was that he needed to make money. Hopefully that will eventually change.

  18. Love this post! What an education for me.

  19. […] post here from last year generated interesting discussion around the question of relative value and whether if you’re a Trousseau lover, you feel obliged to support […]


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