I won’t drink my own Parker-rated wines, says California winemaker

  • Wednesday 9 January 2008

Robert Parker’s influence on Californian wines has forced winemakers to lose their sense of balance, says a cult Santa Barbara producer.

Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyard told newspaper the Los Angeles Times that his wines had ‘lost their rudder’ in trying to please the palate of the American wine guru Robert Parker.

Tolmach, who has made wine for 25 years, says that although he ‘got the scores’ he wanted, he found his wines moving further away from his own tastes.

‘I’d stopped drinking my own wines,’ he said.

Tolmach says he is looking to harvest his grapes earlier and pick less-ripe grapes in the search for balance.

The news will come as little surprise to those who have attacked high-alcohol wines in the past, including veteran wine taster and Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent and Napa Valley producer Randy Dunn.

‘Take 20 winemakers, and they are all thinking about alcohol levels,’ said Arcadian Winery owner and low-alcohol enthusiast, Joe Davis.

Ray Coursen, a producer in Napa Valley, agreed with Tolmach. He admitted that although there was a ‘lot to be said’ for bigger wines, they overwhelmed a meal.

‘One thing is certain, two people can’t share a bottle with dinner,’ he said.

The debate was further stirred by Burgundy wine critic Allen Meadows who produces the Burghound newsletter out of Los Angeles.

‘I flatly disagree that a 15% alcohol wine can be balanced,’ he said.

The LA Times highlighted Meadows’ comments on the 2004 Kistler cuvée Elizabeth Bodega Headlands which Parker gave 96/98 points out of 100. According to Parker, the wine was ‘bordering on perfection’.

‘While the size and weight and concentration are impressive, the texture is anything but elegant,’ said Meadows, giving it 86 points.

‘Consumers – wake up and get active. Reviewers -please at least include the labeled alcohol percentage in all your reviews, and try to remember that not everyone is spitting,’ said Dunn in July last year.

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