Okay, so now I have tasted a Marcassin Pinot Noir. The 1997 Marcassin Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, to be exact. This was presented to me as a dare the other night after I had written that I hadn’t experienced Marcassin so was not qualified to take sides in the controversy between Marcassin owners John Wetlaufer and Helen Turley against the entire world of Burgundy lovers.
The occasion was a dinner party planned before the Marcassin v. Burgundy court case erupted. My guests were Lanny Lancaster, a devoted pinotphile, and Rutger de Vink, a Virginia vintner who is producing stellar Bordeaux blends an hour west of Washington, D.C. I’d invited them because I thought they’d hit it off as fellow wine lovers, both with a swashbuckling swagger and military backgrounds that I definitely don’t share. To be sure, the conversation devolved to talk of marksmanship scores that were more impressive than my SAT marks, so I just sat back and soaked up the wines they had brought while the testosterone filled the air.
One of those wines from Lanny’s cellar was Marcassin’s 1997 Sonoma Coast bottling from Marcassin Vineyard. Far from the “vile” wine that many people commenting on Wetlaufer’s recent newsletter described, it was rich, earthy and delicious. I would even say fresh, and not at all tired for a 14-year-old wine. It did seem a bit hot, though the label gave the alcohol as a relatively modest 14.1%. But it was quite good.
(The Marcassin label features a wild boar in armor and a robed female figure grasping a chalice of wine. The woman is holding a scepter over the boar as if to admonish it, or perhaps bless it. The symbolism seems to be the crass New World challenging the classical Old World, which would certainly put a literary air on Wetlaufer’s critique of Burgundy. Or maybe there’s a Beauty and the Beast angle to it.)
We had some other stellar wines that night, including a magnum of Comte Armand Pommard “Clos des Epeneaux” 1999 and a Williams Selyem 2007 Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir. (I won’t even mention the whites.) These weren’t tasted together, but in succession, so it wasn’t a competition. Just wine geeks having way too much fun. The Pommard was by no means dirty or underripe, the usual complaints of Burgundy detractors. It was elegant and delicious, and I could have lingered over it through several discussions of marksmanship or other manly accomplishments.
Which brings me back to my original point – why do we need all this ideology and nationalism in wine? I certainly don’t agree with Wetlaufer’s diatribe against Burgundy, but based on this taste I can appreciate his and Turley’s 1997 interpretation of pinot noir. Sure, we each have preferences and viewpoints, and all to the good. And I favor some crusading about how wine is made (additives, for instance). But in the end isn’t it all about the enjoyment of food and friends?