Scherrer Vineyards – Mr. Massie Goes to California

(taken from my first report on these wines; a report that introduced these fantastic wines to our portfolio…these Pinots remain a part of our selections to this day…)

        While my recent discoveries had nothing to do with politics or a 1939 movie, I take some solace in the fact that not every voyage yields the anticipated results.  Hence the comparison of my ‘journey’ to the one taken by Mr. Smith in 1939.  In other words, my eyes were opened wide by the events as they unfolded before me.  Or more specifically, before my palate. 

        This journey began as I sat at my desk reading the one wine journal I wish I had the time and financial vigor to author, ALLEN MEADOWS’ BURGHOUND.  There it was, intriguing and at the same time unbelievable.  Meadows was reporting the results of a marathon tasting event.  Organized by one of his long-time friends, Kevin Harvey, it appeared the goal was to sample as many of the so-called top-flight “mailing-list-only” California Pinot Noirs they could get their hands on.  Without question, simply because I am constantly looking forward, I envied their task.

        While my palate was trained on French Red Burgundy as the reference point for Pinot Noir, I have over the years experimented greatly with the American versions.  Let me say this much first and without doubt: California Pinot Noir is not Burgundy, nor is it supposed to be.  Simply take into account the weather, as I have so often overlooked when tasting the West Coast Pinots.  While the average temperature in Napa during June is in the low 80s, Burgundy, by contrast reports average temperatures in the high 60s as normal for the same time of year.  Yes, there are peaks and valleys in temperature, but these are the averages. 

        But weather alone does not explain the differences between Pinots from these two viticultural areas.  That can only be explained through tasting the results.  And that is exactly what I set out to do after Meadows’ revealing report.  That too was a journey, more frustrating than the tasting itself.

        Wine people, as I know personally, are weird.  We love to share the joy, the excitement, the unending mental stimulation of the fruit of the vine.  But we only share, it seems, when we are among like-minded comrades.  Proof?  I sent 18 requests to wine makers/vineyard owners.  Requests for samples, more information, visiting times to their properties, you name it.  “I want to buy your wines”, I stated, very clearly.  Guess how many have responded so far.  ONE, ONLY ONE.  The vineyards I am attempting to begin relations with are routinely regarded as the best of their types in California.  Until they know me personally, they are reluctant to share.  “…Oh I’m sure he’s only trying to cherry-pick us off some review he just read…”, seems to be the feeling among these great Pinot producers.

        But that hasn’t stopped me.  It has, quite to the contrary, encouraged me further.  Like I said, we’re weird that way.  If these so named superstars jumped sky high the moment I called, I might wonder if they were as good as people say.  Heck, if commercialism is their only goal, they’d be at every liquor store in town by now, right?  And that’s certainly not where my head is.  I guess that makes us comrades.  And I’m patient.  We comrades WILL be face to face, very soon.

        But I digress.  Let’s talk again about the man who did, after 4 phone calls and 5 emails, contact me.  His name is Fred Scherrer.  And his resume’ is another of those envied things for me with this new journey.  For one, BURGHOUND tells us, “I have greatly admired and followed the wines of Fred Scherrer…”  in the report that started this for me.  Add to that his time at one of my old favorites Dehlinger Vineyards, as wine maker, and you know why I was so flattered to receive his sample bottles.  This is going to be exciting, I thought.  A chance to compare Scherrer to Magnien.  I am so lucky!


        Just as a comparison, not to see who was better, but how they differed, I opened a bottle of Fred Magnien’s similarly priced red Burgundy to taste with Scherrer’s Pinots.  When I finished my review and phoned him with the results, Scherrer seemed tickled.  It appears that Fred Scherrer is a fan of Fred Magnien.  Comrades, we are complete comrades…
          Describing California Pinot Noir is quite different.  That is to say Burgundy is more about the soil, while California Pinots seem to be about fruit nuances.  And my notes confirmed this, as fruit was at the fore with Scherrer’s wines.  But the balance was impressive, too.

        We now have, in stock, as a result of my eye and palate opening tasting, several selections from the Scherrer Vineyard:

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All the best!
Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommeliere