Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Assumption



A couple weeks back, on my trip to Sonoma County, I stopped by the Hop Kiln Winery. I was standing at a table, being poured a taste of HK Generations Pinot Noir when the man behind the bottle purred, "This just got 90-something points from Parker."

Robert Parker, that is. This refrain haunted me throughout Napa and Sonoma. Pourers rather impudently assumed Parker's opinions would mean something to me. I imagine that, most of the time, they got some mileage out of that pabulum. But they don't seem to take into account that Parker is a divisive figure and has plenty of detractors. Maybe not in California. But elsewhere. The chances are that pretty fair that by quoting Parker's ratings they will piss off a potential patron.

This prattling mantra is depressing for many reasons. One, the winemakers seem to think one critic's opinions are the be all and end all for wine lovers. Two, if the winemakers do not buy into the Parker dogma, they nonetheless cynically preach his numbers, thinking it will result in sales and approval. Three, , by delivering a pre-conceived evaluation of the wine, they encourage drinkers to stop thinking for themselves. Four, that they cause wine lovers like myself, who do not necessarily love Parker's taste, to adopt a subconscious bias toward their wines—a reaction to their patronizing attitude toward our assumed inability to make up our own minds.

The Pinot Noir, by the way, was big enough to knock out Sonny Liston in the second round. It cost $50. I was assured that Parker's rating would result in its being sold out within weeks. I didn't buy it.

1 comment:

swirlingnotions said...

Well the good news is, you were here during some gorgeous weather, eh? ;-) Well put on the Parker front. And let me assure you, we Californians (and Sonoma Countians) are not all Parkerphiles. I've had several spirited discussions with many winemakers about the quandry they're in with ratings . . . the main points of which you summed up beautifully in your post.

Great blog!