Place vs. Location … a big 92 point snafu

Hidden Ridge Vineyards, Sonoma

Hidden Ridge Vineyards ... Sonoma

If you think about a ‘place’, it has a name you can attach to it. In wine, Chianti is defined, regulated, laid out.  Likewise for Rutherford, Santa Lucia Highlands, Barossa Valley, etc.  A ‘location’ is simply a spot of land, identifiable by a specific latitude and longitude (and thanks to Google Earth, you can zoom anywhere with perfect accuracy).

160 acres of mountaintop land.  Spring Mountain, to be specific.  52 acres planted to the top Cabernet Sauvignon clones.  Stunning views in a 360 degree panorama.  Your closest neighbors are none other than Paloma (!!!!!) and Pride Vineyards (!!!!!!). And, here’s the kicker, you can only label your wine with the ‘Sonoma’ appelation.

That’s the snafu that Hidden Ridge Vineyards finds themselves in.  We had a great visit with Casidy Ward, proprietor (along with her husband, Lynn) of this cherished property, and she explained that because of the specific location of this vineyard, it falls outside of all designated AVA’s.  Possibly some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon grown, yet it can only be labeled ‘Sonoma’ … and thus, it is worth less on the bulk wine market.  Rather than fight the system and try to get Spring Mountain AVA pushed to the other side of the mountain, they decided to make their own label and show just how special this place is.

[Sidenote: My co-worker Brandt and I were talking about our affinity for wineries that produce only one wine, from one grape, from property that was bought based on potential of quality rather than a gold-standard of place name (There aren’t that many out there). It forces a winery to work harder, for the label of a place will not be there to help sell the wine (how many times has a sales pitch started with ‘This is from Rutherford in Napa Valley…”).]

Hidden Ridge Vineyards received 92 points on both their inaugural release (2003) and the current release (2004).  By any sensible terms, this wine is the equivalent of, or better than, almost all Napa Valley ‘cult wines.’ However, just as the winemakers have to work harder to produce this product (a two mile long dirt road following the spine of Spring Mountain gets you to the vineyards!), we have to also work harder to sell this product.

Take out the idea of place for a moment.  And instead focus on location.  After all, it’s the terrior that is supposed to be sacred, is it not?

Laying out the vineyards at Hidden Ridge

Laying out the vineyards at Hidden Ridge

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