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Signature taste

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Does a winery have a "signature taste"? For example would an experienced wine connoisseur be able to taste the difference between a Bordeaux by "Chateau Margaux" and one from "Chateau Giscours"? Or a Chard from the vineyards of Pride and Paloma? In a blind taste test. Or would they just be "wine A vintage X" and "wine B vintage X"? Could you take a sip of Cheval Blanc and immediate tell blind?

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  1. I know what you are getting at, but the question is phrased wrong . . . .

    wine like Château Margaux, a 1st Growth from the appellation of Margaux, and a wine like Château Giscours, a 3rd Growth from the same appellation, will ALWAYS taste different from one another. Different grape sources (each own their own vineyards), different winemakers, different cellar techniques.

    This doesn't mean that one will always be better than the other, but -- yes -- some people could taste a Château Margaux, Giscours, or Cheval Blanc, and identify it blind.

    California (and most of the New World) is different. Rare is the classic European vision of a "wine estate" -- be it a château in Bordeaux, a domaine in Burgundy, an estate in Tuscany, etc., etc. -- where everything is owned by, and done on, the estate: growing the grapes, making the wine, putting it the bottles.

    Most New World wineries have little to no vineyard land of their own. Instead, you most often have situations where Person A grows the grapes (and often Person B, C, D, and E as well), and sells them to Winery X. The winemaker at Winery X crushes the grapes, makes the wine, blends the wine from the different vineyards together, and bottles it. Seeing as how you rarely have any idea where the grapes come from -- other than, say, "Napa Valley," "Central Coast," "California," etc. -- there can potentially be differences in the (e.g.) Chardonnay from Winery X from year to year. OTOH, they *try* to eliminate this by making their wine in a "house style."

    Champagne producers are best at this. One can *always* distinguish Moët et Chandon from Louis Roederer, just as an example, because the "house style" is different from each other.

    But what happens when the winemaker leaves Winery X . . . he/she either gets hired away to become the winemaker at Winery Y, or leaves to start his/her own winery. Most often, the owner of Winery X does NOT promote the (unknown) assistant winemaker to the winemaking position, but hires another "star" winemaker away from another winery. The assistant, disappointed that they weren't promoted, also leaves. Now, the "institutional memory" of the winery is gone. Quite often this will result in a change of style.

    Generally speaking, (some of) the best wines in California come from places with a long institutional memory -- with a winemaker who has been there "forever," or from a winery where the owner is also the winemaker. . . .

    Generally, one refers to the "house style" of a winery, but the "signature taste" of the winemaker, and a "signature taste" is not necessarily a good thing . . . it tends to dominate a wine's other characteristics.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    1 Reply
    1. re: zin1953

      Thanks again for your great explanations of "house style" vs "signature taste".

      Can you briefly explain the differences between "1st growth" and "3rd growth"?

    2. Even if we compare apples with apples ie., 1st growth with 1st growth from the same appellation. If the 'terroir' of the two properties are different, then the wine characteristic and personality will be different ( even if the blending is exactly the same ). By 'Terroir' we are referring to the micro-climate, soil properties, location, elevation, orientation of the plot relative to the sun....etc. Every criteria will have an impact!

      Easiest way of interpreting 'growth' is: Growth = Ranking. 1st Growth = Top Ranked, 2nd Growth = 2nd Ranked...etc. Just like the English Soccer League! 1st Growth = Premier League ( Your Manchester United...etc ). 3rd Growth = Division 3......

      8 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        How about 2nd wine (eg. Petit Cheval )? Junior league ?!

        1. re: skylineR33

          What they do with the barrels of wine that are judged to be inadequate to make the "grand vin". Ergo, the farm team if you want to continue the sports analogy.

          1. re: skylineR33

            1) Restricting the discussion to Bordeaux, *every* second label is DIFFERENT . . .

            In other words, no regulations exist to govern/oversee what is and what is not a second- (or even third-) label wine. So, the definition of what makes a second label depends upon the specific château. At one château, it may be the young vines (e.g.: Château Latour ---> Les Forts de Latour); at another château, it may be a particular section of the vineyard that is not "on par" with the rest of the estate (e.g.: Château Lafite --> Carruades de Lafite); at a third château, it may be comprised of individual barrels that "don't make the cut" for the "first" label (e.g.: Château Palmer ---> Alter Ego).

            Far from Junior League, but nonetheless impossible to define in the abstract . . .

            Cheers,
            Jason

          2. re: Charles Yu

            Thanks Charles. I know what "terroir" refers to. It was just "1st growth", "2nd growth"...I wasn't clear on. But if only the terroirs are different is the difference subtle or obvious? Would only a very experienced wine enthusiast be able to tell the difference? Or would even a novice like me be able to tell the difference?

            1. re: BDD888

              This also only refers to the Left Bank of Bordeaux following the classification of 1855. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordeaux... for some quick background reading.

              Would you be able to tell the difference between the terroir amongst the cru classé… have you tasted them before? As in have you tasted Paullac vs St-Estephe vs Margaux etc etc. Each region has different terroir, different grapes, different vintners who do different rassemblage, so yes, there's variability to be had. If you're trying to determine whether 1st vs 2nd will exclusively result in one tasting better than another, you're barking up the wrong path.

              Here's an example for you: there was a period where Palmer was considered to be making a consistently better wine than Margaux (I'm using this example because you keep touting Margaux as your favorite), yet Margaux is a 1e cru classé and Palmer is a 3e.

              Anyway, you may also find that with tasting you might like something a whole lot better than Margaux.

              1. re: wattacetti

                I was wondering if experienced wine lovers can tell the difference. Being that I have a long way to go (part of the fun and joy) I probably would overlook the subtilties. Between two vintners in the same appalation on 2 different terroirs producing the same varietal. Assuming they are both 1st growth.

                s for my constantly using Chateaux Margaux as my "benchmark" it just happened to be the one I first began using as a name to throw around. You're right. In time, with enough tasting, I might find out I prefer another. Heck I haven't even tried a drop of CH. Margaux. :) The reason I mentioned I might bring a bottle back was because it is a respected name within the Bordeaux region. And if I wanted to try a bottle...it would be cost effective to buy from LA...than to buy locally (where each vintage is roughly 50% more$...CRAZY!!). Maybe I'll bring back a bottle of Cheval Blanc '05. Perhaps I'll flip a coin. :)

                Either way I'm going to have to pay a little Duty/Tax as the limit is $750 CDN. One bottle is $30.00 over the limit and the other $80.00. Maybe they'll let it go in either case. If not I wonder what kind of hit I would take.

                Just looked at the Tarrif Schedule PDF ("by chapter....http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/trade-comm... is what I found applicable to wine....

                Of an alcoholic strength by volume not exceeding 14.9% vol LTR 4.68¢/litre (MFN Tarrif

                )

                Of an alcoholic strength by volume exceeding 14.9% vol but not exceeding 15.9% vol LTR Free (MFN Tarrif)

                pplicable Preferential Tarrifs%3

                CCCT, LDCT, UST, MT, CT, CRT, IT, PT: Free

                CCCT, LDCT, UST, MT, CT, CRT, IT, PT: Free AUT: 2.75¢/litre NZT: 2.75¢/litre

                UT, NZT, CCCT, LDCT, UST, MT, CT, CRT, IT, PT: Free

                Being that a 750ml bottle of Bordeaux is under 15% alcohol....and is equivalent to .75 litre.....might get nailed on "applicable pref tarrifs"...shrug....maybe I'll just call them. :)

                1. re: BDD888

                  >>> I was wondering if experienced wine lovers can tell the difference. Being that I have a long way to go (part of the fun and joy) I probably would overlook the subtilties. Between two vintners in the same appalation [sic] on 2 different terroirs producing the same varietal. Assuming they are both 1st growth. <<<

                  1) Being a "First Growth" is irrelevant to the discussion.

                  2) I know you are -- or at least, have been so far -- focused, in virtually all of your posts, on four wines: Bordeaux, California Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Champagne. So let me shift gears from Bordeaux to California Cabernet for a moment.

                  Let me present to you two different wineries. Both are located in the Napa Valley. Both produce Cabernet Sauvignon from the "Napa Valley" AVA (American Viticultural Appellation); indeed, both make Cabernets from the same sub-appellation *within* the "Napa Valley" AVA. (Parenthetically, there are 15 separate sub-appellations within the larger "Napa Valley" AVA.) They have different winemakers, of course, but are both highly regarded, respected, and have relatively similar price tags.

                  Winery A's 2007 Cabernet is:
                  -- 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
                  -- aged 24 months in French oak
                  -- 14.5% abv; 0.55g/100ml TA; 3.70 pH

                  Winery B's 2007 Cabernet is:
                  -- 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
                  -- aged 24 months in French oak
                  -- 14.5% abv; (unknown) TA; 3.80 pH

                  Same terroir; same micro-climate . . . as similar an example as I can find (on short notice) . . . can you taste the difference???

                  Anyone who has even a passing appreciation of Cabernet and some experience under their belt, so to speak, could taste the two wines side-by-side and know they were tasting two different wines. Similar? Absolutely. Different? Of course. Identifiable in a blind tasting from among, say, ten similar wines that *this* is the 2007 Winery A Cabernet and *that* is the 2007 Winery B Cabernet?

                  Unlikely, by mere mortals. Professional winemakers or highly experienced tasters WITH A FAMILIARITY of this particular region could -- perhaps -- identify the wines, but it would be difficult.

                  The wines I'm citing above, by the way, are a) Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 2007 "SLV" Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate; and b) Stags' Leap Winery 2007 "The Leap" Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate.

                  ---> Note the position of the apostrophes in the names of the two wineries, and the fact that the term, "Stags Leap AVA," has none.

                  * * * * *

                  OTOH, It is much easier with Bordeaux . . . when I was in the trade and regularly tasting Bordeaux, I could generally pick out the better-known estates with some degree of success. But I was tasting these wines on a regular basis, a minimum of 1-2 days a week, and sometimes as many as 4-5.

                  Even several years later, when I had shifted my focus away from Bordeaux and onto other wines, some friends tried to test me. It was a "going away" party, as I was moving up to Napa Valley, and my friends kept me out of the kitchen . . . they decanted several wines into carafes, so I could not see the bottle shapes or the color of the foil capsules, etc. They then presented me with six wines -- "Red Bordeaux" was the only clue that I was given.

                  -- I correctly identified three of the six exactly as to château and vintage;
                  -- I correctly identified the château on one, but guessed it was the 1970 vintage, when it was actually the 1971;
                  -- I correctly identified the vintage on one, but guessed it was the château literally next door (IIRC, I thought it was the Château Léoville-Las-Cases, and it was actually Léoville-Barton);
                  -- I completely blew it on one . . . I identified it (IIRC) as a 1966 Château Pape-Clément from Graves (now Pessac-Léognan), and it was a 1967 Château Montrose, St.-Éstephe. Oh well, c'est la vie . . ..

                  Could I do that well today? Absolutely not! But I might surprise myself, too -- who knows?

                  Cheers,
                  Jason

              2. re: BDD888

                There is NOTHING about the various crus that GUARANTEE quality.

                The 1855 Classification was a marketing ploy, pure and simple. That doesn't mean it was/is not worthwhile. I think it is. But there is nothing in the classification itself that automatically makes a 1st growth better than a 3rd, or a 2nd growth better than a 5th. Indeed, for much of the late 1960s and 1970s, Château Margaux was in a state of decline, and was regularly panned by wine critics/press and merchants alike. The 3me Cru estate, Château Palmer, was widely preferred to Ch. Margaux, and commanded prices equal to or above that of its 1er Cru "cousin" from the same appellation.

                The appellation of St.-Émilion was classified in 1955, 100 years after the wines of the Haut-Médoc. Then . . . again in 1969, 1986, 1996, and again in 2006 -- BUT the 2006 was declared unlawful by the courts, so . . . .

                Graves -- now known as Pessac-Lógnan -- was similarly classified in 1959, and again in 1960.

                Pomerol was never classified.

                And remember: these classifications are not tied to the appellation d'origine contrôlée at all (unlike in, say, Burgundy).

            2. There certainly are signature wines and the winery blends within the 5 bordeaux grapes to achieve the same taste year after year. If you put a Lafite Rothschild in to a grouping of 10 other wines I will have no difficulty in picking the Lafite because of it's unique signature. The same is true in California. Put a Joseph Phelps Insignia into a group of California wines and again 9 out of ten times I will pick the Insignia. Got fooled once by Opus. I belong to a group that meets once a week a tastes wines that we have brown bagged so that we can try to fool one another.
              I don't care how big of an expert you are thought or believe your self to be, but if you have never tasted a wine such as a Pinotage you are just not going to identify it other than to say "I have no idea what it is but I like (or dislike) it. That's what tasting wine for 47 years has done for me.

              30 Replies
              1. re: Hughlipton

                My best 'get fooled' experience was when I had a food and wine pairing dinner at one of Toronto's best restaurant, Splendido a few years back.. The sommelier gave me a glass of dessert wine and asked me to guess what it was. From the colour, nose and taste, I thought it was either a German Riesling Auslese gold cap or BA , an Alsacian Riesling SGN or may be a Canadian Riesling or Vidal ice wine. I was wrong on all counts! Its was a glass of ' ice apple cider wine' from Canada's Prince Edward County!! Who could have guessed??!!! That was not blind tasting! That was cheating!!!

                1. re: Hughlipton

                  This was what I was asking in the first place. :) Good to hear another point of view. HEH! :)

                  Every one has their off days Charles. :) But as Hugh mentioned it IS possible to spot a wine's signature taste even from a group of 10 brown bagged bottles. Time for you to drink more of Canada's own a la PEI. :)

                  1. re: BDD888

                    Prince Edward County is in Ontario; I'm not sure if PEI has any (grape) wine production though Nova Scotia certainly does.

                    EDIT: I also think it's a signature style and not a signature taste/flavor. Signature taste (consistent taste vintage after vintage) would be something like Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, which goes out of its way to be consistent in taste year after year.

                    1. re: wattacetti

                      I stand corrected. LOL!! Didn't even know there was a "PE Country" here in Ontario. :)

                      Kendall-Jackson Chard is another on my list to try btw...

                      1. re: BDD888

                        Good lord, why?

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I think I read some good reviews on one of their wines somewhere...might Google KJ again...might have been another Vintner. Thought it was KJ for some reason...

                          1. re: BDD888

                            While KJ Chardonnay is certainly better than Charles Shaw (aka Two-Buck Chuck), it is far from being a fine example of California Chardonnay at its best . . . .

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Would you say KJ is more of an "assembly line" type winery. Concerned more with putting out volume rather than quality? Something like a Robert Mondavi. And while I can't say I'm truly familiar with RM I've always had the impression that they produce "wines for the masses". Like a "two buck chuck" :)

                              Charles, I realized that after I submitted my post. :) Still that does make for a good test even if it didn't seem fair at the time.

                              1. re: BDD888

                                The KJ Chardonnay I referred to is produced explicitly for the population that doesn't want any surprises from their wines irrespective of the time, location and year that they purchase the wine. The 2002 better be the same as the 2004 as the 2010 or else.

                                Robert Mondavi has several lines, some for the masses and others that are somewhat pricey. The "national brands" have the same consistency requirements year after year.

                                Neither is assembly line wine; that would be more like the Harfang des neiges or something that the SAQ sells in their bulk depots (you bring the bottle; they supply the liquid and the cork).

                                There is actually nothing wrong with these types of wine but they cater to different crowds. If you were on the road 5 days on 5 and lived out of a suitcase, you'd probably be picking one of these just so that there were no surprises, and also that they fit into your per diem.

                                1. re: wattacetti

                                  Sort of sounds like "assembly line" type wineries to me (they're just not produced on an assembly line). No surprises from vintage to vintage (which to me makes having vintages pointless for such wineries...they should do as some Champagne companies do). Like buying a can of Coke. Always the same. Which for some people (very casual wine drinkers...not interested in learning anything about wines...store their wines on a rack in room temperature...etc.). Still, I might try a bottle of each for the heck of it some time. Just to see what their "house style" is about. Have you tried both?

                                  1. re: BDD888

                                    A can of Coke is not always the same. Canadian Coke is different from American (esp around Atlanta), Mexican, Chilean and European variants. There are slight tweaks to the formula (e.g. cane sugar vs HFCS, aromatics) with some of the Asian ones have a slight banana aftertaste.

                                    EDIT: Kosher for Passover Coke is the stuff you want to get if you're in Eastern Canada.

                                    I have tasted every wine (for better or worse) that I have mentioned to you over the various threads in this subforum. I have also tasted several of the ones others have mentioned over various threads as well, though probably not to the extent that they may have (e.g. single vs multiple tastings).

                                    1. re: wattacetti

                                      >>> I have tasted every wine (for better or worse) that I have mentioned to you over the various threads in this subforum. I have also tasted several of the ones others have mentioned over various threads as well, though probably not to the extent that they may have (e.g. single vs multiple tastings). <<<

                                      Ditto.

                                      1. re: wattacetti

                                        So you're a Coke connoisseur too? :) Yes I know they can be different around the world...for the sake of argument. I was referring to North America. HAH!! Though, I have been to China (3x), Japan almost 14x, HK over 14x...the Coke doesn't taste all that different from "CDN Coke". Nor "American Coke"...though I have never been to Atlanta...so I can't comment on that.

                                        Banana aftertaste with Cokes in Asia?? I suppose that depends where in Asia you go. Back in the 1990's there was an obvious difference in the taste of their Coke. I wasn't even sure it was "real Coke". Not that they were trying to put out fakes but their version of a "cola". But after 2005...my most recent trips to China (e.g. Shanghai, Suzhou, HK...) their Cokes tasted very similar if not the same.

                                        In the end, in all my travels and drank some Coke, I wasn't analyzing. Just thirsty. :)

                                        Ok guys. Back to WINES.

                                2. re: zin1953

                                  For an outstanding California Chardonnay, although some find it overoaked, I like Far Niente. Very buttery. I swear i use it to dip my lobster in. Sonoma Cutrer is another worthwhile winery and for a little further South Mount Eden Vineyards.

                                  1. re: Hughlipton

                                    Hmmm . . . it always astounds me how much palates can differ.

                                    I find that Far Niente is a VERY buttery, oaky Chadonnay. Both, too much for my palate. (Some 30 years ago I told the then-sales manager of Far Niente that if he packaged his wine in cardboard instead of wooden cases, and took all that gold off the label, he'd have a great $12-a-bottle Napa Chard -- instead ofthe $20 retail he wanted for it.)

                                    Sonoma-Cutrer is also very good, less buttery, sometimes more oaky -- depending upon the specific vineyard bottling.

                                    Mount Eden Vineyards, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, makes a few different Chardonnays. I presume you are referring to the top-of-the-line Estate bottling. I find it to be one of the most Burgundian-styled Chardonnays in California, with (generally speaking; specific vintages may vary) a firm backbone of acidity, great minerality, and the potential to improve with bottle age for over a decade -- something virtually unheard of in California. It is one of the few California Chardonnays for which I use the term "outstanding."

                                    Cheers,
                                    Jason

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Standing on the front porch of Mt. Eden Vineyards tasting their top of the line Chardonnay on a beautiful day overlooking the Santa Clara Valley may be one of the most memorable tasting moments in my life. It made Mt. Eden the benchmark wine for me.

                                      1. re: Hughlipton

                                        A very quick, rough estimate would be that Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay accounts for, perhaps, as many as four of the Top Ten California Chardonnays I have EVER tasted, going back to the late 1960s.

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          They don't seem to have an open tasting room, or I would drive up. Which of the Mt Eden Chards to you recommend? They seem to have a varied lot.

                                          1. re: budnball

                                            For me, there is only one: the Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mtns. AVA). it's also their most expensive, unfortunately, but the Santa Cruz Mountains is my all-time favorite AVA within the state. To be honest, I have't tried their "Domaine Eden," which also carries the SCM AVA designation. Just haven't seen it . . .

                                            Cheers,
                                            Jason

                        2. re: BDD888

                          Nothing to do with 'off days'! Just pissed off by the fact that they gave me a wine made from apples rather than grapes and asked me to guess! Its almost like being given a hamburger pattie and asked to guess what meat was used but in fact it was from soya bean!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            OTOH, if one cannot taste the difference between a rare hamburger and a veggie burger, I'd call that one great veggie burger . . . .

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              I've done this with wine friends who have never tried sake, with service in blind tasting glasses/carafes to complete the experience. Glad they didn't stab me with their forks.

                          2. re: Hughlipton

                            The STYLE will be the same, year-in and year-out, with a wine like Château Lafite; the taste itself may not be. Take a year like 1984, where the Cabernet crop thrived and the Merlot crop all by failed. A wine like Château Lafite ***as the estate is presently planted*** runs approx. 80 to 95 percent Cabernet. (This was not always true; a generation ago, the estate was planted to approx. 1/3 Merlot). Yet take a vintage like 1994 -- the wine was 99 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 percent Petit Verdot -- it's still stylistically recognizable as Lafite, but has (to me) a different flavor profile.

                            Shifting to the New World, it's much easier, for example, to make a small lot of (e.g.) 300 cases for $$$ than it is to make 15,000-18,000 cases of Insignia and have it be as great as it is, every year. That said, Phelps -- and other California wineries -- have the luxury of being able to source fruit from multiple vineyards in different appellations. In the case of Insignia . . .

                            The 2007 is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot; the sources are:
                            -- Oak Knoll District, 16%
                            -- Rutherford, 11%
                            -- St. Helena, 4%
                            -- South Napa, 39%
                            -- Stags Leap District, 30%

                            The 2006 is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot; the sources are:
                            -- Oak Knoll District, 8%
                            -- Rutherford, 20%
                            -- St. Helena, 10%
                            -- South Napa, 33%
                            -- Stags Leap District, 29%

                            The 2004 is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec; the sources are:
                            -- Oak Knoll District, 22%
                            -- Oakville, 8%
                            -- Rutherford, 19%
                            -- St. Helena, 27%
                            -- Stags Leap District, 24%

                            In other words, both the grape varieties AND the sources can -- within limits -- vary. (You may remember that Insignia's first vintage was overwhelmingly Cabernet Sauvignon; the second vintage was overwhelmingly Merlot.)

                            Cheers,
                            Jason

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Define "house style". Does that refer to the varietals used in their blends to produce their Chards, Bordeauxs...etc.?

                              1. re: BDD888

                                "House style" is the sum of the parts -- what makes X separate and distinct from Y.

                                "Chardonnay" is a specific grape variety. For a US-made wine to be labeled with the name of a grape, it must contain not less than 75 percent of that specific variety. When it comes to Chardonnay, most American Chardonnays are 100 percent Chardonnay. That said, Kendall-Jackson has long used Muscat in their Chardonnay. THAT would be one component of KJ's Chardonnay's "house style." So would a slight touch of residual sugar.

                                Sticking with Chardonnay for a moment, some wineries may barrel ferment all of the their Chardonnay; others might ferment it all in stainless steel, or a mix of the two. Some wineries may prevent their wine from going through a malolactic fermentation, or let all of it undergo ML, or only some of it. Some may only use new Limousin oak, or used Tronçais barrels, or American oak, or Slovenian oak, or Oregon oak, or . . . or . . . or . . . . Each of these are components of what, combined, would constitute a producer's house style.

                                If you take, for example, Bollinger Champagne -- one of the keys to their "house style" is the use of oak in the making of their wine (rather unusual in Champagne). Another factor could be their heavy reliance on Pinot Meunier, or their total exclusion of Pinot Meunier; their minimal use of Chardonnay in the cuvée, or their insistence on using only Chardonnay. Preventing ML, or insisting upon it. And so on and so on . . . .

                                These are quick, down-and-dirty examples, but I hope it helps.

                                Cheers,
                                Jason

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  As you so accurately point out, the vineyards that the winery may use in it's "signature" wine may be different from year to year. That said however, I believe that certain vineyards have distinctive characteristics that can be identified blind by taste. I'm much more experienced with Pinto Noir than Cabernet in this regard, but even I can tell when a Cab was sourced from a vineyard in Rutherford as opposed to Howell Mountain or Stags Leap.

                                  With so many wineries making single vineyard PNs and Syrahs, I find that as I get more experienced with them I can not only tell the difference between certain vineyards, say the difference between a Rosella's Vineyard and Amber Ridge, but am learning to recognize the differences in style between different winemakers as I get to know their styles, i.e., I have no problem recognizing the difference between Brian Lorings styles and Adam Lee's.

                                  1. re: dinwiddie

                                    Here is where one gets into the difference between a "house style" and a "winemaker's signature."

                                    The INHERENT characteristics that exist between two lots of Cabernet Sauvignon *** grapes *** -- one sourced from a vineyard on Howell Mountain and the other on the Rutherford Bench -- is attributed (largely) to terroir. So, too, the differences between two separate vineyards on the Rutherford Bench.

                                    The "winemaker's signature" can most easily be seen when people like (for example) Brian Loring and Adam Lee both source Pinot Noir from the same exact vineyard, but to the extent that *all* of Brian's Pinots have a similarity to them, or all of Adam's Pinots have a similar quality to them, etc., etc. -- REGARDLESS of the grape source -- then THAT can be chalked up to the winemaker's hand/signature.

                                    Cheers,
                                    Jason

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      You are so right. Of course I chose those two because I'm very familiar with their wines and they both have a distinctive "signature."

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Good examples.

                                        I love doing "horizontals" from say the Monte Rosso Vineyard, http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wi..., done in that year by several winemakers. Interesting comparisons.

                                        How does winemaker A handle those same grapes? How does that treatment differ from winemaker B?

                                        There can be some similarities, but more often, differences.

                                        Hunt

                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      Thanks pal. Good explanation.

                              2. This will depend on the winemaker, and what they wish to accomplish.

                                Some do grow, vintify and blend to a "house style," while others take a different approach - go for the vintage, and what it provided. It just depends.

                                Some want consistency, year to year, while others want each vintage to be unique, and tell the story of that year.

                                Now, when one gets to single vineyards, micro-climates, and such, there might well be strong similarities, year to year. A good example might be the "Rutherford dust" from that sub-AVA in Napa. Many other examples exist. One can often pick up on aspects of a sub-AVA, vineyard, or even block.

                                Still, it depends on the winemaker, and what they are shooting for.

                                Enjoy,

                                Hunt

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  So glad to have your wisdom, experiance and advice here, Bill !

                                  1. re: OCEllen

                                    Thanks, but the real "wisdom" comes from others, like Jason, ML and others. I sit in reverence at their feet.

                                    Hunt