There is a reason that used car salesmen have a poor reputation with car buyers. "This car is practically in mint condition! And this one is a steal! You can't go wrong with this car, either! They're all gems!"
More and more you wonder if the wine industry is taking its cues from the used car industry. "Rough weather? No way — we reached optimal ripeness again! The growing conditions were ideal! The wines are all a dream!"
But when you read the newsletters from McGregor Vineyard & Winery on Keuka Lake, and in particular from owner John McGregor, you understand why McGregor has built a devoted fan club of hundreds of customers.
Sure, John McGregor is an optimist. He's not going to dismiss a vintage or trash his current lineup. No one would expect him to do so. But regular readers of the newsletter know that when John is disappointed in his own wines, he won't try to fool his customers. He is particularly tough on older wines, and this is no small detail: McGregor strongly touts the aging potential of its wines, and its customers routinely lay down McGregor bottles.
Here is an example from the recent McGregor newsletter. How often have you seen New York winemakers admit that their wines were riddled with Brettanomyces? In this case, John wanted his customers to know what he found, even if that meant trouble for the wines.
I've found that the result in being honest is an appreciative customer base that is willing to concede some mistakes or weather-related problems. McGregor customers value the relationship with the McGregor family just as highly as they value the wines.
Check out this passage from the newsletter, and tell us what you think about the importance in being forthright with customers in the tasting room and in newsletters. (And I imagine our science editor will tell us what he thinks of John's description of Brett!)
"I always find some gems and I always find some disappointments. One interesting example of this concerns two wines from the 2004 vintage and each has “Brett” (Brettanomyces) which I can never recall tasting in one of our wines. This is a wild yeast that lives on fruit skins and sometimes ends up growing in wines. When it appears in wines it tends to be considered by many New World winemakers as a flaw as it was not a specific intention of the winemaker. However, debate rages on about this and its presence in wine is much more accepted in regions of the Old World. It’s often present in Chinon (Cabernet Franc from the Loire, France) as well as in Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and wines from the Rhone valley, particularly those containing a high percentage of the Mourvèdre grape.
So, I opened our 2004 Rob Roy Red (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and found it to have the classic barnyard/leather/spice influence of Brett which I find to be integrated nicely with the fruit character of the wine. This should be consumed now before the wine is completely overwhelmed with Brett. I wanted to find which grape component was responsible and I found it in the 2004 Cabernet Franc. For me, it’s far too present in this wine for my liking, which is a real disappointment. Tolerance to Brett wines varies from individual to individual — some love it and some hate it. For me it really comes down tot he specific wine — I can’t say that I love or hate it… sometimes I really appreciate its presence and other times I need to walk away from the glass in front of me! I enjoy what it’s doing with the 2004 Rob Roy right now and don’t care for it in the 2004 Cabernet Franc. If you have either of these wines in your cellar try them out and see what you think. Brett will continue to impart its character on these wines; it will not diminish with time or by letting the bottle breathe, so if you don’t care for wines with Brett, it’s time to move these wines out of your cellar and to replace them with something else!