Letter to the Editor

In regard to: Wine Cynic Tells All

Editor's Note: In the September edition of OWP, we published an opinion piece submitted by Boris Wiedenfeld-Needham: "Wine Cynic Tells All." We received two letters in rebuttal of his view (which was his and his alone); we expected this. Again, the views and opinions expressed in the following letters are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Oregon Wine Press.

Dear Editor,

Having just read the semi-coherent rave from guest columnist Boris Weidenfeld (OWP, September 2016 issue) regarding his vague grudge against the corporate wine world that he very recently represented, (not very well I might add) and which presumably gave him the resources to open his hoped for "chain" of wine stores (looks like the corporate culture is evil only where applicable), I have to ask just what is so earth shattering about his apparently recent epiphany that much of the wine made today isn't up to his, shall we say, flexible standards? 

Surely this is old news to anyone in the industry at any level and to consumers in general, who are smart enough to figure out what they like without the self serving ministrations of someone who obviously doesn't respect their innate ability to distinguish quality on their own.

Perhaps Mr. Weidenfeld is striving for some sort of "Kitchen Confidential" moment in the hope that his hackneyed and stereotypical observations about the "insiders" world of wine will propel he and his nascent business venture to prominence and notoriety? Or is he truly just doing the poor shmuck wine consumers a generous favor - a great man looking down from the perch of his "non-snooty" wine shop (whatever that means) dispensing wisdom to the great unwashed?

And oh please - beating up on Napa Valley is so very passé - its just so 90s! You could almost go so far as to call it beating a very dead horse's skeleton while preaching to a choir that's already turned the page in the hymnal.

Besides, classic California cabernet sauvignon - or chardonnay for that matter - from a good producer in a fine vintage is still one of the wine worlds great wine categories regardless of what Mr. Weidenfeld might think. Whether that particular offering fits your taste profile or not is really immaterial - as Mr. Weidenfeld should know if he indeed is such an experienced "old hand" in the wine world as he seems to claim. Furthermore, I seriously doubt that he ever poured Opus One, Heitz Martha's Vineyard or anything similar down the drain. If he did, he's in the wrong business.

Are there bad examples of corporate, focus group driven wines in the market today? Assuredly so, just as there are other consumer products some of us prefer and some we do not. But surely the market will sort all of that out in the end, and if the wines that Mr. Weidenfeld is so offended by truly have no constituency then they will undoubtedly fall by the wayside, and he can rest from his noble quest to save us from that which he does not approve.

And I'm certain that were we to visit Mr. Weidenfeld's establishment not a single bottle of large production, low - end wines would be found sullying his floor or occupying his shelves. No case stacks of ultra-discounted corporate wines bought from a large distributor on deep discounts in the hope of a wider than usual margin? But that would be judgmental and presumptuous of us to expect others to adhere only to our standards wouldn't it? One might even consider it "snooty" - and not just a little bit arrogant. 

Taken all together the many stray strands of Mr. Weidenfeld's poorly reasoned argument are nearly impossible to tame into one consistent, binding cord. They are almost "Trumpian" in their contradictions: some big California money entering Oregon is o.k., but some is not. Some corporate entities are acceptable but some are not. Some purchases of Oregon vineyards are acceptable but others anathema. Following the logic of his arguments, would Mr. Weidenfeld reject some first and second growth Bordeaux and many great Champagne bottlings simply because their parent companies are corporate owned? Would he deign to enlighten us as to which are acceptable to enjoy?

And woe to any of you doctors or professionals who have done well in your careers. Any wine you might produce in the retirement project winery that you've always looked forward to is anemic drizzle in Mr. Weidenfeld's far-seeing eyes. You shall be cast into the outer darkness - unless of course you happen to be a friend of his! 

But after all of the florid histrionics and all of the over generalizations found in Mr. Weidenfeld's diatribe, all he can offer is what everyone already knows - buy some wine and if you like it keep buying it. How revolutionary! 

Thank Bacchus that someone with all that inside knowledge is willing to share it with the rest of us. Otherwise we might be thrown to the mercy of some "snooty" wine shop run by someone that actually knows something about wine. Heaven forbid!

Steven Baker, Authentica Wines, Eugene, OR 


Dear Editor,

What a terrible article! Without supporting data the article comes across as nothing but an ill tempered rant.

The author states that the sweet spot is 5,000 to 50,000 cases per year -- those larger producing "incredible quantities of schlock" better suited to be "poured down the drain" than consumed, or even cooked with.  Using the January 1, 2015, article in Oregon Wine Press, quoting 2014 production, the most serious "over 50,000 case" offenders must be, in order of scorn: King at 400,000 cases, NW Wine Company, Wine by Joe, Union Wine, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Del Rio, Eola Hills, Argyle, Elk Cove, Duck Pond at 64,200 cases, (Plus a few others producing wine in Oregon, but not headquartered in Oregon). Total -- somewhere around 1,000,000 cases. California produces about 300,000,000 cases per year, according to Wine America.

 He criticizes "Wine Speculator" as enabling -- an "ad-driven magazine," touting bad wine, giving it unearned high scores, encouraging naive amateurs to chase it, and justifying selling it for high prices.  I suppose Parker, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast are included, just not mentioned.  How about Rusty Gaffney?

There are one or two of the Oregon wineries listed whose wine I avoid. But the brush is too broad.  We need specifics.

In the final paragraph he mentions three he likes. I enjoy the wines of all three. But they are not typical of wines available to ordinary people.  I know Stephen Hagen personally.  His Antiquum wines are outstanding.  Earlier this year a few of us, all very ordinary wine drinkers, visited his farm and tasted his wines.  Our purchases that afternoon completely exhausted his stock of some of his wines.  At the next public tasting, he had not a single bottle of any Pinot Noir of any year to offer for taste or sale.  Some lots are as small as a single barrel -- 25 cases.

How does that article support the Oregon Wine Industry?  Call out California; call out Gallo or Constellation; even call out Jackson. But be specific.  Avoid at all costs the implication that wineries such as Elk Cove are producing schlock that should be poured down the drain.

Rather -- talk about the high quality, reasonable prices, and sufficient production to be available to ordinary folks from wineries such as Broadley, Durant, Evesham Wood, WildAire, etc.

Thanks for listening, Dr. Howard Bandy

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