There is an expression among us wine collectors that goes “all roads lead to Burgundy.” The saying is based around the conventional wisdom that as collectors mature and their palates mature they transition from flashy, fruit forward wines like Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel to the complex, thought provoking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of Burgundy.
I call bullshit. I’ve been at this hobby for thirty years now and I could drink the aforementioned flashy wines seven days a week.
I think I have known this for a long time but this thought crystallized as I sipped on a bottle 2006 Domaine Pavelot 1er Cru La Dominode. The wine was sophisticated, earthy and definitely well made. I was left wanting for more though. Specifically, more fruit. I found myself thinking this is good but I’d much rather be drinking a Pinot Noir from the likes of Rivers-Marie, Kosta Browne or Rochioli all of which have wines at a similar price point. Before you cast your daggers at me I do understand that Pavelot is not the end all be all of Burgundy. I’ve had enough wine from other producers like Mugnier, Roumier and d’Angerville to be comfortable in my judgement.
Another attraction to Burgundy is the terroir. Within this small region there are hundreds of specific vineyards that all contain unique soil compositions. Even vineyards that lie right next to each other will turn out wines with different profiles. Even within a specific vineyard their might be many wines made by different producers and these are invariably unique from each other. Burgundy lovers understandably obsess over the intricacies and nuances of the vineyards and the region.
Well you know what, this is not too dissimilar from Zinfandel vineyards in the Russian River Valley where there is plenty for the inner wine geek in all of us to study. Carlisle Vineyard, for instance, is planted to over 40 different varieties. Sure there is plenty of Zinfandel but you will also find Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir de la Calmette, Tempranillo, Peloursin and others.
You will also find many producers making wines from the same vineyard when it comes to Zinfandel. For example, Biale, Matthiasson, Carlisle, Bedrock, AldenAlli and of course Limerick Lane all make a Zinfandel from Limerick Lane Vineyard. All of these wines are unique based on winemaking and the specific blocks in the vineyard that each winery sources fruit from. This is of course the case with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Pinot Noir as well. From Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard you have the incredible Cabernets of Schrader, Carter and Realm among others. From Kanzler Vineyard think about the Pinots produced by Kosta Browne, Rivers-Marie and the vineyard proprietors, the Kanzlers.
Maybe I am an exception to the “all roads lead to Burgundy” rule but I could drink just Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel and be pretty content. Well, actually I’d have to mix in some Washington Syrah as well. With that being said, Burgundy will always have a place in my cellar, albeit a relatively small small place.