Chuck Wagner of Caymus on Napa Terroir
If you happen to have access to Wine Spectator's site (they charge for access to nearly everything now), you really should read Chuck Wagner's recent post (2/14/07) on vineyard designations and Napa terroir.
I don't think the folks at Appellation America will appreciate his thoughts as they run counter to AA's goals - in particular his preference for winemaking over terroir and his belief that Napa has just three "zones" - Carneros, valley floor and hillsides!
I've gotta say (and it probably comes as no surprise) that I agree completely. Talks of microclimates and the drawing of arbitrary AVA lines do little to inform and do more to confuse. Don't get caught up in the fairly "fruitless" exercise of looking for the unique characteristics of a sub-region (say, Pinot Noir from Carneros, for example) and just find a producer you like and stick with them. If, as Chuck says, they don't change with the times and make "classic" wines that you don't like, then find somebody else's wines to drink.
Some gems from Chuck's post:
"I think there are more than a few owners hoping in vain for distinctive character from their land."
"Some vintners are caught up in the theory that wineries should continue making 'classic by appellation' wines. The 'classic' they are talking about is based on the style of wine that some winemaker made during a previous period. Well, this is now, and now should be different. Winemakers need freedom to fight off making boring wines … and they should be given a loose leash."
"Our top wines have more to do with the grapes and the winemaker than with the terroir of a particular site or subappellation of our valley."
"I say 'No' to the mystifying number of microclimates, and 'Yes' to simplification."
Read the entire post if you can.