Uniqueness in a Sea of Sameness – 2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you probably already know that I enjoy Anthill Farms wines based on the number of reviews I’ve already written on them; this being the fourth one in the past five months.  I love them because they’re unique and have character like no other.  They probably won’t appeal to the masses, which is most likely what the proprietors were going for, but rather to enthusiasts who “get” what’s going on in the bottle.

anthillandersonpinotbackAnthill wines are immediately approachable in terms of either fruit or texture, depending on which wine your drinking, but they’re also built to age for those willing to wait for the rewards of stashing them away.

After drinking my latest Anthill wine, I was reminded of a short article I came across recently.  I’ve reprinted this article into today’s post from the blog of Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator.

Harvey reflects about the across the board quality of today’s wines, and how producing a sound, clean and drinkable wine is no longer an accomplishment.  With today’s vineyard management practices, modern day equipment and cellar management and winemaking practices, produce a “good” wine is expected.  Wines must show some sort of unique and inherent quality and falvor profile in order to set them apart from the crowd.  Anthill Wines accomplishes this goal of making a quality wine with unique attributes.  Here’s the article with my review of the Anthill Anderson Valley Pinot Noir to follow:

Harvey Steiman At Large

It’s Only a Starting Point

Something an Oregon winemaker said to me on a recent visit has stuck in my mind, and it explains a lot about what’s happening on the wine scene. We were talking about how many wineries, old and new, were competing for attention but how few were actually reaching a high standard, not just in Oregon but all over.

“I taste mostly pretty good wine,” I said, “but too much of it is no better than other wines that sell for half the price.”

His response: “Making good, clean wine used to be enough to stand out. Now it’s the price of admission.”

He’s right. From our standpoint as consumers, we have never had it so good. Flawed wine, which once represented a significant portion of those on retail shelves, has become a relative rarity. That changes the game. It used to be that anyone who dodged excess volatile acidity, brettanomyces or oxidation automatically ranked among the leaders. Not any more, not since producers have used lower yields and deft winemaking to get more positive characteristics, not just avoid the negative.

Good wine is coming from so many places that astute wine drinkers can do very well if they are willing to try something outside their comfort zones. On a macro scale, upstarts such as Spain, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa challenge the supremacy of established areas such as France, Italy and California. Within specific regions, the wines that rise to the top are the ones with more personality , not necessarily the ones that have been around a long time.

And yet, it surprises me how many wineries have not adjusted to this reality. New brands show up on the scene with sound, well-made wines that have nothing to recommend them except that they are new. Some established wineries coast on their reputations, offering expensive wines that no longer stand out from their peers.

I call these wines the “who cares?” crowd. In my tasting room, I come across legions of wines I rate 86 to 90 points that either carry high price tags or are made in such small quantities readers won’t be able to find them if they try. Who cares if I review them?

The wines that get me excited have something that sets them apart. They show more finesse than their peers, or they present a distinctive flavor profile. Most of all, they taste good enough that you would expect to pay more than they actually cost. I think that’s what drives the wine world today.

Good enough is only the price of admission.


And so with that refreshing article, here’s my take on the latest Anthill Farms Pinot Noir:

2006 Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

anthillandersonpinotfrontThe Anderson Valley possesses a very rocky and rugged terrain, cold weather and wide diurnal temperature swings that often produce daily highs and lows diverging up to 40 and 50 degrees.  Many of the wines from the area reflect this region’s hard climate.  Hard baking spice and tannic backbones are what comes to mind with many of the wines I’ve experienced from the Anderson Valley.

With the Anthill’s version, I experienced these qualities, but in a more subtle and subdued fashion.  I tasted spices like cinnamon and clove as well as cranberries, cherries and earth.  The texture was uber silky, but you could still get a sense of the firm tannic backbone that held the wine together.  Fruit, acid, alcohol, you name it, the wine was balanced.  I see nothing but good times ahead for this wine.

They’re doing good things at Anthill Farms to create a unique, original, interesting and soulful product.  Check them out!

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