I had dinner last week with Boo Walker and Christophe Hedges, of Hedges in Washington State. I visited Hedges, the custodians of Red Mountain, this summer and it was a great experience. Their slightly quirky approach and lovely, almost European-styled wines, were a breath of fresh air amid quite a lot of sweetly fruited, rather anonymous wines.
Although Boo was there at Hedges when I visited, this was the first time I’d met Christophe. We had a really nice evening together, starting off in the Craft Beer Co at White Lion St, and then heading to the fabulous Grain Store. Our conversations were lengthy, animated and completely unrepeatable.
The food at Grain Store is just so lovely. It’s very creative, with a lot of vegetable use, and delicious. It’s great for sharing, although the menu seems to have got a bit more starter/main of late, and less small-platey.
Christophe is very interesting. Not a man to compromise, and not shy about voicing controversial opinions. Take for instance Score Revolution, an initiative that he and the Hedges team have started.
There exists an acknowledged relationship between the global influence of wine critics’ numerical wine ratings and the lessening of terroir’s effect on a finished wine’s aromas and flavors; the “sense of place” which differentiates one wine from another is eliminated, or dramatically reduced. Winemakers whose families have been making wine since the Gauls have been forced to chase scores and put aside their desire to make origin–specific wines.
While Hedges Family Estate considers wine critics the lifeblood of the wine industry, we urge them to let their words speak for themselves. We urge them not to undermine their own eloquence with the base and elementary 100–point system. How can you apply a number to any art form? Quantifying a subjective experience is simply not logical. Let us allow winemakers to practice their art with the freedom to let their land speak, allow consumers to make their own decisions and exercise their palates, and allow wine critics to practice their craft and let their words speak for themselves.
Hedges no longer submit their wines for scoring by critics, which is brave, and I kind of agree with many of their points. But I still score wines, because despite the limitations of the scoring system, it lets readers know just how much I liked the wine. I could use stars, or ticks – but I use the daft 100 point scale because that is what the powerful critics have always used, and so the sorts of people who buy more expensive wines can relate to these scores. Maybe I should stop scoring?
We tasted one Hedges wine. It was lovely. And I gave it a score! Will Christophe and Boo still be friendly towards me?
Hedges Family Estate La Haute Cuvée 2013 Red Mountain, Washington State
The previous vintage of this was the first biodynamic Washington State Cabernet, and the first biodynamic wine from Red Mountain. This is complex, spicy, dense and rich with lovely fine-grained tannins. Nice density of pure blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Dense and with some structure, but also with a lovely silkiness. 94/100
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