I recently received a bottle of 2012 Estate Grown Holman Ranch Pinot Noir made with grapes grown from the Central Coast, specifically Heather’s Hill in Carmel Valley, California. The one-bottle box arrived end of day on a 90-degree Friday, as scheduled. As soon as I handled the very warm-to-the-touch box, however, I knew it might be tainted.
What to do, I wondered. Do I immediately put the bottle in my wine refrigerator or will that induce bottle-shock? The solution became clear once I tried to stash the bottle on the rack of my wine fridge; the bottle’s shape didn’t accommodate the space allocated on the rack. I placed the bottle in my living room wine rack to let it adjust gradually to a room temperature.
A few days later, I decided to open my bottle, but it tasted close to a cough syrup flavor. I air-locked the bottle and gave it another day before trying it again, this time in a proper pinot Reidel glass. I let it breathe for about 15 minutes and tried it again. This time, I did taste what was probably once a very good pinot noir but had since turned due to warm-weather shipping or perhaps improper storage before shipping. What I did get out of this was fruit forward, young wine that probably would have been great had it not been bottle shocked.
Pinot Noir grapes are difficult to cultivate and obviously difficult to ship in warm weather. There are many wineries that refuse to ship when the weather is too warm because these bottles are like their babies and they want to protect them from the elements. Priced at approximately $35 a bottle, the shock of weather is something to be considered when shipping, even if only from the Central Coast to Napa Valley. Cool packs are a great invention for short-term shipping, but many wineries hold off shipping until mid-fall, if only to avoid having to re-ship because the recipient complains the wine is bad.
To ship or not to ship? It would depend on the distance, the weather, the cool packs utilized and more factors, such as method of shipping.