Schug’s winemaker on greatness in Pinot

25th February, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

Mike Cox, winemaker at Schug Winery in Carneros, shares his views on attempting to achieve perfection with Pinot in California, and names a handful of producers he really rates for their handling of the grape.

Mike Cox

Mike Cox is winemaker at Schug Winery in Carneros

What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?
For me, Pinot Noir is first and foremost about elegance and mouthfeel. It is very much a textural wine. Supple on entry, rich throughout and a long silky finish. All hung on a solid framework of acidity to carry it. From there we can talk about the nuances of the wine as it ages, but it all starts with the mouthfeel.

What regions of the world have the potential to produce high quality Pinot Noir? 

Anywhere the growing seasons are long enough for flavors to develop without an oppressive amount of alcohol. In addition to the obvious Burgundy, I have had great wines from Germany (primarily the Rheingau), Austria (Neusiedlersee), New Zealand, Oregon, and right here in Carneros.

How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?

One of the great things about working with Walter [Schug] is that his vision really has not changed. We don’t have to chase styles as they continuously evolve. We make wines that Walter likes to drink. My approach though has matured and I am more willing to hold back and wait for things to develop rather than be too fiddly up front. Not that I am afraid to course correct, I just am a little more patient and shoot for more of a middle ground.

What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in California?

I think the pendulum is swinging back from a heavy-handed approach to one in which subtlety and grace are appreciated. If people are looking for big Napa Cabs or a big Dry Creek Zin, they are sticking to that, not trying to force those riper styles on the drinking public.

What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?

It’s subtlety. It’s every changing nature. Pinot Noir will never bore you, it may on occasion disappoint you, but it will soar higher than any other wine.

Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?

Bob Sesssions for decades, and now Michael McNeill at Hanzell have made wines that are the gold standard for Sonoma Pinot Noir. I think Scott Rich, formerly of Carneros Creek Etude and now of his own Talisman brand has shown a deft hand in crafting a wide range of styles and bottlings. When it comes to Burgundy, my personal winemaking hero is François Millet of Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé: the absolute master of Pinot Noir.

This interview as conducted by the drinks business shortly after it concluded the Global Pinot Noir Masters 2013, in which Schug Winery was awarded the top accolade of Master for its Carneros Pinot Noir from the 2011 vintage. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, each Pinot Noir was assessed by style and price rather than being judged by country. The full results from the competition will be featured in the March edition of db. For more information on the Pinot Masters, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Administrative Assistant

Swig Wines Ltd
Chiswick, London, UK

HR Manager

Amathus Drinks PLC
London, UK

Senior Sales Manager

Haynes Hanson & Clark
Gloucestershire, GB

Customer Services Administrator

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

National Business Development Manager

Speciality Drinks Group
London, UK

Inventory Analyst

Bibendum PLB
London, UK

Events Executive - Atom Supplies

ATOM Supplies Limited
London, UK

Off-Trade Sales Account Executive

Domaine Direct
Nationwide, working from a combination of home & London office.

Sales Executive/Brand Ambassador

Glenfarclas
Ballindalloch, Speyside, UK

Client Manager

Noble Rot
Wandsworth, London, GB

Spirits Investment Director

Stilnovisti
London, UK

Junior Brand Manager

Enotria Winecellars
Park Royal, London, UK

Content & Digital Assistant

ABVGlobal
London, UK

Sales Manager

Cellar Trends
London, UK

Editorial Assistant

Wine List Confidential
London, UK

Champagne Masters 2017

Deadline : 7th July 2017

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th July 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th July 2017

The Global Syrah Masters 2017

Deadline : 18th July 2017

Click to view more

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Rioja Masters 2016

Now in its fifth year, the competition will recognise and reward the finest Riojas on the world stage.

Fortified Masters 2016

Now in its third year, The Fortified Masters will reward the best fortified wines on offer.

Click to view more