WineSmith Planet Pluto Meritage (4)

WineSmith Planet Pluto Meritage 4-Pack

$52.99 $̶9̶5.̶0̶0̶ 44% off List Price

2006 WineSmith Planet Pluto Meritage
CT Link above

WineSmith website

Planet Pluto Wine website

Hi, Clark Smith here from WineSmith, with another crazy brand I make.

The ’06 Planet Pluto is a blend of 3 Cabs, a Cab Franc and a Merlot in a lovely Margaux style. It’s aged very well and developed considerable bottle bouquet and aromatic nuance. The tannins are still firm but pretty well resolved, so it’s ready to drink with steak, wild mushrooms or duck breast, and it just loves a nice old cheddar.

Even though I’m the director of the Best-of-Appellation awards panel for, and am a true believer in the centrality of regional character, I think appellation craziness is really bad for the industry. A lot of consumers who can’t tell good wine from bad want to spend their way into quality by buying big names and prestigious appellations. They’re not really buying wine, they’re buying insurance, paying 80 dollars for a 20 dollar wine. They end up with poor value, so the policy doesn’t actually pay off.

The problem in places like Napa and Burgundy is that the real estate prices are five or ten times what normal farm land costs.

I do a lot of winemaking consulting and work closely with a large number of growers from unfashionable areas who grow wines just as good as places that charge many times their price per ton. The best Lodi Cabernet costs about $1200 per ton, whereas the average Napa Cab is $5,000. Go over the county line from Napa into Solano County, and the price drops 80% in the space of a few feet.

I’ve been making wine for almost forty years, so I’ve developed a following of people who trust me to make European-style wines with good balance and structure. I wanna be your insurance policy. Hey, it’s free! I really like making affordable wines while at the same time giving business to these hard-working unsung grower heroes from obscure or under-appreciated regions.

Hmm WineSmith…
I’m hoping he’s on to discuss this wine.


  1. Specs, Alc%, PH, TA.
  2. Drink now? ageability?
  3. Chemical additives? (This is not a bad thing, I’m more asking because you’ve been very upfront about how you believe a few tweaks can make a good wine a great wine. And I like learning)

Also hope there are some tasting notes!

This wine has its own website: Besides all the details of the wine, there’s a lively defense of the fact that Pluto IS a planet.

I’ve got a tiny bit of room in my rack, so I’ll give this a try. Sounds yummy and now I have another reason to break out some really good cheddar or Dry Monterey Jack. :slight_smile:

2006 planet Pluto

I had the opportunity to try this wine recently. Here are my notes.

Lots of dark fruit on the PNP with some menthol or eucalyptus, allspice, and a touch a vanilla. Blackberry, dark cherry, vanilla and some sweet earthiness on the palate with a nice amount of acidity and low to moderate tannin. Finish of blackberries and dark chocolate

After opening a bit, I’m getting some licorice on the nose. The nose is leveling out between the fruit and spice.

Overall a nice, balanced wine. Drinking well now but will hold up many more years.

It also appears that this was tasted at last night’s NoCal Bordeaux tasting.

Wine List post

So I expect we’ll see some posts once they sober up … :wink:

:frowning: on referring to a website… and I might be blind or not reading right - but I do not find the wealth of information that w00turrrrs wantzzzz.
Is the website ready?
In fact after clicking all tabs and a few links - I find nothing about this specific wine? The “buy wine” link does not help that much either.
How many cases produced?

What is great about woot is that the information is all supposed to be right here usually …

Sure. The wine is 13.5% alcohol made in a classic Bordeaux style. Because of its firm but feminine tannins and the tobacco nuances like you see in Palmer, if I had to pick a commune in the Medoc, I’d say it’s closest to a Margaux.

The TA is 4.9 gm/L and the pH is 3.79. These are high pH numbers by Davis standards, but when I worked with Pascal Ribereau-Gayon in the early '90s when he was the Director of the faculty of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux, he taught me a lot about how to make these wines properly. When you have big tannins like they do, acidity is your enemy for several reasons.

First of all, astringency is caused by the interaction of polyphenolics and salivary protein. We think of controlling it with, say, egg white or isinglass fining to remove the tannins, but he thought that a mistake, because you rob the wine of the structure it needs to integrate aromas and to age well.

Instead, Pascal believed that you need to keep the TAs low, because the amount of salivary protein which enters the mouth is exactly proportional to the titratable acidity. That’s because your saliva is basic, and the more acid you have, the more of it is needed to neutralize the wine.

Therefore, he advocated ripe fruit, which in Bordeaux meant they often needed to use reverse osmosis to remove the rainwater from juice and get more time on the vine. For us, that’s not a problem – we use RO in a different way to remove excessive alcohol.

Anyway, lower TAs generally result in higher pHs, but up to a point, that’s a good thing. In whites, we want our pHs low to maintain freshness. pH is sort of the gas pedal of ageing, with pH 3.2-3.4 corresponding to in-town driving, i.e 25-45 MPH, while he advocated for reds pH 3.7 - 3.85, which is like freeway driving at 55-75 MPH, if you get my drift.

If you try to age whites at high p[H, they oxidize rapidly. But that’s because they have no tannin. Tannins take up oxygen and protect the wine, and they do this much faster and more dependably at high pH. Thus reds are prevented from oxidation by higher pH.

Now let’s not get crazy. pH 4.0 is like driving 100 MPH, and that’s too fast for careful work.

This deal is literally at the tip of my finger over that big yellow box. Just waiting for some more notes. Grrr… I want but don’t at the same time!

Not sure what’s crazy about that. I find 100 MPH very normal on the proper Autobahn. It is the normal speed there for many.
Most US roads are so boringly straight that they would even support speeds of 150+ MPH easily (if you would get rid of stupid drivers and large trucks who try to take over other trucks).
But well, I guess for some 100 MPH is fast. :slight_smile:

Thanks for that. Did you do a RO to bleed off some of the alcohol on this wine?

And would you recommend airing this? decanter? Or is this softened enough to go from pnp?

Folks, this is probably one the of best comments ever posted on wine woot.
Read these words of wisdom, once, or maybe twice.
I gotta go to bed now, work comes early tomorrow, but can’t wait to read more about this wine tomorrow.
Heck, I’m sure I’ll be in for one… :slight_smile:

This is a pretty complex blend. I’ll describe the flavor contributions of each vineyard. You should go to the website to check out my grower gallery of “dirty pictures” at

The blend consists of fruit from our network of excellent growers from many regions in California, all of whom we have worked with for many years. Here we show how they function seamlessly as a team to produce a wine of remarkable character and affordability.

Cabernet Sauvignon
68% Peterson Lodi – A rich, round, dark base wine with fine tannins, Peterson is also 91% of our WineSmith Cab. A lot of people consider Jim’s vineyard the best Cab in Lodi, and his son Marty has used lots of it in the Niebaum Coppola wines.
4% Tulucay Creek, Napa Valley, Coombsville vicinity – Our $100 Crucible Cab Sauv contributes immense structure even in this small quantity.
2% Gary Mangels, Suisun Valley – Gives seductive aromas of red currants and chocolate fudge and more of those elegant, feminine tannins.

Cabernet Franc
11% Kautz Lodi – Gives profound basil, elderberry and tobacco nuances as well as an energetic mouth-feel.

15% Passalacqua Alexander Valley – This dense, supple Merlot has rich, round body and deep black cherry and Darjeeling tea aromas.

These elements were given 30 months in old French oak to create mature Bordeaux style red which speaks of the many aspects of California regional characteristics.

I see your point, and I apologize. I decided in this wine to have a little more fun than I normally do. My WineSmith brand is pretty seriously geeky, and in this one I’m sort of experimenting with letting my inner child go nuts (albeit a geeky, astronomy-oriented inner child destined for MIT). is definitely not a wooter-type site, unless some of you want to have some philosophical fun with me about whether Pluto is a planet or not, and more to the point, why we give such a rat’s behind about appellations in the first place, to the extent that they drive up prices.

I’m basically a teacher, and all my wines have a message. We’ve talked a lot about structure, minerality, longevity and balance with some of my previous offerings. For the novice drinker, the take-home message of this wine is to trust you palate, your local retailer and your homies on the net more than the appearance of quality based on a tony AVA and a big price tag. For wooters, the message is simply - hey, you guys know me, and I never steer you wrong. I think I earned your trust with the WineSmith Faux Chablis Double Dare, and I haven’t let you down since. There are definitely some winemakers out there worth trusting (Peter Wellington’s offering yesterday is a good example), and that approach makes a lot more sense than overpaying for an appellation.

Anyhow, we made 199 cases of this stuff, drawing on larger lots destined for WineSmith Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Crucible and Pennyfarthing Cab Sauv and Merlot. I wanted to see if a provocative concept and a memorable label could help me establish a high value brand that wasn’t tied down to any specific appellation. This is the second vintage.

Thanks, Winesmith for the great information. Could you also answer the question about ageability and if this wine needs to be drunk now? Thanks.

After reading some of these detailed posts, the yellow button got the best of me. In for one just because my heart is telling me this juice is incredibly interesting. I love the blend ratio to this meritage and I hope she doesn’t do me wrong, in fact I’m pretty sure she wont. Thanks everyone for the quality posts here!

As a general rule, I like to pick when fruit is fully ripe so I optimize my color and color extraction. To aid in this, I put an untoasted oak chip from the French forest of Alliers, air-cured 18 months, into the fermenter to assist color extraction. This chip is made by a company named Boise France from the 75% of good wood left over from the barrel making process, wood which was hewn away to make staves. It has no oak toast flavors such as vanilla, coffee or toasted almond. I never buy new barrels, because I think it’s very wasteful to use a piece of fine oak furniture made from a 200-year-old tree to flavor a wine. Most of my barrels are at least 20 years old.

At the crusher, I generally add 45 ppm of sulfur dioxide in order to repress spoilage organisms and give my inoculated yeast strain a chance to get a footing. In a classic Bordeaux style, I am uneasy about uninoculated fermentations, which can add a lot of microbial aromatics which dominate over the grape varietal characters I am trying to balance.

Since I’m not picking based on numbers, I may, if necessary, correct pH to an initial 3.55 with tartaric acid from grapes. This pH will drift into the correct zone after skin contact, the effects of fermentation, and malolactic. For more on my philosophy of High pH Winemaking, check out

Once I get extraction and dryness, I will keep the wine on the skins and bring in oxygen with a micro-diffuser at 40 to 80 times the rate a barrel supplies. The goal is to oxidatively polymerize the color and tannin into short, stable chains, the ideal structure for good aromatic integration and graceful longevity.

Ironically, oxygen at this stage is homeopathic. It actually increases the wine’s anti-oxidative power and longevity, at the same time refining the structure. I use this technique in preference to fining with egg whites or isinglass, in my mind an obsolete procedure for winemakers who don’t know how to work with tannins.

Oxygenation is used the same way in chocolate making - converting harsh, nasty cocoa powder into voluptuous chocolate. You know that chocolate waterfall in Willy Wonka? They really have those. It’s called “conching.”

Finally, I often employ the reverse osmosis process I invented to lower the alcohol if it’s excessive. I never consider brix when determining proper ripeness, and simply rebalance the wine if it needs it. We did this on the Peterson Cabernet component, which was originally 14.8%, lowered to 13.2% and later rebalanced to a “sweet spot.” This wine was mostly bottled as WineSmith 206 Cab Sauv and was finished at 13.7% by re-addition of its own high proof alcohol.

This wine is in great shape at seven years’ age, with plenty of time to go (at least five, probably ten years of life remaining, or more in a good cellar), but it’s drinking extremely well right now, in middle age bringing together the cedar and tobacco nuances of bottle bouquet with the firmness and fresh fruit flavors of youth.

Sure, I gotcha. Thanks for playing with the analogy. Davis profs think my teaching about “high pH winemaking” is a little irresponsible. But lots of winemakers hang the Jesus out of their Cabs and make wines at pH 4.3, which is more like 160 MPH.

Who am I to question? These wines come out of the bottle at warp speed, but crash and burn in the cellar. Except when they age just fine.

A lifetime’s not long enough!We’re all just playing with our theories and observing what really happens, trying to learn, and meantime keep our customers satisfied. I just try to stick to my little Eurocentric niche, explain my reasoning, and try to avoid throwing rocks at other winemakers on a different path.

We winemakers are like musicians - it’s vital that everybody makes their own kind of liquid music.