Founders of the influential California winemakers’ group end the organization on a high note.
May 23, 2016, San Francisco — In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB) co-founders Jasmine Hirsch and Rajat Parr have announced that their organization of noteworthy California winemakers will close operations at the end of 2016.
“We created IPOB to change the dialogue around the meaning and importance of balance in California wine,” Hirsch said. “As we look back on what we have achieved, we’re gratified by the response of wine producers, the wine trade, and wine lovers who have accompanied us on our endeavor to affect the dialogue surrounding California wine. Together, we have brought this conversation to the fore of the global wine community.”
“IPOB was founded to show what balance in wine means to us,” Parr added. “It started as a small event to draw attention to producers who weren’t chasing after ratings from wine critics. It wasn’t supposed to be an ideological war, but we felt that balanced wines (in California) weren’t being paid enough attention to by the wine community, so we decided to shine some light on what we were doing.”
The San Francisco-based nonprofit group was formed in 2011 by Parr, proprietor of Sandhi Wines and Domaine de la Côte in Santa Barbara County, and Hirsch, the general manager of Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast.
Their group’s mission, defined in its Manifesto of Balance, has been:
To bring together like-minded growers, winemakers, sommeliers, retailers, journalists and consumers who believe in the potential of California to produce profound and balanced pinot noirs. This isn’t a rebellion, but rather a gathering of believers. The wines presented here should speak for themselves and lay the groundwork for a discussion on the nature of balance in California pinot noir.
“There was an information gap between the full-throttle, high-alcohol wines, and the more subtle, nuanced wines our member wineries were producing,” Hirsch said. “We felt that we could best put our message out as a group, which is why we created IPOB.”
Each year, producers of California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were accepted for membership in IPOB after submitting their wines to a blind tasting panel. IPOB then organized what became an influential series of annual tastings and educational seminars around the country and world, showcasing California wines that reflect their vineyard origins and display lower alcohol levels. These events drew media and consumer attention to a more moderate winemaking style taking hold in the state, resulting in some confrontational conversations within the wine community. Articles on the group and its mission, both pro and con, appeared in a broad range of print and digital media, including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Spectator Magazine, and the Wine Advocate.
The producers involved with IPOB represent the leading edge of winemaking in California and include some of the state’s most respected Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers, including Mount Eden Vineyards, Littorai, Calera, Hanzell, and Au Bon Climat, alongside new generation producers such as Ceritas, Kutch, Cobb, Matthiasson, Tyler, and Chanin. Beginning with one San Francisco tasting in 2011, the organization’s scope grew to include an international itinerary of tastings in Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, Houston, Dusseldorf, and other cities. Membership in 2016 stands at 36 wineries.
Parr says, “We’re pleased by the feedback we’ve received from consumers and sommeliers around the world and we wouldn’t change anything in the way IPOB has been received. We want everyone to have a voice in the winemaking world, regardless of their style or palate preferences.”
As to why the group is ceasing operations, Hirsch said, “We created IPOB at a time when this conversation was not taking place on a broad and public level. We achieved what we intended – to bring the debate around balance and winemaking styles to the forefront of the wine community. This debate will continue in California and around the world, and it is by no means finished. We wanted to end on a high note, and the impact of the IPOB events held around the globe this past year shows that our message is resonating solidly in the wine trade as well as with consumers. This discussion about balance and wine’s place at the dinner table has become a common part of the conversation about California wine all over the world.”
The organization will conclude with a final IPOB tasting in San Francisco in early November. Details will be announced in the fall