Antonio, I do not have the time right now to share all of the thoughts with you that I would like to, but I don't think it changes anything to gross up the numbers by throwing in more wines that weren't worth reviewing. Your boss (or former boss) has long been on record that the vast majority of CA wine is bargain-priced plonk, coming from overcropping, poor choice of varietal for the site, sites better suited to fruit and vegetables than to wine grapes, etc., so the truth is that WA reviews, for Napa and elsewhere in CA, have long been only of the top tier. (The same is true of Bordeaux and the southern Rhone as well.) Thus, I think that we can rule out the sample size as a rationalization for anything, and I, for one, am not much impressed with the attempt to diddle the numbers in that way.
While I would agree that Napa is not a static situation, there is only so much quality land available there, and most that can be developed for wine production has been. I also have serious doubts about Napa having an endless supply of winemaking geniuses with limited track records who strike pay dirt with their first offerings. That is not true anywhere else in the world, and there is no reason why that would be true in Napa alone, great weather notwithstanding. I am also doubtful that there has been the radical escalation in quality that you seem to be claiming since Bob Parker stopped covering the region. For a few producers, you can make the "second wine" argument, but not for enough to justify your stratospheric scores. What you see more often is producers making ever-growing numbers of single-vineyard wines, which at this point is not going to have much of an impact on quality, and might even hurt some of what were previously successful blends from multiple vineyards. (Cory Miller, I also need to observe that there is ZERO correlation between small production and quality, even if a high number of great wines do, in fact, come in small quantities. Old vines and low yields matter, at least in some cases. Not being able to buy but so much land or fruit is a very different thing. I do agree with you, however, about the northern Rhone score inflation.)
Antonio, I cannot accept your Piemonte/Tuscany arguments, either. There is no difference between the presence of Dolcetto and Barbera in the Piemonte, or all of the foreign varietals grown in Tuscany, and the poor-quality Cabs, Merlot, Chardonnay and other varietals grown in Napa. None of those wines count in any meaningful comparison of scores. You measure only top to top...Barolo and Barbaresco against Napa Cabs (blended and unblended seems fair to me) against the top Supertuscans (there not being enough truly great Brunellos or Chianti Classicos to allow a top-to-top comparison with those wines). Since there are fewer, say, Barolo and Barbaresco producers working less land, and not all of the producers are making high-quality wines, it is reasonable to assume that there will be fewer great wines made. However, I am hard pressed to think of any Cali Cab that you could prefer to the wines from the greatest vineyards of the greatest producers in the greatest vintages in the Piemonte. Ditto Burgundy, measuring top to top. California has no G. Conterno and no Giacosa, no Aubert de Villaine, no Lalou Bize-Leroy. It has no soil to match the soil that those producers work. And what about the extraordinary, almost unbroken string of strong vintages in the Piemonte? Indeed, the Piemonte and Burgundy would not be the only regions filling the bill in my line of argument above. And is not Italy, rather than just the Piemonte or the Piemonte and Tuscany, every bit as vast as California?
California is an infant wine-producing region in the grand scheme of things. It suffered years of dreadfully wrongheaded advice from UC-Davis wonks and all sorts of trial-and-error experimentation with soils, varietals and clones. It is a work still very much in progress, and the region whose wine styles have been most influenced (dominated really) by Parker's insistence on ripe, fruity, high-alcohol, oaky wines. I am not her to say that CA wines have not come a long way; they surely have. I am not here to say that there are not many excellent wines, regardless of my personal preferences. I am saying that there is virtually no chance that the quality of the wines that you have tasted is so dramatically and uniformly better than those from the rest of the world. Lastly, the notion that your lack of tasting experience earlier gave rise to lower scores stands logic on its head. If that is the case, then, with all due respect, why would I want the scores and notes from your on-the-job training in Burgundy, Champagne and California? I appreciate very much your appearance here and on the Squires board, and your openness and willingness to share your views. However, I must also observe that doing so has obviously been an attempt to defend against the criticism that your work has engendered, which is part of the broader criticism of Bob Parker and the Wine Advocate in recent years. I applaud the effort, but for me, it has not succeeded...