14 December 2011

Go away

It’s moving day.

A site and a blog are bad enough. A site, a blog, and another blog are unworkable. And it’s worse when only one sees new content over any given period, as so often happens here.

So, everything’s moving to a single-family home, albeit a large one. I’ll soon set up the proper redirects and such, and on some future day all the retrograde content will go away.

The new digs? They’re still called oenoLogic, but they’re at thoriverson.com, where they should have been all along. What can I say? The oenoLogician fears change, except perhaps for the spare kind.

Almost all the content that was here is now there. Essays and rants, yes, and also all the tasting notes that used to be here. What’s yet to shift geographies in their full form are the travelogues, which were written in the HTML equivalent of Sumerian and will need to be moved by hand. My joy is…hard to quantify.

But meanwhile? Get the heck out of here. Go. Go. Go!

01 December 2011


Allegrini 1997 “Palazzo della Torre” (Veneto) – Dead. Dense, purple-black, and texturally rich, but dead. (11/11)

I forgot

Pike “Auld Acquaintance Happy Holiday Ale” (Washington) – Solid and heavy, as befits the genre, with some spicy/metallic/preserved lemon stuff going on. Very linear. (11/11)


Castello della Paneretta 1999 Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany) – Ashen red fruit, wan and fading. Drink up a few years ago. (11/11)

Patty Smythe

Karly 2008 Zinfandel “Warrior Fires” (Amador County) – 15.4%. Giant, dark, dusty fruit that’s trying way too hard. Power without substance. To write more about what I found would be giving the wine more credit than it deserves for overachievement despite a lack of something to say. Let up on the gas pedal, please. (11/11)

10 November 2011

Stop, look, Listán

Carballo 2008 La Palma Listán Blanco (Canary Islands) – There’s a sort of banana-cream-in-amber character that slowly-oxidized wines – versus the ultra-natural ones that cavort their fields of youth with oxygen and other ill-favored companions – take on with time (see, for example, Mosel riesling), but carefully-nurtured young wines can sometimes achieve this character on the early side with a measured dose of postnatal oxygen. Here’s one, or so it seems, though I’d be very wary of calling it predominately oxidized or even oxidative. Rather, it’s quite fruit-dominated (“fruit” standing in for a range of sunlight and blossoming florals cut with the redolence of the fruit half of a Western produce aisle) at the moment. It’s also very low-acid, though that should not be mistaken for warm-climate sludge; this has enough structure to sustain it for the nonce. There are darker intimations of metal-jacketed red cherries, even black cherries, that play around with the blood orange finish, teasing that it might plan to be something or somewhere other than what and where it is. Anyway, a lot of words have just passed without my having gotten a complete grasp on the wine, and I think the only clear conclusion is that this is pretty fascinating stuff. (11/11)

'cross the wide Missouri

Shenandoah 2009 Zinfandel “Special Reserve” (California) – 14.5%. Kinda dull, rote, zin-by-numbers…except that it’s flatter than that, bringing charred paper and an air of complete, Kristen Stewart-like indifference to its mission. (11/11)

Pokerville? I don't even know'erville!

Karly 2009 Zinfandel Pokerville (Amador County) – 14.5%...and yes, the name means what you think; it was apparently the name of the town of Plymouth at one point during the gold rush years, and for the immediately obvious reason to anyone who thinks about leisure-time activities for a bunch of men who’ve spent weeks scratching for little more than riches and mosquitoes. (It’s kind of a shame they changed it.) Bursty fruit, as if the half-wild, half-cultivated berries are being crushed as the wine’s sipped. Or, rather, guzzled. This isn’t a sipping wine. Fruity fun. (11/11)

Free Jasmin

Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – This is the first bottle of a quantity of these that has not been a wretched, stewed mess (and/or corked). And while it’s no great wine, it is at least good…and, for a change, tastes like a Côte-Rôtie rather than a toxic waste dump. Keening acidity, brittle and somewhat flaky dried-meat aromatics that blend seamlessly into an equally brittle and flaky structure, and a dusting of blended peppercorns. Quite pleasant. Of course, a Jasmin Côte-Rôtie should be a good deal more than “quite pleasant,” but at this point I’ll take what I can get. (11/11)

Walden Rhône

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Fading, with its structure now taking control of the dark, earthen, somewhat tarred fruit. Drink up. (11/11)

Just a Wegeler guy

Wegeler 1999 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 02 001 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Thai riesling (lemongrass, Makrut lime leaf, palm sugar), with the texture but not the taste of coconut cream. Very intense, very sweet, but as certain omissions in the list of Thai referents might suggest, somewhat acid-deficient. It’s not flabby, but there’s no respite for its thickness nor its sugar. Is it ready? Well, it’s not falling apart, but I’m dubious that more time is going to lead to anything measurably better. (11/11)

Chimay, Chimay, cocoa bop

Chimay Trappist Ale “Grandes Réserve” (Belgium) – This was purchased in 2008, but unless “LAN-662” is the lot number (and it may be) I have no way to know exactly what release it was. And unlike many of my beer aging experiments, this was one was a resounding success. Richer, darker, and more complex than at release (and it’s a pretty excellent beer even then), with more of its aromatics inhabiting the coffee, molasses, and chocolate realms. Yet it’s not sweeter. In fact, the opposite, as if its asymptote is amaro rather than that suggested by the sweet-ish aromas. I love this, and will promptly stash more in the cellar..(11/11)


Duvel 2009 Golden Ale (Belgium) – A beer aging experiment. This didn’t fail like some have, but it didn’t lead to much reward either: the beer is more lemon-dominated than its richer youth, and more about frothy yeastiness than much in the way of gained complexity. To make a wine analogy, aging it more or less turned a decent Champagne into a good Prosecco. (11/11)

Bech & call

Jan Becker Becherovka (Czech Republic) – Texturally Chartreuse-like but aromatically more like a spice accident. Cinnamon, for certain, and I’m pretty sure about cloves, and there’s a supporting role played by anise. Sweet, but cut with some bitterness, it’s less akin to actual bitters than it is to the sort of herbal quasi-liqueurs found all over Europe but rarely far afield from their region of production. (This bottle, in fact, was smuggled back…though it seems that it’s legally available in the States these days.) Fun. (10/11)

Pigato in a poke

Terrebianche 2010 Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato (Liguria) – Almond flesh and pine nuts, hearts of palm, vibrant but ripe acidity, white pepper. And inside, a beige-toned and bony skeleton of structure. It’s worrisomely short, but that’s really carping about a generally quite decent wine. (10/11)

BB bite

Barmès Buecher 2007 Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace) – Clean. Papered-over lemon and apple skin. Not really much more than that; an unusually simple performance for this wine, which is never overly complex but usually shows more than this. Blame barometric pressure or something. (10/11)


Kathy Lynskey 2005 “Single Vineyard” Gewürztraminer (Marlborough) – Which vineyard is going solo here? Ms. Lynskey doesn’t say. But while Marlborough is not, historically, New Zealand’s premiere bid at spicy stardom, my long-standing argument – really, I’ve been on this kick since the 90s – that the Long White Cloud is the next-to-Alsace-best source of full-throttled gewürztraminer is not belied by this wine. No, it’s not near the top of the heap. Yes, it’s just a little long in the tooth (it’s always worth remembering that New Zealand’s clonal material is, in general, absurdly young and frequently suboptimal), but what’s left is a coal-soaked study in bacon-fried lychee and drying, almost “orange wine”-like skins. There’s no lushness here, nor more than a token nod at what was, once, probably a noticeable softening from residual sugar. But it was still probably a dry-intentioned wine in its youth, and it most certainly is now, and that’s not always found in tandem with this sort of spice; usually, dry gewürztraminer outside of Alsace can rise to no more aromatic plateau than rose petals. So…a lot of words, not much of a conclusion. Here’s one: if it’s cheap (and this certainly was; I catch a whiff of “inventory clearance” from this bottle), one could really do a lot worse. (10/11)

Bekaa call

Hochar “Château Musar” 2001 Red (Bekaa Valley) – Opening Musar and finding only a small handful of flaws is like winning the lottery, albeit with a payoff in swampwater currency. But other than the most fundamentalist natural wine cultists, who will excuse just about anything, I doubt anyone would give this a second thought were the underlying material not so appealing in the face of, and often despite, those flaws. Still, it’s not a wine for everyone even in the best of conditions, and at our table of three there’s one who adores it (me), one who expressed surprised approval, and one who outright rejects it as being more or less undrinkable. Such is the Musar experience. This bottle, with its reasonably-restrained brett and tolerable volatile acidity (a VA-phobe is saying this, mind), shows that not-mature/full-mature blend of berries and roasted things that’s more or less the Musar signature, with a bracing slap of tannin and a juicily crisp finish. Will it age? Probably. It usually does, and this seems to have the structure for it. But it’s only going to get weirder. (10/11)

Here's Johnn

Zidarich 2008 Carso Vitovska (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Flowers and saline-infused nettles scraped with the rough edge of a dull razor of tannin. A wine that will not be ignored, but to pay it sufficient attention demonstrates how its skin-contact has, at least in the interim, gotten a bit out of hand in relation to its fruit. Will that change with time? Quite possibly. It’s a fascinating exploration of one of the edges of orange winedom, but even such edgeworking vinification needs an occasional sense of restraint, and I’m not entirely sure it was exercised here. Still, this can all be mitigated – somewhat – with sufficiently fatty food, the sort that would typically require something from the much more russet genre. (10/11)

Having more fun

Calek 2010 “Blonde” (Ardèche) – Incandescent-lit sepia photographs, the buzz and rattle of an old electric space heater, a dusty shaft of sunlight from an ill-fitting doorframe, and just a hint of a mysteriously organic aroma emanating from somewhere just offstage. (10/11)

Oud Papi

Papilloud 2009 Amigne de Vétroz Grand Cru (Valais) – Off-dry and thoroughly alive…even to the point of a bit of spritz (or at least a tactile analogue of same)…with a chalky texture that, due to the sugar, veers occasionally in the direction of powdered fruit candy. Yet the wine is not candied at all, though it does seem to be done up in rosé hues despite being a white wine. The finish, too, is notable not only for its duration for the way it starts to swirl and veer like runaway fireworks. A fascinating wine at, like so much from Switzerland, an extravagantly aspirational price. (10/11)

Seigneurs moment

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – A very recent purchase, allegedly due to the winery’s recently-abandoned importer dumping their stocks on large-volume buyers (in this case, the dreaded Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board), and from one of apparently 19 or so cases stacked in a suburban outpost of Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor monopoly and priced at far less than 50% of what I’d consider current retail. Now, I’m quite a fan of these sorts of inventory clearance sales, but this particular release has me either doubting the story or concerned on a wider scale, because there are signs of heat damage here. Not major, and not yet all that apparent in the wine (which is different from invisible), but there’s seepage enough to have escaped about a quarter of the corks and cause the capsules to become adhesive little nightmares of glutinous packaging. My expanded universe of worry results from a concern that the wine was delivered in this condition, which means that the damage occurred at the importer level, which would be – let me emphasize my personal concern on this point as person with more Trimbach in his cellar than any other wine – horrifying to contemplate. The other possibility, of course, is that the wine was fine at delivery and was very quickly baked by the fine folks at the PLCB, who is not legendary for their nurturing storage conditions. (Is that vague enough to keep the lawyers at bay?)

So what’s left? The sort of high-minded, mineral, wet gewurztraminer this cuvée is known for, resting more on its structure than almost any other Alsatian gewurztraminer of note. But a bit more dilute than I’d expect at this stage (I do expect closure from these wines, and this would be the time for it, but I think there’s more than a closed period at work here), and the bacony stage that this wine usually finds in its maturity has a little more smoke than usual, with just the faintest touch of caramelization. Based on which, of course, I see the heat damage that I expect from the condition of the bottles, though I wonder if I’d note it had I not seen the physical evidence. Based on this performance, I’m probably going to plow through most of these over the fairly term, leaving the smaller quantity of at-release purchases for a later date. (10/11)

From this point Hengst

Barmès Buecher 2001 Gewurztraminer Hengst (Alsace) – Lavish. Lychee, yes, but also cashews-as-fruit, and almonds. Hazelnuts. Just a hint of smoked pork. Very sweet, luxuriantly spicy, and…OK, yes, it’s a little acid-deficient for all that sweetness, but what does one expect from Hengst gewurztraminer in a (very) good vintage? In terms of age, I’d say it’s at very, very early maturity right now. Those who want a little more bacon to “cut” the sugar will have to wait. (10/11)

Pfersigberg, we take Manhattan

Barmès Buecher 2004 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg (Alsace) – Mildly corked, probably (it’s below my threshold, at least). What’s certain is that it’s not right. Pfersigberg can show as brittle, but this is just absent. (10/11)


Breton 2005 Bourgueil “Nuits d’Ivresse” (Loire) – Since I’m incapable of holding on to this wine long enough to see how it ages, I have to rely on more responsible pals to find out how long the nights of drunkenness can last. It turns out: at least this long, and quite possibly longer. This is one of the most overtly appealing wines from this appellation, grape, or producer I’ve ever tasted…it practically sings with polychromatic beauty. (10/11)

Over hill and del

Ridge 1999 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 14.4% alcohol, 95% zinfandel. I basically go into older Ridge Paso Robles experiences expecting booze. I don’t get that there. Oh, it doesn’t lack alcohol, but despite the lack of, well, lack it’s more or less balanced in that lukewarm California-simmer style. The fruit has moved not an inch, but the oak has receded into “Draper perfume” (really just a euphemism for the lingering toasted coconut of maturing wood aromas). It’s nice, but aside from wood-shedding I’m not sure what the point of aging it was. (10/11)


Landron “Atmosphères” (Loire) – Like drinking razors. Well-salted razors. (10/11)

08 November 2011

The Soulez of the land

Soulez “Château de la Genaiserie” 1996 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin La Roche “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Loire) – 500 ml. I remember the fuss about wines of this nature back in the time it was released, with people taking sides on the question of whether or not a wine with ludicrous levels of residual sugar could actually be called a wine anymore. I never really saw the point of the argument, myself; I mean, if it’s made from grapes and there has been any yeast conversion of sugar to alcohol at all, how is it not wine? As with so many such debates, the issue is really just a bunch of pundits trying to externalize their personal preferences into independent existence. Which is, of course, utter nonsense. If you don’t like sweetness of this magnitude, just say so and move on.

And yes, this is powerfully, painfully, almost unimaginably sweet. Even after fifteen years, it’s primary, syrupy (though there’s perceivable acidity), and has fuck-all to say about chenin blanc or Coteaux du Layon other than that the appellation is entirely capable of producing wines like this. That said, isn’t that by itself a statement about the terroir and cépage? After all, I don’t think you can do this with cabernet franc up-river in Chinon. Do I like it? Well, it’s impressive. It’s sort of an absurdly-endowed porn star (either gender) sort of impressiveness, though. I have no idea how much age would be required to make it develop, but I suspect the cork will have failed long before that point has been reached. So really, there’s no particular reason not to drink it, but no particular reason to hurry towards it with a corkscrew either. It is, I suspect, a near-eternal monument to excess. (10/11)

Silver syrah

Sierra Vista 1999 “25th Anniversary” Syrah (El Dorado) – 13.5%. Succulent maturing-blackberry fruit braced by leafy and somewhat brittle tannin and coal dust. A bit coniferous. This wine is diverging in a fashion that should lead anyone still holding it to make a choice: wait for further maturity in the fruit (which will undoubtedly occur), or recognize that the structural elements are not aging on the same curve and choose to drink up before they become actively intrusive (which I also think is somewhat inevitable). Right now it’s in a good place, but whether or not it ever gets to “better” will very much depend on one’s view of that choice. (10/11)


Swan 1999 Zinfandel Mt. Olivet Mancini Ranch (Russian River Valley) – 13.9%. There aren’t many 1999 zinfandels I would be, of my own volition, holding this long (a statement somewhat belied by my cellar contents, but…well, see the next sentence). The ones I would are all from wineries much more concerned about structural edifices than Swan, which allows structure in its essentials but does not push the wine to achieve that structure. And so, here’s a fully mature zin, with juicy mixed berries, black pepper, and a cat’o’nine acidities in the finish. Quite attractive. On day two and from a mostly empty bottle it’s still steady-state, so I suspect that the maturity in question is a plateau rather than a moment. (10/11)


Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – This is really singing at the moment. Very early maturity, but still enough maturity to have made it worth the wait. The wine is brown. Not in color, but in tone and aroma. There’s lingering purple, but mostly it’s brown. Baritone. Incipient autumnal. Late afternoon. I’m glad I have it in quantity, though the dozen bottles I wasted over the years hoping for the slightest bit of development…well, I wish I had them back. (10/11)

Campofiorin's five miles long, doo-dah, doo-dah

Masi 1997 Rosso del Veronese “Campofiorin” Ripasso (Veneto) – Masi wants me to put a copyright symbol on “ripasso.” But…let me be polite about this…screw them. And screw their attempt to claim ownership of a widely-practiced technique and an extremely generic term. Anyway, it hardly matters here, because the wine is as corked as any wine I’ve ever experienced, filling the room with its trichloranisolic reek. (10/11)

I once drank a wine named Maria

Villa Maria 2001 “Noble Late Harvest” Riesling (Marlborough) – 375 ml. Mixed apples, honeydew, and spikes – powerfully-hammered spikes – of acidity. Which are necessary, because the wine is intensely, almost neon-sweet, in a showily botrytized fashion. I think this is a really extraordinary wine when it’s fully mature, which this is probably a decade or more from achieving. (10/11)

Parched NBA commissioners

Sybille Kuntz 2003 Riesling Dreistern “Goldkapsel” (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – No AP number. Dry, it says, but a lot of people will mistake the richness and texture of this wine for residual sugar. It’s 2003, for sure, but handled well and with plenty of structure…not, perhaps, what would be there in a more traditional year, but it’s no layabout floozy. At the moment, in fact, it’s all bones and rock, finishing as long as a desert horizon. Age should bring some interesting quirks. (10/11)

Haag the limelight

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – As muted and diffident as my entire stock of this wine has been. Others have reported better results, so I have to feel that my batch was damaged in some fashion. Gauzy minerality, bubblegum, powdered cream, and generalized disappointment abound. (10/11)

Saumur's end

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Barely surviving, maybe 10% of what it was., and drinkable only through a lack of any actual characteristics worth noting. I should remove the capsules from any bottle I might possibly suspect of harboring a plastic cork, though I’d not actually have predicted that this would be one of them. Oh well, only four more bottles to pour down the drain… (Yes, yes, I know I should just make vinegar.) (10/11)

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Stewed tar and razors on a bed of coal. There’s a little bit of lingering, oxidized black currant. But the “cork” killed this bottle. (10/11)

Cuvée corpse

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Completely dead. Blame the plastic plug. (10/11)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Not entirely dead, but stripped and battery-acid-ish, with just a hint of linear cranberry lingering. (10/11)

Old Pallières of mine

Domaine Les Pallières 1999 Gigondas (Rhône) – Corked. (10/11)

Coastal South African cities

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Beaumes de Venise (Rhône) – Corked. (10/11)

Chinidine Chidaine

Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Méthode Traditionnelle Demi-Sec (Loire) – Fresh as a fermented daisy floating in a glass of tonic water. (10/11)

At the hop

Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” Czech Hop Harvest Ale “Dočesná” (Vermont) – Aggressive in multiple ways: richly-hopped (but not one of those hop-overwhelmed extremities, by any means), chipped metal and wood aromas, and physically impossible to ignore. It is, perhaps, a bit more than I was expecting, but I’ll chalk that up to my expectations rather than an inherent flaw in the ale. All that said, it remains aggressive. (10/11)

Roussel crow

Roussel “Domaine du Joncier” 2000 Lirac (Rhône) – The last bottle of a bunch purchased at an extreme discount, and they’ve all been more or less sullen. On youthful performance, I took a gamble that this would reward short-term aging. I lost. So abandoning my undue optimism, let’s treat the wine on the merits it has actually offered, rather than my unwarranted expectations thereof. It’s meaty, earthy, dark, muted, truculent, entirely decent without being more than that, and shouldn’t be held any longer. Unless I’m wrong about that, as well. (10/11)


Chermette “Domaine du Vissoux” 2004 Beaujolais “Vieilles Vignes Cuvée Traditionnelle” (Beaujolais) – A cellar orphan, buried (due to its ridiculously and incomprehensibly fat bottle shape) under things that were guaranteed to reward aging. It’s not like I regularly hold basic Beaujolais – other than the shouldery Brun, perhaps – for this long very often. That said, it’s doing quite well, though I certainly wouldn’t hold it any longer in the hopes of anything positive. There’s brett, there’s volatile acidity, there’s spritz…a bit of a parody of “natural,” the cynic in me muses…and drying cherry, but there’s more than enough of the essential, fun, spiky fruit this had in its youth to have said that the accidental aging, while not a “success” as such, was also no failure. Call it a teachable moment. (10/11)

Closel Clos

Domaine du Closel 1998 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Looks tired and oxidized. Isn’t. But it’s not without oxidation as a complexing agent, and that will throw some. Nothing here is atypical for the grape, appellation, or producer, but knuckle-draggers who insist that “wine should taste like fruit because it’s made from fruit” should buy something else. All those caveats aside, it’s not the freshest wine in history (though I’m given to understand that day two brings a lot more energy and life), with sodden metal squeezings and wet chalk predominating. It’s a dark, broody, aging hipster sort of wine, and the right food – which I do not have during my encounter – would not be amiss. Still, given my horrendous experiences with my own bottles of Closel and other Savennières from this era, I have to welcome one that has actually performed up to expectations. (10/11)


Trimbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – A little oxidized, a lot unpleasant. Maybe low-level taint, though it was below my threshold if so. The previous bottle was drinking extremely well, so I have to presume cork failure in one or more ways on this one. (10/11)

Trimbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Better, but still not all that good. The brushed, anti-gloss metallicism is on display, as it was not in the previous wine, and there’s a little texture. But nowhere near what there should be, and the finish is attenuated. I think the rest of my bottles are going to be opened rather quickly. (10/11)

Eartha Kritt

Kreydenweiss 2001 Gewurztraminer Kritt “Les Charmes” (Alsace) – Strutting. But less Saturday Night Fever than Napoleonic, in that its confident mien is reserved, even dignified, yet no less boastful. Raw peach enveloped in silken cream, cashew oil, fully-developed structure leading to a thickened, almost dairy-like aspect akin to well-aged German riesling, though of course there’s less acidity here. There’s far from none, however, and that makes all the difference. I’d say this is fully ready, but I’ve said that before, and still the wine continues to move on down the road. (10/11)

07 November 2011

Chinato up

Cappellano Barolo Chinato (Piedmont) – I admit to having, in the past, struggled with this construct’s occasionally overwhelming volatile acidity. It’s not absent here, but it’s under control, and the result is predictably gorgeous. Probably the best straight-ahead chinato I’ve ever had, in fact (there are variations on the theme that have been awfully compelling). Tannin, herbs both prosaic and exotic, a taste of Old Europe rent and torn by more than a touch of Southeast Asia. Fascinating, relentlessly complex, and utterly compelling. (10/11)

Guimaro, Guimaro, I love ya', Guimaro

Guimaro 2010 Ribeira Sacra (Nothwest Spain) – Vibrant, vivacious, and thoroughly alive. Heavily-spiced red fruit fireworks, beyond fully tangible and very nearly enflamed, with cymbal hisses and mutings that jerk the palate hither and fro in a most exciting fashion. As one might be able to tell despite the histrionic metaphor-mixing, I adore this wine. (10/11)

Caught in the Nerthe

Château La Nerthe 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – My expectation, at uncorking, is that this is going to be an oaky mess falling apart at the cabinetry seams. And my initial impression of the wine does not exactly counter this expectation. There’s butter, there’s lacticity, there’s toast, there’s stale and somewhat rancid autumnal decay. But then, something interesting happens: the wine within emerges, and whatever might have been done to it along the way doesn’t hold the entirety of the field. Dark berries? Yes, old and dusty as is typical, with venison jerky and a sort of stew-like, meat-based acidity that is entirely typical of CdP but which I have never been able to properly describe (I doubt “stew-like, meat-based acidity” is going to catch on, even with me). It’s nowhere near as good as it should have been, due to a surplus of interest in modernity, but it’s certainly not bad. (10/11)

Harth & home

Schoffit 1997 Gewurztraminer Harth “Cuvée Caroline” (Alsace) – Sweeeeeeet. Not a few “regular” gewürztraminers in this exceedingly hot vintage were unclassified vendanges tardives, even from otherwise restrained houses, and no one has ever accused Schoffit of restraint. What the actual potential alcohol of this wine is, or was, I don’t know and wouldn’t want to guess, but whatever it was they left an awful lot of sugar on the table…or, in this case, in the wine…and coupled with the vintage’s thoroughly absent acidity and the propensity of the grape and the fertile plain site to further abandon structural crispness, and you’re left with this: the most luxuriant dessert ever not offered as such. There are recognizably varietal elements here, mostly peach with a bit of lychee, but the syrup overwhelms all. And the age? Of course it has held – anything with this much sugar would – but there’s absolutely no hope of it developing into anything better. (10/11)

Cast the last stone

Lapierre 2002 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Brett, volatility, fizz, and particulate sludge through which a strobe light is pulsing its vivid signal. Were the fruit identifiable any longer, it would be bright red and cranberry-ish, but the various natural-wine bugbears are on full display. And yet, not impenetrably so; despite not much liking brett and loathing volatile acidity, I kind of like this. No reason to hold it past about three years ago, though. (10/11)

Old, really old, no really...

Brun “Terres Dorées” 2005 Beaujolais “l’Ancien Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Muscular, but I’m not sure there’s much flesh to the musculature anymore. Or maybe this is just a really long ager, and I’m underestimating it. But I think not; Brun’s wines are always structured and strong, but I’d need convincing that this hasn’t very slightly outlived its finest years. What’s left is appealing, albeit dark and tannin-laden…more bitter earth than bright fruit…and it helps the wine’s cause if one doesn’t think of it as Beaujolais at all, but as something more in the cabernet or malbec realm. No, it’s not that firm, but it bears only a passing resemblance to even the most structured Beaujolais at the moment. Drink up? That’s my guess. That said, I’m going to hold one a while longer, just to see. (10/11)

Look out

Perrini 2010 Negroamaro (Puglia) – Right hook. Uppercut. Right hook. Left hook. Combination. Jab. Jab. Jab. Knockout. The judges are unanimous. (10/11)

...to the argument

Marie-Pierre Germain 2009 Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy) – A bit tough, despite a quite pleasant sand art-like procession of layers of fruit. Eventually, though, the structure pummels and then desiccates. Maybe more time will help, but I don’t know that I see the balance for aging; maybe best to manage this wine with food, rather than cellaring. (10/11)


Renwood 2001 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) – 15%. Paint-by-the-numbers pine-needle zin, which is the interim stage Renwood went through from its glory days to its descent into post-industrial mediocrity, and which is a pretty good thing despite the mundane nature of the critique. It’s dark, a touch boozy, a little amaro-like, with a concentrated berry syrup slashed with coniferous acidity. In other words, entirely of its region in summary, but not showing anything else than that. Good now, but drink it before now becomes later. (10/11)

Take three

Unibroue 2006 “Trois Pistoles” (Québec) – Overly-succulent, sweet, almost candied (in a licorice sort of fashion), and yet good. Worth aging? No. The froth is no longer integrated, and everything seems like it’s on the verge of collapse. (10/11)

Descombes over

Descombes 2006 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Smoothed out and thoroughly liquid. By which I mean there’s not a solid left to be found here. Just pure flowing red fruit in steady-state volume. Drink up, in other words. (10/11)

06 November 2011

Guard do-tree

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. I bought a pretty fair quantity of this wine, a long while back, from a store that was closing (well, moving) and clearing out full cases of whatever it didn’t want to move at pretty extraordinary prices. This was one of the offerings, and I acquired it for a song. That song, however, has been playing the same tune over and over for about a decade, to the point where I had almost given up on the wine ever moving from its highly primary and decidedly uncomplex starting point. Well, things have changed, and in a hurry (at least based on this bottle). Wonderfully mature, though early in that period, with smoke and dust eddying bacon, dried quince, and hedgehog mushroom aromas into a low-atmosphere helix of deliciousness. The structure has not fallen away, but is well-resolved enough to really let these lovely aromas through. I have little confidence that the rest of the bottles will be identically expressive – that’s how bottle (really, cork) variation works – but there is, at last, a glimpse of this wine’s delicious endgame. (10/11)

Picasses? Oh.

C&P Breton 1997 Chinon Les Picasses (Loire) – Really beautiful, singing in full-throated joy at its maturity (which is probably at peak right now, though it will almost certainly hold for a good while longer, after which softer melodies will be what it offers). Black and dark green herbs, grass, tobacco, dusty coal-black minerality, and a sawtooth-edged structure…all of which somehow managed to, in concert, present themselves as strangely “pretty.” I love this wine, and wish I had a lot more of it, rather than just a few bottles. (9/11)

Orange soda

Donati 2008 Malvasia dell’Emilia (Emilia-Romagna) – An orange wine that really is orange (most of them are in the beige/tan/brown spectrum), or perhaps we could get swanky and call it a lighter sort of burnt sienna. And: sparkling. So, the heavy tannic overlay of the orange genre is lightened not by the counterpoint of fruit, nor of acidity (a rare thing in the category in the best of cases), but by a gentle – and fading – fizz. It’s more distracting than present at the moment, and it’s not going to do anything but fade, but it’s necessary for the wine’s tenuous grip on balance, which is falling deeper into a cider-esque hole with each passing month. It’s more an intellectual pleasure than a sensory one, because it pairs some extremes of technique with a relentlessly uncompromising weirdness, but as someone who enjoys this particular thought experiment I still quite enjoy it. That said, there are many who would not allow that this is “wine” any longer, based on its taste rather than its origin, and I would have sympathy for that opinion. But wine it is, nonetheless, and if you own any, you should drink it. (10/11)

How Bizard

Bizard-Litzow “Château d’Epiré” 2007 Savennières “Cuvée Spéciale” (Loire) – I have given up aging Savennières, and though I’m happy to drink someone else’s, the relentless early descent into oxidation and/or silage across producers and vintages has defied all reasonable explanation (aside from the scourge of the still-unsolved premature oxidation that affects wines here and there, which would explain one issue, but not the other) and completely soured me on the effort. Which is a real shame, because I’ve had beautifully aged versions from these same producers in the past, and because I don’t exactly adore young Savennières either. Here, for example, is ceramic leaf and candle smoke, a desiccation that supersedes whatever actual residual sugar (if any) might remain, and a long but ultimately pointless blank slate of a finish. There’s texture to spare, though it’s planar, and that’s what would normally give me confidence that at some point in the future there would be a blossoming. But whether due to forces external or internal – that is, the taster in question – I’m not willing to hold these any longer, just to see how many years before their drink-by date they fail in a blaze of misery. (9/11)

Little loaf

Castello della Paneretta 1999 Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany) – Past maturity, but not so far that it lacks all interest. Sandy minerality, old roasted cherries turned very slightly spirituous, dust upon dust, and an intrusive burnt-honey quality that comes from the wood of which this wine always had just a little too much. (10/11)

Renzo cortex

da Renzo “Fattoria di Basciano” 1996 Chianti Rufina (Tuscany) – Old grape, gritty with earth and broken-down tar. Still quite structured, still very present, but just enough past its prime that the structure dominates. (10/11)

Cliff Clavin

Ratzenberger 2009 Steeger St. Jost Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 12 10 (Mittelrhein) – Gentle, light, lightly-sweet, more like wine-as-water rather than wine-as-aspiration. Which is another way of saying that it disappears very quickly, and without an enormous amount of distracting thought along the way. (10/11)

The end of a little story

Nera “La Novella” 2008 Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio Chiavennasca Bianco (Lombardy) – The last bottle of what was a full-case purchase, and I don’t regret my decision to finish it off. It was, in the beginning, as much of a “stump the drunks” bit of tomfoolery as it was a purchase based on quality; I liked it well enough, but what I really loved was the idea of pouring a white wine for my expert friends and having them try to guess what it was, knowing that they would never arrive at “nebbiolo” as the answer. What does it taste like? I believe I've covered that. (10/11)

Calm shadow

Delille “Terre d’Ombre” 2007 Vin de Pays du Mont Caume (Provence) – Expectations are funny things. I see “Provence” on a red wine I don’t know, I think “light,” or at least “light-ish.” And I suppose that’s not wrong here, though as a “declassified” Bandol, chock full of young-vine mourvèdre, there should also be some presence. But what this is really more about is taking a fragrant bouquet of fairly delicate flowers – fresh and alive – and slamming them against a wall in one petal-shattering heave. That wall is structural, and though it’s thin enough to see through, it’s otherwise impenetrable nonetheless. I’m not sure what this means, in the context of the appellation or even just this wine, but this is a highly bifurcated pleasure that…while, there’s some sort of lack to it. I just haven’t yet figured out what it is. (10/11)

Achieving saetti

Vigneto Saetti 2010 Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (Emilia-Romagna) – Uncompromisingly dry, bitter (in the amaro sense; I very specifically don’t mean astringent, though it’s not exactly lacking in razory tannin either), and the definitional opposite of a cocktail wine. I mean, I suppose people who like shoving razor wire into their flesh just for the lulz would like to sip this with canapés and genteel conversation, but otherwise – more than any lambrusco I’ve ever tasted – it needs food. It cannot, in my opinion, be appreciated or even enjoyed without food. And the thing to realize is that this isn’t – despite what gob-loving sybarites would insist – a criticism, it’s a characterization. This is a wine that demands a very specific kind of participation, and if you don’t agree with those terms you will have an unsatisfactory experience. So…you’re now wondering…what’s it like? Well, what did I just say? (10/11)

Amarone, Amarone

Bussola 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Clean, restrained prune and concentrated grape. Not a very complex Amarone (though it’s young), but surprisingly light despite its obvious dried, skin-dominated characteristics. Much freer of volatile acidity than these things usually are, and with no apparent botrytis influence, I’d be interested to see how this develops. Probably much like overdriven New World pinot noir, its organoleptic cousin... (9/11)

Fromm here to eternity

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Extremely difficult and sullen. For about thirty minutes I worry about low-level cork taint, for the next thirty minutes I struggle to peer into an opaque glass of murky berries and thick leather, and for the thirty minutes after that I try to figure out of this has just died very quickly (previous bottles were quite expressive, albeit structurally primary), has inexplicably re-closed…or, then, there’s that low-level taint question again. Well, whichever. It’s possible to appreciate the tiny bit this wine gives, but it’s not really possible to appreciate the wine. (10/11)

Nony, Nony

Nony “Château Grand Mayne” 2001 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Quite aggressive, already significantly herbal (both green tobacco and crisp brown leaves), black pepper dust, and blackened bell pepper skin, with a headiness that hovers but doesn’t, in the end, amount to much more than velocity. I actually like much of what this wine offers, but it’s certainly far from great; that I purchased it for $30 rather than the regular price (double that) makes me feel much better about the outcome and the assessment. It is, at least, recognizably Bordeaux, and that’s not something one can say about far too many of the region’s wines these days. (9/11)


R. López de Heredia 2001 Rioja Viña Gravonia Bianco (Center-North) – I have never liked a Viña Gravonia Bianco less than I like this one, which tastes like over-aged California chardonnay in its stale wood, grossly lactic, browned butter way. I hope it’s an issue with the bottle and not the wine, or maybe it just needs to age and oxidize more for me to enjoy it, but I go back again and again to the wine in disbelief that I dislike it so much, thus drinking a lot more of a wine I don’t enjoy than I would usually consider drinking. Such is the reputation of the producer, in my mind. (9/11)

Bordering almost

Bourdoudresques “Sentinelle de Massiac” 2008 Minervois (Languedoc) – Blocky and monolithic. This is my experience of far, far too many Minervois in their youth, and I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely understand the purpose in drinking them at this age…not just because they’re not that interesting, but because it’s not easy to tell if age is going to help matters. I think, in this case, it might, for there’s some juicy, black-fruited meat stuffing…but there’s also a solid wall of chunky tannin and not really any evident life to the wine. (9/11)

For he's a jolly verdelho

Tyrrell’s 2010 Verdelho (Hunter Valley) – Juicy, green, balanced, fun. I don’t think it’s meant to be any more formal than that, so it doesn’t really need more verbiage. (9/11)


Donaldson Family "Pegasus Bay" 2007 Riesling (Waipara) – Sweet lime and grapefruit, and getting just ever so slightly nervy, which is a quality that this solid, reliable wine doesn’t achieve all that often. I don’t know if it’s just a stage or a vintage effect, but this is suddenly more interesting than it was earlier this year. There’s more here, but it’s mostly hidden in a textural monoculture right now, and time will be required to tease out those nuances. (9/11)

Ople, or bul

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Underripe, awkward, and trying too hard. It certainly gives the impression of minor sweetness, whatever the residual datum. Not very interesting, and thus its extreme shortness is somewhat of a blessing. (9/11)

The Republic of riesling

Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Anyone who tastes wine “seriously” (whether for professional or personal reasons) has to find a way to deal with their biases and preconceptions. Simple-minded harpies screech their “blind tasting” mantra as if it’s Genesis 1:1 in 16-point bold print, but no one who actually understands wine fails to see the extreme limitations of that format; there’s just too much that can’t be properly understood without having some sort of context for one’s responses. That said, there are infinite ways in which a label or the wine itself can invite ancillary judgments that don’t accurately reflect what the taster is experiencing.

So it is with Finger Lakes rieslings, which are constantly being promoted to riesling-loving tasters via blind tastings and brown bags and “ringer”-style trickery. I understand the impulse, but it’s ultimately pointless; one way or another, the wines are going to have to be able to stand or fall on their own merits, without resorting to contests in which the peer group is purely arbitrary and with which the terroirs of the Finger Lakes shouldn’t have anything in common to begin with.

…which is a long-winded way of saying that I engaged in a mighty personal struggle with this wine, wanting both to grant it extra care as a representative of an underappreciated region and wanting to work hard to demonstrate its specific failings in relation to its international peers. I have no idea how that ridiculously fraught environment in which I examined the wine (with and without dinner) affected my response, except to say that I tried really hard to express what was wrong with it, and in the end really couldn’t come up with much. It’s a good wine that starts out a little awkward and reductive, gets a lot better with sufficient oxygenation, and fends off disintegration for at least as long as the two hours I spent with it. It’s quite Teutonic in its austere solemnity, it’s very clearly riesling, and the picture in my mind while drinking it is that of a slightly unpolished metal sphere within a cube. It’s not an integrated wine, at least not yet (I have no experience with aging it, which is stupid as I’ve had plenty of opportunities), but there’s certainly potential; think young Austrian more than anything else, though it’s not that dense nor weighty. Is it good? Yes, it’s good. But it does need air. (9/11)

The seven deadly chambourcins

Chaddsford “Portfolio Collection” 2007 Chambourcin Seven Valleys (Pennsylvania) – Blue plum, fat peak-season blueberries, a bit of tar. Succulent fruit with just a bit of gelatinous hybrid marking it as non-vinifera, but I need to stress that is likely only evident because I know what the wine is. Balanced, oaked just the right amount, with good structure. Will it age? I have no experience and thus no idea. I’d be wary; in terms of structure-fruit balance, it actually reminds me of a really good pinotage (it exists, believe it or not), and those do something more akin to “aging” than aging, if you get my drift. This is a lovely little wine, and while “…for a Pennsylvania wine” does come into play here, it’s not as strong a factor as one might think. (9/11)

Row, Chadd

Chaddsford “Proprietors Reserve” 2009 Red (Pennsylvania) – 100% chambourcin, which is pretty much my favorite red hybrid, due to its fascinating potential for both depth and complexity that most hybrids lack, and a proportional capability of avoiding the grape jelly character (“foxiness” to Brits and in the argot). Well, here neither is achieved, and the wine is both candy-grapey and simple-minded. I’ve had this in other vintages and liked it a great deal more, so I’m going to chalk this one up to vintage. (9/11)

No...walk, Chadd

Chaddsford “Proprietors Reserve” 2009 White (Pennsylvania) – Mostly vidal blanc, with some vignoles…and I’m not sure if I should pat myself on the back for guessing vignoles right away, but it most definitely marks this wine with it’s muscat-analogue floral fruitiness; less lurid than muscat and “wetter” (though that may just be a function of ripeness, which was most definitely not in abundance in this vintage), but still a dominant partner in any blend. Overall, there’s just a touch more plastic here than I prefer, but it’s a good, juicy, fun wine for parties, with puckery acidity actually marring the finish a bit. This is better than the red of the same designation, at least in this vintage. (9/11)

Pangée Gupta

Nana, vins et cie 2005 “La Pangée” (Loire) – Like drinking squeezed berries out of an ashtray. Look, this is really more about me than the wine; I don’t like pineau d’aunis. This is only about half that (the rest gamay), but it still ruins everything for me. There are, inevitably, exceptions here and there (many of them from Domaine de Bellivière), but in general this is a grape I need to avoid, because to me it tastes of bitter, stale, wet cigarette ash. (Except of course when it doesn’t. Which is aggravating. Are there no certainties? No, no, of course there aren’t.) (9/11)

01 November 2011

To Grand Mont's house we go

Druet 1997 Bourgueil “Cuvée Grand Mont” (Loire) – Beautiful. Rounded green-black berries, tarred and then ground into fine mineral dust. Satiny, but with a rough country dusting in the interstitials. It’s hard to really express all that’s going on in this wine, but there’s a lot, and not all of it is televised; sitting down and reading the preface, footnotes, and even the index is also required. Long, gorgeous, absolutely at peak. (9/11)

Pégau club

Féraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – As this comes from the cellar of a friend that I’ve usually described as “glacial,” I expect it – like previous versions of this same wine from the same cellar – to be unready. It’s not; in fact, it’s beautifully mature, and I express some surprise. Of course, it turns out that the wine spent most of its life in said friend’s brother’s cellar, which explains things. Well, it’s nice to know that I can spot the difference. So, from normal cellars: drink nowish. What you’ll get is the usual aged-Châteauneuf meat juice, a little buffed up and muscular, with more polish than usual and a weight that was, once, expressed as heat but has now mostly integrated in a fashion I can’t quite (chemically) grasp…or maybe this is a transient pairing effect of the cheese with which we drank it. In any case, it’s as supple and sophisticated as any aged Châteauneuf of my experience, and while it doesn’t have a whole lot of complexity to show for its maturity, what it has is extremely nice. (9/11)

Arboreal Ken

Ken Forrester 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Of all the chenins I tasted in South Africa (and I tasted a lot), this was the most exciting. Not in this exact form or vintage, but in the form of an older bottle pulled as an apology for their being out of the sought-after botrytized version from this same winery. The excitement came because in a few short years the wine had veered sharply in a Loire-ward direction, developing wax, quinine, and chalk notes that I hadn’t seen in anyone else’s chenins. Now, to be fair, I didn’t taste many more with any age whatsoever, but as the two dominant methods of chenin blanc production in the country are fresh-’n’-fruity-’n’-cheap or “seriously” oaked (a terrible idea, I might add, though Ken Forrester’s “FMC” version is the least offensive of the offensive lot), I certainly don’t expect to see it very often. That said, after I tasted and liked the aged version, I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to its younger form.

So here it is, and I’ve encountered it a lot since that visit to Stellenbosch. I wouldn’t say it’s clear that there’s a bright and complex future for the wine from its initial notions, but one can at least see how that future develops. There’s a restraint and subtlety to the wine not often found in the area’s chenin blancs (or white wines in general), a fine structure, and – I think this is where the key difference lies – a gravelly texture to the wine that I think heralds the organoleptic minerality to come. It’s very appealing in its youth, but I think youthful guzzling is what the same winery’s “Petit” bottling is for. Put this one away for a while. I think you won’t regret it, if past performance is any indicator. (8/11)

Bri or someone else

Ollivier 1998 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – The oldest Muscadet in my cellar leaps forward a year with the demise of this bottle, but I have the feeling it’s time. It has certainly broadened, with the shells and rocks coalesced into a wide plain of sea-washed albino carapace, and there’s a throb of something that’s almost fruit-like that hasn’t been present at any previous point in this wine’s evolution. But the finish carries a whipcord of oxidation that shortens it a bit sooner than I’d like, and so I think this wine has journeyed about as far as it’s going to travel. At least, this bottle has. Since I have no more, I can’t speak to its, um, fellow travelers. (9/11)

Deux rell

Edmunds St. John 1995 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Corked, I think. No obvious TCA on the nose, but it’s so muted and suppressed, despite an obvious surge of both structure and fruit somewhere within, that I can’t figure out what else it might be. This is the second bottle from the same stash that has been like this, so maybe the fault lies elsewhere. Whatever the cause, it’s a shame. (9/11)

Edmunds St. John 1995 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Long believed to be a myth, a hoax, a legend, and yet here it is: a mature ’95 Durell. I never thought I’d see the day. Meat, soil, wilted muscle, and deep red light in a slow-moving whirlpool of…hey, does anyone remember that semi-horrid old Disney flick The Black Hole? Remember the special-effects visualization of said singularity? (No? Go Google it.) It tastes like that. But better. Much, much better. (10/11)

The vieux, the proud

Edmunds St. John 1993 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 13.7%. As fully-resolved a zinfandel as I’ve ever tasted…mostly, they tend to evolve, mature, and then start falling apart, and not always on parallel curves. This is soft, even plushy, in its textural circularity, with some erosion evident and a little bit of reduced gravity from the core. Around it, though, is still wrapped a lightly peppery sheathe, and dusty minerality rests on the ground, fallen but not yet separate. Very appealing. (7/11)

Edmunds St. John 1994 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Round, polished, sweet red fruit. Whatever structure there was is long gone, but what’s left is mostly just fruit, rather than anything particularly complex. It’s teetering on the edge of failure as well, though it hasn’t quite gotten there yet (note, however, that this is a recent release from the winery, and differently-stored bottles might already be on the downslope). A similarly-acquired bottle of the 1993 was better, and clinging more strongly to relevancy, a few months ago. In any case, one must be careful to not expect too much from aged zinfandel; there are exceptions and surprises, but they’re (definitionally) not the majority. (9/11)

Roses for Jeanne, bulles for her

Bouchard 2005 Champagne La Bolorée Blanc des Blancs “Roses de Jeanne” (Champagne) – Difficult to know, difficult to like. I don’t mean that I don’t like it, at all…rather that my experience of it is more of an appreciation than something more visceral. It seems like it wants to be pretty, but there are so many rigidities and barely-hidden edges to it that it really can’t be, and instead what it ends up being is sharp to the point of aggressivity, and rather abrupt as well. There’s also a sense that it’s trying a bit too hard. If this note reads as a lot of vague characterization without anything in the way of organoleptic specificity, that’s because that’s how the wine expresses itself to me: no “fruit” as such, structure mostly just bite and snap, ultra-fine electric-shock bubbles, and quite a bit of attitude. (9/11)

Tokaji for the straight guy

Királyudvar 2008 Tokaji Sec (Hungary) – Like drinking ice (no I don’t mean water, I mean ice) in which rest frozen bones and shells. Complex and intellectual, a well-read wine with its own story to tell. Fascinating. Not as fleshy as some other vintages I’ve tasted, but its sternness is itself a form of quality. (9/11)

The needle & the Dumangin done

Dumangin Vieux Marc de Champagne (Champagne) – Spirituous exotica, kinda-sorta floral, or mineral, but then neither. Fruit plays a role as well, but it’s hard to identify which or how. And there are non-primary complexities as well. I like this as much as any marc I’ve tasted since a Château Grillet many, many years ago.. (9/11)

Maréchal law

Maréchal 2007 Bourgogne “Cuvée Gravel” (Burgundy) – Surprisingly harsh and gritty; whether a stage or an endpoint I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I’ve been pretty disappointed with this wine for the last few vintages, in youth or near-youth. Have they changed, or have I? (9/11)

Gathering none

Mosse 2008 Anjou Rouge (Loire) – Attractive, though I think I lean more towards the whites from this property, as the reds tend to begin and end their stories in comparative simplicity. There’s something to be said for that, but it would be unnoticeable in context were the whites less compelling. Anyway, enough about the whites. This is crisp, reddish in fruit with explorations in both rust and violet directions, and direct, with a ferric swirl and a structural insistency. Near the end there’s powder and white smoke. Maybe there’s a new pope. (9/11)

Bolly good

Bollinger Champagne Brut “Special Cuvée” (Champagne) – Not sure of the “vintage” of this non-vintage, but it’s at least four, and probably more, years past release. It’s good, of course, with weighty, dark fruit and a gloomy neutron star concentration of light and darkness in tandem, but I realize as I drink it that I hardly ever drink Champagnes in this style anymore. I don’t know that my tastes have changed as much as the context in which I explore those tastes has changed; the reasons I used to like Bollinger still apply here, and yet I think I’m more interested in other directions and diversions in bubbly these days. The lusciousness that I love gets, by the last glass, a bit more tedious than I think I would have found it a decade ago, and I think it’s both the style and the short-term age that even this bottling can definitely absorb. (9/11)

The heart of a Cowboy

Tessier 2004 Cour Cheverny (Loire) – This wine, of which I bought a small quantity, has struggled since purchase…or perhaps I’ve struggled with it…but, as is typical, the last bottle turns out to be the best,and the most full of promise. Chalk and wax, as if it was a chenin from elsewhere on the river, but here strictly textural rather than also aromatic. Also, liquefied bones add a sort of wet “structure,” and there’s an acidity that seems to be slightly warm, almost simmering, rather than cooling as it often does. Then, flowers are opening…still pale and timid, but promising full blossom one year. A lovely wine, still little, but I suspect there’s much more story yet to be told. (9/11)

Rossore spot

iuli 2008 Barbera del Monferrato (Piedmont) – Red-fruited with earth, which is exactly what ones want from grape and appellation. Pushed just a little bit into the modern-but-authentic style, in that the fruit is dialed up just a bit, in greater proportion to the acidity than might once have been the case (though Monferrato wines are rarely the sharp little things that other sub-appellations within the Piedmont can be), and as a result the earthen texture also takes on a somewhat greater role. An immensely appealing wine, which makes it all the more confusing that so many producers go on to overburden their barberas with excess fruit and layers of wood. (9/11)

iuli 2007 Barbera del Monferrato “Rossore” (Piedmont) – Pushed fruit, but it’s pressing against a bit of a wall of awkward structure, including a thin wallpapering of tannin that just doesn’t seem to belong to this wine, but feels borrowed from somewhere else. The fruit is pure reddish-purple, there’s plenty of acidity, and there’s black trumpet earthiness, but the flying limbs are really only brought into coherence by food. Though that is, perhaps, part of the point and a lesson. Still, I’ve liked this wine more from other bottles. (9/11)

Canis gold

Vollenweider 2006 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Spätlese 02 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – So is this actually a beerenauslese? (NB: it’s not, but there’s no question it’s an auslese in other guise). Massively, powerfully, brain-poundingly sweet…and yet, with the sharp, crystalline acidity that few wines other than German riesling manage to achieve at this level of sucrosity. I’d say the flavors run towards Terminator apple and Full Metal Jacket Meyer lemon, but really it’s just very, very sweet at the moment. One for the cellar. (9/11)

Gaden of Erden

JJ Christoffel 2001 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese 006 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Pearly. Maybe I should use that, rather than my usual descriptor creamy, for the state of maturing riesling, because it more accurately reflects the way in which the various sorts of minerality are retained. This is still pretty sprightly, with a clarity that’s akin to drinking the glass itself rather than what’s in it, but there’s a little here for lovers of riesling past its callow youth. Just a little, though. (9/11)

Lady Souverain

Chateau Souverain 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley) – Club-fisted and ham-handed cabernet of acceptable quality. It hasn’t done anything I’d identify as “age,” but has instead just gotten older; drying out, turning from dark berry to dried herb and green tobacco, and dusting everything with slightly stale black pepper. That may be harsher than the wine as it exists deserves, because it’s a fair expression of grape and, to the extent that such can be discerned, a vague sort of place, but unless I’m very wrong (which would mean the wine’s just in a closed stage, though its general fulsomeness suggests otherwise), I don’t think it’s going anywhere more interesting anytime soon. Or not soon, either. (9/11)

Feet of Clayvin

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – Cooked. A recent purchase, so not indicative of properly-stored bottles. (9/11)

Mon dia at a time

La Mondianese 2009 Grignolino d’Asti (Piedmont) – While I appreciate the “traditional” almost-oxidized, brownout style of grignolino of which I’ve tasted a fair amount, I do prefer the grape’s more intact charms. And charming this is, with gentle dried red berries and fresh tobacco leaves done in a “cute” style. Impossible to dislike. (9/11)

She knows white, too

JM Raffault 2010 Chinon Blanc (France) – Mineral-driven (no surprise from Loire chenin), though as Chinon rather than one of the more popular chenin appellations, the rocky take’s quite a bit different. Dry – I don’t mean in the sense of lacking sugar, though it does, but in the parched sensation provided by the wine’s stony starkness – with a bit of wax and a sort dense flesh of monotonality. It’s better than that, though. I’m struggling to find the correct descriptors here, as one might notice. (8/11)

Bernede ladies

Bernede “Clos La Coutale” 2008 Cahors (Southwest France) – This can be a forbidding bottle in its youth, even given the appellation’s reputation for either early anger or offensive oak-softening, but for whatever reason this wine unfolds itself rather quickly. Tannin and a dark wall of blackness are all that’s there at uncorking, but then a spectrum of fruit – noir to rouge – develop while iron, salt, and charcoal filter into the foundational void. In less than an hour, it’s a complete, reasonably approachable wine that – while it still needs a little grazing-animal muscle to tame its scowl – offers no reason why it can’t be consumed now. I think it will be better later on, but if there’s any such thing as an early-drinking Coutale Cahors, this is it. (8/11)

Marsanne, you don't have to put on the red light

Marsanne 2007 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Really, that’s the guy’s name. This, however, is a red. As a cooperative Crozes, it’s not bad: baked-out fruit with some roasted peanuts and a warming comfort suffusing the whole thing. It’s pleasant. But it’s not a cooperative Crozes, which makes it about twice as expensive as it should be based on the quality. I’d say ambitions were not met here, but I suspect ambitions (or their lack) are part of the problem. (8/11)