30 December 2007

Have you Hugged a Saint today?

[view]Hugg 2006 Riesling “Réserve Saint Jean” (Alsace) – If not dry, then very nearly so, with a straightforward filings-on-paper nose and a firm, slightly abrasive palate. All the elements are in balance, and it’s pleasant enough in the austere riesling sort of way, but it lacks distinguishing features. (12/07)

Pinet nut

Bonfils “La Chapelle de la Bastide” 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – Sharp, crisp lime and green apple, with touches of ultra-ripe gooseberry and a sweet-tart edge. Clean and absolutely lip-smackingly bright. Given the quality and the low cost, I can’t understand why these wines aren’t more popular. (12/07)


[label]Hugel 1997 Gewurztraminer “Hommage à Jean Hugel” (Alsace) – 375 ml. Very, very sweet, with a dark, quartz-like cylinder of metal surrounding…well, not a whole lot. The interior of the wine is wan and diffuse. Where’s the beef? Or, since it’s gewürztraminer, the pork? This wine promises a lot, but it just doesn’t deliver like it should. (12/07)

l'Année Hérétiques

Iché 2004 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault “Les Hérétiques” (Languedoc) – Drinking very nicely right now, though it’s in no danger of falling apart, with dark, scowling structural elements, a medium-bodied and meat-infused dark berry-and-branch core, and a pleasant, balanced finish. Despite the recent price creep (inevitable given the currency situation), this is still one of the better values in the marketplace; a lot of wine for very little money. (12/07)

Itchy corks

Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2005 Minervois (Languedoc) – Corked. (12/07)

Eulalie, ooh-la-la

[rocks]Coustal “Château Sainte Eulalie” 2004 Minervois “Plaisir d’Eulalie” (Languedoc) – Dark-fruited and meaty, with a sort of soil-infused stew of herbs and heavily-roasted walnuts bubbling around underneath. There’s also a granular, graphite-like texture to the tannin (I don’t have a great deal of experience, but I think this is a signature of the Livinière sub-region), which adds a welcome note of complexity. That said, there are signs that the wine is advancing more quickly than might be expected (a touch of soy on the finish, a general browning cast to the fruit). It’s still quite good, and everything feels primary, but keep a careful eye on it if you’ve got any, because things could turn quickly. (12/07)

On the QM

Quintas de Melgaço “QM” 2006 Vinho Verde Alvarinho (Monção) – Just stunning. Green and yellow citrus hisses and sizzles like a live wire, bristling with electricity and piercing, needled acidity. Light yet vividly intense. It’s not a genteel sipping wine – it needs food – but in its way, it’s very nearly perfect. (12/07)

Friends, Romanus, countrymen

[barrel]Albrecht 2005 Pinot Gris “Cuvée Romanus” (Alsace) – Dense and heavily mineral-influenced, which turns the thick pear fruit smoky, perhaps even a bit musky. The balance isn’t bad for a pinot gris (that is to say: the acidity’s low, but not unforgivably so), but the wine makes up for it with strength of character. A little more complexity would improve things, but it’s hard to complain too much; this isn’t an overly aspirational wine, just a solid expression of the variety and the general terroir at a reasonable price. (12/07)

29 December 2007

Mer, sea, mer, sea, me

[glass]Parcé Frères “La Rectorie” 2006 Collioure Rosé “Coté Mer” (Roussillon) – Comes on light, then explodes with dense cherry flavor…one that comes right up to the edge of candied over-concentration, but doesn’t cross that crucial line. This is a rosé that can function as a light red wine, but it’s also got lovely transparency around the perimeter. (12/07)

Here comes Montsant aClaus

Sin-Ley 2004 “G-2” Garnacha Montsant “Afinus” (Cataluña) – Very structured, with a ripe bisque of fine particulate lead forming a rich, velvety envelopment of tannin. The core isn’t much less thick, which dark plum and chokecherry dominating. This feels a lot like a Priorat, though it lacks the deformities (natural or artificial) that so often afflict the pricier, more cultish bottlings from that appellation. I think time will be very kind to this wine, but it has a certain sort of primary appeal now…though it will need something fleshy to battle back the tannin. (12/07)

Alta states

Sin-Ley 2005 “G-3” Garnacha Terra Alta “Caliu” (Cataluña) – Very structured, yet the overall impression is quite light. Well, perhaps that’s not quite correct. The flavors are heavy, mostly inhabiting a mildly sticky realm of burgundy-colored cherries and spirit-infused strawberries, but the wine itself is neither sticky nor particular fruity. If anything, it’s over-structured for what’s inside. There’s highly present acidity as well. Is this just too young, needing time to integrate? Or is it permanently discombobulated? I suspect the latter, but it’s still not an unpleasant drink (though it needs food). (12/07)


Sin-Ley 2005 “G-5” Garnacha Vinos de Madrid “Puerta Bonita” (Central Spain) – Spontaneously refermented. (12/07)

26 December 2007

Winter Solstice

[bottle]Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 1999 Vin de Pays Porte de Méditerranée “Solstice” (Rhône) – Aromatically, this is dominated by its deep, sweaty, slightly animalistic mourvèdre…a grape that is, here, pretty close to mature and drinking beautifully, albeit in a sort of anti-fruit fashion. The problem, however, is that the cabernet sauvignon and merlot still have a firm grip on the wine’s structure, which shows very little signs of resolving anytime soon. Nor are those grapes’ aromatics much developed. The result is a wine with more than a little unwelcome bipolarity. I don’t know what the solution is, other than to not do things like blending mourvèdre and grenache with cabernet and merlot. (12/07)

Chouffe off

[rotating chouffes]La Chouffe Golden Ale (Belgium) – Classic Belgian spice, wheat and old golden apples, with a powdery undercurrent and a fine, aggressive finish. Terrific. (12/07)

La Chouffe “Mc Chouffe” Brown Ale (Belgium) – Bronzed wheat, spice, froth and texture with a bitter, coffee-like sheen…not too much, though. However, the finish is a little bit on the watery side. (12/07)

La Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel “Houblan” (Belgium) – Intense and heavy creamed spice, molten iron, and caramelized apple. Very dense, but despite all that weight it finishes slightly short. Still quite good, nonetheless. (12/07)

Huggy bear

[vineyard]Hugg 2006 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Pear and thin apricot, which are fine as far as they go. But why is this so sweet? Someone like Boxler gets away with this sort of residual sugar because their wines are so intense and laden with flavor. This, on the other hand, is a traditionally light-bodied pinot blanc, and the sugar just makes it taste insipid. (12/07)

24 December 2007

Vapor Barrère

Barrère "Clos de la Vierge" 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Very crisp, but the acidity has a refinement and place to it, and the rest of the wine exists in service to it…yet the wine is not dominated by its acidity. It’s hard to describe, I guess. There’s a beautiful, washed-granite starkness to this, and yet the palate is full of rocky generosity, with little alpine flowers clinging to the rock face. Long, exquisitely poised, and rather breathtaking. (12/07)

Chemistry or Alkoomi?

[bottle]Alkoomi 2007 Riesling (Frankland River) – Good solid riesling, on the fruity side, with big acidity. That’s the template for Aussie riesling, for better or worse, and that’s what’s offered here. There’s some makrut lime and the faintest hint of a mineral underpinning, but young Australian riesling is more about its acidity than almost any another version of this variety, anywhere. It’s baffling, really, in the context of everything else export markets see from this country. With the right food, this is a lot of fun. (12/07)

Crazy in pink

JP Brun 2006 Beaujolais “Rosé d’Folie” (Beaujolais) – For a good hour or so, this is cranky and difficult; there’s nothing specific that’s wrong with it, exactly, it just doesn’t want to play…nicely or otherwise. Afterwards, however, matters change. Striking, almost masculine floral aromas over red fruit and juicy, fresh-plucked-berry acidity form the core of this wine, but there’s a brownish-grey tint to it as well (not visually, organoleptically), one that adds a certain discord of solemnity. A wine worthy of more examination than most will give a rosé, certainly, but it does need air. (12/07)

Burgaud time

[label]JM Burgaud “Château de Thulon” 2006 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – Basically a bottled version of why one drinks Beaujolais, with the pretty, friendly, fresh fruit upfront and a timeworn gravel foundation underneath. Nothing too structured or firm, just pure essence of…well, Beaujolais. Sometimes, notes need to be recursive to make any sense. (12/07)

19 December 2007

Another Sipp

[vines]Sipp Mack 2004 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” “Lucie Marie” (Alsace) – Lighter-styled, showing rose oil, cashew juice, and ripe peach. Moderately sweet, elegant, and smooth, this is the perfect style of VT to have (as the Alsatians do) pre-dinner, with foie gras, rather than afterwards as a decadent dessert. (3/06)

Gresser drawer

Gresser 2002 Pinot Gris Brandhof “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Showing red-fruited (which pinot gris can often do), with strawberry and a blend of red, Rainier, and maraschino cherries, plus peach and tangerine. The fruit is fresh and vivid, and the wine is supported by a solid foundation of granite and marble. A medium-length, almost feathery finish brings out hints of fennel frond. This is a nice wine with good aging potential, but I suspect more could be wrested from these grapes. (3/06)


[vines]Lorentz 2000 Riesling Kanzlerberg (Alsace) – From 375 ml. Assertive at first, but then strangely reticent as it airs, as if it’s shutting down hard (which is likely). Moderately mineral-driven, soft and floral, with a thin layer of fat. It’s long enough, and given the producer and the site I’m inclined toward the benefit of the doubt here; certainly, there’s little point in opening a bottle if it’s like this. (3/06)

White broth

[logo]Metté Bouillon Blanc Eau-de-Vie (Alsace) – Also known as fleur de molène, this is (if my investigations are correct) what’s known in English as mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It’s light, but quite floral and vividly spicy, yet a profound elegance remains throughout. It’s almost “pretty,” if one can call a 45-degree spirit that. (3/06)


[eguisheim]Léon Beyer 1993 Riesling Les Écaillers (Alsace) – From 375 ml, and a gift from the owner of our gîte, who apparently has quite a stock of them; he gave us another one the last time we stayed here. Unfortunately, this – like the last – has seen its day come and go. It’s quite faded, with oxidation and stale wax predominating. The acidity is vivid, and at the very heart of the wine there’s some nice apple skin and white plum, but it’s just too sour and old to be any good. (3/06)

18 December 2007

Sierra smile

[label]Easton 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Sierra Foothills) – Big and aromatic…is that a little creamy leesiness?...with a surplus of ripe gooseberry and some fat to the texture. The cream and its accompanying butter are deceptive, as the wine doesn’t go through malo, but the ripe greenness reasserts itself on the finish. It’s like sauvignon blanc aromatics wedded to a viognier texture (though with the heat that so often plagues the latter). Interesting, and unmistakably New World.(5/07)

The Sentinel

[label]Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – Surprisingly hollow at first sip, this very quickly fills out, showing blueberry and blackberry with a sharp bite of tannin. There’s oak, but it’s very nearly overwhelmed by the fullness of the fruit. Very structured, yet juicy and appealing, with a long life ahead. (5/07)

I long to see you

[label]Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Viognier (Shenandoah Valley) – There’s a metallic edge here, along with more typical peach skin and apricot. Surprisingly, the acid is prominent…not something one always finds in viognier, especially from the New World. The finish is shy, showing only a little thyme honey. It all seems a little less than it should be, so I try moving the wine to a bigger-bowled glass. This does make a difference, bringing out more of the floral aspects and seemingly expanding the wine’s overall profile. (5/07)

Fiddletown while Rome burns

[label]Easton 2003 Zinfandel “Old Vines” (Fiddletown) – 14.5%. Spicy black pepper, thick and structured, with black cherry, pine, cedar and good acidity. It’s very wood-primary right now, but I expect that to absorb (somewhat) with age. Still, the collection of various trees has me slightly concerned about the wine’s overall balance. At the least, it’s worth keeping an eye on. (5/07)

Estate planning

[label]Easton 2002 “Estate” Zinfandel (Shenandoah Valley) – 15.1%. Bigger, with a more silken texture than the Fiddletown. There’s cedar, dark black pepper, tar and asphalt, with chocolate added on a finish that’s a little more abrupt than I’d like. However, I think there’s plenty of potential here…the wine just needs time. That said, it’s a little more “worked” than the Fiddletown, and it shows. (5/07)

High, how are you?

[label]Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Syrah “High Slopes” (Sierra Foothills) – Smoked blackberry on enamel. A bit short. With more air comes more intensity and interest, so this might just need some time to figure itself out. (5/07)

Commander Adami

[bottle]Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Sur Lie” (Veneto) – Tart and papery. Segmented, and the lack of cohesion renders the wine a little flat. Unserious Prosecco is fine, but it needs to taste alive. This tastes like it’s trying for some sort of profundity, but if so it’s a failure in that regard. It simply comes across as deadened. (5/07)

15 December 2007

The sea of Galea

[galea vineyard]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2002 Galea Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Rain-churned dust, shells, and hazelnut with…marshmallows? If so, they’re natural, unsweetened, and slightly green. It’s a difficult descriptor to use, because it suggests the wine is synthetic when in reality it is almost completely the opposite; marshmallow is, here somewhat of a textural descriptor…but then again, not entirely. If anyone has ever tasted real marshmallow (from the plant), they’ll know what I’m talking about. The wine moves from Mario’s suggested lightness to greater weight and fatness on the midpalate, then recedes again, while at the same time building an edifice of spice and complexity on top of its foundation. Very tight, but balanced, with acid perhaps a bit more present than in other vintages. The finish is very, very long. After an hour or so in the glass, floral notes emerge. This should be a beauty, one day. (7/07)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2001 Galea Corno di Rosazzo Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Strong anise up front (which Mario identifies as the verduzzo). Bigger and more forward than the 2002, showing ripe tangerine rind and bitter orange soda on the finish. It nestles the palate for a time, then turns more angular on the finish, which is shorter than that of the ’02. For whatever reason, I find this wine a half-step behind the 2002 in quality, though I think it will age just about as long. (7/07)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 1999 Galea Corno di Rosazzo Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Served warmer than I’d like. There’s a touch of volatile acidity here, and a slight prickle to the palate, which has a texture similar to that of linen. A bit fat, with perhaps a touch of heat (though that’s undoubtedly exacerbated by the temperature of the wine)…though this is clearly a big wine by any estimate, with juicy orange and greengage plum beating on each other like a large-barreled floor tom. Later cooling just mutes the wine, without really dealing with the more functional issues. (7/07)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 1997 Galea Corno di Rosazzo Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Dusty, with a beautiful mineral-driven nose. Later, there’s lemon verbena and mint, along with creamed apricot blossom and peach flowers. The palate is explosive yet silky, and the age lends a sensation (but not the actual presence) of sweetness. Gorgeous, and at a fine point in its maturity…though I don’t see any need for panicked consumption; this wine is still quite intact. (7/07)

Brazan it out

[bottles]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2002 Brazan Collio Goriziano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Aromatically austere. When it finally opens – not an easy event to coax forth – it shows honeysuckle, dried mineral salts and hyssop. The balance is exquisite, the finish lingering and delicate, and the overall impression of the wine is beautiful and refined. Extremely impressive. (7/07)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2001 Brazan Brazzano di Cormons Collio Goriziano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Fuller than the 2002, with big, salty herbs, spice, tea, and ultra-ripe apple and a fuller, riper composition. And yet, there’s such amazing elegance retained. Long, with flawless balance even though it’s heftier. (7/07)

Ferdinando's hideaway

label]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2000 Galea Rosso Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Grey and black earth are here less a foundation than a wrapping, like a soil-enclosed truffle cored with dried red, blue and black fruit that flow forth with a gorgeous, silken texture. The finish is long, dusty and exceedingly pleasant. A very polished wine, perhaps not with the inherent character of the whites, but fine in its own right. (7/07)

14 December 2007

Anfora next trick...

Gravner 2002 Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla “Anfora” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – So hard to describe, which is (to me) one of its most compelling features. Its brassy color precedes Rainier cherries, melon rind and rocks…a lot of rocks. And there’s significant and unmistakable tannin, more than one would ever expect in a white. In fact, I could easily see confusing this for a red wine, were the color hidden. The finish is long and…well, mysteriously complex. Regular wine descriptors are somewhat insufficient here…I don’t know if it’s my failing, or that the vocabulary doesn’t quite exist yet. What I do know is that I love it. What a fascinating wine! (10/07)

Centenary island

Aquileia “Centenario” Grappa “Gran Riserva” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Oak-aged, and thus light brown, with enticing crushed flowers and a very elegant aroma. The wood smoothes things over to such an extent that I realize I prefer the more raw but more exciting clear form of this spirit. (10/07)

Truth in advertising

Corte Sconta Prosecco Amabile (Veneto) – This is the house wine (of which we drank two and a half bottles on our previous visit); just smelling it brings yet another flood of memories. Now, with more familiarity and…um…greater capacity, I could probably drink gallons of it, because if ever a wine style was aptly named, this is it. There’s a slight prickle, but certainly no obvious bead, and the wine is linear and utterly pure, with a little bite of rinds and skins at the end. It’s undiminished drinking pleasure. (10/07)

13 December 2007

Isn't it Sardonic?

Abadia Retuerta 1996 Sardon de Duero “Cuvée El Palomar” (Castilla & León) – This wine, served blind, has me completely fooled into thinking it’s some sort of lush, middle-aged Loire cabernet franc that had seen a little wood. Boy, was that wrong. It’s tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon, and while there are some soft barrel aromatics that emerge when the wine is still, what’s most present is a grassy, bell peppery earth, fine acidity, very slightly underripe tannin, and a medium-length finish with an odd lactic turn. There are definitely some appealing qualities here. Based on its structure, however, I’d drink it over the next few years; I think the wine will turn increasingly green and tart with much more aging. (12/07)

How Dry is my Valley?

[vines]Nalle 2004 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – Juicy red fruit with a great deal of refreshing acidity, like a series of berries bursting with early-summer crispness. The wine hints at fruity exotica, but this proves to be a feint, and the only other noticeable aroma is a faint dusting of coconut. This wine seems unusually advanced for its age, in that the edges seem to have eroded away, leaving a naked core of sharp fruit, but that could just be Nalle going through its usual aging curve. Thanks to the acid, it’s very, very good with food. (12/07)

Take this wine and Schoffit

Schoffit 2004 Gewurztraminer Harth “Cuvée Caroline” (Alsace) – Quite sweet, and though there’s a dark black coal-like core of minerality, the sweetness overwhelms and overpowers this gewurztraminer, partially due to the lack of balancing acidity. The wine is full of flavor – Turkish delight, ripe peach, ginger – but, again, that flavor is subordinate to the wine’s sticky weight. Over the last ten years or so, Schoffit has shown a very disturbing but unquestionably increasing affection for this sort of product, and it has lessened the wines (though it has undoubtedly made them more popular among those who think wine’s best destiny is syrup). (12/07)

12 December 2007

Why the old notes?

Whenenever I post longer-format content over on the site (or the other blog), I repost the notes here. Even if the content in question is really old -- like, say, New Zealand notes from 2005 -- I don't change this practice...because the more notes here, the better. But if you're reading with an eye on current drinkability, always check the trailing dates on tasting notes, just to make sure they're current.


[label]Kahurangi Estate 2003 “Late Harvest” Riesling (Moutere) – From the oldest vines on the property. Gravel and diesel, with sweet lemon, ultra-ripe apple, and lilies. Botrytis is clearly present on the finish, to the extent that the wine begins to tip over into the realm of rot, but otherwise this is balanced and long-finishing, and unquestionably the best wine in the entire lineup. (3/05)

Moutere ri(e)s(l)ing

[label]Kahurangi Estate 2004 Riesling (Moutere) – Lots of petrol here, with tart and zingy grapefruit and a hint of pear. Starts strong, finishes very flat. Eh. (3/05)

Kahurangi Estate 2004 Riesling “Reserve” (Moutere) – Green-leafed apple and concentrated steel – the latter mostly apparent on the finish – amidst a mild overlay of residual sugar. A bit of petrol is also present. The wine shows a fair amount of intensity, but it’s not a consistent expression. One suspects that more could be done with these grapes, but then that assumes an inherent strength of the terroir about which I am ignorant. (3/05)


[label]Kahurangi Estate 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Nelson) – The 2004 vintage was rife with problematic and/or nonexistent ripening, and this wine (harvested under 20 brix) is no exception. indeed, there’s a definite Serrano chile character to the grassy, leafy, lime rind palate. Underripe, for sure. (3/05)

Moutere, I'm in love

[label]Kahurangi Estate 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (Moutere) – Zingy, showing capsicum and minerality with a tart, grapey quality. Which would all be fine, except that there’s also a generous serving of canned peas along for the ride…not an unusual fate when one ages a sauvignon blanc that probably wasn’t meant for aging. (3/05)

Five...is right out

Five Oaks 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Moutere) – Ripe apple, green plum and lemon. Ripe and rather fine. Why is this so much better than most of the rest of the Kahurangi sauvignons? The difference is rather dramatic. (3/05)

Estate sale

[label]Kahurangi Estate 2003 Chardonnay (Moutere) – 70% malolactic, and subjected to a mix of barrels and staves, showing clove-spiced apple with a good deal of orange juice on the finish. Basic and pleasant enough in this style, though without anything else to say. (3/05)

Get the wood out

[label]Kahurangi Estate 2004 “Unwooded” Chardonnay (Nelson) – No wood…and no malo, either. This is the estate’s biggest seller. Unfortunately, the wine is aromatically dead. Crisp, malic apple dominates the palate, along with greengage plum, but there’s just not much here. It’s inoffensive enough, I suppose. (3/05)


[label]Kahurangi Estate 2003 Chardonnay Mt. Arthur (Moutere) – 100% American oak (which is strange, as I’ve written elsewhere in my notebook that Day claims to use all French oak…no doubt one entry or the other is an error). Sweaty banana with other tropical aromas, crisp on the midpalate and then bitter and resinous on the finish. It’s woody, to be sure, and though there’s certainly fruit, the wood imprint here is off-putting more for its character than its quantity. (3/05)

Non-EU ü

[label]Kahurangi Estate 2004 Gewürztraminer (Moutere) – 18 grams/liter residual sugar; the result of a deliberately stopped fermentation. Thick, oily peach and orange give this wine a syrupy texture, and a decided lack of acid (though a trace is noticeable at the very tail end of the finish) adds to this quality. There’s a touch of skin bitterness as well, which isn’t uncommon for gewürztraminer. Drinkable. (3/05)


[label]Kahurangi Estate 2003 Pinot Noir (Nelson) – Slightly dirty, showing plum and blackberry on a tart, juicy palate. This sharpens, over-focuses, and turns bitter and tannic on the finish. A shame, as the wine was – for a moment at least – building towards actual quality. (3/05)

Something's fishy

Trout Valley 2004 Pinot Noir (Nelson) – This is the second label of Kahurangi, and bottled one month previous to our visit; Day muses that it might end up as a Kahurangi-labeled wine after all, though I don’t know if this actually happened or not. Pretty and floral, with a dusty flower pollen texture. There are minor suggestions of underripeness, but mostly this is crisp and food-friendly, though not much else can be demanded of it. (3/05)

Trout it out

Trout Valley 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Nelson) – Eucalyptus, thick blackberry, walnut and bark. Strange, but not as bad as I might have predicted. I guess that’s praise…still, I suspect Nelson is not the right climate for cabernet. (3/05)

11 December 2007


[bottle]Pilastri 2006 Faleria Palazzi (Marches) – Shattered-glass intensity, with sharp fruit and biting acids ripping and tearing at the palate. There’s lemon verbena and other pleasantly herbed green melons somewhere in the lime green explosion, but this wine is dominated by its structure and its sheer presence. Really, really fabulous. (12/07)

Maybe yes, Mabileau

[vineyard]Mabileau 2005 St-Nicholas de Bourgueil Les Rouillères (Loire) – Very structured (no one could miss this wine’s ageability), yet the raw materials take a while to emerge. On day one, this is thickly tannic and presenting only a wavering herbal darkness in response. Day two brings more fullness, and though thyme, bell pepper and freshly-tilled earth persist alongside cloudy tannin, they achieve greater balance and harmony amongst the whole. I think this will be quite good someday, but it’s a highly particular and difficult wine right now. Wait on it. (12/07)


Bernstein “Sarabande” 2005 Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Roussillon) – Black pepper and a touch of ash dominate a reticent nose. The palate suggests more generosity, but identifying the largesse is almost impossible. Dark fruit? Tar? It’s very hard to say, because nothing actually presents itself. It’s a big wine with little to say. That aside, it’s pleasant enough, and would be fine as a countrified cheapie. At $15, however, it’s a little weak. (12/07)

10 December 2007


[vineyard]Hirtzberger 2005 Grüner Veltliner Rotes Tor “Smaragd” (Wachau) – This practically sizzles with energy. It’s a little confused right now, writhing and snarling rather than cohering and calming – maybe they should have called it meerkat veltliner – with stream-washed stones and well-salted ripe white asparagus. Perhaps a touch of celery soda, but it’s not dominant. There’s weight, but it impresses randomly…that meerkat thing again…and there’s also length aplenty, so I have few fears about this wine’s future. But it needs time. (12/07)

You're either Pithos or you're Againstos

[bottle]COS 2005 Cerasuolo di Vittoria “Pithos” (Sicily) – A blend of frappato and nero d’avola, farmed in biodynamie, fermented in amphora, and bottled without sulfur. In other words, asking for trouble at every stage. Good thing the wine is majestic. It’s not easy to love, with a more tightly-wound presence than the regular Cerasuolo di Vittoria and a more upfront structure (particularly the acidity, which is vibrant), and in point of fact I’d rather drink the normale right now, though I suspect this will end up better in the long run. The fruit is very concentrated, but for all that surprisingly light and laser-like, with a narrow beam of red-shifted berries and crystals pulsing at the subatomic level. Then there’s a layer of grey earth, or perhaps it’s something more metallic…enveloping but not containing. This is a fascinating wine, deserving of much more attention that I was able to give it here, at a conversational dinner in a crowded restaurant. (12/07)

Bassetti hound

[vineyard]Edmunds St. John 2003 Syrah Bassetti (San Luis Obispo County) – At long last, some of this wine’s most muscular attributes show signs of taming. I wouldn’t call it civilization, because it’s still a hulking brooder; it’s just that the fruit (classic meat/leather/black fruit syrah) is a little more accessible behind the thick, fleshy wall of tannin. In recent tastings, this wine has been so structure-dominated that I’ve been tempted to call it imbalanced, but now – as it ages – the balance is clearer. And with clarity, comes the inevitable patience: based on the evidence, this isn’t going to be mature anytime soon. Anytime soon. Stick it in a dark corner of the cellar…though in front of the 2005s, which will probably live forever. (12/07)


[bottle]Cuomo 2005 Costa d’Amalfi Furore (Campania) – Piedirosso and aglianico. Red berries run over by a bulldozer. There’s such a crazy mix of pretty red fruit, sun-baked warmth, and spiky acidity here that I’m not at all sure what to think about the wine. I’m sure guzzling it on the Amalfi Coast would make it all clear. But in frigid Boston, it’s an appealing but ultimately confusing wine. I like it, for all that, but it will need the right food. (12/07)

Banyuls Brenner

Traginer 2005 Banyuls Blanc (Roussillon) – I’m rapidly getting to the point with Banyuls that if the red isn’t brilliantly-made (which, for me, means oxidative restraint), I prefer to drink the white. That’s somewhat true at Traginer, who I think is well-capable of great reds, but more consistent with their white. Here, there’s a pretty – not overly sweet, but nicely-balanced – glass of seaside sunshine, with fresh heirloom apricot (there’s some exotic aromatics in there) and a lot of concentrated sunlight. The finish is perhaps a little shorter than one might prefer. (12/07)

08 December 2007

Lahn work

[label]St. Michael-Eppan 2004 Sauvignon Blanc Lahn (Alto Adige) – Very intense, though the form of the intensity is somewhat mysterious. There’s plenty of volume-enhanced green fruit and grass to provide varietal character, and the wine has a pronounced clarity about it, revealing all the minerality and piercing acidity underneath. Yet the wine presents itself in discrete panes rather than a cohesive whole. Everything is, frankly, terrific, and yet it doesn’t quite come together for me. On the other hand, I feel silly criticizing a wine with so many obvious qualities. (12/07)

Crazy like a fox

Jacky Renard 2005 Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre (Burgundy) – Thick. Not dense, not concentrated. Thick. The wine’s got good regional character, with red fruit mixed with darker stuff, some earth, perhaps a touch of mushroom and a pleasant acidity. And the tannin is ripe and soft (thankfully so, as there’s so much of it). But this is sort of like drinking Burgundy through a pillow. A tannic, almost impenetrable pillow. Should plain old Bourgogne be such a struggle? I don’t know. (12/07)

Gavi McLeod

[label]Ascheri 2003 Gavi (Piedmont) – Leafy and fairly simple, with salty ripe green notes, some moss, perhaps a little particulate melon. Not overblown in the manner of so many ’03s , but lacking much in the way of complexity or interest. (11/07)

Isole mio

Isole e Olena 2005 Chianti Classico (Tuscany) – Fair aromatics of strawberry, tarragon and gristly farm soil, but inside it’s a little watery and somewhat of a letdown. There’s plenty of structure, but there’s not so much for it to hold up, and while it’s perfectly innocuous with food, one hopes for something more. I’m moved to wonder if it’s always tasted like this, and my tastes have just changed. For whatever reason, this sort of Chianti has left my palate wheelhouse. Hopefully not forever. (12/07)

Schell game

[beer]Schell Brewery (Minnesota) – I tasted, albeit somewhat uncritically, a mixed six-pack of brews from this New Ulm brewery. The class of the lot is the FireBrick, with its suggestions of reddish sweetness, some wintry spice, and fine balance. Otherwise, I find the beers to lack definition…it’s possible to tell them apart, certainly, but the differences don’t leap forth from the glass. Of the rest of the lineup, the Pilsner is probably the best and most complete, though this is far from my favorite style. I have more expectations for the Caramel Bock than it can satisfy, and the Octoberfest and Zommerfest are barely distinguishable, which seems a shame…both are good, but there’s just not the difference one wants. As for the Pale Ale, it’s fine, but I’m rarely enthralled by this style either. I’m just too much of a Belgian-style proponent, I guess. (11/07)

07 December 2007

Lago my Eggo

[label]Castello di Corbara 2002 Lago di Corbara (Umbria) – 50% sangiovese, 25% each cabernet sauvignon and merlot. As boringly competent as so many of these wines are, with the sangiovese only able to add the slightest touch of bright fruit to the cab/merlot structural elements. It tastes fine, but it’s just so anonymous. Again, as so many other times, I have to ask: what’s the point? (11/07)

True Grist

[vineyard]Bradford Mountain 2003 Zinfandel Grist (Dry Creek Valley) – Very concentrated, perhaps overly so…it’s not big (for a zin), it’s just sort of a neutron star of a wine, with everything in a tiny little volume of gravitational singularity. There’s a good deal of dark, toasty oak spice, but that too is drawn inward. For all this, it manages to be a pleasant drink, but it needs the right food (something equally concentrated) to avoid being somewhat like a spirituous reduction of zinfandel. (11/07)

Say it three times fast

[bottle]Gundlach Bundschu 2003 Gewürztraminer Rhinefarm (Sonoma Valley) – Soft but varietally true, with the fruit more in the spiced peach spectrum than the lychee/cashew realm. It drifts along pleasantly, neither demanding nor asserting, for a surprising length of time. A solid wine. (11/07)

Monmousseau, mamasay, mamakosa

Monmousseau 2005 Vouvray (Loire) – Quite sweet, with an authentic chalky underbelly and fair acidity. There’s not much else to the wine, though…just the basics. (11/07)

Crossings guard

[vineyard]The Crossings 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Fine, well-managed sauvignon, with the zingy green “Marlboroughness” restrained just enough for polite company, leaving the structure and a hint of flaky minerality intact. There’s some fruit, but it’s not the soft, tropical sort that’s infecting the region’s cheaper bottlings…instead it’s crisp and green and quite fun. A good, solid wine right at the mean of the region’s style. (11/07)

Accusations of Byass

[tio pepe]Gonzalez Byass “Tio Pepe” Palomino Fino Sherry “Extra Dry” (Jerez) – Shy nose, shy and soft palate, some raw green olive. A beginner’s Sherry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but aficionados will find little of interest here, and even novice experimenters will move on rather quickly. (11/07)


[label]Marietta “Old Vine Red Lot Number Thirty-Five” (California) – Somewhat beyond mature, but still hanging in there, with crisp red fruit, rich soil dust, and a tinny enclosure of structure. It needs quiet, but it’s still a decent drink. (11/07)

06 December 2007

Lytton Hewitt

[map]Ridge 1998 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – Draper’s note suggests to drink this nowish, and I think he’s right, though the spicy coconut oak hasn’t faded as much as one might like in a “mature” Lytton Springs. The fruit is clearly drying up, and while it’s still a warm and tasty festival of dark berries, the cracks and seams are unquestionably showing. (11/07)