11 October 2007


oenoLogic is on hiatus for a while. The oenoLogician is recharging his batteries in Italy, gorging himself on lardo and truffles, not to mention ribolla gialla and nebbiolo. And gaining weight. Most assuredly, gaining weight.

07 October 2007

Short names, vol. 1

[vineyard]JP Reinert 2005 Wiltinger Schlangengraben Riesling Spätlese feinherb 08 06 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Intense and primary. Crystals abound (organoleptically, not visually), while apple, lemongrass and a very light sweetness add their voices to the chorus. The finish is strikingly long for its rigidity; this is a wine that does not change. I think it’s going to be terrific, someday, but right now it’s a laser beam of youthful simplicity with a quartz rod rammed through its spine. (9/07)


Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2005 Graves (Bordeaux) – Restrained, showing less fruit than any vintage within memory, but with a long, piercing crispness on the finish. I don’t think it’s damaged in any way, I just think it’s still too wound-up and youthful to judge. There’s a hint of green apple lingering about. (8/07)

Sing a song

[label]Laurenz V “Laruenz und Sophie” 2005 “Singing” Grüner Veltliner (Austria) – Very light and mildly pétillant, with white pepper and celery seed. In other words, classic old grüner of the quaffing type. For me, this isn’t a grape that gets interesting until it has received some patience and attention, but on the other hand I suppose I’d rather drink this than cheap chardonnay. (8/07)

Right or wrong

[label]Southern Right 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – Vivid, powerful sauvignon that nudges up against the lower barrier of stridency. Lashings of green-white fruit whip and slash the palate, with the sort of acidity intense enough to dry like tannin. This is very, very good, but it’s definitely an attention hog. (9/07)

Četrtič the entertainer

[label]Četrtič “Ferdinand” 2003 Rdeče (Brda) – Merlot & cabernet sauvignon. There’s nothing that really distinguishes this wine from its similarly-cépaged brethren from pretty much everywhere else in the world. That caveat aside, it’s quite good, with all the dark fruit (cassis, blueberry and blackberry), leather, tobacco, and firm but ripe tannin one could hope for. The acidity is perhaps a little higher than is the norm in these softening days, but that’s to the wine’s benefit. Nicely crafted, likely quite ageable, and in no way overdone. (9/07)

Zenato garden

[vineyard]Zenato 2003 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Tannic, yes, but there’s plenty of chewy, grippy purple fruit despite the tongue-drying, and even a bit of acidity lurking somewhere in the background. I still wouldn’t call it balanced, but it’s a reasonable success given that it only tastes a little bit like someone was trying to make a “super-Venetian” out of corvina. (8/07)

Altesino royale

Altesino 2003 Rosso di Altesino (Tuscany) – Impenetrably tannic and clumsy, showing charred fruit and burnt walnuts, but mostly just thick, sludgy nothingness (8/07)

The fontein of youth

[label]Diemersfontein 2003 Pinotage (Wellington) – Dense and ultra-ripe pinotage, with little of the varnish and bitterness but lots of the strident, concentrated berry fruit (mostly blueberries and dark cherries, though there are crushed blackberry seeds in there as well), given a thick and oppressive layer of chocolate and new wood. I understand the desire to do this to bad pinotage, but it seems like there was a pretty nice wine here, and the overt internationalization seems a waste of good raw materials. It’s a very good wine for those who like this style. I don’t. (7/07)

What's passito is passito

Pellegrino 2004 Passito di Pantelleria (Sicily) – The usual muscat aromatics of perfume and flower are dominated by a keening pine sensation. The sweetness is puckered and light. Much, much better than the useless 2003. (8/07)

The lady of Charentes

[vineyard]Pierre Ferrand Pineau des Charentes “Sélection” (Cognac) – Bland, flat-aspect old plum sweetness and oxidation. It tastes utterly classic, but it’s incredibly dull. (8/07)

Noval idea

Quinta do Noval 1997 “Late Bottled Vintage” Porto (Douro) – Still quite primary, with big, juicy berries in a fine fruit syrup plus a dense layer of ripe tannin and surprisingly vivid acidity. There’s absolutely no reason to open this one now. (9/07)

06 October 2007

Rocche & roll all night

Brovia 2001 Barolo Rocche dei Brovia (Piedmont) – Very young, of course, but already showing some qualities beyond the tarry primaries…mostly an expansion of the dried-floral aromatics and the emergent promontory of a dense, rocky core covered with a rich layer of brown loam. This is a wine with its roots deep in the earth. (8/07)

The Gaja hypothesis

[angelo gaja]Gaja 2004 Langhe “Sito Moresco” (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, merlot & cabernet sauvignon. Maybe. Whatever it’s made from, a more overtly sexualized wine can scarcely be imagined. The fruit (mostly berries and spice) is velvety, rich, luxurious and utterly seductive, and what structure remains is softened and lotioned and polished to virtual invisibility, though it’s important to note that it isn’t actually absent. As I said: sexy, though in an obvious, impossible-to miss way. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this wine had a pimp. Or, more appropriately, a high-class madam. Even though my natural inclination is to carp about the wine’s clearly internationalized intent, I find it absolutely impossible to dislike the wine. If all the goopy New World monstrosities were actually this good, I might have to reevaluate the genre. Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully, depending on your vinous religion), they’re not. This, on the other hand, is spectacular. (9/07)

The Grasso is always greener

Giuseppe Grasso “La Granera” 2004 Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont) – Tasting this brings back memories. Because I remember when barbera used to taste like this: crisp, biting, all red-hued berries with a little bit of sizzle. This isn’t one of the really old style thin and linear versions, however; it’s richer and a little bit wider around the waist, with a lovely finish that seems to begin to fade, then re-emerges with an angular vengeance. Perhaps it’s lightly wooded, perhaps just the result of better fruit. In either case, it’s not one of the overworked, overwooded monstrosities that infect the appellation. It’s not a “great” wine, but then part of what makes it so good is that it recalls a time when barbera wasn’t supposed to aspire to greatness. Bring out your tomatoes! (9/07)

Phineas fog

[label]Ettore Germano 2005 Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont) – Uninspiring, with obvious and prosaic nebbiolo dominated by its tarry, rather than floral, side and very little promise of inner aromatics to come. The tannin is correspondingly dominant, though there’s plenty of acidity as well. More than a bit hollow. It needs age, certainly, but I’m not sure the result will ever be all that compelling, and balance will remain an area of concern. (9/07)

Ascheri, I'm in love

Ascheri “do ut des” 2005 Verduno Pelaverga “il Gusto della Solidarietà” (Piedmont) – Corked. (9/07)

Don Bongiovanni

[bottle]Cascina Bongiovanni 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Friendly, fresh raspberry and boysenberry bisected by a thick wall of slightly biting tannin. The wine isn’t out of balance, necessarily, but I’m not sure the fruit will win the ultimate race to the finish line. That said, there’s a lot to like here, with an appealing emergence of mixed peppercorns and something more baritone and earthen in the finish. It’s occasionally leafy as well. I like it. Not everyone will. (9/07)

The Gattinara in the hat

[vineyard]Travaglini 2001 Gattinara (Piedmont) – Tar, but not so much with the roses…though there is a vague floral element here. Mostly, however, this is about pleasant organic elements, autumnal and humid, floating over a moldering bed of moistened earth. It’s fairly tasty, but doesn’t bear any sort of close examination. And I don’t know that it will reward much aging, either. (8/07)

04 October 2007

I'm a little bit country

[label]Alexis Bailly “Country Red” (Minnesota) – Pérlant and somewhat volatile, with a foxy, hybrid-ish core. But the fruit is good, albeit somewhat candied (more jarred Maraschino than Fruit Roll-Up, though there are some darker berries in the mix as well), and the winemaking is otherwise pure, fun, and almost joyful. With a little less volatility, this would taste like a fine chambourcin-dominated blend, which from me is fairly high praise. (8/07)

I'm a little bit rock'n'roll

Alexis Bailly “Country White” (Minnesota) – Sweet, synthetic hard candies, with a cotton candy finish punished by sour, out-of-place acidity. This is pretty awful. I’m surprised; I would have thought the whites from this winery would have a greater chance at success than the reds. (8/07)

Ice cold

Alexis Bailly “Ice Wine” (Minnesota) – Very credible, with concentrated yet ethereal sweetness highly reminiscent of quality ice wines from elsewhere. The major “flaw” (the scare quotes mean it’s not actually an error, merely a lack) is a lack of otherwise identifiable character...either varietal or site-derived. But if there’s one thing that should be easy to achieve in a Minnesota vineyard, it’s frozen grapes. (8/07)

03 October 2007

Not resting on any

[label]Laurel Glen 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Mountain) – 12.5%. Vegephobes and those with a childhood fear of anything green will hate this. I, on the other hand, think that cabernet shorn of all leafy or verdant notes is probably overripe. Certainly this has green – leafy, vegetal, and peppery – to spare, but it’s quite balanced, pure, and moving along to its maturity on pace. Other mixed peppers (the seedy kind) are present, as well as firm tannin, good acidity and a black, spiky earthen foundation. This is the kind of cabernet that’s just not much made anymore, and I kinda love it. (7/07)

It's me, Margaret

JB Cellars 2005 “Margaret Anne” Arneis/Tocai Friuliano (Mendocino) – Made by Marietta. It’s clean, pure fun, with intense sauvignon-like greenery (but on the ripe side) aromatized by a perfumed, almost lush top note of freshly-crushed lilies. Really, really nice. (8/07)

Easton west

[label]Easton 2001 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – Good barberas from this region taste, to me, like slightly-tamed zinfandels…the wild black’n’blue berries transformed to red, the spiky structure given over to a glistening sheen, but otherwise crisp, strong-willed fruit bombs that are just a joy to drink. And this is one of the good wines. There’s a rich, warm spice to the wine as well, like some mulled Christmas concoction. Pure pleasure. (8/07)

Hit the Highway

Bohemian Highway 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (California) – Dirt-cheap domestic cabernet, and perfectly pleasant in that idiom: soft, a little bit sweet, and possessing a principal quality of inoffensiveness. At a non-wine-geek party, this is drinkable. (9/07)


[bottle]Sterling 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley) – Melon, pineapple, ultra-ripe lemon marmalade and fig, with dryish honey notes and isolated acidity. It doesn’t taste confected, but it does taste mass-market. (8/07)

Level 42

Marietta “Old Vine Red Lot Number Forty-Two” (California) – Juicy, zinnish berry flavors and a slightly grittier wild vine and gravel foundation mark this fruity and generally affable wine; it’s no fruit bomb, but it is fun, and the acidity’s a welcome thing in an inexpensive California red. (8/07)

Monk-y business

[bottle]Franciscan 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Basic all the way, with coffee-infused dark fruit and a casual nod towards structure, balance…and any sort of life at all. One could do a lot worse, but one could also do a lot, lot better. (8/07)

01 October 2007

Moine all Moines

[label]Laroche “Domaine aux Moines” 1991 Savennières-Roche aux Moines (Loire) – For the first fifteen minutes or so, there’s the usual Loire chenin consternation over potential corkiness…and anyway, the wine’s not showing much (aside from a papery albino-hood) during that time. With sufficient air – and some warming – more classic quinine and aspirin aromas emerge, though the texture particulates into something slightly sandpapery. Wax develops, then retreats, and the finish demonstrates a steady expansion from the first to the last glass. Highly unappealing, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way; this is a wine that requires you to come to it, rather than vice-versa. (8/07)

Coulée hat

[vineyard]Joly 2002 Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Loire) – Very dark and, like so many of Joly’s wines, apparently oxidizing at a scandalous rate. However, who knows what will actually happen to the wine? Recoveries can and do happen to his little philosophical experiments. The acid is powerful and somewhat dominant right now. There’s also plenty of candle wax, old almond, linen and dust to the wine, and the intensity and increasing freshness of the finish gives me a certain measure of hope for the future. But only a measure. (9/07)

Night Hippolyte

Hippolyte Reverdy 2005 Sancerre (Loire) – Dull and one-note, with vague suggestions of grassy-green fruit and rather obvious alcohol. This is heavy without being intense, and things get worse with food. (7/07)

Jolivet prison

Jolivet 2005 Sancerre Les Caillottes (Loire) – Thin, watery flavors combined with spiky alcohol and a flat, lifeless texture. What the heck went wrong here? (7/07)

Jolly old St-Nicholas

[label]Taluau-Foltzenlogel 1996 St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil “Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Three different wines in one bottle. The first is heavily dill-infused, sour with pickled acidity and yet weirdly compelling due to its pulsing, earthen bass line. The second is balanced and structured, with graphite-textured tannin, fine acidity, and dark black fruit loaded with morels and soil. And the third is reticent, dominated by its structure, and rather boring to drink. What does this mean, in terms of the wine’s progress along its aging curve? I have no idea…or, rather, I have three different answers depending on which of the trio is on current display. My guess is that it’s still not ready, based on the way it seems to close up after extended aeration, but that initial burst of nastiness must be considered as well. (9/07)

Monty Pithon

[botrytized grapes]Pithon 1999 Coteaux du Layon St-Aubin Clos des Bois (Loire) – Very dark brown, so this is either advancing rather rapidly or there was a problem with the cork; I have more, so I’ll investigate soon. There’s a little bit of aspirin-influenced cream and paraffin still lingering, but most of this wine is given over to old citrus and dense, incredibly sweet brown sugar. It’s still lovely, but for how much longer? (7/07)