28 November 2007

Spanish Xarmada

[bottle]Albert de Sangenis “La Xarmada” 2001 Conca de Barberà Criança (Cataluña) – A blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and mourvèdre. Good, if basic, and done in the international style, with all the required elements present. It’s pretty dull, but it’s at least wine on some sort of mindless level. (10/06)

The Font of all knowledge

La Viña la Font de la Figuera “Sequiot” 2004 Tempranillo (Valencia) – Horrid, undrinkable, over-manufactured swill. After a few sips, this gets poured down the drain. (10/06)

27 November 2007

Cluster bomb

[bottle]Wyndham Estate 2003 Shiraz “Black Cluster” (Hunter Valley) – This is the first release of a wine intended to be “iconic,” from older vines. There is no ’04, but there is an ’05 and there will be an ’07 (thought to be the best of the bunch thus far), while a decision on the ’06 had not yet been made at the time of this tasting. Here is a much more serious style of shiraz, though still commercially accessible, with deep fruit showing blackberry, blueberry, plum and apple-crisped acidity, dark earth redolent with black truffle, and a little meat and leather in the picture as well. Very solid and nicely done. (9/07)

505 ways to make your wine pink

[bottle]Wyndham Estate 2006 Shiraz Rosé “Bin 505” (Australia) – Not a saignée, but rather a wine from grapes dedicated to this purpose, with the must chilled and a relatively cold fermentation. It’s simple, with clean, minty cherry dominating, and it’s full-bodied without being over the top, with a wet finish and good acid balance. Enjoyable. (9/07)

Show me, don't tell me

[bottle]Wyndham Estate 2004 Shiraz “Show Reserve” (South Eastern Australia) – Aged in American oak, and it shows in the soft coconut wood influence. It’s big. Strawberries and plums are prominent, with chocolate and a warming, spicy component that turns to oak dominance on the finish. This is a well-made wine, but not my style. (9/07)

Hollywood phone numbers

[bottle]Wyndham Estate 2005 Shiraz “Bin 555” (South Eastern Australia) – This is Wyndham Estate’s biggest seller, and the goal is a “ripe” character…one that I don’t think they achieve. I also have a bit of a history with this wine: a negative note many years ago on one of the online wine fora caused a blizzard of hate mail from one dedicated but obviously underworked 555 lover. And now? Chocolate-covered paper, flat and dull, then turning soupy on the finish. Tannin is a minor component. This wine just isn’t interesting, at all. (9/07)

Bubbles in flight

[bottle]Wyndham Estate Sparkling Shiraz “Bin 555” (South Eastern Australia) – Blueberry and sweet plum with licorice candy. It’s too sweet for me (25g/l residual sugar), a berry dessert with a little tannin, but as dessert I suppose it’s OK. I just think dry versions are so much more interesting. (9/07)

Trevallon...the time, the time, the time is now

[vines]Domaine de Trevallon 1994 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône (Provence) – Lavender-scented meat, sweet and sweaty and seared. There’s high acid carried on a bright wine, juicy black cherry and blackberry, and even more zingy and insistent acidity on the finish. Turns a bit roasted with air, but the acidity still shrieks. The acid-averse will flee in fear, but with the right food this is a lot of fun. (9/07)

Brun the day

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2001 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Light whitish-grey earth, dried almond skin, nut shells which transform to an old, dried-nut bitterness on the finish. The wine’s hollowing out, and while it’s long on the palate, it’s somewhat wan. Air helps, and after an hour or so there’s a lemon/grapefruit element in the mix, with a heavier mouthfeel and a zippy, cleansing element to the finish, but it’s still hollow. This was better a few years ago. (9/07)

Branaire cramp

[label]Château Branaire Duluc-Ducru 1989 St-Julien Beychevelle (Bordeaux) – This requires a long note. Heavy, tobacco and dark fruit skins with chunky oak tannin and walnut skin. Then: green pepper, red pepper…maybe turning to peppercorns (but freshly-cracked). And now, here’s bitter chocolate. There’s no generosity to this wine…it’s hard and severe, and somewhat overly acidic…and yet it’s classic in its own way. The complexity is undeniable, but it’s just no fun. Anyway, that’s the decanted, briefly aired, and then poured note. With extensive airing, however, things change a bit. The pointed acidity still renders the wine a touch sour, but overall matters have softened, with a more balanced nature and the chocolate turning to espresso. Much nicer, though still fairly firm. (9/07)

Oustal for time

Fonquerle “l’Oustal Blanc” Vin de Table “Naïck” (France) – Apparently, this is a blend of cinsault, carignan, syrah and grenache from vineyards in both Minervois and St-Chinian, hence the VdT designation. And I think this is the 2004 version, though of course there’s no vintage on the label. Anyway, it’s meaty and dense, with an excellent black trumpet-studded earthen foundation and nice structure. The wine seems like it should be blocky, but the aromatics are a good deal more vivid than one expects. It should age for a while, but it’s an excellent foil for strongly-flavored meat right now. (11/07)

Mâcon bacon

Guffens-Heynen 2000 Mâcon-Pierreclos “Le Chavigne” (Mâcon) – Quite woody, showing sweet melon and banana. Sickly spicy, with big, aggressive wood. Acidity doesn’t help. (9/07)

21 November 2007

Rovetta stone

[vineyard]Grosjean 2004 Torrette “Supérieur” Vigne Rovetta (Vallée d’Aoste) – Mostly petit rouge, with some cornalin and fumin in the blend. If twin red Burgundies were separated at birth, and one was raised in the woods by a poverty-stricken family to achieve no more than about a 6th-grade education, this is what it might taste like. Its mild red fruit is choppy, and the texture alternately sharp and muddled, with spiky acidity and roughly-treated earth constantly churning underneath. There’s a lot to like here, but it’s very hard to get to it through all the discontinuities and confusion. Will age help? I have absolutely no idea. (11/07)


[label]Radikon 2002 Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Reddish-orange in color, blood orange and Rainer cherry on the nose, with plenty of tannin…this is, by all rights, a red wine that just happens to be made from white grapes. There’s big acidity throughout, with mineral soda elements abundant on the finish. Fascinating stuff. (10/07)

Coppo 1995 “Mondaccione” (Piedmont) – Corked. Damned corks. (10/07)

[label]Corte Gardoni 2006 Bardolino Chiaretto (Veneto) – While overt heaviness and alcohol can be a problem for rosés, Bardolino Chiaretto often has the opposite problem: too light, too thin, too acrid. Thankfully, none of that’s on display here. Instead, it’s a bright, smiling, linear beam of light red fruit. Some sort of Disney animation of dancing and frolicking animals, flowers and children under an animatronic sun wouldn’t seem out of place, at all. Summer was the right season for this wine, but drinking it now brings the summer right back. (11/07)

[map]Mongeard-Mugneret 2002 Echezeaux (Burgundy) – Massive but complex – in fact, the complexity itself is massive – with an earthy nose, and, and, and…well, this is the standard youthful Burgundy line, and you’ve read it before. This is a particularly fine example, and will reward age, but the quality is obvious now. (10/07)

[bottle]Stryker 2004 Cabernet Franc Angeli (Russian River Valley) – Woody and herbal, with a decent enough cabernet franc not quite able to emerge from the oak overlay. Fruit skins provide both character and mild bitterness. I’ve tasted worse. But I’ve tasted much, much better. (11/07)

[bottle]Stephen Vincent 2005 “Crimson” (California) – Soft, with a cloth texture to the fruit (from the syrah, perhaps). It’s entirely pleasant, but far too affable for its own good; a nice party wine, utterly devoid of complexity or personality. There’s a definite place and need for such a wine, but I’ve already expended more words on it than it merits. (11/07)

[bottles]Hobo 2005 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – Almost a throwback, with almost frothy wild berry fruit and a generally non-aggressive demeanor. However, the middle’s hollow. Perhaps filling that gap is what leads to the more modern, somewhat overdriven style. Not bad, not great. (11/07)

20 November 2007

Where did the horrible title puns go?

Though my friends might say my store of them is endless, it's really not. They'll be back, worry not (or, depending on your perspective, wait in fear). I just need a breather.

[disgorgement]Larmandier-Bernier Champagne “1er Cru” Vertus Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Stunning elegance, with the finest particulate matter forming some sort of indescribable sculpture of beauty. The finish is long and supremely refined. Fabulous Champagne. (10/07)

H. Billiot & Fils 1998 Champagne Brut “Millésime” “Grand Cru” à Ambonnay (Champagne) – Valencia orange and Thai basil. The fruit’s on the sweeter side, and the wine is both big and slightly obvious (in this, it probably suffers from being served after a Larmandier-Bernier). But the finish is long and crisp, and I suspect this is a good deal better than I’m giving it credit for. (10/07)

Voge 1998 Cornas “Cuvée Les Vieilles Fontaines” (Rhône) – Classic. Leather, smoked leather, a little bit of char. Yet in some ways, not classic, in that it’s both overly smooth and somewhat restrained. Should Cornas ever be truly restrained? Well, whatever, it’s still a tasty wine. (10/07)

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Fearless and sun-drenched, as a Séguret should be, showing brawny, slightly roasted dark berries and vine smoke with a rich black leather interior. There’s a polished fullness to it that, for me, connects it to Féraud’s other wines, but while it’s certainly on the lush side, it is by no means overdone or overly modern. Nicely done, and a pretty decent value as well. (11/07)

Vignerons de Caractère “Domaine de la Brune” 2005 Beaumes de Venise “Vin Emotion” (Rhône) – The signature of reds from this appellation seems to be a hard, almost crystalline minerality – quartz-like, perhaps – that dominates both any varietally-derived aromas and general Southern Rhônishness. That’s true here, where the rocky foundation is barely brushed by smoked meat and blackberry residue. I find this wine fascinating. (11/07)

Alary 2005 Côtes du Rhône “La Gerbaude” (Rhône) – Earth, herb, smoke and meat with just a hint of funk, coalescing into a burnt Creole funnel of brooding, unyielding darkness. It’s not a big wine in its paradigm, but it’s not exactly friendly and floppy either. Age? Almost certainly, though with the right animal flesh it’s pretty good now. (11/07)

19 November 2007

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Muscat d’Alsace Moenchreben de Rorschwihr “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – The rarest of all Alsatian wine styles. Succulent mixed flowers and perfume. Absolutely huge…and, yet, not, with the sweetness coming on softly, rather than assaulting with balled fists. There’s a balance and purity to this wine that’s almost shocking considering the grapes from which it’s made. The finish is rather endless, though why anyone would want this taste out of their mouth in the first place is beyond me. (10/07)

[ried klaus]Jamek 2000 Riesling Ried Klaus “Smaragd” (Kamptal) – Wind-blown iron, with the metallic dust giving way to creamy decadence. Yet it’s light, too, with sandpaper etching away at the finish. There are signs of full maturity here, though I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. (10/07)

That'll put Herrenreben on your chest

Schoenheitz 1998 Riesling Herrenreben “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Simple, upfront flavors, with fine acidity and excellent balance. There’s just not much to talk about. Maybe in ten years. (10/07)

Meyer-Fonné 2005 Gewurztraminer “Réserve Particulière” (Alsace) – Fine varietal character (though of the fruitier, not spicier or, um, bacon-ier variety) with a good deal of residual sugar. There’s enough acidity – just – to lift the wine. Drinkable and good, but forgettable. (11/07)

[label]Markowitsch 2005 Blaufränkisch Spitzerberg (Carnuntum) – The wood treatment here is grossly out of place, turning what might otherwise have been succulent red fruit into a coconut bar drink from some tropic isle. I’d call it a waste of good fruit, but it’s impossible to learn much about the fruit at all. So I’ll have to settle for calling it a waste. (11/07)

Albrecht 2005 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – Classic, firm, steel-driven riesling with a surplus of ripe green apple acidity. Which is good as far as it goes. Except that the nose is a little thin, and the finish is a lot shorter than one would want. It takes some air to develop, and deserves that time, but it does not rise above its calling. (Then again, it’s probably not meant to.) This is the riesling that goes in the pot (and in the cook) while waiting for the somewhat more serious example to appear at the table. (11/07)

Pretterebner 2004 Blauer Portugieser (Weinland) – Subtle. There’s a hint of red fruit here, a soft bed of earth there, a dash of floral aroma and a pinch of sprightly acidity…it dances, it eludes, it teases, but it refuses to settle down. As a result, it’s hard to get a handle on this wine. One moment it’s pleasant, the next dull, and then it’s gently complex. The light brown earth component eventually proves the most frequent of the teases, but what ultimately makes this wine compelling is less its inherent qualities as its refusal to be captured. (11/07)

18 November 2007

[label]Woodward Canyon 2006 “Dry” Riesling (Columbia Valley) – Ripe honeydew melon and honeysuckle with fig and Golden Delicious apple. Despite the label, it doesn’t taste entirely dry, but that could be a mere inference from the extremely ripe, almost boisterous palate. There’s a touch of heat on the nose, but otherwise this manages to pair intensity and balance fairly well. It is big, however. (9/07)

[bottles]O S Winery 2006 Riesling Champoux (Horse Heaven Hills) – Extremely dry, showing Makrut lime, candied ginger and an aluminum core. Long, with dominant structure, but there’s a worrisome Styrofoam element to the finish. (9/07)

[bottles]San Juan 2006 Siegerrebe (San Juan Island) – Even though the winery is perfectly entitled to use the name of its geographical location, there’s just something…I don’t know, jarring…about seeing “San Juan” on a wine from the Pacific Northwest. Well, whatever, let’s get back to the important stuff. Green elements (gooseberry, asparagus) vie with spice here, and there’s no lack of acidity. Beautifully weird. Or weirdly beautiful. Certainly not a crowd-pleaser, though I’m not sure why that’s important. (9/07)

[bottles]DeLille 2006 “Chaleur Estate” Blanc (Columbia Valley) – 61% sauvignon blanc, 39% sémillon. Fig, peach rind and dried yeast, with pit bitterness and lurid nut oils drizzled over the top. Far too thick, and (blessedly?) short. (9/07)

[vineyard]Abeja 2005 Chardonnay (Washington) – Smoky and very ripe, with cantaloupe and Calimyrna fig. Quite woody, though there seem to be pleasant enough materials underneath. The finish is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, which is unfortunately par for the course with such wines. (9/07)

[vineyard]Columbia Winery 2006 Viognier (Yakima Valley) – Light aromatics at first, followed by a thoroughly hollow midpalate. The finish is classic and varietally true to its peach flower/honeysuckle destiny, but there’s just not much else to enjoy here. (9/07)

[label]Di Stefano 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley) – 92% sauvignon blanc, 8% sémillon. Fig, cucumber and white rose. Round and ripe, with good acidity, yet it also seems softened…normally, I’d guess with a tiny bit of aging in wood, but that doesn’t seem otherwise indicated here. Pretty nice. (9/07)

[bottles]l’Ecole No. 41 2005 Merlot Seven Hills (Walla Walla Valley) – Buttered toast with dark blueberry jelly, ripe and leathery tannin, plus a finish that disappears from the inside out. Rather soupy. Not very good, but not horrible. (9/07)

[bottle]Pedestal 2004 Merlot (Columbia Valley) – 77% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot. All toasty wood and brioche, no fruit or character. I’m told that über-consultant Michel Rolland had a hand in this. Certainly I’m no great fan of his ever-expanding portfolio, but his wines are almost never this horrid. (9/07)

[bottle]Leonetti 2005 Merlot (Columbia Valley) – 85% merlot, 8% cabernet sauvignon, 7% petit verdot. Big, spicy wood with a chewy yet lush texture. The quality is obvious, as is the seductive nature of the wine, but despite the overtly apparently quality, the wine is thoroughly anonymous. It could be from anywhere, made from anything. So what’s the point, exactly? (9/07)

Cadence 2003 Klipsun (Red Mountain) – 82% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon. Balanced fruit, big but ripe and pretty, that softens to a somewhat silky cotton candy texture on the finish. So close, but yet so far… (9/07)

[logo]buty 2006 Merlot/Cabernet Franc (Columbia Valley) – 61% merlot, 39% cabernet franc. Espresso and chocolate with dark blueberries and a very concentrated, liqueur-like, but (weirdly, given those descriptors) not entirely overblown aspect. However, there is one significant flaw, and that’s the heat. It’s there on the nose, it’s there on the palate, and it positively burns on the finish. If you like a little brandy in your Fronsac, this is the wine for you. (9/07)

[label]Nicholas Cole 2003 “Camille” (Columbia Valley) – 47% cabernet sauvignon, 38% merlot, 15% cabernet franc. Dark and structured, with blackberry and blueberry ruined by green, tarry notes. There’s a medicinal quality as well. This is a strange mix of New World fruit bomb and Old World greenness, with none of the positive qualities of either. (9/07)

Col Solare 2004 (Columbia Valley) – 80% cabernet sauvignon, 17% merlot, 2% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot. Cedar and smoke, with simple fruit. Long and relatively balanced, supported by good structure, but it dries out on the finish. It’s as if the wine just gives up. (9/07)

[bottle]Hedges 2005 “Three Vineyards” (Red Mountain) – A cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend. Tobacco and dark fruit dusted with black pepper. Tannin wavers between leather and more strident bitterness. There are some balance issues here, that age will help but probably not ever truly resolve. (9/07)

Fielding Hills 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope (Washington) – 76% cabernet sauvignon, 18% syrah, 5% merlot, 1% cabernet franc. Eucalyptus, blueberry and blackberry with a chocolate/coffee underbelly and myrtille liqueur on the finish. But that’s not all…there’s an herbal Chartreuse element to it as well. Perhaps blessedly, the finish is rather abrupt. A weird, weird wine. (9/07)

[label]Pepper Bridge 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) – 85% cabernet sauvignon, 7% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 3% malbec. Reasonably balanced (or so it seems at first), showing coffee and toasted spice amidst the over fruit. Very, very thick. This might otherwise be considered promising, but there’s an unmistakable burn that eventually overwhelms everything. (9/07)

[label]Woodward Canyon 2003 “Estate” Red (Walla Walla Valley) – 44% cabernet franc, 41% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 1% petit verdot. A classic blackberry and tobacco nose bodes well. But then: flowers and nutmeg. OK, if it must, but then: extreme wood and nasty weeds on the finish. And hot. Scaldingly hot. Yeesh. (9/07)

[logo]McCrea 2004 “Sirocco” (Washington) – 40% grenache, 30% mourvèdre, 25% syrah and 5% counoise. Bubblegum and strawberry over gravel. The fruit is sweet, light and fun. Don’t ask any more of it and you’ll be reasonably pleased with this wine. (9/07)

Extra, extra

Gramercy Cellars 2005 Syrah “Lagniappe” (Columbia Valley) – Lush and ripe, but overly toasted and too buttery, with a texture like well-worn velvet throws on a long-used sofa. Turns sickly in the finish. A shame, too, as there are a few promising aromatics hanging about. (9/07)

[label]Gordon Brothers 2003 Syrah (Columbia Valley) – Mint and blueberry, tight and twisted and hollow. Or perhaps fallow. Either way, there’s almost nothing here. Bad bottle? (9/07)

Amavi 2005 Syrah (Walla Walla Valley) – Strongly fruity, showing blueberry, black cherry and blackberry with a dense overlay of spice and chocolate. There’s a hint of thyme on the finish. Good weight and decent (but only just) structure make this a reasonably solid wine. (9/07)

17 November 2007

No Mussbacher, no fuss

[bottle]Müller-Catoir 1990 Mussbacher Eselshaut Rieslaner Auslese 98 91 (Rheinpfalz) – Big fun, though it’s particular enough that it’s not for everyone. Bronzed cream dominates, with somewhat riotous exotic herbs floating about on top, and a palate that seems like it should be more sugary than it actually is. Drink up. (10/07)

Dona, dona, dona

[vine]Martínez Serantes “Dona Rosa” 2004 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Juicy semi-tropical fruit through gauze, lemon verbena and a sort of indifferent, meandering structure and form. It’s pleasant, but don’t ask it for anything else. (10/07)

Wilching on sunshine

Regli Wilchinger Pinot Noir (Hallau) – From 500 ml. Almost gamay-like – though not very good gamay – with a prickly, small red fruit aroma and a simplistic finish. It’s better for near-term drinking than the other pinots from this house have been, but that’s faint praise at best. (10/07)

16 November 2007

Original Seresin

[hand]Seresin 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – One of the most polished and professional Marlborough sauvignons on the market. Bitter melon, lemongrass, intense lime and grapefruit, pomegranate, and acidity so vivid it’s palate-drying form the heart of this wine, but what’s striking is the confident, almost swaggering sophistication in the face of all that boisterous sauvignon-ness. Very, very good. (9/07)

Charles Babich

[bottle]Babich 2005 Riesling (Marlborough) – Varietally-solid riesling, on the big, ripe, lime-and-apple side. Hints of gooseberry intrude a bit – let’s pretend it’s the terroir – but this is a juicy, enjoyable wine. (10/07)


[label]Gourdon “Chateau Tour Grise” Rosé “Zéro Pointé” (Loire) – Biodynamic cabernet franc. Not at all dry, but instead candied and somewhat sickly. Like one of those rubbery strawberry fruit candies. No thanks. (9/07)

Chiquet magnet

[vineyard]Gaston Chiquet Champagne “1er Cru” à Dizy “Tradition” Brut (Champagne) – Gritty lees with a softening, almost warming brioche character and a smooth, supple mousse. Polished and elegant, with length and subtlety. (10/07)

Rieussec day

Rieussec 2001 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – From 375 ml. Sweet. Very, very sweet. Plus: compelling oak spice, baking spices, butterscotch, candied orange, and a medium-long, dusty finish. I’m not a huge fan of young Sauternes, but this seems to have serious potential. (10/07)

15 November 2007

Chinook bar

[bottles]Chinook 2005 Cabernet Franc (Yakima Valley) – Blackberry with a little bit of charcoal-derived char, lightly-buttered toast, and ripe, smooth yet fairly grippy tannin. The wine’s not far off the usual New World norm, but the switch from cabernet sauvignon/merlot to cabernet franc gives it a little more character than usual, and lightens the wine a bit (though the wine’s certainly not “light” by any normal conception of the word). This might be promising, though right now it’s decent but uninspiring. I’d need more experience with the wine to say more. (9/07)

Too young or Thuaud?

Bossard-Thuaud Mousseaux (Loire) – Crushed shells, wet with dewsparkle and showing nothing that could even generously be called fruit. It’s interesting and yet forgettable, and then interesting again as the finish grinds up another handful of bivalves. (10/07)

Thirty pieces

[label]Silver Decoy 2005 Cabernet Franc (New Jersey) – Simultaneously underripe and overworked, which is not an unusual pair of flaws in wines from…let’s call them “non-prestige” areas. There’s unpleasant greenness and there’s a soupy texture, and the two together are not pleasant. The wine’s not horrid by any means, but I’ll stick to Jersey tomatoes, thanks. (9/07)

I Preys thee

J&P Preys 2005 Valençay Blanc “La Chatelaine” (Loire) – Sauvignon blanc? It tastes like it…a nice, textbook expression of the variety, with green grass and greenish fruit and good but obvious acidity. And what does Valençay bring to the equation? Based on a total sample of one, not much. (10/07)

It's a cru, cru summer

[bottles]Kluge Estate “Cru” “Mélange Nouveau” (Virginia) – Apparently, this is a chardonnay brandy or something along those lines. But it tastes like a bad piña colada. And getting caught in the rain. (10/07)

Zinedine Chidaine

Chidaine Montlouis “Méthode Traditionnelle” Brut (Loire) – Austere almost to the point of tastelessness, showing an acidic papery aspect and, other than some stemmy verticality, very little in the way of interest. Perhaps it just needs age, or air. (10/07)

13 November 2007

Vajra marketing

Vajra 2000 Langhe Freisa “Kyè” (Piedmont) – Upon ordering, the sommelier suggests that the wine is closed (thus initiating the elaborate decanting ritual described above), and he’s right…this gets markedly better as the evening progresses. Grapey and purple, but quite firm, showing berries and black dirt with a gritty, almost angry complexity. The acidity is fine-grained and precise, though a bit sharp until the wine begins to unfold. Ultimately very pretty and versatile (in its response to different accompaniments), with plenty of development yet to come.

Spumante hall

Dessilani “Collefino” Spumante (Piedmont) – The house pour, this sparkling wine made from Greco is simple, floral, clean and quite nice. I could drink a lot of this and not notice…a mixed blessing, to be sure…but in a more contemplative setting it might be possible to discover something beyond these surface impressions.

Angelo of mercy

Gaja Grappa di Barbaresco (Piedmont) – Extremely elegant and smooth, which is (to my mind) a dangerous thing for a grappa; complexity must be there in force when the edges of this otherwise fiery elixir are shorn. There’s a surplus of floral and spice aromas but a general absence of a definitive foundation, to the extent that it’s highly reminiscent of some of the more internationalized Langhe blends from this house. In the end, elegance remains its primary quality.


Santa Domingo “Casa Mayor” 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley) – Stewed herbs and residual sugar. This isn’t just horrible, this is an actual crime against nature and all that is good and decent in this universe. Among the worst wines I have ever tasted.


Doña Domingo 2006 Chardonnay (Colchagua Valley) – Sweet and vile. More descriptors would require keeping this wine in my mouth longer, a possibility too horrifying to contemplate.

Go Est, young man

[vineyard]Lafage 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Blanc “Côté Est” (Roussillon) – The more wines I taste from this catch-all appellation, the more I like them. What’s surprising is how much I enjoy the whites, which by all rights should be heavy and dull-witted given the general sun-drenchedness of the region. Yet somehow they show fine, rocky undertones (understones?) to admittedly simplistic stone fruit, sun-baked and slightly dried, and always with just enough of a touch of acidity. So it is here. This is very, very uncomplicated, but it’s quite tasty nonetheless. (10/07)

Custom Fitou

[logo]Colomer “Domaine de Rolland” 2005 Fitou (Languedoc) – Basic Southwestern French flavors of rough black fruit with definite nods to Bordeaux-like structure. But this tastes stripped and wan. It’s OK as a simple house wine – especially from vrac – but probably not worth exporting. (10/07)

12 November 2007

Riesling star

[domaine gresser]Gresser 2000 Riesling Mœnchberg “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Racy ripe apple of shocking density, very sweet (120g residual sugar), but with acidity of a density more than matching the sugar. There’s an apple cider quality to the acidity that grows on the long finish, during which are also introduced elements of lemongrass, Makrut lime, and a shower of iron flakes. Magisterial.


Gresser 1998 Gewurztraminer Andlau “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Creamed cashew and rose jam dusted with white pepper, the latter of which defines the initial texture of the wine. Dense, rich and spice-laden, with flakes of steel throughout. This is a terrific, balanced wine of intensity but also – and more importantly – of style. The finish is incredibly long, as it should be. Brilliant.


Gresser 1997 Gewurztraminer Mœnchberg “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Prickly petroleum-spiked juice, with a decidedly different mélange of papaya, tamarind and quince. Perhaps some strawberry as well. I’ve never tasted anything like it. Structurally, it’s long and acidic, and this – perhaps predictably – is done more in the true late-harvest (rather than simply sweet) style that used to be the norm in Alsace, though it does carry 30 grams of residual sugar. A bracing, almost shocking version of this most ubiquitous of Alsatian late-harvest wines.

Andlau, I love you, won't you tell me your name?

Gresser 2001 Gewurztraminer Andlau (Alsace) – Spicy and lurid, with lychee (more skin than fruit) lending a drying finish. This, like the 2003 riesling, represents a classic, older style of the grape that is harder and harder to find in these sugar-hunting times. It’s not a great gewurztraminer by any means, but it is a perfectly typical one, and the sort of amenable wine one wants at table.

Kritt it!

Gresser 2004 Gewurztraminer Kritt (Alsace) – From graves soil. Crisp lychee and cashew oil with fresh rose petals floating about. The finish is slightly charred, with some alcohol apparent.

Not Hassel, but Brand

Gresser 2004 Pinot Gris Brandhof (Alsace) – Pear skin and juice from ripe examples of the fruit, with a long, solid core of iron and steel around which runs a steady but thin stream of lemon and grapefruit. Incredibly long-finishing and crisp. I’ve not encountered a pinot gris of this structure and form in quite some time. It’s decidedly different, especially now, but I love it.

Gresser 2002 Pinot Gris Brandhof “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – The old vines, in this case, are around 45 years of age. Fatter than the previous wine, though by no means blowsy, with spiced pear and intense, ripe red apple, strawberry and red cherry. Normally, I associate those sorts of red fruit characteristics with very high-quality pinot gris, but in this case the finish is shorter than I’d like, and the acidity not quite what I’d want either. Still, it’s a very good wine; I’m simply hoping for more from this vintage and these vines.

Brand identity

Gresser 2004 Muscat Brandhof (Alsace) – From calcaire. Crisp, with apple blossoms and a vivid acidity throughout. This builds on the palate, showing more Alsace than muscat over its length.

Hey, hey, we're the...

Gresser 1985 Riesling Mœnchberg (Alsace) – Rémy serves this blind and makes me guess the year. I don’t recall my specific guess, but it’s somewhere in the early nineties. Not only am I more than a half-decade off, the wine has already been open for two days (at cellar temperature). It’s striking still, showing pine flowers and cedar, plus an intense forepalate that gently softens into a lingering finish full of gritty minerality. Still, drink it if you’ve got it.

The mœnchies

Gresser 1999 Riesling Mœnchberg (Alsace) – From fossilized calcaire. Odd floral and celery notes at war, with dry walnut and a grating texture. To call this wine “difficult” would be an understatement. It seems like the sort of ungenerous, eroded shell of a wine I would have predicted from many ’99s as they aged, but since I don’t believe I tasted this in its youth, it would be presumptuous to draw a direct connection in this particular case.

They wobble, but they don't fall down

Gresser 2003 Riesling Wiebelsberg (Alsace) – From grès des Vosges. Floral, with white roses in wet rocks. The sharp minerality is spiky and glassy, though shattered, and this wine gives little else of itself. Wines like this need nothing but time, and though it will probably never reach the heights of the Kastelberg, it will probably live longer and better than that wine.

A man's home

Gresser 2003 Riesling Kastelberg (Alsace) – From Steige schist. Windblown gravel and mineral dust, with great acidity for an ’03 (and fine acidity in any case). Full-bodied but very nice, extremely dense, and long. There’s a…well, for lack of a better term, a “deep blue” taste to this wine, or at least that’s the mind in which it puts me. Highly ageable.

Riesling, and lau

Gresser 2004 Riesling Andlau (Alsace) – Vivid. Fresh daisies, showing wet gravel refreshed with river water and flecked with iron. Balanced, crisp, and sternly beautiful.

A riesling tide

Gresser 2003 Riesling (Alsace) – Classic. Green apple, drying minerality and sharp acidity. Absolutely, unwaveringly classic. And, inexplicably, a withering breed in these ripeness-über-alles times. How was this achieved in 2003? I don’t get to ask, because we’re very quickly on to the next dozen wines…


Gresser 2004 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Unlike most such-labeled wines, this one is actually 100% pinot blanc, and free of the thickening but occasionally overpowering qualities of auxerrois. And it shows in the wine’s fresh, tangy apricot nature. Light and pleasant, with no aspirations of being “pinot gris-lite.”

Santenay Duncan

[label]Drouhin 2005 Santenay (Burgundy) – The first early-summer beets (both red and gold) given a cherried brightening, with a (not) surprising (for the vintage) layer of crunchy tannin, decent acidity, and a shorter finish than one would want, though there are certain high-toned merits to the latter. This is a lot of fun to smell (the aromas leap from the surface), somewhat less fun to drink, and fairly easy to forget. Nice enough, I guess. (9/07)

Ruchottes the sherrif

[bottle]Rousseau 1998 Ruchottes Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes (Burgundy) – Somewhat rough handling at first, but the inner quality soon emerges. And emerges. And emerges. The aroma is musky and somewhat brooding, and the palate comes in satiny chunks rather than silky smoothness, but it’s all good. Just a little coarsely-hewn. (10/07)

10 November 2007


[bottles]Blackenbrook 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Nelson) – Clean and crisp, with intense acidity lent just enough support to create a balanced wine. Aromas come in the form of green apple, passion fruit, light but ripe red pepper, pear juice, and dried pineapple. In other words, this wine straddles two commercially-relevant styles – the crisp, peppery sauvignon that made New Zealand’s sauvignon splash, and the more modern fruit salad version – merged with élan. It has some length, too, so it just might last for a few years. This doesn’t particularly stand out among New Zealand’s many sauvignons, but it is more deftly done than most. (3/05)

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