30 December 2008

Riding the Bench

[vat]Ridge 2006 Zinfandel East Bench (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.9%. Pure essence of Dry Creek – just like the text on the label promises – and quite wonderfully restrained in its post-harvest packaging. Wild, vine-y berries, twisted and gnarled, swirl on the palate. There’s a very light bit of coconut, but this wine is mostly about its fruit, which is concentrated but not overly intense. There’s light but balanced structure for medium-term ageability. Delicious. (12/08)

Trinch your cheeks

C&P Breton 2005 Bourgueil “trinch!” (Loire) – For about a half-hour, there’s an is-this-corked? mustiness and ungenerosity to the nose that I’ve found is more than occasionally the aromatic signature of ultra-natural wines. But it can’t be corked under this particular closure, and so there’s nothing to do but wait it out. Eventually, the mist and shroud turns to something earthier, though it never quite stops obscuring the rest of the aromatics. OK, then, how about the palate? Well, it’s full of black dirt and freshly-plowed anger, slashed with fine acidity and shreddings of tobacco. I suppose it’s hard to tell from this note, but other than the difficult nose I quite like the wine, and it’s absolutely enticing with food. But I’d choose my drinking companions with some care. (12/08)

A Sonnenglanzing blow

[vineyard]Bott-Geyl 2001 Pinot Gris Sonnenglanz “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Delicious. Very sweet pear, but full of the exotic aromatics and textures of a freshly-picked heirloom variety, rather than some rock-hard supermarket ball of blandness. Not all that spicy, but burnished in bronze and a measure of darkness and smoked obscurity (which is, in my experience, a signature of Sonnenglanz pinot gris). I’ve never been overly convinced by the ability of this grape from this site to age in a complexity-heightening way, so drinking it now might not be a bad idea. (12/08)

Today or to Mauro

Mauro 1998 Vino de Mesa de Castilla y León (Castilla & León) – Lavishly (and, based on the taste of it, expensively) wooded, but that element has matured nicely into its old-furniture, spicebox stage. However, the fruit dries out rather sooner after opening than I’d like. In the early stages, it’s plummy, texturally lovely, and maturing. Later, it kinda disappears into its wood. I’m not sure if this is just a transitionary stage or the wine’s coda, but I’d be inclined towards the latter interpretation. For a short while after opening, however, it’s quite nice. (12/08)

Dogs of Warre's

Warre’s 1994 “Late Bottled Vintage” Porto (Douro) – This is not a great Port, to be sure, but the problem I have with this wine is less its inherent quality than the fact that I’ve realized I just don’t much like ruby Port without significant age. The fruit here is big and simple-minded, there’s certainly no lack of sugar, the relatively minor tannin is foursquare, and there’s just not a whole lot more to say about the wine. (12/08)

Mosca on the Hudson

Sella & Mosca 1999 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Over the last nine years, this has turned from grenache to aged cabernet franc. How’d that happen? Razor-edged fruit, sharp and porcupine-y, bristles with narrow-gauge redness around a gravelly core. It’s interesting, but I think the wine’s more appealing in its fresh and fruity youth. (12/08)

Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Strawberry, sun, and bubblegum…though the latter is a very minor component in comparison to the other two. It seems somewhat insulting to call any wine gluggable, but this one definitely is. One of the most reliably appealing quasi-mass market labels out there. (12/08)

The Master

[label]El Maestro Sierra Oloroso Sherry “15 años” (Jerez) – Frankly, this is a difficult wine for me, and I’m not sure I can do it justice. Intense almond aromas – but more the shells and skins than the sweeter nuts within – and the usual arid, almost-mold-but-more-ancient-than-that, topnote, but with more space and singularity than I’m used to. Then, a stark dryness that tastes…well, it tastes like a decaying building. I suppose that doesn’t make much sense, but try to think what the Acropolis might taste like, were it to suddenly become consumable rather than viewable. Absolutely planar throughout, and eventually I begin to suspect that the wine’s finish doesn’t ever actually end, but just continues to some sort of infinitely-distant asymptote. An extremely intellectual sherry. I think it might be terrific. I’m not sure I like it. Obviously, I need someone to explain it to me, and then we’ll see. Or not. (12/08)

Celilo Stitch

Sineann 2007 Gewürztraminer Celilo Vineyard (Columbia Gorge) – Juicy, refreshing, and forward. Fragrant. Lemongrass and underripe guava, crisp pear, pretty good acidity. If you’re thinking that none of the preceding sounds anything like the gewürztraminer with which you’re familiar, you’re right. But if you forget what’s on the label, it’s a quite pleasant quaff. (12/08)

Moon Frye

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Is this closing, or drying out? It’s certainly not as tasty as it was this summer. The dark fruit, chewy and brush-infused, has receded a bit, leaving bare a intrusive bubblegum and candy that don’t work to the wine’s benefit, plus a bit of soy on the finish. There’s still a certain muscularity, and the balance hasn’t suffered, but I have no idea if this wine was designed to age like a proper top-line Séguret or was always intended for youthful swilling. It’s worth keeping an eye (or nose) on, either way. (12/08)

Pessac-New Jersey

Lurton “Château de Rochemorin” 2005 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Totally innocuous. Everything here’s big, but to little effect. (12/08)

It's a fair Kanonkop

[vineyard]Kanonkop 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – By reputation and critical response, this is the worst version of this wine that Kanonkop’s made in many years. And yes, it’s a little scratchy and advanced. But I find the minor greenness, touched with a dusting of white pepper, appealing in contrast to modern cabernet’s distorted lushness (not that lushness is something from which this wine regularly suffers), and in fact the wine’s balance is better than its reputation would indicate. I wouldn’t hold it any longer, though, and I think food – something with fat – is essential. (12/08)

Goodstube, Badstube

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler 2007 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spätlese 017 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Deceives with simplicity, but peering into the wine’s innards results in a rather stern return glare from dark, coal-like minerality and amber-encased golden raspberries. Still very young, obviously. The finish could be longer. (12/08)

R. Lady of the bubbles

Paul Goerg 2000 Champagne Brut “Cuvée Millésimée” “R. Lady” (Champagne) – Mandarin and strawberry hull. Can that be right? I find it difficult to embrace this wine – or maybe it’s the other way ‘round – and I’m not sure it ever achieves cohesion. The bubbles are a little clumsy, as well. Even middling Champagne tends to be appealing enough, but this is something I’m not particularly eager to retry. (12/08)

Roman Colosía

Guitiérrez Colosía “Elcano” Fino Sherry (Jerez) – From 375 ml. Very, very fresh-tasting, in a way that almost transports me to Spain. That said, I’m not entirely sure what I’m tasting. Bony and yet overly affable, like a skeletal puppy leaping at one’s palate, there’s an upfront intensity paired with an airy hollowness that I can’t quite wrap my head around. (12/08)

In the year 2000

Trimbach 2000 Riesling (Alsace) – Fully mature, with a cold, iron-flake minerality paired with creamy apricot skin. I suspect the latter is an artifact of a riper vintage, because this wine’s usually a little more stark with age. (12/08)

A Marchesi shade of winter

Marchesi di Barolo 2003 Barolo (Piedmont) – Kind of a nebbiolo-bomb, full of appealing dark fruit and wrapped in a lush, almost gelatinous texture. A little overcooked, perhaps. It’s not what I think of as Barolo, but as a non-specific wine it’s tasty enough. (12/08)

Must'a got Aoste

[vineyard]Institut Agricole Régional 2005 Petit Rouge (Vallée d’Aoste) – Arctic red, restrained, and icy, with a chill wind racing through its core. Ground-up red fruit with hints of black minerality. It seems like it will never achieve full liquidity, but on the slowly devolving finish, there’s eventually a brief melt of succulence. An interesting wine, though not a particularly significant one. (12/08)

Floc of seagulls

Bordeneuve-Entras/Maestrojuan Floc de Gascogne (Southwest France) – A very old bottle, and open for far, far longer than the ideal, so consider the note that follows in that context. Fierce alcohol over mixed nut liqueurs, spiced raisins, and prunes. Intact, this might have been rather striking. Even in highly oxygenated/decrepit form, it’s quite impressive. (12/08)

August or Lou

Kessler Whiskey (America) – Straightforward. Old mahogany, old barrel, old country. (12/08)

Better than

Ezra Brooks Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (America) – Very peachy. Sweet oak without impediment, sweet fruit, but not “sweet” in overall aspect. Very simple, with a nasal bite of alcohol. Quite drinkable, but sorta formless. (12/08)

Fondation & empire

[vineyard]Josmeyer 2001 “1854 Fondation” Pinot Gris “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Steel-jacketed pear. Teutonic in construction and attitude, with a lot of ferric minerality…especially as the wine drifts away on a steel breeze. If there’s a quibble, it’s the usual one in Alsace: more sugar than the wine really needs. The wine’s likely to firm with age, so in the future this might not be as much of a problem. (12/08)

Chicken Cooper

Cooper Mountain 2001 “Estate” Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley) – Juicy-fruity. Pear and light fennel, plus a bit of pollen-infused honey; the wine has a dry, mead-like texture that’s fairly interesting in a wine. Good acidity. Very approachable. (12/08)


Ollivier 2002 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sue Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Tastes of paper, bones, and erosion…first whitewashed, then turning completely transparent with time in the glass. These ends the wine pursues with unwavering focus, and various attempts to dislodge it from its position with food achieve nothing. The finish is a bit of a white dwarf at the moment, but I expect broadening down the road. Well down the road. (12/08)

Lacryma of passion

[vineyard]Mastroberardino 2000 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (Campania) – Very aromatic, though both the nose and palate are in danger of being overwhelmed by the wine’s signature volcanic ash, and the texture is pretty much all Vesuvian at this point. Dark, small-berry fruit fills in the corners. I’m not sure I’d hold this any longer. (12/08)

You better, you better, Albrecht

Jean Albrecht 2006 Pinot Blanc “Réserve” (Alsace) – Starts better than it finishes. Basic apricot and spiced cream, with nothing rising above a minimal volume. Pleasant for a few moments, but the finish is essentially absent. (12/08)

Kruger National Park

Kruger-Rumpf 2004 Scheurebe Kabinett 24 05 (Nahe) – Green grapes and some perfumed tropicality, with just enough acidity to keep it from being syrup, and a few vague gestures in the direction of rocky minerality. Drinkable, for sure, but just as surely forgettable. (12/08)

Tohu are you? Hu, hu? Hu, hu?

Tohu 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – By-the-numbers Marlborough sauvignon. Bell pepper? Check. Tart, citrusy acidity? Check. An aggressive sort of sizzle to the palate? Check. There’s not much else to this wine, but I suspect no one cares at this price point. (12/08)

Mills brothers

[winery]Mills Reef 2003 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserve” (Hawke’s Bay) – The wood here isn’t apparent on the nose or palate, but it files off all the variety’s signature edges, leaving a smoother, rounder core of greenish-yellow fruit. Which has, in turn, been diminished by age, leaving a pleasant and somewhat creamy layer of something a little more stone fruited in its wake. This is probably at the end of its useful life, and it’s definitely a low-volume wine, so proceed accordingly. (12/08)

Hannibal Nectar

Moët & Chandon Champagne “Nectar Impérial” (Champagne) – Fruit-sweet, with only the barest suggestion of Champagne-ness. I suppose this appeals to label drinkers, but why not just choose moscato d’Asti, which is more flavorful, more fun, and much cheaper? (12/08)


Sparr 2002 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Dark and fairly advanced; well-spiced goop with darkly leaden shards of minerality. Goes with pretty much nothing, food-wise, but useful as a heady aperitif. Drink up, though. (12/08)


JP Brun 2006 Beaujolais Rosé “d’folie” (Beaujolais) – Sunlit berries with squirts of ripe blood orange. The wine pulses rather than flows, but it’s quite engaging amidst the peaks and troughs. (12/08)

25 December 2008

Sattler brothers

[label]Sattler 2006 St. Laurent “Reserve” (Burgenland) – Aromatic with crushed petals and leaves, beets, and herbs. Limpid yet intense, with a beautiful texture. However, there’s also some butter and vanilla on the finish that doesn’t integrate, with some bitterness (oak tannin, perhaps). The wood’s too present now, but the wine retains its promise. (12/08)

Prince Ruprecht

Koehler-Ruprecht 2002 Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Auslese 04 03 (Pfalz) – Back up the diesel tank! Very light cream, with a texture that alternates between a gritty roughness and a down feather softness. Powerful at its metallic core. Sweet and intense, good fantastic acidity. The long finish leaves the minerality in exposed solitude. Very, very good. (12/08)

Georgetown, BC, St. Joe's...

[label]Spreitzer 2007 Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese 025 08 (Rheingau) – Light petroleum and smoky coal (get some uranium in there, and this wine will have quite the power-generating capacity), plus sweet banana. Ripe, with great acidity (thankfully, since the wine is very sweet). The finish sorta lingers, but doesn’t really develop. Still, there’s a lot to like here. (12/08)

Bury your head

[label]Spreitzer 2007 Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett 028 08 (Rheingau) – Tropical (guava, mango) and floral, counterpointed by a slightly sour yogurt aroma. Fair acidity. This wine makes a big, attention-getting announcement of its presence, but doesn’t really follow through on the trumpeting. It’s good, though, and the finish lingers for a little while. (12/08)


[label]Carl Schmitt-Wagner 2007 Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb 03 08 (Mosel) – Lightly petrol-skinned. Feels clean, round, and dry. Fairly insignificant now, but the finish is strikingly long and at a steady volume throughout, so there might be more here to find as the wine ages. Or maybe not. (12/08)


[label]Selbach-Oster 2007 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 009 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Very dense. Makrut lime, green apple, pear…and then dark, brooding coal underneath. A massive wine – certainly much larger than a spätlese should probably be, but then that’s the modern paradigm isn’t it? – but while it’s heavy, it’s balanced and long, and should age beautifully. (12/08)

Sonnenuhr & daughter

[label]Selbach-Oster 2007 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 027 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Severely sweet to the point of imbalance, with only decent acidity vs. what it needs, and a thick, soupy pear finish. I am quite aware that my impression of this wine is unusual (and frankly it’s the first Selbach-Oster I’ve disliked in a very, very long time), but unfortunately there’s no replacement bottle available. I’m burdening this note with such a lengthy caveat because I’m strongly suspicious that this particular bottle is not representative of the wine. (12/08)

Haardt & soul

[label]Müller-Catoir 2007 Haardt Muskateller Kabinett Trocken 09 08 (Pfalz) – Perfumed, of course…mostly orange blossom…with huge acidity and a lovely slosh of iron flakes. Rather huge for a muscat that’s not fortified or otherwise enhanced, and absolutely stuffed with muscatty goodness. The finish is lengthy, which (again) isn’t what one usually expects from the grape. I’ve had a few muscats that were better than this, but only a few. (12/08)

Repent, Sinner!

[label]Prieler 2007 Chardonnay Sinner (Burgenland) – Melon, ripe and clean, with the aromatics of a big-fruited wine, but the acid balance and purity of a leaner expression of the grape. There are hints of banana (native rather than industrial), but rather than falling over into tropicality, the mineral lacings of this wine eventually tie it up in a fine bow. Alas, that chardonnay doesn’t usually taste like this. (12/08)

Ladiesberg is next

[label]Hirsch 2007 Riesling Gaisberg (Zöbing/Kamptal) – Completely transparent right down to its iron core, though a thickening pear syrup eventually emerges. Very light, and tart, with that sugary element not yet integrated. I don’t much care for it now, but I presume time will work some magic. (12/08)

The Lamm lies down

[label]Schloss Gobelsburg 2007 Grüner Veltliner Lamm (Kamptal) – Generally round, yet pointed when it needs to be. Ripe, salted celery and mineral filings, with a rich texture akin to some sort of custard, yet sacrificing nothing in structure or balance. Finishes dryer than it seems to begin. Like drinking green sun from a glass. (12/08)


Hiedler 2007 Weissburgunder “Maximum” (Kamptal) – Massive and ripe, yet despite the power and weight giving an impression of utter dryness (which impression may, for all I know, be false). An initially overwhelming avalanche of crushed bones is followed by mirrorball-faceted minerality, sparkling and pulsing. Decrescendos rapidly, but stunning while it lasts. The importer calls this “the best pinot blanc in the world.” It’s not – the finish needs to be longer for that – but it’s certainly in the top rank. (12/08)

Schrock to the system

[label]Schröck 2007 Weissburgunder (Austria) – White-out minerality, leaves, and…parsnips? That’s a new thing for me, at least in a wine. Soft and easy, with a finish much shorter than it should be. No “fruit” as such, but the bare, calcifying exoskeleton of a wine, which has a certain but limited appeal. (12/08)

18 December 2008

Friulian fiddling

[vineyard]Bressan 2002 Pinot Nero (Friuli) – Despite a rather forceful initial impression, full of spice and edge-filed fruit zing, this is a breezy wine, with plenty of breathing space amongst the elements. Like many fine pinots, it rises and falls in response to the demands of the moment, and the accompanying food, but its preference is rather blatantly to cause the repetitive refilling of glasses. And that’s a good thing. (12/08)

Musta got Aosta

Les Crêtes 2005 Pinot Noir “Vigne la tour” (Valle d’Aosta) – Subtly beautiful…but it holds something back, Garbo-like. Soft earth tones and gentle red fruit drift and glide, never quite alighting. Very long, confident, and supple. Lovely. (12/08)

Follow your nosiola

[vineyard]Pojer & Sandri 2006 Nosiola (Trentino) – Very fragrant, but not lurid like muscat; it’s a perfume that seduces rather than assaults. And there’s an edgy, tactile zing that reminds me of txakolina in its more aggressive form. An exclamation point of a wine. (12/08)

Ascheri, I'm in love

[vineyard]Ascheri 2004 Langhe Montalupa Viognier (Piedmont) – Already fraying at the edges a bit. It’s varietally true, in that there’s sticky-floral apricot with hints of dry honey, but with more clay-like minerality showing through than this heady, often lurid grape will usually allow. But it’s a bit gauzy, and you’ll want to drink it a few months ago. (12/08)

13 December 2008

The first Noël

[label]Jean Milan 2002 Champagne Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blanc “Sélection Terres de Noël” (Champagne) – Beautiful. Soft golden complexity, with a hint of curry dusting exotic flowers and heirloom apples. Very pure and gentle. Extremely long, eventually getting around to showing apples in every possible form, from flower to juice. Gorgeous. (12/08)

C'est Cuis

[label]Pierre Gimonnet Champagne Cuis “1er Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Striking nose of rainforest rocks and humidity. Huge lemon brioche (sprinkled with grapefruit shavings) on the palate. There’s excellent balance between bitterness and acidity. Massively long and frankly gorgeous, with skins dominating right now, and a very trebly midpalate that I expect to mellow with a little age. (12/08)

Taillet one on

[label]Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut “Cuvée Sainte-Anne” (Champagne) – Very red-influenced, with ripe strawberries, rose hips, and leaves. Simple-seeming fruit is quickly followed up by waves of complex minerality (chalk seems to be the dominant component), and the finish is abundant with jewels and glitter. Very nice. (12/08)

Misty water-colored Marmery

[label]A. Margaine Champagne à Villers-Marmery “1er Cru” Brut (Champagne) – At first, a perfect blend of fresh apple, grape, and sweaty yeast, with sharper slashes of lime sorbet later on. And then, it turns into a cherry-lime rickey. Vivid to the extent that it suggests neon, but clean, strong, and exceptionally long. One for the cellar, for sure. (12/08)

Bloody bubbly

[label]René Geoffroy Champagne “1er Cru” Brut Rosé “de Saignée” (Champagne) – Sweet-glazed biscuit, fresh red fruit (strawberry, mostly…including the seeds). Pure and complex. There’s a fine foundation of stones ground into gravel, and a lovely, drying, mineral component to the finish. Very, very good, but far from its peak. (12/08)

Oger Simpson

[label]Jean Milan Champagne Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Spécial” (Champagne) – Delicate, with fine-grained crystals. Crisp but fullish acidity, ripe lime, and lots of molten metal…which hardens on the finish, driven through like a ramrod. Long and in need of time, despite the presence of lovely hints of maturity dancing around the aromas. (12/08)

The needs of the Mesnil outweigh the needs of the few, or the one

[label]Pierre Peters Champagne à Le Mesnil-sur-Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvée Réserve” (Champagne) – Heady toast and pastry, ripe lemon, and Granny Smith apple. Very powerful with a fine baring of its minerality on the finish. The nose is just a little weird…an odd mix of youthful and advanced characteristics that don’t quite gel. Perhaps in time. (12/08)

Taste of the sphere

[label]Goutorbe Champagne à Aÿ Brut “Cuvée Prestige” (Champagne) – Granadilla, crustacean cream, and paper over a chalky bedrock. Very spare and cylindrical in form, with a wall of minerality. Unfortunately, it never fills in, and never achieves any suggestion of grace. (12/08)

Chiquet monkey

[label]Gaston Chiquet Champagne “1er Cru” Brut “Tradition” (Champagne) – Wind-swept and cold, with rinds and hard-edged quarts. Frothy. Unconvincing in this company, and I’m surprised, because this is a wine I usually like. (12/08)

Aÿ alone

[label]Marc Hebrart Champagne à Mareuil-sur-Aÿ “1er Cru” Brut “Cuvée de Réserve” (Champagne) – Brioche, yeast, mixed apples, and hints of stone fruit over paper. A bit frothy. Persistent. Just OK. (12/08)


[label]René Goeffroy Champagne “1er Cru” Brut “Expression” (Champagne) – Almost minty, but at least herbal. Buzzes with electrically-charged freshness and static. Full of lovely gentility. Red-tinged fruit, but sprightly rather than deep. Fun. (12/08)

Margaine headache

[label]A. Margaine Champagne Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Ripe red cherry and cereal. Very balanced. Laser-like purity that softens just a touch more than I’d like as the wine lingers. Long, though. Steady-state. There’s potential here, but probably not enough to reach the pinnacle. (12/08)

One Lallement in time

[label]Jean Lallement Champagne Verzenay “Grand Cru” Brut (Champagne) – Mist-shrouded but heady, with suggestions of animalistic wildness. Sauvage, perhaps, and that’s not something I’ve ever said about a Champagne not made by Selosse. Intense lemon-loam (as opposed to lemon-lime), clementine. Turns a bit unctuous as it broadens, and the finish is a bit of a disappointment in its lack of length. (12/08)

Beta Verzenay

[label]Jean Lallement Champagne Verzenay “Grand Cru” Brut “Cuvée Réserve” (Champagne) – Crushed strawberry and rather bodacious red cherry, leaves, and thyme. Smells fruit-sweet. Sizeable. Rolling watermelon rock candy on the finish, and then the tactile sensation of frozen metal to which one has unwisely stuck their tongue. I can’t quite figure this one out. (12/08)

Holiday Jouy

[label]Aubry Champagne à Jouy-les-Reims “Grand Cru” Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Tart cranberry somewhat overwhelms a core that leans more towards red and black cherry; this is a wine that leads with its acidity, and never takes its foot off the sour pedal. And is that hollyberry? Sharp and linear. Not really my thing; it’s more like an intermezzo that it is a beverage, though I suppose with the right accompaniment it could sing. Maybe an edgy berry dessert? (12/08)

Bründl of joy

[label]Bründlmayer Brut Rosé (Austria) – Pink and soft, with electrified crystal flowers that re-soften on the finish. A bit girly in its pinkish Hello Kitty-ness. Spun candy on the finish. Frothy. I’m not a fan. (12/08)

George Gobelsburg

[label]Schloss Gobelsburg Brut “Reserve” (Austria) – A blend of pinot noir, riesling, and grüner veltliner. Wet and sour with green pear and apple. Finely beaded, with hints of gunshot. Leafy. Powdery, ground-level dust and extremely sour watermelon come to dominate the finish, like a too-old Jolly Rancher (but dry). Fairly complex, long, and very tart. (12/08)

12 December 2008

House & Sénat

[jean-baptiste sénat]Sénat 2004 Minervois “Le Bois des Merveilles” (Languedoc) – Grenache and mourvèdre. While this shows the darkest possible fruit, there’s a sweetness and purity to it. Leather, earth, black-‘n’-blueberry, cèpes…all concentrated and very, very long. Terrific balance. Marvelous. Or rather, merveilleux. (10/06)

The lamb lies down on Bois-way

Sénat 1996 Minervois “Le Bois des Merveilles” (Languedoc) – Despite the name, compositionally similar to “La Nine.” Very spicy, with black earth, seared chanterelles and morels, and black truffles. The ‘shrooms dominate, but there’s also a core of wild blueberry and wild thyme. Delicious, and while it’s not fully mature, it could very well be approaching its best. (10/06)

Magnon of the spring

Magnon 2005 Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis “le bégou” (Languedoc) – Old-vine grenache gris. Apricot, grapefruit, and soda-spice on the finish. Fun, clean, and long, though there’s a bit of exotic complexity to the finish. (10/06)

A stitch in time

Sénat 2005 Minervois “La Nine” (Languedoc) – Grenache, carignan, and mourvèdre. Raspberry bubblegum with a large-boned structure and a thick waist. Raw leather, blackberry, and blueberry infused with herbs rush through the palate, and there’s a good deal of earthiness underneath that occasionally hints towards a tar-like quality. Impressively long. There are little nits at which to pick here, but it’s a good wine. (10/06)

Have Arpettes spayed & neutered

Sénat 2003 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de Peyriac “Les Arpettes” (Languedoc) – Merlot, grenache, and carignan. Mixed seed peppers smoothed by gentle applications of blueberry and black cherry. Fades on the finish, and not particularly complex. (10/06)

10 December 2008

Be still my heart

JL Chave 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône “Mon Coeur” (Rhône) – Just a smidge past fully mature, I’d say, with a lovely old wood, old smoke, old fruit, and old leather jacket aroma laden with a significantly autumnal reddish-brownness. The fruit has, as it so often does in older wines, rounded into a petite core of sweetness, but it retains a good deal of appeal. The wine eventually loses its battle against oxygen…an hour or so and the cracks are readily apparent…but it shows surprising quality while it lingers. I’d never have guessed it would last this long, as it seemed rather blocky and dull-witted in its youth. (12/08)

Schröck & awe

[vineyard]Heidi Schröck 2006 Muscat (Austria) – Actually 40% gelber muskateller, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 20% muscat ottonel. Quite reduced (under screwcap), and offensively stinky when first opened; this takes a good long while to blow off, and I’m not sure it ever quite abandons the wine. Nor am I a fan of the blend…the sauvignon has all its sharp edges filed off by the muscat, while the muscat delivers a pale shadow of its usual aromatic exuberance thanks to the guillotine effect of the sauvignon blanc. Is there a point to this wine? (12/08)

Billy coste

Vajra 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba “coste & fossati” (Piedmont) – Tastes natural, and you may interpret that however you’d like; I’m not interested in defending the concept. But there’s freshly-harvested red fruit, acidity, a light but insistent buzz of sandpapery tannin, and some friendly, well-trodden earth, all wrapped up – neatly but not too prettily – in an old wooden crate aged by many decades in the sun. Nice wine. (12/08)

Righetti & meatballs

Righetti 2004 “Campolieti” Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” “Ripasso” (Veneto) – Starting to show the desiccated layer of rot that eventually dominates many of its Amarone uncles, but right now it’s just a pleasantly complexing element, alongside concentrated strawberry jam, and…well, OK, that’s it. It’s a highly drinkable Valpolicella…sluggable, slurpable, gluggable, and all those other words that turn wine into a children’s boxed juice drink…with a little edge (not just the dry rot, but also a prickle of heat), but I wouldn’t hold it any longer. (12/08)


Marietta 2005 Zinfandel (Sonoma County) – 15.3%. Stylistically and varietally anonymous, but I don’t think this wine has aspirations to anything else. A bit heavy and alcohol-laden, and though the latter isn’t expressed as heat so much as it is sheer palate-deadening weight, I’ve certainly tasted brawnier and more whiskey-like wines. There’s a good deal of fruit, of both small- and large-berry varieties, but they too are rather gravity-stricken. Maybe some age might help, but I’m not convinced it has the structure to support it. (12/08)


Easton 2002 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Receding under a looming shark bite of coconut and vanilla, and though the neon red fruit holds for the moment, it’s not getting any better, and soon there’s going to be maraschino and heat left in its wake. So drink up. (12/08)

Maritime sailor's cathedral

Truro 2006 “Winemaker’s Blend Maritime Red” – Appellation unknown. A merlot/zinfandel blend. Quite drinkable, with spicy, fun fruit at moderate volume and, other than a touch more Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 than might be necessary, no sharp corners, mean streaks, and no unnecessary layers. No complexity either, but what do you want from a Cape Cod wine (or wherever the grapes are actually from, since the bottle doesn’t deign to say)? (12/08)

Truro false

Truro 2007 Chardonnay – Appellation unknown. Rather wretched, with wiry, bone-and-skin oak residue bittering up a big, fruitless void. Ugh. (12/08)

Wee Willi

Willi Schaefer 2004 Riesling 01 05 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – The best bottle so far, with a vibrant prickle and a windswept stone quality. The fruit lingers, but never asserts itself, leaving the rocky face bare. Tasty, though very, very light-bodied. (11/08)

Willi Schaefer 2004 Riesling 01 05 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Actually, this is even better than the last one, with more minerality and faceted angles of structure. Light but persistent, and a lot of fun to drink. Oops, it’s gone! (12/08)

09 December 2008


[cave]Bouchard Finlayson 2003 “Hannibal” (Walker Bay) – A very strange blend: 52% sangiovese, 24% pinot noir, 11% nebbiolo, 9% mourvèdre, and 4% barbera. Only in the New World, eh? I suppose all those grapes contribute something, and with enough study their contributions do become individually apparent, but the problem isn’t so much that the whole is less than the sum of its parts (though I think it is), but rather that the mathematics haven’t been left to their own devices, and instead have been forced into a high-volume attempt at showstopping that deafens rather than seduces. There’s a heavy, heated, porty character that characterizes the wine…overly-intense dark black, blue, and purple fruit with a thick-browed texture…and despite the varietal hodgepodge it tastes very much like some of California’s most extravagantly syrah-like pinots. That’s not a compliment, in my book, but those with contrasting tastes may want to take note. (11/08)

Take a break

Signal Hill “La Siesta” 2005 Grenache Blanc (Western Cape) – When first conceived (not that long ago), this was the only grenache blanc in all of South Africa, though that may not be true any longer. I’ve ordered it because it’s “local” – the winery is, at least ostensibly, located in Cape Town – and it’s certainly an adventurous introduction to the local wine scene. Oxidative but complex…less Scholium Project or Gravner than Kalin…showing old apricot, brown soil, and an old-leaf, mulchy texture. Dry, white and peppery is how it finishes. Points for effort, and it’s quite drinkable (though a bit of a crank with food), but I think this could be a little better. (11/08)

There's a Redhill over yonder

[vine]Simonsig 2001 “Redhill” Pinotage (Stellenbosch) – This is one of South Africa’s most decorated pinotages, but I can’t countenance the path it’s taken to get there. Oaky, with chocolate and slight volatility, followed by an intense explosion of synthetic berries. It probably needs even more years than it has already been given, but I just don’t think the balance is there; I believe the wood will always gloss over whatever qualities this wine might have had, and those qualities are already a little too shiny for my taste. In its style it’s well made, I suppose, but I don’t enjoy it very much. (11/08)

New clothes

Signal Hill 2005 “Vin de l’Empereur” (Paarl) – Sweet muscat d’Alexandrie, and already very dark brown, with moderate floral notes and an exotic, botrytis-laden aroma. However, all the reward’s in the nose, because the hollow and rather light palate doesn’t follow through on any of the former’s promises. Good, but only just. (11/08)

Off the beam

Overhex “Balance” 2006 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (Western Cape) – Some green, some red, some black. Boring. (11/08)

Nick Lachey is South African?

Overhex “Soulo” 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Western Cape) – Green pepper juice, yet bisque-textured. How does that work, exactly? How does one pick a month too early and yet abandon any hint of acidity? (11/08)

08 November 2008

George C.

[audrey hepburn]Scott Paul 2006 Pinot Noir “Audrey” (Dundee Hills) – Passion and seduction, but the play ends a bit early; the wine teases rather than fulfills, and I’m not sure it’s going to make good on its promises with age. What’s in evidence is a lush, overwhelmingly inviting pillow of softly floral berries. It’s really lovely to drink, but I just don’t know if it rises all the way to its pedigree. (11/08)


Hamilton Russell 2007 Chardonnay (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) – Serious chardonnay, with ambition expressed in deeply soil-driven aromatics, good structure, a fine-grained patina of wood, and brooding fruit met in equal measure by aromatic porcini. I’m very eager to see this one develop. (10/08)

Rocks in the head

Edmunds St. John 2005 “Rocks and Gravel” (California) – Way too young, and yet showing its promise with thyme-infused skin not yet fully leathered, the densest blackberries, and a structure that’s at least half micro-particulate; this wine has a vibrant presence in a very non-liquidy way. Very long. Let it rest. (11/08)

Hit the Trail

[vineyard]Wild Earth “Blind Trail” 2006 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Less whole than a previous bottle, showing dense beet and berry with mushroom soda, then a soft sine wave of cherried acidity, and then a deep basso throb of dark earth on the finish. And yet, it doesn’t quite come together; despite its apparent construction as an early-drinking wine, it seems to be closing rather than falling apart. Still, it’s a good, regionally-true introduction to one version of the Central Otago style. A second bottle is identical. (11/08)


Pellegrino 2004 Moscato di Pantelleria (Sicily) – 375 ml. Perfume with a heady edge of pine, lemon curd, and dry ice. Not as simple as everyday moscato, and an incomparably massive improvement over the horrid 2003. A fun finish. (11/08)

Blonk de blancs

Edmunds St. John 2002 “blonk!” (Paso Robles) – Tastes like it’s just coming into its maturing phase – which is not to say it’s all the way there yet – with older, bronzed stone fruit and a lot of dusty trails running through the foundation. It gets a bit twisty with food, but with more aeration finds its voice and starts to hum an old, folkish tune with a decided desert twang. (11/08)


Terre Rouge 2005 Syrah “Les Côtes de l’Ouest” (California) – Corked. (11/08)

Billi club

[fog]Mount Langi Ghiran 2004 “Billi Billi” Shiraz (Victoria) – Alcoholic (14%) and volatile when first opened, so I close it back up and move on to another wine. Twenty-four hours later, everything has changed: the alcohol is subdued, the volatility is gone, and in their place are a gentle, pure expression of leathery blueberries and a soft…dare I say it?...almost Burgundian texture. No one will actually mistake it for Burgundy, because it’s both varietally expressive and rather hefty, but it’s a very pleasant wine. A second bottle gets to the good stage right after opening, which is an odd bit of variability for a wine under screwcap, but both are enjoyable. (11/08)

The Roederer less travelled

Roederer Estate Brut (Anderson Valley) – Fairly dense (or perhaps wee-heavy would be a better descriptor…if you’re Scottish), showing a pleasant mix of ripe lemon, ripe apple, and gentle intrusions of strawberry and raspberry. Lees are present, but submissive. This is very primary, but I remain of the opinion that this is about the best of the entry-level domestic bubblies. A second bottle is a little heftier and more red-fruited, which improves it for my palate. (11/08)

Not now, Darling

Darling Cellars “Onyx” 2002 “Noble Late Harvest” (Groenekloof) – 375 ml. If Sauternes had acidity, this is what it would taste like. Yes, that’s unfairly snarky. So to be serious: richly botrytized copper fruit, maturing more quickly than any but the cheapest Sauternes would, yet still fairly fresh, with quince-like acidity that eventually comes to dominate the finish. I’d hold this for a few more years, but probably not longer than that, as I think the acidity will eventually be unpleasant in contrast to the wine’s other qualities. Right now, however, it’s very close to world-class sweet stuff. (10/08)


Easton 2002 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Massive fruit, perhaps too dense for its structure, with a bit of nagging volatility and a brief, angry snarl at the end. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, but all doesn’t end well with this wine. And certainly, it’s unrecognizable if one’s lens is Piedmontese barbera, though it fits nicely into the dominant Sierra Foothills expression. Maybe it’s just a little bit too old? (10/08)

Easton down, Easton down the road

Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 14.5%. Suave zinfandel, carrying its weight with ease, and dressing up its usual tangled-vine Amador gnarliness in a fine, tailored suit…which it wears well. Those for whom differential character in zins is the primary goal will be slightly disappointed in this wine, but it’s very hard to criticize it from any other perspective, as it could hardly be more sluggable. (10/08)

Poverty line

[orchard]Poverty Lane “Farnum Hill” 2006 Kingston Black Cider “Reserve” (New Hampshire) – This remains a serious, complex cider. This bottle shows more of the molten iron and lead components that sometimes lurk in the background, with the deep, rich apple flavors taking on a bronzed characteristic. And yet, there’s a bell-tone of loftier, more skin-derived flavors in the finish. Very, very good. (10/08)

Brute force

Bleasdale “The Red Brute” Sparkling Shiraz (Langhorne Creek) – Boisterous and a bit volatile (the acidity, not the personality trait); basically a middle-of-the-road Aussie shiraz lent bubbles. It’s fine, but there’s nothing compelling here. (10/08)

Sere smile

[bottle]Seresin 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Zippy and strappy sauvignon blanc right down the center of the variety’s aromatic range, showing neither too much capsicum nor too much tropicality, and bringing with it a core of firm minerality (barely perceptible, but there nonetheless). If only most Marlborough sauvignon tasted like this. (10/08)

Don't kill the whale

Southern Right 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – Classic lemon-lime and grapefruit in a hue several shades darker than the norm, with a bit of sweat and toil lingering about the perimeter, and a lot of persistence on the finish. This clearly has designs on levels above its pay grade, but given that it’s sauvignon blanc I don’t know if it can meet them; it’s quite a drink now, though. (10/08)

Right of way

Southern Right 2007 Pinotage (Walker Bay) – The usual black fruit explosion, but with a bit more varnish than usual; with “age” (he says, sarcastically) this wine’s varietal characteristics are coming to the fore. It’s still quite good, and better than most expressions of pinotage, but I guess there’s only so much lipstick one can apply. (10/08)


[vineyard]Kumeu River 2005 Chardonnay (Kumeu) – Stone fruit with fine balancing acidity, restrained citrus, and a lot of sun and crystalline soil. Very, very impressive, with the structure to age and develop for a long while. (10/08)


Westport Rivers 2000 Brut Blanc de Noirs (Southeastern New England) – Very stark, with dry raspberry pits and leafy strawberry hulls lending timid, trebly voice to a thin, tinny old recording on acetate. (10/08)

Age is Bekaa-ning

Chateau Musar 2001 “Hochar” (Bekaa Valley) – Tastes twenty years old, and not in a good way. The well-known Musar bottle (more likely cork) variation strikes again. (10/08)

Cheval Blanc (uh, not really)

Marietta “Old Vine Red Lot Number 47” (California) – Pleasant enough, but in this incarnation this perennial value (no longer quite so cheap, though) tastes like dry gnarly-vine syrup, with a few tiny berries grudgingly giving up their freshness. Not Marietta’s best effort. (10/08)

TGV towards Marseilles

JP Brun “FRV100” (Beaujolais) – Turning sweeter, mostly because the fruit is starting to diminish. The last few bottles of this have been all over the map, which suggests to me that it’s nearing the end of its most useful period. But who knows, really? (10/08)

TCA, TC nay

[vineyard]Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Red (Paso Robles) – Corked. (11/08)

Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Red (Paso Robles) – Juicy and succulent, with a freshly-crushed handful of blue, purple, and black berries given a bit of heft from black soil and a good sun-drenching. Pure pleasure. (10/08)