31 January 2008

Gewurz of times

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – 55 grams/liter residual sugar. Still firm and tight in its youth…Trimbach’s gewürztraminer VTs rarely have the easy, early charm of other producers’ bottlings…but it is thick with roses and lychee syrup with dark, smoky streaks and fogs. The acidity is terrific, the finish is long, and the wine is excellent; stylistically, it’s more akin to the brilliant 1998 than the powerful 1997. (5/06)

The senior guillotine

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – 10 grams/liter residual sugar. Rock- and mineral-driven, with smoky pork jerky spiced with cloves, plus lychee, pear, and rose petals. The finish adds bitter cashew oil, but is primarily sharp, structured edges holding themselves distant from the intense core. This is a really good SdR, with much aging potential. (5/06)

Jeanne Trimbach

Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Hommage à Jeanne” (Alsace) – From plots around Hunawihr, Riquewihr, and Mittelwihr, with 19 grams/liter residual sugar. Not as smoky as the previous Hommage bottling from 1996, but there are still highly-appealing charred crystals in the mix, with sweet red cherry and candied strawberry that cohere into a long, juicy palate. Still tight, with plenty of minerality at the core, and the finish firms and binds the wine with more structure than is initially apparent. This is definitely less immediately appealing than the ‘96 Hommage, but I think it will eventually surpass that wine. (5/06)

Personnelle time

Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – 10 grams/liter of residual sugar. Sulfur and quartz, with a profoundly drying minerality and strong acidity that takes care of any lingering sweetness, all of which is experienced in the initial moments of the wine. Full-bodied pear marks the palate, which is long, crisp, and flecked with little bits of something that feels like either paper or linen. I can’t quite decide which. Maybe both. (5/06)

Freddy's late

Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Only 4000 bottles were produced. This wine carries 25 grams/liter residual sugar, but like many of Trimbach’s VT rieslings, it shows less as obvious sweetness and more as a rich fullness. It’s very tight, and even slightly muddy at first opening. The minerality is ultra-concentrated, with the creamy texture one normally finds in mature riesling. There’s a hesitant expansion throughout the midpalate, but the wine really blows open on the finish, which is generous and passionate. Very, very good, but it will take time to reach its potential. (5/06)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Picked in three passes. Piercing minerality viewed through gauze, with rich peach and apple rendered in crystal, raw iron, and steel plates. The complexity comes in layers, each more exciting than the last. This wine is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I could drink this forever, and in fact the wine will probably last that long, getting better all the while. I express my enthusiasm to Pierre, who nods. “It’s probably my best vendange tardive.” I can only agree. (5/06)

Hune Cronyn

Trimbach 2001 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Harvested on October 4th. Sea salt and profoundly aromatic white mountain flowers. Incredibly dry, massively fully-bodied (for a riesling), and seesawing between tart, apple-dominated fruit and a lush texture. The acidity is terrific, the balance is flawless, and the finish is stunning. Virtually perfect wine. (5/06)

Trimbach 2000 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Harvested on September 3rd. Lusher than the 2001, primarily in terms of its floral aspect, with a neon-tinged minerality in the guise of a fluorescent granite table. Dry, big, and even a little bit fat (though obviously this is a contextual assessment), with a slightly shorter finish than I’d like. Very good, and while it should stay that way for a decade – at least – I don’t think it will be one of the greats. (5/06)

Trimbach 1999 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Pierre calls this a “solar eclipse” vintage, though it’s not completely clear what he intends to suggest with that datum. The ’99 was also the victim of unfortunate timing, with a green harvest immediately followed by a damaging hailstorm…nature’s own, non-selective, version of crop-thinning. There’s salt from a shaker, plus smoke and dried apple seeds, and then the wine seems to accelerate as it picks up a crystalline wind, broadening on the midpalate and showing the barest hints of an early, minor, and pleasant oxidation. The finish is a little shorter than it should be, and comes across as a little leafy. Quite good, but probably one of the weaker efforts in recent years, though when the subject is Ste-Hune that’s praising with faint damn. (5/06)

Trimbach 1997 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – Dried flowers bathed in humidity, which somewhat mutes the nose. The palate is bigger, showing juicy and ripe apple over stones, with good acidity. The finish is flat; this and other signs suggest that the wine is somewhat closed, though not as thoroughly as is the norm for CSH. (5/06)

Freddy couple

Trimbach 2003 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – When Pierre opens with “this has five grams per liter of residual sugar,” I’m even less enthused than I would normally be about a 2003. This is the (other) flagship riesling from a domaine that stresses how Alsatian riesling must be “dry, dry, dry”? In any case, the wine’s not bad at all. It shows huge grapefruit and lemon-lime acidity, with multicolored apples, celery, and iron flakes…nothing out of the ordinary for riesling…amidst a forceful attack that softens and dries on the finish. This is surprisingly nice, and seems to be much better than the goofily-appealing but earlier-drinking 1997. To be sure, it will never be one of the great CFEs, but it does have a strong “while-you-wait” appeal. (5/06)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Exotic, mineral-driven nose. Pure and piercing on the midpalate. Lemon rind and apple skin are about all there are to draw from the crystalline liquid, which is firm, long, and intense, albeit overwhelmingly primary. I think this is a stunner in the making, but it’s not yet knit, so it’s difficult to tell. (Post-facto addendum: based on subsequent tastings, it is indeed a proto-legendary monster, and possibly one of the very best CFEs of recent memory.) (5/06)

Injured Réserve

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – This ubiquitous négociant riesling is sourced from vineyards stretched…and it’s quite a stretch…between Thann and St-Hippolyte; if an umbrella Haut-Rhin appellation existed, this would qualify. Raw steel (as always), but unusually full-fruited, with nice length. It’s pretty primary. (5/06)

Trimbach 2003 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – From vineyards of marl and calcaire, all estate-owned. Slightly sweet, aromatically-speaking, with softened edges around an extremely solid core. All rock all the time, just now, and reasonably lengthy. Overall, it has to be one of the most successful 2003s I’ve tasted from this region. But that still doesn’t make me love it. There’s enough of interest to make me wonder what might happen in a decade, but I doubt it has sufficient acid to last that long, nor do I know that it has the raw materials to develop useful complexity. I guess we’ll see. (5/06)


Trimbach 2004 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Sharp grapefruit with vivid spice. More crisp than usual. This might have a limited upside, as some of the better pinot blanc vintages do chez Trimbach, and it’s a pretty good effort overall. (5/06)

30 January 2008

Desk Clerc

Rothschild “Clerc Milon” 1992 Pauillac (Bordeaux) – A beautiful, though somewhat restrained, nose of tobacco and brown earth rolls from the glass, promising more than the palate can honestly deliver. The wine is definitely hanging on to the end of its maturity curve with a certain conviction, but other than (mostly)-resolved structure, the palate adds little not already delivered by the nose. This is a great pleasure to drink, certainly, but it’s not the sort of thing Bordeaux lovers will be talking about on their death bed. (1/08)

Eternal Salvaneltion

Castel Noarna 2005 Vigneti delle Dolomiti “Salvanel” (Trentino) – One of those rare blends where it’s immediately obvious that there’s more than one grape at work; there’s a spicy (slightly oak-infused, but in a very pleasant way) fatness, a frothy, wintry whiteness, an elegant mélange of flowers, and a fine core of zingy white fruit, all of which seem to be brought to the mix by the component grapes (which are: chardonnay, riesling, traminer, sauvignon blanc, and nosiola). (1/08)

Poverty line

[apples]Poverty Lane “Farnum Hill” Kingston Black Cider “Reserve” (New Hampshire) – So many ciders start out dry and firm, but disintegrate into sticky insignificance on the palate. Not so this bottling, which retains a brittle, skin-like minerality throughout. This isn’t beginners’ cider, by any means. (1/08)

Sweet little thing

[bottle]Roagna 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Very tight at first. With plenty of air, it gradually emerges from its shell, showing strong, graphite-textured tannin, dark berries, and a firm, studious blotch of acidity. Everything here is in beautiful balance, but while the wine can be forced (though aeration) to have appeal now, it’s really going to be much better in the future. (1/08)

Amy Pfoeller

Meyer-Fonné 2005 Riesling Pfoeller (Alsace) – Really terrific, with pear leaves and sandstone-textured minerality wrapped in crisp malic acidity and a bell-tone of balancing sweetness. Very floral and long, with obvious aging potential. (1/08)

zap! pow!

[grapes]Edmunds St. John 2002 “blonk!” (Paso Robles) – Fat and shy, showing about 50% of its potential stone fruit and honeysuckle goodness, and a little more structurally-exposed than I’d like. It’s probably just closed. (1/08)

To the four winds

Thienpont “Clos des Quatre Vents” 2000 Margaux (Bordeaux) – Lush and fruity, but no internationalized bomb; the dark, concentrated berries rest in a stew of graphite and ripe tannin, with cedar and dried flowers floating at the edges. This is large, to be sure, but it’s recognizably Bordeaux, and will easily reward another decade of age. Probably more. (1/08)

Sauternes cross

[corks]Meslier “Raymond-Lafon” 1988 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Muted and weird. Butter-spiced caramel and orange rind are present, but there’s just not a whole lot to this, and the general lack of a finish hints that damage rather than an adolescent sleep is the culprit. (1/08)

28 January 2008

Sauvignon rights

[label]Selaks “Premium Selection” 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Lots of minerality, dry, and restrained, showing good balance and a papery, leafy residue of apple skin. Austere to the point that it resembles the old style of Isabel (which is still marvelously ungenerous, but does it at a slightly higher volume than in the past). (5/07)


Selaks “Premium Selection” 2005 Chardonnay (Marlborough) – Clove, nutmeg, and browned butter with Mandarin orange. Sultry brown apple joins the spicy fruit basket on the finish, which is a bit sticky. Before that, however, the wine seems in fair balance. Drink soon. (5/07)

Pay the premium

Selaks “Premium Selection” 2006 Riesling (Marlborough) – Dry, dusty, and extremely austere on the nose. The palate, however, is a lot more interesting, showing a moment of cream followed by the sharp bite of sour orange acidity, grapefruit rind bitterness, and walnut skin. There’s good length, and while the wine “feels” mostly dry, a bit of residual sugar is there if you look hard enough…a grace note of softening sweetness at the end. A fair effort, though probably not with the complexity or stuffing to age more than a few years. (5/07)


Selaks “Premium Selection” 2005 “Ice Wine” (East Coast) – 50% gewürztraminer from Gisborne & Hawke’s Bay, 50% riesling from Marlborough. Mild, showing peach, apricot skins, and a shortish finish. This is pretty simple, and I seem to remember it being a little more appealing in the past. (5/07)

Robert Catherine

[bob lindquist]Qupé 2005 Syrah “BobCat Cuvée” (Santa Barbara County) – 40% Bien Nacido Vineyard, 40% Purisma Mountain, 20% Alisos Vineyard, blended especially for (by?) Cat Silirie (wine director for the restaurant group of which The Butcher Shop is a member) and Bob Lindquist of Qupé. Smooth and gentle, showing leathery blueberry, earth, and good acidity with some complexing and welcome hints of green on the finish. Really, really fun. (5/07)

Diamond in the rough

[bottle]Rombauer 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Very austere, aromatically, with the palate showing tarred rosemary and not much else. It’s imbalanced in favor of its tannin, as well, which adds to its dry severity. (5/07)

Rombauer 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon “Diamond Selection” (Napa Valley) – Much more structured than the regular cabernet, but more balanced as well, showing espresso, dark black fruit, and leather with a light charred coconut aspect to the finish. More expressive and longer than any of the wines so far, though there’s also the faintest touch of brett. (5/07)

Auto parts

Rombauer 2003 Merlot (Napa Valley) – Smoked black cherry residue and black pepper; there’s a char to this wine, probably from the oak, that somewhat dominates. There’s good acidity, but the wine hollows on the finish. (5/07)

Carneros park

[bottle]Rombauer 2005 Chardonnay (Carneros) – Oaky, full-bodied, silky and lush, and quite openly sweet on the palate. Very, very simple, and seemingly pointed at the widest possible audience of chardonnay-as-cocktail drinkers, in which context I think it should be viewed. (5/07)

Read-only zin

Rombauer 2005 Zinfandel (California) – Grapey and slightly confected, with spicy-hot red cherries dominating. This doesn’t seem quite dry, either. Not my style. (5/07)

26 January 2008

Mike & family

[pictures]Rotier 2005 Gaillac “Les Gravels” (Southwest France) – This is the sort of country French wine, with structure and character, that works better in its home region than it does on the road. Still, it’s appealing enough, with a lot of leathery tannin coupled to dark, meaty fruit and the blackest soil. Like many reds from the Southwest, it pairs sweatier southern French aromas with a structure reminiscent of Bordeaux to the north, and strongly suggests that it will benefit from age. Right now, though, it’s solidly made but somewhat lacking interest past the very fact of it. (1/08)


Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2003 Graves (Bordeaux) – Fat lemon-grapefruit without any mitigating structure or lightening, Some heat on the finish. More like fruit juice than wine; it’s not a fruit bomb, it’s just one-note (or perhaps half of a note) and rather tedious. (1/08)

25 January 2008

Acute, Vertus

[vineyard]Larmandier-Bernier Champagne “1er Cru” Blanc de Blancs “Vertus” (Champagne) – Delicate and floral, with strobe-like metals and powdered lemon-apple crystals. Incisive but not sharp, long, feminine (with gentle but inexorable strength), and just beautiful throughout. (1/08)

Fonseca is stronger than you

[vineyard]Fonseca 1985 Porto (Douro) – Coffee, red and black fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg. Very sweet, with good intensity and a medium-weight aspect. Parts are smoothing into maturity, but some mitigation of the extreme sweetness would be welcome. In time, in time. (1/08)

40 acres & a Meulenhof

Meulenhof 1998 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese 06 99 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – At first crack, the petrol is rather severe. This dissipates quickly, however, leaving just a bit of petroleum alongside a crisply acidic palate with balancing bits of sweetness and skin bitterness. (1/08)

Truth in advertising

Veritas 2005 Petit Verdot (Monticello) – Horrifying. (1/08)

Willi the wimp

Willi Schaefer 1994 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese 06 95 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Blood orange and metal with mild but impossible-to-ignore oxidation, big acidity, and caramel on the finish. Damaged in at least one, and possibly more than one, way…cork, heat, premox? Maybe a little of each? (1/08)


[grapes]Albert Seltz 2001 Sylvaner “La colline aux Poiriers” “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Ripe pear and orange-cream popsicle, with a spiral, starchy palate that turns syrupy on the finish. A bit sulfurous, too. This is going nowhere interesting. (1/08)


Ridge 1999 Paso Robles Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – Smoky cedar, thick and slightly hot, with concentrated blackberry cider forming a long, concentrated finish. Somewhat Scotchy, but then that’s not unusual for this bottling, which is a pretty fair effort for one of my least favorite Ridge zins. (1/08)

Old faithful

Ridge 1996 Geyeserville (Sonoma County) – Coconut and cocoa spice, with espresso and chocolate following. Big, jammy blackberry fills out the rest. This is starting to mature, though I’d like a little more fruit and a little less of the window-dressing. (1/08)

Nigl nose pliers

[label]Nigl 1997 Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben” (Kremstal) – Ripe celery salt is present, as is Mandarin orange, but what dominates is dense salinity. An egg-white texture turns pillowy on the finish. It’s very ripe, and there’s a touch of heat to go along with a momentary fire of whole white peppercorns. Leafy and sizzling, and while the initial sensation is appealing, it’s pretty tiresome to drink. (1/08)


[bottle]Hofer “Zirbenz” Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps (Steiermark) – Yes, it smells like pine. Less like fresh pine and more like running pine sap, but pine nonetheless. Later, it warms to fresh pine furniture in a pristine showroom, or perhaps an aromatic pine log on a fire in a wood-hewn winter cabin. Smoke and a touch of cidery molasses dot the finish, but mostly this is about that warming, fascinating pine. Absolutely fascinating. (1/08)

Solon, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight

Fourrier 2002 Morey-St. Denis Clos Solon “Vieille Vigne” (Burgundy) – Upfront but one-note throughout, and much that’s hidden here is likely to remain so for the next few years. The red cherry fruit is crisp and finely-honed, and it hums with persistence that’s almost amusing for the duration of it. There are hints and shadows of something darker and more metallurgical in the background, but that’s deep background at the moment. Let it rest. (1/08)

Personnelle department

Trimbach 2001 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – Piercing, crystalline pear through which has been thrust the sharpest imaginable diamond-tipped needle of acidity; this is like a rainshower of structured brilliance over a sea of fluffy, goopy pinot gris. That said, it’s not dry. This has to be one of the best Réserve Personnelles ever. (1/08)

Righetti foundation

Righetti 2004 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” Ripasso “Campolieti” (Veneto) – Strawberry and anise seed, but also a touch of bubblegum; I’m served this blind, and waver back and forth between Valpolicella and grenache for a while, finally settling on the former due to balanced alcohol. It’s good, if somewhat slick, and lacks the concentrated, paste-like consistency of most modern ripassos…whether that’s a good or bad thing I can’t quite decide. (1/08)


[label]Brooks 2005 Riesling (Willamette Valley) – Acidic with a bite of tannin, showing clean and intense apple skin and lemongrass with a bite of squeezed grapefruit. Simple and direct throughout. I’d like more complexity, but maybe that will come. (1/08)

24 January 2008

Good & careless

[triple]Het Anker “Gouden Carolus” “Ambrio 1471” Amber Ale (Belgium) – Dark, but not overly so, with a rich, brown baritone of spice and dried fruit. Perfectly balanced, and really, really good. (1/08)

Het Anker “Gouden Carolus” “Classic” Brown Ale (Belgium) – Simultaneously lighter and heavier than the Ambrio, showing dried, yeasty stone fruit/citrus and gentle but fulfilling waves of spicy complexity. Brilliant. Compared to the Ambrio, it’s better but less exciting, if that makes any sense. (1/08)

Het Anker “Gouden Carolus” Triple Ale (Belgium) – Concentrated, with dark, aged-sugar thickness, firm palate intensity, and a really beautiful, measured combination of complexity, structure, and power. Terrific. (1/08)

Happy bergen

[label]Alken-Mas “Grimbergen” Blonde Ale (Belgium) – Fun, malty, fruity. A bit lactic and then finishing a bit sweeter than I’d like. In this style and for this price, Leffe is clearly superior. (1/08)

One eyebrow

[tanks]Unibroue “16” Ale (Québec) – All the elements are in place for this Belgian-inspired ale, but it’s just…I don’t know, it’s like a copy of a copy. I can’t put my finger on what’s missing, but something definitely is. (1/08)

How much beer could a Pennichuck chuck?

[label]Pennichuck “Pozharnik” Espresso Russian Imperial Stout (New Hampshire) – Sweet, toffee-infused, moka-brewed coffee. Aside from the sweetness, which will be problematic for some, this is very deftly done, and entirely delicious. (1/08)

Pennichuck “Bagpiper’s” Scottish Ale (New Hampshire) – Smoky (apparently deliberately so) and heavy, but despite the weirdness it’s a joy to drink. (1/08)

Triple jump

[label]Maredsous “10” Triple Abbey Ale (Belgium) – Intense, plumy and spicy, with the fat sweetness one expects, braced by power (mostly alcohol) and length. Good, perhaps very good, but not particularly special. Still, it disappears quickly, which says something. (1/08)


[brewery]Wychwood “Bah Hambug!” Christmas Ale (England) – Dense, dark, and spicy, yet neither Christmas pudding nor Scotchy flavors intrude; this is a heavy, but quite decent, brew. (1/08)

On the left hand side

[bottle]Wychwood “Duchy Originals” English Ale (England) – Very, very good…refreshing at first, but with a pleasantly bitter bite following, and then refreshing once more. I could drink a lot of this. (1/08)

The Pendle, um, swings

Moorhouse’s “Pendle Witches Brew” Pale Brown Ale (England) – Brown ale is not my favorite style, as it always seems like sort of a half-effort towards one endpoint or another. That said, this is a good one, with a fine balance of grain sweetness and bitterness marked by supple waves of froth. (1/08)

22 January 2008

Petite RV

[vineyard]Grosjean 2005 Petite Arvine Vigne Rovetta (Vallée d’Aoste) – Intense and vague. No, that doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me, either. But it fits. There’s a persistent, almost forceful feel to the wine, but what’s behind all the effort remains a little elusive. White-hued granite? Yes, and last-pressing yellow plum as well. But neither really stands out. The finish is long and solid, and I think there’s something that will eventually be appealing, but at the moment the appeal is mostly intellectual. (1/08)

Agricole mine

[bottle]Institut Agricole Régional 2005 Pinot Gris (Vallée d’Aoste) – If there’s any identifiable varietal character here, I’m missing it. Instead, there’s a pith and quartz sensibility that dominates all else, with a jagged, brittle icicle quality to the fruit and a long, structure-driven finish. Impressive but diffident, and I think it might benefit from a little time in bottle. (1/08)

Vini, Vevey, Vici

[label]Vevey 2006 “Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle” (Vallée d’Aoste) – Raw and skinny, showing neoprene-wrapped minerality ripped at acute angles. Difficult to love, but interesting to taste. (1/08)


Domaine Drouhin Oregon 1997 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – Muscular and still primary…a deep dark Nuits still in the prime of its adolescence. While it’s a pleasant, if shoulder-dominated, drink right now, there seems little point in opening one anytime soon. (1/08)

Art Monk

Kreydenweiss 2002 Pinot Gris Mœnchberg “Le Moine” (Alsace) – Gorgeous, with metallic spiced pear lushness lashed by shattering acidity. There’s no lack of residual sugar, but nothing is out of balance. Intact, this has years of life ahead of it. (1/08)


[label]Barboursville Brut (Virginia) – Goofily pleasant, but standing up to absolutely no scrutiny, with it’s simple-minded fruit fresh enough for mindless quaffing only. If attention is paid, it tastes overly sweet for its raw materials. With a little more effort, though, I think there could be something more serious here. (1/08)

Peyruguet day

Jolivet “Haut Peyruguet” 2005 Bordeaux Rosé (Bordeaux) – Some of the weedy leafiness that lingers in the background of a complex red Bordeaux is here, but without all the rest of the stuff that makes it pleasant, rather than offputting. Red cherry fruit is sticky and a little over-dulled, while there’s not much that’s refreshing or interesting to add to the mix. (1/08)

No Mas

[vineyard]Clavel 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc Gres de Montpellier “Le Mas” (Languedoc) – Maturing nicely for a $7 wine, showing an extremely dusty, old sofa-in-the-attic aroma reminiscent of earthy complexities of decades ago. A gentle pleasure for drinking nowish. (1/08)

Pignan in a poke

Reynaud “Pignan” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Corked. (1/08)

Blonds have more fun

Maurel “Les Galets Blonds” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Despite being fairly tight, there’s enough excellent, raw, herbed-meat quality here for enjoyment, and the gravel underbelly is enjoyable. Still, I think things will improve over the next few years, though I don’t know if the long haul remains in this wine’s future. (1/08)

Popular childrens' programming

Brunel “Les Cailloux” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Open 24 hours, partially consumed, and the air is to the wine’s benefit, which shows a sweet, keening quality to the “fruit” (the usual distilled meat juice that passes for fruit in CdP), an open and generous texture. If CdP can ever be termed “pretty,” this might be a candidate. But it’s still very authentic. (1/08)

13 January 2008

Cava your bets

[bottle]Juvé y Camps 2002 Cava Brut Nature “Reserva de la Família” (Cataluña) – Soft yet persistent…eventually, attention-getting…featuring strawberry, white mushroom, lemon curd, and a foamy loam character. Crisp and fun, yet with some inklings of seriousness.

Edetaria discretion

Edetaria “via Edetaria” 2004 Terra Alta Blanc (Cataluña) – A blend of macabeu and garnatxa blanca. Good minerality with dried fruit and some light herbal notes. Pretty and spring-like, with a thin layer of oak that doesn’t detract.

11 January 2008

Tannat's the night

[label]Tablas Creek 2004 Tannat (Paso Robles) – 92% tannat, 8% cabernet sauvignon. This is my first domestic tannat; the only other examples I’ve tasted have been from France, Uruguay, and New Zealand. And if this is any indication, there’s great potential for this grape, though I can’t imagine the marketing nightmare it might represent. Deep, dark, mysterious, and even a little murky, with enticements of black licorice and blackcurrant, there’s the expected quantity of tannin here, but none of the usual qualities of tannin one expects from this legendarily tannic grape; instead, the structure is leathery, ripe, and…well, lush. It does calcify a bit on the finish, though…tannat fans need not worry overmuch…while the wine veers into an iron-rich, blood-like phase. There’s a touch of heat throughout, but only a touch. Terrific, and obviously quite ageable. (1/08)

Chocolate grenache

[label]Tablas Creek 2005 Grenache Blanc (Paso Robles) – Stone fruit and almond oil with hints of acacia. Crisp apples dominate the midpalate, which brightens and freshens everything before a denser finish of blood orange rind. This is a really nice wine, with more life and vivacity than one might expect from a Rhônish white, and it would appear to have some medium-term aging potential as well. (1/08)

Clos call

[label]Tablas Creek 2000 “Clos Blanc” (Paso Robles) – 45% roussanne, 19% viognier, 19% marsanne, and 17% grenache blanc. Definitely showing signs of age, with a buttered caramel, lactic character dominating the nose. The palate, too, has turned to fat without sufficient substance. However, things are not quite so dire once one really works their way into the wine, which shows intense Rainier cherry, strawberry and apricot warmed by the hot Paso Robles sun. And then, things turn strange again, with an angular, somewhat distorted finish. I wouldn’t hold this any longer, if you’ve still got any. (1/08)

Rouge gallery

[label]Tablas Creek 2004 “Côtes de Tablas” Rouge (Paso Robles) – 64% grenache, 16% syrah, 13% counoise, 7% mourvèdre. This feels a little lighter than previous vintages, but that may just be the influence of aggressive food. Dark fruit and a slim but present structure dominate, with a dusting of fennel pollen and the very slightest edge of volatile acidity hovering atop the aromatics; nothing that anyone not oversensitive (like me) will notice, though. Soft and accessible throughout, though it seems to fill out on the finish. A typically solid, reliable, good-quality effort. (1/08)

Sacré red!

[label]Tablas Creek 2005 Vin de Paille “Sacrérouge” (Paso Robles) – A dried-grape sweet wine made from mourvèdre. And it tastes like…figs! Black Mission figs, to be precise, in an almost uncannily accurate alcoholic form. Vague suggestions of strawberry jam, plum, or even prune are quickly dismissed by the figgy assault, and the wine has the texture of the seedy pulp left over from squeezing fruit as a preliminary step towards producing jelly. It’s relatively balanced and really, really fun. Will it age? Maybe, but I defy anyone to stop drinking it, once they’ve opened a bottle. (1/08)

10 January 2008

Shopping Maule

[label]Maule “La Biancara” 2004 Gambellara Pico (Veneto) – Stunning. Breathtaking. And not for everyone. This is waxy and incredibly intense (more a matter of texture and feel than aromatics), and virtually pulses with long-macerated energy, bringing petals, leaves, sticks and stones to the palate and then abrading them into liquidity, which lingers and coats for a surprisingly long time. I do think, however, that people who prefer their fruit and their structure to be a little more obvious or familiar might have difficulty with this wine. Too bad for them. (1/08)


[vineyard]Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Reliably fruity and vine-y, its twisty palate a result of grapes that have been goofing around rather than studying Dadaism. There’s very little a zin should have that’s not present here, and while it’s fairly straightforward, it holds on to a varietal purity that grows increasingly rare in these days of tricked-and-tarted volume wines. (12/07)

Morgon Fairchild

JM Burgaud 2006 Morgon Les Charmes (Beaujolais) – While it would be hard to mistake this for “serious” gamay, this isn’t the first Morgon that’s put me in mind of syrah; there’s a structured smokiness to it, perhaps a little strappy leather to the aroma, that makes me think of syrah with the volume turned way down. It’s very nicely balanced, though lacking the fierce intensity of the 2005…which, depending on one’s point of view, may be a blessing. That is to say, it’s a “lesser” wine than the previous vintage, and that lessening has both good and less good facets. Certainly, it remains ageable, but appealing (with full-flavored food) right now. (12/07)

Rivesaltes & pepper

[bottle]Mas Amiel 2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes (Roussillon) – White-flowered lightness done in by the spirituous finish. Yes, I know that’s the way the wine’s constructed, but it works to separate the components into two less-appealing parts, rather than a cohesive and symbiotic whole. Were the alcohol a little less aggressively present, I think I’d like this more. (12/07)

Arkadia Darell

Boutari “Cambas” 2004 Arkadia (Greece) – A blend of moschofilero and roditis. Crisp, green, fruity and fun, with sea breeze-ruffled leaves and a simple honeydew underbelly. Hints of a floral nature are present on the finish, though they’re not apparent in the initial aroma. A good, clean wine. (1/08)

Archanes knowledge

Lidakis 2000 Archanes (Crete) – 75% kotsifali, 25% mandilaria. A little bit sweet, with the basic aromatic and structural profile of a good, but mass-market, California merlot. The fruit’s a little more advanced than that, which shows as a warming, brown-toned background hum, but while this is fair enough, I’m not sure it says anything useful. (1/08)

Maredsous, single Sue

[label]Maredsous “8” Dubbel Abbey Ale (Belgium) – Strident and disappointing, with spiced apple winding up for a big pitch, and then simply falling flat on its face. An alcohol-delivery mechanism (and a lot of it), but little more. (1/08)

Have you any wool?

[beer]Black Sheep Ale (England) – Stiff but sophisticated, showing burnished hops and a amber-waves-of-grain character. Very good, if exactly the life of the party. (12/07)

Black Sheep “Riggwelter” Yorkshire Ale (England) – A little less restrained than its basic ale counterpart, with a somewhat more exuberant suggestion of spice and stone…though it eventually gets around to a certain embarrassment at its outburst, and retreats to a more refined comfort zone. Beer that wears a suit, but can still be enticed to tell the occasional off-color joke. (12/07)

Peter principle

[bottle]St. Peter’s Winter Ale (England) – Bitter, strong, and yet somehow watery, with a tremendous amount of classicism and intensity undone by a fundamental lack of conviction. Every sip is the same: “I really like this…oh, wait…no, I’m not sure,” so I guess the key is just to keep drinking it, without pause. (12/07)

09 January 2008

Just add sugar

[vineyard]Pacaud-Chaptal “La Croix Chaptal” 2004 Clairette du Languedoc “Vieilles Vignes” (Languedoc) – Very crisp and bright, which is not something one gets to say about a Languedoc white very often. Blind, I might guess viognier (the slight alcoholic burn) or something else white and Rhônish (the very slightly oxidative nut/stone fruit character), but the wine doesn’t really fit into any truly familiar paradigm, and there’s a bright, sunny grapefruit quality to its fruit. Good, but mind that heat. (1/08)

Feuillatte to empty

Feuillatte Champagne “1er Cru” Brut (Champagne) – From magnum. Spiky acidity like fresh-squeezed supermarket lemons comes rushing like a tidal wave, leaving very little opportunity for further examination in its headlong rush of tart destruction. Which is just as well, since there’s not all that much to this wine. There’s a hint of some complexing yeastiness, but mostly this is just tart, bubbly, and disappointingly simple. (12/07)

Grin and Barrouillet

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc “No. 2” (Loire) – Surprisingly thick, and strongly suggestive of residual sugar (true? I'm told not) , though the wine is in overall balance. The classic chalkiness is highly present, and the fruit is sunnily white to the point of near-transparency. I think age will do this wine some good, but it’s immensely appealing in a way the CRB sauvignon blanc hasn’t quite been for a while (which is not to demean previous wines’ quality, only their accessibility). (12/07)

The trouble with Tribouley

Tribouley 2005 “Orchis” Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “Vieilles Vignes” (Roussillon) – Yummy. Just lip-smackingly appealing, in an obvious way. I suppose people who actively dislike fruit can satisfactorily avoid this, but I just don’t understand what’s not to like. There’s big, chewy dark fruit, there’s just a hint of brightening redness, and there’s even a little bit of sun-dried herbality (though nothing one might call “green”). Pure fun. (12/07)

Vajra infection

Vajra 2006 Langhe Rosso (Piedmont) – Simple and beautiful, which is not someone one can often say about nebbiolo (which usually requires complexity to achieve beauty), and one of the best bargain bottlings of this sometimes difficult grape. It’s floral and suggests, more than actually delivers, a passel of red berries, with a light chomp of tannin and a firm, spinal acidity. A party wine for wine geeks, though it does even better with food. (12/07)

Juffer, me later

Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Weird for a good 24 hours, after which it’s still a bit odd, showing a light char to its ripe, red fruit core of intense sweetness paired with fiery, slightly burning acidity. Heat-damaged and closed, perhaps? I’ve got more, so we’ll see. (12/07)

White Willow

André Blanck 2004 Pinot Blanc Rosenburg (Alsace) – Gentle and somewhat timid, showing stone fruit and a little acidity, but not much in the way of a defining character or statement. Not that one should expect too much from pinot blanc, but still… (12/07)

03 January 2008

Back to Front

[vineyard]Glover’s 2001 Pinot Noir Front Block (Nelson) – Tannic. Tannic. Aside from the license plate, we’d been warned by others, so we can’t claim to be completely unprepared. But this much tannin in an otherwise helpless pinot noir is still shocking, no matter how prepped one feels. It’s got waves of acidity to match its tannin, too, with stringy bark, walnut, dirt and gravel making up virtually the entire palate. The finish is – big surprise – bitter. And sour. And…oh, never mind. You get the picture. (3/05)

Glover’s 2001 Pinot Noir Back Block (Nelson) – The difference between this and the Front Block is allegedly a matter of slope. Whatever the change, it’s for the better, with a richer, riper fruit core that is, nonetheless, still pummeled into near-oblivion by chewy, nutty tannin and a dirt-filled, bitter finish. It will probably age longer than the other, though to what end I can’t imagine. I don’t “get” this wine either, though I fail to “get” it somewhat less than the previous version. (3/05)

Oh Moutere, I'm in love

Glover’s 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (Moutere) – Chunky blackberry with rosemary. Very, very tannic, but the raw materials here are much more supportive of this kind of structure, and there’s something approaching what anyone (other than Mr. Glover) might consider balance. (3/05)

How dry I am

Glover’s 2003 “Dry” Riesling (Moutere) – From Kahurangi Estate’s grapes. Those things get around, don’t they? In any case, despite the iconoclasm, this is a much better interpretation than anything from the source winery, with massive minerality unfortunately muffled by reduction, white pepper, and salt. Sharp and quite “wet”-tasting (by which I suppose I mean juicily acidic), this clearly needs time. The wine would appear to have a potentially good future, but I do worry that once all the sheathing is eroded by time, the core will be too severe for its own good. However, that’s a pure guess. Maybe this is (or rather, will be) terrific. I just can’t tell. (3/05)

Richmond district

Glover’s 1997 “Late Harvest” Riesling (Richmond) – Creamy and definitely entering its mature phase, with thick minerality and salted lemon. I can’t decide if this is more like an ultra-dense (but old-style, not powerfully sweet and overripe as in the modern idiom) spätlese or…I don’t know, perhaps a Rheingau halbtrocken auslese. What I do know is that it’s big, crystalline, and thoroughly delicious. I’ve had many quality New Zealand rieslings – some I’d even call “better” – but I’ve never had one quite like this. (3/05)

Glover’s 2002 “Late Harvest” Riesling (Richmond) – Strikingly mineral-driven, salty, and almost smoky, with a good balance between sweet and dry. The finish is a bit shorter than one might like, but nothing to panic about. (3/05)


Glover’s 2003 Riesling “Icewine” (Moutere) – A flat nose of sweet, simple apple. Short and disappointing. Given the originality shown elsewhere in this lineup, I expected this most idiosyncratic of wines to be better. Alas, it’s not. (3/05)