26 March 2008

A valuable lesson

[label]Frick 2002 Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Précieuse” (Alsace) – Organic, biodynamic, no sulfur, from a hill above the Vorbourg. This has absolutely nothing to do with pinot blanc or Alsace (other than the fact that the words are on the label), and instead has everything to do with the sort of “forward-to-the-past” adventurism seen at, say, Radikon…among whose wines this would not seem even a little out of place. Rapidly darkening towards brass (though to be fair, that’s not an unusual thing to see in a five-year-old pinot blanc), heavy, and somewhat oxidized – again in the “good” way, though it strips any remaining varietal character from the wine – with a solid, thudding, and thundering assault of dried-out stone fruit and hollowed-out acacia logs. A really fascinating wine, though I’m very much at a loss as to whether I should credit the result or not. The first sips are immediately compelling to those familiar with this style (and, based on my dinner guests’ reactions, repellent to those who aren’t), but even to the enthusiastic the weight and ponderous hectoring of the wine eventually grow wearisome. (3/08)

Summer lovin'

[logo]Copain 2005 Viognier “L’ete” (Mendocino County) – This is served to me blind, and after a brief flirtation with something white and Rhônish, I veer off in a completely wrong direction. But even if I’d stuck to my guns, I never would have guessed viognier, because there’s not much of it here. Dried flowers, perhaps, but none of the lurid, oily, aromatic explosion for which the grape is known. It’s hot and flabby, sure, and that is at least authentic, but there’s some acidity lingering about, and that can’t possibly be viognier, can it? Strange wine. Needs food. I can’t quite commit to liking it, but it’s at least interesting. (3/08)

Peyros tax

Peyros 2001 Madiran “Vieilles Vignes” (Southwest France) – A half-hour’s decanting is really all that’s needed here, as the wine bursts forth from the container with deep, dark, only slightly brutal black fruit. There’s a hint of char and a good deal of forceful weight. After a while, everything appealing goes away and one is left with the expected mouth-puckering tannin, but what’s interesting (or disturbing, depending on one’s point of view) is that the hard tannin and the big fruit never take the stage at the same time; the fruit is the opening act, while the tannin is the headliner, and there’s no encore jamming. I think it will age, but something seems “off” about the fundamental conception of this wine, and so I’m not sure. (3/08)

If Ulivi now, you'll take away the biggest part of me

Bellotti "Cascina degli Ulivi" 2006 Gavi (Piedmont) – I misjudged this at a recent tasting, thinking it more simple and easily understood than it actually is. There’s an awful lot going on for a relatively inexpensive, “basic” version of a wine that receives a more elaborate elsewhere at this house. Melon, a swirling blend of white and green tea leaves, full of light and life but with the gentle swish of a foamy, early-morning wave in the mix as well. Really nice. (3/08)


[beer]Westmalle Trappist Ale Tripel (Belgium) – This seems less than it used to be, though that may just be my constantly-evolving palate. It’s heavy, spicy, and tasty, full of spiced pear liqueur and brighter, coriander-infused zest, but it shows malted up front and rather wan at the rear. A very good ale, with plenty of heft (and certainly a powerful wallop of alcohol) but also somewhat rote. (3/08)

Pira Nerys

[label]Pira 2006 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Striking in its intensity, with a blend of darker-hued berries and Cajun earthiness brought forward by the persistent press of a wall of structure. It’s not overwhelming by any means, and despite the size there’s a fine sense of balance, but it’s really just very, very big. I like it a great deal, but it won’t necessarily appeal to every purist. Oh…and isn’t it time to put the “little sweet one” story of this grape to rest once and for all? (3/08)


JP&F Becker 2004 “Gentil” (Alsace) – Malic steel, such that it tastes like riesling more than anything else. It’s a crisp, wet, juicy, thirst-inducing wine that bears not even the slightest hint of examination, for in truth everything other than the first refreshing burst of acidity, there’s not a whole lot to this wine. I’d happily drink it, but I’m not sure I’d buy it. (3/08)


[label]Ramazzotti Amaro (Lombardy) – Probably my least favorite amaro thus far in my post-Sicilian explorations. Bitter, lightly sweet, but with nothing to add complexity or interest aside from the basic structure of the form. Eminently boring. (3/08)

Zamò of that, please

[bottle]Le Vigne di Zamò 2004 Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo Ribolla Gialla (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Our lightest ribolla yet, showing waxed melon on a dry bed of river gravel. Austere but pleasant, with a solid structure despite its light-bodied nature. The finish is surprisingly long, though it fails to reveal additional complexity. This could just be a little young, but while it appears to have the skeleton to age, it may lack the flesh. (10/07)

Hagia Sofia

Santa Sofia 2006 Soave Classico Montefoscarino (Veneto) – Clear and light, with a perfumed nose that veers a little too close to grandmother-ish bath soap for my tastes. The core is also a little watery. It’s pleasant, and it washes down a wide range of foods with unobtrusive aplomb, but it makes no clear statement of its own. Not even a whispered one. (10/07)

Roche limb, baa

[leaves]Amiot 2001 Clos de la Roche (Burgundy) – Smoky. Dense with huge lobes of meat. 100% animal. Long-finishing and utterly fascinating. Not for the faint of heart, though. (2/08)

Epeneaux means neaux

Armand 2000 Pommard Clos des Epeneaux “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Pretty and soft, with cherries and strawberries. Elegant and lithe. Caresses the tongue. (2/08)

d'Angerville Will Robinson!

d’Angerville 2004 Volnay Taillepieds “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Good, crisp acidity. Roughrider cherries and dirt. Long, somewhat imbalanced towards acidity (but I’m fine with that), and in need of time. (2/08)

Yes or Epenots

Domaine de Corcel 2003 Pommard Grand Clos des Epenots “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Dill and nuts. Soft. Very strange in a number of ways, number one being that it’s not tannic. It doesn’t much matter, however, because it’s no good either. (2/08)

Grancey you're sorry

Latour 2002 Château Corton Grancey (Burgundy) – Lightly beet-infused. Soft, short, and disappointing. Eh. (2/08)

Charmes school

Guy Bocard 2002 Meursault-Charmes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Caramelized spice, dill, and lots of wood. Somewhat stale and falling apart. And a little oxidized? There are a few signs. (2/08)

Baby Jesus

Bouchard Père & Fils 1997 Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus (Burgundy) – Big fruit, full of dark cherry and blueberry, but with a drying, short finish. Otherwise, clean and straightforward. (2/08)

Morgeot or less

Jean-Noël Gagnard 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Light wood, cream, mild spice, and sand. Pretty but overly soft. There’s not really all that much to this. (2/08)

Doesn't rock

Latour 2002 Meursault-Perrières “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Candied wood, baked and stale. A gross monstrosity. (2/08)

Fennel, anise, Llicorella

Llicorella “Gran Nasard” 2002 Priorat “Mas Saura” (Cataluña) – Beautiful. Rocks fill a gorgeous, plummy, dark berry fruit salad with good acidity. Long and crisp, balanced throughout, and potentially stunning. (2/08)

Llicorella “Gran Nasard” 2003 Priorat “Gran Nasard” (Cataluña) – Juicy black fruit over stones. Dry rocks fill the mouth. Big, balanced, and good; even, perhaps a little bit of fun (in the context of Priorat). (2/08)

Bà, bà, bà...bà, bàbara Forés

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2006 Terra Alta Blanc (Cataluña) – Drying apple skin tannin, medium-bodied, and crisp. And yet, still not interesting. (2/08)

Czech cars

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2005 Terra Alta “El Quintà” (Cataluña) – Some obtrusive oak, sticky peach, and flowers. Too thick, and lacking life. (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2004 Terra Alta “Negre” (Cataluña) – Dense blueberry and lots of graphite-tinged structure. Good, but a little short. (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2002 Terra Alta “Coma d’En Pou” (Cataluña) – Warm oakspice and baked cherries. Just OK. (2/08)

Cava dweller

Canals Nadal Cava Brut (Cataluña) – Coarse chicken-flavored salt. Really. Clean otherwise, but exceedingly odd. (2/08)

Canals Nadal Cava Brut “Reserva” (Cataluña) – Bigger and more complex, with lemon, light yeastiness, and a pale sweetness. (2/08)

Antoni Canals Nadal Cava Brut Natural (Cataluña) – Makrut lime, lemon, apple, and lots of grassiness. Pretty tasty. (2/08)

Canals Nadal Cava Brut Natural “Gran Reserva” (Cataluña) – Fruity, showing lemon and clean, crisp apple mixed with skins. Long, with a notion of true complexity. (2/08)

Antoni Canals Nadal Cava Brut “cupada selecció” (Cataluña) – Oaky-tasting, and the rest is somewhat muted. Uninteresting. (2/08)

Natur freak

Natur Montsant “Mas Franch” 2004 Montsant Negre (Cataluña) – Licorice and coconut with big blueberry fruit and some bitter syrup. It’s a little like Amaro, but sweeter, with some freshening minerality in the mix. Average. (2/08)

Natur Montsant “Mas Franch” 2004 Montsant “Optim” (Cataluña) – Huge minerality. Long and stony, with dense tannin and some chocolaty bitterness. And yet, it’s a bigger wine than can be supported by its structure. It might turn out OK eventually. (2/08)

21 March 2008

Sarmassa vecchio

Marchesi di Barolo 2000 Barolo Sarmassa (Piedmont) – Licorice espresso. Goregous and balanced. Still quite tannic and primary. Beautifully composed, with a long finish. Really, really nice. (2/08)

I'm very, very Sorì

Fantino Conterno 2003 Barolo Sorì Ginestra (Piedmont) – Pretty, leafy, and floral, with elegant spice and gravel. It’s very tannic (no surprise), but that’s the only real point of imbalance. (2/08)

Like a ton of Carobrics

Paolo Scavino 1999 Barolo Carobric (Piedmont) – Overextracted in every way. Actively offensive. (2/08)


Silvio Grasso 2000 Barolo Ciabot Manzoni (Piedmont) – Gorgeous, silky tannin. Seductive and beautiful, maybe even a bit lush. More forward than I would expect at this stage. There’s a pleasant note of old cheese here, but there’s also a lot of wood. It’s a good wine, but it’s not really why I like Barolo. (2/08)

My private Piedmont

G&F Mascarello 2000 Barolo Monprivato (Piedmont) – Slightly sour, minty, and strange. Impossible to access right now, but I don’t much like what I’m tasting. (2/08)


Fratelli Giacosa 2006 Dolcetto d’Alba San Rocco (Piedmont) – Dirty and difficult. Very acidic. (2/08)

Her name is Rio

Fratelli Giacosa 2001 Barbaresco Rio Sordo (Piedmont) – Sweet, gentle spice. Cherries. Already mostly mature, which is kind of disturbing. But it’s not a bad drink. (2/08)

Tasso tea

Antinori “Guado al Tasso” 2003 Bolgheri “Superiore” (Tuscany) – Plum-flavored Port. Over-concentrated. Tannic and dull as hell. What is the point of wines like this? (2/08)

Tignanellos bounce!

Antinori 2004 “Tignanello” (Tuscany) – International to its core, showing big blueberry and blackberry, albeit with surprising acidity. The finish is short, and it’s far simpler than it should be at this price, but the balance is at least acceptable. If one must drink this sort of wine, this isn’t a bad one to try. (2/08)

George the first

Giampaolo Motta 2003 “Giorgio Primo” (Tuscany) – Acidic strawberry, some good raw materials, but massive, overwhelming tannin obliterates most of what’s drinkable. I can’t possibly assess something this out of balance. (2/08)

Is it a castle or a villa?

Castell’in Villa 1995 Chianti Classico “Riserva” (Tuscany) – Dense. Strawberry and herbal dirt, with dense (actually, thoroughly solid) tannin. A bit hard, but long. Needs continued aging. (2/08)

Am I blu?

Brancaia 2003 “Il Blu” (Tuscany) – Sour wood, dill, weeds, and hints of red fruit. Very dense, but with what? The finish is long and dusty. (2/08)


Quintarelli 1998 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” (Veneto) – Concentrated and dense. Black licorice, strawberry, black cherry, and a solid, graphite-textured structure. Gorgeous but still fairly repressed; this isn’t done going wherever it’s going. (2/08)

Into the fire

dal Forno Romano 2002 Valpolicella “Superiore” (Veneto) – Fabric softener texture and aroma. Dense, hard, and absolutely no fun at all. Red licorice dominates the finish. This is pretty awful. Thankfully, it’s neither famous nor expensive. Oh, wait… (2/08)

Capitel building

Anselmi 2004 Capitel Foscarino (Veneto) – Sulfurous and tight, but pretty nonetheless. Grapey, with lovely, floral fruit. The finish is short, and has some dry botrytis-like characteristics. Overall, the effect is a little odd. What’s going on at this property? (2/08)

In dreams

Jermann 2005 Venezia Giulia “Were Dreams…” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Fig and peach. Nice acidity. Pure, sunny, clean, and short. It’s good, but it’s not all that interesting. (2/08)


Vivallis 2007 Pinot Grigio (Trentino) – Crisp, dry, and powdery. Melon, ripe Granny Smith apple. Simple, pure fruit. Absolutely not complex in any way. (2/08)

The nosiola knows

Vivallis 2007 Nosiola (Trentino) – Floral, with very good acidity. Fun, clean, and sandy. Again, very simple. (2/08)

Radio aromatico

Vivallis 2007 Traminer Aromatico (Trentino) – Light aroma, only the faintest suggestion of spice, and overt crispness. Uninteresting. (2/08)

Schiava me out

Vivallis 2007 Valdadige Schiava (Veneto) – Sour strawberry, cranberry, and herbs. Difficult and weedy. Ick. (2/08)

Going against lagrein

Vivallis 2007 Lagrein (Trentino) – Dirt and tar. Exceedingly underripe. Horrid. (2/08)

Green & white

Greenhough 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Nelson) – Gooseberry, white plum, and perhaps some quartz underneath. Though the wine is quite ripe, it remains clean and crisp, showing its acidity in layers of grapefruit and lemon, which persist through a strong, balanced finish. This is an unusually solid sauvignon, with character too rarely found from the grape in these parts, despite its worldwide fame. (3/05)


Greenhough 2004 “Dry” Riesling (Nelson) – A dusty sand road, bordered on two sides with dull, unpolished iron. Balanced (6 grams residual sugar) but overly light, and it flattens on the finish. Kind of tedious. (3/05)

Green nay

Greenhough 2004 Chardonnay (Nelson) – Fig, clove, ripe peach, apricot, white nectarine, and an exotic, almost boisterous aroma of dried, then baked, flowers. Soft, with a lush and luxurious texture on the finish. Not my style, but it’s a very good wine (3/05).

20 March 2008

Hough & pough

Greenhough 2004 Pinot Noir (Nelson) – Chewy. Strawberry, walnut, a blend of bitter and milk chocolates, plus waves of spicy cinnamon on the finish. It’s elegant, but closes down rather rapidly. This might be better in a few years, but it’s disappointing now. (3/05)

18 March 2008

Stehelin-eyed gaze

Stehelin 2005 Gigondas (Rhône) – Big and generous, with meaty, dark cherry fruit. Long and very tannic, but the structure only compliments the wine, which is a top-quality monster. Needs endless time, I think, but it should be a beauty someday. (2/08)

Not the current Igence

[cairanne]Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne Blanc “l’Exigence” (Rhône) – Roasted apricots from a can. Skeletal and strange. There’s no meat or skin on these bones. (2/08)


Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Banana marshmallow, some violet, leafy and floral. Pretty. (2/08)

And Cairanne, Cairanne so far away

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne Rosé (Rhône) – Fresh raspberry blossoms in sunshine. Clean and precise. Nice. (2/08)

Tavel setting

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Tavel (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum, bones, and shells. Seems short, but grows with air. Not bad. (2/08)

Tiny winey

“Le petit vin d’Avril” Vin de Table (Rhône) – Blueberry, gravel, leafy tobacco. Slightly underripe and tannic, but fair enough for the price. (2/08)

Italian rock

Pierre Usseglio 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Simple, nutty, and clean. Bubblegum-dominated fruit. Medium-bodied. Decent. (2/08)

Jolly old St.

Boiron “Domaine Nicholas Boiron” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Peppery, burnt fruit. Very full-bodied, but what it’s full of isn’t very good. (2/08)

I coulda had a Vieilles

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Walnut and sour dill. Ick. (2/08)

Overly Lafond of you

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Burnt bark, light bubblegum, some blackberry. Good fruit, soft and pure, with improvement on the finish, but that initial impression of char is unpleasant. (2/08)

Boisson, boissoff

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Shoe polish, blueberry, and freshly-stripped bark. Abrupt. (2/08)

Give me Mas

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Rhône) – Full, lush, and juicy. Dark, smoky fruit. Meat emerges on the finish. Quite good. (2/08)


[tavel]Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne (Rhône) – Big red plum and some juiciness. Crisp for a southern Rhône. Short, though. (2/08)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne “l’Exigence” (Rhône) – Some alcohol, but otherwise the noseis tight. The palate, on the other hand, is fairly explosive, with huge, dark fruit, brown earth, tar, and milk chocolate. Dense as hell. The finish is equally massive, though the burn reemerges. Good, but also one to be wary of. (2/08)

Uchuax me yours

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Massif d’Uchaux “Clos de la Brussière” (Rhône) – Big. Meaty but clean, with plums and blackberries present. Graphite-textured structure. Long and solid, though it sheds a bit of complexity on the finish. Impressive and ageable, though not quite up to its initial promise. (2/08)

Romet-o & Juliet

Alain Boisson “Domaine Cros de Romet” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne (Rhône) – A big, chewy herb fest: thyme, rosemary, etc. Very tannic. This will live for a long time on its structure, though whether it will ever show anything interesting is an open question. My guess: it won’t. (2/08)

Lirac poetry

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Lirac (Rhône) – Strawberry and anise. Very, very simple. Light structure, if any, at this point. (2/08)

Lafond 2005 Lirac “La Ferme Romaine” (Rhône) – Balanced. Bubblegum fruit and walnut with darker tones. Chewy. Some heat. Pretty good, nonetheless. (2/08)

Body & Cabassole

Faraud “Domaine Cabassole” 2004 Vacqueyras “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Meat and crushed granite. Dense, tough. Unyielding and not much fun to drink. (2/08)

Hermit crab

Guigal 2001 Hermitage (Rhône) – Dill and sour fruit. Weird. Good structure, but this is either completely off the map or closed in a very, very strange way. (2/08)

17 March 2008

Donjon-son & Philip Michael Thomas

Michel “Le Vieux Donjon” 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Beautiful. Nuts, stones, and spice. Richly fruited. A white-out of flavor. Long, with good acidity. Really excellent. (2/08)

Avril showers

Avril “Clos des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Malted. Twisted, gnarled bones and stones. Higher-toned, showing some anise-heavy licorice. Interesting and complex. (2/08)

Moulin blanc

Moulin-Tacussel 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Banana skin, papaya, and pineapple. Simple and angular, with a medium-weight finish. (2/08)

Are you staying Fortia?

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Flat-fronted. Tropical fruit with crisp acidity. Closes quickly despite initial freshness. (2/08)

A nice Vieux

Michel “Le Vieux Donjon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Gorgeous. Full-throated. Meat and herbs. Very tannic now, but the balance is terrific, and this has massive potential. (2/08)

Usseglio, but who's buying?

[vineyard]Pierre Usseglio 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Big and modern. Toughens on the finish. Peanuts and sticky fruit. This cuvée has, for me, turned an unpleasant corner of late. (2/08)

Pierre Usseglio 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée de mon Aïeul” (Rhône) – Spice, blueberries, flowers. Exciting and long. There’s “more” to this wine, and thus it handles its nods towards modernity better than the normale. (2/08)

Mill brothers

Moulin-Tacussel 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” (Rhône) – Medium-full, tannic, and juicy. Plummy, with good acidity. Tannic. This is better than usual, and in fact I thought this house did better in 2005 as well; are things changing here? (2/08)

Moulin-Tacussel 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Hommage à Henry Tacussel” (Rhône) – Chocolate, orange peel, and minerality. Thick and tannic. Far too dense to taste now, though based on the preliminary evidence I’m suspicious of the results. (2/08)

Gregorian Chante

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Tradition” (Rhône) – Herbed bubblegum. Full and fruity, with a medium-length finish. Mostly balanced, though there’s a snippet of heat late in the game. Good. (2/08)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Big structure. Herbs, plum, lavender, bubblegum. Structured and balanced. Impressive. (2/08)


Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Cylindrical. Metallic and a bit harsh, with alcohol showing throughout. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Les Petits Pieds d’Armand” (Rhône) – Peanut butter and jelly on toast. Very juicy fruit. Chocolate-covered cherries. Acid is prominent but well-integrated. Long finish. Upfront and promising, though not very traditional. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Walnut and sour dill. No good. (2/08)

The Roc of Avignon

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Simple, lightly herbal. Rocks and structure. Closes quickly. Eh. (2/08)

Citia, altia, Fortia

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” (Rhône) – Good balance, quite traditional. Herbs in a light brown tone. Fine tannin and acidity. Fun and pure, though not at the top level. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (Rhône) – Pure. Red and pink fruit, bubblegum, with more structure (especially tannin) but less fun. Shaped like a diminuendo symbol. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve” (Rhône) – A syrah-dominated cuvée. Pepper dust, leather, and blueberry. Full and tannic. Very interesting, though it does stand out amongst grenache-heavy company. (2/08)


Courtil-Thibaut “Clos des Brusquières” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Peanuts and bubblegum. Oddly synthetic. Very simple. (2/08)

You load Sixtine tons, whaddya get?

[cdp vine]Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Tight, over-structured, tough, and short. (2/08)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve Sixtine” (Rhône) – Big and chocolate-infused. Too tannic. Biting chunks of structure. There’s some stuff underneath, I think, but it’s really far too early to tell for sure. Essentially, I think this is over-extracted. (2/08)


Laget-Royer “Domaine Pontifical” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Lovely nose. Full and spicy. Structured. Under the enticement, however, there’s not a great deal of substance. (2/08)

Just west of Venice

Mestre “Domaine de La Côte de l’Ange” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Medium-fruity. Plum, bubblegum, and thyme. Soft and almost pretty, perhaps even verging on fluff. It’s fun, though. (2/08)

Mestre “Domaine de La Côte de l’Ange” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Fuller and more structured than the normale, but still balanced. Some sour peanuts on the finish. (2/08)

Chaussy & the pussycats

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Thick and forward. Chocolate, fruit, herbs in the background. Dense and structured, but reasonably balanced. Turns linear on the finish. (2/08)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Quet” (Rhône) – Excellent balance in a warm, spicy, milk chocolate style, which not everyone will or should appreciate. There’s a bit of heat. This is very well done, but it would be difficult to call it CdP. (2/08)

Chaussy shells by the seashore

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tintot Spécial Cuvée” (Rhône) – 100% old-vine mourvèdre. Earthy, big and lush. Mouthfilling. Dark and brooding, showing nuts and chocolate. Long and balanced. This has excellent aging potential.

In Nerthe

Château La Nerthe 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Dill and huge acidity. A gross perversion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Yuck, yuck, yuck. (2/08)

Coulon your heels

Coulon “Boisrenard” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Thick with herbs (dominated by lavender and mint). Dense and solid – perhaps overly concentrated – with meat and garrigue ascendant. Good, but it would be better if it took its foot off the accelerator. (2/08)

Still Ormousseaux

Veneau “Domaine des Ormousseaux” 2005 Coteaux du Giennois (Loire) – 80% pinot noir, 20% gamay. There’s a delicate, yearning sweetness (not the sugary kind) to the red fruit here, which is then lifted by a spikier, crisper take on the same general palette of berries; I’m attributing this to the grapes, because it would seem to fit their personalities. Flaky and brittle when the minerality shows, but shyly pretty otherwise. I am enormously fond of this wine…and “fond” is the perfect word here. (3/08)

Duc of earl

[dentelles de montmirail]Gras “Santa Duc” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône “Les Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Monolithic and boring, this tastes of a squared-off block of soil concentrate sprayed with an anonymous dark fruit residue. It’s never bad, but it’s highly inactive, and ultimately quite dull. (3/08)

Malte beverage

André Blanck 2005 Riesling “Ancienne Cour des Chevaliers de Malte” (Alsace) – Better than previous years’ versions, with a fine, molten-metal core around which are draped lighter soils and firm, deep citrus sashes and tightly-wound cords of acidity. This should age. (3/08)


[bees]Honey Gardens “Traditional” Mead (Vermont) – I don’t have a firm handle on how to talk about mead quality. This is less overtly sweet than some, showing more honeycomb than honey (raw honey, beeswax), with a mown hay and vegetal underpinning. It’s an easy drink, though without much of a finish. It tastes, to my palate, not unlike a cheap Layon, such as one might find from a cooperative, and it might be fun to serve it blind. I’d buy it again, though without enthusiasm; I guess that’s as close as I’m going to come to a qualitative assessment. (3/08)

Sweet Melissa

Honey Gardens “Melissa” Sparkling Mead (Vermont) – Very cloudy, yeasty, slightly bitter, and volatile. There’s very little honey here, but rather a whole lot of pollen and a good deal of acrid, desiccating difficulty. I don’t like this at all. (3/08)

Of green gables

Marquis Dutheil de la Rochère “Chateau Ste-Anne” 1990 Bandol (Provence) – Shy out of the gate, then blossoming into a Provençal sunset: black, sun-baked earth radiating its stored heat as it cools, fragrant and well-ridden leather, lavender and other herbs, and black cherries. Still quite firm and tannic. However, I don’t know if I’d hold it too much longer, as after about two hours in the decanter, the seams rip and the wine just dies. (4/06)

Stanley Bartucci

Bartucci 2004 Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Lurid strawberry essence, bursting with geraniums. A little heavier than I’m used to, but still good. (4/06)

The name of Darroze

Darroze 1985 Bas-Armagnac (Southwest France) – Almond cream and wood. Warming rather than hot, as a brandy should be. A bit on the simple side, however. (4/06)

13 March 2008

Waiting for verdot

[label]Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla Petit Verdot (Levant) – 100% petit verdot…and isn’t varietal petit verdot from Jumilla what a jaded wine world has been clamoring for? There’s a prickle of sulfur on the nose, but it blows off fairly quickly, exposing some sort of breakfast cereal with dried blueberries and a dusty, chalky texture. Austere and extremely arid. I haven’t tasted a lot of petit verdot on its own (and what I’ve tasted has almost exclusively come from barrels prior to blending), but this seems to represent the generally incomplete nature of the variety with which I’m slightly familiar. So how do I judge it? As varietal petit verdot, it seems successful…an interesting intellectual exercise, though lacking any sense of fun. As a wine, however, the lack of fun becomes the majority report. I’d like to try this from a less extreme vintage, though I have no idea if it would make a difference; for all I know, it would exacerbate the problems. (10/07)

Y, ll, gn

Casa de la Ermita 2006 Jumilla Viognier (Levant) – 100% viognier. God, what a relief it is to taste a white after all these brutal reds. As such, I might be slightly more favorably-inclined towards this wine than it deserves. Anyway, there’s a big, almost lurid quality to the wine, but it nicely dances away from the edge of soup, showing honeysuckle and fruit salad with a dry minerality at its core. Good acidity persists a little too long, watering down the limey finish, which tightens up more than I’d like. Still, I have to admit that given a choice between this and a goopy, oaky, overwrought Condrieu (like Cuilleron), I’d take this in a heartbeat. (10/07)


Casa de la Ermita “Monasterio de Santa Ana” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% old-vine monastrell. Served too cold, even were it a crisp white (which it most definitely is not). All I can access are a difficult nose and a palate full of weeds, herbs, and peppers. But the wine is so frigid I can’t stand around, cupping it in my palms, long enough to draw anything else forth, and when I return later for a retaste, the wine is once more bathing in ice. Thus, consider this anti-rave highly conditional. (10/07)

Ermita ge

Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – Old-vine monastrell, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. Also served too cold, but this time not so frigid that I’m unable to coax out a few suggestions of character. Shy and somewhat elegant – words you don’t read about monastrell-based wines very often – showing some bitter chocolate, French roast coffee beans, tightly puckery cranberries, and good acidity. The tannin is shaded slightly green. Some nice ideas here, but the wine is incomplete. Again, see above, re: serving temperature, making this yet another conditional note. (10/07)

Valcorso's a horse, of course, of course

[Yecla cupola]La Purísima “Valcorso” 2006 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Organic. Sour fruit, herbs, freshly-crushed cherries and raspberries with wildflowers. Fuller on the palate than many of these wines. There’s some deadening nastiness on the finish, but the wine is not entirely horrible. High praise, I know. (10/07)

La Purísima 2005 Yecla Monastrell “Barrica” (Levant) – Shy, spicy fruit and dark, chewy red fruit bark. Turns sour (but a good kind of sour) on the finish. Fairly long. Not bad. Not particularly good, but not bad. (10/07)

Trapío family singers

La Purísima “Trapío” 2004 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Sophisticated blueberry, grey earth, mushroom, and mixed meadow flowers form the nose. Lightly vegetal, but in a way that will only offend those with extreme Kermitophobia. Very big and fruity, with huge, juicy blackberries tumbling across the palate, plus a little chocolate. It coalesces into a package with a firm, tannic structure and dancing acidity. Long and balanced. Very good; probably the best red in this entire tasting. (10/07)


La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Old Hands” (Levant) – Simple baked fruit, dark berries, dark chocolate, and an underripe, papery finish. 2/3 of a chuggable wine, but the finish renders it useless. (10/07)

La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Organic” (Levant) – As the name suggests, organic. Mixed chocolate powders, freshly-ground nutmeg, hints of other spices, and a sort, squinty finish. What’s the point? This is like drinking a Penzey’s catalog. (10/07)

Dulce vita

La Purísima 2003 “Enesencia” Yecla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – Sweet bell pepper, plum, and tangy candy. Very crisp, and very odd. Is it repellent or fascinating? Quite possibly both. I have no idea what to think of this wine. (10/07)

VH1 Divus

[monastrell]Bleda “Divus” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 95% monastrell, 5% merlot. Polished and fruity, with good, chewy berries a bit lacerated by herbal, weedy notes. There’s a lot of earth, though, and hen-of-the-woods mushroom as well. Good acidity. Long and fairly zingy on the finish. This is actually quite drinkable, though I’d keep a close eye on those weeds. (10/07)

Bleda dry

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2004 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Freshly-stripped tree bark, moldering fall leaves in a slightly humid breeze, but otherwise fairly hollow on the nose. The palate shows dark, charred soil and pepper dust. The wine starts balanced, but it’s impossible to tell if this continues as the wine simply vanishes on the finish. Poof! It’s gone! (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2001 Jumilla “Reserva” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Big, nutty, milk chocolate and sweet tea with a fat underbelly of blackberry and boysenberry, plus a little hint of verbena. Good acidity, slightly green tannin. Decent all around. (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2006 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% monastrell. Raw fruit and some pepper (both bell and seed), with huge clods of earth, sour dill, and a spiky, agitated aspect. The finish is puckery. I don’t like it, but it seems honest and forthright. (10/07)


Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla Roble (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% tempranillo, 20% syrah. Chocolate-draped orange candy, herbal cough drop, and bitter coffee. There’s structure, but it too is herbal, and the chocolate morphs into a nasty sort of Hershey’s-style “dark chocolate” horror show on the finish. Avoid if you value your palate. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% merlot, 20% syrah. Dill and other herbs, shoe polish, tin, and awful stewed fruit. Perhaps the stewed fruit comes from a tin can. The metallic scrape of the wine on the palate does not, unfortunately, remove its own taste. Whatever…this is all too much thought for a wine this God-awful. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Sour dill, dead cherry fruit syrup, corn starch, and synthetic vanilla. Nasty, nasty, nasty. (10/07)

Joven hoof

[sheep]Casa de las Especias 2006 Jumilla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Organic. Goofy, synthetic strawberry with a tiny tannic bite. Otherwise, soft, short, and indifferent. (10/07)

Genus and Especias

Casa de las Especias 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% syrah. Organic. Goofy strawberry of a darker hue, mint syrup, and red licorice. A faint suggestion of earth. Turns fairly supple on the finish. Still, it’s mostly too late. (10/07)

Omblancas loompas

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Monastrell (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% cabernet sauvignon. Green and red bell pepper forced into an arranged marriage with thick blueberry and oak. Very, very dry. At least this has some character, off-putting though it may be. (10/07)

Minbari ambassador

[vineyard]Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Delaín” (Levant) – 70% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 10% syrah. Charred cherry, black and blue fruit – obvious and darkly attractive – but turning into the very definition of “dead fruit” on the palate. Gets increasingly tarry as it airs, with biting tannin. No good. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2003 Jumilla “Omblancas Selección Especial” (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% cabernet sauvignon. Roasted walnut, cocoa, earth, and spice with an unpleasant intrusion of dill. There’s chocolate here, too. This is the roundest and fullest wine yet, with some actual generosity – but let’s not overstate; it’s still doing its best to put me off with that dill – and a breezy, leafy finish that inexplicably turns into drinkable goat cheese. What the hell? (10/07)

Denuño Bettencourt

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Cabernet Sauvignon (Levant) – 100% cabernet sauvignon. Peppery with hints of tobacco, a healthy dusting of black pepper, and a candied tar finish. Momentary promise is thus destroyed at the conclusion. (10/07)

Mets pitchers

[old vines]Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% syrah. Hot, showing blackberry, licorice, raw coffee bean, and bitter chocolate, with a layering-on of toast and more chocolate on the finish. The finish is dominated by coffee in both bitter/burnt and raw/green forms. Pretty nasty. (10/07)

Selección bias

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla “Selección” (Levant) – 50% monastrell, 40% syrah, 10% tempranillo. Even more charred than the previous bottling. Fuller-bodied, chocolaty, and over-toasted, with a green finish. Lousy. (10/07)

Al be ceño later

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Syrah (Levant) – 85% syrah, 15% monastrell. Violets and espresso, with a thick, plastic-wrapped and blueberry-flavored coffee finish. Absolutely synthetic-tasting; a horror-show of unfruit™. (10/07)

de leche

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – From 375 ml, 100% monastrell. Highly concentrated plum, blueberry, and black cherry syrups, with chocolate and a brief shower of herbs. Very, very sweet – not PX level – with a light rancio note to the finish. Anonymous, but reasonably pretty. (10/07)

11 March 2008

Ferdinando's hideaway

[galea]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 1997 Galea Corno di Rosazzo Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Opens with a nearly-silent austerity, to the extent that I’m initially worried it might be corked. It grows with air and time, building paper-thin layers of straw and the palest yellow fruit atop a firm yet elusive foundation; the structure’s there, but it’s impossible to say exactly how. And yet, it never stops holding back, no matter how many times I go back to it later in the evening, or even the next day (it certainly doesn’t fall apart over that period). Supremely elegant, and if I knew the wine better I’d presume that it was still not at full maturity, but I doubt even the Zanussos know for sure. In any case, it has not undergone the transformation evident in its companion wine, Brazan. (3/08)

Gangsta's paradise

[brazan]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 1997 Brazan Brazzano di Cormons Collio Goriziano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Forward and eager to please, wrapping thick, gelatinous crystallizations of stone fruit around an obvious, iron-like minerality. Luscious, and completely dominating its restrained brother, the Galea. Yet for such immense appeal it sacrifices a certain intellectualism; I’m not quite ready to say this is Dionysus to Galea’s Apollo, but the suggestion is there. Also unlike the Galea, it shows minor signs of decay twenty-four hours later. This would appear to be mature…and rather deliciously so. (3/08)


[vineyard]Larmandier-Bernier Champagne “1er Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Vertus” (Champagne) – If there were such a thing as mineral soda, this would be it. Not in the hyper-austere fashion of a sekt, but in a poised, brilliant, flowing way; elegant mineral soda as conceived by Frank Gehry, perhaps. (3/08)

A man's wine is his Castle

[logo]Castle 1997 Merlot Donell Ranch Sangiacomo (Carneros) – All the structure here has washed away, leaving a sweaty core of intensely-concentrated blueberry. It tastes like one of those sour hard candies, though it’s neither particularly acidic nor sweet. It’s a very interesting wine, and I enjoy it, but there’s been no gain in complexity over the last eleven years, and I see no real hope of it holding longer given the state of its foundation. (3/08)

Cepas from ourselves

[bierzo]Dominio de Tares 2001 Bierzo “Cepas Viejas” (Northwest Spain) – Graphite and the darkest black dust (fruit? earth? coal? hard to tell). Strong but not strident, with the sweet scent of wood in the majority but not overpowering. While this will certainly last longer, I don’t know enough about it to judge whether or not the fruit – such as it is – will make a comeback; my guess is that it won’t, but I can’t say for sure. (3/08)

Rocky start

[les pierres]Sonoma-Cutrer 2004 Chardonnay Les Pierres (Sonoma Valley) – Appealing for about three seconds, after which it turns highly synthetic. Aromas are all on the bright, sunny side, but I’m not sure any of them are identifiably from nature. It feels almost oppressively “worked,” and about halfway through a glass it requires an effort of will simply to take another sip. (3/08)

Cutrer remark

[bottle]Sonoma-Cutrer 2004 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) – Quaffable and a good cocktail pinot, but with repeated trips to the well the old flaw of Sonoma pinot – a confected, almost candied cola character – rears its head. It almost makes me nostalgic for the days when this, rather than searing alcohol and zinfandel-like fruit intensity, was the predominant bugbear. Beets abound, and the finish is quite short. (3/08)

We're gonna need a bigGerbaude

Alary 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône “La Gerbaude” (Rhône) – Smells like a Trappist ale, or perhaps a lambic…yes, there’s brett, which is here expressed more as bitterness than mammalian posterior. Also: meat, blood, black olive, and cassis. In addition to the gauzy scrape of brett, there’s a good deal of tannin. For all this, the wine’s solid and well-built, and should be ageable. The brett-averse should probably stay away, however. (3/08)

Betcha by Gully wow

[label]Rocky Gully 2005 Shiraz 95%/Viognier 5% (Frankland River) – Very dark black, almost charred fruit, with a layer of tar. Air helps a little bit, but this carries an acrid vinyl note of medium-quality pinotage that never fades. It’s very noisy and repetitive, as if it were shiraz reconceived as thrash metal. A strappy, shut-that-music-off-you-damned-kids wine that I don’t much care for. (3/08)

08 March 2008

Tributes to Paul Draper

[bottle]Le Vigne di Zamò 1999 Colli Orientali del Friuli Pignolo (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Striking, and unlike anything I’ve tasted before. A smoky nose gestures towards meatiness that’s not quite brett or the concentrated animalism of Rhône syrah, but this is in turn washed away by a crisp, boisterous surf of blackberries and plums. Dark and very purple-tasting, with seeds and peppercorns on the finish. Juicy, wet, and long. The acidity here is almost scraping, and yet the wine somehow manages to retain its balance and poise. I have no idea how this is aging, because my experience with pignolo is virtually nil – and because I can’t even imagine how to contextualize what I’m tasting – but in any case, it’s delicious right now. (10/07)

Sacred heights

Viños Piñol 2004 “Sacra Natura” Terra Alta “Viñas Viejos” (Cataluña) – Organic. Good, spicy crushed red fruit thrown in a blender, then well-infused with a rock-and-graphite tannin and zesty acidity. Finishes with drying apple skins and a good dusting of salt (and pepper). Fun and gluggable, but also a quality wine with some aging potential. (10/06)

07 March 2008

Levitra or Cialla?

[vineyard]Ronchi di Cialla 2006 Colli Orientali del Friuli Ribolla Gialla (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Lightly waxy, chenin-like, and saline. Dry, despite a rich weightiness that usually only comes with residual sugar, and tannic (not to Gravner-esque levels, but definitely in the fashion of long-hanging ribolla). Intense. I like it, though Theresa thinks it tastes like a dry version of communion wine. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment. (10/07)

Take the Helm

[bottle]Livon 2003 Colli Orientali del Friuli Pignolo (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Outright nasty when first opened, as if it wants to punish me for having the audacity to remove its cork. After some soothing words and calming gestures, it recedes to the status of tannic monster, like so many of its 2003 brethren. There’s great concentration here, coalescing a wine that moves from the darkness to the light with relative ease despite the weighty oppression of its structure. Floral compost aromatics dominate. There may be a lot of potential here, but the wall of tannin is currently impenetrable, and so I guess one must – as with any 2003 for which there is hope – wait and see. Emphasis on “wait.” (10/07)

No Lalande

[label]St. Michael-Eppan “Sanct Valentin” 1997 “Comtess” Vino Passito – Though I assume this is made from Alto Adige grapes, there’s no indication of appellation or origin anywhere on the label. Is that even legal? Well, I guess anything’s possible in Italy. This is rather light and well-aged, and I think it’s a little past its best. Candied orange peel and tarragon stand out, but to be honest there’s not much to rise above, other than a fresh, crisp acid wash in the background. The wine’s juicy enough, but there’s no complexity whatsoever. I expect more from this winery and this line, which probably affects my impressions and renders this reaction more negative than it might be were this the work of a different producer. (10/07)

Radio aromatico

Franz Haas 2003 Traminer Aromatico (Alto Adige) – Fat and lightly sweet-seeming (is it? probably not; it could just be the alcohol, which is intrusive), with bitter vanilla overtones and a core featuring a rather bizarre fruit salad: apricot skins, tangerine rind, and grapefruit dusted with a little nutmeg. Decent acidity only becomes apparent on the finish, by which time this blocky, pushy wine has managed to offend. Lacking complexity or actual presence, it replaces these qualities with sheer weight, but little substance. I’d like to try this in a different vintage. (10/07)

Bay Area Rapid Transit

[bottle]B. Bartolomeo da Breganze 2000 Breganze Torcolato (Veneto) – 500 ml. Tastes thirty years old, possibly due to a dried-out cork, but I have noticed that even the fantastic Maculan Torcolato is probably best in its exuberant youth. Were this a thirty-year wine, it would be pretty good, showing makrut lime, maraschino cherry, and a sine wave of extreme sweetness. At its young age, however, it’s a little disappointing. (10/07)

02 March 2008

Mordorée or less

[bottle]Delorme “Domaine de la Mordorée” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône “La Dame Rousse” (Rhône) – Very, very intense, squinching dark fruit, wet black leather, and woodsmoke into a tightly balled-up fist of pan-Rhône character. This is no easy-drinking Côtes-du-Rhône, and in fact would seem to be asking for a good rest in the cellar, but the raw and youthful materials are fairly impressive. (3/08)

Hello, God, it's me...

[bottle]Voyager Estate 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (Margaret River) – At a good midlife stage right now, showing concentrated blueberry and darker-toned fruit, some leafy, dark earth, and good balance. The structure has started to wear away, but it’s still present, and as yet it’s exposing no flaws. What hasn’t yet come is tertiary complexity, and I have no way of knowing if it ever will come with this wine. But if you’re still holding this, there’s no need to worry. (2/08)

Faith, Höpler & charity

[bottle]Höpler 2006 Grüner Veltliner (Burgenland) – Sharply appealing green; a puppy leaping and lapping at your ankles, eager to please and full of simple demands. There’s good clarity here, if not a lot of focus, and among bargain grüners that get beyond the acrid white pepper stage, this is a good wine. Don’t let it play amongst the big boys, though. (2/08)

Male Chauvigné pig

Richou 2005 Anjou “Chauvigné” (Loire) – Peppery greenness and grass lead off here, but with enough air the atmosphere turns to chalk and (dry) honey, with the dominant and binding characteristic being a strong aroma of aspirin. Loire fans will know what I mean, and this definitely seems to be a triumph of soil over cépage, though do note that it’s a pretty low-volume wine (by which I don’t mean the case production). (3/08)

Clarke Alexander

[bottle]Richard Hamilton 2005 Slate Quarry Riesling (McLaren Vale) – The elements for a solid, fruit-forward riesling seem in place, and yet the wine just isn’t very appealing. It exerts a lot of effort, flinging neon acidity and the slightly over-concentrated bite and sting of green apple against the palate, but there’s just not much going on behind the assault. Air eventually helps tame the wilder elements, but it never really moves past its overly aggressive nature. (2/08)

Needs a Trim

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Leaky cork, and in fact the wine tastes a few years more advanced than it should. Even given that, it’s still pretty special, with intense, golden minerality (mostly iron) in columnar form, plus hints of mirabelle on the finish. Striking. (2/08)


[label]Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Fruity, fresh, and fun. Strawberry bubblegum with a gravel foundation and fine balance. This is an extremely reliable wine, though I suppose it sacrifices some uniqueness for that reliability. (2/08)

Costera someone else for a change

[bottle]Argiolas 2006 Isola dei Nuraghi “Costera” (Sardinia) – Quite tannic, perhaps overstructured. Dark, dark licorice notes rest atop a thick stew of fire-roasted black cherry and coffee. This is grenache? The finish is more telling, with the lighter fruit and expected bubblegum notes in evidence, but this is a very broody wine. (2/08)

Another word for a truck

[bottle]Argiolas 2006 Isola dei Nuraghi “Serra Lori” (Sardinia) – Vivid strawberry with a rocky edge. Less fun than many rosés, but not exactly serious either; call it pleasantly battleworn. (2/08)

Fuissé you, Fuissé me

[vineyard]Jadot 2006 Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy) – Good, clean, simple white Burgundy, with light dried lemon, dry peach, and faint wood ear mushroom aromas. Gentle but unpersuasive, though one doesn’t want to ask too much of this wine. (2/08)