24 April 2008

Palmina card

[bottle & glasses]Palmina 2006 Pinot Grigio (Santa Barbara County) – Decidedly grigio rather than gris, bringing a froth of grapefruit rind, juice, and zippy herbality up front, and leaving them center-stage while bigger, less aggressive citrus and melon notes improvise in the background. Very good acidity lends worthy structure. The finish is a bit short, but otherwise this is a tasty wine, and one that will probably fool many as to origin. (4/08)

What's white and red all over?

Laurent Barth 2006 Pinot d’Alsace “100% Pinot Noir” (Alsace) – Yes, it’s a “white” pinot noir, though the color is actually closer to red-tinged bronze. I’ve seen pinot gris almost this dark, after extended skin contact, but this wine comes by its unusual color more naturally. And the aroma is that of a really fine blend of spiced pear pinot gris and red-fruited, floral pinot noir, leaning more towards the latter than the former. Palate-wise, it could use a lot more noir; it’s fat and thick, like a pushed-ripeness gris, with little compensating acidity. It’s a fascinating oddity, and one for blind tastings, but it’s fairly boring after the first glass. (4/08)


[chai]Joguet 2005 Chinon “Cuvée Terroir” (Loire) – The 2003 was lush with succulent fruit, the 2004 was razor-edged green, and while the size of the fruit in this version falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, the structure is an entirely different matter. Waves of dense, drying tannin – never off-putting, but inexorable all the same – roll across the palate. One to age, clearly, though as with so many of these 2005s it is no clear thing that the wine will survive its skins. (4/08)

Tragedy of the Cormòns

Cantina Produttori Cormòns 2003 Collio Tocai Friuliano “Rinascimento” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Incredibly thick and ponderous, with the fat, waxy, oxidative and bizarrely iconoclastic flavors one expects from…well, Gravner. Where this fails and Josko succeeds, however, is that the blistering presence is all there is to this wine; complexity and life do not follow. This could be the fault of the vintage, and to be honest I have no idea if this is the style the cooperative intends with this wine, but it’s certainly a…unique experience. (4/08)

Heba, Heba, don't dream it's over

[bottleMagliano 2004 Morellino di Scansano “Heba” (Tuscany) – Spoofy. Deep, dark, caramelized cherry bark and vanilla-slathered jam, creamy and lush with overbearing structure and all signs of life pummeled to a brutal death by the sheer ponderousness of it all. (4/08)


Stone “07.07.07 Vertical Epic” Ale with Spices (California) – A good balance of ale and spice, which isn’t always achieved by these brews, with a strong but relatively supple palate presence, despite a structure that feels like iron rods rammed through the heart of the beer. Interesting. (4/08)


[vineyard]Goldwater 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Tropical green with just enough edge for freshness. It’s good, but this wine has lost something since its days as Dog Point; it’s got more Marlborough typicity, perhaps, but it’s lost the extras that lifted it just above the crowd. (4/08)


JF Becker 2002 Riesling Kronenbourg (Alsace) – Hits like a dull cleaver, delivering a sharp blow but failing at a clean, precise blow. This isn’t to discount the wine’s qualities, which include a round-bellied minerality and a shiny, affable gloss to the finish. But it’s just a touch less precise than the slightly superior 2001. (4/08)

Carlos Mencía

[vineyard]Dominio de Tares 2004 Bierzo Mencía “Baltos” (Northwest Spain) – Hard-edged and somewhat angry fruit, biggie-sized, full of dark scowls and moody mutterings. There’s some structure here, but it’s glimpsed in brief moments when the murk clears, rather than felt in support of the whole. Promising aromatics don’t quite survive the gloom, and the finish is gnarled. Difficult to assess. (4/08)

Bringer of war

Font-Mars 2007 Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – Clean, sharp, simple, and cheap. Hints of flowers, a good deal of citrus, but really, this is well-executed quaffing wine (4/08)

Wilfred Brimley

[logo]Young’s Oatmeal Stout (England) – Slightly bitter, nothing sticking out (or up for itself)…just basically sitting there, fitting the barest possible definition of “stout.” Ambitionless. (4/08)

14 April 2008

Al Piceno

[bottle]Boccadigabbia 2005 Rosso Piceno (Marches) – I used to drink a lot of this. And then I stopped. I’m not sure why, and even less sure after this revisit. Here’s a broad-shouldered, spicy fruit stew of ripe berry flavor with just a dash of black pepper. Some of the edges are a little polished and rounded off, which might concern purists, but the immediate appeal of the wine is hard to deny. (4/08)

Ernie, no Bert

[vineyard]Engelbrecht Els 2004 “Proprietor’s Blend” (Western Cape) – 50% cabernet sauvignon, 23% shiraz, 12% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot, 5% malbec. Extremely thick and oaky, like a shiraz (and that’s what dominates the blend at first opening) démiglace. Recorked and left to stew in its own wood for a day, it improves, bringing forth the slightly rawer, more vegetal edge of the rest of the grapes. But it’s still soupy. Maybe a long, long time in the cellar will improve things, but I just don’t think there’s enough structure for all this Pb. (4/08)

Love in the time of Calera

[label]Calera 2006 “Dessert” Viognier (Mt. Harlan) – Sweet apricot and a lilt of tulips, clean and well-made, perhaps even refreshing, but in the end it says nothing of particular interest. (4/08)

Livermore or less

Kalin 1996 Semillon (Livermore Valley) – While it takes a while to get going, this wine is as funky and fascinating as usual; wax and candlelight, old melon and spice remnant, brass and bronze. It’s not particularly aggressive, and in fact this isn’t the best bottle of this wine I’ve had; perhaps it grew tired somewhere along the way, or perhaps something made it tired before its time. But if there’s one producer that no one ever believes is New World no matter how it’s blind-tasted, this is it. (4/08)

Tasmanian Devil

[map]Tamar Ridge “Devil’s Corner” 2004 Pinot Noir (Tasmania) – Lacking torque and substance, this exists as a kind of rough presentation of the dirty side of pinot noir; dark, under-fruited berries and some mushroomy bark. There’s nothing bad about it, except its indifference. (4/08)

A puzzle wrapped in an enigma

[label]Conundrum 2005 White (California) – Sweet and sickly, this suggests more fruit and perfume than it actually delivers. In truth, the wine is trampy and hollow, and not even enough fun to be called sluttish. (4/08)

I Fontanieu drug

Bronzo “La Bastide Blanche” 1993 Bandol “Cuvée Fontanieu” (Provence) – Band-aid and a swirling chorus of well-hung meat, meat juice, meat residue, and a dry brush of herbs. There’s still some structure, and it grows in the telling, but I’m not sure I’d hold this one any longer; the structure shed might not be replaced by anything good. (4/08)

Aïeul of the tiger

[vineyard]Pierre Usseglio 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée de mon Aïeul” (Rhône) – Somewhat inaccessible. An espresso of bubblegum and angry scowling, with a lot of weight and intensity hanging out in the green room, entirely unwilling to hit the stage. This is nowhere near ready unless you like your wines with a side of pain And I don’t mean the French word for bread. (4/08)

Dei off

[field]Bucci “Villa Bucci” 2000 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico “Riserva” (Marches) – Mildly corked, and that’s not all that’s wrong with it. (4/08)

Come Salia away

Finca Sandoval 2002 Manchuela “Salia” (Central Spain) – Leather, dark blueberry, and soft, wood-like smoothness that turns to cedar on the finish. Really quite lovely, with a texture that alternates between silk and satin. It’s fruit-forward, but it’s balanced, and rocks lurk underneath. A very compelling wine; not “great,” but probably not intended so. I like this much more than its more ambitious big brother. (10/06)

Bas Skaggs

Grouet 1964 Bas-Armagnac (Southwest France) – Incredibly rich with mixed nuts and well-aged stone fruit. Yet somehow, it retains a vivid youthfulness. Maybe the best way to describe it is strong-willed. Truly excellent. (4/06)

Juscle a little Jurançon

Vigneau la Juscle Jurançon Moelleux (Southwest France) – There’s no vintage listed, nor is there a specific cuvee indicated, and I don’t even get to see the bottle…not that it really matters. For all I know, this isn’t even Jurançon, though it tastes like it might be. It tastes of light apricot and peanut, faint but clean, and the effect is more refreshing than luscious. It’s not worth a second look, but it serves its current purpose quite nicely. (10/06)

Roure of the crowd

Jaume Sabaté Mestre “Mas Plantadeta” 2004 Priorat Garnatxa Blanc Roure (Cataluña) – Big, heavy, and sun-baked. Minerality abounds, with moderate wood slightly masking peach and apricot fruit. So heavy it’s very nearly a syrup, and the structure is completely wonky, yet one can’t help but feel that with a different upbringing… (10/06)

Champy at the bit

Champy 1999 Meursault (Burgundy) – Shy. Mild hazelnut and chanterelle laced with minor oak aromas. The structure is proportionally reticent. Soft and far too restrained, nor does food help it. Very, very bland. (4/06)


anonymous Brouilly (Beaujolais) – Not the sort of Brouilly that geeks get excited about, but rather the simple kind poured by the pichet in restaurants all over France. It’s lurid violet and grapey, with fresh berries and more of those violets on the finish. And it most certainly has its place. (4/06)

09 April 2008

Mount Ellison

[jensen]Calera 2004 Pinot Noir Jensen (Mt. Harlan) – Pretty and full-bodied. Plummy, with golden beet and silken earth. Perfectly balanced. Wow. (2/08)

Final Talley

Talley 2005 Pinot Noir Rincon (Arroyo Grande Valley) – Pure essence of fermented beets, both fresh and roasted. OK, perhaps not quite so pure; there’s an addition of simple strawberry and an underbelly of earth. I find it hard to criticize much in this wine, mostly because it’s so boring and one-note. (2/08)


Dutton Goldfield 2004 Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Sanchietti (Russian River Valley) – Great intensity of fruit – mostly mixed berries – with a gorgeous, silky finish. Nice hints of structure, as well. Quite good. (2/08)

Philosophers' drinking song

David Bruce 2004 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) – Dirt, minerals, and structure overpower beet and orange. Highly ungenerous, but not overly off-putting. (2/08)


Paul Hobbs 2005 Pinot Noir Hyde (Carneros) – Big fruit, beety strawberry, then fruit concentrate verging on syrup. Tasty, but…eh. Perhaps better for pancakes. (2/08)

The red arrow

Archery Summit 2004 Pinot Noir Red Hills Estate (Dundee Hills) – Dark, concentrated fruit. Beet and cedar. Crunchy. Decent, but simple, and lacking the promise of future complexity; the wine is awfully monolithic. (2/08)

Blanc adder

Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Blanc (Willamette Valley) – Fennel and minerals, with a fine spiciness. Light but firm. Tasty. (2/08)

Sheim on you crazy diamond

Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley) – Soft pear. Leafy and fluffy. Acid emerges on the finish, but by then it’s mostly too late. (2/08)

Adel'ed wit

Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – Cherry, strawberry, beet, and blood orange rind. Floral and pretty. Nice, if perhaps a bit too easygoing. (2/08)

Lizzie's closet

[label]Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Noir “Elizabeth’s Reserve” (Willamette Valley) – Dense and earthy, showing full-bodied plum, juicy berries, and spiced beet. Big and fulfilling. It lacks complexity, but that will likely come; this has both the stuffing and the structure to age. (2/08)

Pink is the new black

Elk Cove 2006 Pinot Noir Rosé (Willamette Valley) – Pretty. Strawberry, raspberry, with good length and texture. A little flowery. (2/08)

Five stages of gris

Elk Cove 2006 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley) – Sweet pear water ice (or, if you’re not from Philadelphia, Italian ice). This just tastes sweet with aught else to show for it; a common flaw with pinot gris. (2/08)

Albion, Little River...

Elk Cove 2006 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – Slightly dirty and hot. Baked plum and black cherry. And then, feel the burn. (2/08)

Cinq or swim

Elk Cove 2006 Pinot Noir Five Mountain (Willamette Valley) – Solid, with density traversing the palate. Very gravelly, some beet, but while there’s gravity there’s no freshness. (2/08)

Leonetti another fish

Leonetti 2005 Merlot (Columbia Valley) – Big, lush black cherry with mixed chocolates. Satiny tannin. Syrupy and port-like. Excellent in a style I find fairly repellent after about two sips. (2/08)


Ridge 2001 Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains) – Gorgeous. Soil, gravel, sand, and loam. Herbs and the suggestion of fruit to come. Dark, smooth, and balanced, with an elegant power, well-restrained for now, but far superior to raw size or brawn. Epic. (2/08)

The donkey

Newton 2002 “The Puzzle” (Spring Mountain) – Intense, dark chocolate-coated blueberry. All crushed fruit and slathered jam. Long, decidedly New World, but tasty in that style. (2/08)

Without reliving the weeks before Easter

Shafer 2004 “Relentless” (Napa Valley) – Wafts of pretty oakspice, good red fruit, and lots of tannin…both grape and wood. Ultimately, the wine is completely dominated and then overwhelmed by the arbor, and lacks character as a result. (2/08)


Forman 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – A bit closed, but authentic, with peppers bracing the sweet fruit. The only flaw is a bit of obvious heat on the finish, but that could be exacerbated by the stage the wine’s in. Not bad. (2/08)


Duckhorn 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Patzimaro (Napa Valley) – Very dense. Blueberry milkshake, both vanilla and chocolate versions, with a full, lush texture. Tannic. New World all the way, but with more tannin than is typical in the genre. (2/08)


Dunn 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Dense and thick with chocolate and lactic finish. Very long and well-balanced. Very good in its style, though this sort of thing is beyond my ability to truly enjoy. (2/08)

Rick Beringer

Beringer 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Good raw materials: bell pepper, cassis, some tobacco. A little under-stuffed and simple, though the finish is long enough. This is aging nicely. (2/08)

Shot out of a

Concannon 2006 Zinfandel (Central Coast) – Spiced plum, black pepper. Tries to be forward, but ultimately it’s just flat and simple. (2/08)

Central heating

Concannon 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Central Coast) – Basic plum. Watery. Some sugar-like characteristics on the finish. Yuck. (2/08)

Yes, sirah

Concannon 2005 Petite Sirah (Central Coast) – Dark, intense plum, perhaps with a few tighter, darker berries. A pure fruit explosion, with vinyl in the mix as well. Acid and tannin are present, but this is neither as harsh, as dark, or nearly as good as many petite sirahs. (2/08)

Jeanne Gris or Dark Phoenix?

Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Hommage à Jeanne” (Alsace) – Crystal and pear, lightly sweet with an icy glacier of structure. Steel and quartz shards. Terrific acidity. This has the aromatics of pinot gris but all the structure of a great riesling. Fantastic. (2/08)


Helfrich 2001 Gewurztraminer Steinklotz (Alsace) – Dense and floral; roses in full bloom. White rocks lie beneath, perhaps basalt. The finish is foamy and high-toned. Decidedly off-dry, but it doesn’t suffer much for it. (2/08)

Urban decay

St. Urbans-Hof 2006 “Urban” Riesling “Nik Weis Selection” (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Fruity and lush, with some rubber and lime juice. Good, basic fruit and acid. (2/08)

Piesporter control

St. Urbans-Hof 2006 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 10 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Light and pretty, but pure, with great acidity and abundant steel flakes. Fun. (2/08)

Ernie Bock

St. Urbans-Hof 2006 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese 13 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Beautiful peach and thick apple with floral notes. Flawless balance, with length and purity. (2/08)


Heger 2005 Pinot Noir “Sonett” 9 07 (Baden) – Clean pinot fruit with lavender and microgreens. Smooth and pretty. (2/08)

Summer Rheingau

Küntsler 2005 Pinot Noir (Rheingau) – Chilly clay and dark soil, with good balance. (2/08)

Maxed out

Kesseler 2002 Spätburgunder “Cuvée Max” (Rheingau) – Dill and wood, beet and cherry. Simple and too intense; it’s striking, but that’s all. Disappointing. (2/08)

Not such a little prince

Malescot St. Exupéry 2003 Margaux (Bordeaux) – Big and tannic, but reasonably balanced for all its musculature. Elegant, lush fruit, pepper, some spice and heat on the finish. Considering the vintage, this isn’t all bad. (2/08)

Dillon no deal

Dillon “Bahans Haut-Brion” 2003 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Thick chocolate and impenetrable tannin. There’s graphite, which is a positive, and I suppose this might be good someday. (2/08)

A Beauregard for the truth

Beauregard 2000 Pomerol (Bordeaux) – Sour wood, dill, weeds, red fruit, and dust. Structurally, this is in balance, if quite dense, but the elements in balance aren’t particularly appealing. (2/08)

Can you merle?

Cantemerle 2000 Haut-Médoc (Bordeaux) – Bell pepper and tobacco, tight and in no mood to do anything but close up even more. Burnt coffee on the finish, which is long. This seems like it might possibly be balanced, but it’s very difficult to tell, as the wine’s in such a bad place right now. (2/08)

Pavie lifting

Pavie Macquin 1996 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Very tannic. Dark fruit. Closed and impossible. (2/08)

Troplong cassidy

Valette “Troplong Mondot” 1996 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Tobacco in milk, the darkest cassis, and tannin. Long. Maybe? It’s strange, though. Could just be a stage. (2/08)

Coutet d'etat

Coutet 2002 Sauternes-Barsac (Bordeaux) – Cinnamon and nutmeg. Juicy and light. To be honest, drinking Sauternes and/or Barsac at this stage is somewhat of a waste, because they never show what’s ultimately compelling about them. (2/08)

Climens and take a ride

Climens 1996 Barsac (Bordeaux) – Silky lemon and orange, well-spiced. Gentle and long, though there’s a soapy note to the finish. Elegant, but the rot here isn’t quite as noble as it should be. (2/08)

04 April 2008

Bosch dishwashers

[vineyard]Neil Ellis 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – Unmistakably cabernet, with tobacco, bell pepper, cedar, and a lot of militaristic structure. But nothing is overblown or overdone, the oak has almost totally integrated, and there’s a great deal of promise here…though despisers of all that is green probably won’t be impressed. It’s not a generous wine by any means, and the finish continues to dash and dust various forms of pepper, but it’s a very creditable effort, with medium-term aging likely to bring rewards. (4/08)

N-ice wine

[vineyard]Mission Hill 2004 Riesling Icewine “Reserve” (Okanagan Valley) – Terrific. Intense and pure, with an explosion of molten steel and iron flakes in an incredibly concentrated ripe apple syrup, but with fine acidity providing lightness and breathing space. As ever with icewine, I don’t know that it will age, but it’s so good right now, why bother? (3/08)

Salt Lake City

[vineyard]Mission Hill 2003 “S.L.C.” Syrah (Okanagan Valley) – A bit difficult at first, but with air it blossoms, showing deep, firm, dark leather and a black stew of berries, smoky and mysterious, perhaps somewhat impenetrable. Structure and length are promising, and this seems like a keeper. (3/08)

Goenekloof under the weight

[vineyard]Neil Ellis 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Groenekloof) – Varietally true, with an extra heft of stark greenness over a firm slate foundation; this wine is sharp, almost razor-like, yet simultaneously elevated and almost airy. It’s definitely not shy. (3/08)

Lugana beach

[bottle]Tenuta Roveglia 2006 Lugana (Lombardy) – Quite striking, Leaves, yellow and green fruit, light traces of herbs, perhaps some freshly-cracked bivalves; there’s a lot going on in this wine, all at the same time, and the confusion is rather delicious. (3/08)

Crossings guard

[vineyard]The Crossings 2006 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Light, crisp red berries with a pleasant tarragon influence and faceted, whitish minerality. With its firm acidity, this might be a candidate for short-term aging, but I think it’s probably best-served by drinking over the near term, because the fruit is so fresh and appealing. (3/08)

Stoeffler your face

[vineyard & village]Stoeffler 2005 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Crisp and apple-dominated, with winter melon and a touch of Thai basil. It doesn’t taste like there’s much auxerrois here, but if so it’s underripe and not a factor. Crisp and juicy turns to wan and watery on the finish; the surplus of acidity is refreshing with food but the rest of the wine disappears. So leave it as a tart cocktail wine and you’ll do OK. (4/08)

Cecily or Helfrich?

Helfrich 2001 Gewurztraminer Steinklotz (Alsace) – Very mineral-driven, with a chilly, frozen-fruit aspect. Mandarin orange and peach/pear skins dominate, with fine acidity throughout, and a light, unobtrusive layer of sweetness. It’s not a big wine by any means, and I think it could be pushed a little harder (though not made any sweeter) to greater effect, but it’s true to itself. (4/08)

Veterans' Administration

[vineyard]Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Perhaps an off bottle. If not, a rather dramatic stylistic left turn. The nose is quite volatile, then a breath of coconut precedes a crisp, light, tangled and gnarly palate of thin vines and biting, early-picked acidity. I like it (once that volatility blows away), but it’s certainly not what I expect from either Amador or Easton. (4/08)

Cluver honey

[vineyard]Paul Cluver 2005 Gewurztraminer (Elgin) – Aromatic and promising, leaning towards the vegetative expression of gewürztraminer (curry leaves, Makrut, coriander seed pods, whole lychee on the stem), but with enough of the usual spice to provide varietal consistency. I’m less enthusiastic about the rest, though, as the palate seems a little wan despite a lot of promising entrances from the usual array of nut oils, Indian spices, and stone fruits, and the finish tails off and disappears rather more quickly than I’d like. (3/08)

The power of 3

Ridge 2005 Zinfandel “Three Valleys” (Sonoma County) – An oaky, harsh, tangled mess. There’s absolutely nothing good about this wine. (3/08)

Hu's there?

[bottles]Hugel 2005 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Thin and dusty, with a little bit of fragrant, spicy character but a lot of emptiness that it doesn’t even come close to filling. It has the virtue of being dry, but that’s about it (3/08)