30 May 2008

On the Lamm

[vineyard]Hirsch 2004 Grüner Veltliner Lamm (Kamptal) – About 25% as rich as the lush 2005, but still with plenty of weight and heft. Celery leaves, Buddha’s hand rind, coconut cream, and a fine, crisp balance with an intensity and presence. This could be better (witness the 2005), but it’s fairly classic as it stands; the only real flaw is a descent to peppery acridity in the finish. (5/08)

Black river

[vineyard]von Kesselstatt 2005 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – As befits the terroir, minerals, minerals, and more minerals; those who like fruit in their riesling will be massively disappointed. This lacks defined edges and honed sharpness, but that might well come with age, which any decently-made wine from this site will embrace and encourage. (5/08)


Castro Bergidum 2004 Bierzo (Northwest Spain) – Disjointed, with spiky acidity and lashes of tart fruit; there’s a lot that’s good here, but none of it is interesting in cohering. Thus, the overall impression is one of angry flailing, without purpose. (5/08)

Sailin' away to Key Campolargo

Campolargo 2005 Bairrada Arinto (Portugal) – Brilliant. Fascinating. Full of white-lit spice and intense, ground up diamond minerality, with exotic woods (not oak) and a vibrant, almost sentient texture. Terrific wine, deep and complex; a mystery inside an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. (5/08)

I Raspay with my little eye

Primitivo Quiles “Raspay” 2002 Alicante (Levant) – Deeply warming, comforting, almost enveloping. Rich, roasted redfruit and layers of elegant, complex earth with a fine-grained texture and a truly gorgeous finish. Absolutely stunning. (5/08)


Boch 2006 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Beerenauslese 25 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Intensely sweet and intensely acidic, just as a BA should be, with a forward presentation of makrut lime and exotic jewelry-quality minerals tumbling and churning in rapids of elegant power. Poised, lengthy, perfect. And still so, so young. (5/08)

Until you come to...the North Fork in the road

Schneider 2005 Cabernet Franc “Le Breton” (North Fork) – The name is apt; while broad-shouldered and with the slightest bit of swagger, this nonetheless reminds me more of Loire franc, or perhaps satellite Bordeaux, than anything from the New World. It’s bigger and somewhat heavier, but doesn’t sacrifice the dark, scowling fruit lightened by crispness, nor the enticing leafiness, nor the significant black dirt element. A minor miracle: I’ve finally found a Long Island wine that I like. (I ask my bartender, “what’s the secret?” She responds, “just drink Schneider.” (5/08)

The extinction of the Auchs

Auchs 2006 Zweigelt (Burgenland) – When Austrian reds are performing at their best, and when the producer can resist the urge to cake on makeup, their aromatics are utterly enticing. Here, there’s herbs, dried flowers…perhaps even a touch of licorice? The palate starts out similarly dark, but then the crispness and zip come through, and it finishes lighter and cleaner than the nose would suggest. Tasty wine, though I think it would be even better with food. (5/08)

Sophie, grail

Neveu 2000 Sancerre Rouge Le Grand Fricambault (Loire) – Nicely-aging pinot, probably not far from peak, with old red fruit and mushroomy, earthy tones, plus a light and enticing core of fall leaves. This tastes more like an off-appellation Burgundy than many Sancerres; perhaps it’s the age, but I suspect things were unusual from the start. A very pretty drink. (5/08)

Of two

Ambos 2006 Bierzo “De 2” (Northwest Spain) – Fantastically aromatic, well-baked and dry but with plenty of desert-edge floral life, dark fruit, and tons of earth. Yet it’s not a heavy wine, exactly; perhaps muscular but agile would be a better description. I wouldn’t age it too long, but I don’t think it’s in immediate danger of falling apart, either. (5/08)

Vieille Prunier

Prunier 2000 Auxey-Duresses (Burgundy) – A good wine that I don’t like, probably because I’ve fallen completely off the chardonnay bandwagon and can’t seem to get back on. It’s lush, waxy, moderately oxidized, and shows plenty of old, dry caramel and an intense texture with remnants of coriander and fresh tumeric. (5/08)

New mountain

[vineyard]Valdesil “MonteNovo” 2006 Valdeorras Godello (Northwest Spain) – Thick minerality braced by effortless ripe-apple acidity and smoother, softer textures of melon and the less-sweet types of stone fruit. Builds in reaction to food, then subsides into a pleasant cocktail in food’s absence. A fun wine. (5/08)

Q, M, 007

Quintas de Malgaço “QM” 2006 Vinho Verde Alvarinho (Monção) – Spice in the form of a tightly-packed carbon froth, crystallized lemon-lime, dulled-razor acidity, and a quasi-electric texture. A few bottles of the half-dozen tasted are starting to water up, but the rest retain their full intensity. Do these wines age? It seems almost like a waste to find out. (5/08)


VR dei Colli Euganei Prosecco Spumante “Extra Dry” (Veneto) – Overly-buffed yet sharp at the core, and somewhat flavorless. An essentially meaningless wine. (5/08)

Tobe orbe notbe tobe bebe

Martínez Laorden 2004 Rioja “La Orbe” (Center-North) – Roasted red fruit, a bit wan in parts, but simply presented with neither pretense nor haphazardness. I’d like a little more…I don’t know, something…from this wine, but maybe time will bring it. There’s wood, but it’s certainly neither overwooded nor dried out. (5/08)

Descendents ascendant

Descendientes de J. Palacios 2006 Bierzo “Pétalos” (Northwest Spain) – I’ve struggled with this wine, often finding it too leaden and tasting too much of primary barrel influences. But here, it’s singing with floral spice…still quite heavy, but bringing so much more to the party than thick black fruit that it doesn’t seem to matter. And, a food-pairing note: this wine is absolutely tremendous with smoked duck in a rich, heavy-on-the-chocolate molé sauce. (5/08)

Dutch trading companies

[bottle]Lustau “East India Solera” Sherry (Jerez) – Very sweet, molasses and maple with heat-concentrated brown sugar but a fairly uninteresting finish of simplistic sweetness. (5/08)


Hidalgo “Alameda” Cream Sherry (Jerez) – Nutty syrup, thinned and with a slightly varnished texture, with the wine’s intense sweetness balanced by an airy midpalate. Finishes a little disappointing, though. (5/08)

Slander & Laible

[vineyard]Laible 2006 Durbacher Plauelrain Traminer Spätlese Trocken 09 07 (Baden) – Solid cool-climate gewürztraminer flavors of rose petals and an exotically leafy lychee rind, with good acidity and a rod-like pillar of translucent minerality around which the rest of the wine is draped. It’s not spectacular, but it’s eminently drinkable, and age might reveal a little more character. (5/08)

Middletown dreams

[sylvanerAlbert Seltz 2006 Sylvaner de Mittelbergheim (Alsace) – Varietally true. Wet-acid tomatoes and grass with an arctic minerality, yet all fairly subdued and low-volume. Good for sylvaner, but it lacks that extra edge of complexity that some can give it. (5/08)

Blanc in blanc

[vineyard]Albert Seltz 2006 Pinot Blanc “Réserve” (Alsace) – Nicely balanced between light stone fruit and heavier spice, perhaps with a leavening touch of residual sugar. Very drinkable. (5/08)


[vineyard]Albert Seltz 2005 Riesling (Alsace) – Riesling on the rocky side; big chunks of white-hued stone with no apparent generosity or softening on the immediate horizon. This is an older style of riesling that few make these days – Beyer more than Trimbach – and without age it’s hard to say in which direction it will go. But it certainly will need age. (5/08)

Sito Corleone

Gaja 2004 Langhe “Sito Moresco” (Piedmont) – Less delicious than a year ago, still tasting of very expensive wood ground into the finest particulate texture, but with the smooth, balancing fruit starting to erode. It continues to caress the tongue, but there’s some fine-grained sandpaper newly entered into the caress. The near future of this wine is wood, wood, and more wood, so the remaining hope is that it comes out the other end with some interesting fruit to match the arboreal sensations. (5/08)

Burn the heretics!

Iché 2005 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault “Les Hérétiques” (Languedoc) – Solid, dark fruit residue with a hint of meat and wild thyme. It’s tempting to call this wine pro-forma, but that’s only due to familiarity; this remains, even given the terrible dollar/euro exchange, a very good value that plays well with wines twice its price. But…alas, the recent passing of its maker leaves this (along with the rest of the Oupia line) in doubt. (5/08)

Tijou for two

Tijou “Château Soucherie” 2005 Anjou (Loire) – Chalk-dusted wax and a memory of honeycomb, round and supple with a long, lingering finish. Very pleasant. (5/08)

29 May 2008

A fine fennel of fish

[vineyards]Soard “Domaine de Fenouillet” 2005 Beaumes-de-Venise “Terres Blanches” (Rhône) – Beaumes-de-Venise is the most ungenerous, unfruity, unyielding appellation in the Southern Rhône; it’s not the tannin (as in Gigondas) or the roasting (as in Rasteau), it’s the quartz-driven, completely mineralistic dominance of the fruit that renders the wines completely impenetrable to fruit-hounds. Here, it’s the essence of the wine, with a little dried-and-hard drapery of the blackest fruit, but without the proper balancing structure; as a result, it’s a little like putting rocks in one’s mouth, rather than drinking a beverage. Time might help, and this is certainly not a wine for youthful quaffing, but I just don’t know if this has a promising future. (5/08)

Closel the Vaults

Jessey “Domaine du Closel-Château des Vaults” 2004 Savennières “La Jalousie” (Loire) – Generous, chalky, and surprisingly fruit-forward for a chenin (though “fruit” here is very loosely-defined; this would be some sort of exotic melon after a chalkboard accident), with a pleasant approachability but the structure for short-term development. I wouldn’t push it too long, though it’s important to note that I’m not a fan of oxidized Savennières; those who like that expression should hold it with impunity. (5/08)

Up & up

[bottle]Alvear Montilla-Moriles Oloroso “Asuncion” (Andalucía) – Very intense, full of old spice and dried-out dates, both hollowed out by the antiquing of ultra-aged wood (I’m not talking about the winemaking here, but the organoleptics). Peppery complexities and a fuller, almost fruit-related character add to the finish. Very interesting. (5/08)


[bottle]Alvear 2003 Montilla-Moriles Fino “En Rama” (Andalucía) – This is a richer, bigger style of fino; not heavy, but intense, with a little more salt and slightly rancid nut oil (maybe a personal thing) than usual. Enjoyable. (5/08)

Poe's 7th

[bottle]Alvear Montilla-Moriles Amontillado “Carlos VII” (Andalucía) – Big and a little bit heated, showing almond, old candle, dry gray soil, and a clipped finish. Damaged, perhaps? (5/08)

Personally reserved

Trimbach 1999 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – Way too young and angry at being opened at first, but it does eventually develop, showing its potential with a piercing, focused and columnar expression of metallic pear with white spice flung at the exterior. It’s a bit acid-deficient (Trimbach preserved more acidity in their other grapes in this difficult year), and I don’t know how long it will be valuable to hold this, but certainly a few more years will render it more accessible. What’s happening now is the stripping of the fruit away from the raw metal core, which is something that very few Alsatian pinots do, but this one almost always does, and the result is nearly unique. It will never be a truly great pinot gris, but it should be a very good one. (5/08)

Ameztoi story

[vineyard]Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2007 Getariako Txakolina (Northwest Spain) – How great is this wine, anyway? Citrus (mostly ripe grapefruit) with verve, vibrant acidity, makrut lime, sugar crystals without sweetness, and a healthy dollop of fun. If you don’t like this (or at least appreciate its quality), I suspect you don’t actually like wine. (5/08)

Virgin manseng

Barrère "Clos de la Vierge" 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Herbal with a post-rainstorm, humid, sweaty character and an acrid, biting acidity; it all works beautifully, but it’s not a wine you want to serve to New World chardonnay types. A wine in 7/8; not danceable, but forcing you to listen carefully, after which the pulse eventually permeates. (5/08)

Gregorian Chant

[vineyard work]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “Chant des Vignes” (Southwest France) – Mountain minerals and dried thyme, white-out fruit with a dominant foundation of dirt, light but insistent presence, and a fine, very precise and almost rigid finish. This isn’t a particularly expressive wine, but it more than makes up for it with striking confidence. (5/08)

Rosé, row-say, rosez!

[label]JM Burgaud 2007 Beaujolais-Villages Rosé “Rosez!” (Beaujolais) – Indifferent, watery pink fruit with a flat granite wall about ¾ of the way through. Boring. (5/08)


[bottle]Czechvar Lager (Czech Republic) – I’m an ale partisan, and lager usually leaves me cold, but if I must have a lager, this is about as good as it gets; a fine, wet, thirst-quenching balance of light bitterness, light grain, and light alcohol. Thoroughly refreshing and absolutely pure. (5/08)

Lirac opera

Roussel “Domaine du Joncier” 2000 Lirac (Rhône) – Bizarre, lactic, twisted, mute, and just no good. Clearly damaged in some way, but when and how I can’t possibly guess; previous bottles have been progressing nicely. Steve Edmunds tastes it, and is equally baffled as to the specific flaw, so I don’t feel so bad that it’s a mystery to me. (5/08)

Peyraud tax

[vineyard]Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1995 Bandol (Provence) – Probably à point, and while it’s a beautiful old civet of herbs, meat, and earth, there’s a muted aspect to a finish that could be a little more expressive. It’s damned tasty, though. Drink sooner than soon. (5/08)

Diochon, how are you?

Diochon 1997 Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais) – Surprisingly ready, despite a remaining spike of dense tannin. The fruit is quite developed, with the black cherry fruit devolving to old, baked, nicely mature flavors of berry soda, spice, and revealed black soil, and the structure has parted more than enough to show this. The tannin suggests that it could age longer, but I just don’t think the fruit will survive many more years of aging; it’s not ideal, but I’d drink it soonish. (5/08)

Northern left

Southern Right 2006 Pinotage (Walker Bay) – This remains, by far, my favorite pinotage, with a burst of varnished dark berries given good structure and a spicy/floral jig of minor complexity. It should age, but it’s hard to avoid when it’s so eminently drinkable right now. Lovers of delicacy should look elsewhere, but then they probably shouldn’t be drinking pinotage in the first place.(5/08)

Especially for you

Ordoñez & co. 2004 Málaga Moscatel “Seleccion Especial” (Andalucía) – Intense. A warm expression of pure muscat, taking flowers strongly into the realm of orange blossom, and adding a thick, powerful backbeat of spice and warming body. Not complex, but then muscat is far too primary and boisterous to allow much complexity in the vast majority of its expressions. (5/08)

Still running for president

Edmunds St. John 2005 “Rocks and Gravel” (California) – One of the most complete young versions of this wine I’ve tasted; like the Wylie-Fenaughty, whatever he’s doing to make these wines more immediately appealing without sacrificing structure (or maybe it’s just the vintage), it’s working; this is a brilliant, well-knit, deceptively soft expression of California Rhônishness, with restraint applied to the usual stew of old-growth herbs and dried-out soil, lightly animalistic notes, well-baked red fruit, and a fine dusting of seed pepper. What a terrific wine! It might not have the pure aging potential of other vintages (though these wines can be deceptive, and I may well be wrong), but certainly many ever-shifting years lie ahead of it. (5/08)

Buckaroo Banzai

Edmunds St. John 2007 “Heart of Gold” (El Dorado County) – Grenache blanc & vermentino. One of the best whites I’ve had from ESJ, with an immediacy formed of bright acidity and intense, white-out fruit with complexing rindy components. It’s long and a bit linear at the moment, but there seems to be a lot lurking, and I expect great things in the near future. Right now, however, it’s a very “immediate” wine. (5/08)

Peter Coyote

Edmunds St. John 2005 Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty (El Dorado County) – The most easily-accessible W-F I think I’ve ever tasted, already fully-formed but not seeming to sacrifice any of the usual promise. Blueberry with a touch of black, nuts (again with a touch of the black), and plenty of dusky soil. Very balanced. (5/08)

Parmelee for the course

Edmunds St. John 2005 Syrah Parmelee-Hill (Sonoma Valley) – The nose is mercaptan-dominated and difficult to assess at the moment, but what’s underneath seems to be nutty and dark, full of charred (not in a bad way) blackberries and chunky black soil. This needs time to be drinkable, and much more time to reach its peak, but it should be great in a decade-plus. (5/08)

Dis a gris

Edmunds St. John 2006 Pinot Gris Witters (El Dorado County) – Though Steve remains baffled, I still think this tastes like a crisper form of viognier. It’s floral, perfumed, and slightly honeyed, with neither the spiced pear of Alsace, the squiggly citrus or crystalline minerality of northeastern Italy, or fruity fennel of the more innocuous versions from Oregon, New Zealand, and so forth. I will, however, note that after three days open (only part of that time refrigerated), a little bit of pear does emerge…while the wine fades around it. I do like the wine, despite my struggle to embrace its varietal turmoil, so Steve and I will have to agree to dis a gris. (5/08)

Gamay one more

Edmunds St. John 2006 “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Witters (El Dorado County) – Darker but more sullen than the previous vintage (on the rare occasion I tasted it intact), with a refreshing underbelly of crushed-cherry acidity and old potpourri on the finish. There seems to be some dark soil to it as well, but it’s hard to get at right now. Beyond benefiting from time, I think this needs time. (5/08)

Edmunds St. John 2006 “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Witters (El Dorado County) – A second bottle, this one put through several days of uncorked chilling, warming, re-chilling, etc. The soil has receded, with some compensating expansion of the fruit and a rounder, fleshier mouthfeel. For me, the changing form of this wine is further evidence that time is required for this wine to show its best. (5/08)


Edmunds St. John 2007 “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Rosé Witters (El Dorado County) – A clear step down from the previous vintage. It’s still very tasty, with medium-light red fruit, some spice, and a fine foundation of gray-grained pebbles, but it’s a lower-volume wine in which the more delicate treble and bass have become difficult to hear. (5/08)

Just a sec

[vines]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “Chants des Vignes” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng in stainless steel, with six months of lees contact. Grass and bitter almond dominate, with pine nut and pineapple lurking. The structure is firmly acid-based, and takes the form of a tsunami of green apple. Long, crisp, and quite nice. I don’t know if I’d call it refreshing, exactly…it’s a little too razor-like for that…but what it lacks in gulpability it makes up for with low-key complexity. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon Sec “Sève d’Automne” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng, picked at the end of October and aged sur lie in wood. Riper, with a lightly yeast-driven nose and a papery texture. A full-bodied palate of walnut- and pecan-like bitterness draws a contrast with huge minerality and an overwhelming “wetness.” This has an appealing drinkability the Chant des Vignes lacks, though it also carries a bit of baggage: some light woody tones to the finish. It’s a “better” wine, but I prefer the lighter cuvée. That might change with age, however. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “La Canopée” (Southwest France) – Petit manseng, drying on the vine, fermented in barrique with batonnage, and aged sur lie for ten months. Much woodier, with bitter almond extract persisting but this time paired with ripe citrus. The wine seems almost salty with minerality. Very long. All that said, at this point, the wine’s mostly structure. Interestingly, the domaine suggests less than half the suggested cellar time for this bottling than for the Sève d’Automne (6 vs. 15 years). (10/06)

Calendar girl

[barrels]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon “Ballet d’Octobre” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng, picked very ripe at the end of October, and fermented in slightly older wood. This is meant to be the early-drinking entry in the sweet lineup, which is demonstrated by the lightness and balance of the wine; “ballet” is an excellent name. There’s sweet apple and sugared walnut, some of that unmistakable almond, and crystallized peach skin (both fruity and texturally bitter). Long, fresh, and clean. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – A first pass at petit manseng picked in the early weeks of November, fermented in a mixture of new and two-year wood, than given an additional nine months in wood, plus another six months in tank. Concentrated peach and pear with a healthy layer of spice, apple, and even some clementine. Very rich, but with fine acidity preserved throughout. Lovely. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Noblesse du Temps” (Southwest France) – Dried-on-the-vine petit manseng, picked after the first frost and in multiple passes from late November through early December, vinified in new wood and spending an additional eighteen months in wood (I think not new, but our host isn’t clear). Spiced honey – said spices being mostly cinnamon and nutmeg, both in a rich, freshly-baked form – with an apple-tang edge to a fruit syrup palate that’s energized by firm acidity. There’s a bit of caramel at the tail. A beautiful wine. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2000 Jurançon “Quintessence de Petit Manseng (Southwest France) – Petit manseng (of course), picked in multiple passes in the latter half of December, from grapes well past mere passerillage or normal icing and into an advanced state of shriveling and water loss. Fermented in barrique and aged for two years more (not sure in what). Absolutely noble, with incredible density. Peach essence, apricot, orange marmalade, and bursts of flowers. This explodes with character. Texturally, it’s lusciously creamy, but still with a backbone of acidity for support. The finish is all honey, fresh cream, and nut oil, and it’s long, long, long. Majestic. (10/06)

They're here

They “Château Vieux Moulin” 2000 Corbières “Les Ailes” (Languedoc) – Softened a bit by modern winemaking, but with an unquenchable foundation of rustic dark berries, meat soda, and rough minerality. Good, but I think it could be better with a little less futzing in the cellar. (10/06)

12 May 2008

I keep on searching

Edmunds St. John 2007 “Heart of Gold” (El Dorado County) – 54% grenache blanc, 46% vermentino. It should amaze me that wines with this sort of acidic presence can be made in California, given the endless evidence to the contrary, but then I remember who’s behind it. Crisp greenness, lemon, mixed citrus and orchard fruit rinds, with a dry minerality that hums along in the background; a rocky feedback that never achieves prominence until very, very late in what is almost a shockingly persistent finish. Really striking, and extremely drinkable. (5/08)

Count Champagneula

[vineyard]Taittinger 1990 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs “Comtes de Champagne” (Champagne) – Brioche, biscuit, old butter, and fine-grained dandelion pollen, shown delicately but plainly. This would seem to be fully mature. (5/08)

Vajra infection

Vajra 2004 Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont) – Gorgeous, with far more mature aromatics of autumn leaves and freshly-baked fruit pies than the age of the wine would indicate. Structurally, it’s quite youthful, perfectly melding precise acidity and impeccably placed fruit and tannin, and based on the palate it should go a number of years. The question, however, becomes: is the wait worth it when it tastes this good now? (5/08)

When horses fly

[bottle]Pegasus Bay 2000 Pinot Noir (Waipara) – The densest, most brooding, and darkest performance yet from this wine, which is in danger of developing a permanent scowl. The fruit has turned from purplish-blue to black-’n’-blue, while the structure remains intact; a light layer of tannin and a once-refreshing burst of acidity that now threatens to be the lightning strike amidst the storm. And, it must be noted, this is one of those pinots that seems to have had a illicit late-night rendezvous with syrah; even amongst the sometimes full-shouldered pinots of the region, this is a bit of a brute. Opinion at our table is divided into three camps: two like it as-is, one (a New World-style drinker) doesn’t care for it, and I think it’s simply too young, though I’m quite sure it will always present itself in roughly this fashion. Unfortunately, it’s also my last bottle. (5/08)

French puns

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” Mousseux “FRV100” (Beaujolais) – In the cause of experimentation, this is served at room temperature rather than slightly chilled to pair better with a blackberry pie. It’s a successful experiment; the sweeter and bigger (that is to say, body-forming alcoholic) aspects of the wine are slightly emphasized, slightly damaging its on-its-own balance but enhancing its ability to go with this not particularly sweet dessert. Chilled, it achieves more of the fluffy puppy equilibrium that I’m used to, and it’s a “better” wine with the proper bit of shiver, but it tastes slightly tannic with the pie. (5/08)

Mornings of hangoverness

C&P Breton 2002 Bourgeuil “Nuits d’Ivresse” (Loire) – Held for the sake of curiosity. I can’t say it’s “better” than at release, but it’s certainly delicious; the grassy/herbal/green skeleton is a little more exposed than before, but the gorgeous aromatics and thorough completeness of the wine remain. This convinces even the dedicated Harlan drinker at our table, after an initial bout of puzzled confusion, which I consider some sort of victory. Drink up, though. (5/08)

Angelina Jolly

Edmunds St. John 2007 “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Rosé Witters (El Dorado County) – Wide-open…perhaps a bit stretched…showing pale strawberry and a long, flat horizon of grey stone. It’s tasty and accessible, but it’s not quite up to the standards of the lovely ’06. (5/08)

Witters in Florida, summers in Beaujolais

Edmunds St. John 2004 “Bone-Jolly” Gamay Noir Witters (El Dorado County) – Corked. Or at least, so it appears; there’s no aroma, and since the previous five bottles have been corked, it seems like it’s inevitable that this wine be similarly afflicted, albeit in a lesser fashion. But – and granted, this is unusual – I happen have the winemaker at my house the next evening. He tastes and finds it not corked, and in fact performing correctly, but perhaps a slight bit cooked. It’s still, to me, suffering from near-complete aromatic dampening, and I don’t know how to define that outside of mild TCA, but I have to defer to the winemaker here. In any case, it’s not right, and I find no enjoyment in it. (5/08)

Dennis Hof

[vineyard]St. Urbans-Hof 2002 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese 034 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Less weird than previous bottles, showing wind-blown slate and a touch of makrut lime leaf, covered with a faint patina of sweet apple. It’s very delicate, perhaps almost fragile, and doesn’t yet seem to be in a drinking mood. (5/08)

09 May 2008

Just a sec

[grapes]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc Muscat Sec (Languedoc) – Outrageously muscatty, full of elderflower and lily of the valley, exotic perfumes, and a fine particulate texture that only adds to the persistent attempts of the mind to taste this as sweet. But it’s not; it’s got everything but the sugar. There’s a lot of pure, direct fun here. (5/08)

Artezinal wine

[bottle]Artezin 2006 Zinfandel (Mendocino County) – 14.5%. Dense, over-structured…and over-wooded? The leaden spice box aromas alongside oak-like tannins suggest so, but I don’t know for sure. This wine is full of something I wouldn’t quite call flavor, but that flavor mostly just lies there, uninterested in much aside from the size of its triceps. Time might help, but I suspect instead that this will simply collapse under its own weight. (5/08)

Sobon, farewell

Sobon Estate 2005 Zinfandel “Hillside” (Amador County) – 14.5%. Good, basic Amador zin flavors…wild, tiny, dark berries and a gnarly, twisted texture burned into some remote, grassy, sun-drenched hillside…with little in the way of complexity or nuance. Sometimes, that’s all you want. (5/08)

Isonzo the American Revolution

[label]Vie di Romans 2000 Isonzo Bianco “Flors di Uis” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – There’s presence here. Dense without being heavy, showing concentrated citrus rind and peat. The acidity is decent enough, but this wine’s true quality is a strength of character, exemplified by its fantastic persistence on the finish. Really striking. Probably fully mature, but that’s just a guess, as I’m no Isonzo expert. (10/07)

The nosiolas have it

Nosiola (Trentino) – Intensely perfumed, though (oddly) more so on the palate than on the nose, with a limestone foundation and a tapering finish. (10/07)

Rick Ppettino

Schioppettino Amabile (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – I’ve never had this grape in this style before, and it reminds me of some strange cross between Bardolino, lacrima di Morro d’Alba, malvasia nera, and grape soda. Raw fruit provides a bite to the grapey purple fruit that’s mitigated by mild sweetness. It works very well with charcuterie, though it’s by no means a “serious” wine. But who needs to be serious all the time? This is fun. (10/07)

"Bebe" Raboso

Raboso Piave (Veneto) – Polished but still close to the earth, with red fruit on the ground, herbs, and a vibrant, complex finish. Really good. On this one, I get a hint of the producer as the bottle is wielded in front of me…something with multiple leading Ms. Yeah, that’s helpful. (10/07)

06 May 2008


[logo]Seresin 2005 Pinot Noir “Leah” (Marlborough) – A multi-vineyard blend done with wild yeast and new wood. Earthy beet, dark plums and berries, lightness and intensity paired; this is a fine pinot. It lacks that final layer of complex sophistication that would send it into the pinot stratosphere (the pinotsphere?), but it’s nicely formed, structured, balanced, and ready to drink both now and in five-plus years. I’d lean towards the latter, because the dark moodiness of the wood could use some time to integrate. (5/08)


Villa Rosa 2004 Chianti Classico (Tuscany) – It’s been a long time since I’ve smelled a Chianti like this: strawberry, game, a touch of herb and a little bit of earth. There’s plenty of dense structure, but it’s all nicely balanced with crisp yet persistent fruit. To drink now with the right food, perhaps, but I really think this wine would prefer a little time in the cellar. Classic Chianti, and immensely appealing to those of us who have almost forgotten what that’s like. (5/08)

Minervois mouse

[vineyard]Julien “Château Villerambert Julien” 2001 Minervois (Languedoc) – While it smells authentic enough (leather-wrapped meat, just a bare hint of blackberry), the palate just sort of sits there, reflecting the nose but adding nothing other than a vague shrug in the direction of tannin. Maybe age will help, but this lacks the out-of-the-gate complexity and interest of the region’s better producers. (4/08)

Semi-human resources?

Montevina “Terra d’Oro” 2001 Zinfandel “SHR Field Blend” (Amador County) – 15%. The initial burst is oak, followed by over-toasted vanilla and then some tortured, mangled, and blackened fruit residue. Eventually, it calms down enough to be unpleasantly drinkable, but the damage remains clear on the face. This just isn’t very good. (4/08)

Thulon to wait

[chateau]JM Burgaud “Château de Thulon” 2006 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – More biting than previous vintages, with a sharp zing to the zippy, underripe cherry, raspberry, and cranberry fruit that carries just a hint of floral complexity. It’s unmistakably Beaujolais, but it needs food to tame it; no cocktail wine, this. (5/08)

And we'd sing, sing, sing!

[vine]Torbreck 2006 “Woodcutter’s” Shiraz (Barossa Valley) – Demiglace of syrah, turned piney and pruney. There’s actually some acidity, but it flails around helplessly in the face of the dull-razor hacking and slashing of the slightly burnt fruit. While the worst sins of the Barossa are absent here, the wine’s still up to precious little good. (5/08)

Pic it up

Durand & Valentin “Château de Lancyre” 2006 Pic Saint-Loup Rosé (Languedoc) – Roses and old blood orange, lavender, perhaps a faded sachet from your grandmother’s drawer. This is an appealingly aromatic rosé – and yes, there’s that ubiquitous pulse of excess heat so common to southern French rosés – that comes alive with food. Nicely done. (5/08)

Rosier-colored glasses

Rosier “Château du Chatelard” 2006 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – More melon than citrus, though both are present (and stone fruit sticks its weightier head in there for a moment). The primary characteristic of this wine, however, is juiciness…a clean, refreshing, almost thirst-quenching appeal, especially at cooler temperatures. Simplistic at first and last glance, but enjoyable nonetheless. (4/08)

Willi or won't he?

Willi Schaefer 2004 Riesling 01 05 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Still direct, clean, metal-flecked and basic. A good summer quaffer…and at these alcohol levels, you can quaff all by yourself, if necessary. (4/08)

Knights need huggs too

[vineyard]Marcel Hugg 2005 Gewurztraminer “Réserve des Chevaliers” (Alsace) – Solid, varietally correct gewürztraminer with a little added flash of crystalline lightboxing. Good, especially if viewed uncritically. (4/08)

A: a newspaper

[label]Dogfish Head “Red & White” (Delaware) – Brewed with coriander and orange peel, pinot noir juice concentrate added, then aged with a mix of oak barrels and staves. I enjoy Dogfish Head’s adventurousness, and some of their experiments work, but this just seems directionless. Here, 2+2=1, at best. (4/08)

Vergeleggin' it

[vineyards]Vergelegen 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Western Cape) – Excellent varietal character. Green grass, green apple, and intense but balanced precision. Very, very good. (2/08)

Elgin Woods

[vineyard]Oak Valley 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Elgin) – Green grass and green leaves. Varietally pure, and if it doesn’t say much besides that, it doesn’t seem to affect the enjoyment. (2/08)

Oh, chenin, d'oh!

[hands]Sizanani 2006 Chenin Blanc (Western Cape) – Sour melon, leaves, and aspirin. Concentrated and thick, with a lack of light and a proportionally sludgy finish. This is a winery with an valuable mission for which winemaking is the venue, and I respect that…but you just can’t do this to chenin. (2/08)

The young man's fear

[vineyard]Groote Post 2006 “The Old Man’s Blend” White (West Coast) – Salty green and yellow fruit, with clean apple streaks. Light but short. (2/08)

Sorry, neither

[bottles]Bellingham 2007 “Fair Maiden” (Coastal Region) – Chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier, grenache blanc, roussanne, and verdelho. Bright, green, leafy, and smoky – quite a combination – with intensity and vibration on the palate. The finish brings forth red cherries and zippy tartness. This is a wine with a lot of interesting elements, but that hasn’t quite figured out what it wants to be when it grown up. (2/08)

Rocky path

[vineyard]Bellingham 2006 Chardonnay “Stone Trail” (Coastal Region) – Sour strawberry, plum, and other intense, but clearly red, fruit over stones (which is, I guess, appropriate). Solid but short, with a moderate application of wood and a smoky, thick texture. Decently balanced. I’d like it with a little less wood, or perhaps a little more age, but the finish will always be short. (2/08)

Dishwasher doll

[vineyard]Boschendal 2006 Chardonnay (Coastal Region) – Plum, peach, fig, and flowers. Long, with good structure, but somewhat distracting tannin on the finish. Not bad. (2/08)

Mary Decker-Slaley

[stone]Slaley 2004 Chardonnay (Stellenbosch) – Smoky and thick, with stone fruit and way too much wood. (2/08)

Diabolo Cody

[bottle]Juno 2007 Rosé (South Africa) – Sweet, blush-style strawberry and red cherry. Nice enough, but I could do without the residual sugar. (2/08)

Don't shoot the dog!

[vineyard]Bellingham 2005 Shiraz “The Old Cellar” (Coastal Region) – Dense and barky, fullish but pruned fruit, wood, and asphalt. Finishes as pure fermented wood. Yuck. (2/08)


[barrel]Bellingham 2005 “Dragon’s Lair” (Coastal Region) – Shiraz, mourvèdre, viognier. Plum, boysenberry, olallieberry, spice, seed pepper, and smoke – quite a combination – with only a green edge to the tannin marring the complexity. Not bad. (2/08)


[label]Slaley 2003 Shiraz (Stellenbosch) – Weedy, tannic, and hard. (2/08)

Let's go Duke

[bottles]Allée Bleue 2005 Shiraz (Western Cape) – Incredibly dense, to the point of organoleptic opacity. Balanced and structured, with blueberry and chocolate dominating. This will permanently ruin your teeth. It’s all too much, really, yet I’m sure many will find it appealing. (2/08)

French fries, Franschhoek

[tree]Stony Brook 2004 Shiraz (Franschhoek) – Shy yet plush, with tar and sour candy, especially on the finish. A bit caramelized. No good. (2/08)

Stony the stiger

[tasting room]Stony Brook 2003 Syrah (Coastal Region) – Fuller-bodied and better than the 04. I’m not sure of the reasons for the nomenclature change. Blueberry and beet, tangled roots, and spice. The finish is a bit hot, and there’s a plastic note throughout. (2/08)

Jar-Jar Binks

Stony Brook 2004 “Camissa” (Coastal Region) – Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz. Full-bodied and structured, with tooth-staining dark fruit, chocolate, and lots of thick wood. Very New World. (2/08)


Stony Brook 2004 “The Max” (Franschhoek) – Peppers, leaves, and chocolate…a strange combination…with far too much peppery, bitter tannin. (2/08)

Zinedine Zidane

[grapes]Allée Bleue 2005 Cabernet Sauvigon/Merlot (Western Cape) – Big, chewy fruit with chalky minerality. Structured. Obvious wood on the finish. Still very primary. There are gaps and voids in this wine that I don’t think time will fill. (2/08)

John Stuart running

[vineyards]Vergelegen 2004 “Mill Race” Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – Classic cabernet peppers, leaves, cedar, and ground-up pencil. There’s a bit of oak soup on the long finish, though. Nicely structured, clean, and promising. (2/08)

Nouveau Riche

[leaf]Le Riche 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – Concentrated and round, showing plum, blueberry, and some herbality. Eucalyptus is also present. Long and dense, especially on the finish. Nicely formed, with good aging potential. (2/08)


[winemaker]Sizanani 2006 Pinotage (Bottelary) – Good, fruity aromatics, mixed chocolates, some drying paint. Spice, with a highly milky, lactic note, form the finish. Makeup has been applied, but the bad old pinotage characteristics remain. (2/08)