28 July 2008

Raton twirler

[label]Le Piane 2000 Boca (Piedmont) – Beautifully aromatic, with flowers (rose-dominated) and a pretty finish. Just starting to soften, but there’s plenty of life ahead. (3/08)

Le Piane 2001 Boca (Piedmont) – Tighter than the 2000, with its floral aspects glimpsed through the gauze of a semi-closed stage. Tart cherries and massive minerality form the foundation and core of this wine, with graphite-textured tannin. Really terrific, and promising many, many years until maturity. (3/08)

Le Piane 2003 Boca (Piedmont) – The fruit of the ’00 and ’01 takes on a sweeter, more strawberry-like character here, with big tannin and a dense, somewhat shortened finish. I don’t think this will live up to the promise of more balanced vintages, but it might have an earlier appeal. (3/08)

Piane player

[label]Le Piane 2004 Colline Novaresi “la maggiorina” (Piedmont) – Old vines, 50% nebbiolo, 35% croatina, uva rara, and vespolina, in stainless steel. Mineral-driven to such an extent that I feel like I’m drinking a red riesling. Very dry. Full of dark fruit dust and tart acidity. Very masculine and hard, with a long finish. A striking wine. (3/08)

Le Piane 2003 Colline Novaresi (Piedmont) – From 100-year old pre-phylloxera vines, and a blend of 70% croatina and 30% nebbiolo. Lush orange blossom and stone fruit, balanced except for the vintage’s signature tannin, but dried out on the finish by that same tannin. (3/08)

Le Piane 2004 Colline Novaresi (Piedmont) – Showing (or perhaps revealing) more dirt than the 2003, with a little bit of well-ridden horse, but not what anyone but the most averse would call bretty; the overall impression is more like that of iron-rich blood. Very interesting floral aromatics, with great balance and a longer finish finely delineated by acidity. Very promising. (3/08)

That Kunde-do spirit

[vineyard]Kunde 2000 Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley) – I’d be surprised if this wine has changed much since its youth. There’s some spicy fruit, less concentrated than the wine deserves, with some obvious wood and a little spike of acidity (probably the only indication of age). Average. (7/08)

Trout face mask

Quivira “Steelhead” 2006 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – 13.8%. Wan and almost flavorless, with no more than a hint of blue-black fruit. A pretty pathetic effort. Not corked. Just lousy. (7/08)

26 July 2008

Felton-tip pen

[vineyard]Felton Road 2005 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Supple but strong-willed, and eminently appealing. Golden beet, grey earth, ripe strawberry, black truffle, and well-integrated spikes of raspberry acidity are flawlessly melded, lingering through a long, steady-state finish. Still very primary, but all the materials for continued life are in place. A lovely wine. (7/08)

Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich

[riesling]Bott-Geyl 2004 Riesling “Les Elements” (Alsace) – Elemental riesling indeed, with a powerfully intense abrasion of acid and minerality delivered with sledgehammer force. It’s big and it’s not particularly complex, but rather a long, unbroken straight line. And there’s something to be said for that. (7/08)

The Wormeldange turns

[bottle]Clos des Rochers 2006 Wormeldange Nusssbaum Auxerrois “Grand Premier Cru” (Luxembourg) – Borg pear, more metallic than organic, with a slash of turmeric and coriander. Fair length, good structure, and of quite surprising origin. Worth a second look. (7/08)

Vajra phage

[vineyards]Vajra 2006 Langhe Rosso (Piedmont) – The aromatics are a mixture of elegantly floral and fruit-sprightly, hued dark-purple, with a bite of fine acidity and a very appealing nature, especially with food. An absurdly good value. (7/08)

Vodka, kahlua, cream

[label]Tablas Creek 2003 Roussanne (Paso Robles) – From a dubious source, but holding well, with the palate a little broader than in previous bottles. It’s still thick with stone fruit lushness, with spice malingering in the foreground, but there’s a bit of snap to it that wasn’t there before, and it could be headed somewhere more promising…especially from good storage, which this bottle has not seen. (7/08)

You pays your money

[glass & bottle]Dupont Calvados du Pays d’Auge (Normandy) – Hints of pink pepper dust, liquid metal, and some sun-browned earth. Plus apples, naturally. Fairly simple, but very pleasant. (7/08)

Mon Dieuvaille

[label]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois Dieuvaille (Languedoc) – A single-parcel muscat (or so I’m led to believe) named after an historic church near the village. Intense essence of muscat, with life and plenty of nerve. Very intense, and while it’s heavy it’s got the structure to support itself. Terrific. (10/06)

Am I Bleue?

[label]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Classique” (Languedoc) – This is thee basic wine, also known as “Cuvée Noire” in some markets. Clover honey drizzled over gingered grapes. Long and floral, though with a certain lightness that freshens the sugar. (10/06)

Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2005 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Classique” (Languedoc) – Richer and more vivid than the 2004, though there’s a spikiness to the structure than reduces the appealing cream of the previous vintage. Grapes and green apples add themselves to the finish, which is surprisingly tangy. This is clearly a better wine than the 2004, though it may take a little while to settle into itself. (10/06)

Barroubio 2004 Muscat St-Jean-de-Minervois “Cuvée Bleue” (Languedoc) – Aged in wood (one presumes old) for nine months, on its lees. Chewy/creamy pine needles. Strong, heavy, and somewhat hot. Too much. (10/06)

Sec & thoughts

Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2005 Muscat Sec (Languedoc) – Fresh-cut hay, but the mower caught a more than a few flowers as well. Clean, crisp, and long. Nice. Though Alsace remains my benchmark for dry muscat, there’s a sun to (or in) this wine that’s really appealing. (10/06)

John, Mike, Marie, Tess

[label]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2002 Minervois “Cuvée Jean-Miquel” (Languedoc) – Carignan-dominated, with grenache playing the supporting role. Grapey and thick, with a rough texture and a slightly green finish. There’s not much form or cohesion here, nor are the elements particularly appealing. (10/06)

Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2003 Minervois “Cuvée Marie-Thérèse” (Languedoc) – Here, syrah is king, with some grenache along for the ride. Denser than the Jean-Miquel, with a thick earthiness that feels almost sludgy. The fruit has a nutty character that’s a little odd, but ultimately intriguing. That said, it’s not very interesting now, though a short stretch of time might help. (10/06)

Pazo tea

Pazo Pondal 2004 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Sweet lemon juice, rind, and curd, with grapefruit along for the lemony ride. Summery and sunny, though a touch hot. There’s a bit of a carbonic sizzle to the finish, which is refreshing. (10/06)

17 July 2008

Sugar, sugar

Bera 2006 Canelli “Arcese” (Piedmont) – Tastes like muscat, smells like muscat, but it’s not muscat, it’s favorita, cortese, and arneis. So, then: it’s floral and bubbly/spicy (no actual bubbles), with a bit of sweat but little toil. Eminently appealing at first sip, yet there’s a difficult component that not everyone will get past. I love it, because it takes muscattish obviousness and brings to it more complexity and balance than is the norm. And still, no muscat. It’s almost hard to believe. Fun wine. (7/08)

Indian percussion

[label]Tablas Creek 2005 “Côtes de Tablas” Red (Paso Robles) – Performing beautifully, as is its wont. Rich, deep baritones of dried red fruit, mild earth, a bit of spice, perhaps a hint of porcini, done in a palate-coating wash of tasteful appeal. As reliably solid a wine as you’ll find in the States, outside the more peripatetic house of Edmunds. (7/08)

Essen of Emeril

[bottle]Capaia “Baron von Essen” 2005 “Blue Grove Hill” (Philadelphia) – Blueberry and thick, chocolate-cream density. Obvious and simple. It’s drinkable, but it could use structure for both balance and support, and it’s a very momentary pleasure. (7/08)

Easton exposure

[vineyard]Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Comes in columns, with separation and little integration, of sweet black fruit, pepper-spice, wild-eyed – almost olive-like, though the wine doesn’t taste of olives – brininess, and minor structure. The finish is shorter than usual, and there’s a significant final chord of vanilla. This might just need a little bit of time to knit, but I think it’s not quite the wine it has been in recent years. (7/08)


[bottle]Columbia Crest “Grand Estates” 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) – Basic, textbook cabernet with the chocolate/vanilla oak sheen one expects from inexpensive New World versions, precious little greenery or complexity, and yet a non-casual bite of tannin buried somewhere in the mid-finish. It’s not bad. It’s not something to seek out, but should a glass be forced upon one, it’s not something that will induce retching. (7/08)

Pinot & Zooty

Trimbach 2004 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Supple apricot with a slight molten iron edge to it, and there’s acidity, yet the wine is largely free of edges, corners, or bends. I don’t quite know how they work this voodoo. As an Alsatian pinot blanc, it’s still more blanc-influenced than auxerrois-dominated and good in that paradigm, but it will never seem striking in contrast to, say, a Boxler. (7/08)

The heart of Napa

[grapes]Corison 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Great acidity, which I say about once per decade about a Napa wine. Black’n’blue berries, crisp apple, thyme, rosemary, and cedar with the structure one expects. Not yet done aging, of course. Terrific. Corison remains grossly underappreciated. (2/08)

Buffy's watcher

Gilles Barge 1995 Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune (Rhône) – Spicy earth and old pork, with a beautiful texture and a gorgeous finish. Ravishing. (2/08)


Vatan 2005 Sancerre Clos la Néore (Loire) – Classic. Mineral-infused grapefruit, thick and rindy. Big, rich, powerful, yet utterly exquisite. (2/08)

Vatan 2003 Sancerre Clos la Néore (Loire) – Heavy makrut lime, flat, and short. A victim of its vintage. (2/08)


Foucault 2002 Saumur-Champigny Clos Rougeard (Loire) – Graphite, thyme, and mint with all the undertones still sub-audible, but clearly present. Throbs with potential. Elegant, with flawless balance, but time will reveal the strength. (2/08)

The search for intelligent bass

Edmunds St. John 2005 Syrah Bassetti (San Luis Obispo County) – Smoked salt on meat and fresh blueberry. Flawlessly poised, medium-bodied now vs. other Bassettis, but absolutely bubbling with potential. This will take a long time to unfold, and an even longer time to develop, but it should be a stunner when it does. (2/08)

Tardives salad

Trimbach 1997 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Closed and tight, but despite that, there’s lychee, cashew, not-insignificant acidity (though less than in the ’98), and a biting bitterness to the finish, which is fairly typical for ultra-late harvested gewürztraminer. This is in nothing approaching a good place right now, and needs much time. (2/08)

Chenin blanc, sittin' in a trie...

[vineyard]Baumard 1997 Savennières “Trie Spéciale” (Loire) – Feels sugary, tastes like just-sprouted asparagus. It’s a weird combination, and there’s probably a reason you’ve never seen asparagus candy on the market. Maybe in Japan, I dunno. They’ll try anything. (2/08)


Caves Dom Teodósio 1963 Garrafeira Particular (Portugal) – Old brown sugar, dark fruit, earth, tar, and dead roses. This is just barely clinging to a semblance of faded life, though the necrophiliac in the room (the one who brought it) likes it more. (2/08)

Cris de coeur

[label]Pellé 1997 Menetou-Salon Morogues Les Cris (Loire) – 1.5 L. Beet, spiced fennel seed, and a lot of incoherent treble screeching. Drink a few years ago. (2/08)

Reverdy or not

P&N Reverdy 2006 Sancerre “Cuvée Les Coûtes” (Loire) – Grass, dry fruit rinds, sand, and banana skin. I’m not sure what this is trying to be. It’s fairly appealing, but… (2/08)

Get the Clape

Clape 1994 Cornas (Rhône) – Corked. (2/08)


[filling a barrel]Etude 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – An insular wine. Chocolate-covered cherries and nearly-crisp blueberries. Dense, tough, and hard. Turns hot on the finish. Just OK. (2/08)

Solare, oh, oh...

Col Solare 1995 Red (Columbia Valley) – Served blind, with guesses all over the map, but nothing approaching the target. It’s crisp, with dill-infused blueberries and walnut-tinged tannin. It would be OK for a cheapo red, which of course it’s not, and it’s clearly falling apart rather rapidly. A failure. (2/08)

Col Solare 1996 Red (Columbia Valley) – Also served blind, with similarly wild guesses no nearer the mark (but no one appears to think it’s the same wine as the previous version). My favorite assessment: “it smells like wood that’s soaking in water.” And indeed it does, plus minty chocolate, grass, and abrasive tannin. A slightly more coherent failure. (2/08)

Hardys boys

[logo]Hardys 1995 Shiraz “Eileen Hardy” (McLaren Vale/Padthaway) – Thick blueberry laden with eucalyptus. Simple, but if one accepts that simplicity (which is difficult given the price), it’s tasty enough. (2/08)

And a Coutet to you, sir

Coutet 2003 Sauternes-Barsac (Bordeaux) – Silky peach, cinnamon, clove, and peach syrup with a particularly surprising balance. Which makes me wonder… (2/08)

Fischer king

Dr. Fischer 1990 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Beerenauslese 3 91 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – I find this wine very difficult to access, other than an apple-dominated intense sweetness, but the balance seems flawless despite my tiring palate. (2/08)

Sir Rigger

[vineyard]Schloss Saarstein 1996 Serriger Schloss Saarstein Riesling Auslese 11 97 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Mildly corked. (2/08)

You can Comtes on me

[vineyard]Taittinger 1998 Champagne Brut “Comtes de Champagne” (Champagne) – Fruity and lemony, with a strange stink. An off bottle of some sort. (2/08)


Fleury 1996 Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Very fruity (kiwi, strawberry), juicy, and forward. Turns both sour and salty on the finish, which is kinda weird. Still, it’s appealing, even if it tries a bit too hard to be so. (2/08)

16 July 2008

We can only grow the way the Windsbuhl

Zind-Humbrecht 1994 Gewurztraminer Hunawihr Clos Windsbuhl (Alsace) – Big & rich (save a cashew, ride a lychee), very spicy, and somewhat sweet…but it handles it all with balance. Orange peel candy and dried peach with a touch of heat on the finish, which is shorter than I’d like; it’s the wine’s most obvious flaw. (2/08)

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's Delorme-ly

[vineyard]Delorme “Domaine de la Mordorée” 2001 Lirac “Cuvée de la Reine des Bois” (Rhône) – Blueberry and graphite-textured tannin, dense, long, and full-bodied. After much air, some strappy leather emerges. Great structure, great-tasting wine. (2/08)

Avril, not in Paris

Avril “Clos des Papes” 1992 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Old sweat upon opening. But it fills out well, with dark cherry residue dominant. It’s light and a little on the watery side, but long and authentic despite its generally wan nature. And cheap. Remember when Clos des Papes was cheap? (2/08)

A Gay old time

Robin “Château Le Gay” 1989 Pomerol (Bordeaux) – Thyme, dense cassis, blueberry, and fudge-like tannin that imbalances the wine. A shame, too, as it was fun in an obnoxious, fruit-forward way, at least for a while. (2/08)

Radici salad

[vineyard]Mastroberardino 2000 Fiano di Avellino Radici (Campania) – Ash and old, dusty wind. Light, with fading residual intensity, and dry as a desert. A bit of lemon rind? One hour later, air has helped a lot: minerals and foamy seashells emerge, the finish lengthens, and the overall impact grows more powerful. Still, drink up. (2/08)

She's upgraded from her web

[charlotte’s home vineyard]Rodney Strong 2006 Sauvignon Blanc “Charlotte’s Home” (Sonoma County) – Wind-blown grass, lemon, and lime with a touch of spice from the wood. Big, juicy, clean, and simple. Good persistence. (2/08)


Rodney Strong 2004 “Symmetry” Meritage (Alexander Valley) – The lushest wine of the tasting, with better aromatic complexity than anything I’ve yet sniffed. Mixed chocolates and a rush of upfront fruit are promising (though I’d prefer less of the former), the structure arrives and announces itself…and then the wine rather abruptly absents itself from the conversation. Just: poof! It disappears. A high-priced void. (2/08)

Board Anita

Rodney Strong 2006 Chardonnay (Chalk Hill) – French oak, barrel-fermentation, lees stirring, and a blend of yeasts. All the modern cocktail ingredients. There’s light oak influence, yellow plum, and apple with good acidity and a round texture. Butter pecan starts to annoy on the finish. Good for what it is, though I’m personally repelled by this flavor profile. (2/08)

Strong enough

Rodney Strong 2005 Chardonnay “Reserve” (Russian River Valley) – Wente and Spring Mountain clones. Fat fig, lush peach, and light strawberry with a healthy swirl of butter. Good in its style, but without complexity, and the finish tails off rather abruptly. The Chalk Hill bottling is better. (2/08)

Russian to judgement

Rodney Strong 2006 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) – Soft grey dirt, tight berries, and a chocolate tinge to the finish. Fairly low-key, despite an overall heavy presence in the mouth. Simple. Eh. (2/08)

Sweet Jane

Rodney Strong 2005 Pinot Noir Jane’s “Reserve” (Russian River Valley) – Very structured, showing beets and smooth, dark fruit. Long, but somewhat rectangular. Needs time. Not bad at all. (2/08)

Worf's son

Rodney Strong 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley) – A blend of French and American oak. Minted dark chocolate, leafy dark chocolate, and flatness. No generosity. Pretty insipid. (2/08)


Rodney Strong 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon “Reserve” (Sonoma County) – Dark fruit with some wildness to it and fine, solid tannic structure. The initial wash of fruit, though, eventually gives way to blueberry-vanilla milkshake, though it’s not as overdone as one sometimes finds in California reds, and it soaks up its wood (French) fairly well. (2/08)

Rocky V

[vineyard]Kreydenweiss 2005 Costières de Nîmes “Perrières” (Rhône) – Carignan, grenache, syrah. Very structured, but with dark Provençal aromatics peeking around corners and steaming though seams. This carries a high-minded poise not entirely typical for its region, which I would guess is the influence of the Alsatian winemaker, but it’s hefty enough to fit in amongst its peers. It just speaks with a little more precise diction. (7/08)

Charmes bracelet

[jean-marc]JM Burgaud 2006 Morgon Les Charmes (Beaujolais) – Except for the higher-toned, red-hued acidity that floats from the glass, this is as much a pinot as any Morgon I’ve tasted from this house. Structured, earthy, and yet quite restrained, it doesn’t hold back so much as reach a lower peak volume than it has in the past, with the dark fruit only in the beginning stages of forming into muscularity. This will be a shorter-term Morgon from this house, though it should still age for a few years. (7/08)


Dubourdieu “Graville-Lacoste” 2007 Graves (Bordeaux) – Simple lemon-lime, grapefruit, tonic, and salt. Direct, clean, and pure. Drink nowish. (7/08)


[picpoul]Font-Mars 2007 Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – Mixed grasses, greenery, and grapefruit pith with the rough scrape of a dull razor. Very amenable to chilling, and eminently drinkable. This is an excellent bargain picpoul, though there are versions with a little more class. (7/08)

Facial injections

Bottex Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – Harder-edged than the last few years, with more of the foundational granite showing and less of the sprightly, fizzy strawberry; but then, this was always a more restrained expression of this appellation even in the best of year. In truth, it’s very slightly serious. And that just can’t be right. (7/08)

Little Red Riding Hood

Boekenhoutskloof 2006 “The Wolftrap” (Western Cape) – 50% syrah, 48% mourvèdre,2% viognier, 14% alcohol. Full of flavor and woodspice, though the former is a little more dominated by the latter than I’d like. There are some earthen undertones, rumbling around way underneath the wine like some sort of mourvèdre-enhanced sub-woofer, so maybe some age will help. I suspect, though, that the wood will remain dominant. (7/08)

Not Falcon?

[label]Meinert 2002 “Devon Crest” (Devon Valley) – 75% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 14.5% alcohol. Those who can’t see the label guess this is syrah, and while there’s a little too much green pepper (a varietally-characteristic amount, which I find pleasant but some won’t) for it to be syrah, the lusty/smoky aspects of the wine go seem to head in that direction. There’s no lack of musky wood, and the wine’s a bit heavy, but despite the slight sludginess it’s fairly representative of its whats and wheres. (7/08)

09 July 2008

Nacho cheese or cool ranch

[vine]Girolamo Dorigo 1993 “Montsclapade” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – A Bordeaux-styled blend (the waitress says merlot and cabernet franc, but I presume there’s some cabernet sauvignon in it as well) that is, frankly, a lot better than many highly-reputed Bordeaux these days. It’s sophisticated and polished, and still nowhere near full maturity. Black fruit skin, tobacco, buffed leather, and smooth earth roll and caress the palate. Beautifully structured, long, and supremely elegant. Stunning. (10/07)

We are the Ciamps-ions

[vineyard]Vie di Romans 1998 “Voos dai Ciamps” Isonzo Rosso (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – 100% merlot. Cloudy to the point of opacity from sediment, and the shaking that’s caused this mutes the wine in more ways than just the visual. Tight and structured, with dark fruit. Very tough to read. 24 hours later, it’s still full of fine silt, but the structure has softened somewhat, and a little bit of blueberry powder has emerged along with a long, sweet hazelnut finish. It’s friendly, but it holds a lot back; even without the shakeup, it’s in a closed stage. (10/07)

I'd like to Réservée table

[vine]Féraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – The entire meat case (everything’s quite fresh, though), served thick, long, and complex. Wait, maybe I’d better walk back that comparison. It’s, uh, tumescent with Southern Rhônishness? Is that better? (2/08)

Childish Porto

Quinta do Infantado 1995 Porto (Douro) – Soft, woven fabric and reams of spice in which are nestled gentle red fruit, freshly-dug earth, and nut shells. This is in a beautiful place right now. (2/08)

ca'mia, I've got something to show you

Brovia 1995 Barolo ca’mia (Piedmont) – Gorgeous. Roses, muscular tannin, and a huge core of dark but supple fruit. Complex. Still in its very early adolescence, but surprisingly drinkable now. (2/08)

Take Carod yourself

[grapes]Carod Clairette de Die “Tradition” (Rhône) – Perfumed and zingy, with a soft palate but a crisp, lengthy finish. A lovely bubbly that doesn’t make too many demands. (2/08)


Kalin 1987 Pinot Noir “Cuvée DD” (Sonoma County) – Beautifully structured, with crisp red fruit in reserve, and a fine foundation of brown earth and morel. Mostly, though, it’s about the structure at the moment. (2/08)

Honor & Labet

Labet 1998 Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune (Jura) – Floral (dried flowers) with white spices and juicy acidity, plus the unmistakable middle-frequency buzz of flor. Very good, though not for everyone. (2/08)

Survivor: Vanotu

Pelissero 1995 Barbaresco Vanotu (Piedmont) – Tannic, showing crushed flowers and black cherries. Very aromatic. The palate turns to chocolate, the wine thickens, and then gravitically disappears within itself. A little too worked, I think. (2/08)


Vogüé 1996 Musigny (Burgundy) – Open and much-depleted over two days, and in its dregs by the time I get to it. Structured and stylish nonetheless, if fading, and while this wasn’t the time to be tasting this wine, I thank the provider. This note, it must be emphasized, has nothing to do with an freshly-opened bottle. (2/08)

Trim the sails

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Light peach and nut oil. Definitely in an odd stage. (2/08)

The heart has its rieslings

Trimbach 1998 Riesling (Alsace) – Closed, or past it? Aspirin and chalk, with a faded finish; I vote “past it,” though there’s really no reason a ’98 – even a négociant bottling – should be over the hill. (2/08)

100 meters

[vines]Dashe 1999 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – “Do not open me now. Do you hear me? Leave me alone!” (2/08)


Marco Felluga 2006 Collio Ribolla Gialla (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Crisp but waxy, showing underripe cherries and a lot of a sort of textural, non-structural structure. I know, I know, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s got a physical presence, but not a lot of true structure (like, say, acidity), and finishes shortish. Still, it’s more interesting than chardonnay. (2/08)

She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie: Cocagne

Cave Coopérative du Vendômois 2004 Coteaux du Vendômois Lieu-dit Cocagne (Loire) – A rosé of pinot d’aunis. Very, very pale, with a frigid quality at first opening. Then, it blossoms; almost literally, as in a bouquet full of highly aromatic, but not lurid, flowers over a stark landscape of clay-like minerality. This dances, soothes, and seduces. And it’s a breakthrough: the first pinot d’aunis I’ve ever liked. (7/08)

Chanade O'Connor

Hollevoet “Domaine de la Chanade” 2007 Vin de Pays des Côtes du Tarn “Les Rials” Loin de l’Œil “Sur Lie” (Southwest France) – It’s a white wine. That’s about all you’d want to say about it. Crisp, mostly flavorless aside from a vague gesture in the direction of lemon, and awfully innocuous. (7/08)

07 July 2008

Colline all cars

[vineyard]Le Piane 2004 Colline Novaresi “La Maggiorina” (Piedmont) – Brittle, sharp with acidity, and chilly. But all the more interesting for it. I’ll say it again: this is red riesling…mineral to the core, biting, Teutonic, and precise. And it’s not a cocktail wine. (6/08)

Little Marie

[label]Marietta 2005 Zinfandel (Sonoma County) – 15.3%. A little hot and sticky, with fire-roasted dark berries, twisted and wild, in a forest of slightly charred trees. There’s a lot of flavor here, but it’s formless, and at the core is...not much. (6/08)

For the St-Tropez tan

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Less aromatically vivid than previous bottles. Closing? It can’t be falling apart already. It’s smooth and supple, showing darkness on the edge of berries, a thin strap of leather, perhaps even a touch of tar. Quite drinkable, but not as appealing as usual. (6/08)

06 July 2008

Don't louse it up

Bollinger 1992 Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut “Vieilles Vignes Françaises” (Champagne) – God drinks this, but he saves it for the special occasions. Pure liquid brilliance, a perfect wine, and unimaginably beautiful. There’s restrained power, there’s incomparable elegance, there’s force and there’s delicacy. It’s a gentle breeze, it’s a typhoon, it’s a gently-flowing stream, it’s a waterfall. Berries? Yes: dark and moody. But also Perigord truffle, and artisan croissant, and the finest fleur de sel. Mostly, though, there’s light and shadow…flickering, flickering. Entire religions were founded on less. (8/07)

Not your average Vougeot

Leroy 1995 Clos de Vougeot (Burgundy) – Tight-grained and muscular, but by no means overly dominant, showing a fanatic’s assemblage of tiny wild berries, a mélange of mineral-infused truffles, and a whirlwind, rolling persistence that expands past the nose and mouth into the brain, then races straight down to the heart. Great wines so often possess a certain tactility; this one does its own touching without any help from the taster…and exploration which moves quickly from a firm grasp to a passionate caress. There’s a powerful dimorphism at work here; it simultaneously inhabits both masculine and feminine forms, and the tension and interplay between them defines the wine. Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking. (8/07)


Vatan 1997 Sancerre Clos la Néore (Loire) – Not yet fully mature, which is saying something by itself. There’s a little cream to the highly-developed but well-balanced sweetness here, but between that and a crystalline foundation are layers upon layers of green- and yellow-hued sediment spiked with needles of citrus rind. This wine doesn’t just pulse, it throbs. Even at this stage, and not from a universally-adored vintage, I have to say that this is the best non-dessert sauvignon blanc I’ve ever had, and it wins that competition by some margin. Brilliant. (8/07)


Lur-Saluces “Château d’Yquem” 1990 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – I find this wine strangely unaffecting. It’s not fully open, but even what’s ferreted forth is somewhat twisted and upset. There’s a pristine quality in the background, and the thick layers of other-than-wine (from both the vineyard and the cellar) don’t really detract in any fundamental way, but other than a toasty, baked apple and jellied apricot aroma that seems to dominate, there’s just not all that much here. Low-level taint? Damaged bottle? Damaged taster? Perhaps any, perhaps all. (8/07)

Krug oil

Krug Champagne Brut “Grande Cuvée” (Champagne) – The old label, and from magnum. Exceedingly toasty, but in the fresher, more yeasty/freshly-baked bread sense, with a fine bead and wonderful poise. It’s very rich, however, and lovers of a more precise Champagne should look elsewhere. For fans, this is in a gorgeous place right now. The word “hedonistic” is much overused in the wine world and has lost most of the essence it might once have had as a descriptor, but this is a wine that deserves the term. (8/07)


Foreau “Domaine de Clos Naudin” 2003 Vouvray Moelleux (Loire) – After the Yquem, this seems bracingly acidic…which demonstrates yet again the importance of separating Sauternes and its ilk from more structure-dominated wines. In a proper peer group, things might turn out differently. In any case, the acid does prod and spike and lash, which makes me wonder how it got that way. There’s no lack of sugar, certainly…in fact, it’s an intense, perhaps almost painful sear of sweetness that zips right past cloying and into the realm of liquid Saccharine. Yet it doesn’t seem out of balance, either. What aromatics there are dally in the realms of apple, leaf and lanolin…there’s no discernable chalk…and they’re entirely bound up by the residual sugar. If there’s a flaw – and there is – it’s the oppressive monotone volume of the wine; Philip Glass as interpreted by Scott Ian. In truth, it’s a little dull. But I can’t help but think that it’s a success for the vintage, at least, whether that says anything useful or not, and I must admit that I enjoy it. Will it age? Certainly. Well? I have no idea. (8/07)

A new Prüm sweeps clean

JJ Prüm 1990 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Fully past its primary (and sulfurous) phase, but giving only teasing hints of what’s to come…other than the texture, which is already silky and luscious. There’s length and prominence, but there’s also firm conviction and a pressing insistence. Minerals, yes, and also very ripe apples bathed in clotted cream, but mostly just texture and incessant promise. (8/07)

The Berres necessities

Christoffel Berres 1996 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Creamy and rich, though I don’t find much complexity yet, with the requisite spice somewhat tamped down by palate weight. It’s a little shorter than I’d like, as well, though that’s a nitpick. Still, there’s much to enjoy, and a little more time might help things move in one direction or another. (8/07)


Finca Sandoval 2004 Manchuela (Central Spain) – I’ve liked the lighter “Salia” on more than one occasion, but this…. Berry concentrate slurried into a concrete sludge with a barnyardy funk plus well-ridden horse. Oh, yum. There’s dense, peppery tannin, but otherwise this wine is formless and, despite the tongue-encasing texture, void of life; a solidified memory of fruit and animal preserved in amber. Obviously and by intent, it requires a whole lot of age but this is the absolute opposite of fun. (8/07)

Marcoux plotters

Marcoux 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Heavy, practically ponderous “fruit” (again with the scare quotes; this time, I’d call it “low-hanging meat” from a world in which berries are consumed exclusively by carnivores) that weighs everything down to a stop. Not helping are a thick chocolate sludge, tar, asphalt, and a dressing of somewhat rancid butter on the finish. This is most decidedly not my sort of thing. Which is a shame, because I think this meat-berry idea has legs. Literally. (8/07)

Goin' to the chapel

Jaboulet 1995 Hermitage “La Chapelle” (Rhône) – La Chapelle is one of the more maddening wines from this region; sometimes it’s terrific, sometimes it’s meager, and sometimes it’s simply disappointing. This is one of the former, though that may have more than a little to do with its surprisingly forward nature. Firm minerality is delivered, stone by stone and with a gentle hand, amidst a humid vapor of generalized meatiness and herbality. The wine is as structured and solemn as the little chapel that is its namesake (even if the grapes themselves are from elsewhere), but for whatever reason it’s drinking quite well at the moment. (8/07)

The sultan of Vernay

D&R (GAEC) Vernay 1998 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Feral and yet weirdly elegant, like some jungle primitive dressed up in a tuxedo and somehow making it work. Except the tux is made of meat. And I guess a from-left-field elegance isn’t all that unusual for a Côte-Rôtie. The “fruit” (the scare quotes are always necessary in this appellation) is a dark and dried berry residue stomped by herds of somewhat leaky cattle, violets in the barnyard, and some leather as well. It’s a little chunky and obvious, but it is full of typicity, and that’s not someone one can always say about wines from here. (8/07)

MTM spinoffs

Ogier 1998 Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes “La Rosine” (Rhône) – Still not entirely open, and there’s something Ogier does (or doesn’t do) to these wines that makes me wonder about TCA for the first few minutes after opening. With enough air, however, worries dissipate. There’s old bacon here…not rancid, but that’s lost its smoked porcine verve…grilled pork, and smoky leather over a bed of gravel; it’s the latter that forms, for me, a sort of signature for this wine, along with a more vibrant acidity than one often finds in Northern Rhônes. All that said, I believe I’ll leave the rest in the cellar for a few years yet. (8/07)

Old unfaithful

Ridge 1994 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – This is tight and flailing away at any attempt to make it less so, with primary wood and a not-altogether-pleasant liqueur character dominating all else; it’s a combination of fairly prominent alcohol and syrupy fruit (though just what that fruit is remains fairly opaque, even if a few of the famed ollalieberries make their presence known in a brief, shy encounter). There’s also unmistakable balsamic on the finish, which I just do not want to taste in my zin. And then, the tannin whips the palate, the acid pokes a bony finger forth, and the coconut wood covers everything in a blanket of shaved tropicality. This is a strange performance vs. the last bottle I tasted, which was much more complete and generous despite being quite primary itself. Ah, the mysteries of bottle variation. (8/07)

Sacco & Vietti

Vietti 1997 Barolo Villero “Riserva” (Piedmont) – I’m not entirely sure I could identify this as Barolo or nebbiolo, if served from an unmarked container. However, some of the aromatics are definitely there – roses turning to potpourri, black minerality disintegrating into wet dust – along with dark chocolate and a concentrated, present-but-not-unpleasant cherry confiture spread over the top. There’s plenty of tannin, but it’s mostly ripe (though the tannin-averse should still avoid this wine), and very little acidity. If this note sounds conflicted, it is; based on the producer and vintage, I want to be more suspicious (or even cynical) than I am. But I do like the wine, as a beverage. Concerns about its typicity, or even its core philosophy, can wait for another day. (8/07)

I see your Truchot colors shinin' through

Truchot 2004 Morey-St-Denis Les Blanchards 1er Cru (Burgundy) – Extremely balanced and ever so subtle, with strawberry and tarragon rising very slightly above a gentle breath of red fruit. Supple. The finish is long but increasingly linear, which gives me slight pause. Still, the wine’s hard to resist. (8/07)

The five stages of Grivot

Grivot 1998 Échezeaux (Burgundy) – Dark cherry…but gently, gently, with hints of darker fruit, and then suggestions of lighter fruit as well. Plus, one can’t forget the morels…succulent, perfectly ripe; these are pure-essence-of-the-forest morels brooding in dark, delicious toxicity. But it’s the texture that matters here. Satin. The darkest, richest, most royal satin. The cynical might even call it a little slick and smoothed over. But why ruin the experience via negative predispositions? (8/07)

Break the Habert

Chidaine 2005 Montlouis Clos Habert (Loire) – Big fruit in a brown-paper package wrapped a little too tightly with twine, to the extent that the result is a little suffocated and awkwardly inward-facing. Fine elements are on display – rainwater and chalk, Makrut lime, subtle hints of ginger and Pepino melon – but “primary” understates the case. Revisit in some yet-to-be-determined number of decades. (8/07)

Free Radikon

Radikon 2002 Venezia Venezia Giuli “Oslavje” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Controversial…and, of course, halfway to opaque with unfiltered goodness. There’s a light sweetness (which may instead be deceptively ripe fruit, or even something else; I’ve given up technical analysis on wines of this type) that’s quickly overwhelmed by a strong shower of pine needles – both the aroma and the tactile sensation – that almost, but don’t quite, edge into Pine-Sol territory. Spiced and candied oranges intrude somewhere in the mix as well, though their precise points of entry and departure remain elusive. I kind of love it, but not everyone at the table does. (8/07)

Brücken record

Dönnhoff 2005 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 99 06 (Nahe) – From magnum. I regularly adore this wine, and 2005 is not only no exception, it’s a standout. The nervosity is simply brilliant, with a finely-honed poise between structure and ripe white-yellow fruit as the foundation for a succulent, enticing sweetness. Very, very primary, but with wonders to spare. (8/07)


Charles Heidsieck 1985 Champagne Brut “Charlie” (Champagne) – Salted driftwood and subconscious sharpness; the aggression is implied more than delivered, leaving ripe apple and lemon of striking purity naked and exposed. But all around is a structure of sparkling crystal, glinting and shifting and refracting. It’s a gorgeous…nay, frankly majestic wine that manages to be that rarity among bubblies, and still ineffably Champagne. (8/07)

Putting the Billecart before the horse

Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut “Réserve” (Champagne) – Dry, almost parched, with windblown fruit buffeted and eroded to a featureless grey-white. There’s an internal anger here, barely restrained, that snarls loudest on the biting finish. A very particular bubbly. (8/07)

He knows

Edmunds St. John 2002 Syrah “The Shadow” (California) – One corked bottle, one soupy bottle (that I had; there may have been more), but the rest are as terrific as expected, with a rare balance of primary and developing syrah characteristics buoyed by fine structure and the orchestral tune-up that precedes complexity, For now, it’s still closed down, or at least in much need of a slower-paced awakening if one must drink it now. But it’ll be far better in a half-dozen years, or so. (8/07)

Where's Moneypenny?

Quintas de Melgaço 2006 Vinho Verde Alvarinho “QM” (Portugal) – There’s plenty of fizz here, to the extent that more than a few casual drinkers wonder aloud if this isn’t a sparkling wine. But the aggressive pétillance gives it verve and vivacity, and the limestone, lemon-lime and chalk palate is wonderfully crisp, mineral-driven and exciting. Joe Perry calls this “the DRC of Vinho Verde,” and while I’ve had other serious and studied wines from the appellation, I find it impossible to discover any faults aside from excessive quality here. Nicely done. (8/07)

Dan Montemarino

[vineyard]Bellotti Cascina degli Ulivi 2005 Monferrato Bianco “Montemarino” (Piedmont) – Saline, with intense citrus turning almost to redder fruit, especially quince, but not quite getting there. This flashes and bites, seeming to yield everything and then jamming itself throatward. A really striking wine. (6/08)

João do you do?

[cave]Caves São João 2003 “Frei João” Bairrada (Portugal) – Dark, hard, difficult. There’s plum here, perhaps a bit fire-roasted, and squinched blackberry, and perhaps some dirt. Black dirt. I’d like to try this from a different vintage. (6/08)

The trouble with Tribouley

Tribouley 2005 “Orchis” Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “Vieilles Vignes” (Roussillon) – Extremely quaffable. Strawberry and a great deal of bubblegum, with a slightly darker blood orange component, presented in a simple, pure, and direct fashion. The effect is a wine full of the flavor of the rich hot-climate wine that it is, but with the spirit of a much lighter wine. A good value, as well. (6/08)

Saumur's here, and the time is right

[cave]Cave de Saumur 2005 Saumur “Réserve des Vignerons” (Loire) – Hums along at about 50% volume, showing some dirt, some herbs, some dark fruit skins, some this, some that. It never really rises above or falls below some-ness. Amiably drinkable. (6/08)

Turn the kerner

Köfererhof 2006 Valle Isarco Kerner (Alto Adige) – Crescendos from general inoffensiveness to a fairly round, polished sphere of sandy minerality, then fades again. Deftly made, but there’s just not all that much here, and for the price it’s a little insufficient. (6/08)

I once knew a girl

[vineyard]Villa Maria 2006 Sauvignon Blanc “Private Bin” (Marlborough) – Simpler than it used to be, with clean, basic tart citrus and apple flavors, a touch of gooseberry, and a very minor crunch. Nothing’s amiss, but… (6/08)