24 August 2008

Nana, visitor

Chaussard (Briseau) "Nana, vins et cie" 2005 Vin de Table “La Pangée” (Loire) – The actual producer here is Briseau, but that appears nowhere on the label, so you just have to know, I guess. It’s got that fizzy, biting, razor burn texture, plus a musty raw paper aroma, that says pineau d’aunis to me (and in fact that’s here, along with gamay), and it’s the very reason I’ve always been cool towards the grape. Its sweet, almost keening melody – some sort of ancient woodwind on a misty hillside – is something I want to be more appealing than it is, but I suspect what I like about this wine (the pretty, light red fruit with a zesty zip of acidity) is mostly about the gamay and the lack of winemaking. Unfortunately, what I like about this wine is a very low percentage of its totality. (8/08)

Feeling Bouzy

[bottle]Bara Champagne Bouzy “Grand Cru” Brut “Grand” Rosé (Champagne) – From 375 ml. Piercing x-rays of raspberry, crisp apple, and essence of mountain wildflower over a gravel bed. Complex and yearning, but painfully youthful; even if this won’t age (which I think it will), it needs some time to settle into itself. (8/08)

Eleven tenths

Château St-Jean de Lavaud 2004 Pomerol “1.1” (Bordeaux) – Big, muscular, and volume-enhanced; while it’s quite drinkable and seems to pant and plead for appeal, it’s just not that interesting. It lacks length, depth, and complexity. Maybe those will come with time, but I’m dubious. (8/08)

Saumur loving

[estate]Vatan “Château du Hureau” 2005 Saumur-Champigny (Loire) – Poised and aromatically enticing. Flowers crushed in a loose fist of black earth, with a fine-leafed chervil texture and the suggestion, rather than the actuality, of black fruit. Supple despite an aggressive front. Delicious. (8/08)

Moore in a moment

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Demi-Sec (Champagne) – As long as you don’t think of it as Champagne, it’s appealing (with the right food; in this case, prune-stuffed gnocchi with a foie gras-based sauce) and clean, seeming like coalesced sunshine in jar of sweet syrup that rests on a midsummer windowsill. (8/08)

Grenache in the time of Traginer

Domaine du Traginer 2006 Banyuls “Rimage” (Roussillon) – To be honest, I’d prefer this wine without the slight oxidation; the dirty/gravelly red fruit and sticky-sweet texture braced by sharp acidity would be more appealing were they fresher. But this is the style, and so it is what it is. (8/08)


Corte Sant-Alda 2005 Soave Vigne di Mezzane (Veneto) – Sandy, dusty, lithe, cute…and a little boring. Soave needs something – either Pieropan-style minerality or Anselmi-style richness – that this wine doesn’t deliver, in order to be other than wan. (8/08)

Testa results

[label]Coturri 2005 Carignane Testa (Mendocino County) – Ripe, a bit hot, and full of gummy pink-purple fruit. Even when these wines are clean – and they sometimes aren’t – I don’t really understand the appeal; they seem simplistic and obvious. (8/08)

Cat scratch grüner

[bottles]Loimer 2007 Grüner Veltliner “Cuvée Cat for B&G Oysters” (Langenlois) – Peppery to the point of overt spiciness, with the momentary sensation of a prickly fizz and an angular mouthfeel. Though I prefer a richer, more mineralistic style of grüner, this is fine and authentic in its own style, and a very appealing companion with food. (8/08)

Birdies & pars

Bisson 2007 Golfo del Tigullio Rosato Ciliegiolo (Liguria) – Leafy strawberry with a good dose of grey sea salt and a flat, papery wrapping that somewhat mutes the wine. Tasteful but somewhat indifferent. (8/08)


[bottle]Le Bonheur 2003 Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon “Prima” (Simonsberg) – A fruit bomb, but a fairly reasonable one, showing thick, leathery blueberry and cassis, blackberry, perhaps some plum (though without the acidity). Not a whole lot of structure, but it’s quite drinkable and pleasant with aggressive enough food…which, given the wine, really needs to be cow muscle or something similar. (8/08)

Red & grey

[bottle]San Felice 2003 “Il Grigio” Chianti Classico “Riserva” (Tuscany) – Some strawberry jam (with seeds) threatens to stick its neck out here, but mostly this is clumsy structure and fruit the wine doesn’t know what to do with, except step on with a heavy foot. Dull. (8/08)


[vineyard]White Hall 2006 Pinot Gris (Virginia) – Acrid and sweaty, with a stewed refuse aroma that never quite goes away. The dominant character is rotten, yet underripe, pear skin, and there’s some tonic and stem as well. No good, in case it isn’t obvious. (8/08)

No prisoner

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – Muted. If it’s TCA, it’s below my threshold, but it’s the most likely explanation; there’s just very, very little here. (8/08)


Bosco 1997 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Pan” (Abruzzi) – Much more advanced than the previous bottle, likely due to cork failure. It’s past mature, in fact, with a dried-out character that’s not very appealing, and the bare bones of acidity and light, drying tannin are left naked to the palate. (8/08)

Oh Capitans, my Capitans

Dubœuf “Château des Capitans” 2004 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Corked. (8/08)

What a Perrin

[bottle]Perrin 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône “Réserve” (Rhône) – A stew of vague gestures in the direction of meat, herb, and sun-reddened fruit, which is all fine, but there’s a lot of acidity. A lot. I love acid, and bemoan its lack in so many modern wines, but this seems a little spiky to me. The rest of the wine is tasty, so perhaps with the right food… (8/08)

Torcolato numbers

[drying grapes]Maculan 1998 Breganze Torcolato (Veneto) – Takes a while to get going, but when it does, it shows metal-sheathed peach, pear, apricot, and pineapple doused with sweet, spicy syrup. The minerality and spice come ever more to the fore as the fruit recedes, there’s fine acidity, and the finish is very, very long. Perfectly mature, I’d say, though my individual preferences are for this wine with just a bit more cream, and thus a year or two younger. It’s very hard to deny in its present form, however, and it is far better than all but the best Sauternes at parallel stages in their development. (8/08)

Who's the Mann?

[vineyard]Mann 1998 Gewurztraminer Furstentum “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Concentrated and intense. Peach, apricot, lychee, and cashew oil laden with Indian spice are forcefully shoved to the front, after which gorgeous sweetness braced by flawless acidity expand, fill, then cleanse. A really, really terrific gewürztraminer. It’s drinking beautifully, and while further aging will depend on the drinker’s taste for the saltier form that it will take in 15-20 years, there’s much to admire right now. (8/08)

Give it to me Haardter

[towerMüller-Catoir 1998 Haardter Bürgergarten Riesling Spätlese 19 99 (Pfalz) – My regular M-C source has brought so many rieslaners, scheureben, and muskatellers of late that I’d almost forgotten they make riesling. This wine stirs the memory in quite a hurry. If lemon-lime could be crystallized and calcified, this is what they’d taste like, with shattered crystals in electrified water the dominant textural component. There’s no lack of apple sculpted from granite, either, but to me this wine is like drinking a chandelier explosion. Striking. (8/08)

Do you know the way to Monteillet?

Montez “Domaine du Monteillet” 2000 St-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – The initial impression is mostly wood, or at least so it seems, but with air there’s vaguely spicy baked-yellow earth, well-aged stone fruit, and a gently vibrating wave structure. Nicer than I’d thought it would be given its overwhelmingly arboreal youth, but it would have been better still with a little more restraint in the cellar. (8/08)

The Mayacamas, the Maya go

[vineyard]Storybook Mountain 1996 Zinfandel Mayacamas Range (Napa Valley) – 14.3%. Really good, with nicely developed black fruit turning towards peppercorn and black dust, yet still firm with structure. There’s a cohesiveness that’s not always found in zin, and a balanced confidence rarely found in Napa zin, that are immensely appealing. This should age for a long, long time, though eventually I think the tannin will outlast the fruit. (8/08)

Pain Levet

B. Levet 1998 Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche (Rhône) – Elegant but with a twist at the end, bringing threads of sun and earth, pepper dust and silken potpourri, together in a well-knit weave, then slipping a little zap of the needle when one is least suspecting. As pleasures go, it’s more on the intellectual side than is perhaps typical for Côte-Rôtie, yet it’s friendly and accessible enough, and quite approachable now,…even though more age certainly won’t hurt. (8/08)

Lytton hüs

[tasting room]Ridge 1998 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.3%. Pretty much ready, with the primary, oak-dominated “perfume” still present, yet the red and black berries and plums softened and lush with spice in the manner of a well-aged Lytton. Drink it now, while waiting for more structured and muscular vintages to reach maturity. (8/08)

May I Boiron a cup of sugar?

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Chantemerle” “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Surprisingly light for a Châteauneuf, with all the meat, leather, herb, and dried black fruit residue one could want playing at a low volume. Still, it feels primary, and in need of much more development to strut and preen in the way that it would like. (8/08)

Kerpen it real

[cellar]Kerpen 1998 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese * 11 99 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – There’s more openness here than one might expect, but it’s a window open to the void. I’m not quite sure how that works; the wine feels generous, it says all the right things, but what it’s actually saying is elusive. Maybe it’s running for office. There’s good precision and a lot of steel-jacketed apple – and no lack of thick sweetness, though the wine carries nice crispness – but it needs further development of its language skills before it’s worth a conversation. (8/08)

Who wants to be a Mesnil-aire?

[press]Pierre Peters Champagne Le Mesnil-sur-Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvée de Réserve” (L 0931) (Champagne) – This is the version that was available in early 1998, and is thus a ten-year old NV Champagne. And this bottle hasn’t been stored in pristine conditions. That said, it’s holding well, perhaps just a year or two past its best stage for nut fans, with weight and minerality underneath the toasted almonds. My personal preference is to drink chardonnay-based sparklers early, and save the aging for those made from more red grapes, but there are always delicious exceptions. (8/08)

Chiquet fliquet

[bottle]Gaston Chiquet Champagne Brut “Tradition” (22/07/2005) (Champagne) – Dry, dry, dry. Ascetic, almost. Yet it persists, laser-like in its focus, though it chills and then abrades. I come back to it again and again, searching for warmth. There’s none. But maybe it doesn’t need any. (8/08)

Peach Melba

[bottle]Kumeu River 1999 Merlot Malbec “Melba” (Kumeu) – Thick, even a bit sludgy, with a loud drone of muddy blackfruit. This hasn’t developed any complexity with age, it has just black dwarfed into itself. It’s not unpleasant in any way, and were it a young wine the performance would be fine, but this isn’t why I held the wine. In any case, Kumeu River has never been famous for their reds, so this was a long shot to begin with. It should “age” for a long time yet, but I don’t know that it will develop. (8/08)


Trimbach 1998 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – 375 ml. This has gotten past being tight and angry. Now, I’d call it truculent. The minerals, which abound, have salted up, and there are the first stirrings of whiplash texture struggling to emerge from jaws-of-iron structure, but while drinking this wine is no longer an epic struggle, it does feel like one is drinking that struggle. Even from half-bottle, this needs a long, long time. (8/08)

Willow Rosenbourg

[bottle]Paul Blanck 1998 Riesling Rosenbourg (Alsace) – Oxidized. There’s some steely stuff attempting to cling to life, but it can’t fight the big O. I’d worry more about the scourge of premature oxidation were the cork not a shrunken head of badness. (8/08)

Don't squeeze the Charvin

[vine]Charvin 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé (Rhône) – Beautiful. It tastes nothing like a light pink version of some meaty, boisterous Côtes-du-Rhône. Instead, there’s delicacy and precision, with a lightness to what is unquestionably ripe strawberry-focused fruit, minerality, and transparency. There are no signs of alcohol, at all. The loveliest rosé I’ve had this summer. (8/08)

For he's a jolly good moscadello

[bottle]Capanna 2006 Moscadello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Very, very sweet, with floral/perfumed aromatics but a density approaching that of white pedro ximénez. It’s immediately appealing, but the lack of complexity, acidity, or any other sort of structure make it a chore to drink more than a few sips. (8/08)

Berthold Albrecht

Albrecht 1998 Pinot Gris “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Oxidized. And truly horrid, besides. (8/08)

Here comes the Sonnenuhr

JJ Prüm 1998 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 5 00 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Still sulfurous, though no longer undrinkably so, and while it’s developing a good portion of cream and gentility, it’s not budging much in the direction of aromatic maturity. No surprise there. (8/08)

07 August 2008

On the Lamm

[vineyard]Schloss Gobelsburg 2006 Lamm Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal) – From a loam/sandstone/gneiss vineyard that Theise calls “the Montrachet of grüner veltliner,” carrying 14% alcohol and 3-4 grams of residual sugar. Visually solid, with a faint greenness intruding on a medium-deep yellow core. Aromatically breathtaking, bringing together creamy vanilla, smoky charcoal, and a rich, autumnal iron character. The palate is similarly creamy (both texturally and with the actual impression of fresh cream) and thick, with makrut lime and lemon curd that brace and churn all that density, yet add only complexity rather than dissension. The finish is lush and flawlessly balanced, even with the clear influence of softening residual sugar. Majestic. (2/08)

Steinertal, not short

[vineyard]Alzinger 2005 Steinertal Grüner Veltliner (Wachau) – From gneiss. Light gold with tinges of green. Coriander, cedar, and a vague sort of bell pepper dominate the nose, but the palate veers off in a different direction, retaining the spice but adding a good deal of freshly-cut peach. Thick and incredibly dense, with a balanced heat on the finish (it reminds me of Bas-Armagnac in the way it warms the wine), and a suggestion of long, slightly sweet melon lingering later on. I’m slightly concerned by the early impression of heat, but otherwise the wine is in fine form. (2/08)

Steinsetz to love

[grapes]Schloss Gobelsburg 2005 Steinsetz Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal) – From tertiary gravel (with large rocks) topped by loess. Colored the deepest yellow, with a tinge of greenish-gold, and smelling of grass, cactus, and white peppercorns, backlit by throbbing green and yellow light strobes. The palate is huge and slightly hot, delivering a wallop of strawberries and lentils ground into a powdery texture. Is there a bit of residual sugar? The finish is long and writhing, and bursts with yellow pepper. Weird, but good. (2/08)

Berg, borrow, steal

[vineyard]Bründlmayer 2005 Loiser Berg Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal) – From schist, microschist, and slate. A few bubbles form on the rim. Light yellow, with the color of hay and straw. The nose is particular (asparagus, zucchini, melon skin), somewhat fruity and lush, but directed, though there’s a faint petroleum note. Despite size and lushness of its own, the palate is beautifully balanced, though there’s a warm character deep into the finish, which melts like smooth liquid pear. In the wine’s immediate aftermath, this turns to clear, clean, dry water with a bit of skin tannin. Very promising, and clearly a wine equipped for its future. (2/08)

Achleiten the end of the tunnel

[vineyard]Jamek 2005 Achleiten Grüner Veltliner Federspeil (Wachau) – Corked. (2/08)

Jamek 2005 Achleiten Grüner Veltliner Federspeil (Wachau) – From microschist and granite with a heavy topsoil. Theise calls this “a pensive introvert,” and he’s dead-on. The merest suggestion of a light straw color, the aromas are difficult to perceive…perhaps there’s a little salted, raw celery, but that’s about all. The palate is vegetal (that’s not a negative), dense, and sticky, with a long, dry, floral finish redolent of apple blossoms. Acid and a light, tannin-esque element emerge late, along with a grated – and slightly grating – pepper note, but this wine is slightly imbalanced in favor of fruit over structure. Better integration and form emerge with air, so perhaps all it really needs is time. Based on its current performance, however, I’m not positive that time will do it unmitigated good. (2/08)

Kamptal races five miles long...

[label]Nigl 2006 Kremser Freiheit Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal) – From loess. Showing the barest pérlance, and very pale. Celery, grass, yellow melon, bright golden summer squash, and raw green beans; this is the full vegetable garden writ drinkable, with a buzz and fizz to it. Excellent, somewhat forward fruit gets cleaner as the finish progresses, and though it ends up tasting fairly basic, it’s a fine representative for the grape, and a very nice value. (2/08)

01 August 2008

Pizza Pan

[bottles]Bosco 1997 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Pan” (Tuscany) – 85% montepulciano, 15% cabernet sauvignon. Juicy and full-fruited…still…and showing very little sign that it’s eleven years old. Dark blackberry, not quite jammy but possessing that sort of concentrated density and stickiness, dominates, with a dusting of fresh, crunchy black pepper and some minor herbal notes. It’s good, despite some lingering signs of confection, and might make more sense as a New World version of this same wine, but it’s hard to complain about what’s there for the drinking right now. (7/08)

Please Allomi to introduce myself

Hess 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Allomi (Napa Valley) – Obviousness personified, and though the wine has more of cabernet’s tobacco signature than most of its pushed-ripeness, overoaked, over-merloted brethren, there’s an unfortunate satisfaction with that state: it tastes like fermented tobacco wine rather than something made from grapes. Plenty of structure, especially tannin, so this will last a good long while. I have no idea what it will develop into, though. An ashtray? (7/08)

Chickens & roads

[vineyard]The Crossings 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Mostly grass at this stage, with some whitewashed minerality and a solid, dry whap of acidity. I normally like this producer and this wine a lot, but this one is a little volume-reduced vs. other vintages; that said, it’s still better than many of its sugary, overly-tropical brethren. (7/08)

A bundle of schu

Gundlach Bundschu 2003 Gewürztraminer Rhinefarm (Sonoma Valley) – Thick and sweet-feeling…sweet-tasting, too…with a light wisp of acrid nut that verges on armpitty, but doesn’t quite get there. This is fading rather than developing, and in another year or two it will just be watery. (7/08)

Gundlach Bundschu 2006 Gewürztraminer Rhinefarm (Sonoma Valley) – More sugary than it needs to be, with good nectarine and peach flavors, but lacking the verve of lychee or the spice prevalent in better versions. There’s some acidity, which is helpful, and the wine is quite pleasantly drinkable, but no more. (7/08)