25 September 2008

Cascina your chips

Giacomo Conterno 1998 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia (Piedmont) – Barbed-wire acidity with its points through a forest of wild lingonberries and a sea of cranberries. This is barbera. (9/08)

Pian & suffering

[grapes]La Spinetta 2000 Barbera d’Asti “Ca’ di Pian” (Piedmont) – Dense blueberry with pretty good acidity, but the finish is goopy, flat-nosed, and awful. This is not barbera. (9/08)

My funny Valentini

Valentini 1999 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzi) – Smells like lambic…sour berries and an edge of brett…with leaves and fresher berries in the mix. A baffling wine. It seems flawed one moment, then fresh the next. Too old, too young, then just right. It’s impossible to get a handle on it, or to say anything useful about where it is or where it’s going. Deliciously weird. (9/08)

Pick six

[vineyard]Cavallotto 1990 Barolo Vignolo “Riserva” (Piedmont) – The only wine to directly flout the rules, and its aromatic beauty rather dominates the proceedings. Mixed red fruits and the usual crushed petals abound, but the wine is gentle and still seemingly holding its best in reserve. (9/08)


Mastroberardino 1995 Taurasi “Radici” (Campania) – Cashews. The texture, which I expect to be a little wrenched and puckery, is frankly gorgeous, and the balance of earths – including earth-laden fruit of the darkest, broodiest kind – is lovely. (9/08)

The duke rocks

Colli Spoletini 1990 Sagrantino di Montefalco “Roccaducale” (Umbria) – Texturally, this combines powder and silk, like old European royalty, with ancient black fruit and a finish that’s both vivid and faded. Strikingly excellent. (9/08)

Aunt Bea

Bea 1998 Montefalco Secco “Superiore” (Umbria) – Very tannic, but aromatically lush with crushed lilacs. Lovely. Young. (9/08)

The Maltese Montefalco

Bea 1998 Montefalco Rosso “Riserva” (Umbria) – Sharp and biting, with a dark, dusty tar foundation. Wine as asphalt. Very impressive. (9/08)

Just a secco

Bea 1999 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco (Umbria) – Corked. (9/08)

Speri Top-Siders

[vineyard]Speri 2006 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore Ripasso” (Veneto) – Big acidity, strawberry, chocolate, and butterscotch. Oak? Whatever it is, it’s nasty. I can’t possibly imagine what they were thinking here. (9/08)

Bony Amarone

Masi 1990 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Prune and roasted meat, but “balanced” in the context of this very particular style. There’s a bit of offputting rot, but it doesn’t really distract. Nor does the expected VA. What I’d like is a little more complexity, but that’s not easily found in Amarone. (9/08)

Ravel's Roero

Brovia 2007 Roero Arneis (Piedmont) – Though I love this producer, I realize I’ve never tasted their take on this grape. It’s a good one. There’s fat peach that crisps considerably by the finish, and dried white flowers cover everything. Despite the initial breadth of fruit, the overall impression is one of delicacy and beauty. (9/08)

Beaulieu, no V

Papin “Château Pierre-Bise” 1997 Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu Les Rouannières (Loire) – Structured but fruity, with metal-jacketed apple, sweet apricot, and a tangible sense of size dominated by a very intense sweetness. Very long, but wow is it sweet. Still, there’s enough structure for me to bet on its future, though not with 100% confidence. (9/08)

The Ungeheurer of the wolf

[winery]von Buhl 1996 Forster Ungeheurer Riesling Auslese 35 97 (Pfalz) – Huge minerality…I mean, truly massive rockiness…with, nonetheless, a fine balance between the stones, biting acidity, and precise sweetness. And yet, its actual palate presence is less insistent than it threatens; it’s like a really outstanding German riesling is blowing past one’s nose, but not yet settling on the palate. Despite the age, this is still one for the future. (9/08)

Casale & pepper

Castellani 1995 Recioto della Valpolicella Classico “Il Casale” (Veneto) – Dominated by its volatile acidity, with sweet syrup, sweat, and a sticky, nasty finish. Recioto rides such a fine line between drinkability and utter failure, and this crosses the line. (9/08)

Tavernelle on the green

Banfi 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon “Tavernelle” (Tuscany) – Very simple. Generic fruit. And…nothing. Profoundly indifferent wine. (9/08)

Cuban Cigala

[barrels]Martini di Cigala “San Giusto a Rentennano” 2001 Merlot di Toscana “La Ricolma” (Tuscany) – Sweet blueberry and milky; this feels more like a thickened soup than a wine, despite a sharp bite of tannin that seems out of place. That said, as wines in this style (which isn’t mine) go, it’s reasonably good. But I’d never choose to drink it. (9/08)

"Dego" red

[vineyard]Foradori 1997 Teroldego Rotaliano (Trentino) – Dark blackberry, raspberry, and boysenberry with a bit of brett. Toothy and medium-bodied, with a fair wallop of acidity. More interesting than excellent, though it’s definitely good. (9/08)

Neto gain

Librandi 2000 Val di Neto “Gravello” (Calabria) – Structured and very aromatic. Structured. Did I say that already? Well, there’s a lot of it in relation to the aromatics. Some salted gravel makes up the middle, and it’s reasonably long, but I’m not sure this wine is in its best stage. (9/08)

That old Galea of mine

[vineyard]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2000 Colli Orientali del Friuli Galea Rosso (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Smoky meat, mushroom, and fine-grained tannin. But that’s all there is, and this wine is beyond difficult at the moment; I have confidence for the future based on past performance, but it’s not worth drinking right now. (9/08)

Nice view if you can get it

Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvée Brut (Lombardy) – Obvious fruit…apple and pineapple…that never gets going anywhere more interesting. (9/08)

Siffredi's mom

Pieropan 2004 Soave La Rocca (Veneto) – Melon and metal. All primary – pre-primary, actually – and promise, with absolutely nothing indicating current drinkability except in the pursuit of academic curiosity. (9/08)

Fiacre & a mule

Chartogne-Taillet 1996 Champagne Brut “Fiacre” (Champagne) – Mushroom and Rainier cherry, which is a combination I’m not sure I like. Crisp and maybe even a bit puckery. This never comes together for me, but following a moscato isn’t the easiest thing in the world. (9/08)

Balbi, ball girl

[vineyard]Balbi Soprani 2006 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – Flowers and powdered apple. Soft…too soft…with more gentility than I’d like; the laughing sweetness of moscato d’Asti needs a little more self-confidence. (9/08)

Calling all Carso

Zidarich 2005 Carso Vitovska (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – As obviously unfiltered as it is obviously one of these extended-maceration, naked-experimentation wines for which Friuli is becoming famous. And it’s exciting, with powerful aromatics of spice and soda, plus the pristine, pure sensation of glacier water on the palate…yet if water could be said to have complexity, this has it. The finish is long and beautifully transparent. What a wine! (11/07)

Executive Sancin

Sancin 2004 Bianco (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Light and crisp, with some inherent character that’s nonetheless a bit elusive, and a bit of fat on the finish. This is OK. (11/07)

Sick vasia

Le Vigne di Zamò 2005 Malvasia (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Perfumed and lightly spritzy, but fairly forgettable. (11/07)

20 September 2008

Wolf whistle

[grapes]COS 2005 “Nuro di Lupo” Nero d’Avola (Sicily) – Smells like Sicily. Not the dirty part, but the rich, everything-grows-wild-everywhere countryside, with a deep foundation and a swaggering black minerality layered with berries, leaves, and more rich soil. Beautiful. (9/08)

19 September 2008

Comin' through the rye

[label]Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” “Old Rusty’s” Red Rye Ale (Massachusetts) – With a little more structure (hoppy bitterness, to be precise) this would be a masterwork. As it is, it’s good, with a lot of copper-toned intensity and fine length. But it needs a little more framing. (9/08)

Village idiot

[vineyard]Kumeu River “Village” 2004 Chardonnay (Kumeu) – Sulfur, sulfur, and sulfur, with a pale, hollow simulacrum of chardonnay underneath the stink. Avoid; even if the sulfur goes away, the wine isn’t worth the wait. (9/08)

Part of a llon

[bottle]Brokenwood 2005 Semillon (Hunter Valley) – 10.5%! Less angry and resentful than most Hunter semillon, but I don’t think the ageability is hurt by it. There’s grass and skin here, with a June-sweat acridity and considerable palate presence, yet the finish is exquisitely balanced. It’s forward, as befits a New World wine, but check out that alcohol level. This doesn’t achieve the iconoclastic brilliance of the Tyrell’s “Vat 1,” but it’s very fine on its own merits. (9/08)

One more Martray

[vineyard]Bonneau de Martray 1998 Corton (Burgundy) – Half a wine. Sweaty, dirty-sex aromas are prematurely clipped. A petal-like texture caresses and soothes, and then a tiny appendage of structure clasps its fist shut. There’s a good deal of acidity that’s never quite integrated into the wine, nor does it seem in balance with anything else available for eventual marriage. There’s plenty here that’s appealing, but overall…I just don’t know. (8/08)

Mallo yellow

Mallo 2002 Riesling Rosacker (Alsace) – Rocks with a heavy dose of salt. Intense and powerful. The thin layer of sweetness doesn’t detract, exactly, but it’s not really necessary either, and the wine would be better without it. Doesn’t approach the complexity of more famous Rosackers, but it does show the characteristics of the vineyard, and that’s something. (8/08)


[bottle]Tablas Creek 2003 Vin de Paille “Sacrerouge” (Paso Robles) – Dates, prunes, raisins, plums. Fresher than that produce list would indicate, though, and with a strong core of iron. Yes, it’s volatile, but what sweet red isn’t? Very tasty and quite approachable, though I suspect there might be some salutary effects from age (some deleterious ones too; that volatility again). (8/08)

Hey hey, Nana, drink it goodbye

Chaussard (Briseau) “Nana, vins et cie” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “You are so beautiful” (Loire) – Tense. Pretty, but nervous, with lovely red fruit and the numb snap of Sichuan peppercorn, done up in edgy colors and quavering textures. This is really very appealing, and seems to bend and twist to conform to a rather wide range of culinary partners, but it’s bracingly drinkable by itself, too. The label “real wine” is sometimes applied to wines like this, and here there’s good reason: it’s a very…winy wine, if that makes any sense. (8/08)

Two asses

[label]Terrier “Domaine des 2 Ânes” 2005 Corbières Fontanilles (Languedoc) – Sweaty, leathery, and a little bretty, with that barnyardy-metallic fog somewhat obscuring twisted fruit that seems like it should be darker than it is; this very deception is a signature of this appellation, at least for me. Gnarly, and not in a Jeff Spicoli sort of way. I’d like to see it cleaned up a bit, but if one can get past that the elements are quite appealing. (9/08)

Rosi cheeks

Rosi 2004 Marzemino “Riserva” (Trentino) – Difficult, and by that I don’t mean to criticize the wine. But it’s difficult. Angular yet muscular (not quite wiry; more like a Romanian gymnast), it broods in darkness and sullen faux-apathy, seemingly uncaring as to its performance. But it lingers, hanging around to – at last – give a hint of aromatic fruit, of earth, of graphite, of mountain blossoms. All the elements seem in balance, but there’s nothing of coherence or approachability to be found. Obviously, it requires time. It’s not very enjoyable now. (8/08)

Serra smile

[bottle]Argiolas 2006 Isola dei Nuraghi “Serra Lori” (Sardinia) – In contrast to earlier bottles that were exhibiting some fading, apparently from being held too long, this is singing with spiced, edgy strawberry. (8/08)

Est therapy

Lafage 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “Côté Est” (Roussillon) – I think this wine’s just nifty in a big, fluffy, dog-humping-your-leg sort of way. Big fruit (some stone, some tropical, some citrus), big heft, but nothing oppressive of unmanageable. Pure fun, as long as it doesn’t pee on your shoe. (8/08)


[bottle]Brokenwood “Cricket Pitch” 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Shiraz (South Eastern Australia) – This isn’t grenache? Gluggable and full of jam-scented fruit and Froot™, and while I can’t believe this is made from the grapes from which it’s made, I can believe it’s from where it’s from. There’s nothing wrong with this wine for those who like this sort of expression, but for an Old World palate this is a struggle. A highly drinkable struggle. (9/08)

Out with the old, in with the Cornut

Cornut “Château Guiot” 2007 Costières de Nimes Rosé (Rhône) – Strawberry and gravel. Interesting. But not that interesting. I could drink a lot of this, but I’d end up really bored. (9/08)

The Resses of the story

[vineyard]Resses “Château la Caminade” 2004 Cahors (Southwest France) – Weirdly spacious, with snaky tannin and charred fruit draped on a wall opposite the one that carries a bright, berries-in-the-sun flavor with considerable acidity. The dominant impression is one of structure, and I just don’t know if there’s the balance or interest in integration to bring the disparate elements together. This wine needs a vinous Brown v. Board of Education. (8/08)

Gamot bear

Jouffreau “Clos de Gamot” 1998 Cahors (Southwest France) – Corked. (8/08)

Mountain fortress

Château du Montfort 2005 Vouvray (Loire) – Chalky powdered sugar, yet not particularly sweet; it’s more a textural lilt than it is a palate-changing element. There’s actually not much else to the wine, though. It’s long-ish, but the sustain is mostly monotonal. It’s pleasant to drink. (8/08)

Cornacchia pet

[town]Barone Cornacchia 2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzi) – Open and crisp, with freshly-crushed raspberries in a U-shape of food-welcoming simplicity. What you taste is all you get, but it’s a good, cheap companion for a night. (8/08)

Chocolate grenache

Lafage 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “Côté Grenache Noir” (Roussillon) – A huge burst of gum-flavored grenache-y fruit, as if the grape had been turned into that chewing gum with the liquid center (Bubble-Yum or something like that?). Very pleasant, very easy, very fun. Don’t look for more, because it ain’t there. (8/08)

The Scarsdale Diet

Great Wall 2000 Red (China) – Horrid. Bandwidth doesn’t exist to list all the faults and failures in evidence here. Jean Harris would have loved this stuff. (9/08)

Seigneur moment

[label]Unibroue “Seigneuriale” (Québec) – Takes the heady, spicy, sweet-heavy Belgian style to 11, which isn’t a good thing in this case, as the necessary uptick in complexity and balance is not achieved. It’s just too much. (8/08)


Brooklyn “Local 1” Ale (New York) – Heavy Belgian-style spice-weight; Herbert’s “mélange” made drinkable, without the creepy fortune-telling. Like so many domestic versions of this style – I feel like I’ve written this before – it lacks complexity, though there’s so much power and swagger that it almost makes up for its subtler deficiencies. (9/08)

17 September 2008

Copain, no gain

[vine]Copain 2004 Zinfandel Arrowhead Mountain (Sonoma Valley) – 14.5%. $39.99. Not as heavy as it seems at first sniff, but ponderous, with a thick layer of oak that pretty much obliterates the sludgy fruit. Young Ridge tastes like this, and the wine is otherwise restrained, so it could very well age beautifully. It certainly isn’t any fun to drink now. And the price is…aggressive. But I’d hold it with cautious optimism, and for a while. (8/08)

Payral tax

Daulhiac “Chateau Le Payral” 2005 Bergerac Sec (Bordeaux) – This wine tastes like bones. Bare, dry-surfaced, white and cracked bones. (8/08)

Go-to Coteau

[grapes]Domaine Coteau 2006 Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills) – Big and shoulder-y, as usual, but with more grace than in previous vintages…or maybe the fruit is just stronger in relation to the structure, which in the past has seemed to dominate this wine. Deep-toned, with some oven-roasted earth underneath all that broody fruit. (8/08)

Virgin secs

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Intense summer vegetables, green and complex, with piercing acidity and a narrow, planar texture. It seems to possess an inner chill, as if it were turning to ice from the inside out, yet the solidity stays just underneath the surface of consumption. (8/08)

Muri Andropov

[lagrein]Muri-Gries 2007 Lagrein Rosato (Alto Adige) – Strawberry and raspberry rendered in neon. More candied than I’d like, but it’s a Japanese candy…one of those things with lemongrass and shrimp that sorta redefines what one thinks of as candy. It’s initially offputting, but eventually wins my intellectual side over with a lot of striking complexity. My emotional side remains suspicious of its Technicolor, though. (8/08)

The pink

Mionetto “Il Rosé” Rosato del Veneto (Veneto) – This is a strange bird; it’s a little sweet and frothy, but the redness of the fruit is of a darker hue than one expects in a pink sparkler. There are better pink sparklers out there, to be sure, but at a party where there might be red-wine-friendly food, this does better than something more light-minded. (8/08)

One dollar

JP Brun Vin Mousseux “FRV100” (Beaujolais) – How can fruit be both concentrated and light? It’s like the essence of something late-summery…strawberries, perhaps, or maybe cloudberries, writ pink, midly frothy, and immensely appealing. This is more “winey” than the similarly-constructed wines of Bugey-Cerdon, and it’s definitely heftier, but it’s no less an interpretation of a fun, quaffing “soda pop’ for adults. (8/08)

Thank you, ano

[label]Graziano 2004 Zinfandel (Mendocino) – 14.5%. Simple, clean, and direct; a burst of zingy fruit amongst tangled vines, with acidity that will remind one of the zins of yesteryear. Fun and gluggable. (8/08)

Golden chardonnay

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2006 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Elusive but enticing, which is half unusual for this wine; usually, it’s just the latter. Faceted glass, mirrored in brown earth and a clear stone fruit texture, with good structure and yet with a good deal of careful restraint. Is this slightly closed? (8/08)

Don't squeeze the Charvin

[vine]Charvin 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône “Le Poutet” (Rhône) – Lightly smoky, but mostly about pleasant, simple earth-fruit. Dark and drinkable. (8/08)