08 November 2008

George C.

[audrey hepburn]Scott Paul 2006 Pinot Noir “Audrey” (Dundee Hills) – Passion and seduction, but the play ends a bit early; the wine teases rather than fulfills, and I’m not sure it’s going to make good on its promises with age. What’s in evidence is a lush, overwhelmingly inviting pillow of softly floral berries. It’s really lovely to drink, but I just don’t know if it rises all the way to its pedigree. (11/08)


Hamilton Russell 2007 Chardonnay (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) – Serious chardonnay, with ambition expressed in deeply soil-driven aromatics, good structure, a fine-grained patina of wood, and brooding fruit met in equal measure by aromatic porcini. I’m very eager to see this one develop. (10/08)

Rocks in the head

Edmunds St. John 2005 “Rocks and Gravel” (California) – Way too young, and yet showing its promise with thyme-infused skin not yet fully leathered, the densest blackberries, and a structure that’s at least half micro-particulate; this wine has a vibrant presence in a very non-liquidy way. Very long. Let it rest. (11/08)

Hit the Trail

[vineyard]Wild Earth “Blind Trail” 2006 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Less whole than a previous bottle, showing dense beet and berry with mushroom soda, then a soft sine wave of cherried acidity, and then a deep basso throb of dark earth on the finish. And yet, it doesn’t quite come together; despite its apparent construction as an early-drinking wine, it seems to be closing rather than falling apart. Still, it’s a good, regionally-true introduction to one version of the Central Otago style. A second bottle is identical. (11/08)


Pellegrino 2004 Moscato di Pantelleria (Sicily) – 375 ml. Perfume with a heady edge of pine, lemon curd, and dry ice. Not as simple as everyday moscato, and an incomparably massive improvement over the horrid 2003. A fun finish. (11/08)

Blonk de blancs

Edmunds St. John 2002 “blonk!” (Paso Robles) – Tastes like it’s just coming into its maturing phase – which is not to say it’s all the way there yet – with older, bronzed stone fruit and a lot of dusty trails running through the foundation. It gets a bit twisty with food, but with more aeration finds its voice and starts to hum an old, folkish tune with a decided desert twang. (11/08)


Terre Rouge 2005 Syrah “Les Côtes de l’Ouest” (California) – Corked. (11/08)

Billi club

[fog]Mount Langi Ghiran 2004 “Billi Billi” Shiraz (Victoria) – Alcoholic (14%) and volatile when first opened, so I close it back up and move on to another wine. Twenty-four hours later, everything has changed: the alcohol is subdued, the volatility is gone, and in their place are a gentle, pure expression of leathery blueberries and a soft…dare I say it?...almost Burgundian texture. No one will actually mistake it for Burgundy, because it’s both varietally expressive and rather hefty, but it’s a very pleasant wine. A second bottle gets to the good stage right after opening, which is an odd bit of variability for a wine under screwcap, but both are enjoyable. (11/08)

The Roederer less travelled

Roederer Estate Brut (Anderson Valley) – Fairly dense (or perhaps wee-heavy would be a better descriptor…if you’re Scottish), showing a pleasant mix of ripe lemon, ripe apple, and gentle intrusions of strawberry and raspberry. Lees are present, but submissive. This is very primary, but I remain of the opinion that this is about the best of the entry-level domestic bubblies. A second bottle is a little heftier and more red-fruited, which improves it for my palate. (11/08)

Not now, Darling

Darling Cellars “Onyx” 2002 “Noble Late Harvest” (Groenekloof) – 375 ml. If Sauternes had acidity, this is what it would taste like. Yes, that’s unfairly snarky. So to be serious: richly botrytized copper fruit, maturing more quickly than any but the cheapest Sauternes would, yet still fairly fresh, with quince-like acidity that eventually comes to dominate the finish. I’d hold this for a few more years, but probably not longer than that, as I think the acidity will eventually be unpleasant in contrast to the wine’s other qualities. Right now, however, it’s very close to world-class sweet stuff. (10/08)


Easton 2002 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Massive fruit, perhaps too dense for its structure, with a bit of nagging volatility and a brief, angry snarl at the end. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, but all doesn’t end well with this wine. And certainly, it’s unrecognizable if one’s lens is Piedmontese barbera, though it fits nicely into the dominant Sierra Foothills expression. Maybe it’s just a little bit too old? (10/08)

Easton down, Easton down the road

Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 14.5%. Suave zinfandel, carrying its weight with ease, and dressing up its usual tangled-vine Amador gnarliness in a fine, tailored suit…which it wears well. Those for whom differential character in zins is the primary goal will be slightly disappointed in this wine, but it’s very hard to criticize it from any other perspective, as it could hardly be more sluggable. (10/08)

Poverty line

[orchard]Poverty Lane “Farnum Hill” 2006 Kingston Black Cider “Reserve” (New Hampshire) – This remains a serious, complex cider. This bottle shows more of the molten iron and lead components that sometimes lurk in the background, with the deep, rich apple flavors taking on a bronzed characteristic. And yet, there’s a bell-tone of loftier, more skin-derived flavors in the finish. Very, very good. (10/08)

Brute force

Bleasdale “The Red Brute” Sparkling Shiraz (Langhorne Creek) – Boisterous and a bit volatile (the acidity, not the personality trait); basically a middle-of-the-road Aussie shiraz lent bubbles. It’s fine, but there’s nothing compelling here. (10/08)

Sere smile

[bottle]Seresin 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Zippy and strappy sauvignon blanc right down the center of the variety’s aromatic range, showing neither too much capsicum nor too much tropicality, and bringing with it a core of firm minerality (barely perceptible, but there nonetheless). If only most Marlborough sauvignon tasted like this. (10/08)

Don't kill the whale

Southern Right 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – Classic lemon-lime and grapefruit in a hue several shades darker than the norm, with a bit of sweat and toil lingering about the perimeter, and a lot of persistence on the finish. This clearly has designs on levels above its pay grade, but given that it’s sauvignon blanc I don’t know if it can meet them; it’s quite a drink now, though. (10/08)

Right of way

Southern Right 2007 Pinotage (Walker Bay) – The usual black fruit explosion, but with a bit more varnish than usual; with “age” (he says, sarcastically) this wine’s varietal characteristics are coming to the fore. It’s still quite good, and better than most expressions of pinotage, but I guess there’s only so much lipstick one can apply. (10/08)


[vineyard]Kumeu River 2005 Chardonnay (Kumeu) – Stone fruit with fine balancing acidity, restrained citrus, and a lot of sun and crystalline soil. Very, very impressive, with the structure to age and develop for a long while. (10/08)


Westport Rivers 2000 Brut Blanc de Noirs (Southeastern New England) – Very stark, with dry raspberry pits and leafy strawberry hulls lending timid, trebly voice to a thin, tinny old recording on acetate. (10/08)

Age is Bekaa-ning

Chateau Musar 2001 “Hochar” (Bekaa Valley) – Tastes twenty years old, and not in a good way. The well-known Musar bottle (more likely cork) variation strikes again. (10/08)

Cheval Blanc (uh, not really)

Marietta “Old Vine Red Lot Number 47” (California) – Pleasant enough, but in this incarnation this perennial value (no longer quite so cheap, though) tastes like dry gnarly-vine syrup, with a few tiny berries grudgingly giving up their freshness. Not Marietta’s best effort. (10/08)

TGV towards Marseilles

JP Brun “FRV100” (Beaujolais) – Turning sweeter, mostly because the fruit is starting to diminish. The last few bottles of this have been all over the map, which suggests to me that it’s nearing the end of its most useful period. But who knows, really? (10/08)

TCA, TC nay

[vineyard]Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Red (Paso Robles) – Corked. (11/08)

Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Red (Paso Robles) – Juicy and succulent, with a freshly-crushed handful of blue, purple, and black berries given a bit of heft from black soil and a good sun-drenching. Pure pleasure. (10/08)

Jack or Rebecca

Willi Schaefer 2004 Riesling 01 05 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Simple, exposed minerality with a delicate hint of sweetness and a bit of fadeaway. This is where it has been for a while now, so it’s probably premature to say it’s actually fading. (10/08)

I Gruet myself

Gruet Brut (New Mexico) – Dominated by its acidity, with a scraping yellow-fruited bite and no real complexity, yeast, toast, or even enough of its fruit to make up for the zip. It’s attention-getting and palate-clearing, but it’s not what it has been in other releases. (10/08)

02 November 2008

Buster bar

Thomas-Labaille 2005 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés “Cuvée Buster” (Loire) – Creamy and, dare I say it about a Sancerre?, thick, but in its mode there’s a fair bit of balance. It tastes more spherical than of any particular mineral or growing thing, and for about an hour or so there’s absolutely nothing about it that tastes anything like its appellation or its grape. Eventually, with a lot of air (and gentle movement towards room temperature), the barest hint of grass and gooseberry emerges, peeking out from some tiny room within the sphere. Given all this, plus a very long finish, either this needs an epic decant or, more reasonably, a good long lie-down in the cellar. (10/08)


[label]Archimbaud-Vache “Le Clos des Cazaux” 2004 Vacqueyras “Cuvée des Templiers” (Rhône) – Blackberry and boysenberry with a bit of a heart of darkness. I don’t want to say it’s jammy, because it’s not, but the fruit edges right up to that status. Thankfully, it doesn’t tip over to the other side, and there’s some dark earth and a lot of surprising suppleness to the finish. I’d like to see where this wine is headed. (10/08)

Haag und Dasz

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Bizarre and difficult, as if perceived through cheesecloth. Could just be in a bad stage, or there could be a low-level taint I never picked up. (10/08)

Wolaver & play dead

[label]Wolaver’s (Otter Creek) “Will Stevens’” Pumpkin Ale (Vermont) – One of the better pumpkin ales I’ve had in many a year, because while it tastes very clearly of pumpkin, it neither lets its spice run rampant nor forgets that it is still supposed to taste like an ale; too many beers in this category taste like mulled pumpkin mead. Not for the purist, perhaps, but a great deal of seasonal fun. (10/08)


Peak Organic Maple Oat Ale (Maine) – Whether intentionally or not, the combination of elements here makes the beer act more like a very light Stout, or perhaps a Porter, than a regular ale. That’s not a criticism so much as it is a warning; those expecting a light brew that replicates their maple-drizzled morning oatmeal will be a little surprised. The first bottle is a bit of a struggle for me, for this very reason, but subsequent bottles reveal the beer’s qualities, which are considerable. Not something for every day, but a fine effort. (10/08)

That Ommegang of mine

Ommegang Abbey Ale (New York) – Sorta like listening to Dana Carvey do President (George H.W.) Bush; you can’t mistake what it represents, but it’s not really the same. I’m not sure what would help this beer be more like its Belgian inspiration, but I think the word “more” would be a start. (10/08)

At sunset

Otter Creek “White Sail” (Vermont) – It attempts to be a Belgian-style white, but never gets there; the spice elements aren’t intense enough, and the underlying beer isn’t…well, it isn’t much. This is usually a very solid brewer, so it’s disappointing to see them continue to fail with this bottling. (10/08)

Muga-chaka, Muga, Muga

[bottle]Muga 2007 Rioja Rosado (Center-North) – What intrigues me about this wine is how it tastes like an aged rosé – not something most people drink – without being tired or yielding to oxidation, even though there is a touch of the latter. Strawberry, persimmon, perhaps a bit of cranberry…but all in well-aged form, rather than their bright, squirty, fresh-from-the-vine expression (as found in most rosés). Perhaps the effect could best be described as a slight intellectualization of pink. (10/08)

Cork Lynching

Terres d’Avignon “Kermit Lynch” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Corked. (10/08)

I want to be a Ramière, Ramière, Ramière

Jeune “Domaine Monpertuis” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône Vignoble de la Ramière (Rhône) – I’d almost forgotten that Côtes-du-Rhône used to taste like this: earth-spicy old cherry, herb-laden earth, none of it striking or memorable, and certainly not over-worked or heavy, but an easy-going, eminently pleasant companion to just about any food one can throw at it. (Don’t throw your food, though; your mother would be unhappy.) There’s a hint of horse, but only the most rigidly averse will care. (10/08)

Tufi underground

Teruzzi & Puthod 2003 “Terre di tufi” (Tuscany) – Getting a bit tired already, not from age as much as the effort of supporting its brawny upper body on a rather spindly lower half. Ponderous despite a fair expression of metal-sheathed white apricot, and not for the long haul. (10/08)

Ascheri before dinner

[vineyard]Ascheri 2005 Langhe Arneis (Piedmont) – The expected chalk soda texture is here, but what dominates is whitewashed minerality and semi-desiccated apple; it’s a striking expression of grape and place that simply won’t be ignored. Delicious. (10/08)


Adria “The Pilgrimage” 2007 Bierzo Godello (Northwest Spain) – There’s a layer of thickness here through which one must press, initially, and the effort leads to…well, not very much. Some wan stone fruit in an otherwise watery soup, in which the alcohol is left to fill in the gaps. Not very good. (10/08)

Chusclan of the cave bear

Texier 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Chusclan (Rhône) – I open this with trepidation, due to the synthetic cork in its neck. But this is one of the random bottles that’s survived its closure, showing rolling waves of luscious Rhônish un-fruit (underbrush, meat, herbs, dried-and-smoked red cherries in residual form), both “pretty” – if you like this sort of thing – and long. It’s a lower-volume wine, to be sure, which is only to its credit. (10/08)

For seven brothers

[bottle]Seven Sisters 2007 Chenin Blanc (Yolanda) – It won’t remind anyone of the Loire Valley, but for those who like the fruity, sun-drenched expression of chenin blanc without much trickery or drapery, this is a simple pleasure. Don’t look for complexity, delicacy, or much length. You won’t find them. But it’s as drinkable as a New World wine could ever want to be. (10/08)

Etxegaraya, Etxegaraya!

Hillau “Domaine Etxegaraya” 2002 Irouleguy (Southwest France) – Harsh and metallic, with battery acid structure. A victim of its synthetic cork. (10/08)

Not so bon Felsch-ing

Le Gœuil 2004 Cairanne “Cuvée Léa Felsch” (Rhône) – Corked. (10/08)

Anker's away

Het Anker “Gouden Carolus” 2008 “Cuvee van de Keizer” (Belgium) – Wow. All the thick, spicy, sexy Belgian qualities turned up to eleven, but without sacrificing balance. It is a heady, dense wine, and you’ll feel the effects of the alcohol, but it’s strikingly complex and rich, and worth every temple-throb. (10/08)

Émile Zola

Chaussard (Briseau) “Nana, vins et cie” Vin de Table “You are so nice” (Loire) – 2006 bottling. Plays at fun, but the structure’s a bit on the scowly side, with an angry slash of tannin and acidity cutting diagonally through the wine, reducing the appeal of the fruit. Is that some granite in the background? This might just need the right food to tame the angrier elements. (10/08)

01 November 2008

Garrigues Payton

[vineyard]Clavel 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc Terroir de la Mejanelle “Les Garrigues” (Languedoc) – Fully mature, I’d say, even though there’s some scratchy tannin lingering. The “fruit” (mostly gravel-baked herbs, pork, a bit of earth) has softened, leaving an espresso-ground texture behind, and the wine’s starting to lighten and fade on the finish. (10/08)

From sea to shining Kalterersee

Lageder 2007 Kalterersee Classico Römigberg (Alto Adige) – Heat-damaged, and the culprit is likely the perpetually overheated store from which it was purchased: The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, MA. (10/08)

Sh*ts & Guigals

Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – A bit twisted and hard, with dark fruit in the background and a dirty, country-road texture. Not particularly enjoyable. (9/08)

Codax moment

Codax 2005 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Daisy-fresh, riding a line between stone fruit, apple, and salty lemon. Very pleasant. (9/08)

Running for mayor

Santa Domingo “Casa Mayor” 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley) – Better than last time, which is minor praise at best. Dark fruit with strappy greenness and tar. Drinkable in a pinch. Finishes like amaro, and not one of the good ones. (9/08)