15 December 2009


[label]Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Light, with the texture of flake-depth foil, as if the fruit has been pressed and stretched into the most delicate leaves of nearly-transparent fruit. The wine is, in the context of its ancestors, so light that it’s not easy to discern its Morgon-ness (though the quality of the fruit is darker than most other Beaujolais of similar weight, and there’s the faintest iron-like soil component that meets one’s expectations). Drinking this wine is a little like holding one’s breath, knowing that the slightest sound will disturb something that’s important to hear. (8/09)

Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – More soil and (absent the heat) dusted peppercorn than has been typical for this wine, the result of a slight diminishment of the delicate. I don’t mean to suggest an absence of fruit, but a very slight change in the balance is all that’s necessary for this wine to shift position. (8/09)

Gaules bladder

Lapierre 2008 Vin de Pays des Gaules (Beaujolais) – “What’s this wine all about,” I asked my most reliable retailer. “Green and acidic,” he responded, or something along those lines…and this is a guy with a store full of bottles that fans of pointy fermented goop would call exactly that. Well, he was right: it’s green, it’s overly sharp, it’s thin and edgy, and it’s not for everyone, or even for most. Is for anyone? Well, I suppose; it’s not far in structure from the “Cuvée Granit” bottling that some like to call “red Muscadet,” but it doesn’t have the nervy balance of that wine. It’s the worst Lapierre I’ve ever tasted, and while I’d be happy with it served from carafe in some country bistro, I’m not eager to pay a U.S. retail price for it again. (9/09)

One hundred bubbles

JP Brun “FRV 100” (Beaujolais) – I didn’t check the lot code on this bottle, but based on its performance I think it may be part of the previous year’s stock, rather than a new release. (I’m not sure, however.) This suspicion comes from a slightly stumbling stick and chew to the fruit, which carries a little more residue than the fun freshness it usually has. A minor nitpick, perhaps, but then again this was never advertised as an ager. (8/09)

Fields of gold

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2007 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Continuing to stand above the Beaujolais Blanc pack (admittedly, I don’t even think I’ve reached a half-dozen examples, although I have no idea how many wines labeled Mâcon that I’ve tasted have been secret brethren), due less to its rich, earthy aromatics than its more vibrant palate presence and firmer structure. Still one of my favorite French chardonnays, given a certain and deliberate personal poverty within that category. (9/09)


Granger “La Jacarde” 2008 Beaujolais Villages Blanc (Beaujolais) – Pure chardonnay seen through the lens of Beaujolais: a simple, sweet melody rather than a concerto or symphony of flavor. Light and pretty. (9/09)

Lone Granger

Granger 2002 Juliénas “Cuvée Speciale” (Beaujolais) – Earthen more than brightly-fruited, which would seem to be the usual destiny of aging Juliénas, and in a reasonably pleasant way. Early maturity? Yes, probably, though the resistant tannin might be an issue going forward. There’s a light within that gives hope, but this is a fairly muscular wine. (9/09)

Stuck in my Crau

Domaine du Père Pape “La Crau de Ma Mère” 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Dirty meat, sticky and supple, but with still-intrusive structure. Someone’s rammed peppercorns into well-ridden saddle, as well, and maybe there are a few wads of that grenachy bubblegum stuck between the leather than the horse. Ready? No, not precisely, though I don’t know it’s going to get better…note, however, that this is from a very cold cellar; normally-matured bottles may show more advancement. (8/09)


Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Renaissance” (Rhône) – Fading into a wet stew of stale leather, meat artifacts, and overdried herbs. With very occasional exceptions, the reds from this house and vintage (I bought each bottling) have not survived as long as I’d predicted while tasting them on site and at release. Young vines? Cosmoculture? Terroir? Over-optimism? There’s no way to know without comparing more recent releases, which for the most part I haven’t. (8/09)

Roussillière rabbit, viognier's for kids

[vineyard]Cuilleron 2001 “Roussillière” (Rhône) – From 500 ml and partially-fermented grapes. The problem with Cuilleron’s wines is that they’re overwhelmingly goopy, structure-free, and far too soup-like for their own good. Here’s a wine that goes ahead and admits its faults by intent, by leaving unfermented sugar in the wine. The result is far more pleasant than Cuilleron’s allegedly dry wines, and I think the sweetly floral nature of the raw material is ideally-suited for the dessert category. (9/09)

Rolland in dough

Mme. Rolland “Mas Sainte Berthe” 2006 Les Baux de Provence “Passe-Rose” (Provence) – Potpourri (as stenchy as it is pretty), tangerine, greengage plum. Burns more than it pleases. The more Provençal rosé I have, the more I wish I was drinking pink from elsewhere. The alcohol is just too much, too often. (9/09)

Cornut Reeves

Cornut “Château Guiot” 2008 Costières de Nîmes (Rhône) – Purple fruit and black pepper. Lacks direction, or much of a point, other than the basic fact of it. That’s not really a criticism as much as an expression of general indifference. (8/09)

Collines all Rhônes

Ogier 1998 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodanniennes Syrah “La Rosine” (Rhône) – I’d call this ready, and in a showy, very approachable state of said readiness. “Sweet” fruit turned into that marvelous mix of animal, vegetable, and mineral that characterizes older syrah, with some pepper and earth complexity and a very pleasant, medium-length finish. Intro to Aged Rhône 101, lesson one. (8/09)

Isère anyone in there?

Pont de l’Isère “Domaine Combier” 2000 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – While the aromatic elements of earth, animal, herb, and smoke are in evidence, the wine itself is watery and wan. About 50% of a nicely-matured Crozes. (9/09)


Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – As I’ve worked my way though my rapidly-decaying stash of the 2005 version of this wine, this bottle has only served to confirm my conviction that this is a label for immediate consumption. I don’t personally think that Séguret should decline as quickly as this one does, but the evidence is clear: drink it when you buy it, and not later. Smooth, succulent Southern Rhônishness, full of garrigue and musky fruit scented with earth and that grenache-y touch of gum. Nice. Did I mention to hurry up and drink it? (9/09)

Féraud swine

Costières & Soleil “Sélectionnée par Laurence Féraud” 2005 “Plan Pégau” (Rhône) – A hyped wine that has never really done a whole lot for me aside from my first taste. It’s flavorsome and full, but it’s also boring and more than a little disjointed, with soil and herb here, tobacco and tar there, and no real middle in which to meet. (10/09)

Altenbourged states

[village]Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – The first bottle (of a fair quantity) that has appeared to show signs of being on the other side of its closed period. Thankfully, there’s reward for the promise of youth. Strappy, smoked pork elements have just barely started to emerge, lychee has gained a jacket of iron, and the cashews and almonds have started to shed their oil and present a harder-edged aspect. There’s pretty good acidity, still, and this will carry the wine for quite some years yet. (9/09)

Merciful Zuss

Zusslin 2007 Pinot d’Alsace Auxerrois (Alsace) – Many a pinot blanc from Alsace shows clearly how it benefits from the thicker, spicier weight of auxerrois as a blending grape. Thus, it’s no surprise that the reverse is also true; auxerrois, on its own, can be a little heavy and deadening for its own good, despite a surplus of exciting flavors. This wine manages more lightness than is usual for the grape, but does it at the sacrifice of the more developed spice and stone fruit aromas that comprise the grape’s appeal in the region. OK, but only just. (10/09)

Be Geyl

[grapes]Bott-Geyl 2004 “Gentil” (Alsace) – Smooth, deft stone fruit and the lightest forms of citrus, with a little bit of that classic Alsatian spice. Strong-willed for a Gentil, but not heavy. Very appealing. (8/09)

Nay Ouriet?

Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru “V.P.” Extra-Brut (Champagne) – Pinot-dominated by the aromas, but there’s a sharpness more reminiscent of something chardonnay-based as well. Whatever the cépage, it’s highly alive and present, almost in-your-face, with a coiled energy. It’s a dramatic wine at the moment, but I’d be interested in seeing where it’s headed. (9/09)

14 December 2009

Teri Ciampolo

[vineyard]Montevertine 2002 “Pian del Ciampolo” (Tuscany) – Succulent, beautifully balanced, but in no way overworked to get to this state. Gentle red fruit and brown earth, light spice, smooth-textured cotton. Pure loveliness. Primary, partially tertiary…it’s hard to care when the wine is this good, at any stage. (9/09)

Chiara scuro

Bea 2006 “Santa Chiara” (Umbria) – Dark bronze, rather than orange, yet color aside all the signs of an orange wine are here: stiff tannin, a powerful mélange of spices, dried citrus rinds, and earthen characters, and an insistent…nay, demanding…mouthfeel. Served after a procession of red wines with a cheese course (varied stuff, too…goat, blue, salty & hard, triple-cream), and it performs brilliantly where any given white or red wouldn’t. An absolutely delicious, compelling, complex wine. (9/09)

Lageder leave it

[vineyard]Lageder 2007 Moscato Giallo Vogelmaier (Alto Adige) – Nectarines infused with the usual wild muscat perfume. The fruit helps reign the aromatics into something better-suited for genteel company, and there’s an appealing rock salt counterpoint as well. The only drawback is that, as with most muscats, the wine tends to dominate almost any food with which it’s served, so it’s probably best-suited as an apéritif. (8/09)

Lago land

Castello di Corbara 2002 Lago di Corbara (Umbria) – 50% sangiovese, the rest split evenly between cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Light, with a dark-toned exterior. Flavorful but thin, and kinda pointless. (8/09)

Serra smile

Bologna “Serra dei Fiori” 2005 Langhe “Il Fiore” (Piedmont) – 70% chardonnay, 30% riesling. This would, under normal circumstances, be a blend from hell. Here it sorta works, but only sorta. Bright, sunny fruit – fuller than riesling would be able to provide – is sharpened and cut by riesling, and there’s a little minerality in evidence. The problem, as I see it, is that while the riesling is transparent to whatever its grown in, weak-willed chardonnay is here transparent only to the riesling with which it’s blended. This works better than I would have guessed, and it’s a nice, drinkable wine, but I just don’t see the point. (9/09)

Jo bleo

[vineyard]Gulfi 2007 Nero d’Avola “Rossojbleo” (Sicily) – Dark, and not just in terms of fruit (which is extremely dense), but also minerality and general mood. I think I taste black ash soil here, but that could just be the power of suggestion; I’m sure, however, that the soil component is significant. The wine’s heavy, to be sure, and neither traditional nor thoroughly modern. It’s probably not for everyone, but neither is it some individualistic outlier. I’d like to give it some time in the cellar, to see what happens, but the synthetic cork prevents that. (8/09)

Two of grapes

[vineyard]Bruno Rivetti “Cascina Vano” 1998 Langhe “Duetto” (Piedmont) – While there’s a hard-edge crust of probably-unresolvable tannin, I think the rest of the elements are fully mature. Fine-particulate flower petals, dusty (and old) reddish-black fruit, walnut shells, some earth, and a fair murmur of acidity linger. A nice wine, albeit probably one without a “peak” as such. (9/09)


Roagna 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Corked. (8/09)

Radici, or radon'tci?

Mastroberardino 2004 Fiano di Avellino “Radici” (Campania) – Wax and dust, beehive and bone. Mild-mannered and only medium in length, but refreshing and nice. (8/09)

Ain't that Tufo 'nuf?

Mastroberardino 2004 Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra” (Campania) – Dried-out fruit over ash. Short, a little acrid, and disappointing. (8/09)

10 December 2009

Cathy, sainted & grey

[grapes]Faller “Domaine Weinbach” 1999 Pinot Gris “Cuvée Ste-Catherine” (Alsace) – From a difficult vintage known for deficient acidity, a grape not exactly known for crispness, and a house inclined towards late-hanging fruit (albeit rarely with an absence of acidity). Plus, ten years old. In other words, there’s every reason to suspect this wine is going to disappoint, and do so in a predictable fashion. Well, strike one for the defiance possible with enough conviction, because this is really, really good. Spiced pear lingers, in a more blended form than in the wine’s youth, but fine, unpolished-metal minerality has emerged to take point, and the light sweetness and pretty acidity are in perfect balance. Long and very good, but most of all: surprising. (8/09)


Domaine de la Fruitière 2007 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Cuvée Petit M” (Loire) – Most “quaffing” Muscadet is so-labeled by commentators as a way to avoid saying that the wine’s stark and underfruited, and also lacks the mineral complexity of the best versions. The latter is definitely not the case here. In fact, if anything, there’s a whitish-yellow aggression to the palate. But there’s no real complexity, either. The wine’s good, simple, and…well, quaffable. (8/09)


Joguet 2004 Chinon Les Petites Roches (Loire) – Salted hearty dark greens still rooted in dark soil, blackberry dust, and a very slightly sandpapery structure (fine grit). Closing up, but still pretty good, and yet I wonder if it might not have been better to drink this one young. (8/09)

Galichets stadium

C&P Breton 2004 Bourgueil Les Galichets (Loire) – With age, the fruit here has moved somewhere into the magenta/mahogany range…not in color, but in character…though the aerated layers of grey minerality have not diminished. The structure is very slightly resolved, and while there’s no emergency need to drink this, short-term is the guiding principle. (8/09)

The Trinch who stole Christmas

C&P Breton 2005 Bourgeuil “Trinch!” (Loire) – Hardening and fading into green-edged structural meanness. Likely a victim of its closure. And yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to hold it this long in the first place…this was a “found bottle.” (9/09)

Walk on water

Rozier “les traverses de fontanès” 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc (Languedoc) – Cabernet sauvignon. And it tastes like it, too. What’s interesting is how it shows that character, because while I usually expect cabernet from these southerly regions to be ponderous and under-structured, this is anything but. It’s not underripe, but it brings out the tobacco leaf, cedar, and (ripe) bell pepper qualities of the grape, leaving plenty of acidity and a reasonably crunchy plane of tannin. It’s light, overall, and if any cabernet not all the way over into fruit-bomb territory can be said to be “fun,” this is one. (8/09)

Here's mud in yer Ravaille

Ravaille Frères “Ermitage du Pic St. Loup” 2005 Pic Saint Loup (Languedoc) – Approaches all hard, swaggering, and dangerous-looking. But it’s an act, mostly. The fruit narrows (not “thins,” exactly, but turns more pointed and angular) on the palate, and the wine never quite delivers on its promise. There’s some dark fruit, some smoke, some meat, but nothing like what it needs to be a complete package. (8/09)

Count Henri twice

Comte Henri de Colbert “Château de Flaugergues” 2003 Coteaux du Languedoc La Mejanelle (Languedoc) – Rocky and forbidding, dominated by its tannin (which is more sludgy than hard), and while there’s layer upon layer of thick blue fruit, I’d be hard-pressed to identify this as French. It tastes more Californian, or perhaps South African (before they layer on the oak, which blessedly is not an intrusive issue here). Weirdly compelling, but mostly because it’s served amidst a procession of underfruited wines; in the context of other vintages, I think this would be easily put aside. (9/09)

Grin & Gibert it

Gibert “Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie” 2008 Corbières Blanc “Pas des Louves” (Languedoc) – I’m still waiting for my white Corbières epiphany; the aromas are nice enough (orange juice, honeysuckle, gravel), but the wine’s sticky at its core and drippy around the perimeter, and this performance has been replicated in other wines I’ve tasted of this tint and from this appellation. (9/09)

Clavel cavil

Clavel 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc Terroir de la Mejanelle “Les Garrigues” (Languedoc) – Corked. (9/09)

Capmartin & Caprowan

Capmartin 2007 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec (Southwest France) – Very aromatic, and in an intriguingly elusive way. Flowers? Whitewashed rock? Herbs? All and none of those things, I suppose; this is not a wine that wishes to be nailed down. There’s just enough structure to give it support, and an interesting crescendo to the finish. Nice. I’d consider holding it for a short while to see if it develops some wax and texture, except that the synthetic closure virtually guarantees a short life. (9/09)

Gevrey Sinclair

Jadot 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy) – Surprisingly harmonious at this stage and given the in-your-face nature of the structure. But harmony there is, which I suppose bodes well. Soil is rich brown and light dusk, fruit is fulsome and berried, and both tannin and acidity are hard to miss. At the right price, this could be a solid choice. (8/09)


Mas de Libian 2008 “Vin de pétanque” (Rhône) – Bretty and twisted. I think there’s a rough little quaffer in there somewhere, but the wine’s not clean enough to know. (9/09)

Maurin Povich

Domaine La Berangeraie 2005 Cahors “Cuvée Maurin” (Southwest France) – Impossibly dense and virtually impenetrable, a post-rockfall coal mine of a wine, with smoke, black earth, tar, rosemary, and not-yet-discernable fruit. Do not approach. (9/09)

Haut what a tangled web

Larose-Trintaudon 2001 Haut-Médoc (Bordeaux) – Wretched and tired. This is certainly “past it,” but its past can’t have been any good either. (8/09)

Stinky infant

Quinta do Infantado Tawny Porto Medium-Dry (Douro) – After much dalliance upon the occasion of this producer’s first appearance on U.S. shores, I gave up ever buying their wines, due to the vast majority of them (approaching 90%) being corked...but only mine. Everyone else seemed to be able to enjoy the wine in untainted form. I can certainly claim no evidence of systemic taint, and in fact it seemed to be very much a personal vendetta the TCA gods were waging against me (and, unfortunately, against the producer’s wines when they were so unlucky as to be carried home by me, or opened by someone else in my house), but trying to find an intact bottle was just hopeless. So after a hiatus of a few years, I decided to dip my toe in these stanky waters once more. The result? What else? Corked. Corked into oblivion. Obviously, I am not meant to own or drink these wines. (9/09)

Let me stress, per the comments below: this is, as far as I can tell, my issue and my issue only. I am personally cursed by being virtually unable to experience a non-corked Infantado. My results should not -- and in fact, have not -- been replicated by others.

The sun Rosal morning

[bottle]Terras Gauda 2004 Rias Biaxas “O Rosal” (Northwest Spain) – Ripe lemon and the aroma of salt flats, plus some squiggly structure and a lot of sun. Nice. (8/09)

Melty cheese

Losada Fernández “Viña do Burato” 2007 Ribeira Sacra (Northwest Spain) – A brett bomb. Snappy acidity, and there’s some sappy red fruit whipping around in there somewhere, but the fecal stench is overwhelming. (9/09)

Rubentis, rufixtis

[vine]Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2008 Getariako Txakolina Rubentis (Northwest Spain) – A tidal pool of light raspberry froth laden with white flowers, foaming and fizzing with life (and, to abandon the metaphor, carbon dioxide). Lovely, burst-of-youth stuff. (9/09)

Toi story

Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2007 Getariako Txakolina (Northwest Spain) – Froth, salt, needles, and…not much. I’ve struggled with whether or not this wine actually has any inherent characteristics other than its texture for a while, and the conclusion is increasingly that it does not. It might just be this one vintage, though. (8/09)


[vineyard]Knoll “Weingut am Stein” 2007 Silvaner (Franken) – Salty, spicy, and strikingly vivid. There’s a green edge, but it’s a ripe greenness, and it’s thoroughly dominated by the mineral salts and lively aggression of the wine. Really good, and not just for sylvaner. (10/09)

Finkenauer, or two if you need them

Finkenauer 2005 Kreuznacher Osterhölt Riesling Spätlese Semi-Dry 18 06 (Nahe) – Straining and stretching, seemingly forcing itself into a misty, photo-negative role it’s not quite built for. Its minerality is worn on the exterior, the apple skin and gale-force winds that comprise the wine’s “fruit” are in the interior. This is a reversal of riesling’s usual form, and while it’s interesting, I’m not sure it’s to the wine’s benefit. Emphasis, in that last sentence, on the “not sure”; I’m more than a little uncertain about how to assess this wine? Good? Trying to hard? I dunno. (10/09)

Wehl, en, let's take a look

[vineyard]Studert-Prüm 2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Sweet flowers made of metal and cold sunshine, but it’s the steel that’s growing ever more dominant in this wine, which is insistent and powerful despite the apparent lightness of its carriage. It’s still difficult for me to accept that this is the weight one must expect from a Spätlese, but I guess that’s the modern paradigm. Drink very soon, or let it age. (8/09)

Fired Golf Channel interviewers

Kesseler 2005 Lorcher Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 009 05 (Rheingau) – Riesling on fire, and I don’t mean that in a qualitative way; if a wine at this fairly low alcohol level can be said to have a little excess burn, this would be a top candidate. Along with the heat comes the inevitable weight, and this is far from the balance it would need to show its ripe, steel-jacketed apple and walnut character in any sort of presentable form. (10/09)

The end

[vineyard]Donaldson Family “Pegasus Bay” 1999 “Finale” (Waipara) – From 375 ml. My last, and best, bottle, exploding with spicy complexity, rich bronzed peach, and luxuriant texture. Fabulous. (9/09)

Strada sphere

Fromm “La Strada” 2002 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – As with previous bottles, somewhat at war with its structure. The tannin is layered and ripe, but heavy for the wine (which is darker and more brooding than many pinots, and certainly almost all other Marlborough pinots), and even the usual counterpoint of fat doesn’t quite cut through the muscle. I don’t know if this will hold long enough for the structure to abate, and so my inclination is to drink up over the short term. All this warning and layering of caveats aside, the wine’s dark berries, earth, and autumnal hardwood aromas are still present and powerful. (8/09)

Fly, horsey, fly

[vineyard]Donaldson Family “Pegasus Bay” 2006 Riesling (Waipara Valley) – Lake, rather than river, riesling...by which I mean there’s a tranquility, and the mineral/structural underpinnings rest placidly rather than race past. Ripe apple, sweet lime, and a sunny acidity also play their part. A very engaging wine, still in the flush of youth. (8/09)


Boekenhoutskloof 2008 “The Wolftrap” (Western Cape) – A syrah/mourvèdre/viognier blend. The viognier (or some viognier-aping aromatic yeast) is aromatically dominant, but otherwise this is sweet, sweet, sweet fruit…too sweet for my tastes, with ripeness in the slightly candied blueberry and sticky plum pudding realm. Patently grasping for mass appeal, and failing to be of more than anti-academic interest as a result. Boekenhoutskloof, while decidedly New World in style, can make much better wines than this elsewhere in the range. (9/09)

...aren't forever

Rosemount Estate “Diamond Label” 2005 Riesling (South Eastern Australia) – Solidly made, clean and simple, with a good acid/sugar balance and flavors that hover in the lemongrass-grapefruit range. There’s not all that much of anything, but there’s enough for well-chilled quaffing. (8/09)


[grapes]Brajkovich “Kumeu River” 2000 Chardonnay (Kumeu) – Nowhere near maturity, and not due to the longevity-increasing qualities of screwcap, either; this one’s under cork. Peach has blue-shifted slightly to apricot, orange to pear, and there’s an ever-so-slight emergence of both tan earth and light spice, but with the fruit still mostly primary and the good structure still firmly in place, the only real sign of movement so far is a reduction in the textural presence of oak (though as noted earlier, the aged and spicy component thereof is still quite shy). I’d let it rest for another five years, at least, before venturing another taste. (9/09)


NewHarbor 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – A whiff of reductive stink at first unscrewing, but after a dozen minutes or so it blows off. The fruit’s plummy, but arid rather than rich, with a diagonal plane of tannin that’s nearly but not completely transparent (the effects are more prominent late in the game). There’s earth, and there’s vinyl, plus a touch of burnt tire. Just a tiny bit green, but also purplish…the wine would be better-served in all cases by a little more attention to the middle. It’s not bad, though it’s not great either. (8/09)


Dog Point 2004 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – One of the holdouts against screwcaps in New Zealand…and, of course, corked. (10/09)

Giving in

Meerlust 2000 Pinot Noir (Stellenbosch) – Though it shows none of the obvious signs, there’s every likelihood that this has undergone long-term storage damage, so read what follows in that context: tired, yet still huge, with powdery tannin dominant and a syrah-like smoky leather component about all that’s left of the appealing side of the heavy fruit. Still dark mahogany, ranging towards purple, and pretty solid throughout in both color and weight. An intact bottle might be better. (8/09)

Long distance

Kalin 1994 Chardonnay “Cuvée LD” (Sonoma County) – The argument against the ageability of California chardonnay is, unfortunately, well-supported by the preponderance of the evidence. There are exceptions, of course, and none are more inexplicably absent from the conversation as Kalin. (Actually, perhaps not “inexplicably,” as this is a winery that doesn’t exactly court fame and marketability.) Beautifully mature, and while this will almost certainly (based on past vintages’ performance) hold longer, I don’t think there’s much reason to wait. A mélange of stone fruit and citrus has integrated into a thready core of complexity, around which are wrapped layers of tan minerality, pollen, and the memory of spice. An absolutely terrific wine at peak. (8/09)

You're not my brother

Beaux Frères 2005 Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge (Willamette Valley) – Overwhelming. Intensity dialed past ultra-high to pure caricature, with a liqueur-like texture (minus the sweetness). Black fruit gelatin. This is like drinking a migraine. One can admire the skill, I suppose, but…ugh. (8/09)


[label]Hendry 2005 Zinfandel Block 28 (Napa Valley) – 15.2%. To me, Hendry is an underrated producer. Heck, I even like their chardonnay. Mitigating against that, at least for my cellar, is that their prices are…well, they’re low for Napa, but aggressive in any wider context. That’s one thing when discussing the cabernet, quite another when looking at the zinfandels, which are reliably high-quality but priced as if they’re at the pinnacle, which they’re not. Here’s a wine with concentrated wild-berry fruit (blackberry, olallieberry, perhaps even some dark, exotic plum), excellent structure, and obvious aging potential. The finish is medium-length but vibrant throughout. I just wish it was a little cheaper. (9/09)

St. sy.

[winemaker]Edmunds St. John 2001 Syrah (California) – It will be to my ongoing regret, I’m sure, that the succulent appeal of this wine has kept me from aging it as long as it deserves. Dark fruit in the black & blue realm, leather, resolving but not quite diminishing structure, and complexity in micro-flake form...this wine regularly performs well above its pay grade, and has gotten better with each bottle I’ve uncorked. (8/09)


Kalin 1997 Pinot Noir “Cuvée DD” (Sonoma County) – There just aren’t many California wines made like this, and for my tastes that’s a shame. Soft, mossy earth and well-aged red fruit, black truffle, and crushed flowers…not Burgundian, exactly, but this is the sort of thing people mean when they lend a California pinot noir that characterization. I’d drink this now despite a slight grate and chop to the structure (mostly lingering tannin, though acid plays a role as well), which keeps this from being among the top Kalins I’ve tasted. That said, it’s very good. (9/09)

A crying Shane

[vineyard]Shane 2007 Syrah “The Unknown” (Sonoma County) – 14.2%. Blueberry, a little bit of cocoa, and a good deal of malt powder. The ice cream’s missing, however, and has been replaced by just a touch of booze. Nothing too offensive, and for wines of this type – admittedly not my thing – I can’t see much wrong with it aside from that slight intrusion of heat. (9/09)

Amador, not a bricklayer

Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 14.5%. Leans more to the blueberry and plum side than is typical for Amador zin…there’s not quite so much of the thorny, wild-vine iconoclasm as there has been in other vintages. Perhaps this is what leaves the tannin and acidity a little more exposed, as well. Some time (not a lot) might help knit these elements. Not a bad wine, but not the best Easton’s produced. That said, it’s still one of the highest-quality zins to be had at a non-premium price these days, which is saying something at least. (10/09)

The Bundschu is on the other foot

[logo]Gundlach Bundschu 2006 Gewürztraminer Rhinefarm (Sonoma Valley) – Quartz lychees, cashews in raw rather than oil form, and a little bit of leafy complexity. Short. A bit sweet, but in balance. (8/09)


Renwood “Select Series” 2004 Barbera (California) – Tastes like over-concentrated chokecherry jam. I prefer to spread, not drink, my confectionary. (8/09)

Select again

Renwood “Select Series” 2004 Viognier (California) – Soapy stone fruit, sticky and sappy. Very simple, but OK. (8/09)


Cooper Mountain 2005 Pinot Noir “Reserve” (Willamette Valley) – Corked. (8/09)


[vineyard]Gaillard 1999 Côte-Rôtie “Rose Pourpre” (Rhône) – Very aromatic, but it’s not all the violet-infused terroir…it’s the wood, as well, which is still hovering and expansive, though signs of its eventual integration are apparent. Beef-tinged earth does not detract from an overall elegance, but there’s reticence as well, and many veils yet to be penetrated. This has many, many years to go. It’s a modern-inflected wine, for sure, but it’s not wholly New World. Rather, it attempts to straddle the line, and whether or not one responds to it depends, I suppose, on one’s tolerance for wood with syrah. (10/06)


Lepanto Pedro Ximénez Brandy de Jerez “Solera Gran Reserva” (Jerez) – Like a hotter, drier version of the (in)famous wine, a mix of caramels and sugars with a spiced finish churned over stones. Interesting, though I think I prefer my brandies a little less overtly sweet. (10/06)

Xim or xer

Toro Albalá 2003 Pedro Ximénez (Montilla-Moriles) – Caramel, brown sugar, and motor oil. Very sticky and ungodly sweet, even beyond the wine’s usual clutch and pander, and almost impossible to clear from one’s palate. I mean, it’s incredibly impressive, and I guess accomplished in the sense that it is unquestionably achieving what it sets out to achieve, but… (10/06)


Carreras “Masia Pairal Can Carreras” Garnatxa de l’Empordà Costa Brava Vi Dolç Natural (Cataluña) – Thin and watery. Burnt brown sugar. Wan as hell. (10/06)

15 November 2009

Dry, dry again

[vineyard]Dashe 1999 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.5%. By all rights, one should be drinking the site-designated Dashe zinfandels now, and this one should be a memory. I can’t speak to the “better” wines, but I can say that – at least based on this bottle – there’s no real hurry to ferret out the stragglers from this stock. It shows a lot of the really appealing signs of maturing zin, like tiny wild berries bearing a significant dust component, gentle coffee aromas, and a dark, organic earthiness; fans of older Ridge will recognize much here, and I’d say that even were there no connection between the two wineries. But there’s also still-evolving structure, and some unquestionable tightness to the wine’s core. There’s no harm in drinking it, for certain, but I’m still not sure it’s done with its journey. A really good wine, well-rewarding its time in the cellar. (10/09)

Dashe 2006 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.5%. Big, for sure, with zingy and somewhat elbowy smallberry fruit of a mildly explosive nature, black-peppered earth, and good structure. One oddity: after about an hour, the wine essentially disappears, leaving a hollow cylinder of structure behind. But up to that point, it’s entirely delish. (8/09)


[label]Forestedge Rhubarb Wine (Minnesota) – Unlike so many fruit wines, this doesn’t just taste like the fruit with some alcohol, this actually tastes like wine. There’s a complexity to the tart green-red sharpness, even a bit of what just might be sandy minerality, alongside good acidity and the faintest touch of sweetness to offset. Pretty good. (8/09)


Forestedge Chokecherry Wine (Minnesota) – Buried by volatile acidity, and washed-out besides. No good. (8/09)

Blooming rose

Rosenblum 2006 Zinfandel (North Coast) – 14.9%. Sticky dark-berried fruit with little in the way of structure or life. It’s a decent chug, and it does taste like zinfandel, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much point to it. (8/09)

The mighty Tor

Kenward “Tor” 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mast-Cimarrossa (Napa Valley) – Corked. So massively-fruited that it almost overcomes it. But still corked. (10/09)

Salbatting order

[label]Tablas Creek 2006 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – Reticent. Closing? Quite possibly, or it could just be in decline (the latter is more likely, however). What’s left for examination includes bony structure, nut skins and oils, and a bit of stone fruit. Hope lies in the fact that these bare minimums of expression linger for a good long while, but this is a minor wine at present. (8/09)

Tablas Creek 2006 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – See above note. (8/09)

Hornets' nest

Vino de Shingobee 2006 Staghorn Sumac Wine (Minnesota) – Past its drink-by date, with the reddish bite of sumac given over to semi-oxidized sucrosity. I think this would have been fairly interesting a few years ago. (8/09)

Champlain of the world

Snow Farm American Traminette (Vermont) – Piercing, even a bit sour acidity with a rubber soul of wrenched, thin fruit that clearly wants to be, but isn’t, spicy and aromatic. There’s plenty of sugar left over, but it doesn’t substitute for getting the grapes ripe. I appreciate the enthusiasm of a winery that wants to situate itself on Lake Champlain, but things don’t always work out like one wants. (8/09)

Theobroma presidency

[bottle]Dogfish Head “Theobroma” (Delaware) – Ale brewed with honey, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, ancho chilies, and ground annatto. It sounds either fascinating or horrid, depending on the level of one’s beer purism, but it actually must be said that the recipe – apparently an ancient one, more or less – contributes not to a brew that seems like a misguided accident behind a Mexican pastry chef’s station, but rather something complex and appealing that reminds me rather suggestively of an aged Trappist ale. That’s praise from me, in case it’s not clear. I’m not always on board with Dogfish Head’s wilder explorations, but this is awfully tasty. (8/09)

Gouden carbonated

Petrus Gouden Tripel Ale (Belgium) – Refermenting. And I mean aggressively so…by the time I uncork it, a good deal of beer has seeped up the cork, down the capsule, and all over a refrigerator shelf. The cork, at the slightest tug, slams into the ceiling, causing everyone in the room to duck. Foam boils forth…and even though I quickly pour half the beer into another container, the foam continues to surge and boil until the bottle is nearly empty. The result isn’t all that bad, to be honest, but as I can’t imagine this is the intended state of drinkability, I’m not sure it’s useful to go into much detail. (10/09)

Goldblum virus

New Belgium “Mothership” Wit (Colorado) – A little heavy on the lemon, and somewhat watery. An acceptable level of both, and there’s nice white-washed spice, but this could be better. (8/09)


Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” Helles Blond Bock (Massachusetts) – Strong and a little boozy, and somewhat akin to drinking freshly-pounded copper. Oh, these analogies and metaphors do get away from one. Good, but only just, and I’d rather drink other things. (9/09)

Edmund Fitzgerald

[label]Lake Superior “Kayak” Kölsch (Minnesota) – Frothy and balanced, with an edge of crispness and a saline finish. (8/09)

Lake Superior “Old Man Winter Warmer” Barley Wine Ale (Minnesota) – Dense and heady balsamic sweetness, full of dark brownness. A bit too bitter, though. (8/09)

Lake Superior “Sir Duluth” Oatmeal Stout (Minnesota) – Approachable, but goes nowhere of real consequence, leaving some sticky/malty grain flavor just sitting there, waiting for something.. Good, but only just. (8/09)

Lake Superior “Mesabi” Red (Minnesota) – Intense and hoppy; the opposite of thirst-quenching. Whether one finds this appealing or not will depend on taste. (8/09)

13 August 2009


[vineyard]Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Folks on ye olde internete keep insisting this is at peak, or even on the decline. They’re out of their minds. No, it’s not fully primary anymore, dominated by coconutty oak and jellied fruit. A lot of the former has integrated, exchanging coconut for vanilla, and the latter has definitely deepened to meld more closely with the wine’s darker, black-berried muscularity, but almost all of the aromatic and textural development that makes aging Geyserville so worthwhile has yet to arrive, and there’s rather a surplus of structure at the moment as well. That said, the time at which it would be worth checking in – given sufficient quantities – isn’t far off. Maybe another four or five years? And then holding for…well, I’d guess a long time, at various points along which curve it will be among the great successes of latter-period Ridge Geyserville. (7/09)

Off Brand

Boxler 2001 Pinot Blanc “L20B” (Alsace) – Pinot blanc (and auxerrois) from the Brand, unable to be labeled as such because of Alsace’s often-ridiculous wine law. This wine shows the ridiculousness rather clearly, as it’s both terroir-revelatory and frankly extraordinary. In fact, it’s probably the best pinot blanc I’ve ever tasted…and of the contenders, a rather large number are from this house. Brand dominates, deep and moody with its glowering rocks, while the once-sunnier fruit has turned luscious and creamy. This is not a high-acid wine, by any means, but there’s certainly enough for the stage the wine’s in. What’s most fun is the combination of the intellectual pleasure of a terroir-revelatory wine in its mature glory and the massively appealing drinkability of the wine, which causes it to disappear all too quickly. I could probably drink a magnum of this all by myself, and still wish there was more. (7/09)

Brand identity

Boxler 2005 Muscat Brand (Alsace) – Floral, yes…and as much so as any lover of the grape could want…but the flowers are white, rather than multi-hued, and have shifted from lurid showmanship to stream-side mountain delicacy. The breathtaking Brand minerality, powerful dark crystals laced with coal dust and giving the impression (but not the actuality) of fat, is on display, and succeeds as much as any terroir can in standing up to the grape’s varietal signature. The structure’s good enough (a measure of acidity was no doubt sacrificed in search of the wine’s ideal site/grape balance point). I’m sure this would age, letting the flowers wither away and revealing more and more of the underlying minerality, but I’d actually advise against it; if you want the full expression of site with little standing in the way other than structure, choose a riesling instead. (7/09)

Terri Ciampolo

[vineyard]Montevertine 2005 “Pian del Ciampolo” (Tuscany) – Wow, is this pretty. I thought I’d lost my enthusiasm for sangiovese, but wines like this could re-energize it. Dusty strawberries, flecked with earth and structured by their seeds, with tiny-leafed herbality and a long, faintly buzzing finish full of rocks and light foam. Really, really approachable, but there’s enough structure to eliminate near-term worries. So, hold it for a while? I answer: why? (7/09)

Braised tardives with morels

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Trimbach’s late-harvest wines, especially their gewürztraminers, are packed to the gills with sugar. Their nearly singular achievement, however, is making it seem like they’re not. 2000 wasn’t a firm, crisp, high-acid year, and yet this wine seems only marginally sweeter than many a “regular” gewürztraminer from some of their hangtime-obsessed neighbors, and pairs that sweetness with a surprising wallop of firm acidity. The fruit’s peach and cashew with only hints of lychee, and the minerality’s copper and salt. Bacon, smoke…only suggestions at the moment, and their full expression is far, far in the future. A lovely wine, deft and delineated…and when’s the last time you read that about a late-harvest gewürztraminer? (7/09)

Words, words, words

[vineyard]Overgaauw 1997 Cape Vintage South African Liqueur Wine (Stellenbosch) – I admire the attempt to avoid using the word “port,” but this seems a little convoluted. The wine, however, is anything but difficult. A burst – nay, a fireworks display – of berries, still structured but with nicely-maturing spices (clove, nutmeg), forward and fruity. “Port” is a category in which South Africans appear to take much pride, but I have to say that after tasted around a dozen on a recent trip, I found the category – and many of the big names – pretty mediocre. Not so this, a library release to contrast with the winery’s more current vintage, and already showing a sophistication and worldliness that many of its brethren lack. No, it’s not up to the full range of complexities in a true Port, but it’s also not done maturing. (7/09)

In a cup

Foillard 2001 Morgon Côte du Py (Beaujolais) – A little delicate and even quiet at first, showing a lot of dust and a fading black raspberry palate. A day of minor exposure to air, at room temp, clarifies and amplifies the wine. The dust is still there, but now it’s texture, and the fruit – nicely expanded, though this is still medium-bodied at best – fills the mouth like a thick haze of mature fruit and foggy, sodden earth. There’s a heart of mystery within, as well, that doesn’t want to be quantified. Lovely. (7/09)

The needs of the Mesnil outweigh than the needs of the few, or the Oger

[tasting room]Pierre Peters 1998 Champagne Le Mesnil-sur-Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Vibrant, in the prime of its young adulthood, with a throbbing core of life and energy. Ultra-ripe (but not sweet) heirloom apple, lemony yeast, and the last lingering crusts of a flaky pain levain – there’s something more fundamental here than the standard brioche – with firm acidity, fine-grained electric bubbles, and a long, precise finish. Yowzers. (7/09)

Held back

[press]Pierre Peters Champagne Le Mesnil-sur-Oger “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvée de Réserve” (Champagne) – This is the NV bottling that would have been in stores in 1998, so it’s getting long in the tooth for an NV, even one that was as good as this has long been. Alas, it appears to have reached the end of its useful life, and is now on the downslope…though it should be said that this bottle tastes considerably older than one tasted last year, more than would be accounted for by the time that’s passed. There’s that antiqued bread character, bronze-ish and autumnal, common to older Champagnes, and the way this facet it tiring – paired with a new, elbowy sharpness to the acidity – is the clearest sign of the fade. Still plenty characterful,, but drink up. (7/09)


Allemand 2005 Cornas Reynard (Rhône) – The brooding, dark heart of Cornas, with 50% less apocalypse. Very nearly perfect in form, and thus set up for long aging. Right now, there’s a lot of (ripe) tannin and smoke, but I expect rather a lot to emerge in the years decades to come. (7/09)

On a Calera day

[vineyard]Calera 2006 Pinot Noir (Central Coast) – Friendly berry salad, in a nice mix of ripenesses and aromatics, with an enveloping sphere of darker berries and leafy hints of soil. But this is about primary fruit, for sure, and there’s not a flaw to be found. (7/09)

Catch hheck

Dönnhoff 2001 Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese 006 02 (Nahe) – Fairly creamy (already, which is pretty common for Dönnhoff), ranging from slightly underripe stone fruit to a salt-sugar mix that slightly muddles the structure, though I can’t say that the wine really suffers much as a result. Not an intellectual wine, but not really an emotional one either; mostly, it’s about overt and superior pleasantness. (7/09)

Mime rocks

Drouhin 2006 Meursault-Pierrières "1er Cru" (Burgundy) – Ah, chardonnay. How I haven’t missed you. But then again, this is white Burgundy, and there’s plenty to like here…spicy minerality, soft wood, good balance…if one is inclined in chardonnesque directions. Which, for better or worse, I’m increasingly not. (7/09)


Jadot 2002 Savigny-lès-Beaune La Dominode (Burgundy) – Pointed, razor-leafed raspberry and a fair bit of tannin. A sharply-formed wine, perhaps a little brittle at the moment, but with lovely fruit within. Promising. And also, a question: what’s with the “è”? (7/09)


Denis 1989 Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau Vignes de la Gaillarderie Sec (Loire) – Dirty – in a good way – and fairly high in acid. Unmistakably maturing chenin, yet the minerality is as much aluminum and tin as chalk. Another slight shift is from honeysuckle to pollen-dusted stone fruit skin. So how, exactly, is it “unmistakably chenin?” I’m not sure, but there’s just something about the weight, palate impression, and generally Touraine-evocative aromatics that announce “chenin” with clarity and decision. It’s never wise to suggest that a Loire chenin’s nearing the end of it’s life, and yet I don’t know that this has all that much more development left in it. (Emphasis, in that last sentence, is on the “I don’t know” more than the rest.) (7/09)

Rip Van

[vineyard]Terlan 2004 Sauvignon Blanc Winkl (Alto Adige) – What one wants from these Alto Adige wines, especially the site-designated ones, is minerality coequal or superior to varietal character. That said, some varieties just can’t be conquered, and sauvignon blanc is one. Still, I’d call this a success, with quartz and icy steel backing up a shattered-glass impression of chilly greenish-white fruit. A little white pepper’s there, too, on a finish that doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the wine. (7/09)


Selbach-Oster 2007 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 027 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – From 375 ml, and a gift from a friend who thought I’d either gotten it wrong or had an off bottle in a previous note. At first, there’s an almost milky aroma and texture to the wine, as if cidered steel had been squeezed from a Teutonic cow. Then there’s warming, which brings out both intensity and a surprisingly bit of cream for such a primary wine (guess that cow hasn’t left the vineyard). There’s just a bit of plastic to the finish, and it definitely detracts, but otherwise this is powerful, intense, and balanced…albeit miles from anything that would have been thought of as a kabinett in years gone by. (7/09)

12 August 2009


[banner logo]Bea 2004 “Arboreus” (Umbria) – A tarnished brass sculpture of an orange/apple still life. A ringing broadsword slash of mineral-enhanced tannin. A pale orange sweep of a distant lighthouse, shrouded in mysterious fogs. A biting acid-wash swirled with naturally-derived organic dyes, still aromatic and of variable textures. In other words, this is my fourth or fifth taste of this wine, and I’m no closer to pinning it down than I was before. Endlessly fascinating, it is. (7/09)

Are you Cerdon?

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Purple nurple in liquid form. Craves salty pork, craves crisp vegetables, craves a humid afternoon, craves a parched desert, desires everything, desires nothing at all. The caveat? It’s getting expensive; the fun was less burdened at $15 or less than it is, now, but pushing into the mid-twenties it’s not entirely untrammeled. (7/09)

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – See the previous note, but with more strawberry dust and Pink Lady apple skin. (7/09)

Don't kill the whale

[label]Ace WineCo. “Leviathan” 2007 Red (California) – Chewy, moderately candied berries, pushed beyond their useful life and then given a chocolate bar for endurance. Textbook, middle-of-the-road, cookie-cutter California red goop, found at all prices and levels of rarity in a point-distributing magazine near you. So is this a pan? No, not really. It’s perfectly fine, and achieves its goals. And look: the warning’s right there on the label. “Leviathan.” You can’t say you weren’t warned. Let’s hope the reserve wine isn’t called “Cthulu.” (7/09)

Trappiste family singers

Monastero Suore Cistercensi S.O. Trappiste 2006 “Coenobium” (Lazio) – There sure is a lot of bottle variation with this wine. I expect a little more consistency from nuns…though I suppose the highly naturalistic Bea influence must deserve the credit and.or blame. This is one of the not-great bottlings, expressed – as usual – not by some flaw, but by an insistent argument for indifference. Some of the skin-contact signs are there in the structure, but the miasmatic minerality is more mushy than complex, and the wine just sort of sits there, lifeless. (7/09)

Voûte early, Voûte often

Chanrion “Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes” 2002 Côte-de-Brouilly (Beaujolais) – Not an appellation I usually think to age, but a bottle showed up in a local closeout bin, and so why not? Sharp cherry, with a zip almost akin to that of soda…but there’s nothing artificial here, just pure fruit. A bit of graphite sheeting hangs around to see what’s happening, but this has largely been stripped down to its core identity. (7/09)


Campbell’s Tokay (Rutherglen) – From 375 ml. Sticky-sweet butterscotch and reduced, slightly charred clove honey. Brown sugar drizzled with grade B maple syrup. Did I mention the sugar? (7/09)


[label]Verdi 2007 Oltrepò Pavese Vigna Costa Riesling Renano (Lombardy) – Less riesling character than in any previous bottle, and while I love the grape I’m not sure the diminishment is to the wine’s detriment. Sea salt and melon, limestone, slightly decayed flowers, and a textural wetness…it gets more intriguing with each sip. Yet I’m also not entirely convinced by the wine, which seems to churn and curl away from clear statements and wholeness. Needs time, maybe. (7/09)

Little canals

Bera 2006 Cannelli “Arcese” (Piedmont) – Open for four days by the time I get to it, but still hanging onto sweet-smelling, perfumed garden fruit and a deliberate lightness. Pretty, even in its diminished state. (7/09)


[vineyard]Grosjean 2004 Cornalin Vigne Rovettaz (Vallée d’Aoste) – Aromatically difficult, and it seems like it should be more generous, so I may just have caught this at a bad time. There’s a tension between a sweet-fruited, earthy-floral core and a rougher, shouldery structure that reminds me a bit of the similar tension in Piedmontese dolcetto, but there’s decidedly more minerality here, and the structure isn’t quite as strident. Seems very promising, but now isn’t its time. (7/09)

The peter

Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Corked. (7/09)

How green is my Vallières?

[label]JM Burgaud 2007 Régnié Vallières (Beaujolais) – Tart strawberry, vivid and crisp. There’s some salty ferric stuff, as well, but mostly this is about incisive – or perhaps incising – fruit. (7/09)

Go to the Mât

Dr. Parcé “Domaine du Mas Blanc” 2006 Banyuls “Le Mât Blanc Fruité” (Roussillon) – Despite the name, this is red. Raspberry-sauced chocolate, full and (as promised) fruity, with only the minor interference of oxidation. However, the concentration on fruit brings out some of the grenache-y bubblegum aromas, which (for me) detract from the unique qualities of Banyuls. It’s Banyuls with training wheels, and good in that idiom, but I think I prefer something a little more authentic. (7/09)

More Garfunkel, less Simon

Boxler 2006 Pinot Blanc “L20A” (Alsace) – Spiced apricot, with intensity (in the context of pinot blanc) yet avoiding fatness. There’s auxerrois here, of course, and thus the requisite spice…but it, too, is tamed and manageable. Otherwise, there’s just the right amount of crispness and light, especially into the finish. This isn’t Boxler’s best pinot blanc, but it’s a fine one, and still better than most. (7/09)

Franz the librarian

[vineyard]Schubert 2006 Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard (Wairarapa) – Sweet plum, strawberry, and blood orange. There’s a little hint of candy, which I don’t quite like, but then some blacker, almost licorice-like tones on the finish. I think this will get better with age, because the structure’s there, but it’s pretty simple-minded just now. (7/09)

Jurassic chardonnay

Petit “Domaine de la Renardière” 2006 Arbois-Pupillin Chardonnay (Jura) – Prickly, but from energy rather than acidity (though it has that, too), with a rich complexity of stony aromas (both the fruit and the rocks themselves), a light wash of oxidation that adds further complexity, a good deal of concentration, and a long finish. Very, very engaging. (7/09)

Moe, Larrieu, & Curlycue

[vineyard]Larrieu “Clos Lapeyre” 2005 Jurançon Moelleux “La Magendia” (Southwest France) – Ripe, sweet, and pure. Lemon and apple paired, with a heart of cool alpine valley sunshine and little drizzlings of fresh acidity over the top. Pretty. (7/09)

Curses, Foillard again!

Foillard 2006 Morgon Côte du Py (Beaujolais) – Vastly lighter than some vintages, and almost breathtakingly beautiful as a result. Literally so: I’m completely enraptured by the ethereal blend of spice, soil, berry, and soul in this wine. Texturally sensuous but far from slutty. I don’t just want to drink this, I want to bathe in it. (7/09)

Milly first

Cordier 2005 Mâcon-Lamartine-Milly “Clos du Four” (Mâcon) – Light oak spice, good weight, fine balance, but this reminds me why I just don’t buy, drink, or enjoy oaked chardonnay; there’s just nothing here that can’t be attributed more or less to the wood. (7/09)

Foggy hat

Cappellano 2005 Nebbiolo d’Alba (Piedmont) – Dusty red fruit, soft yet strong, with a nearly flawless texture. Absolutely classic nebbiolo, masterfully presented. (7/09)

Bad, bad, but not brown

Leroy 1983 Volnay (Burgundy) – Pretty. Very, very pretty. Showily so. And strikingly youthful; the structure’s resolved, but the fruit is still fairly primary and direct. Maybe boring? I don’t quite know what to make of this, but admittedly my palate is completely exhausted at this point. (7/09)

Mind the Gap

Wind Gap 2007 Pinot Gris (Russian River Valley) – Spicy pear with a slightly lactic note, but not enough to be unpleasant. Intense, big, long, and luscious. Way more interesting than anything the Scholium Project has produced. (7/09)


[barrel & tank]Scholium Project 2006 “San Floriano del Collio” Rocky Hill (Sonoma Mountain) – The reddest of all the wines; this could easily pass for a dark rosé, rather than an orange wine, and at 16.9% alcohol it’s pushing what few boundaries remain. Par for the Scholium course, I guess. Grassy and greasy, yet with sharp-edged pistachios, some fatness, and (big surprise) noticeable alcohol. Anise, as well, plus maraschino cherries and rather intense minerality. In its less admirable moments, it also smells more than a bit like a fetid poire william eau de vie, but I don’t mean to be overly discouraging; I like this more than I’ve ever liked a Scholium Project wine (granted, the competition for this title has not been fierce). (7/09)

Johnn Carso

Zidarich 2005 Malvasia (Carso) – Full and spicy, but ends rather abruptly. Simple memories of walnut are all that linger. (7/09)

Zidarich 2005 Vitovska (Carso) – Mixed nuts. Very tannic, and edging towards desiccation. Simple, and in fact more than a little boring. (7/09)

Jakot, colonel

Radikon 2003 “Jakot” (Venezia Giulia) – Some alcohol here, plus pear and raw, exposed metal. Fat. The heat lingers into the finish. (7/09)


[radikon bottles]Radikon 2001 Ribolla Gialla (Venezia Giulia) – Tight, metal-jacketed plum. A bit hot, which is something I’ve not previously experienced from this wine. Somewhat indifferent. Perhaps an off bottle (or an off taster). (7/09)

Radikon 1997 Ribolla Gialla “Riserva Ivana” (Venezia Giulia) – Soft fullness and salty white soil. Seems more mild-mannered than it actually is…there’s a fair bit of complexity and depth…but the wine’s gentle in every aspect. There’s a very slight edge of heat creeping into the margins, but otherwise all is seamless. This isn’t aging so much as cohering, and in a very appealing way. (7/09)

In the year MM4

Vodopivec 2003 Vitovska (Venezia Giulia) – Big blood orange, juiced and pumped full of oxygen (by which I don’t mean oxidation, nor microbullage, but a breath-inducing vivacity), with a core of steel and walnuts on the finish. Powerful. (7/09)

Vodopivec 2004 Vitovska (Venezia Giulia) – Clementine and aluminum. Fat. Short. And disappointing. (7/09)

Vodopivec 2004 Vitovska “solo | MM4” (Collio Goriziano) – Direct and forceful, but to what end? The power seems in service of vanishingly little. Maybe it’s just shy, but this is a rather intense void at the moment. Perhaps it’s a singularity of some sort. A black An orange hole? (7/09)

Gotta Bea me

Bea 2004 “Arboreus” (Umbria) – Sweet spice. Round, pretty, and very complete. This is the wine version of Miles’ In a Silent Way, and that’s high praise from me. (7/09)


[vineyard]Movia 2007 Ribolla Gialla “Lunar” (Goriška Brda) – Delish. I know it probably wants to be serious, but really it’s more like a Greek island beach party…albeit from several hundred years ago. No tropical umbrellas here. Very appealing, and in an immediate way. (7/09)

Trappiste John, M.D.

Monastero Suore Cistercensi S.O. Trappiste 2007 “Coenobium” (Lazio) – Simple grapefruit rind, with a light spicing dominated by white pepper. And is that celery? It’s like a stealth grüner veltliner has entered the room and is masquerading as a “baby” orange wine. This is initially fairly disappointing, but gains a measure of weight and texture with extended aeration. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to explore this in more detail. (7/09)

Monastero Suore Cistercensi S.O. Trappiste 2006 “Coenobium” (Lazio) – Bigger and fuller-bodied than the 2007, showing a blend of red and Rainier cherries. Round, yet there’s a washed-out quality to the finish, as if the wine rather clumsily gives its all right at the start, and has nothing left for the duration of the race. (7/09)

Monastero Suore Cistercensi S.O. Trappiste 2007 “Coenobium Rusticum” (Lazio) – Extremely tannic. Metal and charred orange, maybe even a bit of ash. Acid-dominated on the finish, which is extremely long. Tight and no fun. My last bottle of this was a stunner. What happened? (7/09)

Tiger Maule

Angiolino Maule “La Biancara” 1996 “Taibane” (Veneto) – Soft. Strawberry, peach, and blood orange. This needs a lot more structure, which is something I didn’t think I’d be able to say about an orange wine.(7/09)

A critique of pure sauvignon

Kante 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Carso) – The most identifiably-varietal wine in the room, and by a wide margin, though much of that is the familiarity of sauvignon. Is this actually a skin-contact white? It shows few of the characteristics of one, with its vibrant, zingy gooseberry, sharp-edged minerality, and lavish acidity. A good wine, but it seems out of place in this crowd. (7/09)

Red comb

Hautes Terres de Comberousse 2001 “Cuvée Roucaillat” (Languedoc) – Fat, overly lactic, and kind of nasty. (7/09)

La Stoppa, la looka, la listena

[estate]La Stoppa 2004 “Ageno” (Emilia-Romagna) – Dark metallic orange with a heady rush of deep minerality. Sophisticated and striking. Absolutely delicious. (7/09)

Go Bregging

Gravner 2001 “Breg Amphora” (Venezia Giulia) – Bitter almond and apple, with tight layers of complexity and minerality pressed together like an Austrian pastry. There’s a swaggering confidence to this wine that few others of its type can pull off. Yet this is not to say that it’s better, necessarily, just that it’s more overtly self-assured. (7/09)

Ribolla strike

Gravner 1997 Ribolla Gialla (Venezia Giulia) – Heavy, but it’s a good weight. Lush with mandarin-scented Madeleine, plus cotton candy whipped with tart threads. There’s a slightly bitter, Campari-esque note which seems like it should be an “off” character, yet the wine benefits from the counterpoint. This is aging very nicely, and while it doesn’t seem to be showing signs of decline, it’s very likely that I have no idea what those signs might be for this particular wine. (7/09)

Gravner 2000 Ribolla Gialla (Venezia Giulia) – Sweet yellow cherry with some oddities I can’t quite identify. Whatever’s going on, it’s tasty enough but a little distracting. Long. (7/09)

Gravner 2001 Ribolla Gialla “Amphora” (Venezia Giulia) – Slightly bitter, and this time the bitterness takes the form of vanilla, especially on the backpalate. Leafy. A sharp left turn from the pre-amphora ribollas. (7/09)

Old mass

Massa Vecchia 2005 Maremma Toscana Bianco (Tuscany) – A bit of a brett bomb, though eventually the wine starts to show things other than fetid stench, including a silky palate that glides and skates as if on the smoothest ice. A little more attention to hygiene, and this would be a beauty. (7/09)

At the Lispida of light

[label]Castello di Lispida 2002 “Amphora” Bianco (Veneto) – Rich, dark, dusted with cocoa, and luxuriant with the texture of cocoa butter. A very full and blossomy wine, and one that would easily fool many into thinking it’s a red in a true blind tasting. (7/09)

Castello di Lispida 2002 “Terralba” (Veneto) – Soft and pretty apricot flowers with a little kiss of sweet nectar. But then, the wine just sort of disappears. Where did it go? (7/09)

Antece subject

de Conciliis 2004 “Antece” (Campania) – Bitter almond soap with the texture of a whiteout blizzard, and a little sherried throughout. Simple and direct. (7/09)

Klingon wine

Damijan 2003 “Kaplja” (Collio) – Fat tangerine. Short and blowsy. It seems that some orange wines can’t avoid being victimized by this vintage, though there are exceptions. This isn’t one of them. (7/09)

Damijan 2004 “Kaplja” (Collio) – A lovely nose of ripe fruit, flowers, and confiture, but the palate is separated and disappointing. (7/09)

Stop, look, Cornelissen

[bottles]Cornelissen 2007 “MunJebel 4” Bianco (Sicily) – Pine, melting cedar candle, orange rind, and coal. There’s a medium-toned brown hum to the wine, but a sharp declension on the finish; with a little more linger, this could be a star. As it is, it’s merely fascinating, but the fascination is brief. I somewhat preferred a 3 (from 2006) tasted earlier this year. (7/09)

Sveti balls

Clai Bijele Zemlje 2007 Malvazija “Sveti Jakov” (Istra) – Solid, by which I mean uniformly dense rather than well-executed. Plays at being interesting, but it lacks the depth to follow through on its initial promise. (7/09)

How much does it Coste?

Casa Coste Piane 2006 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Tranquillo” (Veneto) – Dry as a desert, and rather desert-like in its lack of visible life. I liked this wine a lot more last month. (7/09)


[vineyard]Ca' de Noci 2006 “nottediluna” (Emilia-Romagna) – Lush pear and apricot. Almost buttery. Somewhat flamboyant, but its an appealing showmanship…flirtatious, yet classy. (7/09)

Cà de Noci 2007 “nottediluna” (Emilia-Romagna) – Stale paper with a bouquet of flowers in slow emergence. Acrid. This needs…I don’t know. But it needs something. And less of some other things. (7/09)

Cà de Noci on the left-hand side

Ca' de Noci 2005 “riserva dei fratelli” (Emilia-Romagna) – Sparkling, though it’s more of a slushy froth than a proper pétillance. Apple and acid, with light bitterness and a fresh finish. However, the nose is odd, and mostly absent. Some are moved to a tentative declaration of cork taint (oddly, all such are female), but the importer (who is present) says not. Still, he agrees that the wine seems off in some fashion. (7/09)

29 July 2009

Palace sagardo

[barrel & bottles]Isastegi Sagardo Naturala (Northwest Spain) – Very cloudy. Sharp, drying, almost bitter skins and a parched desert of appleness within; this cider could hardly be more opinionated, and I love it for that very quality. White pepper dusts the finish. (7/09)

Just in Timbervine

[winery entrance]Porter Creek 1997 Syrah Timbervine Ranch (Russian River Valley) – 14.6%. The black raspberry and blackberry fruit is rough, fulsome, and still seems primary. It’s also hard to enjoy, because the tannin very nearly obliterates it; a mix of hard and leathery chew, bludgeoning all else. There’s acidity, but it hardly matters…this wine has fallen victim to an overabundance of dry bitterness, and while the fruit itself probably has years to go (it’s certainly not showing much tertiary character), the wine itself will never make it…unless one sucks on tea bags for fun. (7/09)

Just be Cazes

[vineyard]A&B Cazes 1995 Rivesaltes “Ambré” (Roussillon) – From 375 ml. Candy corn, old brown sugar, maple residue, and a reasonable layer of oxidation. Fairly acidic at the moment, though this may be through the diminishment of other characteristics more than an attempt at balancing the sweetness. Just OK. (7/09)