30 April 2009


[vineyard]Pierre Frick 2002 Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Précieuse” (Alsace) – Thick apricot with an incredibly dense texture that feels and tastes sugary, though I don’t think there’s much of any residual sugar here. Light oxidation only adds complexity. A really delicious wine, though one would be hard-pressed to identify it as pinot blanc. The next day, it has turned dark brown (it is sans soufre, after all), though this has no apparent affect on the organoleptics, which remain as the day before. (4/09)

VT prevention

Trimbach 2002 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – The first night, this is tightly-wound bacon-wrapped cashew and metal, with fine internal structure. The next night, it’s explosive, not yielding a bit of that vibrant structure, but much more generous with both the fruit (moving into orange and lychee) and the black-hearted minerality (coal and iron). Fabulous, though it will unquestionably need significant age to show its true qualities. (4/09)

Stop, look, Cornelissen

[vineyard]Cornelissen “MunJebel 3” 2006 Sicilia Bianco (Sicily) – A blend of carricante, grecanico dorato, and coda di volpe, served blind. There’s absolutely no way to guess what it is, of course, other than that it’s yet another member of the “orange wine” set, and this time much closer to actual (cloudy) orange than most of its cohorts. As for the wine? Mixed citrus, perhaps leaning a bit towards blood orange, with a very citric acidic presence. There’s a miasma of lambic-like yeastiness, a thick dryness that would appear to be tannin (though I might be misattributing something), and then an interesting interplay of peach and pomegranate on the finish. Papaya too? Sure, why not? A fascinating wine. I like it a great deal. (4/09)

Cornelissen to my plea

Cornelissen “MunJebel 3” 2005 Sicilia Rosso (Sicily) – Nerello mascalese. Cloudy to the point of muddiness, and more the color of iron-rich dirt than falling anywhere in the usual range of red wine hues. Tannic and short. Very tactile, but this is far less interesting than the white of the same name. (4/09)

Take a Sipp

[vineyard]Louis Sipp 1999 Riesling Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé (Alsace) – Good intensity. Wet iron and aluminum. Fully mature. There’s a slight soapiness that’s emerging as the wine loses what acid it had, which (given the vintage) probably wasn’t much. But it’s enjoyable now. (4/09)

Queer eye for the Othéguy

Othéguy 2006 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Tarred blackberry jacketed with iron. And dripping with blood, too, which I mean as a positive (not just for vampires). Hard – stiff, even – with fabulous intensity. Still, I’d be much more interested in this wine after some aging; it’s a bit brutal now. (4/09)

Scott Hochächer

[vineyard]Nigl 1998 Senftenberger Hochächer Riesling (Kremstal) – Elusive, like trying to taste wind. I should note that while I never warm up to this wine, its supplier mounts an enthusiastic defense of its qualities, and I might be in the minority as to its merits. The next day, it’s a little less emotionally distant, but despite a more active texture it still fails to appeal. (4/09)

Piri Mason

Nigl 1998 Senftenberger Piri Riesling (Kremstal) – Dry, dry, dry. Sand and powder. Yet, despite all this desiccation, it’s rounder and fuller than its stablemate Hochächer from the same vintage. But this forwardness comes at a price; the next day finds the wine turned to acrid brownness, and virtually undrinkable. Drink it quickly. (4/09)

Angela J.S.S.

Merkelbach 2001 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 012 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Wine turned up past ten on the volume control, but here it’s not a bad thing. Green herbs and ultra-ripe apple, with metal in abundance. Still very, very young. (4/09)

Robert Clary

[domaine]Jessey “Domaine du Closel” 1997 Savennières Le Clos Lavau (Loire) – At first opening, the increasingly familiar stewed garbage and cabbage aromas dominate. As time goes on, these drift away, though only to an extent; even a day later, they still linger in the background. What emerges, later, is a sweat-stained minerality, like armpits in a mine, sludging its way through a wine with the texture of a dry mead. There’s some salt, too. It most definitely improves with air, and a day later it’s much more identifiably Savennières. That said, after much exploration, and not meaning this as a recommendation for anyone else, I don’t think I’m going to age Closel anymore. It just doesn’t turn into anything I like. (4/09)

My kind of town, Siccagno is

Occhipinti 2006 “Siccagno” Nero d’Avola (Sicily) – Fecal. Crystalline black raspberry soda, with an earthy texture later on. It’s a “pretty” wine, despite the funk, and I like it a great deal, though I wouldn’t serve it to the brett-averse. (4/09)

Collines all cars

Ogier 1997 Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes “La Rosine” (Rhône) – Ash, mud, soy, and baked fruit. It’s not bad, but it’s past its prime, as the tannin and acid now stick out of the wine like rabbit-ear antennae, and the usual Rhône meatfruit is getting more than a little drawn. (4/09)

It's an unfair kop

Kanonkop 1993 Pinotage (Stellenbosch) – Corked. Oddly, this is something no one (including me) realizes the night the wine’s first opened, though it’s apparent on day two, and completely obvious by day three. A shame. (4/09)

Wolfer Blitz

Vollenweider 2001 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Kabinett 01 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Pineapple and clean steel. Good. That’s about it. (4/09)

Peyraud tax

[vineyard]Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1994 Bandol “Cuvée Spéciale la Tourtine” (Provence) – Bretty, for sure, plus the usual mourvèdre horse of a different earth. Very aromatic, which seems to go hand-in-hand with those qualities in these wines. Dark dried fruit (or perhaps dried dark fruit) and a lovely graphite texture that really emerges on the finish. Tastes fully mature, but these wines seem to hang on a lot longer than one expects once they reach this stage. (4/09)

Birks in stock

Birks “Wendouree” 1999 Shiraz/Malbec (Clare Valley) – Wine as amaro, and I mean that in an appreciative way. Quite tannic, with the signature eucalyptus note present only in a supporting role. Blackberries at the core, plus a dusting of Tellicherry pepper. Intense. Texturally, like drinking the finely-ground dregs of coffee. As a guess, this wine has decades of life yet to explore. What I love so much about these wines are their unrepentant individuality, even more so than their actual quality…which goes beyond iconoclasm to outright indifference to their reception. (4/09)

Piesporter control

[vineyard]St. Urbans-Hof 2005 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Auslese 026 06 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Minted peach blossom, plus thick orangesicle laden with vanilla. Reticent at its core, but delish around the perimeter. There’s no real value in drinking this now, considering the potential upside as it develops some muscle and flesh. (4/09)

Carema caramela

[label]Ferrando 2003 Carema (white label) (Piedmont) – Tasted blind, and though I momentarily nose my way into Barbaresco, I get no closer, nor do I do so with much confidence. And I certainly don’t get the year right. The reason? Conflict within the wine, and not a minor one. There’s tar, charred brown earth, some – but not too much – tannin, and a white powder texture. The structure’s all shoulders and knees, but the fruit seems worn out, as if the wine is headed to a premature demise. I can’t figure this out at all, even after the reveal. Drink? Hold? I have no idea. (4/09)

See, F.E.?

Trimbach 1998 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – The only reason to open this right now is to express your intense affection for pain inflicted by an invisible spirit, because it could not possibly be more closed. Like trying to catch sleet on your tongue, or maybe licking a flow of glacial ice, this wine gives nothing. Instead, it demands: patience, patience, patience. The structure is flawless, and this is going to be a stunner one day (albeit on the raw, sharper-edged side of CFEs), but that day is not today. Nor tomorrow. Maybe starting in about 2015, and continuing on for a decade or two after that? Yeah, that sounds about right. (4/09)

Paul Weiss(er)

[label]Paul Cluver 2007 Weisser Riesling “Noble Late Harvest” (Elgin) – 375 ml. Dense. Spiced honey and thyme. Powerfully sweet, but with the balance and underlying precision to support it. Really impressive, perhaps even surprisingly so. I’m eager to see what’s in this wine’s future. (4/09)

Graben a handful

[cellar]St. Urbans-Hof 1990 Wiltinger Schlangengraben Riesling Kabinett 19 91 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Dusty, as if tasted in an old, wind-blown tunnel. Biting green apple. This is good, and I enjoy it (there isn’t a lot of 19-year-old kabinett in my drinking queue), but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have liked it more a few years ago, because the bones are definitely showing. (4/09)

Brücke Shields

Dönnhoff 2007 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 07 08 (Nahe) – Soft and creamy, with tangerine. Pulsating. The full, rich texture isn’t really offset by anything else, to the point where it becomes worrisomely plush. (4/09)

Where's the girlsberg?

[bottles]Hiedler 2000 Riesling Gaisberg (Kamptal) – Marshmallow, peat, and bay leaf. Quite advanced. Long, but soft throughout; whatever nerve this wine once had (and if I recall correctly, it wasn’t much) has left the building. I return to it several times over the course of the evening, and again the next day, but all it does is shove more stuffing into the pillow. Drink up. (4/09)


Fromm “La Strada” 2002 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Corked. (4/09)

29 April 2009

Maréotis elevators

[winery interior]Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Maréotis” (Rhône) – It’s never easy to decide when to open a bottle of ageable wine. It’s even less easy when the wine has little track record and even fewer peers. Even for the winemaker, questions of ageability are rarely more than an educated guess.

So it’s with a bit of trepidation that I open this bottle, hand-carried from the winery back in 2001. It was an intriguing visit for a number of reasons. First was the domaine’s singularity, as it was at the time (and may still be)* the only grower-producer in the appellation, the rest of the production of which is provided by cooperatives. I tasted a few of those, and they were fine in an anonymous but flavorful generic Rhône-ish fashion, but Viret’s wines were an entirely different matter: highly ambitious, if not always – at that very early date – completely focused.

But the second reason was even more compelling: the winery’s wholesale investment with a philosophy known as cosmoculture, a practice tailor-made for those who think biodynamism is a little too conventional. I spent a lot of time tasting wine, but even more listening to lectures on circles of force and dowsing, examining the alignment of Stonehenge-like monuments in the vineyard, and marveling at the cathedral – a fairly literal one – constructed to serve as the winemaking facility. And while the Virets were both very nice and extremely sincere, I spent much of my time vacillating between wondering if they were completely nuts, and marveling at the qualitative triple-jump their wines achieved vis-à-vis the cooperatives’ versions. Ultimately, I decided that it didn’t really matter if they were nuts or not. The wines spoke for themselves.

Anyway, enough background. What about the wine? It’s a grenache-syrah blend (more of the former than the latter) from grapes that have undergone a little passérilage (desiccation) on the vine, made and matured in a mix of cask and stainless steel. At the time, these vines were barely over a decade old, and my original note expressed concern that too much might have been asked of these very young vines.

That fear hasn’t been realized, and the wine is aging better than I would have guessed. It’s powerful right from the start, and heavy, but not so weighted-down that it’s imbalanced or ponderous. Aromas are classic if one imagines a blend of Southern and Northern Rhône characteristics (given that there’s no modern basis for Saint-Maurice typicity on which to judge this wine): meat, leather, Provençal herbs, dark soil, underbrush, sun-leathered dark fruit that has lost its “fruit,” and so forth. As the wine airs, more and more smoked meat emerges.

Texturally, it presses against the palate without being overly oppressive, in waves of leather than alternate between an animalistic fuzz and a harder, more mineralized expression. There’s still quite a bit of tannin (though it’s supple and fully ripened), and just enough acidity to hold everything together, but not a hint of intrusive alcohol anywhere. Structurally, every indication is that this wine is just past the midpoint of its evolution, with nothing but excellent prospects for the future.

I wonder, though. The “fruit,” if one can call it that in wines of this type, seems a lot more resolved than the structure. I’ve no fears that this will decline anytime soon…even if it is mature, the plateau is going to be exceedingly long…but I think a strong argument could be made that it’s not going to get better in the future, though there will certainly be changes. (In fact, I appear to be making such an argument.) Given its current makeup, I’d expect more soy and old meat as the structure recedes, but also more angularity from that structure, which would disjoint the wine somewhat. But please note that I’ve been wrong about this wine’s future before, and might be again in this instance. It makes a very compelling argument for itself, in any case, and whether or not it requires more time to develop that argument may be no more than minor quibbling at this point.

The wine changes little over the course of the evening, aside from an escalating appeal for vinous carnivores, and traces left at room temperature and unprotected from oxygen for a full day are still quite drinkable, albeit much less interesting than the previous day’s liquid. I serve it with pork from the grill, dry-rubbed with alder-smoked salt and smoked paprika (among other, less important spices), and somewhat further smoked by the addition of rehydrated chipotles to the coals during the grilling. The match is just about perfect, though I think any low-acid style of barbecued cow or pig would find favor with the wine…and conventionally grilled meats would hardly be amiss, either. (4/09)

*Update...I'm informed that there are now four independent producers making Saint-Maurice (Chaume-Arnaud and Domaine de Deurre in Vinsobres, and Domaine de l'Echevin in Visan). Thanks to Amy Lillard of La Gramière for the info.

28 April 2009

Sport Utility Drink

[vineyard]Lafage 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “côté SUD” (Roussillon) – Boisterous fruitiness (large, wet berries), a touch of smoke, and the faintest whiff of something earthier, with a little cedary structure from minority partner cabernet sauvignon. Pure fun. (4/09)

Siduri Cruise

Siduri 2006 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – The immediate aromatic impression is of walking into a furniture factory: freshly-cut wood (not, I need to clarify, a comment on the wine’s élevage), paint, and varnish, all powerfully intense. Then comes light fruit that’s been charred to dark anger, perhaps with some beet and blood orange rind, which make me think that this could be a good ringer in a tasting of the Central Otago’s brawniest styles. There’s bright acidity throughout, the alcohol (14.1%) is felt but does not intrude, balance is mostly achieved, and the wine’s by no means actively unpleasant to drink (though it’s a little assaultive to smell), but…well, I feel like I’m drinking a tightly-clenched fist. This is a wine that wants to take a swing at someone. (4/09)

Wölffer down

Wölffer Estate 2005 Cabernet Franc (The Hamptons) – Bell pepper soup with blueberries on top. Not an appealing combination. I’ve had the very, very, very occasional success from Long Island, but most of them have tasted like this (or overoaked versions thereof). At least this has the virtue of not being Hamptons-priced, as so many of its neighbors are, though at around $20 it’s still asking about twice what it’s worth. (4/09)

Sorriso sausage

Scavino 2001 Langhe “Sorriso” (Piedmont) – The must that overwhelms this wine is not that of cork contamination, but rather the stale aroma that seems common to overaged whites that were never meant to age in the first place. (4/09)

Et tu

[glass]Ithaca Beer Company “Brute” Golden Sour Ale (New York) – In the style of an authentic lambic, but dialed back from the dizzying flaws-as-attributes intensity of, say, Cantillon. It’s certainly sour, and bretty, and rounded by barrel-conditioning, but it’s been gentled just enough to act as a fine transitional stage between commercial lambics and the angrier sort. Frankly, it’s outstanding, and I’d never peg it as domestic. But now, the greed: while this beer is very good as-is, I’d be interested to see them try a kreik. (4/09)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Double IPA (Vermont) – I don’t normally like the hoppier styles of beer, and the one thing that bothers me about Long Trail’s regular ales is that they’re a bit strong with the hops. This one, however, works. It does because it finds that ideal point where the sweetness and aromatic excitement of the hops doesn’t simply burn with bitterness, but instead layers the ale with complexity. Impressive. (4/09)

Mary Steenberge

[label]van Steenberge “Monk’s Café” Flemish Sour Ale (Belgium) – The sourness here is cherry-esque, and while it’s dominant it does not dominate. Fresh and appealing, yet with more than a little seriousness. (4/09)

van Steenberge “Gulden Draak” Ale (Belgium) – Frothy, spicy, and while it’s heady by feel, it lacks just a slight bit of substance. This is a quibble, though; the ale’s quite fine. (4/09)

van Steenberge “Bormem” Double Abbey Ale (Belgium) – This is a terrible beer. Just awful. (4/09)

van Steenberge “Bormem” Triple Abbey Ale (Belgium) – The only virtue of this over the Dubbel of the same name is that there’s more alcohol. Otherwise, it’s pretty much worthless. (4/09)

van Steenberge “Augustijn” Ale (Belgium) – Good, straightforward Belgian-ness (octane, sweet spiced stonefruit, etc.), but lacking additional complexity. (4/09)

van Steenberge “Piraat” Abbey Ale (Belgium) – There are some differences between this and the Augustijn, but they’re generally unimportant; the beer’s largely the same, though with an extra wallop of hoppiness that really doesn’t add or detract much. (4/09)

The San always shines on TV

Otter Creek “World Tour” Japanese-style “Otter San” (Vermont) – Brewed with sake yeast. This is vile. It may be authentically something or other, but it tastes of all the worst qualities of cheap sake and homebrew wheat, combined in one sickly package. Ugh. (4/09)

27 April 2009

Zind wagon

Zind-Humbrecht 2005 Riesling (Alsace) – 12% on the label, indice 1. That means dry, or at least dry to the taste. Is it? Yes, more or less; there’s so much intensity than there’s a definite sensation of sweetness, but the wine never tastes sugar, and the finish is quite dry. Otherwise, the dominant features of the wine are a laser-like acidity, the naked scent of sweaty lemongrass, and a hugeness that indicates a wine pushed to its limits. Is this a good or bad thing? It always depends, and this wine is as much on the fence as is this taster. (9/08)


[winery]CH Berres 1998 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 06 99 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Faint at first, but it grows into itself a bit. Yet it never quite reaches the rung it should grasp, remaining dusty and drying, despite good length. There’s a lack of presence, and also of the texture and mineral-spice of older riesling. A closed stage, then? Perhaps. (9/08)

17 April 2009

Stop, look, Linsenberg

[vineyard]Schoenheitz 2004 Riesling Linsenberg (Alsace) – Brilliant green leaves – mint, makrut lime, and perhaps even a touch of sage – with vibrant intensity and a core of naked steel. Grows in intensity for the better part of an hour, then starts a long, slow fade. Vibrant, powerful, dry, and balanced. I’d be very interested to see how this ages. (4/09)

Bonheur party

Rieflé “Bonheur Convivial” 2005 Pinot Gris (Alsace) – Surprisingly iron flake-dominated in the midsection, with a flavorful spectrum of pear interpretations surrounding. There’s dry, there’s sweet, there’s flesh, and there’s skin. It’s a most enjoyable wine, rising a little bit above its station. (4/09)

Coudraye pants

[vineyard]Amirault 2004 Bourgueil “La Coudraye” (Loire) – Edgy. No, the wine’s not pushing any envelopes or breaking any taboos…I mean that this is a wine with edges, and they haven’t been filed down. Dark, slightly wild berries with no appreciable fruit-sweetness carry a little infusion of thyme (one of those exotic varieties, heady with aroma), there’s a foundation of dark earth hardened by time, and the quite-present tannin is as scraping as it is balanced. There’s no lack of acidity, either. The dominant aromatic characteristic, however, is raw tobacco, and while I quite like its expression in this wine, those reflexively indisposed to cabernet franc will probably interpret it as green. It’s nothing of the sort. All these positives thus said, I still wonder if the wine has the cohesiveness for aging, or whether it might not be better to drink it in its explosive adolescence. (4/09)

A Peyrouses is a Peyrouses

[label]Voge 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône “Les Peyrouses” (Rhône) – Cornas without all that soft, easygoing gentility. Well, OK, actually not. It’s feral and twisted, bent and almost broken, but manages to cling to black’n’blue’purple, heavily-bruised fruit around the perimeter, just hanging on as the bottom falls out of the center. Structurally angry. Sadomasochistic wine; there’s pleasure to be had, and you’ll remember it later, but there may be some consequences. (4/09)

Tyrrell's ribbon 'round the old oak tree

[vineyard]Tyrrell’s 1999 Shiraz “Reserve” (McLaren Vale) – Massively acidic. This is exacerbated by the relative daintiness of the fruit, which is tart, red-berried, and overtly crisp; much Beaujolais is actually fuller-bodied than this wine, though it somewhat makes up for its occasional foray into mincing with a sharp blast of intensity. There’s a cloud of pepper dust that lends it varietal character, but otherwise it’s hard to see this as a shiraz, nor has time led to the development of what I’d call tertiary character. Is it good? It’s…particular. It’s fun with food. It’s an enjoyable quaff. And maybe that’s enough. It’s best use might be to blind-taste your Australian wine-hating friends; they’ll never, ever guess. (4/09)


[label]Craftsman 2006 Királyleányka (Neszmély) – The label promises a chenin blanc/viognier-related experience, and that isn’t too far off, as there’s a chalky, sun-drenched greenness thickened with a healthy dollop of oil here. Floral suggestions follow. There’s good flavor and appeal, but the wine’s rather abrupt. (4/09)

Crazy stone

Wild Rock 2007 Pinot Noir “Cupids Arrow” (Central Otago) – Dense, chewy, meaty, and somewhat blackened; in the pinot-as-syrah sweepstakes, this deserves at least an honorable mention. There’s acidity and a plummy brightness that combine to make the wine other than ponderous, but in the end its defiant scowliness and meaty density are hard to ignore. (4/09)

Gallina milk

[label]Lustau “Almacenista” Oloroso Pata de Gallina “Juan Garcia Jarana” 1/38 (Jerez) – Rich brown spices tinged with molasses, slow-baked stone fruit, fuzzy earth tones, and a certain gelatinousness. The wine comes in rolling waves, but those of a receding tide; the spaces in between are a little bare, leaving only a thick film of sweetness in their wake. I’ve always said that I appreciate sweeter styles of oloroso, and this is quite good (albeit probably not quite worth its tariff), but it would be better with a little less covering sugar. (4/09)

Left in the Lorch

[vineyard]Kesseler 2004 Lorcher Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 009 05 (Rheingau) – Open and taking huge, lung-filling breaths of reflective, almost transparent minerality. It’s not a big wine, though it’s insistent, with various apples cut by nut skins and then, later, softened by a certain roundness to the acidity. Interesting. (4/09)

A nice game of Bulles

Jean-François Mérieau Touraine “Bulles” (Loire) – 80% chenin blanc, 20% chardonnay, sparkling. A little bigger than average Loire sparklers, a little gauzier than the best Loire sparklers. Chalk and aspirin, yes. A hint of honeysuckle? If so, it’s dried out…more like bee pollen, really, with a little bit of the wax in the mix as well. I’d call this more pétillant than sparkling, but its delicacy is here a virtue, allowing a very quiet wine to state its case. Nice. I wouldn’t really go beyond that, but “nice” is definite. (4/09)

Listen to this, Eddie

[label]Graziano 2004 Zinfandel Eddie Graziano “Old Vine” (Mendocino) – 14.5%. While I suspect that, somewhere deep in the interior of this wine, there’s pleasant and approachable wild-vine, dark-berry fruit, it’s impossible to perceive through the hard screens and blockades of structure. I suspect that the grapes were just not up to being pushed towards such a serious destination. With the right (fatty) food, it’s a little better. (4/09)

We three kings

[bottle]TreRè Nocino (Emilia-Romagna) – Very spicy-sweet, like one of those hundred-year barrel-aged stickies from Australia. The texture is of something balsamic. There’s not all that much actual walnut aroma, though the skin bitterness of the nut is certainly present. And it finishes in – or perhaps on – fire. I like the idea, but the alcohol’s just too dominant for my tastes. (4/09)

The perfect club

Kesseler 2005 White 001 06 (Rheingau) – 70% sylvaner, 30% riesling. Less (appealingly) vegetal than many examples of the grape, with a little bit of a sharp edge that may be from the riesling, but retaining the clingier texture of the majority partner. There’s a bit of welcome rockiness, as well. A good value, though I think similarly-priced pure rieslings are a little more defined. (4/09)

Beaulon, beauloff

[vineyard]Château de Beaulon Pineau des Charentes “Vieille Réserve Ruby” 10 (Cognac) – Like a ruby Port open just a few hours too long, this is a sweet collection of reddish berries transitioning to syrup, a persistent but not unpleasant throb of oxidation, and a little bit of warming burn that never affixes itself to any particular moment in the tasting experience. It’s quite appealing if you like this sort of thing, and while it’s not particularly serious, I’m not sure it’s meant to be. (4/09)

Ermita crab

[vineyard]Casa de la Ermita 2006 Jumilla Blanco Dulce (Levant) – 500 ml. Sweet, perfumed, and muscatty, leaning towards its riper orange blossom expression. (I should say that I don’t know that the wine’s actually made from muscat. It tastes like it is, though.) As the wine aerates, it grows more tropical, but never really develops into anything I’d call lush…or, for that matter, complex. There’s a steady-state density akin to light fortification, as well, though I’m fairly certain that the wine is not fortified; it’s appealing rather than heated, and adds some welcome texture to a pretty but otherwise simple wine. (4/09)

Haus of walls

Schloss Wallhausen 2005 Riesling Spätlese 14 06 (Nahe) – Perfectly correct German riesling…acid, sugar, and lemon-apple fruit all intact…with nothing that adds to, or detracts from, the basic fact of it. (4/09)

09 April 2009

Lapin Argile

[press]Parcé Frères “Domaine de la Rectorie” 2005 Collioure Blanc “l’Argile” (Roussillon) – Stone fruit, baked nuts with their oils, and whitish-grey earth, with good acidity and a very pleasant hint of oxidation, though in comparison to many wines of the region it’s actually quite fresh. Delicious and deft. (10/06)


[bottle]Pagos de Quintana 1999 Ribera del Duero (Castilla & León) – Restrained fruit, herbs, earthen mushrooms, and dried black pepper powder. Well-oaked, for sure, but pleasant to drink, even if it’s not really all that interesting. Drink it in haste, however; an hour or so of air turns the wine to raw oak, dill, and scratchy nastiness, and after a few glasses we end up pouring the rest down the drain. (10/06)

04 April 2009

Mara perfect thing

Te Mara 2008 Pinot Gris (Central Otago) – Sticky pear, spice, and minerality. Good intensity. Vivid. Neon-electric. I’d call this a CGI pinot gris, and in a good way, but it’s not for everyone. (3/09)

VO. Yay.

Hans 2007 Viognier (Marlborough) – Lanolin and pretty flowers. Oil, peanut, some spice. Oak? I’m not sure. Fantastic flavors, though they’re sticky and thick. Lurid, as many viogniers are. Not bad? Particular, for sure. (3/09)


Villa Maria “Private Bin” 2008 Chardonnay (Marlborough) – Ripe orange and fig with a hint of butter. Big, clean, and nice. This is what cheap chardonnay should taste like. (3/09)

Alexis, Joan

Kim Crawford 2008 “Unoaked” Chardonnay (Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay) – Sweet tropical candy. Dried fruit. Rainier cherry? Eh. (3/09)

Babich slaw

Babich 2008 “Unoaked” Chardonnay (Marlborough) – Bitter but clean. Rinds and gravel. Seems off-dry. OK. (3/09)

Po' boy

Oyster Bay 2008 Chardonnay (Marlborough) – Spice and milk. Is there fruit? It’s hard to say. Worked to death, and no fun. (3/09)

Door Nobilo

Nobilo “Regional Collection” 2008 Pinot Grigio (East Coast) – Big yellow/white/green fruit with a flat finish. Simple and boring. (3/09)

What happened to the nicelus?

Nautilus 2008 Pinot Gris (Marlborough) – Very sweet and spicy. Wobbly Wine as Pop Rocks. (3/09)

I Spy

Spy Valley 2007 Pinot Gris (Marlborough) – Grass, pear skin. Balanced but insignificant. (3/09)

I, a gris

Hans 2007 Pinot Gris (Marlborough) – Lotion, dried pear. A lingering impression of something being fried, though it’s not clear what. Weird and not very good. (3/09)

How secretive is my valley?

Spy Valley 2005 Gewürztraminer (Marlborough) – Mercaptans. Old cashews and tin. Useless. (3/09)

Vodka Gimblett

Trinity Hill 2006 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Gimblett Gravels “The Gimblett” (Hawke’s Bay) – Chunky peanut butter, which melds with a gravelly texture. Incredibly rough. Uninteresting despite the terroir signature. (3/09)

Lay your Hans on me

Hans 2001 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon “Spirit of Marlborough” (Marlborough) – Ripe fruit (mostly black), fresh tobacco, smoke, and black dirt. A bit short and unsubstantial, but OK. (3/09)

Bin there, done that

Villa Maria “Private Bin” 2007 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (Hawke’s Bay) – Herbed blueberry and blackberry. Simple, clean, and good according to the nose. But the palate? Baked. And the finish is horrid. (3/09)

Republican MTV VJs

Kennedy Point 2005 Merlot (Waikehe Island) – Blueberry soup with biting tannin. Ick. (3/09)

By the bay

Oyster Bay 2007 Merlot (Hawke’s Bay) – Watermelon Jolly Rancher. In a merlot? No thanks. (3/09)

Pink monkey

Monkey Bay 2007 Rosé (East Coast) – Disgusting synthetic aromas and flavors. Blech. (3/09)


Trinity Hill 2007 Syrah Gimblett Gravels (Hawke’s Bay) – Blueberry, bark, smoke, and dirt. Drinkable. (3/09)

In fact, don't ask

Kennedy Point 2007 Syrah (Waiheke Island) – Cassis, blueberry, and cranberry with a long, sugary finish. No good. (3/09)

Am-am-am, am-amaranth

Dry River 2007 Riesling Craighall “Amaranth” (Martinborough) – Vivid. Crushed glass and rocks, both liquefied. Excellent acid/sugar balance. Incredibly pure. Very, very, very long. Incredible, and clearly the best wine of the entire tasting. (3/09)

Felton urge

Felton Road 2007 Riesling (Central Otago) – Lots of sugar, front-loaded and obvious, but with the requisite acidity to match it. An explosion of apples follows. Big and long. Wow. (3/09)

Better than the altdorf

Neudorf 2007 Riesling Brightwater (Nelson) – Slightly reduced but still accessible. Mineral-dominated (gravel and sand). Dried Granny Smith apple. High-quality. (3/09)

Martin's valley

Amisfield 2007 “Dry” Riesling (Central Otago) – A smoked crystal core with a hint of cherry. Dark, brooding, and earthy. Quite enticing. (3/09)

Peter Cellars

Villa Maria “Cellar Selection” 2007 Riesling (Marlborough) – Ultra-clean and “perfect,” but it lacks the additional intensity and/or complexity it would need to achieve higher realms. Long, dry, and mineral-overwhelmed (mostly because there’s not much else), with little future indicated. Still, a good enough wine for early drinking. (3/09)

I'm bringing Spinyback

Waimea “Spinyback” 2007 Riesling (Nelson) – Wet and fun. Slate. Fruit-forward, with slight tropicality. A bit simple, but good, with some potential upside as the wine ages. (3/09)

My name is

Mud House 2007 Riesling (Waipara) – A hollow balloon of dusty minerality, lime rind, and grapefruit. Short. (3/09)


Allan Scott 2007 Riesling (Marlborough) – Grassy. Light green plum. Synthetic finish. Very simple. (3/09)

Everybody else has

Mount Grey 2007 Riesling (Waipara) – Rich, silky, and tropical. Not enough acidity. Some plastic weirdness, as well. (3/09)

03 April 2009

Abrahamborough & Johnborough

Palliser Estate 2007 Riesling (Martinborough) – Intense lime, lemon, and limestone, but the wine is balanced rather than enormous or top-heavy. In fact, the balance is rather impressive. A wine of substance. The quibble is the a lack of complexity, though it’s young and there’s plenty of time. (3/09)

Too spy, too spy, hush hush

Spy Valley 2007 Riesling (Marlborough) – Slight sweetness, apple, gritty steel, and a few drips of petrol. Long. Not bad, albeit simple. (3/09)

Eins, zwei, dry

Babich 2007 “Dry” Riesling (Marlborough) – Loaded with mercaptans. Sharp as a razor, but fruitless. Flat. Boring. (3/09)


Saint Clair “Vicar’s Choice” 2008 Riesling (Marlborough) – Varietally true, but that’s about all to be said about it. Light, with an equally light sense of sweetness. Drinkable but dull. (3/09)

02 April 2009

I'm a man

Muddy Water 2007 Pinot Noir (Waipara) – Black cherry and black truffle with a heart of darkness. Elegant and pure. Lovely. (3/09)

Sauvage terroir

Wild Earth 2006 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Mixed berries and dark soil studded with morels. Deep, with the first stirrings of complexity. Medium-length finish. Very good. (3/09)

As a bat

Wild Earth “Blind Trail” 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Beet, blood orange, and luminescent red fruit with hints of herb. Fun, with good quality for its price. (3/09)


Carrick 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Toast and char. Extremely ungenerous. Hard throughout. Whatever killed this wine – and it’s most certainly, if prematurely, dead – must include the barrels. (3/09)

Star Mania

Te Mania 2007 Pinot Noir “Reserve” (Nelson) – Quite volatile and high-toned, with pinkish-purple fruit, plus a great deal of bite and chew. Spicy. Perhaps a touch woody, but it should integrate if so. (3/09)


Amisfield 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Smoked dill, heavily-filtered dark fruit, and some heat. Long, but to little purpose. An absent wine, and just no good. (3/09)


Valli 2007 Pinot Noir Waitaki (Central Otago) – Intense blueberry. Very juicy. Pulses at the core. Piercing at first, but it’s all upfront; the wine’s finish goes nowhere, leaving only a lingering hint of tannin. (3/09)

Landt & seadt

Staete Landt 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Reserved, dry, and difficult, with chalky minerality. Very long, though. A little bizarre, perhaps, but it might be worth holding for a while, to see what happens. (3/09)


Mud House “Swan” 2007 Pinot Noir Bendigo (Central Otago) – Smoky/musty raspberry, beet, and sugarplum. OK, but there’s a candied element that detracts. (3/09)


WJ Coles Successors “The Crater Rim” 2007 Pinot Noir Blacks Lot 7 (Waipara) – Promising at first, but then…? Plummy fruit without a finish of any kind. Where’s the rest of the wine? (3/09)

Und Franz

Hans 2006 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Beet, asparagus, and bitterness. Yuck. (3/09)


Woollaston 2006 Pinot Noir (Nelson) – Black fruit with a candied edge, coal at the core, and hints of additional minerality. Coarse and short, but intense while it lasts. Not all that much fun to drink. (3/09)

Why not you?

Waimea “Spinyback” 2007 Pinot Noir (Nelson) – Dirty (in a good way), but the palate is soapy and the finish pure Styrofoam. (3/09)

Or not

Wither Hills 2005 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Black fruit tarted up like candy lozenges. (3/09)

Sir pal

Palliser Estate 2007 Pinot Noir (Martinborough) – Green beets (rather than beet greens) and pinkish fruit, with a powdered cotton candy texture. (3/09)

Happy rock

Gladstone 2007 Pinot Noir (Wairarapa) – Biting, skin-bitter, and high-toned. Lavender aromas. Weirdly interesting, though I think it would be difficult to identify as pinot noir. (3/09)

A Vavasour taste

Vavasour 2007 Pinot Noir Awatere Valley (Marlborough) – Sharp and short, but what’s here is tasty, fun, and crisp. Red berries, mostly. (3/09)

The Pencarrow is mightier

Palliser Estate “Pencarrow” 2007 Pinot Noir (Martinborough) – Tart. Rhubarb and cranberry. Smoke and a little minerality, with hints of depth on the finish. Very crisp. Not entirely balanced. (3/09)


Palliser Estate 2007 Pinot Noir (Martinborough) – Beet, plum, and weedy tannin. This wine throbs at a baritone pitch, never really adding anything other tones of interest. Disappointing. (3/09)

Computing machine

Babich “Winemakers’ Reserve” 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Pure red fruit, apple, clementine. Crisp, with a sandy texture. Good basic pinot. (3/09)

Ican do it

Nobilo “Icon” 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Pretty fruit; a blend of black, red, and purple. Soft and clean. There’s nothing here but fruit, and while it’s good in that style, it’s a little more like juice than wine. (3/09)


Babich 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Sweetish candy notes. Black plum, orange rind, golden beet, and a hint of anise. This doesn’t entirely escape a certain synthetic character, either. Iffy. (3/09)

None unturned

Stoneleigh 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Light black fruit with clarifying acidity. Juicy and pleasant. (3/09)

Clair the aisles

Saint Clair 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Clean red berries and Juicy Fruit™ gum. Candy’s rarely a positive descriptor for pinot noir. (3/09)

Huia you, who, who? Who, who?

Huia 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Sour dill and other herbs with a chalky finish. Awkward. (3/09)

T zones

Montana “Brancott” 2007 “T” Pinot Noir “Terraces” (Marlborough) – Red cherry, strawberry, raspberry. Simple fruit, but there’s not much else. Very light, with good balance. (3/09)

Queen of Spain

Isabel 2005 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Green berries. Tart and weedy, with watermelon Jolly Rancher on the finish. Short. A disappointment. (3/09)

Richie's opposite

Whitehaven 2006 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Stale nuts. Flat. Horrid. (3/09)

Big sky, little wine

Montana “Brancott” 2006 Pinot Noir “Reserve” (Marlborough) – Butter soup. Awful. (3/09)

Peeping valley

Spy Valley 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Plummy. Short, simple fruit. Clean. (3/09)

Why not an axe?

Saint Clair 2007 Pinot Noir Pioneer Block 4 “Sawcut” (Marlborough) – Cran-grape juice. Light, sour, and underripe. (3/09)

Diving bell

Nautilus 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Sugary red and black plums, finishes like some bizarre sort of candy. (3/09)


Allan Scott 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Green grass and high tides forever. Actually, maybe just the green grass. And dill. Dull. Dull dill. (3/09)

Matua audiences only

Matua Valley 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Prune, black cherry, and burnt coffee. Short, and that’s probably for the best. (3/09)

Barack Opawa

Nautilus “Opawa” 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Golden beet and concentrated weed…both the invasive plant and the kind you smoke…with a short, bitter finish. Thoroughly underripe. (3/09)

I'd like to bi a valve

Oyster Bay 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Flat. Seashell and dirty asphalt. Yuck. (3/09)

Dashing through the wood

Dashwood 2007 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Black cherry, sour dill, and severe char. Vile. (3/09)

Clair & present danger

Saint Clair “Vicar’s Choice” 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Dry red fruit. Underripe. (3/09)


Matua Valley 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Green leaves (perhaps beet greens) with a powdery underbelly. Hardly undrinkable, but tastes more like an experiment than a pinot noir. (3/09)

Rubesco, before you get hurt

[bottle]Lungarotti 2005 Rosso di Torgiano “Rubesco” (Umbria) – Spiced strawberry (light on the former, heavier on the latter) as tasted through a gravel filter; not that the wine is stripped in any way, but that it picks up the taste and texture of choppy rocks, to its benefit. There are some richer soil notes as well, and perhaps a dusting of black pepper later on. Solid. Not inspiring, but there’s a fair suggestion of balancing structure as well, and based on history it would probably be worth holding this for a while to see what develops. (3/09)


Lusseau “Château Haut Lavigne” 2007 Côtes de Duras (Southwest France) – Bones and bouquet garni (heavy on the bay), but otherwise mostly about clarity. It’s not watery or thin, but it is light, with its skeleton fully revealed. A summer wine. (3/09)

Bernardus this day

[bottles & glass]St. Bernardus “Prior 8” Abbey Ale (Belgium) – Solid and classically-styled, with layers of spiced pastry and stone fruit, yet not too heavy. Just right, I’d say. (3/09)

St. Bernardus “Abt 12” Abbey Ale (Belgium) – Everything that the “Prior 8” has, turned up a notch or two on the dial, yet without sacrificing balance. Intense, yes, but while it’s heavily-flavored, it’s not heavy-without-purpose. Very, very good. (3/09)

Little barrel

Fernández “Ron del Barrilito” Rum *** (Puerto Rico) – Old brown sugar with little pinches of herbs (thyme, perhaps…maybe tarragon). This seems like it will deliver more density than it actually possesses, but in fact there’s still a good bit of transparent primary-ness here. For me, that’s a negative, because the closer rum gets to clear, the less I like it, but for others less enamored of the barreled style, it might be a positive. (3/09)

Our actions are not dictated by mere lust

[winery]Meerlust 2003 Chardonnay (Stellenbosch) – Very heavy, and losing a battle with its barrel tannin. Quite toasty in proportion to its fruit. Golden fig and peaches in amber are still hanging about, but probably not for much longer. This is a chore to drink. I set it aside for a day, at which point the oak toast has receded and a bit more acidity (which the wine heretofore lacked) has come to the fore, but the oak tannin has strengthened. Drink several years ago, if you must drink it at all. (3/09)

Rock me

Les Brasseurs de Gayant “Amadeus” Bière Blanche (Flanders) – At first, the heavily-flavored (orange and coriander) sprightliness of this white ale is immensely appealing, with a detergent-like feel and a chalky texture. But it eventually starts to grate, lending not verve to what is otherwise a very light beer (even in this style), but a cloying artificiality. Good in quarter-portions, then. (3/09)

Hoe the line

[abbey]Koningshoeven Tripel Trappist Ale (Netherlands) – Caramel, metal, spice, and density, but they hollow as the beer persists. Just barely good. (3/09)

Koningshoeven Quadrupel Trappist Ale (Netherlands) – Dense and powerful, like drinking dark brownness with a Scotchy, peaty core. Very intense. I quite like it, but in small doses. (3/09)

Ferris Buller's day off

RL Buller & Son Tawny Port (Victoria) – Smells like butter, and not the freshest kind either. Sickly-sweet, with the emphasis on sickness; in fact, there’s a hint of…well, I don’t want to gross everyone out, so never mind. If you can avoid smelling the wine, the palate is actually quite fruit-forward and enjoyable, with more red stuff than one expects from a tawny, and certainly more acid than seems likely. But that smell never really goes away, unfortunately, even over several days. (3/09)


KWV “Full” Tawny Port (South Africa) – Stale butterscotch, nasty old barrels, and brackish water. Insipid dreck. This is awful. (3/09)