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)