16 December 2010

Don't it make you wanna Colla?

Poderi Colla 2006 Langhe Pinot Noir “Campo Romano” (Piedmont) – A recent closeout, purchased for very few dollars due to the retailer’s belief that it was of dubious quality. Dubious is not inaccurate, but I’m not quite sure how to characterize the qualitative state of the wine as it is now. First, I’m not sure whether or not I’d peg this as pinot noir without knowing same…smelling it while looking at the label, there are some obvious signs in the form of gentle, sweetish-berry and leaf aromatics, but the color (despite a quick fade at the rim) is a bit darker than the already-progressing nose would indicate, and there’s a spiky, very slightly volatile stridency to the aroma that elevates a pineapple-ish stowaway as it evaporates. Structurally – and again, knowing what the wine is when I say this – it speaks more of the Langhe than the grape, with a not-green-but-far-from-soft tannin more reminiscent of dolcetto, or even nebbiolo in its simplest forms, than of pinot noir. There’s no lack of acidity, either...one’s palate is awash in reactive liquids from the first moment this wine is sipped. I can’t say I have much confidence in this bottle’s future, though of course as a closeout its provenance has not been assured, but I don’t know how much I embrace its present, either. Since I didn’t have it at release, it’s hard to say much about it’s trajectory, either. As it stands: a zippy mouthful of conflicted influences, recognizable as what it is and where it’s from, but also challenging those notions, and while tasty enough in need of a calming and/or masking food companion to tame its more brazen inconsistencies. (10/10)

Ata boy

Ata Rangi 2001 Syrah (Martinborough) – Aging faster than the pinot noir from the same house and year, which is probably a combination of site and vine, but could also just mean that more stake is placed on the success of the pinot. A well-read and somewhat intellectual wine with bushy eyebrows, seated in a well-worn leather chair in the corner of a dark, smoky drawing room, dusty tomes and old pipes strewn about the surrounding tables. I don’t know if I’d call it fully mature, yet, but it has probably learned all it is going to from its maturation, and the future might hold more unpredictability. This is the best aged New Zealand syrah I’ve had, but since that personal category is largely unpopulated there’s not much to that qualification. Perhaps more important: it was worth aging. (10/10)

Cloven kloof

Boekenhoutskloof 2006 Semillon (Franschhoek) – As with so many other Boekenhoutskloof wines, the liquid is a micro-proportion of a ridiculously heavy bottle. I suppose they need this much glass to carry the weight of all those letters. One of the better…perhaps even one of the best…whites in South Africa, definitely so if we exclude chenin blancs…and so, in the steenless category, only the Sadie Palladius is obviously better. Anyway: absolutely varietally correct aromas of sweat, fetid grass, diffident unfruit, and something that might be pepper dust were it comprised of antimatter. Yes, this constitutes praise…look, you either get young sémillon or you don’t. This isn’t, it must be said, as unpleasant as the best Hunter Valley semillons. It can be consumed with pleasure right now, thanks to the mitigating structure of crisp grapefruit rind and lemongrass with a dull razor scrape, plus a very lengthy finish. But if the bottle doesn’t collapse inward due to its internal gravity, I suspect there’s ageability here. Or maybe not based on the usual transience of South African clonal material. But I’m hopeful. I am not a detractor of South African wine even though I think there’s a lot of dreck, because I don’t blame the wine industry for a lot of the reasons the wines they make aren’t what they could be, but here’s one that really deserves some attention. (10/10)


Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – A little over-succulent and almost candied on the nose, at first opening. Let’s let it breathe for a bit. […] And we’re done. Blood orange? Yes, that and butterscotch. We’re verging into California chardonnay territory here. More air? Yes, please. […] Settling down, at last, but there’s still an inexorable pumpkin pie element, both aromatically and texturally, that I can’t quite get past. A lot of soil is to the good, but it’s not enough. I admit that all beverages of this type are almost exclusively aromatic pleasures for me; I can enjoy drinking them, but were that all there was to them I’d still to wine. So that the palate here is a little diagonal and slashy, bringing a great deal of heat and white chocolate for which I don’t care, is no big deal. I want to smell, not quaff. And thus, I wish the nosegrab was more enticing. [one hour later] Starting to get a lot better, knitting and filling out, with less of the fetid and more of the elegantly feral. I suspect it might be days before this rounds into form, though. More later. (11/10)

Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Third night after opening. All the faux candied sweetness is gone, leaving something a lot more elegant. No, that’s not the right word. Sophisticated. Perhaps a little over-jacketed in layers of formality, to be honest. Loosen the bowtie! There’s a lot…a lot…of soft, loamy earth, which I like and find intriguing in a Cognac. But there’s also a planar stuffiness to the finish, as if the brandy has a slight head cold. Or as if that aforementioned bowtie is a little suffocating. (11/10)

Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Over a week after opening, and everything difficult about this spirit is now gone, replaced by subtleties and shadings. Really quite lovely. Does it live up to its price? Probably not quite, but then I find most Cognac to be rather aspirationally priced to begin with; in context, it’s probably more or less OK. (11/10)


Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) –I gave up on this wine about a year ago, as it had provided tasty post-release quaffing but seemed to be headed towards a rather abrupt expiration. I may have been too hasty, because this is back. I don’t know if much has changed, exactly, but the descending veils have been re-lifted, and the dark, earthy fruit is once more on full display. Perhaps the tannin has faded just a bit? Aside from that, it’s the same wine it was in its highly approachable youth. I’d recommend drinking, but it’s clear I don’t have as firm a handle on this wine as I once thought, so for all I know it’ll be an ager. I’m drinking mine anyway, because that way it won’t continue to prove me wrong. (11/10)

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) – See the previous note, to which this would be pretty much identical. (11/10)

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Séguret (Rhône) – This third bottle, and (I think) my last, is a little more faded and on a trajectory similar to all the previous bottles. So were the last two the anomalies, or is this? Well, it’s now moot unless my friends are stashing some. (11/10)

Snap out of it

Reverie 2005 Barbera (Diamond Mountain) – Thoroughly anonymous. Saccharine red fruit, sickly-sweet oak, and not even all that much acid. A little boozy, though. This is, I’m afraid, what far too many Piedmontese are trying to achieve with their own efforts. Let’s hope they don’t succeed. (10/10)

The patron saint of mediocre French wine chains

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “L’Effraie” (Loire) – All the structural elements (a little fruit-sweetness, just enough acidity) are here, and it seems like the wine I know, but it resists attempts to draw anything else forth. Is this just closed, is it off, or is it already fading? The intention was to give it a day or so of aeration to see what might develop, but repetitive puzzled sampling killed that idea. Well, there’s more, so we’ll see what happens to the next one. (10/10)

Over Londer

Londer 2007 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – Starts with the weird cola/candy thing that used to mar so many California pinots, but that has never been particularly common from the Anderson Valley. So that’s weird. It does eventually round into a sort of form, layering some metallic soils and a still-sweetish red fruit together, but while this is happing the wine flattens and loses some of its life. Not bad, but there’s still work to be done. (10/10)

Expensive balls

Karl Joh. Molitor 2008 Hattenheimer Riesling Spätlese 0013 09 (Rheingau) – Heavy, sticky (this feels far sweeter than it probably is), ponderous, dull. Really uninteresting. (10/10)


Karp-Schreiber 2008 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 10 09 (Mosel) – Sprightly dandelion wine with dusty minerals. Lemongrass, hibiscus, and bergamot. Simple, but of decent length. Whatever this wine is going to do, it’s not doing it yet. (10/10)

Just a seki

Nishinoseki “Tezukirui” Tokubetsu Junmai Sake (Japan) – I’m terrible at discriminating the elements of sake; so much of the core of it tastes more or less fine to me, and I’m often more excited by the gross textural appeal of unfiltered versions than I am of anything more normal. But let’s give it a shot. A little soft and tropical, leaning on banana and a fake sort of bubblegum notion of peach, but smooth and flowing. The texture is utterly seductive, but the content of that texture just isn’t that interesting. (10/10)

Nókő Ono

Disznókő 2006 Dry Tokaji (Hungary) – Forbiddingly reduced at first unscrewing, but this does blow off. I’m not sure the wine’s worth the wait, though…under the reduction is a little wan oxidation, a squirt of spritz, some undefined tartness, and a big, flat, horizonless plain of not very much. Nothing wrong, but nothing particularly right. It’s wine. That’s about as far as I’ll praise it. (10/10)

Xil out

Telmo Rodriguez “Gaba do Xil” 2007 Valdeorras Godello (Northwest Spain) – Quite vibrant, pacing somewhere between a bronzed firmness and an abandoned, yet two-dimensional, still life of beach living. Quite flavorful, but never tripping over itself into a stumbling, clumsy drunkenness. Fun, but a slightly more sophisticated version thereof. (10/10)

A Duzer of a wine

Van Duzer 1999 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – There was a time when I quite liked this house. And then there was a time where everything they made seemed wretched. This was from the first era, and though it has mostly clung and lingered rather than blossomed, it’s still not bad. A fair bit more menthololic and herbal than pinot noir of only eleven years should be, with all the stripped-down structure but few of the developed berry-leaf aromatics that one expects. Still, it’s pretty enough, in an overly freckled sort of way. Drink up, and soon. (10/10)

Owl service

Zind-Humbrecht 2001 Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim (Alsace) – Somewhere in here, there’s a finely-poised, iron-rich, balanced expression of riesling. Unfortunately, it’s layered in lush coverlets of velour and gravity. Not, as ZH’s wines go, at all bad. Quite nice, actually. But way too heavy for its inherent presence. (10/10)

Islay me down to sleep

The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Bunnahabhain) 8 Year Scotch (Islay) – Boring. How do you make an Islay whisky boring? Well: exhibit A. Iodine, but only just, with a clammy boredom resting atop an alcoholic nonentity. The most “flavor” of the three from this lineup that I’ve tried, but in service of naught. (10/10)

Tamdhu the right thing, some don't

The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Tamdhu) 8 Year Scotch (Speyside) – Boring, with a side of tedium. Sweet and a little vegetal. Still boring, after all these words. (10/10)


The MacPhail’s Selected Single Distilleries Collection (Highland Park) 8 Year Scotch (Orkney) – Boring, though slightly less so than its stablemates. A little sweetness, a little spice, a little of not enough that’s nice. Just barely worth the $25 I paid for it, though one of the better blended whiskys would have been just as good, and probably cheaper. (10/10)


Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Just as bad as the rest of the bottles, though there’s still that fleeting, two- or three-minute flirtation with a lovely, entirely typical aroma of meat and violets. I’m not going to open these to drink anymore (I still have five, I think), but in the absence of actual flaws I think they might make decent enough cooking wines. As it, they’re merely an expensive lesson in unguarded enthusiasm for too-good-to-be-true pricing on older wines. (10/10)


Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – Vibrant, striking, and à point. Steel and iron driven into a spike, then speared through metal-jacketed apples. Mineralistic, austere, and wonderful. Such a difference when Trimbach controls the grapes, vs. the regular yellow label. Mature, but there’s no particular hurry, and a fantastic preview of what’s going to be (actually, already is) unbelievable quality from the top 2001 rieslings at Trimbach. (10/10)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling (Alsace) – Very tenuous, barely clinging to a flaky, eroded metallic life. Drink up by the end of 2007. (Oops!) (10/10)


Ravenswood 1999 “Icon” (Sonoma County) – 13.9% alcohol, 73% syrah, 16% mourvèdre, 11% grenache, and 100% heralding the ubiquitous plague of fat-bottomed bottles that fit or stack nowhere. Much more decent than I’d expected, but then I didn’t expect much. It tastes like generic semi-aged California wine, which is to say it’s still simplistically dark-fruited with most of the structure polished away, yet has gained no real complexity or interest over its youthful self. Yes, it’s still not very old, but given that the structure has already faded I see no indication that longer aging will do more than damage to the wine. There’s an element of greenness to it that I’d like to think might be complexity in a differently-composed wine, but I don’t expect green in California versions of any of the above-listed grapes, and so I’m inclined to think that the grapes weren’t all they could have been. Which might account for an alcohol level that, through the lens of today’s monstrosities, seems entirely reasonable. (10/10)

Miner girls

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Dying. I’ve heard fond words about a recently-consumed early-eighties version, but this is on its last amputated leg. (10/10)

Miss Châtelaine

Domaine de la Cadette 2007 Bourgogne Vézelay Blanc “La Châtelaine” (Burgundy) – Sharp, angrily acidic, full of underripe heirloom pommes and none of the helter-skelter terroir that has so often characterized this wine, which I very frequently adore. Bad vintage, or bad batch? Doesn’t matter…after two bottles of identical form, I’m fobbing the rest. (10/10)

Zooty, zoot zoot

Pratello 2004 “Rebo” (Lombardy) – Fairly anonymous worldbeat rosso, indistinct as to grape, region, and intent (other than making money without trying very hard), but with a little more acid than usual. Um, yay? Sharp, dark fruit. Yeah, yeah, yeah. (10/10)

Sofia Vergombera

Verdi 2007 Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda “Possessione di Vergombera” (Lombardy) – Geez, is this the opposite of prosaic or what? Like some of the brittle northern Piedmontese reds, this makes a case for being a tinted version of riesling, but then subverts it with straps and lashes of tannin and an incisored chomp of reddish fruit. Now, I’ve gotten to this point in the note without mentioning its two dominant characteristics: residual sugar and aggressive, somewhat sloppy (like an overeager dog slobbering on your face) fizz. For me, honestly, there’s far too much distraction and flail in this wine for actual enjoyment, but at least the ride is on the breathtaking side. At a festive gathering, this might be a lot more appropriate than it was at my dinner table. (10/10)

Lie Atwater

Ollivier “Domaine de la Pépière” 2008 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” (Loire) – As shelled a wine as I’ve ever tasted from Ollivier, and I’ve tasted a lot of mollusks from this producer. Straightforward, and yet it dances a bit with food, changing the step when one least expects it. Undemanding, perhaps, but not at all uninteresting. (10/10)

Haegelen, just a little bit

Haegelen-Jayer 1999 Nuits-St-Georges “1er Cru” Les Damodes (Burgundy) – Starts a little tentatively, then grows into its maturity. Soft, lavender-hued fruit and rich, tilled soil abound; the wine’s gentle, but there’s a strength behind it as well, though the muscles might not flex as they once did. Fully mature, but note the caveat: this bottle is a recent acquisition from closeout and so I cannot verify its provenance. (10/10)

There's a train a-comin'

Berkshire Brewing Co. “Steel Rail” Extra Pale Ale (Massachusetts) – A bar I frequent in my summer months used to serve this on draft, to my great joy. Alas, my joy was not shared, and the tap now pours something of less interest. This is a powerful, flavorful ale, full of spice, richness, and presence; it feels Belgian, even though it’s not by geography or construction. (10/10)

The mead for speed

Artesano Mead (Vermont) – 500 ml. Very floral. I know that, by definition, all mead is more or less floral, but this is really flowery, as if the bees got pollinated wind of a warehouse clearance sale on microgametophytes. It’s good, but I think it might be of more use doled out in very small amounts, or perhaps used in cooking. (10/10)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Imperial Porter (Vermont) – I used to love porter, but now I tend to find it an in-between style that’s not as appealing to me as something clearer or something more opaque. This is a fair brew, browned and nutty with a caramelized anise lacquer, but I can’t quite warm to it. (10/10)

09 December 2010

Bollen alley

Albrecht 1998 Gewurztraminer Bollenberg (Alsace) – Drying, strappy, and tannic. All things a gewurztraminer can be when it ages, and whether they’re positive or negative depends on the rest. Which, here, is a kinky mélange of spiced banana skin, fuzzy peach, and copper bullets racing down a wind tunnel. Texturally inimitable, in a way, for true skin-contact whites are way more palpable than this, while most everything else would rely more on acid (or its lack) for structure. I kinda love it, but it’s a complicated love. (9/10)

One more

Occhipinti 2008 “SP68” (Sicily) – Outrageously drinkable. Quaffable, even. Gluggable. Slurpable. Etc., etc., etc. Were it about half the cost, I’d request that this be piped into my house in lieu of public water. Pure liquid joy. (9/10)

Chopped logs

Brokenwood 2005 Semillon (Hunter Valley) – 10.5% alcohol. Grassy, a little sweaty, and strongly-flavored for all the wine’s lightness of body. (10/10)


Bricco Mondalino 2007 Barbera del Monferrato Superiore (Piedmont) – Bright red-berry acidity, apple juice, gravelly minerality, and all the freshness married to light complexity one could want. Why do more barbera producers not make wines like this, instead churning out anonymous inanities lathered with oak and size? (9/10)

And scratchy

Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2007 Minervois (Languedoc) – I really did not care for this wine at release, and was suspicious about what I’d find. My fears were unfounded; it’s as classic an Oupia Minervois as any other, dark and soil-browed, with the faintest tinge of an herbal licorice to the dark fruit and meat-roasting spices. I don’t know that I’d call the wine “expressive,” but it does express something…and quite clearly, too. (9/10)

Old currency

Bossard “Domaine de l’Ecu” 2003 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Expression de Gneiss” (Loire) – Thick for a Muscadet (no real surprise there), but in that thickness is a powerful, insistent minerality that has also been concentrated beyond Muscadet’s wont. Dry, then sweet, then dry again…likely, in all cases, a mere illusion of density. One could do a lot worse from mostly-oppressive French 2003s than this bottle. (9/10)


Collard “Chateau La Tour de Beraud” 2009 Costières de Nimes Blanc (Rhône) – Bubblegum (yes, in a Rhône white) and sweet golden raspberries. Perhaps peaches. And yet, brisker than those two fairly sticky fruit numerators. There’s gluggable appeal here, but ignore the horizon. (9/10)


Rippon 2001 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Still fruity (figs, mostly, which is an interesting place for a pinot noir to go), though there’s some concentrated plum hanging about as well. Tastes warm in the way New World versions of this grape often do, and about as mature as I think one would want it; tannins have fully softened but acids are not yet exposed. The finish, which hints at licorice but never quite gets there, is surprisingly long. This was a wine I underestimated when I tasted it at release, thinking it more simple-minded than it turned out to be. (9/10)

Jean Vaumoreau

Druet 1996 Bourgueil Vaumoreau (Loire) – Clinging by the tiniest nanometer of a fingernail to life. At least, that’s the story for the first few hours or so, in which the wine’s complete unsuitability for acidphobes is fully asserted. Sitting in the bottle, minus a few pours, it develops and grows for a long while, finally emerging with a cohesive but still extremely gentle blend of earth and herb in slow braise, westering into a long night. (9/10)

Duc of Url

Gras “Domaine Santa Duc” 1995 Gigondas “Prestige des Hautes Garrigues” (Rhône) – Spiced bubblegum and herbs in sweet vanilla tea. Later, it’s herbed coffee. Somewhere in the middle, there’s a bit of wild game. Its appeal is open and overt, and perhaps it tries too hard, but I really enjoy the result. (9/10)

Wear a Côtes

Tablas Creek 2006 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – The bronzed stone fruit has not diminished in intensity since release, but it has taken on a deeper, richer tone, the metallics have been somewhat energized, and there’s more soil in evidence. This is a heavy wine in the grand scheme, though decidedly not so in its local idiom, and is still quite luscious and even a little blowsy. I’m convinced that age will continue to turn this wine, but those who require upfront fruit may want to think about drinking sooner rather than later. (9/10)

To Grand Mont's house we go

Druet 1997 Bourgueil “Cuvée Grand Mont” (Loire) – The fruit that was once fulsome (for a Bourgueil) has mostly passed into history, but lovers of the gentle and faded will still appreciate what remains. Fairly acidic in terms of its overall balance, but that’s more a result of general decay than it is a comment on the wine’s inherent acidity. There’s greenness, yes, but also a memory of black fruit, a range of dusts that may include the occasional white peppercorn, and a slow glide into passage. There’s no reason to hold this any longer, unless your tastes run necrotic…and I realize that some will indeed hold the wine in search of that very quality. (9/10)

The knife

Sipp Mack 2007 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Juicy. There’s a certain softness to this bottling that carries though vintages, but the modulating acidity is almost always just enough to keep it fresh. This is young enough that its minerality, bare-boned and stark, still lies beneath primary layers of ground cover. Give it some time in the cellar; a few years, maybe. (9/10)

To serve your love

Soucherie 2009 Anjou Blanc “Cuvée Les Rangs de Long” (Loire) – Approaches in softness but rapidly firms up, gripping and enveloping with a fine chalk/acid interplay, then releasing and lingering as a blend of powdery soils. Quite long. (9/10)


Shipyard “Pugsley’s Signature Series” “Smashed Pumpkin” Ale (Maine) – Kind of the neutron bomb of pumpkin ales, absolutely exploding with both the raw and spiced versions of the squash, and yet managing to hold onto its ale status just enough for one to remember that this is a beer, not a Halloween soup. Pretty extraordinary. That said, I doubt everyone will like it; it’s really a lot to take. (9/10)

Michael, Royaux the boat ashore

Fèvre 2004 Chablis “Champs Royaux” (Chablis) – A forceful mineral hash leavened by a surprising thickness and a buttered corn quality that seems to be de rigueur at this house, even though I’d really prefer they leave it out. (9/10)

One Sipp at a time

Sipp Mack 2004 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Soft minerality, just barely enough acidity to compensate, and a wide, planar texture. Quite fair. (9/10)


Tentaka Kuni “Hawk in the Heavens” Junmai Sake (Japan) – 2007 is stamped on the bottle…I think. It’s very faint, and obscured by characters. The sake, however, is not obscured by character...it is a character, dancing and leaping around the palate in a way that, at least in my experience, is pretty unusual for the genre. Do I like it? Yes, it’s pleasant enough. (9/10)

Us and Brézème

Texier 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – The terroir that carried so much of the early (American) hype for Texier probably did more than any of his wines to permanently offend certain segments of the curious. No one familiar with the wine need ask why, but for the rest: it’s the acid, of course. That fierce, brittle, insistent acid. This is the Cantillon of Côtes-du-Rhône, and the uncompromising nature of it means that, at times, even fans will struggle to wrap their palates around it. There’s so much to recommend here…soil and sharp fruit, delineation and character…but either beat it back with acidic food or stick it in a dark corner of the cellar. Of course, only one of these things actually tames the acidity. The other just dresses it with different, and ultimately more interesting, outerwear. (9/10)

Black dirt

Rogue “Chatoe Rogue” Dirtoir Black Lager “First Growth” (Oregon) – There’s a lot going on with that name. Perhaps more than is going on with the beer, though there’s a wrinkly appeal to its heart (and skin, and organs) of darkness. I like it, but I wouldn’t want to drink it in mass quantities. (9/10)

Inflorescence Inhenderson

Cédric Bouchard Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut “Inflorescence” (Champagne) – Ethereal and restrained despite the dark, spicy fruit within. Frothy, and yet the elegance is sometimes a bit much. I find myself wishing for a bit more presence, and then thinking I’m being way too hard on a basically compelling wine. It’s the hype, what does it… (9/10)

Benjamin Isasco

Crena 2008 Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vermentino Vigneto Isasco (Liguria) – People who insist Italian whites are worthless are…well, they’re idiots, but they’re apparently also idiots who’ve never tasted a vermentino. Even in its paler, more industrial expressions, there’s plenty going on. When given a little more attention and terroir, I fail to understand how anyone could not, at least, appreciate the goings-on. Here, there’s grayish-tan soil, a lot of sun (but with shadows lurking in corners and crannies), a light oxidativeness that adds rather than detracts, and plenty of complexity and interest to hold attention. Not a great vermentino, but certainly a good one. (9/10)

Tom the slasher

Ravenswood 1996 Zinfandel Old Hill (Sonoma Valley) – The lingering remnants of the time when Ravenswood made great wines are wending their way towards the great aquifer in the sky ground, and so they need to be savored on their increasingly rare appearances. Alas that this isn’t one. Volatile acidity (at Carlisle-like levels, mind), blackberry, dusty earth, and a whole lot of desiccation. Texturally anti-quenching, and beyond fully mature, even from the glacial cellar whence this comes. (9/10)

Tree? No.

Château du Trignon 1998 Gigondas (Rhône) – Difficult, cranky, and ultimately awkward. Salted peanuts? Yeah, maybe. Nothing else makes a lick of sense, nor even attempts to. Dunno what happened here. (9/10)

I can bear a Mundi

Pionero Mundi 2008 Rias Baixas Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Lemon, grass, curd, and sunshine. (9/10)


Vajra 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba “coste & fossati” (Piedmont) – This is the one wine in the Vajra portfolio that I just can’t quite figure out, and yet I keep buying bottles expecting some sort of revelation that never quite arrives. Dark fruit, chewy and structured, with a brace of acids and a long tail of razored feathers. A little lacking in the midpalate. Good, but not (at least for me) one of Vajra’s more joyful efforts. (9/10)

Have your Scottish terriers Speysided and neutered

The Speyside Scotch Whisky 12 Year (Speyside) – Iodine, but not too much. Peat, but not too much. Flavor, but not too much. Sweet oak? Yeah, there’s a lot of that. Straightforward, really. (9/10)

08 December 2010

Roally world

Goyard “Domaine de Roally” 1999 Mâcon-Villages “Tradition” (Mâcon) – Heavy. Lush, hinting at a syrupy texture but with a preserved lime-influenced fruit that cuts against that weight. Botrytized? Possibly. Whether or no, it’s nicely mature at this stage, though I don’t suppose lovers of more decrepit chardonnay will be in any hurry. (8/10)

Mens' lawn

Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Bitter and woody. Absolutely horrid. Why did I hold something with a synthetic cork for this long? Argh. (9/10)

Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Less trashed than the previous bottle (and thankfully, this is my last), but still heavily oxidized due to entirely predictable closure failure. That is, predictable if I’d thought to yank the capsules off and look. But who puts plastic plugs in a wine that should have been able to age? Oh, right: screwcap-fearing French winemakers, that’s who… (10/10)


Quinta do Noval Tawny Porto (Douro) – Among the (relatively) big producers whose Portos are widely available, this is the only one I find reliable enough for constant resupply. This is not one of the house’s superior efforts, but it’s still tasty enough. Sweet caramels and brown sugars, pleasant and inviting, with the afterburn well-handled. (9/10)

Steindorfer on golf

Steindorfer 2009 Pinot Gris Fuschloch (Burgenland) – Surprisingly Alsatian in weight, if not aromatic profile, with more lusciousness than I’m used to from Austrian versions. The pear is bare and unspiced, however, which definitely takes it out of Alsace, and there’s rather more light within this wine than is typical elsewhere. Pleasant, and since it’s very hard to convince pinot gris to be more than that, good enough. (9/10)


Texier 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Corked. (9/10)


Philippe Gilbert 2007 Menetou-Salon Rouge (Loire) – Corked. (9/10)

Auld lang syne

Ommegang “Cup O Kyndnes” Scotch Ale (New York) – Heavy, as befits the category, but I’ve never had a domestic version of this style that I thought really captured the balanced weight of the original, and this is no exception. Sweet metal and armored stone fruit with a sandy finish. And, in case it needs stressing, quite boozy. (9/10)

Green tea

Montevertine 2002 “Montevertine” (Tuscany) – This is just so supple and approachable that the structure almost goes unnoticed. But eventually, get noticed it does, and it’s where the frayed edges and deficiencies of the wine show. Maturing quickly enough that, if I owned any more, I’d be thinking about getting to the rest of it. For all the previous talk of insufficiency, though, there’s plenty to like about the soft red fruit and earthy spice of the wine. Drink up, though. (9/10)

Litigate against one's love

Soucherie 2008 Anjou Blanc (Loire) – There’s a disjointed soft/sharp duality to this wine for which one has to be in the mood, as each element tries to pull the wine in a different direction. The softness is chalky and powder-textured, the sharpness is extremely clean and characterless (I don’t mean that as a negative; it’s more of a null-space acidity than it is a particularly malic or other sort of tart). Nice enough, but kind of a particular wine. (9/10)

All Chambord

Cazin 2007 Cheverny “Le Petit Chambord” (Loire) – Not appealing in any way, which is a surprising enough result that I have to wonder about the integrity of this particular bottle. Sharp, a little wrenched, herbal and sweaty. There’s minerality, but there’s even more that’s unpleasant. This just can’t be right. (9/10)

Canine pesce tête

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (Delaware) – I almost never like brown ales all that much, and this weirdo brewery’s attempt does not change my mind. Tan-flavored, tan-colored, tan-mooded. Yes, I know that’s not a word. (9/10)

Amber, gris

Trimbach 2004 Ribeauvillé Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – The non-prestige bottlings from Trimbach in 2004 have been uniformly excellent, for whatever reason, and this is no exception. When this wine is on, there’s a beautiful poise between the rounded pear fruit, dark iron-quartz minerality, spice, and acidity that’s still not “crisp,” exactly, but is more than sufficient to carry the rest of the package. Really nice, and showing absolutely no change from a year ago. Holding it might prove rewarding, but I guess we’ll see. (9/10)

Trimbach 2005 Ribeauvillé Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – Big. All the expected elements are there, but the wine just can’t quite support its own weight. Finishes a little hot. There’s so much stuff here that I’d be tempted to recommend the calming effects of age, but I just don’t know about the sheer leadenness of the wine. (9/10)

Colla cab

Poderi Colla 2007 Langhe Freisa (Piedmont) – Freisa comes in a fair range of styles, though it’s almost never clear which one is going to get without actually opening the bottle. Here’s one of the tight-frothed, almost slushy versions, reminiscent of its spiritual (if not actually related) peers among the lambrusco set. The vibrancy and intense pong of the violent purple churn – as intense as any fruit bomb but with light and verve rather than weight and tedium – is astew with violets and exotic pepper dust. Really, really fun. (9/10)

Hugues Johnson

Hugues Beaulieu “Les Costières de Pomerols” 2009 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – As reliable a bargain wine as there is these days, crisply green and succulent, driving its sharp point home with one sharp thrust and then letting it rest. Uncomplicated and amenable. (9/10)

Seven stages of K

Kubler 2008 Pinot Blanc “K” (Alsace) – Fairly firm, with a good deal of acidity countrapuntal to the stark off-white fruit. This is a guess, but as a rule this sort of profile indicates a preference towards actual pinot blanc rather than the traditional blending partner auxerrois, which fattens and en-fruits. This is pretty bare, and washes as much as it fills. There’s minerality, and I’d hazard a guess that there will be more in a few years, but it’s an ungenerous walk on the tart side at the moment. (9/10)

Roilette paper

Coudert "Clos de la Roilette" 2005 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – The precise nature of the maturation here is a little difficult to describe. Perhaps a fist, just starting to unclench and letting a little light shine through the interstitials, is the best analogy. It’s not exactly generous, but it’s generously fruited, and the softness that the wine had always brought to an otherwise fairly structured package has not changed; all the development has been wrought within the wine’s structure. There is so far from any hurry to get to this wine. (9/10)


Cheveau 2007 Beaujolais-Villages “Or Rouge” (Beaujolais) – Cherries and apples, with the succulent tang that characterizes the more straightforward genre of Beaujolais, the most ardent fans of which are much more enraptured by the complexities of the crus these days. But there’s a lot of value in these deft, well-turned short stories…chief among them the incredible cut and barb they provide in counterpoint to food. (9/10)

Barral of fun

Leon Barral 2004 Faugères (Languedoc) – Warm fruit, earthen and well-rested, enveloping and just in the right position between rural gentility and a more modern, almost culinary appeal. Nice wine. I wouldn’t really go beyond that. (9/10)

Built less

Biltmore Pinot Noir (America) – Fetid armpit glazed like a donut. Pretty horrifying. (9/10)


Velenosi “Querci Antica” 2008 “Visicole” (Marches) – 500 ml, and aromatized in the manner of a chinato. Only, not so much. It’s more sweet than bitter, as if some odd alchemist had decided to blend a sweet red, a chinato, and one of the sweeter amari, and then thought better of it and stopped before following through to any one of a number of possible conclusions. The result is interesting but a little bereft of persistent interest. (9/10)

Sobon mot

Sobon Estate 2008 Zinfandel “Old Vines” (Amador County) – 14.9%. A reliably slightly-better-than-mediocre bargain zin, here a little better than that. Wiry and brambly, with the pine woodsy character of the region, and as much bite as it has (at least in my memory) ever shown. Tasty, though it neither demands nor offers much. (9/10)


Podere Castorani 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo “Majolica” (Abruzzi) –It’s wine. It’s red. It’s drinkable. It’s drinkable red wine. (8/10)

Episode 4

New Hope Riesling (Pennsylvania) – Identifiably of its variety, with the over-reliance on goop and stick so common to off-region versions fully present. A little green, a little herbal, and a little woody (akin to a woody apple’s texture, I mean, not oak). Not entirely bad, and quite drinkable, but the “for a Pennsylvania riesling” contextualization applies. (8/10)

Greco-Roman Rousseling

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2007 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – I like these young about 50% of the time, thinking the other half insufficient, and am repeatedly proven wrong by even a little bit of maturation (which is all I’ll allow under this closure), so my generalized displeasure with this bottle should be taken to mean absolutely nothing. It’s the tangy red fruit and earth that make the wine, and the grating, flaky, stale peppercorns and overaged herbs that ruin it. And the next bottle will be spectacular. I’m blaming taster variation rather than any of the usual suspects. (8/10)

Cattin around

Joseph Cattin 2008 Pinot Gris (Alsace) – Sweet pear, thinned and goopified, with just enough spice to redeem. Not particularly interesting, though. I know it’s just a basic Alsatian pinot gris, and this is what gets in that category these days, but while it’s a better cocktail wine than the horrid, tasteless pinot grigio that so many quaff, it’s still not that good. (8/10)

A regular blowing of cork

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Corked. (8/10)

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Unlike the last few bottles, which have been more or less on the early side of ready, this is years from that state. Coconut, blackberry juice, dust, primary tannin. Tastes like a 2004 (well, except for the fact that the 2004 can be an overwooded yak-fest) more than a 1999. This bottle should have been left to sleep for another five or ten years. (10/10)

Hospices by hospices

Hospices de Beaune 1993 Marc de Bourgogne (Burgundy) – As red-Burgundian as a marc can be, full of the lovely blended fruit and autumnal richness of a nicely-aged wine and a warmness that never tips over into burn. (8/10)

Let it Gros

Pascal “Gros’Noré” 1999 Bandol (Provence) – The odd match of maturing, meaty/liquorous “fruit” and an incisored bite of tannin that typify Bandol in its adolescent stage. It’s not young any more, but the hurry to get to it will very much depend on how much one craves animal juice. It’s forceful for a Bandol, wrapping itself in a few more layers of herbed foil than might be normal at this stage. I like it, but I’ll like it more in a decade, I suspect. (8/10)


Montevertine 2006 “Pian del Ciampolo” (Tuscany) – The usual beautiful, soft red fruit with the fine particulate texture somewhere between earth and spice. Hints of vegetation, still a fair (but gentle) wash of tannin, balanced all around. This is good now, but it’ll be a fair bit better a few years down the road. (8/10)

Brown meat patty

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 0 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Ever more cylindrical and starting to dust up, which is a quality I like to find in riesling as it ages. A little more confident than the last bottle, which suggests gradual emergence into a more interesting stage. (8/10)


Kreydenweiss 2000 Pinot Gris Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” “Sélections de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – 500 ml. Pear, peach, and hints of red fruit all sticky and gummy. Honestly, this is still OK, but has gone nowhere beneficial or interesting over the time it’s spent in my cellar. Drink six years ago for best effect. (8/10)


Buronfosse Crémant du Jura Rosé (Jura) – Bony, eroded, and stark, with only notions and memories to tell its story. (8/10)


Hobo 2008 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Vallley) – 14.7%. Grainy and fuzzy, its (decent enough) black fruit and strappy, faux-leather structure clenched into a pixilated fist. On the other hand, it’s not really worth that level of verbiage. It’s fruity with some structure. A little dark. (8/10)


Cascina Roera 2004 Barbera d’Asti Cardin (Piedmont) – The first barbera I’ve been able to convince myself to drink since tasting zillions of them in the Piedmont, and just about the only reason I’m able to do so is the importer (Adonna), whose wines don’t traffic in the misplaced ambition and sloppy internationalization that plagued so very many in that tasting. This is one of the pushed-fruit examples – not traditional and crisp, but not sloppily internationalized either – and handles both that fruit and a listed 15% alcohol (I wouldn’t be surprised were the actual number a bit higher) very well, with dark-berry fruit dominating the lighter, redder elements, but still keeping that fruit firmly in the realm of berries rather than something more luxuriant. There’s a bit of soil, some pepper, even some nearly licorice-like concentration that does put me in mind of similar genre-straddling wines in Valpolicella. It’s very good. Not cheap, but doing its best to live up to its price without extravagance, and there’s every indication that it might age for a little while. (8/10)

Sour grapes

Marian Farms California Style Pisco (California) – Orange bubblegum. In a pisco? Welcome to California! Sweet and soft; not bad, necessarily, but certainly not what any knowledgeable pisco drinker is looking for. (8/10)

The librarian

Marian Farms “Epirito de la Valda” Brandy “Private Reserve” (California) – Supple, with good acidity and a fun side. Lots of wood, though. A little more than it can handle. (8/10)

Egly-Mae Clampett

Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Tradition (Champagne) – Dry, dry, dry. Apricot skins and apple skins, lightly bitter and rather desolate, It never really improves past this point. A very, very particular Champagne for which I can’t say I care, at least in the form of this bottle. (8/10)

Peay in a cup

Edmunds St. John 2001 Zinfandel Peay (Sonoma County) – 15.2%, and unfortunately volatile acidity has completely taken over. Other bottles (and tasters) may experience different results, but for me this is undrinkable, alas; I very much enjoyed the penultimate bottle (which was tasted just a few years ago), but this is my last one and so I guess I’m unlikely to taste an intact version again. (8/10)

Or, chat high

Barthod 2002 Chambolle-Musigny “1er Cru” Les Chatelots (Burgundy) – Primary, still, with a New Zealandish aroma of beet-infused macerated berries, but then plunging down a rollercoaster of earthy aromatics and portended complexity. Young, still. No surprise there. (8/10)

Tuffeaux the sheaux

Chidaine 2005 Montlouis-sur-Loire “Les Tuffeaux” (Loire) – Soft and perfumed, with tissue-thin layers of leafy something-or-other through which one slowly drifts, searching for something tangible. Which never comes. Closed? Yeah, sure, why not? Certainly not particularly interesting at the moment. (8/10)


Ca’ de Noci a Quattro Castella 2007 “Sottobosco” (Emilia-Romagna) – Blackcurrant vinegar and raw pepper dust, trapped under an avalanche of ash with someone who hasn’t cleansed their armpits in…well, years. Grossly imbalanced in terms of both acid and tannin. Awful. This can’t be what this is supposed to taste like, can it? (8/10)

Ameztoi soldiers

Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2009 Getariako Txakolina Rubentis (Northwest Spain) – Fizzy, chalky, fizzy, short, fizzy, drawing down to its finale, and fizzy. Did I mention the fizz? Bites more than purrs, nipping and snapping at every approach. (8/10)

Of 4

Duffort “Château La Moutète” 2009 Côtes de Provence Rosé “Grande Réserve” (Provence) – Grows as it airs, tinting its peaches green throughout. Nice. Not really more than that, but still nice. (8/10)

Coudert town

Coudert “Clos de la Roilette” 2009 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – I really don’t like this, and the reason isn’t immediately identifiable, other than the fact it doesn’t taste like much aside from a very basic notion of Beaujolais. Undoubtedly not right in some fashion, and another bottle is required. (8/10)

Fromm here to eternity

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – As mature as one would want it, I think. The berries, strong and lavishly-structured, have not fully developed into something more autumnal, but those equinoxal notes are present, the tannin is still a throb but no longer deadening, and there are baked and sunset aspects to both aroma and finish. This turned out not to be the ager I might have predicted (though this bottle is from a recent store closeout, and thus of doubtful provenance), but has turned out to reward what aging it has accomplished. (8/10)

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – Almost exactly like the previous bottle, except with more fruit-to-underbrush development, and a more appealing texture. (8/10)

28 November 2010

Please, Ammerschwihr, don't hurt 'em

Binner 2007 Riesling Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr (Alsace) – I’ve neither always nor long been a fan of Binner’s idiosyncratic and, in the past, flaw-ridden approach to winemaking. Recent tastings, as they accumulate, are making me think that whatever they needed to learn, they’ve come pretty close to learning it. These are still unlike most wines in the region, and of course there are both good and bad aspects to intentional atypicity. As for this particular wine, some will immediately dismiss it as oxidized. And it’s not without the influence of same, for sure, but when used judiciously it can achieve a layering, enveloping effect rather than just a deadening, en-stale-ing one. As it does here. The minerality is decidedly salty and yet molten, lacking the shine and brilliance of more conventionally-produced riesling, and yet what fruit is discernable is jacketed in an array of ferric armor. More acid wouldn’t be unwelcome, but the wine’s fine as it is. Finishes as melting coal. Very interesting. Whether or not it’s “good” will depend on the proclivities of the taster, though it would be a shame if this became the dominant expression of Alsatian riesling. But I’m intrigued. (8/10)

I roule

Ilarria 2007 Irouléguy (Southwest France) – Chewy, rebellious fruit, dark and a little wild. Peppercorns and espresso (not the oaky kind), wet black soil and logarithmic structure. Luscious. Ageable, but probably not too long. (8/10)

Steel-cut griottes

Chermette 2009 Beaujolais Rosé “Les Griottes” (Beaujolais) – Yearning. Not quite acquiring whatever it’s in the mood for, though. Simple cherry analog, tarragon analog, dust analog…nothing really seems entirely present here. There’s no obvious sign of damage, and yet I wonder. (8/10)

Donis make you wanna holler?

Capçanes “Mas Donis” 2009 Montsant Rosat (Cataluña) – Strawberry and red cherry edging towards and peering over candied, but not so far past that edge that it’s unpleasant. It’s just very modernistic, shiny, and bright. But it would work just as well as a pastille, I think. (8/10)

You dirty Raats

Raats Family 2009 “Original” Chenin Blanc (Coastal Region) – This is the unwooded cuvée, and tastes just as I remember from the source: very, very dense, almost syrupy, yet retaining just…just…enough acid for a sort of leaden balance. Stone fruit and pretty flowers, with a bronzed quality. Very fresh, but the opposite of lively. (8/10)

Naturala aboard

Isastegi 2008 Sagardo Naturala (Northwest Spain) – I like cider in various styles, but prefer dry. And this is dry. Also: nicely bitter, electric, and raspy. It cannot be ignored. (8/10)

Their Tablas is our gain

Tablas Creek 2005 Syrah (Paso Robles) – Burly but not overbearing, loading up the wagon with blackberries and blueberries, leather, roasted nuts, and rich California ripeness. There’s earth and baritone to this wine, and it’s balanced and structured enough to reward a fair bit of cellaring, I think. (8/10)


Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Always light, getting lighter. It’s not quite scrawny yet, though the bones are just beginning to protrude. I’m not sure this has a future that’s better than its present or its past, but I’ve been wrong about this wine before. (8/10)

Forrester for the treeser

Ken Forrester “Petit” 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Sunny stone fruit with something perfumed – lavender? no, not that strong – and, as usual, delicious, though there’s a faintly syrupy hint starting to develop. This was never intended to be an ager, anyway. (8/10)

Gramella's house

Tinterto 2009 Moscato d’Asti Sorì Gramella (Piedmont) – Orange blossom with counterpoints of mint and lemongrass. Nice. (8/10)

Durell hand cream

Edmunds St. John 1993 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Glacially-cellared, and this was in mind as we opened the wine, because in retrospect I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Durell syrah that I thought was fully mature. This one gave its best effort, though, and is the closest I’ve come. Very masculine, all rippling muscles and five o’clock shadow, wrapping dark blackberry residue in leather and tarnished metal buckles. Lingers, a very long while. Very, very good. (8/10)


Carrel & Fils 2009 Jongieux (Savoie) – Like snow on a seashore, crisp and flaking, a brittle carapace disintegrating around a wet, slightly saline chill. Someone might once have walked on this beach carrying a lime, but they left with it ages ago. The stark absence of this wine is very appealing. (8/10)

Dolan heights

Paul Dolan 2007 Zinfandel (Mendocino County) – Zinfandel, yes. Yes it is. A little more acid, a little less coconut, more or less berryish. It’s…fine. (8/10)

Is it Livio, or is it Memorex?

Livio Felluga 2007 Collio Sauvignon (Friuli Venezia-Giulia) – Firm, cold-tasting, riesling-ish sauvignon blanc. A pillar of metallic/acidic structure is rammed right through the spine of this wine, and though there’s a low level aura of faint electricity around that pillar, this is still a monosyllabic wine. On the other hand, some wines say more in a single syllable than others. (8/10)

Sticks in my Crau

Domaine du Père Pape “La Crau de ma Mère” 2000 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Beef, leather, iron, blood. In a good way, of course, because this is the Rhône. But it does drink a little like someone had a knife fight at the meat-packing plant. The organoleptics are fully-developed here, and even though the structure isn’t – there’s still a fair bit of tannin – I’d drink up, especially as this frigid-cellared (8/10)

Barbou the elephant

Barbou “Domaine des Corbillières” 2009 Touraine Sauvignon (Loire) – A little more exotically-fruited than most Touraine sauvignon I’ve had, but not pushed into full Marlborough territory, or even modernistic Sancerrois experimentations. Still soil-chalky, still pleasantly green, still rindy. Somewhat insignificant, but then again not everything has to be important. (8/10)

Eating Paestum

De Conciliis 2004 Paestum “Antece” Fiano (Campania) – The skin-bitterness and inexorable textural impact of the orange wine set gets a chalky/waxy interpretation here, mingling acid and something slightly reminiscent of Rainier cherries but deeper and more metallurgic. Really fascinating. I’m not much of a fan of De Conciliis, across the range, but this one wine makes up for the disappointments. (8/10)

Bear fear

Comte Pierre de Colbert “Château de Flaugergues” 2009 Languedoc “Cuvée Rosée” (Languedoc) – Is it just my imagination, or are the Languedoc rosés now littering American shelves getting sweeter? Not that I really mind so much, but while it increases the cocktail appeal, it doesn’t help much when it comes to matters culinary. Crushed handfuls of berries, strawberry leaf, and lingering sucrosity…I don’t know how much, if any, residual sugar is actually in this, but the wine is certainly softer and prettier than it needs to be. On the other hand, I suppose this is preferable to the overly alcoholic imbalance that used to plague Southern French rosés (and still does, to be honest). (8/10)

Is it dusty, too?

Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Double IPA (Vermont) – Lovely, lifted aromatics…I don’t, as a rule, enjoy sniffing beer, but this smells pretty enticing…with, yes, confident hoppiness but very good balance. There’s complexity here that forces one to pay attention. If I rated the things I drink, this would be the point score: I bought a case, and I haven’t bought beer by the case since college. (8/10)


Pazo de Arribi 2006 Bierzo Mencía (Northwest Spain) – I’m breaking with my normal nomenclature here because the winery name (in the fine print) is RNE 8179-LE…no, really…and I just can’t bear to see that in print. A contract bottling for Classical Wines, the importer? Could be. And I admit that, as a result, I’m trepidatious given the history of such things. But no fears are necessary, other than the usual worries about continuity of sourcing: this is a very tasty wine. Red, blue, and black fruit – not purple, though – well-structured and showing layers of decayed-flower aromatics. Tellicherry pepper dust, too. (8/10)

Couldn't work a "toi" in there?

Rousseau “Domaine des Trois Toits” 2007 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie (Loire) – Basic modern Muscadet, by which I mean not suffering from the dentally painful underripeness of the cheap commercial quaffing crap, but clean seaside transparency with the suggestion of fruit weight but the unlikelihood of ever identifying that fruit. For washing down bivalves, I’ll take it and enjoy myself. But it’s not Muscadet for contemplation. (8/10)

Ilarria David

Ilarria 2008 Irouléguy Rosé (Southwest France) – There are only a few rosés that I think really benefit from aeration, but this is one: papery, walled-in, a Forbidden City of a wine at first opening, this takes several hours to get going. The end result is still no easy-drinking rosé, but roughly-textured creek bed rocks with the bite of sharp, wild red fruit that one picks alongside a sub-Alpine trail, slightly underripe but all the more refreshing for it. Still, in the end, it doesn’t amount to much more than reasonable goodness. The house’s other wines are, I think, better. (8/10)

Cattin around

Joseph Cattin 2008 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Salted and dried pork softened with a sweetening peach glaze. Decent, quite drinkable, but doesn’t achieve the intensity or expression it could use. This floats atop a sea of sameness, but it’s still anchored in that sea. (8/10)

Court, no spark

Tessier 2004 Cour Cheverny (Loire) – Corked. (8/10)

Isn't it Peconic?

Peconic Bay Spirits “Signature” Grape Brandy “sono rinata” (New York) – Apparently merlot, and be warned that it’s a clearer, more grappa-like style than it is a deep, wood-aged style. Or rather, I wish someone had warned me. Because I don’t care for this at all. It tastes like corn, and the alcoholic bite is harsh and ungainly. (8/10)

Réaltière TV

Michelland “Domaine de la Réaltière” 2005 Côteaux d’Aix en Provence “cul-sec!” (Provence) – Light, appealing red fruit with space and air within, some peanutty spice, and a little wash of funk and stink. As seems appropriate, given the name. The finish is stronger and more full-throated than what precedes it. (8/10)

Bitter Mary

S. Maria al Monte Amaro (Liguria) – Complex, citrusy, and achieving equilibrium between its bitter, sweet, and aromatic elements. Very pleasant, with just enough bite. (8/10)

So farra, so gooda

Sella & Mosca 2002 Alghero “Tanca Farra” (Sardinia) – Swaggering, but the calloused mountain man and the fancy suit don’t necessarily cohere. Angry, dark-souled fruit with a fierce lash of skin and strap. It’s not overly big, though it is thickened by ambition, but the essential core of this wine survives its commercial acculturation without taking too much damage. (8/10)


Vajra 2008 Langhe Bianco (Piedmont) – No surprise, I suppose, that one of the most terroir-evocative grapes (in this case, riesling) shows something in equal parts unexpected and familiar in the soils of the Langhe. The familiar structure of crisp acid and steel-pole texture is there, with a little more generosity and openness, but there’s also a soft, almost mushroomy earth quality, and a slowly-rolling stew of clarified fruit chugging alongside. Really, really nice. (8/10)

My jovet

La Kiuva 2007 Vallée d’Aosta Arnad Montjovet (Vallée d’Aosta) – Wow. Jittery alpine-red berries, tiny and bitingly crisp, chilly, and quivering into a nervous finish. Breathtaking in the fashion of a brisk downflow from icy peaks. Fantastic. (8/10)

Rainoldi on my parade

Rainoldi 2005 Valtellina Superiore Prugnolo (Lombardy) – Sapid and hexagonal, then spiraling into a gravitational tesseract of appealing oddity. Red fruit? Flowers? Gritty soil? Yeah, sure. And then again, not so much. There’s having a dialogue with your wine, and then listening to it deliver a Dadaist lecture. And you either like that kind of thing or you don’t. I do, sometimes…and this is one of those times. (8/10)

Cocagne & a smile

Cave Coopérative du Vendômois 2009 Coteaux du Vendômois Lieu-dit Cocagne Rosé (Loire) – Brittle, bony, and falling apart like eggshells. By which I don’t mean to suggest that the wine is disintegrating – in fact, it’s quite knit – just that it’s texturally fragile, like drinking pressurized eggshells. Light, floral, strawberryish and more than a bit volatile, but fun. (7/10)

It's not easy being green

Terres d’Avignon “Kermit Lynch” 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – As easy as always, but there’s some angst and teenaged crankiness to it, and I don’t think it’s just a stage. Rough-ridden fruit, lightly-chewed and vaguely herbal, with the sweetmeat pong of Rhôneishness. But it’s just…a little odd. (7/10)

Moor or less

de Moor 2007 Bourgogne Blanc Chitry (Burgundy) – Light complexity – Complexity 101 – with a quartzy, light-then-flat-then-light-again texture, all skew angles and occult tangents, yet somehow formed and whole. Peachy? No, not really. Perhaps apricotty, but then maybe it’s crystallized. Or maybe not. Enjoyable. (7/10)

de Moor 2007 Bourgogne Blanc Chitry (Burgundy) – Overwhelmed with VA, stench, degradation, and awfulness. From the same case as the previous, very intact bottle. (8/10)

Take this wine and Chevillon

Chevillon 2006 Bourgogne (Burgundy) – Every time I drink a Chevillon of anything but surpassing age (and that almost never happens), I laugh at the occasionally-stated opinion of non-Burgundy fans that there’s nothing of sufficient heft for their palates. In terms of alcohol or supercharged, candied fruit, that may be true. But to apply the descriptors “light” or “elegant” as the epithets they so often are to this wine would be ludicrous. Full-fruited in the red spectrum, with only hints of black, but very earthen and lavishly structured, this is an extremely powerful drink for what is still just a basic Bourgogne. Well, “just” is unfair here, because this is neither constructed nor priced as “just” anything. I like it. I’ll like it even more with a little more maturity under its wide leather belt. (7/10)


Old Rip Van Winkle 10-Year Bourbon (Kentucky) – As with the superior bottlings from this distillery, the wood-infused peach and caramel are more lively and less barrel-deadened than many other commercial bourbons. And while I don’t mean to suggest that this isn’t good – it is; in fact, it’s better than most – it doesn’t quite have the complexity of the longer-aged and more eccentric bottlings. This is carping, I know. (7/10)

Queue up

Baumard 1995 Coteaux du Layon “la queue de Paon” (Loire) – For all the varied disappointments inherent in the dry wines from this house – rarely flaws or problems so much as aqueous timidity – the sweet wines don’t, at least to my palate, suffer from the same issues. In fact, the restraint that bores in other wines is, in the stickier examples, a refreshing alternative to the frequent excesses of the region, in which sugars have been pushed way too far, or unfortunate biological experiments are allowed to run their independent courses within insufficiently-protected bottles. Here are spice, a wide range of apples and whitish-green melons, honeysuckle, and a coppering minerality atop the essential foundation of flaked earth. Long, perfectly balanced, and delicious. (7/10)

Harriet & Nels

Olssens 2002 Pinot Noir Slapjack Creek (Central Otago) – 14%, and showing every bit of that plus some more as a bonus. Unquestionably on the downslope, and though it’s not too far along it in terms of fruit development (there’s the usual leathering of the berries, plus some tarry hints of autumn), a rapid separation from the alcoholic power inside the wine has rendered it more than a little Scotch-y. This was never a great wine, but it was certainly more appealing at release. Drink up. (7/10)

The united colors

Ferraton 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc “Samorëns” (Rhône) – Surprisingly vivacious, to the extent that white Rhônes not labeled clairette can ever be. Melon, almond, tan earth, and scallop coral, with good density but life and light within. A fun, easy-drinking wine. (7/10)

Féraud salad

Féraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – From an arctic cellar. Raw musculature, flexed and buffed. There’s a deep, dark, Rhône-ish throb of black earth and smoked heart, but it’s still very structured. Heavy without being overweighted, and from this particular source it has many years left to unclench before it’s a genial party guest. (7/10)

Split decision

Donaldson Family “Main Divide” 2005 Riesling (South Island) – Citrus leaf, lemongrass, good acidity and just enough sweetness for balance. Simple, sunny. (7/10)

Donaldson Family “Main Divide” 2005 Riesling (South Island) – Ripe green apple, hints of grapefruit, Asian aromatics…but really, all more simple than that. And good. Tasty. Fun. (7/10)

Home on the Grange

Luneau-Papin “Domaine Pierre de La Grange” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie “Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Not as together as it once was, though I don’t know if this indicates closure or deconstruction. Shells under rocks, rocks under shells, rounded-off and a little dull, yet with cracks and erosion showing. Hold longer, or drink last year? Dunno. I can’t imagine it would be falling apart already, though. (7/10)

Uncle Quinis

Sardi Giustiniani 2008 Colline Lucchesi Vermentino “Quinis” (Tuscany) – Starts tentatively, then grows in interest as vermentinos so often do. Water-marked aquatic leafery, subtle shadings of sunlight, an ascending finish. Good. (7/10)


Dubourdieu “Château Ducasse” 2009 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – Greens and grasses, grapefruits and…something else alliterative that isn’t quite coming to mind right now. Grapes? Sure, why not? (7/10)

Dubourdieu “Château Ducasse” 2009 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – Grassy green, faded yellow, pale white, flavorful but reticent. Never really goes much of anywhere. (8/10)


Reynouard “Manoir de la Tête Rouge” Saumur Rosé “Tête à claques” (Loire) – A little fizzy (by design), perhaps not entirely dry, and mostly about poppish strawberry fruit. It’s liquid laughter, and as such far more appealing than Angeli’s grossly overrated version of the same thing. (7/10)


Texier 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Often, I taste these synthetically-sealed wines and wish for a different closure, that I might see what a little age would bring. Here, I don’t. This tastes authentically Southern Rhônish (whether it is or not), lighter than has been Texier’s past norm, and very appealing in the now…but I don’t think any closure would have lent it much of a future. This isn’t a criticism; the wine’s so good, why wait? (7/10)


Casimir Gascon 2006 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de l’Ardèche Merlot (Rhône) – Wretched. I couldn’t finish a second sip. Stewed peanut butter, rancid butterscotch, weeds, and nastiness. (7/10)

27 November 2010

Bucci cucci

Bucci 2002 Rosso Piceno “Pongelli” (Marches) – Absolutely the most egregiously corked wine I have ever encountered. They could teach classes with this bottle. For decades. (7/10)

Bucci 2002 Rosso Piceno “Pongelli” (Marches) – Complicated interplays of tart red fruit, baked goods, a pair of sharp tannic and crisp acidic bites, and high quality mixed with an insistent unwillingness to play along or submit. Yes, Pongelli, you may be on top. (8/10)

Hangin' with Mr. Qupé

Qupé 2007 Syrah (Central Coast) – Purple fun. Fruity and only a little bit frooty, with fruit and a side of fruit. Finishes fruity. And despite all this (did I mention fruit?), it’s actually syrah-like. In a way, this is what California should be best at. Only they shouldn’t charge four or five times what Qupé is charging for this…and yet, they do. (7/10)


Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” Pott’s Landbier (Massachusetts) – …and? (7/10)

29 July 2010

Arbois-thers in arms

Tissot 2007 Arbois Poulsard “Vieilles Vignes” (Jura) – Wine geeks often express the notion that the wines of the Jura are difficult to understand (for novices, one presumes). That may be true for the whites that play in realms oxidative, but I’m less sure it’s true for the reds that don’t. This one, for example, has been plenty popular with aficionados and newbies alike, over multiple vintages. And what’s not to like? Appealing, pale red fruit of purity and lightness, paired with a delicate structure…unless one is a fan of jam, and exclusively so, it’s hard to register much negativity here. But there is a difference in the way that new and old hands approach this wine, and it’s this: first-encounterers want to gulp it. That’s a compliment, of course, but the experienced instead want to spend a lot of time poring over its details. Why? It’s the nervous trembling to the fruit, the sense of air and space within the wine, the organoleptic version of a musical silence that permits and encourages such close examination. (5/10)

Let it Bea

Bea 2007 “Santa Chiara” (Umbria) – Whitewashed fruit, dried into powder and then reconstituted into something utterly fascinating. It’s like drinking light in fine particulate form. Persists, persists, persists…and then it’s gone, clean and full of memory. Absolutely compelling. (5/10)


Romano Levi Grappa (Piedmont) – A “little girl” label on this one. I think most would call this fruity, but I’m not sure that’s it…the “fruit” is somewhat impressionistic, or perhaps even abstract. Not cubist. It roils with tactile complexity, as much textural as aromatic, and despite the typically cauldronesque warmth of grappa, there’s so much to both the texture and the aromatics that the heat goes almost unnoticed. Until later, at least. Definitely on the richer, more luxuriant side of Levi grappas, yet what’s most surprising is that this isn’t expressed alongside concomitant gravity, but instead with delicious weightlessness. Succulent and, reviewed in summary, majestic. (5/10)


Château Margaux 2000 "Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux" (Margaux) – Lush, sultry, slutty, whorehouse Bordeaux. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, necessarily, but the lurid aromatics and the very particular texture…well, I can see why certain critics tend towards describing wines such as this in pornographic terms, because the lingo fits. There’s plenty of structure, but it’s oh-so-plushy and New World, and the dark fruit is expansive and soft. That said, there’s tobacco and pepper dust (more on the fruit than the spice side of pepper), and it is recognizable as Bordeaux. But modern Bordeaux, for sure. I find it impossible to not like, despite any stylistic reservations. Surprisingly drinkable now, but there’s far from any hurry to get to it; I suspect there’s a lot more development to come. (5/10)

Klin slate

Primosic 2006 Collio Bianco Klin “Riserva” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Vibrant with complexity, quite tannic, and low-toned. If anything, slightly over-structured, oozing into a dark brown realm of density and gravity. And there’s no lack of oxidation, either. But it’s delicious. (5/10)

What does Marguer eat?

Loew 2009 “Premières Vendanges de Marguerite” (Alsace) – This is sylvaner rouge, which I’ve not had before and don’t expect to have very often in the future. Which might be a shame, because I think the green tomato/herbal edge of sylvaner (which gains an intriguing weight from good Alsatian sites) is expressed to nice effect in this pinkish guise. In addition to those herbs and tomatoes, there’s big acidity, tangerine, and a light edge of tannin. Intriguing. (5/10)

Evolution '89

Trimbach 1989 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – By a fair margin the worst bottle of this I’ve had. Concentrated and full-bodied, but it’s a body comprised of not much other than beige mineral weight. It grows intensity over a few hours, and maybe there’s a faint suggestion of browned-out fruit, but not much else. Whatever the usual state and quality of the wine (which have, in turn, been vibrant and considerable), this bottle’s past it. (5/10)

Lytton tea

Ridge 2006 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – I taste each new vintage of Ridge’s flagship zinfandels with an increasing sense of despair. Not because the wines are bad – they’re not, though there is the occasional vintage-by-vintage failure – but because they’ve become so anonymously tiring. Here we have bubblegummy fruit (not fully grenache-like, but still), coconut, toast, and a ton of obvious alcohol. Nothing to set it apart from dozens of other reasonable-quality zinfandels from the appellation. Where’s the singular character? Where’s the structure? Yes, this is a very young wine from a site that usually demands extended (for zinfandel) aging, but this is not the Lytton Springs of old in quality or character. (5/10)

Woven so well

Edmunds St. John 2007 “That Old Black Magic” (El Dorado County) – Steve’s wines aren’t always this approachable in their youth, but the surplus here doesn’t come at the cost of overall balance or integrity. Dark, deep, a little brooding, and quite solid…and yet light and lively despite the gravitic press. Dark fruit, dark soil, dark carpeting. Really, really good. (5/10)

Nardini's escape

Nardini “Bassano” Grappa (Veneto) – Dominated by its floral/fruity/nutty notes rather than its heat or gasaholic stridency, which is welcome and unfortunately not common enough with grappa. (5/10)

The Binner takes it all

Binner 2007 “Les Saveurs” (Alsace) – Supple and appealing, though of course there’s the mushy, unfocused quality common to most Alsatian blends. But this has a nice spice, texture, and lift (not VA-derived) to it. (5/10)

The rock

Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Pretty delicate for a Morgon, it’s sweet-natured smallberry fruit dusted with soil and slowly immersing itself in a creamy black trumpet mushroom texture. But the shoulders, bones, and muscles of Morgon are not here. As such, I’d drink this vintage sooner rather than later. (6/10)

Roagna, Roagna, Roagna your boat

Roagna 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont) – Starts off difficult and overstructured, though of course this is a very early moment to be drinking such a wine. A lot of air and…well, the tannin doesn’t subside, but the acidity shows a little brighter, and the dark, chewy fruit lumbers into the background. This is by any measure a heavy, muscular wine, and it will require a fair number of years to peel away the layers of difficulty. (6/10)


Cappellano 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba Gabutti (Piedmont) – Where do I start with the flaws? I’ll need extra ink. I don’t know if the problem is with the wine, the shipment, or just this bottle. But pretty much everything except refermentation and TCA that could go wrong with this wine, has gone wrong. Yuck. (6/10)

Nicoll Kidman

Nicoll Dry Wildflower Mead (Maine) – Yeah, it’s mead. Dry-ish honey in drinkable form. And then? Nothing. The problem is less this beverage than my tastes; once one has delved into single-source meads, the blends seem…well, boring. So that’s my bad. I can recommend it for those whose palates haven’t been ruined by, um, varietal bottlings. (6/10)

Here's the wind-up

Amador Foothill 2006 Zinfandel Clockspring (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Very straightforward zinnish fruit: generous wild berries, a little feral, some pepper, a brief spike of alcohol on the encephalograph. Simple. Could be more of…something. Anything. (Hopefully not alcohol.) But OK. (6/10)


Château du Roquefort (a/k/a Domaine du Roquefort) 2006 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône “Gueule de Loup” (Provence) – A blend of grenache, the cabernets, and merlot. At a cost of a few dollars, this would be fine: basic fruit, basic structure…the kind of wine one un-jugs and sloshes at a picnic, or in front of the kitchen TV. It’s more than that, and as a result it’s less than that. I don’t see what cabernets and merlot add to grenache, and I don’t see the reverse either. (6/10)

My name is Gilroy

Bonny Doon 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache (Monterey County) – Simple-minded strawberry bubblegum, raspberry, and doofusberry. Yes, that’s a new fruit. Not heavy but still managing to show its alcohol. Quite drinkable with aggressively-flavored animal parts and a switched-off brain, but the least bit of thought or attention leads to unpleasant reactions. (6/10)

What is morgen on?

de Morgenzon 2006 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Heavy, leaden, dead from gravity and then necromanced with wood. While it will never be my favorite thing to do to chenin blenc, this cellar treatment can work in producing a fruity-but-internationalized wine. But it didn’t work here. Everything decent and appealing in the wine has been beaten to death, then reanimated and beaten a second time. (6/10)

Oh, Reuilly?

Domaine de Reuilly 2008 Reuilly Pinot Gris (Loire) – Pinkish orange and too avant-garde sorbet-like for my tastes; the sensation of sweet-tart candy and herbed pear isn’t a pleasant one for my palate. (6/10)

The end is Nai

Frecciarossa 2008 Provincia di Pavia Bianco Frizzante “Nai” (Lombardy) – Bright, almost (but not quite) brittle, bringing grass and clean greenness together with lemony citrus broth. Vivid, but only for a moment. Something’s missing here. Length? Breadth? Depth? Pick one. (6/10)

My Galichets Friday

C&P Breton 2004 Bourgueil Les Galichets (Loire) – Green fruit…ripe but edged with herbs, stems, seeds, and skins…and dark, almost gritty soil. There are already mature notes floating about, and given the closure I wouldn’t hold the wine any longer anyway. (6/10)

C&P Breton 2004 Bourgueil Les Galichets (Loire) – Virtually identical to the previous bottle, with a bit more dark soil and intensity, plus more surviving structure. Despite this, the wine actually shows more maturity (in the form of tertiary spice/soil notes) than the previous. In any case, the advice to drink up holds. (6/10)

Wesley Krusher

Kanonkop 2008 “Kadette” (Stellenbosch) – I find Kanonkop’s wines quite impressive, especially their pinotage and Paul Sauer blend, but this is the outlier. It’s OK, but really no more than that. Big, big, big fruit, with that strappy, paint/varnish pinotage character – missing from their varietal bottling – on full display, and obliterating any appeal that might otherwise be lent by the other grapes in the blend. It’s not awful or anything, but I don’t really see the point to it, other than a way to slough off lesser product to preserve the quality of the upper-tier bottlings. (5/10)


Mt. Difficulty “Roaring Meg” 2008 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Second-label and cheaper Otago pinots are either surprisingly good or flawed in a regionally-representative way: too much weight and alcohol. Here, while there is some alcohol on display, it’s not because the wine is too weighty. On the contrary, it’s wan, tired, and uninteresting. It reminds me of one of those Eastern European pinots that used to show up in educational blind tastings a few decades ago, just to wrench the works (“betcha can’t guess that this is from Bulgaria, tee hee”) in that I while I understand how it got made, I don’t understand how it got purchased, shipped to foreign markets, and given valuable shelf space. (5/10)

A real groener

Neil Ellis 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Groenekloof) – Driven and slightly pushed sauvignon, which ramps up the mineral and green components alike. There’s nothing underripe about this wine, which tends more toward apple than herb, and so it can handle the escalation of volume. A very solid wine. (5/10)

Paul Simon came up with 50 more

JP Brun “FRV100” (Beaujolais) – “Aged” (by which, of course, I mean forgotten in the cellar) for about a year. My initial reaction is that the boisterous, bubbly fruit has faded a bit, but it’s marginal enough that I could easily be self-suggesting same. It’s still good. Good fun. (5/10)

Ernest Borgo

Borgo Scopeto 2000 “Borgonero” (Tuscany) – What once may have been deep-throated strawberry and blackberry fruit has been pushed, wrenched, and twisted into something laden with Botox and fakery. It’s recognizable as wine, but further precision would be problematic at best. (5/10)


Trimbach 2001 Riesling (Alsace) – Tiring. No…tired. (5/10)

Little book

Nera “La Novella” 2008 Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio Chiavennasca Bianco (Lombardy) – Sweet fruit and pretty flowers. Tra-la-la, tra-la-la. Also, green apple, walnut skins, and puppy dog tails. Fresh’n’fruity. Not the most interesting bottle of this I’ve had. Too giggly. (5/10)

Vidal information

Lakeview 2007 Vidal Icewine (Niagara Peninsula) – 200 ml. Powerfully sweet – I’m glad this bottle isn’t any bigger, frankly – with rhinestone minerality and some nice fruit skin/vegetal counterpoints. (5/10)

Doug Neder

Nederburg 1999 Pinotage (Western Cape) – Dusty, varnishy, and gasping its last. (5/10)

Kings of Pian

Montevertine 2004 “Pian del Ciampolo” (Tuscany) – Corked. (5/10)

Jeff Spicoli

Two Hands 2008 Shiraz “Gnarly Dudes” (Barossa Valley) – 14.9%. Concentrated blackberry jam with lots of (iffy) acidity and just enough scraping tannin. Some grappa, as well. A fruit bludgeon, adorned with peppery studs and juicy-fruit rivets. Gluggable, though you’ll feel it later. (5/10)

Rocky III

Trichard “Domaine des Pierres” 2007 Chénas (Beaujolais) – Corked. (5/10)

A world of no

Gallo “Wild Vines” Blackberry Merlot (Origin Unknown) – Fruit of the Loom, but a few days after you ate the fruit. Fake, fake, fake. “Contains 0% juice” – it says it right on the label – and sweet. A scoop-and-mix fruit drink, at best. (5/10)

Very putrid s***

Beringer 2004 “VPS” White Zinfandel/Chardonnay “Premier Vineyard Selection” (California) – 80% white zinfandel, 20% chardonnay. Childrens’ fruit gum, hand sanitizer, NyQuil™, stale butter, minor sweetness. A little foxy, in a Welch’s green grape juice sort of way, with acetic acid following. Actually tastes like wine, which is a surprise at this stage. I’ve tasted worse. There: praise. (5/10)

25 July 2010

de Moor, de merrier

de Moor 2008 Bourgogne Blanc Chitry (Burgundy) – Subtle. Clear running water, gently flowing over stones, plus lovely blended stone and citrus fruit. Perfectly under-structured, if that makes sense. The wine is kinda beautiful, but in a shy, somewhat girlish way. I’d describe it as a bit of a Lolita, but now this note is starting to creep me out. (7/10)

The sheer Gaules of it

Lapierre 2008 Vin de Pays des Gaules (Beaujolais) – Painfully green, biting, and underripe. I didn’t think Lapierre had it in him to release such a nasty, unpleasant wine. (6/10)


Black Ridge 2003 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Sweet red beet and blood orange concentrate. Stemmy. Walnut skins and dirt suffused with ash. The sensation of excess acidity this wine had in its youth is only a memory at this point. Pretty good – certainly better than it was at release – but I don’t know if I’d hold this any longer. (6/10)

I, a gris

Trimbach 2004 Pinot Gris “Réserve” Ribeauvillé (Alsace) – Drinking really well, but the period of its drinking needs to come to an end soonish, because the metal-jacketed spiced pear – as consistent an organoleptic characteristic as one will ever find – is being decided in favor of the metal-jacketing, which is a sign that the wine’s about to enter its declining years. No stupendous hurry, but still: drink up. (6/10)

Little cuts

Trimbach 2006 Riesling (Alsace) – Wet iron, apple skin, lots of juicy and balanced acidity. Simpler than normal. Perhaps not their best work. No, this is never actually comparable with their domaine-sourced wines, but there’s a lack of nerve here. (6/10)

But sometimes, I don't Bousse so much

Chevillon 1999 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Bousselots (Burgundy) – Graphite-dominated. Closed and difficult. From a very cold cellar, and it’s sometimes hard to muster up sufficient patience for these wines from more typical conditions, but this is as closed as a wine can get. (6/10)

We are the Champs

Fèvre 2007 Chablis “Champs Royaux” (Chablis) – Fine-grained minerality, citrusy exotica, rapidly-declining finish. This wine has an enormously appealing texture that surpasses its aromatic interest, and it’s a pretty fine value (for Chablis). No, it’s not Great (or even great), but what do you want for this price? Ideally, one would wait a few years for the preservative buffer to subside, but it’s not as inaccessibly sulfured as some of its brethren. (6/10)


Kreydenweiss 2005 Costières de Nîmes “Perrières” (Rhône) – I can’t seem to let these wines age as long as they should. Probably because, despite their youthfully brutish tannin and size, the roiling, earthy fruit is so appealing. And they’re awfully nice with meat. Or meat with a side of meat. Anyway, while the wine’s big and dark, there’s enough light and air to see right through to the core of it. In many ways, these southern efforts from Kreydenweiss are far easier to understand and access than his Alsatian wines. (6/10)

Two, two, two barrels in one

The Balvenie “DoubleWood” 12 Year Scotch (Scotland) – Over-wooded Scotch. Overly pleasant and genial, not nearly interesting enough. (6/10)

Roussanne, don't walk away

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2008 Vin de Table Roussanne (Beaujolais) – Bright. A roussanne, bright? Oh yes. Aromatic honeysuckle with other flowers, yes. But not heavy at all. Instead, its fresh with good acidity, and really, really good. (6/10)


Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2007 Catalayud Garnacha (Aragón) – Big, fruity wine. Soupy, perhaps, with lots of unfocused berries and a slightly numbing weight. Simple-minded, too. But at a low enough price, decently drinkable. (6/10)

Rotational force

Brunori 2007 Rosso Piceno “Torquís” (Marches) – Big, over-concentrated fruit that neither deserved nor was prepared for that concentration. And even then, it manages to be a little wan. Berries in popsicle form, dirt, some slightly weedy tannin. Eh. (6/10)

Why must we fight?

Manchester Brewing “Kombat Ale” (New Hampshire) – Why must we fight? Straightforward and good-quality beer. Done. Next? (6/10)

Like a bedroom

Boudouresques “Château Massiac” 2006 Minervois (Languedoc) – Earthmeat, grit, layers of rough structure, and the darkest precursors of blackened berries. Scowling. Probably closing up, but it feels a little overstructured anyway. I guess time will tell. (6/10)

Boudouresques “Château Massiac” 2007 Minervois (Languedoc) – More open than the 2006, with much greater generosity of black fruit and a lighter foot on the tannin pedal. Otherwise, mostly the same in terms of overall organoleptics and structure. This is promising. (7/10)


Bonal Gentiane-Quina (France) – I learned, a few years ago amidst a visit to Alsace, that I don’t like gentian eau-de-vie. It turns out that I don’t like an aperitif made from it either. Bitter, vegetal, ashen, and nasty. (7/10)


Mionetto “Sergio Mionetto” Extra Dry Sparkling Wine (Italy) – Soft, formless, and vague. (7/10)


Luxardo Fernet Amaro (Italy) – Mint-dominated bitterness, very heavily tipped toward the mint. Sort of a blast furnace of an amaro, with neither subtlety nor generosity. It’s OK as long as mint is a favored flavor, but one has to be in the right mood. (7/10)

Fernet, I'm coming

Fernet-Branca Liqueur (Italy) – Mint. Nasty, brackish, almost fetid mint. I do not like this, Sam I Am. (7/10)


St. Michael-Eppan “Sanct Valentin” 2006 Sauvignon (Alto Adige) – Extremely intense, as is the Sanct Valentin style, but that intensity is expressed internally rather than some big, showy explosion of gobs and lavishness. Greenish-white fruit, white-hot and studded with shattered glass, quivering with barely-restrained power but never losing its grip on the foundation. Impressive. (7/10)

Talk to me, Goose

Goose Island 2010 “Matilda” Belgian Style Ale (Illinois) – I’m immediately moved to hate the labels, which scream pretension and artifice, but this beer is good. Very good. The weight of the ale is expressed in a lower-gravity environment, lending it buoyancy and air, and there’s a singing flavor development full of bronze and spice. I like it, a lot. (7/10)

Goose Island 2010 “Pere Jacques” Belgian Style Ale (Illinois) – No, there’s no accent on the label. Fairly intense but balanced, though there’s not quite the development of flavor I’d expect from the structure. Only sorta good. (7/10)

Goose Island 2009 “Sofie” Belgian Style Ale (Illinois) – In the mode of a Belgian white, with perhaps just a little more weight than is good for it, but an otherwise firm, confident style. Just enough flavoring, just enough beer, just enough spice-fuzz texture. (7/10)

The Dogfish slayer

Dogfish Head Saison du Buff (California) – Oh, those wacky Dogfish folk. I find that they either hit a grand slam out of the park or go down swinging, and this is one of the latter at-bats. A furious attempt to achieve the pinnacle of nothing very interesting. (7/10)

Beurot-ing animal

Lucien Boillot 2006 “Les Grands Poisots en Souvenir du Beurot” (Burgundy) – A little oxidized, though I couldn’t possibly say if it’s premature or not. Those looking for anything expressive of pinot gris as they know it will also be disappointed, but I don’t see that as a lack, necessarily; the terroir will give what the terroir gives. This is coppery in aroma and antiqued in flavor, and I think mostly it’s just a little old. There are a lot of petals floating around in the aged broth, however, and it’s not exactly without appeal. (7/10)

Roche motel

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2007 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Cedar shavings, grey earth, particulate iced pinkfruit, some deeper raspberry/cranberry tones, and needlepoint structure. A very precise wine. It may be showing a little bit of fray due to the closure. (7/10)


Kalin 1997 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserve” (Potter Valley) – The opposite of fresh, and I mean that as a compliment. The entire metals section of the periodic table might be in evidence here. Such concentration, force, and presence…and yet, edging just up to the border of what the wine’s balance will tolerate, and no more. Dissipates into a liquid dust as it finishes. The only negative is a butterscotched character that lingers as a bagpipe drone through the breadth of the experience. But there’s so much else to like that it’s easy to accept, though not ignore. (7/10)

Pretty palace

Beaucastel 1996 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge (Rhône) – I drink so little young Châteauneuf these days that I forget how good it can be. And make no mistake: this is still young CdP. The preludes of meat, herb, raisined (but not jammy) fruit, and so forth are all here, but still bundled in a very primary structure. The end result is powerful, long, and nowhere near ready yet. (7/10)

A Noval idea

Quinta do Noval “Black” Porto (Douro) – Alas, heat-damaged. (7/10)