27 January 2010


[label]Le Piane 2005 Colline Novaresi “La Maggiorina” (Piedmont) – Not quite as bony and red-rieslingish as previous vintages, and while the wine’s less distinctive as a result, it’s also better. There’s some flesh on these bones – still chilly and nanoparticulate in texture – cast in intriguingly dark fruit and floral tones, but not heavy, hard, or even muscular. Rather, there’s elegance, firmness, and stability. A lovely wine. (1/10)

Caneiro in a coal mine

Losada Fernández “Viña Caneiro” 2007 Ribeira Sacra (Northwest Spain) – A very complete wine, with full-throated mass but without overwhelming density. The fruit is dark and brooding, though there are leafier, petaled elements within, and the texture is of powder hinting at graphite. There’s plenty of acidity, as well. A really nice wine. (1/10)

Oh, Bergerie

[label]Guégniard “Domaine de la Bergerie” 2007 Anjou “Sous la Tonnelle” (Loire) – Ripe, sweaty, and a little lurid. Aromatically sultry, with its bones wrapped in soft velvet and a long, prehensile tail. Very flavorful, not very structured, and while the present is rich with experience, I wonder what the future holds. (1/10)

I, white

Raventós I Blanc 2005 Cava “l’Hereu Reserva” Brut (Cataluña) – Deep, nutty, and rich, with yeasted lemons and fine structure. A sophisticated bubbly, not too demanding, but with good presence. (1/10)


[vine]Sipp Mack 2004 Gewurztraminer “Tradition” (Alsace) – Soft and pretty. A rose-scented expression of gewurztraminer’s feminine side. It’s still flavorful, but undemanding, and everything in support of those roses is B-plot, not the main narrative. (1/10)

Oppida opp opp, Oppida opp opp, look at greco go

Oppida Aminea “Caucino” 2005 Greco Sannio (Campania) – Ashen and somewhat oxidized…not, I think, unintentionally…and thus the wine flows more like lava than like water across the palate. Bronzed carnations, perhaps? Like drinking ruins. (1/10)

Forsoni, not for Toshiba

Forsoni “Poderi Sanguineto I e II” Vino de Tavola Bianco (Tuscany) – Lot 04/09. Hot. Decayed flowers and guttered raindrops, with that ever-present alcoholic fume dominating no matter what the temperature. I love Sanguineto’s reds, but am a more than a little repelled by this effort. (1/10)

Saam like it hot

[landscape]Saam Mountain 2008 Chenin Blanc Middelburg (Paarl) – Full of the bright, round, yellow fruit that I’ve found is (happily) almost unavoidable in bargain chenins from South Africa. It’s clean, with a bit of spice and barely-fair acidity, though more of the latter would be welcome. Drinkable enough. (10/09)

JJ prune

Brana Eau-de-Vie de Prune “Vieille” (Southwest France) – A sharp and fruity nose, razor-like in its violence, somewhat belies the richness and generosity of the spirit within. It’s flavorful and ferric, with a sandpapery finish. I’m compelled and repelled in equal measure, and can’t figure out quite what I think. I will eventually come to adore this remarkable distillate, but tonight it is mostly a source of confusion. (10/09)

Fear of Haitza

Riouspeyrous “Domaine Arretxea” 2001 Irouléguy “Cuvée Haitza” (Southwest France) – Past it, and I wonder if the oak treatment hasn’t accelerated its decline. Quite tannic, with the remnants of overworked fruit and a dry finish. Dark and coal-hearted, but already with all four limbs and most of its torso in the grave. (10/09)

Jeff Bézios

Bézios “Domaine la Croix des Marchands” 2007 Gaillac (Southwest France) – A goofy bottle, a goofy wine. Crisp doesn’t really hit the mark here…sharp is closer…with biting fruit full of black skins, seeds, and stems. Pretty insipid, to be honest. (10/09)

23 January 2010

My heart's on fire, el Vajra

[vineyard]Vajra 2008 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – No mistaking what this is. But in addition to the usual flower shop/perfume truck accident, there’s weight, and texture beyond the fizz, and even some smoothly polished minerality. It’s not heavy (nor is it my brother), but it’s more interesting than most within the genre. (1/10)

Come to an Alte

[logo]Nigl 1996 Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben” (Kremstal) – I don’t know if this is fully developed, but it’s drinking awfully well at the moment. Celery dust. The wine’s ripe but precise, with rocks and sweat more dominant than any sensation of fruit. Finishes long, with pepper in both powdered and seeded form. Swirls and evades as much as it envelops. Really quite delicious. (1/10)

Catin the hat

Clos du Mont-Olivet 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône “Serre de Catin” (Rhône) – Approachable despite fairly hefty tannin, with all the Côtes-du-Rhône signatures in place and otherwise in balance. Finishes long and solid. It’s good as a cocktail wine, and lightens just enough with (strongly-flavored) food to support dining. I guess this is the sort of thing the vintage-hypers are referring to when they extol the top-to-bottom quality of 2007 Rhônes, but as ever the actual performances will be more complicated than that. This could age for a while, I suspect, but it’s probably a better reflection of its intentions if consumed in its exuberant youth. (1/10)

Hemo Kritt

[domaine]Gresser 2007 Pinot Blanc Kritt (France) – Fine-grained. Kritt wines tend to sort of suggest rather than define minerality, and while this is easy to discern in riesling from the site, it’s less immediately apparent in other grapes. Here, it’s a blended element, along with chilly, fresh-from-the-refrigerator apricot and nectarine, some grapefruit, and a surprisingly firm texture. This has been a house on the rise for a while, and the quality at this level is quite high for the price. (1/10)

100 meter

Dashe 2002 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.5%. About 50% there, which means that while the coconut and tannin are still hanging about, the suppler, spicier fruit of aged zin is starting to emerge. What this means in terms of drinkability, unfortunately, is that the pose is that of a somewhat gangly teenager. Wait a bit longer. (1/10)

Worm d'or

[vineyard]Vollenweider 2008 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Spätlese “Goldkapsel” 05 09 (Mosel) – Very ripe. Very, very ripe. Very, very, very…oh, hell, you know where I’m going with this. But it is…ripe, I mean…though there’s a flood of acidity to match it, and it actually manages a fierce, fisticuffs-in-lava sort of balance. Apples? Sure, why not? Mineral-grayed coarse sea salt as well. Fascinating. And very young. Very, very young. Very, very, very… (1/10)

Bar Graff

Graff Family Vineyards 2007 Pinot Blanc (Chalone) – 14.3%. Recognizably pinot blanc, in its apricot (plus apricot skin) and dulled bronze way, but this is a little drenched and weighty for the grape, and despite entirely decent acidity, the relatively minor layer of oak offsets any brightness or lightness the wine could use to combat that weight. I don’t want to overstate the criticism, however, because it’s a perfectly decent wine. (1/10)

Beblen brook

[vineyard]Deiss 1997 Pinot Gris Beblenheim (Alsace) – For a 1997, this has a surprising amount of balancing acidity, though it’s still not enough to support the metallic pear soup weight of the wine. Still, crystalline minerality is also in play, as are mineral salts and a cured woodfruit finish, and this is not at all bad in a year from which I like very little of Deiss’ work. (1/10)

Sparring partner

Sparr 2004 “One” (Alsace) – This was too long to hold what is a fun, blended wine, because it’s getting watery at both the core and the fringes, but what’s left is still an easy-drinking, anonymous-grape quaffer. (1/10)

Absinthe without leave

[absinthe]Delaware Phoenix Absinthe Superieure “Meadow of Love” (New York) – The herbal side of the licorice family, but not fully expressed as fennel, but rather more like one of those monk liqueurs (Chartreuse, etc.). Brittle in both flavor and spirit, with a broil of alcohol as a top note. Piercing. Impossible to ignore. (1/10)

Delaware Phoenix Absinthe Superieure “Walton Waters” (New York) – Waxed herbs and finely-balanced herb, licorice, and bitter fruit rind characteristics. Very long. Kinda brilliant, really. I greatly prefer this to the “Meadow of Love” bottling. (1/10)

J. crew

J. Portugal Ramos “Marquês de Borba” 2007 Alentejo (Portugal) – Tight purple and red berries in equal measure, some licorice, and a bit of black olive, but fading and tiring. Yes, already. Perhaps a damaged bottle, perhaps just a wine that was best at release, but the structure is already clinging to life better than the exterior trappings of fruit. (1/10)


[vineyard]Királyudvar 2005 Tokaji Sec (Hungary) – Previous bottles have had a lot more of a waxy planespace barrier to them. This is just bright, with zaps and pows of acidity punching through an arid mist of alpine fruit. I’m not quite sure where all the texture went, and it’s still a nice wine, but it’s not as interesting as it was last spring and summer. (1/10)

Darian Clarke

Darian 2006 Rioja (Center-North Spain) – Straightforward, entry-level Rioja. Red fruit, sun-weakened, over clumps of tan soil and indefinite pepper dust. Some oak. A fair wash of acidity. Pleasant, but not much more. (1/10)

Touché, Touchais

Touchais 1971 Coteaux du Layon “Réserve de nos vignobles” (Loire) – Oxidizing, but still fulsome enough, and one of the better-performing wines from this producer I’ve had in a long while. (1/10)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Winter White (Vermont) – The more I drink of this, the more I like it. Blizzard spices and yeasty warmth are a good combination. (1/10)

Not Fonné

Meyer-Fonné 1997 Pinot Gris “Réserve Particulière” (Alsace) – Corked, and also oxidized. Mmmm. (1/10)

A nice Peyre

[bottle]Les Costières de Pomerols “Saint-Peyre” 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Viognier (Languedoc) – Despite suggestions of the lurid/lotiony floral notes typical of viognier, this tastes more like one of the region’s picpouls than it does viognier. For many, this will be a good thing, and in fact the acid and general crispness are positives, but the consequence is that those honeysuckle elements that are present don’t quite integrate with the rest of the wine. Perhaps viognier does need to be just a little bit sticky (not sweet, but texturally adhesive) for its best expression, whether or not everyone likes that expression. It’s not a bad wine, though, and I suspect some will quite enjoy it. (1/10)

Palmina sweater

Palmina 2007 Dolcetto (Santa Barbara County) – 14.7%. I have the same general reaction to this wine as I do to Palmina’s nebbiolo, which is that they’ve got the varietal characteristics pretty much right (chewy fruit, red and black, with dense berry skins intact, plus acid and tannin that bite more than the seeming approachability of the wine would suggest), but they’re paired with a very Californian sense of nearly steroidal weight. The wine isn’t completely over the top, but it does drag and lull. On the other hand, those that find the Piedmontese originals not fruit-bomby enough will probably adore this wine. Good, promising, but do note the stylistic approach. (1/10)

Ay, Charamba

Aveleda “Charamba” 2007 Douro (Douro) – Weedy, astringent, and pretty awful. (1/10)


Losada Fernández “Pena do Lobo” 2008 Ribeira Sacra (Northwest Spain) – Red apples and raspberries, with a cranberry tartness to the acidity. Thin in odd places and at odd moments, with gritty tannin that takes a steadier path through the wine’s length. Good, if a bit awkward, but needs food. (1/10)

22 January 2010

Forrester research

[bottle]Ken Forrester 2006 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – South Africa is full of sunny, inexpensive chenin that expresses a round, fat-faced fruit that’s absolutely irresistible, and also of overly-ambitious oaked versions that manage to be more interesting than most similarly-constructed New World chardonnays, but perhaps aren’t the best use of chenin blanc. Very, very few wines straddle a middle ground, but here’s one, and it’s a beauty. Richer than it would be from the Loire, and youthfully simple, but with familiar honey, chalk, wax, and quinine at a nudged-up volume, yet balanced and pure. I’ve had this with a little age (albeit from younger vines), and the expected characteristics of aging chenin were indeed on display, to the wine’s benefit. I have high hopes for this wine. (1/10)


Féraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1994 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – From a very cold cellar, so read what follows in that context. Rounding into form, but not yet done describing that arc. Classic earth, underbrush, meat, and antique funk – heavy on the meat, with just a little bit of stink; only the truly brett-averse will cavil – in a somewhat heavy-handed but not leaden package. The weight of the hand comes from an overabundance of structure, and I don’t know that the wine’s other elements will outlast that structure. But it’s enjoyable enough to drink now, so if this is an anxiety, why wait? Otherwise…wait. Not too long. (1/10)

Sean John Donjon

Lucien “Le Vieux Donjon” 1994 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – From a very cold cellar, so read what follows in that context. This is very difficult, with still-sludgy tannin and a concentrated, reductive, nearly impenetrable density. There would seem to be a great deal of iron, blood, and compacted earth within, and the wine’s very long on the finish, but there’s also a glossy sheen to the exterior that I don’t care for at all. Judgment completely reserved. (1/10)

Raspberry beret

[label]Otter Creek Raspberry Brown Winter Ale (Vermont) – I tend to prefer beer with fruit involved in its conception to beer in which fruit is more of a conceptual additive, but this is kinda nice, and the reasons are twofold: first, the brown ale is quite good, and second, the raspberry is nicely restrained. It’s a counterpoint…not a raspberry-flavored beverage on an absent foundation of allegedly brown ale, but a brown ale to which is added a suggestion of raspberry. I wouldn’t want to drink it all night, but it’s nice. (1/10)


Russolo 2006 Malvasia Istriana (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Some lead, some oxidation, and some heavy metal machinery. Very, very odd. Good? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly intriguing, but ultimately there’s too much death here. (1/10)


Trimbach 2006 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – These wines, fairly basic in their normal state, are best in years when either their minerality or their spice are allowed to shine, which I presume corresponds fairly directly to the length and heat of the season, respectively. This is one of the latter: stone fruit, as much crisp as ripe, with pretty baking spices. There’s a little bit of minerality, as well. One of the better examples amongst recent vintages. (1/10)

Wassails in the sunset

Shipyard “Woodstock Inn Brewery” Winter Seasonal Ale “Wassail” (Maine) – Heavy, with the suggestion but not the actuality of wintry spices. Not that interesting, in that it attempts to replace character with density. (1/10)

High thanks

Wolaver’s “Alta Gracia” Coffee Porter (Vermont) – Yep, that’s porter. And yep, that’s coffee. Morning and evening, in one drink. “Good” is kinda beside the point…one either embraces the concept or doesn’t. (1/10)

The race to Dieuvaille

[label]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2004 Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois Dieuvaille (Languedoc) – The classic Dover Cliffs-infused floral sweetness with structural icicles and frost patterns within, adding a great deal of textural complexity to what is usually a fairly straightforward wine. There’s also a lower-toned throb of additional depth that’s only apparent late in the finish, and given all that plus a fine acidic backbone, I wonder if this might not be ideally situated for transformation in the years to come. Well, I’ll never get to find out, as this is my only bottle. (1/10)

Set it and forget it

di Lenardo Vino di Tavola “Ronco Nolè” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Thick reddish-purple fruit layered with vanilla-infused oak. Modern but pleasant. (1/10)

Haag und Dazs

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Dryish lemongrass, dry apple skin, and spritz. Sulfurous. Still too young for true enjoyment. (1/10)


Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Impossibly tight and unyielding to any amount of air, swirling, or overnight oxidation. It just sits there, closed-in about itself, wondering why you were crazy enough to open it now. I wouldn't even think of touching this for another ten years, if this is the stage it’s currently in. (1/10)

Do you Graach?

[vineyard]von Kesselstatt 2007 Graach Josephshöfer Riesling Spätlese 15 08 (Mosel) – I miss the days when a spätlese was a medium-weight wine. This is a bruiser, and though along with its full metal jacketed weight comes vibrant structure that carries that weight, it’s a very muscular wine. Green apple granite and dripping molten iron sundae topping. Age will definitely not hurt this wine. (1/10)

Fonné girl

Michel Fonné Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace) – Surprisingly complete, with chalky yeastiness and the beginnings of identifiable autolysis, a very rindy citrus palate, and a crisp and expansive froth. Salty. The intense finish sharpens to a point. This is already better than most Alsatian crémant, though a little more aromatic generosity would not hurt. (1/10)

Boxtail soup

Boxler 2004 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – A Chadderdon bottling, and thus (as is the case with some of them) without a label code indicating specific origin or vine age details. As Boxler rieslings go, this is one of the weaker ones…which means it’s still quite tasty, but that it lacks the rich complexity of the domaine's more interesting terroirs. Ripe apple, ripe lime, transparent aluminum, hints of sweetness, and fair acidity. That’s about it. (1/10)

Emily Ottella

Ottella 2008 Lugana Le Creete (Lombardy) – Sheets of green, white, and faded yellow envelop seaside herbs and a flat expanse of shells, each with a little wet sand still stuck to their interiors. This is a quiet wine ill-served by a fairly rich company in which it was served, and I’d like another crack at it in less distracting conditions, but it seems fair enough. (1/10)

Mellot yellot

[bottle]Mellot 2003 Sancerre Rouge En Grand Champs (Loire) – Red cherry fruit, somewhat sticky and confected, drapes like an overweight cat over the palate’s lap. There’s a lot more to this wine, especially in an earthen realm, but the sheer mass of the jammy, very nearly dead fruit is impossible to get past. There’s tannin, but not as much as one often fears from a 2003, and I have to say that this is better than most. Still doesn’t mean I want to drink it. (1/10)

Samantha Fox

Allemand 1998 Cornas Reynard (Rhône) – Imported by Vieux Vins. A roomful of wine geeks doesn’t think this is corked, save one holdout, but given the grudging, sullen performance of the wine, that holdout might as well be correct. There’s nothing here. Obviously not an intact bottle. (1/10)

...r and dancer

Dashe 1999 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 15%. Extremely oaky, in the soupy vanilla/milk chocolate/coconut fashion of a young zin in the Ridge mold, and with few other signs that the wine has aged at all…other than a noticeable reduction in what was its youthful tannin. This clearly needs more time, but watch that lingering wood. (1/10)


Kalin 1994 Chardonnay “Cuvée LD” (Sonoma County) – Bronzing in both hue and flavor; kinda like drinking a copper-colored sunset haze as the brown aromatics of a fall day rise from the cooling ground. Yet it’s a warm wine…balanced, but full, and with a more than decent finish. As it airs, ripe spiced apricot and fierce (but still welcome) acidity take over, and there’s a constant undercurrent of minerality. Nothing’s out of place, and this has aged very well. (1/10)

Nuclear Vesselle

[logo]Jean Vesselle Champagne Brut “Réserve” (Champagne) – Unmistakably red-fruited, even more so than many rosé Champagnes, with a corollary decline in the contributions made by both fizz and autolysis. Yet it’s not a simple wine either, it’s just somewhat primary, with crisp apple-infused acidity and a direct, blinders-on charge forward on the palate. Time should turn this even redder. (1/10)

Dürk diggler

Darting 2007 Dürkheimer Fronhof Scheurebe Beerenauslese 030 08 (Pfalz) – From 375 ml. Not as lurid as the tropical soap factory that scheurebe can sometimes be, but still with one foot in the drink umbrella and lounge chair genre. Thankfully, the other foots in a big vat of (loose) structure and vibrancy. Very sweet, but not in a tooth-eroding way, and fun. (1/10)

Longuich lessons

Schmitt-Wagner 2001 Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett 15 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Difficult. Muted, somewhat sulfurous, and probably too young. Nonetheless, what’s perceptible is moderately enticing. A grayed-out minerality suffuses everything, but there’s a leafy, almost lemongrass-like aromatic component (albeit brief), then apple skin, and finally some walnut that’s not only aromatic, but textural as the wine drifts off into an uncertain finish. I wonder how much more time this will require, or if that number is imaginary. (1/10)

Maximin overdrive

Schmitt-Wagner 2001 Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Auslese 18 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Despite obvious power and intensity, this suffers from the same seemingly sulfurous muting as the same vineyard’s kabinett tasted at the same time. Everything here is dialed up – fruit, acidity, palate impact – and that helps. In terms of a terroir signature, this wine performs largely as the kabinett does, with the exception of an expansion of the realm of apple-derived characteristics. I have more hope for a future here than I do for the kabinett, but I don’t lack hope for either. (1/10)

Zindanges tardives

[vineyard]Dashe 2007 “Late Harvest” Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – From 375 ml, 14.1% alcohol, 9% residual sugar by weight. Called by someone I know “the worst wine he’s had all year,” or something along those lines. I don’t see it. It tastes like classic late-harvest zin to me. True, it screeches with volatile acidity, and that’s normally enough to lead to the latter of the fight/flight reaction in me, but the concentrated, sticky fruit (berries of all shapes and hues) seems to somehow lighten as it moves past its fermentably-dry stage. It’s…cute. (1/10)

Gouges airs

Gouges 1998 Nuits-St-Georges Les Chênes Carteaux “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Great galloping thunderstorms of sludgy tannin greet the unwary explorer, but after an hour – or three – there’s actually a slowly-maturing Burgundy in here somewhere. Gritty reddish-black aromatics are layered with grayish-black earth, but always there’s that dense tannin. (1/10)

Smarter than your average Thalabert

Jaboulet “Domaine de Thalabert” 1998 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Hard as these always are, but much more generously aromatic than they have been of late. Rhône syrah, unquestionably, with the nanoparticle leather and dried remnants of dark green herbs, but adding that wall of structure so inimitably Jabouletesque. Quite appealing, but you’ve gotta like tannin. (1/10)


[vineyard]Fromm “La Strada” 2002 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Perhaps the always-fearsome structure is beginning to weaken, or maybe there’s just bottle-variation here, because the dark, moody, truculent fruit is more accessible than usual, and the wine’s youthful aromatics have suddenly reasserted themselves. Thus, a wine that used to smell like pinot but feel like tannat begins to veer away from a stage in which it more closely resembled the latter. Frankly, this is pretty enjoyable, though one has to like filo-esque layers of tannin. (12/09)

Egly-May Clampett

Egly-Ouriet 1996 Champagne Grand Cru Brut (Champagne) – Disgorged July 2004. Powerful, strong, even muscular, but not overwhelming…though I would opine that it has reached its full maturity, and should be put in the drinking queue ASAP. Copper toned old citrus, burnished but still antiqued, forms a core from which emanates a lush sheen of many polishings. Beginning to shorten, just a bit. (1/10)

Baudry limericks

B. Baudry 2002 Chinon Les Grézeaux (Loire) – Lovely and so authentic, layering cherry earth on top of fine-grained herbality. Flawlessly balanced. A beauty. (1/10)

The Baladin Casey Jones

Baladin “Super Baladin” Ale (Italy) – Take all the richly developed spice of an aged Trappist ale, then donate it to a liquid much lighter, livelier, and more vibrant than any such ale would be, and you’ve got this beer. Brilliant stuff. Redonkulously expensive, but probably worth it. (1/10)

A consummate Txomin

[vineyard]Txomin Etxaniz 2007 Getariako Txakolina (Northwest Spain) – Always one of the more restrained, bony txakoli, like the white paper wrapping for a wine rather than the wine itself, this is especially held-back – I’m given to understand – by its vintage, which encourages this void-revealing transparency. It’s hard to either like or dislike this too much. It just sort of is. (12/09)

Four-leaf Cluver

Paul Cluver 2007 Gewurztraminer (Elgin) – Starts out promising, showing ripe peach, apricot, some cashew oil, and a bit of rose. Not too heavy, not too sweet (but somewhat so). But then, a lack of acidity makes itself generally apparent and eventually somewhat annoying, there’s an intrusion of weedy growth, and the wine flattens, wrenches ‘round, and ends up somewhere a good deal more vegetal than it started. (1/10)

Alten brown

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – After a few tightly-closed explorations, my last bottle of this (I have a fair quantity) was blossoming, so hopes were high. Apparently, the debutante ball was premature, because this is a self-absorbed teenager wrapped up in a hormonal stew of semi-imaginary problems at the moment. There’s some strappy pork jerky, perhaps, and some sticky lacings of something in the tropical family of fruits that services gewurztraminer, but otherwise this is still closed for any sort of adult business. (1/10)

Muré Amnsterdam

Muré 1997 Pinot Gris Vorbourg Clos St. Landelin (Alsace) – Weedy, oxidized, and downright nasty. (1/10)

Ángel Jiménez

[vineyard]Miquel “Domaine de Barroubio” 2004 Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois (Languedoc) – From 375 ml. Every time I have a good muscat from either this or the Beaumes-de-Venise appellations, I wonder why I don’t drink more of them. Ennui, probably; there’s a wide world of sweet options out there. But when, for example, a St-Jean is on, there’s just something so sweetly pretty about it, and yet there’s that rocky background that makes it something more than Yet Another Sweet Muscat. This particular bottle is in-your-face, but it’s polite about it, and is a complete blast to drink. (12/09)

Vento box

Quinta de Ventozelo 2006 Douro “Vinzelo” (Douro) – Bridges an older, increasingly outmoded style of Portuguese red (prematurely fatigued and sun-baked) with the newer, more pristine, more confident style. There’s ripe fruit from purple berries, edging up to a sticky barrier but rarely drifting into its corpulent muck for long, a general lack of structure, and as the last drop is drained, little other than a pleasant memory. “Yeah. That was a wine. I drank it.” (1/10)

Major sekts

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2005 Majoratsfüllung Riesling Deutscher Sekt Extra Dry (Germany) – For a change (amongst various brands of sekt, not something particular to this bottle) this isn’t like drinking glass shards spiked with tartaric acid. Rather, there’s some almond skin, melon rind, apple, and bitter lemon to be braced by the expectedly vivid acidity. Not bad at all. (12/09)

Poutet tang

[vineyard]Charvin 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône “Le Poutet” (Rhône) – Reliably solid, basic Côtes-du-Rhône aromas of underbrush, slightly desiccated red fruit, and that faded combination of earth and animal that transcends brett to become a regional signature. But this isn’t really a rote Rhône, either…instead, it’s a sensitive, very pure expression of what is always a forceful aromatic package done with delicacy and restraint. It’s still a southerly wine, with all the richness that implies by its context, but in that context it’s just a little bit lighter than air. This is the sort of wine of which one could drink rather a quantity. (12/09)

The first

Jean Milan 2002 Champagne Grand Cru “Sélection” Blanc de Blancs Brut “Cuvée Terres de Noël” (Champagne) – An acid-drenched pillow, simultaneously comforting and bracing, and dancing through fields of berries, their flowers, earth-driven ripe red-fruitedness, and sunny Georgia peach. Endlessly long. Rich like a winter ale, and oh so very beautiful. (12/09)


Donaldson Family “Main Divide” 2005 Riesling (South Island) – Just as bright and lively as all previous bottles, but a little less overtly fruit-happy, which is actually to the benefit of the wine because it reveals some sun-drenched rock underneath. Not much – this is still a fruit-driven riesling – but just enough to add welcome complexity. A nice wine. (12/09)


Leydier “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2007 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (Rhône) – Corked. (12/09)


[diorama]Isastegi 2008 Sagardo Naturala (Northwest Spain) – Sting and razor-swipe cider, with a texture of pollen and blades and a lightning-flash green finish. Parched. This is a great excitement to drink. (12/09)


Costières & Soleil “Sélectionné par Laurence Féraud” 2005 “Plan Pégau” Vin de Table (Rhône) – After a number of very poor showings, my most recent two bottles have evidenced a bit of a comeback. Perhaps I judged prematurely. In any case, there continues to be no obvious reason to hold onto these wines longer than the time it takes to drink them, for as the structure fades, the dark and sloshy fruit remains firmly in place, yet with someone’s hand pulling back on the fader. A fair quaff. (12/09)


Trimbach 2000 Riesling (Alsace) – Age hasn’t hurt this, but it has certainly transformed it from puppy-fat youth to skeletal oldster in just a few years. Not that the négociant wines of Trimbach are really meant to age, but the rieslings can be surprising; the ’98 did particularly well up to about its tenth birthday or so. Anyway, here we’ve got stalky steel flaking away into a brisk fall breeze, a hazy memory of apple, and…well, that’s pretty much it. Drink up, for sure, but with a certain austere pleasure. (12/09)


Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Washed out, overly acidic, and just generally awful. I doubt, based on several similar experiences, that there is anything in this wine that could possibly improve with more time. However, there are others that report positive experiences with this wine from different importers; this is the Chadderdon bottling. (12/09)

Purple Cayron

Faraud “Domaine du Cayron” 1998 Gigondas (Rhône) – Powerful, and beautifully poised between its axe-hewn youthful structure and the richer, blood-on-stones development that comes with age. The “fruit” may be reddish, the herbs green, the soil grey, but the heart and soul of this wine are of the deepest black. There’s no lack of still-vibrant tannin. Very, very good. (12/09)

The txakoli biz

Berroia 2007 Bizkaiko Txakolina (Northwest Spain) – I’m speaking from limited experience, but the txakolis from Bizkaiko seem to be a touch riper and fruitier than those from Getariako, albeit at the cost of some of the zippy foam and froth that so often mark the latter. More research is required. As for this wine, its fruit is on the crisp, brittle side – green apple, grapefruit, lime rind, all of it in the treble register – and the structure is one of lightly-applied brevity. (12/09)

Rat finca

Finca Sandoval 2001 Manchuela (Central Spain) – 93% syrah, 7% mourvèdre. Giant, with both jam and tannin still quite dominant, but there’s balance here as well, and some really nice graphite starting to emerge. But while it improves with air, this is still extremely primary. (7/09)


Ojai 1996 Syrah Roll Ranch (California) – Still very tannic (from a glacial cellar) and otherwise-structured, with sweaty leather, dark blackberry, and mixed pepper dusts. Grows more gravelly with air. This still has a long while to age, but that mineral underpinning is quite intriguing. (7/09)

The needle & the Damijan

Damijan 2004 Bianco Kaplja (Venezia Giulia) – 14.5% alcohol, and I suspect that the label’s suggestion to serve the wine at 59°F is related to that number. This is wrong; the wine is far too structure-dominated at that chilly a temperature, and needs to be warmer. Mandarin orange, peach flowers, and chamomile abound. Mildly tannic, and fairly devoid of acidity; at any temperature, this isn’t my favorite of the orange wine set, for it’s a little soft around the edges. (7/09)

07 January 2010

A little novel

[vineyard]Nera “La Novella” 2008 Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio Chiavennasca Bianco (Lombardy) – 80% nebbiolo, 20% chardonnay, and very white. Aromatically dominated – one might actually say overwhelmed without exaggerating – by ripe pear…not the spicy, mineralistic kind found in Alsatian pinot gris, but a clean, poised expression of the pure fruit. Bright with acidity, lit from within, and doing a bit of an exuberant jig in the glass, this wine is burst-out-laughing enjoyable. It shares with nebbiolo an aromatic primacy, but I think it would be hard to call this nebbiolo in a fully blind (as in blindfolded) taste test, and the chardonnay does round things out a bit. Wow, is this a blast to drink. (12/09)

Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Ampeau

Ampeau 1989 Savigny-les-Beaune (Burgundy) – The pulse and throb of subsurface earth provides a foundation for a deep, glowering wine hinting at both animal and berry in equal measure, and both in the best possible sense. It’s maturing, for certain, and the beautiful aromatics one desires from aged Burgundy are already in evidence, but I don’t sense any hurry in the wine, and so cannot recommend any sort of panicked rush to open what one might own. A very, very pleasant wine. (12/09)


Ogier 1998 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah “La Rosine” (Rhône) – Desert-blown red dust, with breaths of iron and blood, carrying the vivid memory of soil and old red fruit. Not as old as I’m making it seem…in fact, it’s still quite lovely, and I’m glad I held on to some this long…but it’s a faded rose, still brilliant with color and the illusion of life, but never going to get any better than it is right now. (12/09)


Pojer e Sandri Vigneti delle Dolomiti “Merlino” (Trentino) – Fortified lagrein. Intriguing. More high-toned and powdery than most fortified reds, which could well be a function of latitude, and whirling a bit under a heady sensation of crushed purple flowers. Good, mostly, but it doesn’t quite achieve the spicy richness of its more southerly brethren. Not that I’d expect it to. (12/09)

Raspberry beret

Faiveley 1993 Mercurey La Framboisière (Burgundy) – Very tannic when uncorked, and while this fades somewhat over the course of the evening, it never recedes enough to bring the wine into full balance. Despite that, the fruit…faded for the first half-hour or so, but making a gradual recovery familiar to fans of aging red Burgundy…is fairly dark and purple-toned. What it isn’t is very strong or fleshy, so it’s hard for me to judge if it’s going to last until something more aromatically mature develops, or whether it’s just fading. What I do know is that this bottle will likely never find balance with its tannin. And here’s an important caveat: the owner of this bottle (not me) thinks that there’s a possibility it experienced some minor heat effects at an earlier stage, so the above descriptors may have little or nothing to do with an intact bottle. (12/09)


H. Billiot Champagne Ambonnay Brut “Cuvée Laetitia” (Champagne) – Apples, red cherries, raspberries, and flowers. Round, with vivid acidity. Very, very long. This flows. (12/09)

Arz & mine

[bottle tag]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2004 Bianco degli Arzillari (Venezia Giulia) – Made from verduzzo. Served from two different bottles. The first has been open for a while, and it shows, with an oxidative, ribolla-like brownout flatness to the palate, yet retaining a good deal of spice and baritone hum. The second is from a fresh bottle and much livelier, yet still with the weight of something more rich than crisp, a fuzzy-edged structure, and a fairly long yet mildly anonymous finish. This is an interesting wine, but I suspect verduzzo is of a little more utility in the winery’s more famous blends. (12/09)

Goldert is better than goldust

Zind-Humbrecht 1994 Muscat Goldert (Alsace) – Getting rieslingish, with green grapes dominant. Light and pert, but unquestionably thinning. Linear, acidic, and a little sweet. The finish is salty. Fifteen years was probably a little long to hold this wine. (12/09)

Kalin me softly

Kalin 1997 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserve” (Potter Valley) – Malic, then buttery, then thick with well-salted tan soil and lush apricot cream. More anonymous than these wines usually are, but it must be said that among the whites I generally prefer chardonnay and semillon from this house. Here, not everything on the structural side is entirely where it should be. (12/09)

Santa clause

Clavel 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc Terroir de la Mejanelle “Copa Santa” (Languedoc) – Clinging to life, but with one foot in the graduated-care center and the other in a cast. Rough at the core but smooth at the edges, showing salt, sand, and soil with a light waft of baked red berries and a tinny edge of tannin. A little too old, but still a pleasant memory. (12/09)


[vineyard]Graham’s 1996 Porto Malvedos (Douro) – Still sticky-fruited and jellified, all blue/purple/black berry syrup and slippery sweetness. What structure there is has been forcefully relegated to the background. Easy-drinking, and as it airs some hints of a graphite-textured tannin finally emerge from some remote refuge. Needs more time, but on the other hand quite drinkable now. (12/09)

Head to head

Louis Tête 1997 Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais) – Shrilly acidic, to the point that it causes a bit of reflux. It’s just too old, and what’s left is hard, harsh, tired, and not much fun at all. Remnants of a very soil-based aromatic profile linger, as well as some dark berry squeezings, but if you’ve still got any, I hope it’s in an icy cellar. (12/09)

Lieder of the pack

[vineyard]von Schubert’schen 1983 Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese 31 84 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Old but still vibrant. Jacketed in copper and other, brassier metals, with a palate that recalls a youth of orangesicle sorbet and strawberry. An impressive life must have been led to arrive at this point, and the complexities and suddenly-remembered tales keep one coming back again and again. (12/09)

Seigneurs citizens

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – Rich, even a little sticky, and leaning on the stone fruit and tinned mango expression of very ripe gewürztraminer, while giving up the necessary structure to support it. A bit on the hot side. It’s very drinkable and easy, but hasn’t much rewarded aging. (12/09)

Trimbach 1996 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – Fully mature, and probably on the other side of peak, with a mix of porcine and dried-nut aromatics. Very, very dry. Pepper dusts abound. Pretty interesting, though I don’t know how popular it will be. (12/09)

Miner issues

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Pork-infused banana skins and cashew bitters with dried lychee and good structure. I don’t think there’s any point in holding this even a day longer, because it’s just going to fall apart from now on. (12/09)

A gris or dis a gris

Trimbach 2002 Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – Watery and wan, with the impression (but not much of the actuality) of residual sugar, and not much else to recommend it. (12/09)

Banti raid

Banti 2004 Morellino di Scansano (Tuscany) – Two bottles, exactly the same: sorta anonymous, chunky red fruit with slaps of darker paint and a good dose of acidity. Dries out as it finishes. Eh. (12/09)

Society pages

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society “53.130” 9 Year (Scotland) – A little fiery, a little thin aromatically, but the palate broadens and crescendos towards a peppery finish. (12/09)

Livio little

[glass & bottle]Livio Felluga 2004 Collio Sauvignon (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Showing surprising maturity, which here in a bronzing in both color and flavor, bringing forth a metallic faux-structural element similar to that of an “orange wine” (though this isn’t one of those), yet still retaining a firm iron grip on a green-white dwarf star of sauvignon blanc-ishness. Drink. (12/09)


Dashe 1998 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 14.5%. Tiring, and though it still clings to remnants of its dusty, dark fruit days, those days are firmly in the past. It’s not yet in an imbalanced stage, in which the structure overwhelms the remnants, but it’s getting there. (12/09)

A lot of torque

Maculan 2002 Breganze Torcolato (Veneto) – From 375 ml. Shy, to the extent that I wonder if there might not be some very minor cork taint (but over the course of three days, nothing obvious develops, so perhaps not). There’s peach, cream, spice, and crystal as one expects, but it’s all muted. Even in a volume-limited state, this is still nice wine, but I’d hoped for better. (12/09)

Left, vingt, right

Boxler 2002 Pinot Blanc “L20R” (Alsace) – An emergent minty note probably signals that this is approaching the end of its maturation and the beginning of its decline. For now, it’s still solid, with plenty of baking spice-infused pear and apple supported by both fair acidity and light residual sugar. Nice. But Boxler makes better pinot blanc than this bottling. (12/09)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Winter White (Vermont) – Really quite clever, combining the spicy lightness of white with the richer, heavier expectations of a winter ale, and managing to work this alchemy without sacrificing either style’s character or overall balance. (12/09)

Dark Allées

Luneau-Papin 1997 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Allées “Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Corked. (12/09)


Marietta “Old Vine Red Lot Number 47” (California) – Juicy, gummy-fruit fun. Like wine soda, without the actual carbonation. (12/09)

Steven Seagal

[logo]Kreydenweiss 2006 Riesling Andlau “Au dessus de la loi” (Alsace) – Heady, weighty riesling, varietally true and tending towards a molten-metal expression, but most notable for the somewhat formless power with which this metallurgy is delivered. Striking. (12/09)

Three bridges

Terres d’Avignon “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Good, classic CdR aromas of underbrush and slightly mammalian fruit. White pepper dust. Not too much of anything. In good form, but gentle and not the best of recent vintages; those in search of something a little more obviously pleasurable will want the Vin de Pays de Vaucluse. (12/09)

Terres d’Avignon “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Better than the previous bottle, in that its earthen charms are more generous, and there’s a little more fruit (and “fruit”) as well. (12/09)

Terres d’Avignon “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Definitely a step up in fruit intensity over the 2006. This is at the sacrifice of a bit of the earthy/meaty elements, but to the wine’s overall appeal; a lot of effort towards a brownout Provençal complexity isn’t really what’s wanted here, I think. Simpler pleasures are in order. And it’s not like it’s Lodi zin. Herbs, some animal, some dirt…still there. With more baked cherry. (12/09)

Drink a ginger day

Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” Ginger Wheat (Massachusetts) – Alcoholic ginger beer. Gee, if only someone had thought of that before. My sarcasm hides the fact that ginger beer is really all this is, ’cuz the wheat doesn’t enter into it. (12/09)

Leydier lay

Leydier “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2007 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (Rhône) – Purplish, sticky, and even a little goopy. This is seriously thick compared to the 2006 version, which I loved. I’m not at all sure about this vintage. (12/09)

The Costières of doing business

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Better than these bottles sometimes are, with earthy/smoky black fruit and a fair collection of dried herbs, but these jeans are fading and a little stretched. I’d be looking for the most recent vintage, if you’re of a mind to drink this. (12/09)


Bodegas 3 Sueños “Sexto” 2005 Terra Alta (Cataluña) – “Sexto” for the six grapes: garnacha, carignan, tempranillo, and then small additions of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and lledoner pelut noir. No, I’ve never heard of it either. The wine itself is an affable fruit bomb, dark, plummy, and full of berried bursts and lush obviousness. Perhaps a sprinkle of pepper as well. There’s a little bit of structure clinging to an outcropping waaaay off to the side, but it’s a bit player at best. Fun. (12/09)

Dhron & quartered

[grapes]AJ Adam 2008 Dhron Hofberg Riesling Spätlese 04 09 (Mosel) – Light salt, white pepper, and very fruity pineapple, elevated with power and vibrancy. Very self-confident. (12/09)

Harth & home

Schoffit 1997 Gewurztraminer Harth “Cuvée Caroline” (Alsace) – Lychee and orange syrup. Long and salty. Not my favorite vineyard, producer, or year, but this one has held better than most, and still has just enough structure to pass for wine. Just enough. (12/09)

50 Cent

Druet 1996 Bourgueil Les Cent Boisselées (Loire) – Peppers (mostly bell, but also seed), green grass, and dirt slowly eroding into a wind that carries the black pepper into oblivion. Strappy, apple skin-textured tannin has been stretched at the seams of this wine, which is holding but about to fall apart, I think. Still, there’s a certain dignity to the wine, and only those who require some sort of identifiable primary fruit to enjoy a wine will fail to see the interest here. (12/09)

Hom hom hom

Bretz 2005 Bechtolsheimer Homberg Spätburgunder Rosé Eiswein 048 08 (Rheinhessen) – The pong of botrytis wrapped in silk flowers, strawberry candy, and layers upon layers of eventually unbearable sweetness. There’s big acidity, but nothing can save this wine from a fate likely to resemble a Jolly Rancher. (12/09)

One Sipp at a time

[vineyard]Sipp Mack 2002 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Reticent and already fading a bit into its brown stage…but not (for the worrywarts) oxidized, just old. Broad minerality and past-prime apple, white pepper, some glassed-in lemon rind, but not a lot of any of these things. Drink up. (12/09)

Sipp Mack 2004 Riesling “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Softened and oddly herbal, yet there’s a ramrod of rieslingish rigidity driven straight through the spine, and a lot of slowly-flaking mineral salts to deal with on the finish. Weird but good. (12/09)

Brücke shields

Dönnhoff 2000 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein 021 01 (Nahe) – From 375 ml…but that’s really all you’ll ever need. Exposed iron strata with crystallized strawberry, awesome acidity yet exquisite balance, and infinitely long. Breathtaking. (12/09)

Dow before me

Dow's 1990 Porto Quinta do Bomfim (Douro) – Red cherry, black pepper, and spice…sweet, rich, and full-bodied, but balanced. I think. There’s a minor bit of developmental appeal now, but I’d let this one hang around a fair while longer. (12/09)