28 February 2010

Lactic infomercial

[vineyard]Bera 2005 Barbera d’Asti “Ronco Malo” (Piedmont) – The needle and pierce one expects from barbera are both present and vibrant here, though without the so-often accompanying thinness and over-transparency. Even among the cohort that avoid those flaws, this is a big’un, intensifying the vivid red-berried fruit and turning up the supporting structural and earthen harmonics. Complexities continue to emerge as the wine finishes, and airs, and there’s not yet an end to them by the time the bottle’s empty. All that said, there’s a somewhat clumsy adolescence to the wine that I think, but do not know, will resolve with time (certainly, there’s no indication that the wine requires immediate consumption). It really shines with a heavy, yet acidic, meal, while I think it might overpower something as simple and pure as a marinara. (2/10)

Santa Clà

Vercesi del Castellazzo 2005 Oltrepò Pavese Barbera “Clà” (Lombardy) – A heavier expression of barbera, with both supporting and masking elements (cellar- and site-derived), dialing down the varietal characteristics to a tangy yet ripe raspberry element as one among a host of more standardized northern Italian characteristics: pre-Alpine chill, rough but dense rock, a vague peppery quality. Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to identify this as barbera in a blind tasting. It’s not a bad wine, but it’s either not particularly characterful or it’s a character I don’t appreciate. (2/10)

COS & effect

[grapes]COS 2007 Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily) – Delicious. There’s a shyness, but it’s not that the wine’s holding anything back. Rather, it teases and asks you to come to it, rather than the opposite, but the reward is an enveloping, seductive softness of rich, warm southern fruit…not heavy, not dark, not understructured, but definitely not Alpine or Teutonic in nature. Slowly-unfolding layers of earth and sapid fruit are the reward for boldness and patience in equal measure. Yum. (2/10)

XX garage

La Garagista Rose Liqueur (Vermont) – Exotic and seductive, but one has to like…no, make that love…roses as a comestible, which not everyone does. Get this involved with some seared foie gras, in place of the rose (not rose hip) confiture I can never find when I want it, and you’re halfway to gewürztraminer-pairing heaven. It’s OK on its own…but then, I like roses. (2/10)

La Garagista Gingered Lemon Liqueur (Vermont) – Inhabits two worlds: the warming stickiness of an infused liqueur and the bright refreshment of a tonic. For whatever reason, among a lineup of three variations on liqueur, this is the most successful, taking two clearly-expressed base elements (plus alcohol) and turning the result into something more than the sum of its triad. Fun. (2/10)

La Garagista Nocino (Vermont) – While the skin-bitterness and concentration that mark nocino are present, there’s a lot more going on here. The thing is, that “more” is from elements other than walnuts, and the result is more of a sachet/potpourri quality than I think is respectful of the core ingredient. It’s good, but it’s very sweet without much mitigation, and has a bit of a Heidi Fleiss character that not everyone will enjoy. (2/10)

All these liqueurs are the work of the husband & wife team that runs Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont. These aren’t yet commercially available, but may be soon.

Are you there, cab? It's me...

[vineyard]Voyager Estate 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River) – Unfortunately, this is my last bottle of what has been a wine consistently outperforming both its price and its expectations. It’s not “Australian wine” for all the dire connotations that has to American consumers, it’s cabernet sauvignon, and it’s Margaret River, and it’s good. Dark blackberry fruit, narrowed and focused, with the herbal bite of rosemary and thyme, black peppery structure, and the requisite balancing act between firmness of character and the complexity of age. It’s good, it’s middle-aged at best, it’s aging as any fan of non-internationlized cabernet would wish, and it was under $20 at release. You won’t find wines like that coming from California. (2/10)

Deux date

[bottle]Folie à Deux 1999 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 15.5%. From the Scott Harvey era, and even though I’d expected it to age based on that alone, I didn’t really intend to hold on to this particular bottle as long as I have. One of the single-site bottlings, perhaps, but this is the entry-level blend. Still, it’s held up pretty well. A little sappier and stickier than I might prefer, and with a concentrated, sloppy smooch of vanilla butter providing discomfort (even under Harvey, this was always a winery that was prone to sloppy overwooding), but the fruit reflects the Amador style: concentrated wild berries grown even more concentrated, almost to the point where they exhibit a resinous quality. It’s good, but drink up for sure. (2/10)

Lipari suction

Colosi 2005 Malvasia delle Lipari (Sicily) – From 375 ml. Less concentrated and floral than Hauner’s version, with more of a metallic edge unfolding within the sweetness. That said, it’s still fairly dense. Tastes better than it smells. (2/10)

David Ortiz

[vineyard]Corte dei Papi 2007 Cesanese del Piglio Colle Ticchio (Lazio) – Hard-edged, as if shelled, with a slather of dark, brooding fruit once one penetrates the exterior difficulties. Tastes as much like the Platonic idea of a Madiran (whatever the reality) than anything from Lazio, albeit with a lessening of the tannin in relation to the wine’s other elements. I’d like to explore this with a little more age, or at least air. (2/10)

Saladini tongs

[vineyard]Saladini Pilastri 2008 Rosso Piceno (Marches) – Extremely approachable. A burst of complex, well-soiled fruit – berries, quince, some plum – with just enough structure. Good with or without food, albeit more structured with the latter, and more fruit-dominated otherwise. Not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. Disappears very quickly, which can only be counted as praise. (2/10)

Continental divide

Lincoln Peak 2008 La Crescent (Vermont) – Drier than one expects, and probably drier than is ideal; it lacks the concentration to support a more arid expression, and would probably be assisted by a little more residual sugar. Flavors are bare, but inhabit some small corner of the lemon/apple/tea family. I hate to say that the absence of flaws is a significant improvement on most Vermont wine, but it’s the case here (the wine is painstakingly clean), and so I suspect that time, effort…and severe global warming…will eventually lead to better things here. (2/10)

Fat pants

[vineyard]Grosjean 2005 Pinot Noir (Vallée d’Aoste) – Stumbles and tumbles out of the bottle, showing a clumsy, almost sticky, light berry aroma with zingy acidity and a lot of disjointed seams of minerality. But as it airs it coalesces, melding fruit and stone, wrapping its structure about itself, and broadening the complexity of its finish. By the final glass, it’s a rather extraordinary study in the interplay of grape and soil. The lesson, I guess, is patience. (2/10)

Gli club

Frecciarossa 2008 Oltrepò Pavese Riesling “Gli Orti” (Lombardy) – A bit on the heavy side for riesling, taking an unquestioned concentration and overdoing it a bit. Having now experienced a grand total of two Oltrepò Pavese rieslings, I can see that this weight is suggested by the terroir, but that not everyone handles it in the same way. Here, preserved lemon and leaden minerality are pleasant, and little accents of makrut lime and lemon verbena (both in tisane, rather than fresh, form) are even more welcome, but the wine’s just a bit too tiresome for complete enjoyment. Maybe age will help, though I’m skeptical. (2/10)

Orientali express

[vineyard]i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2004 Galea Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Drinking a young Galea can be a little like trying to slake a hearty thirst with an icicle. This is no exception, and even though it’s decanted early and aggressively, not much can be coaxed from it over the course of an hour, other than beige minerality and a firm structure. I love these wines, but I love them with age, and since even the 1997 (the first vintage of this wine) isn’t yet fully mature to my palate, I see no reason to submit any additional stocks to this manner of infanticide. (2/10)

Bicycle nose

[vineyard]Velenosi “Querci Antica” 2008 Lacrima di Morro d’Alba (Piedmont) – Lacrima di morro is so lurid that it can be a problematic food match. However, the exotic spice of a (non-traditional) veal tagine provided an opportunity, and thus it was time. Lurid it is, showing neon fruit in the blue-purple range, a bite of scraping tannin, and very fresh acidity, but there’s some peppery complexity as well, and the overall impression is one of striving rather than laurel-resting. Even if those laurels taste more like Chihuly glass. (2/10)

Estate, taxing

Roederer Estate Brut (Anderson Valley) – That this wine seems to grow a shade more leaden every time I taste it might be my imagination, or maybe it’s the case; there’s no way to go back and taste young Roederer Estates from ten years ago, of course, and aged versions won’t settle the issue. It’s good, flavorful stuff, leaning more on its weight and darker fruit characteristics than it would from the soils of Champagne (where even the black-fruited wines rarely carry this much raw density), but all that weight comes at a cost: there’s little deftness and decreasing life. If this is a stylistic choice, rather than just the voyages of my palate, then here’s a vote for an alternative path. I still like the wine, but the similarly-priced alternatives exist in quantity. (2/10)

Chiavennasca lines

[nebbiolo]Nera “La Novella” 2008 Chiavennasca Bianco Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio (Lombardy) – Brisk and almost sandpapery, showing pear concentrate lashed with skin and a weighty press of immediacy. Very aromatic, but those aromatics are direct. This remains a killer blind-tasting wine, but I can’t possibly see how anyone could, other than blind luck, guess nebbiolo as the grape. (2/10)

Mack truck

Sipp Mack 2005 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Bigger than expected, and comes galloping out of the gate with an insistent simplicity: pear, apple, paper. Doesn’t really go anywhere, though. Party wine. (2/10)

Tulocay for the straight guy

[logo]Tulocay 1999 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 15%. Though this wine will unquestionably age a good deal longer, changing as it does, I’m quite attracted to its present charms…poised on a pinnacle between the boisterous fruit of youth and the textural lavishness of maturity. The berries, dark and spicy, aren’t quite so wild anymore, but neither has the wine edged into one of those realms in which it can be mistaken for a different grape, as so often happens with well-matured zinfandel. I like that stage, too, but there are other ways to get to those places. Zin of this quality (and with these qualities) is something to be cherished on its own merits. (2/10)


Cinquin “Domaine des Braves” 2007 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Corked. (2/10)


[bill easton]Easton 2008 Pinot Noir Duarte-Georgetown (Sierra Foothills) – 14.2%. Despite positive verbiage on the label and the accompanying tech sheet (this is a free sample from the winemaker), I’m dubious. OK, pinot noir may have a history in the Sierras, but I suspect there must be a reason it doesn’t have a present. Certainly it would be an easier sell than the ubiquitous syrah, wouldn’t it? Well, anyway, first impressions don’t challenge my predispositions, with a vinyl, overworked quality to the sappy red fruit. There’s acid, and there’s minerality, but neither one works pleasantly towards a pleasant wholeness. So I leave the bottle alone for a while. One day becomes two, and two become three, and then I revisit. At which point I’m forced to walk back some of my criticisms, because the plastic element has disappeared, the structure has integrated, and the fruit is far more appealing than it was on the first day. There’s still minerality, and now there’s balance, and so now one wonders if there might be ageability. Is it a great pinot? No. Neither the Russian River Valley, nor the Central Coast, need quake in their boots (I’m not sure the Anderson Valley, for all its qualities, can quite afford boots yet). But it’s interesting, it’s markedly different, it’s from a trustworthy producer, and…well, who really knows? Worth a revisit, but mind the pop-and-pour mentality, because it doesn’t work here. (2/10)

Not Fonné

Michel Fonné Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace) – Not as good as my previous bottle, with a wallpapered exterior and not much intensity or generosity of flavor in the middle. Bottle variation at work. (2/10)


Muré 2004 Gewurztraminer “Tradition” (Alsace) – Simple, spicy goodness. Peach, cashew, lychee. Not so much rose or bacon, but the latter isn’t really expected in a young wine anyway. Just barely acidic enough, though it’s a near thing. (2/10)

Breakin' the loi, breakin' the loi

[logo]Kreydenweiss 2006 Riesling Andlau “Au dessus de la loi” (Alsace) – Firm, freezing-point riesling driven over a road glistening with crystalline spikes and deformations. Absolutely overwhelmed by its minerality, and for me this is a good thing, yet in a more primary way than is typical for wines exhibiting such a character. Very, very long for what is, after all, essentially an entry-level riesling from this producer (even though it’s not priced like one). Striking. (2/10)

Justine énas

Granger 2002 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Softening, for sure, and starting to cast glances in the direction of softer, smoother pinot noir as it attempts to leave its brighter, lighter gamayness behind. It’s still mostly what it was, however, showing brownish-grey earth and soft red berries, and its an open question whether or not it will achieve its pinot noirish destiny. I do think it would be somewhat improved by a little more of either its past or its future. (2/10)

Win someone's money

Knappstein 2006 Riesling (Clare Valley) – The prevailing “wisdom” that Australia = goop is relentlessly questioned by Clare Valley rieslings, which (if anything) bite, slash, and rend far more than their Germanic brethren. To the extent that they have acid balance issues, it’s almost always too much (or too aggressive), rather than too little, acidity. Here, too, the acid is almost lurid in its intensity, and while there’s a pretty solid layer of greenish-yellow fruit and apple skin pressing down upon it, this really is all about the vibrant spike of sharpness driving right through the wine’s center. (2/10)

Mosca on the Hudson

Sella & Mosca 2005 Cannonau di Sardegna (Sardinia) – A normally-reliable crowd-pleaser, here tasted from two bottles and found wanting from each. The strawberry bubblegum with a little more grate to it is present, as expected, but it cannot escape the two-ton lead weight pressing down on it. It’s not that the wine is overly heavy, it’s that it’s squashed. If both bottles are corked, it’s imperceptible and they’re identically-infected, which seems low-probability. Maybe a bad batch, or damaged, or just not very good. (2/10)

The rock

[label]Lapierre 2007 Morgon (Beaujolais) – This is the “S” (sulfured) cuvee. The aromas say Morgon, but there’s such an ethereality to this wine. It’s not muted, and while it could be accused of being “light,” that doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter either. Both fruit and texture float like dust, the wine’s character is delivered in feathery layers of the finest tissue, and I think it would be possible to drink this in one long, enticing gulp without realizing one had done so. A great Lapierre Morgon? No, not in the sense one usually hears that phrase. It’s too different. But it has its own charms. (2/10)

Lapierre 2002 Morgon (Beaujolais) – VV 02, for those tracking lot numbers. Surprisingly immature. Berries are still tart and primary, soil notes are still broad-shouldered, and there’s a fair bit of tannin (for gamay), with no apparent fraying of the weave between fruit and structure, and none of the mature elements I seek in this wine. Leave it alone, I guess. (2/10)

Ribeau & Zooty

Trimbach 2004 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve” (Alsace) – Metal-jacketed pear, light on the spice of richer years, and probably better for it. There’s plenty of acidity – always crucial with Alsatian pinot gris – and a long, bright finish. Heralding a long, bright future? In the context of this wine, I think so, given a sufficiently short definition of “long.” Certainly five more years won’t hurt it, and in fact might bring out a little more of that spice. (2/10)


Trimbach 2001 Riesling (Alsace) – Corked. (2/10)

Zonin alarm

Zonin Prosecco Brut (Italy) – Insipid metallic fizz, character-free and mercifully short. (2/10)

A duck in the hand is worth two in the Quackenbush

Quackenbush 2006 Zinfandel (Lake County) – 14.8%. Jammy/syrupy zinfruit (the usual range of berries, here fatter and less vibrant than is possible in the best zins) with a coconut, vanilla, and burnt butter overlay. Simplistic. (2/10)

Ameztoi soldiers

Amesguren “Ameztoi” 2008 Getariako Txakolina Rubentis (Northwest Spain) – Airier and bonier than usual, even for a wine that defines itself by its lack of lushness. A little spritz, a brittle exterior of chilly red fruit, and a lightning-slash of acidity are about all one gets. Possibly an off-bottle. (2/10)

Muga chaka, Muga, Muga

[bottle]Muga 2008 Rioja Rosado (Center-North Spain) – Tasted next to a more oxidized and much older Rioja rosado (yes, López de Heredia), what’s interesting to me is not the points of difference – lusher, more present fruit at a higher volume – but rather the points of commonality. The suggestions of oxidation (the pleasant kind) are already present, as are the pillowy minerality than will erode to something more skeletal with time. So many rosés from elsewhere are about sharp red fruit; these are anything but, showing more kinship with the low plains and valleys of the region’s whites than with the sultrier reds from which they’re varietally derived. (2/10)

Porro me

Guido Porro 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna l’Pari (Piedmont) – Corked. (2/10)

No harshing

Mallo 2005 Sylvaner (Alsace) – This has gotten rather dramatically better over the last year, veering from a vegetal, tomato-dominated stage (with an unfortunate layer of residual sugar) into something much more linear. Sylvaner is one of a small host of non-prestige Alsatian grapes that riesling-ifies as it ages, and that’s what appears to have happened here. Melon rind, verbena, fresh snow, and fair acidity…at least, enough to cover the lingering mildness lent by sugar…with a refreshing aspect the wine did not previously possess. I don’t think this will last forever, or even very tiny subsets of forever, so I’d suggest drinking it now, while it’s in an interesting stage. (2/10)

Under my Peyrassol, assol, assol, eh, eh, eh...

La Croix Peyrassol 2007 Vin de Pays de Méditerranée (Provence) – Aromatic and structured, weaving through an arboreal maze of leaves, barks, underbrush, and dried petals, then rounded with dark black fruit. Despite strength, it’s not an aggressive or heavy wine, and is as nice without food as it is with. Balanced, albeit a little short, and so despite the quality I think this is a relative short-termer. (2/10)

Rovettaz main Ian, devil

[vineyard]Grosjean 2006 Cornalin Vigne Rovettaz (Vallée d’Aoste) – This is a wine that seems to propel itself along parallel tracks. On the left, there’s a rail of a gritty, steely structure; neither powerful nor dominant, but present and insistent nonetheless. On the right, a meandering weave of crisp (occasionally sour) flavors that are only related to identifiable berries by marriage rather than genetics, yet are unmistakably fruity nonetheless. For a reason I can’t quite identify, this wine reminds me of drinkable popcorn…not in flavor, but in contrasts of absorbent and crunchy structure, airy absence and lingering aftertaste. It’s much more interesting than it is good, but I suspect that this is a judgment that will prove highly malleable with time. (2/10)

Ulivi no choice

Bellotti Cascina degli Ulivi 2007 Gavi “Filagnotti” (Piedmont) – Spiky, extremely volatile, and with those fetid, cheesy notes that – together with the other qualities – indicate a wine that has undergone some sort of refermentation/spoilage process. There’s a soft but audible pop the first time the cork is removed, and every time thereafter, and the texture has a discernable prickle to it. Alas, because this is a fascinating (albeit somewhat atypical) wine when it’s intact. (2/10)

Julia Mancuso

Martúe 2006 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla (Castilla & León) – Haphazard red fruit, sun-warmed and reasonably acidic. Neither knit nor multisyllabic, but pleasant enough. It says it’s a country wine and it tastes like a country wine. Truth in advertising! (1/10)

Louis Vatan

Vatan “Chateau du Hureau” 2006 Saumur-Champigny “Tuffe” (Loire) – Classically earthy, dark, and intense, with a stylish black dirt texture and a long, breathy finish. Very young, and very good. Utterly, wonderfully dominated by its soil elements. (1/10)

A little fennel

[vineyard]Soard “Domaine de Fenouillet” 2006 Côtes du Ventoux (Rhône) – There’s some difficulty getting this one started, as might be the case for a partially closed wine. It doesn’t take an enormous amount of coaxing or time to bring forth the aromas, thankfully, though they’re not as expressive as they were in the wine’s youth. Dark and earthy, with the sweet black olive-infused meat aromas of Southern Rhônishness lingering on the borders, it finishes a lot more supple than it begins. Ideally, one would want to let this one rest a while longer. (1/10)