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)