14 December 2011

Go away

It’s moving day.

A site and a blog are bad enough. A site, a blog, and another blog are unworkable. And it’s worse when only one sees new content over any given period, as so often happens here.

So, everything’s moving to a single-family home, albeit a large one. I’ll soon set up the proper redirects and such, and on some future day all the retrograde content will go away.

The new digs? They’re still called oenoLogic, but they’re at thoriverson.com, where they should have been all along. What can I say? The oenoLogician fears change, except perhaps for the spare kind.

Almost all the content that was here is now there. Essays and rants, yes, and also all the tasting notes that used to be here. What’s yet to shift geographies in their full form are the travelogues, which were written in the HTML equivalent of Sumerian and will need to be moved by hand. My joy is…hard to quantify.

But meanwhile? Get the heck out of here. Go. Go. Go!

01 December 2011


Allegrini 1997 “Palazzo della Torre” (Veneto) – Dead. Dense, purple-black, and texturally rich, but dead. (11/11)

I forgot

Pike “Auld Acquaintance Happy Holiday Ale” (Washington) – Solid and heavy, as befits the genre, with some spicy/metallic/preserved lemon stuff going on. Very linear. (11/11)


Castello della Paneretta 1999 Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany) – Ashen red fruit, wan and fading. Drink up a few years ago. (11/11)

Patty Smythe

Karly 2008 Zinfandel “Warrior Fires” (Amador County) – 15.4%. Giant, dark, dusty fruit that’s trying way too hard. Power without substance. To write more about what I found would be giving the wine more credit than it deserves for overachievement despite a lack of something to say. Let up on the gas pedal, please. (11/11)

10 November 2011

Stop, look, Listán

Carballo 2008 La Palma Listán Blanco (Canary Islands) – There’s a sort of banana-cream-in-amber character that slowly-oxidized wines – versus the ultra-natural ones that cavort their fields of youth with oxygen and other ill-favored companions – take on with time (see, for example, Mosel riesling), but carefully-nurtured young wines can sometimes achieve this character on the early side with a measured dose of postnatal oxygen. Here’s one, or so it seems, though I’d be very wary of calling it predominately oxidized or even oxidative. Rather, it’s quite fruit-dominated (“fruit” standing in for a range of sunlight and blossoming florals cut with the redolence of the fruit half of a Western produce aisle) at the moment. It’s also very low-acid, though that should not be mistaken for warm-climate sludge; this has enough structure to sustain it for the nonce. There are darker intimations of metal-jacketed red cherries, even black cherries, that play around with the blood orange finish, teasing that it might plan to be something or somewhere other than what and where it is. Anyway, a lot of words have just passed without my having gotten a complete grasp on the wine, and I think the only clear conclusion is that this is pretty fascinating stuff. (11/11)

'cross the wide Missouri

Shenandoah 2009 Zinfandel “Special Reserve” (California) – 14.5%. Kinda dull, rote, zin-by-numbers…except that it’s flatter than that, bringing charred paper and an air of complete, Kristen Stewart-like indifference to its mission. (11/11)

Pokerville? I don't even know'erville!

Karly 2009 Zinfandel Pokerville (Amador County) – 14.5%...and yes, the name means what you think; it was apparently the name of the town of Plymouth at one point during the gold rush years, and for the immediately obvious reason to anyone who thinks about leisure-time activities for a bunch of men who’ve spent weeks scratching for little more than riches and mosquitoes. (It’s kind of a shame they changed it.) Bursty fruit, as if the half-wild, half-cultivated berries are being crushed as the wine’s sipped. Or, rather, guzzled. This isn’t a sipping wine. Fruity fun. (11/11)

Free Jasmin

Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – This is the first bottle of a quantity of these that has not been a wretched, stewed mess (and/or corked). And while it’s no great wine, it is at least good…and, for a change, tastes like a Côte-Rôtie rather than a toxic waste dump. Keening acidity, brittle and somewhat flaky dried-meat aromatics that blend seamlessly into an equally brittle and flaky structure, and a dusting of blended peppercorns. Quite pleasant. Of course, a Jasmin Côte-Rôtie should be a good deal more than “quite pleasant,” but at this point I’ll take what I can get. (11/11)

Walden Rhône

Costières & Soleil “Sélection Laurence Féraud” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Fading, with its structure now taking control of the dark, earthen, somewhat tarred fruit. Drink up. (11/11)

Just a Wegeler guy

Wegeler 1999 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 02 001 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Thai riesling (lemongrass, Makrut lime leaf, palm sugar), with the texture but not the taste of coconut cream. Very intense, very sweet, but as certain omissions in the list of Thai referents might suggest, somewhat acid-deficient. It’s not flabby, but there’s no respite for its thickness nor its sugar. Is it ready? Well, it’s not falling apart, but I’m dubious that more time is going to lead to anything measurably better. (11/11)

Chimay, Chimay, cocoa bop

Chimay Trappist Ale “Grandes Réserve” (Belgium) – This was purchased in 2008, but unless “LAN-662” is the lot number (and it may be) I have no way to know exactly what release it was. And unlike many of my beer aging experiments, this was one was a resounding success. Richer, darker, and more complex than at release (and it’s a pretty excellent beer even then), with more of its aromatics inhabiting the coffee, molasses, and chocolate realms. Yet it’s not sweeter. In fact, the opposite, as if its asymptote is amaro rather than that suggested by the sweet-ish aromas. I love this, and will promptly stash more in the cellar..(11/11)


Duvel 2009 Golden Ale (Belgium) – A beer aging experiment. This didn’t fail like some have, but it didn’t lead to much reward either: the beer is more lemon-dominated than its richer youth, and more about frothy yeastiness than much in the way of gained complexity. To make a wine analogy, aging it more or less turned a decent Champagne into a good Prosecco. (11/11)

Bech & call

Jan Becker Becherovka (Czech Republic) – Texturally Chartreuse-like but aromatically more like a spice accident. Cinnamon, for certain, and I’m pretty sure about cloves, and there’s a supporting role played by anise. Sweet, but cut with some bitterness, it’s less akin to actual bitters than it is to the sort of herbal quasi-liqueurs found all over Europe but rarely far afield from their region of production. (This bottle, in fact, was smuggled back…though it seems that it’s legally available in the States these days.) Fun. (10/11)

Pigato in a poke

Terrebianche 2010 Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato (Liguria) – Almond flesh and pine nuts, hearts of palm, vibrant but ripe acidity, white pepper. And inside, a beige-toned and bony skeleton of structure. It’s worrisomely short, but that’s really carping about a generally quite decent wine. (10/11)

BB bite

Barmès Buecher 2007 Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace) – Clean. Papered-over lemon and apple skin. Not really much more than that; an unusually simple performance for this wine, which is never overly complex but usually shows more than this. Blame barometric pressure or something. (10/11)


Kathy Lynskey 2005 “Single Vineyard” Gewürztraminer (Marlborough) – Which vineyard is going solo here? Ms. Lynskey doesn’t say. But while Marlborough is not, historically, New Zealand’s premiere bid at spicy stardom, my long-standing argument – really, I’ve been on this kick since the 90s – that the Long White Cloud is the next-to-Alsace-best source of full-throttled gewürztraminer is not belied by this wine. No, it’s not near the top of the heap. Yes, it’s just a little long in the tooth (it’s always worth remembering that New Zealand’s clonal material is, in general, absurdly young and frequently suboptimal), but what’s left is a coal-soaked study in bacon-fried lychee and drying, almost “orange wine”-like skins. There’s no lushness here, nor more than a token nod at what was, once, probably a noticeable softening from residual sugar. But it was still probably a dry-intentioned wine in its youth, and it most certainly is now, and that’s not always found in tandem with this sort of spice; usually, dry gewürztraminer outside of Alsace can rise to no more aromatic plateau than rose petals. So…a lot of words, not much of a conclusion. Here’s one: if it’s cheap (and this certainly was; I catch a whiff of “inventory clearance” from this bottle), one could really do a lot worse. (10/11)

Bekaa call

Hochar “Château Musar” 2001 Red (Bekaa Valley) – Opening Musar and finding only a small handful of flaws is like winning the lottery, albeit with a payoff in swampwater currency. But other than the most fundamentalist natural wine cultists, who will excuse just about anything, I doubt anyone would give this a second thought were the underlying material not so appealing in the face of, and often despite, those flaws. Still, it’s not a wine for everyone even in the best of conditions, and at our table of three there’s one who adores it (me), one who expressed surprised approval, and one who outright rejects it as being more or less undrinkable. Such is the Musar experience. This bottle, with its reasonably-restrained brett and tolerable volatile acidity (a VA-phobe is saying this, mind), shows that not-mature/full-mature blend of berries and roasted things that’s more or less the Musar signature, with a bracing slap of tannin and a juicily crisp finish. Will it age? Probably. It usually does, and this seems to have the structure for it. But it’s only going to get weirder. (10/11)

Here's Johnn

Zidarich 2008 Carso Vitovska (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Flowers and saline-infused nettles scraped with the rough edge of a dull razor of tannin. A wine that will not be ignored, but to pay it sufficient attention demonstrates how its skin-contact has, at least in the interim, gotten a bit out of hand in relation to its fruit. Will that change with time? Quite possibly. It’s a fascinating exploration of one of the edges of orange winedom, but even such edgeworking vinification needs an occasional sense of restraint, and I’m not entirely sure it was exercised here. Still, this can all be mitigated – somewhat – with sufficiently fatty food, the sort that would typically require something from the much more russet genre. (10/11)

Having more fun

Calek 2010 “Blonde” (Ardèche) – Incandescent-lit sepia photographs, the buzz and rattle of an old electric space heater, a dusty shaft of sunlight from an ill-fitting doorframe, and just a hint of a mysteriously organic aroma emanating from somewhere just offstage. (10/11)

Oud Papi

Papilloud 2009 Amigne de Vétroz Grand Cru (Valais) – Off-dry and thoroughly alive…even to the point of a bit of spritz (or at least a tactile analogue of same)…with a chalky texture that, due to the sugar, veers occasionally in the direction of powdered fruit candy. Yet the wine is not candied at all, though it does seem to be done up in rosé hues despite being a white wine. The finish, too, is notable not only for its duration for the way it starts to swirl and veer like runaway fireworks. A fascinating wine at, like so much from Switzerland, an extravagantly aspirational price. (10/11)

Seigneurs moment

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – A very recent purchase, allegedly due to the winery’s recently-abandoned importer dumping their stocks on large-volume buyers (in this case, the dreaded Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board), and from one of apparently 19 or so cases stacked in a suburban outpost of Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor monopoly and priced at far less than 50% of what I’d consider current retail. Now, I’m quite a fan of these sorts of inventory clearance sales, but this particular release has me either doubting the story or concerned on a wider scale, because there are signs of heat damage here. Not major, and not yet all that apparent in the wine (which is different from invisible), but there’s seepage enough to have escaped about a quarter of the corks and cause the capsules to become adhesive little nightmares of glutinous packaging. My expanded universe of worry results from a concern that the wine was delivered in this condition, which means that the damage occurred at the importer level, which would be – let me emphasize my personal concern on this point as person with more Trimbach in his cellar than any other wine – horrifying to contemplate. The other possibility, of course, is that the wine was fine at delivery and was very quickly baked by the fine folks at the PLCB, who is not legendary for their nurturing storage conditions. (Is that vague enough to keep the lawyers at bay?)

So what’s left? The sort of high-minded, mineral, wet gewurztraminer this cuvée is known for, resting more on its structure than almost any other Alsatian gewurztraminer of note. But a bit more dilute than I’d expect at this stage (I do expect closure from these wines, and this would be the time for it, but I think there’s more than a closed period at work here), and the bacony stage that this wine usually finds in its maturity has a little more smoke than usual, with just the faintest touch of caramelization. Based on which, of course, I see the heat damage that I expect from the condition of the bottles, though I wonder if I’d note it had I not seen the physical evidence. Based on this performance, I’m probably going to plow through most of these over the fairly term, leaving the smaller quantity of at-release purchases for a later date. (10/11)

From this point Hengst

Barmès Buecher 2001 Gewurztraminer Hengst (Alsace) – Lavish. Lychee, yes, but also cashews-as-fruit, and almonds. Hazelnuts. Just a hint of smoked pork. Very sweet, luxuriantly spicy, and…OK, yes, it’s a little acid-deficient for all that sweetness, but what does one expect from Hengst gewurztraminer in a (very) good vintage? In terms of age, I’d say it’s at very, very early maturity right now. Those who want a little more bacon to “cut” the sugar will have to wait. (10/11)

Pfersigberg, we take Manhattan

Barmès Buecher 2004 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg (Alsace) – Mildly corked, probably (it’s below my threshold, at least). What’s certain is that it’s not right. Pfersigberg can show as brittle, but this is just absent. (10/11)


Breton 2005 Bourgueil “Nuits d’Ivresse” (Loire) – Since I’m incapable of holding on to this wine long enough to see how it ages, I have to rely on more responsible pals to find out how long the nights of drunkenness can last. It turns out: at least this long, and quite possibly longer. This is one of the most overtly appealing wines from this appellation, grape, or producer I’ve ever tasted…it practically sings with polychromatic beauty. (10/11)

Over hill and del

Ridge 1999 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 14.4% alcohol, 95% zinfandel. I basically go into older Ridge Paso Robles experiences expecting booze. I don’t get that there. Oh, it doesn’t lack alcohol, but despite the lack of, well, lack it’s more or less balanced in that lukewarm California-simmer style. The fruit has moved not an inch, but the oak has receded into “Draper perfume” (really just a euphemism for the lingering toasted coconut of maturing wood aromas). It’s nice, but aside from wood-shedding I’m not sure what the point of aging it was. (10/11)


Landron “Atmosphères” (Loire) – Like drinking razors. Well-salted razors. (10/11)

08 November 2011

The Soulez of the land

Soulez “Château de la Genaiserie” 1996 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin La Roche “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Loire) – 500 ml. I remember the fuss about wines of this nature back in the time it was released, with people taking sides on the question of whether or not a wine with ludicrous levels of residual sugar could actually be called a wine anymore. I never really saw the point of the argument, myself; I mean, if it’s made from grapes and there has been any yeast conversion of sugar to alcohol at all, how is it not wine? As with so many such debates, the issue is really just a bunch of pundits trying to externalize their personal preferences into independent existence. Which is, of course, utter nonsense. If you don’t like sweetness of this magnitude, just say so and move on.

And yes, this is powerfully, painfully, almost unimaginably sweet. Even after fifteen years, it’s primary, syrupy (though there’s perceivable acidity), and has fuck-all to say about chenin blanc or Coteaux du Layon other than that the appellation is entirely capable of producing wines like this. That said, isn’t that by itself a statement about the terroir and cépage? After all, I don’t think you can do this with cabernet franc up-river in Chinon. Do I like it? Well, it’s impressive. It’s sort of an absurdly-endowed porn star (either gender) sort of impressiveness, though. I have no idea how much age would be required to make it develop, but I suspect the cork will have failed long before that point has been reached. So really, there’s no particular reason not to drink it, but no particular reason to hurry towards it with a corkscrew either. It is, I suspect, a near-eternal monument to excess. (10/11)

Silver syrah

Sierra Vista 1999 “25th Anniversary” Syrah (El Dorado) – 13.5%. Succulent maturing-blackberry fruit braced by leafy and somewhat brittle tannin and coal dust. A bit coniferous. This wine is diverging in a fashion that should lead anyone still holding it to make a choice: wait for further maturity in the fruit (which will undoubtedly occur), or recognize that the structural elements are not aging on the same curve and choose to drink up before they become actively intrusive (which I also think is somewhat inevitable). Right now it’s in a good place, but whether or not it ever gets to “better” will very much depend on one’s view of that choice. (10/11)


Swan 1999 Zinfandel Mt. Olivet Mancini Ranch (Russian River Valley) – 13.9%. There aren’t many 1999 zinfandels I would be, of my own volition, holding this long (a statement somewhat belied by my cellar contents, but…well, see the next sentence). The ones I would are all from wineries much more concerned about structural edifices than Swan, which allows structure in its essentials but does not push the wine to achieve that structure. And so, here’s a fully mature zin, with juicy mixed berries, black pepper, and a cat’o’nine acidities in the finish. Quite attractive. On day two and from a mostly empty bottle it’s still steady-state, so I suspect that the maturity in question is a plateau rather than a moment. (10/11)


Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – This is really singing at the moment. Very early maturity, but still enough maturity to have made it worth the wait. The wine is brown. Not in color, but in tone and aroma. There’s lingering purple, but mostly it’s brown. Baritone. Incipient autumnal. Late afternoon. I’m glad I have it in quantity, though the dozen bottles I wasted over the years hoping for the slightest bit of development…well, I wish I had them back. (10/11)

Campofiorin's five miles long, doo-dah, doo-dah

Masi 1997 Rosso del Veronese “Campofiorin” Ripasso (Veneto) – Masi wants me to put a copyright symbol on “ripasso.” But…let me be polite about this…screw them. And screw their attempt to claim ownership of a widely-practiced technique and an extremely generic term. Anyway, it hardly matters here, because the wine is as corked as any wine I’ve ever experienced, filling the room with its trichloranisolic reek. (10/11)

I once drank a wine named Maria

Villa Maria 2001 “Noble Late Harvest” Riesling (Marlborough) – 375 ml. Mixed apples, honeydew, and spikes – powerfully-hammered spikes – of acidity. Which are necessary, because the wine is intensely, almost neon-sweet, in a showily botrytized fashion. I think this is a really extraordinary wine when it’s fully mature, which this is probably a decade or more from achieving. (10/11)

Parched NBA commissioners

Sybille Kuntz 2003 Riesling Dreistern “Goldkapsel” (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – No AP number. Dry, it says, but a lot of people will mistake the richness and texture of this wine for residual sugar. It’s 2003, for sure, but handled well and with plenty of structure…not, perhaps, what would be there in a more traditional year, but it’s no layabout floozy. At the moment, in fact, it’s all bones and rock, finishing as long as a desert horizon. Age should bring some interesting quirks. (10/11)

Haag the limelight

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – As muted and diffident as my entire stock of this wine has been. Others have reported better results, so I have to feel that my batch was damaged in some fashion. Gauzy minerality, bubblegum, powdered cream, and generalized disappointment abound. (10/11)

Saumur's end

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Barely surviving, maybe 10% of what it was., and drinkable only through a lack of any actual characteristics worth noting. I should remove the capsules from any bottle I might possibly suspect of harboring a plastic cork, though I’d not actually have predicted that this would be one of them. Oh well, only four more bottles to pour down the drain… (Yes, yes, I know I should just make vinegar.) (10/11)

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Stewed tar and razors on a bed of coal. There’s a little bit of lingering, oxidized black currant. But the “cork” killed this bottle. (10/11)

Cuvée corpse

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Completely dead. Blame the plastic plug. (10/11)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Not entirely dead, but stripped and battery-acid-ish, with just a hint of linear cranberry lingering. (10/11)

Old Pallières of mine

Domaine Les Pallières 1999 Gigondas (Rhône) – Corked. (10/11)

Coastal South African cities

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Beaumes de Venise (Rhône) – Corked. (10/11)

Chinidine Chidaine

Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Méthode Traditionnelle Demi-Sec (Loire) – Fresh as a fermented daisy floating in a glass of tonic water. (10/11)

At the hop

Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” Czech Hop Harvest Ale “Dočesná” (Vermont) – Aggressive in multiple ways: richly-hopped (but not one of those hop-overwhelmed extremities, by any means), chipped metal and wood aromas, and physically impossible to ignore. It is, perhaps, a bit more than I was expecting, but I’ll chalk that up to my expectations rather than an inherent flaw in the ale. All that said, it remains aggressive. (10/11)

Roussel crow

Roussel “Domaine du Joncier” 2000 Lirac (Rhône) – The last bottle of a bunch purchased at an extreme discount, and they’ve all been more or less sullen. On youthful performance, I took a gamble that this would reward short-term aging. I lost. So abandoning my undue optimism, let’s treat the wine on the merits it has actually offered, rather than my unwarranted expectations thereof. It’s meaty, earthy, dark, muted, truculent, entirely decent without being more than that, and shouldn’t be held any longer. Unless I’m wrong about that, as well. (10/11)


Chermette “Domaine du Vissoux” 2004 Beaujolais “Vieilles Vignes Cuvée Traditionnelle” (Beaujolais) – A cellar orphan, buried (due to its ridiculously and incomprehensibly fat bottle shape) under things that were guaranteed to reward aging. It’s not like I regularly hold basic Beaujolais – other than the shouldery Brun, perhaps – for this long very often. That said, it’s doing quite well, though I certainly wouldn’t hold it any longer in the hopes of anything positive. There’s brett, there’s volatile acidity, there’s spritz…a bit of a parody of “natural,” the cynic in me muses…and drying cherry, but there’s more than enough of the essential, fun, spiky fruit this had in its youth to have said that the accidental aging, while not a “success” as such, was also no failure. Call it a teachable moment. (10/11)

Closel Clos

Domaine du Closel 1998 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Looks tired and oxidized. Isn’t. But it’s not without oxidation as a complexing agent, and that will throw some. Nothing here is atypical for the grape, appellation, or producer, but knuckle-draggers who insist that “wine should taste like fruit because it’s made from fruit” should buy something else. All those caveats aside, it’s not the freshest wine in history (though I’m given to understand that day two brings a lot more energy and life), with sodden metal squeezings and wet chalk predominating. It’s a dark, broody, aging hipster sort of wine, and the right food – which I do not have during my encounter – would not be amiss. Still, given my horrendous experiences with my own bottles of Closel and other Savennières from this era, I have to welcome one that has actually performed up to expectations. (10/11)


Trimbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – A little oxidized, a lot unpleasant. Maybe low-level taint, though it was below my threshold if so. The previous bottle was drinking extremely well, so I have to presume cork failure in one or more ways on this one. (10/11)

Trimbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Better, but still not all that good. The brushed, anti-gloss metallicism is on display, as it was not in the previous wine, and there’s a little texture. But nowhere near what there should be, and the finish is attenuated. I think the rest of my bottles are going to be opened rather quickly. (10/11)

Eartha Kritt

Kreydenweiss 2001 Gewurztraminer Kritt “Les Charmes” (Alsace) – Strutting. But less Saturday Night Fever than Napoleonic, in that its confident mien is reserved, even dignified, yet no less boastful. Raw peach enveloped in silken cream, cashew oil, fully-developed structure leading to a thickened, almost dairy-like aspect akin to well-aged German riesling, though of course there’s less acidity here. There’s far from none, however, and that makes all the difference. I’d say this is fully ready, but I’ve said that before, and still the wine continues to move on down the road. (10/11)

07 November 2011

Chinato up

Cappellano Barolo Chinato (Piedmont) – I admit to having, in the past, struggled with this construct’s occasionally overwhelming volatile acidity. It’s not absent here, but it’s under control, and the result is predictably gorgeous. Probably the best straight-ahead chinato I’ve ever had, in fact (there are variations on the theme that have been awfully compelling). Tannin, herbs both prosaic and exotic, a taste of Old Europe rent and torn by more than a touch of Southeast Asia. Fascinating, relentlessly complex, and utterly compelling. (10/11)

Guimaro, Guimaro, I love ya', Guimaro

Guimaro 2010 Ribeira Sacra (Nothwest Spain) – Vibrant, vivacious, and thoroughly alive. Heavily-spiced red fruit fireworks, beyond fully tangible and very nearly enflamed, with cymbal hisses and mutings that jerk the palate hither and fro in a most exciting fashion. As one might be able to tell despite the histrionic metaphor-mixing, I adore this wine. (10/11)

Caught in the Nerthe

Château La Nerthe 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – My expectation, at uncorking, is that this is going to be an oaky mess falling apart at the cabinetry seams. And my initial impression of the wine does not exactly counter this expectation. There’s butter, there’s lacticity, there’s toast, there’s stale and somewhat rancid autumnal decay. But then, something interesting happens: the wine within emerges, and whatever might have been done to it along the way doesn’t hold the entirety of the field. Dark berries? Yes, old and dusty as is typical, with venison jerky and a sort of stew-like, meat-based acidity that is entirely typical of CdP but which I have never been able to properly describe (I doubt “stew-like, meat-based acidity” is going to catch on, even with me). It’s nowhere near as good as it should have been, due to a surplus of interest in modernity, but it’s certainly not bad. (10/11)

Harth & home

Schoffit 1997 Gewurztraminer Harth “Cuvée Caroline” (Alsace) – Sweeeeeeet. Not a few “regular” gewürztraminers in this exceedingly hot vintage were unclassified vendanges tardives, even from otherwise restrained houses, and no one has ever accused Schoffit of restraint. What the actual potential alcohol of this wine is, or was, I don’t know and wouldn’t want to guess, but whatever it was they left an awful lot of sugar on the table…or, in this case, in the wine…and coupled with the vintage’s thoroughly absent acidity and the propensity of the grape and the fertile plain site to further abandon structural crispness, and you’re left with this: the most luxuriant dessert ever not offered as such. There are recognizably varietal elements here, mostly peach with a bit of lychee, but the syrup overwhelms all. And the age? Of course it has held – anything with this much sugar would – but there’s absolutely no hope of it developing into anything better. (10/11)

Cast the last stone

Lapierre 2002 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Brett, volatility, fizz, and particulate sludge through which a strobe light is pulsing its vivid signal. Were the fruit identifiable any longer, it would be bright red and cranberry-ish, but the various natural-wine bugbears are on full display. And yet, not impenetrably so; despite not much liking brett and loathing volatile acidity, I kind of like this. No reason to hold it past about three years ago, though. (10/11)

Old, really old, no really...

Brun “Terres Dorées” 2005 Beaujolais “l’Ancien Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Muscular, but I’m not sure there’s much flesh to the musculature anymore. Or maybe this is just a really long ager, and I’m underestimating it. But I think not; Brun’s wines are always structured and strong, but I’d need convincing that this hasn’t very slightly outlived its finest years. What’s left is appealing, albeit dark and tannin-laden…more bitter earth than bright fruit…and it helps the wine’s cause if one doesn’t think of it as Beaujolais at all, but as something more in the cabernet or malbec realm. No, it’s not that firm, but it bears only a passing resemblance to even the most structured Beaujolais at the moment. Drink up? That’s my guess. That said, I’m going to hold one a while longer, just to see. (10/11)

Look out

Perrini 2010 Negroamaro (Puglia) – Right hook. Uppercut. Right hook. Left hook. Combination. Jab. Jab. Jab. Knockout. The judges are unanimous. (10/11)

...to the argument

Marie-Pierre Germain 2009 Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy) – A bit tough, despite a quite pleasant sand art-like procession of layers of fruit. Eventually, though, the structure pummels and then desiccates. Maybe more time will help, but I don’t know that I see the balance for aging; maybe best to manage this wine with food, rather than cellaring. (10/11)


Renwood 2001 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) – 15%. Paint-by-the-numbers pine-needle zin, which is the interim stage Renwood went through from its glory days to its descent into post-industrial mediocrity, and which is a pretty good thing despite the mundane nature of the critique. It’s dark, a touch boozy, a little amaro-like, with a concentrated berry syrup slashed with coniferous acidity. In other words, entirely of its region in summary, but not showing anything else than that. Good now, but drink it before now becomes later. (10/11)

Take three

Unibroue 2006 “Trois Pistoles” (Québec) – Overly-succulent, sweet, almost candied (in a licorice sort of fashion), and yet good. Worth aging? No. The froth is no longer integrated, and everything seems like it’s on the verge of collapse. (10/11)

Descombes over

Descombes 2006 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Smoothed out and thoroughly liquid. By which I mean there’s not a solid left to be found here. Just pure flowing red fruit in steady-state volume. Drink up, in other words. (10/11)

06 November 2011

Guard do-tree

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. I bought a pretty fair quantity of this wine, a long while back, from a store that was closing (well, moving) and clearing out full cases of whatever it didn’t want to move at pretty extraordinary prices. This was one of the offerings, and I acquired it for a song. That song, however, has been playing the same tune over and over for about a decade, to the point where I had almost given up on the wine ever moving from its highly primary and decidedly uncomplex starting point. Well, things have changed, and in a hurry (at least based on this bottle). Wonderfully mature, though early in that period, with smoke and dust eddying bacon, dried quince, and hedgehog mushroom aromas into a low-atmosphere helix of deliciousness. The structure has not fallen away, but is well-resolved enough to really let these lovely aromas through. I have little confidence that the rest of the bottles will be identically expressive – that’s how bottle (really, cork) variation works – but there is, at last, a glimpse of this wine’s delicious endgame. (10/11)

Picasses? Oh.

C&P Breton 1997 Chinon Les Picasses (Loire) – Really beautiful, singing in full-throated joy at its maturity (which is probably at peak right now, though it will almost certainly hold for a good while longer, after which softer melodies will be what it offers). Black and dark green herbs, grass, tobacco, dusty coal-black minerality, and a sawtooth-edged structure…all of which somehow managed to, in concert, present themselves as strangely “pretty.” I love this wine, and wish I had a lot more of it, rather than just a few bottles. (9/11)

Orange soda

Donati 2008 Malvasia dell’Emilia (Emilia-Romagna) – An orange wine that really is orange (most of them are in the beige/tan/brown spectrum), or perhaps we could get swanky and call it a lighter sort of burnt sienna. And: sparkling. So, the heavy tannic overlay of the orange genre is lightened not by the counterpoint of fruit, nor of acidity (a rare thing in the category in the best of cases), but by a gentle – and fading – fizz. It’s more distracting than present at the moment, and it’s not going to do anything but fade, but it’s necessary for the wine’s tenuous grip on balance, which is falling deeper into a cider-esque hole with each passing month. It’s more an intellectual pleasure than a sensory one, because it pairs some extremes of technique with a relentlessly uncompromising weirdness, but as someone who enjoys this particular thought experiment I still quite enjoy it. That said, there are many who would not allow that this is “wine” any longer, based on its taste rather than its origin, and I would have sympathy for that opinion. But wine it is, nonetheless, and if you own any, you should drink it. (10/11)

How Bizard

Bizard-Litzow “Château d’Epiré” 2007 Savennières “Cuvée Spéciale” (Loire) – I have given up aging Savennières, and though I’m happy to drink someone else’s, the relentless early descent into oxidation and/or silage across producers and vintages has defied all reasonable explanation (aside from the scourge of the still-unsolved premature oxidation that affects wines here and there, which would explain one issue, but not the other) and completely soured me on the effort. Which is a real shame, because I’ve had beautifully aged versions from these same producers in the past, and because I don’t exactly adore young Savennières either. Here, for example, is ceramic leaf and candle smoke, a desiccation that supersedes whatever actual residual sugar (if any) might remain, and a long but ultimately pointless blank slate of a finish. There’s texture to spare, though it’s planar, and that’s what would normally give me confidence that at some point in the future there would be a blossoming. But whether due to forces external or internal – that is, the taster in question – I’m not willing to hold these any longer, just to see how many years before their drink-by date they fail in a blaze of misery. (9/11)

Little loaf

Castello della Paneretta 1999 Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany) – Past maturity, but not so far that it lacks all interest. Sandy minerality, old roasted cherries turned very slightly spirituous, dust upon dust, and an intrusive burnt-honey quality that comes from the wood of which this wine always had just a little too much. (10/11)

Renzo cortex

da Renzo “Fattoria di Basciano” 1996 Chianti Rufina (Tuscany) – Old grape, gritty with earth and broken-down tar. Still quite structured, still very present, but just enough past its prime that the structure dominates. (10/11)

Cliff Clavin

Ratzenberger 2009 Steeger St. Jost Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 12 10 (Mittelrhein) – Gentle, light, lightly-sweet, more like wine-as-water rather than wine-as-aspiration. Which is another way of saying that it disappears very quickly, and without an enormous amount of distracting thought along the way. (10/11)

The end of a little story

Nera “La Novella” 2008 Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio Chiavennasca Bianco (Lombardy) – The last bottle of what was a full-case purchase, and I don’t regret my decision to finish it off. It was, in the beginning, as much of a “stump the drunks” bit of tomfoolery as it was a purchase based on quality; I liked it well enough, but what I really loved was the idea of pouring a white wine for my expert friends and having them try to guess what it was, knowing that they would never arrive at “nebbiolo” as the answer. What does it taste like? I believe I've covered that. (10/11)

Calm shadow

Delille “Terre d’Ombre” 2007 Vin de Pays du Mont Caume (Provence) – Expectations are funny things. I see “Provence” on a red wine I don’t know, I think “light,” or at least “light-ish.” And I suppose that’s not wrong here, though as a “declassified” Bandol, chock full of young-vine mourvèdre, there should also be some presence. But what this is really more about is taking a fragrant bouquet of fairly delicate flowers – fresh and alive – and slamming them against a wall in one petal-shattering heave. That wall is structural, and though it’s thin enough to see through, it’s otherwise impenetrable nonetheless. I’m not sure what this means, in the context of the appellation or even just this wine, but this is a highly bifurcated pleasure that…while, there’s some sort of lack to it. I just haven’t yet figured out what it is. (10/11)

Achieving saetti

Vigneto Saetti 2010 Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce (Emilia-Romagna) – Uncompromisingly dry, bitter (in the amaro sense; I very specifically don’t mean astringent, though it’s not exactly lacking in razory tannin either), and the definitional opposite of a cocktail wine. I mean, I suppose people who like shoving razor wire into their flesh just for the lulz would like to sip this with canapés and genteel conversation, but otherwise – more than any lambrusco I’ve ever tasted – it needs food. It cannot, in my opinion, be appreciated or even enjoyed without food. And the thing to realize is that this isn’t – despite what gob-loving sybarites would insist – a criticism, it’s a characterization. This is a wine that demands a very specific kind of participation, and if you don’t agree with those terms you will have an unsatisfactory experience. So…you’re now wondering…what’s it like? Well, what did I just say? (10/11)

Amarone, Amarone

Bussola 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Clean, restrained prune and concentrated grape. Not a very complex Amarone (though it’s young), but surprisingly light despite its obvious dried, skin-dominated characteristics. Much freer of volatile acidity than these things usually are, and with no apparent botrytis influence, I’d be interested to see how this develops. Probably much like overdriven New World pinot noir, its organoleptic cousin... (9/11)

Fromm here to eternity

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Extremely difficult and sullen. For about thirty minutes I worry about low-level cork taint, for the next thirty minutes I struggle to peer into an opaque glass of murky berries and thick leather, and for the thirty minutes after that I try to figure out of this has just died very quickly (previous bottles were quite expressive, albeit structurally primary), has inexplicably re-closed…or, then, there’s that low-level taint question again. Well, whichever. It’s possible to appreciate the tiny bit this wine gives, but it’s not really possible to appreciate the wine. (10/11)

Nony, Nony

Nony “Château Grand Mayne” 2001 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Quite aggressive, already significantly herbal (both green tobacco and crisp brown leaves), black pepper dust, and blackened bell pepper skin, with a headiness that hovers but doesn’t, in the end, amount to much more than velocity. I actually like much of what this wine offers, but it’s certainly far from great; that I purchased it for $30 rather than the regular price (double that) makes me feel much better about the outcome and the assessment. It is, at least, recognizably Bordeaux, and that’s not something one can say about far too many of the region’s wines these days. (9/11)


R. López de Heredia 2001 Rioja Viña Gravonia Bianco (Center-North) – I have never liked a Viña Gravonia Bianco less than I like this one, which tastes like over-aged California chardonnay in its stale wood, grossly lactic, browned butter way. I hope it’s an issue with the bottle and not the wine, or maybe it just needs to age and oxidize more for me to enjoy it, but I go back again and again to the wine in disbelief that I dislike it so much, thus drinking a lot more of a wine I don’t enjoy than I would usually consider drinking. Such is the reputation of the producer, in my mind. (9/11)

Bordering almost

Bourdoudresques “Sentinelle de Massiac” 2008 Minervois (Languedoc) – Blocky and monolithic. This is my experience of far, far too many Minervois in their youth, and I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely understand the purpose in drinking them at this age…not just because they’re not that interesting, but because it’s not easy to tell if age is going to help matters. I think, in this case, it might, for there’s some juicy, black-fruited meat stuffing…but there’s also a solid wall of chunky tannin and not really any evident life to the wine. (9/11)

For he's a jolly verdelho

Tyrrell’s 2010 Verdelho (Hunter Valley) – Juicy, green, balanced, fun. I don’t think it’s meant to be any more formal than that, so it doesn’t really need more verbiage. (9/11)


Donaldson Family "Pegasus Bay" 2007 Riesling (Waipara) – Sweet lime and grapefruit, and getting just ever so slightly nervy, which is a quality that this solid, reliable wine doesn’t achieve all that often. I don’t know if it’s just a stage or a vintage effect, but this is suddenly more interesting than it was earlier this year. There’s more here, but it’s mostly hidden in a textural monoculture right now, and time will be required to tease out those nuances. (9/11)

Ople, or bul

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Underripe, awkward, and trying too hard. It certainly gives the impression of minor sweetness, whatever the residual datum. Not very interesting, and thus its extreme shortness is somewhat of a blessing. (9/11)

The Republic of riesling

Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Anyone who tastes wine “seriously” (whether for professional or personal reasons) has to find a way to deal with their biases and preconceptions. Simple-minded harpies screech their “blind tasting” mantra as if it’s Genesis 1:1 in 16-point bold print, but no one who actually understands wine fails to see the extreme limitations of that format; there’s just too much that can’t be properly understood without having some sort of context for one’s responses. That said, there are infinite ways in which a label or the wine itself can invite ancillary judgments that don’t accurately reflect what the taster is experiencing.

So it is with Finger Lakes rieslings, which are constantly being promoted to riesling-loving tasters via blind tastings and brown bags and “ringer”-style trickery. I understand the impulse, but it’s ultimately pointless; one way or another, the wines are going to have to be able to stand or fall on their own merits, without resorting to contests in which the peer group is purely arbitrary and with which the terroirs of the Finger Lakes shouldn’t have anything in common to begin with.

…which is a long-winded way of saying that I engaged in a mighty personal struggle with this wine, wanting both to grant it extra care as a representative of an underappreciated region and wanting to work hard to demonstrate its specific failings in relation to its international peers. I have no idea how that ridiculously fraught environment in which I examined the wine (with and without dinner) affected my response, except to say that I tried really hard to express what was wrong with it, and in the end really couldn’t come up with much. It’s a good wine that starts out a little awkward and reductive, gets a lot better with sufficient oxygenation, and fends off disintegration for at least as long as the two hours I spent with it. It’s quite Teutonic in its austere solemnity, it’s very clearly riesling, and the picture in my mind while drinking it is that of a slightly unpolished metal sphere within a cube. It’s not an integrated wine, at least not yet (I have no experience with aging it, which is stupid as I’ve had plenty of opportunities), but there’s certainly potential; think young Austrian more than anything else, though it’s not that dense nor weighty. Is it good? Yes, it’s good. But it does need air. (9/11)

The seven deadly chambourcins

Chaddsford “Portfolio Collection” 2007 Chambourcin Seven Valleys (Pennsylvania) – Blue plum, fat peak-season blueberries, a bit of tar. Succulent fruit with just a bit of gelatinous hybrid marking it as non-vinifera, but I need to stress that is likely only evident because I know what the wine is. Balanced, oaked just the right amount, with good structure. Will it age? I have no experience and thus no idea. I’d be wary; in terms of structure-fruit balance, it actually reminds me of a really good pinotage (it exists, believe it or not), and those do something more akin to “aging” than aging, if you get my drift. This is a lovely little wine, and while “…for a Pennsylvania wine” does come into play here, it’s not as strong a factor as one might think. (9/11)

Row, Chadd

Chaddsford “Proprietors Reserve” 2009 Red (Pennsylvania) – 100% chambourcin, which is pretty much my favorite red hybrid, due to its fascinating potential for both depth and complexity that most hybrids lack, and a proportional capability of avoiding the grape jelly character (“foxiness” to Brits and in the argot). Well, here neither is achieved, and the wine is both candy-grapey and simple-minded. I’ve had this in other vintages and liked it a great deal more, so I’m going to chalk this one up to vintage. (9/11)

No...walk, Chadd

Chaddsford “Proprietors Reserve” 2009 White (Pennsylvania) – Mostly vidal blanc, with some vignoles…and I’m not sure if I should pat myself on the back for guessing vignoles right away, but it most definitely marks this wine with it’s muscat-analogue floral fruitiness; less lurid than muscat and “wetter” (though that may just be a function of ripeness, which was most definitely not in abundance in this vintage), but still a dominant partner in any blend. Overall, there’s just a touch more plastic here than I prefer, but it’s a good, juicy, fun wine for parties, with puckery acidity actually marring the finish a bit. This is better than the red of the same designation, at least in this vintage. (9/11)

Pangée Gupta

Nana, vins et cie 2005 “La Pangée” (Loire) – Like drinking squeezed berries out of an ashtray. Look, this is really more about me than the wine; I don’t like pineau d’aunis. This is only about half that (the rest gamay), but it still ruins everything for me. There are, inevitably, exceptions here and there (many of them from Domaine de Bellivière), but in general this is a grape I need to avoid, because to me it tastes of bitter, stale, wet cigarette ash. (Except of course when it doesn’t. Which is aggravating. Are there no certainties? No, no, of course there aren’t.) (9/11)

01 November 2011

To Grand Mont's house we go

Druet 1997 Bourgueil “Cuvée Grand Mont” (Loire) – Beautiful. Rounded green-black berries, tarred and then ground into fine mineral dust. Satiny, but with a rough country dusting in the interstitials. It’s hard to really express all that’s going on in this wine, but there’s a lot, and not all of it is televised; sitting down and reading the preface, footnotes, and even the index is also required. Long, gorgeous, absolutely at peak. (9/11)

Pégau club

Féraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – As this comes from the cellar of a friend that I’ve usually described as “glacial,” I expect it – like previous versions of this same wine from the same cellar – to be unready. It’s not; in fact, it’s beautifully mature, and I express some surprise. Of course, it turns out that the wine spent most of its life in said friend’s brother’s cellar, which explains things. Well, it’s nice to know that I can spot the difference. So, from normal cellars: drink nowish. What you’ll get is the usual aged-Châteauneuf meat juice, a little buffed up and muscular, with more polish than usual and a weight that was, once, expressed as heat but has now mostly integrated in a fashion I can’t quite (chemically) grasp…or maybe this is a transient pairing effect of the cheese with which we drank it. In any case, it’s as supple and sophisticated as any aged Châteauneuf of my experience, and while it doesn’t have a whole lot of complexity to show for its maturity, what it has is extremely nice. (9/11)

Arboreal Ken

Ken Forrester 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Of all the chenins I tasted in South Africa (and I tasted a lot), this was the most exciting. Not in this exact form or vintage, but in the form of an older bottle pulled as an apology for their being out of the sought-after botrytized version from this same winery. The excitement came because in a few short years the wine had veered sharply in a Loire-ward direction, developing wax, quinine, and chalk notes that I hadn’t seen in anyone else’s chenins. Now, to be fair, I didn’t taste many more with any age whatsoever, but as the two dominant methods of chenin blanc production in the country are fresh-’n’-fruity-’n’-cheap or “seriously” oaked (a terrible idea, I might add, though Ken Forrester’s “FMC” version is the least offensive of the offensive lot), I certainly don’t expect to see it very often. That said, after I tasted and liked the aged version, I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to its younger form.

So here it is, and I’ve encountered it a lot since that visit to Stellenbosch. I wouldn’t say it’s clear that there’s a bright and complex future for the wine from its initial notions, but one can at least see how that future develops. There’s a restraint and subtlety to the wine not often found in the area’s chenin blancs (or white wines in general), a fine structure, and – I think this is where the key difference lies – a gravelly texture to the wine that I think heralds the organoleptic minerality to come. It’s very appealing in its youth, but I think youthful guzzling is what the same winery’s “Petit” bottling is for. Put this one away for a while. I think you won’t regret it, if past performance is any indicator. (8/11)

Bri or someone else

Ollivier 1998 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – The oldest Muscadet in my cellar leaps forward a year with the demise of this bottle, but I have the feeling it’s time. It has certainly broadened, with the shells and rocks coalesced into a wide plain of sea-washed albino carapace, and there’s a throb of something that’s almost fruit-like that hasn’t been present at any previous point in this wine’s evolution. But the finish carries a whipcord of oxidation that shortens it a bit sooner than I’d like, and so I think this wine has journeyed about as far as it’s going to travel. At least, this bottle has. Since I have no more, I can’t speak to its, um, fellow travelers. (9/11)

Deux rell

Edmunds St. John 1995 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Corked, I think. No obvious TCA on the nose, but it’s so muted and suppressed, despite an obvious surge of both structure and fruit somewhere within, that I can’t figure out what else it might be. This is the second bottle from the same stash that has been like this, so maybe the fault lies elsewhere. Whatever the cause, it’s a shame. (9/11)

Edmunds St. John 1995 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Long believed to be a myth, a hoax, a legend, and yet here it is: a mature ’95 Durell. I never thought I’d see the day. Meat, soil, wilted muscle, and deep red light in a slow-moving whirlpool of…hey, does anyone remember that semi-horrid old Disney flick The Black Hole? Remember the special-effects visualization of said singularity? (No? Go Google it.) It tastes like that. But better. Much, much better. (10/11)

The vieux, the proud

Edmunds St. John 1993 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 13.7%. As fully-resolved a zinfandel as I’ve ever tasted…mostly, they tend to evolve, mature, and then start falling apart, and not always on parallel curves. This is soft, even plushy, in its textural circularity, with some erosion evident and a little bit of reduced gravity from the core. Around it, though, is still wrapped a lightly peppery sheathe, and dusty minerality rests on the ground, fallen but not yet separate. Very appealing. (7/11)

Edmunds St. John 1994 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Round, polished, sweet red fruit. Whatever structure there was is long gone, but what’s left is mostly just fruit, rather than anything particularly complex. It’s teetering on the edge of failure as well, though it hasn’t quite gotten there yet (note, however, that this is a recent release from the winery, and differently-stored bottles might already be on the downslope). A similarly-acquired bottle of the 1993 was better, and clinging more strongly to relevancy, a few months ago. In any case, one must be careful to not expect too much from aged zinfandel; there are exceptions and surprises, but they’re (definitionally) not the majority. (9/11)

Roses for Jeanne, bulles for her

Bouchard 2005 Champagne La Bolorée Blanc des Blancs “Roses de Jeanne” (Champagne) – Difficult to know, difficult to like. I don’t mean that I don’t like it, at all…rather that my experience of it is more of an appreciation than something more visceral. It seems like it wants to be pretty, but there are so many rigidities and barely-hidden edges to it that it really can’t be, and instead what it ends up being is sharp to the point of aggressivity, and rather abrupt as well. There’s also a sense that it’s trying a bit too hard. If this note reads as a lot of vague characterization without anything in the way of organoleptic specificity, that’s because that’s how the wine expresses itself to me: no “fruit” as such, structure mostly just bite and snap, ultra-fine electric-shock bubbles, and quite a bit of attitude. (9/11)

Tokaji for the straight guy

Királyudvar 2008 Tokaji Sec (Hungary) – Like drinking ice (no I don’t mean water, I mean ice) in which rest frozen bones and shells. Complex and intellectual, a well-read wine with its own story to tell. Fascinating. Not as fleshy as some other vintages I’ve tasted, but its sternness is itself a form of quality. (9/11)

The needle & the Dumangin done

Dumangin Vieux Marc de Champagne (Champagne) – Spirituous exotica, kinda-sorta floral, or mineral, but then neither. Fruit plays a role as well, but it’s hard to identify which or how. And there are non-primary complexities as well. I like this as much as any marc I’ve tasted since a Château Grillet many, many years ago.. (9/11)

Maréchal law

Maréchal 2007 Bourgogne “Cuvée Gravel” (Burgundy) – Surprisingly harsh and gritty; whether a stage or an endpoint I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I’ve been pretty disappointed with this wine for the last few vintages, in youth or near-youth. Have they changed, or have I? (9/11)

Gathering none

Mosse 2008 Anjou Rouge (Loire) – Attractive, though I think I lean more towards the whites from this property, as the reds tend to begin and end their stories in comparative simplicity. There’s something to be said for that, but it would be unnoticeable in context were the whites less compelling. Anyway, enough about the whites. This is crisp, reddish in fruit with explorations in both rust and violet directions, and direct, with a ferric swirl and a structural insistency. Near the end there’s powder and white smoke. Maybe there’s a new pope. (9/11)

Bolly good

Bollinger Champagne Brut “Special Cuvée” (Champagne) – Not sure of the “vintage” of this non-vintage, but it’s at least four, and probably more, years past release. It’s good, of course, with weighty, dark fruit and a gloomy neutron star concentration of light and darkness in tandem, but I realize as I drink it that I hardly ever drink Champagnes in this style anymore. I don’t know that my tastes have changed as much as the context in which I explore those tastes has changed; the reasons I used to like Bollinger still apply here, and yet I think I’m more interested in other directions and diversions in bubbly these days. The lusciousness that I love gets, by the last glass, a bit more tedious than I think I would have found it a decade ago, and I think it’s both the style and the short-term age that even this bottling can definitely absorb. (9/11)

The heart of a Cowboy

Tessier 2004 Cour Cheverny (Loire) – This wine, of which I bought a small quantity, has struggled since purchase…or perhaps I’ve struggled with it…but, as is typical, the last bottle turns out to be the best,and the most full of promise. Chalk and wax, as if it was a chenin from elsewhere on the river, but here strictly textural rather than also aromatic. Also, liquefied bones add a sort of wet “structure,” and there’s an acidity that seems to be slightly warm, almost simmering, rather than cooling as it often does. Then, flowers are opening…still pale and timid, but promising full blossom one year. A lovely wine, still little, but I suspect there’s much more story yet to be told. (9/11)

Rossore spot

iuli 2008 Barbera del Monferrato (Piedmont) – Red-fruited with earth, which is exactly what ones want from grape and appellation. Pushed just a little bit into the modern-but-authentic style, in that the fruit is dialed up just a bit, in greater proportion to the acidity than might once have been the case (though Monferrato wines are rarely the sharp little things that other sub-appellations within the Piedmont can be), and as a result the earthen texture also takes on a somewhat greater role. An immensely appealing wine, which makes it all the more confusing that so many producers go on to overburden their barberas with excess fruit and layers of wood. (9/11)

iuli 2007 Barbera del Monferrato “Rossore” (Piedmont) – Pushed fruit, but it’s pressing against a bit of a wall of awkward structure, including a thin wallpapering of tannin that just doesn’t seem to belong to this wine, but feels borrowed from somewhere else. The fruit is pure reddish-purple, there’s plenty of acidity, and there’s black trumpet earthiness, but the flying limbs are really only brought into coherence by food. Though that is, perhaps, part of the point and a lesson. Still, I’ve liked this wine more from other bottles. (9/11)

Canis gold

Vollenweider 2006 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Spätlese 02 07 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – So is this actually a beerenauslese? (NB: it’s not, but there’s no question it’s an auslese in other guise). Massively, powerfully, brain-poundingly sweet…and yet, with the sharp, crystalline acidity that few wines other than German riesling manage to achieve at this level of sucrosity. I’d say the flavors run towards Terminator apple and Full Metal Jacket Meyer lemon, but really it’s just very, very sweet at the moment. One for the cellar. (9/11)

Gaden of Erden

JJ Christoffel 2001 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese 006 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Pearly. Maybe I should use that, rather than my usual descriptor creamy, for the state of maturing riesling, because it more accurately reflects the way in which the various sorts of minerality are retained. This is still pretty sprightly, with a clarity that’s akin to drinking the glass itself rather than what’s in it, but there’s a little here for lovers of riesling past its callow youth. Just a little, though. (9/11)

Lady Souverain

Chateau Souverain 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley) – Club-fisted and ham-handed cabernet of acceptable quality. It hasn’t done anything I’d identify as “age,” but has instead just gotten older; drying out, turning from dark berry to dried herb and green tobacco, and dusting everything with slightly stale black pepper. That may be harsher than the wine as it exists deserves, because it’s a fair expression of grape and, to the extent that such can be discerned, a vague sort of place, but unless I’m very wrong (which would mean the wine’s just in a closed stage, though its general fulsomeness suggests otherwise), I don’t think it’s going anywhere more interesting anytime soon. Or not soon, either. (9/11)

Feet of Clayvin

Fromm “La Strada” 2001 Pinot Noir Clayvin (Marlborough) – Cooked. A recent purchase, so not indicative of properly-stored bottles. (9/11)

Mon dia at a time

La Mondianese 2009 Grignolino d’Asti (Piedmont) – While I appreciate the “traditional” almost-oxidized, brownout style of grignolino of which I’ve tasted a fair amount, I do prefer the grape’s more intact charms. And charming this is, with gentle dried red berries and fresh tobacco leaves done in a “cute” style. Impossible to dislike. (9/11)

She knows white, too

JM Raffault 2010 Chinon Blanc (France) – Mineral-driven (no surprise from Loire chenin), though as Chinon rather than one of the more popular chenin appellations, the rocky take’s quite a bit different. Dry – I don’t mean in the sense of lacking sugar, though it does, but in the parched sensation provided by the wine’s stony starkness – with a bit of wax and a sort dense flesh of monotonality. It’s better than that, though. I’m struggling to find the correct descriptors here, as one might notice. (8/11)

Bernede ladies

Bernede “Clos La Coutale” 2008 Cahors (Southwest France) – This can be a forbidding bottle in its youth, even given the appellation’s reputation for either early anger or offensive oak-softening, but for whatever reason this wine unfolds itself rather quickly. Tannin and a dark wall of blackness are all that’s there at uncorking, but then a spectrum of fruit – noir to rouge – develop while iron, salt, and charcoal filter into the foundational void. In less than an hour, it’s a complete, reasonably approachable wine that – while it still needs a little grazing-animal muscle to tame its scowl – offers no reason why it can’t be consumed now. I think it will be better later on, but if there’s any such thing as an early-drinking Coutale Cahors, this is it. (8/11)

Marsanne, you don't have to put on the red light

Marsanne 2007 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Really, that’s the guy’s name. This, however, is a red. As a cooperative Crozes, it’s not bad: baked-out fruit with some roasted peanuts and a warming comfort suffusing the whole thing. It’s pleasant. But it’s not a cooperative Crozes, which makes it about twice as expensive as it should be based on the quality. I’d say ambitions were not met here, but I suspect ambitions (or their lack) are part of the problem. (8/11)

31 October 2011

Let it Bea

Bea 2006 “San Valentino” (Umbria) – This is not beginner wine. Strappy, with glass shavings in the cat o’, tropical storm lashings of biting fruit somewhere between lavender and your darkest nightmare, with crushed flowers in coal dust tempura and high-speed injections of razor-wire acidity. Alive and elusive, with sharp teeth to bite and sever the arteries of the unaware. Reading back over this note, I’m reminded of the frequent reader complaint regarding similar verbiage: “yes, but did you like it?” Well, here’s the thing: the wine’s really not concerned with being liked, and in fact is about much more than that. It’s that, as much or even more than the usual organoleptic qualities, that I like. It’s not even that the wine’s an intellectual rather than sensual pleasure. In fact, I’d call it, at heart, a primarily psycho-cultural pleasure. (8/11)

Cariola, wayward son

Ferrando 2008 Erbaluce di Caluso “Cariola” (Piedmont) – At uncorking, this is awful. It smells, and tastes, lavishly wooded (NB: it is not) and overly lactic. I loathe it so much that the cork goes back in the bottle after fifteen minutes of eye-squinching unpleasantness and stick it in the fridge, intending to give it another shot the next night. Which I don’t. Two nights later, the cork comes back out, and the wine is in full-throated song. All the worrisome tarting-up is gone, replaced by lush and lavish wild berries (gooseberry, perhaps, though not nearly that aggressive) belled with Yuletide herbs and greenery. Extremely dense, long, and in constant motion. And yet, that lactic-like note lingers on the finish. I wonder if something might not be wrong with this bottle – heat damage? – though the wine is so good that whatever might be wrong can’t do much except postpone the moment of enjoyment. Or maybe there really is something here that I don’t like. The most important lesson, however, is the always-needed warning against snap judgments. In a typical professional tasting, I would never have had the opportunity to revisit my initial dismissal, and that would have been a shame for me, and inexcusable for the wine. (8/11)

I Felton itch

Felton Road 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – I don’t know if the expanding range of single-site pinots being produced at Felton Road are changing the nature of the basic wine or not, but it seems a little simpler than I remember. Simpler, but fuller, so there’s a tradeoff in both good and less good ways. Here is the more familiar plum, beet, orange peel of the Central Otago, without the poise that the entire range used to show, but with more generosity. It’s quite tasty, whatever the circumstances of its birth. (8/11)

More vèdre, please

Tablas Creek 2005 Mourvèdre (Paso Robles) – 14.3%. Hefty, leathery, chewy fruit of the black-hearted variety. Tannins are large-scaled but soft…not quite cashmere, but something sturdier…and there’s a lush black peppery tone late in the wine’s lingerings, which are lingerful indeed. Very, very young, I’d say. (8/11)

Head of the class

Louis Tête 2003 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – Very clearly showing the fundamental flaw of the vintage, which is not extreme overripeness but a ponderous weight paired with both fruit and structure that are not nearly as ripe as the gravity suggests. Even hot-climate gamay, fully ripened, would at least have boisterous fruit. (8/11)

Supermodels on MTV

St. Innocent 2009 Pinot Blanc Freedom Hill (Willamette Valley) – Wow, is this good. The nervy, angular side of pinot blanc, ripe to just the ideal point of apple, pear, and albino cherry, with firm acidity, a fleshy underbelly of minerality, and a very long finish. Impressive stuff. (8/11)

Ladies' Union

St. Innocent 2008 Pinot Noir Temperance Hill (Eola-Amity Hills) – 13.5%. Dense and difficult. Sludgy berries, a dark stew of charred tree and straight-up tar, no fun at all to drink. A stage? I certainly hope so. (8/11)

Indica ink

Lioco 2006 “Indica” (Mendocino County) – Old-vine carignan with some petite sirah. 14.2% alcohol. And it does taste very carignan-ish, with boisterous bubblegum-tinged red cherries (8/11)

Santa Mishy

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Riesling (Columbia Valley) – At first opening, sticky-sweet and very synthetic. Five days later, mostly drained and in the fridge, it’s still sticky but has the very beginning hints of rieslingish sharp-apple character. I think it’s only a dying gasp, though; this is the sort of thing that, while hardly undrinkable, gives riesling a bad name among future wine folk in their nascence. (8/11)

Raw grapes

Carpazo 2007 Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Grating and surly, with more tannin than its black raspberryish fruit needs, and with more anger than the drinker wants. (8/11)

Alex's Bell

Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port (Douro) – Sweet caramel and baked golden plum. Simple. (8/11)

Roses in bloom

Rosenblum 2007 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 15.1%. Cudgel zin, but at least it’s wrapped in foam padding. Not really enough of anything except alcohol, of which it has a little too much. It’s not really worth a pummeling, it’s just sorta…eh. (8/11)

Not Dutch cheese

Terras Gauda 2004 Rías Baixas “Abadia de San Campio” Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Fully oxidized and undrinkable. (8/11)

Terras Gauda 2004 Rías Baixas “O Rosal” Albariño (Northwest Spain) – Beyond oxidized and worse than undrinkable. (8/11)

Lytton around

Ridge 2006 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – 80% zinfandel, 16% petite sirah, 4% carignan, 14.7% alcohol. For me, Lytton Springs is often the most difficult of the mainline Ridge zins to enjoy young, just because it’s so structured and muscular. So that this is drinking so spectacularly despite both those qualities being in firm evidence is more than a bit of a surprise. In fact, this is about the most exquisitely balanced young Lytton I’ve tasted, and even the youthful oak potpourri is restrained and elegant. Does this mean that the wine won’t age as long as some of the Lytton classics that have had their maturities measured in decades rather than years? The back label essay suggests it won’t, but it’s so enjoyable on the earlier side that I don’t think many will mind, as long as it’s not indicative of a trend away from the beautiful, long-aging wines of the past. (8/11)

A Dusi of a zin

Ridge 2006 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 100% zinfandel from Dusi Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, 14.6% alcohol. Hyper-concentrated as befits the appellation, but not jammy or goopy. Well, not overly goopy. There’s structure, but there’s plenty of heat. Plenty of ripe, boisterous fruit to go with it as well, but this is about as far from, say, Nalle as zin can get while remaining in my palate wheelhouse. The thing is, the alcohol’s not numerically over-endowed, so the overt size this wine can sometimes carry is missing, and that helps with handling the zap-pow nature of the fruit, but it is still evident, and not everyone will enjoy that. I wouldn’t hold it very long, either. (8/11)


Pieropan 2007 Soave Classico (Veneto) – This has always seemed like drinking pure liquid essence of some gritty white-powder mineral, reserved to the point of austerity but with a certain majesty…a bit faded, but still proud. What “fruit” there is shows leafy and easily-blown by the wind. (8/11)

We are the Champs, mes amis

Fèvre 2009 Chablis “Champs Royaux” (Chablis) – A pure expression of both Chablis and the Fèvre style, neither separable from the other, writ easygoing with inner complexities for tastes that run towards both drinkability and interest. Fresh yellowish-white fruit, lots of shell-game minerality, a touch of winemaking, all in excellent balance. It will age a little bit (and beyond a little bit I no longer trust white Burgundy, from anyone), and should be good at any point along that journey. (8/11)

Hasel & Grentel

Eichinger 2006 Hasel Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal) – Just beyond the basic, pepper-and-froth profile of the grüner I keep reading was poured from casks in Austrian bars (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been in one) into something just a little juicier and creamier, but still edgy. Overall light-bodied, with a refreshing lift to it. Simple, clean fun. (8/11)


Valle dell’Acate 2009 Il Frappato (Sicily) – Less adventurous or aspirational than the ones I’ve been drinking from Occhipinti and COS, but still utterly refreshing; like spiky young Beaujolais, except with more flowers and less squeezed-berry fruit. Volcanic? Maybe the power of suggestion. But it’s absolutely delicious while not quite allowing itself to be thirst-quenching...fun, but not too fun. (8/11)


Mastroberardino 2008 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso (Campania) – Deep, dusty, dark with a fresher exterior; this is a lot more impressive than I remember it being. There’s both good and bad in that impressiveness, though: there’s an incredible amount of appealing flavor, but there’s also a polish and slickness to it. It’s hard to deny the wine’s quality, but ultra-naturalista-hippiedynamic drinkers might turn up their dirt-infused noses. Not to tease or anything… (8/11)

Monot prix

Gachot-Monot 2006 Côte de Nuits-Villages (Burgundy) – A little bit gangly and awkward, but the sinews are good. Red berries tinged with hints of black’n’blue, snappish tannin in a thin wedge, good persistence with a tart afterthought. More time? Sure, I suppose. I don’t know this producer well enough to even guess. (8/11)

Complementary altitude

Nigl 2002 Grüner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit (Kremstal) – Heavily oxidized, undoubtedly due to its closure. There’s some creamy goodness still clinging to the last dregs of life, but mostly this was just trashed by plastic. My fault for holding it without checking under the hood…or the capsule, that is. (8/11)

22 October 2011

A Noval idea

Quinta do Noval 1985 Porto (Douro) – Delicious but still more primary than not, which state I expect to persist for a time measured in decades. It’s certainly enjoyable despite the lack of movement, with a rich and extremely intense mélange of berries cut on the horizontal axis by significant tannin and on the vertical axis by fine acidity. And while it’s certainly sweet, it shares with better Ports a dominant vinosity that makes the sucrosity much more interesting as counterpoint rather than point. I’m lucky enough to have more of this, and will not be even attempting another exploration for a good long while. (8/11)

Now with extra muris

Château d’Arlay 2000 Vin Issu de Raisins Surmuris (Jura) – A declassified macvin (I was told the whys of it by the producer, but other than a vague memory that it was rejected as atypical I’m not certain of the reason). Powerfully, intensely, tooth-infusingly sweet. If I may deliberately misappropriate the French name, this really does taste like raisins. Hyper-ripe dates, as well, drizzled with molasses and with the scent of pine sap lingering somewhere in the background. It’s pretty amazing stuff, but a very little bit goes an extremely long way. (8/11)

Gigondas Kapital

Faraud “Domaine du Cayron” 1998 Gigondas (Rhône) – So very smoky, but it’s the lingering evening smoke of a long-tended fire over which beasts have been slowly turned. There’s also rock…a firm outcropping of rock…and a surprising bit of acidity, though this latter is mostly evident due to the erosion around it rather than some sort of surplus. Really fabulous Gigondas from a then-really fabulous producer (modern reports, which I can neither confirm nor deny, tend towards worrisome inconsistency), at the peak of what I want from aging the stuff. (8/11)

One candle short

Equipo Navazos “La Bota de Fino 15” (Jerez) – Complex. Deep. Really extraordinary. I tend to think of fino – talking the mass of it here, not just the finest examples – as mostly linear, but this is all polygons and helixes, and there’s more to find in every glass. (8/11)

Beatified Fitzgerald

Edmunds St. John 2001 Syrah (California) – As much as I adore Steve Edmunds’ wines, I’m now fully convinced that they’re almost never ready. Some of his oldest work (not this), tasted of late: nope, still not ready. This, a multi-site blend of which I drank a rather embarrassing quantity while thinking it was progressing with one bottle, then regressing with another. It’s still not “ready” in a sense that fans of full maturity would wish. What it is: structured, frankly a little bit closed, feinting at the dark, vaguely mean-spirited berries within, and doing a frustrating dance where it begins to emerge and then tortoises in on itself. I almost want to send a bottle of this to someone with a cold basement who doesn’t like wine, just to spare myself the bottle-uncorking curiosity that has obliterated most of my stock, and then ask for it back in twenty years. It probably still won’t be ready. (Oh: in case this carping obscured the more important point, it’s a really good wine that’s going to be really really good one day. I’m sure of it. Some religious text somewhere must say so.) (8/11)

Last in the grave

P. Blanck 1997 Gewurztraminer Furstentum “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – 375 ml. Cruising along, essentially untouched by time. Quite sweet, extremely flavorful (roses and rambutan syrup), not all that complex, with fair structure and plenty of cream. Maturity, and its concomitant complexity, are a long, long way down the road. (8/11)

Burgaud meister

JM Burgaud 2002 Morgon Côte du Py (Beaujolais) – From magnum…and, I should note in terms of recording Beaujolais’ recent ascendancy, sold for a price that would be a the lowish side for a 750 of quality Morgon (Côte du Py or not) these days. So, anyway, Burgaud is known for what seems a surplus of muscularity and burl, and they haven’t receded a whole lot. What has receded is the fruit, so that the whole picture is rather smoky at the moment, and fairly ungenerous. Normally I’d be confident that this is just a closed phase, and there’s no reason not to maintain that confidence other than my unfamiliarity with older Burgaud. (8/11)

French tennis

Château Graville-Lacoste 2009 Graves (Bordeaux) – So reliably solid, greens and whites atop a bed of hay. A little dash of salt, a little sprinkle of white pepper, and a lot of good clean fun. (8/11)

And Pepsi is the father

Coquelet 2008 Chiroubles (Beaujolais) – Not in the best of all possible places, this is showing some withering muscle in a stew of bright acidity, all of it washed in vivid red hues. I suspect it will emerge later in a better-knit state, but right now it’s a little knotty. (8/11)

Michelin silver medal

Studert-Prüm 2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese ** 11 04 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – 375 ml, cork soaked through, and a wine that may or may not be showing signs of that damage. I’ve had it intact before (cork-wise; I can’t speak for the wine), and it was good-but-only then. This seems pretty much the same. Maybe a slight whiff of caramel to start, but that blows off rather abruptly. What’s left is creamy, but it’s not the cream of riesling maturity, it’s the cream of sucrosity. This is a very sweet wine. (I initially wrote “powerfully” there, but there’s nothing powerful about this wine; it’s girthy without much force or pressure, and to its detriment. There’s peach, orange/vanillasicle, a very long finish, some brushes with the faintest ground iron. Maybe in time? A lot of time? Perhaps. I’m dubious, though. (8/11)

Don't be a Maurin

Domaine La Bérangeraie 2006 Cahors “Cuvée Maurin” (Southwest France) – Rich, aromatic, delicious. Full of ripe, wet soil and black-skinned fruit, with a fabulously floral aroma. A surprisingly terrific performance, far earlier than I’d expected it. (8/11)

Arzak mountain

Chateau Montelena 2008 Zinfandel (Napa Valley) – Classically structured Napa zinfandel, though without the aggressive hardness of some I don’t like (Dickerson) nor the lavish structure of those I do (the Storybook portfolio). Which is another way of saying that the number of Napa zins I like is few, yet here’s one I love for its fine balance of the darkest fruit, crisp acid, and a quick zip of tannin. This might well age, but my bottle doesn’t even last an hour after uncorking, so I’ll never know. (8/11)

Men's road

Château Guiraud 2001 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Extremely advance, to a point that I can’t believe this bottle is intact. Already here are the bronze, caramelized, slightly oxidized brown sugar elements of mature Sauternes, and that’s just extremely unlikely after only ten years. (8/11)

Schhoek to the system

Boekenhoutskloof 2006 Semillon (Franschhoek) – Still clinging to the sweat and leaf stage of the grape, but there’s also a creamy, almost lactic element in development. The result is something more weirdly acrid and aggressive – though this has never been a shy wine – than at any previous stage, and since I don’t really have hope that this will age like, say, Hunter Valley or Bordeaux semillon, I’d probably drink any remaining bottles soonish. (8/11)

Effraied to die

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “L’Effraie” (Loire) – Drinks as if white flowers have been slammed, repeatedly, into a limestone wall. Soft and hard at the same time. I’m not sure what to think about its future development, but it’s a pretty intriguing drink now. (8/11)

Sheep in paradise

La Pépière 2008 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie Les Gras Moutons “Cuvée Eden” (Loire) – Perhaps not the ideal time to be drinking this, as its bones and acids are showing without a whole lot of the flesh that was there at release. Finishes very long and with growing intensity, so there’s definitely promise. (8/11)

Hooked on a feeling

Lageder 2004 Pinot Bianco Haberlehof (Alto Adige) – This was so firm and mineral-driven in its youth that I decided to age it a while to see what happened. Answer: not much. It got creamier, of course, but otherwise, it’s the same wine it was. Just older. Would more age help? Maybe, but I’m not confident. (8/11)

...and some are sheim

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – A bit closed, which here means that it’s showing more riesling and late harvesting than Sommerberg at the moment. It is, like most Boxler Sommerbergs, poised and confident, but I think it needs a whole lot more time before it’s ready to strut. (8/11)

Joe LaCava

German Gilabert Cava Brut Nature Rosat (Cataluña) – Trepat and garnacha. Less interesting than the white, with fruit sheets wrapped around bones. All treble, little midrange, no bass. (8/11)

Gee, a French bear

German Gilabert Cava Brut Nature Reserva (Cataluña) – Macabeo, xarel•lo, and parellada. If I say that this is the best cava I’ve ever had, that shouldn’t be over-interpreted as a superlative; while I’ve had my share of cava over the years, almost none of it has been aspirational. Nuts and flowers with an inner electricity; this is very appealing, but its duration is extremely short. I don’t mean that the finish is short, I mean that it’s so gulpable that it’s gone in mere minutes. (8/11)

18 October 2011

A tip of the Capp

Cappellano 1961 Barolo (Piedmont) – Some things transcend description not because of their inherent qualities but because of their unlikely reality. So it is with old wines. I mean, I love describing them – the longest note I’ve ever written was about a Vouvray of about this age – but when one has been lucky enough to have a fair number of such artifacts, the purpose of extensive notation becomes less clear. Because, really, how meaningful is the description? There’s almost none of this wine left, what’s left is incredibly expensive, and even if a bottle can be secured the likelihood of this bottle and another having much in common grows lower each year. So here, there’s a fragile, incredibly delicate wine of sweet berries and almost no remaining structure, and while that fragility shouldn’t be mistaken for decrepitude (it’s extremely intact, supple, and present), it’s certainly not going anywhere else worth waiting for. It’s a beautiful, beautiful old wine, with its diminishing bottle count reduced by one, but I enjoyed drinking it more than I’ve enjoyed writing about it. (8/11)

Captain Krug

Krug 1989 Champagne Brut (Champagne) – My taste in Champagne has drifted away from the world on which Krug sits atop (or near) the mountain, so I’m not sure my assessment will be what it was back in the days where I would have bathed in Bollinger should the lottery have come my way. Laden with toast, brioche, yeast, and bronzer, this is a powerfully heavy Champagne. And yet the number of notes it sounds are few…fewer than I’ve become accustomed to after drinking my way through a lot of the small growers’ efforts. I like it – of course I do, it’s extremely well-made – but it is well-made, and that gilded aspiration is evident. The thing is, by complaining in this particular way I’m kind of asking Krug to not be Krug, which is ridiculous and presumptuous. I guess what I’d ultimately conclude is that I’d be more enamored of its Krugness were it a heck of a lot cheaper. That, of course, is not the case, and one pays for Krug more than one pays for a Krug, if that distinction makes sense to anyone other than me. (8/11)


Produttori del Barbaresco 2006 Barbaresco (Piedmont) – L.10.155, for those keeping track. A really nice wine, with the dry structure and dried aromatics of a fine nebbiolo. It’s blendedness keeps it from expressing any particulars from its place, yet it does taste like a Barbaresco. (7/11)

Produttori del Barbaresco 2006 Barbaresco (Piedmont) – I don’t know that I’d often be moved to call any Bararesco not issuing from the house of Gaja or their brethren as “lush,” but there’s a certain lushness to the granulated flower petal aromatics of this wine that have always been part of its early appeal. That said, it’s less fleshy than it was at release, already retreating behind tannin that (again, in context) seemed a little smoother and more approachable than normal. It needs food right now, but very soon all it’s going to need is time. (9/11)

Summer of '68

Occhipinti 2010 “SP68” Bianco (Sicily) – Sweaty (good sweat) crystalline stone fruit and flowers. Heavy, but sitting atop a strong updraft. It’s a little difficult to get to know, but maybe a few more dates are required. (7/11)

Triacca back

Triacca 2007 Valtellina Superiore Sassella (Lombardy) – Razor-slashed violets and carnivorous wild berries. Yet despite the implied violence, this is a fairly restrained Valtellina…tame, even…which has both good and bad sides. The good, of course, is that it’s much more approachable for the Valtellina-suspicious. The bad is that its cultists may find this not Valtellina-ish enough. Neither suspicious nor a cultist, I find the wine quite pleasant and very amenable to food. (8/11)


Musar 2009 "Jeune" (Bekaa Valley) – 60% cinsault, 20% syrah, 20% cabernet sauvignon. To the extant that there’s Musar-ishness here, it’s in the minor dalliances with brett and volatile acidity. But mostly, this is just sun-roasted fruit, not overdriven but fairly pleasant. A little paint-like on the finish. The wine’s just OK. (8/11)

15 October 2011

Roy boy

Roh “Les Ruinettes” 2007 Vétroz Grand Cru (Valais) – High-society wildness. Glacial minerality, an almost icy texture, crystals, fine-grit particles, austere lemon pith, and verve to spare. An intensely interesting wine, as intriguing as I’ve tasted from Switzerland in a very long time. (7/11)

Roh “Les Ruinettes” 2007 Vétroz Grand Cru (Valais) – Chasselas. Even weirder than the previous bottle, and in ways that make it slightly less interesting…alien vegetation, white lightning (the atmospheric effect, not the backwoods spirit), and salt taking place of some of the minerality. Though there’s still a good dollop of the latter. A wine-savvy friend once opined that despite riesling’s heady reputation, chasselas was the most terroir-transparent white grape, and the more I taste, the more I see his point. I haven’t come to agreement yet, but that’s because I’ve tasted about 500 rieslings for every chasselas I’ve encountered. Give me time. (8/11)


Roh “Les Ruinettes” 2009 Pinot Noir Grand Cru de Vétroz (Valais) – Overworked fruit, made to spin the gerbil wheel way faster than it’s able. Goopy without substance, candied, almost like wine syrup that has then been diluted with brackish water. I did not like this at all, in case the preceding wasn’t clear. (8/11)

Sölva problem

Sölva & Söhne “Belldès” 2008 Vernatsch (Alto Adige) – Seductive violet fruit, fine-grained minerality with more than a touch of graphite, and juiciness. Verve-acious, to coin a term. I love this. (8/11)

(Don't) lay down Torselli

Torselli 2003 VinSanto del Chianti Classico (Tuscany) – 50 cl. I don’t, as a rule, drink much vin santo these days, and thinking about it for a while I realized that it was because so much of what I tasted was sort of tedious. Not bad, just much less interesting than sweet wines from elsewhere. Here, though, that tedium is coupled with another problem: the vintage, which tended to render sweet wines a little flabby and vapid. This is the case here. Sweet gold fruit, hacked off at the edges and without much of a start or finish. (8/11)

It can be your klang, too

Michlits 2009 “Meinklang” (Somló) – Hungarian wine from an Austrian producer, 100% hársevelü and biodynamic. And, I must say, better than most of the Austrian-sourced wines I’ve tasted from this label. A little bit exotic, as if there’s a blizzard of alien minerality whirling around the wine, but eventually it settles down to some chilly grey intensity with just enough excitement. (8/11)

Dig F-ing Beal?

De Ponte 2010 “D.F.B.” Melon de Bourgogne (Willamette Valley) – To my knowledge, this is the first domestic melon de bourgogne I’ve tasted (barring it being a minor player in a blend). And it’s quite credible. Fuller than western Loire versions, of course, but with that crushed-shell dryness that features in many Muscadets; I guess it’s a varietal signature after all. Otherwise, the fruit’s pale yellow and sunny. A nice quaff. (8/11)

Preserving elli

Bera 2006 Canelli “Arcese” (Piedmont) – “It’s cider!” remarks one dinner guest. Well, yes, in a way; anti-naturalistas will point and complain. And it’s true that it’s not very much like what it used to be. But lingering memories of muscat and a reminiscence of something that was almost, but not quite, sparkling do still mark the wine. What marks it more, at the moment, is a skin-bitterness that I think helps along the sensation of apple-derivation. All that said, the basic “problem” is mostly just that it rewards being held this long in odd and difficult ways, and it’s probably better to drink it earlier. (8/11)

Reflet mignon

Nicolet “Domaine Chante Perdrix” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Sélection Reflets” (Rhône) – Rusty old fruit, dried herbs, hand-hewn wine cave, and well-dried meat. A fine old CdP in the sunset of its years. Drink up, with pleasure but not with overly aggressive food. (8/11)

The little major

Le Piane 2009 Colline Novaresi “la maggiorina” (Piedmont) – On day one, the “red “riesling” identity of its youth is gone, replaced by a difficult, gauzy, structure-dominated acceleration of dark-toned fruit. Day two brings more familiar elements, dustier tannin, alpine flowers, and sharper acidity. So it depends on what one wants from the wine, I guess: day one, or day two. (8/11)

12 October 2011

See? F*** Émile!

Trimbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Riesling popsicle, or perhaps sno-cone (Philadelphia water ice?), with a dry syrup of Makrut lime leaves and aromatic straw. Very long, with all the trappings of a majesty it just doesn’t achieve. There’s a lack of sufficient acidity, for one thing, and the narrative complexity typical of the wine ends somewhere in the middle of the second chapter. In some ways, this wine is ready to drink and probably won’t reward more cellaring. In others, it’s perpetually unready; a failed dauphin. (8/11)

COS & effect

COS 2008 Frappato (Sicily) – My hand-in-your-wine-geek-card secret is that, bottle for bottle, I prefer this to the middle initial’s neice’s frappato, due to a more developed and complex character and far fewer problems with brettanomyces and/or volatility. I think there’s more upside potential in Arianna’s wine, but it’s not realized consistently enough (and I should note that I’m speaking only of the frappato here, not the range). As for this version, black raspberry and boysenberry snap crackles with energy without bursting beyond its boundaries. There’s dusty black earth with gentler grey tones and a long, welcoming finish. An assured wine. (8/11)

Bou...what he said

Boekenhoutskloof 2009 Semillon (Franschhoek) – The nervy, Van der Graaf generator electricity of this wine…green, lurid, and always snappish – is layered with a coating of something sticky and even buttery. Wood? An awkward malolactic fermentation? Bad bottle? Whatever the source, I hate it. Not the wine, overall, but this unwelcome new development. (8/11)

Richard Crena

Punta Crena 2008 Riviera Ligure di Ponente Vigneto Isasco Vermentino (Liguria) – Delicious. Simultaneously arboreal and saline, with a sizzle of structure helixed with minerality. This is a wine that’s both fun and an intellectual pleasure. (8/11)

Coudert taint these proceedings?

Coudert 2002 Fleurie Clos de la Roilette “Cuvée Tardive” (Beaujolais) – Corked. (8/11)

When the Schuster crows

Schuster 2006 Riesling (Waipara) – Creamy corn silk and rounded, polished rocks. Fully mature (though I doubt it's in danger of falling apart), long, and quite delicious. (8/11)

The maison of mugs

Steininger 2006 Riesling Steinhaus (Kamptal) – Mostly firm wet-mineral “fruit,” salts and dried apple dust in place, but it gets just a bit sloppy at the fringes and as it tails. (7/11)

You might get eaten, etc.

Gruet Brut (New Mexico) – Clean, frothy, somewhat dilute. (8/11)

It's that little souvenir

Storybook Mountain 2007 Zinfandel Napa Estate (Mayacamas Range) – 14.6%. Disclaimer first: I am not, as a rule, a fan of Napa zinfandel (finding it over-structured and under-pleasurable), but Storybook has long been the primary exception. This rides a line between the exception and the rule, with dark berries (fresh with geysering ripeness) turned linear and solid by a near-straitjacket of mostly tannic structure. I think, like many wines from this estate, it will reward aging. (7/11)

Don't mess

Texier 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Having consumed a fair quantity of this over the last little while, I guess the age of the wine never fully occurred to me. But now, the difference in supple development between this and other CdR made in recognizably similar ways makes sense. I don’t know if I’d call the wine’s rich palette (yes, that’s the spelling I intend) fully mature, but it’s certainly mature enough to be interesting. (7/11)

The Principauté of moments

Charvin 2007 Vin de Pays Principauté d’Orange “à côté” (Rhône) – Easygoing Provençal warmth, not a bit of it about “fruit” as such, but more about a farmhouse-dotted countryside and a slower way of life. (7/11)

...and his little buddy Gilligan

Capmartin 2007 Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl Sec (Southwest France) – Perfumed and powdery, with fruit exotica (custard apples come to mind) and a swirly core. Gets more and more interesting as it airs. (7/11)

The middle of the back

Mittelbach 2010 Zweigelt Rosé (Lower Austria) – Rose petal, tart wild strawberry not entirely free of greenness, blushing hues and tones. And yet, icy despite the blush. Simple, with stirrings of prettiness. (7/11)


Bianco Aldo 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont) – Dark fruit, with tannin and some acidity in place, but also with a sticky, coffee-like residue that detracts. Awkward and generally insignificant. (7/11)


Costières & Soleil “Sélectionné par Laurence Féraud” 2009 Vin de Table “Plan Pégau” (Rhône) – Even more structured and manly than usual, which makes me wonder if the non-Rhône-traditional grape component of this wine has been upped. Dusty, a bit tarry, and hazy with blackened fruit. The ideal match might be mastodon. (7/11)

Grin & Barrère it

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2009 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Mineral-infused wax, hard panes of glassy structure, secretive greenish-white forest fruit. A really intriguing wine, faceted and somewhat mysterious. (7/11)

The Burgundian prince

Thibault Liger-Belair 2007 Hautes-Côtes de Nuits “Le Clos du Prieuré” (Burgundy) – Gentle strawberry/raspberry tartness, balled up tight at points but westering into softness at others. Very pleasant, not really much more than that. (7/11)

M-m-m-my Shardana

Santadi 2004 Valli di Porto Pino “Shardana” (Sardinia) – I very well know, through experience, that Sardinia’s reds can be on the burly side, and yet somehow I’m perpetually surprised when I get an especially gravitic one. I shouldn’t be, anymore. This is black-hearted fruit with tiny shots of espresso and charred rosemary, and though there’s a diagonal rinse of strong acidity it’s not enough to make the wine anything other than heavy. Needs the right food. (7/11)

Julie Faury

Faury 2009 Collines Rhodaniennes (Rhône) – Congratulations to the Collines Rhodaniennes for their promotion to IGP. As for this, it’s pretty classic by-the-numbers Rhônishness, herein described as a good thing. Blackberry-ish fruit more meat-like than sweet-berried, herbs, a bit of dark brood, and a warmth that doesn’t come so much from alcohol as it does from general sun-drenchedness. A nice wine. (7/11)


Cantine Valpane 2009 Barbera del Monferrato “Rosso Pietro” (Piedmont) – Smells stenchy, like it’s been cooped up too long without a good cleansing, and a little reduced as well. All of which portends ill. But the palate is spectacular in comparison, dark and toothsome fruit fired with acidity and built on a foundation of eroded rocks and fossils. As a result, the bottle’s gone so quickly that I don’t get a chance to see what happens to the aroma with some aeration. (7/11)

The Forrester for the treeser

Ken Forrester “Petit” 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Sunfruit, sweet white peach, smooth-textured and round. Such a pretty little wine, ideal for crowds (especially crowds on a budget). (7/11)

Ernie Bock

Dr. Fischer 2008 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling 01 09 (Saar) – Incredibly dull. There’s an initial tinge of reduction, but when that passes – which it does fairly easily – there’s just nothing aside from riesling generalities and Germanic assumptions. Perhaps a bad bottle? I’ve had few outstanding wines from this house, of late, but I’ve rarely had one that was just so void. (7/11)

Nier or far

GA Schneider 2007 Niersteiner Riesling 03 08 (Rheinhessen) – Premature encreamulation. Short and gasaholic. And…scene. (7/11)


Chad 2009 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) – 14.3%. One of those “we can’t tell you where the fruit is really from” wines that are never as good as whatever price they would have gone for in some theoretically better economy. Well, what about at this price? It’s nice. Good pinosity, as the invented term goes, supple fruit with a little earth for muscle, fair structure, ripe but not overblown. Finishes just a touch short, but in this guise it’s inexpensive pinot, so who demands an endless linger? (7/11)

Rabbit-proof wine

Rabbit Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – Powerfully-concentrated neutron fruit, jammy and over-polished. Just too much. Those who insist that “wine is all about fruit, because grapes are fruit” will find all the mindless onanism here that they could ever want. (7/11)


Montinore Estate 2009 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – Tart red fruit, a little razored and volatile, with sharp and unintegrated acidity. It’s far from bad, but were this presented as a cheap little pinot-based quaffer rather than the result of much-trumpeted viticultural and oenological attention I’d be more sanguine. (7/11)