13 May 2011

Don't be l'Effraied of the dark

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “l’Effraie” (Loire) – Semi-oxidized, and though chenin is a grape that can handle a certain amount of oxygen, this has gone too far in a stale, coppered nut direction. There’s still dust and softness, as there was in the wine’s youth, but both have been rendered clumsy by the oxidation. A shame. I have more, so I’m hoping cork variance is at least partially to blame. (5/11)

Mein chance

Viña Mein 2001 Ribeiro (Northwest Spain) – While this has acquired the depth of age, it hasn’t required any actual content to that depth. Then again, I didn’t have it at release, so maybe this is all there ever was. Hollow bronze and gilding; a canister of a wine, rather than the wine itself. It’s not without interest, but it’s a brief intellectual dalliance. Nothing more. (5/11)


Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Really faded. I don’t think it’s just age, I suspect at least partial cork failure, because other recent bottles have been much more flavorful. (5/11)

10 May 2011

Over there

Endless tasting notes, full of obscure metaphors and impossible analogies -- and let's not even get into the ridiculous puns -- not your thing? The long-form pedantry action is over at oenoLogic. Though I can't promise an end to the puns. They've pretty much metastasized at this point.


Trimbach 2002 Riesling (Alsace) – Past it. (5/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Teetering but still clinging to its youthful vibrancy. Where there was iron, stone, and dust, a fierce wind has blown in, though, and away, leaving a photographic memory of same. It’s still everything one expects from négociant Trimbach, but it needs to be gulletized real soonish. (5/11)

09 May 2011


Chateau Tahbilk 1994 Shiraz (Goulburn Valley) – The vines for this wine were planted in 1860, ungrafted and pre-phylloxera. And while I can’t say if it’s the vines, the terroir, or the winemaking, you have to toss everything you think you know about Aussie shiraz when faced with this wine in your glass. Brash acidity, tart reddish-black berries, peppercorns, cedar, and black dust…no, this isn’t what one thinks of as Australian shiraz, but neither is it European; almost no classic syrah from France or elsewhere tastes like this, either. I can’t decide if this is just a little past its best or is merely amidst a very long and lingering maturity; just based on this bottle I’d guess the former, but I’ve had older versions that were still in development, so patience could also be warranted. This is a true treasure, and proof that its neighbors wines don’t have to be made as they are. Whether or not one prefers that they are is a different question, of course. (5/11)


Easton 1998 Zinfandel “Estate” (Shenandoah Valley) – 15.1%. I drank through a fair quantity of this in lingering disappointment, as it never seemed to budge from its youthful expression of fulsome, arboreal fruitiness no matter how many years passed. Well, I think I’ve found the magic number, or at least this particular bottle has. Well into a developed stage of autumnal arbor, with meat and herb waving from the horizon. It’s still fruity, but the wild black juiciness is tempered by an encrustation of black pepper. And frankly, the alcohol is virtually unnoticeable; so much so that based on organoleptic evidence alone, I’d have guessed something much lower (looking at the wine’s adhesiveness to a glass tells a different story, but that’s cheating). This is a lot more interesting now than it was. (5/11)


Red Newt Cellars 2007 Dry Riesling “Reserve” (Finger Lakes) – The petroleum factory called. They’d like their tank back. I want to like this, because the structure is so nervy and vibrant, but the wine is just buried in gasoline. A shame. (5/11)

06 May 2011

She turned me into a riesling!

Red Newt Cellars 2009 Riesling (Finger Lakes) – There’s data on the back label! Let’s see what it says: 3.4% residual sugar, 8.7 g/l total/titratable acidity, pH 3.1, mking the wine medium-sweet on their helpful scale. Since sarcasm could easily be considered my baseline tone, let me issue a corrective: I kind of love this level of information, and wish that more wines with definitionally ambiguous sweetness levels would provide this or similar information. Alsace, I’m looking at you, with a sideways glance at Vouvray, certain Sancerrois...and we could keep going along these lines for a while.

Unfortunately, in this case I think information outpaces quality. There’s a froth-textured and dilute salinity that is, for me, characteristic of riesling that’s not developed enough…I use that word rather than “ripe” on purpose…to bring the grape’s natural precision to the fore. Thus, the sweetness doesn’t soften the impact of a sharp edge, as it does in better rieslings, it just hangs about in bored indifference. By the second glass, I’m equally bored. (5/11)

04 May 2011

Me & Florio down by the schoolyard

Florio 1993 Marsala Vergine “Vecchioflorio” (Sicily) – Tepid. The wan aroma of old, tarnished metals and preserved fruit soon gives way to a vague sort of gesturing in lieu of actual presence. Texturally it’s better, wrapping the palate in liquid silk. The finish broadens somewhat, and the wine’s push towards dryness (it is not dry) is to its benefit. But in the end, it just doesn’t amount to all that much, other than its hefty whack of alcohol and the impression, if not the actuality, of gravity. I miss Marco di Bartoli more and more with each passing Marsala. (5/11)

Facher than the speed of light

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Intense strawberry, with one of the best balancing acts between acid, fruit, and sugar I’ve encountered under this label. Fresher for the lack of a trans-Atlantic trip? A better vintage? Or just an artifact of the environmental bonus multiplier of drinking it in Paris, rather than in a Boston suburb? Well…does it matter? Whatever the cause, this is the best bottle of this wine I’ve ever tasted, and I have consumed a lot. (11/09)

à la Turque

Rondeau Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Pure strawberry lifted by raspberry/cranberry volatility. Fun, fun, fun, and no one’s T-Bird is getting taken away. (4/11)

The first

Bernard-Noël Reverdy “Domaine de la Garenne” 2008 Sancerre Rosé (Loire) – Actually, not bad. (I know…lead off with the lavish praise, right?) Dry, with some flattish minerality exposed – something planar and uniform – and a little patina of raspberryishness. Nothing to think about, but quite drinkable while well-chilled. And had I not written this note hot on the drinking’s heels, I’d never have remembered drinking this at all. Meanwhile, that Reverdy family sure is fertile, isn’t it? (11/09)

Dipsy, Tinky-Winky, La-La, Pons

Les Fouleurs de Saint Pons Vin de Pays du Var “Réserve du Cigalon” Rosé (Provence) – Candied berries, a bit hot, thin, and not very interesting. (11/09)

5D, 6D, 7D...

Emb. 49125D 2009 Cabernet d’Anjou (Loire) – Sweet synthetic strawberry syrup. It’s wine, but I know this primarily because the label says so. And you have to love the romance and revealed cultural history of the winery’s name. (3/11)

02 May 2011


Gibert “Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie” 2007 Corbières (Languedoc) – Geography can fool, at times, and I’ve always felt Corbières was a fine example of that misdirection. One thinks Languedoc, one prepares for dense and dark, and instead one gets a wine with both spice and space. It’s not light, and it’s certainly not lithe, but it blunders its way across the palate carrying a ballast of intrinsic helium, sometimes expressing as a suggestion of froth, other times just pushing both acid and spice to the forefront. Even the fruit itself is more chewy, rustic redness than the scowling brood of so many of the appellation’s neighbors. And this is a very, very tasty example of the type. (5/11)


Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2008 Minervois (Languedoc) – Unlike many previous vintages of this wine…well, actually, all with which I was familiar…this didn’t taste good right out of the gate, or at least no bottle I tried did. As a result, I made two decisions: one good, one potentially bad. The latter was, unfortunately, to go short on cellaring some of this absurdly undervalued wine, because I lacked confidence. The former was to put what little I did have away for a short while. And right now, it’s drinking very prettily (for Minervois) in a way that reminds me of how all the other vintages drank in their first flush of youth. Oh well, my mistake. Here we have meat, baked earth, rosemary stem, and darkness without the overt density that can afflict the wines of the region. There’s structure, though it’s a little tremulous and I do still wonder about the future. The present, however, is very nice. And I’ve already been wrong once about this wine. (4/11)

Haag und das

Fritz Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 3 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Hints of Rainier cherry and yellow plum very quickly give way to anonymous sweetness, general lightness, and a slight “push” to the structure that, ultimately, amounts to pretty much nothing. Getting cotton candy-ish in the finish, which for me is never a good sign from German riesling. Good thing I only have, oh, eight or nine more bottles… *sigh* (4/11)

Ling Ling

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Slight threads of oxidation woven into wet iron, though the iron itself is that sort of stale, dried blood character that riesling can sometimes show as it peeks into its decrepitude. An underperforming bottle, though I do think it’s time to drink this wine if you’re holding any. (4/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Iron, steel, stale water, radish greens, and a short finish. Drying out. (5/11)

First Blaches

Michel 1999 Saint-Joseph “Le Bois des Blaches” (Rhône) – Note: a fairly recent purchase, provenance unknown. Watery and dried out, with only a suggestion of herbed jerky aroma remaining. Could this just be closed? There’s not a single textural or structural signal that it might be holding absolutely everything back. I’d be more likely, given the source, to suspect damage than I would a still-evolving wine. Better-sourced versions might well be performing in a more interesting way. (4/11)

From wrong

Southern Right 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – Fading. I think that’s what’s happening, rather than closure, because along with the watered-down aromatics and thinner palate there’s also a diminution of body, which would usually be more persistent were the wine in a holding or development pattern. What’s left is some basic varietal character, pea-green and snappy, with fair acidity and some lingering minerality. But this has fallen quite a long way in one short year, and the future doesn’t seem promising. (4/11)

Ham, Burg

Deiss 2002 Burg (Alsace) – Like drinking fruit-flavored lead. A completely limp, lifeless, neutron star of a wine, showing ponderous (and, it must be noted, not insignificantly oxidized) fruit that might, once, have lived somewhere in the strawberry realm…if strawberries were made of fissionable material. This has far more in common with the grossest offenses among New World pinot noirs than it does the sugary offenses of Alsace. So, um, congrats to Deiss? And the much-vaunted terroir-over-variety concept? Unless it’s Deiss’ argument that Burg is a shitty terroir unworthy of the respect of competent winemaking, he’s not making much of a case for it here. (9/10)

A Noval idea

Quinta do Noval 1968 Colheita Porto (Douro) – The trick for colheita and my palate is finding that balance point in which the wine is no longer a simple collection of brown-hued sweetness and spice, but hasn’t yet flatlined into its long, oxidative decline. This is sometimes made trickier by the apparent fact that a lot of dedicated colheita want that latter stage, or at least wish it to be more prominent than I do. So, preferential disclaimers aside, how about this one? It’s marvelous. Less spice and thinned-out molasses than a collection of molten metals…bronze, copper, iron…in whorls and gentle curls. But yes, there’s spice and sweetness as well, and lingering memories of fruit, and a confident persistence. It’s rather beautiful, really. (9/10)

Just a Rieussec

Rieussec 2002 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – If I remember correctly, Rieussec was my first “good” Sauternes. I’d had a few cheapies as a run-up, but this was the one that lit the bulb over my palate; “oh, I get it now!” Since those exploratory days I’ve learned that the botrytized and wooded style is far from my favorite way to consume liquid sugar, and so I mostly drink other things. In a way, then, this was as much a Proustian pleasure as it was an actual pleasure…though it was that, too. Good? Yes. I wouldn’t call it great, though, and that may well be the aforementioned stylistic preference at work (which is why I mentioned it in the first place). All the expected elements – bronzed and preserved fruit, caramelized apples, toasted spices, a warming mélange of bakery aromas – are in place and in balance. There is acidity, but as my preferences run towards sweet wines with a lot more of it, it seems slightly insufficient to me. And it’s not particularly deft with food, either; it can wage (and may win) a battle of richness, but it does not envelop nor allow itself to be enveloped. Still, I don’t want to over-criticize; there is almost no situation in which I would turn a wine of this quality down. (9/10)

Durban engine

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2005 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – I keep waiting for someone to show me a better example of this wine, and year after year I come back to Leyder/Durban as the pinnacle. (I’m open to counter-suggestions, though.) The key, since my very first taste, remains a vibrant foundation of quartz-like minerality. Lots of wineries can do the perfumed sweetness, the orange blossom, the fun. The rocks are something special. And I can only guess that it’s terroir or some sort of particular cellar technique, because I find the same incredibly appealing quality in the winery’s Beaumes-de-Venise red. (9/10)

R. Kelly

R. López de Heredia 2000 Rioja Reserva Viña Bosconia (Center-North Spain) – Not, I think, the best Bosconia of my lifetime. That said, it’s still compelling enough, gentling into its soft, tanned redness enveloped by old wood, then fading away to show its smooth, polished bones. It should be noted that my dining companions, who have never tasted an LdH of any vintage or designation, are utterly fascinated by the wine. So those of less jaded palates may enjoy this more than I do…though I do enjoy it. (9/10)

-ing to and fro'

Dashe 2007 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – Dark little berries, each one offering a tiny explosion of slightly tannic fruit, in a twisted-vine broth of surprising structural lightness; the overall effect is thus one of heft without overt density, of strength without force. Aside from a little dusting of black pepper, it lacks the further complexities one expects from the very best zinfandels, but it delivers everything – fruit, acid, just enough structure – one wants from the grape, without the baggage of booze and volatility that so often hitchhikes. I think it will age for a few years, if one is so-inclined. (9/10)

Tiny two

Santo Tomas 2003 “Duetto” Cabernet-Tempranillo (Baja California) – I expect Baja wines to have a dried out, baked character, and this bottle does not disappoint in this regard. Is this a fair assumption, or have I just had the wrong wines? The fruit’s not shy, but it’s limp. And yes, there’s heat…both in the wine and showing its effects at the wine’s creation…with a premature desiccation that doesn’t bode well for the future. It’s important to say that none of this was unexpected, and I don’t want to overcriticize a wine I purchased specifically for the experience of having Mexican wine with Mexican food. It is what I thought it was, as Dennis Green might say. How often does Dennis Green turn up in wine notes, anyway? (9/10)

Leitz out

Leitz 2002 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese Trocken (Rheingau) – The ever-so-slight touch of cream is a little surprising in this wine, given that it’s so young, but it works wonders in terms of textural cohesion. Everything else is still primary…gravel and dried white flowers, weight and presence, steel under lidded eyes. Surprisingly approachable, and yet nowhere near what it will become. (9/10)

Brander Harris

Brander 2007 “Cuvée Natalie” (Santa Ynez Valley) – Weird, but one approaches this wine knowing that weirdness is on offer. Leafy greens, pale citrus, lurid pink weirdness, and then sort of washing out in a shallow pool of salinity. Did I mention that it’s weird? (9/10)

Oude to a Grecian urn

Hanssens “Oude” Kriek Lambic (Belgium) – Oh, yes. Beautifully tart, but not so iconoclastically acidic that it becomes an Olympic-level challenge to struggle through. Here I suppose I reveal my long-time struggle with the Cantillon style, in which I have to warm up like a beer athlete to deal with the fierce lash of puckering sourness, and which even with said warmup I don’t always warm to. This is less aggressive, and maybe it’s less authentic as a result, but it’s far more to my liking. (9/10)

Old Manhattan

New Holland “Pilgrim’s Dole” Wheat Wine (Michigan) – A barley wine-style brew made, as the name indicates, with wheat. And – here’s a warning – a beverage for those who think barley wines are watery and light. Holy crap is this dense! Nearly opaque, as well. Comes as near as I’d want to drinking pure molasses (without the sugar). It’s fascinating, frankly, but I don’t think I’ll ever want this much of it again. Stylistically, it’s closer to the old Seppelt “Para Port” Liqueur wines than it is any beer of my acquaintance. Worth the experience, at least. (9/10)

Molecular brewology

Two Brothers “Atom Smasher” Oktoberfest Style Lager (Illinois) – Heavy. Good heavy, but heavy nonetheless. I’ll admit that no matter the tradition, this is the sort of style I always feel is (or at least should be) implied by the autumnal name, but is rarely delivered by most beers of similar designation. Weighty, somewhat bitter, somewhat refreshing, and definitely seasonal; one can almost taste the leaves crunching underfoot. Molten rocks. Definitely leaves an impression. (9/10)

On the Mendi

Itsas Mendi 2009 Bizkaiko Txakolina Txakoli “Aihen” (Northwest Spain) – Heavy. I know, it seems absurd to say that about a txakoli, and of course I mean it contextually, but it is heavy. A little heavier than I’d like, frankly. Whitewashed fruit (citrus? lime and grapefruit, maybe, but so blanched it’s hard to tell) and white-walled beachfront housing – yes, I’m aware that isn’t such an easy description to understand, but it’s what this wine makes me think of – blasted by sandstone and empty wind. But it’s just too gravitic for its own good. In a lineup of, say, chardonnays, it would be biting and crisp. But in its own context, I’d prefer a little more zip. Zing. Life. Fun. Any of the above. (9/10)

Duque of Œil

Ferreira “Duque de Bragança” 20 Year Tawny Porto (Douro) – One of the two ways I like my tawny: not so much tawny. Still quite fruity – in fact almost primary – with dark, chewy, still-tannic berries and wild (that is to say, tart) plums. Spice, amber, and haze lurk in the background, which is how one differentiates this from an actual ruby port, but they are still not the lead actors, merely understudies. A very nice wine, sweet but with so many contrasts to that sugar that it operates well as a “table wine” of sorts. (9/10)


Elio Perrone 2009 “Bigarò” (Piedmont) – A brachetto-moscato blend, which is kind of a goofily wonderful idea if it works. Which it does, mostly. Frothy strawberry, leaves, slushy orange blossom perfume, sweetness and foam. Nothing unexpected. It’s fun. Don’t ask questions. (9/10)

High colonic

Anima Negra 2005 “An” (Mallorca) – Internationalized sophistry well-executed and warm, lush with anonymous fruit and coconut-ized into splendid tropicality. Give it a bowtie, a snazzy briefcase, and a cocktail umbrella, and we’re good to go. Not a bad wine, but – not having sampled any of the island’s other wines – I suspect it says fuck-all about Mallorcan terroir. (9/10)


Cedar Knoll 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Weedy and underripe, with nasty green tannin suffused with stale cigarette ash, then treated to a burnt licorice overoaking and nasty, rancid buttering. I can’t get this out of my mouth fast enough. (9/10)

You picked a fine time to leave me

Lucien Albrecht 2007 Pinot Gris “Cuvée Cecile” (Alsace) – Brilliant shattered-glass minerality, the kind that one almost never finds in Alsatian pinot gris anymore, and vibrant acidity lacing illuminated pear and brittle structure. Exciting. Yes, there is a bit of residual sugar, but it’s so well-compensated that it doesn’t matter. (9/10)

Isarco & Carla

Abbazia di Novacella 2009 Valle Isarco Kerner (Alto Adige) – Starts bracing, then falters somewhat into an unfocused sort of refrigerated fruitiness. Something like lemon, apple, tomato…in that wide realm, a palate wandering around looking for clarity. There’s good structure and certainly interest, but the wine is as meandering with food as without. I like it, but that’s as far as I’ll go. (9/10)

Alqueve and take

Fernão Pires “Quinta do Alqueve” 2008 Ribatejo Blanco (Portugal) – Elusive, but deliciously so. Fades away in isolation, tasting of null space and absence, then returning with thousands of atom-thin layers of something I can only describe as succulent dryness. There are hints and rumors of fruit and nut, but they never rise to anything identifiable. The entire taste of this wine is its structure…except, not really. It’s hard to explain, obviously. (9/10)


Ramazzotti Amaro (Lombardy) – Pleasantly bitter, but dominated by licorice-espresso caramel. This might be the best of the commonly-available brands (my opinion changes, often based on what’s in the glass in front of me), but there’s more complexity (and, you know, bitterness) in other brands. (9/10)

Gina Callabriga

Callabriga 2005 Dão (Portugal) – From a bottle opened a day earlier, and already showing signs of fading. There appears to have been some nice black fruit at one point, but it’s lost to history. (9/10)

Nor Serbia

Montenegro Amaro (Emilia-Romagna) – Decidedly on the sweet, mellow side of amaro, showing caramel-based complexities more like a brandy than something more traditionally bitter. A simple pleasure. (9/10)


Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Rosso (Emilia-Romagna) – Sharp, pins-and-needles red fruit lashing and slicing its acidic path through the palate, cleansing everything and taking a layer of something or other with it. There’s some dirt and pepper, too. Really pretty glorious. (9/10)


Metté Marc de Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – So much spice, smoked meat, and coriander whipped up by raw distillate. Very easy to hate, and I almost do…but in the end, it’s just so gloriously weird that I love it. Marc can be appealing or it can be challenging, but I think marc de gewurztraminer is the post-graduate examination of marc; so, so difficult without proper preparation. (9/10)

Oh Veliko...Veliko, Veliko

Movia 2004 “Veliko” (Brda) – A blend of ribolla gialla (or, I guess, rebula here in Slovenia), mostly, with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and pinot noir as potential partners; the blend apparently varies, and I don’t know the specifics of this vintage. The mélange bring some light and shade to the heavier, waxier notions provided by the dominant grape. Lemon and molten silver, silken texture and fine-polished exterior wood, with everything in balance. I have no idea where this is on its evolutionary curve, but it’s drinking beautifully, if simply, right now. (9/10)


Thierry Fluteau Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs (Champagne) – Delicate. Strawberry, perhaps a little clover, with a very fine bead. Initially appealing, but it sort of vanishes into itself in response to attention. Pleasant. (9/10)


Preisinger 2008 Zweigelt (Burgenland) – Extremely aromatic, with a dark, purplish needling quality to the juicy blackberry fruit and a lot of succulent floral stuff chasing after it. Black pepper, too. A lack of density and crisp acidity remind the wine that it’s zweigelt rather than something lusher. Extremely appealing. (9/10)


Shady Lane 2007 Pinot Noir (Leelanau Peninsula) – Prematurely fading, very light, and a little green…all signs of a place, or at least a house, that might not quite have a handle on pinot noir. Whether I should append a “yet” or suggest the terroir isn’t right for the grape isn’t possible to know after just one sample, of course. It’s not bad by any means, and though the autumnal aromatics are already quite advanced, it’s quite drinkable. But the “…for Michigan pinot noir” tag is going to have to be appended to any positive description of this wine for the time being. Who knows what the future will bring? (9/10)


Bulfon 2008 Cividin Valeriano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – A little aromatic (pressed flowers), a little waxy (the paper as much as, say, beeswax), and a lot dry. Makes one come to it, and then still won’t give everything up, but the mystery holds a certain intrigue. (9/10)

Leccia entertain you

Leccia 2008 Patrimonio “Petra Bianca” Rouge (Corsica) – Dark fruit. A little wild. And very, very heavy. It’s not thick, precisely – there’s a reasonable amount of space in the middle (too much, perhaps) – but it’s like a Christmas tree with its outer limbs over-draped and sagging with weighty decorations. Most of that weight is structure, and time will tell what it tells of that structure’s development, but right now it really needs the counterweight of intense animal flesh, or a reasonable equivalent. (3/11)