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)

Wither Canada?

Wither Hills 2005 Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – Hits all the classic Marlborough notes of reddish fruit, spiky acidity, and a green-tinged edge. Unfortunately, those classic Marlborough notes can be, and have been, surpassed by a fair number of much better wines. This is too paint-by-numbers. (7/11)

French currency

Mirassou 2009 Pinot Noir (California) – Wretched, tortured fruit. Well, “fruit.” Because nothing that grows on tree, vine, or bush actually tastes like this. The closest I could come to any version of fruit would be chewing the sticky wrapper of some fruit-paste abomination, getting more wrapper than paste as a result. There’s a nasty char to the finish as well. Avoid, then run far away just to make sure it isn’t following. (7/11)

Broken network

Terlan 2010 Lagrein Rosé (Alto Adige) – Straightforward chilled-berry pinkishness with a slender mineral core. A bit grapey as it lingers. A simple idea, simply executed. (7/11)

Leave the gun. Take the Canelli.

Bera 2006 Canelli “Arcese” (Piedmont) – 11.5%. There’s something between-two-worlds about this wine, with the off-dry(ish) suggestion of froth up front, and the laden structure of a skin-contact white out back. There’s not a whole lot of either, but the contrapuntal juxtaposition is brilliantly intriguing. (7/11)

Puppet show

Vercesi del Castellazzo Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero “Gugiarolo” (Lombardy) – That is to say, the white. There’s something tutti-frutti into which blanched pinot noir falls into rather easily, whether in a modern “blush” conception or in something more traditional. I have no idea what steps are necessary to avoid this, but they weren’t taken here. Without avoiding the candy store, this is reduced to a mere parlor trick, a “stump the drunks” blind item rather than a wine worth the puzzlement. Other vintages (this one lacks a year, though it may have been on the swiftly-disposed cork) have been much more interesting, and lovers of candied pinot noir – heaven knows there’s plenty out there – may find more here to like than I do. (7/11)


Bollig-Lehnert 2002 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Auslese *** 14 04 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – 375 ml. Sweet industrial apple, apricot, lime leaf. The beginnings of cream come to a screeching halt far earlier in the finish than one expect. A disappointment. (7/11)

Bollig-Lehnert 2002 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Auslese *** 14 04 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – 375 ml. Peach, ultra-ripe apple cream, aluminum, none of them saved by a late spike of gooseberry and a hint of Makrut lime. Very simple, straightforward, basic. Young, yes, but it’s already showing signs of quick maturity, and I don’t see much upside. Though maybe I’m wrong.(8/11)


Cincinnato 2009 Lazio Bianco “Castore” (Lazio) – Luminescent lime-green hues, with just the blare of a trumpet behind their insistent honk. A touch warm. I want to think this will age, but I don’t think it has the balance for it. Maybe I’m wrong. (7/11)


Soucherie 2009 Anjou Blanc “Cuvée Les Rangs de Long” (Loire) – Dusty chalk and ambered old lemons, burnished and then allowed to corrode, then polished without removing the corrosion. In other words, it seems more appealing than it really is, and starts out promising much, but as it lingers and attention focuses the appeal begins to diminish. It’s still fine, but it’s not promising much of a future. (7/11)

Is it me you're drinking for?

Mallo 2007 Muscat (Alsace) – Soft, as is the Mallo style, with light perfume and a pillowy texture. Pleasant, if insubstantial. (7/11)

Stolen Christmas

C&P Breton 2009 Bourgueil “Trinch!” (Loire) – Scratchy wild berries and herb, all a-stew, brightened by acidity and sharpened by a quinine-like bitterness. Its structure creates an appealing gluggability that empties the bottle in awfully short order. (7/11)


Descombes 2006 Brouilly (Beaujolais) – Salt-spice, diverting earthiness, a gentle and unclenched hand soft with flesh and yield. This bottle, at least, has done all it intends to do. (7/11)

A little overheated

Petit 2006 Bourgueil “Cuvée Ronsard Sélection Particulière” (Loire) – Completely baked. (Norwich Wine & Spirits was the store, Neal Rosenthal the importer, any other middlepersons unknown) (7/11)

10 October 2011

Brand identity

Zind-Humbrecht 2007 Riesling Brand (Alsace) – Indice 2. 13.5%, and while I have no visual reason (based on adhesion to the interior of my glass) to doubt this number is far off the mark, my palate is screaming that it’s something more like 15.8%. Which it probably isn’t, but that should give one an idea of the incredible, overwhelming density, heat, and pineapple sludge which are this wine’s primary characteristics. "Isn't the Brand supposed to be one of the great vineyards of Alsace," one might ask. Change that verb to "wasn't," and I think we're on the right, if unfortunate, track. Its centuries of value as a perfectly-situated solar attractor may now be working to its detriment in these differently-acclimatized times, and no more so than at houses where extremes of ripeness can sometimes be an end in themselves. (7/11)

Liquefying Greek consonants

Mumelter 2009 Griesbauerhof St. Magdalener Classico (Alto Adige) – I should start by clarifying that the producer insists on “Südtirol” as the regional identity, rather than the Italian form. While the fruit hints at delicacy by its dark skin-toned aromatics and floral suggestions, the wine’s rather blocky. Not in a clumsy, heavy way, but as if it were hewn from a quarry. More or less all the pleasure here is intellectual. (7/11)

Weren't they all white?

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Wax and peach skins. Sun-dried flowers. Quince. Less weighty than a Zind Humbrecht with which it is paired, which says more about the ZH than it does about this wine. Very nice. (7/11)

Hot horse

Firesteed 2008 Pinot Noir (Oregon) – Smells like paint. Having just had the opportunity to experience that smell as a near-constant companion, I feel a certain measure of (hopefully temporary) expertise on this point. And this smells like paint. I’d wager that it tastes like paint, but on that point I’ve no expertise. Certainly, though, paint is unlikely to taste worse. (7/11)

Good knight

Chevalier 2010 Val de Loire Pinot Noir (Loire) – I start with a complaint: the “Imported by Kermit Lynch” sur-label of much comment in crankier realms of the internet is, here, completely over the top in comparison to the proprietor’s identity, and highlights exactly why so many people find this respected importer’s new labeling practice difficult to accept, no matter how wise it might seem from the perspectives of branding and marketing. Who’s the most important person with respect to this bottle’s contents, anyway? If it’s Kermit, then fine; importer-directed cuvees aren’t unknown, certainly not from this particular importer. If not…

As for the wine? It’s tasty. Functionally a rosé with a little more precision than normal, not just in terms of its acidity but also in its pure thrust of pinkish-red fruit. Some flaky, bone-like minerality. Despite it being pink, there’s something about the wine that seems to cry out for fish…especially fish straight from the boat, cooked on a warm beach somewhere, a bottle bouquet of this wine resting (in quantity) in barrels of ice. In which situation, I could drink a lot of this. And then, probably, fall asleep on the beach, surrounded by a little shower of “Imported by Kermit Lynch” labels. (7/11)

Bos on the docks

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Chantemerle Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Salt. Mature, evening drying, with a lot of lacticity (is that even a word? it is now) and Flubber-like stretchiness to the palate. Was this woody in its youth? I don’t recall. It sure seems like it might have been, given the way it tastes now. (7/11)

Don't bopp so gently

Perll 2004 Bopparder Hamm Fässerlay Riesling Spätlese 4 05 (Mittelrhein) – Light cream of white nectarine with an impression of wind. Short. It’s nice enough, but awfully wispy. (7/11)

A carefully-butchered row

Filliatreau 2001 Saumur-Champigny “La Grande Vignolle” (Loire) – Brittle. Dark plum, black soil, and then a MIRV-ing explosion of razor wire. Oddly, despite the bloody retribution the wine apparently seeks to enact, I like this wine. But it needs something alongside that can tame both slashing acidity and cutting tannin. (7/11)

Lambots field

V. Girardin 1996 Pommard Clos des Lambots “Vieilles Vignes” (Burgundy) – Soft and anonymous, and not exactly unmarked by the supremacy of aged wood over aged whatever-else-there-once-was. For reasons that seem inexplicable to me, at some point around the time this was released I bought a bunch of Girardin, and I’ve regretted each as every purchase as I’ve opened it in the years since. These are not wines for my palate, at all. (7/11)

Don't be nosi

Velenosi “Querci Antica” “Visciole” (Piedmont) – A chinato, kinda-sorta, but a very simple one. By which I mean it tastes a lot more like sweetish wine with a few herbal and citric additives than it does a full-fledged experimentation from someone like, say, Vergano, and on the other hand less aggressively retro than a chinato from one of the Langhe traditionalists. It is, also, perhaps a bit surprising that it tastes so wine-like, considering wine is only a supporting player to sour cherries here. The result hits all the correct bitter, sweet, fruity, and vinous notes, and though the harmonies aren’t quite as contrapuntal or evocative as they might be, it’s a tasty little beverage for contemplative after-dinner sipping. (7/11)


Gruber “Punkt Genau” Brut (Weinviertel) – Sparkling grüner veltliner. Not, I should note, overwhelmingly “grüvee” despite the varietal purity, but more of a clean, crisp, straightforward sparkler in the white-green herbed fruit realm. Which, I guess, is sorta grüneresque, but if you’d told me it was sylvaner, or verdicchio, or anything else that can two-step into that realm, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Impose no demands on it, and it will impose none on you. (7/11)

Little fig, little fig, let me in

Figuette “Château La Roque” 2009 Pic Saint Loup Rosé (Languedoc) – A little bit too sticky to be refreshing. Strawberries and raspberries, just a touch candied, with a dusting of thyme maybe? Something vaguely herbal, anyway. I’m not yet completely off Languedoc rosés as a category, but I can tell that day is coming. The percentage of them that are pleasurable beyond their excess weight and/or remnants of the overripe grapes whence they came is just way too small. (7/11)

A Terres in the universe

Brun “Terres Dorées” 2008 Beaujolais “l’Ancien” (Beaujolais) – Bought on closeout, but I’d forgotten the type of closure until it was too late. So this is harsher and far more advanced than the wine deserves, a razor-wire slash of acidity and lacerating red fruit with no generosity or fun to it. Blame the plug, not the wine…and also, blame the buyer, who should have remembered to open this years ago. Back in the day, this was delish. (7/11)

And a slightly redder B

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2007 Jasnières “Les Rosiers” (Loire) – Closing? Dying? Bad bottle? Whatever the issue, each bottle of this has been worse than the last. At this point, there’s little reason to drink any more…so I’m going to hold, going on the increasingly conventional wisdom that one can not open Loire chenin blanc from good sites too late, only too early. (7/11)

All Casorzo stuff going on

Bricco Mondalino 2008 Malvasia di Casorzo “Molignano” (Piedmont) – Malvasia rosso, red, sparkling, a little sweet, and a little bitter. 7%. (7/11)

09 October 2011

Pretty paint

Belle Pente 2001 Pinot Noir “Estate Reserve” (Willamette Valley) – 14.3%. Singing, softly, a simple tune. Just a few notes, but pretty ones. Almost as much powder as liquid, earthen with a spattering of dark berries, and fully mature. (7/11)

Rovere good

Cascina Roera Vino da Tavola “La Rovere” (Piedmont) – Lot LR1, but I can locate no other indication – no matter how secretive, and VdT producers usually find some way to provide this information – of vintage. This is barbera, and I don’t just mean that it’s made from barbera, I mean it is barbera: sharp, violently red, yet precise rather than overwhelming. There’s a dusty minerality that may be about half dark evergreen herbality, but whichever it is it adds great character without dragging the wine into more serious realms than it is willing to enter. Really fabulous for its very simplicity, and the lack of striving for anything other than purity of expression is incredibly welcome. (7/11)

Window syl

Boxler 2007 Sylvaner (Alsace) – This is one of the great inexpensive wines of the world. Except, admittedly in my pricey little corner of the U.S., it’s $24. Thank you ever so, Mr. Importer, and I do hope you’ll be enjoying your retirement soonish. In Alsace, they’re still giving it away vis-à-vis its quality, and while it’s not one of the Great Sylvaners™ of Alsace (nor is it intended to be), it absolutely shows every bit of the grossly ignored potential of this grape on the right sites and with the right care. Tomato leaf, density with antigravitic levitation, mineral salts, a thin-wedge thrust of power without overwhelming force, and behind it all a hidden sense of whimsy. Dark green vegetables, one of the persistent banes of wine matching, find one of their infrequent but overwhelmingly passionate love affairs here. (6/11)

Souvenir or far

Lucien Boillot 2006 “Les Grands Poisots en Souvenir du Beurot” (Burgundy) – My last bottle of this was clinging to life by its well-chewed nails. Not so this one, though it most definitely shows the early tendency towards oxidation common to pinot gris from all but the most ideal sites. Waxed almond and a golden sunset glow still indicate a wine in the waning hours of its life, but at least it’s now clear that a bottle performing up to abilities will show quite well. (6/11)

The shoe is on the other barrel

Muga 1998 Rioja Gran Reserva “Prado Enea” (Center-North Spain) – People argue about the woodiness of this wine, and while it would be ludicrous to say it’s not heavily laden with coconutty, lightly-tanned wood, what makes the oak so obvious isn’t so much its quantity as its flashy upfront-ness, like a dish with just a few dashes too much of a freshly-ground and overly-aggressive peppercorn. There’s plenty else to note and like, including lush red fruit of the baked variety, apple-ish acidity, and dusty brown soil. And experience indicates that this wood will integrate…to a point. Look, it’s (quasi) traditional Rioja; there will be blood wood. I guess my conclusion, meandering though the path to it has been, is that I can’t really criticize this wine too much for being what it claims to be. It is, to be sure, nowhere near the frightening Torre Muga horror show. (6/11)

Rully good

A&P de Villaine 2006 Rully Les Saint-Jacques (Burgundy) – Exquisitely balanced and poised, yet the wine’s more of a warm embrace than it is a chiseled statue or graceful ballerina. Supple fruit with swirls and shades of amber, copper, and silver floats in complete serenity amidst a deft collusion of acid and gentle, antiqued wood. This is breath-catchingly lovely. (6/11)

Caught a code

Revenant 2008 Zinfandel Morse (Sonoma County) – Yes, it’s zin. Frothy fruit (not sparkling in any way, but tactile in the manner of Pop Rocks), some coconut, a bit of spiritousness. More restrained than, say, the sometimes painfully forced version that are exploding from Lodi and other less expensive terroirs these days, but while I generally consider restraint and zin to be welcome partners, I’m not sure much has been done with that restraint. There’s nothing particular wrong here, but one can do a lot better elsewhere. (6/11)

I'll ssou

Mirassou 2009 Pinot Noir (California) – Smells like paint. Literally. I tell someone to close their eyes and take a sniff, and their response is “paint!” (followed by a quick recoil and sneezing). The palate, completely confected and nasty to the extreme, isn’t any better. Truly wretched. (6/11)

Can you take me Shaya?

Shaya 2009 Rueda Verdejo (Castilla & León) – Boisterous yellow-green fruit, a little like fermented Mello Yello™ without the sugar – or at least without too much of it – but the cavorting can’t, in the end, hide the fact that this wine doesn’t have much to say once the Tiggerish bouncing has abated. (6/11)

...on golf

Steindorfer 2007 St. Laurent “Reserve” (Burgenland) – Much more “Reserve” than St. Laurent, which is a crying shame. To translate from Cynical Winegeek, that means: forced fruit, layers of wood, pretense at the expense of purity, striving where relaxation is to be preferred. (6/11)


Kuentz-Bas 2007 Alsace (Alsace) – Fading, which is a bit of a surprise; this was meant to be an early-drinking, fresh and friendly blend, but it’s only four years down the road at this point. Perhaps a failed seal. What’s left is semi-thick and semi-spicy, with wan structure. (6/11)


Vullien 2009 Vin de Savoie Montmélian (Savoie) – Stern, rocky, firm. Somewhat above it all. But the ground lemon-glass texture and grayscale minerality are quite appealing. (6/11)

How, how, how, how

B. Baudry 2009 Chinon Les Granges (Loire) – Lucious spiced rock, loamy earth, misted herb, and fruit dust. That complex, and yet simpler than that as well. I could quite happily drink this in open-spigot quantities. (6/11)

And then I met a 3

Gilbert 2007 Menetou-Salon Blanc (Loire) – Basic, wide brushstrokes of sauvignon blanc, with a wet iron tinge that is (for me) an occasional signature of the appellation. A little short, and filed-down elsewhere along its path, this is more or less or OK. (6/11)


Navarro 2006 Dry Gewürztraminer (Anderson Valley) – Some peach, some almond, some lychee bark, some structure. Some, some, some. That, to me, is the story of so many of Navarro’s wines…which I always like, but rarely think are what they could be. (6/11)


Coudert-Appert “Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois” 2007 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – There was a time when this Fleurie would have pleased me greatly, and that time was back when I realized just how indifferent Dubœuf’s Beaujolais are. And while I couldn’t in any way say that I’m displeased, especially as the soft multi-berried fruit and gentle soil elements are nicely crisped by acidity, there really isn’t much comparison except in the broadest strokes between this and more exciting Fleuries, like Chermette, Métras, Coudert (the latter is a bit of a special case, granted), and so forth. Still, one can do a lot worse. (6/11)

Joe Magaña

Barón de Magaña 2004 Navarra (Navarre) – 40% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% tempranillo. Tar and grilled blackberry. Hollow and acrid, with that char dominant throughout. Pointless heft, without much pleasure in it. (6/11)

Rum, tea

Cheveau 2007 Saint-Amour “En Rontey” (Beaujolais) – Every bottle of this wine is more textural than the last, and I think to the wine’s benefit. The texture is sort of suede-like, maybe a little lighter than that, which nicely compliments magenta-tinged alpine berries and a levitatingly light body. (6/11)

Neither a Zardetto nor a lender be

Zardetto Prosecco Treviso Brut (Veneto) – Next. (6/11)

Don't be nosi

Velenosi 2008 Lacrima di Morro d’Alba “Querci Antica” (Piedmont) – Lurid kabuki fruit. Squeezed and boiled-down boysenberries with a hint of quince, sweet but then not. I dunno. Lacrima is weird. (6/11)

And then thurn it back hon

Thurnhof 2009 Goldmuskateller (Alto Adige) – Mineral-infused muscat, more pristine and solemn than goofily floral. There’s a drenched quality to the interior, but it’s draped with a certain kind of polished armor structure. I like it. (6/11)

Right now

Le Rocche Malatestiane 2009 Cagnina di Romagna “Adesso…” (Emilia-Romagna) – Sweet, a little sickly, but also just the barest touch bitter which almost saves the wine. Almost…but not quite. More like sucking on Italian candies than drinking wine. (6/11)

Shall we begin? Edulis-a.

Altanza “Edulis” 2005 Rioja (Center-North Spain) – By-the-numbers Rioja in the modern style, though not overdone. Reddish fruit, vanilla, a lot of weight and heft without much content other than the obvious, easily skimmable, table of Rioja contents. (6/11)


Escarpment “Over the Edge” 2009 Pinot Noir (Martinborough) – Bitter cherry, more rind than flesh, with a greenish herbal note. I don’t particularly dig this. (6/11)

06 October 2011

King of men

Ilarria 2007 Irouléguy Rouge (Southwest France) – Since falling in fairly deep love with this property during a brief drop-in visit, I’ve had a long and difficult codependent relationship with the basic reds, which can occasionally show their form, but mostly insist on truculence and pebble-kicking foot-shuffling. And that’s true whether the bottles are sourced in the States or in France. I don’t know what the issue is, but the true goodness I know is within these wines just never really shows on demand. This particular bottle brings difficult, dark fruit that fades in and out, large-chunked earth, and a cloudy structure. There’s so much here, glimpsed in moments and daydreams, but nothing coalesces. (6/11)


Domaine de la Cadette 2007 Bourgogne Vézelay “La Châtelaine” (Burgundy) – More advanced than I’d expect…maybe the dreaded premature oxidation, maybe a sign that the wine wasn’t meant to age, maybe just this bottle. It’s still OK, after a fashion, it’s just heavy and ambered in a way that doesn’t really suit the sharp-edged raw materials. Lemon still hangs about, tart and biting, but then there’s thus thud of bronzer.(6/11)

Domaine de la Cadette 2008 Bourgogne Vézelay “La Châtelaine” (Burgundy) – Salt-spicy but hollow, and a little metallic. There’s more water here than wine. Probably the worst bottle I’ve had yet, so it’s either closing or dying; I lack experience with the wine over longer periods to make an informed guess. (9/11)

Adelsheim, Adelsheim, bless our homeland forever

Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Noir “Deglacé” (Willamette Valley) – 375 ml. Tastes more of generic sweet wine that anything particular, though there’s a shot of red berry juice that gestures vaguely in the direction of the source material. It’s clean and well-made, it’s just not interesting in any way. (6/11)


Petaluma 2006 Riesling Hanlin Hill (Clare Valley) – A little reduced, but this dissipates after a reasonable amount of time, lifting the haze over limestone and green grapefruit. Sharp and very – perhaps overly – present, with an acid tongue (in more than one sense of the phrase). Good, if unduly biting. (6/11)

Peter Falk

Domaine de Colombier 2010 Vacqueyras (Rhône) – Dusty. Tastes of cheap grenache that’s not yet ripe despite a heady miasma of alcohol. (6/11)

They call the wind

Sanctuary 2008 Zinfandel Mariah (Mendocino Ridge) – 14.6%. Coconut-infused berries, the sharp bite of acidity, a wash of wood, everything in place and proper. No more (or less) than that. (6/11)


Xarmant 2009 Txakoli (Northwest Spain) – Ripe lime/lemon/grapefruit flavors than the norm, but with a whip-lash of sour acidity that tarts everything right up. Brief fizz at the outset is quickly subdued by heavier wetness. (6/11)

Mushmouth meow

Coste 2005 Coteaux du Giennois “Biau!” (Loire) – 80% gamay, 20% pinot noir. Best well-chilled. Crisp, light, fresh. Tiny wild berries, barely red, offering more of a suggestion of fruit rather than fruit itself. There’s some bone and tooth to the finish, which is quite airy. And yes, I like the pun (the wine’s organic). (6/11)

Borsao will Borja

Borsao 2009 Campo de Borja “Viña Borgia” (Aragón) – Chunky, clumsy, stumbling blackish and brackish fruit. I’ll give it this: it’s better than most Argentinian malbecs at this price point. Faint, I know. (6/11)

Spring klassic

Spaetrot 2007 “Klassik” White (Thermenregion) – 50% rotgipfler, 50% zierfandler. Hints of pinkish fruit and dried powdered sugar. Let me unpack that last: it’s not sweet (at least not overtly; some residual sugar is certainly suggested, whether or not there actually is any), and there’s a rolling juiciness to the finish that persists in maintaining that off-sugar illusion. A refreshing wine with hints and allegations of more, but I don’t know that it’s structured for more. (6/11)

Where's Grandpont?

C&P Breton Bourgueil 1997 Grandmont (Loire) – The fruit hangs on, still, and what’s most notable about it isn’t its presence, but its largely primary nature. There’s not much of it anymore, but its keening hum is still as rounded and dark-berried as it was in this wine’s youth. Mostly, though, the fruit’s fade has slowly revealed the post-burn minerality and fine-ground herbs within. As befits a ’97, it’s all a bit forward and upfront; more “classic’ vintages show less fruit but more temporal balance and persistence. (6/11)

Italian Annie

Pizzini 2008 Verdicchio dei Castelli Jesi Classico Superiore “Domanì” (Marches) – Sold to me as “oxidative” in its context, which leads me to expect something with hints of orange. It has none, but there’s a breadth to it that’s not really typical for the grape and appellation. It’s hardly atypical, though, showing liquid white fruit with brushes from the lemon and gooseberry palettes, delicate herbality, and a jittery finish. Quite appealing. (6/11)

Good broth

Bonnefond 1999 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Cooked caramel butter. Some earth and minerality, but this both tastes and feels “made,” and I don’t care for it. (5/11)

Weeping between N & P

Graillot 1999 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Meat lacquer. Beautiful, if a bit short, but this has done everything one would have asked of it. (5/11)

Past-tense bloom

Ogier 1999 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes “La Rosine” Syrah (Rhône) – Sophisticated. Dust and pepper. Perfumed. From the ultra-cold cellar that is the source of so many of the older Rhônes I drink, but in this particular case I think the bottles from my warmer but more consistent cellar have shown better of late. Probably cork variation. (5/11)

Painful wing

Wind Gap 2008 Syrah Armagh (Sonoma Coast) – 12.7%. Before they became monstrous tubs of goop, there was a time when the signature of certain Aussie shiraz regions was a soy/bacon/Worcestershire aroma that took the grape to one of its organoleptic extremes. At a much lower alcohol than anyone would expect, this syrah follows that soy-soaked path, almost to the point of caricature. It’s quite tannic, and time might bring some tamer personality traits. But I doubt it. (5/11)

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while

Wind Gap 2009 Chardonnay James Berry (Paso Robles) – 13.4%. Acid-driven with a bit of lingering reduction. Spicy-ripe, with minimal makeup and window-dressing. Refreshing, in more ways than one. (5/11)

Trousseau, funny how it seems...

Wind Gap 2010 Trousseau Gris Fannuchi-Wood Road (Russian River Valley) – 13.2%. Peach and orange (buds and blossoms more than the fruit). Fruity and simple Forward, with nice presence. The finish is a bit short. Pleasant. (5/11)

White hat

Texier 2000 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Nut oils and rocks. Fullish, as these things are, but its hold on sanity seems tenuous. I wonder if holding it this long represented an equally tenuous hold on sanity? Well, I’ve got more, so we’ll see. (5/11)

Vending baroque

Selbach-Oster 2001 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 022 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Dust, salt, red cherry, makrut lime flesh. Concentrated and, while not delicious at the moment, certainly dancing around that adjective. (5/11)

Safari behind

Kruger-Rumpf 2009 Binger Scharlachberg Riesling Spätlese 021 10 (Rheinhessen) – Pomelo. Completely dominated by pomelo. Hints of grapefruit, with a spicy sweetness, but having recently devoured pomelo by the wheelbarrow in Southeast Asia, the flavor is fresh on my palate. Fun. (5/11)

Koehly green

Charles Koehly 2004 Riesling Saint Hippolyte (Alsace) – Note: a recent purchase, provenance unknown. Boring, faded, makrut lime and rocks. Pretty much over whatever it was interested in being, once. (5/11)

Hail Pfœller, well-met

Meyer-Fonné 2005 Riesling Pfœller (Alsace) – Intense but soft, present and pressing with muffled force. The finish is metallic and long. I suspect this has a while to go before it emerges from its nap. (5/11)

Horses in Nevada

Pieropan 2006 Soave Classico Calvarino (Veneto) – Chalk and powdered sugar minerality with dried leaves and not-minor oxidation, in the manner of this wine from many – not all – vintages. Experience says this will age, developing its minerality. On-the-spot assessment says it will not reward that aging. Which is right? Probably the former. (5/11)

No progressive Ls here

Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Méthode Traditionnelle Demi-Sec (Loire) – One of the most refreshing bottles of this I’ve had, juicy and frothy yet with the chalky underbelly and waxen texture that provide counterpoint to the off-dry fun. Very, very pleasurable. (5/11)

GC non-GC

Gaston Chiquet 1997 Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Disgorged 18 July 2005. Biting. Grapefruit, bubbles, grapefruit, more bubbles, later, rinse, repeat. Very precise. (5/11)

It hurts like Billiot

H. Billiot Fils Champagne Grand Cru Brut Réserve (Champagne) – Disgorged 10 September 2007. Subtle. Perhaps too subtle for my tastes. Copper and sourdough starter, divergence and dissipation come the finish. (5/11)

Nere, a word

Terre Nere 2006 Etna Rosso (Sicily) – Without tasting blind, it’s impossible to know how actual the loquaciously ashen foundation of this wine is suggested by identity rather than taste. But taste it is…textural layers and swirls of ash-cloud minerality, rich…almost luxuriant…dark fruit, with a certain polish and sheen, but not too much of either. Incredibly lovely right now, albeit Euro-masculine, with an unquestioned future. Not for the delicate of palate, though. (5/11)

Blood-stained Lini

Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Rosso (Emilia-Romagna) – Fresh fruit with grit. Or perhaps grittiness. Tart, sharp but not razor-like, vibrant, and soiled (in a good way). Giant platters of charcuterie could disappear in this wine’s company, to the benefit of both. (5/11)

Fresh white Lini

Lini “Labrusca” Lambrusco Bianco (Emilia-Romagna) – Flower-sweet (off-dry, really, but the lightness of the wine emphasizes the sweeter aspects), white-petaled, pure extract of summer fruit. (5/11)

05 October 2011

I am the great Corno di Rosazzo...you will give me tocai?

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2001 Colli Orientali del Friuli Corno di Rosazzo Galea (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – When this producer’s wines first came into my market, they came in all at once, back to the first commercial vintage (’97), and the remarkable thing was that the ’97 Galea was not yet fully mature. That was a few years ago, and repeated dips in the well have demonstrated that it either still isn’t ready or that it has hit a long plateau and will never be “ready” in the way I’m apparently expecting. The evidence of other vintages, some of which matured faster and/or differently, still gives me a measure of hope, but I’m running out of bottles with which to test my theory. As for this, purchased (in quantity) from a recent store closeout, it’s definitely more at-peak than any ’97 of my acquaintance…though that assessment should be filtered by the possibility of variable treatment along the way, as is the case for any after-vintage closeout. Well, anyway, blah blah blah, how about this bottle? Spectacular. It’s a nervy skeleton, clacking and scraping in a stone cage, yet the bones are bright, clean, and strong. So much attention is paid to the more orange-tinted products from this region, but this – neither traditional nor paleo-modernistic – deserves more attention than it gets, and it gets a fair amount. (7/11)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2001 Colli Orientali del Friuli Corno di Rosazzo Galea (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Swaggering, which is an odd thing for a Galea to be doing (Brazan can get a little braggy after a few drinks), but I like it. Whites, beiges, tans, and creams are the “fruit” in this wine, the acidity’s supple and subtle but present, and there’s an appealing late-stage creaminess to the texture. I’d think about drinking this one sooner rather than later. (8/11)

i Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso 2001 Colli Orientali del Friuli Corno di Rosazzo Galea (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – A heavily-soaked cork doesn’t bode well, and this is decidedly more advanced than any Galea of my experience: thick, slow, and a bit oxidized (that is: oxidized beyond the usual oxidative tendencies of friulano made in this fashion). Bronzed stone fruit – or maybe ambered – demi-glace, cashew oil (a touch stale), incredible weight without much antigravitic structure. Despite all this, I see some lingering appeal in the wine, though none of the three others for whom I open it share my limited enthusiasm. In any case, this is not an intact bottle. (9/11)

Says what?

Simon 2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Really not good at all, in ways that I’m inclined to attribute to damage somewhere in its past. Or it could be… (7/11)

Simon 2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2 08 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Corked. (9/11)

Ries jones

Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – The “Reserve” riesling didn’t used to be available in the States, and then one year it was. One doesn’t need to investigate with a microscope the sales prospects of Alsatian wines to make a guess or two why that might be. Nonetheless, I’m pleased to see it, because the wine is measurably better than the négociant yellow label riesling. This isn’t so much apparent in the initial encounter, which mimics the regular 2001’s bright mineral polish and snappy, balanced structure, but in a finish of increasing textural interest that abandons liquidity in favor of a flowing river of crystalline particulate buzz. Despite my enthusiasm, this wine is probably at the end of its useful life. But it was a fine life, well-lived. (7/11)

Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Réserve” (Alsace) – The difference between this and the yellow négociant bottling (other than the fact that the 2001 normale is long-embalmed by now) is the wash of Trimbach-y minerality (Ribeauvillé writ rocky) and the nervosity that this has and the other only rarely achieves, and even then only in youth. There’s not a reason in the world to hold this other than morbid curiosity, as its full maturity (and then some) is already on display. (8/11)

Trimbach 2008 Riesling (Alsace) – Excitingly ripe, maybe with just the faintest touch more flesh and fat than the Trimbach “style” would suggest, but the firm grip of acidity rules all despite the extra spring in the fruit’s leap and cavort. One of the best yellow-label Trimbachs of the decade, I think (and no surprise; the more I taste, the more I think the vintage deserves its solid reputation). (6/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – I admit I’m getting tired of drinking this wine, which I bought in a quantity that I’m finding hard to understand aside from the possibility that I bought it for someone else and never delivered it. But it’s a reliable, solid, quality performer, full of classic iron and apple steeliness, riper than the median, shot through with vivid acidity and a salty finish. (6/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Second verse, same as the first. (6/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Struggling a bit, which matches my belief (borne out by several cases of experience) that this wine is taking a good, hard look at its decline. Good bottles are at peak, bad ones are already beginning their descent. There’s still a fair wallop of steely minerality, but it’s softened around the edges and buffered at the core, and any lingering fruit is definitely experiencing red-shift. Drink up. (7/11)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Really mineral-dusty, which is of course very welcome in aging riesling, with only beginning to shed its structure. Possibly the best performance for this bottle yet, though I’d still not want to hold it much longer; I don’t think improvement is in its future. (8/11)

Spicy '49er

Trimbach 2006 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Without knowing actual data, this wine has often struck me as one of the more syrupy Trimbach négociant gewurztraminers, full of density (probably both sugar and alcohol) without the necessary accompanying structure. I know acidity is a lot to expect from a gewurztraminer, but Trimbach can usually provide some. Here, they didn’t, and worse the counterpoint flavor intensities are not what I prefer either. It’s just kind of a fluffy wine, and that is a surprise, chez Trimbach. (9/11)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Just a touch past its peak, getting a little sticky rather than porcine (these grapes were never high enough quality to achieve the latter), but still delivering a lot of correct gewurztraminerishness in as dry a package as can be found outside frigid vintages anymore. (7/11)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Solid yet fraying. Peach, apricot, cashew, adhesion, but the acidity that binds it all together is separating from the whole. (7/11)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – A solid performance, just a bit more porcine than most recent bottles (which have leaned on their peach and nut characters), and that’s to the good. (8/11)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Hinting at bacon (more of a glazed bacon than something purely porcine or smoky), but still relying principally and very nearly solely on a white apricot sort of fruit (or perhaps white peach…really, it doesn’t matter) for what depth it retains. (9/11)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Solid in form, liquid in function, showing stone fruit with a touch of cashew oil, and a little bit of dilution on the finish. This story is coming to an end…not immediately, but not too many more years hence, either. (9/11)

Right cross

Southern Right 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – A little bit aged, just to see what happens. More age might be helpful, but 3+ years (it’s a southern hemisphere wine, after all) are not indicated as peak maturity here, based on this bottle’s performance. It’s still sauvignon blanc, and in fact it’s a little more European in style than the bite and snarl of its more youthful past, but there’s no corollary development of tertiary aromas. I have more, so we’ll see what actual aging brings. I suspect, though, that as with most South African wines of either color, development-rich aging is not in the cards. (6/11)

Southern Right 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Walker Bay) – An experiment in aging, and I think I can pretty confidently identify the failure of the experiment. It tastes like too-old sauvignon blanc, quickly overwhelmed by pyrazines and acrid sweat, leaving grating acidity in the wake of its rapidly-retreating fruit. I thought there was a chance that some of the underlying verve would amount to something in a few years, but if there are sauvignon blancs worth aging in South Africa (and there might be), this isn’t one of them. (9/11)

Alten states

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – Best bottle in a while, fulsome and rich. Copper-jacketed spiced peach, granulated crystal, swirly without being discombobulated. Fun stuff. (6/11)

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – A slightly shrunken cork that feeds down into the bottle in reaction to the screw, which I interpret as the potential for advanced aging. And indeed, this is more golden and advanced than other recent bottles, yet all to the better...which gives me great hope for the remaining case or so in the cellar (this was an inventory closeout at giveaway prices a few years ago). Lushly lycheed, sticky without being overbearing or overtly sweet (though it isn’t dry, mind), spicy and fulsome. Really delicious, and absolutely the best bottle yet of what was a fair quantity. I expect proper aging will yield equal pleasures with more interesting structure. (6/11)

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – Back to the indifferent sort of “should I come out? should I keep sleeping?” sticky peach character this exhibited from about year three (from release) though last year or so, which is a retreat from the more interesting…albeit variable…dalliances with maturity and/or damage that recent bottles have provided. The presence of the wine has increased on a fairly steady incline, however, and I’m still optimistic about the prospects. Not for greatness, which this wine will never achieve (it lacks the structure), but for additive complexity. (10/11)

Crazy puffs

Willett Bourbon “Cocoa Loco” (Kentucky) – 119.2 proof, aged eight years in white oak. For a time, every sip of this tasted overtly, overwhelmingly, and somewhat unpleasantly of dill, like a very poorly and yet lavishly-oaked Chilean cabernet. That characteristic eventually faded into oblivion, and while what’s left never failed to taste of various polishes, sheens, and buffs, an incredible amount of dark mahogany character eventually emerged. Impossible to ignore, not burdened by excess sweetness as so many American wooded spirits are, and while I would in no way call it sophisticated, it’s certainly swaggering. I like it. (7/11)

Square deal

Rittenhouse Rye (Kentucky) – 100 proof, and the heat is all over this stuff. I’m sure that there are innumerable applications that dampen these spirits (pun intended, and yes I know and enjoy many said dampenings), but it’s a bit of a firehose to deal with in its native form. But oh, is it good anyway. Grains, leaves, seeds, dirt pellets. Everything that bourbon is not. A friend told me that, in terms of sipping tipples, I was destined to be more of a rye guy than a wheat freak. He was right. This is so, so, so much more interesting (to me) than all but the van Winkle Bourbons, and I haven’t even plumbed the depths of the aged versions of this particular spirit. (6/11)

Number one with a...

Bulleit “95” Rye Whiskey (America) – Unlike a fair number of the mass-market ryes, this actually tastes as if it was made by fans of rye rather than the mass-market. Ultimately, however, it’s fairly insignificant. Decent, basic, good guzzling rye, but lacking the grainy complexities of better ryes. A good thing to have around, but the Nixonian among us may want to keep a bottle of Rittenhouse in a plain brown wrapper. (6/11)

Saz you

Sazerac Rye (Kentucky) – Not bad, but there’s certainly better, despite the paradigmatic name. Some grain, some grass, some minor sweetness, but very restrained – almost dilute – and simple. (8/11)

New Underrelease

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey (Kentucky) – I tend to use this as a blending component in cocktails rather than a drink in itself (though I do like rye on its own), because it’s a attenuated in isolation. There’s really not much more to be said about it. It’s average, though for the price I’m not sure more than that should be expected. (9/11)

Or ask his brother Sherwin

Evan Williams 2001 Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon (Kentucky) – Lots of oak, chewy and toasty, with peach seed. Fiery and direct. Everything’s delivered up front in a burst, after which there’s just not much to hold one’s interest. (9/11)

You're not vulin anyone

Laguvulin 16 Year Scotch (Islay) – If there’s someone in your life who cannot abide the characteristic aromas of Islay whisky, and you wish to remove them from your immediate vicinity, this is an excellent way to begin the expulsion process. Those of us who love those aromas will find an awful lot to love here. Perhaps enough that they come as the expense of non-Islay whisky characteristics. It’s an extreme Scotch, though far from the most extreme I’ve tasted, and that’s both a credit and a deficit. All that said, it’s not my recollection that this particular bottling has been so extreme in the past. Maybe my palate is growing timid in the Westering of my years? (6/11)

Phoaigian slip

Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch Whisky (Islay) – Straightfoward Islay smoke with a brittle, slightly fierce edge. Good stuff. (7/11)


Torres “10” Penedès Brandy (Cataluña) – Supple caramel, wet satin, a touch of cane sugar. I don’t want to like this as much as I do, but it’s awfully easy to like. (6/11)

Cold River, keep on freezin'

Maine Distilleries “Cold River” Vodka (Maine) – Stale butter and old wax. I’m told, by gurus of my acquaintance, that this is likely ethyl myristate or ethyl palmitate. Well, Ethyl Mermanate can take her margarine-stanky tail back to vodka school, because this is offensive when used in any situation in which one might actually think to use vodka rather than Napa chardonnay. (8/11)

The crown rests heavy

Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey “Black” (Canada) – Mostly sugar, with minty wood and confectionary. (8/11)

High sahtea

Dogfish Head “Sahtea” (Delaware) – Ale with juniper berries and black chai. And I drink it full of amusement at the number of times I’m asked, rather out of the blue while browsing any craft beer aisle, what I think of Dogfish Head. Because this pretty much encapsulates my answer: they can be extraordinary, they can be awful, I love the iconoclasm, but I’m not sure a good portion of what they make is actually beer. (Except, of course, in the most basic form of the definition: the base alcohol on which the product is built.) That is to say: some of what I like…and hate…is based on the premise that I, the consumer, don’t actually want one of the many variations on beer, but that I want whatever the thing is that Dogfish Head has bottled. In this, I think it’s like a chinato or a vermouth from the wine world…yes: wine, technically, and yet not “wine” as a drinker would conceive of it when choosing between it and another beverage.

So this is chai, first and foremost, with a little bit of beery froth. I’m not the juniper berries add an obviously separable character, but on the other hand their high-toned, patently gin-like treble does make itself gently but persistently known…though without knowing the source, the sensation (rather than the actual aroma) is not entirely unlike that of slightly oversteeped tea. This is really excellent, but “beer” it is pretty much not. That’s OK, though.


Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (Delware) – One of my favorite pumpkin ales, though a little of such brews goes a long way, and I’m glad it’s a purely seasonal dalliance. Most lean rather heavily and overtly on lush stews of baking spices, and while I can appreciate those if done with “restraint” (the term barely applies to these lavish displays of additive brewology), this is something a little purer: it really does taste of both pumpkin and beer, melded and confident, with the minor vegetal bitterness of the former and the grain of the latter. (9/11)

Emelisse list

Emelisse Rauchbier (Netherlands) – Probably the most elegant rauchbier I’ve ever tasted; more beer than smoke, yet just enough of the latter to make the style unmistakable. I quite like it, and unless most in the genre I have no trouble drinking more than half a normal-sized bottle. (10/11)


Long Trail “Brewmaster Series” Coffee Stout (Vermont) – Yes, coffee. Yes, stout. A good melding of two worthy beverages, perhaps a little heavier on the coffee than is the norm for these brews. It’s my sense that, whenever a traditional added-flavor beer style is attempted by domestic breweries, there’s more of that addition than is typical for the traditional referent. It’s true here, but while I often find the excessive flavoring bothersome or intrusive, in this case I actually prefer it to the stoutier version it mimics. It’s not very “serious,” but it’s most definitely enjoyable. (8/11)

Big & beige

Harpoon “100 Barrel Series” “Rich & Dan’s” Rye IPA (Vermont) – Yes, OK, there’s the grainy undertone of rye that I like so much in spirits. But here, it’s just not enough of a major player in the final product, which is heavy, a little bitter, and quite a bit blockheaded. I’ve been a big fan of many releases in this series, but I fear the last few have lost their way. (7/11)

Hiver one or the other

Dieu du Ciel! “Solstice d’hiver” (Québec) – Way, way, way back in college, I discovered that there were beers other than the mass-market dreck I’d…um, seen other people drink in high school, but of course wouldn’t myself because that would have been wrong. Ahem. Anyway, one thing led to another, and after college I was much entertained by bars with over a hundred taps and 400 bottles of the world’s many expressions and variations on beer. I remember the seemingly innumerable styles I liked right away, but I also remember the first exotic brew I hated: a burnt toffee-like concoction, syrupy and balsamic, that I learned was a Christmastime specialty of the brewery in question. Since then, I’ve learned that while I can appreciate light-toned winter ales (Long Trail’s version provided many, many cases of happiness), the dark, Euro-historical versions are just too much for me. This isn’t nearly as dense as that first dark-hearted monster, but it’s more than I can enjoy: sticky, a little charred, syrupy without letup. And yet, hollow and thin. Yes, that’s quite an accomplishment. I go on at this length to say that I’m perfectly willing to accept that this is much more about me than it is about the brew’s qualities, which might be more appreciated by others. (9/11)

Poplar music

White Birch “Indulgence” Ale (New Hampshire) – A lighter, crisper stout style, and really pretty fabulous. White Birch is, for me, a very inconsistent brewer, so the next batch may be wildly different. But this is very, very nicely done. (6/11)

White Birch Dubbel Belgian Style Ale (New Hampshire) – All work and no play makes this a dull ale. (6/11)

White Birch Tripel Belgian Style Ale (New Hampshire) – An immediate quintupling of force, alcohol, sweetness, and stickiness vs. the dubbel from the same brewery, and it’s almost too much. Yet it’s papered over, withheld from its fullest expression, and while that prevents too-muchness, it leaves the beer a little less than what it could be. (6/11)

White Birch Belgian Style Ale Quad (New Hampshire) – Heavy, of course, with a sweet maple adhesion that somewhat overwhelms the ale. No real surprise in that; quad is a high-wire act to begin with, and not a few people believe it just can’t be done with any result other than spectacle. Good in small quantities, tiresome beyond that. (6/11)

A loaf of wheat, a jug of wine, and wow

Smuttynose “Big Beer Series” Wheat Wine Ale (New Hampshire) – A sticky toffee pudding of a beer (or “beer”), though it’s more grain-like than sweet. I think I’d like this more were it part of Smuttynose’s “Very Small Beer Series,” because a large bottle of it is a lot to take.(7/11)

Do you Monde?

Unibroue 2006 “La Fin du Monde” (Québec) – Dying. Flattening. There was no point in aging this beer this long, despite the suggestion that it would reward same. (5/11)


Sierra Nevada/Abbey of New Clairvaux “Ovila” Saison (California) – Nice. Fresh with spicy complexity but not too much weight. Just a touch fruity. I like it a lot. (8/11)

Solid rock

Trappistes Rochefort Belgian Ale 6 (Belgium) – Blocky and straightforward. A Trappist ale done strictly by the numbers and to the specification. That is to say, there’s not much joy in it, despite its precisely-described identity. (9/11)

Trappistes Rochefort Belgian Ale 8 (Belgium) – Now this is more like it. Or, rather, absolutely, precisely, exactingly “like it.” Which is to say: absolutely textbook, spice and weight and metallic glistenings. But not more than that, either. It is a Trappist ale in its essentials, done with an excess of competency, and lacking the artistry to paint outside the lines. (9/11)

Almost famous

DOG Brewing “Stillwater Artisanal” American Farmhouse Ale “Débutante” (Maryland) – Brewed with spelt and rye, flavored with honeysuckle, heather, and hyssop. And while this jumble of influences and confluences offers a lot to consider, ultimately the result is somewhat meandering…diffuse without being dilute. There’s some textural richness, some dried-citrus chew, some spice. That’s really about it. (9/11)


Victory “Helios” Ale (Pennsylvania) – In the back label text, they call this a Belgian farmhouse style. I’d call it a merging of pale American ale with hints of the claimed designation. It’s thin, it’s vaguely spicy, it’s not much more than momentarily diverting. (9/11)

Almar one

Almar Orchards “J.K.’s Scrumpy” Hard Cider Orchard Gate Gold (Michigan) – Sweet, tasting more of beer-bottle ciders than something more classic. It’s pleasant enough, I suppose. (7/11)