05 June 2006

TN: Birthday bacchanalia

Voyager Estate 2002 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (Margaret River) – Fruity and fresh, with fine, citrusy acidity brightening up some grapefruit, lime, lemon and gooseberry flavors. Very simple, but pure summer fun. (6/06)

A reliable summer sipper, though it was better at release. Some of these blends can age, but this doesn’t seem like one that did. It doesn’t matter, because newer vintages are really tasty young. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Serge Doré. Web: http://www.voyagerestate.com.au/.

Ridge 1992 Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains) – Very tight, tannic and dusty when first opened…and this doesn’t change much with extended aeration. The “Draper perfume” (from the wood regime, the terroir and the aromatic high-altitude fruit) is still present, but plays only a loud supporting role to the other structural elements and to the emergent characteristics of the blend: hard dark cherries with lashings of cassis, some rosemary, black pepper, and a deep base note of the blackest earth. So while the primary, oak-driven sheen has receded, there’s still much more that needs to emerge from this dense, tannic shell; I’d say the wine is probably about halfway to maturity. And if this note sounds a little cold, it’s not an accident. I think the wine is potentially extraordinary, but it’s so unyielding at the present that it’s hard to form any sort of emotional bond with the elixir…something that I think is essential to the enjoyment of the very best wines. (6/06)

80% cabernet sauvignon, 11% merlot, 9% petit verdot. The critical accord on this wine is remarkable, with virtually everyone in agreement with Paul Draper that this is a potentially monumental Monte Bello with a long life in front of it (the one exception: James Laube of Wine Spectator, who thought it should be ready to go about six years ago). Critics’ tastes can, do, and should differ, so when one finds such unanimity of praise, the conclusion is obvious. Alcohol: 13.4%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.ridgewine.com/.

Trimbach 1989 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – From a 375 ml bottle, and very nearly as good as late-harvest gewurztraminer gets. There’s sweet lychee syrup, luxuriant cashew oil, and ripe peach, but what stand out here are the waves of spice…first Indian, then of the sweet baking variety, then moving into something more exotically (but indefinably) Asian…that finally settle on some sort of fantastical meat rub with an accompanying and highly-spiced chutney. There’s plenty of sweetness here, but it’s offset by mild acidity and a more structurally important tannic scrape, and the effect is to render the palate impression somewhat dryer than the initial impression would indicate. On the finish, the aforementioned waves of spice roll and recede for what seems like forever. Beautiful, silence-inducing wine. Is it “ready”? Yes, though it’s also in no danger of slipping for the next decade, and possibly more. (6/06)

I’ve had this wine quite a few times, often paired with the same vintage’s “Sélection des Grains Nobles” bottling, and have reached the inescapable conclusion that this is a better wine. Why? Fairly simply, it tastes a lot more like gewurztraminer. The SGN is dominated by its botrytis, and suffers from even less acidity, which the VT absolutely sings with both its late-harvest qualities and its essential varietal and terroir-influenced characteristics. Though to be fair to the SGN, more time may simply be required. In any case, if you own both, the VT is definitely the one to drink now.

This is as good a time as any to tell one of my favorite stories: a few years ago, Seagram C&E (now absorbed by Diageo) hosted a bacchanalian event in New York, at which most of their Bordeaux estates and the other stars of their portfolio poured a rather stunning collection of wines. One of the results of this assemblage was that both fabled Château d’Yquem and Trimbach were in the same room; Yquem pouring their epic ’88 and ’90 Sauternes, Trimbach with a larger portfolio including the above-described bottling. Later in the evening, as the tasting wound to a close and producers started to drift from their stations, I found Yquem’s Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces behind the Trimbachs’ table, chatting with marketers Hubert and Jean and sharing glasses of each others’ extraordinary wines. The count swirled, sniffed, and swallowed the ’89…paused for a moment, and then leaned towards Hubert. He seemed almost embarrassed, and yet there was a kind of subdued ecstasy on his face. In a heavily-accented whisper, but one audible to a few nearby eavesdroppers (including me), he rather shockingly declared: “this is better than mine.” I’ll never forget that. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Importer: Seagram Chateau & Estate. Web: http://www.maison-trimbach.fr/.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love little itsy bitsy animals, don't you?

Louie said...

Happy Birthday! Because no one's as old as... :)

Thor Iverson said...

Bite me, Lou. ;-)