08 December 2006

TN: Peevish pinot

[Loring]Loring 2004 Pinot Noir Brosseau (Chalone) – Red-black fruit, soupy and searingly alcoholic. More like a harsh, grappa-infused berry liqueur than wine, and not a particularly balanced one as well. The next day, however, the alcohol has calmed down somewhat…perhaps a nice sweet rum rather than grappa…which makes it a little less painful to drink. But it’s still profoundly imbalanced. (12/06)

Faiveley 1993 Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy) – The aromatics (old berries, forest floor, fresh morels) are muscular and enticing, but the wine is wan and decrepit, leaving only a dried-out, scratchy tannin and in its wake. Twenty-four hours later, the palate has made a little bit of a recovery, with some emergent red fruit peeking out of the grave. Unfortunately, it soon doesn’t much matter, as a “sherrying” of the wine eventually buries the improvement once and for all. (12/06)

TN: The grapes are always sweeter

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Auxerrois Moenchreben de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Wind-blown spice with crystallized peach, vague mixed vegetable notes (perhaps mostly carrots?), and a sweet fatness only slightly mitigated by acidity. It’s very appealing, but in a slobbering, affectionate dog sort of way. (12/06)

Trimbach 1990 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – From 375 ml. Crisp orange, apricot and creamy peach – slightly unusual for CFE, though this is an SGN – but fear not: the massive, molten steel minerality soon asserts its dominance over all else. There’s plenty of sugar here, still, yet the wine is drying in a most delicious way. It’s partly the aforementioned metal, partly the acidity, and partly the process that seems to happen as botrytized & unoaked sweet wines age. But whatever the chemistry, this is an incredibly poised wine, still not fully mature, and perhaps not even drinking to 75% of its potential. (12/06)

Fonseca 1963 Port (Douro) – Ripe, roasted and cooked cherries loaded with sticky fruit syrup and big sugar. Soft and fully resolved. This is a truly delicious wine, and yet…I don’t know, there’s something missing. Maybe a bit of structure would be welcome, or maybe it’s just the tiniest bit simpler than one would like. Then again, maybe I have ridiculous expectations. It is a heck of a wine. And yet… (12/06)

TN: Fade to pink

Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2004 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – The sun-dried wild thyme is starting to heat up from the alcohol; a sign that this rosé is coming to the end of its useful life. It was delicious while it lasted, and there’s still some enticing earthiness to the package. But drink up nonetheless. (12/06)

TN: Them

Martin “Château Gloria” 1992 St-Julien (Bordeaux) – Mixed herbs and dried cocoa dust with black fruit, black trumpet mushrooms and dark earth. The structure, which has more acid than is the modern norm, and tannin that has edged carefully but inexorably towards graphitic, is still firmly in place, and reasonably balanced as well, yet I’d still call it fully mature. (12/06)

TN: Egon in a second

[Scharzhof]Egon Müller 1995 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 7 96 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Puréed chalky rocks with a creamy silk overlay, showing sharp apple cider on the midpalate, and a gorgeous, clean, (mostly) sugar-resolved finish. Those afraid to hold a kabinett for ten-plus years should pay attention…though it’s true that this never was an ordinary kabinett. (12/06)

Dönnhoff 1995 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 10 96 (Nahe) – Rich and ripe as these things go, showing salted clementine, grapefruit and tangerine with strongly aromatic white flowers on the finish. I’d say it’s as ready as it’s ever going to be. (12/06)

[label]Vereinigte Hospitien 2005 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese 19 06 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Odd, like an otherwise engaging party guest who occasionally delivers himself of the most off-putting utterances. There’s high-toned, plasticene-synthesized quartz and strident grapefruit zest, yet there’s appealing sugar balanced with the sharp bite of malic acid as well. Perhaps it just needs time to learn some social graces, but I’m not at all pleased with the initial direction of the fruit. (12/06)

TN: Toil, trouble

[BdB]Pierre Moncuit Champagne “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos” (Champagne) – Lemon curd dust and crisp green apple; incredibly clean at first, it quickly accumulates weight and bread-influenced complexity, yet never sheds its clarity or crispness. Pure palate excitement. (12/06)

Moët & Chandon Champagne Aÿ “Grand Cru” Brut Les Sarments d’Aÿ (Champagne) – 100% pinot noir. Strawberry and orange blossom, very floral and dark red in tone, with a hint of watermelon (perhaps even Jolly Rancher) brought out by the rouged acidity. Fascinating and unique, though not quite as strikingly magical as the pinot meunier version of this triply varietal set. (12/06)

07 December 2006

TN: Let the fennel in

[vineyards]Soard “Domaine de Fenouillet” 2005 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (Rhône) – It sounds both unkind and unhealthy to say, but this is rustic old red wine made through grape-stained socks. The thing is, this footwear quality comes off as a good – though particular – thing, with the rough-hewn red and purple berries lent an actively organic aroma. There’s some vague nods in the direction of structure, but mostly this is a pleasurable representation of the kind of regional wine one doesn’t actually get to taste outside of the region of production; there’s freshly-ironed clothes and a comb taken to the hair, but the peasant within remains. (12/06)

TN: Kitchen Zinck

Zinck 2001 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg “Grand Cru” (Alsace) – There’s a piercing quality to this producer’s Pfersigbergs that doesn’t block one bit of gewurztraminer’s pork-bottomed hedonism; it’s partially good, strong acidity, but also a slicing, diamond-sharpened minerality. This was very good young, but it’s getting better, and the best years of all are unquestionably ahead of it. (12/06)

TN: Gini in a bottle

[La Frosca]Gini 2004 Soave Classico La Frosca (Veneto) – This gives the strong impression of being not entirely dry, with cotton candy stone fruit and a light, squishy minerality. It’s a fun wine, but don’t look too closely, because there’s less there than meets the palate. (12/06)

TN: White noise

Lageder 2004 Pinot Bianco (Alto Adige) – Fine-ground rocks in a downy pillow, braced by crisp, lemon-apple acidity and showing fresh, lightly herbed grapefruit notes. As solid and basic as white wine can be. (12/06)

[Pinot Bianco]St. Michel-Eppan 2004 Pinot Bianco Schulthauser (Alto Adige) – Austere in structure but organoleptically zingy. Waterfalls over chalk and granite cliffs; this tastes of the mountains more than it does of grapes. A fine, albeit fruitless, wine. (12/06)

05 December 2006

TN: Yalumbering

[Yalumba]Yalumba Muscat “Museum Reserve” (South Eastern Australia) – 375 ml. Overwhelmingly sweet (of course), with slow-caramelized dark brown sugar, maple and molasses lent bucketloads of baking spice from the long oak aging. I find differentiating these wines almost impossible – they’re mostly of a piece no matter the initial materials – except in two ways: their structure (which is especially key in the face of so much sugar) and their oxidative qualities (here at a relative minimum, given the style). This is a fairly simple, obvious expression, but it’s quite enjoyable (for non-diabetics) all the same. (12/06)

TN: Dulong to measure

[bottle]Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – Previous bottles have been decidedly international in style. Suddenly, the wine has turned to Bordeaux: cedar, tobacco (with a bit of a green edge) and drying cassis with structure and even some acidity. Have I unfairly maligned this wine as Napa-esque? I guess we’ll see with further aging. (12/06)

TN: Set the Pic

[PSL]Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2001 Pic Saint-Loup “Les Nobles Pierres” (Languedoc) – Dark garrigue full of summer-brazened herbs and smoky, concentrated blackberry. There’s lovely structure and balance to this wine, which is decidedly masculine, but straddles a nice division between the untamed farmer and the mannered urbanite; the wine’s sophistication is not in its airs, but rather in its confident sense of style. Worth owning in quantity. (12/06)

TN: My two gods

[Savoie]Raymond Quenard 2004 Chignin Mondeuse (Savoie) – A little bottle-funky at first opening, but this eventually drifts away, leaving a wine that’s surprisingly structured and hard-edged given its light, high-mountain strawberry fruit. There’s crisp acidity, but the tannin is definitely the main player here (not that there’s a lot of it, just a lot vs. the other elements), and I’m not sure the wine is fully integrated yet. Long- or short-term, then, it needs to age. But I think the result will be worth it. (12/06)

TN: Matthew, Martin, Luke...

Edmunds St. John 2001 Syrah (California) – Growing steamier, sweatier, and more long-ridden leathery with each passing month, this sheds its California roots and looks towards Gallic climes as it ages. It’s still quite full-bodied and balanced, but the black’n’blueberry fruit is fading under the animalistic imperatives of aged syrah. A delicious wine, a ridiculous bargain. (12/06)

TN: Nalle formed

[Nalle]Nalle 2004 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – Soft and juicy for a Nalle zin, showing friendly red-faced berries and cherries with a sun-dried tomato sauce acidity and a little lightly-smoked wood influence. Nalle’s zins show so much upfront pleasure that it’s difficult to believe they age. But they do. Still, this vintage seems a bit less appealing than usual. (12/06)

TN: Vista print

Sierra Vista 2000 Zinfandel Reeves (El Dorado) – Hard-edged wild berry fruit ripped and rent by thorny vines and the slashes of a razor, with shattered tannin and acid providing a fierce sort of structure. Zinfandel can mellow into something Bordeaux-like with age, but it can also go in this direction…one that’s more difficult to love, but in a strange way might be a little more appealing. In any case, this is a somewhat angry wine that may benefit from a little more age; on the other hand, at that point the tannin might dominate. It’s a judgment call that I’m not qualified to make. (12/06)

TN: Lagrein & red

Mumelter “Griesbauerhof” 2004 Lagrein (Alto Adige) – Dark metal tubing, structured and iron-driven around the edges but a little hollow and windy at the core. The iron elements actually verge on bloody, as there’s a significant brett component, and the dark fruit residue doesn’t quite match up to it. It’s good, in a peculiar sort of way, but it’s definitely not a crowd-pleaser, and I’m not sure that age will improve things; it would in the absence of brett, but… (12/06)

TN: Over low heat

[Nußbrunnen]von Simmern 2004 Hattenheimer Nußbrunnen Riesling Kabinett 009 05 (Rheingau) – Granitic strawberry and pleasant, light-minded sweetness bring initial pleasure…but then the wine starts to unravel, leaving these elements disintegrated and uncooperative. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I expect a little more from this producer. (12/06)

TN: Two more Trimbachs

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Stone fruit jerky, tending towards slight bitterness and showing less acidity than one might prefer. It’s in a good place right now, riding a line between primary fruit and mature gewurztraminery characteristics, and the lack of acid means it probably won’t continue to develop in salutary ways. So drink up. (12/06)

Trimbach 1998 Riesling (Alsace) – Molten iron filings with a wet, slate-like character chunked up by something a little more organic-earthy…edging towards, but not actually reaching, the mushroom family. Fully mature, balanced, and really, really nice. (12/06)

01 December 2006

TN: Five Trimbachs (not all of them white)

Trimbach 2002 Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – Better and brighter than the last few vintages, with a light-filled crystalline aspect sparkling amidst ripe pear. There’s also a significant drying tone to the finish. Restrained and pure. (11/06)

Trimbach 2003 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – This announces itself rather sharply, but fails to deliver on its volume, except with a rather formless weight. Aromatically, the wine is far superior to, say, the contextually blowsy 1997 in that it delivers a fairly classic CFE profile of molten iron and shattered malic ice with salted apple, but structurally the wine is very reminiscent of a big Austrian riesling opened and consumed without aging or aeration: weight, but not enough presence. The hope that this, like the 1997, will provide good near-term drinking while waiting for better vintages to develop is, I’m afraid, misguided. (11/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – Classic and true to type, with significant salty minerality underneath vivid but balanced lychee dust, caramelized cashew and bright peach/pear aromas. There’s pretty good acidity, as well. Not a genre-defining gewurztraminer, but eminently typical for this house, and showing all the proper elements for a good decade’s aging. (11/06)

Trimbach 1997 Pinot Noir “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – An adventurous choice. This is certainly the best pinot noir I’ve tasted from Trimbach. If that sounds like qualified praise, it is; the wine has good weight, a lot of worthy varietal characteristics (earthy cherry and autumn leaves, mostly, though there’s some wet morel as well), and has held up and developed well enough. However, there is – and there’s no mistaking it – the dreaded “hot dog” aroma that so often afflicts Alsace pinot noir. I’m not sure what the problem is – soil, clones, winemaking – but it seems that whenever a pinot noir rises above the biting rosé-like horde, it stands a better-than-average chance of turning to fermented frankfurter. It’s strange. (11/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Trimbach’s late-harvest gewurztraminers are as solidly excellent as their rieslings, though they rarely reach the exalted heights of those wines. This is no exception: striking ripe stone fruit and lychee are paired with bright, freshening acidity and a solid, sun-drenched mineral core. The sweetness is significant, yet the wine’s structure is such that any trace of “stickiness” is thoroughly absent. Drink it now, drink it in ten years, drink it in twenty…it’ll be beautiful at any age. (11/06)