30 June 2007

TN: Vosne on the range

[bottles]Mongeard-Mugneret 1983 Vosne-Romanée Les Orveaux (Burgundy) – Old but hanging on; it gains strength in the forepalate as the evening goes on, but loses a bit on the finish. There’s old morels and dark earth with some coffee elements in the vapor trail. Tannin is emergent (as tends to happen in older red wines), and tinged by a very slight greenness. (6/07)

Cathiard 1993 Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Pretty, dominated by black truffle that crescendos on the finish towards ripe strawberry. Very long and lovely. The pure essence of Burgundy. (6/07)

Thomas-Moillard 1990 Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Soft but insistent, with morels, black cherries and a thick, youthful palate that is far more primary-feeling than I’d like. It’s a little big, and definitely low in acidity. But it’s flavorful, despite the sludgy leanings. (6/07)

Forey 1995 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – An old nose of crushed roses (and other flowers), with lots of earth. Polished and once-beautiful, but it appears to be on the decline. This smells better as the evening progresses, but the palate never really catches up. (6/07)

Potel 1999 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Concentrated framboise liqueur. Hugely fruity, with good acid and prettier floral notes on the finish, which is lengthy. Very primary, and I always worry about liqueur notes in Burgundy. (6/07)

Potel 1998 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Black cherry and herbed shiitake. Extremely dense. Frankly, this is too young to judge, though I do note the shift towards black fruit vs. the ’99. (6/07)

Grivot 1999 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Black and blue syrup with a cardboardy underpinning. I don’t care for this very much. (6/07)

Rion 1998 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Corked. (6/07)

Michel-Noëllat 2002 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Mushroom and truffled earth with deep roots. Beautiful, verging on stunning, and though young there’s already an earthy complexity that’s utterly captivating. Wow. (6/07)

Arnoux 1996 Vosne-Romanée Les Chaumes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – A slightly sour attack, then turning to mixed cherries sprinkled with tarragon and strawberry seeds. The structure is forceful and somewhat hard, with high acidity as well. It improves with air, but it’s still on the slightly grating, herbal side. (6/07)

[vineyard]Bouchard “Château de Vosne-Romanée” 1990 Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots (Burgundy) – Butterfat and blocky, chocolate-coated blueberry. Long but monolithic, and decidedly uninspiring. (6/07)

Mongeard-Mugneret 2001 Richebourg “Grand Cru” (Burgundy) – Massively complex, with soft waves of fading red berries and mixed peppers and peppercorns. The key is the texture, which is utterly seductive and elegant. Gorgeous, with more development ahead. (6/07)

TN: Double bubble

[map]Jacquesson 1996 Champagne Avize “Grand Cru” Extra-Brut (Champagne) – Gorgeous fino-reminiscent esters on the nose, with a satiny texture (despite great acidity) and preserved lemon on the finish. This still has a ways to go, but it’s a terrific Champagne. (6/07)

Feuillatte 1996 Champagne Brut Rosé “Cuvée Palmes d’Or” (Champagne) – Mildly but pleasantly oxidized, but otherwise mostly flat, showing old strawberries and dead leaves. Definitely past its best drinking window. (6/07)

TN: Cotat tail

Pascal Cotat 2002 Sancerre La Grande Côte (Sancerre) – Perfumed hazelnuts and anise with molten quartz seething down the sides and then rising up again through the core. Very insistent, with strong acidity and a long finish. Gorgeous. (6/07)

TN: Bordeaum Blanc

Château Monbousquet 2003 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – Big, thick fruit syrup and butter. No structure at all. Blech. (6/07)

TN: Harry Morgon

Desvignes 2000 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières (Beaujolais) – Served blind, with guesses all over the map, and none of them close…save Panos Kakaviatos, who briefly mentioned Beaujolais on his way to the general consensus of “no idea.” There was agreement that it tasted nothing like pinot or Burgundy, but that’s as far as it went. As for the wine: meaty and dark, with smoke berries and herbal, cough-drop eucalyptus. Very structured and moody. This would appear to have some years left to go, though it’s a pretty interesting wine right now. (6/07)

TN: Jabba the Hütte

[vineyard]von Hövel 2003 Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Eiswein * 12 04 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Butterscotch and vanilla, layered with thick maple syrup. The acidity barely rises to fair, and that only on the finish. Too obvious for my tastes, and I’m not sure time will help matters. (6/07)

Benedict Loosen-Erben 1990 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese *** 003 92 (Mose-Saar-Ruwer) – Still strong, showing sugar over old waffles, plus ripe apple lending a bit of lift. (6/07)

[vine]Karlsmühle 2002 Lorenzhöfer Riesling Auslese 15 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Extreme intensity in liquid form. Very sweet, dominated by pineapple, but just way too forceful to really enjoy right now. Revisit in a decade, at the earliest. (6/07)

Zilliken 2002 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese 5 03 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Sulfurous, with great acidity buoying graceful lavender notes. However, the palate is absent and the finish is shockingly abrupt. A sulfur artifact? Or mild TCA? Hard to tell in this setting. (6/07)

TN: Sauternes, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight

[grapes]Meslier “Château Raymond-Lafon” 2002 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – I don’t generally like seeing Sauternes (and similar wines) in lineups of higher-acid sweet wines, as I think it’s to their detriment. So I go back to reds for a while, trying to chase the Mosel acidity out of my mouth, and I think it helps. This is silky, coating and then sheathing the palate with tangerine and papaya, then evaporating in a blissful memory of tropicality. The acidity is on the low side (though perhaps not within its peer group), but the wine feels balanced, if a bit fruity. The finish is pure pointillism, by which I mean…well, I’m not sure what. You’d know it if you’d tasted it. (6/07)

27 June 2007

TN: Brown jello

[label]Casanova di Neri 2001 Brunello di Montalcino “Tenuta Nuova” (Tuscany) – Served blind, and my guess is that it could really be just about anything from just about anywhere. Hugely concentrated – perhaps overly so – with graphite-textured tannin, very low acidity, and lush waves of rich, ripe blueberry and dark black cherry. Incredibly thick. This sort of wine has an obvious sensory appeal, but the charm doesn’t extend any farther. There’s too much stuffing, not enough form, and the wine says absolutely nothing; it just hums (very loudly) to itself. One learns everything there is to know about this wine in the very first sip. (6/07)

[label]Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 1990 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Finely structured with mixed powdered peppercorns, dried black cherry and some ash. This may be a touch on the fruitless side, but then it’s poured immediately after a fruit bomb, so it’s hard to tell. Really nice, otherwise. (6/07)

TN: Original Zind

Zind-Humbrecht 1990 Pinot Gris Heimbourg “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – Brooding and intense, with a sticky metallic paste dominating. It’s intense and acidic along most of the ride, but the finish is pillowy and dissipates rather abruptly. Only very slightly sweet, and some won’t even notice the residual sugar. Like so many wines from this estate, there’s power, and there’s power, and finally there’s power…but what else is there? The first sip is impressive, the last sip is boring. (6/07)

TN: Te Matagrano

Edmunds St. John 1999 Sangiovese Matagrano (El Dorado) – Served blind (by me), and while some of the early guesses are in the realm of grenache, eventually a few people close in on it, though no one guesses it’s California sangiovese. Charred strawberry and banana leaves turn seedy and dark, with blueberries and olive pits and a lot of amorphous tannin hanging around in the foreground. This would appear to be suffering from travel shock (it had been on a short plane ride earlier in the day), especially given the fine particulate matter suffusing the wine. (6/07)

TN: Hune are you?

Trimbach 1995 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – 375 ml. This bottle’s off, showing flat, waxy oxidation and few of the qualities that make CSH special. (6/07)

TN: Via Veneto

Quintarelli 1994 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” (Veneto) – Smoky, showing midpalate fatness and a texture that billows between leather and satin. There’s quartz at the core. Concentrated, beautiful and long. I’m not sure there’s much Valpolicella character here anymore, however. (6/07)

TN: The Nervi of some people

[vineyard]Nervi 1990 Gattinara Vigneto Molsino (Piedmont) – Crushed soy flakes, smashed roses, and blackened, crunchy cereal. A little crusty. This is sort of an angry old man, and yet somehow it’s compelling as well. Strange. (6/07)

TN: Lur-king horror

Lur Saluces “Château de Fargues” 1990 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Extremely advanced – already a dark, dark brown – with an absent nose. Too off to judge, really. (6/07)

21 June 2007

TN: The Collioure of money

[vineyard]Parcé Frères “Domaine de La Rectorie” 2005 Collioure Rosé “La Goudie” (Roussillon) – This shows the sea-lashed force of the sun-baked hills in a rather incredibly elegant, dancing light…like the sun sparkling off a Mediterranean shore. Intense but flawlessly restrained strawberry, white pepper and crisp leaf notes show up, but this wine is all about its beautiful, seductive bipolarity. One of the best rosés I’ve ever tasted. (6/07)

TN: Fresh pavement

Henry’s Drive 2004 “Pillar Box Red” (Padthaway) – Burnt, reduced essence of cola, with traces of charred espresso (reheated four or five times), a weedy, green tannic structure, and a lot of overpowering unpleasantness. The alcohol sticks out the instant one tries to pair anything…anything…with it. Heavy, tedious, and awfully sloppy. Bad wine. Bad wine. (6/07)

TN: Joe

[valpolicella]Allegrini 2001 Veronese “Palazzo della Torre” (Veneto) – Big and obvious, with highly-structured skins and char, but very little that’s appealing. (6/07)

TN: Blanck fate

[label]Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – Intense, sun-baked varietal topnotes of peach and lychee lead to deeper, spicier, more mineralized strata within. This is big and intense, but it’s also structured, and will age very nicely. Right now, it’s still in a fine, open, youthful state, though bottles here and there are starting to close. Soonish, it’ll need a half-dozen years – at least – to show its stuff. (6/07)

TN: Boutin your lip

Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint-Loup “Cuvée les Vieilles vignes de Mourvèdre (Languedoc) – Ageable and thus in need of decanting, showing dark, fierce fruit and concentrated, leather-clad meat residue amidst a cowboy structure of straps and chaps. A touch untamed, and all the better for it. (6/07)

TN: Keep it Secret, keep it safe

[vineyard]Cave de Cairanne 2005 Vin de Pays de la Principauté d’Orange “Secret de Campane” (Rhône) – Grenache, carignan & cinsault. It’s thick, perhaps even a bit sludgy, and though there’s a decent amount of acidity it’s completely overwhelmed by the weight of this wine. That said, it’s not particularly dense or concentrated, just heavy. And that said, it’s very tasty and goofily affable. It’s simple, but it’s $5.99. What do you want for six bucks? (6/07)

TN: Py in the face

Desvignes 2000 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières (Beaujolais) – Corked. My last bottle, too. (6/07)

TN: Dubourdieu-be-do

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2005 Graves (Bordeaux) – Whippy green and yellow leaves around bright, ripe lemon and grapefruit, plus a foamy seashore salinity that froths over the just-barely-sufficient structure. This is a little on the ripe side, but it’s a fine effort nonetheless. (6/07)

TN: David

Kermit Lynch “Terres d’Avignon” 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Satisfyingly basic. Provençal herbs, soil and brush pair with well-roasted old red berries and a soft, transporting hint of Rhônish complexity. A lovely wine, and an absolute steal anywhere south of $15. (6/07)

TN: Wading Puligny

Leflaive 2004 Puligny-Montrachet (Burgundy) – Corked. (6/07)

TN: Leydier lay

[label]Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2002 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – 375 ml. Lighter than normal, to the extent that I think it might be closed up. Well, why not? Though it’s equally likely that it’s already falling apart. All the signature shattered quartz in a flower shop is here, with the usual addition of bright acidity and a blinding solar diffraction. This is far from the best Durban I’ve tasted, yet it’s still utterly definitive. (6/07)

TN: Mastroberardino of their domain

[label]Mastroberardino 2004 Greco di Tufo “NovaSerra” (Campania) – Surprisingly juicy. Ash-dusted green berries and whitewashed lemon are given lift by slick acidity. It’s a very tasty wine, but somehow seems to lack soul. Maybe age will help matters. (6/07)

TN: Here, here

[vineyard]Neirano Brachetto d’Acqui (Piedmont) – Simple strawberry and powdered sugar froth. More basic than these (already typically basic) wines tend to be, but with the vague sensation of something mineralistic underneath. If they could only bring out this character, they’d have a beauty on their hands. (6/07)

TN: Old faithful

Ridge 1994 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – Fully given over to the “Draper perfume” of refined yet lurid American oak, old zinfandel’s baked-briar-patch berries, and soft, tongue-caressing solids. The old berry, animal, wood and earth aromas here mingle in a misty autumnal haze, breathing and pulsing with polished authority. A beautiful old zin. This, unlike a previous (Ridge-sourced library selection) bottle, is completely ready to go. (6/07)

TN: The great Santorini

[bottle]Sigalas 2004 Santorini (Greece) – Sea-swept kelp and post-fizz melon balls, with an insistent but slightly insubstantial citrus foam. There’s a lot of good here, but it’s all a bit haphazard. Still, points for effort. Greece is new to winemaking, you know. (6/07)

TN: Ricky

[label]Texier 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages St-Gervais (Rhône) – Fully resolved, with a mélange of French underbrush and spiced-with-age old red berries. The texture is somewhat reminiscent of leather, but disintegrated rather than intact, as if everything had shattered into the finest particulate matter possible. A really lovely wine, showing authentic character but modernistic gentility, all in the same package. Synthetic cork, so drink soon; they’re not to be trusted with age. (6/07)

TN: Bach again

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Structured, pure, and flavorful, with all the classic gewürztraminer notes paired with fine acidity and a pointed acidic thrust. Delicious. (6/07)

15 June 2007

TN: The vatted calf

[bottle]Tyrrell’s 1994 Semillon “Vat 1” (Hunter Valley) – Salty, with mixed white and green melons, lime zest, and a sweet/saline backdrop hanging over a tannic and high-acid structure. The finish is nearly endless. Marvelous! Those who mistakenly think the entire vinous output of Australia runs from massive to gihuginormous should give this a try. It is – apologies to Jamie Goode – a world-class wine. (5/07)

TN: Gravner robber

Gravner 2001 Ribolla Gialla “Amfora” (Venezia Giulia) – Tannic, showing black cherry, mineral salts, and grey-white, chalky earth. (Note for the unclear: this is a white wine.) It’s long, with great balanced and structure; full-bodied and wonderful. A complex masterwork, though I suppose it’s worth noting that it tastes pretty much only of itself. Stunning. (5/07)

TN: New Heitz

Heitz 1999 Grignolino “Port” (Napa Valley) – Can anyone actually afford to plant grignolino in Napa these days? Anyway, this was a favorite post-prandial quaffer back in my early wine-drinking days, and it tastes pretty much as I remember it: strawberry and candied/spiced apple, with a bright, smiling, simple face. Fun. Don’t overthink it. (5/07)

TN: Cask strength

Domecq Amontillado 51-1a (Jerez) – Thick. Feels sweet but tastes dry. What’s unquestionable is that it tastes salty, with drying nut skins and candied almonds in abundance. Warming and long. This is immediately appealing and yet elusive, as if it’s still holding something back. It’s miles above run-of-the-mill Sherry. (5/07)

TN: John Clessé

Guillemot-Michel 1998 Mâcon-Clessé (Mâcon) – Served blind (by me), with confused guesses. This initially appears to have great balance, with a big, juicy arrival of tangerine and orange rind, plus complexing skin bitterness on the finish. However, it quickly turns angular and ungenerous. Closed? Dying? Disappointing? The latter, for sure. (5/07)

TN: Hairy Potter

Kalin 1996 Semillon (Livermore Valley) – Lightly oxidized, but in a good way, with waxy Rainier cherry, preserved citrus rind, gravel and honeysuckle slashed by cider. The density is striking, as is the acidity, but if there’s a flaw it’s that the wine is a bit hot for the form. It won’t be for everyone, but I like it. I think. (5/07)

Kalin 1990 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserve” (Potter Valley) – Flop sweat and sweet, metal-encased apples and pine. There’s a strongly insistent note of old Sherry wood as well. This draws raves from everyone but me; I think it’s very good, but that it has reached that asymptotic old wine stage where everything tastes the same. It’s not bad because it’s at that point, but it’s not declarative either. (5/07)

TN: Overnoy and out

Overnoy 1998 Arbois Pupillin (Jura) – Served blind (by me), with guesses all over the map. Lightly cloudy, with brett, sulfur and some Pine-Sol, big acidity and an acrid backwash. At least, it’s that way at first. With some air, it cleans ups a bit, showing lemon rind and a sharp, zingy, almost pétillant character. The finish, however, is marshmallowy. I have no idea what to make of this wine. It’s simultaneously appealing and repellent. (5/07)

TN: Right of first re: Fieuzal

[barrels]Fieuzal 1997 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Smoked crystals and gentle grey earth with old grapefruit. Extremely dry, balanced, and more pleasurable than this note might make it sound. (5/07)

TN: Fleetwood Mac

Silver Springs 2003 Delaware (Seneca Lake) – Served blind; I think I guess some sort of fruit wine. It would have been preferable to somehow mask the taste rather than the label, as this shows fermented lemon-lime Pixy Stix and other sticky, sour candies, and watermelon Jolly Rancher with too much sweetness and disjointed acidity. Blech. And the less said about the owner, the better. (5/07)

13 June 2007

(Not so) hale fellow, well-Quimet (Barcelona, pt. 5)

[bread products]The original version, with nicer formatting and many more photos, is here.

17 October 2006 – Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria – Take two. This time we’re not visiting, but shopping. We’re soon staggering under the weight of bags of pork products – if it’s made from Ibérico, we’ve got it by the kilo – cheese, and even some token fruit. One can’t live by pig alone (though here, one could definitely make a go of it).

Unfortunately, my consumerist joy is muted. I’m as ill as I’ve ever been. It feels like the worst flu ever, except I’m not nauseous; the sickness is mostly aches, pains, and sinuses that feel like they’re the size of the Hindenburg (and about as explosive). Whatever it is, there’s also lingering respiratory damage from last night’s cigar extravaganza, and I’m having a good deal of difficulty breathing, or even staying upright.

It’s raining, so I haul our loot back to the hotel via the city’s efficient subway system, while Theresa does some business at an internet café – a dying breed in these wireless days, especially in Europe’s advanced mobile culture. I’m tempted to simply collapse and nap the rest of the afternoon away, but there’s more to do and see, and it seems a shame to waste what little time we have left in the city.

At a small grocer around the corner, I collect a case of bottled water, hoping against hope that I’m not asked some complicated question at checkout. At the wine shop across the street (something Baccus; the name eludes post facto clarification), I do a little browsing and then ask them to assemble a case of wine for me, which they (somewhat amusedly) do. Fortified for the next few days’ travel, it’s now time to worry about today’s first meal. Assuming, that is, that I can even enjoy it.

El Quim – We arrive at this tiny countertop in the immediate aftermath of some terribly bitter argument between the proprietors. I mean, seriously bitter; each looks like they may strike the other at any moment. Our order is taken, and our meal delivered, in near-silence from both. I suspect that, later, someone will end up with a stick of chorizo lodged where it probably shouldn’t be.

In the interim, we enjoy our bites and snacks. This tapas bar specializes in more adventurous (for the international palate) selections, which makes sense as the ammoniated and rather nauseating aroma from the massive display of organ meats immediately behind us casts a restroomy pall over the culinary aromas. No offal aficionados, we decide play it fairly safe…and taking chances with my digestive system is probably unwise at this juncture. Asparagus are fresh, vivid and inspiringly simple, albóndigas are rich pillows of meat, and sardines in an escabeche are small and terrific, but the supreme dish is a plate of intensely-flavored eggs with ham. I think Universal is a little bit better (it’s certainly friendlier), but then again it’s hard to properly judge while arbitrarily avoiding at least half the menu.

Museu Picasso – Since it would be a completely wasted opportunity to ride out my malaise back at the hotel room, we opt to visit a few more sites between lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, we’ve missed whatever magic visiting window exists for several destinations – both the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Palau Reial Major are closed, despite our guidebooks’ insistence to the contrary – and so we find our way to this famous museum.

Now, I must confess that I’m not a Picasso fan. To be honest, my interest in what I call “flat art” ends before his ascendancy, though I do appreciate his early work (up through his color-designated periods), and this museum is spectacularly thorough in its presentation of his life’s pursuit. So it’s not surprising that I spend a great deal of time in the museum’s earlier galleries, somewhat less in the middle-period rooms, and then fairly race through the finish. I sit and guzzle a few troughs of coffee while Theresa (who’s much more interested in such things) finishes off her tour. Nonetheless, this museum is, itself, a masterwork, and not to be missed…whether or not one enjoys the contents.

Full of discordia but starting to pine for sustenance, we walk along the city’s peaceful waterfront, passing under giant smiling lobsters and dramatic, artsy archways, and finally just sitting and enjoying the fraying ends of the evening. As night falls, we wander into less touristed, slightly rougher (though by no means “rough”) neighborhoods in search of a place to stand and eat. No, really.

[fish counter]Quimet i Quimet – A lot has been written about this place, and it’s all true: the tapas are primarily derived from the canned, jarred, tinned, wrapped, preserved and pre-made rather than the fresh, the place is impossibly tiny (two micro-tables plus a tiny wraparound counter) and packed to the gills with locals and a few undaunted tourists, it’s standing-room (more like jostling-room) only, and the beverage options are rather staggering. One simply enters and carves out some sort of nook, orders something from the counter, selects a beverage from the wall (higher shelves are reached by a proprietor bearing a long, hook-like device), and gets on with the noshing. More food? More wine? Drinks? Just keep ordering…as long as you can avoid the desperate stares of those waiting for your square foot of real estate. Such a complete lack of pretension or artifice is barely to be believed in these modern times, yet this closet-sized eatery could hardly be more successful.

To the extent that Catalan or Spanish have been necessary in restaurants, I’ve mostly been the one to struggle and mangle my way through. But tonight, I’m too sick and dazed (especially after three successive trips to the pharmacy, with new symptoms to describe each time) to torture another proprietor with my incoherent mumbling. Theresa takes over, finding that French works better than English in the absence of the correct local dialect. A nearby cluster of Russians reaches the same conclusion, but far as we can tell, everyone else is speaking Catalan. That has to be a good sign, right?

Instead of choosing our own tapas, we let the owners feed us, and though the various takes on smoked and preserved fish (with and without accompaniments) are brilliant, the highlight is a stunning plate of Spanish cheeses…the best we’ve yet tasted. And let’s not forget the small dollops of caviar, which has become an unattainably expensive luxury back home; here, they’re practically given away.

Gancedo “Sestal” 2002 Bierzo Mencia (Northwest Spain) – Balanced, with black and red fruit, aromatic flowers on a bed of rich organic earth, and fine structure. While quite flavorful, this is in no way overwhelming; it’s warm-climate, but it’s balanced and pure. Ageable? Probably…a short while at least. Very nice.

Conde de Osborne Brandy de Jerez “Solera Gran Reserva” (Jerez) – Feeling somewhat refreshed by the wine and food, I once again put myself in the staff’s hands, asking for a brandy of some sort. I receive this: simultaneously bitter and rich, with spicy fruit and a keening flor-like note (perhaps just the power of suggestion, perhaps not). Complex and warming. Delicious.

The price for all this elbow-tucking bacchanalia? Just forty-one euro, and we’re both stuffed and suffused with a warm, alcohol-induced glow. (Also, the medication might be at work.) But while it’s an unquestioned bargain, it’s more important to note that this is simply a terrific restaurant.

11 June 2007

TN: Just the Fiacre, ma'am

[label]Chartogne-Taillet 1996 Champagne Brut “Fiacre” (Champagne) – Geranium and sand, with funereal white flowers obscuring the nose. Eventually, the palate struggles through, showing tangerine, bleached cherries and a vanilla/marshmallow thickening on the finish. Interesting. (6/07)

TN: Witters don't use drugs

[steve edmunds]Edmunds St. John 2006 Pinot Gris Witters (El Dorado County) – With a name switch from the Italian form, this carries certain stylistic expectations on which it doesn’t deliver. Which is not necessarily a criticism, as the following will detail. There’s honeysuckle and a flashing, floral palate full of pollen and spice. It’s weighty and a touch hot, but the balance is mostly solid, and there’s a deeply-buried foundation of sun-yellowed minerality. In other words, this is a really good Condrieu. Probably the best Condrieu made outside the region. Who could have guessed? (6/07)

TN: Oberhäus, in the middle of our street

Dönnhoff 2001 Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 004 02 (Nahe) – Ripe apple with some steel. Simple and tart on the finish. This seems to be eroding rather than aging, as predicted by many…as if a protective layer of pleasure were being sand-etched from an archeaological structure. (6/07)

TN: Darting left and right

[bottles & glasses]Darting 2005 Dürkheimer Steinberg Muskateller Kabinett Trocken 008 06 (Pfalz) – Floral, showing lime rind and white pepper. It’s on the short side, and perhaps a touch green, but it’s nice. I think being surrounded by bigger wines does some organoleptic violence here. (6/07)

TN: Edel weiss

Boxler 2002 Edelzwicker “Réserve” (Alsace) – Sundried tomato and minerals with a transparent coal character that softens to something sweaty on the finish. It’s big and slightly clumsy, but again that could be the context; the acid’s fine and the weight much more impressive for a blend of this type. Still, this is the lowest end of Boxler’s range, and there’s a reason. (6/07)

TN: Puig-headed

Campadieu “Domaine La Tour Vieille” 1999 Collioure Puig Oriol (Roussillon) – Cooked and horridly nasty. A recent purchase, so it shouldn't be considered representative of well-stored bottles. (6/07)

TN: A long day's journey into Nuits

Chevillon 1996 Nuits Saint-Georges Les Roncières (Burgundy) – Corked. What a shame. (6/07)

TN: Just zeaux

Bocquenet 1995 Echezeaux (Burgundy) – Subtle and gorgeous, showing mixed seed peppers dusted over grey and black earth, and a soft, pulsing dark fruit core that just resists identification. Everything one drinks Burgundy for. (6/07)

TN: I rancia so far away

[bottle]Fèlsina “Berardenga” 1995 Chianti Classico Riserva “Rancia” (Tuscany) – Whipped strawberries squeezed into granite. Very structured, with thick, barky tannin, but of a texturally appealing kind…coarse-grained satin, perhaps. This is a beautiful wine showing signs of both primary fruit and developing maturity, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near done aging. It’s on the more muscular side, certainly, but gives up nothing essential for it. (6/07)

TN: Hommage blanc

Trimbach 1996 Pinot Gris “Hommage de Georgette Trimbach” (Alsace) – Molten blended metals, pear juice and huge acidity with a finish that recedes back to purely metallic firmness despite the midpalate crescendo of residual sugar. Contrary to some recent reports from friends, I don’t think this is anywhere near maturity, as it still seems more primary than developed; for example, spice hasn’t really entered the picture as yes. But the structure is as shockingly brilliant as it has always been, and I still expect great things down the road. (6/07)

TN: Kerpen-tine

[vineyard]Kerpen 1995 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese *** 18 96 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Amazingly balanced, with huge acidity and somewhat developed creaminess, yet still with time left (indicated by tart remnants of lemon rind squeezed over rocks). It’s sweet, to be sure, but the acid is such that everything seems better-knit than it might. (6/07)

TN:In heaven there is no beerenauslese

Ernst Bretz 1997 Bechtolsheimer Klosterberg Riesling Beerenauslese (Rheinhessen) – I missed the AP here…21 or 27, something like that, according to my nearly-incomprehensible notes. Anyway, this is curvaceous in a slutty, obvious way, with sharp red apple cider and dark brown sugar. Lots of sugar. Lots of sugar. You’ll note that I’m continually mentioning the sugar because there’s just not that much else to say about it. There’s acid, but not enough, and the whole thing’s a little formless. (6/07)

TN: Bella up to the bar

[label]Bella 2004 Zinfandel Big River Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 15%. Huge. Thick blackberry and boysenberry sludge with plenty of spreadable oak, yet it’s “balanced” in that strange, youthful-but-ageable zin fashion. It’s a bit much to take right now, but with a decade or so, I think pretty much everyone will be happy. It tastes a lot like a Dashe zin, or a Ridge, and there’s a reason for that… (6/07)

TN: The Nimes of the Rose

Collard “Château Mourgues du Grès” 2006 Costières de Nimes Rosé “Fleur d’Eglantine” (Rhône) – Light and lightly sweet, with slightly fetid strawberry and raspberry covered in a little more softness than I’d like. With a different label, this might be mistaken for blush. (6/07)

Collard “Château Mourgues du Grès” 2006 Costières de Nimes Rosé “Les Galets Rosés” (Rhône) – Crisp raspberry and red apple, with a touch of volatile acidity and a generally more bracing character than the “Fleur d’Eglantine.” Still, it’s not great rosé. (6/07)

TN: The big enclosure

[bottles]Joguet 2002 Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos (Loire) – Surprisingly advanced, showing beautiful balance and poise, but with aromas moving quickly from primary fresh twig, berry skin, and nutshells to something more engagingly earthy and decayed/autumnal. The wine has softened a lot since release, and while there’s enough structure that there’s no need to panic, the quick advancement is puzzling. I’d have thought this would take longer to develop tertiary characteristics. (6/07)

TN: Rocky Recougne

[château]Milhade “Château Recougne” 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – A thick, sludgy fruit stew of blackberries and blueberries with some velvety tannin but not even the vaguest hint of acidity or balance. In other words, a typical 2003. (6/07)

TN: Gewurz of times

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Lithe dried lychee, peach skin and bitter cashew oil with a firm, crisp underbelly. Were this not gewürztraminer, it could almost be labeled delicate. Finely poised and balanced, with the apparent ability to age…though I don’t know how much benefit there will ultimately be. (6/07)

TN: Quick Trim

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Sharply-delineated and strong. A structure of girders – iron and steel – around which are wrapped ripe but flawlessly balanced metallic apples. Brilliant. (6/07)

TN: All sass

[vineyard]Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Fully-knit, showing light mineral spice, pear skin and good acidity underneath a thin but dense layer of weight. This is probably peaking right now; Alsace in précis. (6/07)