Monday, December 29, 2008

Dinner at Red Lotus #2

Another dinner at Red Lotus trying to work my way through the menu. This time, the standout was the braised pork belly with bok-choy. The beef with spicy peppers and dried tofu was also good, but not as good with the wine.

In general, the more I have Montbourgeau wines, the more I like them. This may be becoming my favorite estate in the Jura. I’m curious if others feel similarly.

2002 Domaine de Montbourgeau L'Etoile Savagnin
Surprisingly open and accessible. Even though I’m not sure that sous voile wines are really terroir wines, I really like them, just as I really like sherry. This had the bitter nut skin on the nose and palate buttressed by stone pit yellow fruit. Waxy and mineral at once that was generous and a bit bracing. Supposedly too young, but I find it delicious now and don’t see any reason not to start drinking it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who knows why?

Sometimes wines that you know are good just don’t show well. Makes you wonder about the whole evaluative enterprise.

2004 Baudry Chinon Blanc La Croix Boissée
And the disappointments keep on coming. I’m gonna chalk this one up to bottle variability because I’ve had too many great bottles of this. I mean, really stunningly good bottles and this was my first disappointment.

2007 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny Rouillon
Well, this was good, but didn’t show nearly as well as a recent sample in New York. Tue-Boeuf wines are always temperamental so I guess it should be expected. I found the entire range of reds from 2007 both from Thierry Puzelat’s negoce line and Tue-Boeuf to be exceptional, so I’ll try this again in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thanksgiving Part 3

Part three of my west coast swing brought me down to LA to have Thanksgiving with my oldest friend and his fiancé. She is Croatian and this was her first stab at a Thanksgiving meal. She did a pretty good job too.

This was an interesting couple of days because the folks I saw are not wine geeks at all (unlike in SF), but folks who like wine but don’t pay the obsessive amount of attention to it that I do. It’s always interesting to see what they like and don’t.

2004 Luberri Rioja Seis
I’ve liked the 2005 better than this vintage. It just seems a bit diffuse and ripe, but is a decent enough drop I suppose. No one really complained about it.

2004 Ferrando Carema
This was easily the class of the evening and the universal favorite. It’s funny, but I have long insisted that at the table folks will recognize real wine even in the company of wines that are more mainstream, for lack of a better word. This was a case in point. It showed a level of gentleness I wouldn’t have expected of young Ferrando white label. What is so interesting about this wine is that it gives the red fruits of nebbiolo, but then veers somewhere different from its Barolo cousins, more towards a sprinkling of herbs and flowers with a light and airy nature that makes me think of its Alpine home without loosing drive and maintaining clout. A neat trick.

2005 Seavey Napa Valley cabernet Caravina
This was awful. Couldn’t even finish the bottle even though we only had 3 bottles for 5 people.

The next night a good friend from graduate school and his wife joined us for dinner at restaurant 2117 in Santa Monica. A couple things about this meal. First, it was throwback food from the early 90s. Asian fusion and with that sort of presentation, the décor was on the dim side too. However, the food was top notch in it’s idiom, and I really appreciated the lightness of touch on the dishes. They were all extraordinarily wine friendly, even to subtle wines and priced very fairly. Thanks to Dan Fredman for taking me here the first time.

2000 Blain-Gagnard Chassagne 1er La Boudriotte
I thought this could go either way and was pretty happy that it went very much in the positive direction. A nice dollop of oak spice over the top to crown some nice, racy, Chassagne fruit that seemed to be mid-way through it’s first phase of life. It’s a place I like my white Burgundy, still with some youthful fruit, vigor and cut, but old enough to have developed some complexity.

2006 Albert Boxler Sommerberg Riesling
This started out seeming a bit sweet and clunky, but breed always shows, and such breed it is. I’ve said before that I think that Boxler’s Sommerberg may be the best wine made in Alsace, and for me, it is hard to think of a wine that I find more stimulating. Seems silly to laundry list the complexity of this wine so if you like wine of depth, character, balance and precision, then this is a wine for you.

2006 Gonon St.-Joseph
This sort of got lost in the shuffle with so many other wines showing so strongly and being surprises. Very clean and defined syrah nose. Not all smoked bacon but a nice blend of an umami meatiness that was mineral inflected and had good lift. I can see why folks like it so much. Something I’ll be seeking out in the future.

1987 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Bosché Vineyard
Another gamble and another great showing. Old-school Napa cabernet in the best sense in that it only carried 12.8% alcohol and maintained a lovely balance throughout the evening between ripe fruit, tannin and just a hint of snap. It wasn’t the least bit ashamed of showing some herbaceousness, and we were grateful for how that complimented the food. This really scratched an itch for me as I really don’t hate California cabernet sauvignon, it’s just that I don’t recognize it anymore. I guess I’m a Goldwater Republican, I didn’t leave the party, the party left me. It was at its apex now but should hold well for 5 years or more.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Part 2

The middle part of my west coast tour (the first was documented on Wine Disorder) involved two nights and a day in San Francisco, the lovely city that it is. As luck would have it, plenty of friends were around and no visit would be complete without drunkenness at the stinky pig fucking haven down in Soma, Terroir. As always, great to see all my peoples out in the city by the bay. Maybe I'll have to move there some day.

Tuesday evening was fairly quiet. A couple tastes here and there, shooting the shit with Luc and Guilhaume. They still have some 2002 Huet Petillant, which is fucking brilliant.

2005 La Grapperie Coteaux du Loir Adonis
A bit brawny for Pineau d’Aunis after it opened up a while, but that is most likely the vintage speaking. Fragrant, peppery and full of snap and vigor. Very clean and stable for a Jenny and Francois wine. Not a producer I am familiar with, but then again, that’s why I love this place.

Wednesday day was languorous with a late morning and easy stroll and afternoon nap and then off to visit Mark at Slanted Door.

2000 Prager Riesling Smaragd Hollerin
Drinking this while chaos was breaking out in Mumbai, it was difficult to stay too focused. Very lean and linear, in the Bodenstein manner. In a sense, it is a rather expensive Marc Olivier wine, but with added richness. But seriously, the flavors reminded me of Clos des Briords.

Next stop was SFJoe’s crash pad. Joe was up to his usual shenanigans.

1988 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
This was round, meaty, with a good hit of rubber meeting the road. I think it is drinking pretty well now. Would be great with a savory roast, a wine that seemed to call for wintry food. I don’t think this wine is made in the same style anymore.

1975 Château Magdelaine St. Émilion
I found this wonderful. Kind of everything I am looking for in a merlot. Good, precise structure with enough volume but retains prettiness and a sense of there being calcaire somewhere nearby. If I had it to do over again, I might have started hoarding wines like this years ago when they were cheap.

1991 Pichler Riesling Smaragd Kellerberg
This seemed to be universally liked. I got this peanut thing that threw me off, but it is always interesting to try some older Wachau wines, if only to get a sense where mine are headed. I may like them a bit more youthful, or maybe it is the combination of Pichler and Kellerberg that says that to me.

Wednesday evening was more rambunctious. Started at Terroir early, bought some bottles and went to dinner, returned to drink more. Had some great Vietnamese food at a place that sounds like pogrom or something. Whatever, Scott knows where it is. Dagan helped to pcik the wines for dinner.

2003 Vodopivec Vitovska
Another new wine to me and a killer one. I’m always on the lookout for new orange wines that aren’t bullshit also-rans. This fills the bill. It made a stronger impression than the Zidarich I had the last time I was here. This had really good structure and excellent length. Was simply wonderful with food, which is the great boon of orange wine to me. Probably my favorite wine of the whole trip.

2006 Királyudvar Tokaji Demi-Sec
According to the Terroir website, 70% Furmint and 30% Hárslevelu. Whatever the fuck is in it, it’s fantastic. Seems a bit sweet when it first opens, but then the structure comes out. Really amazingly chenin like, but perhaps more floral and less rustic. I'm definitely a believer, now i just need to find the cash to be a buyer.

2006 Domaine du Coulet (Matthieu Barret) Cornas Billes Noires
This was definitely good as syrah and approached Cornas. Not the semi-carbonic-total-terroir-destruction of Dard & Ribo. Dark, sappy and good to drink. Maybe lacked some seriousness, but it was new to me and I’m glad to have tried it.

Then back at Terroir. I'm missing lots of shit, I'm sure, but here are two that made the memory banks.

1996 Kalin Livermore Valley Semillon
Brought by VLM-TR lackey slaton. At first, it seemed like it might be fucked, but an hour or so later, it started to unfold. Not in the same league as the 1997 recently, but very good and unique wine. There was some concern about heat damage.

NV (2005) Peyra Côtes d'Auvergne SG
I didn’t even know this existed thinking 2004 was the last vintage. As always the boys come up trumps. These wines are not for everyone, but they strike a certain chord with me. They make me think of the wind-swept desolation of the Auvergne.

The most important new blog on the interwebs

Joe Dressner has brain cancer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

La Nouveau est arrivé!

In the better late than never category, the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau was here recently.

2008 Chermette Beaujolais Nouveau
Juicy, fruit-juice gamay. Chill, crunk, repeat.

2008 Vissoux (Chermette) Beaujolais Nouveau Vielles Vignes
I liked this better. It was tighter and more structured. More chalky and grippy.

2002 Michel Tête Julienas
A great bottle. Has started to go a bit pinote. I don’t know that it will get better. Structure seems to be resolved and there is still some freshness. I had a disappointing bottle not too long ago, but this one was fabulous. I’ll try a 1999 soon and see where that is.

2002 Brun Beaujolais L’Ancien
Dirty stinky diaper. Good structure underneath, but seriously flawed. Tried the chill technique advocated by FLaJim, but to no avail. My entire case has been fucked. I blame Kevin McKenna.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dinner at Red Lotus #1

Another series for my loyal readers. I’ve been trying the “Chinese” menu at this local seemingly crappy restaurant. Follow along.

Tried dinner at a place called Red Lotus with André. I’d eaten there before and it was totally shitty, but André insisted that there was a special Chinese menu, and there was. It leaves me to wonder, if there is a special Chinese menu that round-eyes know about, is there a super special one? Worth special mention was the “Chinese bass” with chilies and pickled cabbage.

2002 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Spätlese
I think that I might like my German riesling on the young side. This was pretty good, but getting a bit of that lactic quality that I really don’t love. Not sure what it is. I really love Dönnhoff when it is young for its piercing clarity and vigor. The Kupfergrube is always on the fat side of the portfolio and 2002 was no exception. Lots of plump fruit which went nicely with the spicy dishes, but it didn’t show particular verve or cut. I am not sure what to tell folks to do with this. I guess hold it for a while if you like the secondary flavors and aromas of Nahe riesling. I think I may only like vintages like 1996 that have crunchy acid forever. I sold off most of my Dönnhoff in the not to distant past (if you bought some 1998s a year or so ago, you’re welcome). I’ll check in with a Hermanshölle soon and see what’s up there.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sunday Dinner #3

OK, this is a sort of theme. Another Sunday dinner with my brother and his family, this time polishing off some Thanksgiving leftovers. I like the feeling of being a presence in my niece and nephew’s lives, even if I’m not the best with kids.

2004 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
For me, this is in a prime drinking window. Has lost youthful jaggedness, but still has some verve and incisiveness. Others might like it older, but for me, this is in the perfect spot to accompany fish in a light sauce or other similarly sauced white meats.

2005 Desvignes Morgon Côte du Py Javernières
I’ve posted on this several times before and it is a great wine. I think it may be the Beaujolais of the vintage. So much baby fat, but so much firm structure. This is wonderfully balanced already.

1998 Thomas Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
The best bottle of this I’ve yet had. Maybe I just drank the others too soon? It takes a while for the reduction/FlaJim gunpowder to come out. It is a bright, svelte wine with lots of brambly berry-ish fruit that don’t glob or glom. Wisps of forest and herbs float around to compliment the fruit with a snappy finish. I was really very pleased with this bottle.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sunday Dinner #2

It’s a nice time, Sunday dinner with my brother and his family. Reminds me of growing up. We always had a nice relaxing Sunday dinner, lingered over wine and conversation.

These matched some hearty, braised beef short ribs and assorted other stuff.

2005 Coudert Fleurie Cuvée Tardive
Sappy and juicy but not really expressive yet. There is an old-vineyness to this wine that I find hard to really define. It is a sort of steel core of fruit with herby insects buzzing around in a hum (the Alary had it a bit too). It’s a very cool sensation that I’m very much drawn too in a wine. This is everything you would expect from a great vintage of Coudert. I don’t know whether it will match the 1991, but it will sure give it a shot. I’ll wait another year before trying another one.

2000 Alary (l'Oratoire St Martin) Cairanne Cuvée Prestige
Started out with tons of sappy, beautiful fruit. Grenache in a good way. Herbs and woodsy sorts of notes buzzing around with a hint of earthiness, but only a hint. Great texture in the mouth. Sort of luscious, but held together by some structure. However, after a while it began to close down and the nose became really muted and the flavors stumbled. The mouthfeel was still good, but it just wasn’t the same wine. So I guess this isn’t ready yet, or maybe needed decanting, although I doubt that decanting would really help all that much. I’ll try again in 3 years or so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sunday Dinner #1

In the South, Sunday dinner is something that takes place in the late afternoon. It is a fine tradition and one of Will’s better ideas. He’s also a hell of a cook.

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Brut
Nice, bright, good bite, but I can’t really be bothered to pay that much attention to Champagne.

2001 Barthod Bourgogne Les Bons Batons
Really good showing for this. Starts about a bit mute, but after 20-30 minutes, it really opens up. Brambly, carousing fruit with plenty of sous bois notes to round the complexity. I really can’t think of anything more I could ask from a Bourgogne. In my opinion, Barthod makes the finest example.

2006 George Descombes Morgon
What I liked about this wine is that I could just drink it without really having to pay attention. Sunday dinner is about conversation and this didn’t get in the way, only enhanced it.

With cheese
2002 Huët Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Haut-Lieu
Right at cellar temperature. Has really rounded and lost some of it’s orginal hard edge. I was surprised at how gentle it was. Not sloppy or flawed, just a lot friendlier than I would have expected. I find chenin blanc based wines to be the perfect foil for a cheese course and this served that purpose with aplomb. As it opened up, it started to stretch out a bit and find focus. If you have a good stash, it might be a decent time to check in.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The cycle turns

While you wait for me to compile my Thanksgiving notes.

Things tend to turn in cycles. I had a run of mostly disappointing experiences with wine.

With old friends Eric and David.

2004 Mount Eden Santa Cruz Mountains chardonnay
Probably the best wine of the evening. Half a bottle that had been opened that morning. Really good resonance of mountain chardonnay. A bit sweet on the palate but not in a way that really bothered me. Decently mineral and muscled. I’ve always liked Mount Eden wines and this gave me reason to keep the faith. I haven’t tried the cabernet in a few years, I think I should.

2002 Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
This was two-thirds of a bottle open for four days. Surprisingly in decline. It was very good the day I opened it and I thought just being corked in the fridge it should be fine. I was wrong. Oh well. Note to self, drink it all when you open it. It’s only 11.7% alcohol.

2005 d'Angerville Bourgogne
Of the reds, this showed best; however, it went in and out. It would put on weight, then get sloppy. Will probably be better with a few years under its belt, but that was small consolation.

1999 Fourrier Gevrey 1er Combes aux Moines
After the great bottle of Champeaux in the not-to-distant past, I really had high expectations for this wine. I was pretty disappointed. Kind of muddled and fungal (not unusual for Combes aux Moines) but it never really settled in or came together in any interesting way. Maybe I should have decanted it or maybe it just blows.

2000 Potel Clos de la Roche
Pretty crappy. A close-out with good reason.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winning streak

Recently, I had a great streak where wines showing amazingly well. I think it has something to do with the beautiful weather during October (I’d really like to see a study on wine and barometric pressure). In any event, these two wines showed better than they ever have before. So well, I’m tempted to say neither one will ever get better.

1996 Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Vaumoreau
A great bottle of this, much better than my last bottle. Really well defined layers with lots of forest, leather, earth, and brighter flowers notes around a core of fruit lifted up on a bed of something distinctly limestone like. What was really striking was the sphericity of the nose. It was so headily perfumed it seemed to really invade the senses. The tannins are getting towards the resolved side and one wouldn’t be doing a disservice by drinking all your bottles in the next 3 years. I think it has more to show and I’ll try to hold one or two for another decade or more. Very compelling stuff and you should open a bottle soon if you have some.

1998 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
The best bottle of this I’ve had and the best Chateauneuf I’ve had in a long time. There was a nice structure to the juicy fruit with all the garrigue nuance you could want. Everyone knows we at the VLM-TR are not big fans of Grenache, but this really turned our heads. Unlike so many I’ve had, this was well delineated and complex with real presence and structure, not to mention actual acidic lift. If you like Chateauneuf, this is a wine I would seek out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

As of Today

I just talked to Joe Dressner and his doctors.

According to all medical evidence, he has a 56.43% chance of death.

Just thought I'd update the avid VLM_TR reader.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Newsflash: Great American Wine!!!

I had a nice visit from a fried where we enjoyed the following with 3 separate meals.

1997 Kalin Livermore Valley Semillon
Golden tinge to the yellow. It has a rich, waxy, and leesy nose with some stone pitted yellow fruits underneath. Portrays a sense of underlying concentration. Kind of coiled. Great balance between the concentration and some acid lift. Nice mineral and fruit skin undertones. Very cool wine that drinks well now, but could go for a long, long time. Terry Leighton makes some of the best white wines I’ve ever had from California.

1997 Nikolaihof Riesling Smaragd Vom Stein
Delicate and powerful all at once. Diving but light as a feather. Really, really good wine. The nose is swirling with nuance and layers. Meadows of flowers, rain dripping off Autumn leaves. There is a certain momentary perfection that reminds you that this isn’t a dream within a dream, but that sometimes, life is real and beauty if right in front of you. Take that Derrida.

2002 d'Angerville Volnay 1er Champans
Very disappointing. I was hoping to check in and see what was up. Seemed really muted and never could seem to give anything. I know it is on the young side, but with Champans, you can usually see what is going on. A frustrating and perplexing experience.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blackwood Day 2

Well, this was the BIG EVENT of the weekend. Lots of food, lots of wine and lots of great conversation and general conviviality.

My brother put out a great spread at Rue Cler. Always a pleasure to have him cook for us.

2004 Pépière Clos des Briords 1.5L
2005 Pépière Clos des Briords 1.5L
I don’t know. What do you say about Briords and huge plates of oysters? Life is worth living again? I’m honing in on the fact that this is THE great Muscadet. I thought the 2004 showed a bit better to my tastes, more precise, but they are both excellent. The 2005 will probably age better.

1996 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile
Started a bit musty, but shook that off. It was all oyster shell and dirt, without much of that petrol emotion. Some yellowish fruit started peaking out after a bit. It wasn’t as aggressive as this wine can be, but I was mostly just drinking it, not studying it.

1996 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er La Fôret
A couple of us found this wine outstanding. It had that lemon drop crusted stone quality that I love so much from this particular wine. Still very well structured, but anyone who remembers how intense these wines were in their youth will be happy with how they are coming around. I was worried by the crazy intensity of the wine and also the potential of premature oxidation, but neither seemed to be a problem.

1995 Rémi Rollin Corton-Charlemagne
At first, I was really disappointed. It seemed sort of watery and washed out. Most folks at the table dismissed it, but Sophie brought me back to it with a particular dish, and the wine had really come around. What was previously washed out had firmed up. There were notes of pretty fruit and some flowers and spices. It also seemed to stretch out a bit and pick up some structure. I think part of this was my expectation for Corton-Charlemagne to be so big and minerally and intense. Sometimes you have to just let a wine be itself. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by aging this, but please give it some time and quite attention when you open it.

2005 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Chavignol Clos la Néore
Seemed to be closed in on itself. Kinda strange since I had a bottle not too long ago that was more open, but also much more mineral. You can always see the makings of a legend in this wine, though, and I’m always happy to be around it.

2004 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Chavignol Clos la Néore
Although it isn’t in the same class as the 2005, I felt this showed better. The lightness and linearity of it made it much more enjoyable on the night.

2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc La Croix Boissée
Went so well with the rabbit. While it isn’t defined the way the 2004 was, it has enough structure to hold itself together and to ensure that the fruit and limestone are delivered. A really pleasurable wine to drink. I don’t think it will make old bones, but over the next 5 years, and maybe more, it is a great drink.

2001 Pierre Amiot et Fils Clos de la Roche
Didn’t make much of an impression. Pretty woody and blocky to me. Susannah took it home, I’d be curious to see how it was the next day.

2004 Robert Arnoux Vosne 1er Les Suchots
One of the folks at the table really liked this, for me, it was another 2004. It isn’t the greenness that I dislike so much, although that can be annoying, it is the sort of glommy quality to the fruit. It was a vintage that had pretty high natural sugar but is watery at the same time resulting in very odd textures.

1996 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle 1er Beaux Bruns
This was actually drinking pretty well. I was worried about this showing the sternness mixed with hollowness that can be the bugbear of this vintage. While not fair to compare it to a wine from a superior vineyard and vintage, it is impossible not to. Beaux Bruns is always a richer, earthier expression of Chambolle, with darker fruits. My hope is that the best 1996s will turn into 1988s. This bottle gives me a bit of hope.

2001 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle 1er Fuées
Beautiful. Barthod made great wines in 2001, unfortunately for me, my source got theirs with heat damage, so I took them all back, so I only have a couple of bottles. What I love about Fuees, and Barthod’s in particular, is that there is a strong mineral spine with a coating of crunchy red fruit. Red currants and cranberry mostly. It is a driving wine, not a necessarily gentle one, but when the parts come together it is a wonderful expression of the best of Chambolle.

1995 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot
Very reduced/bretty. This is the first time I’ve experienced this with an Allemand wine, although others have reported more frequent instances.

1995 Auguste Clape Cornas
A very elegant and social wine especially in comparison to the Verset. There was nothing wrong with it, but it seemed boring next to the Verset. I always seem to drink these two wines together, which is maybe not fair. Next time I’ll drink this by itself.

1995 Noël Verset Cornas
Absolutely wild and gorgeous. This certainly has some volatile acidity, but it serves to lift the wine, not to push it outside of the lines. What was amazing was how snappy and floral this was, in conjunction with some deep, animal, blackstrap Cornas-ness. If you have this, you can start drinking now. BTW, this reminds me of my Cornas aging theory. Medium term, not long term. I think 20 years is at the outer edge.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blackwood Day 1

Once or twice a year I try to convince John Blackwood to come to the DCL and every time he forgets that last time he left screaming.

For Day 1, I left work early to meet John at the Duke golf course. I’d never played it (shit, I just started playing golf again after about 16 years off, I’m embracing my whiteness), but there has been a final four here and it was supposed to be a very nice course. Well the greens were in awful shape and it was a gross day, really soupy if not blistering hot. Oh well, John and I had a blast anyway.

For dinner we headed to Pop’s with a few friends to have a casual, family style meal. There was much fun being had, but it was a night of good, not great wines.

1990 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio
My last bottle and a great showing for this wine. Really beautiful nose and a palate presence that was refined, but still sharp. As the night wore on, it faded and the palate became a bit coarse.

1995 Salvatore Molettieri Taurasi Cinque Querce
At first, it didn’t seem like this would be interesting at all so I re-corked it to take home (you know, aglianico for breakfast), but it gradually opened up and by the end of the night and had definitely broadened without losing the underlying bloody/ferrous nature to include with hints of dried fruit and herbs. Rustic, tannic, and not for the squeamish. Again, my last bottle and I wish I had a few more. It is my understanding that this wine is a bit spoofy these days.

1996 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
I think the bottle may have seen some heat at some point which probably took away from its delicacy.

1996 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate
I managed to more or less gloss over this wine. I had a couple of tastes, but it didn’t grab me and my overall impression was of slick but not

2007 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis
A wonderfully refreshing way to end the night.

Friday, November 7, 2008

This just in

In case you haven't seen it elsewhere on the interwebs, those pig-fuckers at Terroir can't seem to get anything but great press. Well done you little whores.

OK, sorry

I've been getting a lot of complaints about not updating my blog. I'd like to apologize for that. I've had a lot going on at my new job and some other things suffer, like the VLM-TR. Frankly, I thought of giving up altogether and if, going forward, I am not able to keep it updated in a reasonable way, I will.

I'd love to get some feedback on what folks think would be a reasonable amount of new content. 2 updates a week? 3? Daily?

Thanks, and fuck you.

Blackwood Day 0

Once or twice a year I try to convince John Blackwood to come to the DCL and every time he forgets that last time he left screaming.

Well he and Trinka arrived straight from FlaJim’s place in the mountains, willing and rested. They may have wanted a quit evening alone on Day 0, but no such luck. They headed over to Vin Rouge and I joined from the office. It’d been a hell of a week, so I helped myself to a couple of Campari & sodas while they were drinking the Brun.

2006 Jean-Paul Brun Moulin-à-Vent
Juicy, bright and very much in the house style. There was a time a few years back when I found some of the Cru to be quite a bit more blowsy and overtly fruity than the l’Ancien. I didn’t pay too much attention, but certainly worth drinking.

1995 Henri Gouges Nuits St. Georges 1er Les Saint Georges
This was tighter than I expected, but I probably should have expected it to be tighter. Very refined and old-viney tasting with a core of fruit that finishes long. There was a regalness to this wine that you just don’t get from other vineyards in Nuits-St-Georges. I think this wine has a very promising future. I’d love to try it again in 5 years, but it didn’t belong to me, but to Vin Rouge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brunch in B-town

After a nice languid morning of waking up late and strolling around the Baltimore farmers market with Spike, we met up with Amy and the kids as well as some friends at Petit Louis for lunch. The wine list was loaded more Châteauneuf than you could shake a stick at and plenty of Bordeaux, with the Burgundy and Beaujolais sections mostly loaded with third tier mediocrities. Not to mention an almost non-existent Loire section, but I managed to find a very good Vissoux and they had several vintages of Gamot and Cayrou from Cahors.

2007 Vissoux Fleurie Poncié
This was bright, juicy, floral, and deliciously easy to drink. One of those wines that glides by giving a sense of ease and enjoyment without seeming frivolous. The bottle was gone in a flash, leaving only smiles behind.

2000 Clos de Gamot Cahors
Decanted and drinking quite well for such a muscle-bound wine. Make no mistake, this wasn’t near maturity, but it certainly had a nice balance to it with some deep fruit to compliment to rugged leathery mineral components and the full-ish tannin. I had a good dose of fat on my plate, so this did OK. This is probably a wine to seek out and put in the cellar if you like Cahors, which I do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dinner at Woodberry Kitchen

After an excellent meal and evening in DC, we headed up to Baltimore, my old home town. We took a visit to Boordy Vineyards where I worked as an assistant winemaker after college as well as driving through my childhood neighborhood of Roland Park. My dining companion was kind enough to allow me to partake in a bit of nostalgia for days gone by.

We had reservations at my old friends Spike and Amy Gjerde’s new restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. By a great stroke of fortune, it also happened to be Spike’s birthday. Spike and I have been friends for 15 years or so. We first met when he had opened Spike and Charlie’s and I was a young turk in the Baltimore wine business and he was an emerging and energetic young chef. We immediately bonded and organized countless wine dinners together and dined together (and partied afterwards) with regularity. We’ve even managed to stay in contact while I’ve moved a couple of times, went to graduate school while he got married, had kids built an empire and watched it crumble, only to emerge again with Woodberry Kitchen. I love the new space and I love where Spike has headed. He’s still the same guy, full of boundless energy end enthusiasm.

We had a broad array of dishes and ordered way m ore than we could eat because there were so many interesting things to try. Among the standouts were a fresh mushroom flatbread, a halibut dish prepared, and a roast chicken with perfect end-of-summer veggies all prepared in the wood oven.

2001 Radikon Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia
Ahhh, orange wine. Again, my dining companion seemed to be quite taken with the skin contact white. Not as vibrant as the Massa Vecchia the night before, but maybe more deeply pitched. It has aged out of some of its structure and is a mellower wine than it was a couple of years ago. Was excellent with food, which is a great strength of these wines and Radikon in general. A mistaken assumption about these wines, and Radikon in particular, is that they lack fruit. I’ve never found this to be the case, in fact, I think that the structure and other nuances provide a great frame for the fruit. I’m not sure there is any reason for aging this, but I don’t think anyone yet understands their trajectory. Given the expense, I wouldn’t bury more than one as a science experiement.

1996 Mugneret Chambolle 1er Feusselottes
This was very good to start and, of course, absolutely bloody beautiful for the last glass. I contemplated opening it earlier, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. In retrospect, I should have opened it when we sat down. At least I got to enjoy the velvet-like, seemless texture that makes this wine such a treat. I love the linear, angular Chambolle of Barthod and Mugnier, but there is something about the sexier version from Mugneret that sparks some deep mid-brain reactions in me. This is one 1996 that isn’t a victim of the vintage. I only have a few more bottles and will probably wait another 2-3 years before popping another. If you give it proper time to breath, I think this is starting to get to a good place though.

2002 Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
After all the skin contact wine, this was so much more yellow. Decanted to let that wooly funk out of the wine, although this particular bottle didn’t have quite as much of that. Lots of good fruit and some nice structure, but not a particularly severe version of this. Decent structure and just all around enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dinner at Obelisk

Looks like Rockss and Douche was also in DC over the weekend. As usual, the VLM-TR is the winner. He went to a bunch of lame places in order to avoid the smackdown.

Had a great time at 2 Amy’s with a group of folks from Wine Disorder. Pizza’s weren’t up to the usually amazing standards, but the anti-pasta and the company were excellent.

My lady friend joined me the next evening for dinner at Obelisk. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been eating at Obelisk for about 15 years now. For most of that time, it has been my favorite restaurant in America. It doesn’t have the most exciting or trendy food or even a particularly sophisticated décor. What it does have are perfect and honest foods, expertly prepared and ringing with clarity. I feel like I’m eating at a restaurant in the Piedmont. It has always has had an interesting wine list, most of the time ahead of the curve (well ahead compared to DC restaurants).

2005 Massa Vecchia Maremma Bianco
It’s been a good long while since I’ve had a Massa Vecchia Bianco. This was a golden color you’d expect, though not quite the orange of a Radikon. My dining companion didn’t have much experience with these wines, but she was immediately taken with this, which I think says something about the myth that these are an acquired taste. I think the wines are delicious and if they were cheaper, would be enjoyed en masse. I love it when vermentino has that saline quality and I think the skin contact may actually enhance how it shapes the wine in this case.

1990 Giovanni Manzone Barolo Riserva Gramolere "de Grazia Cuvée"
Still has a fairly deep robe and not a lot of bricking of the color. I really should have opened it in the afternoon to give it some more time to come around, but you never know. Had a nose with a very prominent soy component, something I’ve seen on a number of 1990s. While this was in no way woody, I’m pretty sure, given the color, that it saw some wood and maybe a shorter, hotter fermentation than is normal in classically made Barolo. It would seem to open in fits and starts, but never really unfolded totally. Interestingly, there were about 2 inches of wine in the bottle due to sediment. I went back to that wine and it was much fresher in tone with more cherry and floral notes as opposed to the deeper soy and dried fruit notes from the decanter. All in all, it was a disappointment. In retrospect, I bought more 1990s than 1989s back in the day, would that it was reversed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


N.V. Domaine Peyra Côtes d'Auvergne VDQS Mauvais Herbes (2004)
My friends all know of my love for the orange wines from the Auvergne. These wines are definitely an acquired taste, but they remind me of the freakish, moonscape looking vista’s from where they come from. Utterly unique wines that everyone should try at least once, just to see. I wish I had a picture to show you what it looked like. While this isn’t at the level of the Cor en Continu, it is certainly delicious and more accessible. Gunpowder, herbes, strawberry, and minerals on the nose and palate. I like it served on the cooler side and find it does really well with food. These 2003s and 2004s weren’t as strong as earlier vintages, but they are the end of the road for Peyra, a domain no longer in existence. One of the former partners, Jean Maupertuis, is making wine in the Auvergne. Not quite Peyra, but worth a look in.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mini Txoko with the gang

Sometimes, you just need a little Txoko in your life.

2007 Ameztoi Txakolina Upelean Hartzitua
A more relaxed version of Txakoli from Ameztoi. This one sees time in large wooden casks, and I think the breathing lets them uncoil a bit. Doesn’t have the carbon spritz, but still has that Txakoli profile. Actually, this bottle reminds me a lot of Muscadet, which the tank one doesn’t (BTW, this one has a brown label). Lots of shells on the palate, and a bit more length and doesn’t have the same spine tingling acidity, but makes up for it with a more mature presence.

2007 F.X. Pichler Riesling Federspiel Von den Terrassen
I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Pichler. I thought this wine was fine, others thought it too big and a bit sweet. I like ti really cold and didn’t drink too much.

1996 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Perrières
Brilliant. No premature oxidation issues in this bottle. It seemed to have uncoiled into a middle aged gentleness, but actually put on weight as the night went on. It started out whispy and very, very clean, as is the norm for this wine. Carillon Perrières is almost always among my favorite white Burgundies of any vintage (not that I buy too many these days) which is not to say it is as good as top Grand Cru Burgundy, but I’m more of a Premier Cru guy anyway. As it opened up, the Perrières minerality really started to drive the wine, which had some nice fruit and floral notes to compliment the stones. The best white Burgundy I’ve had in a long time, I wish I had more but it’s my last bottle. If you have some, it may be able to keep longer, but for me, I like my Perrières to have some of that aggressive minerailty left, it is what identifies the wine to me, so I say drink now-ish.

1989 Foreau Vouvray Moelleux Réserve
This bottle was not pristine, but it was the first time I’ve been able to drink a wine that showed any sort of TCA. That gives you an idea of the true power underlying this wine. If you have good bottles, you are in for a real treat.

1999 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli
Pretty average. I just find it hard to get interested in Brunello these days.

2003 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Rouge Clos la Néore
This was a very controversial wine. Some of us liked it very much, like myself, while others did not. An argument raged over whether it was “clipped” or whether it was lacking in the mid-palate. I found it a little empty in the mid-palate, but that isn’t all that surprising, it’s red Chavignol. I loved the crunchiness of the wine and the firm, chalky finish that felt like getting smacked in the face with a limestone brick. This needs to be served on the cooler side to be really enjoyed. I’m not sure what this would turn into with age, so I would drink mine in the next 3-5 years.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

OK, really, I'm back.

A long week, so Damon and I decided to unwind with some good wine at Vin Rouge. I had a hankering for steak frites, or rather onglet frites. We started off with some awesome calfs brains, really decadent, prepared in a brown butter caper sauce. I had a glass of 2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis, which was an excellent accompaniment. Picq is a producer I like very much and used to buy, but don’t tend to cellar. Probably a mistake.

1995 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard
Still has a nice deep black-ish red color. Fantastic nose of a meaty leather, but not the full on smoky bacon that is probably a yeast strain, but a kind of wild animal quality with good dark fruits underneath. The tannins build sneakily as the wine opens. It is in a very good window now, the tannins never get big, but they are enough for balance. What is amazing about Allemand wines is how they manage to impart the wild, coarse qualities of Cornas without being wild and coarse, but being really sophisticated and assured. It is quite the balancing act.

1998 Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Pajé
This showed initial promise, but never really went anywhere. I found the fruit got a bit on the roasted side and the tannins became unyielding. Given my past experience, and the pedigree of this wine, I suspect that it will be fine in 10-15 years. I expected a 1998 to be opening up now, I really was wrong about this one.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm back biaatches!!!

I've been pre-occupied with the NEW Wine Internet over at Wine Disorder as well as work and life, so I haven't been active in a while.

So here you go, some fresh content, which is hopefully useful to those of you hanging on to any 2002 Nuits D’Ivresse.

I'll be getting back to my cycle of updating. Hope everyone didn't go away for good.

Actually, I don't really care that much. I'm giving away free information, take it or leave it. It serves as a valuable record for me, I kinda don't give a shit either way.


Great timing

Last bottle of Nuits D’Ivresse

Just sitting at home, enjoying the bounty of the farmers market.

2002 Breton Bourgueil Nuits d'Ivresse
This was my last bottle of the drunken nights. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster this wine as it went through an awkward reductive stage. This bottle was out of that and I feel like I timed it perfectly, at least to my tastes with this wine. There were still firm tannins propping up the structure and framing the food and there was still some fruit that hadn’t gone over yet. This wine has very gentle naturalness to it, something you can really feel more than taste. I find it wispy with strains of herbs and purple flowers to round out the fruit. Most of the fruit has shed it’s primary character and has ventured towards something more forrest-y and mature. This is as good an example of hipster-vigneron winemaking as is out there. Although this wine, as well as other vintages, do have their difficult patches, this isn’t hipster winemaking for the sake of it. I think this turned out just as Catherine and Pierre intended. Well done.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The NEW wine internet

It has been a long time coming, but it is finally here.

As many VLM-TR readers already know, there was a great community over at Wine therapy, a community of exiles from other wine boreds who found a place where we could mix irreverence with wine. The depth of knowledge over there was often times extraordinary and the dialogue at a very high level. It has gone unmodertaed and the software unupdated for several years now, and the center could no longer hold.

A mysterious group calling themselves the Politburo has established a new bored, Wine Disorder, specifically to house these wandering souls.

This is an open invitation to all VLM-TR readers to check join Wine Disorder and participate in what are sure to be lively, intelligent, and often humourous discussions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Farmers market bounty and Brun

On of the great things about moving back to NC is the abundance of great produce from the farmers market. It’s amazing how long arugula picked fresh that morning actually stays fresh in the fridge. You forget this when you are buying your veggies at the grocery store. When I pick from the dozens of different heirloom tomatoes, I pick in descending ripeness, so that I can have them every day if I want. The most killer thing is the fresh eggs. You can crack these eggs (hit em hard, the shells are strong) and throw them into the pan from 3 feet and the iridescent orange yolk won’t break.

You can almost become a vegetarian with bounty like this. Made a simple meal at home with some potatoes, arugula, tomatoes, and purple hulled peas (with country ham!). Fresh and delicious and they deserved the same in a wine.

2005 Brun Beaujolais Cuvée l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes
I had some issues with the 2002, which FlaJim has seemingly found a cure for. Well, I can happily report that the 2005 has none of these problems, and it is actually labeled Beaujolais! It is a little large for a Brun l’Ancien, but still has all that rocky/gravelly delineation. Deeper fruit than usual, but with more tannin to accompany it. Really delicious, especially at cellar temperature. Managed to bomb through almost the full bottle myself. My guess is that this will be at it’s best in 2 years, but it is no crime to drink now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My dinner with André

At Lantern with Cindy and André (yes he of the great Spanish whites). Enjoyed my pork belly entrée and my black cod plat quite a bit. Second good run in this restaurant.

2006 Karlsmühle Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett
More clumsy and sweet than a previous bottle. Not sure what the deal was.

2003 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières
Another very good bottle of this. A bigger, bolder, more intense wine than the 2002. The Perrières seems to do very well in these warm vintages and I’m very bullish on this wine. It didn’t show as spectacularly as it had previously, but nothing seemed to be showing at its best tonight. It happens. This wine should be excellent for 20 years or more, and drink well for most of it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another excellent 2002 Loire red

At a nice dinner at Watt’s Grocery, the hot new place in town. My food was OK, but my folks liked it a lot.

In case you haven’t noticed, Grandma and Grandpa monkey are making a lot of appearances these days. That’s because my brother and his wife juts had another baby, so my folks are back in NC for a couple of months. Maybe I’ll let one of them guest blog…

2002 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
This is showing spectacularly. High toned, floral, blue fruited, with that chalky minerality I love about this site. A few, more Earthy notes are sneaking in here and there. Under 12% ABV. This is starting to really come in to its own. Not sure if it has the structure for the long term, but it is certainly finely balanced, and sometimes that is more important and can result in wines that age more gracefully than expected. Another in a long line of excellent Sénéchal.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Tuesday at Rue Cler

Dinner with some friends at Rue Cler. Lovely, as always.

2006 George Descombes Régnié
Although I’m not as blown away by these wines the way others are, this was delicious. Sappy, bright, and light on its feet. Nice floral/herbal streak running through it. Pillow-y almost. Not a wine for aging, but who cares?

2005 Desvignes Morgon Côte-du-Py Javernières
This wine has shed most of its babyfat and is absolutely, devastatingly good. I think it may be the best wine of the 2005 vintage in Beaujolais. The strong soil-driven, mineral core is what really sets it apart. Ample fruit that comes in waves, firm tannin, and a whiplash on the finish. Delicious and complex, it drinks well now, but should age very, very well (in my experience, Desvignes are among the longest lived wines in the region). As good a Beaujolais as I’ve had. I think I’m going to pick up another case.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Frenemies and bad luck

My good friend/sworn mortal enemy Eric Stokes has jumped into it with both feet opening his own retail shop in Apex, NC. Some of you may know Eric from his time at the Carolina Wine Co. I think Eric really wanted the chance to sell wines he believes in, rather than what someone else has bought. It takes a set. He doesn’t have an online shopping cart, but does have a website that has contact information. He had a killer price on Pépière Clisson, maybe still has some.

A few of us gathered to help him celebrate his first week in business. These are the wines I noted, there were some other CA chardonnay and cabernet type things, about which I give less than a shit. My luck with Burgundy finally ran out as there were mostly disappointments.

1993 Barthod Chambolle 1er Charmes
This was a good bottle of this, although not seemingly a pristine bottle. It was nice to have a Barthod wine that was seeming to mature because my 1995s and 1996s haven’t really seemed to be budging, or doing so reluctantly. The Charmes fruit has dissipated into a nice earthy, leathery dried cherry thing. However, it is the inner mouth perfume (retro-nasal olfaction) and the mouthfeel that really make this a nice drop. If your bottles are in better condition, they might show younger, but I think you can start getting into these now.

1998 Bouchard Vosne 1er Reignots
Pretty non-descript. I’ve never had a Bouchard wine that did it for me and this wasn’t the start.

1999 Geantet-Pansiot Charmes
Viciously, horrendously corked. Like someone added chemicals to it. Crazy.

1996 Domaine René Engel Grands-Echezeaux
Elegant, nice Grands-Echezeaux, but not particularly inspiring. A sort of sandlewood spice to the sour cherry cranberry fruit. Lean and stretched and maybe a bit dilute, but it is 1996 after all, so I should just be happy that it was pleasant. Should continue to improve, if you have any, but won’t make old bones.

At dinner at J. Betski’s, the only reason I will drive to Raleigh. If you are in the area, you should try it out. They are doing some really excellent food and have a very cool wine list.

2002 Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir L'Effraie
Spectacular and shows what Eric Nicolas is capable of. I really don’t think that 2003, 2004, or 2005 really showed his wines at their best. They were just too warm to show what he and these sites are capable of. Shimmering, dancing, beautiful wine that divides and recombines across the palate. Has an edge of chenin wildness to it, but manages to keep its grace under pressure demeanor. This is why I fell in love with these wines to begin with. Please, let Eric Nicolas have a long, cool growing season sometime soon.

2002 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken
Rockss and Douche is batshit crazy over these wines (well, he's batshit crazy in general, but that's another story). A recent bottle of Kabinett was excellent. This, being a halb-trocken, was a different beast. Whereas the straight Pradikät wines have an inherent balance, this seems to have to work a little more for it. It was a very good wine, full of creamy yellow fruits and good underlying structure, without that stripped feeling you can get from non-Pradikät wines.

1996 Bernard Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes
Started out promising with a kind of rhubarb thing that I get on Dugat-Py Gevrey sometimes. Dark color as you would expect from this producer. After a couple hours in the decanter though, it started to go south. Not bad really, but not really interesting. Another mediocre 1996. The 1995 version of this was a much better wine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Real Wine social event of the season

An occasion of such magnitude that I was counting the days until August 9, 2008. The wine world’s very own Shawn Meade and John Mark stating their everlasting love, in a touching hilltop ceremony attended by family and friends.

Lest you think it was all roses and puppydogs, there were days of heavy drinking and lots of bleary eyes at the wedding and reception. I had a blast hanging out with Scott, Ken, Joe, Jeff, Julie, Paul, Wade, Dev, Suzanne, Kevin, and the one and only Michael Rhodes whose heroic attitude towards drinking make him the VLM Wine Personality of the Month. I can’t think of a group of people I enjoy drinking with more than these folks.

Also, I need to give a big shout out to those little pig-fuckers at Terroir. Gulluame, Luc, and Dagan have put together a cool little place, and are fighting the good fight. Even if they get carried away with some of the hipster vignerons (they’re hipsters themselves after all) they are in the trenches providing the drinking public with a space to drink REAL WINE, not a bar that just happens to serve wine, but a selection of wines, chosen with purpose, that reflect a belief in what is laudable and possible. We wrapped up every evening there and if you don’t stop by next time you’re in San Francisco, there is something wrong with you. Congratulations boys, not only are you in Wine and Spirits this month, you get a link on the VLM-TR.
The VLM feels a kindred spirit in those who have serious, deep-seeded issues with authority.

Thanks to John and Shawn for bringing us together, I wish for them all the happiness I hoped to hoard for myself. I think they’ll put it to better use.

Highlights included, from memory:

2003 Peyra “s.g.”

My favorite producer of orange wine. Killer, both before AND after decanting (yeah, that’s right Rosati).

2005 Zidarich Carso vitovska

Had not tried these before. Doesn’t have the intensity of a Gravner or Radikon, but has a feminine gentleness that I found alluring. Expensive, but worth trying, especially if you like what Radikon is doing, but the wines are a bit much for you.

2006 Királyudvar Tokaji (furmint) Demi-Sec

The Huët of Hungary is fucking great. You should follow these wines and definitely try them. What I’ve tried has been killer and this one was especially lacey. You can feel Pinguët’s tentacles all over these wines.

2002 Huët Vouvray Pétillant

Fucking A. The best Huët Pétillant since the godly 1996, IMO.

2004 Dupasquier Roussette de Savoie Marestel
Clean, fragrant, and bright as Spring. I could drink this by the bucketful. Vintage may have been 2005, can’t remember clearly.

2005 Allemand Cornas Chaillots
From magnum
. How psyched was I to find some Allemand in magnum. Decanted for four hours before dinner. Captivating and delicious. How these wines drink so well young is a mystery to me, but they do.

1985 Voge Cornas Vielles Vignes

A nice treat and catching a wine that is definitely at apogee or maybe a bit past. Lovely Cornas character from a producer who I find to make consistently commendable wines to little fanfare.

2005 Dashe Potter Valley Zinfandel McFadden Farms L’enfant Terrible
One of the most talked about wines in geek circles is Mike Dashe doing his best impersonation of Thierry Puzelat. There is no better way to describe this than to say, imagine if Thierry made zinfandel. Delicious and drinkable, bottles went fast. Not awe inspiring just yet, but certainly on the path and something everyone should seek out. I hope he keeps doing it, a welcome addition to the American scene.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Appreciating what you've got

A very nice dinner at Lantern in Chapel Hill with my parents and family friends from Philadelphia. I realize how much I took for granted the restaurants we have in the area, but living in the OC (and eating tons of high priced, uninspiring meals, even at restaurants with Michelin stars) cured me of that. These restaurants have access to such amazing ingredients grown and raised within 10 miles. A tremendous resource for them that many “big city” chefs would love to have. It makes a mockery of “slow food” in New York and San Francisco.

2006 Karlsmühle Riesling Kabinett Kaseler Nies'chen

Always a favorite little wine of mine, even in a year like 2006, when this couldn’t be a true Kabinett. This showed excellent cut and balance, not to mention delicacy. I was very pleasantly surprised by how it showed. Was a big hit with the Philly contingent.

1993 Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana

My last bottle of this and a wine I haven’t bought since the 1996 vintage. My parents still have fond memories of when they joined me on a visit to Clerico. He was a fantastic host, speaking to us at great length about everything and then taking us to dinner with a comparison of his Ginestra 1990 with the Grasso Casa Matte of the same year (which he humbly suggested was far superior to his own). As much as I admire the man, I found the wines were becoming a bit too extreme for my conception of Barolo. I have stated in the past that maybe the “modernist” methods are at their best in years like 1993 and 1995 as Clerico’s 1993s have always shown remarkably well. 1993 is a vintage that is drinking very well right now, so well, that I have almost none left.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mom loves Eric Texier

Dinner with my Mom and Dad. Mom loves Châteauneuf, but since I don’t have easy access to my few remaining bottles in the cellar (haven’t quite finished consolidation yet) so I grabbed some currently available in the market. Although it is the red Châteauneuf that holds my mother’s heart, the white really stole the show.

I have stated this before, but I want to be clear on how much I admire what Eric is doing right now. His wines are balanced, complex, and gentle without being at all sloppy. The opposite of where he was headed 8 or 9 years ago. It takes a lot of courage and mental dexterity to change directions like that and to do it well.

2005 Éric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Vieilles Vignes
Wow, another great showing for this wine. Éric is on a mission to single-handedly make me recant my hatred for Châteauneuf Blanc. Electric and beautiful. Not sure what else to say. If you think you hate Châteauneuf Blanc, this wine will at least provide the exception that proves the rule.

2005 Éric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieilles Vignes
I found this a bit muddy and slurred. Not being a big fan of Châteauneuf and Grenache based wines to begin with, this was probably not going to hit my fancy. I’m sure there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just young, but it’s not something for me. I have very little use for it.

From dinner again the next night with my aunt arriving from Virginia.

2005 Domaine de Pergault (Éric Texier) Côtes du Rhône-Brézème Vielles Vignes 1.5L
This was surprisingly gentle, but not surprisingly complex. Just has a natural feel to it, if that makes sense, and I think that is what Eric is going for these days. It isn’t terribly dark or froooty, but sort of deeply pitched and brooding. Makes it incredibly easy to drink and was a lovely accompaniment to the grilled ribeyes and NY strips. It’ll be interesting to track this over the years as it was much more accessible than expected. Reminded my mom of the magnum of Cuvée Vieilles Fontaines that Alain Voge gave us as a cadeaux after a visit and it does share something in common with that wine. My aunt loved it, another testament to how well Eric si doing with this wine.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big change at Chambers St. Wines

As readers of the VLM-TR well know, we are big fans of David and Jamie (and sometimes Rockss and Douche) over at Chambers St. Wines. Well, they are moving to a new location and David sent me an email to let me know, and I thought I’d pass it along to the readers here who might want to get in on the moving sale action.

These guys are friends of mine, so I have a conflict of interest. Fuck you if you don’t’ like it.

I hope you buy a lot of wine, here are the terms:

  • Prices will be valid as of 12:01 AM Friday August 1.
  • Order by emailing David or call 212.227.1434.
  • Sparkling wines not discounted.
  • Non-discountable items remain that way.
  • However, most old Barolos and pre-arrivals which are discountable will discount 10%.
  • All other still wines will discount 20% on bottle one, or more of course.

Most importantly for VLM-TR readers, all Loire and Beaujolais are included.

Don’t put off rounding out your Baudry, Breton, Huet, etc. Lots of cool stuff, try to get there before me and Blackwood get all the cherries.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Old school in the New South

After having such a wonderful meal at the Highlands Bar and Grill, it sounded like a great idea when RJ and Darcy mentioned dinner at the Magnolia Grill in Durham when our mutual friend Mike was in town. When we were all in graduate school at UNC we used to try to have dinner at least once a month. RJ, Mike and me with my then girlfriend and their girlfriends (who became wives, unlike mine who broke my heart). Then Li and Wenjing moved to Chapel Hill to complete our 8 and we had a good ride. However, the truism is that all good things must end and we all finished school and moved about. It was nice to have a chance to get back together. I feel really lucky to have found folks that I like so much in graduate school, of all places.

About the Magnolia Grill, over the years I think some folks, including myself, have taken this restaurant for granted. We were all on the lookout for what was happening now, and despite the accolades that Ben and Karen receive, the food can sometimes seem a bit dated (from the era of New Southern Cuisine) when you have that mindset. The thing is, if you approach the food for what it is, meticulously prepared from fanatically chosen ingredients, most of them from right down the road, you can’t help but be charmed. This is an institution, the trailblazer for true fine dining in Durham, without which, folks like my brother might never come into being. Kudos to Ben and Karen for keeping it going for 22 years. Anyone can open a restaurant and start strong, it is another thing entirely to keep standards high for over two decades. This place is going back in my regular rotation.

2005 Grosset Riesling Polish Hill
I ordered this because in all of our dinners, I don’t think I’ve ever served (don’t own any) or ordered an Australian wine. I’ve always liked Geoffrey Grosset’s wines, but the rieslings in particular. This was showing well, if not spectacularly. Sometimes his wines manage to be dense and packed and amazingly light on their feet at the same time. This bottle had the density and concentration, but I would have liked to have seen more lightness and complexity. There were 6 of us at the table, so it didn’t get much of a chance to open.

2002 J. J. Prüm Riesling Kabinett Wehlener Sonnenuhr
Now this is what I should have ordered. That glittery fruit of young (but not too) Prum Sonnenuhr is just hard to resist. Mine was futile. It assimilated me like the Borg. How is that for geeky?

2004 Salvo Foti Etna Rosso Vinupetra
Much better than a bottle I opened a few days before. This bottle showed in the Burgundian manner that I remembered from a year ago. There is a slightly smoky to the relaxed cranberry/sour cherry fruit as well as a stony nuance. Lacks a bit of drive and force, but complimented the food nicely.

2005 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey 1er Clos St. Jacques
Decanted as soon as possible. Showed a good hit of oak upon first open, which isn’t surprising given that it is raised in all new barrels, and Laurent “magic barrels” to be precise. I’m not going to get into a long dictum here about the use of oak and the quality of it, but these barrels are pretty amazing in person. Thickest staves I’ve ever seen on a barrel. Anyway, by the time we got around to drinking it, the oakiness had subsided and it was showing a lot of typicity, which was good as a recent bottle of 2002 was a very big disappointment. There is some around, I think I’ll pick up some bottles and see what they do, if I have any cash left after buying Foucault.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Rougeard repast between Txakoli

In between bouts at the Txakoli fest at Six Plates, I met a friend for dinner at one of my favorite local spots, Vin Rouge.

1997 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny
Sometimes referred to as the Clos bottling, this is one I generally don’t buy, but had a chance to get some at an attractive price in Europe a few years back. We had this decanted for about 30 minutes before dinner. The color was a nice ruby, but the nose was a bit muted (big low pressure system), but the palate was all silk and perfection. It was really a killer showing. I would have liked a more complete showing, that is, with more of the aromatic fireworks that Foucault wines can bring. Some coaxing brought out the nose a bit more (headed into some tobacco and dried fruits), but the wine on the palate and the inner mouth perfume were really dazzling. Maybe I’ve made a mistake about the Clos bottling by not purchasing it in the past. Another point to make is about Foucault in warm vintages like 1997 and 2003. Pierre Breton once made a point about how certain soils, aided by conscientious viticulture, remain “cooler” and the vines are deep enough not to shut down since they are still getting water (I’ve found it true for his Perrières site in Bourgueil as well). Thus, I’m very bullish about Foucault in warm years. Anyway, food for thought and discussion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Other recent Durham arrivals

Some friends of mine from Reno recently moved to the Triangle for a job. Got a chance to sit down for dinner and give them tips on the area. Wasn’t a great wine night, but hey, they all can’t be.

2005 Ulivi Montemarino
My friends enjoyed this more than I did. Frankly, I really love the Filagnotti Gavi for it’s laser like voice and bustling freshness. Still, a good wine, but lacking the drive that I wanted.

2004 Salvo Foti Etna Rosso Vinupetra
Disappointing bottle of this. Past bottles completely left me speechless. Complex like Burgundy, but a wine that had been kissed by sunshine and showed the warmth and spice to that effect. This bottle was a bit diffuse and lacking in purity and drive. I’ve got a few more, maybe I’ll try another one soon. Maybe this is an example of an excellent wine that just isn’t built to age, although I’m surprised by that.

Another vote for Briords

I'm a bit ambivalent when the general media gets involved in wine that I like. In Slate today, the generally pretty good Mike Steinberger heartily recommended the Pepière Briords (without a vintage) as well as a Bossard wine, the 2006 Gneiss. Personally, I think it is a good article and folks who read it will be better informed and, if they listen, will get some good wine. I also agree with him (with a few notable exceptions) about aging Muscadet. In the short to medium term, yes, but much beyond that I am only ocasionally convinced.

How do the rest of you feel about another spread of insider wisdom? Should we string up Steineberger and Asimov, or be happy that Olivier and Bossard wines will see a wider audience?

I'd make an actual poll, but I don't really give that much of a shit, besides, the sample size would be too small (not to mention, lacking in any sort of random assignment).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Catching up with friends, Burgundy always helps

Trying to catch up with friends this weekend and had a chance to dine with my friends Sophie, Damon, and Will at the very good Vin Rouge here in Durham. Even though you might think they are direct competition for my brother, we’re all pretty good friends and I think that Matt is a great cook and Michael is as good a front of the house guy as there is in the Triangle. He’s put together a very nice winelist as well. Besides, the way I look at it, we’re all on the same team. We all want to eat great food and drink great wines and we know the difference. I think there is enough room for both places to succeed.

I seem to have been on a roll with Burgundies lately. Watch the next few show like ass.

2001 Roagna Solea
This is a chardonnay from the Piedmont with 5% nebbiolo blended in; thus, it should be cool. It was interesting to a point, but I found it a bit clumsy but maybe it would have shown better with the right food, whatever that would be.

2000 Dauvissat Chablis La Forêt
Folks out in CA had claimed that they had experienced premature oxidation with Dauvissat. I didn’t really buy that. This bottle scared me a bit at first as it didn’t really bolt out of the gate. It did begin to build after being open for a while, but didn’t ever blossom into what I had hoped it would be. Good, but that’s all and not nearly enough from such an historically excellent wine.

1999 Geantet-Pansiot Gevrey Vielles Vignes
Really showed great. Opened for 30-45 minutes before we dove in to it. Lovely depth of fruit and that unmistakable animal/mineral quality I associate with Gevrey. It’s been about a year since I’ve had a disappointing Geantet wine, and it was a 1996 which hasn’t been kind to me across the board. Darker in color and deeper in fruit than the Fourrier and only a bit less elegant. Really held it’s own.

1999 Fourrier Gevrey 1er Champeaux
This was decanted upon our arrival to the restaurant, so it had a good hour+ in the decanter before we got into it for real. I don’t have as much experience with Champeaux as I do with some of Fourrier’s other wines. This was typical Gevrey, with dark red and blue fruits mixed in with forrest and a touch of animal. I found this to be very good both in terms of structure and flavor. Was great with food and deft in the way of all Fourrier wines. Drinking well now, and sure to improve, but there is no harm in digging in.

Aubry Champagne Brut Rosé
Eh, just OK. Better when I mixed it with some Dauvissat…

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shellshock and the medicine

First day of my new job, and I feel like I was thrown in to the deep end of the pool. Definitely needed some good wine to ease the brain. Why exactly did I leave the ease and comfort of my job in California for the stress of a high-octane research environment? Too late to go back now, the only way is forward.

2000 Arnoux Echezeux
This is my second bottle of this in the past 6 months or so and it was fantastic. This is silky generous in keeping with the vintage. An herby nuance to the deep red fruits. Typically spicy notes around the edges and a nice earthy streak (not gamy though, more of a light earth). Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on one if you see it around. Compared to the Vosne Suchots and Romanée-St.-Vivant, this is ready to go and should drink great for another 10+ years, but I don’t see it getting much better than it is now. Maybe improving for another 3-4 years and plateauing for a good while.

2006 Tête Juliénas
One of the joys of returning to Durham is that I get to drink Tête Juliénas from a carafe at Rue Cler, my brother’s restaurant. Michel Tête has been cool enough to put a cuvée of his Juliénas in a 10 litre bag-in-the-box for my brother to serve. It’s great, keeps the wine fresh and lively. The 2006 is lighter than the 2005, not surprisingly, and really takes to the whole carafe treatment. 500mLs of deliciousness.

2005 Pépière Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Granite de Clisson
Do I like this more than the Briords? It’s one of those questions that you have to ask, but are hard to answer. This is broader, richer, and more Burgundian than the Briords, but it is still granite based Muscadet. If you haven’t tried this, you should try it, buy more, and cellar them.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Excellent Cathiard, mediocre Olek

Met up at Rue Cler with my friend Susannah for dinner after work.

2005 Olek-Mery Chinon Blanc
I’d been really curious about this wine for a while and was psyched for Susannah to bring it to dinner. I’m curious about the etiology of this wine as it could be the same grapes that Matthieu Baudry uses for the Croix Boisée blanc, but I don’t know and will have to remember to ask. This had a leesy scent and what appeared to be some new wood. It was a bit flabby and dilute, not really what I was hoping for at all. Compared to the recent bottle of 2004 Baudry Croix Boisée blanc, it was distinctly inferior.

1999 Cathiard Nuits St. Georges 1er Murgers
I decanted this and then set it aside while we tried the white. This wine built and built like a slow train. It reminded me of Coltrane. Snoop would dig it on the Soul Plane. Anyway, for the first time I understood a comment someone said to me about Cathiard being fruity. I’ve never though of the wines as fruit forward, but as supremely elegant and reserved wines, especially in the context of Vosne. Right upon opening it was quite fruity and not appropriately structured. This all started to change dramatically at about the hour mark. I suspect that folks who find this fruity just popped and poured. It really benefitted from time in the decanter. The unfurling picked up speed and the wine gained in precision and focus, stretching out before us while developing snap and verve. Cool red fruits framed by floral and Spring field-ish notes. I loved the structure. This was strikingly precise and detailed for a wine from Nuits St. George, but the vineyard location and vigneron have something to do with that. I wish Cathiard wines hadn’t got so expensive. I think the 2005 sells for like $200 or something ridiculous like that. Who knew?

Friday, July 18, 2008

For Durham-ites

We live in a cool town. The best in the Triangle, hell maybe the south if you are a lover of real wine.

Tomorrow (Saturday) at Six Plates they're having Txakoli fest hosted by Andre Tamers of DeMaison Selections who imports the coolest book of Spanish wine on the planet, and also happens to be a good friend.

The vlm will be there drinking from a porron and generally causing mayhem. If you are lucky enough to live in our fair city, we'll see you there. Thank god there aren't too many hipsters to ruion this event the way Real Wine Attack was ruined in New York. I'll have my cricket bat, so I would shave and leave the skinny jeans at home if I were you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Drinking off the list

A mellow dinner at Pop’s with my folks and an old friend of theirs upon their arrival from Montana. It's nice to be able to easily drink off a wine list at a local restaurant, as opposed to SoCal where having a choice of good affordable wine was very rare.

2006 Franco Toros Collio Tocai Friulano
Thanks to Damon who turned me onto to these wines. Really exceptional depth and clarity. I like all the Toros wines, but this one is probably my favorite. Something about the fruit quality in Tokay really appeals to me. It is like if there were a version of lemon custard that wasn’t so blurry, sort a clear wax version. Anyway, my dad went gaga over it, which is always a good thing.

2005 Montesecondo Chianti Classico
An old favorite, this has been showing really well lately and seems to be prospering despite the supposedly poor vintage. Pleaty of fruit, earth, and leather, with lots of snap and tannin to wash down food. It really is a delightful food wine and this is the third or fourth bottle I’ve enjoyed in the last month. Not sure that it’ll make bones, but should drink well for the next few years at least.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Tuesday at Rue Cler

Dinner at Rue Cler with a couple of friends.

2002 Breton Bourgueil Les Galichets
I’m very fond of the two “villages” wines at Breton, the Chinon Beaumont and the Bourgueil Galichets. They are sometimes awkwardly alike, but they are unpretentious, well structured, and generally delicious. This bottle showed very well, although still a bit young, which came as a bit of a surprise. While the hipster versions, the Franc de Pied and the Nuit D’Ivresse get more attention, I think that the Galichets and the Beaumont are the value stars at Breton.

1996 Courcel Pommard 1er Grand Clos des Épenots
Last December, I had a fantastic bottle of this. This current one was not in the same class, but it was still very good, and did improve through the evening to the point where it may have blossomed had I decanted it or opened it earlier. It was light in color with a more rhubarb scent to the red fruit and a nice earthy/animal sense of Pommard, although still elegant and Épenots about it. Fairly well balanced and in a decent place to enjoy now. Not a wine of great depth, but with enough complexity and charm.