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.