Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eric Asimov has solid character

If you followed the debate over on Wine therapy about Asimov's 2005 Chinon article, you may have witnessed me slagging him off. In fact, it was little Thor Iverson's playground challenge (if you think it is so easy, let's see you do it) that pushed me to start this blog in the first place (I just can't resist that playground stuff, but something tells me I would have whipped Thor's ass on the playground, despite his mighty name).

So anyway, I was checking out Asimov's blog, The Pour, over on the New York Times, and he has linked to my blog. That takes an awful lot of character for someone to do that. I mean, I felt like I was measured in my criticism of his article, or at least I was right. Maybe it was some little underling (it is mis-labeled Vulgar Little Monkey's Translucency Report), but I prefer to think that it was Eric himself, who has seen my posts and blogs and sees them to be of merit and decided to let my griping about his article be water under the bridge and throw this bone to my little part of the internet from his vaunted perch.

Whatever the reasoning, it is a nice gesture towards the VLM-TR.

Nothing went well with Chinese

A last minute Tuesday night meal out with a couple of local friends. All with assorted plates of decent Chinese food. None of the wines really suited the food except the combination of the Baudry and what was, essentially, a Chinese scramble with roast pork and other goodies. Serious hangover food. I’ll have to remember that.

2005 Carl Loewen Riesling Varidor

This was quite good. I’m not sure if it is full tröcken, but there was no perceptible residual sugar. Very citric and stoney with a 2005 broadness to the palate, although this was not broad or big in the traditional sense, just in a 2005 versus a 2004 sense. Unfortunately, didn’t really seem to sing with the food.

2005 Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux

Fucking awesome. What did you expect? Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this wine and I buy at least a case every year. I continue to be amazed at how approachable some of the 2005 Chinon and Bourgueil have been lately. What I love about Grézeaux is that it is so distinctive. There is a dark, mineral, earth quality that marks the wine every year, whether it was rain plagued like 1998, perfect like 2002, or hot like 2003, this wine always has that signature. A wine I’m certain I could pick out quintuple blind. The thing is, it is probably the third best terroir that Baudry owns (Criox Boissée and Clos Guillot have a much better exposition), albeit with the oldest vines. It is a flat parcel, near the house, with dark soil studded with softball size rocks, the grézeaux. There is also usually a purple quality to the fruit, and in certain years (like 2002 or 1996), it will have a lovely floral quality as well. Certain to age for 15-20 years, it is no crime to enjoy this exuberant Spring but I don’t think it will really hit stride for another 5-7 years.

2003 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurène

This was kind of awful. Really limp, loose, boozy, and glommy. Not much to do with it except dump it out. I guess it did have some nice spice on the nose, but the rest was not to my taste at all, and wouldn’t be to the taste of anyone with taste. Avoid.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Recent disappontments in red

Well, you can’t get all them all right. Two recent disappointments which was surprising given that both of these wines have very good reputations around the wine-o-sphere (or whatever). Hopefully someone will chime in to tell me I’m full of shit so we can have some good heated debate on this blog. That is the real problem with blogs, there is no full throttle shit-kicking. Maybe people who read blogs are just pussies.

2004 Sella Coste della Sesia Orbello

This was a real disappointment. Seemed to lack structure and delineation. I’ve like other wines from Sella, and was hoping this could be a house red, but it was flaccid and loose on its own, didn’t improve with food and had a disturbing almond/marzipan note to it that I can’t stand (and sometimes find in Brunello). I don’t see the interest or even usefulness here.

2005 Jadot Moulin-à-Vent Château des Jacques

This was a disappointment. Very un-gamay like. It was impressive for it’s density and tannic structure, but seemed to lack snap and clarity. Did not improve over the next couple of days. I’m not sure what to make of this. Maybe it’ll be an enjoyable bottle in 10 years, maybe not, but I’m not sure that it will ever be at the level of Desvignes. I guess if you can tolerate the blockiness and are looking for a sturdier style wine this could be for you. Drinking it, I get the distinct feel of something more manufactured than I’m used to in Beaujolais Cru.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

There's always next year: San Antonio post-mortem

It has taken a while for me to post this. The pain of the Final Four loss to Kansas was just too much. I will say though, that Kansas fans are true basketball fans and a class act. So very different from Duke fans, who I don’t think even like basketball, they just like Duke.

After watching my beloved Tarheels first embarrass themselves, and then come back to within 4 points, I needed some sort of consolation. After a bit of research on the internet, I stumbled across this place which was close to our hotel (note: don’t stay at a golf resort if you don’t play golf). Neat little restaurant called the Grey Moss Inn in the middle of Grey Forest, TX. There was an outdoor wood-fired grill for the steaks and other meats. If you are ever in the San Antonio area, it is worth visiting. The owners are very nice folks that like wine quite a bit and the list has some gems on it.

2005 Dönnhoff Riesling Estate

Bigger boned than past versions (well, maybe not 2001) but still delicious. I’ve been enjoying this for so long, I don’t think that I give it the attention it deserves. A much better wine than most estates can hope to put out.

1999 Girardin Chassagne 1er Ruchottes

Now, I’m not much for Giradin, not really the type of wine I generally get into (negoce, bought must, new wood), but Ruchottes is a very good vineyard and I thought I heard that the source for this fruit was top notch. Whatever. The wine was quite good with our mid-course of rockfish (even though the fish wasn’t that good, reminder, don’t eat fish in the middle of nowhere Texas).

1991 de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes

Their last bottle and an interesting one for me. I’ve never been a real big de Vogüé fan, the wines are just too blocky and Bordeaux-like for me, but I have fond memories of the 1991 from when I just began in the wine business. It was my first Musigny and was really impressive. Well, this bottle was on the downside (pristine bottle might fare better) but still had an excellent mouthfeel and inner mouth perfume, even if the nose was not explosive or particularly driving. It was a nice quiet wine, which was just fine since it was only $110 off the list.

1995 Sorrel Hermitage Le Gréal

This was the wine of the night, and by a large margin. Deep and strong with meaty black fruits as well as notes of licorice that have started to evolve toward maturity. At a perfect place to drink, IMO because it still retained enough structure to go with our big Texas steaks and still had some fruit, which I personally like. That said, I found it perfectly balanced with a beautiful nose and velvety texture, strong persistence, and the tannin were of the finer grain. Lovely stuff. I could have easily had another bottle by myself.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New York, the end of the dream.


Like many people, I have had a long love affair with New York. The vibrancy of the city, the sheer choices of cuisine, the great temples of American gastronomy, the art, the sense that there is anything and everything you want. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve thought, “this is the place for me,” but, professionally, it has never worked out for me to live in New York. Over the last few years, the sense that I’m missing something has slipped further and further away. I think New York may not be the center of the universe after all.

This led me to think about how lucky it is to have Durham. My brother can drive 5 miles and be at a farm that supplies his tomatoes and lambs. A few more miles and it is pigs, lettuce, etc. You get the idea. The whole local thing is very real down there in a way that it can’t be in New York or LA. Plenty of access to great wines, too.

Maybe we should be happy for the things we have that come easy. Maybe not everyone can live at the center.

Day 1: Marlow and Sons

Funky, trendy little Williamsburg joint owned by Andy Tarlow, whom I met and befriended on a trip to France a couple of years back. I finally got to make it to one of his restaurants.

They had some fantastically briney Massachusetts oysters (waitress didn’t know exactly where from). Not as good as the Duxberry oysters I had up at B & G in Boston, but you’d expect that given the proximity. When I first heard someone say that Massachusetts oysters were the best, I was highly skeptical. I mean there are all sorts of great oysters from the Pacific Nothwest, PEI, etc. I have to say, that I am a convert. Something about where the beds lie in the prevailing currents make for oysters that taste of the sea, almost like they come from really deep, really cold waters.

Anyway, they had 2006 Pépière Muscadet by the glass. They also had an interesting one-third of a bottle option. This turned out to be a perfect amount to wash down a dozen oytters between myself and my dining companion. It is also, as you might imagine, the perfect foil for oysters. It doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it again, Marc Ollivier is a genius.

I had a mushroom course, which unfortunately, I’ve had at SFJoe’s from mushrooms he had picked himself. So while it was good, going up against that memory is quite difficult. For my main course, I had a lamb “stew”. It turned out to be more brothy than stew-like. That was good fro the vegetables because they retained their freshness, but not so good for the lamb, which didn’t seem as integrated into the dish.

With our main courses we had a bottle of 2006 George Descombes Régnié. This is the producer that lots of folks are freaking out about right now. This wine was good, and fun enough to drink, and while I wouldn’t pass judgment based on one wine (especially Régnié, I mean how many good ones are there?), but I find that this is a case where the philosophy obscures the wine a bit. Not totally, don’t get me wrong, but I find the traditional élévage of Coudert and Desvignes to produce wines more to my liking than the semi-carbonic. I also remember a time, maybe 8-10 years ago, when the Descombes wines were pretty fucked up. These are very good wines, but I think to make them the new anointed is going a bit far. Let’s wait and see if they ever develop the complexity of the excellent vintages of Coudert. I’m thinking that hipster methodology may be at odds with this.

From dinner, we went to a bar in Greenpoint called the Black Rabbit owned by my friend’s brother-in-law who is also a friend of mine. I haven’t seen it since completion and it is exactly what I would have thought he’d put together. He pours the best Guinness I’ve had in a very long time. Not to mention, he knows how to make an Irish Car Bomb just right.

All in all, it was a good start to what would be an inconsistent trip to the big city for this simple country boy.

Day 2: Showdown on 51st Street

This whole episode has been covered in some length on Wine therapy and on Rockss and Fruit. Suffice it to say that not every friend of your friends’ will be your friend. Also, don’t dare to criticize New York if you don’t live there, even if you’ve been going your whole life, because you just don’t get it.

2006 Wittman Gruner Silvaner Trocken which was a delightful wine. Crisp and clean with a creamy, silky texture. Not as intense or floral as Wirsching or as dirty and real as Furst but lovely in its own very refined crunchy mineral way. As someone pointed it out it did not match well with cucumber and fresh garlic but I did not dare to try. I love Silvaner just wish this Wittman wasn't so high priced a wine. That's what you get when you special order from Wildman.

1994 Prager Sauvignon Blanc which was very good for around twenty minutes but proceeded to go downhill very quickly. Very minerally austere with some slightly ripe grapefruit rind but also as it went downhill I got hints of rot on the nose. It was good for the moments it was good. The more I drink Sauvignon Blanc the more I realize there is not much high quality stuff there besides that small cadre of growers in Chavignol. Just a boring grape that needs exceptional terroir to really shine.

2001 Carl Loewen Leiwener Laurentiuslay Spätlese which was lovely. This was singing on this particular night and was my last bottle. I am staring to drink my less serious 2001's as they are giving great pleasure right now. Nose of lemon curd, minerals, petrol, honey and beeswax. Palate had lovely crisp 2001 acidity and good effusive fruit. I loved it. It definitely was forward and drinking great.

The Spicy Chicken w. Chinese Broccoli was a totally crazy dish. Had some sort of little electric juniper berries in it that were out of control, especially with a big bite of them and a hot pepper or two. Crazy and hallucinogenic.

2005 Baudry Chinon Croix Boisée which did not show that well on this night. More Bordeaux than Chinon. Went through like ten different phases. Nose of deep ripe fruit almost black. After a bit the acid on the finish became acrid. There was great freshness to this wine even though it was going through all these weird phases. There was a time after around three hours where it was undrinkable because it was dominated by its structure. I have two more bottles and I have heard this wine evolves positively over three days. It lasted two hours. Well my last bottles I won't touch for ten years. This seems like a wonderful bottle to age.

2002 Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé

I think Lyle Fass covered this wine well over on Rockss and Fruit. Quite structural and oaky, with a coconut verging on pineapple stem tropicality that the Levi hated. I didn’t love the pineapple, but the oakiness didn’t bother me. I found it immensely structured and built for the long haul. It should be a great wine in 10 years. I’ll open another in 3-5 to see.

Day 3: Momofuku

I was really disappointed given all the hype. $45 for one person.2 pork buns, ramen and a beer. Fuck New York. I regularly eat $7.50 ramen that kicks the shit out of what they were putting out. More fucking poseur comfort food.

Had dinner with friends David and Jill Lillie at a little Thai place around the corner. Nice relaxing way to wind down a busy day. I can’t think of two more genuine wonderful people.

2005 Knebel Winninger Brückstück Riesling Spätlese Feinherb Alte Reben

Much more gentle than I was expecting. Certainly pretty and easy to drink (even Jill liked it, and she hates German Riesling). Didn’t make a huge impression, but I was more interested in catching up with David and Jill than really eating. The 13% alc.struck me as a little weird, but ti wasn't hot or imbalanced. Not quite Trocken, but fairly close, I would say.

Day 4: Tia Pol

Another highly touted NY hotspot. The food was fine, I enjoyed most of it. I think the issue is that it should be an easy neighborhood place, and instead, it is a zoo. Typical NY bullshit. You see a pattern here. That being said, this is the type of place I’d love to live walking distance from.

2006 Ametzoi Txakoli Rosato

No surprise here. One of the great discoveries of the past couple of years brought it strong. You have to try this wine if you haven’t.

2005 Vina Mein Ribeiro

Seemed little tired, non-descript and loose after the Ameztoi. Maybe any wine would, but not a great impression.

2006 Emilio Rojo Ribeiro

Really stunning. This may be the best wine in Spain, it is certainly the best white, IMO, and 2006 may be the best vintage yet. Has the grip, depth, length and mouthfeel to stand toe-to-toe with the best wines of the Mosel, Wachau, Cote D’Or, and Touraine. Manages to be light on it’s feet, whispy even, while keeping a sense of power and depth. Really lively with some food to knock the flavors around a bit. Another wine that is hard to come by, but worth the effort to try.

1996 Tondonia Gravinia Bianco

Really a strong coconut oak component that dominates the wine. We really should have had it decanted for an hour before as it only starts to come into focus at the end of the bottle. I quite liked this version of the Bianco. A very cool wine that may or may not have anything to say about terroir, but like sous voile savignin, it is a fascinating and delicious bottle.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Really good oaky chenin. There, I said it.

Jo Pithon has had a bit of a checkered history. Part of the disgustingly termed “sugar seekers”, he made uneconomical wines that scored well from particular critics, but wines that no sane person really had an interest in. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had some Pithon wines that I found to be excellent.

2005 Jo Pithon Savennières La Croix Picot

Much like the Chidaine wines from 2005, this has a very Burgundian sense to it. It seems to tame the somewhat wild and crass nature of chenin to a point, but lets it out on the back end. What really distinguishes this wine is the sense that it is really layered for young chenin. If I had one small (itty bitty) gripe it would be that I would have liked maybe a bit more savagery in the structure, that being said, I can always get that from other wines. It has balance, length, and tames the high alcohol of chenin in 2005 with a deft touch. It finishes with stones and fruit, instead of the acid wash of stone you sometimes get. Although it defied my expectations a bit, I found it a pleasant surprise. I should warn folks that it does have a rather noticeable hit of oak. I don’t mind it at all, but those doctrinally opposed may have difficulty. Reminds me of a bigger, less backward, Brézé from Foucault. At $24, it is an excellent value. I think it should drink well throughout its evolution which should be at least 12-15 years, although who knows…

Friday, April 11, 2008

The wine-geek blind spot

Everyone has at least a few wines like this. Wines we love to drink, talk about, and contemplate. One of those for me, maybe the head of the class, is Boxler Sommerberg. I’ve had wonderful visits to the domaine. Slyvie Boxler turned me onto the best confiture I’ve ever had in my life, the vineyard itself is magnificent. In fact, this may be the greatest wine in all of Alsace. But how many bottles do I own? I can count it on one hand. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it is like my Bordeaux thing from the early to mid-90s. It seemed like the wines would always be available and reasonable. I made the mistake of grabbing more limited, scarce, or prestigious wines. Yes, I was unable to unload many of those at a tidy profit once I realized they weren’t for me. But wouldn’t I be happier now had I stuck to buying some things I loved even if I thought I could get them later at the same price? It is sort of like taking a girlfriend for granted, which I’ve also done. You don’t appreciate it until it has already passed you by. Well, starting tomorrow, I’m not going to make that mistake again.

2001 Albert Boxler Riesling Sommerberg (L31D)

This has such a stunning mineral precision that the most appropriate word that comes to mind blinding. Razor sharp, with an focused intensity that I’ve only found at the highest levels of academia. Sure there are waxy yellow fruits in abundance, but the structure of this wine is what captures and captivates. Like a beautiful woman it can be both captivating and dangerous. Actually almost scary in its intensity, like it knows something you do not. Fierce, unrelenting, indefatigable, yet still graceful. How is this all possible? I have no idea, but I’m not sure I can identify a better white wine that I have had all year. Not cheap, but worth every bloody cent.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Read stuff by Peter Liem

You can link to his blog through mine on the right.

A thinking wine drinker should also check out his contribution to a recent debate on Wine therapy about Champagne and terroir.

THIS JUST IN: Freddie Mugnier makes good wine

A friend had me over for dinner. We grabbed some takeout and he opened the following. Very cool and generous dude.

1997 Mugnier Musigny

Pretty rose color. Lots of strawberries, which is unusual for Musigny, but is most likely a factor of the vintage since it is almost compote-like. Really a moving target and shifted around with each glass and while in the glass. Would have probably been better to put it aside and drink something else, but we kept going back and trying to figure it out. Missing the seamlessness and depth of a better vintage and although some folks had success in 1997, I don’t believe it is a good type of vintage for vingerons in the Mugnier, Barthod, Bachelet mode.

2005 Mugnier Nuits Clos de la Marèchale

From 375mL. Beautiful ruby color. Radiantly complex and shimmering in the glass. So delicious now, I could put it on tap at my house and drink it every night. This is exactly what you would expect Nuits to taste like if Freddie Mugnier made it. It has a lovely woodsy-forrest element to it, brambly fruit that has real sappy, driving intensity. Really great wine and I am a buyer if the price is reasonable.

Friday, April 4, 2008

They really do say Ducster

I was invited to dinner with a friend in the wine business, his partner in the company, and two of their good customers. What I’ve found out abou the SoCal Burgundy scene is that really do say things like Ducster, and Bozo, and Corton-Chuck, but with these guys at least, it really isn’t obnoxious the way it might seem on the internet sometimes, it seems very…well…Californian. Folks have been very welcoming and generous towards me since I’ve moved out here and, frankly, I’ll be sorry to be leaving. I’ll try to have many more nights like this one before I go.

1996 Ployez-Jacquemart Champagne Liesse d'Harbonville

Tight and leesy, but with sharp, spicey pear-ish fruits. Good grip and length, but not particularly refined or subtle. Good food Champagne, maybe a bit more on the Sherry side than I like these days. Should age pretty well.

2000 Dauvissat La Fôret

This is where things get interesting. I’ve only recently heard of premature oxidation issues with Chablis, and Dauvissat and Ravenneau to boot. This wine was definitely more mature than it should be and a bit maderized. Around the table there were calls of pre-mox, but I insisted that I thought it was cooked (it was grey market, not that the mere fact proves anything, but it can be a leading indicator IMO). At the end of dinner, we tried it again and could see the underlying wine trying to sneak through in a way that showed me it was heat damaged and not oxidized. This is a very important distinction that I think is lost on a lot of folks. I believe that there was general agreement on this point.

2000 Fèvre Chablis Bougros

Good wine. Interesting enough as chardonnay, but grand cru Chablis? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it just fine, but I really don’t see the there there with these Fevre wines.

1996 Lafon Mersault Charmes

Without a doubt, the single best bottle of Lafon I’ve ever had. I sold my bottles of this years ago after several lackluster performances of this and the Perrières in multiple vintages. I just didn’t see what all the hype was about. I’m not going to recant on my view of Lafon, they are worth way more to others than to me, but this bottle was complex, deep, long and very Charmes in character. I'd happily drink it any time, but I'm not sure, at $200+ that I'm a buyer.

2000 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vielles Vignes

From 375mL. Seemed pretty tired, going a bit brown on the edge. Not much going on. I’d try a regular sized bottle before I gave up hope. I’ve had great success with 200s in the past year, so maybe a better bottle will be better. I never drank the kool-aid on Ponsot, so I wouldn’t be a buyer.

1993 Damoy Chambertin Clos de Bèze

Clearly the best wine of the evening. I didn’t have high expectations since this is anot a producer that I consider to be particularly good. Maybe a triumph of terroir over viticulture? I don’t know, but this was everything I like about Clos de Bèze. The combination of ethereal lightness and underlying power was intoxicating. In style, it is very reminiscent of the Clair version. A sort of woodsy overlaying that Gevrey animal-mineral-dark red fruits. Some sous bois, but the thing that really struck me was the structure. Framed so that it held together from first sip through a long, tangy finish with acidity to lift the flavors and tannin to drive them through. Almost made the mediocre duck taste ravishing. Fantastic wine that I will certainly buy if given a shot at well stored bottles. Surprises like this are what make wine so interesting.

1993 Geantet-Pansiot Charmes

Still has deep ruby-red color. A bit cloudy though, maybe could have used more time standing up or a decant. Nose had tons of dark earth, sous bois, and woodsy with dark red fruit undertones. Very Charmes in character. The palate was a a bit murky and not as delineated as I would like. Certainly not like the 1995 or 1996. A very good wine, that folks at dinner think will improve, but I'm not so sure. I don't like the murkiness and am not sure it will ever clear up. If it does, it won't be soon. My guess would be another 10 years.

1998 Trapet Chambertin

Framed by a torrefied woodiness, this is good as wine, and as Gevrey, but doesn’t really scream Chambertin at me the way the Damoy did (or other producers wine). I’ve never been enamoured of Trapet and this didn’t change my mind.

2000 Arnoux Romanée-St.-Vivant

This is the last of the 2000 Arnoux’s that I wanted to try. The amazing thing about this was the texture. It was full and still sappy, but so incredibly silky and louche without ever getting heavy or going overboard. Very Vosne in its spiceyness, almost kinky. Very sensual and long in the mouth and back end, but didn’t really ever open up aromatically. I took the final quarter of the bottle home to enjoy a couple of night later and it held up very well, although the aromatics never did pop. Should be excellent for at least another decade, probably longer, depending on how you like it. At $230, I’m probably not a buyer, but I would definitely consider it if I was looking for a bottle to bowl over a girl.

2005 Trapet Latricières

I’m generally not a huge fan of Latricières as I find it to be a bit on the rustic side. They tamed that with ripe generous fruit, but there was plenty of wood and tannin. Not necessarily my type of wine, but could be good.

2005 Pousse d'Or Volnay Caillerets

Had a cotton candy like fluffiness to it. Puffy blue and black fruits. Can’t really feel the structure through it. Not really my cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Update coming soon...

Sorry been really busy, not that anyone actually reads this... at least according to my counter.

Had a bunch of interesting wines lately, including an un-oxidixed bottle of 1996 Jadot Chevalier Demoiselles, a notoriously flaky bottle of wine.

I promise to get some new stuff up soon. Going to the Final Four this weekend to cheer on my beloved Tarheels. Look for some crazy monkey antics from San Antonio. They have Irish Car Bombs there, I assume.