Thursday, December 31, 2009

Question of the year

People ask me annoying wine questions all the time. This thought provoking question was posed to me by my friend Ken, and it really got me to think.

What is the one truly noble grape?

Answer: chenin blanc

Reasoning: it is the only grape capable of producing great wine in every form: dessert, demi-sec, sec, and bubbles.

It was hard to argue. Chardonnay and riesling are the other grape varieties that jumped to my mind, but there are too few examples of sweet chardonnay (but don’t you love the Bongran and Guillemot versions) and Sekt riesling has never really floated my boat.

I’m not sure this is the last word, or even important, but it sure as hell is an interesting thought experiment.

Hope all you little monkeys have a great 2010. Seriously, fuck 2009.

What we mean when we talk about natural wine

When Descombes is good, it is very, very good.

2006 George Descombes Régnié
Beautiful, fragrant and the epitome of what we look for here at the VLM-TR. I must admit, I had some rough experiences with Descombes many years ago, but the wines that I’ve had over the last several years have been very good to stunning. This is undoubtedly a natural wine. We might not be able to rigorously define it, but I sure as shit know it when I drink it. The enveloping nose of herbs, flowers, blossoms and a bit of spice is followed by that gossamer palate that caresses and dances across your senses. I can’t see a reason not to drink it now, the structure is resolved and it seems perfectly á point. This is what we mean when we talk about natural wine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big bad box

Some colleagues were in town for a meeting so we ditched the crap dinner at the hotel for a great meal at Rue Cler.

2008 Manciat Macon-Charnay
We started with a carafe of this wine that my brother gets from Jean Manciat in a 10L bag-in-box. What a luxury to have such stellar wine in that format. In visits to Europe we’ve been trying to get more folks to do this. Once we were able to get Julienas from Michel Tete others started to take note. We now can get wine from Manciat and Eric Texier. Delicious, refreshing, unpretentious Macon.

1995 Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières
My last bottle of this and a wonderful bottle. It had a bit of bottle funk that is not uncommon to Matrot. I was worried that it might be pre-moxed but after 20 minutes of air, I knew that wasn’t the case. Showed the honeyed stone quality I expect from a Matrot Perrières with maybe a bit of minerality missing. Very good, if not great wine. It should last for a while, but I’d drink it now-ish unless you really like older Mersault.

2006 Baudry Chinon Franc de Pied
As usual, this is a lovely, giddy bottle of wine. Juicy, svelte, and silky. The fruit rolls through the palate without ever cloying and the end of a glass comes as a surprise becuase you’ve managed to pound it so quickly.

2006 Clos Roche Blanche La Closerie
Another excellent bottle of this. I may like it more than others, but the smokey, meaty quality they coax from the blend of cabernets. I really like this wine and this vintage has been particularly successful for me.

2003 Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières
This bottle showed a lot more of the underlying structure of the wine. It has been covered by waves of blue and black fruits since it was released and has been almost impossible to not drink. I really need to stop drinking it though because I think it will age in really interesting ways if the 1997 is any indication. Drink one if you have a few otherwise, hold for a few more years for more complexity.

2007 Castello di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone
Light orangish/cranberry fruit that was herby and strange. In other words, fairly classic Peleverga. I find the Burlotto to have more intensity and depth to it, but this example does in a pinch. Somewhat over-shadowed by other wines at the table, but more than just a curiosity.

2008 Texier O’Pale
I haven’t had this wine in a while. Man was it good. The balance between the fruit, sugar, and acid was spot on and the wine was delicious and refreshing, especially since it followed the meal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best laid plans

These are some old notes from dinner at Lantern with a couple of friends. Despite picking some wines that would normally seem to be excellent, it was one of those nights where none of the wines were that interesting. It happens.

2007 Do Ferreiro Albariño Cepas Vellas
Good as always. This year’s version seems leaner and more obviously structured than in the past few years. It could just be the lack of babyfat. Lacked a bit of aromatic intensity tonight; however, this is generally a very cool wine that everyone should try at least once.

1998 Bernard Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
Eh. Never really became interesting. There was a beet thing that sort of threw me off (the beet thing is something I’ve come across in quite a few Dugat-Py wines). The cork was a bit soaked, so it may have seen some temperature before it got to me. Regardless, I think that these wines are not really for me.

1981 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia
I’ve had this wine several times and this was a good, but not great bottle. This could have something to do with stemware and serving temperature or it could be that some bottles are just better than others.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Re-unification with old friends

At Woodberry Kitchen, a recent restaurant in Baltimore from my old friends Spike and Amy Gjerde. The restaurant is beautiful and the food is magnificent. I know a lot of people in the restaurant business and I have to say that Spike is the least cynical and jaded guy I know. He brings so much passion and excitement to what he does that it’s inspiring. If you are ever in Baltimore check it out. Hell, go to Baltimore just to check it out.

I was in Baltimore for my high school reunion, having dinner with a couple of old friends that I had not seen in many years. I had a blast.

1996 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru La Forest
This seemed to be a little bit over the hill to me. It wasn’t totally shot, but there were some oxidized type notes that took away from the remaining fruit. What I’m trying to figure out is whether this is pre-mox, heat damage (would have had to happen before it got to me), or simple bottle variation (the wine is 13 years old). Anyway, approach with caution.

1989 Domenico Clerico Barolo Bussia
So when I first had this wine on release, it was the first Barolo that really knocked my socks off and started me pursuing modernists and traditionalists in equal measure. As a young wine, this had the most pure driving fruit I had ever tasted. It was so incredibly pure that it redefined the taste of cherry and the aroma of rose petal for me. The previous bottle had been in a strange state, but it has been 6 or 7 years since then, so I was hoping that at 20 years this was ready to go. The wine still seemed to have some fruit, but with the tannin mostly under wraps. There was not much in the way of complexity, but there was a lot of depth to the fruit and enough structure to work well with the food. Not really what I was hoping for, although a lot of what was there when it was young is still here now. I remain unconvinced by these modernist wines and don’t really know how to recommend drinking them. Will they be great in 30 years? Ever? Do I need to have a different context for what I expect out of aged Barolo? Maybe that is the answer. The wines will hold their fruit longer but may fail to develop the kind of complexity that Barolo lovers crave.

1992 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain
This is a wine that I had for the first time with Spike and I have been drinking through my bottles over the years, so it is only fitting that I drink my last bottle at his restaurant. What a great bottle of wine this turned out to be. It has never really drunk poorly through its life and now it is in a perfect state of maturity for me. Shows that lovely mineral touch on the back end that I really loved about these wines through the mid-90s. The fruit had mellowed and the tannins had rounded out but the wine still retained a sense of freshness. The alcohol is listed at 12.5% and this wine has always seemed to have an excellent balance between tannin and acid. I hope I am conveying how good this was. My buddies both said it was one of the best, if not the best, wines they had ever had. In the end, isn’t that the whole point? If you have this, do yourself a favor and drink one now although it should continue to do well for several more years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sunday dinner #6

Another Sunday dinner, but this one is much more recent. With roast chicken, fingerling potatoes, and sautéed broccoli rabe.

1999 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle 1er Cru Les Charmes
This was decanted for a 45 minutes to an hour before we started into it. Wow. Just wow. Charmes is not my favorite from Barthod, I tend to like the more muscular mineral qualities of Fuées and Veroilles. However, tonight it seemed like the perfect wine. Deep sappy fruit with a gossamer cloud of flowers, herbs, spices and minerals all around. Charming in a very deep sense. The fruit was sappy and long and the structure kept everything in proportion. A really fantastic showing and I would encourage you to try one if you have multiple bottle for the joy it will give you now, but this should age for at least another decade based on balance alone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday dinner #5

Given the crappy weather lately, these notes from a lovely Indian summer Sunday evening (we had some great ones this year) with some steaks off the grill, last of the butterbeans.

2006 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine La Closerie
I’ve been through a fair number of bottles of this lately and very happy about that fact. Smooth and deliciously earthy cabernet that can almost seem glossy and sumptuous. There is plenty going on including smoke, herbs, fruit, leather and what have you. This could age in interesting ways, but I’m having a hard time not drinking it now, and really, why wait when it’s this good?

2005 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard Arbois "M"
Not the kind of wine you should just pop and drink, needed a good hour or more to open up. Lacey and alpine with a sense of depth to it, but really got bigger and even a bit blocky. Enjoyed conversation and drinking it with the steak too much to pay very close attention, but it left the impression of a very good wine that I think would definitely improve in a couple years, but I don’t have enough experience with this particular bottle to be sure.

Friday, December 11, 2009

WTF is Orin Swift?

My friends Matt and Michael had a rare evening off a few weeks ago and we got together at my place to hang out, have some roast chickens and drink some wine.

2006 Fourrier Gevrey VV
I decanted this for about an hour and a half. I liked it more than my buddies who were at dinner. I think this was a classic example of where Fourrier is right now. You camn see the kinship between these and Pacalet, but where Pacalet’s wines are strident in their definition of what they are trying to be, Fourrier’s wines seem to acknowledge that there are other ways of thinking about wine, while subtly making the case for this way of thinking. Aromatically pure, yet completely impossible to pin down. A moving target that when you try to grab it, it flows between your fingers. Ready to go now and may develop more with age, but I don’t think anyone has quite figured out yet what the aging curve is going to be for Fourrier’s wines.

2000 Château Haut-Bages Libéral Pauillac
This was a big surprise. I have sort of laid off of Bordeaux over the last decade, but this wine was very good. It still had some nice primary fruit of the blue and black sort, but there was also a nascent trickle of woodsmoke, tobacco, and herbs framed by really fine grained tannin. At the right price, I’m a definite buyer of this.

2007 Billard Saint Aubin 1er Cru Les Castets
This was definitely young, but snappy and full of verve. It was slightly better a few days later from the re-corked bottle. Well balanced with the sort of snappy, crunchy fruit that has a sort of cloud of herbs and flowers around it. A promising wine from a producer that I don’t know much about but I will try more wines from in future.

2005 Orin Swift The Prisoner
This was terrible and truly undrinkable. I really don’t know how folks can put up with such a pruney, soupy mess. Really bloody awful, someone should be ashamed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No mox for me

With little necks in white wine, garlic, butter and a salad frisée.

1996 Pierre Matrot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
This sure as hell wasn’t prematurely oxidized and there was no blue-ish tint to the cork. It had gone to a nice secondary phase of life developing some of the “bottle funk” that Brad loves so much, but retaining enough fruit and mineral type stuff to make me happy. In fact, it could still be a bit young but unfortunately, it was my last bottle and among the last bottles of white Burgundy in my cellar. A shame, because it went spectacularly well with both dishes and was a delightful refreshing drink as well as a very good expression of Combettes. Drink now or hold for a few years or more depending on storage.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Good and strange

2003 Roagna Solea
I’ve really enjoyed drinking this wine over the last year or so. It is so flexible and food friendly. It has a noticeable structure (from the nebbiolo I guess) that is sort of like skin contact, which buttresses nice fruit and minerals. I’ve only had this vintage and the 2001 and while I was skeptical at first, I am now a true believer.

2005 Giuseppe Fanti Portico Rosso
This wine is a blend of teroldego, cabernets franc and sauvignon with some merlot from the Dolomites. I don’t have much experience with the producer’s reds, more with the whites, but if this is any indication, there is true excellence at this estate. Vibrant and juicy fruit skates a trellis of firm structure that borders on crunchy, but never quite slips from the wire. The wine is invigorated, invigorating, and compliments the food by cutting through it with structure and following it with flavor. It is on the expensive side, but well worth a try. It is drinking well now, but could improve over the medium term, I think.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dinner with the old man

1999 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot
Dad loves Cornas and probably hasn’t had tons of Allemand. This bottle had a capsule that didn’t spin, so I thought it would be a good bottle to experiment with. The cork was soaked through and some had leaked under the capsule. Happened in transport by the local distributor because I bought this on release and have cellared it since. Despite the less that pristine nature of the bottle, the wine was still fantastic. Nuanced in all the ways you expect from Allemand. Decanted, it starts out very syrah and then picks up steam as it unfolds becoming more and more Cornas as the evening progresses. As usual, Allemand manages the trick of taming the coarser qualities of Cornas without entirely eradicating them. I still have no idea how he manages such a fantastic balancing act, but as I’ve been saying for about 8-10 years now, this is the archetype for Northern Rhône syrah to my mind.

2005 Viña Sastre Ribera del Duero Crianza
This wine started off surrounded by a vanilla cloud of oak. However, there was something going on underneath, some dark earth and minerals but most of all a sense of cut. The bottle really developed over the course of the evening. The oak moved towards the background, integrating more with the wine which became more fragrant and red fruited as the evening progressed. It was a wine of power and nuance by the end, a cool combination, and seemed distinctly tempranillo in character. It showed really well with the crazy ass, 21 day dry aged Côte-du-Boeuf that Matt pulled out of his ass. Easily the best Ribera del Duero I’ve had in a good long while. I might have to buy some of this to see what happens.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nearly recent Rhones

2005 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux
For whatever reason, this doesn’t seem to be shutting down. Admittedly, this bottle was opened a few days before and was kept in the fridge less a glass, but still, it is remarkable how well this is showing as a young wine. If you missed out on this vintage, don’t make that mistake again.

2004 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny La Guerrerie
Not a great showing for this, but still a nice dining companion. A bit wobbly.

2001 Domaine de l'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Cuvée Prestige
After a couple of poor showings over recent months, I had begun to really worry about these wines. Well, it looks like I was just having a run of bad luck with bottles. This was outstanding and everything I want out of a grenache. Sappy and pure with herb laced fruit that was pinned together by focused tannin.

2000 Domaine de l'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut-Coustias
This was the disastrous wine from a couple of months ago. Wacked out by overwhelming VA. This bottle was an entirely different story. Full of fruit and with that tangy mineral underpinning and structure that mourvedre shows in this limestone site.

1999 Domaine de l'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Haut-Coustias
As well as the 2000 showed, it will always be the weak sister to this wine. Sappier and more focused with a wider spectrum of flavors, both fruit and otherwise. This has always been a great wine and one that one can never have in high enough quantity. I’ve gone through most of 2 cases over the years and wish I had several more.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old notes but still germane

Some friends and an old professor got together to celebrate my good friend RJ’s completion of his PhD. It’s a group that doesn’t get a chance to spend time together very often as we are spread out over the country at different universities. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

1999 Gosset Champagne Brut Grand Millésime
Showed pretty well. Definitely made with a “house style” in mind, but that’s OK with me. It was a bit doughy and such but with good structure and a fine mousse.

N.V. Pierre Peters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve
Out of magnum. Very good bubbly. My regular Champagne these days, to the extent that I drink Champagne. I like the leanness and minerality.

2004 Breton Bourgueil Nuits d'Ivresse
From magnum. Ready to go and showed pretty well. We were telling old stories, laughing, eating, and drinking. The wine seemed perfectly suited to that kind of conviviality. Never my favorite of the Breton line-up, every wine has its purpose and this one was fulfilling it perfectly.

2006 Domaine Brana Irouléguy Harri Gorri
A bit disappointing. I was hoping for something more interesting. Kind of glossy and flat.

2002 Radikon Venezia Giulia Jakot
What I love about these wines is that people are immediately drawn to them. I’ve had people say to me that the wines are unsellable and that people don’t get them. I think that’s horseshit. At a table full of people that like wine, but are not geeks by any measure, they all loved the wine without any prodding from me. It’s delicious and great with food. I’d drink it every day if I could afford to.

30 yr old Chinese Liquor
WTF? Crazy.

Johnny Walker Blue Label
Delicious. We drank the whole bottle. If it were cheaper, I’d have it on hand all the time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Misled by curiosity

Sometimes I’ll let curiosity get the better of me. I’m usually very disciplined about not opening wines way too young and I had a feeling that a 2001 Jasmin Côte-Rôtie wouldn’t exactly be peaking, but I was really curious about it and wanted a feminine syrah, well that’s what I got. I also mis-remembered the number of bottles I owned, so I really did let curiosity kill this cat.

2001 Domaine Jasmin Côte-Rôtie
Barky and light, beautiful ruby color, some sour cherry cranberry fruit, not too smokey, clinched on the palate, but began to open up after 1.5 hours of being open. Flowers started showing and there was a ferric quality to the fruit on the palate and it also showed some meaty tendencies. Acid sticks out now, but the tannins are nice and fine grained, if a bit biting. I’d say at least 5 more years before I’d touch one of these.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm back

I’d like to apologize for being away for so long.

A combination of a lot of travel for work and some for pleasure which meant lots of work when I got back has kept me from updating.

I’ll be around for a while and will keep the blog updated regularly for the next couple of months.

So, I was in London, Paris and New York recently.

Met Peter Liem in London to go see the Arsenal sweep Birmingham aside 3 – 1 at the Emirites. It was a fantastically good time. We had a very mediocre dinner with some mediocre wines, but it was not enough to even put a dent in my pleasant mood. (If you haven’t already sign up for his excellent guide to Champagne at, worth every cent.)

I was in Paris for work, and managed to find a stomach bug which sidelined me for three eating days.

The best meal I had was a long lunch at Le Comptoir at the Relais St. Germain. Great food and a short but excellent wine list. The standout wine was 2008 Lapierre Morgon was fragrant, luscious yet focused and complex. Really stunningly delicious wine that I could drown in happily. We also had a great bottle of 2007 Descombes Brouilly Vieilles Vignes.

On the prodding of Peter and Sharon, I also picked up a bottle each of Vouette et Sorbée Saignée de Sorbée and Blanc d’Argile. They were € 54 and € 46. Those are fairly expensive wines when you are spending dollars. I was disappointed in the Saignée de Sorbée. I found the wine to be very lose, with a sort of muddled nose and unstructured palate. The Blanc d’Argile was better with sharper delineation and better structure. These are very expensive in my market (the Blanc d’Argile is ~$90). Peter thinks that I would like a different vintage (this was most likely the 2005), but at those prices, I doubt I’ll be trying them again unless at a tasting or if someone else is buying. I liked a Drappier Brut Nature Sans Soufre a lot more than either, however. It was bright and lively with plenty of focus and flavor. I’ve had the Brut Nature before, but never the Sans Soufre.

NY was a blast. 2 days of Louis-Dressner tasting with old friends and evenings at the Ten Bells.

Had the Platonic form of the chicken wing at Ippudo. Great Hakata style ramen as well, of course.

Also attended the Amphora dinner at Convivio, but I’ll save that for a separate post. It was nice to finally meet Mike Steinberger. I recently read his book Au Revoir to All That. I really enjoyed it and can highly recommend it.

New content coming soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Old Platts

Whoa. These notes are at least a year old. Just found while cleaning.

My friends the Platts throw great dinner parties. They are very good cooks and company, so I never turn down an invite if I can help it.

N.V. Larmandier-Bernier Champagne 1er Cru Terre de Vertus
From magnum. Certainly my favorite wine from Larmandier and among my favorite Champagnes. Everything you expect from this wine. Driving and uncompromising with intensity and focus. Clean, pristine and gem-like. Yes.

2005 Paolo Bea Bianco Santa Chiara
I’m not the hugest fan of this wine. I liked it better when it was made straight and not as an orange wine. Maybe the grapes or the site don’t lend themselves to it. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t pick up the drive that good orange wines have.

2005 Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Cuvée Granite
From magnum. Just awesome. Marc Olivier is a genius.

2006 Fèlsina Chianti Classico
The new vintage and seemingly good, but a little too young and grapey and unevolved to really get a read on. Two or three bottles thrown back uncritically.

1996 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco Sori Paitin
I was thinking that this may be entering a good drinking phase and it is almost there. I liked the structure, but it wasn’t showing the aromatic evolution that I would like. I’d hold for a few more years to let that come out and by then it should be very good wine. Will probably continue to develop well for a good while.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And sometimes it disappoints

After posting recently about the joys of well-stored wine, I feel compelled to point out that it doesn't always work out that way.

1995 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo
I had been curious about how this wine was progressing. It was so tough and backwards for so long, I thought it might never come around. Well, it has, but I’m not sure that it was worth the fuss and the wait. It didn’t become something as interesting as I had hoped all those years ago when I stashed it away. I probably would have liked it better a couple of years ago, but maybe it went straight from having tons of structure to having none, I don’t know since it has been a while. The color is still dark and the palate is resolved and velvety. Texturally, the wine is quite nice, but it lacks aromatic drive and punch. Perfectly good and a nice enough accompaniment to an excellent osso buco prepared by my brother, but disappointing in the context of my expectations. This wine wasn’t too expensive back when I bought it (I’m sure it was around $25, I was still in grad school).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I met David Simon

No shit. I was walking through the Dulles airport yesterday getting to the shuttle to my gate and I saw David Simon walking towards the same shuttle. I said, "Are you David Simon?" he said yes, and I said " The Wire is the best show in the history of TV." He said thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I said, "Well, it has a deeper meaning to me, as a fellow Baltimoron," he gives a little laugh.

We ended up sitting next to each other on the shuttle and chatting for however long it took. He talked to me about casting The Wire ("there are so many massively talented black actors out there that don't get work"), his new show ("I'll get to piss off another city") and Fruity Rudy in Gen Kill ("we read every single hispanic guy that was in that kind of condition, and even thought about dropping the character a bit because it doesn't read well, but eventually, some people you just can't make up and Rudy is one of them) about the Marines at the Emmys ("I didn't go, but they went and wore their dress blues and had a blast") about whether Hamsterdam was based on any kind of reality (he was heading to Amsterdam "[chuckles] nah, about the closest I knew of was a guy who would say 'business hours are 4-8'").

This man is the Mencken of our time. If you haven't watched The Corner, The Wire, or Generation Kill, you absolutely need to. When I said the Wire was the best show ever on television, I wasn't bs'ing. It really is. It might be the best narrative fiction ever put to film. Seriously, just take a look at the Directors and especially the Writers involved.

I wish I would have had the chance to ask him if the 5 seasons were really based on the Greek tragedy archetype and all sorts of other things, but was damn happy to have met him.

I have actually said, out loud to friends that David Simon is one of the people I would really like to meet (I would have preferred a couple of hours over drinks, but 5 minutes will do) and lo and behold, I got to meet him.

Also on the list, Arsene Wenger. I'm heading to the Emirites in a couple of weeks, so who knows?

Great gobs of fire

My friend Michael invited me over for dinner. Grilled some lamb with a Provençal mix of potatoes, olives, roasted peppers and tomato. The Châteuneuf was a good match, the Barolo not as much.

1998 Janasse Châteuneuf-du-Pâpe Vielles Vignes
I liked this more than I expected. The wine was incredibly rich and dense with lots of compote fruit that seemed to stick to the inside of the mouth. There were some complimentary garrigue components, but the main sensation and flavors were jammy fruit notes. Although seemingly balanced, it was not a delicate sort of balance, more like two Greco wrestlers pushing for position. The alcohol grew a bit tiring for me, but the first glass did go well with the food.

2004 Roagna Barolo Rionda
I know, I know, infanticide, blah blah blah. I wanted to check this out as a young wine to see the structure of it so that I can understand it as it ages. This is a new vineyard for Luca and co. and it is one of the great vineyards, if not THE great vineyard, of Barolo. It is more open than one might expect. This displayed a really distinct and piercing note of fennel/anise. While more lush than I would have expected, it does have some tannin buried underneath that came out more as the evening wore on. Not nearly as strict as the Roca et Pira bottling from Roagna. My guess is that this will drink well on the early side. Maybe 6-8 years, but with continued development for a good long while.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dinner with a colleague, and I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed these bottles over dinner with a colleague and his wife. This was a nice treat for me as I generally don’t socialize with folks from work, but this particular colleague I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and he has been an invaluable ally while getting situated here.

2001 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Vom Stein
My last bottle and a very good showing. While I may have preferred it younger for the zippiness and mineral character of youth, it has settled into a nice yellow-fruited vaguely honey-suckle/floral mid-life roundness. Quite delicious and should be drunk soon if not now.

1996 Domaine de Courcel Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Épenots
This bottle showed very well, in a quiet, mature and understated way. I generally find this wine to be among the most elegant in Pommard. My colleague’s wife, who claims to not really like red wines quite liked this. As she put it, it’s very velvety and not heavy, in fact, it has that beautiful weightless quality that we all love in red Burgundy. I’ve been pretty happy with Courcel wines and they are still relative bargains. This wine can be consumed now, but I think it will continue to show well for a while.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

WNMBWMTF & Croix Boisée

Dinner with WNMBWMTF and her folks at Rue Cler. The new chef has really stepped up the game. WNMBWMTF’s folks have been pretty open and appreciative to cool wine, so I thought I’d test them further.

Pierre Peters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve
As usual, this is an great way to start a meal and a good value in real Champagne. Not the best bottling I've had of this, but still pretty good. I mean, for Champagne.

2007 François Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin
Indicative of the vintage, this is slight and pretty with hints of honeysuckle over some pearish fruit, light as Spring rain with hints of rocks. Good and satisfying wine. It'll be interesting to see what Francois is able to do with this vineyard as he gets it under harness and has more experience working it. The 2008 was certainly promising in February but will need more time. This is ready to drink now.

1996 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée
I’m of two minds about this wine. The nose is gorgeous, with just enough bottle sweetness and secondary aromas to flesh out the residual stone-pit fruit and minerals. There is an undeniable chalky quality to Croix Boissée and this wine has it in spades. What really makes this wine rise above the crowd is the precision of it. You can truly tell the quality of the site. The palate is in a little more confusing place at the moment. It is coiled enough, but doesn’t really seem to fan across the palate. This could mean one of two things: either the palate is drying out or it is just not quite there yet. I think I'll wait another 3-5 for my next bottle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Goat cheese and archetypes

My friend Matt cooked a dinner out at Elodie Farms not too far back. Elodie Farms is a local producer of goat cheese that both he and my brother use. Dave, the owner, is a riot and it was a fun evening.

2004 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Clos la Néore
How does one critique the archetype? A great wine. Maybe not as intense as the 2002 or as dense and tactile as the 2005, but great wine.

2002 Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Bourgogne
A decent showing, but not especially complex or interesting. Most folks rate this Bourgogne very highly, but it isn’t in the Mugneret or Barthod league, IMO. I've been disappointed with most 2002 d'Angerville at this stage. They just seem dull and flattened out. I guess this might re-emerge in a couple of years, but this is my last bottle and I wish I had drank it when it was young and exhuberent.

2005 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine
The “go-to wine” right now. Whatever that means. But in all seriousness, while this wine has all the material in place to age pretty gracefully, it is no crime to dig in now. However, that being said, the 2004 is drinking much better at this particular moment. I think this wine is an outrageous value and really flexible at the dinner table.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The gods smiled

This was one of those nights where everything showed fantastically. In fact, for the reds each was the best bottle of said wine that I've ever had; although, it has been a good while since I've had the 82 Pichon-Lalande.

2007 Baudry Chinon Blanc La Croix Boissée
This isn’t showing nearly as well as the 2006 at the moment. It was a much leaner vintage and the wine is more elegant and pretty and soft spoken. Still there are plenty of flowers and chalky fruit. It’ll be interesting to see where this is at in 6 months or so.

1996 Edmond Cornu Corton-Bressandes
My best bottle yet of this and easily the best showing I've had from 1996 red Burgundy thus far. Still retaining some fruit notes, but happily moving on to secondary sous bois with a heady nose that adds spice to the mix. This was really beautiful and delicious. I could have drunk the whole bottle myself. This is why we cellar wines.

1993 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello
This was amazing. The best California cabernet I've had this year. The nose was a stunning mix of that Montebello smokey oak (with hints of American-ness), dark earth and minerals and impeccably fresh red and blue pitted fruits. Still has enough tanning to frame the wine nicely and enough acid to provide lift. For me, this is in a perfect place. It will surely last and maybe even improve depending on your preferences, but since I like to catch wines when they still have some fruit and tanning but have added secondary bottle complexity, this was great for me. I’d be a buyer of well stored bottles, even at close to $100. This really is “first growth” quality. However, I should note that the alcohol is 12.9%, so it must not be phenologically ripe. Dumbasses.

1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse Pauillac
This was to be the star of the dinner, the Important wine. Loyal readers know how I feel about Important wines, but we were so deep in conversation about this, that and the other that we forgot to genuflect and ended up enjoying it for it’s luxuriant mouthfeel and combination of earth, herbs, tobacco and dried fruit swirling around the dark fruit compote that was still at the core. This bottle was fully resolved and ripe yet still elegant (not ripe in a cal cult way). The cork was soaked so I’m not sure if it has been pristinely kept before my friend got it, but I would say if you own this, there is no harm in drinking it now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why we have cellars

I’ve said this several times before in several places on the intertubes, but it bears repeating. The reason to have a wine cellar is not to have a Collection. Sure, there are a few bottles that I have that folks would consider trophies, but all of my wine was bought with the intention of drinking. The real reason to keep a cellar is to drink little wines, or at least not Important wines when they’re aged properly. The other night, the we’re-not-married-but-we’re-more-than-friends and I went to dinner at Vin Rouge. As it turns out, Matt had whole cow rib with the bone in from which he cut an enormous Cote-du-Bouef. Wow.

1991 Laurel Glen Sonoma Mountain Estate cabernet sauvignon
The color has started to take on some bricking and the nose has settled into some nice tertiary aromas. It is in a fairly quiet place now, no more angry youth or awkward adolescence. Desiccated fruit, vegetation, everything. There is something about Patrick Campbell’s cabernet that has a distinctly gravelly quality to me. Something I think of as Graves-ish, in a way but something all its own. This wine is very good and a comforting partner to food and conversation. Without the weight of Greatness on its shoulders, it can just be. There is something refreshing about that which I instinctively gravitate towards. I’m not sure what anyone would gain by aging this longer except if you wanted to see where it goes when really old.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The gods frown

Sometimes the gods frown and you just can’t find a good wine experience. Maybe it was the high pressure system, maybe the phase of the moon, or maybe just coincidence.

1998 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape
What a disappointment. I was in the (very) rare mood where I wanted a nice, lush grenache and Charvin seemed like the answer. This bottle wasn't. It was flat and dull and without and of the richness and depth I would expect. In fact, only 1 off my 6 bottles of this wine lived up to my early expectations. This bottle didn't have any technical flaws other than being just average, even for grenache. This reminds me why I got out of the Châteauneuf game, it so rarely delivers what I want.

2006 Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée
I had heard (or really read) rumors that this vintage of Croix Boissée was a replay of 2003, a wine that was drinking splendidly young. What better way to keep your hands off 2002, 2004, 2005 than have a ready to drink replacement for the Croix Boissée urge. Wrong. Tight, tight, and tight. Showed really piercing acidity and was like a limestone brick in the mouth. Some pretty things going on in the nose, but not in any sense showing well. I stuffed the cork back in to try in a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Châteauneuf blanc, who knew?

An old friend from graduate school who I haven’t seen in several years was in town. We enjoyed dinner at Rue Cler.

2006 Éric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Vieilles Vignes
My guest claimed to not be that into white wines. I told her she had no idea what she was talking about. Well she sure came around to this hogging the last glass for herself. It started off slowly, but was refreshing and linear from the start. As the bottle opened, it started to put on flesh and the flowers became more deeply perfumed and the palate broadened. This has been my favorite Châteauneuf Blanc for a few years now. Eric is doing some seriously good work here. I think the wine is a blend of bourbelanc and clairette.

1996 Joël Taluau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes
Inspired by a recent FLAJim note about this wine, I thought I’d check in on one of my remaining bottles. I really like where this is at the moment, although others might want it to have more time. I like the sense of shape that it has right now. Trapezoidal. There are fine mineral and dirt bones underneath of leafy/tobacco top notes. Somewhere in between some dried red fruits are sensed more than tasted. Very good wine but in such a great vintage one becomes aware of the gulf in class between it and the better sites in Bourgueil and Chinon.

Renardat-Fâche Vin du Bugey-Cerdon
Alpine and delicious. I could drink my bodyweight in this wine.

2008 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Blanco
For whatever reason, I really like this wine. It doesn’t stick in the memory in any profound way, but it has drive and purity and is a nice antidote to muggy Southern weather.

2006 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition
I’ve commented on this wine several times. I can’t stop drinking it even though I know I should wait a few years. Why I don’t have a cellar full of Roally, I don’t know.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Even non-geeks love geeky wine

I would like to thank the Politburo and the other disorderlies for making this the refuge of choice on the intertubes.

Over the weekend, I enjoyed a magnificent bottle of 2006 Baudry Chinon Blanc La Croix Boisée. This was screaming delicious from the moment it was opened. Thrilling nose of stones, Sweettart, limestoney that seemed to shimmer and pulse. On the palate it was racy and alive, as if it had absorbed its fat and transformed it into muscle, but with just enough cushion so as not to be freakish. One of the best bottles I’ve had in a while. Exhilarating, even to the decidedly non-geek I was dining with.

A difficult act to follow, but a bottle of 2001 Chevillon Les St. Georges was stellar, if not quite as captivating, but that’s some hair splitting. Unlike the Baudry, this was tight upon first opening. Clinched and with its structure in the forefront it took a while to open. Once it did, it was excellent. Everything you could want in a Burgundy. Layers of fruit, minerals, and brush, draped atop a lattice like structure. This may be the most consistently pleasing wine in all of Burgundy. I’ve never had one be brutally mean, even if I opened it too young, and I’ve never had one be terrible, even in difficult vintages. This vintage has epic written all over it. It should be a fine wine for a couple of decades although you can enjoy it now for those silky layers of fruit if you have a decent stash.

We followed these up the next day with a stunning bottle of 2006 George Descombes Morgon. My mother loves Descombes and put a huge dent in my stash the last time she was here. This bottle showed splendidly with lacey stoney fruit that mixed in hints of flowers, herbs and sunshine. About as delicious as a wine can be and I see no reason to age it further. Incidentally, non geeks love this wine.

Last but not least, a wine that I think really typifies Wine Disorder, the 2007 Puzelat pineau d’Aunis La Tesniere. I’ve always had a soft spot for the wines of Thierry (and those he makes with his brother Jean-Marie) and I’ll accept the odd flawed bottle or rough patch to experience the gorgeousness of something like this. This bottle was fresh, vibrant, snappy but with just enough pineau d’Aunis grip to stand steadfast in the face of some fatty food. I could drink my bodyweight in this. Really.

I’m with Blackwood, all hail 2007!

Happy Birthday Wine Disorder. I think we all know that I’m the obvious choice for Stalin.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wine Disorder is 1 year old today

Go on. Go over to Wine Disorder and check it out.

Dressner has been out as a member of the Politburo and then summarily purged.

This is a fantastic board full of witty and erudite folks. For some reason, there are those that find it too clubby or intimidating. All wine boreds are clubby. Don't be intimidated, just dive right in. You'd be surprised at how welcoming folks are.

Now, about the lack of posting on my blog. It has been a ridiculous summer. I was in a crazy car accident in June that threw me for a loop

And then following that, I presented to the ER with chest pains, had an irregular EKG and was kept for observation. It turns out that after a complete work-up, I was fine, but it scared the shit out of me.

The I had to travel a bunch, the HVAC system for the upstairs fucked up and flooded my house which is still in the process of getting fixed and tons of other hassles to deal with.

Anyway, I have some notes that I'll try to put up in the next week or so and then try to get back to a more normal schedule if anyone still bothers to check.

cheers ya'll.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm starting a Death Panel

Anyone interested?

The caveat is that you actually have to know something about statistics, epidemiology, or economics.

That rules out most of you since you are either English majors or idiots (or both).

No, your bed ridden 92 year old grandma cannot have a quadruple bypass even though you really want her to make it to your brats 3rd birthday party.

Really people. GROW THE FUCK UP.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fucking natural wine

This post is part of 31 days of natural wine put together by Cory Cartwright. Sharon and I are posting together today in support of that occasion.

The funny thing is that people always put me in the Alice Feiring, Joe Dressner, Marc Angeli camp. While a number of wines that I love happen to be natural, I don’t love them because they are natural wines. I’m no fucking communist. More of a libertarian, really.

As my example, and a wine I had last night, take the 2003 Baudry Chinon Grezeaux. 2003 was a formidable challenge for many in the central Loire and producing balanced wines was a challenge. Mathieu and his father Bernard succeeded, as they often do, in producing excellent wines. This is a nice vintage to own now, because it is early maturing. Another remarkable thing about this wine is that it retains its Grezeaux-ness in the face of this erratic and very hot vintage. The vines are old and the roots deep. This terroir isn’t the best that the Baudry’s own and Matthieu seems to be bored by it (he’s much more interested in the potential of the Clos Guillot and his new vineyard). So by what means do the Baudry’s make great wines? They slide into natural by the definition outlined by Cory for this project, but Dard wouldn’t consider them to be (or even drink them, he refuses to drink wines that aren’t made like his, evidently. In addition, his wines do a lousy job of expressing terroir. What a douche-bag.)

So should it matter?

When the subject of natural wine comes up (or when I’m arguing with Guilhaume, Dagan or Luc)), I often think of a discussion I had with Eric Texier when he used Clos St. Hune as an example great terroir overcoming industrial winemaking. I think that the more closely you work with nature, the better that expression will be but the smartest people I know refuse to be dogmatic about it. In fact, if you are dogmatic it probably mea ns you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

The key to being a good vigneron is flexibility. Being dogmatic is more of a marketing ploy and being natural for its own sake is no better than hiring Rolland and making Rollandicated shit. The vignerons I respect most Baudry, Fourrier, Mugnier, Barthod, Mendez, Texier (don’t tell him though) are flexible in their approach and intellectual about the process. None subscribe to an approach that limits options, yet all stick as close to natural as possible and make wines of incredible clarity and often aching beauty.

So, should you give a shit about whether a wine is “natural” Only if you’re an idiot. I making natural wine a better way to express terroir, almost assuredly.

I also want to take the opportunity to confirm that Sharon and I are having an affair. It was her idea. I call her winegrrrlll in the sack.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Other folks don't know shit

Dinner at the Vin Rouge bar with a couple of friends.

1996 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile
While not shimmering like a recent bottle of the1995, this was certainly a very good bottle. It has started to take on some secondary notes and isn’t the limestone brick to the mouth that it used to be. No signs of the imaginary premature oxidation. Really, when will this thing go away? I’m sure it’s true for some wines (I did buy Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagnes, yikes), I’ve experienced it myself, but anytime anyone has a disappointing and most likely heat-damaged white wine, the cry of “pre-mox” (that’s what they call it) comes out. Calm down. Wine gets horribly mistreated all the time from the second it leaves the winery cellar (sometimes, even on the loading dock at the winery itself). No sense in making something more mysterious than it needs to be. Not sure this is ready to fully dive into yet, but worth trying if you have multiple bottles.

1996 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses
Really kind of boring and on the wrong side of its aging curve. It lacks any remaining structure and the flavor profile really isn’t all that interesting. Compared to other 1996s I’ve had over the past few years, this is not in the first or second tier. Probably should have been consumed years ago, but instead I listened to people who said it was way too young and kept this bottle as an experiment. They don’t know shit. When it comes to cabernet franc, I’m the man.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More quiet wine

Roast chicken Sunday social with my friend Will, who is re-entering the wine business after a hiatus. He roasted the chickens on his Big Green Egg. I really need to get one of those. Saw the Easy All Stars later and they were pretty boring as a live act. I really like the cover albums, Dub Side of the Moon and Radiodread, but it doesn’t translate into an interesting show.

1993 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain
I’ve been praising quiet excellence lately and this wine fits perfectly in that idiom. I paid no more that $25 for this bottle on release and it has been resting comfortably ever since. Lots of eucalyptus and dark pitted fruit flavor. The wine has a kind of vegetal quality that is at the edge of dark, damp earth. There is just enough structure left to compliment the fattiness of the chicken and a smoky nuance at the back end. Not a great wine, but a wine of lovely balance and quiet assurance. I can’t express with enough vehemence how important wines like this are to the enjoyment of life. It was quiet in that we both enjoyed it immensely without having to be distracted by it. It was there to be a component while we enjoyed our meal and talked of other things. A wine which is a compliment to the evening and a life well lived.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Excellence and surprise

Had dinner with my good friend RJ at the iconic Durham restaurant, Magnolia Grill

1998 Mugneret Ruchottes-Chambertin
After the calamity of a corked bottle the night before, this bottle was wonderful, if still a bit too young. Upon opening there was a quick rush of heady Gevrey aromatics, framed by a very sublime spice-box type note. After that it shut down for a while before slowly opening over the course of the evening. As it so often is with great wines opened before their prime, the last glass was the best and left me aching for more. It showed true breed and excellence. Not open for business yet, but something to enjoy over a long evening if you are in that sort of mood. I can imagine a 6 hour conversation with Blackwood over this wine. This is the last vintage before the section of the oldest vines were pulled up due to disease (the replanted section is now the villages Gevrey). I would hold another couple of years.

2004 Salvo Foti Etna Vinupetra
This was at least three different wines on the night. None of them were as dilute as a bottle a couple of months back. This wine was denser and more aromatically unexpressive at first, then it just popped and was wild and exotic without being overblown. Towards the end of the night, it became seeded fruity in an almost petit sirah way. A very unique wine that always gives something different. This bottle really sneaked up and surprised me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Too young again

Made a milk braised Boston butt from Brinkley farms. A delicious piece of pork from right down the road.

2002 Louis Jadot Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode
I should probably keep my hands off of these, but I really like the way the lean, spice-box fruit shows right now. It is a bit tight and young and not as aromatically expressive as it will be, but I really like how the verve, snap, and tannin work with fatty food at this stage. I’ll try to keep my hands off for at least another 3 years, but this can certainly go for a long time. A great value in red Burgundy.

2005 Desvignes Morgon Côte du Py Javernières
OK, I’m pressing my luck with this one. I think it is finally starting to shut down. I bought a good bit, so I could afford to be profligate. No more. Hands off for 2 years and should hold for many more.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hands on, hands off

An old colleague from graduate school was in town, so a few of us who are still in the area met up at Rue Cler for dinner. I was boring and had Frisée and a steak. Worked out well though.

2006 Cá de Noci Vino di Tavola Notte di Luna
This was another wonderful showing for this wine. The non-geeks loved it as well which really puts paid to the idea that orange wines are only for geeks. I wish it were cheaper and more widely available for more people to enjoy. As it was, we did. No need to wait, drink up and enjoy.

2005 Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée
Ordered off the list with the idea that it could show well, hell the Grézeaux does and I could check in without having to sacrifice a bottle of mine. Wrong. This bottle had no interest at all in being drunk. It was not expressive on the nose or the palate. It was well proportioned and structured and if you tried really hard you could coax out some complexity, but it is in no place to drink right now. Not at all. I won’t touch a bottle for at least 3-4 years.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Buying the back label

Back in yonder years, when I was a wee lad in wine retail, I used to tell people to "buy the back label" when in doubt.

Mike Steinberger of Slate has a nice article on the same notion, updated for the times.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In praise of the good

I was just over at Wine Disorder and was redirected to a blog post by my friend Eric Asimov. Although it contains that semi-infamous quote about La Tâche, I think the sentiment is one we discussed at length. The below captures the gist:

This business of favorites is tricky, anyway. People ask me all the time what my favorite wine is, or my favorite restaurant. I can never answer, because it all depends on the context. What am I eating? Where am I? Who am I with? What kind of mood am I in?
I think this is fairly similar to the post I made today about the good versus the great. Something that myself and like minded folks believe is that wine is like food, that is, it is an outgrowth of a place and time and should be part of the table, not a monument, not over fetishized (I mean, who can resist a little fetishism).

This isn't to say that I don't love Mugneret, Quintarelli, Giacosa or La Tâche it just means that there should be a sort of harmony on the table without anything having to try too hard.

I posted recently about a big, super-Chave dinner. I was happy to attend it but I would have rather enjoyed each bottle individually, or in pairs, over a long evening rather than the intensity of the super-tasting event.

Anyway, check out Eric's post he's making some sense.

Perfectly quiet Burgundy

Had a quiet and perfect roast chicken with my good friend Will at Rue Cler. I can always count on my brother to deliver the goods. I think sometimes we underestimate the value of very good wines, matched perfectly, with very good food over the GREAT. Sometimes the GREAT is the enemy of the pleasant evening. Everyone gets so worried about the great, they forget to enjoy where they are and who they are with.

1998 Chevillon Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint Georges
Of the 1998s I’ve been working through, this is by far the most in the moment. It was surprisingly backward at first, but as it opened, you could feel the structure move towards the back of the palate. None of the off aroma issues that I’ve had with other Chevillon 1998s (particularly the Vaucrains). A focused, muscular, and darkly mineral spine held together the fruit and earth bound notes. By the end, this was spot on. Others might hold it for another 10 years. I say it could wait maybe another couple, but is good now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reno Chave blowout

Most of the time, I don’t really do the tasting thing. I prefer to drink bottles. This event was somewhere in between. There were 9 of us and 19 bottles, plus some bubbles, so there was enough of each wine to get a chance to go back and revisit and enough stemware to let things sit.

Flight 1

2002 Chave Blanc
Fat, ripe and tropical. Kinda mango-ish.

2001 Chave Blanc
Of this flight, this is the most dense and most mineral. Really impressively concentrated and long and just avoids heaviness.

2000 Chave Blanc
This is also on the tropical side. showing a good bit of kinky mango. The creamiest of the three and seems both loose and not louche in the right way.

Flight 2

1996 Chave Blanc
The leanest of all of these wines and is still fresh and vibrant and as such, was my clear favorite. Had a different flavor profile, not so tropical, but more seeded and pitted white and yellow fruits.

1995 Chave Blanc
An interesting contrast to the 1996. Very rich, ripe and round. A good bit of honey and deeper tones. You can tell just by looking at it.

Flight 3

2001 Chave St. Joseph Estate
I found this to be off. A bit of old fishtank.

1998 Chave St. Joseph Estate
Tangy and mineral with good structure. More on the red fruit side than the black fruit, but certainly ripe. Delicious and well balanced with good cut and thrust. Still a young wine that shows a great deal of promise, but it isn’t a crime to drink one today. I would hold for a couple more years before trying again.

1997 Chave St. Joseph Estate
This is fully resolved and ready to go. In that sense, it is showing the best today, even if the 1998 will prove to be the superior wine.

Flight 4

1995 Chave Rouge
I haven’t had this in a long time. Wow, it was really, really good, if too young. This manages to have density and precision at the same time. Really pure with excellent length and delineation of every flavor. Perfectly etched. I would wait at least 5 years before trying another bottle. This will be a great vintage for Chave.

1990 Chave Rouge
This might be the greatest young wine I ever tried, way back in my early days in the wine business after college. It is totally headspinning and monumental. Like great white truffles, it really fills your senses completely. It doesn’t have any over-ripeness just a sense of completeness. It covers the whole spectrum you could imagine from a northern Rhone syrah. I couldn’t be more impressed. It’s a nice thing when a wine lives up to its billing. When this hit $700 a bottle, I was tempted to sell my remaining bottles (that were $45 before case discount). I’m glad I didn’t.

1989 Chave Rouge
Really started out strong, so strong, in fact, that it seemed superior to the 1990 for about 20-30 minutes. Vibrant and long with a spectrum of red fruits with all sorts of earth and mineral notes underneath.

On any other night, the 1995 and 1989 would be clear class of an evening, but the 1990 is truly one of the great wines of our age.

Flight 5

1988 Chave Rouge
I’ve always really like the 1988. It has been a really aromatically complex and Burgundian. This was a good, but not great bottle of this.

1986 Chave Rouge
A vintage that you don’t see often because it is seen as inferior. This wine was all about structure. Like drinking the bones of Hermitage.

1985 Chave Rouge
The best experience I’ve ever had with this vintage. Much fresher and livelier than previous bottles, also with more length and precision.

Flight 6

1984 Chave Rouge
I was really curious to try this as I’ve never had the 1984 before. It was a shitty vintage, so you just don’t see it around. Very cool. It was very lean and mineral with cool flavors that weren’t vegetal or rotten. To me, making an interesting wine in a vintage like this is a true signal of greatness.

1983 Chave Rouge
A very good bottle of 1983, while not a first tier vintage, like 1978, 1989, 1990, 1995, this is certainly close. Fully resolved and rich without pruned fruit or heaviness.

1982 Chave Rouge
Had a strange metallic edge to it. I’m pretty sure this is an off bottle.

1978 Chave Rouge
Corked, wouldn’t you know it. I was looking forward to having the two modern legends, 1990 and 1978 side by side…oh well.

1990 Chave Vin de Paille
Not sure what to say about this. I’ve never had anything like it. Very rich and full of caramel and nuts. Deeply pitched and sweet, but not glommy. I can’t detect much structure. A really unique experience, and given that this is my only bottle (and actually, the only bottle I’ve ever physically touched) will probably remain so. If you have one drink up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holy Merlot

2007 Charly Thevenet Régnié Grain & Granite
Bright and fresh and natural seeming. Has that sort of spring field bug spray quality that I find more pillowy natural wines to have. There seems to be a rocky underside, but maybe that’s just the power of suggestion. I quite liked the mix of floral and herby flavors with the blue fruits and stoniness. I think this has the structure to improve for a little bit and hold well for 5 years of so, but this is the first of Charly’s wines I’ve had, so that’s just a guess. Thanks to David Lillie for recommending this and making internet shopping safe.

1998 Stanislao Radikon Collio Merlot
This started out soft and drinking easily. As I said to Ken, it is delicious but not impressive. The aromatic profile became broader and encompassed plumy fruit, earth and animal notes and as it opened they all seemed to have a chalky, mineral underpinning. This was a really fascinating wine which evolved and moved around. It might seem strange, but it reminded me a lot of Chave Hermitage from the old days. Great with food. A really remarkable bottle of wine which is pretty expensive, but worth trying at least once. No need to age it any longer (Stanislao took care of that for you), but do give it some air.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fucking cork great Sec

1996 Huët Vouvray Sec Le Mont
Wesley had never tried a Huet Sec and I was hoping to check in on this and see how it was doing. He is a convert for life. This bottle was magnificent. At the first nose, I thought this would be another case of a wine that won’t budge: a force-field of rocks and minerals. However, the palate was more resolved and as it opened up, it started to display, lanolin, honey and all those really cool secondary nuances. As good a white wine as I’ve had yet this year. I think this is in a beautiful place right now. Wait and you run the risk missing it in this flower.

1998 Mugneret Ruchottes-Chambertin
Corked. Tear. The last vintage before the really old section of vines was torn out due to disease.

2002 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux
A replacement off the list for the corked Mugneret. Decanted, but that still wasn’t enough to get it open enough. Don’t get me wrong, the wine was still very good, especially the texture on the palate and the balance of the wine. It was just that it didn’t want to pop. It would have preferred to be left alone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't age Federspiel

2001 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Vom Stein
This was aromatically lovely, but not the crystalline, perfect beauty that it can be. I think this is maybe a year or so late. Don’t get me wrong, it is still an excellent wine with lots of flowers, fruits, and a sense of being in some mountainous field from a movie. I’ve said this many times, but there is a vitality, and alive-ness to Nikolaihof wines. This is maybe my favorite estate that I have never visited. One day I will make it to the Wachau.

1995 Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
Once again, this wine disappoints. For whatever reason, it has never fulfilled the promise it showed as a young wine. It’s not flawed, or bad, just completely non-descript and uninteresting. Oh well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fading too soon

At dinner with an old friend. Talking the economy and old times.

1995 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco
Nice ruby color and a nose that was mineral inflected cabernet with hints of the sangiovese poking out. At first pour, it is still a bit lively, but after sitting in the glass for a while it shows itself to be fully resolved. For my palate, I think I would have preferred to drink this a couple of years ago when it had a feistier structure. I’m surprised that it is so fully mature. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed as I thought this would be longer lived and more interesting than it ended up being. Unless you like your wine in full tertiary mode, there is no reason to wait another minute.

2007 Puzelat Pineau d'Aunis Touraine La Tesnière
This was holding some gas, as is often the case with young wines from Thierry. Exuberant and a delightful accompaniment to braised pork cheeks. Crunchy red fruits and a tangy mineral quality with the whisps of white pepper coming in and out. Delicious and fun.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exciting News!!!

Peter Liem's new site, is up and running.

Peter and I might not agree about everything (terroir expression in Champagne, for example) but he is among the brightest and most astute people writing about wine anywhere in the world.

You should check out his blog and sign up for his site if you have any interest in Champagne.

Congrats to Peter, I know he has worked his ass off to get this started.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Duke sucks

Had these two bottles with some braised country style pork ribs braised with tomatillos while watching Duke get their asses handed to them by Villanova. What a great night. Duke sucks.

2006 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition
This wine is really hitting it for me right now. It does all the sorts of things I want from Macon. There is a density and intensity to the wine, as there often is with Thévenet wines. However, this does not come at the sacrifice of a floral and mineral side to the wine to make way for more tropical notes. The wine stays fresh and delicious despite being obviously a bit heady. The mineral tang that underpins it never gets shunted. This particular bottle was opened for a glass and then finished 4 days later and it was really on song. I need to lock away some of this where I can’t get to it because it’ll be cool to see where it goes.

2002 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Spätlese
There is nothing obviously wrong with this wine, it is just a bit soft and boring. It had that creamy thing I don’t like right upon opening. After a bit of air, it seemed to tighten up for a minute, only to lapse again. This would have been better a couple of years ago when it was fresh and bright.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Texier is a Fat Head

So there is a little secret in Durham. It goes by the name Kurama. In what seems to be your average awful Japanese steak house, there is a sushi bar. At that bar, Tomo-san and Misagi-san put together some truly exemplary meals, not just for Durham, for anywhere. My close friend Ken is a regular there and I joined him and his wife for a 9 course dinner prepared by Tomo-san. It was a very cool mix of a couple of sushi courses but lots of traditional Japanese food.

1995 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Forêt
Had a dank musty aroma that never quite went away. It seemed to for a moment, but would always come back. Not the first time I’ve had this issue with a Raveneau, a shame really.

2003 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
This was its usual weird, wooly self. It proved to be a bit too big and diffuse to really enjoy.

2006 Cá de Noci Vino di Tavola Notte di Luna
This was fantastic. Another orange wine, this time from Emilia-Romagna. I guess eventually I will get sick of this style of wine, but it fit the food so well and was just so plainly delicious that I couldn’t help but be charmed. I’ll be drinking a good deal of this. The only shame is that it is a bit expensive, all these orange wines are. They make such perfect foils for food, it is a shame that everyone can’t drink them whenever they want.

2007 Éric Texier Condrieu Janrode
Even in this difficult vintage, Eric has made a Condrieu that I can really enjoy. Hopefully, he won’t get too fat headed about making my two favorite white Rhône wines (this and the Châteauneuf Blanc). He manages to coax out of viognier its delicate and floral side with lots of cut and shine and leave the heavy, glommy side behind. Well done Eric. Fat head.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Well done Wells

Haven’t seen Andre in a while since he’s been out working his ass off in the marketplace (would you want to be in the wine business right now?). Tough times out there. Got together over at his place for some grilled steaks. Andre does them over the fireplace in his house where he was burning some hickory. It’s a pretty cool setup.

2006 Copain Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Monument Tree
I was really curious to try the “new” Copain wines. $54 full boat at a local retailer. Pricey, but what isn’t these days? 13.0% alcohol listed on the label. Admirably restrained, bright, and focused. I certainly don’t get anything that reeks of under-ripeness. In fact, everything seems to fit together in a nice package. There is a bit of spice, from wood I’m assuming, but it could be the site. The fruit is on the red and pitted side of the spectrum. All things considered a nice wine. I’m not sure about the cost, but I would drink this again if not necessarily buy it in quantity. The kind of thing you could probably find on a decent restaurant list that doesn’t have any Burgundy worth drinking or sufficiently aged to drink. Good for Wells Guthrie for fighting the power. You can make perfectly balanced wine at 13% just by good vineyard work and picking early. Brown seeds my fucking ass.

2003 Château Bourgneuf Pomerol
A minor property and I was a bit worried it would be a mess given my experience with other 2003 Bordeaux (even those that are usually on the restrained side like Chevalier). This was a pleasant wine with modest intentions. The predominant theme was of earthy, almost mushroomy notes surrounding plumy merlot. Well structured and enjoyable. Will probably be better in a few years, but interesting enough now in its idiom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hommage Cappellano

A group of old wine hands got together to catch up and to toast the late Teobaldo Cappellano. If you haven’t read it, Kevin McKenna of Louis/Dressner has some words worth reading. Too much death this year.

We started off at my brother’s restaurant, Rue Cler. He got in some fresh (as in still alive) Scottish langoustines. Probably the best dish I’ve had in a long time. It’s a shame my brother has to spend so much time running his businesses and can’t just be here to cook. When he has the chance, he does wonderful things.

2006 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition
This wine has really come out of its shell in the past few months. When it first arrived on these shores, it was a bit out of sorts and clumsy and not very aromatic. Time cures all ills. Resolutely Roally and floral with that hint of botrytis that I love in this wine. I really love what Thevenet is doing with this and his own vines. Great now, should improve over the next couple of years.

2004 Baudry Chinon Blanc La Croix Boissée
Corked. My second bad bottle of this in a row, which sucks because this wine can be excellent. Crazy bad luck. Oh well.

2004 Pernot Batard-Montrachet
So refined as to make the Roally seem positively boisterous. Linear and pristine, which is a good trick in Batard. A nice counterpoint to the almost exotic Roally. Instead of all the floral elements it seemed to want to stay with yellow fruits and a bit of mineral nuance. Very elegant. Worth having, but I’m not sure I favor it over the Puligny 1er crus from Pernot. But then again, I’m sort of a 1er cru kind of guy.

2002 Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Le Rouge-Gorge
This was fantastic and an indicator of what Eric Nicolas is capable of when the vintage treats him well. Started off with classic pineau d’aunis aromas of aggressive white pepper and horseradish and was very structured. As it had a chance to stretch out, it really popped. The aromas broadened in profile to include fruits and other notes as the pepper became part of the whole instead of domineering.

2000 Nervi Gattinara Vigneto Molsino
This wine got lost in the shuffle a bit, but the impression it left was as a good version if a bit afflicted by being from 2000. I kind of like my Nervi a little more nervy. That was awful, but true.

We had both the Capellano out of magnum. It seemed only fitting.

2000 Cappellano Barolo Piè Rupestris Otin Fiorin
Both of these 2000s were a little loose, but that has a lot to do with the vintage and it is more interesting to me for the wine to reflect the vintage than to strive for some archetype that doesn’t reflect that. More classic nose than the Piè Franco with the dark cherry notes and a stab more structure. This could probably stand a bit more time, but there is no reason to avoid opening one if you are interested.

2000 Cappellano Barolo Piè Franco Otin Fiorin
I would say that you can and maybe should, go ahead and drink this now. I always find this more approachable than the Rupestris. It has an almost Christmas fruitcake type of nose with the spice and fruits that entails. I don’t get the classic Barolo notes in this, but it is lively and enjoyable to drink. A wine to enjoy without fetishistic about it and that’s how we enjoyed it, with lively conversation among old friends.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Young Rougeard

2006 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition
I had a glass of this and while not showing quite as gloriously as a recent bottle, this has really morphed into an interesting wine. I really have a soft spot for this chardonnay and the other wines of the vigneron Gautier Thévenet. He is doing superb work carrying on a noble tradition of excellence.

2004 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny
This is the “Clos” or basic bottling, whatever that means in the context of Clos Rougeard. I think this is from vineyards around the cave that are not Bourg. Of course this is way too young, but I don’t remember how the Clos tasted and wanted to give it a shot. I was surprised with how enjoyable it was. While it will certainly be more expressive and dramatic with some time, I was glad to have caught it in an exuberantly youthful stage. What was so striking about it was the incredible coolness of the flavors and the impeccable balance. I bought this off my brothers list at Rue Cler, where it is something like $59. A very fair price for a Rougeard wine, I think. It paired superbly with the brisket on the prix fixe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I still drink German riesling

VLM at home with nothing better to do than order Chinese and watch Generation Kill.

2004 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #9
I bought at least a case of this on close-out for something like $16, which is surely a crime somewhere. I’ve been a big Schaefer fan for as long as I can remember buying German wine, and always find the Spätlese beautiful. I’ve been really happy with the fairly angular 2004s, although this has softened a bit since my last bottle. Plenty of fat still on the bones, so it should be better in a few years, keeping in mind that I probably like most of my Spätlese on the younger side than most.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And you thought you had me pegged

At a friends house for dinner with grilled things. Lots of conversation, no time wasted on note taking. All are impressions.

1995 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
Vary aromatic and precise in the very best way that 1995s can be. Maybe the last vintage that will produce Châteauneuf in this style. Not hard at all in the way that the 1995 Beaucastel can be.

1991 Viader
Maybe would have been better a few years before, it did seem a bit tired when first opened. It did sort of stretch out and reveal it self as the meal moved on so that by the end, it wasn’t tired seeming at all. Maybe the Howell Mountain structure is deep lying in cabernet franc. A bit confounding, but nonetheless interesting wine.

1995 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain
This showed great as well. Again, a lot of precision for a CA cabernet with plenty of mineral twinged earth to balance the fruit and herbs. Good structure with enough acid and tannin to clear the palate of the porterhouse. This and the above were decent advertisements for mountain cabernet from CA.

2004 Domaine la Soumade Côtes du Rhône Villages Rasteau Cuvée Prestige
I don’t have a strong impression of this wine other than I liked it more than I thought I would. Who said that monkeys don’t have open minds?

There were at least a couple more bottles, including some awful CA pinot noir.

Monday, March 16, 2009

God Wine

I enjoyed this with my friend Michael who had never had Knoll before. Man did he pick an imposing bottle to be his first. We had this before going to the Morrissey show at the Durham Performing Arts Center. If you live in the area, you need to check out DPAC, it is a sensational venue. If you are a Smiths fan or a Morrissey fan, he is still worth seeing and put on a great show. We had fantastic seats, 3rd row center and Michael even caught Morrissey’s shirt to take home for his wife (she asked him to bring her A shirt, he brought her THE shirt!) We had a great night.

1997 Knoll Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Loibenberg
This is one of the best wines I have had in a while. It is hard to put into words just how glorious and stunning it was. It is wines like this that make one say Knoll is god. Seemingly border less in both breadth and depth with luxurious fruit combined with a broad array of wax, white pepper, flowers, honey and more stuff than anyone should bother trying to identify. The texture is rich and silken without being overly heavy. Poised to the point of imperiousness without being smug or arrogant. This wine is so compelling that just writing about it has made me smile. Given its overall balance, this should be able to age for a good while. I don’t know how to predict its life-cycle and I’m not sure anyone does. David Schildknecht and Joe Dougherty have already demurred, so who really knows?

I had always thought that 1999 would be the superior vintage from the Wachau. When it comes to this wine, I may be wrong. This is one of the greatest wines I’ve ever had.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mediocre except for Marc

Ran into my friends, the Platts, at Vin Rouge for dinner.

2007 Pépière Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Great accompaniment to oysters and another delightful wine from Marc Ollivier. The man is a genius and if you aren’t drinking his wines, you are a fool. If you live near New York and don't go to the dinner Sunday March 22 put on by Chambers St. you are a traitor.

1998 Domaine de l'Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée Prestige
Unfortunately, this was sliding down the other side of life. After a very promising 2000 that seemed too young, I thought that this would be just right. I am at a loss as to what to make of these wines. I’m going to start diving in to my 1999-2001 Haut Coustias and see what they are doing and hopefully get a better sense of things.

2001 Pascal Granger Juliénas Cuvée Spéciale
Showed very well. Had gone totally pinote. I’m not always the hugest fan of Granger, there are so many better producers out there, but when they are good, they can be very, very good. Easily the best of the reds, with a warm earthy embrace, some dried fruit, and great balance. Very nice accompaniment to the food. No reason to hold if you have them, enjoy.

2004 La Bastide Blanche Bandol
This was just OK. I realize it is young, but it showed sort of murky, which has long been my experience with Bastide-Blanche. The best Bandol, like Pradeaux and Pibarnon show good definition when young, even if they can be painful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Good Grouper

Made a simple dinner of broiled NC grouper with buerre blanc. The grouper was supposedly spear caught off the coast of NC. I have no idea if it is true, but I saw the whole fish at my brothers and it had a hole through the head. Anyway, very high quality fish.

2001 Pierre Peters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons
This was just OK. Frankly, I enjoyed a bottle of the Brut Reserve recently more than this. It could be the vintage, but it seems to lack drive.

1997 Prager Riesling Smaragd Achleiten
Cork was soaked, so this probably saw some heat at some point. Still in pretty good shape, although rounder than I expected from Prager and this site.

1997 Freie Weingärtner Wachau Riesling Smaragd Achleiten
There was something off in this bottle. Maybe it was premoxed! Seemed like it was OK at first, but gradually slid down hill.

2002 Huët Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Mont
This was the most horribly flawed bottle I can remember in a long time. Some sort of combination of sewage, bleach, and vomit. It was so aggressively and stunningly awful that I was bewildered.

1995 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile
Again, a bit of mustiness right when opened that blows off nicely. This was a really grippy version of Frédéric Emile, especially in comparison to a recent 1997. No sign of the mysterious premature oxidation here. This showed really well with lots of minerals and only a hint of kerosene. I kept this in the fridge and enjoyed the rest 4 nights later when it was even better. Without a doubt, the best bottle of 1995 I’ve had and one of the better Frédéric Emile in recent memory.

1990 Château Suduiraut Sauternes
Really pretty mediocre. It was dominated caramel and crème brulée notes. It seemed to lack structure and precision. Too bad, I haven’t had good Sauternes in a while.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Sorry that it has been slow lately. Work has been really intense and keeping me busy.

I will be in France in the Loire Valley next week and will have much to report, I'm sure. So bear with me and all will be rewarded.

Impromptu success

A great impromptu dinner when my folks were here with some great friends, great food and excellent wine. It is for nights like these that I have a wine cellar. A wonderful evening at Vin Rouge.

2006 Fonterenza Toscano IGT Sangiovese
Good wine, but lacked the nuance of the rosso, as one would expect, I guess. Still a very pleasant wine and would likely have been perceived differently on its own.

2006 Fonterenza Rosso di Montalcino
This was really, really appealing. If only all sangiovese tasted like this. Nothing black fruited or chocolate about it. Just full of pure red fruits, a good hit of earth and leather with incisive grip and punctuality. These vines will become the Brunello when mature and I look forward to following them.

2002 Pépière Clos des Briords
Ugh, corked. The thing is, despite being corked, which for me is not something I can even remotely drink through; I almost could with this wine. The underlying wine with its gorgeous structure and mineral thrust is right around the edge of the flaw. Oh well.

2002 Domaine de Montbourgeau L'Etoile Savagnin
We decanted this for about an hour or so. More rounded than the last bottle, especially towards the end of the night. Still a very good wine.

1997 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage
Wow. Sometimes I forget how great Chave Hermitage can be. This has never been a “great” vintage of Chave, but it is a remarkable wine. Complete is the best term for it. There is nothing you could wish were there. What more to say? To try to pick the wine apart is to do it a disservice.

1991 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
Decanted for about 2 hours, this was not a wall of tannin!!! Actually, it was more or less resolved. There is a ton of fruit that is sliding over towards secondary and tertiary nuance. It has a large herbal component, that I like in cabernet based wines. My only complaint, and this is going to sound weird talking about a Dunn wine, is that the fruit might be overwhelming the structure a bit. Crazy, I know, but true. My instinct is that this will come back in tune when the fruit goes fully tertiary.

1990 Giovanni Corino Barolo Vigna Giachini
Decanted for several hours. Finally a modernist Barolo from 1990 that does not disappoint. To be fair, I stacked the deck as this has always showed well for me. In fact, I still like this wine and it’s gentle, very feminine approach to Barolo. All the classic La Morra elements were in effect and the tannin had come to be a nice framing element rather. IMO, fully mature and ready to go, but will probably stay in this neighborhood for several years.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sunday Dinner #4

In keeping with the recent habit of having Sunday dinner with my brother and his family. This time we cooked a Piedmontese dish, pork braised in milk.

1993 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra
A ruby red robe with only a hint of rust in it. This showed a really beautiful, heady, and pure nose of dried black cherry. There were hints of earth and leather as it went onto the palate. Not super expressive in the mouth, but well resolved and rounded. There was enough grip there for the dish, but nothing overwhelming. It could probably go a few more years, and maybe even improve. It seems like I’ve had my best luck with “modernists” in little years like 1993 and 1995. In comparison to my last bottle of 1993 Giacosa Falleto, the color was much less advanced and the fruit was more pure, but the overall wine less complex and seemed a bit hotter. I still don’t know what to make of Clerico. I sometimes think I should sell what I have, but I also think that the fruit quality he is producing is so good that maybe the wines deserve a chance to become what they will. I’m just not sure that I will love what they become.