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tasting notes

Let’s stay together

[fontenil & ahlgren]Ahlgren 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Bates’ Ranch (Santa Cruz Mountains) — For the first twelve hours, this is soupy and off-putting. Left open (but not decanted) at room temperature, I take a little sip the next morning (pre-coffee) and it’s extraordinarily good. Big, yes, and there’s a looming scowl of booze that’s barely restrained by the softened fruit, but everything else is showy and delicious. Raisins, plums, slightly overripe berries, fully resolved structure. Explosive. And since the side-by-side was intriguing: right now, this is a better wine than the Thunder Mountain from the same vintage and site. I don’t think either is going to improve, but neither is in danger of cliff-diving either. (9/17)

Zero font

[fontenil & ahlgren]Château Fontenil 1994 Fronsac (Bordeaux) — I expected tired, tannic, and woody. It’s certainly not in the prime of its life, and there’s some woodsmoke (more with a half-dozen hours’ air), but otherwise this — even with Rolland’s name scribbled all over the label — tastes reasonably traditional, leaning heavily on tar and decayed leaves. Drink up, though. (9/16)

Prince’s ex

[kumeu river chardonnay]Kumeu River 2000 Chardonnay Maté’s Vineyard (Kumeu) — This was, I think, the last cork-finished vintage at Kumeu River, and it was somewhat amusing to not be able to just twist it open. It’s aged well, with the minerality it showed in its youth now fully fleshed, its brighter fruit turning to bronzed representations thereof, and yet all the lively structure still intact. Some complexity. Very, very well balanced. It could go a good deal longer, I’d think, and more complexity will undoubtedly result, but for my palate I’d think now to five years from now would be ideal. New Zealand can make world-competitive chardonnay, and Kumeu River is a proof of concept. (8/16)

Thor’s hammer

[thunder mountain cabernet sauvignon]Thunder Mountain 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Bates Ranch (Santa Cruz Mountains) — 14.5%. This wine was too big for me back in the day, and in some ways it still is, but when I recall the arguments I sometimes had with the winemaker, it turns out we were both right: it did age nicely, and it’s out of balance. The booziness is even more apparent now that everything else has receded, and there’s a vinyl character to the tannin/fruit interchange, but the leafy complexity and texture one expects from properly aged cabernet sauvignon are also here, albeit buttressed by a fair dollop of dark jam. For my tastes, I wouldn’t hold it any longer, for I don’t think those structural imbalances are going to improve while pursuing greater delicacy. (8/16)

Pascole’s law

[rectorie coume pascole]Parcé Frères “Domaine de la Rectorie” 2003 Collioure Coume Pascole (Roussillon) — Dead soy out of the gate, but with air and time it blossoms. Tannin still overwhelms (2003 effect), but the wine’s hefty enough that it’s less deformative than in cooler regions. Eventually, it’s all about smoke on sunburnt soil and shriveled, desiccated grapes. Not as “elegant” as the wines can be in the context of their appellation, but then that’s still the year. Drink now, but give it a good decant first. (8/16)

Just one more thing…

[pieropan recioto]Pieropan 2007 Recioto di Soave Classico “Le Colombare” (Veneto) — Sweet cloudberries, crystalline minerality, finely honed acidity. A beautiful, beautiful dessert wine. Like drinking the palest most tranparent gold. (9/16)

Up in yer Grille

[brun fleurie grille midi]JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2009 Fleurie Grille Midi (Beaujolais) — In contrast to a surprisingly dead regular 2009 Fleurie (probably just a bad bottle), this was singing a beautiful, jaunty little tune. Flawlessly ripe fruit, some spice, plenty of life and light. Delicious, and one of the best 2009s I’ve tasted at this stage of their lives. (9/16)

Put a Hefeabzug in your ear

[nikolaihof hefeabzug]Nikolaihof 2001 Grüner Veltliner Hefeabzug (Wachau) — The dangers of pop-and-pour: the first taste, straight out of the neck, portended oxidation and weakness. After fifteen minutes, however, this was singing. Not full-throttle — it no longer has that much gas — but in pure, clear tones. Minerality, fossilized vegetation, plenty of nerve…and, surprise!…a lot of fun to drink. It disappears very, very quickly. (9/16)