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tasting notes

TN: Bugey to Barossa (via Veneto)

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Spritzy and more mineral-driven than usual (mostly chalk, perhaps a bit of gravel), with less exuberant strawberry and a dry, papery finish. I wonder if this bottle might be ever so slightly off. Bad cork? (6/06)

Gamay and poulsard (at least theoretically; there were two different cuvées of the previous release and if that’s the case here, then this could possibly be 100% gamay), naturally sparkling, etc., etc. I think this might be one of the more notated wines on the various wine non-mainstream fora, and what was said at the beginning still holds true to this day: soda pop for adults. Alcohol: 7.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.

Zenato 2002 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Restrained, violet-tinged rhubarb and olive with bitter strawberry and a fine dusting of drying tannin. There are good elements here, but there seems to be some sort of internal struggle going on with this wine, for they emerge and retreat seemingly at random. A little overworked in the cellar, I think, and it fades a bit with food, but it’s decent enough as a slightly angry cocktail wine. (6/06)

80% corvina, 10% rondinella, 10% sangiovese. While this isn’t done in the popular ripasso style, with all the jammy, prune-like fruit that the technique portends, neither is it done in the traditional, high-acid, best-served chilled style that has almost completely disappeared as a wine for export to the States. It tries to find a middle ground, but in the process I think it loses some of what makes Valpolicella interesting. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Locascio/Winebow. Web:

[vine at Torbreck]Torbreck 2003 “Cuvée Juveniles” (Barossa Valley) – Big, full-bodied, and strongly-flavored, with dark plum and charred blackberry larded with double-smoked bacon. The fruit is on full display here, and while it’s a little ponderous without strongly-flavored food as a foil, it’s pretty difficult to dislike the high-decibel enthusiasm of this thermonuclear fruit device. (6/06)

60% grenache, 20% shiraz (syrah), 20% mataro (mourvèdre), done in a style that’s both accessible and…according to the winemaker…ageable. I wonder if there’s sufficient structure to support long-term aging (and even if there is, whether the lack of acid will result in this wine asymptotically turning to dark soy, as many older Barossa wines do), but there’s certainly no lack of concentration. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Australian Wine Collection. Web:

TN: Three from ESJ

[ESJ]Edmunds St. John 2003 Viognier Rozet (Paso Robles) – This has taken on deeper, earthier, more coppered (or perhaps bronzed) characteristics with a little extra age; almost, but not quite, a sort of fetid fruit “funk” to go with the well-oiled flowerbed that is viognier. I think it’s drinking marvelously well, but it’s probably a little bit controversial at this stage, and the timid might want to approach gingerly. (Speaking of which: there’s just a hint of ginger in there. Coincidence?) (6/06)

I’m occasionally asked, “what do you think is the most overrated grape out there?” (Actually, people usually say “overrated varietal,” but we’ll forgive them the grammatical error for the time being.) A semi-professional cynic, I’m frequently moved to be snarky and answer “chardonnay” (or “merlot”, or perhaps “cabernet sauvignon”). A bit of actual thought sometimes leads to sangiovese, based on the devolving mess that is Tuscany. But truth be told, I think the answer has to be viognier. In its “qualitative home” of Condrieu, a relatively small number of wineries made decidedly overpriced wine that is almost inevitably both too alcoholic and lacking in acidity. Elsewhere, things get even heavier and less interesting, and the ugly specter of new wood too often raises its vanilla-infused head (in Condrieu too, these days). It would be easy to completely dismiss the grape, except that when it is good, it’s so deliciously individualistic – fragrant, summery, silky and seductive – that hope is, at least in part, restored. In the U.S., however, I have to say that pretty much all of it sucks. A producer here, a producer there…really no different than in Condrieu, to be honest…but most of it is just not worth drinking, unless motor oil blanc is your thing. Based on recent efforts, however, I think Steve Edmunds is getting a handle on this grape, which he more typically uses in Rhône-style blends. The results, from a winery who most definitely does not overprice its wines, should be interesting if they continue. Alcohol: 13.9%. Closure: cork. Web:

[ESJ]Edmunds St. John 2001 Zinfandel Peay (Sonoma Coast) – Aggressive, with delicious blueberry and olallieberry marmalade fruit zested by crisp acidity and that very slightly spirituous midtone that is so often present in high-octane zin. But there’s chunky, graphite-infused earth as well, and a nice, balanced finish that shows less heat than the initial palate impression promises. A very good wine, made in a more classic style, and rounding into some tertiary characteristics that really improve it. (6/06)

The story of the making of this wine is rather entertaining, and illustrates some of the problems that non-industrial winemakers (those who don’t work via recipe) face on a yearly basis. I have no idea if the 9% syrah (added not for its syrah character, but to re-energize the fermentation) or the two years it took to finish said fermentation made this wine into something it might not otherwise have been…though it seems likely…but the end result is so definitively zinnish that it hardly matters. I’ve often read that many historic zins were actually field blends of semi-mysterious composition, so maybe as a mutt rather than a purebred this represents something more authentically, historically Californian than all the carefully-managed single-site zinfandels of today. And then again, maybe I’m overanalyzing this, and should just shut up and drink the wine. Alcohol: 15.2%. Closure: cork. Web:

[ESJ]Edmunds St. John 2001 Syrah (California) – Leathery, smoky and a little sweaty, with old blueberry and decidedly carnivorous characteristics thickly coated by layers of tannin and dried fruit residue. The finish is a little brighter – raspberries, mostly – but then heavies up again…and lingers, and lingers, and lingers. For the sub-$20 price, this has always been, is, and probably will be for some time a spectacular value, showing more character than scores of California syrahs at three times the price. (6/06)

A multi-site blend, usually from lots and sub-lots that don’t make the single-site bottlings, but while it doesn’t speak of place that much (it seems a little confused if it’s from California or the sun-drenched hills of southern France), it most certainly speaks of a recognizably Old World expression of varietal character, but with the elevated fruit of a New World wine. Alcohol: 14.1%. Closure: cork. Web:

TN: Two with screw & Kanu too (plus, Easton)

[Kanu]Kanu 2004 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Softly enticing, with hints of chalk dusting subdued pineapple, apricot and Meyer lemon flavors. A lovely, simple summer sipper. Just a bit off-dry, but it comes off as more of a softening element, rather than actual sweetness. (6/06)

This is the point where wine writers inevitably say something like “chenin blanc is traditionally known as ‘steen’ in South Africa.” Well, it’s not untrue, but in reality almost no one actually calls it that anymore. Why do we keep repeating this cliché? Inertia, most likely. Anyway, there’s a teensy bit of chardonnay in this wine, but not enough to notice. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Cape Classics. Web:

Easton 2004 Zinfandel (Amador County) – A hefty lumberjack of a wine (not to suggest overwooding, though wood is definitely present), showing thick and somewhat feral dark fruit lightened by sticky red cherries and then counter-weighted with a dense, intensely “winy” texture. Nice, and a good value, but not for the faint of heart. (6/06)

Winemaker Bill Easton is a great guy, I’ve played golf with him, and I like both him and his wines a lot…but when he calls this “cru Beaujolais-styled” (as he does on his web site), I have to wonder if he’s been in Amador – where the wines are men and the sheep are nervous – a little too long. Beaujolais on anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and a ten year weight training regimen, maybe. In any case, this retains classic wild-vine Amador character without the rough edges exhibited by so many other wineries in the region; the tradeoffs are a little less fiery exuberance and a little more slickness, but that’s a fair price to pay. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: cork. Web:

[Tohu]Tohu 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Second note, same as the first. (Does anyone remember Herman’s Hermits?) (6/06)

Ditto the write-up. This is a remarkably consistent wine. The screwcap undoubtedly helps that: a reliable wine presented exactly the way the winemaker intended, without all the inevitable cork-induced variability. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Davies & Co. Web:

Bonny Doon “Ca’ del Solo” 2003 “Big House Red” (California) – And again with the reliability. This is a good wine that’s just not worth extensive re-notation, especially when all the notes start to read the same. (6/06)

This would make a good “house wine,” especially for the budget-conscious, but one of its strengths is that it’s just a little bit better than that. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: screwcap. Web:

TN: Variety is the spice of arneis

[arneis]Valdinera 2004 Roero Arneis (Piedmont) – Like especially vivid seltzer, this grabs one’s attention not with weight or concentration, but with a vivacious, dancing palate presence. But other than some light floral and citrus aromas, there’s not a whole lot of tactile substance here, rendering the wine more exciting than satisfying. It’s refreshing enough with restrained cuisine…but just don’t expect too much, otherwise. (6/06)

There’s just not much arneis on wine shelves in the States (usually one sees Giacosa or Vietti), so a new label is often welcome. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the grape almost died out a few decades ago (and, admittedly, probably fell victim to the international misconception that all Italian white wines are identically thin and uninteresting). Its resurrection is a good thing, as even in thinner conceptions (as here), it offers an aromatic presence unlike most other whites. The aforementioned producers do a denser, heavier version of the grape, if that’s your thing, and remain acceptably-priced (not, unfortunately, inexpensively-priced anymore). Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: John Given. Web:

Ernest/JF Burn 2002 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Sweet, spiced pear and a thick, crystalline liquid syrup structure. If you think that sounds like a dessert wine, you’re not wrong; while there’s some acidity here, the wine’s just too sweet to be served with most food. Drink it as a refreshing summer dessert, or drink it as an apéritif (that’s what the French tend to do with sweet wines anyway, so you can feel all multicultural while you do it), but be very careful about serving it with savory food. (6/06)

Burn’s a domaine I used to love, especially for their Clos St-Imer bottlings (the “La Chapelle” bottlings, allegedly superior, were often a bit too out of balance towards the sugary side), but things have gotten completely out of control there in recent years. I’m not sure if it’s the high ratings from sugar-loving critics, or global warming, or what, but when a even a basic pinot blanc become a dessert wine, something’s askew. And, of course, there’s no exterior indication on the label that this is the case, something that’s endemic to Alsace (though recent legislation will allow a change, if producers other than Zind-Humbrecht are willing to make the effort to inform their customers about the amount of residual sugar in their wines). Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Arborway.

[Lavergne-Dulong]Château Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – Dense, forward blackberry and black cherry with the suggestion of cassis and some ripe, velvety tannin. Eminently drinkable and quite tasty, albeit highly suggestive of a New World style. (6/06)

50% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 10% cabernet franc. Dulong is a négociant, and a big one, and this fits into what seems like a vast ocean of labels (check out their web site and marvel at the portfolio). Obviously, then, this isn’t artisanal winemaking at it most hands-on. What it is, however, is a poster child for the benefits and ills of modernized, international-style winemaking. 2003’s heat wave helps in this regard, of course, but this is a wine with a striking amount of fruit and a particularly soft, approachable texture; everything one might want from inexpensive Bordeaux (which is far too often over-structured and under-fruited), right? Well, opinions differ. I poured this blind for a wine-loving French friend, who pronounced it “too heavy for the food” (we were having aggressive cheeses at the time) and was flabbergasted that it was a Bordeaux. While I didn’t necessarily agree with him on its proportional weight (no doubt because I’m more accustomed to riper, bigger New World wines than he is), I did agree on one key point: there’s very little here to suggest that the wine is from Bordeaux. Of all the potential sins of the internationalized wine style, this is the biggest: the muting or even obliteration of regional or varietal typicity. None of which is to say that the result is a “bad wine” – rather, it’s quite a good wine for the price – but that it very well might be “bad Bordeaux.” To some people, that matters. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Dulong/Elite. Web:

TN: Not from Vermont (at last!)

[Main Divide]Donaldson Family “Main Divide” 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough/Canterbury) – Zingy and forward, as this wine always is, with vivacious gooseberry and lime juice bouyed by playful acidity. Four years on, the structure and the fruit are slightly less well-integrated than they were, but this is still better than almost all the industrial-quantity New Zealand sauvignon blanc that litters store shelves. (6/06)

I’ve written about this wine before, so there’s no need to repeat myself here. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Meadowbank Estates/Empson. Web:

Trimbach 2001 Pinot Gris “Réserve” Ribeauvillé (Alsace) – Acrid pear and grapefruit soda keep themselves at a distance from the drinker, as if to withhold their apparent lushness until some sort of test is passed. In other words, this is showing signs of being a bit closed. It should come out the other side in a few years, at which point both the weight and the fat will re-emerge. (6/06)

I’ve always eschewed the “Ribeauvillé” designation on this wine, for no good reason. All the grapes are from within those vineyards allotted to the town of Ribeauvillé, and as this sort of village labeling is a regular practice in Alsace, there’s no reason for me to keep excluding it. I notice, though, that Trimbach de-emphasizes the appellation by using a font color very similar to the background. A little strange, perhaps, but then Trimbach has always been a brand-forward estate. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Importer: Diageo. Web:

Torbreck 2003 “Cuvée Juveniles” (Barossa Valley) – Full-bodied dark berries, but instead of leaden and concentrated (though the wine doesn’t lack for weight), they’re juicy and lip-smacking, with broad-shouldered complexities and a minimal amount of structure. A nice wine. (6/06)

60% grenache, 20% shiraz (syrah), 20% mataro (mourvèdre). The name does not, as one might assume, refer to a young-vines cuvée, but instead to Juveniles wine bar in Paris, whose owner suggested this particular style: old vines & unoaked. I’ve often been indifferent (and occasionally hostile) to the wines of Torbreck, while like-minded palates have insisted that I’m missing something I’d like. This is the first indication I’ve had that they might have been on to something. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Australian Wine Collection. Web:

[Tohu]Tohu 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Intense, almost overwhelming ripe gooseberry with a fuzzy, alcohol-induced haze. The flavor is undeniable, and there’s nothing “wrong” with the wine, but I wonder if a little restraint might not improve matters. (6/06)

Made by and for Maori interests in New Zealand, Tohu has cultural baggage that hangs on its success or failure in the marketplace; failure here would be more damaging than with most wineries. That it has heretofore matched decent commercial expectations is noteworthy, but other than the prestige “Mugwi” sauvignon blanc, not much has been done to push the winery away from the crowded low-price realm in which it resides. In my opinion, it’s time to do so. Keep the low-cost, accessible wines, but let’s see more of an adventurous spirit to move the wines onward and upward. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Davies & Co. Web:

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Moulin de la Gustaie” “Sur Lie” (Loire) – Crisp but generous (for Muscadet, that is), with fruit skins and flaky, sea-battered minerals scattered on some sort of moonscape. Utterly delicious. (6/06)

Marc Ollivier’s stupendous Muscadets are standard-bearers for what the region can accomplish with the right vines and dedication, and are incredible values as well (though objectively, it’s a shame that such good work can’t lead to greater financial rewards). However, what’s more interesting to me are the striking differences between his cuvées: the regular, the Eden, the shockingly good Clos des Briords, and this one. There’s terroir, there’s vine age, there’s a little bit of style, but all are distinctly different while remaining distinctly Muscadet. That’s terroir for you, right there. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.

Bonny Doon “Ca’ del Solo” 2003 “Big House Red” (California) – Fun, fruity, pleasantly acidic. Red. That’s about the it. (6/06)

Seriously, what more do you want? Cheap, fun wine. Stop thinking about it and just drink it! Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: screwcap. Web:

TN: Birthday bacchanalia

Voyager Estate 2002 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (Margaret River) – Fruity and fresh, with fine, citrusy acidity brightening up some grapefruit, lime, lemon and gooseberry flavors. Very simple, but pure summer fun. (6/06)

A reliable summer sipper, though it was better at release. Some of these blends can age, but this doesn’t seem like one that did. It doesn’t matter, because newer vintages are really tasty young. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Serge Doré. Web:

Ridge 1992 Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains) – Very tight, tannic and dusty when first opened…and this doesn’t change much with extended aeration. The “Draper perfume” (from the wood regime, the terroir and the aromatic high-altitude fruit) is still present, but plays only a loud supporting role to the other structural elements and to the emergent characteristics of the blend: hard dark cherries with lashings of cassis, some rosemary, black pepper, and a deep base note of the blackest earth. So while the primary, oak-driven sheen has receded, there’s still much more that needs to emerge from this dense, tannic shell; I’d say the wine is probably about halfway to maturity. And if this note sounds a little cold, it’s not an accident. I think the wine is potentially extraordinary, but it’s so unyielding at the present that it’s hard to form any sort of emotional bond with the elixir…something that I think is essential to the enjoyment of the very best wines. (6/06)

80% cabernet sauvignon, 11% merlot, 9% petit verdot. The critical accord on this wine is remarkable, with virtually everyone in agreement with Paul Draper that this is a potentially monumental Monte Bello with a long life in front of it (the one exception: James Laube of Wine Spectator, who thought it should be ready to go about six years ago). Critics’ tastes can, do, and should differ, so when one finds such unanimity of praise, the conclusion is obvious. Alcohol: 13.4%. Closure: cork. Web:

Trimbach 1989 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – From a 375 ml bottle, and very nearly as good as late-harvest gewurztraminer gets. There’s sweet lychee syrup, luxuriant cashew oil, and ripe peach, but what stand out here are the waves of spice…first Indian, then of the sweet baking variety, then moving into something more exotically (but indefinably) Asian…that finally settle on some sort of fantastical meat rub with an accompanying and highly-spiced chutney. There’s plenty of sweetness here, but it’s offset by mild acidity and a more structurally important tannic scrape, and the effect is to render the palate impression somewhat dryer than the initial impression would indicate. On the finish, the aforementioned waves of spice roll and recede for what seems like forever. Beautiful, silence-inducing wine. Is it “ready”? Yes, though it’s also in no danger of slipping for the next decade, and possibly more. (6/06)

I’ve had this wine quite a few times, often paired with the same vintage’s “Sélection des Grains Nobles” bottling, and have reached the inescapable conclusion that this is a better wine. Why? Fairly simply, it tastes a lot more like gewurztraminer. The SGN is dominated by its botrytis, and suffers from even less acidity, which the VT absolutely sings with both its late-harvest qualities and its essential varietal and terroir-influenced characteristics. Though to be fair to the SGN, more time may simply be required. In any case, if you own both, the VT is definitely the one to drink now.

This is as good a time as any to tell one of my favorite stories: a few years ago, Seagram C&E (now absorbed by Diageo) hosted a bacchanalian event in New York, at which most of their Bordeaux estates and the other stars of their portfolio poured a rather stunning collection of wines. One of the results of this assemblage was that both fabled Château d’Yquem and Trimbach were in the same room; Yquem pouring their epic ’88 and ’90 Sauternes, Trimbach with a larger portfolio including the above-described bottling. Later in the evening, as the tasting wound to a close and producers started to drift from their stations, I found Yquem’s Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces behind the Trimbachs’ table, chatting with marketers Hubert and Jean and sharing glasses of each others’ extraordinary wines. The count swirled, sniffed, and swallowed the ’89…paused for a moment, and then leaned towards Hubert. He seemed almost embarrassed, and yet there was a kind of subdued ecstasy on his face. In a heavily-accented whisper, but one audible to a few nearby eavesdroppers (including me), he rather shockingly declared: “this is better than mine.” I’ll never forget that. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Importer: Seagram Chateau & Estate. Web:

TN: Yet another night in Vermont (bored with these titles yet?)

Champalou Vouvray Brut (Loire) – Very, very dry, with scalding desert sand carrying only a memory of faded white flowers. A bit extreme. (5/06)

Codax 2003 Albariño Burgáns (Rias Baixas) – Wet, juicy-fruity melon and grapefruit with good acidity but a sticky, almost gummy mouthfeel. Not bad, but it would benefit from more brightness. (5/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Restrained and possibly a bit closed, with dry lychee juice and pear skin braced by a touch of tannin and fairly good acidity. Needs some time to reemerge with smoky, bacon fat and cashew characteristics. (5/06)

TN: One more night in Vermont

Trimbach 2003 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Simple light apricot and sweet lemon flavors. Dry. Heavier and more difficult than usual, which could be an artifact of the vintage. (5/06)

Weinbach 1999 Riesling “Cuvée Théo” (Alsace) – Pure essence of iron with a bright sheen of Granny Smith apple. It builds and expands with air, and may be about as good as it’s going to get. (5/06)

Porter Creek 2004 Carignane Angeli “Old Vine” (Alexander Valley) – Big, fruity and relatively acidic, with a lot of adorable doofus qualities. In other words, not particularly sophisticated…but then, one doesn’t look to carignane for sophistication. (5/06)

Tablas Creek 2001 Côtes de Tablas Red (Paso Robles) – Full-bodied roasted berries and dark, sun-drenched soil with an undertone of leathery tannin and squeezed meat textural discontinuities. Very interesting, with a long future still ahead of it. (5/06)

Umathum/Peck “Zantho” 2001 Zweigelt (Burgenland) – Dusty and dry, with elegant pencil shavings and a high-toned blackberry juice character. It’s fairly restrained, and can be easily overwhelmed by aggressive food. (5/06)

TN: Two nights in Vermont

Monarchia 2003 Pinot Gris (Budai) – In case you were wondering, Budai is in Hungary. And yes, this is my first Hungarian pinot gris. It’s loaded with petrol, with vague hints of anise and pine needle underneath. The weight is good, and so is the acid (was 2003 not as steamy in Hungary as it was in Western Europe?), but there’s not much flavor of more than academic interest.

Cazes “Blanc de Lynch-Bages” 1997 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – I feared this might be over the hill, but instead it has matured into a lovely little wine. Strong honeydew melon and ripe grapefruit with little zingers of lime, green apple and green plum are introduced by a pleasant notion of sweet oak, and good acidity supports the entire effort through a long, crisp finish. I think it’s probably at peak now.

Jamet 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Lovely and aromatic for the first fifteen minutes or so, but after that it closes in on itself, leaving a slightly less welcoming shell of hardish tannin, smoked meat and a manageable amount of brett. The wine’s not unpleasant at the moment, but I suspect there’s better things in its future.

Edmunds St. John 1993 Syrah Durell (Sonoma Valley) – Very tight and closed at first. Harder than nails, in fact. But as it airs, it starts to blossom, showing deep-toned blackberry and leather with dark black earth, rosemary pressed into the leaves of an ancient tome, walnut oil and little hints of unidentifiable spice. Masterful wine in the full glory of its maturity.

[El Grifo]El Grifo 1998 Malvasia Dulce (Lanzarote) – Not as vivid as it was in its youth, but with all sorts of sun-drenched yellow fruit with a slight rounding-off of the edges towards caramelized pineapple. Fun.

Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – Drier than usual, with mineral-laden raspberries and a dusty leaf finish. Delicious, but a little different.

Porter Creek 2004 Zinfandel “Old Vines” (Sonoma County) – Very woody at first opening, but this quickly fades under a throbbing pulse of boisterous fruit. Blackberry, boysenberry, black raspberry, black cherry – all the songs you know and love, played at top volume – with enough acidity and just a hint of tannin to lend it some support and rhythm. A delicious, drinkable zin, though possibly not for the long haul. 15.1% for those who care, though it’s not at all hot…just big.

Voyager Estate 2002 Shiraz (Margaret River) – Heavy leather, black plum, blueberry and blackberry with fuzzy, thick tannin and a little bit of acidity. Fruit-forward, but structured and relatively balanced, with obvious aging potential.

TN: Brandlin wash

[Franus]Franus 1999 Zinfandel Brandlin (Mount Veeder) – Quince pie and coal dust. Still quite structured, with hints of dried leaves and suggestions of toasted blackberry liqueur, plus a forcefully whispered notion of acidity. This it maturing nicely, and far better than it was in its youth.

A true old-vine zin (the vines were planted in the twenties) from an extreme terroir that’s often derided for producing undrinkably structured cabs. Young zins from this property are not much fun, but they do have the structure and stuffing to age, and while Franus does dabble in wood to the detriment of the wine, there’s so much goodness inherent in the fruit that it can outlast tomfoolery in the cellar. Alcohol: 14.8%. Closure: cork. Web: