Heinrich 2001 Blaufränkisch (Burgenland) – Dark violet aromatics, decayed leaves and slightly bitter plum coalesce around a hard, somewhat sharp core. This still has some of the fantastic nose of its youth, but the fruit has started to decay in deference to the structure, and it was unquestionably better in its youth. It’s film noir on a scratchy, brittle old print. (6/06)
Blaufränkisch isn’t a grape that gets much international respect – though the same could be said for most Austrian reds – because it’s neither overly fruity nor generous and mouth-filling in its natural state. These things can be induced, of course, but the real pleasures of the grape are similar to those of nebbiolo: beautifully seductive aromas somewhat at war with an occasionally razor-like structure, though here the effect is rather lighter-bodied (and in this way, more like pinot noir, or possibly gamay). All this varietally comparative confusion aside, it’s a grape that can be too crisp and too light, but when it’s good – as this one is – it’s quite enticing. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vin Divino. Web: http://www.heinrich.at/.
Hartley Ostini “Hitching Post” 2004 Pinot Noir “Cork Dancer 4.2” (Santa Barbara County) – Lovely, balanced, and pure, with succulent red berries in light array and lithe, dancing structural elements over a soft foundation of rich earth. There’s just enough tannin and just enough acidity to make this feel ageable, though frankly it will be hard to resist its youthful charms. (6/06)
It used to be that the words “Hitching Post” meant a restaurant only to a concentrated group of locals and the tourists who intermingled with them. Sideways changed all that, rendering the restaurant rather famous and pushing the wines into the background; it’s not uncommon for me to hear “oh, they make wine there?” (I guess they didn’t pay close enough attention to the movie, in which the wines are explicitly mentioned on more than one occasion.) But for me, Hartley Ostini has long made fine pinot noir in a non-intoxicatingly lighter style vs. others in their area; wines to drink rather than taste, wines that seduce rather than solicit. Which – before some angry Central Coast winemaker gets on my case – is not to say that the alternative styles are bad, or “slutty,” or whatever it is I’m allegedly implying in the previous sentence. (Oh, whatever. It’s just a turn of phrase. Lighten up!) Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.hitchingpost2.com/HPWinery.html.
ca’Rugate 2002 Recioto di Soave “La Perlara” (Veneto) – Stunning. Heavily-spiced white fruit with preserved lemon and an utterly flawless, bright and crisp structure for balance. The finish lingers with perfect poise, and unlike many dessert wines you’ll find yourself going back for glass after glass. Or maybe that’s just me. (6/06)
100% garganega, dried for about six months to concentrate both the sugars and the flavors, and then vinified. A good recioto di Soave is one of the most enticing dessert wines in the world, for it achieves Sauternes-like levels of spice (often with less reliance on oak, though wood is certainly not unknown in high-end Soave), but frequently with better acid. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ideal. Web: http://www.carugate.it/.