Wine Cask – Too much touristy wandering of Santa Barbara’s ultra-deluxe streets leads to missing most of the lunch hour, and thus it’s a sort of act of charity that they let me sit and eat anything at all…though I’m restricted to the cold-prepped portion of the menu. The wine list is said to be interesting, and a quick perusal seems to verify that, but I just don’t have much basis for an elaborate opinion of this place.
Tangent 2010 Albariño (Edna Valley) – Tired of my grumping and grumbling about New World wines, the brave few who are actually willing to hear more of the tiresome lecture are sometimes moved to ask what I’d change. One of the things I always mention is that there’s a really wide world of grapes out there, suitable for all different soils and climates, and that I think there’s a lot of (say) pinot noir planted where something like nero d’avola might be more at home. The luxury of saying this, of course, relies on not having to sell something like nero d’avola to a public that loves pinot noir. In any case, I’m pleased to report that even though such wines are little more than a rumor on the East Coast, there’s actually been a fair bit of progress towards this goal in some sub-regions. And I have to say that, on balance, I like what I’m tasting. There are plenty of missteps, and for the usual reasons (more ripeness is always better, everything tastes better with new oak, wine should taste like fruit, acid can always be added later), but there’s plenty to like, as well. Here, for example, is a pretty albariño. Note that I didn’t type “little” in between those two words. It ain’t little. Though I suppose in the context of the region’s whites, it might be thought of that way. It doesn’t yell and stomp and carry on, but presents itself with plain simplicity and leaves the interpretation to the taster. Swirly yellow fruit with both green and peachier notes, some nut oils, a decent bit of acidity. Nothing special, not bad, just…nice. (11/11)
Margerum 08 Pinot Gris “Klickitat” (American) – When I was a kid, there was liquid saccharine that came in a little tip-and-squirt bottle, in case you wanted add some to food or drink in lieu of sugar. I only remember the one bottle, because of course there was the whole (overblown) cancer scare, and who wants to be offering carcinogens as a condiment? (This in a part of the country where pretty much everyone would have been puffing on cigarettes throughout the meal.) Anyway, this wine tastes like that. (Liquid saccharine, I mean. Not a carcinogen. Lawyers, stand down.) (11/11)
Epiphany 2010 Grenache Blanc (Santa Barbara County) – Fat and happy nectarines wearing bronzer and some out-of-date Ray-Bans™. (11/11)
Dinner with friends – Despite all the eminently mockable distractions of the internet, one clear benefit is the ability to bring people together across geographies. I have “friends” – certainly predating Facebook, and in many cases even predating the web – all over the world, and when geography is removed as a barrier it’s always pleasant to make or renew acquaintances in a less digital way.
And drink their decidedly analog wine. Let’s not forget this crucial element.
Delamotte 1999 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – My long-standing preference for noir-based Champagne has taken a fairly major hit over the last few years from a passel of grower-producers doing unquestionably brilliant work, but this reminds me why I once held the preference in the first place. Grapey, lemony, gauze-wrapped apple, filtered and only lightly yeasty…I’m sure there’s more to come later in its life, but this is a sip-while-conversing Champagne that doesn’t hit any of my sweet spots. (11/11)
La Valentina 2010 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzi) – One can, on occasion, ask much of certain variants of trebbiano and receive much in return, but in general it’s best to ask not what your trebbiano can do for you. The result is that you won’t be disappointed in wines like this: good, clean, green fruit in a tart, linear, narrow-gauge cylinder. Perfectly decent and undemanding, yet the wine geek in me demands more. (11/11)
Lageder 2009 Vigneti delle Dolomiti Pinot Grigio (Trentino) – Pinot grigio for those who don’t like pinot grigio, and this is only the basic version: firm, rock-infused, with restrained, polished fruit and just enough grip. (11/11)
Oddero 1998 Barolo (Piedmont) – I admit to struggling with this wine, never quite sure if it’s corked (if so, it’s sub-my-threshold) or just being a typically antisocial mid-life Barolo. The only thing of sure of is that, based on numbers and history rather than organoleptics, this is probably a suboptimal age to be drinking a traditionally-styled Barolo. It is not, in any sense, giving of itself, except with clouds of obscurative tannin and an angry snarl. Structurally and temporally, all seems to be right with the wine, and my worries about taint are not shared by anyone else who tastes it. So if this bottle is representative, this is no time to be drinking it. If it’s not, then I just don’t know. And there’s always the possibility that the current problem is the taster and not the wine. (11/11)
Texier “Domaine de Pergaud” 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône St-Julien en St-Alban “Vieille Serine” (Rhône) – Absolutely singing. This isn’t like drinking a really good Rhône blend…which, by the way, it isn’t. It’s syrah. This is like drinking a fireworks extravaganza designed to celebrate the the fact that wines like this exist. It’s sizable without being big, it’s concentrated with plenty of light and space, it’s serious but breaks out in periodically goofy grins, and it’s rather spectacular from start to (a much-extended) finish. (11/11)
Longoria 2009 Syrah “Vino Dulce” (Santa Barbara County) – 375 ml. Corked. (11/11)