Dashe 2012 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch “Old Vines” (Alexander Valley) — Everything flawlessly in place, just awaiting age. As always, there’s a tightly coiled structure beneath slightly less generous fruit than Dashe’s other zins. Meant for the cellar. (11/16)
Dashe 1999 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch (Alexander Valley) — Some of these are fruitier than others, some are more resolved than others, but they all have this in common: dirt and a hard-edged structure. This is one of the gentler, more aromatically generous versions, and it’s eminently approachable. (7/16)
Dashe 2012 “The Comet” (Alexander Valley) — The thing I’ve always loved about Dashe’s wines is how they marry a considerable bit of Californian power with structure. I’d rarely call them elegant, but then that’s not really why I buy them. That said, this is a big thud of fairly anonymous fruit, and while it’s certainly not bad, it’s the least interesting wine I think I’ve ever tasted from this much-admired winery. Oh well. (5/16)
Chateau Souverain 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley) – Club-fisted and ham-handed cabernet of acceptable quality. It hasn’t done anything I’d identify as “age,” but has instead just gotten older; drying out, turning from dark berry to dried herb and green tobacco, and dusting everything with slightly stale black pepper. That may be harsher than the wine as it exists deserves, because it’s a fair expression of grape and, to the extent that such can be discerned, a vague sort of place, but unless I’m very wrong (which would mean the wine’s just in a closed stage, though its general fulsomeness suggests otherwise), I don’t think it’s going anywhere more interesting anytime soon. Or not soon, either. (9/11)
Dashe 1999 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 15%. Extremely oaky, in the soupy vanilla/milk chocolate/coconut fashion of a young zin in the Ridge mold, and with few other signs that the wine has aged at all…other than a noticeable reduction in what was its youthful tannin. This clearly needs more time, but watch that lingering wood. (1/10)
Dashe 1998 Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 14.5%. Tiring, and though it still clings to remnants of its dusty, dark fruit days, those days are firmly in the past. It’s not yet in an imbalanced stage, in which the structure overwhelms the remnants, but it’s getting there. (12/09)
Rodney Strong 2004 “Symmetry” Meritage (Alexander Valley) – The lushest wine of the tasting, with better aromatic complexity than anything I’ve yet sniffed. Mixed chocolates and a rush of upfront fruit are promising (though I’d prefer less of the former), the structure arrives and announces itself…and then the wine rather abruptly absents itself from the conversation. Just: poof! It disappears. A high-priced void. (2/08)
Rodney Strong 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley) – A blend of French and American oak. Minted dark chocolate, leafy dark chocolate, and flatness. No generosity. Pretty insipid. (2/08)
Bella 2004 Zinfandel Big River Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 15%. Huge. Thick blackberry and boysenberry sludge with plenty of spreadable oak, yet it’s “balanced” in that strange, youthful-but-ageable zin fashion. It’s a bit much to take right now, but with a decade or so, I think pretty much everyone will be happy. It tastes a lot like a Dashe zin, or a Ridge, and there’s a reason for that… (6/07)
Muga 2002 Rioja Reserva “Selección Especial” (Center-North) – Coconut-infused wood. There’s very little else. Just the wood, and the coconut. (9/06)
70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha, 10% mazuelo and graciano. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Jorge Ordoñez. Web: http://www.bodegasmuga.com/.
Domaine de Chevalier 1988 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – A gorgeous nose of cedar, thyme and graphite with little dustings of black cherry and cassis builds to…absolutely nothing. Other than a tart core of acidity, this wine is virtually void of palate or finish. It’s a perplexing thing, but maybe the best option is to smell and dump, rather than drink. (9/06)
65% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 5% cabernet franc. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Wildman. Web: http://www.domainedechevalier.com/.
Fèlsina “Berardenga” 1997 Chianti Classico “Vin Santo” (Tuscany) – Sweet strawberry, lime, mostarda, cider and pomegranate in a wine that, despite its heady richness, comes across as delightfully light and breezy. Yet there’s plenty of seriousness and complexity underneath. What really makes this work, however, is its exquisitely beautiful balance. (9/06)
80% malvasia & trebbiano, 20% sangiovese. Alcohol: 15%. Closure: cork. Importer: Domaine Select. Web: http://www.felsina.it/.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – As usual, more Touraine than sauvignon blanc, showing chalky, aspirin-like minerality with wet limestone and flecks of the driest citrus wine. However, there’s a slightly oppressive weight, albeit a flavorless one, that renders everything a little sticky and comes to dominate the finish. I’m unsure about this; it may be legendary, or it may be too much for itself. Time will tell, I guess…or not, because the closure won’t allow reliable aging past two or three years. Still, that might be enough time to tell the tale. (9/06)
Alcohol: 13%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Julien “Château Villerambert Julien” 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Slightly muted raspberry and lead, with a gauze-like texture. I think this may be very mildly corked, but in any case it’s not performing as it should. (9/06)
40% syrah, 30% grenache, 20% carignan, 10% mourvèdre. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ideal. Web: http://www.villerambert-julien.com/.
Dashe 2002 Zinfandel Big River (Alexander Valley) – Big and slightly fierce, showing thoroughly untamed wild berries – dark and angry – with concentrated blackness somewhere in the realm between grilled meat and tar. There’s spice and structure to spare, and the wine grows more deliciously aromatic with aeration, yet its clenched fists never quite relax. Terrific, balanced, muscular zinfandel still in the hormonal rages of its rebellious youth. (9/06)
Alcohol: 14.9%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.dashecellars.com/.
Ceuso 2004 “Scurati” (Sicily) – Dusty, fire-blackened blackberries, black pepper and asphalt-like rigidity that takes a jarring turn towards the sour on the palate; the acid and the black tannin then combine to dry out the finish. I want to like this unoaked nero d’avola for it’s relatively unspoofulated nature, but I just can’t. It’s as if these grapes have been pushed far past their endurance, only to collapse in exhaustion in the bottle. Proving, I guess, that over-oaking isn’t the only way to ruin nero d’avola. (9/06)
100% nero d’avola. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vias. Web: http://www.ceuso.it/.
Arena 2001 Muscat du Cap Corse (Corsica) – Sap-exuding conifers, crushed pine needles and windswept maquis with gorgeous, crystalline, high-toned minerality in a steady rain of aromatic white flowers. Lovely acidity balances the succulent sweetness here. This is a fantastic, unique vin doux naturel from a grape that all too often renders its vinous products asymptotically indistinguishable. (9/06)
Alcohol: 16%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch.
Koehly 2004 Riesling Saint Hippolyte (Alsace) – Freshly-crushed stones, amidst which are sprouting delicate little alpine flowers; the latter eventually grow in proportion to all else. There’s a very slight hint of spicy sweetness, but juicy acidity brings the wine back to something that tastes no more than barely off-dry. Unfortunately, the finish is nonexistent. Koehly usually does better work than this. Perhaps cork failure or taint of some sort? (9/06)
Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Rosenthal.