Rosemount Estate “Diamond Label” 2004 Riesling (South Eastern Australia) – This is mega-corporate wine. This is also quite good within that paradigm, and completely decent without it. Green apple and grape with the usual piercing, slightly overdriven acidity (perhaps all the acid lacked by so many other Aussie wines ends up in the rieslings) will brace and cleanse just about any food, no matter how biting. There’s not much of a finish, but then one hardly expects such things from titanic industrial winemaking. The bottom line: this is as solid a supermarket buy as you’ll find these days. (12/06)
Yalumba Muscat “Museum Reserve” (South Eastern Australia) – 375 ml. Overwhelmingly sweet (of course), with slow-caramelized dark brown sugar, maple and molasses lent bucketloads of baking spice from the long oak aging. I find differentiating these wines almost impossible – they’re mostly of a piece no matter the initial materials – except in two ways: their structure (which is especially key in the face of so much sugar) and their oxidative qualities (here at a relative minimum, given the style). This is a fairly simple, obvious expression, but it’s quite enjoyable (for non-diabetics) all the same. (12/06)
TN: Is it a door, or a port?
Texier 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Fruity pear, apricot and white peach with a vaguely spicy ginger soda component. It’s not fat, though it is slightly chubby, and there’s a bright and fresh-faced balance that defies the vintage’s reputation. Good, highly drinkable stuff. (9/06)
Clairette, bourboulenc and grenache blanc. Web: http://www.adonkeyandgoat.com/texier/home.htm.
Kanu 2004 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Simple, off-dry melon and filtered stone fruit with the faintest suggestion of wax. Quaffing wine. (9/06)
97% chenin blanc, 3% chardonnay, 6.7 g/l residual sugar. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Cape Classics. Web: http://www.kanu.co.za/.
Pieropan 2004 Soave Classico (Veneto) – Very tight at first opening, and only coming into its fabulously brittle aromatic maturity with an hour of aeration. Mixed rocks and dried white flowers dominate this wine, which straddles some sort of line between Teutonic and Italian with flair and masculine style. (9/06)
90% garganega, 10% trebbiano di Soave. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Empson. Web: http://www.pieropan.it/.
Sella & Mosca 2004 Vermentino di Sardegna “La Cala” (Sardinia) – Wet garden vegetables and solid, albeit monolithic, yellow-green citrus. There’s a lot of heft and a not insignificant alcoholic presence here, which is slightly less than ideal for a flavorful but medium-bodied white wine. Still, the flavors are appealing. (9/06)
Alcohol: 11.5%. Importer: Palm Bay. Web: http://www.sellaemosca.com/.
Jadot 2005 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – Hard-edged red cherry and raspberry with a dark, sun-burnt gravel base. There’s little complexity or fun, yet the wine is varietally-correct. It’s the overstructuring that kills the sprightly gamay verve, but one could certainly do worse in a pinch. (9/06)
100% gamay. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Kobrand. Web: http://www.louisjadot.com/.
Sella & Mosca 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Boisterous strawberry bubblegum fruit, with an exploding tapioca texture and lots of obvious but fun spice…some of it wooded. (9/06)
Cannonau is a synonym for grenache. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Palm Bay. Web: http://www.sellaemosca.com/.
Jean David 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Thick, dense leather and blueberry compote with a dry, mistral-swept mouthfeel and a surplus of lingering Provençal herbs. Highly structured and ungenerous. This needs time, but I wonder if there’s enough non-structural extract to reward extended aging. (9/06)
62% grenache, 17% carignan, 8% counoise, 6% cinsault, 4% mourvèdre, 3% syrah. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Importer: Violette. Web: http://www.domaine-jean-david.com/.
TJ Wines “Jonesy” Old Tawny Port (Australia) – Akin to pedro ximénez, though perhaps without quite so much prune. It’s painfully sweet, showing overripe, baked and caramelized blended sugars and a dark raisin concentrate character that speak of long, old-barrel aging. The acidity is a bit volatile and spiky. This is really much more reminiscent of one of the Aussie liqueur muscats or “tokays” than its authentic Portuguese namesake. (9/06)
Alcohol: 18%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Grateful Palate. Web: http://www.kellermeister.com.au/.
TN: Y not?
Yalumba “Y Series” 2005 Viognier (South Australia) – Simple, relatively clean stone fruit with floral enhancements. It lacks exoticism and complexity, but neither is it heavy. A decent wine. (8/06)
Viognier’s appeal lies in its overtly floral, honeysuckle-and-peach fruit…but to achieve these qualities, it’s often necessary to let the fruit hang, which leads to its most significant problem: high alcohol, lending any resulting wine a heavy, ponderous texture. Unfortunately, it’s a rare site and winemaker than can avoid the latter while achieving the former. Thankfully, the wine is at least pleasant when presented in its less ripe form…as long as it’s not buried in new wood, which this wine is not. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: screwcap. Web: http://www.yalumba.com/.
Cane 2004 Dolceacqua “Superiore” Vigneto Arcagna (Liguria) – Compelling but slightly harsh red fruit, tarted up by sour cherry acid and wet bark, but stuffed with fruit dust aromatics. It’s a particular, almost dying sort of style that might not find purchase in our modern world…but with higher acid food, it really shines. People tend to decry the existence of “food wines,” but this – properly paired – is the sort of thing that makes them look foolish. (8/06)
This is made from rossese grown west of Genoa, right up against the French border. Ligurian wines don’t make much, if any, impact on the international marketplace – even the fame of Cinque Terre can’t change that – so it’s interesting to see this on local shelves. The internationalization of wine works its nefariousness in two ways: by forcing wines of this type into new wood and smoothing textural deformations, and by keeping wines of this type out of the marketplace entirely. But this…this is what wine used to taste like. Not a cocktail, but a partner at the table. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Adonna.
Texier 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – Extremely sweaty leather and beef juice with sun-charred rocks and spiky, jarring acidity. It smells terrific, but the acid – even when one is expecting it, which anyone familiar with this wine should be – is occasionally shocking. Still, it appears to have reached some sort of peak, and with the inconsistencies introduced by its synthetic cork I wouldn’t dare hold it any longer. (8/06)
100% syrah. Texier’s Brézème is the only wine from this site that I’ve tasted, though I’ve been led to believe that high acidity is a site characteristic. It’s certainly jarring, and definitely not for everyone…even acid-lovers like myself. With the right food – something higher-acid than the normal syrah fare, perhaps game or a roast with onions or tomatoes in the mix, or why not lamb in a Greek-style avgolemono sauce? – things improve quite a bit. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM. Web: http://www.adonkeyandgoat.com/texier/.
Guigal 2000 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Solid and dependable, showing mild animalistic funk smoothed over by dark, earthy, baritone fruit and a few alto incursions of blackberry residue. Everything is very strictly in place here, and the wine is aging nicely, but one perhaps wishes for a bit more verve, and certainly for a good deal more aromatic enticement. Nitpicking, I know. (8/06)
96% syrah, 4% viognier. Guigal, long a dependable producer of representative wines (aside from their expensive and frequently overwooded luxury cuvées), goes through ups and downs. Lately, they’re on a definite upswing, with qualitative improvements obvious almost across the board. Name the appellation and there’s certainly a “better” example, but the wines are once more steady-handed representatives of their terroir. (Note, though, the usual caveat: be wary of 2002/2003 wines, which are difficult for different reasons.) Closure: cork. Importer: Ex Cellars. Web: http://www.guigal.com/.
Milan Champagne Sec “Grand Cru” Blanc de Blancs “Tendresse” (Champagne) – Lightly sweet melon and yellow raspberry, gently oscillating in a dish of pure, sweet sunlight. There are hints of complexing minerality here, but this is really one of the nicer sweet Champagnes I’ve ever tasted. (8/06)
100% chardonnay. Despite the literal translation of the word, “sec” in terms of Champagne means relatively sweet. Though it’s often-rumored (and occasionally confirmed) that Champagne houses sweeten all their cuvées for the American market – because after all, you’ll never go broke selling sugar to Americans – categories other than brut (dry) and extra-dry (slightly less dry…yeah, yeah, go figure) are exceedingly rare in the States. This is probably because Americans like to think they’re drinking dry, even when they prefer sweet. (If you think about it, this is the same concept behind Starbucks and Trojan eschewing anything labeled “small.”) It’s too bad, too, because I think this wine would be very, very popular in the States, if people would only try it. Closure: cork. Importer: Theise/Skurnik. Web: http://www.champagne-milan.com/.
TN: Sardinia & the bottom
Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Spice and pear skin, with a slightly disjointed mix of thick, molten-mineral texture and crisp, watery thinness. Not as good as a previous bottle. (8/06)
This underperformance vs. a previous note could be due to bottle variation (which, truth be told, is usually cork variation), but it’s more likely to be due to food variation. The previous bottle was paired with uniform, compatible food, while this one was opened as an apéritif and then forced to accommodate some unusual and variable foods. Remember that every tasting note is a snapshot of a time, place and environment, not an objective and immutable measure of quality. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch. Web: http://www.kuentz-bas.fr/.
JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2004 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Chardonnay in deep, rich tones, full of earth and brooding twilight duskiness. Balanced and very, very enticing. (8/06)
There’s so much indifferent chardonnay in the Mâcon (another appellation that chardonnay grown in Beaujolais is entitled to, and the one it usually adopts) that it’s almost remarkable what’s achieved here. Careful vineyard work is the principal reason. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Cluver 2005 Gewurztraminer (Elgin) – Some of the right varietal notes – peach, rose petal, some vague nods in the direction of spice – but half the orchestra’s missing, as this is thin and watery, with masking sugar and a completely void finish. (8/06)
Perhaps it’s gewurztraminer’s occasionally scary alcohol levels that wreak fear among winemakers, but the grape is one that requires a certain measure of courage. The wild, musky, powerful aromatics that are its signature must be given time to develop, and that requires hang time. And when the grape does not reach these benchmark characteristics, the temptation to mask faults with residual sugar must, at least in part, be resisted. Sweet bad wine is not inherently better than the dry version, no matter how much counter-evidence of popularity the U.S. beverage industry presents to the contrary. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Vinnovative. Web: https://www.cluver.com/.
Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – Grapes grown in the desert, with beautiful mixed nut oils, dry (and dried) stone fruit and an evocative brick-red desert palette of spices. Beautifully long and balanced. Delicious wine. (8/06)
36% Viognier, 30% marsanne, 26% grenache blanc, 8% roussanne. I’m not often one who is impressed by tales of long post-opening maintenance (e.g. “this bottle was even better four days later,”) because oxidation is not the same as aging, and it says nothing about the wine other than how resistant to oxidation it is. However, for those who find comfort in such assessments, this was just as good two days later, recorked and unrefrigerated. Alcohol: 14.2%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.tablascreek.com/.
Margan 2006 Shiraz Rosé “Saignée” (Hunter Valley) – Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Sticky, synthetic and absolutely vile. (8/06)
“Saignée” means that the vats were “bled”…juice from red grapes was removed from its skins, leaving it not with the deep red it will acquire from long soaking with the pigmented skins, but rather with (in this case; grapes and wines differ) a lurid pink. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Southern Starz. Web: http://www.margan.com.au/.
Sella & Mosca 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva (Sardinia) – Pure island fun, showing walnuts, roasted pecans, bright strawberry bubblegum fruit (though not in a candied way), judicious oak spice, and a nice, crisp acidity supporting everything. (8/06)
This is grenache, showing a lot of the grape’s varietal characteristics (strawberry bubblegum), with some interesting Sardinian elements (the particular balance of the wine) and a little modernistic winemaking (oak, which is rarely my favorite companion to grenache, but which seems to do well here). Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Palm Bay. Web: http://www.sellaemosca.com/.
Domaine de Cabasse 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Cuvée Garnacho” (Rhône) – Not quite dead, but knocking on the door. That was a very fast decline for this wine, and I wonder if there might not have been some sort of cork failure. In any case, this is all tannin and oxidized fruit on the nose. It’s heavy and still thick, and the palate has some slightly more pleasant grenache characteristics, but overall there’s just no pleasure here. (8/06)
Most (though not all) Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages wines are grenache-dominated blends, but occasionally wineries do all-grenache blends, and label them so. It would be logical to assume that the “Cuvée Garnacho” (a local dialect word for the grape) is one such wine, but it’s not; it’s simply a differentiator between this wine and the less traditional grenache/syrah blend from the same appellation, “Casa Bassa.” Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: World Shippers. Web: http://www.domaine-de-cabasse.fr/.
TN: A silent confrontation (California, pt. 7)
Send me a cable
25 April 2006 –San Francisco, California
Ocean Pearl (781 Broadway) – This is a dive in every imaginable way, with tilting tables and leaking teacups (not that it much matters, because the tea is lousy). Potstickers are constructed and served like spring rolls – a new experience for me, and one I don’t think is to their gustatory benefit – and salt & pepper squid have good flavor but are overly doughy. On the other hand, a plate of spicy jellyfish is simple and tasty. Everything here is dirt-cheap, and I suppose you get what you pay for. English is barely spoken, and not well-understood either.
VinoVenue – A “concept” that seems to have spread to a lot of places, wherein one buys a sort of debit card and inserts it into machines that dispense tastes of wine. They’re tiny tastes, and something about this whole venture strikes me as profoundly antisocial, but there is an actual bar at one end, with seats and a real live bartender. Plus, proximity to the Moscone Center can’t hurt business.
The wines – several dozen of them – are categorized, albeit haphazardly, into general substations based on color, region, variety, obscurity, and price. And the per-taste prices are just uneven enough that one will inevitably be left with insufficient funds at the end of a tasting session…which is no doubt designed to encourage “recharging” of one’s debit card.
Cullen 2003 “Ephraim Clarke” (Margaret River) – A sauvignon blanc/semillon blend. There’s sweat-covered grass and good acid up front – this attack is being led almost exclusively by the semillon – and a thick, long finish that’s full and luscious in a highly floral way. If there’s a criticism, it’s that everything ends on the goopy side. But it’s a pretty good wine nonetheless.
Coyne 2002 Grenache “Old Vines” (Lodi) – Confected bubblegum, dill-infused blueberry syrup, and toast with wood-flavored jam. Blech.
Stonecutter 2003 Pinot Noir (Martinborough) – Soft plum, tomato (perhaps tamarillo would be more accurate, though there’s no citrus), and golden beet with good acidity and a long, spicy finish that, eventually, turns vegetal and sour. This is just an odd wine.
Hochar 1995 Musar (Bekaa Valley) – Well-spiced earth of terrific complexity, paired with mixed peppercorns and a stunning black truffle core. Delicious, elegant, and certainly ready to drink…though I don’t think holding it will do any damage either.
Havens 2002 “Black & Blue” (Napa Valley) – A cabernet sauvignon/syrah blend, and dreadfully, painfully corked.
It’s this final wine that assures I will never return to VinoVenue. That the wine is corked is immediately obvious…the fruit isn’t just obscured, it’s buried in a thick, moldy reek. I bring my glass to the clerk at the front desk, who shrugs and directs me to one of the bartenders. I hand him my glass.
The white tower
“I think this is corked.”
He waves the glass in the general direction of his nose for far less than a second. “Nope.”
I frown. “I’m sure it is. It smells like it, and there’s absolutely no other aromas.”
He shakes his head.
This is getting nowhere. So, I attempt a bargain. “Look, the wine’s almost empty at the dispenser. Open another one, we’ll compare the two, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I’m right, though, I think you should credit the taste.”
He simply turns away. No further conversation is invited.
A few minutes later, as I’m pondering whether or not to escalate my complaint, the bartender reappears, a toothy grin that looks like more of a skull’s grimace pasted on his face. He’s carrying a glass. “This is what a corked wine smells like,” he says, presenting the liquid.
I sniff. He’s not wrong. But the Havens is far more deadened than this wine. At this point, I’m irritated, and say so. “It is corked. But it’s not as corked as the Havens. I do know how to identify corked wines. So are you going to replace it, or not?” For the second time, he just turns away. Apparently, non-confrontation is the service standard here.
Not that I’ll ever find out. Because I won’t be back.
Slanted Door – In need of a restorative (or perhaps purgative) wine experience, but with limited time before dinner, I power walk to the Embarcadero, in search of a wine bar that I know won’t ever let me down. And it doesn’t, as a grab the last seat in a restaurant that’s already getting very, very busy with early diners.
Prudhon 2001 St-Aubin “1er Cru” “Sur le Sentier du Clou” (Burgundy) – Lovely and elegant, with earth-flecked loam and lurking raspberry. The wine’s a bit of a structural chameleon, with good acid and tannin up front, a quick, sun-drenched brightening, then the emergence of a deeper, basso undertone, before finally softening once more on the finish. Air tightens the wine. It’s good now, but after a disappointing stage as it closes down it’s likely to be very pretty at full maturity.
Where’s the prazhoot?
Delfina – It’s time to try another of San Francisco’s small Cal-Ital meccas (is that a horribly cross-cultural descriptor, or what?), and the Mission’s Delfina is next on my list. It’s absolutely packed, and the sort of “scene” that just screams SF, with same-sex and mixed-sex couples making out all around us, then sort of making out with their food. Wine flows like a river. We squeeze into the bar and order a few glasses to start.
Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene (Veneto) – Fun citrus and sweet flower nectar with grapefruit and ripe melon. Aromatic and succulent. Terrific prosecco.
Unti 2003 Syrah (Dry Creek Valley) – Heavy, dark and thick fruit fighting through thick wood and thick (though ripe) tannin. Did I mention something about thickness? There are good raw materials here, and I suspect long ageability is a given, but the sludge is so heavy that it’s a chore to drink.
The food is fabulous…at least, most of the time. Artichokes done in the Jewish-Roman style with mint and lemon, a straight-from-the-sea salt cod dish, and a stunning, pure essence of cauliflower soup are the standouts from the first course, a giant platter of Tuscan pork ribs is carnivorous heaven, and gnocchi are absolutely flawless in their pillowy chew. The only letdown among the savory courses is a wan Dungeness crab salad, though it’s still better than dessert: a misguided buttermilk panna cotta with candied kumquats, which lacks both harmony and any appealing tastes.
Anselma 1993 Barolo (Piedmont) – Bitter tannin overwhelms fully-resolved fruit, leaving some dried rose petals and rough, sun-baked red cherries in its wake. Hanging on, but only just, and not that interesting of a wine.
Theresa opts for an oolong tea that arrives grossly oversteeped, while I delve into the stranger side of the dessert wine list.
Contini 1996 Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva (Sardinia) – Like dry oloroso Sherry, flat and austere with dark molasses residue. Very, very different. I’m initially repelled, but by the last sip it starts to grow on me.
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: http://www.zenato.it/.
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: http://www.torbreck.com/.
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: http://www.voyagerestate.com.au/.
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: http://www.ridgewine.com/.
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: http://www.maison-trimbach.fr/.
Reno, Virginia & California (New Zealand, pt. 2)
I stare out the window at a woman’s thigh. It’s not what one might think – she’s fully clothed – but it is rather remarkable: here I am sitting in a car, and there’s a woman walking by whose waist is actually above my sightline. Who is this Amazon? Someone from the WNBA, perhaps? I lean closer to the window, look up. Way up.
It’s Janet Reno.
OK, so it’s not quite the celebrity sighting I’m expecting. But then again, we are in L.A.
Sinking is Venice
Theresa’s long-time friend Jan is once again our tour guide for a relaxing preflight half-day in Los Angeles, and since we’re still pale escapees from a frigid New England winter, she takes us to the beach. The beach of story, song, and insanity. But for the locals taking every possible form of transportation along the endless line of cheesy trinket shops at Venice Beach, it’s a chilly day and there’s not much actual beach activity of any kind. While there’s no perceivable gap in the panhandlers, preachers and purveyors on the seaward side of the boardwalk, I have to admit that I’m somewhat disappointed by a general surfeit of noisy crazies. Too much television, I suppose, leading to unsatisfiable expectations. But then, this is the city that has perfected illusion.