La Poderina 2001 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Structured and mineral-laden, with a cedar overlay and a general absence of fruit. It tastes like old wood (by which I don’t mean “made in”), and decays rather abruptly in the glass. (2/07)
Camigliano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Leather, powdered graphite and lots of earthiness. Striking. Very dry, but intense. There’s a future here. (2/07)
Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Ungenerous. Graphite and sour, sour cherries. Soft and wussy underneath a surplus of tannin. (2/07)
Casanova di Neri 2001 Brunello di Montalcino “Tenuta Nuova” (Tuscany) – Served blind, and my guess is that it could really be just about anything from just about anywhere. Hugely concentrated – perhaps overly so – with graphite-textured tannin, very low acidity, and lush waves of rich, ripe blueberry and dark black cherry. Incredibly thick. This sort of wine has an obvious sensory appeal, but the charm doesn’t extend any farther. There’s too much stuffing, not enough form, and the wine says absolutely nothing; it just hums (very loudly) to itself. One learns everything there is to know about this wine in the very first sip. (6/07)
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 1990 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Finely structured with mixed powdered peppercorns, dried black cherry and some ash. This may be a touch on the fruitless side, but then it’s poured immediately after a fruit bomb, so it’s hard to tell. Really nice, otherwise. (6/07)
Like all wine lovers, I have my likes and dislikes, and the wines I choose to buy reflect those choices. And like most wine lovers, I don’t much care for drinking bad wines. What’s fun, though, is crossing over to the “other side,” and tasting (mostly) well-made wines that fit the preferences of those with decidedly different tastes.
A recent holiday party gave me the opportunity to do just that. Below are some quick takes — I didn’t take formal notes at the event — on a lineup of wines that, with one or two exceptions, aren’t likely to make regular appearances in my glass.
Lafond 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Reedy green citrus and grassy notes, though with the skin bitterness and lowish acidity characteristic of the vintage. In the context of many truly awful 2003 Sancerres, this one is actually half-decent.
la Poussie 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Heavy, green, bitter, and acid free. See above.
Ladoucette 2003 Pouilly-Fumé (Loire) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Paul Hobbs 2003 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) – Simple and spicy peach, pear, citrus and white fig-like fruit with moderate oak spice and a reasonable dollop of acidity. Pretty decent, though chardonnay’s still not exactly my favorite grape in the world.
Belle Pente 2002 Pinot Noir Belle Pente (Willamette Valley) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Relic 2002 Pinot Noir Alder Springs (Mendocino County) – Forceful pinot noir, dense and throbbing with heavy, leaden black and red fruit, plus streaks of plummy orange rind that make me think of an especially heavy Central Otago pinot. This will be very popular with some, and it’s not a bad wine, but I much prefer the Belle Pente.
Fanti 1998 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Luscious, clove-spiced baked berries with not-insignificant oak and a relatively balanced finish. There could be less technology and wood thrown at this, and it would improve, but it’s a nice drink in its present form.
Brancaia 2003 “Il Blu” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – The sangiovese is, as usual, overwhelmed by cabernet and merlot, but that said there’s merit to the wine; internationalized it is, indeed, but there’s plenty of juicy and fun fruit here.
Gaja 2001 “Magari” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – Weedy bell pepper and seed pepper dust. There are interestingly floral aromatics, but the palate is disappointing, and a long finish doesn’t mean much when the flavors aren’t that pleasant.
Thomas Fogarty 2001 “Skyline” (California) – Massively overwooded and underripe at the same time. Horrid.
Tor 2003 Syrah Durell “Clone No. 1” (Carneros) – Incredibly thick and dense…a sort of chocolate-and-oak shake…and varietally anonymous. Kind of a waste of the raw materials, but certainly destined for popularity amongst the bigger-is-better crowd.
How do you go back to the place where everything changed…the place where the lens of your world reshaped itself and an unspoiled wilderness of perspectives was revealed in dramatic new light? And if you can point to the place, the day, the hour when all was renewed and reborn, can you ever really return?
The answer to the first question seems as easy as it is pragmatic: by plane, by boat, by car, and by foot.
Then again, perhaps that’s a foolishly glib response. Life – so the philosophers and the poets tell us – is about the journey rather than the destination, and any journey is a process through which one moves. Is the answer, then, in the process? Eleven tiring months of detailed and sometimes overwhelming planning are certainly one sort of process, but the notion that sparks and fuels the journey ignites long before that. In a very real sense, a new journey begins the moment an old one ends. Yet notions are no more than dreams, and it is we who fashion the ephemeral into our reality. So perhaps the key is what we do to enable the journey…and perhaps changes can only come from within. The place, the day, and the hour become mere spectators to our acts of will.
And yet…and yet…one place, at one time, in one life, can become the unquestionable arena for change, and that place, day, and hour branded on the conscious mind like a moment of rebirth. If it be mere will, why there? Why then? How to reconcile that truth? Maybe the answer is more complicated than any of these musings. Maybe it is the person and the place, in a blessed symbiosis elusive to the philosopher and the poet but understood in the blood of the voyager. If so, there’s only one path to this particular truth: bringing the person and the place together once more.
So it is that, two years, two months, and two days after returning to the familiar pathways of home with new lenses, perspectives, shapes and lights, we’re going back to where everything changed. Back through the lens, to a place and a time and a feeling that it might well be folly to try and recapture. Back to New Zealand.
Oh…and as for the answer to the second question? That is a matter for more deliberation and consideration. For while the answer is both known and undoubtedly contains a metaphor of revelatory metaphysical significance, I’m not sure I’m yet up to the decryptive task. In any case, here it is: no, you can’t, because it’s raining so hard that the road is closed to traffic.
Ah, but that’s a much longer story…