Browse Tag


Sentinental reasons

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5. Rich, ripe, round. Fulsome baked fruit, sun, arbor, and antique desk. While this has definitely matured, in some ways, I think its very far from anything resembling a demise, and so I continue to drink mine slowly. (8/12)


Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2008 Syrah “Les Côtes de l’Ouest” (California) – 14.5%. Beefy (not in taste but in texture) syrah that straddles the stylistic Old/New World divide by standing to the side. Not rounded so much as rhomboid, thick with forested dark fruit but not nearly as thick in the body as such flavors might suggest. I don’t mean to suggest it’s not fairly clearly Californian – it is – only that this grape can be pushed an awful lot harder (and is, even sometimes at the same winery), whereas this wears its heft with restraint. (7/12)


Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – This is really singing at the moment. Very early maturity, but still enough maturity to have made it worth the wait. The wine is brown. Not in color, but in tone and aroma. There’s lingering purple, but mostly it’s brown. Baritone. Incipient autumnal. Late afternoon. I’m glad I have it in quantity, though the dozen bottles I wasted over the years hoping for the slightest bit of development…well, I wish I had them back. (10/11)

Guard do-tree

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 1999 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. I bought a pretty fair quantity of this wine, a long while back, from a store that was closing (well, moving) and clearing out full cases of whatever it didn’t want to move at pretty extraordinary prices. This was one of the offerings, and I acquired it for a song. That song, however, has been playing the same tune over and over for about a decade, to the point where I had almost given up on the wine ever moving from its highly primary and decidedly uncomplex starting point. Well, things have changed, and in a hurry (at least based on this bottle). Wonderfully mature, though early in that period, with smoke and dust eddying bacon, dried quince, and hedgehog mushroom aromas into a low-atmosphere helix of deliciousness. The structure has not fallen away, but is well-resolved enough to really let these lovely aromas through. I have little confidence that the rest of the bottles will be identically expressive – that’s how bottle (really, cork) variation works – but there is, at last, a glimpse of this wine’s delicious endgame. (10/11)


Easton 1998 Zinfandel “Estate” (Shenandoah Valley) – 15.1%. I drank through a fair quantity of this in lingering disappointment, as it never seemed to budge from its youthful expression of fulsome, arboreal fruitiness no matter how many years passed. Well, I think I’ve found the magic number, or at least this particular bottle has. Well into a developed stage of autumnal arbor, with meat and herb waving from the horizon. It’s still fruity, but the wild black juiciness is tempered by an encrustation of black pepper. And frankly, the alcohol is virtually unnoticeable; so much so that based on organoleptic evidence alone, I’d have guessed something much lower (looking at the wine’s adhesiveness to a glass tells a different story, but that’s cheating). This is a lot more interesting now than it was. (5/11)

Butterfly coal

Easton 2008 Cabernet Franc Monarch Mine (Sierra Foothills) – Fairly generic California wine, in style: big, brawny, laden with dark fruit, and yet not quite tasting entirely of fruit as such. A hint of greenness to the significant tannin is the only sign of real differentiation from the norm. Maybe (much) time will help this, but it’s tedious to the extreme right now. (3/10)


[bill easton]Easton 2008 Pinot Noir Duarte-Georgetown (Sierra Foothills) – 14.2%. Despite positive verbiage on the label and the accompanying tech sheet (this is a free sample from the winemaker), I’m dubious. OK, pinot noir may have a history in the Sierras, but I suspect there must be a reason it doesn’t have a present. Certainly it would be an easier sell than the ubiquitous syrah, wouldn’t it? Well, anyway, first impressions don’t challenge my predispositions, with a vinyl, overworked quality to the sappy red fruit. There’s acid, and there’s minerality, but neither one works pleasantly towards a pleasant wholeness. So I leave the bottle alone for a while. One day becomes two, and two become three, and then I revisit. At which point I’m forced to walk back some of my criticisms, because the plastic element has disappeared, the structure has integrated, and the fruit is far more appealing than it was on the first day. There’s still minerality, and now there’s balance, and so now one wonders if there might be ageability. Is it a great pinot? No. Neither the Russian River Valley, nor the Central Coast, need quake in their boots (I’m not sure the Anderson Valley, for all its qualities, can quite afford boots yet). But it’s interesting, it’s markedly different, it’s from a trustworthy producer, and…well, who really knows? Worth a revisit, but mind the pop-and-pour mentality, because it doesn’t work here. (2/10)

Amador, not a bricklayer

Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – 14.5%. Leans more to the blueberry and plum side than is typical for Amador zin…there’s not quite so much of the thorny, wild-vine iconoclasm as there has been in other vintages. Perhaps this is what leaves the tannin and acidity a little more exposed, as well. Some time (not a lot) might help knit these elements. Not a bad wine, but not the best Easton’s produced. That said, it’s still one of the highest-quality zins to be had at a non-premium price these days, which is saying something at least. (10/09)


Easton 2006 Zinfandel (Amador County) – Forward fruit with some stick and tack, its berries redder and a little more syruped than might be expected (the wine isn’t heavy, though it is big), its structure mostly hand-waved, its finish a diminuendo of simplicity. It’s zin. It’s very, very, very cleanly-made. It’s good, but read between the lines. Or, read the lines themselves. Either’s good. (4/09)


[winemaker]Easton 2002 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) – Deeply infused with the aromas of the pine forest, both the cold, airy soil and the resinous overgrowth. The fruit, dark as always, has contracted a bit, losing none of its intensity but a measurable quantity of its breadth and roundness. And there’s pepper, too…black, almost Tellicherry-esque pepper. This is a wine with something to say, and the story it’s telling is about where it’s from. (4/09)

Easton 2002 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) – More subdued than the previous bottle, with a leathery and very nearly buttery pressure on its fruit that never quite relents. It’s good, but it doesn’t speak as clearly as its predecessor. I set it aside for a day, just to see if there’s low-level TCA, but if anything it expands on day two, yet still without delivering the full expression of its fruit. (4/09)