Coustal “Château Sainte Eulalie” 2004 Minervois “Plaisir d’Eulalie” (Languedoc) – Dark-fruited and meaty, with a sort of soil-infused stew of herbs and heavily-roasted walnuts bubbling around underneath. There’s also a granular, graphite-like texture to the tannin (I don’t have a great deal of experience, but I think this is a signature of the Livinière sub-region), which adds a welcome note of complexity. That said, there are signs that the wine is advancing more quickly than might be expected (a touch of soy on the finish, a general browning cast to the fruit). It’s still quite good, and everything feels primary, but keep a careful eye on it if you’ve got any, because things could turn quickly. (12/07)
Colomer “Domaine de Rolland” 2005 Fitou (Languedoc) – Basic Southwestern French flavors of rough black fruit with definite nods to Bordeaux-like structure. But this tastes stripped and wan. It’s OK as a simple house wine – especially from vrac – but probably not worth exporting. (10/07)
Iché 2004 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault “Les Hérétiques” (Languedoc) – Rough and fine at the same time, showing a dark, earthy and slightly herbal meatiness with chewy, dark fruit. But it’s not heavy; it makes few demands, and rewards simple enjoyment with…well, simple enjoyment. (8/07)
Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2005 Minervois (Languedoc) – More tightly-wound than its heretical brother, and a bit difficult to discern; there’s a dark, brooking surliness to the wine that repels the inquisitive. Layers of thick tannin seem to be the vintage’s signature (8/07)
Val d’Orbieu “Les Deux Rives” 1999 Corbières (Languedoc) – Stewed and horrid. Possibly heat-damaged, but that’s far from all that’s wrong here. (8/07)
Panis “Chateau du Donjon” 2004 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Tastes off-dry, but even if it’s not it’s candied and not all that refreshing. Strawberries and raspberries abound, but it’s just too plastic for my tastes. A fellow diner comments that “it tastes like communion wine,” which is never good. (8/07)
Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint-Loup “Cuvée les Vieilles vignes de Mourvèdre (Languedoc) – Ageable and thus in need of decanting, showing dark, fierce fruit and concentrated, leather-clad meat residue amidst a cowboy structure of straps and chaps. A touch untamed, and all the better for it. (6/07)
JB Sénat “Domaine Saint Sernin” 1999 Minervois Le Bois des Merveilles (Languedoc) – Corked. A shame, too, as this was a gift from the winemaker, carried all the way home from Sénat’s cellar in Trausse-Minervois. (5/07)
(The original version, with more photos, is here.)
30 April 2006 – Yosemite National Park, California
A relaxing morning picnic in the shadow of El Capitan (no wine; there’ll be plenty later) followed by some lazy strolling around Yosemite Village and a long peruse at the Ansel Adams store and gallery, fill what is another beautiful morning in Yosemite. This is, truly, one of the very few places we’ve been that can match New Zealand for raw natural beauty, and it’s a little difficult to leave.
120 West is closed (rockslides, sinkholes, or some other natural feature of the California paradise), and so we’re forced onto a precipitous mountain crossing on our way out of the park. It’s a beautiful, if nail-biting, road that empties into towns right out of the mythic Old West, then continues into a verdant, ranch-covered stretch of the Central Valley. Modesto is…unfortunate…but the rest is a very pleasant drive.
Sheraton Gateway SFO – A serviceable hotel with a view of the San Mateo Bridge and the San Francisco Bay – which is not, especially from this position, one of the world’s great vistas – but that is, for us, no more than a bed proximate to the airport. We’ve got social plans, and stay no longer than it takes to chill some wine in the minibar.
Redwood City, California
Bill Futornick’s house – Bill’s gatherings feature terrific food and wine, but even better conversation. Of course, precious little of it is printable, which will surprise no one who knows him.
Jacquesson 1996 Champagne Avize “Grand Cru” (Champagne) – Dusty dried yeast and desiccated lemon zest. Clean and gorgeous, with a silky, enticing perfume. Complex and beautiful.
Soucherie 1995 Savennières Clos des Perrières (Loire) – Botrytis? Light wet chalk and fennel pollen mark a dry, but also dried-out wine that seems like it has given itself over to mold. Stick a fork in it, because it’s done.
Baumard 1995 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – White asparagus soup studded with cauliflower. There’s a strong, musty minerality underneath, and something that seems like low-level botrytis, but a grapefruity acidity adds zip to a long, interesting finish. Very good. It’s in no danger of falling apart, but if I had any more, I’d probably drink it soon; the balance of elements seems pretty appealing at this stage.
Edmunds St. John 2003 Viognier Rozet (Paso Robles) – Fat peach syrup, earth and pectin with almonds on the finish. Chunky. I suspect this wine’s greatest flaw is its company at this moment…higher-acid, leaner wines that make this seem heavier than it is.
Amido 2004 Tavel Les Amandines (Rhône) – Smooth orange, rose petal and strawberry leaf. Despite Tavel’s fame, I’m rarely much of a fan; ponderousness and/or obviousness are the flaws shared by most of what I’ve tasted, and then there’s the prevailing alcohol issue with southern French rosés. But none of those problems are in evidence here. Quite nice.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2002 Touraine Gamay (Loire) – Herb-infused earth and white pepper with a powdery texture. This wine reminds me of the same producer’s sauvignon in its dominance of terroir over variety, but it’s a little more varietally recognizable than the sauvignon; the gamay shows through with bright, red-fruited acidity. There’s good aging potential here, and I think the wine would benefit from more of it.
Lafarge 1998 Volnay “Vendanges Sélectionnées” (Burgundy) – Tannic, with red cherry and walnut peeking from beneath the iron maiden. There’s potential, perhaps, but wow is this tight, and I wonder if it will ever fully resolve.
Hudelot-Noellat 1999 Vougeot Les Petits Vougeot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Tight but gorgeous, with crisp balance and a lovely finish of surpassing length. There’s not much “fruit” as such, at least not at the moment, but one can almost feel it lurking in the background. Stay tuned.
Boutin “Château La Roque” 1995 Pic Saint-Loup “Cupa Numismae” (Languedoc) – Horse sweat and mustiness. Tight, tough and very, very hard. I’d hoped that after eleven years, this would be a little more engaging, but no such luck. Is it still closed, or dying? I’m at a loss.
Terrabianca 1990 “Campaccio” (Tuscany) – Red and green bell peppers, thick, dark cherries and herbs. The wood isn’t at all apparent, and this appears to be resolving towards something reminiscent of an urban Saumur-Champigny, though the finish is a bit more acrid than one would like. Still, for a super-anything, it’s fairly unspoofulated.
Collard “Château Mourgues du Gres” 2005 Costières de Nimes “Les Galets Rouges” (Languedoc) – Corked. (3/07)