Couhins-Lurton 2001 Pessac-Léognan Blanc (Bordeaux) – Stones and grass with a deft grace note of oak. Fuller-bodied than this note suggests, though the finish is short. (9/08)
Lurton “Château de Rochemorin” 2005 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Totally innocuous. Everything here’s big, but to little effect. (12/08)
Dillon no deal
Dillon “Bahans Haut-Brion” 2003 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Thick chocolate and impenetrable tannin. There’s graphite, which is a positive, and I suppose this might be good someday. (2/08)
Pape-Clément 2004 Pessac-Léognan Blanc (Bordeaux) – Ripe gooseberry, melon, and fresh grapes. Sweaty and very dense. Good acidity, a bit of skin tannin. Striking but a bit overdriven right now. Age might sort things out. (2/07)
TN: Right of first re: Fieuzal
Fieuzal 1997 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Smoked crystals and gentle grey earth with old grapefruit. Extremely dry, balanced, and more pleasurable than this note might make it sound. (5/07)
TN: Back the 80s, part deux (Paris/Alsace, pt. 1)
(The original version is here.)
To save time and speed up posting – always a good thing with me – this “travelogue” is presented in short form, like the recurring California reports. In any case, there’s a lot of wine to notate when this gets around to Alsace, so I doubt people will miss the length…or, for that matter, the narrative.
25 March 2006 – Thionville, France
Air France – Back on the road again, exactly 364 days after returning from our truly epic 2005 New Zealand journey. Has it really been that long? I’m strangely unexcited and unprepared, but manage to get myself to the airport nonetheless. The plane is reasonably comfortable (maybe a slight notch down from, say, British Airways), and the food is quite decent for steerage: salmon couscous salad, tortellini, braised beef, chocolate pastry…though for breakfast, a lame croissant. They’re stingy with the wine – an apéritif portion is offered, but no refill – though it hardly matters all that much, given the low quality on offer.
Castel 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc “Cuvée Réservée” Chardonnay/Viognier (Languedoc) – Juicy melon and tropical fruit. Thick but not unpleasant; “inoffensive” is the perfect descriptor. There’s absolutely no finish, though. My mineral water has more finish than this wine. Where’d it go?
Even though we arrive at the “nice” terminal at CDG/Roissy, it’s still a pit…this is absolutely one of the worst airports anywhere in the developed world. I nearly fall asleep behind the wheel of our rental on the long, boring autoroute to Thionville, but manage to get us there alive.
Bruno & Patricia Fratini’s house – Patricia’s an old friend from way back, Bruno’s her guy. They’re newly (re-)married after a long partnership, and seem blissfully happy. Better yet, Patricia’s an excellent cook, and Bruno – while not reaching my level of obsession (who could?) – enjoys and collects a little bit of wine. We’re headed for a nap, but Patricia won’t hear of it without stuffing us with an (excellent) Reblochon tartiflette, salad, fruit and some wine.
Jean Dupont 1998 Auxey-Duresses (Burgundy) – Fully à point with bricking well into the core, showing autumnal forest floor and a little baked cherry pie spice. Light-bodied. This wine reminds me of a sweet old grandmother pottering around her tiny kitchen, trying to fix her unexpected guests a little snack.
Post-nap and post-shower, old friends start showing up and soon we’ve got a full house. Mere hours after our last meal, it’s: salmon Wellington, asparagus with an excellent béchamel, homemade gemelli with a long-cooked meat ragù, salad, cheese, more cheese, fruit, and cake made by someone’s pastry chef brother. It’s a hell of a lot of food, but it is France, and somehow it all seems to get eaten.
Ogereau 2002 Coteaux du Layon St-Lambert (Loire) – Honeyed wax, chalk and honeysuckle; pure and beautiful, though not showing much in the way of complexity. It might come, however, as this is still very young.
Jean Dupont 1998 Meursault (Burgundy) – Raw peanut oil, light melon rind and a faintly spicy note, with elements of nutty bitterness marking the finish. Struggling, but failing, to rise above disappointment.
Carbonnieux 2003 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Full-fruited in a Napa vein (blackberry and black cherry, ripe and fat), with gorgeously textured tannin, graphite, very little acidity and a smooth finish. It’s a very appealing wine, at a purely hedonistic level. I don’t know how anyone could identify it as Bordeaux, but maybe this producer doesn’t care about that anymore.
Gérard Roy Cognac Fine Champagne XO (Southwest France) – Sweet and almost fruity, showing dried Rainier cherries and hazelnuts. The aromatics are just beautiful, though the palate is a bit strident.
Postprandial entertainment is a little on the absurd side, with live shows from Francis Cabrel, Led Zeppelin, Toto, Genesis and the Scorpions on a giant projection screen, and everybody (phonetically) singing along to power ballad after power ballad. Are we actually in France? It would appear so.
The young and the fruitless
(Short excerpts from a longer narrative, which can be found here.)
Château de Fieuzal 1993 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Full of pine needles and silty peat moss dust, with something in the licorice family – I proceed through fennel, anise, and pastis before finally arriving back at fennel fronds – with a brassy, tinny aspect.
Mumm NV Champagne Crémant de Cramant Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Of indeterminate age, but most definitely not a new release. Smells like a Dairy Queen chocolate shake, though there’s also a malted element to it and perhaps something more custardy from the Ocean City boardwalk would be a more appropriate descriptor. On the palate, there’s some bitter lemon and stingingly tart apple to balance things out, but the overall impression is of a sugary, confected ball of barely-bubbly strangeness.
Chapoutier 1989 Hermitage Blanc “Chante-Alouette” (Rhône) – Lemon peel and peanut oil on the palate, but nothing at all on the nose. It’s less than half a wine, though this performance doesn’t really surprise me from Chapoutier.
Chave 1996 Hermitage Blanc (Rhône) – Manzanilla sherry, creamy puréed earth and chestnuts, but nothing on the palate.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1989 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” – Still vivid and – say it ain’t so – possessing something that might easily be labeled fruit, which I point out should necessarily exclude it from our evening. Nonetheless, it’s nice, showing baked pear, baked peach, and a bright, spicy finish. By far the liveliest wine of the night so far.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1987 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Tondonia” – The color…well, basically, there’s no way to describe the color other than “fill the cup, please.” Sour plum, blood orange blossoms and dried flower petals mark a long, complex, and surprisingly pretty wine. Pretty, but with a lot of depth, and probably the best wine of the night.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1976 Rioja “Gran Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” – Dark brown, with caramel laced with cidered apple and baked potato. It’s juicy and long, with pretty decent acidity, but it’s also rather heavy and thudding, and I find myself going back to the ’87…as does the rest of the group…leaving a lot of this brooding and mud-colored wine still resting in its decanter.
Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – Tasty but “off” in comparison to an earlier bottle, and I wonder aloud if it isn’t some of that “romantic and traditional” cork variation that we all know and love (at least it’s not also-much-beloved cork taint). There’s very slightly oxidized sweet spiced peach, bitter skins and light botrytis spice with a balanced, drying finish…but all the lushness of this wine is under some sort of shroud.
Donaldson Family “Pegasus Bay” 1999 “Finale” (Waipara) is much better, showing creamy sweet tangerine, orange, spicy wood and noble rot influences, and a luscious balance and texture.
The young and the fruitless
“I want to gather together to drink dead whites.”
Fearing some sort of stealth Black Panther rally, I rubbed my eyes and re-read the email. “Unusual whites,” it actually read. Oh, OK. That’s better.
The call had gone out from the Rajah of Rioja, the Master of Moose, the man that puts the salt in cod, the Humbert-Humbert of Hamburger, Mighty Young Joe, Mr. Roll Bar, the man that keeps exotic upholstery manufacturers in business…many know him as Joe “I’m-not-the-lead-guitarist-of-Aerosmith” Perry…to assemble on a tiny island off Boston’s North Shore for the imbibing of whites that were, in Joe’s words, “off the beaten track.”
“What do you mean by that?” I queried.
“You know, no popular whites. No riesling, no gewürztraminer, no chenin…”
“Chenin is popular?!?”
“Well, what I’m thinking is…”
“Gewürztraminer is popular?!?”
“Oh, you know what I mean.”
A resigned sigh. “Yes, I think I do. You want to drink oxidized whites from Spain.”
“And the Rhône. Don’t forget the Rhône.”
“Oh, no. How could I?”