Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2001 Pic Saint-Loup “Les Nobles Pierres” (Languedoc) – Corked. (8/12)
Figuette “Château La Roque” 2009 Pic Saint Loup Rosé (Languedoc) – A little bit too sticky to be refreshing. Strawberries and raspberries, just a touch candied, with a dusting of thyme maybe? Something vaguely herbal, anyway. I’m not yet completely off Languedoc rosés as a category, but I can tell that day is coming. The percentage of them that are pleasurable beyond their excess weight and/or remnants of the overripe grapes whence they came is just way too small. (7/11)
Boutin “Tour de La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint Loup (Languedoc) – Maybe a third of the way to wherever it’s going, though I suspect it’s going to hold its various transitional positions for a while. Right now, it’s thick, meaty, fruit-pasty, and a little bloody – all, because it’s probably not clear, positives from me with respect to this particular wine – with a finish that narrows. As it airs, it becomes more and more linear. (1/11)
Ravaille Frères “Ermitage du Pic St. Loup” 2005 Pic Saint Loup (Languedoc) – Approaches all hard, swaggering, and dangerous-looking. But it’s an act, mostly. The fruit narrows (not “thins,” exactly, but turns more pointed and angular) on the palate, and the wine never quite delivers on its promise. There’s some dark fruit, some smoke, some meat, but nothing like what it needs to be a complete package. (8/09)
Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint Loup “Cuvée les vieilles vignes de Mourvèdre” (Languedoc) – Fulsome, brown, and with a strangely appealing sour note that manages to lift all the less earthy notes to greater prominence. Thus are revealed dark blackberries and boysenberries, perhaps a bit of quince paste, and a peppery finish. Meaty and mushroomy as well. Quite solid with structure and balance. (6/09)
Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint Loup “Cuvée les vieilles vignes de Mourvèdre” (Languedoc) – Totally disjointed for its first ten minutes of life, though this is hardly an unusual trick for a mourvèdre to pull. Eventually, it calms down, though it’s no smooth-talker. Rough-grit sandpaper is the texture, earthy-smoky aromas of an old, wood-beam attic fill the glass, and the palate is thick without being sludgy. If there’s “fruit,” it’s the sort grown from freshly-laid macadam, though there are suggestions of some deep black residue that might once, in another life, have been the last desiccated offspring of a berry. None of the preceding is particularly unusual for this wine at this stage, though there are some worrisome frays at the edge; coupled with a well-stained cork, I wonder if there might not have been a little more heat than would be ideal in this bottle’s history. (3/09)
Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint Loup “Cupa Numismae” (Languedoc) – A furrowed brow of a wine, meaty and muscular, with some smarts and a careful attention to reserve. Well-structured and full of promise. Drinking now requires charcoal-transformed flesh. The finish could be a bit longer, though, so monitor its progress with some care. (10/08)
Durand & Valentin “Château de Lancyre” 2006 Pic Saint-Loup Rosé (Languedoc) – Roses and old blood orange, lavender, perhaps a faded sachet from your grandmother’s drawer. This is an appealingly aromatic rosé – and yes, there’s that ubiquitous pulse of excess heat so common to southern French rosés – that comes alive with food. Nicely done. (5/08)
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)
(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.