Marquis Dutheil de la Rochère “Chateau Ste-Anne” 1990 Bandol (Provence) – Shy out of the gate, then blossoming into a Provençal sunset: black, sun-baked earth radiating its stored heat as it cools, fragrant and well-ridden leather, lavender and other herbs, and black cherries. Still quite firm and tannic. However, I don’t know if I’d hold it too much longer, as after about two hours in the decanter, the seams rip and the wine just dies. (4/06)
Domaine de Trevallon 1994 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône (Provence) – Lavender-scented meat, sweet and sweaty and seared. There’s high acid carried on a bright wine, juicy black cherry and blackberry, and even more zingy and insistent acidity on the finish. Turns a bit roasted with air, but the acidity still shrieks. The acid-averse will flee in fear, but with the right food this is a lot of fun. (9/07)
Domaine de Roquefort “Gueule de Loup” 2005 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône (Provence) – Crisp apple acidity under meat bubblegum, which gives some clues to the cépage. The fruit seems light when this wine is utilized as a cocktail, but food energizes it, and stronger-willed characteristics add their harmonies. Simple, but quite nice. (10/07)
Duffort “Château La Moutète” 2006 Côtes de Provence Rosé “Grande Réserve” (Provence) – A fine, pure rosé of orange rind, lavender and the memory of cherry. Its aspirations require no more verbiage than that. (7/07)
Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1993 Bandol (Provence) – A wine that writhes, spreads and coats…from the initial squirt of bubblegum to old, mildewed morels and a hearty dusting of cocoa on the finish. The acidity is high by modern standards, the tannin is still present and will probably go unresolved as this wine goes softly into its good night, but the fruit is almost surprisingly clean; lovers of the funk will be mildly disappointed. They shouldn’t be, as this is a lovely wine in the very early stages of its retirement. (5/07)
Cartier “mas de gourgonnier” 2005 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Blanc (Provence) – Golden fields of grass in a long-remembered countryside, with grandma and grandpa at the front door offering you a glass of lemonade and a warm hug. Rural, golden-tinged raisin and almond oil with lightening acidity and a fresh, smiling, friendly appeal that goes far beyond its organoleptic qualities (which are not inconsiderable). Soul-embracing wine. Not “great.” But perfectly good. (1/07)
Cartier “mas de gourgonnier” 2004 Les Baux de Provence Rouge (Provence) – Flat, somewhat beaten-down berry dust with a wooly, powdery texture. This wine struggles, but fails to break free, and while it appears large-shouldered at first sniff, it turns out to be rather a wuss in the glass. Flaw-free, but disappointing. (1/07)
(The original version, with nicer formatting and more photos, is here.)
26 April 2006 –San Francisco, California
Taylor’s Automatic Refresher – On a gorgeous, pure blue day on the Embarcadero, an outdoor table is too much to resist, and I end up here rather than back for another (expensive) bout with a few dozen oysters. The Wisconsin sourdough burger is, like all Taylor’s products, pure, drippy decadence. Not cheap, but worth it…especially when partaking of the burger joint’s clever little wine list. I cart a half bottle to my outdoor picnic table and feel completely decadent. (Also, later: sunburned.)
Storybrook Mountain 2003 Zinfandel Mayacamas Range (Napa Valley) – Fat and woody, with spiced cedar and huge blackberry fruit. There’s good acid though, and this really works best as simple, sun-drenched fun.
bacar – Packed, which renders service a little slow, and yet it’s good to see this excellent wine bar in fine economic health despite its slightly difficult location. My only complaint – and it’s a minor one – is that, for several years now, the enticing wine list has been rather dominated by blowsy 2003s. I suppose they have to sell through their stock, but I’m looking forward to being able to order Austrian, German, and other higher-acid whites with more confidence that I’m going to enjoy the results.
Nigl 2004 Grüner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit (Kremstal) – This wine undergoes a fascinating transformation from nose to finish. It starts out very salty, while showing classic celery and green, grassy acidity. From there, it proceeds to sweeter melon rind, green kiwifruit and floral aspects. Finally, it finishes almost fat, with orange blossoms, raw cashew oil and hazelnut. Such a procession from light and nervy to full and flavorful is one of the delightful surprises of good grüner, though it’s not usually experienced quite to this extent. It would be nice if the nose were a little more enticing, but I suspect that will come in time, as its center of gravity shifts forward.
Bründlmayer 2004 Grüner Veltliner Kamptaler Terassen (Kamptal) – White pepper, ripe apple blossom and white rice-encrusted apple and green plum form a ripe, vivid whip-snap, albeit one encased in silk. Skin bitterness adds structure and counterbalance to the fruitier aspects, which edges very slightly towards being a bit warmer (that is, more alcoholic) than ideal. That’s nitpicking, though, for this is a very good wine.
Donabaum 2003 Grüner Veltliner Atzberg Smaragd (Wachau) – A ripe, fat nose of rum-soaked banana skin doesn’t improve much on the palate, where alcohol adds a harsh burn. Things are a little better once one becomes accustomed to the heat, and creamy celery and cauliflower with ripe white asparagus steer the wine towards the silkier, more dairy-like aspects of high-test grüner. Still, as the wine fades, one is once more left with that buzzing, numbing alcoholic fire.
Hirsch 2003 Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein (Kamptal) – A smoky nose full of mineral dust, ripe celery and heavy red cherries precedes a smooth, balanced palate and long finish that provide more of the same. Unfortunately, the wine also carries a throbbing, fiery burn from out-of-balance alcohol.
Revelette 2004 Côteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé (Provence) – Salty canned fish (not, as it might seem, an inherently bad thing, though it is unusual) and heavy, molten lead with dead, softening wood rotting away in the background. OK, scratch the equivocation about the salted fish; this is pretty much the opposite of “fresh,” which I do believe is a virtual requisite for Provençal rosé. Worse yet: even with all the weirdness, the wine is boring.
Corbières du Boncaillou 1999 Corbières (Languedoc) – Gorgeous aromatics of dried flowers and spice with rustic undertones…but probe deeper, and there’s a smooth granite base with strong, complex striations. There’s a hint of something that tastes very slightly modern, but I’m not sure it’s possible to render Corbières all that urbane without leaving scars. No wounds here.
Bottex Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – The usual slightly off-dry raspberry froth, with a slightly bitter and hollow edge that’s definitely not usual for this wine. (8/06)
Gamay and poulsard, allowed (rather than induced) to sparkle. Alcohol: 8%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch.
Westport Rivers 1999 Brut “Cuvée RJR” (Southeastern New England) – Tastes strongly of tonic water and mineral salts, with grapefruit and some aged, yeasty creaminess lurking in the background. This has always been a bit odd and slightly disjointed, and age doesn’t seem to be helping. Look for other vintages. (8/06)
Don’t let my tepid reaction to this wine turn you off Westport River’s sparklers in general, which are usually quite good…and incredibly good considering their Massachusetts origin. It’s definitely cool-climate viticulture, but that’s a boon for sparkling wine production. As for other vintages: if you run across any ’98, snap it up. It’s drinking beautifully right now. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.westportrivers.com/.
JJ Prüm 1999 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 3 02 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Soft and fully creamed, perhaps overly so, with spicy dust starting to fade away on a dry Sahara wind. (8/06)
This isn’t overly old for a kabinett, so a less-satisfying performance is a little surprising. It’s probably an artifact of the vintage, but it could also be something in the wine’s storage history (it was recently purchased, rather than bought at release and cellared). Still, it does point out why even ageable kabinett usually gets consumed in the first flush of youth: the rewards of aging are not always as clear as they are for spätlese and riper styles. Alcohol: 8.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Classic. Web: http://www.jjpruem.com/.
Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – Mixed nut oils and dried apricots with a roasted earth and mushroom character. The wine doesn’t initially seem all that assertive, but there’s a surprising amount of power and concentration, which must eventually express itself as force. This is a very complete and impressive wine. (8/06)
36% Viognier, 30% marsanne, 26% grenache blanc, 8% roussanne. I’ve noted before how I find this winery’s Rhône-style whites an even more impressive achievement than their reds, and this is another reason why. Rhône whites are notoriously cranky agers, and yet bottle after bottle of this wine shows clear development and increased complexity. Alcohol: 14.2%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.tablascreek.com/.
Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 2003 Bandol Rosé (Provence) – Orange blossoms and lavender. Serious and structured for a rosé, but in a very light-bodied way. In other words, just about everything one wants from a rosé. Yet the finish is nearly absent, which is probably an artifact of the vintage. (8/06)
This is a very expensive rosé (around $30 at one local store, though I bought it for much less), and one expects a lot at that price. In many years, Tempier delivers. This, at least, is a healthy attempt. Alcohol: 11-14%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch. Web: http://www.domainetempier.com/.
Van Duzer 1998 Pinot Noir “Barrel Select” (Willamette Valley) – Brown earth, loam, wet autumn leaves and dried cherries. Just a little tiny bit past it, with the tannin biting the remaining aromatics into rough chunks, chewing them up, and spitting them out in an increasingly angry way. Drink up soon. (8/06)
Van Duzer has taken a turn for the commercial and increasingly dismal, but this is a reminder of a time when they made better wine. Even then, the last time I tasted this wine (maybe 2004 or so), it was drinking beautifully. Well, that was a quick demise… Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.vanduzer.com/.
Donaldson Family “Pegasus Bay” 2000 Pinot Noir (Waipara) – Massive black fig, dark plum, orange rind and intense, ripe red beet. It seems like it should be packed with structure, but it’s really not. A bit of a hammer blow pinot, yet one with amazing complexity and persistence. Still, it is big. (8/06)
Outstanding pinot in the forceful modern style. In fact, it does veer into syrah territory, and many will dislike it for that reason – I myself would be disheartened if most pinot tasted like this – but as an occasional alternative, its qualities are impossible to deny. Alcohol: 13.9%. Closure: cork. Importer: Empson. Web: http://www.pegasusbay.com/.
Jeune “Château Valcombe” 2005 Côtes du Ventoux “Signature” (Provence) – Tight and gravelly at first, showing thinner than one would like. With air, intense raspberry juice coalesces and expands to bury all else. A nice rosé, but it needs a certain amount of coaxing. (6/06)
Made by Paul Jeune, who also makes the Domaine de Montpertuis wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. Though I don’t know the precise cépage, it’s likely to be mostly grenache, with a little carignan, syrah and cinsault. These Provençal rosés often fail for a surplus of alcohol, but that’s not a problem here. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: composite cork. Importer: Rosenthal.
Domaine Aucœur 1999 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Like a previous experience with the 2002 version, this is definitely dominated by its acid, but unlike that bottle the generously-matured raspberry and tart cherry fruit here is both spicy and rich, if unquestionably thin. It needs the right food (something that can battle back the acid), but it has rewarded aging better than the younger ’02…though that said, it is true that the wine was more complete and balanced in its youth.
Domaine du Dragon 2004 Côtes de Provence “Hautes Vignes” (Provence) – Dull as invisible toast, with anonymous kinda-sorta red berry aromas and a faded, weak-kneed structure supporting the slightest of bodies. The only thing that’s not dull is a kick of volatility.
A blend of syrah and grenache, from a domaine that seems to do better as a venue for self-contained holiday apartments than as a winery, with…oh, heck, who cares? The wine’s just not interesting enough to deserve further analysis. Alcohol: 13%. Importer: Arborway. Web: http://www.domainedudragon.com/.