Rodney Strong 2005 Chardonnay “Reserve” (Russian River Valley) – Wente and Spring Mountain clones. Fat fig, lush peach, and light strawberry with a healthy swirl of butter. Good in its style, but without complexity, and the finish tails off rather abruptly. The Chalk Hill bottling is better. (2/08)
Rodney Strong 2005 Pinot Noir Jane’s “Reserve” (Russian River Valley) – Very structured, showing beets and smooth, dark fruit. Long, but somewhat rectangular. Needs time. Not bad at all. (2/08)
Rodney Strong 2006 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) – Soft grey dirt, tight berries, and a chocolate tinge to the finish. Fairly low-key, despite an overall heavy presence in the mouth. Simple. Eh. (2/08)
Limerick Lane 2004 Zinfandel Collins (Russian River Valley) – 14.6%. Assertive, perhaps even aggressive, showing walnuts (heavy on the skins), hazelnuts, wild blackberries, and perhaps a bit of espresso bean. Solid, somewhat blocky, and youthful; age might help, as the balance is reasonable despite a lot of clumsy adolescent stumbling at the moment. (6/08)
Dutton Goldfield 2004 Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Sanchietti (Russian River Valley) – Great intensity of fruit – mostly mixed berries – with a gorgeous, silky finish. Nice hints of structure, as well. Quite good. (2/08)
Stryker 2004 Cabernet Franc Angeli (Russian River Valley) – Woody and herbal, with a decent enough cabernet franc not quite able to emerge from the oak overlay. Fruit skins provide both character and mild bitterness. I’ve tasted worse. But I’ve tasted much, much better. (11/07)
Limerick Lane 2002 Zinfandel Collins (Russian River Valley) – 14.6%. On the bigger, hotter side of zin, but by no means unduly hot in context. Wild boysenberry and raspberry dominate, with soda notes in the mix, and a peppery, zingy finish that shows strapping acidity. A good wine, but it needs strong-willed food to tame its more aggressive notions. (7/07)
Jadot 2004 Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy) – Light, clear pear and faint dried orange with a thin layer of spice. Decent, quaffable, nothing special. (7/06)
My father-in-law’s favorite wine. Why? I have absolutely no idea. It’s recognizably white Burgundy, but beyond that…I dunno. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Kobrand. Web: http://www.louisjadot.com/.
Banfi 2004 Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” (Tuscany) – Light lemon-grapefruit juice with a sticky, palate-deadening texture. Off-dry? This is cocktail wine, totally unsuitable for food, and just reeks of industrialism. (7/06)
This is the pinot grigio style that has made it the most popular imported white wine in the United States: simple fruit, simple sugar, absolutely no complexity. There’s really not much to say about wines like this. They are what they are. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Banfi. Web: http://www.castellobanfi.com/.
Ridge 2002 Zinfandel Ponzo (Russian River Valley) – Big, almost explosive fruit and oakspice with a particulate leather texture, black earth, and an utterly compelling and enjoyable presence on the palate. Delicious and not yet fully mature, but drinking incredibly well now. (7/06)
96% zinfandel, 2% carignane, 2% petite sirah. This isn’t a vineyard Ridge has been vinifying separately for long (it used to go into a Sonoma blend), but the results so far have been highly promising. Alcohol: 14.4%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.ridgewine.com/.
Ruffino 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva “Ducale Oro” (Tuscany) – Roasted strawberry-encrusted game and white-peppered earth, but overly restrained, as if tasted through gauze. Very matter-of-fact, with a simplistic finish. (7/06)
85% sangiovese, 15% “other.” A Riserva should be a masterwork of sangiovese and the terroir, but this wine has slid year by year into a sort of comfortable mediocrity. It’s a shame, too, given its ubiquity in the marketplace, as many people will get the incorrect idea that this is what Chianti Classico Riserva is about, and all it can achieve. There’s a lot of underachieving wine in Tuscany, and this is a sort of poster child for the underachievement. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.ruffino.com/.
(The original version is here …)
23 April 2006 –Berkeley, California
Wine tasting in Berkeley (con’t)
Harrington Pinot Noir Rosé (appellation unknown) – “Just for fun” announces our pourer – I assume without evidence that he’s the Bryan that lends his last name to Harrington, the second winery at this tasting – and fun it is, with big, giggly strawberry fruit. It’s in an unlabeled bottle, and no information other than its cépage is forthcoming, but it’s a bit of a shame it’s not for sale. I’d buy it.
Harrington 2002 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) – Orange rind, red cherry and strawberry seeds; sweetly pretty, though simple.
Harrington 2003 Pinot Noir Birkmyer (Wild Horse Valley) – Sweet plum, strawberry and rhubarb with some structure and a long, metallic/iron flake finish. Nice acidity, too. This ends up being my favorite of the entire lineup.
Harrington 2003 Pinot Noir Hirsch (Sonoma Coast) – A rough nose, perhaps with slightly burnt notes, opens up to a somewhat hard, watermelon-shaped wine. I’d like more finish (and more attack, even in the lighter-entried pinot noir sense), and in general I’d like better fruit. I do note, however, than most of my fellow tasters seem to regard this wine as one of the best, so maybe I’ve misjudged it.
Harrington 2004 Pinot Noir Brosseau (Chalone) – Thick, meaty and heavy, showing chunky peanut butter and big tannin. A sticky wine, more akin to a paste than a pinot.
Harrington 2004 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) – Full-bodied cherry and blueberry with a long, juicy finish made ever so slightly edgy by a stemmy note. Almost really nice.
Harrington 2004 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown (barrel sample) (Sonoma County) – From a decanter. There’s huge fruit here – blueberry and black cherry – with fair acidity; a “fruit bomb” with at least one redeeming quality. Moreover, it doesn’t taste particularly spoofulated, just explosive. People of a certain taste will love this, assuming it holds form through bottling.
Like all wine lovers, I have my likes and dislikes, and the wines I choose to buy reflect those choices. And like most wine lovers, I don’t much care for drinking bad wines. What’s fun, though, is crossing over to the “other side,” and tasting (mostly) well-made wines that fit the preferences of those with decidedly different tastes.
A recent holiday party gave me the opportunity to do just that. Below are some quick takes — I didn’t take formal notes at the event — on a lineup of wines that, with one or two exceptions, aren’t likely to make regular appearances in my glass.
Lafond 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Reedy green citrus and grassy notes, though with the skin bitterness and lowish acidity characteristic of the vintage. In the context of many truly awful 2003 Sancerres, this one is actually half-decent.
la Poussie 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Heavy, green, bitter, and acid free. See above.
Ladoucette 2003 Pouilly-Fumé (Loire) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Paul Hobbs 2003 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) – Simple and spicy peach, pear, citrus and white fig-like fruit with moderate oak spice and a reasonable dollop of acidity. Pretty decent, though chardonnay’s still not exactly my favorite grape in the world.
Belle Pente 2002 Pinot Noir Belle Pente (Willamette Valley) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Relic 2002 Pinot Noir Alder Springs (Mendocino County) – Forceful pinot noir, dense and throbbing with heavy, leaden black and red fruit, plus streaks of plummy orange rind that make me think of an especially heavy Central Otago pinot. This will be very popular with some, and it’s not a bad wine, but I much prefer the Belle Pente.
Fanti 1998 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Luscious, clove-spiced baked berries with not-insignificant oak and a relatively balanced finish. There could be less technology and wood thrown at this, and it would improve, but it’s a nice drink in its present form.
Brancaia 2003 “Il Blu” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – The sangiovese is, as usual, overwhelmed by cabernet and merlot, but that said there’s merit to the wine; internationalized it is, indeed, but there’s plenty of juicy and fun fruit here.
Gaja 2001 “Magari” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – Weedy bell pepper and seed pepper dust. There are interestingly floral aromatics, but the palate is disappointing, and a long finish doesn’t mean much when the flavors aren’t that pleasant.
Thomas Fogarty 2001 “Skyline” (California) – Massively overwooded and underripe at the same time. Horrid.
Tor 2003 Syrah Durell “Clone No. 1” (Carneros) – Incredibly thick and dense…a sort of chocolate-and-oak shake…and varietally anonymous. Kind of a waste of the raw materials, but certainly destined for popularity amongst the bigger-is-better crowd.