Palacios 2005 “Pétalos” Bierzo (Northwest Spain) – Big-shouldered and dark, with a flatscreen impenetrability; a two-dimensional wine of great breadth but little depth. Black, almost charred fruit and the blackest dirt vie with asphalt-like texture (there is acidity, but it brings little to the mix) for supremacy, and the texture wins. There’s nothing wrong with this wine, but it’s not much fun to drink…unless one finds being struck repeatedly by a hammer “fun.” (2/07)
Vilafranca “Casteller” 2005 Penedès Blanc de Blancs (Cataluña) – Simple, clean, crisp banana, pineapple and stone fruit with fresh, sea-washed acidity and some finishing grassy notes. No complexity, but it’s not needed here. (1/07)
Lustau Tintilla de Rota (Andalucía) – I think I’ve had this wine more often as a party trick (“hee-hee, it’s ‘red Sherry’”) (even though it’s really not) than as an actual beverage, so it’s nice to contemplate it a little more seriously. Candied red fruit – think Christmas cakes of various sorts – with a touch of tannin and a lot of tooth-abrading sweetness. It’s good in very tiny sips, but I wouldn’t want to drink much of it. Perhaps it’s better as a party trick after all. (1/07)
Lustau “Almacenista” Oloroso Sherry “Angel Zamorano” (Andalucía) – Restrained, whole-spice-box dust with concentrated burnt-nut tones and a moderate, but persistent, sweetness. Like oloroso through gauze, almost. It’s lovely and very easy to drink, but at this price I’d expect something a little more striking. Something with a little more verve. (1/07)
Piñol “Sacra Natura” 2005 Terra Alta (Cataluña) – Big, loud wine, full of flavor, ripe tannin and satin-textured earth, but with certain educated delicacies underneath the volume. Fruit tends towards the black and sun-drenched, with concentrated berries dominating. This is a very summery wine that probably works better in the chill of the winter, with a surprising bit of equilibrium to match. (1/07)
Luzon Verde 2005 Jumilla (Levant) – Big, obvious berries in a soup-like presentation, with some thudding, ponderous subwoofing overwhelming whatever elegance or structure is attempting to emerge. There’s enough earthy baritone that there’s at least a minor chance things will improve with age, but right now this is clumsy and highly unpromising, though it will probably appeal to lovers of wines in this style…of which there is certainly no lack these days. (12/06)
El Grifo 2002 Malvasía “Dulce” (Lanzarote) – Pure volatile acidity. Something less than fun went on inside this bottle. (12/06)
Olivares “Altos de la Hoya” 2003 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – Corked. (12/06)
Olivares “Altos de la Hoya” 2003 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – Thick and featureless at first uncorking, but eventually unclenching and releasing dark, earth-mother aromatics and sun-roasted blackberry residue. It’s tannic (though not abrasively so), it’s thick (though not sludgy, considering what it is and the vintage), and it’s fairly ponderous…more fun (eventually) to smell than to drink. Still, time will probably help this wine. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. (12/06)
Gysler “Bundle of Scheu” 23 04 (Rheinhessen) – Off-dry dandelion pollen and other floral, leafy stuff of much unthinking goodness. (8/06)
Huet 2000 Vouvray Brut Pétillant (Loire) – Waxy and acidic with the faintest suggestion of bubbles, but otherwise giving up absolutely nothing. This is about as closed as a wine can be. (8/06)
Rodez Champagne Ambonnay “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Noirs (Champagne) – Soft strawberry and red cherry. The fruit is concentrated and almost liqueur-like, with sweet tones on the finish, and the overall impression is one of plushness. I’m not sure that’s an admirable quality here. (8/06)
Johannishof 2005 Johannisberg “G” Riesling Kabinett 010 06 (Rheingau) – Mixed heirloom apples dusted with nutmeg and ripe with piercing sweetness, turning quickly to overwhelming red fruit on the palate. There’s molten iron and a good deal of spice that emerges with air…as the wine gets redder and redder with each sip. Powerful stuff, though it bears about as much resemblance to a kabinett as does a Barossa shiraz. (8/06)
Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1989 Rioja Reserva “Viña Gravonia” (Center-North) – Dry toast with spiced butter and preserved lemon spread, dotted by buttered marshmallows. Long, with fine acidity and a drying element on the finish that eventually becomes a slight burn. Controversial, and though I finally decide that I like it, it’s definitely not for everyone. (8/06)
Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Absolutely impenetrable, though it gives the impression of being nothing more than liquid minerality. Not even worth taking a peek at right now, but it should be much, much better in a half-dozen years. (8/06)
Mann 1998 Riesling Schlossberg (Alsace) – Intense, ripe and very dry banana skin shoved through a metal cylinder. It grows to an early climax, then quickly fades away, and the finish is surprisingly short. But from a site where most producers pursue some level of residual sugar, this wine is dry, dry, dry. (8/06)
Boxler 2000 Riesling Sommerberg “L31D” (Alsace) – Light sweetness…for Boxler, that is…backed by such terrific acidity that it really doesn’t register after the first sip. Otherwise, there’s a brilliantly-structured wine running the mineral gamut from coal to diamond, with ripe red apple and strawberry blossom. An extremely vertical riesling, with power and presence and many, many fantastic years ahead of it. (8/06)
Muga 2005 Rioja Rosado (Center-North) – Light, almost seductive pale orange and red fruit with dried earth tones and little hints of baking spice. Very, very pretty. (10/06)
Grape(s): 60% garnacha, 30% viura, 10% tempranillo. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ordoñez. Web: http://www.bodegasmuga.com/.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2004 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – A little funky and grating when first opened, though this eventually steps back in favor of rose hip, cranberry and zingy acidity. There’s a stale chalk note that battles a bit with the otherwise sweet-natured aromatics, but this should integrate with time. (10/06)
Grape(s): gamay. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Marquis Philips 2005 “Holly’s Blend” (South Australia) – Sweet JuicyFruit™ cocktail mixer. Acid-deficient and incredibly obvious. (10/06)
Grape(s): verdelho. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Grateful Palate.
San Alejandro “Las Rocas” 2003 Garnacha (Calatayud) – Thick, dense strawberry jam and toasted creosote. It’s “coming together” in its own HGH-enhanced way, and is now almost drinkable. (10/06)
Grape(s): grenache. Importer: Solomon/European Cellars. Web: http://www.san-alejandro.com/.
Michel Tête “Domaine du Clos du Fief” 1999 Juliénas “Cuvée Prestige” (Beaujolais) – Spectacular. Darkness and light in the same package. Dusty berries and misty dried flower aromas are bound in a leathery, enveloping structure, firm yet gentle. The wine writhes and expands, filling the available space with beautiful sensation. Not yet fully mature, but it would be hard to argue against current consumption. (10/06)
Grape(s): gamay. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Tablas Creek 2003 Rosé (Paso Robles) – Red cherry and strawberry with a mildly tinny note, and starting to fade under the onslaught of its alcohol, but still showing enough boisterous, summery fun to be pleasurable. After all, it was never really meant to age this long. (10/06)
Grape(s): 64% mourvèdre, 28% grenache, 8% counoise. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.tablascreek.com/.
Ollivier “Domaine de la Pépière” 2005 Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France Marches de Bretagne “Cuvée Granit” (Loire) – Unlike previous vintages of this wine, which have been exotically exciting but rather angular, this one shows up with most of the corners already filled in. There’s strapping, herbal-earthy black fruit and a good deal of acid, and the wine’s incredibly easy to drink…as long as there’s food to go with it. (10/06)
Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Harrington 2003 Pinot Noir Birkmyer (Wild Horse Valley) – Big, juicy and a little goofy, yet there’s complexity and a New World-defined balance as well. Bright, somewhat overdriven red fruit is supported by sands and silts, with a white pepper texture and a fairly hefty palate impact. I don’t know that it will age, but that’s probably not the point. (10/06)
Grape(s): pinot noir. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.harringtonwine.com/.
Aurelia “Corte Marzago” 2005 Bardolino Vigna La Morara (Veneto) – Grapey and very wine-like, with a fresh berry component dominating, and a thirst-enhancing vivacity enhanced by acid and the wine’s overall lightness. Which is not to say that the flavors are reticent – rather, they’re sharp and clear – only that the wine is not overwhelmed with alcohol or weight. Yummy stuff. (11/06)
Grape(s): corvina veronese, rondinella, molinara & sangiovese. Alcohol: 11.5%. Closure: molded synthetic. Importer: Violette. Web: http://www.cortemarzago.com/.
Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue 2002 Côteaux du Languedoc Bronzinelle (Languedoc) – Thoroughly of the soil, showing the wild southern French underbrush still clinging to rich, dark, sun-baked earth. A few dusky blackberries work their way into the mix, but mostly this wine is a primal expression of the land. And it’s really good, too. (11/06)
Grape(s): syrah, grenache, mourvèdre & carignan. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch.