Gaillard 1999 Saint-Joseph “Les Pierres” (Rhône) – Straight from the domaine, and thus the French (rather than the NBI) bottling, which usually means less new oak. As massive as it was the day it was born, layered with mille-feuille tannin, dried peppercorns, lead, and lead-infused dried black fruit paste. There’s only the barest hint of maturity in a bit of browning herbality that malingers out back, but for all the primary fruit and wholly unresolved structure I just don’t know how much longer this should be held. I mean, nothing’s yet mature, but the balance of fruit to structure is now heavily weighted in favor of the latter, and coupled with the oak treatment – quite manageable here, but hardly absent – what I taste and what I predict based on experience are in conflict; going on pure taste, this has another decade or more to go, but based on good sense and experience it’s only going to get tougher. Someone who owns a bottle will have to settle the debate one of these days, because this was my last one. (12/11)
Michel 1999 Saint-Joseph “Le Bois des Blaches” (Rhône) – Note: a fairly recent purchase, provenance unknown. Watery and dried out, with only a suggestion of herbed jerky aroma remaining. Could this just be closed? There’s not a single textural or structural signal that it might be holding absolutely everything back. I’d be more likely, given the source, to suspect damage than I would a still-evolving wine. Better-sourced versions might well be performing in a more interesting way. (4/11)
Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Bitter and woody. Absolutely horrid. Why did I hold something with a synthetic cork for this long? Argh. (9/10)
Gaillard 2002 Saint-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – Less trashed than the previous bottle (and thankfully, this is my last), but still heavily oxidized due to entirely predictable closure failure. That is, predictable if I’d thought to yank the capsules off and look. But who puts plastic plugs in a wine that should have been able to age? Oh, right: screwcap-fearing French winemakers, that’s who… (10/10)
Dard & Ribo 2006 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Wrenched and writhing, squirting its dark fruit every which way, but never achieving any sort of focus or direction. There’s a heavy stench of brett, as well, which is strong enough to detract despite the wine’s muscularity. This needs time, for sure, but unfortunately it will never shed its manure. (5/09)
Othéguy 2006 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Tarred blackberry jacketed with iron. And dripping with blood, too, which I mean as a positive (not just for vampires). Hard – stiff, even – with fabulous intensity. Still, I’d be much more interested in this wine after some aging; it’s a bit brutal now. (4/09)
Montez “Domaine du Monteillet” 2000 St-Joseph Blanc (Rhône) – The initial impression is mostly wood, or at least so it seems, but with air there’s vaguely spicy baked-yellow earth, well-aged stone fruit, and a gently vibrating wave structure. Nicer than I’d thought it would be given its overwhelmingly arboreal youth, but it would have been better still with a little more restraint in the cellar. (8/08)
Souhaut 2005 St-Joseph “Sainte Epine” (Rhône) – Gorgeous. Smooth waves of graphitic tannin, dark, smoky fruit, and fine acidity. Flawlessly poised, and prepared for future greatness. (4/08)
Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. These were difficult tasting conditions, where speed and distraction were the norm rather than the exception. Thus, notes are brief at best, somewhat superficial, and cannot in truth be otherwise.
(Unless otherwise noted, the wines are red.)
Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (Rhône) – Very shy but clean, showing stone fruit and cement. Too light, despite the road-building material. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2006 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Flowers and freshly-cut apricot and peach. Pretty. There’s something so appealing about fresh, fruity and young white Rhônes. It’s only later that they become controversial. (2/07)
Guigal 2005 Condrieu (Rhône) – Floral (of course), in that intensely aromatic way that makes partisans and enemies in equal measure. Honey-drizzled nuts (though the wine is quite dry), spice, and a lightly drying skin tone. Nice. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Ermitage (Hermitage) Blanc “Ex Voto” (Rhône) – One of the single most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth (other than bacteriological disasters), with the nastiest possible raw wood and dill comprising the pathetic whole of this dreck. This is horrid. This is absolute crap. This is a macabre parody of liquid evil. This is an abomination against good taste. This wine should be destroyed for the good of the planet. I didn’t care for it. (2/07)
Guigal 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé (Rhône) – Raspberry, bubblegum and pink peppercorns. This is nicely balanced. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Tavel (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum pie (if one can imagine such a thing) with a sugary feeling to the palate and finish. Just a little too desserty for its own good. (2/07)
Avril Vin de Table “Le petit vin d’Avril” (France) – Sharp, direct raspberry. Acidic and short. This is a wine I want to like, but even its desperate cry for food might not bring it back into balance. (2/07)
Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de l’Ardèche “Marselan” (Ardèche) – Very aromatic, showing big flowers and boisterous raspberry blossoms. Nice. While there’s some structure, this is mostly about fun. (2/07)
Diffonty “Domaine de Brès Caseneuve” 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc (Languedoc) – Dark plum, black licorice and bubblegum. Rough but balanced, with a bit of sourness that somehow seems oak-derived. This has a future, but I worry about that sour note. (2/07)
Decouvertes & Selections “Domaine des Rozets” 2004 Côteaux du Tricastin (Rhône) – Gentle strawberry, raspberry and light bubblegum with a short, countrified finish. Eh. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Plum, bubblegum, leather and a drying anise quality that coarsens into a brutish finish. It will probably improve with a little age, however. (2/07)
Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Fresh strawberry and red cherry. Very upfront, yet there’s a little bit of structure as well. A fair value wine. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Tannic and hard. There’s a little softening in the midpalate, but this is a perfect exemple of the vintage’s too-common flaw. (2/07)
Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Sour cherry and dill, with some other herbs floating around in the background. Next. (2/07)
Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Strawberry and sand with a light structure. There’s a lot of minerality bubbling underneath, here. Not bad. (2/07)
Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Rhône) – A gorgeous nose, full of sweetly rich, ripe red/purple fruit. However, it falls completely apart after that, leaving a dry, dead palate and hard finish. Very disappointing. (2/07)
Lafond 2004 Lirac “La Ferme Romaine” (Rhône) – Soft at the edges, but with a core of plum, blueberry syrup, raspberry liqueur and strongly floral notes. Thick coffee and vanilla round out the finish. It’s good, though it grows increasingly internationalized as it persists, and I suspect the temptation to smooth it out with new oak is one that might better have been limited. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2004 Lirac (Rhône) – Big black coffee and plum with raspberry liqueur. This is obviously a “lesser” wine than the Ferme Romaine, and yet I think it’s both better and has a more promising future. (2/07)
Guigal 2004 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Thing and insubstantial, showing faded leather and little else. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Blackberry and some vegetal notes. Simultaneously light and hard, which is not the most pleasant combination. (2/07)
Stehelin 2004 Gigondas (Rhône) – Heavy and strong, with black earth, asphalt and thick, licorice-like fruit running from dark purple to black. Structured and pure, and very, very impressive. Lovers of sheer size above all else will want to drink it now, but everyone else should let it age. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Gigondas (Rhône) – A great nose of strawberry seed, licorice and dark earth. It’s massively, overwhelmingly tannic (no surprise), with a hard, drying finish. Almost… (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Rough and hard, with tannin running roughshod over strawberry seed and horse-scented leather. Not bad, considering the challenges, but not that great either. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Soft and acrid, with better-constituted elements drawn forth on the finish: graphite and asphalt. I suspect this might be somewhat closed, but I also think it might be fundamentally frayed. (2/07)
Guigal “Château d’Ampuis” 2003 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Big, ripe black fruit and herbs with an earthy, mixed-nut underbelly. Despite the size, there’s an appealing softness and unquestionable balance here. A very good wine. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Hermitage (Rhône) – Structured graphite with a fierce aspect…yet there’s balance, albeit the wine is just edging towards acid-dominance, with atypical raspberry and red apple apparent on the finish. An odd wine. Perhaps partially closed? (2/07)
Dard & Ribo 2004 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Refermented ass cheese. Vile and irreparably flawed. Yet another tragic victim of the low-sulfur winemaking fetish. (2/07)
Notes from a few days in Montréal and Vermont:
Dard & Ribo 2004 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Exciting and complex, if fairly primary, showing grilled blackberry residue, pure essence of nighttime blueberry, and the essential Northern Rhône “meat liqueur” character, all layered over rich, dark black earth dusted with urfa pepper. The acidity is shockingly vivid. Outstanding. (8/06)
St-Joseph is becoming like Cornas: a appellation almost forgotten outside of the work of a very few committed producers. These 100% syrahs lack the masculinity of Hermitage and the Burgundian elegance of Côte-Rôtie, but replace them with more upfront fruit and a generous texture. Plus, they’re cheaper than both. This should be a recipe for export success, shouldn’t it? Closure: cork.
Foillard 2004 Morgon Côte du Py (Beaujolais) – Perfectly ripe berries bursting from their skins, showering fresh tarragon and light grey graphite with beautifully enticing juice. It’s light and flirty as an apéritif, more serious and substantial with food, and effortlessly moves between the two states. This is the kind of wine that makes you want to roll around in the grass and giggle. (8/06)
Gamay is not often an ageable grape, except over the very short term, but from a few select terroirs the story changes. Morgon Côte du Py is one such terroir. But unlike some other ageable Beaujolais terroirs, like Moulin-à-Vent, the solidity and structure is not immediately evident. Morgon Côte du Py bridges the gap between the pure aromatic delight of other Beaujolais and the deceptively firm construction necessary to support the wine’s future development. Closure: cork.
Cazes 1991 Rivesaltes “Ambré” (Roussillon) – Old sugar, caramelized and spicy with moderate oxidative notes and a crisp, apple-skin bite sharpened by walnut oil. It’s not particularly complex, but it’s quite delicious. (8/06)
Rivesaltes of this form is a vin doux naturel, which means high-sugar grapes have their fermentation blocked by the addition of alcohol, thus fortifying the wine and leaving it with a good deal of residual sugar. This method is more familiar when used to make Port, but it’s done all over the winemaking world, and is very common around the Mediterranean. Fortified muscat is the best known form of this wine, but this particular bottling happens to be made from grenache blanc. And finally, these wines are typically consumed young…but as this wine shows, given the right conditions they can age quite well. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.cazes-rivesaltes.com/.
Serge Dagueneau 2004 Pouilly-Fumé “Les Pentes” (Loire) – Light, pale schist and dust through a gauzy filter, with faint grass and green apple notes. A very indistinct wine that tastes completely stripped. (8/06)
100% sauvignon blanc, with none of the allegedly-signature “gunflint” promised by the appellation, and every evidence that the wine has been excessively filtered. Pouilly-Fumé doesn’t have an excessive number of high-quality proponents, but I’ve had much better from this domaine in the past. Web: http://www.s-dagueneau-filles.fr/.
Cazes “Chateau Les Ormes de Pez” 1996 Saint-Estèphe (Bordeaux) – Almost as pure an expression of the classic Bordeaux descriptor “cigar box” as one will ever experience. And “almost” because the other major aromatic impression is of sticky waves of butterscotch-tinged oak. There’s a really beautiful wine lurking in here, but the wood – at least at this stage – is doing its best to bury it. A shame, really, but maybe time will heal this wound. (8/06)
A cabernet sauvignon-dominated blend (with merlot and cabernet franc playing supporting roles). As for the oak…unfortunately, that horse left the barn a long time ago, and it’s probably too late to coax it back in. How Bordeaux is improved by being made to taste more like anonymous New World cabernet I can’t imagine. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.ormesdepez.com/.
Everett Ridge 1999 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – Massive blackberry and boysenberry fruit bordering on concentrate, with jammy inclinations only slightly mitigated by a nice dose of ground black pepper. A one-note wine…though it’s a tasty note. (8/06)
Zinfandel is capable of aging, certainly (though a significant number of the most ageable are not 100% zinfandel at all), but – especially these days – two destines are more likely. The first is excessive alcohol dominating all else, which is the fate of some of the more overdriven and overripe versions (though high alcohol at bottling is not a 100% reliable indicator). The second is where we find this wine: ever-more concentrated fruit, moving from on-the-vine, to jam, to syrup. (More coverage of Everett Ridge can be found here.) Closure: cork. Web: http://www.everettridge.com/.
Isabel 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – Slightly heat-damaged by the external evidence, and the wine bears this out: the intense aromatics and green-tinged edges are gone, replaced by a creamy, pear-dominated wine that’s primarily about its texture. Sourced from the New Hampshire state liquor system, which has a long and dedicated history of baking their product. (8/06)
The state of this wine is a shame, because Isabel – while it has gone through peaks and valleys – makes a sauvignon blanc that does not ape the popular tropical fruit salsa (complete with hot pepper) style, but rather exercises restraint in the pursuit of structure. Also, their sauvignon blancs are much drier than most of what’s commercially available these days. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.isabelestate.com/.