Browse Tag

tasting notes


vineyardThere was a time when I had to know it all, or at least try. (Or, one might more accurately say with the benefit of hindsight, be able to pretend well enough to convince others.) That time was during my studies with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and, later, what was supposed to be my preparatory work for the Master of Wine examinations. I planted and harvested much of the former, but never did more than scratch and scuff the ground for the latter. Once the project had been abandoned I…went off in search of another metaphor, because I’m already heartily sick of this one.

My point is: once, I tried to stretch my arms (and my palate, and all too often my wallet) around the entirety of the world’s wines. Assyrtiko or albalonga, Mudgee or Merlara, I had to be ready for any and all of it. I was an enormous vacuum for datum and trivium. If it existed, and someone within my sphere of acquisitiveness knew of it, then I probably knew of it too.

On the sacrificial altar, of course, was depth. I could afford one or two limited specializations, but there simply wasn’t time to know, rather than know of, aught else. So when my rewarding but ultimately fruitless attempt to know it all ended, the counter-reaction was natural. I dropped nearly all the threads within my hand, concentrating on one or two at a time…enthusiasms that flowed with my palate’s eddies, and that often coincided with places I’d recently visited. When one immerses, however, one loses contact with the wider world.

Still, it’s rare for something – especially when it suits both my interest and my palate – to completely pass me by. So when I first heard about Clos Saron, not all that many years ago, I figured (especially based on the sources invoking it) that it was one of the growing number of hipster/naturalista/counter-cultural startups springing up in California, and that I’d check it out when it was a little more established.

Anyone who actually knows the winery knows where this is going. Clos Saron has been around for a while, its winemaker for longer, it’s not at all what I’d assumed, the wines were available in my previous home and were long straight up my aesthetic alley, and…well I have no good excuse for inattention, really. It just slipped through my ever-widening mental cracks. Based on a brief tasting with the winemaker over dinner, and then a somewhat more expansive overview a few days later, more’s the pity.

Winemaker Gideon Beinstock traces his journey from Israel, via France, to – of all places – the Sierra Foothills. One is, he says, in search of “a certain lifestyle” in those gold-emptied hills, and unless some great yet unforeseen leap in ease of conveyance is just around the corner, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. There’s plenty of convention and coasting in the region, from some, but it’s also an exceptionally good place for someone who wishes to work outside the boundaries. Or at least to create their own.

But boundaries help a writer contextualize, so how to draw a perimeter around the wines of Clos Saron? To employ a distinction I’ve used I the past, they’re natural without being Natural: made towards one end of the anti-intervention continuum, yet tasting more like high-quality examples from the more conventional set. They seem like the sort of wines one would identify as terroir-expressive, though lacking sufficient experience with their specific sources I can make no more than a guess at that. The reason I’d hesitate to call them capital-N Natural is that they lack the biochemical ephemerae – both good and bad – that mark so many products of the genre. These are wines one could slip into any tasting of exemplary representatives of their peer groups without anyone knowing that there was a naturalist interloper in their midst.

So there’s data for those who drink philosophies. Those who care about details of agriculture and winemaking can go to the winery’s web site and look them up; I have, over the decades, developed an extreme fatigue with thousands of nearly-identical paragraphs about how a winery moves their product around in harmony and contravention of gravity and thermodynamics, and tend to restrict commentary to anything out of the ordinary. Thus, of particular note is that the vines tend to be own-rooted (though there are exceptions, like cabernet sauvignon grafted over to pinot noir), and – by intent – grapes spend their birth, life, and death in group marriage. That is: they’re grown, harvested, and co-fermented together.

And they need age. Or at least the reds very obviously do, the winemaker claims the rosé does, and the white that I taste is somewhat of a special case (see below). Or, as Beinstock puts it:

Wine is not a one-dimensional thing. It’s not a snapshot, it’s a movie. It has a whole life. We think we understand this wine…but we don’t understand this wine.

I stress that word “need,” because these aren’t wines that just soften from one appeal to another with time, they transform. And not, based on what I’ve tasted, all that quickly.

cellar doorOver dinner at Vedge, Philadelphia’s excellent and ambitious vegan restaurant (if one can trust the word of this committed carnivore), we taste a few wines in their youthful, underdeveloped forms while the soft-spoken Beinstock attempts to be heard over the din. Eventually he just gives up and goes from table to table, which probably better-reflects the ethos of his wines, anyway. For while the wines certainly don’t lack body, they’re themselves essentially soft-spoken, and in this they reflect their guiding hand.

Clos Saron 2010 “Tickled Pink” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah and cinsault. Bony and forgettable. But the a new bottle arrives, vastly more generous than the previous, and while there’s still a parched, desert butte quality on a bed of minerality ground slowly down from gravel to sand, it at least makes one take notice. The notion that this ages well makes sense when one compares it with the bleak starkness of another rosé known for its ageability: that of R. López de Heredia. The organoleptics are different, though.

With roasted root vegetables and baby leaves, charred onion, and pistachio:

Clos Saron 2011 “Carte Blanche” (Sierra Foothills) – A little out of the norm for this wine in that the grapes for this blend were purchased from Lodi. A crazy-quilt blend of albariño, verdelho, chardonnay, and petit manseng…the varietal equivalent of what my Minnesotan family used to call “leftovers hotdish.” It takes a while to get up to speed, with sweet lemonade aromatics and a bubblegum texture, but eventually the full mass of the wine (and it’s surprisingly, if adeptly, large-boned) makes its impression. Juicy yet brooding, there’s an eventual sharpening to the finish worked by the etching qualities of the wine’s acidity. Finishes long and very dry, despite all the initial dalliances with sweeter notions.

With a lightly-curried gold lentil and Kabocha squash bisque and a fresh heart of palm fritter:

Clos Saron 2008 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Very earthy, sweaty, even a little swarthy, its soils seething in unrest. Pillowy tannin hardens towards the finish, while the wine dabbles in aromatic exoticism. Long and exceedingly interesting.

With smoked eggplant braciole, crushed cauliflower, and an Italian salsa verde:

Clos Saron 2006 “La Cuvée Mystérieuse” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah, merlot, grenache, and roussanne. Big, galloping purple fruit with morels. Gorgeous, rich, extremely aromatic. So seductive for such a big wine, whirling and helixing as it finishes.

With roasted maitake mushroom, smashed turnips, leeks, and a porcini sauce:

Clos Saron 2006 Syrah “Heart of Stone” (Sierra Foothills) – There’s a dollop of roussanne here. Very strong. Leather, blackberry, and a forbidding wall of dried fruit adhering to a currently-impenetrable wall. Broadens a bit as it pushes against that wall, but there’s little point in drinking this now.

leavesAbout a week later, at a trade tasting in New York, Beinstock showed some of the same wines (which, in the service of efficiency, I skipped) and some additions, but more importantly opened older versions of more than a few of them. More than anything anyone could say, this exercise made his ageability argument clearly and definitively.

(As is almost always the case with trade/press tasting notes, these come from briefer scribblings than are my preference, and the notes are thus proportionally shorter and more abrupt.)

Clos Saron 2006 “La Cuvée Mystérieuse” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah, merlot, grenache, and roussanne. Black and blue berries (and yes, a little bruised), strappy, with pink peppercorns adding their odd prickle here and there. A bit of a cudgel at the moment.

Clos Saron 2002 “La Cuvée Mystérieuse” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah, merlot, and viognier. Developing nicely, a surprisingly pretty face somewhat obscured by swirling dust. Very long, and eminently promising.

Clos Saron 2006 “Black Pearl” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. A rutting beast a-swim in fruit syrup. Not to say that the wine’s sweet, but it’s sticky, dense, and eventually turns quite hard as it finishes. Full of stuffing, but it’s going to take a really long time to abrade its wrapping.

Clos Saron 2001 “Black Pearl” (Sierra Foothills) – Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc. Dark purple stains on peppered leather. Still very tannic, and showing more structure than I’d think was ideal. Then again, it’s possible this is just in a difficult adolescence, and generosity will reemerge.

Clos Saron 2006 Syrah “Heart of Stone” (Sierra Foothills) – Co-fermented with a little roussanne. Bell peppers dusted with black pepper. Gorgeous and expressive right now. There’s some jerky, or perhaps dried leather, late that is usually an early indication of age in syrah, but the wine’s actual future remains to be seen.

Clos Saron 2002 Syrah “Heart of Stone” (Sierra Foothills) – Weedy and starting to unravel. Lots of gravelly minerality, held together by tar.

Clos Saron 2009 Syrah “Stone Soup” (Sierra Foothills) – There’s a touch of viognier involved, too. Huge and thick. A rhombus of a wine, structurally, with chunks much on which to chew. Tannins are, texturally, powdery. Observe that I haven’t mentioned fruit anywhere in this note; it’s not devoid, but it’s certainly not prioritizing any at the moment.

Clos Saron 2000 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Forest floor and maturing (though far from absent) tannin, lingering antique pie aromas. Gorgeous. Wow!

Clos Saron 1999 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Rough, bold, and chewier than the 2000, still with a heft wallop of tannin and a gritty texture. This may just be in an awkward stage.

(All images © Clos Saron)

Noted, passing

fruit at la boqueriaLook, I get it. The pressure to publish makes us all write dumb things. But still…oh, Jamie

[I] was jolted by the realization that tasting notes generally do a spectacularly bad job of communicating about the nature of wine

Really? That was your moment of spiritual revelation? Your trans-hypnotic insight? An understanding of the essence of wine is not to be found via one writer’s grocery list nor via another’s arcane analogies about bunnies and Dadaism?


Jamie Goode is a sensible – often overly-sensible – writer who’s one of the best at deconstructing the molecular guts of wine, though at his worst when slathering praise over liquid mediocrities, but is not the go-to authority on tasting note quality. That’s not his fault, nor a criticism. The fact is that no one is.

What, exactly, is a bad tasting note? Well, what’s a good tasting note? Take a look at the comments to Jamie’s post. You’ll see accord, widespread agreement, a set of key principles on which any good note must rest, a…

No. Wait a minute. You’ll see nothing of the sort. Some people want standards. Some prefer writing. The fruit-and-veg genre is fairly unpopular, but there’s no clear alternative. Expanding this survey to comments elsewhere, it’s pretty clear that there’s absolutely no concurrence regarding the best possible form of a tasting note.

Huh. Funny, that.

One of the more tiresome assertions about notes is that their primary role is to be correct. Well, what does that mean? The most correct note of all would be a chemical breakdown of the wine, and one would need to be a chemist to utilize such a note. Once one strays from chemistry, one enters the realm of the subjective, and the mere possibility of correctness erodes at a rapid pace.

So how about “useful?” Can’t a note be that? Well, sure. Any note, no matter how good or bad by any individual standard, can be useful to someone. But what defines utility? Wouldn’t the obvious answer be the note that catalyzes the greatest commercial effect vs. its absence? Thus, a Robert Parker note on a Bordeaux would be the most effective note, thus the most useful note, and thus the best note.

I’ll wait while you find someone who thinks that. Still waiting. Oh, you found someone? Their tastes and Robert Parker’s tastes in Bordeaux appear to be in full alignment? What a shock!

OK, so now we might have discovered that the test of a great tasting note is not actually utility, but the extent of its confirmation bias and its epistemological closure. I, person X, have tastes in wine expressed as close to 100% as possible by critic Y. Thus, his or her notes are the best, by definition. Right? But if that’s true, why involve third parties at all? (I understand that the reason is because the critic can taste wines that (and when) the consumer can’t, but we’re discussing tasting notes here.) Because it’s inherently obvious that while critic Y and person X might exist in somewhat rampant agreement with each other, there’s only one note-writer with whom person X will never disagree. That’s right: person X. The “best” notes are one’s own.

In other words, we’ve just discovered the only truism about the utility and correctness of tasting notes: that they’re inherently individual and personal. Once one starts to disseminate notes, one has reduced their utility. One has made them less correct. One has subjected them to criticism not just regarding conclusion, but of form. On and on, until someone will be found who finds a note utterly unredeemable. Perhaps many someones.

To this I say: so what? If you’re writing tasting notes for other people, you’re writing for one of two reasons or you’re wasting your time. The first, and most important, reason to write them is that you wish to write them in the form in which you’ve written them. The second is that you’re being paid to do so. Pretty much any other reason is demonstrable self-delusion.

So why is Jamie’s post so incredibly silly? Because he’s asking for something that doesn’t exist, and he already knows this. There is zero agreement on the form of a good, correct, or useful tasting note. And because he’s now joined the dozens (perhaps hundreds) of tiresome broadsides against the gibberish of jargon as viewed from outside that jargon, which has a long and anti-intellectual history with regard to wine commentary. Except that Jamie’s not outside that jargon, and so he lacks this excuse.

But that’s not the silliest aspect. What really grates is that Jamie knows very well that understanding wine does not come from discerning and then describing which type of fig most represents 12.3% of its aroma. Understanding wine comes from tasting the wine, tasting its context, visiting its birthplace, discussing its origin and purpose, reading about it, wandering amongst its parents (the vineyard), having it with this food or that, and so forth. Are any one, or all, of those things required to understand a wine? No. But they all help. Each one of them illuminates. And it is the job of the writer, rather than the critic, to translate those illuminations.

More relevantly, for any writer it’s important to understand the difference between writing about one liquid in one glass at one moment and writing about everything that has led to that moment. They’re both worthwhile. But one is the path to sensation and temporal pleasure. The other is the path to understanding.

Elephant talk

[windows]Would we be better off without tasting notes? Cory Cartwright thinks so. Over on his excellent blog, saignée, Cory takes up a crusade against tasting notes, calling them “esoteric,” “linguistic blackflips,” and…well, the epithets go on from there. It’s a powerful broadside, and well worth the time to read.

Cory’s not the first to gaze longingly over this horizon. Contrarian importer Joe Dressner has been there before, and Eric Asimov has peeked through these trees at what might otherwise be, and a fair number of very intense wine dorks of my acquaintance have long practiced a quieter form of protest by not issuing their own tasting notes.

Or so they say.

The thing is, I’m going to disagree with Cory. First in a nitpicky, superficial way, and second because despite his seemingly heartfelt promise to “no longer subject [us] to these tasting notes,” by the end of his thoughtful essay he has in fact come right back to promising to continue to subject us to them.

Before too many paragraphs have passed, it becomes clear that the target of Cory’s particular ire is the grocery list note: fruits, vegetables, rocks, some structural check offs…and then, should the writer be so inclined, a rating of some sort. I would be tempted to agree that these notes are the least useful sort, which is why I’m trying not to write them anymore, but I also have a firmly-stated belief that people should write the notes they want to write to which I still hold. And the fact is, whether Cory or I like them, these notes are pretty popular, judging by their ubiquity amongst the most consumed critics. An alternative to them might be more popular, but until a critical mass of the latter exists, there’s no way to know.

So, that micro-nit aside, let’s question the general contention that Cory’s making. A fair number of paragraphs after his solemn promise to eschew tasting notes, this is how he ends his piece (I have done some cosmetic editing; Cory is less enthralled by capitalized pronouns than I am):

So this is the death of any sort of tasting notes on this blog. I will instead try and do better about telling you why I enjoyed what I drank (and hopefully why you should be interested in what I drink) instead of trying to figure out what I drank.

That’s a worthy sentiment, and a strong philosophy. As a goal, it’s going to be harder than Cory thinks. Somewhat ironically, he identifies one key concern earlier in his essay:

Just as I’ll never appreciate cars in the same way as someone who restores ‘57 Chevys, or care for jazz like crate digging fans do, I don’t expect everybody to enjoy wine the same way I do.

So when Cory says that he hopes to communicate “why you should be interested in what I drink,” he’s just reversing this problematic lens: rather than asking readers to figure out just exactly what it is that he likes or how he thinks, he’s now putting himself in a position whereby he must try to figure out what they like and how they think. Since Cory is unlikely to know any single person better than himself, this is already a monumental task. Apply that to the masses of potential readers, each with their own needs and desires, and it seems an unscalable monument.

But whether or not Cory is up to this task isn’t really the issue. Earlier in his essay, he narrowly defines the tasting note as the fruit-salad form identified above

When I say “tasting notes” I mean the shelf talker kind that breaks the wine down into a list of aromas and flavors that I may or may not have detected in a glass of wine. I don’t like writing them, reading them, and I don’t think they are useful in any way.

But that’s an unduly narrow conception of the tasting note, and Cory must certainly know better. We’ve had structural or hierarchical notes, notes-as-points, notes-as-graphic-art, Wine X-style pop culture references, and since Cory and I participate in some of the same wine fora, I know he’s also familiar with the long-form, “walk with the farmer” style of which I and others are particularly enamored. Even my short notes are, increasingly, an attempt to give up the banality of direct organoleptics in favor of a “what it was like to drink the wine” approach (which I detail at some length here), and that style was borrowed from much better practitioners, not invented by me.

Rather than restate my definition of a tasting note, let me just quote myself (edited for brevity and applicability to this post):

A tasting note is an impression frozen in time. It is fleeting and ephemeral. It is one person’s opinion at one particular moment. It is not a communal judgment, and does not represent some Zagat-like conventional wisdom. It is not a poll. It is not “wrong.” It may or may not be an invitation to dialogue. The note itself may be all the dialogue its author intends. Alternatively, the note may instead represent only the author’s dialogue with the wine itself.

And then:

Notes may be structural, as exemplified by the methods taught to candidates for the Master of Wine examination, wherein the components of wine are systematically broken down to aid in analysis and identification. Notes may be organoleptically iterative, in the manner of modern North American wine writing – “laundry lists” of fruits, vegetables, flowers, rocks, etc. – or they may be as austere and ungenerous as the wine they describe. Notes may be metaphorical, comparing the experience of the wine to just about anything in the realm of experience, including anthropomorphism. Notes may be fanciful, reflecting the joy inherent in the beverage. Notes may be contextual, comparing one experience to another or giving the wine an active role in a real world narrative. Notes may be educational or informative, carrying the weight of experience and the power of data collection with every word. Notes may be a ranking and a justification thereof.

So whatever Cory’s going to try next, unless he’s going to try silence, it will – sorry to be the bearer of bad news – still be a tasting note. A better tasting note? A more useful tasting note? A more interesting tasting note? Perhaps, perhaps not…and that’s not just up to Cory, but also to his readers. That said, it’s still an attempt to communicate something about a wine to someone or something external to the taster. That, by definition, is a tasting note.

The tasting note is dead. Long live the tasting note!

The donkey show

[sagrada familia]Commenters who ask good questions are so irritating.

For example, here’s “The Wine Mule” in response to my plea for a little more mystery in our wine:

If the didactic is off limits, and we know that tasting notes are useful only to that portion of the population who experience aroma and flavor the same way we do, what’s left?

First up: I don’t believe that tasting notes are only useful to those with identical sensory and associative tools. I do think that assigning external authority (or worse, objectivity) to tasting notes is the first step on a very slippery slope to nowhere. But as part of a growing body of collaborative communication on the subject of wine, an adjective-ridden fruit salad of collective knowledge and emergent consensus (or, just as frequently, its opposite), I think they have a value that transcends the merely personal.

Second: the didactic is not off-limits, but it cannot define the limits. There’s a lot more to wine than the rote acquisition of knowledge. Even the most rigorous non-university wine education examinations in the world – those required for the Master of Wine and the Master Sommelier – don’t limit themselves to multiple-choice tests, but require both tasting and the proven ability to communicate wine knowledge in something more than bullet point form. (In fact, it turns out that a major reason that many fail the former is that, despite breathtaking knowledge and supreme tasting skills, they cannot do this.) When I ask for more mystery and less Wine Talk for People Too Dumb for Wine for Dummies, I don’t mean that we should abandon the helpful factlet or the mnemonic primer, merely that we’re reducing wine to its least interesting elements. Nothing that’s compelling about wine is told in a fatigued “match the grape to its appellation” rehash, much less the annual “sparkling wines (not from Champagne) for New Year’s Eve” article and its increasingly tiresome brethren.

So when our sterile donkey commenter worries:

It’s true that not long ago I compared a bottle of freisa to Caterina Sforza, and while I may have felt inspired, I also felt a bit ridiculous, because anyone would think I was being both precious and pretentious, and not providing much practical information about the wine.

…I’m moved to ask two questions.

First, who’s the audience? If it’s the sort that will voluntarily read a wine blog with paragraphs and multi-syllabic words, the kind that will understand that Sherry doesn’t mean the stuff from New York, then I suspect that it’s adult and inquisitive enough to satiate its wonder either through independent research, the magic of emailing the author, or via consultation with The Great Oracle of All Knowledge. If the Mule is still worried, and seeks to provide guidance while preserving narrative flow…well, that’s why Gore God Ted Nelson invented the hyperlink.

And second, what’s the alternative? Because it has to be said: to the hypothetical blank-slated reader about which the Mule is worried, I doubt “freisa” is much more evocative than “Caterina Sforza,” and thus the best way to avoid all possible confusion is to mention neither. Shall we never rise above chardonnay and Paula Abdul comparisons in the future, then? I think not, and I doubt the Mule wishes so either.

Finally, his comment finishes with a gentle remonstrance:

And anyway, I’m not sold on the idea that a lot of people really do know that Beaujolais is gamay.

I’m quite sure most potential buyers of Beaujolais don’t know it’s gamay. A good portion of them probably don’t even know it’s from France, much less that it comes in other colors, or that there’s a difference between Nouveau and Chiroubles, or who the “Gang of Four” is, or why they should care about the divergent influences of Jules Chauvet and Georges Dubœuf. But many an article on Beaujolais will slog through some percentage of those answers, thinking it has done something useful for the advancement of wine knowledge. That article will be mistaken. Albeit intriguingly anthropomorphized.

More BWE notes

[jensen]If you like pointillism, all the notes have been posted — one-by-one — to oenoLog, but they’re in more coherent form over on the main site: Alsace & Germany (with apologies for getting those two back together, even temporarily), Bordeaux, and the U.S.A. (California, Oregon, and one Washington interloper).

The Spain truth

Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. Note the usual caveats about speed-tasting in boisterous environments, where mistakes are rampant and palate fatigue is a factor. These are brief impressions, not full examinations; the phraseology reflects these conditions.

Part 4: Spain

Llicorella “Gran Nasard” 2002 Priorat “Mas Saura” (Cataluña) – Beautiful. Rocks fill a gorgeous, plummy, dark berry fruit salad with good acidity. Long and crisp, balanced throughout, and potentially stunning. (2/08)

Llicorella “Gran Nasard” 2003 Priorat “Gran Nasard” (Cataluña) – Juicy black fruit over stones. Dry rocks fill the mouth. Big, balanced, and good; even, perhaps a little bit of fun (in the context of Priorat). (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2006 Terra Alta Blanc (Cataluña) – Drying apple skin tannin, medium-bodied, and crisp. And yet, still not interesting. (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2005 Terra Alta “El Quintà” (Cataluña) – Some obtrusive oak, sticky peach, and flowers. Too thick, and lacking life. (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2004 Terra Alta “Negre” (Cataluña) – Dense blueberry and lots of graphite-tinged structure. Good, but a little short. (2/08)

Ferrer Escoda “Bàrbara Forés” 2002 Terra Alta “Coma d’En Pou” (Cataluña) – Warm oakspice and baked cherries. Just OK. (2/08)

Natur Montsant “Mas Franch” 2004 Monsant Negre (Cataluña) – Licorice and coconut with big blueberry fruit and some bitter syrup. It’s a little like Amaro, but sweeter, with some freshening minerality in the mix. Average. (2/08)

Natur Montsant “Mas Franch” 2004 Montsant “Optim” (Cataluña) – Huge minerality. Long and stony, with dense tannin and some chocolaty bitterness. And yet, it’s a bigger wine than can be supported by its structure. It might turn out OK eventually. (2/08)

Canals Nadal Cava Brut (Cataluña) – Coarse chicken-flavored salt. Really. Clean otherwise, but exceedingly odd. (2/08)

Canals Nadal Cava Brut “Reserva” (Cataluña) – Bigger and more complex, with lemon, light yeastiness, and a pale sweetness. (2/08)

Antoni Canals Nadal Cava Brut Natural (Cataluña) – Makrut lime, lemon, apple, and lots of grassiness. Pretty tasty. (2/08)

Canals Nadal Cava Brut Natural “Gran Reserva” (Cataluña) – Fruity, showing lemon and clean, crisp apple mixed with skins. Long, with a notion of true complexity. (2/08)

Antoni Canals Nadal Cava Brut “cupada selecció” (Cataluña) – Oaky-tasting, and the rest is somewhat muted. Uninteresting. (2/08)

Ron Burgundy

[leaves]Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. Note the usual caveats about speed-tasting in boisterous environments, where mistakes are rampant and palate fatigue is a factor. These are brief impressions, not full examinations; the phraseology reflects these conditions.

Part 5: Burgundy

Latour 2002 Meursault-Perrières “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Candied wood, baked and stale. A gross monstrosity. (2/08)

Jean-Noël Gagnard 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Light wood, cream, mild spice, and sand. Pretty but overly soft. There’s not really all that much to this. (2/08)

Guy Bocard 2002 Meursault-Charmes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Caramelized spice, dill, and lots of wood. Somewhat stale and falling apart. And a little oxidized? There are a few signs. (2/08)

Amiot 2001 Clos de la Roche (Burgundy) – Smoky. Dense with huge lobes of meat. 100% animal. Long-finishing and utterly fascinating. Not for the faint of heart, though. (2/08)

Armand 2000 Pommard Clos des Epeneaux “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Pretty and soft, with cherries and strawberries. Elegant and lithe. Caresses the tongue. (2/08)

Bouchard Père & Fils 1997 Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus (Burgundy) – Big fruit, full of dark cherry and blueberry, but with a drying, short finish. Otherwise, clean and straightforward. (2/08)

Latour 2002 Château Corton Grancey (Burgundy) – Lightly beet-infused. Soft, short, and disappointing. Eh. (2/08)

Domaine de Corcel 2003 Pommard Grand Clos des Epenots “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Dill and nuts. Soft. Very strange in a number of ways, number one being that it’s not tannic. It doesn’t much matter, however, because it’s no good either. (2/08)

d’Angerville 2004 Volnay Taillepieds “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Good, crisp acidity. Roughrider cherries and dirt. Long, somewhat imbalanced towards acidity (but I’m fine with that), and in need of time. (2/08)


[cairanne]Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. Note the usual caveats about speed-tasting in boisterous environments, where mistakes are rampant and palate fatigue is a factor. These are brief impressions, not full examinations; the phraseology reflects these conditions.

Part 2: Rhône Valley (other than Châteauneuf-du-Pape)

( For the previous year’s notes, look here.)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne Blanc “l’Exigence” (Rhône) – Roasted apricots from a can. Skeletal and strange. There’s no meat or skin on these bones. (2/08)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Banana marshmallow, some violet, leafy and floral. Pretty. (2/08)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne Rosé (Rhône) – Fresh raspberry blossoms in sunshine. Clean and precise. Nice. (2/08)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Tavel (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum, bones, and shells. Seems short, but grows with air. Not bad. (2/08)

“Le petit vin d’Avril” Vin de Table (Rhône) – Blueberry, gravel, leafy tobacco. Slightly underripe and tannic, but fair enough for the price. (2/08)

Pierre Usseglio 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Simple, nutty, and clean. Bubblegum-dominated fruit. Medium-bodied. Decent. (2/08)

Boiron “Domaine Nicholas Boiron” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Peppery, burnt fruit. Very full-bodied, but what it’s full of isn’t very good. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Walnut and sour dill. Ick. (2/08)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Burnt bark, light bubblegum, some blackberry. Good fruit, soft and pure, with improvement on the finish, but that initial impression of char is unpleasant. (2/08)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Shoe polish, blueberry, and freshly-stripped bark. Abrupt. (2/08)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Rhône) – Full, lush, and juicy. Dark, smoky fruit. Meat emerges on the finish. Quite good. (2/08)

[tavel]Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne (Rhône) – Big red plum and some juiciness. Crisp for a southern Rhône. Short, though. (2/08)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Massif d’Uchaux “Clos de la Brussière” (Rhône) – Big. Meaty but clean, with plums and blackberries present. Graphite-textured structure. Long and solid, though it sheds a bit of complexity on the finish. Impressive and ageable, though not quite up to its initial promise. (2/08)

Domaine Boisson 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne “l’Exigence” (Rhône) – Some alcohol, but otherwise the noseis tight. The palate, on the other hand, is fairly explosive, with huge, dark fruit, brown earth, tar, and milk chocolate. Dense as hell. The finish is equally massive, though the burn reemerges. Good, but also one to be wary of. (2/08)

Alain Boisson “Domaine Cros de Romet” 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne (Rhône) – A big, chewy herb fest: thyme, rosemary, etc. Very tannic. This will live for a long time on its structure, though whether it will ever show anything interesting is an open question. My guess: it won’t. (2/08)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Lirac (Rhône) – Strawberry and anise. Very, very simple. Light structure, if any, at this point. (2/08)

Lafond 2005 Lirac “La Ferme Romaine” (Rhône) – Balanced. Bubblegum fruit and walnut with darker tones. Chewy. Some heat. Pretty good, nonetheless. (2/08)

Faraud “Domaine Cabassole” 2004 Vacqueyras “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Meat and crushed granite. Dense, tough. Unyielding and not much fun to drink. (2/08)

Stehelin 2005 Gigondas (Rhône) – Big and generous, with meaty, dark cherry fruit. Long and very tannic, but the structure only compliments the wine, which is a top-quality monster. Needs endless time, I think, but it should be a beauty someday. (2/08)

Guigal 2001 Hermitage (Rhône) – Dill and sour fruit. Weird. Good structure, but this is either completely off the map or closed in a very, very strange way. (2/08)

Mom & Pape

[vineyard]Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. Note the usual caveats about speed-tasting in boisterous environments, where mistakes are rampant and palate fatigue is a factor. These are brief impressions, not full examinations; the phraseology reflects these conditions.

Part 1: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

(All wines are red unless otherwise noted. Further, all 2006 reds are barrel, pre-bottling, or pre-release samples. For the previous year’s notes, look here.)

Michel “Le Vieux Donjon” 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Beautiful. Nuts, stones, and spice. Richly fruited. A white-out of flavor. Long, with good acidity. Really excellent. (2/08)

Avril “Clos des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Malted. Twisted, gnarled bones and stones. Higher-toned, showing some anise-heavy licorice. Interesting and complex. (2/08)

Moulin-Tacussel 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Banana skin, papaya, and pineapple. Simple and angular, with a medium-weight finish. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Flat-fronted. Tropical fruit with crisp acidity. Closes quickly despite initial freshness. (2/08)

Pierre Usseglio 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Big and modern. Toughens on the finish. Peanuts and sticky fruit. This cuvée has, for me, turned an unpleasant corner of late. (2/08)

Pierre Usseglio 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée de mon Aïeul” (Rhône) – Spice, blueberries, flowers. Exciting and long. There’s “more” to this wine, and thus it handles its nods towards modernity better than the normale. (2/08)

Michel “Le Vieux Donjon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Gorgeous. Full-throated. Meat and herbs. Very tannic now, but the balance is terrific, and this has massive potential. (2/08)

Moulin-Tacussel 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” (Rhône) – Medium-full, tannic, and juicy. Plummy, with good acidity. Tannic. This is better than usual, and in fact I thought this house did better in 2005 as well; are things changing here? (2/08)

Moulin-Tacussel 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Hommage à Henry Tacussel” (Rhône) – Chocolate, orange peel, and minerality. Thick and tannic. Far too dense to taste now, though based on the preliminary evidence I’m suspicious of the results. (2/08)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Tradition” (Rhône) – Herbed bubblegum. Full and fruity, with a medium-length finish. Mostly balanced, though there’s a snippet of heat late in the game. Good. (2/08)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Big structure. Herbs, plum, lavender, bubblegum. Structured and balanced. Impressive. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Cylindrical. Metallic and a bit harsh, with alcohol showing throughout. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Les Petits Pieds d’Armand” (Rhône) – Peanut butter and jelly on toast. Very juicy fruit. Chocolate-covered cherries. Acid is prominent but well-integrated. Long finish. Upfront and promising, though not very traditional. (2/08)

Olivier Hillaire 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Walnut and sour dill. No good. (2/08)

Lafond “Roc-Epine”2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Balanced. Bubblegum fruit with darker tones, plus walnut and other nuts. Chewy. Some heat on the finish, but a better-than-usual effort from this perennially-underperforming house. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” (Rhône) – Good balance, quite traditional. Herbs in a light brown tone. Fine tannin and acidity. Fun and pure, though not at the top level. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (Rhône) – Pure. Red and pink fruit, bubblegum, with more structure (especially tannin) but less fun. Shaped like a diminuendo symbol. (2/08)

Baron Le Roy de Boisenaumarié “Château Fortia” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve” (Rhône) – A syrah-dominated cuvée. Pepper dust, leather, and blueberry. Full and tannic. Very interesting, though it does stand out amongst grenache-heavy company. (2/08)

[cdp vine]Courtil-Thibaut “Clos des Brusquières” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Peanuts and bubblegum. Oddly synthetic. Very simple. (2/08)

Laget-Royer “Domaine Pontifical” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Lovely nose. Full and spicy. Structured. Under the enticement, however, there’s not a great deal of substance. (2/08)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Tight, over-structured, tough, and short. (2/08)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve Sixtine” (Rhône) – Big and chocolate-infused. Too tannic. Biting chunks of structure. There’s some stuff underneath, I think, but it’s really far too early to tell for sure. Essentially, I think this is over-extracted. (2/08)

Mestre “Domaine de La Côte de l’Ange” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Medium-fruity. Plum, bubblegum, and thyme. Soft and almost pretty, perhaps even verging on fluff. It’s fun, though. (2/08)

Mestre “Domaine de La Côte de l’Ange” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Fuller and more structured than the normale, but still balanced. Some sour peanuts on the finish. (2/08)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Thick and forward. Chocolate, fruit, herbs in the background. Dense and structured, but reasonably balanced. Turns linear on the finish. (2/08)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Quet” (Rhône) – Excellent balance in a warm, spicy, milk chocolate style, which not everyone will or should appreciate. There’s a bit of heat. This is very well done, but it would be difficult to call it CdP. (2/08)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Tintot Spécial Cuvée” (Rhône) – 100% old-vine mourvèdre. Earthy, big and lush. Mouthfilling. Dark and brooding, showing nuts and chocolate. Long and balanced. This has excellent aging potential.

Château La Nerthe 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Dill and huge acidity. A gross perversion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Yuck, yuck, yuck. (2/08)

Coulon “Boisrenard” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Thick with herbs (dominated by lavender and mint). Dense and solid – perhaps overly concentrated – with meat and garrigue ascendant. Good, but it would be better if it took its foot off the accelerator. (2/08)

Murcia, Murcia me

[old vines]A tasting of the wines of Murcia in Southeastern Spain. That means monastrell (mourvèdre), and lots of it. I go into such a tasting with trepidation, because while Spain’s historical precedence with the grape has to be acknowledged, I’ve tasted very few that I’ve liked. Whatever terroir or clonal differences may or may not apply, I’ve always preferred the versions from across the Pyrenées. So I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% syrah. Hot, showing blackberry, licorice, raw coffee bean, and bitter chocolate, with a layering-on of toast and more chocolate on the finish. The finish is dominated by coffee in both bitter/burnt and raw/green forms. Pretty nasty. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla “Selección” (Levant) – 50% monastrell, 40% syrah, 10% tempranillo. Even more charred than the previous bottling. Fuller-bodied, chocolaty, and over-toasted, with a green finish. Lousy. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Syrah (Levant) – 85% syrah, 15% monastrell. Violets and espresso, with a thick, plastic-wrapped and blueberry-flavored coffee finish. Absolutely synthetic-tasting; a horror-show of unfruit™. (10/07)

Pedro Luis Martinez “Alceño” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – From 375 ml, 100% monastrell. Highly concentrated plum, blueberry, and black cherry syrups, with chocolate and a brief shower of herbs. Very, very sweet – not PX level – with a light rancio note to the finish. Anonymous, but reasonably pretty. (10/07)

The only wine I’d even consider here is the Dulce, and even then there are a lot of dessert wines I like more. The rest are…regrettable.

[vineyard]Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Delaín” (Levant) – 70% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 10% syrah. Charred cherry, black and blue fruit – obvious and darkly attractive – but turning into the very definition of “dead fruit” on the palate. Gets increasingly tarry as it airs, with biting tannin. No good. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Monastrell (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% cabernet sauvignon. Green and red bell pepper forced into an arranged marriage with thick blueberry and oak. Very, very dry. At least this has some character, off-putting though it may be. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2004 Jumilla “Denuño” Cabernet Sauvignon (Levant) – 100% cabernet sauvignon. Peppery with hints of tobacco, a healthy dusting of black pepper, and a candied tar finish. Momentary promise is thus destroyed at the conclusion. (10/07)

Finca Omblancas 2003 Jumilla “Omblancas Selección Especial” (Levant) – 85% monastrell, 15% cabernet sauvignon. Roasted walnut, cocoa, earth, and spice with an unpleasant intrusion of dill. There’s chocolate here, too. This is the roundest and fullest wine yet, with some actual generosity – but let’s not overstate; it’s still doing its best to put me off with that dill – and a breezy, leafy finish that inexplicably turns into drinkable goat cheese. What the hell? (10/07)

While nothing here is particularly appealing, these wines are at least bad in recognizable ways. Well, except for that goat cheese…

[monastrell]Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2004 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Freshly-stripped tree bark, moldering fall leaves in a slightly humid breeze, but otherwise fairly hollow on the nose. The palate shows dark, charred soil and pepper dust. The wine starts balanced, but it’s impossible to tell if this continues as the wine simply vanishes on the finish. Poof! It’s gone! (10/07)

Bleda “Divus” 2004 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 95% monastrell, 5% merlot. Polished and fruity, with good, chewy berries a bit lacerated by herbal, weedy notes. There’s a lot of earth, though, and hen-of-the-woods mushroom as well. Good acidity. Long and fairly zingy on the finish. This is actually quite drinkable, though I’d keep a close eye on those weeds. (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2001 Jumilla “Reserva” (Levant) – 90% monastrell, 10% tempranillo. Big, nutty, milk chocolate and sweet tea with a fat underbelly of blackberry and boysenberry, plus a little hint of verbena. Good acidity, slightly green tannin. Decent all around. (10/07)

Bleda “Castello de Jumilla” 2006 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% monastrell. Raw fruit and some pepper (both bell and seed), with huge clods of earth, sour dill, and a spiky, agitated aspect. The finish is puckery. I don’t like it, but it seems honest and forthright. (10/07)

Well, well, well. Actual wines. Who knew? With acidity and everything!

[label]Casa de la Ermita “Monasterio de Santa Ana” 2005 Jumilla Monastrell (Levant) – 100% old-vine monastrell. Served too cold, even were it a crisp white (which it most definitely is not). All I can access are a difficult nose and a palate full of weeds, herbs, and peppers. But the wine is so frigid I can’t stand around, cupping it in my palms, long enough to draw anything else forth, and when I return later for a retaste, the wine is once more bathing in ice. Thus, consider this anti-rave highly conditional. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2006 Jumilla Viognier (Levant) – 100% viognier. God, what a relief it is to taste a white after all these brutal reds. As such, I might be slightly more favorably-inclined towards this wine than it deserves. Anyway, there’s a big, almost lurid quality to the wine, but it nicely dances away from the edge of soup, showing honeysuckle and fruit salad with a dry minerality at its core. Good acidity persists a little too long, watering down the limey finish, which tightens up more than I’d like. Still, I have to admit that given a choice between this and a goopy, oaky, overwrought Condrieu (like Cuilleron), I’d take this in a heartbeat. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla “Crianza” (Levant) – Old-vine monastrell, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. Also served too cold, but this time not so frigid that I’m unable to coax out a few suggestions of character. Shy and somewhat elegant – words you don’t read about monastrell-based wines very often – showing some bitter chocolate, French roast coffee beans, tightly puckery cranberries, and good acidity. The tannin is shaded slightly green. Some nice ideas here, but the wine is incomplete. Again, see above, re: serving temperature, making this yet another conditional note. (10/07)

Casa de la Ermita 2003 Jumilla Petit Verdot (Levant) – 100% petit verdot…and isn’t varietal petit verdot from Jumilla what a jaded wine world has been clamoring for? There’s a prickle of sulfur on the nose, but it blows off fairly quickly, exposing some sort of breakfast cereal with dried blueberries and a dusty, chalky texture. Austere and extremely arid. I haven’t tasted a lot of petit verdot on its own (and what I’ve tasted has almost exclusively come from barrels prior to blending), but this seems to represent the generally incomplete nature of the variety with which I’m slightly familiar. So how do I judge it? As varietal petit verdot, it seems successful…an interesting intellectual exercise, though lacking any sense of fun. As a wine, however, the lack of fun becomes the majority report. I’d like to try this from a less extreme vintage, though I have no idea if it would make a difference; for all I know, it would exacerbate the problems. (10/07)

This is a producer with which I’m familiar, at least to an extent, so it’s interesting to see the wines in a greater regional context. As this is still a fairly young winery (some of the vineyards are six times the age of the estate), there’s obvious room for improvement…though of course, there’s also room for increasingly internationalized distortions. Or possibly both. The future will tell.

[sheep]Casa de las Especias 2006 Jumilla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Organic. Goofy, synthetic strawberry with a tiny tannic bite. Otherwise, soft, short, and indifferent. (10/07)

Casa de las Especias 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% syrah. Organic. Goofy strawberry of a darker hue, mint syrup, and red licorice. A faint suggestion of earth. Turns fairly supple on the finish. Still, it’s mostly too late. (10/07)


Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla Roble (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% tempranillo, 20% syrah. Chocolate-draped orange candy, herbal cough drop, and bitter coffee. There’s structure, but it too is herbal, and the chocolate morphs into a nasty sort of Hershey’s-style “dark chocolate” horror show on the finish. Avoid if you value your palate. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2005 Yecla “Joven” (Levant) – 60% monastrell, 20% merlot, 20% syrah. Dill and other herbs, shoe polish, tin, and awful stewed fruit. Perhaps the stewed fruit comes from a tin can. The metallic scrape of the wine on the palate does not, unfortunately, remove its own taste. Whatever…this is all too much thought for a wine this God-awful. (10/07)

Valle de Salinas 2004 Yecla “Crianza” (Levant) – 40% monastrell, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah. Sour dill, dead cherry fruit syrup, corn starch, and synthetic vanilla. Nasty, nasty, nasty. (10/07)

These are some really horrible wines. I mean really horrible. I can’t even see the road forward here; they’re that bad.

[Yecla cupola]La Purísima “Valcorso” 2006 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Organic. Sour fruit, herbs, freshly-crushed cherries and raspberries with wildflowers. Fuller on the palate than many of these wines. There’s some deadening nastiness on the finish, but the wine is not entirely horrible. High praise, I know. (10/07)

La Purísima 2005 Yecla Monastrell “Barrica” (Levant) – Shy, spicy fruit and dark, chewy red fruit bark. Turns sour (but a good kind of sour) on the finish. Fairly long. Not bad. Not particularly good, but not bad. (10/07)

La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Old Hands” (Levant) – Simple baked fruit, dark berries, dark chocolate, and an underripe, papery finish. 2/3 of a chuggable wine, but the finish renders it useless. (10/07)

La Purísima 2006 Yecla “Organic” (Levant) – As the name suggests, organic. Mixed chocolate powders, freshly-ground nutmeg, hints of other spices, and a sort, squinty finish. What’s the point? This is like drinking a Penzey’s catalog. (10/07)

La Purísima “Trapío” 2004 Yecla Monastrell (Levant) – Sophisticated blueberry, grey earth, mushroom, and mixed meadow flowers form the nose. Lightly vegetal, but in a way that will only offend those with extreme Kermitophobia. Very big and fruity, with huge, juicy blackberries tumbling across the palate, plus a little chocolate. It coalesces into a package with a firm, tannic structure and dancing acidity. Long and balanced. Very good; probably the best red in this entire tasting. (10/07)

La Purísima 2003 “Enesencia” Yecla Monastrell “Dulce” (Levant) – Sweet bell pepper, plum, and tangy candy. Very crisp, and very odd. Is it repellent or fascinating? Quite possibly both. I have no idea what to think of this wine. (10/07)

…and we finish on what, contextually, passes for a high note. Reasonable work is being done at this house, though of course there’s unevenness to spare, and I’m still struggling to understand the paradigm of sweet monastrell.

[grapes]Overall, this is a pretty dismal tasting. I’d happily drink the viognier and the Divus, and I’d probably actually buy the Trapío in a pinch, but everything else ranges from indifferent to torturous. I have no idea what the problem is; that, in general, I wouldn’t like hot-climate monastrell is no surprise given my northern-oriented palate, but there’s a vast gulf between disliking a wine and thinking that it’s horribly made. Which, in regard to far too many bottles in this tasting, I do. In fact, the wines I gravitate towards are those with more fruit, which is the reverse of my usual preference; when bad, these wines seem to show all the signs of underripeness and extractive winemaking (though the latter may not even be necessary) without any of the compensating outsized fruit that usually accompanies such wines. That may just be a function of monastrell, which is no shrinking violet nor fruit bomb of a grape even in the best of circumstances, and certainly doesn’t lack for structure, but I have a hard time believing that better wines aren’t possible.

In any case, let the savage bilingual attacks on my parentage commence.

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