Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – Muted. If it’s TCA, it’s below my threshold, but it’s the most likely explanation; there’s just very, very little here. (8/08)
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – Really enticing in a way I’m not quite sure how to characterize. I’m not the world’s biggest CRB sauvignon fan (though unabashedly a fan of many of their other wines), thinking that the chalky Touraine-ness often overwhelms the sauvignon, making the wine taste like a clumsy, somewhat challenged chenin with less balance. Here, however, it all comes together, with a bright green glow from within that enveloping sheathe of chalk and aspirin, balanced and full-bodied yet with flair and a deft finish. The price might be that it’s not ageable, but that’s just a guess. (6/08)
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – Lightly sweet? “No,” says the importer. OK…rich, then. Fat and oily, even. There’s a foundation of chalk, and melon comes into play as well. It’s pure, a bit heavy, a bit short. A slightly perplexing performance. (1/08)
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2006 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc “No. 2” (Loire) – Surprisingly thick, and strongly suggestive of residual sugar (true? I’m told not) , though the wine is in overall balance. The classic chalkiness is highly present, and the fruit is sunnily white to the point of near-transparency. I think age will do this wine some good, but it’s immensely appealing in a way the CRB sauvignon blanc hasn’t quite been for a while (which is not to demean previous wines’ quality, only their accessibility). (12/07)
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – Dense, palpable chalk in a thickening, sweet-seeming marinade. This is always a triumph of terroir over variety – sauvignon is only represented by a slightly green tinge to the finish…a sharpening and focusing, perhaps, more than an actual grassiness – but there’s more stuffing in this wine than usual, which may be a good or a bad thing depending on one’s tastes; one might legitimately wonder if the wine isn’t slightly overstuffed. There’s not much to dislike, however, and while it’s eminently drinkable and seemingly ready to go (not a typical performance for this wine), it will almost certainly develop more over the medium-short term. (7/07)
Le Clos du Tue-Bœuf 2004 Touraine “Le Guerrerie” (Loire) – This producer’s reds almost always smell slightly corked to me, but those much more experienced with the wines insist that it’s not TCA. In any case, this is gauzy, musty and somewhat overcast, with angry but whip-skinny black fruit snarling and spitting acid and little lashes of bitter tannin at anyone brave enough to approach. It’s a “difficult” wine, but aside from that strange cork-like aroma, I think I like it. Certainly it needs age, in any case. (4/07)
(The original version, with more photos, is here.)
30 April 2006 – Yosemite National Park, California
A relaxing morning picnic in the shadow of El Capitan (no wine; there’ll be plenty later) followed by some lazy strolling around Yosemite Village and a long peruse at the Ansel Adams store and gallery, fill what is another beautiful morning in Yosemite. This is, truly, one of the very few places we’ve been that can match New Zealand for raw natural beauty, and it’s a little difficult to leave.
120 West is closed (rockslides, sinkholes, or some other natural feature of the California paradise), and so we’re forced onto a precipitous mountain crossing on our way out of the park. It’s a beautiful, if nail-biting, road that empties into towns right out of the mythic Old West, then continues into a verdant, ranch-covered stretch of the Central Valley. Modesto is…unfortunate…but the rest is a very pleasant drive.
Sheraton Gateway SFO – A serviceable hotel with a view of the San Mateo Bridge and the San Francisco Bay – which is not, especially from this position, one of the world’s great vistas – but that is, for us, no more than a bed proximate to the airport. We’ve got social plans, and stay no longer than it takes to chill some wine in the minibar.
Redwood City, California
Bill Futornick’s house – Bill’s gatherings feature terrific food and wine, but even better conversation. Of course, precious little of it is printable, which will surprise no one who knows him.
Jacquesson 1996 Champagne Avize “Grand Cru” (Champagne) – Dusty dried yeast and desiccated lemon zest. Clean and gorgeous, with a silky, enticing perfume. Complex and beautiful.
Soucherie 1995 Savennières Clos des Perrières (Loire) – Botrytis? Light wet chalk and fennel pollen mark a dry, but also dried-out wine that seems like it has given itself over to mold. Stick a fork in it, because it’s done.
Baumard 1995 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – White asparagus soup studded with cauliflower. There’s a strong, musty minerality underneath, and something that seems like low-level botrytis, but a grapefruity acidity adds zip to a long, interesting finish. Very good. It’s in no danger of falling apart, but if I had any more, I’d probably drink it soon; the balance of elements seems pretty appealing at this stage.
Edmunds St. John 2003 Viognier Rozet (Paso Robles) – Fat peach syrup, earth and pectin with almonds on the finish. Chunky. I suspect this wine’s greatest flaw is its company at this moment…higher-acid, leaner wines that make this seem heavier than it is.
Amido 2004 Tavel Les Amandines (Rhône) – Smooth orange, rose petal and strawberry leaf. Despite Tavel’s fame, I’m rarely much of a fan; ponderousness and/or obviousness are the flaws shared by most of what I’ve tasted, and then there’s the prevailing alcohol issue with southern French rosés. But none of those problems are in evidence here. Quite nice.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2002 Touraine Gamay (Loire) – Herb-infused earth and white pepper with a powdery texture. This wine reminds me of the same producer’s sauvignon in its dominance of terroir over variety, but it’s a little more varietally recognizable than the sauvignon; the gamay shows through with bright, red-fruited acidity. There’s good aging potential here, and I think the wine would benefit from more of it.
Lafarge 1998 Volnay “Vendanges Sélectionnées” (Burgundy) – Tannic, with red cherry and walnut peeking from beneath the iron maiden. There’s potential, perhaps, but wow is this tight, and I wonder if it will ever fully resolve.
Hudelot-Noellat 1999 Vougeot Les Petits Vougeot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Tight but gorgeous, with crisp balance and a lovely finish of surpassing length. There’s not much “fruit” as such, at least not at the moment, but one can almost feel it lurking in the background. Stay tuned.
Boutin “Château La Roque” 1995 Pic Saint-Loup “Cupa Numismae” (Languedoc) – Horse sweat and mustiness. Tight, tough and very, very hard. I’d hoped that after eleven years, this would be a little more engaging, but no such luck. Is it still closed, or dying? I’m at a loss.
Terrabianca 1990 “Campaccio” (Tuscany) – Red and green bell peppers, thick, dark cherries and herbs. The wood isn’t at all apparent, and this appears to be resolving towards something reminiscent of an urban Saumur-Champigny, though the finish is a bit more acrid than one would like. Still, for a super-anything, it’s fairly unspoofulated.
Clos du Tue-Bœuf 2004 Touraine “Le Buisson Pouilleux” (Loire) – Hazy, naturellement. Soap, lanolin, fennel, raw paper pulp and sand. Highly individualistic, yet highly unappealing except as a sideshow freak. 48 hours of air bring the tiniest bit of sauvignon blanc character up from the hellstew, but there’s an acrid Pine-Sol note as well. I know there are those – many of whose palates I admire – who love this stuff, but I find it actively wretched, maybe even repellent, and unquestionably flawed. (2/07)
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.
Muga 2002 Rioja Reserva “Selección Especial” (Center-North) – Coconut-infused wood. There’s very little else. Just the wood, and the coconut. (9/06)
70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha, 10% mazuelo and graciano. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Jorge Ordoñez. Web: http://www.bodegasmuga.com/.
Domaine de Chevalier 1988 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – A gorgeous nose of cedar, thyme and graphite with little dustings of black cherry and cassis builds to…absolutely nothing. Other than a tart core of acidity, this wine is virtually void of palate or finish. It’s a perplexing thing, but maybe the best option is to smell and dump, rather than drink. (9/06)
65% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 5% cabernet franc. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Wildman. Web: http://www.domainedechevalier.com/.
Fèlsina “Berardenga” 1997 Chianti Classico “Vin Santo” (Tuscany) – Sweet strawberry, lime, mostarda, cider and pomegranate in a wine that, despite its heady richness, comes across as delightfully light and breezy. Yet there’s plenty of seriousness and complexity underneath. What really makes this work, however, is its exquisitely beautiful balance. (9/06)
80% malvasia & trebbiano, 20% sangiovese. Alcohol: 15%. Closure: cork. Importer: Domaine Select. Web: http://www.felsina.it/.
Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine Sauvignon “No. 2” (Loire) – As usual, more Touraine than sauvignon blanc, showing chalky, aspirin-like minerality with wet limestone and flecks of the driest citrus wine. However, there’s a slightly oppressive weight, albeit a flavorless one, that renders everything a little sticky and comes to dominate the finish. I’m unsure about this; it may be legendary, or it may be too much for itself. Time will tell, I guess…or not, because the closure won’t allow reliable aging past two or three years. Still, that might be enough time to tell the tale. (9/06)
Alcohol: 13%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Julien “Château Villerambert Julien” 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Slightly muted raspberry and lead, with a gauze-like texture. I think this may be very mildly corked, but in any case it’s not performing as it should. (9/06)
40% syrah, 30% grenache, 20% carignan, 10% mourvèdre. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Ideal. Web: http://www.villerambert-julien.com/.
Dashe 2002 Zinfandel Big River (Alexander Valley) – Big and slightly fierce, showing thoroughly untamed wild berries – dark and angry – with concentrated blackness somewhere in the realm between grilled meat and tar. There’s spice and structure to spare, and the wine grows more deliciously aromatic with aeration, yet its clenched fists never quite relax. Terrific, balanced, muscular zinfandel still in the hormonal rages of its rebellious youth. (9/06)
Alcohol: 14.9%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.dashecellars.com/.
Ceuso 2004 “Scurati” (Sicily) – Dusty, fire-blackened blackberries, black pepper and asphalt-like rigidity that takes a jarring turn towards the sour on the palate; the acid and the black tannin then combine to dry out the finish. I want to like this unoaked nero d’avola for it’s relatively unspoofulated nature, but I just can’t. It’s as if these grapes have been pushed far past their endurance, only to collapse in exhaustion in the bottle. Proving, I guess, that over-oaking isn’t the only way to ruin nero d’avola. (9/06)
100% nero d’avola. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vias. Web: http://www.ceuso.it/.
Arena 2001 Muscat du Cap Corse (Corsica) – Sap-exuding conifers, crushed pine needles and windswept maquis with gorgeous, crystalline, high-toned minerality in a steady rain of aromatic white flowers. Lovely acidity balances the succulent sweetness here. This is a fantastic, unique vin doux naturel from a grape that all too often renders its vinous products asymptotically indistinguishable. (9/06)
Alcohol: 16%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch.
Koehly 2004 Riesling Saint Hippolyte (Alsace) – Freshly-crushed stones, amidst which are sprouting delicate little alpine flowers; the latter eventually grow in proportion to all else. There’s a very slight hint of spicy sweetness, but juicy acidity brings the wine back to something that tastes no more than barely off-dry. Unfortunately, the finish is nonexistent. Koehly usually does better work than this. Perhaps cork failure or taint of some sort? (9/06)
Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Rosenthal.