Leroy 1983 Volnay (Burgundy) – Pretty. Very, very pretty. Showily so. And strikingly youthful; the structure’s resolved, but the fruit is still fairly primary and direct. Maybe boring? I don’t quite know what to make of this, but admittedly my palate is completely exhausted at this point. (7/09)
d’Angerville 1993 Volnay Clos des Ducs (Burgundy) – Earthen, with dark fruit and strappy tannin. Some mature flavors, and some less so…is this a wine in clear need of additional age, or is it showing a slight tannic imbalance that will be exacerbated as time marches on? I’ll leave the debate to those who own some, but despite the chew it’s pretty extraordinary right now. (9/08)
Landanger “La Pousse d’Or” 1999 Volnay En Caillerets “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Way too young for whatever it wants to be. It certainly doesn’t lack muscularity, with a grainy tannin and strong, dark, almost leathery fruit that certainly doesn’t immediately recall Burgundian pinot noir…though later, as acid and brighter notes come into play, some semblance of order is restored. Still, it’s…well, I don’t know. This could go either way, it seems. It’s not what one wants right now, for sure. (4/09)
d’Angerville 1997 Volnay Clos des Ducs (Burgundy) – Complex and beautifully balanced, with a long finish buoyed by good acidity and the character of a deep, fruit-ridden Burgundian soil sample. (6/08)
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)
(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.
Bantlin “Domaine Les Portes” 2004 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Muscat Sec “fin de la nuit” (Roussillon) – Faded flowers and dried fruit fading into an oxidative summer sunset. Yet there’s something intriguing about this wine, which keeps enticing me back for sip after sip, until the liquid’s gone. How’d that happen? (9/06)
Sauzet 1998 Saint-Romain (Burgundy) – Sweet-sour grapefruit with a bit of sweaty acridity, good but slightly disjointed crispness, and a light sheen of mature butter. It gains some crisp, citrusy spice with extended aeration. A pretty good, light, lower-tier white Burgundy at full maturity. (9/06)
d’Angerville 1994 Volnay (Burgundy) – Harshly tannic at first, but this slowly fades, giving way to a nice mélange of well-aged red fruit and crumbled autumn leaves fallen on a mossy ground, with the morning’s frost rising as steam from wet, aromatic earth. This is a really lovely wine, but it requires time to present itself. (9/06)
Trimbach 1989 Gewurztraminer “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – From 375 ml. Not even close to ready, with lychee and peach fruit only mildly spiced (though heavily sweetened), and showing almost none of the expected meat-like characteristics that come with aged versions of this grape. A dining companion notes an emergent bitterness, which is typical for late-harvested gewurztraminer; he dislikes it, while I find it a necessary balancing element in the wine’s sugar-dominated structure. Way, way too young, but potentially very nice. However, if you’re insistent on opening something, the ’89 VT is drinking much better right now. (9/06)
Scott Paul – It’s easy to miss Scott Paul’s brand-spanking new tasting room (and their even less-frequently spanked new winery, still in semi-skeletal form across the street), because it’s sorta tucked between what looks like a grain mill and a bunch of construction vehicles. As a result, we zip right by it the first time, and have to double back…which isn’t really much of a problem in the micro-village of Carlton.
The facility itself is bright but cozy, with the much commented-upon rabbit prominently featured on one wall, and fairly quiet. Most of the winery principals wander through at one point or another – Scott Paul Wright ambles, looking concerned (quite possibly over the state of construction across the road, given the quickly-advancing summer), while winemaker Kelley Fox strides purposefully through the room as if she intends to smash through the front door with her forehead. We don’t bother them, instead settling at a central table and perusing the tasting options.
Most pinot noir producers would not openly invite comparisons to Burgundy. Why that might be would vary from producer to producer, but the most obvious reason is that the wines are usually so different that their proximity will show one or the other in ill light. Not so at Scott Paul, for Wright owns a small, specialized Burgundy importing company, and presents these wines alongside his own. It’s a bold move.
Huber-Verdereau 2004 Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy) – Lemon, apple and grapefruit with a flat, slate-like texture. Crisp and a little chewy on the finish. A nice little chardonnay, with no particular aspirations.
François Gay 2003 Savigny-les-Beaune (Burgundy) – Big, ripe and floral, showing dark plum and medium tannin with a heavy, seemingly alcohol-induced palate weight. A bit thudding. It’s actually not at all a bad wine for the vintage, but it’s really neither my style nor what I look for from a Savigny.
Pascal Bouley 2003 Volnay (Burgundy) – Juicy raspberry sours with a leafy finish. It seems overtly malic (or at least the acidity is slightly out-of-balance on the high side, possibly leaning towards the volatile), with strong, drying tannin. Turns to cran-raspberry juice on the biting, tongue-numbing finish. There’s potential, and fans of this style might find much to like here, but it’s most definitely not for me.
Scott Paul 2004 Pinot Noir “La Paulée” (Willamette Valley) – A selection made in the cellar, assembled from the best lots, and named after one of the bacchanalian wine dinners for which producers in Burgundy are famous. It’s restrained and aromatically repressed at first, but it can be coaxed both with aggressive swirling and retronasal agitation. There’s strawberry and concentrated plum on a foundation of sweet lead, which trends towards the gelatinous but then finishes with the emergence of seeds and a grace note of bitterness. The acid’s flawless, the balance is fine, and the finish is extremely long. A lovely wine in the first throes of its adolescence.
We mention to our tasting room host that we’d be interested in seeing what else from Scott Paul is available for purchase, and she responds by offering to open a second wine for us. This strikes us as kind and generous, though we’re not about to object.
Scott Paul 2004 Pinot Noir “Audrey” (Willamette Valley) – The pinnacle of what’s available in a given year, and again a cellar selection; this time named after Audrey Hepburn. That’s a lot to live up to. And yet, the wine surpasses expectations: beautifully soft and elegant, full of life, and possessed of hidden strengths expressed with delicacy. The nose is pristine, showing red cherry and lavender, followed by the gentlest of explosions on the palate: flowers and light red fruit. The finish is lithe, silky and seductive, with spices intermingling with a fine particulate granite texture, and lingers until the sensation can no longer be separated from the memory. Stunning, world-class pinot noir.