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All our rieslings, shattered

A 2004 Sonoma/San Francisco travelogue; part 3

by Thor Iverson

[Hoke Harden]

Hoke girds himself
for the violence to come
14 August 2004 – Glen Ellen, California

Chez Harden – Hoke’s got the furniture reinforced, the carpet put away, and every accessible surface covered with plastic sheeting. But there’s no expecting the unexpected, and I continue my biannual destructive rampage through his property by flinging a bottle of von Simmern riesling to the stone patio. Next time I visit – if there is a next time – I suggest that he tie me to a post and feed me wine through an IV.

Oh, and there’s entirely too much wine. I put off all attempts to converse and dive right in, missing almost all of what I’m told is an excellent spread of food, and barely finishing the last taste just as Theresa drags me out the door many, many hours later. I understand that I also miss a good deal of late-night nudity and Yaniger-marinating, and for this I’m eternally grateful.

Bründlmayer 1985 Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling (Langenlois) – Thick but lemony, with slabs o’ slate and intense acidity. I keep waiting for…well, more…but it never arrives.

Bründlmayer 1996 Brut (Langenlois) – Slurpy celery soup with a long finish of, yes, celery. Tell me there’s not grüner in this. (NB: there isn’t, but geez…)

Baumard 1995 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Rich organic soil and dried chalk; all rocks, all the time, this wine is. Dense but lithe, this is one lovely little bottle.

Machherndl 2003 Riesling Kollmütz von der Steinterrassen “Smaragd” (Wachau) – I search for some way to mark the occasion wherein I can finally type “hh” in a word and not have it be a spelling error. It’s a vain search. Anyhoo, what we have here is Juicy Fruit gum, ripe banana, apple, and creamed orange juice with medium-low acidity. Thick and mouth-coating. I ain’t sure I likes it. No, I ain’t sure I likes it at all, precious.

Telmo Rodriguez “Basa” 2003 Rueda Blanco (Castilla & León) – Slightly tropical fruit, simple and fine. Don’t ask for more – you won’t get it – but there’s nothing wrong here.

Ramonet 1995 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Ruchottes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – A rare treat: high-end white Burgundy in California without Mrs. Yaniger giving all and sundry the evil redeye for desiring a teensy little sip. We’ve got aged melon and candied orange caramel with citrusy acidity and a complex, spicy finish of considerable length. A really, really gorgeous wine. Hey, this chardonnay grape might not be totally useless after all. It’s still no riesling, though.

[Roxi, Stuart Yaniger, Eric Ifune]

Where’d the rest of Stuart go?
Türk 2002 Grüner Veltliner Vom Urgestein (Kremstal) – Crushed mosquitoes, flowery and rich apples, and a slightly tropical note reminiscent of pineapple. I enjoy it, but it’s hard to pry it away from my grüner-adoring wife.

Gray Monk 2003 Riesling (Okanagan Valley) – Big, juicy, and slightly sweet. “Generations of commitment” says their web site. This takes generations? Or commitment? There’s certainly nothing wrong with this wine, but I’m not inspired to hop the next B.C.-bound jet and stock up. Maybe if skiing at Whistler is involved…

Fetzer 2001 “Coro Mendocino” (Mendocino) – My first taste of this vaunted multi-producer regional “concept wine,” albeit from the many-tentacled kahuna of the region. There’s red and purple fruit, big acidity, and a rather tremendous amount of hard tannin. Very, very primary and separated right now, and far too young to evaluate. I wonder how the others taste?

Donnafugata 2003 “Anthìlia” (Sicily) – A blend of ansonica and catarratto. Turned on yet? It’s got clumsy green grass and hot, alcoholic aromatics. Still turned on?

Wimmer-Czerny 2002 Grüner Veltliner Felser Berg “Reserve” (Donauland) – Hot pineapple with ripe and sweet apple, possessive of striking acidity and fine overall intensity. Long, long, long…but still slightly hot. Dial down the temp just a titch, and we’re all good.

Gray “Domaine de l’Hermite” 1983 Hermitage (Rhône) – Fading baked blueberries, slightly burnt; an overaged sun-charred dame still showing the remnants of a beautiful youth underneath hardened wrinkles and scars.

Bonterra 2002 Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat (California) – An attempt at a California version of your basic, inexpensive, un-spoofulated table wine for uncritical everyday quaffing. Naturally, it’s only sold elsewhere; heaven forfend we Americans give up our ridiculous quest for gobs and jam and wood and points at bargain-basement prices. Anyway, this shows lightly floral perfume, big and somewhat sweet tropical fruit, and a decent acidic bite underneath it all. Yes, this is – at long last – the sort of wine I think should be available all over the country, pumped out by the tanker load from vineyards all over hot and fertile California, and opened at every kitchen table and family restaurant in the country. And yet, it’s not. Why not? Because, honestly, we’re very, very foolish people.

[Larry & Bryan]

"We are manly men
We have manly facial hair
Come stroke our beards
No, we don’t bite"
Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “Barbe Rac” (Rhône) – This is a non-vintage wine, but we know it’s old. We know this because it’s dead and decaying, showing stale nuts and dried soy residue with a long finish of empty spice jars. We’re told that Chapoutier made their Braille labels for Ray Charles; perhaps this numberless version is for Harvard students who can’t count.

Ogier 1995 Côte-Rôtie “La Belle Hélène” Côte Rozier “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – It’s hard to abandon one’s self to enjoyment of a wine in which you know Stuart Yaniger’s limbs have macerated for any amount of time. Still, I’ve yet to be embraced by the Belle Hélène cult, or embrace it myself; I just never really warm up to these wines. Perhaps it’s just an issue of age, and in a decade or so I’ll see the light. This bottle, for instance, is ashen and dirty, showing hard leather and very little else…an exceedingly difficult wine with no real redeeming qualities. At its premium over the regular Côte-Rôtie, what exactly is the point?

Charles Melton 2004 “Rose of Virginia” (Barossa Valley) – Massive bubblegum, blueberry, red cherry, and strawberry; gee, do we think there’s grenache in here? A big doofus of a fruit bomb. Virginia needs to go to high school.

Eugenio Collavini 2000 Colli Orientali del Friuli Schiopettino “Turian” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Strawberry and graphite, lighter than any wine I’ve ever tasted that possessed that latter characteristic, and brightened by terrific acidity. Just gorgeous.

Sokol Blosser 2001 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) – Candied strawberry and plum in a light, simple, direct package slightly marred by plastic notes.

Fetzer 1988 Cabernet Sauvignon (California) – Someone’s having a little joke on Mr. Brown-Forman, yes? Well, the joke’s on the other foot, to mix a metaphorical stew with the verbal spoon of righteousness. The nose is beautiful, full of roses and lavender, and the palate is still chock-o’-block with relatively primary strawberry fruit. I’m not saying it’s going to get any better, but it certainly hasn’t crumbled into dried industrial sludge either.

Krug 2002 “Temptation Red” Gumpoldskirchen (Thermenregion) – OK, how many damn wineries named Krug are there, anyway? I think this is the fourth of which I’m aware. And what, exactly, does “temptation” mean to your average Austrian, anyway? Well, it doesn’t much matter, because the wine is gorgeous: cassis and vanilla in a big, rich, lovely package of simultaneous drinkability and potential. Even if it does sound like a bad reality show.

[Thor drinking Boxler]

Boxler lunch
Kreydenweiss 2001 Riesling “Vendange Tardive” Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” (Alsace) – Huge and well-spiced steel crystals with a (pleasant) touch of asphalt on the finish. Just stunning in its utter rejection of fruit of any kind. Great stuff. It rocks. And also, with the rolling…

von Simmern 1998 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Kabinett #14 99 (Rheingau) – Stunning sweet apple, lemon, and rich acidity. Still way too young, but wow!

von Simmern 1998 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Kabinett #15 99 (Rheingau) – Minerals and steel with a bit of petrol and acids set to ultra-dry; wow, double-wow, and perhaps triple-wow!

Boxler 1989 Pinot Gris “Grand Cru” Brand “Sélection de Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Huge spiced pear around a quartz core, darkening almost all the way to red fruit but with a large-scaled purity of almost unbelievable balance. Absolutely heavenly, and while it’s nowhere near the end of its life, it’s singing in full voice right now. So good I wish to upend the bottle and drain the remains…which I proceed to do. Hey, I need a drop after the von Simmern carnage.

Peter Schandl 1995 Ruster Ausbruch (Neusiedlersee) – Apricot jam on dried straw, building in layers of incredibly sweet yet sun-baked deliciousness. Just stunning, with years ahead of it.

Campbell’s Tokay (Rutherglen) – Ultra-sweet and ultra-sticky, showing lush sultanas in a painfully sugary goop. Good, but even non-diabetics have to watch themselves with this sort of thing.

Pieropan 1993 Recioto di Soave (Veneto) – From 375 ml. The best, and the last, of a half-case, showing spiced pear and a very slight oxidation in a rich, yet light medium. Just past mature. I can’t help but think that, though recioto di Soave only “ages” in the theoretical sense, I’ve found I prefer it young, fresh and lively.

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