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The wines of Easton/Domaine de la Terre Rouge

by Thor Iverson

[terre rouge vineyards]
A tasting of and dinner with the wines of Bill Easton (Domaine de la Terre Rouge), hosted by Bill Easton himself at Oleana in Cambridge, MA. This was mostly a social event, and so the following notes will be comparatively light on the wine geekery, other than the notes.

I’m the last to arrive, thanks to Oleana’s difficult parking situation, and the rest of the attendees have started with a little Prosecco at the bar. We move to the table while I catch up.

Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Sur Lie” (Veneto) – Tart and papery. Segmented, and the lack of cohesion renders the wine a little flat. Unserious Prosecco is fine, even welcome, but it needs to taste alive. This tastes like it’s attempting some sort of profundity, but if so it’s a failure in that regard. It simply comes across as deadened. (5/07)

Easton 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Sierra Foothills) – Big and aromatic…is that a little creamy leesiness?...with a surplus of ripe gooseberry and some fat to the texture. The cream and its accompanying butter are deceptive, as the wine doesn’t go through malo, but the ripe greenness reasserts itself on the finish. This drinks like sauvignon blanc aromatics wedded to a viognier texture (though without the heat that so often plagues the latter). Interesting, though unmistakably New World.(5/07)

Easton’s oldest viognier site is on decomposed granite with 20-year old vines. The wine is partially fermented in stainless steel (to 10-12 brix), then moved to neutral oak. Full malo and aging on lees follow.

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Viognier (Shenandoah Valley) – There’s a metallic edge here, along with more typical peach skin and apricot. Surprisingly, the acid is prominent…not something one always finds in viognier, especially from the New World. The finish is shy, showing only a little thyme honey. It all seems a little less than it should be, so I try moving the wine to a bigger-bowled glass (not something I’m usually inclined to do, since viognier’s usual flaw is excess alcoholic heat). This unquestionably makes a difference, bringing out more of the floral aspects and seemingly expanding the wine’s overall profile. There’s no obvious alcohol, either. Nicely done. (5/07)

Easton 2003 Zinfandel “Old Vines” (Fiddletown) – 14.5%. Spicy black pepper, thick and structured, with black cherry, pine, cedar and good acidity. It’s very wood-primary right now, but I expect that to absorb (somewhat) with age. Still, the arboreal profile has me slightly concerned about the wine’s overall balance. At the least, it’s a factor worth keeping an eye on. (5/07)

“I look at zinfandel like sangiovese,” says Easton. “My best zinfandels are like Chianti Riserva.”

[label]Easton 2002 “Estate” Zinfandel (Shenandoah Valley) – 15.1%. Bigger, with a more silken texture than the Fiddletown. There’s cedar, dark black pepper, tar and asphalt, with chocolate added on a finish that’s a little more abrupt than I’d like. I think there’s potential here…the wine just needs time...but the finish is worrisome. It’s a little more “worked” than the Fiddletown, and it shows. (5/07)

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Syrah “High Slopes” (Sierra Foothills) – Smoked blackberry on enamel. A bit short. With more air comes more intensity and interest, so this might just need some time to figure itself out. (5/07)

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2003 Syrah Sentinel Oak Pyramid Block (Shenandoah Valley) – Surprisingly hollow at first sip, this very quickly fills out, showing blueberry and blackberry with a sharp bite of tannin. There’s oak, but it’s very nearly overwhelmed by the fullness of the fruit. Very structured, yet juicy and appealing, with a long life ahead. (5/07)

Disclosures: wines and dinner paid for by producer. Photo ©2003 Thor Iverson, labels ©Easton/Terre Rouge.


Copyright © Thor Iverson.