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s p a r k l i n g

Pierre Peters Champagne Le Mesnil sur Oger “Grand Cru” Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne) – Sharp, vivid and highly mineralized. A clean stroke of a very sharp sword slashes the palate with finely-honed metal and only the brightest of sun-reflecting lemon and apple. Yet there’s a firm, cold sort of generosity here, as a stern father loving with discipline rather than hugs This is a wine with something to say. (6/07)

Feuillatte 1996 Champagne Brut Rosé “Cuvée Palmes d’Or” (Champagne) – Mildly but pleasantly oxidized, but otherwise mostly flat, showing old strawberries and dead leaves. Definitely past its best drinking window. (6/07)

Jacquesson 1996 Champagne Avize “Grand Cru” Extra-Brut (Champagne) – Gorgeous fino-reminiscent esters on the nose, with a satiny texture (despite great acidity) and preserved lemon on the finish. This still has a ways to go, but it’s a terrific Champagne. (6/07)

Chartogne-Taillet 1996 Champagne Brut “Fiacre” (Champagne) – Geranium and sand, with funereal white flowers obscuring the nose. Eventually, the palate struggles through, showing tangerine, bleached cherries and a vanilla/marshmallow thickening on the finish. Interesting. (6/07)

Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – Inadvertently aged a year, and the seams are beginning to show; strawberries are turning seedy and slightly stale, and there’s an emergence of volcanic rocks underneath…not in a good, Lacryma Christi sort of fashion – that dries and subdues the fruit. But, overall, it’s still a very summery beverage, and surprisingly deft with all manner of aggressive cuisines. (5/07)

J. Lassalle Champagne Chigny-les-Roses “1er Cru” Brut Rosé “Reserve des Grandes Années” (Champagne) – Extremely floral and very earthy, with cinnamon cap mushroom, cooked apple, and over-matured, baked strawberry dusted with clove. Flecks of metal swim about. This is brooding, long, lush and full, with a slushy froth. Every bit a red wine, despite the pink color and the bubbles, it’s fabulously complex and a solemn joy to drink. (5/07)

Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Blanc de Blancs (Alsace) – Grapefruit rind, apple skin and bright light, focused with laser-like intensity in each bubble. There’s no complexity here, but there’s fine precision. (4/07)

Roger Pouillon Champagne à Mareuil sur Aÿ “1er Cru” Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Overwhelmed by volatile acidity, so that the fresh strawberry fruit that would otherwise dominate turns awkward and clumsy. (3/07)

Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Sharp and ungenerous, with dried lemon extract, apple skin, and a papery texture. (3/07)

Baumard Crémant de Loire “Carte Turquoise” (Loire) – Lemongrass, aspirin and herbal dust. Soft and simple, with a clumsy froth…more of a foam than an actual sparkle. (2/07)

Baumard Crémant de Loire “Carte Corail” (Loire) – Strawberry, lemon and bold anise notes. Deeper and much more interesting than the Turquoise, with some leesiness on the finish. (2/07)

J. Lassalle Champagne Chigny-les-Roses “1er Cru” Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Heavily-yeasted berries, deep and dark, soon give way to a more complete and harmonious mélange of burnished mahogany fruit, bright berry acids, and bakery-scented earth. Absolutely delicious. (1/07)

Roederer Champagne “Brut Premier” (Champagne) – Heavy on the brioche, setting a sort of dark brown mood. Traces of lusty red and orange fruit linger in the background, slightly timid in the presence of such dominant pastry. A good, if particular, Champagne. (1/07)

Bossard-Thuaud Mousseux (Loire) – Seltzer and liquid granite, but only in the presence of food; it’s an airy froth by itself. With a culinary partner, it dances and sings…boisterous sea shanties, pretty soprano arias, even a little jig, or perhaps a frenetic Irish reel. Marvelous, laughter-inducing bubbly. (1/07)

Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut “Tradition” (Champagne) – A soft sea breeze over brioche, with black cherries at the core. There’s great acidity, but a big, aggressive body flashing neon banana leaves dominates all else. The wine grows from softness to sharpness as it finishes. Good, but a little showy. (12/06)

Pierre Moncuit Champagne “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Blancs “Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos” (Champagne) – Lemon curd dust and crisp green apple; incredibly clean at first, it quickly accumulates weight and bread-influenced complexity, yet never sheds its clarity or crispness. Pure palate excitement. (12/06)

Moët & Chandon Champagne Aÿ “Grand Cru” Brut Les Sarments d’Aÿ (Champagne) – 100% pinot noir. Strawberry and orange blossom, very floral and dark red in tone, with a hint of watermelon (perhaps even Jolly Rancher) brought out by the rouged acidity. Fascinating and unique, though not quite as strikingly magical as the pinot meunier version of this triply varietal set. (12/06)

Boulard Champagne Mailly “Grand Cru” Brut (Champagne) – This is an older release, perhaps 1999/2000 or so. Deep, almost animalistic red fruit and black chanterelle aromas with a spicy, bready, brown-toned aura of brooding antagonism. It’s as forcefully flavorful as a fine red Burgundy, stronger-willed than most Champagnes, and seems fully mature. Striking wine. (9/06)

Jean Claude Thévenet Brut Blanc de Blancs (Mâcon) – Soft suggestions of white apricot and gentle chalkiness; pleasing and inoffensive in form. The finish lingers nicely, but this is a very restrained wine. (9/06)

Roederer Champagne “Brut Premier” (Champagne) – Intellectual, earth-driven but satiny stone fruit (minus most the fruit) with a gentle, yet inexorable persistence. Very thoughtful bubbly. (9/06)

Milan Champagne Sec “Grand Cru” Blanc de Blancs “Tendresse” (Champange) – Lightly sweet melon and yellow raspberry, gently oscillating in a dish of pure, sweet sunlight. There are hints of complexing minerality here, but this is really one of the nicer sweet Champagnes I’ve ever tasted. (8/06)

Huet 2000 Vouvray Brut Pétillant (Loire) – Waxy and acidic with the faintest suggestion of bubbles, but otherwise giving up absolutely nothing. This is about as closed as a wine can be. (8/06)

Rodez Champagne Ambonnay “Grand Cru” Brut Blanc de Noirs (Champagne) – Soft strawberry and red cherry. The fruit is concentrated and almost liqueur-like, with sweet tones on the finish, and the overall impression is one of plushness. I’m not sure that’s an admirable quality here. (8/06)

Bottex Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – The usual slightly off-dry raspberry froth, with a slightly bitter and hollow edge that’s definitely not usual for this wine. (8/06)

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – A vivid neon froth of strawberries and raspberry flowers with touches of rose petal jam; incredibly flavorful, but a bit sudsier and more abrupt than previous releases. (7/06)

Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Spritzy and more mineral-driven than usual (mostly chalk, perhaps a bit of gravel), with less exuberant strawberry and a dry, papery finish. I wonder if this bottle might be ever so slightly off. Bad cork? (6/06)

Champalou Vouvray Brut (Loire) – Very, very dry, with scalding desert sand carrying only a memory of faded white flowers. A bit extreme. (5/06)

Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – Drier than usual, with mineral-laden raspberries and a dusty leaf finish. Delicious, but a little different. (5/06)

Moncontour Vouvray Brut (Loire) – Waxed chalk and the sap from fresh white spring flowers, with a slightly aggressive froth. Tasty, if fairly direct and a little over-weighted. (5/06)

Aubry Champagne Rosé Brut (Champagne) – Soft but vivid strawberry and raspberry with a deep, throbbing undertone of mushroomy earth; much of the complexity of more aged Champagne is here, but paired with the lovely, elegant fruit of a young rosé. This is absolutely gorgeous. (5/06)

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. (4/06)

Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” (Ain) – Strawberry Kool-Aid for adults, frothier and more sudsy than usual, with a fine particulate texture churning away into the ether. Fun, fun stuff, though not quite as fun as it usually is. Too much froth, not enough pretty pink fruit? (4/06)

F. Schwach Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace) – Simple, dry and inoffensive. (3/06)

Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr “Calixte” Crémant d’Alsace Brut (Alsace) – Grapefruit and geranium with honeydew rind. There’s an impression of sweetness and a good deal of wetness, but what there isn’t a lot of is tingly fizz. this comes off more like a still than a sparkling wine, and to its probable benefit. Still, it’s pretty basic as such things go. (3/06)

Muré Crémant d’Alsace Brut (Alsace) – Balanced and medium ripe, showing apples and light cream. This is one of the better of the basic crémants from Alsace, and previous vintages have proven that the upper-level bottlings from Muré (not, to my knowledge, available in the States) are even better. (1/06)

Charles Heidsieck 1996 Champagne Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Funky and very difficult, with some very advanced sweaty yeast notes coupled with tart red cherry and a somewhat indolent effervescence. It might just need more time. (12/05)

Bollinger Champagne Brut “Special Cuvée” (Champagne) – Two bottles tasted, with fairly consistent notes. Smoldering fall leaves and roasted cherry skins with fat peach and spice jar aromas and a thick texture offset by smooth pétillance. This is one of those rare NVs that actually needs age to come together; it’s a little hedonistic right now…almost slutty, in fact…and could use a little more refinement. That will come in time. (12/05)

Roederer Champagne Brut “Premier” (Champagne) – Full-bodied and red-fruited, though with a significant offset of ripe and sweet lemon, showing less assertive but cleaner and more focused than the Bollinger. (12/05)

Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut Rosé (Champagne) – Gorgeous, silky-creamy preserved apple and black fruit with yeasty complexity and pleasant minerality, both of which build and roll through the midpalate and finish. Beautiful Champagne in motion. (12/05)

Alain Guillot Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs (Burgundy) – Simpler and more direct, showing a character that’s either off-dry, botrytized, or possibly both (though I suppose it could also be an excess of leesiness), with straightforward grapefruit and green apple characteristics. (12/05)

Zusslin Crémant d’Alsace Brut “Prestige” (Alsace) – Tight and unyielding, showing the barest hints of tart fruit and a featureless grey wall of industrial steel. (12/05)

Mumm NV Champagne Crémant de Cramant Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Of indeterminate age, but quite obviously older. Smells like a Dairy Queen chocolate shake, though there’s also a malted element to it and perhaps something more custardy from the Ocean City boardwalk would be a more appropriate descriptor. On the palate, there’s some bitter lemon and stingingly tart apple to balance things out, but the overall impression is of a sugary, confected ball of barely-bubbly strangeness. (12/05)

Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Overly-toasted and leesy, with some timid malic acid hanging out in the background. Too much winemaking applied to too little fruit. (12/05)

Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Still very toasty and leesy, though with more dark, red-grape fruit and a slightly more vivid finish. But I remain unconvinced by the quality of the grapes in this wine. (12/05)

Bollinger 1992 Champagne Brut “Grande Année” (Champagne) – Very full-bodied (no surprise there), with biscuits, burnt peach skin and baked orange supported by big acid. I like it, but it’s either in an odd stage or not my favorite vintage Bolly, because I don’t love it. (11/05)

Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Very, very yeasty and bready, with little else to recommend it. Tastes old before its time, but without any of the additional complexity one might wish. Heat-damaged? Possibly, but none of the other signs are there. (11/05)

Pierre Morlet Champagne Brut “Grande Réserve” Aveney-Val-d’Or “1er Cru” (Champagne) – Very leesy – too much so – with rotten geranium, big lemon zing, and overripe apple. (4/05)

Pierre Morlet 1997 Champagne Brut “Millesime” Aveney-Val-d’Or “1er Cru” (Champagne) – Mint, burning paper, grapefruit and herbed apple; a more complex, gentler wine than the Grande Réserve, but not lacking in somewhat intrusive (for Champagne!) acid and still a bit weird. (4/05)

Vranken 1989 Champagne “Demoiselles Brut” (Champagne) – Tart, showing green apple, lime, and grapefruit with a fading, sweaty complexity that really only emerges on the finish. I’m not particularly enamored of this wine. (8/04)

w h i t e

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)

A&P de Villaine 2005 Bouzeron (Burgundy) – Very restrained, requiring much teasing and patient waiting for the emergence of much of anything. When it finally does, there’s a very soft, barely-audible melon tone with the tiniest bit of balancing acidity. It grows and expands a bit on the finish, with almonds predominating, but there’s just not much here. Mildly corked? Three days later, there’s no sign. (6/07)

Pascal Cotat 2002 Sancerre La Grande Côte (Sancerre) – Perfumed hazelnuts and anise with molten quartz seething down the sides and then rising up again through the core. Very insistent, with strong acidity and a long finish. Gorgeous. (6/07)

Château Monbousquet 2003 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – Big, thick fruit syrup and butter. No structure at all. Blech. (6/07)

Trimbach 1995 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – 375 ml. This bottle’s off, showing flat, waxy oxidation and few of the qualities that make CSH special. (6/07)

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – Intense, sun-baked varietal topnotes of peach and lychee lead to deeper, spicier, more mineralized strata within. This is big and intense, but it’s also structured, and will age very nicely. Right now, it’s still in a fine, open, youthful state, though bottles here and there are starting to close. Soonish, it’ll need a half-dozen years – at least – to show its stuff. (6/07)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Structured, pure, and flavorful, with all the classic gewürztraminer notes paired with fine acidity and a pointed acidic thrust. Delicious. (6/07)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2005 Graves (Bordeaux) – Whippy green and yellow leaves around bright, ripe lemon and grapefruit, plus a foamy seashore salinity that froths over the just-barely-sufficient structure. This is a little on the ripe side, but it’s a fine effort nonetheless. (6/07)

Leflaive 2004 Puligny-Montrachet (Burgundy) – Corked. (6/07)

Boxler 2002 Edelzwicker “Réserve” (Alsace) – Sundried tomato and minerals with a transparent coal character that softens to something sweaty on the finish. It’s big and slightly clumsy, but again that could be the context; the acid’s fine and the weight much more impressive for a blend of this type. Still, this is the lowest end of Boxler’s range, and there’s a reason. (6/07)

Trimbach 1996 Pinot Gris “Hommage de Georgette Trimbach” (Alsace) – Molten blended metals, pear juice and huge acidity with a finish that recedes back to purely metallic firmness despite the midpalate crescendo of residual sugar. Contrary to some recent reports from friends, I don’t think this is anywhere near maturity, as it still seems more primary than developed; for example, spice hasn’t really entered the picture as yes. But the structure is as shockingly brilliant as it has always been, and I still expect great things down the road. (6/07)

Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Fully-knit, showing light mineral spice, pear skin and good acidity underneath a thin but dense layer of weight. This is probably peaking right now; Alsace in précis. (6/07)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Sharply-delineated and strong. A structure of girders – iron and steel – around which are wrapped ripe but flawlessly balanced metallic apples. Brilliant. (6/07)

Trimbach 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Lithe dried lychee, peach skin and bitter cashew oil with a firm, crisp underbelly. Were this not gewürztraminer, it could almost be labeled delicate. Finely poised and balanced, with the apparent ability to age…though I don’t know how much benefit there will ultimately be. (6/07)

Fieuzal 1997 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Smoked crystals and gentle grey earth with old grapefruit. Extremely dry, balanced, and more pleasurable than this note might make it sound. (5/07)

Overnoy 1998 Arbois Pupillin (Jura) – Served blind (by me), with guesses all over the map. Lightly cloudy, with brett, sulfur and some Pine-Sol, big acidity and an acrid backwash. At least, it’s that way at first. With some air, it cleans ups a bit, showing lemon rind and a sharp, zingy, almost pétillant character. The finish, however, is marshmallowy. I have no idea what to make of this wine. It’s simultaneously appealing and repellent. (5/07)

Guillemot-Michel 1998 Mâcon-Clessé (Mâcon) – Served blind (by me), with confused guesses. This initially appears to have great balance, with a big, juicy arrival of tangerine and orange rind, plus complexing skin bitterness on the finish. However, it quickly turns angular and ungenerous. Closed? Dying? Disappointing? The latter, for sure. (5/07)

Moncontour 1993 Vouvray Demi-Sec (Loire) – Old wax and mild oxidation…at first. This really needs air, after some of which the midpalate fattens, showing large-scaled dried pineapple and papaya. Underneath is a faded riverbed of rocks and wet chalk. The texture is downy, and though there’s both a very slight touch of softening sweetness and a lot of acid, this shows signs of an early end to its life. Which, because it’s Vouvray, could be anytime over the next two decades. (5/07)

Trimbach 1995 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune (Alsace) – After aggressive decanting and an hour or so warming and aerating in both decanter and glass, this is only just barely getting off the ground. Not unexpected. What’s discernable: oyster shells collected at the base of a hypercube; all slashing angles and sharp acidity shattering the boundaries of dimension. Grapefruit rind, mineral soda – and eventually, with enough air, watermelon and molten steel – provide the core of a dry, dense, absolutely stunning wine that somehow manages to be full-bodied while wrapped up tighter than a prisoner; it’s simultaneously sharp, delicate, massive and light. The finish seems endless. Intense precision in a glass, this is a wine with amplitude. (5/07)

Frick 2004 Riesling Bihl (Alsace) – Extremely austere, with a dusty, wind-etched aroma. There’s every indication of lightness, but the wine carries significant weight and presence…however, that presence is somewhat void, like a hollow chamber. Call it dark matter: a density of nothing. The finish is dry and parched. (5/07)

Fèvre 2005 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre “1er Cru” (Chablis) – Piercing yet supple, with ginger-spiced complexity and a firm, balanced core of acid, light citrus pith, and green mango. Deftly oaked, and really, really nice. (5/07)

Domaine du Tariquet 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Ugni Blanc/Colombard (Southwest France) – The general suggestion is “basic white wine,” with the clean, vague fruit that resides somewhere between dried citrus and faded apple, buoyed by acidity. But there’s a little more here…a nuttiness and aromatic leaf grace note that add interest and backpalate development. Nice. (5/07)

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 1993 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Dark bronze. Stunningly creamy and concentrated. Cinnamon and nutmeg-sprinkled blood oranges, tarragon and lavender honey. It feels almost sugary, but it’s not; instead, the utterly gorgeous smoothness turns to enveloping velvet, which then softly fades away. Insistent despite its initial apparent feebleness, it nevertheless needs to be consumed soonish.. Truth be told, it’s not all that far removed from a fine oloroso, once you subtract the alcohol. (5/07)

J&C Binner 2002 Riesling Kaefferkopf (Alsace) – I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted a dry riesling of such overwhelming density that still manages to achieve balance and harmony. Usually, a wine with this much extract is heavy and clumsy…or searingly alcoholic…but here everything’s in proportion. Only the most careful analysis will confirm a guess as to the variety (the clues are the vivid and ripe malic acidity, plus a certain persistence of acid-lifted structure on the finish), as this wine is very much given over to its terroir, which is revealed in a fine particulate mineral-salt core surrounded by delicate layers of dried pear and white spice. In the end, however, it is the density and concentration that win the day. This is a terrific wine with the potential for truly epic ageability. (5/07)

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Cuvée Eden” “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – This wine is deceptive. It begins with gentleness and insubstantiality, teasing with hints of broken-shell seashore wind. There’s a sudden expansion, wherein sun-blanched lemons and almond whitemeats rush to the fore, bringing with them a thick, rocky brine. Then, a retreat…leaving firm, palate-drying structure and an almost shockingly persistent finish. Obviously, this is too young, but even in its first years, the quality and complexity are apparent. (5/07)

Producteurs Plaimont “Les Vignes Retrouvées” 2004 Côtes de Saint-Mont (Southwest France) – Dry earth, peanut and old topaz fruit. The acidity is decent, but what stands out about this wine is its thoroughly uncomplicated, easy-going rusticity. A fine value, as always. (4/07)

Brun “Terres Dorées” 2005 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Sun-browned stone fruit, drying apricot skin and complexing Provençal gravel, with the throb of energy just beneath the surface. Finely formed, but not too refined. (4/07)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Strong and balanced. Transparent molten steel and crisp, ripe apples cascading down a waterfall to a rocky end. Long and intense, with absolute clarity. I’ve said it before: the best yellow-label riesling in years. (4/07)

Kientzler 2001 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve Particulière” (Alsace) – Extremely dry in the house style, with a flowing river of molten metal coursing over mineral-salted pear dust sifted from a grinder. Long and powerfully intense; those that mistake sugar or alcohol for power should be given this as an object lesson. (3/07)

Laurent Barth 2004 Marckrain (Alsace) – Spicy banana leaf and skin, with a thick pear forepalate, then acid and raw metal emerging on the finish. However, the wine’s on the abrupt side, and there’s the general muddling that is so endemic to blends in Alsace, a mixing and shading of varietal character that is rarely to the wine’s credit. (3/07)

Cave de Saumur 2005 Saumur Lieut-dit Les Pouches (Loire) – Slightly spritzy, showing limestone, apple and lime with a light grace note of volatile acidity. The finish is crisp. It’s a simple wine with good balance, and it’s not trying to be anything more than that. (3/07)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2002 Graves (Bordeaux) – Verbena, fennel fronds, powdery grey earth and graphite with intense gooseberry and grapefruit rind. Crisp and sharp, with the edges retracted but unfiled. This is in a terrific place right now, though it certainly could age a while longer; there’s all the primary razor-edge fruit, but some nicely-developing baritone complexities as well. (3/07)

Trimbach 2003 Riesling (Alsace) – Big, in-your-face riesling characteristics of ripe but tart apple and wet iron that fade into nothingness at a rather shocking pace. Vintage victim #2461. (3/07)

Thomas-Labaille 2005 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés (Loire) – As solid a young effort as I’ve tasted here, but showing its hand much more easily than in the past. Grey, dusty earth and freshly-smelted aluminum vie with sculpted grass and drying citrus skins for prominence, all enveloped by a firm, masculine structure that refuses to reveal weakness despite a lingering finish. Really, really good, though I wonder if the approachability means that it will have a shorter lifespan than normal. (My instincts are that it will be just fine.) (3/07)

Albrecht 2004 Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Balthazar” (Alsace) – Intense, clean peach and apricot crispness with spice emerging on the midpalate, and a pure core of drenched stoniness. There’s a real force here that doesn’t come from alcohol nor sugar, and that intensity carries through to a nice finish (which, admittedly, seems a little more off-dry than before). I suspect the usual auxerrois component is responsible for the presence, but it hasn’t led the wine to a sticky or heavy place, just given it weight. Nicely done. (3/07)

Sipp Mack 2000 Riesling Rosacker (Alsace) – Classic Rosacker, showing inexorable sea salt-infused liquid steel, and a striking, tongue-dampening density. It’s a little thicker than usual due to the vintage, perhaps, and there’s a mildly softening sweetness, but there’s no lack of acidity or balance. I’d say it’s fully mature, though in no danger of falling apart anytime soon; it should have a nice long plateau. Impressive. (3/07)

Blanck 2002 Gewurztraminer Altenbourg (Alsace) – Completely closed, to the point where it almost seems corked. At least an hour of air (decanting a gewurztraminer!) is necessary to bring it out, but it still doesn’t show the full spectrum of goodness that it carried in its youth. There’s a dry minerality underneath a juicy, pineapple and peach juice…thick but not sticky, despite a very mild amount of sweetness…and this minerality, along with almost surprising acidity, really comes to the fore on the finish. It’s a very good wine in resentful stasis, and needs some time to re-emerge. Five years, at least. (3/07)

Trimbach 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – This is the finest yellow-label riesling from Trimbach since the majestic 1998. There’s a striking, firm core of molten iron minerality around which are wrapped lashes of crisp apple. This wine throbs with intensity. (3/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 2003 Côtes du Jura Chardonnay “à la Reine” (Jura) – Pure white and grey rocks with salt, showing bigger but unidentifiable fruit in the forepalate. This is a vin de terroir much more than it is a chardonnay. (2/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 2000 Côtes du Jura Blanc (Jura) – Chardonnay and savagnin. Hazelnut and golden raisin with a peanut vinegar note. It sounds bizarre, but it’s a frankly delicious wine, complex and long. (2/07)

Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (Rhône) – Very shy but clean, showing stone fruit and cement. Too light, despite the road-building material. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2006 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Flowers and freshly-cut apricot and peach. Pretty. There’s something so appealing about fresh, fruity and young white Rhônes. It’s only later that they become controversial. (2/07)

Guigal 2005 Condrieu (Rhône) – Floral (of course), in that intensely aromatic way that makes partisans and enemies in equal measure. Honey-drizzled nuts (though the wine is quite dry), spice, and a lightly drying skin tone. Nice. (2/07)

Guigal 2001 Ermitage (Hermitage) Blanc “Ex Voto” (Rhône) – One of the single most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth (other than bacteriological disasters), with the nastiest possible raw wood and dill comprising the pathetic whole of this dreck. This is horrid. This is absolute crap. This is a macabre parody of liquid evil. This is an abomination against good taste. This wine should be destroyed for the good of the planet. I didn’t care for it. (2/07)

Moulin-Tacussel 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Balanced stone fruit (apricot & peach) with pineapple, melon and a clean finish. Excellent in a fruit-dominated style. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Slightly skunky, showing sour banana and slightly rotten pineapple. A very, very strange wine. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Fresh fruit salad (mostly melon) drizzled with honey. Very pretty. (2/07)

Luneau-Papin 2002 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Terroir de Schistes” Clos des Noëlles “Semper Excelsior” (Loire) – All rocks and seashells, with a piercing gaze and stunning poise. Absolutely beautiful. More, please. (2/07)

Baumard 2002 Savennières (Loire) – Big white asparagus and sea salt with chalky minerality, then slate, then molten steel with…this sounds strange…a dry, watery grip. The finish brings out more asparagus alongside ripe grapefruit. There’s more future than present here. (2/07)

Baumard 2001 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Tight, crystalline, and hollow. The finish is a long tube of chalked iron and leafy aluminum. Very disappointing. (2/07)

F. Cotat 2005 Sancerre “Les Culs de Beaujeu” (Loire) – Sulfur and quartz, with an intense, almost tingly palate. Fine and precise, with very good balance and a long finish. It’s very young, however. (2/07)

Joly 2004 Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Loire) – Wax, chalk and slate with an intense, smoky note that veers towards creosote, then writhes back from the precipice, eventually to be overcome by a patina of ultra-flavorful pâte brisée (that’s pastry dough for the unpretentious among us). A skin-like note adds a tannic accent to the finish. This is really nicely done, with a good future. (2/07)

Huet 2002 Vouvray Le Mont “Demi-Sec” (Loire) – Stunning balance – just absolutely breathtaking, and perhaps among the finest I’ve ever experienced – between crisp apple, honeydew melon, chalk-dusted wax, and fine acidity. Piercing, with intensity and clarity, and a wine that cannot help but gain one’s full attention. Wow. Simply: wow. (2/07)

Sauzet 1998 Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts (Burgundy) – Waxy and salty, with loam, peat, and bitter melon. Wan and disappointing. There’s some positivity from others, but this just isn’t for me. Thankfully, it’s my very last bottle of white Burgundy not from Chablis or the Mâcon, so I can now leave the wines to those who covet them. Chardonnay from the Côte d’Or is something I can occasionally appreciate, but almost never enjoy. (2/07)

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)

Rijckaert 2002 Pouilly-Fuissé En Bulands “Vieilles Vignes” (Burgundy) – Creamy old wood with melon and stone, followed by some deeper bronze notes. Good, but professionally done to the point of being slick. (2/07)

Thomas-Labaille 2005 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés “Cuvée Buster” (Loire) – Strong, silty minerality with grass and hay, softened by light residual sugar. The gorgeous texture – like a sheet of creamed granite – doesn’t quite make up for a general lifelessness. Perhaps the wine’s just youthfully indecisive, because given the length and quality of the finish there certainly could be an upside here. (2/07)

Gautier 2005 Vouvray Sec (Loire) – Chalk, wax, aspirin, limestone and lime rind. Fairly simple, basic Vouvray with all the components intact. I’d prefer a little more crispness, and definitely more persistence, but there’s certainly nothing actively wrong with this wine. (2/07)

Ostertag 2004 Sylvaner “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Very intense, moving past the usual dilute tomato flavors into something approximated steel-infused celery with hints of fennel. There are some tart citrus rind elements as well. In truth, the mineral component of this wine dominates all else, to its benefit, but those in search of simplistic “fruit” will be sorely disappointed. Unlike many of Ostertag’s wines, this is nicely delineated, but also like many of Ostertag’s wines it’s a bit monotonous; its early appeal is just about all there ever is. Then again, it’s not wise to expect too much from Alsatian sylvaner…and this is definitely one of the better ones. (2/07)

Trimbach 1998 Riesling (Alsace) – This tastes like erosion. Bare-faced iron and gravel in a desert wind with all the softening elements stripped away, and only the most desiccated residue of old-riesling creaminess lingering in the deep background. Fully mature. (2/07)

Barmès Buecher 1997 Riesling Leimenthal (Alsace) – Creamy and mildly sweet, with molten aluminum and fragrant, almost lurid fresh lilies floating on top. I’d say this is fully mature. It’s a little softer around the edges than one might like (blame the vintage), but it’s still a very nice example of the variety and site. (2/07)

La Préceptorie “Les Terres Nouvelles” 2005 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc “écrits de lumière” (Roussillon) – Silky, sun-drenched melon with a seductive, almost dancing texture, grey-white earth and a lovely, feminine balance. This wine is content to be a pleasant background, but is fully capable of being the center of attention as well. Really, really good. (2/07)

Castillon & Fils “Château l’Ermitage” 2005 Costières de Nîmes Blanc (Rhône) – A fresh, bouncy puppy wine, licking your face and generally ecstatic at your presence. There’s bright yellow fruit here with a very slight thickening – perhaps something in the nut oil family – and a good, clean, crisp-for-white-Rhône finish. Good wine, cheap. (1/07)

Texier 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème Roussanne (Rhône) – Spiced canned pear – freshly canned, not some ancient supermarket relic – and hazelnut oil with cracked clay desiccating in the sun. It appears fat, and yet somehow the weight seems more a matter of bulky clothing than blowsy opulence; there’s a honed quality that survives despite a much lower acidity than the majority of the whites I drink. Perhaps it’s higher than normal for roussanne due to the Brézème terroir? Well, whatever the case, it’s a delicious wine. (1/07)

Cartier “mas de gourgonnier” 2005 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Blanc (Provence) – Golden fields of grass in a long-remembered countryside, with grandma and grandpa at the front door offering you a glass of lemonade and a warm hug. Rural, golden-tinged raisin and almond oil with lightening acidity and a fresh, smiling, friendly appeal that goes far beyond its organoleptic qualities (which are not inconsiderable). Soul-embracing wine. Not “great.” But perfectly good. (1/07)

JP Balland 2001 Sancerre (Loire) – Mature, showing grass and crystallized limestone aromas and a pleasant, medium-high acid structure. This sits in the glass all shy and delicate, but in response to food it wrestles and amplifies until it’s quite a substantial beverage. Drink up, for sure, but this is a fine middle-of-the-road Sancerre in the prime of its adulthood. (12/06)

JP Balland 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Sludgy, thick gooseberry and saccharine (not to imply the wine’s sweet; it’s a textural thing). The flavors are there, but nothing else that differentiates wine from de-acidified fruit juice is, and in the glass it just sits there, overweight and lifeless. This is the very definition of a “dead fruit” wine. (12/06)

Sparr 2005 Riesling (Alsace) – Fairly classic, with steely minerality underneath crisp apples shot through with metallic shards. There’s a very light bit of sweetness to the midpalate, but the finish is balanced and structured enough to handle it. Good, bargain riesling in the stronger Alsace style. (1/07)

Zusslin 2004 Chasselas “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Thin, spiced water being pushed through a micropore filter. What aromas there are ooze out, rather than burst forth, and while there’s a nice metallic edge, the whole thing is a rather big letdown. It’s not indifferent – which far too much chasselas is – it’s just not very good. (1/07)

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Flat and moderately oxidized at first, with cashews, roasted spices and toasted white and green peppercorns emerging. Then: shiitake mushrooms. The finish is monotone and as flat as the nose. It’s like a sun-baked, dry oloroso without the extra character. And yet, somehow, it’s mildly appealing. (12/06)

Schoffit 2002 Chasselas “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Pine needles and zingy green grapes. A bit short and low-acid, nonetheless. But there’s fine clarity, which is not always something one finds from Schoffit chasselas. (12/06)

Sparr 1997 Pinot Gris Brand (Alsace) – Weird nose…rubber and stale metal girders. But then normalcy returns, with sweet Asian pear laden with spice. Lightly sweet dandelion syrup dances on the finish. This shows many of the signs of a wine that is on the precipice of complete disintegration, so drink up. (12/06)

Kientzler 2001 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve Particulière” (Alsace) – This domaine is building a reputation as one of the most reliable dry wine producers in Alsace, perhaps second only to their near-neighbors at Trimbach. Here, for example, is a pinot gris with acidity, nerve and metallic-edged sharp pear that long-time drinkers might remember as more of the norm than the exception; it’s got the structure to age, and the stuffing is actual dry extract rather than sultry pear syrup. Finely poised and eminently drinkable. Pinot gris is probably the least of the “noble” grapes of Alsace (and often less interesting than the region’s ubiquitous pinot blanc/auxerrois blends), yet this wine demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be. (12/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Balanced but closed, with firm acidity and a core of molten aluminum surrounded by peach pit, cashew, pork rind and bitter lychee. Structured and pure, with any residual sugar dominated by other elements, and due for a big comeback in a few years. (12/06)

Trimbach 2003 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – It looks like gewürztraminer. It smells like gewürztraminer (albeit through gauze). It tastes like gewürztraminer paste. Another victim of 2003. (12/06)

F. Engel 2002 Pinot Gris “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Spiced, mineral-infused pear – the classic and highly appealing profile of Alsatian pinot gris – with good acidity and a candied hazelnut finish. Very tasty. I don’t think age will hurt this wine, but I think what’s good about it now is more worthwhile that what will be good about it in a half-dozen years. Anyway, that’s my preference. (12/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Auxerrois Moenchreben de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Wind-blown spice with crystallized peach, vague mixed vegetable notes (perhaps mostly carrots?), and a sweet fatness only slightly mitigated by acidity. It’s very appealing, but in a slobbering, affectionate dog sort of way. (12/06)

Zinck 2001 Gewurztraminer Pfersigberg “Grand Cru” (Alsace) – There’s a piercing quality to this producer’s Pfersigbergs that doesn’t block one bit of gewurztraminer’s pork-bottomed hedonism; it’s partially good, strong acidity, but also a slicing, diamond-sharpened minerality. This was very good young, but it’s getting better, and the best years of all are unquestionably ahead of it. (12/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Stone fruit jerky, tending towards slight bitterness and showing less acidity than one might prefer. It’s in a good place right now, riding a line between primary fruit and mature gewurztraminery characteristics, and the lack of acid means it probably won’t continue to develop in salutary ways. So drink up. (12/06)

Trimbach 1998 Riesling (Alsace) – Molten iron filings with a wet, slate-like character chunked up by something a little more organic-earthy…edging towards, but not actually reaching, the mushroom family. Fully mature, balanced, and really, really nice. (12/06)

Trimbach 2002 Pinot Gris “Réserve” (Alsace) – Better and brighter than the last few vintages, with a light-filled crystalline aspect sparkling amidst ripe pear. There’s also a significant drying tone to the finish. Restrained and pure. (11/06)

Trimbach 2003 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – This announces itself rather sharply, but fails to deliver on its volume, except with a rather formless weight. Aromatically, the wine is far superior to, say, the contextually blowsy 1997 in that it delivers a fairly classic CFE profile of molten iron and shattered malic ice with salted apple, but structurally the wine is very reminiscent of a big Austrian riesling opened and consumed without aging or aeration: weight, but not enough presence. The hope that this, like the 1997, will provide good near-term drinking while waiting for better vintages to develop is, I’m afraid, misguided. (11/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre” (Alsace) – Classic and true to type, with significant salty minerality underneath vivid but balanced lychee dust, caramelized cashew and bright peach/pear aromas. There’s pretty good acidity, as well. Not a genre-defining gewurztraminer, but eminently typical for this house, and showing all the proper elements for a good decade’s aging. (11/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Lasting rather than developing, with smoked pork slightly emergent from otherwise straight-ahead peach, lychee and apricot gelatin drizzled with cashew oil. Varietally pure, a bit fat, and mostly just sitting there…even as six year old négociant juice. It’s a perfectly pleasant gewurztraminer, but there seems to be no point in holding it any longer. (11/06)

Despagne “Château Tour de Mirambeau” 2005 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – Tart green grass and underripe green apple with a plastic finish. Yuck. (10/06)

Bott-Geyl 2002 Riesling “L’Exception Botrytis” (Alsace) – The strong palate impact of drying botrytis dominates this wine, and though there’s some obvious sweetness it’s a pretty well-balanced wine. There’s also iced peach skin, ripe (and slightly sweet) celery, and a long, candied/gingered orange finish sharpened by shattered crystalline acidity. It won’t be for everyone, though. (10/06)

Goyard “Domaine de Roally” 1999 Mâcon-Village “Tradition” (Mâcon) – Mushroomy aged chardonnay through gauze. There’s a beige-toned minerality and lightly pleasant spice over a wet, fungal earth foundation, but everything is a little muted. Is the wine just closed, or is this the result of mild cork failure? In any case, it’s very nice, though probably not all it could be. (10/06)

Château d’Agel 2005 Minervois Blanc “Les Bonnes” (Languedoc) – Obvious, water-drenched grapefruit and river stones with a hollow, almost formless futility about it. (9/06)

R&V Dauvissat 1995 Chablis La Forest “1er Cru” (Chablis) – Blended herbal tea leaves with blackened crystal minerality and old stone fruit dusted with a cabinet full of faded spices. There’s old wood here too – not oak, but the antique smell of a great-grandfather’s desk – and a gorgeous, almost milky texture. Stunning. (9/06)

Gresser 2001 Riesling Duttenberg (Alsace) – Minerals through gauze, showing too much restraint and a thick, somewhat clumsy texture at first. This all resolves after an hour or so of air, and the wine’s minerality sharpens, turning to fine particulate glass in an overcast mood. All this indicates is that aging is most likely required. (9/06)

Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Fragrant, and promising more palate weight than it eventually delivers; the wine is fresh, lightly fruity (mostly from the white and green spectrum) and very lightly spicy, with a vaguely effervescent zing and good, food-friendly acidity. An hors d’oeuvre wine. (9/06)

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Moulin de la Gustaie (Loire) – Fresh and lively sea-breeze and apple, with complexing saltwater sand notes and dried white flowers. Somewhat mossy, yet as vivid as you’d want. A really interesting wine. (9/06)

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)

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)

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)

Texier 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Fruity pear, apricot and white peach with a vaguely spicy ginger soda component. It’s not fat, though it is slightly chubby, and there’s a bright and fresh-faced balance that defies the vintage’s reputation. Good, highly drinkable stuff. (9/06)

Trimbach 1996 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – From 375. Very, very tight and sulfurous at first. With a few hours of air and aggressive swirling, the classic CFE profile of liquefied metal appears, in a razor-sharp pillar of crystalline structure. In no conceivable universe is this yet ready to drink. (9/06)

Barth 2004 Riesling Rebgarten (Alsace) – Ripe, crystallized peach and pear confiture with quartz-like minerality, lemon verbena tea and a spicy, rich sweetness. Everything rushes to a climax on the midpalate, leaving a finish that’s a good deal less sugary, but also fairly wan in comparison to the wine that precedes it. I don’t know that it tastes much like riesling, though, and while it’s loud, it lacks spine. (8/06)

Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Absolutely impenetrable, though it gives the impression of being nothing more than liquid minerality. Not even worth taking a peek at right now, but it should be much, much better in a half-dozen years. (8/06)

Mann 1998 Riesling Schlossberg (Alsace) – Intense, ripe and very dry banana skin shoved through a metal cylinder. It grows to an early climax, then quickly fades away, and the finish is surprisingly short. But from a site where most producers pursue some level of residual sugar, this wine is dry, dry, dry. (8/06)

Boxler 2000 Riesling Sommerberg “L31D” (Alsace) – Light sweetness…for Boxler, that is…backed by such terrific acidity that it really doesn’t register after the first sip. Otherwise, there’s a brilliantly-structured wine running the mineral gamut from coal to diamond, with ripe red apple and strawberry blossom. An extremely vertical riesling, with power and presence and many, many fantastic years ahead of it. (8/06)

Ollivier 2005 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Huge minerality underneath, with a dusty floral breeze riding the top. Long and elegant, showing balance and a drying, almost tannic finish. (8/06)

Ollivier 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Very young-tasting, showing grapefruit, kiwifruit and melon with seashells and puréed rocks forming a slightly texturally-confused foundation. Big, with slightly spiky acidity. Call it a rebellious adolescence. (8/06)

Ollivier 2002 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Gorgeous, with fantastic green apple acidity, a crystalline texture, and minerals borne on a distant ocean breeze. (8/06)

Ollivier 2001 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Somewhat oxidized and unquestionably a bad bottle (or, more likely, cork). (8/06)

Ollivier 2000 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” Clos des Briords “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Very mineral-driven, but with an extra generosity to the ripe honeydew melon rind fruit. Long, big, ripe and rich, showing clear signs of development. (8/06)

Luneau-Papin “Domaine Pierre de La Grange” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Generous for a Muscadet, but with plenty of nerve and cut, showing brined, water-bathed seashells and a pearl-like texture cut with firm (but not oppressive) lemony acidity. Clean and balanced, with a solid finish and volume-raising affability with food. (8/06)

La Vieille Ferme 2005 Côtes du Luberon Blanc (Rhône) – Simple stone fruit and river-washed citrus. It feels heavier than it is. Under close examination it’s completely innocuous, but properly treated as a cocktail wine it’s much more honest and interesting than most. Plus, it’s silly cheap. (8/06)

Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Spice and pear skin, with a slightly disjointed mix of thick, molten-mineral texture and crisp, watery thinness. Not as good as a previous bottle. (8/06)

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2004 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Chardonnay in deep, rich tones, full of earth and brooding twilight duskiness. Balanced and very, very enticing. (8/06)

Serge Dagueneau 2004 Pouilly-Fumé “Les Pentes” (Loire) – Light, pale schist and dust through a gauzy filter, with faint grass and green apple notes. A very indistinct wine that tastes completely stripped. (8/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Light on the lychee, showing more peach and apricot with firm acidity. If a “deft” Alsatian gewurztraminer is even possible, this is a candidate. But one might wish for a little more intensity…which it has shown in the past. A bit closed, then. (8/06)

Jadot 2004 Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy) – Light, clear pear and faint dried orange with a thin layer of spice. Decent, quaffable, nothing special. (7/06)

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. (7/06)

Producteurs Plaimont “Les Vignes Retrouvées” 2004 Côtes de Saint-Mont (Southwest France) – Simple, earth-infused stone fruit, beaming sun and shade in equal measure. A simple little country gem, perfect in its own way. (7/06)

Trimbach 2003 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve” (Alsace) – Heavy, with good metallic pear aromatics and fair acidity, but absolutely no finish. None. Wham-bam-thank-you-wine. (7/06)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2004 Graves (Bordeaux) – Fresh yellow/lime-green fruit and grass, with solid acidity. A bit foursquare and masculine – I’d prefer a little more spring in its step – but very tasty with the right food…something crisp and light. (7/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Solid lychee and crushed quartz with bitter cashew oil and a solid wall of rose petals on the finish. (7/06)

Kuentz-Bas 2004 “Alsace” (Alsace) – A mélange of spicy, off-dry stone fruit with some grapefruit-like crispness supporting the whole package. Simple, fun and fruity…and a good value. (7/06)

Albajan “Domaine de la Mirande” 2004 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet (Languedoc) – Wet limestone, ripe lemon and green apple. Simple, but tasty if well-chilled. (7/06)

Boxler 2002 Pinot Gris L50 (Alsace) – Big spiced pear with a metal edge and great acidity. Simple now, but there are hints and teases of a greater complexity to come. (7/06)

Trimbach 2001 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve” (Alsace) – Big but refined crystalline pear and good, crisp acidity. Always solid. (7/06)

Deiss 1998 Schoenenbourg (Alsace) – Very, very sweet, though there’s plenty of acid to support it, with a flowery mineral streak and not much else. Still as simple as it was in its youth. It’s a tasty simplicity, but it would be nice to see something else develop. Maybe in another decade or so? (6/06)

Château de Bastet 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône “Les Acacias” (Rhône) – Flowering peach stickiness, with a fresh nut oil texture and a relatively short finish. White Côtes-du-Rhône is a bit of an acquired taste, but while this isn’t a particularly good value ($24 at a local store), it’s a nice wine for near-term drinking. (6/06)

Chidaine “Collection” 2004 Touraine (Loire) – Wax and chalk dominated by a wet ash aroma that devalues everything around it. The wine is light, quiet, and gentle…but there’s that ash again on the finish. (6/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – A little more advanced than I might have expected, showing a metallic edge greased with bacon fat and slightly pongy cashew oil. Lychee and peach are, here, only a distant memory, though the expected well-aged jerky aromas have not yet emerged. It’s got pretty good acid, but seems just the slightest bit out of balance at the moment. Perhaps a few more years in the cellar will bring it around. (6/06)

Trimbach 2000 Pinot Gris “Réserve Personelle” (Alsace) – Steely to the point of severity, but with enough silky pear essence to entice the taster back into its iron grid work. Long, fabulously structured, and as close to dry as one could want. Stunning, even in its infancy. (6/06)

Charles Koehly 2004 Riesling St-Hippolyte (Alsace) – Restrained and almost rigid, with dried white flower petals flaked and dusted into a chilly evening breeze. Indisputably dry, with a medium length finish and the ability to raise its volume in the presence of food. Quite nice. (6/06)

Ernest/JF Burn 2002 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Sweet, spiced pear and a thick, crystalline liquid syrup structure. If you think that sounds like a dessert wine, you’re not wrong; while there’s some acidity here, the wine’s just too sweet to be served with most food. Drink it as a refreshing summer dessert, or drink it as an apéritif (that’s what the French tend to do with sweet wines anyway, so you can feel all multicultural while you do it), but be very careful about serving it with savory food. (6/06)

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Moulin de la Gustaie” “Sur Lie” (Loire) – Crisp but generous (for Muscadet, that is), with fruit skins and flaky, sea-battered minerals scattered on some sort of moonscape. Utterly delicious. (6/06)

Trimbach 2001 Pinot Gris “Réserve” Ribeauvillé (Alsace) – Acrid pear and grapefruit soda keep themselves at a distance from the drinker, as if to withhold their apparent lushness until some sort of test is passed. In other words, this is showing signs of being a bit closed. It should come out the other side in a few years, at which point both the weight and the fat will re-emerge. (6/06)

Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Restrained and possibly a bit closed, with dry lychee juice and pear skin braced by a touch of tannin and fairly good acidity. Needs some time to reemerge with smoky, bacon fat and cashew characteristics. (5/06)

Trimbach 2003 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Simple light apricot and sweet lemon flavors. Dry. Heavier and more difficult than usual, which could be an artifact of the vintage. (5/06)

Weinbach 1999 Riesling "Cuvée Théo" (Alsace) – Pure essence of iron with a bright sheen of Granny Smith apple. It builds and expands with air, and may be about as good as it's going to get. (5/06)

Cazes “Blanc de Lynch-Bages” 1997 Bordeaux Blanc (Bordeaux) – I feared this might be over the hill, but instead it has matured into a lovely little wine. Strong honeydew melon and ripe grapefruit with little zingers of lime, green apple and green plum are introduced by a pleasant notion of sweet oak, and good acidity supports the entire effort through a long, crisp finish. I think it’s probably at peak now. (5/06)

Daulhiac “Château Le Payral” 2004 Bergerac Sec (Southwest France) – Tastes like sauvignon blanc – green, fresh and zippy – with fine-powder, almost dusty minerality (something in the granite family, it appears) and a dry, but intense, finish. A nice, good value wine. (5/06)

Gendrier “Domaine des Huards” 2002 Cour-Cheverny (Loire) – Intense to the point of mild shock, though identifying the source of the intensity is less easy; there’s a vivid red apple component that leans into the realm of iron, an oxidative facet that expresses itself more like some sort of fruit-based wax, an ultimately dominant days-gone-by aspect, and a lot of sheer, planar minerality. What does that all add up to? I have no idea, but the wine’s really good. (5/06)

Guillemot-Michel 2000 Mâcon-Villages (Mâcon) – Sweet chanterelle and delicate honeydew with a touch of botrytis-like candied apricot. Sweetly-pretty, and prettily off-dry, but surprisingly agile moving from apéritif to table. Lovely right now, though those who want more complexity (and are willing to sacrifice some fruit in the process) will want to keep waiting. (5/06)

Producteurs Plaimont “Les Vignes Retrouvées” 2004 Côtes de Saint-Mont (Southwest France) – Fresh-cut melon and dried clay. Simple, direct and pure, not to mention a fine bargain. (5/06)

Koehly 2001 Riesling Altenberg de Bergheim (Alsace) – At first opening, this is no more than a stiff breeze over corrugated metal sheeting, but in time it expands to show peach, crystalline minerality, a light dusting of coriander, and an even stronger, more steely mineral core with a delicate, non-intrusive sweetness balanced by firm acidity. Long, structured, and quite ageable; a terrific riesling. (5/06)

Peillot 1999 Roussette du Bugey Montagnieu Altesse (Ain) – 95% dead. What’s left isn’t worth drinking, either. (5/06)

P&N Reverdy 2004 Sancerre “Cuvée Les Coûtes” (Loire) – Strikingly intense slate shavings over razor-sharp grapefruit. Long, balanced and throbbing with power. Terrific Sancerre. (5/06)

Trimbach 2001 Pinot Gris Ribeauvillé “Réserve” (Alsace) – Pear crystals and melted aluminum with a strong dusting of Alsatian spice and nerve. Very slightly off-dry. This is probably ready to drink, though it won’t fall apart over the next few years either. (5/06)

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. (4/06)

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. (4/06)

Boxler 2002 Gewurztraminer “L60P” (Alsace) – I forget precisely what the “P” stands for, but it’s a site designation…though not a grand cru. The wine shows – big surprise – intense aromatics, featuring lychee and spiced white plum. It’s full and rich, yet somehow carries a delicate balance through its long, persistent finish. Gorgeous wine, though unquestionably on the very sweet side. (4/06)

Huet 2004 Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec (Loire) – It’s still so young, yet it’s strong from first opening and grows throughout the evening as it warms and slowly oxidizes. The wine is a chalky river breeze stirring up already-turbulent soil, revealing mushrooms and dried wax residue in its wake. There’s amazing complexity and stunning length on the finish. An incredible wine barely out of the cradle, but already promising much. (4/06)

Deiss 1998 Muscat d’Alsace Bergheim (Alsace) – Balanced and integrated floral aromatics (mostly orange blossoms) with great weight and concentration. Eventually one starts to tire of the aforementioned weight (it’s a bit fat on the finish), but this wine has aged nicely. It’s nice to know Deiss is still capable of making good wine. (4/06)

Baumard 1992 Savennières (Loire) – Drying and oxidized, with hints of stewed asparagus. Mostly dead. (4/06)

Genovesi “Domaine du Bagnol” 2004 Cassis “Marquis de Fesques” (Provence) – Salted leaves and banana rind with bitter melon and a tight cord of minerality. A touch dense, but then that’s not unusual for Cassis. (4/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Sylvaner Weingarten de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Spiced white plum and sweet green apple with honeydew and ripe heirloom tomato around a steel core. Decidedly off-dry, but one of the best sylvaners I’ve ever tasted. (4/06)

Texier 2000 Mâcon Bussières (Mâcon) – Simple dried pineapple with hints of melon and grapefruit rind and a touch of fading, mushroomy earthiness. This is a friendly wine just leaving its middle age, and while it has lasted in fine balance, it did not reward aging by developing further complexity. (4/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Lychee, wet and sticky cashew, canned peach syrup, and crystalline quartz-textured spice with a mineral edge and a faintly animalistic haze (more sweat than stink). Off-dry, but quite food-friendly. (4/06)

Thomas-Labaille 2004 Sancerre Chavignol Les Monts Damnés (Loire) – The first young Thomas-Labaille I’ve liked in what seems like forever. There’s intense white-toned minerality here, with green apple acidity and illuminated green grape and almost-ripe red cherry flavors, but the dominant characteristic here is the bleached stone quality. Fantastic and perfectly balanced, though definitely one of the more strong-willed Sancerres out there. (4/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Succulent ripe peach juice with bits of rose jam and lychee syrup. Off-dry, but with enough acidity, bitter melon rind and minerality to sustain the sugar. Maturing nicely, though I’m not sure I’d wait much longer to drink this. (4/06)

Christian Schwartz “Collection Marine” 2003 Pinot Gris Winzenberg (Alsace) – Light…almost transparent…with suggestions of pear and fluorescent rocks in a crystal prison. Builds with air and on the finish, but despite good intensity and intention it’s a little on the flabby side. Still, it’s worth drinking, because the more difficult conditions of the Bas-Rhin save this wine from what would have been its soupier fate south of Dambach-la-Ville. It’s far from dry, but it’s flavorful. The biggest criticism that can be leveled is that it doesn’t say much about its grand cru terroir…but then, few 2003s do. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2004 Pinot Blanc Kritt (Alsace) – Minty sage and banana skin with light spice and great acidity. The finish is leafy and more than a bit wan. A very odd and slightly disappointing performance for this wine, and I wonder if it might not be off somehow, but Antoine confirms that it tastes as it should. This exchange defines the recurring theme of our tasting. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2004 Riesling Andlau (Alsace) – Sulfur-dominated right now. Tight and weird, almost edging towards nasty, but very slightly redeemed by heavy lime on the finish. Very strange and off-putting. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2003 Riesling Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” (Alsace) – Heady, thick and surprisingly dry given that texture, showing rancid apple and molten aluminum foil with little inflections of sea salt. Definitely unusual. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2003 Riesling Wiebelsberg “La Dame” (Alsace) – Shy on the nose, with lemongrass, apple blossom and waves of minerality emerging on the palate. It’s very lightly sweet at first, but drying tannin and crisp acidity balance out the finish. Not bad at all, but the aromatic void is worrisome. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2003 Riesling Kastelberg “Le Château” (Alsace) – Fuller and longer than anything yet tasted, showing Granny Smith apple, forceful floral and apricot notes, and a finish full of lilies, lavender sachet and chalk. There’s steel at the core, which is promising, but the finish already shows signs of mild oxidation, giving this wine a questionable future. Still, this is the best of the rieslings, which isn’t saying much (Kreydenweiss père prefers the Wiebelsberg). (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2002 Clos du Val d’Eléon “l’Âme de la Terre” (Alsace) – Makrut lime leaf shredded by a huge, tart, juicy acidity. However, the finish is stale and short, and there’s unmistakable oxidation present. I don’t know how to evaluate this wine, except to say that I lack confidence. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2002 Pinot Gris Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” (Alsace) – Cranky and nervous, showing spiced pear juice and a papery finish. Very slightly oxidized, but not unpleasantly so…however, it is only a 2002, so there’s cause for worry. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2003 Pinot Gris Mœnchberg “Le Moine” (Alsace) – Rich and lightly sweet, showing creamed and heavily-spiced anise liqueur. The balance is decent, but this wine is reminiscent of a cheap SGN, which is hardly a compliment. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Sylvaner Weingarten de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Lovely, cream-textured and mildly sweet, with cinnamon, milk, celery and tomato…a bizarre-sounding combination, but it works in this wine. Green, sunny, and fully mature. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling L30M (Alsace) – Crystalline sweetness with ripe, almost tropical apple slashed by shattered mineral brilliance. Drying, structured and extremely long, but what stands out most is the wine’s lively, vivid presence. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Sylvaner Weingarten de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Ripe and concentrated tangerine, with tomato hovering around the perimeter. Fresh-tasting at first, it begins to edge towards synthetic on the finish. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Sylvaner Weingarten de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Creamed corn and botrytis-like peach infusion, with a lovely but dangerous balance tilted towards thickness. Impressive. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Terroir de Châteaux Forts (Alsace) – A blend…mostly gewürztraminer and auxerrois. Sweet corn and cream with a ripe, starchy spice coating that provides a sort of structure, plus a quartz-like minerality. I think this needs a year to two to integrate more completely, but it’s nice enough now. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Spiced soda water, grassy and crisp. This feels almost zingy or frothy (though not actually perlant), though as it builds and expands on the finish, thing smooth. Ultimately, it’s not all that interesting. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Auxerrois (Alsace) – Dried pear with a thick, soft finish. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Auxerrois Rotleibel de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Lightly sweet spiced pear with an intense, drying finish; virtually the reverse of the previous wine’s organoleptic arc. Aspirational and very likely ageable. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Auxerrois Moenchreben (Alsace) – Vividly spiced baked apple. This wine has incredible presence, but unfortunately, the finish is disappointingly short. The ’02 Rotleibel is on the way up; this is on the way down. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Auxerrois Moenchreben (Alsace) – Completely given over to spice at this stage, with an incredibly creamy texture but still-present acidity lurking in the background. Wonderful, and fully mature. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Riesling (Alsace) – Wet river stones with a very, very dry finish. Thirst-ravaging. Very impressive for a basic varietal bottling.

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Riesling “Réserve Millésime” (Alsace) – Light petrol skips across a thin palate, akin to Bas-Rhin riesling from a too-cold site. There’s good persistence, but I’m not sure what’s inside will be worth the wait. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Riesling Silberberg (Alsace) – Chewy and leafy, with a sharp, piercing, almost needle-like malic acidity. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Riesling Silberberg (Alsace) – Thinner than the above-notated ’04, with more leafiness, a keening mint aroma, and a short finish. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2000 Riesling Silberberg de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Wet, ripe, balanced and juicy. Is this simply a result of the vintage, or do wines from this terroir always flesh out this much as they age? Some of the best rieslings of the region do exactly that, but they almost always have more identifiable intensity in their youth. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Riesling Pflaenzerreben (Alsace) – Tonic water, limestone and slate, with mixed apples bouncing around. Stemmy to the point of bitterness of the finish, but intriguingly so. This is edgy and potentially controversial, but I think the quality’s there. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Riesling Pflaenzerreben (Alsace) – Softer than the ’01, mostly due to elevated sugar. Short and weird, which wouldn’t be an uncommon showing for a ’99…but the minerality is also completely absent, which is a little surprising. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1996 Riesling Pflaenzerreben (Alsace) – Sulfurous, with acid lashing at a banana residue. Ungenerous, and showing signs of further thinning and drying in the future. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Muscat d’Alsace (Alsace) – Lime flowers and apple blossoms. Light and fun. I bet this would expand with food. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Muscat Moenchreben (Alsace) – Mineral-driven and strongly akin to riesling, which Alsatian muscat can sometimes be from the right terroir. There’s structure and intensity here. In other words, it’s more ageable and “serious” than the previous wine, but also much less fun. That’s a tradeoff sometimes worth making for the sake of variety, but preferences will differ. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Pinot Gris (Alsace) – Spiced pear, with nice acidity and a good overall balance. Textbook. In fact, this wine might be the illustration. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Pinot Gris Rotleibel (Alsace) – Drying pear skin with a surplus of granitic minerality. Crisp. Nicely done, and mid-term ageable. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Pinot Gris Brandhurst de Bergheim (Alsace) – Tight pear and apple wrapped with minerality and skin tannin. Though it’s an odd thing to say about Alsatian pinot gris, which tends towards flab even in the best of hands, this may be a touch over-structured. Time could help. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Pinot Gris Rotleibel de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Sweet, botrytis-like fruit with spice and soda, plus unmistakable chile de arbol on the finish…a character I’ve never even conceived, much less tasted, in pinot gris. Fascinating. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Pinot Gris “Réserve Rolly Gassmann” (Alsace) – Intensely ripe, with Anjou pear joined by concentrated red cherry, red apple, and a forceful iron core. On the other hand, all this energy comes somewhat at the expense of the wine’s balance, with is tilted towards power and away from precision. This may age, but it’ll need careful watching. It’s certainly impressive. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2004 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Wet and thick, with peach skin and tepid cashew. Disappointing; even a basic gewurztraminer should have more oomph than this. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Sweet lychee and other spiced fruit. Simple and direct. As a basic varietal bottling, this is more successful than the 2004. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Gewurztraminer Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Gewurztraminer isn’t usually a grape that allows its varietal characteristics to be subsumed, and yet here we have gravel, quartz, and rolling river rocks absolutely pummeling juicy-but-sweet lemon fruit. This is a gewurztraminer? It’s very, very tasty for those of us who like to drink our planet’s foundations in convenient bottled form, but it’s definitely out of the ordinary. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Gewurztraminer (Alsace) – Quite sweet, showing peach, pear and lychee juice. Pretty and fun, though clearly for immediate drinking. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Gewurztraminer Stegreben de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Intense lychees with their skins (and skin tannins) intact. Complex, structured and long. Very good, with enough power to enjoy now, and the balance and integrity to age. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Gewurztraminer Haguenau de Bergheim (Alsace) – Wet and a bit hollow, with sweet banana skin wrapped around nothingness. This is a fairly typical performance for gewurztraminer of this vintage, unfortunately. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1998 Gewurztraminer Keppelweg de Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Spiced pear, peach and lychee dressed with nut oils. The finish brings out an anise note. Intriguing, and absolutely delicious right now. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 “Edelzwicker” L09 (Alsace) – A blend of sylvaner, pinot blanc and riesling (1/3 each)…which would seem to go against the original intent of “edel” as appended to “zwicker,” but whatever. It shows a sweet-smelling nose of ripe apple. Very nice, clean and simple. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Sylvaner L10 (Alsace) – Ripe green tomato and spice. Good acidity marks a long finish. This is from a site near Brand. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Pinot Blanc L20A (Alsace) – The “A” here refers to auxerrois, a typical blending component in wines labeled pinot blanc, and one that adds richness and weight. The wine is hugely spicy, with ripe pear and a zingy, almost bracing finish. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Pinot Blanc L20M (Alsace) – Very sweet, with a metallic core and a short finish. A little strange. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling L20M (Alsace) – Very intense, with tons of dry extract and a long, marvelous, drying finish. In the midst of all this worthy structure are lightly sweet green apple skin and sharp, almost piercing acidity. And to think that this is just the “regular” riesling… (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “JV” L30JV (Alsace) – From younger vines. The nose is vivid, with dried white flowers that turn to raw iron on the palate. The finish is incredibly long, but a bit edgy and cutting at the same time. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Brand L32 (Alsace) – A touch sulfur-marked right now, but pulsing and brooding underneath. It’s like licking a steel beam, with an endless, dry iron finish. Striking and majestic. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Brand “K” L32 (Alsace) – Sweeter on the nose than the previous wine, with peach around an intense core of minerality. And then, the explosion: molten iron and fire-hose water jets that simply vibrate with power and dry extract. Stunning. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg L31 (Alsace) – Floral and silky, with spiced apricot. There’s mass and intensity here, with a juicy core and a lovely balance between fruit and firm structure, but it’s the satiny texture that eventually carries the day. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “E” L31E (Alsace) – Very metallic, but creamy nonetheless, showing very little fruit but almost overwhelming presence. This will be great, but that day is many years away; right now, there’s not much to enjoy. (3/06)

Boxler 2003 Pinot Gris L50M (Alsace) – Lush but nervy, with intensely spiced pear, tamarind and lychee. Sulfur is in the mix, early. This reminds me a little bit of Bott-Geyl’s Sonnenglanz pinot gris, though this carries more acidity. An early-drinker, I think, but these wines have fooled me in the past. (3/06)

Boxler 2003 Pinot Gris Brand L52 (Alsace) – Very sweet lychee, pear and peach. This wine is all about its incredibly ripe fruit, but there’s an earthy undertone as well. The finish is a little strange and disappointing, however, with canned pear and strongly tinny aroma developing late in the game. Plus, it’s a bit hot. A rare misstep, though it all makes sense when one notes the vintage. Of all the grapes with which it works, I think Boxler does least well with pinot gris…though in less perverse vintages they do much better than this. (3/06)

Boxler 2003 Pinot Gris Sommerberg L51 (Alsace) – Shy on the nose, showing bright pear and creamy metallic notes on the midpalate. There’s a long finish, but I think this wine is yet another victim of its vintage…it’s flat and sort of lifeless. Wake up, little pinot gris, wake up! (3/06)

Boxler 2003 Gewurztraminer Brand L62 (Alsace) – Banana, cashew and exotic roses around a core of dark metal, with a gelatinous texture that resolves to sinuosity on the long finish. It’s sweet, but it’s balanced (in the context of gewurztraminer), and a rare success from the vintage. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Gewurztraminer Brand L62 (Alsace) – More metallic than the ’03, with a powdery texture that turns stingingly particulate on the finish. Leafy and very floral, perhaps almost florid. Right now I prefer the 2003 for its open lusciousness, but I think this one will age into something a little more socially acceptable. (3/06)

F. Schwach 2003 Muscat “Cuvée Réservée” (Alsace) – Ripe and floral, showing white apricot and succulent sweetness on the finish. A little clumsy, but that’s the year. (3/06)

Mallo 2001 Riesling Rosacker “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Soft and a touch hollow, with a light sweetness covering a wine that is all stones, gravel and salt. There’s some hints of early oxidation as well, including a very advanced color. I wonder if it might not be a victim of cork failure, but a second bottle procured by the concerned proprietress produces the same results. Surprising. Mallo’s not a top producer, but they’re usually better than this. And the wine’s not bad, it’s just tired. (3/06)

Castel 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc “Cuvée Réservée” Chardonnay/Viognier (Languedoc) – Juicy melon and tropical fruit. Thick but not unpleasant; “inoffensive” is the perfect descriptor. There’s absolutely no finish, though. My mineral water has more finish than this wine. Where’d it go? (3/06)

Jean Dupont 1998 Auxey-Duresses (Burgundy) – Fully à point with bricking well into the core, showing autumnal forest floor and a little baked cherry pie spice. Light-bodied. This wine reminds me of a sweet old grandmother pottering around her tiny kitchen, trying to fix her unexpected guests a little snack. (3/06)

Jean Dupont 1998 Meursault (Burgundy) – Raw peanut oil, light melon rind and a faintly spicy note, with elements of nutty bitterness marking the finish. Struggling, but failing, to rise above disappointment. (3/06)

Schleret 2003 Pinot Gris Herrenweg (Alsace) – Lightly spiced pear through a thick filter. Disappointing. (3/06)

Laurent Barth 2004 Sylvaner (Alsace) – Decidedly off-dry, like a purée of ripe green zebra tomatoes bathed in a light celery root syrup. Full-bodied for sylvaner, definitely less severe than usual for this grape, and fun to drink. (3/06)

JF/Ernest Burn 2002 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – A great (though sweet) pinot gris by the smell of it, from which one might assume that there’s a healthy proportion of extremely ripe auxerrois in this wine. Spicy and hugely peachy for pinot blanc, it’s massively sweet to the point of being dangerous to pair with anything other than the right food. Despite the sugar, there’s just enough supportive acidity to at least approach balance, and this isn’t a bad wine. It’s just way, way out in left field. (3/06)

Frick 2004 Muscat (Alsace) – An empty warehouse of a wine, with the sweet floral perfume of muscat in one corner; available, but not particularly present. Despite the sweet nose, it’s dry, with slightly clumsy structure and somewhat insufficient balance. (3/06)

Laurent Barth 2004 “Racines Métisses” (Alsace) – Clean, wind-tunnel aromas of hard steel and faded sweat, with the faintest hints of spiced pear and tomato. Somewhat vegetal and seemingly sylvaner-dominated on the acidic palate; too austere for its own good. (3/06)

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Moulin de la Gustaie” “Sur Lie” (Loire) – Almost shockingly upfront for Muscadet, with clean and crisp but vivid salted white fruit and amber-preserved flower stems. The price one pays for all this “exuberance” (such terms are relative, after all) is a somewhat shorter finish, but it’s a fun Muscadet for right now. (3/06)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2003 Touraine Sauvignon (Loire) – Fairly classic riper sauvignon blanc characteristics (melon, overripe gooseberry, sweaty tropicality verging on pineapple alongside more typical grass and tart citrus aromas) with the Touraine chalk, though the latter is muted under the wine’s overall weight; a substantial gain in heft over previous vintages that I’m not sure works entirely to the wine’s benefit. (2/06)

Boxler 2002 Pinot Blanc L20R (Alsace) – Surprisingly non-spicy for Boxler, replacing the auxerrois-derived exotica and weight with vivid crystalline pear and piercing intensity. Very nearly perfect. (2/06)

Clergot “Château Courtiade” 2002 Bergerac Sec (Southwest France) – Striking, showing earthy melon, ultra-ripe apple and white grape aromas with touches of sweaty gooseberry and a pulsating mineral underbelly. Long and delicious, this is a rather stunning wine for its price. (2/06)

Bossard “Domaine de l’Ecu” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Expression de Granite” (Loire) – Like licking a stone tablet (not necessarily while it’s being held by Moses), sharp and tight yet building gracefully on the finish. A second bottle, tasted the next day after extended aeration, is more generous and introduces youthful, malic fruit characters, but is no less mineral-driven. (1/06)

Trimbach 1995 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Creamy, salt-cured dried leaves and crushed oysters. Highly-advanced vs. other examples from this vintage, and while obvious signs of pure heat damage aren’t necessarily in evidence, something has brought this wine to an early retirement. Better-stored bottles are still not even close to ready. (1/06)

Deiss 1997 Gewurztraminer St-Hippolyte (Alsace) – Smoky and sulfurous, with bacon fat and raw rosette de Lyon characteristics, and ultra-ripe lychee jam slathered over everything. The finish is sweaty, and nothing is entirely dry. This is a valid expression of gewurztraminer, and will find some fans, but for me it is far too graceless…an odd thing to say about gewurztraminer, perhaps, but such things are relative. (1/06)

Frick 2004 Chasselas (Alsace) – Vague pear and leafy citrus cream aromas gain weight and substance on the palate, with a little bit of the necessary Alsatian spice along for the ride. It’s a light wine, but with enough presence to move the wine from its usual role as apéritif to a supporting role as a food companion. (1/06)

Métaireau 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Petit Mouton” (Loire) – All the briny seawater one could want. Unfortunately, this wine arrives in stages: brine, then sweaty/leesy aromatics, then a semi-acrid sort of flatness, and each is less appealing than the first. It’s a fine match with the right food (acid-enhanced bivalves, for example), but it needs that food, because otherwise it’s a bit difficult to drink. (1/06)

JF Becker 2001 Riesling Kronenbourg (Alsace) – Flawlessly structured and perfectly evocative of site, showing fresh white flowers and crushed seashells around a generous core of fleshy malic acid. All the components are here for an excellent ager. (1/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2003 Jurançon Sec “Chant des Vignes” (Southwest France) – Zippy and fruity (no surprise from the latter, given the vintage), with candle wax and lanolin nearly overwhelmed by aggressive ripe grapefruit and white pear juice. Fleshy and ripe, with plenty of acidity. This is a marvelous (if very slightly obnoxious) wine. (1/06)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2003 Graves (Bordeaux) – Fruity gooseberry and lemon-lime with Granny Smith apple and a boisterous, attention-grabbing personality…only once it has your attention, it has very little to say. (12/05)

André Blanck 2002 Riesling Schlossberg “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Two bottles tasted, with consistent notes. Clean, wet industrial metals with dried grapefruit rind and a slightly acridity. It’s full-bodied and hollow at the same time; not because it lacks a midpalate, but because it just doesn’t “say” much of anything. Perhaps age will improve things. (12/05)

Zusslin 2004 Chasselas “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Skins, very light lees, and mildly milky beige earth. It takes work to make chasselas interesting, and I don’t know that the requisite work has been done here. (12/05)

Beaumont 2004 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Stone fruit: the cocktail version. It doesn’t require a colorful paper umbrella, because everything’s fairly restrained rather than fruit salad-y, but this texturally sticky-silk wine is rather a mélange of varied fruits uncomplexed by more interesting characteristics. As with many Southern (and Northern) Rhône whites, interest may develop with age, but I’m not sure this wine has the structure to support much aging. (12/05)

Frick 2004 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Slightly sour grapefruit and limestone. Surly and maybe even a little bitter at its existence; one hopes a little time will smooth things over, but it’s not all that much fun to drink right now. (12/05)

Kreydenweiss 2001 Gewurztraminer Kritt “Les Charmes” (Alsace) – Succulent ripe pear and lychee dust with vivid crystalline minerality and lovely acidity. Poised, flavorful and balanced. Built for the long haul. (12/05)

Château de Fieuzal 1993 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Pine needles and silty peat moss dust, with something in the licorice family – I proceed through fennel, anise, and pastis before finally arriving back at fennel fronds – with a brassy, tinny aspect. (12/05)

Chapoutier 1989 Hermitage Blanc “Chante-Alouette” (Rhône) – Lemon peel and peanut oil on the palate, but nothing at all on the nose. It’s less than half a wine, though this performance doesn’t really surprise me from Chapoutier. (12/05)

Chave 1996 Hermitage Blanc (Rhône) – From 375 ml, showing Manzanilla sherry, creamy puréed earth, and chestnuts, but nothing on the palate. (12/05)

Lafond 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Reedy green citrus and grassy notes, though with the skin bitterness and lowish acidity characteristic of the vintage. In the context of many truly awful 2003 Sancerres, this one is actually half-decent. (12/05)

la Poussie 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Heavy, green, bitter, and acid free. See above. (12/05)

Ladoucette 2003 Pouilly-Fumé (Loire) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night. (12/05)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2002 Graves (Bordeaux) – Fairly tight, showing green-streaked citrus and apple aromas with a firm acidic foundation and occasional razor-slashes of minerality. It responds very badly to air, but for the first hour or so it’s quite nice, and laser-sharp with food. (12/05)

Dubourdieu “Château Graville-Lacoste” 2003 Graves (Bordeaux) – Marlborough sauvignon blanc: tropical fruit, zingy gooseberry, and residual sugar (or at least something that does a good imitation thereof). At $15.99 locally, it’s about the same price as the mid-level “Cellar Selection” Sauvignon Blanc from Villa Maria, which actually has a little more verve. But I don’t mean to choose for anyone else. (12/05)

Couly-Dutheil 1996 Chinon Les Chanteaux Blanc (Loire) – Beeswax and candle wax with lavender, white flowers, light oxidation and high acid. It seems quite faded, yet every once in a while there’s a surge of aromatics. Perhaps, rather than too old, it’s actually too young. That would be expected for chenin, but I’ve no experience with aged Chinon blanc. (11/05)

Christophe Pichon 2001 Condrieu (Rhône) – Pine needles, sweet white flowers, and floral spice with light, rindy bitterness on the finish. There’s good acidity, but this is generally a light-bodied and soft wine; not necessarily a criticism, though it’s not quite up to my other experiences with C. Pichon. It’s still one of the best available, however. (11/05)

Michel Fonné 2003 Pinot Gris Bennwihr (Alsace) – Off-dry without the acidity to support it, but otherwise pleasant and quaffable. This tastes exactly like hundreds of cheap pinot gris I’ve drunk with friends in Alsace. That isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. (11/05)

Zind-Humbrecht 2002 “Zind” (Alsace) – Lightly sweet spiced pear, banana, sweet orange and papaya. Olivier has apparently moved his fruit sources for this wine to Bolivia. The finish is short, and this isn’t as interesting as it used to be…despite the huge uptick in price. Too much chardonnay, perhaps? (11/05)

Texier 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème Roussanne (Rhône) – Very old dried apricot and creamy corn silk. Faint and fading, with light oxidation and an even lighter soapy note. It keeps pulsing a bit, as if it’s considering a comeback, but obsolescence eventually takes its toll. (11/05)

Ostertag 2003 Sylvaner “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Rather than the watery, underripe tomatoes that are the norm for this grape, the scorching heat of 2003 leaves this tasting like fully ripe tomatoes – so ripe they’re almost sugary – with a fine undercurrent of tangerine rind and very, very little acidity. I predict a shelf life of about five to six minutes, but it’s certainly not at all unpleasant to drink. (11/05)

Bucher-Fix 1998 Pinot Gris Hengst “Coup de Cœur” (Alsace) – Ripe, sweet pear syrup with absolutely no apparent acidity. For a ’98, this is highly disappointing. There is also a hint of char, which immediately suggest mild heat damage, but I don’t think pristine conditions would have helped this much. We use the remainder to cook, which is not the preferred use of grand cru pinot gris, but preferable in this case. (11/05)

Trimbach 2000 Riesling (Alsace) – Firm and dry as a steel beam, showing the very beginnings of a bristling iron flake that signifies better things to come. (11/05)

André Blanck 2001 Pinot Blanc Rosenburg (Alsace) – Ripe, spicy pear and crisp peach with a lovely, rounded structure and ever-growing spice on the finish. Perhaps dominated by auxerrois, but very tasty. (11/05)

André Blanck 2002 Pinot Blanc Rosenburg (Alsace) – Much more restrained than the 2001, showing tarter fruit and very little spice, but with a longer, more grapefruit-driven finish. It may be the slightest bit hollow, however, or it might fill out with a year or two in the cellar. But for drinking now, the 2001 is where it’s at. (11/05)

Christophe Pichon 2002 Condrieu (Rhône) – As gorgeous and category-busting as usual. Crushed flowers, honeysuckle, and peach blossom drifting on a sea of silken peach juice. Texturally sensual in a way few wines are. Just stunning. (4/05)

Trimbach 1997 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Served blind. Spiced gum, wet wool, spiced plum and a grapey/gooseberry character that takes me out of my comfort zone, though I’m soon returned to it but a huge minerality. I guess Trimbach, which is right, but get the site wrong, mostly due to shock over the early readiness of the vintage…which I’d not have guessed would be this open and this developed so soon, even from a year in which overripeness was a regional problem; anyone with sufficient store may want to check on one just to see how they’re doing. (4/05)

Ehrhart 2002 Pinot Auxerrois Val St-Gregoire (Alsace) – I neglect to ask which of the Ehrharts this is, though by some deduction I gather that it is Domaine Ehrhart (Henri, a/k/a the one in Ammerschwihr), and that it is misspelled “St-Gregorie” on bacar’s list. Anyhoo, this shows sweet spiced pear and corrugated metal in a watery package, with drying vegetal greenness in the short finish. Just OK, no more than that. (4/05)

Métaireau 2003 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine (Loire) – I only get a glass, not the bottle, so I don’t notice if this is “sur lie” or not. In 2003, it surely wouldn’t need to be. (Sorry.) Ripe green citrus with still-sharp acidity – pretty good for an ’03 – yet also obviously fruitier and less mineral than in previous vintages. Still, if there’s one region that may benefit from the heft of this vintage, Muscadet might be it. Of course, come 2004 its new fans will go right back to hating it… (4/05)

Trimbach 1979 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Alas, this wine’s better days are behind it. I’ve had ‘79s that were a bit fresher than this one, so chalk it up to bottle, cork, or storage variation. Slightly oxidized creamed corn and molten steel with a long, dried-out finish. It actually improves with air, but it’s not a fully-intact bottle. (4/05)

Trimbach 1990 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (Alsace) – Wind-blown iron dust, dried sandstone, and lemongrass. Very dry at the moment (it hasn’t always “felt” so dry), like silk brushing across the palate, then finishing extremely long with emergent particulate-smoothed texture. Incredible wine, and though it’s ready to go for those that prefer the upside of maturity, there’s absolutely no hurry either; more complexity is yet to come. (4/05)

Boxler 2001 Riesling Sommerberg L31D (Alsace) – The “D” is for something like Dudenstein, but holders of the secret Boxler decoder ring know that it really means “Boxler’s old-vine plot on the Sommerberg.” This one is starting to close up (compared to a tasting closer to its release), showing lemon sorbet and a light palate impact, then opening up a bit with ripe and spiced granular apple, spiced pear, iron flakes, and a long, very lightly sweet finish. Time to put these to bed for a decade or so, but the wine was, and will again be, extraordinary. (4/05)

Fèvre 2002 Chablis Les Clos “Grand Cru” (Burgundy) – Seashell minerality, orange and cashew with moderate spicy oak in a balanced, highly-concentrated seedling many years from its full blossoming. The minerality is tremendous here, see-sawing between the aforementioned seashells and a firmer, more granitic aspect, and the finish is as balanced as it is incredibly long. A richly beautiful wine, and though not unoaked it makes no compromises vs. its need for a good long rest in the cellar. (2/05)

Huet 2001 Vouvray Le Haut Lieu “Sec” (Loire) – From 375 ml. Very dry, showing pure ripe chalkiness and gentle white stone fruit. Long, elegant, and light, but still way too young. Even from half-bottle. (8/04)

Foreau “Clos Naudin” 1989 Vouvray “Demi-Sec” (Loire) – Spiced and roasted hazelnut with lightly toasted chalk and corn starch dust. Big and somewhat creamy, and maturing a bit faster than one would perhaps have predicted. Still, it’s a very nice wine. (8/04)

Kreydenweiss 1988 Riesling Kastelberg “Grand Cru” (Alsace) – Wet steel and wet limestone in a triangular, purely rock-driven wine resting on its elbows; a beautiful face with less substance behind it than one might wish. It just lacks a little bit of…something. (8/04)

Zind-Humbrecht 1988 Pinot Gris “Vieille Vigne” (Alsace) – From the days when Zind-Humbrecht made decent wine. Slightly burnt smoked quartz, moist and leafy pear, and a delicate, lovely finish. But also, clearly on the downslope. (8/04)

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. (8/04)

Ramonet 1995 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Ruchottes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – 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. (8/04)

r o s é

Parcé Frères “Domaine de La Rectorie” 2005 Collioure Rosé “La Goudie” (Roussillon) – This shows the sea-lashed force of the sun-baked hills in a rather incredibly elegant, dancing light…like the sun sparkling off a Mediterranean shore. Intense but flawlessly restrained strawberry, white pepper and crisp leaf notes show up, but this wine is all about its beautiful, seductive bipolarity. One of the best rosés I’ve ever tasted. (6/07)

Collard “Château Mourgues du Grès” 2006 Costières de Nimes Rosé “Fleur d’Eglantine” (Rhône) – Light and lightly sweet, with slightly fetid strawberry and raspberry covered in a little more softness than I’d like. With a different label, this might be mistaken for blush. (6/07)

Collard “Château Mourgues du Grès” 2006 Costières de Nimes Rosé “Les Galets Rosés” (Rhône) – Crisp raspberry and red apple, with a touch of volatile acidity and a generally more bracing character than the “Fleur d’Eglantine.” Still, it’s not great rosé. (6/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 2001 Côtes du Jura “Corail” (Jura) – Pinot noir, trousseau, poulsard, chardonnay and savagnin. Mixed old apples, and slightly stale nuts with long, terrific acid-based structure. There’s a sensation of old furniture to which a patina of polish has been applied. Lovely and soft, despite the acidity. (2/07)

Parcé Frères “Domaine de La Rectorie” 2005 Collioure Rosé “La Goudie” (Roussillon) – Cranky at uncorking, but eventually all the beautiful qualities emerge: very ripe red cherries and strawberry-infused vinegar, tarragon and lavender, a dry, stony foundation with spikes and points, and a balanced, pure finish that imposes upon the palate. This is rosé as ambitious red wine, and it works. It’s not light by any means, but rather a serious, complex transcendence of the form. (2/07)

Guigal 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé (Rhône) – Raspberry, bubblegum and pink peppercorns. This is nicely balanced. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Tavel (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum pie (if one can imagine such a thing) with a sugary feeling to the palate and finish. Just a little too desserty for its own good. (2/07)

Château Villerambert Julien 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Strawberries have morphed into raspberries with six months of age, and there’s more complexity (mostly of the leafy herbspice variety) than there was over the summer, but also a corresponding diminishment of vivacity. This is nearing the end of its useful life, but it’s been a juicy ride. (1/07)

Iché “Château d’Oupia” 2004 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – The sun-dried wild thyme is starting to heat up from the alcohol; a sign that this rosé is coming to the end of its useful life. It was delicious while it lasted, and there’s still some enticing earthiness to the package. But drink up nonetheless. (12/06)

Château Villerambert Julien 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Summer berries, rich and ripe and red. Succulent and utterly delicious. The best bottle yet. (11/06)

Château Villerambert Julien 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Freshly crushed strawberries with crisp, raspberry-juice acidity and some mineralistic depth. The heart of the summer in liquid form. (11/06)

Château Villerambert Julien 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Freshly-crushed raspberries and strawberries with a particulate graphite mid-tone. Lovely. (11/06)

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)

La Vieille Ferme 2005 Côtes du Ventoux Rosé (Rhône) – Slightly candied strawberry juice and canned red cherry, both overwhelmed by sweetening alcohol. (9/06)

Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 2003 Bandol Rosé (Provence) – Orange blossoms and lavender. Serious and structured for a rosé, but in a very light-bodied way. In other words, just about everything one wants from a rosé. Yet the finish is nearly absent, which is probably an artifact of the vintage. (8/06)

Rozan “Commanderie de la Bargemone” 2005 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé (Provence) – Sticky strawberry and raspberry with thick white apricot and a dense, mildly sweet texture. It’s flavorful, if a bit heavy, but it’s not at all refreshing. (7/06)

JM Raffault 2004 Chinon Rosé (Loire) – Strawberry is only the top layer here, with chalky-dusty white mushrooms forming a core around which are wrapped light fruit and gentle spring leaf aromas. A light, somewhat mysterious rosé that needs careful attention to draw forth its nuances. (7/06)

Quiot “Domaine Houchart” 2005 Côtes de Provence Rosé (Provence) – Sun-drenched raspberry and strawberry, done up in semi-lurid fashion. Heavy, like so many Provençal rosés that hit the export market. And is that residual sugar, too? (7/06)

Henri de Colbert “Château de Flaugergues” 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc La Mejanelle Rosé (Languedoc) – Bright, sunny raspberry and strawberry in their full, unadulterated freshness…as if right off the vine. There’s a hint of lavender on the finish. Extremely pleasant quaffing rosé. (7/06)

Château Villerambert Julien 2005 Minervois Rosé (Languedoc) – Crushed essence of pure raspberry. Delicious. (7/06)

Jeune “Château Valcombe” 2005 Côtes du Ventoux “Signature” Rosé (Provence) – Tight and gravelly at first, showing thinner than one would like. With air, intense raspberry juice coalesces and expands to bury all else. A nice rosé, but it needs a certain amount of coaxing. (6/06)

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. (4/06)

Revelette 2004 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé (Provence) – Salty canned fish (not, as it might seem, an inherently bad thing, though it is unusual) and heavy, molten lead with dead, softening wood rotting away in the background. OK, scratch the equivocation about the salted fish; this is pretty much the opposite of “fresh,” which I do believe is a virtual requisite for Provençal rosé. Worse yet: even with all the weirdness, the wine is boring. (4/06)

Mas de Périé “Domaine Clavel” 2004 Côteaux du Languedoc Terroir de la Mejanelle “Mescladis” Rosé (Languedoc-Roussillon) – Slurpy red fruit with lavender-scented aromatics. The nose promises much, but the palate fails to deliver. (12/05)

r e d

Verset 2001 Cornas (Rhône) – Needs decanting. After sufficient air, this develops lurid decayed flowers on freshly-fertilized soil aromas, baking to the point of blackening in the unrelenting southern sun. Rough, muscular and expansive (especially on the finish), this ends with a sweetening wink, as if to reassure that it can put on a nice shirt and visit the city if it really needs to, but that it would prefer to remain sun-baked and slightly untamed. A beautiful, perfumed wine with almost no concessions to simple-minded lovers of fruit. (6/07)

Mongeard-Mugneret 1983 Vosne-Romanée Les Orveaux (Burgundy) – Old but hanging on; it gains strength in the forepalate as the evening goes on, but loses a bit on the finish. There’s old morels and dark earth with some coffee elements in the vapor trail. Tannin is emergent (as tends to happen in older red wines), and tinged by a very slight greenness. (6/07)

Cathiard 1993 Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Pretty, dominated by black truffle that crescendos on the finish towards ripe strawberry. Very long and lovely. The pure essence of Burgundy. (6/07)

Thomas-Moillard 1990 Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Soft but insistent, with morels, black cherries and a thick, youthful palate that is far more primary-feeling than I’d like. It’s a little big, and definitely low in acidity. But it’s flavorful, despite the sludgy leanings. (6/07)

Forey 1995 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – An old nose of crushed roses (and other flowers), with lots of earth. Polished and once-beautiful, but it appears to be on the decline. This smells better as the evening progresses, but the palate never really catches up. (6/07)

Potel 1999 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Concentrated framboise liqueur. Hugely fruity, with good acid and prettier floral notes on the finish, which is lengthy. Very primary, and I always worry about liqueur notes in Burgundy. (6/07)

Potel 1998 Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Black cherry and herbed shiitake. Extremely dense. Frankly, this is too young to judge, though I do note the shift towards black fruit vs. the ’99. (6/07)

Grivot 1999 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Black and blue syrup with a cardboardy underpinning. I don’t care for this very much. (6/07)

Rion 1998 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Corked. (6/07)

Michel-Noëllat 2002 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Mushroom and truffled earth with deep roots. Beautiful, verging on stunning, and though young there’s already an earthy complexity that’s utterly captivating. Wow. (6/07)

Arnoux 1996 Vosne-Romanée Les Chaumes “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – A slightly sour attack, then turning to mixed cherries sprinkled with tarragon and strawberry seeds. The structure is forceful and somewhat hard, with high acidity as well. It improves with air, but it’s still on the slightly grating, herbal side. (6/07)

Bouchard “Château de Vosne-Romanée” 1990 Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots (Burgundy) – Butterfat and blocky, chocolate-coated blueberry. Long but monolithic, and decidedly uninspiring. (6/07)

Mongeard-Mugneret 2001 Richebourg “Grand Cru” (Burgundy) – Massively complex, with soft waves of fading red berries and mixed peppers and peppercorns. The key is the texture, which is utterly seductive and elegant. Gorgeous, with more development ahead. (6/07)

Desvignes 2000 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières (Beaujolais) – Served blind, with guesses all over the map, and none of them close…save Panos Kakaviatos, who briefly mentioned Beaujolais on his way to the general consensus of “no idea.” There was agreement that it tasted nothing like pinot or Burgundy, but that’s as far as it went. As for the wine: meaty and dark, with smoke berries and herbal, cough-drop eucalyptus. Very structured and moody. This would appear to have some years left to go, though it’s a pretty interesting wine right now. (6/07)

Cave de Cairanne 2005 Vin de Pays de la Principauté d’Orange “Secret de Campane” (Rhône) – Grenache, carignan & cinsault. It’s thick, perhaps even a bit sludgy, and though there’s a decent amount of acidity it’s completely overwhelmed by the weight of this wine. That said, it’s not particularly dense or concentrated, just heavy. And that said, it’s very tasty and goofily affable. It’s simple, but it’s $5.99. What do you want for six bucks? (6/07)

Kermit Lynch “Terres d’Avignon” 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Satisfyingly basic. Provençal herbs, soil and brush pair with well-roasted old red berries and a soft, transporting hint of Rhônish complexity. A lovely wine, and an absolute steal anywhere south of $15. (6/07)

Boutin “Château La Roque” 2004 Pic Saint-Loup “Cuvée les Vieilles vignes de Mourvèdre (Languedoc) – Ageable and thus in need of decanting, showing dark, fierce fruit and concentrated, leather-clad meat residue amidst a cowboy structure of straps and chaps. A touch untamed, and all the better for it. (6/07)

Desvignes 2000 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières (Beaujolais) – Corked. My last bottle, too. (6/07)

Texier 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages St-Gervais (Rhône) – Fully resolved, with a mélange of French underbrush and spiced-with-age old red berries. The texture is somewhat reminiscent of leather, but disintegrated rather than intact, as if everything had shattered into the finest particulate matter possible. A really lovely wine, showing authentic character but modernistic gentility, all in the same package. Synthetic cork, so drink soon; they’re not to be trusted with age. (6/07)

Campadieu “Domaine La Tour Vieille” 1999 Collioure Puig Oriol (Roussillon) – Cooked and horridly nasty. A recent purchase, so it shouldn't be considered representative of well-stored bottles. (6/07)

Chevillon 1996 Nuits Saint-Georges Les Roncières (Burgundy) – Corked. What a shame. (6/07)

Bocquenet 1995 Echezeaux (Burgundy) – Subtle and gorgeous, showing mixed seed peppers dusted over grey and black earth, and a soft, pulsing dark fruit core that just resists identification. Everything one drinks Burgundy for. (6/07)

Milhade “Château Recougne” 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – A thick, sludgy fruit stew of blackberries and blueberries with some velvety tannin but not even the vaguest hint of acidity or balance. In other words, a typical 2003. (6/07)

Joguet 2002 Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos (Loire) – Surprisingly advanced, showing beautiful balance and poise, but with aromas moving quickly from primary fresh twig, berry skin, and nutshells to something more engagingly earthy and decayed/autumnal. The wine has softened a lot since release, and while there’s enough structure that there’s no need to panic, the quick advancement is puzzling. I’d have thought this would take longer to develop tertiary characteristics. (6/07)

Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1993 Bandol (Provence) – A wine that writhes, spreads and coats…from the initial squirt of bubblegum to old, mildewed morels and a hearty dusting of cocoa on the finish. The acidity is high by modern standards, the tannin is still present and will probably go unresolved as this wine goes softly into its good night, but the fruit is almost surprisingly clean; lovers of the funk will be mildly disappointed. They shouldn’t be, as this is a lovely wine in the very early stages of its retirement. (5/07)

Couly-Dutheil 1995 Chinon Clos de l’Echo (Loire) – Very herbal (mostly thyme), but juicy, showing soy on the midpalate and a wet, white peppery edge to the tannin that scrapes across the finish. Everything else in this wine seems ripe, but the tannic bite may not be. There’s a feisty meat component as the wine opens, then tarragon and a lovely lavender grace note. The balance here is lovely, but what also stands out is the abruptness of the wine’s decline; three hours after opening, it is dead, dead, dead. So: drink up with pleasure, but do drink up. (5/07)

Maréchal 2004 Savigny-les-Beaune “Vieilles Vignes” (Burgundy) – Golden beet, orange rind, old cherry and reddish-grey earth, with hints of black truffle and a darker, moodier diagonal streak that brings with it a sliced edge of tannin. Very nice, but it feels like it’s showing most of its complexity already, and may not have a beneficial future. That’s just a guess, though. (5/07)

Savoret “Clos Fardet” 1998 Madiran (Southwest France) – Very tannic (of course), showing nicely-developing blackened mushroom, charred blackberry, and liquid black soil. There’s even a hint of unrefined oil. Blended herbs and more berries stir into the finish. If such a thing can even be said, it seems slightly commercial for Madiran, but there’s no denying it’s a tasty wine. (5/07)

Gaillard/Baills “Domaine Madeloc” 2004 Collioure “Cuvée Serral” (Roussillon) – Oaky and simplistic, with well-buttered black fruit and a general lack of verve, sun-baked intensity, dried earth, or character. Why drink Collioure, if all these things are going to be missing? This tastes exactly like an internationalized syrah from the plateau above the Rhône Valley, except that it’s missing the intense fruit. Dismaying. (5/07)

Domaine Chassagne 2005 Morgon Côtes de Ruillères (Beaujolais) – The ghost of Beaujolais passed; spiky, juicy, somewhat hollow and semi-candied redfruit like that of the carbonic maceration Beaujolais I used to drink when I was first getting into wine. As befits a Morgon of this vintage, there’s some serious tannin, and all around is structure, but the core of fruit in its midst is exceedingly unserious. This is the first 2005 I’ve tasted that I believe I’ll avoid in the future. (5/07)

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2001 Beaujolais “L’Ancien Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Spiky, red cherry-dominated and acidic, with a seedy, brittle finish. I think this one has gone as long as it can. It’s tasty and vivid, but unquestionably thinning around the perimeter. (5/07)

JB Sénat “Domaine Saint Sernin” 1999 Minervois Le Bois des Merveilles (Languedoc) – Corked. A shame, too, as this was a gift from the winemaker, carried all the way home from Sénat’s cellar in Trausse-Minervois. (5/07)

Gras “Santa Duc” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône “Les Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Corked. (5/07)

Peillot 2003 Bugey Mondeuse (Ain) – Bracing blackfruit with licorice spice and a freshening, Altoid-like verve to the palate. The aromatics ride the line between gamay and something darker and more menacing, but for all the wine’s threatened fierceness, it’s lovably approachable and extremely affable with food (thanks to bright acidity, even in this vintage). Very nice. (5/07)

Maréchal 2004 Chorey-les-Beaune (Burgundy) – Crisp, salivatory red cherry and raspberry with sanded-down edges of cereal-brown earth and well-integrated tarragon and thyme aromas. Quite engaging. (4/07)

JM Burgaud 2005 Morgon Côte du Py “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Very muscular and tough; not showing much, but grudgingly giving up some chewy, dark berry fruit and crushed violets. Mostly, though, it’s earthy and tannic, with firm acidity not helping to smooth matters. Leave it alone for a long while. (4/07)

Gayraud “Château Lamartine” 2002 Cahors (Southwest France) – Wet, hard-ridden leather with hints of tar, black fruit residue, and a jerky, whip-snap structure dominated by violent lashes of sharp tannin and blocky acidity. The wine has a certain appeal, and not just from a sadomasochistic point of view; the elements are in that funky sort of Southwestern French balance, and while the wine is quite drinkable (albeit with food) now, I think aging is key. It will never be refined, however. (4/07)

Guignier 2004 Morgon “Réserve Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Clipped and trimmed about the edges, which is a shame. At the core there’s a slick, dark-earth/dark-berry juiciness and some light but firm tannin, but there’s just not much else going on here. I’m not sure I see a future…or a present. (4/07)

JM Burgaud 2004 Morgon Côte du Py “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Frowning black fruit, mixed wild mushrooms, crushed and soil-ridden flowers shudder under the steady drumbeat of deep-toned contrabass structure. It’s pretty, but masculine; approachable, but ageable. It’s quite a wine. (4/07)

JM Burgaud 2005 Morgon Côte du Py “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Structure built upon structure, with only the blackest, night-shadowed hints of bitter chocolate cherries and blackberries peeking through the heavy metal bars in which they’re encaged. Throbbing but forbidding, and in no mood to be opened anytime soon. (4/07)

Joguet 2003 Chinon “Cuvée de la Cure” (Loire) – Ripe, leaf-tinged blackberry…plucked from the wild with fruit, flower, leaf and branch intact…over a firm bed of black earth and decaying, morel-infused autumnal forest bed. There’s plenty of structure here, but it’s smooth and ripe, and this would seem to be a wine meant for aging. Nicely formed. (4/07)

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)

Daulhiac “Château Le Payral” 2003 Bergerac “Héritage” (Southwest France) – Meaty and raw…perhaps almost feral…with chewy black fruit wrapped in a tannic sheath, overripe wood ear mushroom, and a finish that oscillates between frenetic dancing and martial goose-stepping. It’s a little tannin-dominated, but aside from that all the elements are in place for medium-term aging. (4/07)

Jean David 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Les Couchants” (Rhône) – To be honest, this smells more like a ripe Loire cabernet franc than a Séguret, though there’s a hint of dark, brothy meat liqueur hanging around in the background. Otherwise, it’s slicked-back mélange of herbs and chunky earth, with a fine-grit polished structure but little generosity. The finish and nose aren’t much, either. Eh. (4/07)

Feraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1989 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – Black pepper, dark blueberry-infused leather and meat juice, with a strong undercurrent of iron-rich blood. Fantastic balance. The wine pulses and squeezes the palate, a heartbeat of stunning Châteauneuf character. Stunning. And, for those who are interested, ready to drink…though I don’t think there’s any danger of immediate declination. (3/07)

Brun “Terres Dorées” 2005 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – Thick to the point of solidity and massively reductive, with the aroma of a wine-soaked cork worming its way in there. With 24 hours of air, there’s brutally dark blackberry fruit over tar and asphalt, and the tiniest bit of generosity on the finish, but things are still reductive and generally screwed up tight. Traditional Madiran is more generous in its youth. Don’t even think about opening this anytime soon. (3/07)

Bachelet 2002 Côte de Nuits-Villages (Burgundy) – Beet, extremely ripe red cherry, concentrated blood orange. In other words, the classic aromatic profile of a Central Otago pinot. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. And in any case, the palate diverges significantly: earth, juiced shiitakes, and mixed cherries. The finish is a little on the short side, but this is a lovely wine, ripe but complex enough. (3/07)

Texier 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – Beef jerky, lashings of hickory and bacon squeezings, fried leather and sun-desiccated earth, all slapped into hyper-awareness by strident bell-tones of meat vinegar. And yet, everything’s muted and oppressed, as if the wine is fading into oblivion. This is my last bottle – I’ve been opening them sooner than I’d wished due to a complete lack of confidence in the synthetic corks, a fear which has proven unfortunately well-founded – but despite the suppression, it’s probably the best of the lot. I wish I could have held it longer, because I never really embraced the spiky acidity in this wine, but alas… (3/07)

Collard “Château Mourgues du Gres” 2005 Costières de Nimes “Les Galets Rouges” (Languedoc) – Corked. (3/07)

Lorgeril “Pennautier” 2004 Cabardès (Languedoc) – Dark, brooding and just a bit bretty, with juicy black fruit and scraping tanning forming a halfpipe around wet acidity. It’s structured enough to age, and would seem to need it as things aren’t really all that together at the moment, but I wonder if there’s enough raw material to reward the effort. My inclination is to say yes, but it’s no sure thing. (3/07)

Maréchal 2004 Bourgogne “Cuvée Gravel” (Burgundy) – Soft and warm in every way you’d want a red Burgundy to be, with gentle red fruit, earthspice, a background hum of animal-scented organics, and a blatantly seductive finish. There’s enough organoleptic maturity and rim bricking that I’d drink this sooner rather than later. (3/07)

Laboucarié “Domaine de Fontsainte” 2004 Corbières (Languedoc) – Good spicy-earthy red fruit, somewhat soda-like, with that flaky, sun-peeled paint texture that the better wines from this appellation often seem to show. Nicely balanced. A warm, satisfying wine. (3/07)

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Grassy earth, thyme and dusty dark berries. It gives the impression that it’s going to be green and somewhat acrid, but in fact the texture is beautifully particulate, and there’s a surprising smoothness. This tastes completely “natural,” for those to whom that term means something, and it dances delightfully with a pretty wide variety of foods. Delicious. And ageable? Perhaps, for a while. (3/07)

Roumier 1994 Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy) – A little imbalanced and a lot tired, showing dried-out red fruit and brown leaves with a squeezed meat finish, all layered with a faint but insistent tannin. It’s delicate and there are certain minor charms, but this was better at some time that was before now. (3/07)

Terres d’Avignon “Cuvée Sélectionnée par Kermit Lynch” 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Earth, herb, animal and dark, sun-dried fruit – all the classic elements – in a gentle, but persistent brew of charming simplicity. This is a delicious wine of fine, authentic character…no bells and whistles, but plenty of gut-level pleasure. (3/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 2001 Côtes du Jura Rouge (Jura) – 100% pinot noir. Raspberry and roses (both fresh and older, somewhat decayed versions) with dead cider aromas and nuts. Strongly-expressed, but perhaps pursued a little farther down its particular organoleptic road than I can easily follow. (2/07)

BeauThorey Vin de Table “Ubac” (Languedoc) – Quite acidic, with a grating drone of tannin nailing a rigid spike through an otherwise crisp, light-minded burst of first-pick red berries and wild herbs, plus a shower of fine grey dust reminiscent of dry lead. This, like the other BeauThorey wines, is a middle finger to modern winemaking convention, and all the better for it; something that will drive university-trained oenologists to hair-tearing fits, but has unmistakable charms for vinous adventurers. It needs (light) food. (2/07)

Avril Vin de Table “Le petit vin d’Avril” (France) – Sharp, direct raspberry. Acidic and short. This is a wine I want to like, but even its desperate cry for food might not bring it back into balance. (2/07)

Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de l’Ardèche “Marselan” (Ardèche) – Very aromatic, showing big flowers and boisterous raspberry blossoms. Nice. While there’s some structure, this is mostly about fun. (2/07)

Diffonty “Domaine de Brès Caseneuve” 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc (Languedoc) – Dark plum, black licorice and bubblegum. Rough but balanced, with a bit of sourness that somehow seems oak-derived. This has a future, but I worry about that sour note. (2/07)

Decouvertes & Selections “Domaine des Rozets” 2004 Côteaux du Tricastin (Rhône) – Gentle strawberry, raspberry and light bubblegum with a short, countrified finish. Eh. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Plum, bubblegum, leather and a drying anise quality that coarsens into a brutish finish. It will probably improve with a little age, however. (2/07)

Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Fresh strawberry and red cherry. Very upfront, yet there’s a little bit of structure as well. A fair value wine. (2/07)

Guigal 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Tannic and hard. There’s a little softening in the midpalate, but this is a perfect exemple of the vintage’s too-common flaw. (2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Sour cherry and dill, with some other herbs floating around in the background. Next. (2/07)

Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Strawberry and sand with a light structure. There’s a lot of minerality bubbling underneath, here. Not bad. (2/07)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Rhône) – A gorgeous nose, full of sweetly rich, ripe red/purple fruit. However, it falls completely apart after that, leaving a dry, dead palate and hard finish. Very disappointing. (2/07)

Lafond 2004 Lirac “La Ferme Romaine” (Rhône) – Soft at the edges, but with a core of plum, blueberry syrup, raspberry liqueur and strongly floral notes. Thick coffee and vanilla round out the finish. It’s good, though it grows increasingly internationalized as it persists, and I suspect the temptation to smooth it out with new oak is one that might better have been limited. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2004 Lirac (Rhône) – Big black coffee and plum with raspberry liqueur. This is obviously a “lesser” wine than the Ferme Romaine, and yet I think it’s both better and has a more promising future. (2/07)

Guigal 2004 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Thing and insubstantial, showing faded leather and little else. (2/07)

Guigal 2003 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Blackberry and some vegetal notes. Simultaneously light and hard, which is not the most pleasant combination. (2/07)

Stehelin 2004 Gigondas (Rhône) – Heavy and strong, with black earth, asphalt and thick, licorice-like fruit running from dark purple to black. Structured and pure, and very, very impressive. Lovers of sheer size above all else will want to drink it now, but everyone else should let it age. (2/07)

Guigal 2003 Gigondas (Rhône) – A great nose of strawberry seed, licorice and dark earth. It’s massively, overwhelmingly tannic (no surprise), with a hard, drying finish. Almost… (2/07)

Guigal 2003 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Rough and hard, with tannin running roughshod over strawberry seed and horse-scented leather. Not bad, considering the challenges, but not that great either. (2/07)

Guigal 2001 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Soft and acrid, with better-constituted elements drawn forth on the finish: graphite and asphalt. I suspect this might be somewhat closed, but I also think it might be fundamentally frayed. (2/07)

Guigal “Château d’Ampuis” 2003 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Big, ripe black fruit and herbs with an earthy, mixed-nut underbelly. Despite the size, there’s an appealing softness and unquestionable balance here. A very good wine. (2/07)

Guigal 2001 Hermitage (Rhône) – Structured graphite with a fierce aspect…yet there’s balance, albeit the wine is just edging towards acid-dominance, with atypical raspberry and red apple apparent on the finish. An odd wine. Perhaps partially closed? (2/07)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Dense, hard and short, with strawberry and earth. Solid but bitter on the finish. (2/07)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve Sixtine” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Rounder than the normale, with strawberry and burnt walnut dominated, but also a lot of sour dill infusing the mix. (2/07)

Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Clean and pure, with strawberry bubblegum to the fore. Light but nice, though I’m not quite sure it rises to the level of a CdP. (2/07)

Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Les Petits Pied d’Armand” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Very aromatic and floral, with pink peppercorns spicing up big strawberry fruit, and good acidity. Really nice, in a fruit-forward idiom. (2/07)

Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Fun strawberry, earth and tangerine…a strange character to find in a CdP…with earth and spiky acidity. Good, if sharp. The nicest of the trio. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (Rhône) – Bubblegum, bacon and biting strawberry seed with grey earth…promising, all of it…but marred by a flattened finish. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry, dark plum and black earth. Longer and purer than the 2004, with much more promise. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Harder than one might expect. It’s a hollow metal cylinder, grooved and sprinkled with molten iron spice, blackened strawberry and black pepper. It’s very long, but the form is an unusual one. It may turn out great, or it may be a disaster. It’s hard to say right now. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Peanut butter on toast with some sort of anonymously sour jam. Finishes hard, with sour cherries. This tastes overworked, but maybe age will resolved things. (2/07)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – The nose is gorgeous, full or soft, rich, ripe red and purple fruit. However, it falls completely apart after that, with a dry, dead palate and a hard, absent finish. What happened? (2/07)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Quet” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Hard, bitter and nasty, with huge tannin. Blech. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Plum bubblegum, red cherry and strawberry. Fun and pleasurable. (2/07)

Jeune “Domaine de Saint Paul” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry, raspberry and salty earth with moderate bubblegum character. Nice, clean, straightforward stuff. (2/07)

Jeune “Domaine du Grand Tinel” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Stonger, fuller-bodied, and more sharply-delineated than the Saint Paul…at first, but then some soupy characteristics emerge, vanilla crests the palate, and the finish slams on the brakes. Almost. (2/07)

Jeune “Domaine du Grand Tinel” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Alexis Establet” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big, rich and ripe, with plum and mixed berries at the core of an intense, modernistic take on CdP. The long finish shows vanilla and dark chocolate coating dense raspberry liqueur. Very, very good in its idiom, though it is certainly not classic or traditional in any way. (2/07)

Pierre Usseglio 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Simple strawberry and raspberry with a soft, sour finish that edges towards dill. (2/07)

Pierre Usseglio 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée de Mon Aïeul” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big but balanced, showing strawberry softened with milk chocolate. It’s smooth and clean, but I expect a little more strength and body from this cuvée. (2/07)

Lucien “Le Vieux Donjon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Pure elegance, showing strawberry and raspberry on a beautiful bed of gravel. Long and beautiful. The absolute class of this lineup. (2/07)

Moulin-Tacussel 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big chocolate, peanut butter and chewy fruit jam, not unlike a children’s sandwich in this regard. The palate shows sourness from sharp acidity, with little lacings of vanilla. This is not one of my favorite producers, as a rule, but I like this one more than usual.(2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Balanced but gauzy, showing bark, sand and long-lasting structure. What there’s not much of is fruit, in any sense. (2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “A la Gloire de mon Grand-Père” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Charred black cherry with a soft, powdery aspect. Nice and balanced, but with a flat finish. (2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Chante le Merle” “Vielles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum, chocolate, coffee and blueberry in balance with firm structure. Intense. A good wine, with a fine future. (2/07)

Laget-Royer “Domaine Pontifical” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Bark, strawberry seed and hay with a thick, dense, one-note finish. There’s good structure, but the whole thing is rather obvious and even a little bit boring. (2/07)

Courtil-Thibaut “Clos des Brusquières” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big mixed cherries, strawberry liqueur and black pepper with granite and herbs in the mix. Dense and forceful, this is long, balanced, and terrific. (2/07)

Guigal 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Classic blended meats and baked plum, though with the heavy, hard tannin so typical of the vintage. (2/07)

Brunier “Vieux-Télégraphe” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Télégramme” (Rhône) – Soft and elegant, showing mostly herbs and rocks and the moment. It’s likely somewhat closed. (2/07)

Vatan “Château du Hureau” 2004 Saumur-Champigny (Loire) – Herbs, black cherry skins and bitter licorice. The balance starts off OK, but eventually tannin overwhelms this wine. Worrisome. (2/07)

BeauThorey 2001 Côteaux du Languedoc “Bella Parra” (Languedoc) – It’s bretty, to be sure, but the stank is part of an overall impression of aging Northern Rhône, perhaps Crozes-Hermitage. There’s hard, masculine black fruit enveloped and dominated by leathery meatwhips, some barnyard, a little dusting of black pepper, and a firm, long, complex finish. If this sounds a little more like a strange ad for an S/M club than I wine note, I suppose that’s intentional, because that’s rather the impression created by this wine. Despite periods of doubt, I quite like it, and were it not for the worry that brett will eventually overwhelm all else, I’d consider aging some…though in a way, it already shows everything that some fully mature wines take years to achieve. Impressive, to a degree. (2/07)

Gauthier 2005 Chiroubles Châtenay “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Tannic underneath the crushed, dried floral nose. Pretty, sharp and drying at the same time. There are appealing elements here, but ultimately I find it a little hard to like this wine. With time, matters may well be different; I don’t think I’ve ever tasted aged Chiroubles, but this is the most likely candidate I’ve yet encountered. (2/07)

Dard & Ribo 2004 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Refermented ass cheese. Vile and irreparably flawed. Yet another tragic victim of the low-sulfur winemaking fetish. (2/07)

Desvignes 2000 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières (Beaujolais) – Structured blood and iron, with morels and dark fruit in the mix. The finish shatters into iron filings. Gorgeous wine that’s not turning into some sort of Burgundy analogue, but is instead following its own delicious path; a beautiful marriage of a stupendous terroir and a terrific producer. It’s most certainly ready to go, and the organoleptics are probably at their most appealing, but I don’t think there’s any danger of it falling apart anytime soon either, given the still-weighty structure. (2/07)

Hubert Lignier 1996 Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy) – Sharp raspberry with an ungenerous, shyly abrupt finish. I find this wine very difficult to warm up to, yet others in the room seem much more enticed. Is it closed, is it bad, or is it just me? All three seem equally likely. (2/07)

Jasmin 2001 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Elegant violet-studded pork, with far too much soft-bodied restraint…though the finish lingers on and on, showing a gentle persistence of absence. The next day, it tastes like nothing. The day after that, it’s the void incarnate, actually removing existing tastes from the palate. The most logical conclusion is that it’s impenetrably closed, and while there are a few nice elements that can be teased into revelation, there seems little point in drinking this now. Let it age in the manner it deserves. (2/07)

Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Cosmic” (Rhône) – Drinking beautifully right now, with concentrated meat liqueur dominated by dry-aged (and blueberry-tainted) leather and roasted nut essences livened up by a mélange of spices. (2/07)

Avril “Clos des Papes” 1989 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe (Rhône) – Gorgeous, satiny and elegant, with moderate and soft meat liqueur balanced by a proportional amount of smooth black/blueberry fruit and a timid bass note of vanilla. This may be the most “sophisticated” Châteauneuf I’ve tasted in ages, more fitting for the table of its namesake than for the country daubes of the peasantry, yet still carrying all the qualities either audience would want. Gorgeous wine, nowhere near full maturity but drinking beautifully right now. (2/07)

Coudert 2000 Fleurie “Cuvée Christal” (Beaujolais) – Dark, hickory-smoked leaves and blackberries with softly-settling flower petals and a strong note of reconstituted morel water that dallies with soy. The wine then twists and writhes, showing freshly ground white pepper and water-softened tree bark, then a mossy note, then more well-aged berries. Mature, complex and delicious. (2/07)

Les Vignerons d’Estézargues “Domaine la Montagnette” 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Ripe blackberry layered with vanilla and showing thin stripes of light green, which is more complexing than underripe. A pleasant, simple wine, but it’s a little slicked-up for my tastes. And yet, there’s a hint of brett as well. So: slick, but in need of a little disinfectant. (1/07)

Joguet 2004 Chinon “Cuvée Terroir” (Loire) – Oregano and thyme marinated in the liquid used for reconstituting dried mushrooms, mixed with dried cranberry and tart red cherry. This was one of the few European wines I bought in any quantity in 2003, and while this vintage is massively more typical, I do wonder if it’s as good; the finish is a bit abrupt, and it seems somewhat underwined and simplistic. (12/06)

JM Burgaud 2005 Régnié “Vallières” (Beaujolais) – A solid, almost beefy (though lighter than that; call it “veally”?) block of red fruit and structure. There are very mild floral notes, but they’re distant and unapproachable. This is about as primary a Beaujolais as I’ve tasted, though it’s certainly in line with a lot of other 2005s. There could be great things in the offing here, but for immediate pleasure open something else. (12/06)

Hubert Lignier 1996 Morey-St-Denis (Burgundy) – On the downslope, though grey earth-flecked mushrooms and decaying orange flowers can be coaxed forth with careful swirling. The first few moments are the most appealing, then there’s a tired stage, and after about a half-hour (not unusual for older Burgundies), there’s a brief renaissance. Still, this was unquestionably better a few years ago. (12/06)

Simon Bize 2000 Bourgogne “Les Perrières” (Burgundy) – While there are decayed autumnal leaves and morels accenting the long-aged black fruit, this wine is fading underneath its vanilla-scented toast. A little oakier than I prefer, to be sure, but it’s still decent enough for a six year old Bourgogne. (1/07)

I&B Perraud “Côtes de la Molière” 2005 Vin de Table (Beaujolais) – A declassified (or just-out-of-the-border, or something along those lines) cru Beaujolais, showing all the characteristics of one of the heavier exemplars of that appellation: keening acid-washed fruit, grey-toned granite, fresh-plucked oyster mushroom, and the buzzing energy of a life not-yet-lived. Appealing, as so much Beaujolais is, but with depths and complexities. Great stuff. (1/07)

Piquemal 2004 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes “Pierre Cuvée Audonnet” (Roussillon) – Concentrated blueberry and blackberry with dark, smoky leather and good, sun-baked weight. Nothing is out of balance, though it’s certainly a big wine…simple and unpretentious, but successful in its aims. And for well under $10, this is an excellent value. (1/07)

Piquemal 2004 Côtes du Roussillon (Roussillon) – A bit on the sour/soupy side, with vegetal, slightly charred red fruit and an unpleasant midpalate. Things improve on the finish, with good balance to the fore, but by then it’s just too late. (1/07)

BeauThorey Vin de Table “Bogus” (Languedoc) – Beaujolais-like in aspect, especially given its exciting aromatics, but with a stronger, more biting structural component, and the suggestion of fruit moving a little more towards the blue-purple spectrum. It’s made from the highly unusual muscat de hambourg…a black grape. It is, frankly, a striking, compelling, and delicious wine…and seems emblematic of the delicious sort of “crank” viticulture that flourishes in rural France. Fascinating stuff. (1/07)

Durand “Domaine la Bastide” 2004 Vin de Pays d’Hauterive Syrah (Languedoc) – Blackberry in an almost bubbly, tingly style…the sort of thing that makes one think of carbonic maceration, though I don’t believe that was employed here…with a cracked eggshell, charred brown earth sort of minerality to it. Balanced and approachable. Apparently this is actually a Corbières, but the proprietor thinks that appellation has been so devalued that he’s declassified the wine. He may be right. It’s an exceptional sub-$10 value, though it’s not “serious” in any way. (1/07)

Vatan “Chateau du Hureau” 2004 Saumur-Champigny (Loire) – Sharply delineated, with crisp, blackish-purple juice studded with thyme zinging and slashing on the palate, then perhaps turning somewhat shyly remorseful as the finish gathers and rounds itself into a more coherent, cohesive whole. But it’s still a bit sharp. (1/07)

de Villaine 2004 Mercurey Le Montots (Burgundy) – Variable, difficult vintage, blah, blah, blah. Here’s yet another reminder – there can never be too many – to ignore vintage charts and pay attention to the producer. This is gorgeous, succulent, elegant, beautiful Burgundy. It takes a few moments to rev the engines, but when it does they purr like pampered kittens on a fuel of soft red fruit, black trumpet mushroom and gentle, autumnal breezes graced with the faintest hint of black licorice. (1/07)

Cartier “mas de gourgonnier” 2004 Les Baux de Provence Rouge (Provence) – Flat, somewhat beaten-down berry dust with a wooly, powdery texture. This wine struggles, but fails to break free, and while it appears large-shouldered at first sniff, it turns out to be rather a wuss in the glass. Flaw-free, but disappointing. (1/07)

Hudelot-Noellat 1993 Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy) – Beets and roasted garbage with a lovely aftertaste of stewed sewage. This isn’t just dead, this is a victim of some horrible assault. Call CSI. (12/06)

Jadot 1993 Savigny-les-Beaune La Dominode (Burgundy) – Old dust on a cedar chest, with sharp strawberry and squirty lemon-drop adding much brightness to the palate. The finish is deeper, with black trumpet mushrooms, black and red cherries, and even a bit of tar…followed by more dust. Drink up. (12/06)

Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2004 Côteaux du Languedoc (Languedoc) – Good, basic Languedoc flavors – fire-roasted dark berry, earth, mushroom and herb – muted and somewhat indistinct, but pleasurable and direct nonetheless. Think of it as really high-quality cooperative wine, though of course it’s not. More relevantly, this is a fairly large step down from the much better Pic Saint-Loup, and I’m not sure the reduced cost is proportional enough to warrant the downgrade. There’s nothing wrong here, but… (12/06)

Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2001 Pic Saint-Loup “Les Nobles Pierres” (Languedoc) – A lip-smacking blend of southern Frenchness – ripe, slightly roasted black fruit, black-earth mushroom, wind-dried herbs, underbrush and dustings of peppercorn. Structured, balanced and delicious. (12/06)

Faiveley 1993 Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy) – The aromatics (old berries, forest floor, fresh morels) are muscular and enticing, but the wine is wan and decrepit, leaving only a dried-out, scratchy tannin and in its wake. Twenty-four hours later, the palate has made a little bit of a recovery, with some emergent red fruit peeking out of the grave. Unfortunately, it soon doesn’t much matter, as a “sherrying” of the wine eventually buries the improvement once and for all. (12/06)

Martin “Château Gloria” 1992 St-Julien (Bordeaux) – Mixed herbs and dried cocoa dust with black fruit, black trumpet mushrooms and dark earth. The structure, which has more acid than is the modern norm, and tannin that has edged carefully but inexorably towards graphitic, is still firmly in place, and reasonably balanced as well, yet I’d still call it fully mature. (12/06)

Soard ”Domaine de Fenouillet” 2005 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (Rhône) – It sounds both unkind and unhealthy to say, but this is rustic old red wine made through grape-stained socks. The thing is, this footwear quality comes off as a good – though particular – thing, with the rough-hewn red and purple berries lent an actively organic aroma. There’s some vague nods in the direction of structure, but mostly this is a pleasurable representation of the kind of regional wine one doesn’t actually get to taste outside of the region of production; there’s freshly-ironed clothes and a comb taken to the hair, but the peasant within remains. (12/06)

Raymond Quenard 2004 Chignin Mondeuse (Savoie) – A little bottle-funky at first opening, but this eventually drifts away, leaving a wine that’s surprisingly structured and hard-edged given its light, high-mountain strawberry fruit. There’s crisp acidity, but the tannin is definitely the main player here (not that there’s a lot of it, just a lot vs. the other elements), and I’m not sure the wine is fully integrated yet. Long- or short-term, then, it needs to age. But I think the result will be worth it. (12/06)

Cavalier “Château de Lascaux” 2001 Pic Saint-Loup “Les Nobles Pierres” (Languedoc) – Dark garrigue full of summer-brazened herbs and smoky, concentrated blackberry. There’s lovely structure and balance to this wine, which is decidedly masculine, but straddles a nice division between the untamed farmer and the mannered urbanite; the wine’s sophistication is not in its airs, but rather in its confident sense of style. Worth owning in quantity. (12/06)

Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – Previous bottles have been decidedly international in style. Suddenly, the wine has turned to Bordeaux: cedar, tobacco (with a bit of a green edge) and drying cassis with structure and even some acidity. Have I unfairly maligned this wine as Napa-esque? I guess we’ll see with further aging. (12/06)

Trimbach 1997 Pinot Noir “Réserve Personnelle” (Alsace) – An adventurous choice. This is certainly the best pinot noir I’ve tasted from Trimbach. If that sounds like qualified praise, it is; the wine has good weight, a lot of worthy varietal characteristics (earthy cherry and autumn leaves, mostly, though there’s some wet morel as well), and has held up and developed well enough. However, there is – and there’s no mistaking it – the dreaded “hot dog” aroma that so often afflicts Alsace pinot noir. I’m not sure what the problem is – soil, clones, winemaking – but it seems that whenever a pinot noir rises above the biting rosé-like horde, it stands a better-than-average chance of turning to fermented frankfurter. It’s strange. (11/06)

Burgaud “Château de Thulon” 2005 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – Sappy red berries with cedar, pine nuts and buoyant acidity; this wine lives amongst sopranos, and though it sings quietly among them, it sings with appealing purity. Fun stuff. (11/06)

Mongeard-Mugneret 2002 Bourgogne Pinot Noir (Burgundy) – Pretty classic basic Burgundy, showing soft red fruit, wet earth, and a very faint sheen of mushroomy funk. Quite pleasant to drink. (11/06)

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)

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)

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)

Sichel “Prieur des Jacobins” 2004 Bordeaux “Les Jalles” (Bordeaux) – Green, ultra-shy canned black cherries. Slightly bitter. This is as boring as a wine can possibly be. (10/06)

Château Villerambert Julien 2001 Minervois (Languedoc) – Crushed black raspberries with a smooth, vaguely leathery texture and a firm, round complexion. This seems a little smoothed out and smoothed over; a very good wine, but perhaps not particularly bespeaking Minervois. (9/06)

Chapoutier 1989 Hermitage (Ermitage) “Le Pavillon” (Rhône) – Medium-well leather and slow-cooked meat in a silky, sensuous, almost creamy wine full of soft, mouthfilling meatfruit and Provençal herbs. There’s so little structure than the creaminess turns somewhat flouncy on the palate, and one longs for a little muscularity, or at least assertiveness. Perhaps more importantly, there’s nothing about this that suggests any of the masculinity of great Hermitage. It’s a very good wine, but I’m not sure it’s a good representative of its appellation. (9/06)

Chapoutier 1994 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “La Bernardine” (Rhône) – Corked. (9/06)

Audras “Clos de Haute-Combe” 2002 Juliénas “Cuvée Prestige” (Beaujolais) – Gentle but surprisingly firm red fruit dusted with graphite and sweet black earth. Lithe and light, with fine acidity and an elegant, almost regal texture. Lovely. (9/06)

Reynaud “Château des Tours” 1998 Vacqueyras “Réserve” (Rhône) – Dense smoked plum concentrate with wet leather and meat-like components. However, the texture is lush and creamy, it’s quite heavy, and there’s an intense, heavy sweetness to the palate. Is there residual sugar in this wine? The owner says that half his bottles have undergone a secondary fermentation in their bottles, so I guess we know the answer to that question. Anyway, it’s very good in strict moderation, but less so in quantity, and sweet Vacqueyras is crossing too many borders of typicity for me. This tastes like show wine, rather than something one would wish to drink at table. (9/06)

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)

Sabon “Clos du Mont-Olivet” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “La Cuvée du Papet” (Rhône) – Corked. (9/06)

Domaine Michel Cheveau 2005 Saint-Amour “En Rontey” (Beaujolais) – Surprisingly gentle: delicate red berries and ethereal floral notes dance right on the edge of perception. Surprisingly firm: a strong, granitic structure adds a pillar-like rigidity to matters. Between these two incompatible notions lies a slightly schizophrenic wine. The results are, on the surface, quite nice…as the wine functions both as light-bodied quaffing Beaujolais and something firmer and crisper that stands up to food, but one yearns for something a little more focused. (9/06)

Faiveley 2003 Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy) – Cranky, rough, ungenerous and difficult, with wan suggestions of something that might once have been red fruit buried under clumsy, off-putting tannin. A last-minute replacement due to a chef deglazing with red wine rather than the intended white, and not a very successful one. (9/06)

Les Pallières 2003 Gigondas (Rhône) – A heavy, ponderous stew of garrigue, leather and dark, smoky fruit overladen with tannin. The wine is chewy, and that’s not a compliment. It’s one of the better 2003 Rhônes I’ve tasted, though that’s certainly faint praise at best. Still, there are terrific raw materials underneath the sludge, and it’s possible that a few centuries of aging will resolve matters. Or, more likely, not. (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)

Jadot 2005 Beaujolais-Villages (Burgundy) – Hard-edged red cherry and raspberry with a dark, sun-burnt gravel base. There’s little complexity or fun, yet the wine is varietally-correct. It’s the overstructuring that kills the sprightly gamay verve, but one could certainly do worse in a pinch. (9/06)

Jean David 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret (Rhône) – Thick, dense leather and blueberry compote with a dry, mistral-swept mouthfeel and a surplus of lingering Provençal herbs. Highly structured and ungenerous. This needs time, but I wonder if there’s enough non-structural extract to reward extended aging. (9/06)

Faiveley 1998 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits “Dames Huguettes” (Burgundy) – Dead. (9/06)

Faiveley 2002 Mercurey “Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet” (Burgundy) – Corked. (9/06)

Parcé “Domaine du Mas Blanc” 1998 Collioure Clos du Moulin (Roussillon) – Rough, leathery fruit that’s been involved in some sort of long-lasting street brawl, leaving it bruised and bloodied by somehow matured by the effort. The aromatics are enticing, showing dark wet soil and fall leaves, with brief intrusions of gentler floral notes and the occasional trace of dark soy. Really nice wine, though certainly not polished to a sheen for modern tastes. (9/06)

Texier 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – Extremely sweaty leather and beef juice with sun-charred rocks and spiky, jarring acidity. It smells terrific, but the acid – even when one is expecting it, which anyone familiar with this wine should be – is occasionally shocking. Still, it appears to have reached some sort of peak, and with the inconsistencies introduced by its synthetic cork I wouldn’t dare hold it any longer. (8/06)

Guigal 2000 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Solid and dependable, showing mild animalistic funk smoothed over by dark, earthy, baritone fruit and a few alto incursions of blackberry residue. Everything is very strictly in place here, and the wine is aging nicely, but one perhaps wishes for a bit more verve, and certainly for a good deal more aromatic enticement. Nitpicking, I know. (8/06)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2005 Touraine “Cuvée Gamay” (Loire) – Bitterly tannic when first opened, though this quickly recedes under the impetuous crescendo of graphite-tinged wild cherry and rose hip fruit. There’s an almost vibrant sense of possibility here, though it buzzes and dances just out of perception for the moment, and the structure of the wine is, other than a slight gravitational tug towards the tannic, very nice. (8/06)

Peillot 2003 Vin du Bugey Mondeuse (Ain) – Spiced blackberry soda, with blueberry skin and slashing razors of sharp herbs, tar dust and grillchar. Yet it’s full-bodied enough to withstand these rendings, and fills the room with delicious, pulsating fruit. A true success. (8/06)

Mugneret-Gibourg 2002 Bourgogne (Burgundy) – Lovely and balanced, with strawberry seeds the dominant characteristic. (8/06)

Tourniaire “‘Le Gari’ des Hauts Débats” 2002 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Smooth, sanded and buffed bubblegum and leather squeezings with the dark residue of blackberries. It’s country wine – simple, everyday quaffing stuff – and is a little too oval for deeper interest, which may very well be a result of the difficult, flooded 2002 vintage. Still, this is the sort of simple, clean wine on which an entire culture of non-oenophilic enjoyment is based. How could one find fault with that? (8/06)

Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc “Cuvée Tradition” (Languedoc) – Dark, chewy fruit with horse sweat and herb-studded earth. This is a fairly pure and direct expression of the Languedoc, with better-than-average structure and balance for such an inexpensive wine. (8/06)

Hummel “Domaine de l’Ancien Monastère” 2001 Rouge de Saint-Léonard “Cuvée des Vigneronnes” (Alsace) – Rough and ready pinot noir in it’s wilder, country-bumpkin form…when chilled. With air, the flaws come out: adhesive tannin, imbalanced acidity, and chewy but ultimately thin fruit. Which just shows that this, like most Alsace pinot noir, is meant to be consumed on the cooler side. (8/06)

Domaine de Cabasse 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Cuvée Garnacho” (Rhône) – Not quite dead, but knocking on the door. That was a very fast decline for this wine, and I wonder if there might not have been some sort of cork failure. In any case, this is all tannin and oxidized fruit on the nose. It’s heavy and still thick, and the palate has some slightly more pleasant grenache characteristics, but overall there’s just no pleasure here. (8/06)

Dard & Ribo 2004 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Exciting and complex, if fairly primary, showing grilled blackberry residue, pure essence of nighttime blueberry, and the essential Northern Rhône “meat liqueur” character, all layered over rich, dark black earth dusted with urfa pepper. The acidity is shockingly vivid. Outstanding. (8/06)

Foillard 2004 Morgon Côte du Py (Beaujolais) – Perfectly ripe berries bursting from their skins, showering fresh tarragon and light grey graphite with beautifully enticing juice. It’s light and flirty as an apéritif, more serious and substantial with food, and effortlessly moves between the two states. This is the kind of wine that makes you want to roll around in the grass and giggle. (8/06)

Cazes “Chateau Les Ormes de Pez” 1996 Saint-Estéphe (Bordeaux) – Almost as pure an expression of the classic Bordeaux descriptor “cigar box” as one will ever experience. And “almost” because the other major aromatic impression is of sticky waves of butterscotch-tinged oak. There’s a really beautiful wine lurking in here, but the wood – at least at this stage – is doing its best to bury it. A shame, really, but maybe time will heal this wound. (8/06)

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. (7/06)

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. (7/06)

Lavis 2004 Beaujolais-Villages (Beaujolais) – A burst (that is, not quite an explosion) of delicious boysenberry fruit, with lighter red berry elements and a fresh, appealing nature. Nice acidity, maybe the faintest hint of prickle, and balanced, with a slightly tannic edge deep into the finish. (7/06)

Peillot 2003 Bugey Mondeuse (Ain) – The zip of blackberry soda without the sparkle, plus a hefty dash of black pepper and aromatic purple flower pollen, make this wine a true eye-opener. Fine acidity doesn’t hurt, either. There’s a ton of fruit, but everything’s in balance and harmony, albeit at a slightly higher volume than this wine usually achieves. (7/06)

Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Cosmic” (Rhône) – Beautiful, dry-roasted dark berries and rich, organic black earth with mixed herbs, sandy-textured tannin, and interminglings of maturing, autumnal fruit. Just beautiful. (7/06)

Prunier 1998 Auxey-Duresses (Burgundy) – Just barely on the downslope, though it fights its decline all night. As with many mature Burgundies, it benefits from aeration, which seems counter-intuitive for such light, delicate wines, and yet time and time again proves to be true. The slightly hard edges of the initial presentation never quite fade, but they’re soon joined by gently-decaying red apple, red cherry and autumn leaves. Later, a hint of a mushroomy funk emerges, then retreats…after which the tannin begins to dominate the palate. For about ninety minutes, however, it’s a lovely wine; an elusive breeze caught, but never quite captured. (7/06)

Delas Frères 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône “Saint-Esprit” (Rhône Valley) – Mildly corked. A shame, too, as there’s a nice wine lurking in there. (7/06)

Granger 2002 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Roses, violets and peach blossoms over a zingy froth of raspberry and strawberry; crisp, pure and engaging. (7/06)

Breton 2004 Morgon “Vieilles Vignes” (Beaujolais) – Looks and smells so light – a burst of summer flowers and red berries – that the persistent growth of the palate, adding both structure and surprising depth to the experience, is a bit shocking. As agile as a dancer, but with the fortitude to persevere for years. Marvelous wine. (7/06)

Drouhin 1996 Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy) – Soft and balanced, a little recalcitrant at first opening but quickly blossoming to something really elegant. There’s five-spice powder, raspberry, strawberry blossoms and seeds, and with all the tannin fully resolved and the acid fully integrated there’s nothing to get in the way of this gorgeous and aromatic fruit. (7/06)

François Lumpp 1999 Givry Crausot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Almost shockingly primary, with strawberry seed, ripe mint juice, and a spicy herbality surrounding a full-fruited, tingly wine that clearly leans towards the black fruit realm. Honestly, in a blind tasting, I’d probably identify this as being from Oregon, or at least the Russian River Valley. It’s a very nice little wine, but I’m not convinced it has much to say about Givry. (7/06)

Coulon “Domaine de la Pinède” 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe (Rhône) – Spiced bubblegum, rosemary, thyme, and raspberry with meat liqueur and a gorgeous, long finish. The wine is surprising in its youthful, full-bodied presentation of completely tertiary elements; it’s come to full maturity very, very early. (7/06)

Château de Beaulieu 1999 Côtes du Marmandais “Cuvée de l’Oratoire” (Southwest) – Probably as mature as one would want it; the fruit, decaying but reddish and a little juicy, is still present, while the tannin is in an accelerated drying stage. I suspect it will be parched and difficult before the tertiary elements are fully developed. There’s plenty of well-baked clay here, but the ultimate impression of the wine is fairly rustic despite an overall smoothness to the texture. (6/06)

Domaine du Poujol 2002 Vin de Pays de Val de Montferrand “Proteus” (Languedoc) – A rustic paysan prettied up by some nice clothes…not a fancy designer suit, just a shirt and pants well-pressed with clean shoes and maybe even a new blade on the razor. There’s frothy, roasted red fruit and sun-baked earth here…a little hint of horse lingers in the background…with good, light-bodied structure barely supporting a medium-bodied wine of some estimable qualities. (6/06)

Filliatreau 2005 Saumur (Loire) – Black earth with leafy/grassy notes, some rosemary, and a rather surprisingly intense core of dark purple plumminess. Delicious and nicely balanced, but heftier than the typical Saumur. (6/06)

Lapierre 2004 Morgon (Beaujolais) – Dark, brooding blackberry and boysenberry with good acidity and a biting edge of tannin. This wine scowls and glowers, but in the end is just too well-constructed to keep the inquisitive taster at bay. (For the averse: there is a very, very slightly funky note in the background, but nothing intrusive.) (6/06)

Château Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – Dense, forward blackberry and black cherry with the suggestion of cassis and some ripe, velvety tannin. Eminently drinkable and quite tasty, albeit highly suggestive of a New World style. (6/06)

Jamet 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Lovely and aromatic for the first fifteen minutes or so, but after that it closes in on itself, leaving a slightly less welcoming shell of hardish tannin, smoked meat and a manageable amount of brett. The wine’s not unpleasant at the moment, but I suspect there’s better things in its future. (5/06)

Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 1999 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Cosmic” (Rhône) – Earth – alive and organic – with strips of well-worn leather, sun-dried berries and a dusting of Provençal aromatics (including just a hint of spice), plus resolved tannins. It’s still fairly full-bodied despite the obvious integration of tertiary elements, but with the tannin having softened so much I’d start keeping a close eye on it; for most people it’s probably drinking at or near its best right now. (5/06)

Cinquin “Domaine des Braves” 2002 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Corked. (5/06)

Cinquin “Domaine des Braves” 2002 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Corked. (5/06)

Raymond Quenard 2004 Chignin Mondeuse (Savoie) – Corked. (5/06)

Collard “Château Mourgues du Gres” 2004 Costières de Nimes “Les Galets Rouges” (Languedoc) – Rustic, with sun-baked garrigue and light red fruit notes, plus an unquestionably touch of the barn. Medium-light bodied (for a Languedoc wine), and clearly for drinking soonish, but quite fun and versatile with food. (5/06)

Castillon & Fils “Château l’Ermitage” 2004 Costières de Nimes “Via Compostelle” (Languedoc) – Slick and modern, and also very tight at first, but eventually showing intense, leathery syrah characteristics (hints of blackberry and tar, strong but fuzzy tannin, a bit of post-afternoon sweat) and a long finish. It’s a highly updated expression of this appellation, but a fine one with enough individual characteristics to stand out, and the balance and potential to age and develop for a half-dozen years. (5/06)

Germain-Saincrit “Château Peyredoulle” 2001 Premières Côtes de Blaye Maine Criquau “Vieilles Vignes” (Bordeaux) – A soft, rather delicately-constituted distaff cousin to a Bordeaux…which is, of course, pretty much what this wine is meant to be. Slight, graphite-like tannin and cedar chest with classic pencil, dried cassis, and tobacco aromas…but everything through gauze and haze, as if seen only dimly…though the finish is long and lovely enough. It might be worth aging this a bit, to see what happens, but no matter what the raw materials will always be thinly-scattered. (5/06)

Aucœur 2002 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Bright red fruit and gravelly minerality. Tart and short, with little life ahead of it, but in a good place right now…with the right food (meaning: something rich and fat that this little wine can slice through). (5/06)

Guigal 2001 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Well-sweated leather and bright raspberry acid without the raspberry (except as a lingering memory of its presence) with a slightly fruity-vegetal tannin that’s not at all unpleasant…though it probably could be a little less green. The density increases with air. A nice, basic, almost introductory Crozes-Hermitage for early-term drinking. (5/06)

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. (4/06)

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. (4/06)

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. (4/06)

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. (4/06)

Prudhon 2001 St-Aubin “1er Cru” “Sur le Sentier du Clou” (Burgundy) – Lovely and elegant, with earth-flecked loam and lurking raspberry. The wine’s a bit of a structural chameleon, with good acid and tannin up front, a quick, sun-drenched brightening, then the emergence of a deeper, basso undertone, before finally softening once more on the finish. Air tightens the wine. It’s good now, but after a disappointing stage as it closes down it’s likely to be very pretty at full maturity. (4/06)

Corbières du Boncaillou 1999 Corbières (Languedoc) – Gorgeous aromatics of dried flowers and spice with rustic undertones…but probe deeper, and there’s a smooth granite base with strong, complex striations. There’s a hint of something that tastes very slightly modern, but I’m not sure it’s possible to render Corbières all that urbane without leaving scars. No wounds here. (4/06)

Texier 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – Texier’s unusually ageable Brézème often has controversial levels of acidity, so I wonder if the otherwise highly-avoidable 2003 vintage might actually bring this particular element into a less controversial balance. In reality, ’03 does what it does to almost everything else from this region and this vintage: render the wine sludgy and ponderous. It’s big alright, with slightly syrupy blackberries, black truffle oil and a massive palate presence. There’s a bit of earth underneath, but mostly this is heavy, extremely ripe, a bit hot, and low in acidity. In other worlds, it could easily pass for New World syrah…the kind that I don’t much care for. I commend Texier for trying, but… (4/06)

Coudert “Clos de la Roilette” 2004 Fleurie (Beaujolais) – Rough, earthy and aromatically difficult, with improved red cherry-based complexities on the palate. It would appear to have a future, but this notion is largely based on the wine’s track record, because it’s exceedingly cranky now. (4/06)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2004 “Pif” (Loire) – Raw tannin and chunky red fruit gathered in festive little knots…a wine not yet coalescing into a full-blown party. Acidic in its rustic fashion, but pure and utterly delicious. I wish more people made wine like this. (4/06)

Bouchard P&F 1995 Le Corton (Burgundy) – Dark black earth-encrusted truffle and blackberry with hazelnut and spiky acidity. Long and ostensibly still developing, but a little strange overall. Almost good, perhaps a victim of the bad Bouchard era, or perhaps just in an awkward stage. (4/06)

Hudelot-Noellat 1994 Romanée St-Vivant (Burgundy) – Rough, rustic cherries with a strange, indefinable imbalance. Fun, but very much a country cousin of an RSV…not in a bad way, necessarily, but also not entirely what one might expect. (4/06)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “Cuvée Chantemerle” (Rhône) – Smoky meat liqueur expanding to something a little fruitier on the finish. Still, the wine is a bit difficult at the moment, and might just need some time – or better company – to arrange itself. (4/06)

Juge 1999 Cornas “Cuvée C” (Rhône) – Slightly fruity (blackberry and black cherry), with makrut lime juice and heady sloshings of meat liqueur. (4/06)

C&P Breton 2002 Bourgeuil “Nuits d’Ivresse” (Loire) – Well, if one’s nights are indeed going to be filled with intoxication, this would be a good way to go about achieving such a state. Rough, herb-filled and wet black earth with indelicate traceries of animal leavings, showing a wetly acidic chewed blackberry and dirt palate with a fine-grained powder texture and a long, supple finish. A really spectacular wine with a particularly particulate manner, and while I don’t know if it’s supposed to age or not, I know that it’s balanced enough to hint at the possibility of doing so. If, that is, one can keeps one’s lips off the bottle and if its unsulfured nature allows it to resist various types of spoilage. (4/06)

Kreydenweiss 2003 “Perrières” Costières de Nimes “Lot 1” (Rhône) – Carignan, syrah, grenache and mourvèdre. Spiced leather, black cherry and strawberry with chewy tannin underneath. There’s a lot of quality here, despite the vagaries of the vintage, and I think the innate Alsatian predisposition towards nervosity saves this wine from a bitter, sludgy fate. (3/06)

Kreydenweiss 2002 “Ansata” Vin de Pays des Coteaux Flaviens “Lot 1” (Rhône) – Syrah, grenache and merlot. Minty blueberry and leather with coal-dominated minerality. The high-toned fruit is lovely, but it’s the rocks underneath that appeal. Still, there’s a lack of cohesion, and I don’t find much varietal impact. (I know nothing of the appellation, so I can’t judge the wine’s authenticity in that respect.) (3/06)

Chave 2000 Hermitage Rouge (Rhône) – Very tight and stinging – a leather strap whipping the tongue – with sun-charred earth and blackberry roots. It’s chewy but lithe, and while it’s very well balanced and quite long, the midpalate’s oddly slender. With around a half-hour of air, it improves dramatically, showing more leather (decoupled from its earlier, more sadomasochistic expression), softly meaty elements, rich blackberry, and smooth hints of cherry-infused chocolate. Pure elegance. It is, perhaps, not “great”…or, at least, not right now…but at Chave, that’s a contextual assessment that flows from a very high standard. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2002 Pinot Noir Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Light and rough, with raspberry seeds and discarded apple cores soaking in a dried-out old wood stew. Definitely on the wan side. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2000 Pinot Noir Rorschwihr (Alsace) – Ripe red cherry and bark soda poured over earth, with graphite-textured tannin. The finish is sharp and thin, showing mostly the acidic side of highly-underripe strawberries. A nice wine, though it ends a little clipped, and while I think it might cohere with a little more time, it may just as easily turn shrill. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Pinot Noir Rodern (Alsace) – Bigger than the two previous wines, with strawberry, apple blossom and elevated tannin. This would seem to be the first pinot with any aging potential, though one wouldn’t want to wait too long. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Pinot Noir “Réserve Millésime” (Alsace) – Souring, with stinky, baked fruit predominating. This is, unfortunately, the fashion in which so many Alsatian pinots live out their final days…unless they’ve been overwooded, in which case the result is even more unpleasant. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Pinot Noir Rodern (Alsace) – Spicy, quince-dominated mincemeat. Concentrated. Quite nice, and showing a deeper and broader “pinosity” than is normal for the region. Blame the vintage if you wish, but this is nicely done. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Pinot Noir “Réserve Rolly Gassmann” (Alsace) – Dense vanilla and black cherry cola notes, with a thick, almost impenetrable finish. This is very nearly fashioned in the modern style – dare one muse that an Alsatian pinot can be internationalized? – but not in an offensive, over-the-top way. I don’t know how authentic it is, but there are (rare) times when artifice can qualitatively trump authenticity, and the 2003 vintage is as good a time as any to explore that notion…especially when the recalcitrant subject is pinot noir from Alsace. (3/06)

Faiveley 1995 Nuits St-Georges “1er Cru” Clos de la Maréchale (Burgundy) – Five-spice powder, black cherry and dark, tar-like earth. This is still fairly tannic, but there’s gorgeous fruit underneath. While further complexity is undoubtedly around the corner, I do wonder about it’s fruit/tannin balance. Still, it’s very appealing right now, albeit in a fairly primary way. (3/06)

Chanson 1995 Beaune Clos du Roi “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Very faded and stripped, showing pale, dried cherry, strawberry leaves and earth. It’s elegant, but desiccated. Not quite mummified, though, and there’s still a minor amount of pleasure to be wrest from its bony clutches. (3/06)

Wolfberger “Belle Saison” Pinot Noir (Alsace) – Yes, it’s non-vintage. Light, crisp red cherry with lots of acid and minerals at the foundation. This functions more like a white wine with red fruit aromas than it does an actual red or rosé. It’s only just OK, but it’s probably better than the vast majority of Alsace pinot noirs that result from significantly more effort. (3/06)

Louis Violland 1999 Pommard “La Pierre du Roy” (Burgundy) – Rough, sweaty and slightly athletic, with wild cherry, blackberry and light earth. It brightens with aggressive swirling. Nonetheless, it remains a somewhat surly wine, with its rough edges unfiled. (3/06)

Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1997 Pauillac (Bordeaux) – Cedar chest and fresh cassia with pine. It smells like Christmas. It’s also fairly tight, but swirling brings out some aromatics and more complexity, and the wine is probably just about to re-emerge in a burst of blackcurrant fruit. The finish is a bit of a sine wave that one must catch at zenith. This is a pretty good effort from a difficult vintage. (3/06)

Wolfberger “Belle Saison” Pinot Noir (Alsace) – Take two. And in this company, much stranger and less appealing than before: fish and crushed minerality with skin bitterness and a flat finish. Moral: drink it first, then move on to better things. (3/06)

Carbonnieux 2003 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Full-fruited in a Napa vein (blackberry and black cherry, ripe and fat), with gorgeously textured tannin, graphite, very little acidity and a smooth finish. It’s a very appealing wine, at a purely hedonistic level. I don’t know how anyone could identify it as Bordeaux, but maybe this producer doesn’t care about that anymore. (3/06)

Aucœur 2002 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Sharp and tart apple, red cherry, cranberry and raspberry with the rinsing water from dried black trumpet mushrooms and an autumnal quality. The acid is the key player, however, and I wouldn’t age this any longer. (3/06)

Maréchal 2004 Bourgogne “Cuvée Gravel” (Burgundy) – A bit angrier than usual, showing pretty red fruit verging towards darker colors, some swirling tannin and sharp acidity. It would appear to need a little time to settle down. (3/06)

Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Superieur (Bordeaux) – Lush and full-fruited, with black cherry, cassis and blackberry in a smooth, fun-to-drink package with just enough supporting structure. Not an ager, and not classic, but awfully tasty now. (3/06)

Coulon “Domaine de Beaurenard” 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Dark, earthy fruit, meat smoke and herbs with a slightly funky note and many noticeably smoothed-off edges. The flavors are there, but it’s sort of a simple-minded doofus wine. (3/06)

Faury 2002 Saint-Joseph (Rhône) – Mild brett, smoked meat, blood and dried black plums picked from the ground. A really nice $10 Côtes-du-Rhône, but unfortunately that’s not what this is. (3/06)

Peillot 2003 Bugey Mondeuse (Ain) – Unsurprisingly lush vs. other vintages, but showing balance and poised fullness throughout, with aromatically floral red fruit still on the vine, traceries of lavender jam, and a silky, smooth finish. It’s atypical, perhaps, but it’s far too good to worry about atypicity. (2/06)

Faiveley 1990 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru (Burgundy) – (French bottling.) Not dead, but not particularly alive either, with lots of acid, hard tannin, and only the faintest suggestion of berries on the finish. Well past it. (1/06)

Jaboulet Aîné 1990 Hermitage “La Chapelle” (Rhône) – Meatfruit and firm, tight, unyielding structure. There’s a phrase about tightness and nuns here that I won’t repeat, but that applies in spades to this wine. The question is: given the precipitous fall in Jaboulet’s quality over the nineties and beyond, is waiting for this one a foolish choice, or will it eventually reward the patience? This wine doesn’t provide a clear answer either way, though my guess is that there’s sufficient stuffing but there’s at least a one-in-three chance that it won’t outlast the structure in any useful way. (1/06)

Delorme “Domaine de la Mordorée” 1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “Cuvée de la Reine des Bois” (Rhône) – Pretty, verging on beautiful, but still highly primary, showing spiced clove, oak (and oak tannin), and a rich, full-bodied mélange of spices and sun-baked fruit. It needs a lot of time. (1/06)

Labouré-Roi 2000 Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy) – Broad-shouldered and hefty at first uncorking, with pretty but slightly clumsy aromatics in the red fruit-and-dried-leaves range, buffeted by some structural density. With air, however, things grow inexorably more vegetal and disjointed, and while the structure remains the aromatics fall away. I guess the lesson is: drink it really, really fast. (1/06)

Domaine Aucœur 1999 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Like a previous experience with the 2002 version, this is definitely dominated by its acid, but unlike that bottle the generously-matured raspberry and tart cherry fruit here is both spicy and rich...if unquestionably thin. It needs the right food (something that can battle back the acid), but it has rewarded aging better than the younger ’02…though that said, it is true that the wine was more complete and balanced in its youth. (1/06)

Domaine du Dragon 2004 Côtes de Provence “Hautes Vignes” (Provence) – Dull as invisible toast, with anonymous kinda-sorta red berry aromas and a faded, weak-kneed structure supporting the slightest of bodies. The only thing that’s not dull is a kick of volatility. (1/06)

Aucœur 1999 Morgon “Cuvée Jean Claude Aucœur” (Beaujolais) – Fully mature, showing sun-dried strawberries and raspberries under a smooth, autumnal haze. Gorgeous, dried fruit-flower aromatics and a narrow core of black truffle complete a wine that, at maturity, has only a hint of pinot; the terroir and the gamay speak most clearly here. Very nice. (1/06)

Granger 2002 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Too small to be a fruit bomb – perhaps a fruit “poof” – with dainty red fruit and a sweet grin. There’s never much more to it than that, however. Furthermore, given that another recently-consumed bottle of this wine was entirely different, some blame has to be assigned to the variability of the synthetic cork seal. (1/06)

Clos-Fourtet “Martialis de Fourtet” 1997 Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – A beautiful wine at the beginning of its full maturity. Moist leather and dark, dried berries are coupled with dried thyme and pencil shavings (both the graphite and the cedary wood) in a beverage of elegance and balance. There’s still moderate and unresolved tannin, but the fruit is so nice right now that it might not be wise to wait too many more years. (12/05)

Clos du Paradis “Domaine Viret” 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Saint-Maurice “Cosmic” (Rhône) – Well-knit roasted plum and strawberry with hints of bubblegum, lavender and earth. Direct and to-the-point, though more complex than most wines of that description, with the potential for some limited aging but very little upside in doing so. (12/05)

Clos de Haute-Combes 2002 Juliénas “Cuvée Prestige” (Beaujolais) – Classic violet berries in agrodolce with a fairly firm, if not at all powerful, structure and a really gorgeous finish. Beyond food friendly; perhaps food-enrapturing, instead. (12/05)

Meix-Foulot 2000 Mercurey “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Less pretty and a little sluttier than previous vintages, though it would be especially churlish to call it anything other than tasty. There’s some very slightly grating tannin that looms over the fruit a bit, but this should be a good deal of nice drinking over the short term. (12/05)

Pibarnon 2001 Bandol (Provence) – Texturally lighter than the previous three wines, with funky horse sweat and vine-rotted, shriveled fruit; it’s good, but it’s a little hollow and shrill for the usual mourvèdre (and, probably brett) stink, and I wonder if it might not be in a difficult phase. (12/05)

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2002 Touraine Cabernet (Loire) – Not-yet-blended red and black berries with ripe but hard tannin and a chewy, food-devouring texture. It lingers and lingers on the finish, getting more balanced all the while, so one (rightly, in my estimation) expects ageability. And this is important: it plays much more nicely with the right cuisine. Thick slabs of animal work best. (12/05)

Aucœur 2002 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Tart raspberry, underripe red cherry and apple with acid-spiked sheets of rusty iron. This is starting its downslope, and giving way to the powerful acidities within, but it was fun while it lasted. (12/05)

Granger 2002 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Dense and tannic. Dark berries land with a militaristic thud on the palate, and only some vividly floral aromatics and backpalate acidity mark this as Beaujolais at all. An ager, though I wonder if there’s enough fruit to meld with the structure. (12/05)

Château d’Estoublon 2001 Les Baux de Provence (Provence) – Very advanced for its age, with somewhat baked red fruit, earth-toned spice box aromas and a structure that’s starting to fray at the seams. (12/05)

Megan 2001 Lirac “Les Queyrades” (Rhône) – Sweaty leather, dark blackberry residue, black dirt and meat oil. Classic and pure, though the finish is perhaps a bit shorter than one would want.(12/05)

Ournac “Château Cesseras” 2001 Minervois La Livinière (Languedoc-Roussillon) – Intensely smoky meat liqueur – like a Northern Rhône, but not quite at the same volume or with the same intensity – and deep, basso earth notes. Delicious, but not for fruit hounds. (12/05)

Dupuy “Château Labadie” 2001 Côtes de Bourg (Bordeaux) – Oak, dark chocolate, and snappishly alcoholic kirsch sludge. It doesn’t lack tannin, either. (12/05)

Cros “Château La Vernède” 2001 Cabardès (Languedoc-Roussillon) – A gutsy, untamed southern French stew of smoke, leather, dirt and baked fruit. A little sweaty, perhaps, but authentic, with surprising firmness. (12/05)

Graillot 2001 Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude (Rhône) – Leather and smoked nuts with dried berry skins, evaporations of sweaty horse, salted pork and some of that classic Northern Rhône meat liqueur. Soft and fading, then re-energized, then well-knit; a very good wine in the variable throes of adolescence. (11/05)

Verset 1997 Cornas (Rhône) – Animalistic and sweaty more than actually funky (though there’s a bit of Bootsy Collins as well), showing firm but roughly-hewn and earthy blackberry, graphite and leather. Significant, but not unpleasant, tannin provides backbone. Impressive. (11/05)

Domaine de Cabasse 2000 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Cuvée Garnacho” (Rhône) – Very cranky at first, showing brett and baked caramel and very little else. With air, however, it blossoms into a full-fruited burst of blackberry bubblegum, smoked peaches, wet leather and blood-stained gauze. It’s very slightly alcoholic, which isn’t atypical for grenache; a wine with enough Rhône-y complexity for Europhiles but more than enough fruit for Aussie/US devotées. (11/05)

Bitouzet-Prieur 1998 Volnay Les Caillerets “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Fragrant and falling apart at every seam, with bright red cherry and raspberry fruit (all exceedingly tart), grating acidity, and a harsh razor-slash of tannin that eventually buries the wine. (11/05)

Boyer “Château Caillou de Canesse” 2001 Côtes de Bourg (Bordeaux) – Decent, simple Bordeaux with lots of leafy structure and a tight austerity of fruit. Turns astringent with lots of air, which makes me wonder about its future prospects. (11/05)

Girard Passerieux “Château de Paraza” 2004 Minervois “Cuvée Spéciale” (Languedoc) – Chunky, chewy, with a little bit of leathery funk, yet managing to be thin and uninteresting at the same time. It’s red wine. That’s about all one can say about it. (11/05)

La Vieille France “Château Saint-Galier” 2003 Graves (Bordeaux) – Dull, thudding, thick-boned red wine with no redeeming qualities or flaws. Just boring as hell. (11/05)

Domaine de Beauchêne 2001 Costières de Nîmes “Numa” (Languedoc) – Light and vaguely fetid, but otherwise boring and anonymous. Can’t someone find us something interesting to drink? (11/05)

Domaine de l’Arlot 1994 Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Forêts St-Georges “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Lightly burnt and soft red cherry, pecan, non-acrid cranberry and aspirin; ripe yet light, short yet nice. It keeps threatening to show better, and then doesn’t…which can’t be all that surprising given the vintage. (4/05)

F. Legros 1993 Chambolle-Musigny Les Noirots “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – The nose is completely dominated by strong fecal aromas, though there’s also strawberry and puréed morels. Still, the dung-averse should avoid this like the plague. Getting past the barnyard, one finds black cherry and an improving ripe-berry component that grows with air. It finishes high-toned and metallic; there’s that brett, again. (4/05)

Hudelot-Noëllat 2000 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaumonts “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Young and big, showing large-scaled cherry and strawberry fruit with mixed nuts (mostly hazelnut), big acid, and just generally big everything. Supersize it! It’s a little hollow, but gains complexity on the lengthy finish. Wait it out. (4/05)

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 1994 Pauillac (Bordeaux) – Dark tannin binds this wine in a hard structural shell, from which it’s just barely starting to peck its way out with a little roasted tobacco. One can tell the wine is stuffed, but it’s all nails and large metal hammers at the moment. Back to bed! (4/05)

Dr. Parcé “Domaine du Mas Blanc” 1995 Collioure Les Junquets (Roussillon) – Slightly funky raw leather, peanut butter, bubblegum syrup, chocolate, and juicy raspberry jam cut slightly short in this somewhat faded blast of rusticity, yet the whole package is quite nicely mature…OK, a bit past mature, but still drinking well. I may, however, be the most positive of anyone at the table; elsewhere, it draws only tepid praise. (4/05)

Ferraton 1999 Crozes-Hermitage Le Grand Courtil (Rhône) – Slightly strident and tannic at this precise moment in time, showing dried blackberry jam, leather, red cherry, and spicy plum with a dense, vaguely impenetrable core. Heading for a long nap, and exceedingly cranky about it, this has merits that are getting more difficult to see through the drowsy haze; let it sleep, it’s only going to get better. (4/05)

JL Chave 1992 Hermitage (rouge) (Rhône) – Like a Bonnezeaux from two nights previous, this is a wine that’s been with me almost since the beginning of my cellar-building. I can’t even begin to express the dismay I feel when I see what I paid for it, vs. the going price of Chave’s rouge. Anyway, I fear the worst…and don’t get it. Funky smoked mule feet, baked and tarred blackberry, soy, black olive, and black peppercorn with a structured fruit-and-salt poise that builds to moderate intensity and then slowly fades away. If it can be said of such a wine, an almost “pretty” Hermitage (though entirely without the modern gloss that usually leads to such descriptors). Mature, but certainly not fragile, and pretty terrific. And yes: I wrote “mule feet.” (4/05)

Gentaz-Dervieux 1991 Côte-Rôtie Côte-Brune (Rhône) – Very restrained on the nose, elegant and silky, showing roasted leather, brazil nuts, thyme and tarragon, and black plum, but showing it all through a filter or perhaps (for you trumpeters out there) a harmonic mute, as if it’s struggling under the weight of…something…that’s holding back the full expression of the fruit. Not the best G-D I’ve tasted, but there’s certainly nothing “wrong” with it either. (4/05)

Lefcourt/Charles Moncaut (Gentaz-Dervieux) 1983 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – This, however, is barely restrainable. First, there’s brett…or, more accurately, BRETT!!!…with earth and rotted tar. I suppose it sounds unpleasant, but it’s really not; I guess you have to be there. Anyway, George Clinton takes a holiday with the ascent of a soft, red fruit and dried spice-baked nut characteristic leading into bloody raspberries and a slightly metallic, iron filing texture that dominates the finish. Lovely and pretty, but growing larger-scaled and more complex well into its coda and fadeout, this is a rather monumental Côte-Rôtie. (4/05)

Daurat-Fort “Château de Nouvelles” 1999 Fitou “Cuvée Augusta” (Roussillon) – Appropriate, I guess, that we’re drinking this the weekend of the Masters. Smooth, ripe and rustic red cherry and light clay-dominated earth and loam with roasted leaves; the nose is rather “pretty” for something from this corner of southern France, and it’s already showing some nicely mature notes. Quite a find. (4/05)

C&P Breton 2002 Bourgueil Les Galichets (Loire) – This gorgeous wine is as aromatically open as the zweigelt is closed, showing brightly herbed red cherries, a little mint, lithe tannin and a delicate, slowly swirling finish that wraps itself ‘round the tongue in cool, spring-like tones. To quote another writer (in a different context): if you don’t like this, you don’t like wine. (4/05)

R. Chevillon 1990 Nuits Saint-Georges Les Cailles “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Morel and black trumpet mushrooms, dark and dense cherries, and a light soy note dominate this still-youthful wine, which finishes with dark, coal-studded earth and walnut foam. If there’s the slightest quibble, it’s that the finish is a touch short. But this is gorgeous Burgundy. (4/05)

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1983 Pauillac (Bordeaux) – At most dinners, this would be the wine of the night. Incredibly balanced, this mixture of dried black olives and dried black cherries with still-strong tannin characterized by a touch of green pepper is juicy, firm, and lovely. A dusting of espresso powder emerges on the finish. An enticing, classic Bordeaux (well, maybe not the olives) not yet done developing, and certainly nowhere near its eventual decline. (8/04)

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. (8/04)

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. (8/04)

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? (8/04)

s w e e t  ,  f o r t i f i e d  &  u n u s u a l

Meslier “Château Raymond-Lafon” 2002 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – I don’t generally like seeing Sauternes (and similar wines) in lineups of higher-acid sweet wines, as I think it’s to their detriment. So I go back to reds for a while, trying to chase the Mosel acidity out of my mouth, and I think it helps. This is silky, coating and then sheathing the palate with tangerine and papaya, then evaporating in a blissful memory of tropicality. The acidity is on the low side (though perhaps not within its peer group), but the wine feels balanced, if a bit fruity. The finish is pure pointillism, by which I mean…well, I’m not sure what. You’d know it if you’d tasted it. (6/07)

Zind-Humbrecht 1990 Pinot Gris Heimbourg “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – Brooding and intense, with a sticky metallic paste dominating. It’s intense and acidic along most of the ride, but the finish is pillowy and dissipates rather abruptly. Only very slightly sweet, and some won’t even notice the residual sugar. Like so many wines from this estate, there’s power, and there’s power, and finally there’s power…but what else is there? The first sip is impressive, the last sip is boring. (6/07)

Lur Saluces “Château de Fargues” 1990 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Extremely advanced – already a dark, dark brown – with an absent nose. Too off to judge, really. (6/07)

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2002 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – 375 ml. Lighter than normal, to the extent that I think it might be closed up. Well, why not? Though it’s equally likely that it’s already falling apart. All the signature shattered quartz in a flower shop is here, with the usual addition of bright acidity and a blinding solar diffraction. This is far from the best Durban I’ve tasted, yet it’s still utterly definitive. (6/07)

Trimbach 1998 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Molten crystal and liquefied roses with a drizzle of aluminum and a fine, diamond-facet acidity. This is closing up. It’s less sweet than many regular Alsatian gewürztraminers these days, but it has much better balance than so many of its sticky younger brethren. Let it age. (3/07)

Solane “Clos de Crabitan” 2000 Ste-Croix du Mont (Bordeaux) – Sweaty mold on a perspiring peach, with a borderline-pleasant rot dominating a lightly-sweet, gentle expression of yellow stone fruit. Eventually, the lack of balancing acidity becomes tiresome. OK in small doses, but it could certainly be better: more wine, or less botrytis. Definitely more crispness. (3/07)

Gaillard/Baills “Domaine Madeloc” 2004 Banyuls “Cirera” (Roussillon) – Unsurprisingly, this is a fairly fruit-forward Banyuls. It shares a generally absent nose with a lot of its counterparts, but makes up for it with a rich, sticky-sweet cherry and milk chocolate palate. The cocoa turns darker on the finish, along with some espresso bean, and things stick around for a while (emphasis on “stick”). It’s a good enough wine, a pretty fair bargain, and much better than so many of the over-oxidized versions cranked out by the area’s cooperatives and touristy cellars, but other producers (Parcé, Rectorie) prove that more complexity is achievable. (3/07)

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2002 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – Always the best of its appellation, with beautiful sweet apricot, peach and tangerine over quartz-ridden bedrock. The wine sparkles and glitters as if crystalline, with freshening acidity and a long, pure finish. Delicious. (3/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 1998 Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune (Jura) – 100% savagnin. Big and complex, showing apricot, banana skin, wet salt, and huge acidity. The length is incredible. There’s a faint aura of must, but more that of the ancient wine cellar than anything deleterious. (2/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 2000 Vin de Paille (Jura) – Trousseau, poulsard, chardonnay and savagnin, denied the appellation due to atypicity (“too much cinnamon” or some such nonsense). Lemongrass, hazelnut…and yes, cinnamon…with elegant softness. It arrives with gentility, and is then carried away on a light spring breeze. (2/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” 1999 Côtes du Jura Vin de Paille (Jura) – Trousseau, poulsard, chardonnay and savagnin. Sweet white plum, blood orange rind, apricot and soft caramel…a thickness that carries through to the texture. This is more direct than the 2000, and perhaps simpler as well. But they are both delicious wines. (2/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” Macvin du Jura Rouge (Jura) – 100% pinot noir. The sharp bite of the maquis, needled and herbal, dominates this pointed brew that rests on an undertone of fermented old straw. The finish is long and surprisingly soft, with oranges and sweet wood ear mushrooms emergent. Fabulous…but not quite as good as the blanc. (2/07)

Laguiche “Château d’Arlay” Macvin du Jura Blanc (Jura) – Chardonnay and savagnin. More pure than the rouge, showing white candy and white chocolate with praline and nougat. Incredibly complex, this expands and shifts on the palate, dancing and weaving away from each attempt to pin it down. A stunning performance. (2/07)

Trimbach 1990 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – From 375 ml. Crisp orange, apricot and creamy peach – slightly unusual for CFE, though this is an SGN – but fear not: the massive, molten steel minerality soon asserts its dominance over all else. There’s plenty of sugar here, still, yet the wine is drying in a most delicious way. It’s partly the aforementioned metal, partly the acidity, and partly the process that seems to happen as botrytized & unoaked sweet wines age. But whatever the chemistry, this is an incredibly poised wine, still not fully mature, and perhaps not even drinking to 75% of its potential. (12/06)

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Trimbach’s late-harvest gewurztraminers are as solidly excellent as their rieslings, though they rarely reach the exalted heights of those wines. This is no exception: striking ripe stone fruit and lychee are paired with bright, freshening acidity and a solid, sun-drenched mineral core. The sweetness is significant, yet the wine’s structure is such that any trace of “stickiness” is thoroughly absent. Drink it now, drink it in ten years, drink it in twenty…it’ll be beautiful at any age. (11/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon “Ballet d’Octobre” (Southwest France) – Sweetly pretty, with a blushing, shy caste to its lovely white stone fruit and sap flavors brightened by sunny acidity. There’s something else, too…an herbal, almost anise-like note that chimes at the edge of perception, then rings more loudly as the finish drifts along. (11/06)

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)

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)

Cazes 1991 Rivesaltes “Ambré” (Roussillon) – Old sugar, caramelized and spicy with moderate oxidative notes and a crisp, apple-skin bite sharpened by walnut oil. It’s not particularly complex, but it’s quite delicious. (8/06)

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2002 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – From 375 ml. Sweet peach and pear with quartz-crystal minerality and freshening acidity. Striking, satisfying, and complex. Year after year, this is the best muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise on the market. (7/06)

Dupleich “Château de Juge” 1996 Cadillac (Bordeaux) – Pine cone and coconut with bitter almond and a teasing, flirty sweetness. Delightful, if lighter than one might expect, and definitely not carrying the burden of heavy woodspice that weighs down so many of its sweet Bordelais compatriots. (7/06)

Trimbach 1989 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – From a 375 ml bottle, and very nearly as good as late-harvest gewurztraminer gets. There’s sweet lychee syrup, luxuriant cashew oil, and ripe peach, but what stand out here are the waves of spice…first Indian, then of the sweet baking variety, then moving into something more exotically (but indefinably) Asian…that finally settle on some sort of fantastical meat rub with an accompanying and highly-spiced chutney. There’s plenty of sweetness here, but it’s offset by mild acidity and a more structurally important tannic scrape, and the effect is to render the palate impression somewhat dryer than the initial impression would indicate. On the finish, the aforementioned waves of spice roll and recede for what seems like forever. Beautiful, silence-inducing wine. Is it “ready”? Yes, though it’s also in no danger of slipping for the next decade, and possibly more. (6/06)

Domaine Les Bastides Vin Cuit “Selon la Vieille Tradition Provençale” (Provence) – Tart old plum and dried apple with balancing sweetness, minerality inhabiting some mysterious realms between quartz and charcoal, and a smoky, old English drawing room complexity layered over the top of everything. Exotic and delicious. (5/06)

Rieussec “Carmes de Rieussec”2002 Sauternes (Bordeaux) – Spiced plum, grown sugar and baked apple in a silky-syrupy nectar of decadence. Spiced, caramelized oak adds to the complexity. (4/06)

Kreydenweiss 2000 Riesling Clos Rebberg “Aux Vignes” “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – 100g residual sugar, 100% botrytized grapes, according to Antoine. This is incredible, with pear syrup slashed and rent by fantastic acidity and a succulent fennel, walnut skin and ripe red apple finish. Floral notes abound. Majestic, and even better than on a previous visit (though why the same wines are still being offered four years later is a sensible question that we do not ask). (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Riesling Kappelweg “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Crushed flowers and almonds with a heavy, seemingly botrytis-influenced finish that flattens and then disappears. It’s decent enough now, but there’s not much of a future. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Riesling Pflaenzerreben “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Crushed chalk and limestone with lemon rind and grapefruit. Balanced and smooth, with a long finish redolent of botrytis. Give this one another two, three years, then drink up. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Muscat “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Luscious, sweet pear and apricot with zingy spice accents. It’s thick, but with good, enlivening acidity. Lovely. VT muscat is a rare beast, mostly because it’s tough to get the grapes to hang that long without auxiliary damage, but when successful it’s completely grin-inducing. Laughter may even result, under certain circumstances. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Muscat Moenchreben “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – A funky nose followed by incredible waves of spice. Long and complex, with even more aging potential and more of everything than the 2003. The aroma is the only thing that gives pause; when a muscat goes funky, it’s usually a sign that it’s passing its drink-by date. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Muscat Moenchreben “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – The rarest of all Alsatian wine types, capable of being produced no more than a handful of times per decade by some fanatic winemaker. And, usually, priced accordingly…but when it’s this good, it’s all worth it. Lusciously sweet apple of stunning intensity, with a finish of incredible length. And yet, for all this concentration and almost physical effort, the wine retains a beautiful precision. Heartbreakingly pretty and almost painfully lovely. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “Vendanges Tardives” LRVT00D (Alsace) – Aromatically quite dry, which fails to prepare one for the stunning intensity of the palate. Dried apples dominate. As poised as it is forceful, this is a hammer-blow to the palate, but one delivered with precision and balance. Amazing. (3/06)

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “Vendanges Tardives” “Cuvée Zacharie” LRVT00D (Alsace) – Flawless. Balanced sweetness and acidity take a backseat to a blend of metals and minerals that devolve to stones and gravel on the finish. Almost breathtaking in its restrained power. (3/06)

Boxler 1999 Pinot Gris Brand “Vendanges Tardives” LVTB9911 (Alsace) – Very sweet, with a gorgeous pear-dominated nose and palate. Extremely vivid. There’s surprising balance for such a late-harvest wine, and the long finish coupled with the other indicators suggests that it’s nowhere near the end of its life, but rather is much closer to its beginning. I’d give it another decade, at least. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Pinot Gris “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Rubber on the nose, and then a semi-tropical fruit fiesta elsewhere: pear, banana, apricot, mango and papaya. Very smooth. A little more acidity would be welcome, but there’s a lot that’s good about this, especially for near-term drinking. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Pinot Gris Rotleibel “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Gorgeous, sweet and spicy, with a long finish. A huge wine, full and generous but at a lovely intersection between its upfront, youthful fruit and the emergent structure underneath. It will certainly hold longer, gaining dried fruit and spice at the expense of generosity; in other words, further aging must be judged on the basis on personal preference. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2000 Pinot Gris Rorschwihr “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Sweet apple and iron, with hints of botrytis and a really seductive texture. Very ageable. This is an infant, but it’s going to be outstanding some day. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2003 Pinot Gris Brandhurst “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Luscious. Ripe peach and strawberry/pear syrup dusted with five-spice powder form the incredibly sticky core of this lower-acid, somewhat slutty wine. It’s just stunning right now, and while I can’t help but think it will age a little while despite the problematic acidity (sugar and dry extract can carry these things a long way, based on past experience), there’s also a very slightly attenuated finish to deal with. So here’s the final call: near perfection now, but a dicey prospect for the future. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1999 Gewurztraminer de Rorschwihr “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Very crisp for a VT, but peachy-fruity as well. It’s a bit simple-minded, and I don’t really see it getting much better with age. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1996 Gewurztraminer Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Heady, thick and frankly edging towards lurid, with lychee skins and an otherwise satiny texture. The finish is long and flawlessly balanced. Impressive. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1998 Gewurztraminer Stegreben de Rorschwihr “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Pure and balanced, with a blend of lychee, apple and peach buoyed by fantastic acidity. One to watch in the future, of which it should have great experience. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 2001 Gewurztraminer Brandhurst “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Very structured, but while the apple-skin acidity and fruit are nicely balanced, the wine is massively, perhaps almost painfully, sweet. This could be epic perfection someday, or it could be a short-lived clunker. At this stage, it’s too hard to tell for sure, though I think I’d bet on the former. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Gewurztraminer Brandhurst de Bergheim “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Ungenerous, with a moldy character dominating. I wonder if it might be mildly corked, but no one else agrees with me. So it’s just bad, then, with rot having overtaken all else. Avoid. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1997 Gewurztraminer Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Incredibly intense, showing spiced lychee and apple-dominated acidity. Surprisingly balanced. Wow. This is, especially for a ’97, a masterwork. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1994 Gewurztraminer Stegreben de Rorschwihr “Sélection des Grains Nobles” “Cuvée Anne Marie” (Alsace) – Very, very, very sweet, showing those overdriven red fruit characteristics than can be coaxed from extremely ripe white grapes: red and Rainier cherries, mostly, though there’s also the expected lychees and thick botrytis influence. It’s extremely long, but there’s a very slightly worrisome rubber tang to the finish. In a young wine, I’d excuse it, but after a decade of age, I’d strongly consider drinking up. (3/06)

Rolly Gassmann 1989 Gewurztraminer “Sélection des Grains Nobles” (Alsace) – Molten iron and steel. Fully-realized, integrating all the typically lush varietal characteristics into a metal-driven, complex whole. The finish is shortening, so I’d drink this one soon. (3/06)

Ogereau 2002 Coteaux du Layon St-Lambert (Loire) – Honeyed wax, chalk and honeysuckle; pure and beautiful, though not showing much in the way of complexity. It might come, however, as this is still very young. (3/06)

Leydier “Domaine de Durban” 2002 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhône) – From 375 ml. Sweet crystals of apple, lemon, tangerine and melon, full of shattered quartz-like minerality and slashing needles of glass. Absolutely the most striking muscat there is in this region. Simply majestic. (2/06)

Touchais 1976 Côteaux du Layon (Loire) – Honey and sweet syrup with brioche butter. Seemingly past it. (1/06)

Papin-Chevalier “Château Pierre-Bise” 2002 Côteaux du Layon Rochefort Les Rayelles (Loire) – Stunning waxy/creamy chalk and honeysuckle with the most flawless texture of liquid silk and an endless, clean finish of delicate white nectarine and spice. Beautiful, with a long, long road ahead of it. (12/05)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – Tasty but “off” in comparison to the previous bottle (below), and I wonder aloud if it isn’t some of that “romantic and traditional” cork variation that we all know and love (at least it’s not also-much-beloved cork taint). There’s very slightly oxidized sweet spiced peach, bitter skins and light botrytis spice with a balanced, drying finish…but all the lushness of this wine is under some sort of shroud. (12/05)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – Absolutely, stunningly gorgeous. Honeyed peach and cinnamon-spiced baked winter apple with a creamy texture and a long, balanced finish. Delicious. (12/05)

Baumard 1995 Côteaux-du-Layon “la queue de Paon” (Loire) – Beautiful, silken-textured sweet chenin cream, with lovely balance. There’s fruitspice and pungent, chalky apricot, but ultimately this marvelous beverage is all about its gorgeous texture. (11/05)

Les Clos de Paulilles 2003 Banyuls “Rimage” (Roussillon) – This wine is almost always a bit of a letdown vs. the image, showing little of the chocolate-like character than one wants; here it’s simple, dark, Port-like fruit with mild sweetness and – here comes the vintage again – thudding, leaden tannin. It’s not horribly out of balance, but despite the leathery texture it’s an early-drinking wine. (11/05)

Deiss 1995 Riesling Altenberg de Bergheim “Grand Cru” “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – It’s possible this was an SGN rather than a VT – my notes aren’t clear – but the palate would seem to indicate that VT is the right designation. Gas station soda, lemon, green apple, and ultra-ripe malic acid with light sweetness. Intense and zingy. And yet, disappointing for a VT. But what else would one expect from Deiss except disappointment? (4/05)

Domaine et Terroirs du Sud 1949 Banyuls “Grand Cru (Roussillon) – No one at the table can believe this isn’t a typo (it’s on Zuni’s by-the-glass list at a rather absurdly low price; did they find it in someone’s basement?), but the waitress produces the bottle and it is, in fact, a ’49. What I learn, after the fact, is that it’s a recent late release from the producer. A very late release. Well, if there’s any doubt that fortified grenache has a lifespan similar to that of Porto, let the debate end. Our first glass is slightly stale, but new glasses from a freshly-opened bottle are vivid and shockingly intact: raisins, coffee grounds, sweet strawberry, and zingy acidity leaning towards the volatile. It’s only slightly sweet, but wow is this a marvelous artifact of a bygone age. (4/05)

Foreau “Domaine du Clos Naudin” 1995 Vouvray “Moelleux” (Loire) – Wet chalk, white plum, and dried honeycomb with wet apple skin and an elusive papery texture, this shows incredible intensity that grows from start to finish, and a striking balance that will hold it for decades to come. Terrific wine. (4/05)

Boivin “Château de Fesles” 1989 Bonnezeaux (Loire) – I’ve been holding onto this bottle for about as long as I’ve been collecting wine. The rampantly uncertain quality of Fesles kept me from opening it on big wine geek occasions, yet the possibility that it was as ageworthy as chenin should be made me fear opening it too early. Finally over these opposed neuroses, here it is…and, ultimately, it didn’t appear to matter much. The nose is incredibly floral, showing honeysuckle and a soft, salty aspect, with a long, growing finish that eventually is dominated by botrytis-spice and pine needles, and turns from delicate to fragile in just a few minutes. It’s good, it’s fine…but to be honest, it’s more than a bit disappointing; I’m not much for inter-appellation comparisons of this nature, but the Foreau is a dozen times the wine that this probably ever was. In any case, it’s one less thing taking up space in my cellar. (4/05)

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… (8/04)

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. (8/04)

s p i r i t s

Pierre Ferrand Cognac “1er Cru Réserve” (Southwest France) – Warming, tanned sand and perfectly crisped potato with blended baking spices, old cider and a white pepper edge on the finish. Pretty. (5/07)

Trimbach Liqueur de Poire (Alsace) – 35% alcohol; the sweet, less fiery, more genial companion to the poire william eau de vie. It’s still zippy and warming, though, and the pear syrup texture is given a sharp jolt by the underlying alcohol. Still, it goes down a lot more easily than its older brother. In old France, this would be the one for the women to sip while the men battled glass after glass of the eau de vie. Outside of that tradition, however, it’s appealing enough for anyone. Why not use it to make kir? Or better, add it to some crémant d’Alsace for a regional kir royale? (2/07)

Windholtz Eau-de-Vie Baie de Houx (Alsace) – Holly-berry distillate. It’s like drinking a Christmas tree, with pine sap and sharp needles in abundance. It’s different, to be sure. (3/06)

Gérard Roy Cognac Fine Champagne XO (Southwest France) – Sweet and almost fruity, showing dried Rainier cherries and hazelnuts. The aromatics are just beautiful, though the palate is a bit strident. (3/05)

Pierre Ferrand Cognac 30-year “Sélection des Anges” (Southwest France) – Unbelievable aromatics of barrel spice and long-aged fruit with very little intrusive heat; goes down much, much lighter than one might expect, then fills and warms again on the finish, with elegantly lingering touches of bitterness. Just beautiful. (12/05)

b e e r

Thiriez “XXtra” Farmhouse Ale (Flanders) – Quite hoppy, with wheat and corn and a good deal of backpalate bitterness. Malty and herbal. Not very interesting, despite all this. (3/07)

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