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Saturday, October 20, 2007


Some hearty, high octane reds along w/ a couple weenie whites….

Stereotypical impressions in wine can certainly be enjoyable to play with, but are absurd to buy into. To the uninitiated, all wine fall into the dichotomy of white or red. You either like whites or you like reds, perhaps both will please the palate if your tastes are versatile enough. As one dives past the superficial aspects of color, grape varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah and Cabernet are subject to just as much black and white judgment as the color of the juice itself. “Chardonnay slathers too much butter on her oak while the sugary sweetness of a Riesling is only good for adding a couple more unwelcome cavities to my already expensive dental work.” I could delve into the Zinfandel misconception that originated with one of the most lucrative mistakes that Sutter Home ever made, but I’ll spare you the sweet blush sob story.

An open mind is necessary for any taster to appropriately evaluate and enjoy the myriad of high quality grape varieties, viticultural areas and winemaking styles available on the market. The retail shelf is an expansive, fascinating space that should shame any consumer into trying just about anything once, without concern of the label or the color of the wine. This preamble should serve this evening of tasting well, as the most impressive performances had nothing to do w/ color, mass or alcohol content. Perhaps our group should fashion a wine related document with the Emancipation Proclamation in mind?

Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria Australia Riesling 2004
While Clare Valley gets all the press, watch out for these under the radar gems coming from Victoria. Smoky aromas of warm slate, petrol and racy lemon zest have a supreme focus and penetration. The palate is blazingly crisp, evoking a zesty character a la Sauvignon Blanc, but with a pure core of tangerine flesh and hints of light cream. A bone dry, mineral infused expression that is reminiscent of a fine Grosset at half the price. We’ve got to convince the Aussies to export these beauties in volume! 91 points

Donnhoff Leistenberg Kabinett 2003
Frighteningly closed for hours until she came around to reveal hints of cranberry, spring flowers, honey and sweet peas in the nose. The palate was soft and feeble initially but shifted into balance as it became smokier in time, with peach, apple skins and mineral flavors took shape. A difficult year to produce an honest kabinett, but a producer of this caliber will always find a way. Give this baby at least another 5 years to sing. 90+ points

Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 2005
My third time tasting this has revealed much more generosity of fruit and a far superior integration of tannin. The perfume has always been a hit, revealing notions of tar, black pepper, game, rich blackberries and iron. While this is undoubtedly a masculine effort, the layers of fruit are beginning to conceal the firm backbone of this wine, making it a lovely drinking experience. Old school with a modern kick, and certainly a praiseworthy effort, 92 points

Turley Zinfandel Juvenile Vines 2004
Introduces itself with a whiff of volatile acidity which blows off in time to unveil mocha and rhubarb pie notes, hinting at what’s to come in the palate. The second this entered my mouth, I knew it was Chateauneuf time! Holy lord if the plum sauce, hearty fig and garrigue didn’t sing a Southern Rhone tune all the way! While it was a medium bodied wine that kicked off a bit of heat and didn’t exactly finish w/ a resounding thud, this was a top notch effort that admirably concealed the majority of its alcohol & structure. 90 points

Cristia Chateauneuf du Pape 2005
Obviously a backward, tightly knit youngster that took a bit of coaxing to round into form. In time, strawberry preserve, sappy red cherries, graphite and vanilla flavors filled out this medium bodied, silky textured effort. A well constructed base cuvee for Cristia that bodes well for the Renaissance label (which undoubtedly received better fruit), 88+ points

Senechaux Chateauneuf du Pape 2003
Classic example of 2003, w/ overtly over-ripe flavors of explosive kirsch, crème de cassis, blueberry liqueur, caramel and mossy earth that were not pruney, but were certainly not pulling any punches! Now I can imagine traditional fans of Chateauneuf being a bit disappointed with this wine, I think the substance of this wine had enough acidity and precision to keep an honest equilibrium (which did teeter on the edge). A controversial Rhone, which I found to have just pulled it off, 90 points

Melville Syrah, Verna’s Vineyard 2005
I am a huge proponent of Melville Syrah and Chardonnay, and this is one of those New World wines that became more and more provocative with exposure to air. Very rich and full of heady fruit, notions of bacony toast, raspberry jam, licorice and dark chocolate push their way through the palate via plush, creamy textures. Spice elements emerged in time, hinting that short-term cellaring will reveal more nuance & complexity. 91+

Ridge Geyserville Sonoma 2003
I was not a fan of this wine (and believe I was the only chap at the table that found it displeasing). The scents of brandy macerated fruit and hint of madeirization (I didn’t think this was oxidized per se, but it hinted at the ‘cooked’ profile which I do not enjoy) was not compelling to me in the slightest. While the texture of the wine was quite round, I found this effort to be blowzy, amorphous and lacking any sense of precision. I am choosing not to pan the wine, considering it is a profile issue (and one of which others can certainly enjoy) but I cannot consider at anything more than acceptable. The somewhat clipped finish sealed the deal for me, 78 points

Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Spatlese 2004
Another taut, supremely constructed German Riesling that absolutely demands patience. By patience, I don’t just mean cellaring, I also mean focus. This wine is so subtle and intricate that it gently sneaks up on you w/ complexities that certainly could be over-looked (ie: Didier Daguneau Pur Sang). A slow, quiet eruption of aromas began to brew, calling to mind thoughts of spring flowers, honeysuckle, ginger, quince and tea leaves. The gossamer frame has a pristine clarity and offers brilliant, focused flavors of apricots, petrol and crushed rocks. A slow seduction that overwhelms the taster with a sense of harmony, intrigue and potential…consumers with passion and patience will be rewarded, 95 points.

What was most beautiful about this evening was that a puny little 8% alcohol, off-dry Riesling could wow me more than a group of 15 plus percent alcohol powerhouse reds (even when tasting the Riesling last!). Now will this shape me into a helplessly paralyzed Riesling geek? Probably not, but it will undoubtedly reconfirm my stance that on any given night, any type of wine can steal the show, and perhaps, my heart.

Repeat after me:
German Riesling is more than Blue Nunn, Zinfandel is more than Sutter Home.

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