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Friday, August 29, 2008

2007, Prime Time for Chateauneuf du Pape

In case you were wondering, this is not another vintage of the century stance, but merely my opportunity to comment on the importance of timing. See Chateaunuef du Pape has had an unprecedented string of fabulous vintages that trace back to 1998 (save for a hiccup or two in ’02 and ’03) which makes a strong case that the region could rival Napa Valley in terms of consistency. In addition to consistency in quality, the vintages in the past ten years have all offered unique characteristics for just about everyone. The ‘99s, ‘04s and ‘06s will likely have similarities in terms of early maturity and precocious drinking throughout their lives, while the dynamic duo of ’00 and ’01 could only be compared to ’89 and ’90 in terms of paralleled excellence & profile. While ’05 was a watershed year for Bordeaux and Burgundy, the ’06 and ’07 vintages face the inevitable hangover from the ’05 campaign’s excessive hype and pricing hyperbole.

In Chateauneuf, 2005 was an exceptionally structured vintage that will likely require a tremendous amount of patience, which is a bit atypical for a region that tends to reveal quite a bit of early charm. From a pricing standpoint, ’05 didn’t really change the game for this region like it did in Bordeaux and Burgundy (though the weakness of the dollar and the anointing of Clos des Papes as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year did bring a bit more upward pressure on cost), so the Southern Rhone may have begun to slip into French wine connoisseurs consciousness by default. Well, as luck has it, ’06 and ’07 have been right on cue, w/ the former vintage offering fresh, perfumey fruit in a forward, lush style and the latter vintage punctuating w/ a blockbuster chord that is sure to ignite & resonate w/ consumers across the globe.

Chateauneuf du Pape’s level of quality can be attributed to its preponderance of old vines, consistency of climate, uniquely rocky soils and the desiccating Mistral winds that dry up the vines after timely rains. The increasing volume of producers that domaine bottle their own wines has only augmented the quality surge over the past decade, as the role of the negociant becomes less and less with each following year. These young, passionate producers have injected a tremendous amount of life into the region, with their steadfast focus cast on biodynamic farming, non-interventional wine-making and frightfully low yields acting as their mantra. Where else in the world will I come into contact w/ winemakers in their mid-twenties telling me ‘Brad, the wine is made in vineyard!’ Producers the likes of Julien Barrot and Alexandre Favier are carrying the torch into the next decade with very different wines, yet uniquely profound results.

2007s from Chateauneuf will attract fans from both the new and old worlds, showcasing uncanny depth of fruit, remarkable textures and opulent, yet grounded personalities. They struck me as an even headier version of the 2000 vintage, perhaps possessing even more richness & intensity but in a similarly accessible fashion. Generally speaking, infant wines resting in the barrels (or in the case of many Chateauneufs, cement) aren’t supposed to taste this good! Several of the top cuvees will likely take close to a year to totally ferment dry, with Grenache appearing to be the grape that fared best (fans of pure Grenache blends are sure to rejoice in this vintage’s character). While the yields were a bit on the high side for some (relative to the region’s average), it hasn’t dampened the wines one cent in terms of concentration or power (and hey, a bit more wine never hurt a consumer!). A drawback to the vintage is the level of alcohol in the wines, which is typically high in Chateauneuf but this vintage in particular is likely to see some record highs at Janasse & Barroche. Though they pack an alcoholic punch, the wines I sampled showed exquisite balance & never revealed excessive heat or flaccid textures that are often associated w/ high alcohol levels (and bear zero resemblance to the erratic wines of the ’03 vintage).

To my palate, Charvin, Chante Cigale, Clos du Mont Olivet, Saint Prefert and several others made some of their most impressive wines to date in 2007, and while they aren’t going to be cheap, they will be wines that I’m certain to seek out for the cellar. If I were of a drinking age in the early 90’s and had the opportunity to put away any bottlings from 89/90 and didn’t, I’d be faced w/ a regret that I am not willing to face for the ’07 vintage. Pegau lovers will be excited to know that Laurence made her first Da Capo cuvee since the 2003 vintage and her ‘07s look to be in line w/ her ‘03s from a qualitative standpoint.

Some things in the wine world seem to be all about timing…and for the Southern Rhone valley, it appears that the 2007 vintage will sound the bell for Chateauneuf w/ Bordeaux and Burgundy out to lunch. Bon appetit Rhone lovers!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A ‘Bottle Shock-umentary’

The recent buzz on this film has been a bit disparaging as it has been compared to Sideways, which is as apples to oranges as assessment as any that I’ve heard of in cinema circles. I believe one’s enjoyment in the film will highly correlate to their initial expectations as they walk into the theater (or pop it in their NetFlix cue).

Loosely based on factual occurrences during the pivotal tasting of 1976, where French judges unknowingly hailed a Californian Chardonnay and Napa Cabernet as champions over the more prestigious, French comparators. While the characters of the story are in fact legitimate, their personalities act more as cultural vehicles than actual depictions of the people themselves.

Jim Barrett, the owner of Chateau Montelena, takes center stage as a Napa Valley stalwart producer, complete w/ the formidable, yet pigheaded sense of stubbornness that director Randall Miller uses as a frame for the competitive natures of the American Spirit. His son, Bo, is trapped in the 60’s & struggles to shake his loser mentality, yet manages to mature a bit as the film evolves, eventually taking over his father’s winery and becoming a key representative of the Valley’s newfound success.

On the other side of the pond, Alan Rickman portrays a caricature of Steven Spurrier, personifying the stereotypical snob, caught between pseudo British royalty and trademark French arrogance. While prejudicial, he does open his eyes to the quality of Californian wine along his journey and serves as a diplomat of sorts between the old guard of French wines and the new regime of California. While the French wines themselves are not a focus of the story, they don’t appear to be necessary elements, as Spurrier’s blatant overconfidence acts as not only a spokesman for the French opinion of Californian wine, but for the hubris of their products.

Chateau Montelena was the focal point of the film. To paraphrase a poignant statement made by Barrett, ‘if one of us succeeds, the whole valley benefits,’ allowing the microcosm of Monetelena’s story to represent Napa as a whole. I found that the film stumbled a bit in its efforts to inject a romantic subplot through the intern, Sam (played by Rachael Taylor), who wound upcoming off as a bit of a one night floozy as opposed to highlighting the intimate charms that the grape has over its victims. The deliberate nature of Jim Barrett’s literal ‘fights’ w/ his son and his abrupt nature towards his staff were a bit hokey at times and the score seemed to over-emphasize a dramatic element that just wasn’t there, leaving the panoramic vistas of the valley a bit out of place. While there was a bit of a hurried climax to the film, haphazardly tying in the bottle shock of Montelena’s Chardonnay to the actual tasting itself, the film managed to endear more often than not w/ its quirky charms and aptly placed humor. Critics of the film may find the portrayal of George Taber (the author of the Judgement of Paris) as insignificant and almost oafish, but that motif seems to be in line w/ the film’s M.O.A. and I, personally, didn’t find it offensive.

Viewers that are in search of a substantial piece that mirrors the book will have to wait for the Judgment of Paris to hit the box office, as Bottle Shock didn’t own the rights to the book and the screenplay takes innumerous liberties w/ the story (though the integrity of the event is essentially intact). Viewers looking for the drama and depth of Sideways will have to look elsewhere, as Bottle Shock doesn’t pretend to provide the intensity of character development, nor the seriousness for wine connoisseurship that Sideways provides, even poking fun of Steven Spurrier’s ‘hints of bacon fat’ descriptors as opposed to elucidating the mystique of wine’s complexities. The cultural clash is poked fun at several times, perhaps most amusingly when Jim Barrett asks Steven ‘Why don’t I like you?’ To Spurrier’s response ‘Because you think I’m an ass. And I’m not really. It’s just that I’m British and you’re not.’ The movie is a fun-loving, feel-good story that ignites a bit of patriotism, splices in a touch of humor and packs an enjoyable punch that left this viewer smiling, if not totally satiated.

There was indeed some food for thought that I chewed on after my movie theater popcorn was finished. While there is a whimsical mention of the magnitude of the event, the significance of debunking the French myth that only fine wine can be made in France and in fact, can be made anywhere, is as profound a fact as any. Spurrier trails off a number of unlikely countries (New Zealand, South America, Australia) that we’re certain to be drinking wine from in the future, ending in a biting irony that, while funny, actually hits a profound chord that any wine novice can certainly appreciate. In addition, a bottle of Cos d’Estournel makes an early appearance in the film, alluding to yet another changing of the guard (Chateau Montelena was recently purchased by the famed Bordeaux estate) which cements the fact that even the French agree that fine wine can be made outside their country, to the tune of them putting their money where their mouths are.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fans of Clos des Papes....this juice may just tickle your fancy....

When I say Clos des Papes fans, I’m referring to those that have been entranced in their white wine, not their more commonly known red…and if you haven’t tried their white Chateauneuf yet, I’m giving you an order to get crackin’! Clos des Papes white Chateauneuf utilizes all the white grapes allowed in the appellation, creating a unique harmony of brisk acidity, depth of fruit and a nutty, minerally core that unravels wonderfully in the cellar. In fact, the Avrils believe that these wines shouldn’t be consumed before their tenth birthday (though I’ve enjoyed them at various points of their evolution in spite of their advice). What I think separates Clos des Papes white from other Chateauneuf is the synergy created from ‘blending grapes,’ instead of the over-reliance on the now fashionable Roussanne (a low acid, honeysuckle inflicted white grape that produces powerful, noteworthy wines that were most famously branded by Beaucastel). Philippe Gimel, an unassuming, yet passionately dedicated producer from the humble Cotes du Ventoux appellation, has crafted astonishing reds and, perhaps more interestingly, a low yielding, stony soil driven white wine that marries ‘blending grapes’ in a similar vein as a baby Clos des Papes. His wines are unfiltered and beautiful representations of a terroir that almost no one knows about.

Profile aside, if Saint Jean du Barroux can evolve like Clos des Papes, this gem may turn into a honeyed, Meursault-like beauty just like Clos des Papes does…and its modest tariff (though obscure distribution) seems ripe for the cellar’s pickin’…if you can find any, decant the hell out of it and see what happens.

Saint Jean du Barroux White Cotes du Ventoux 2005
I may have underestimated this initially, as it requires vigorous decanting to reveal its subtlety. A very hodge-podge blend (like Clos des Papes), featuring a third Bourboulenc, Grenache White and Clairette, reveals a light golden hue and a nose of chamomile, juicy honey dew, baked apple, white flowers and white currants. The palate, which throws an Aubert-worthy chunk of golden-flake speckled sediment, is dramatically precise, with piercing tones of brilliant fruit pumping along a nutty spine that echoes macadamia nut flavors on its whispering finish. Producer Philippe Gimel believes this will be a 25 year wine, and he may, in fact, be onto something, 91+ points.

Imported by none other than Eric Solomon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I started this blog roughly a year ago w/ the hopes and dreams that Brooklyn’s enological potential would finally be realized, putting the bum’s borough up w/ global wine giants the likes of Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Mosel. Well folks, it appears that dream has become realized through the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve poured into my cyberspace writing, paving the way for my beloved Brooklyn to officially etch its initials on the vinous hall of fame’s chalkboard.

Should I take all the credit? Hell, why not? I mean come on; my mission statement alone speaks volumes as to the potential of the hood (ie: terroir) and it was just a matter of time until the viticultural entrepreneurs woke up and listened. Minor issues like the climate (you know, oppressive humidity, wildly unpredictable thunderstorms, torrential rains and stinky smog), soil (uhh, concrete mostly, right?) and lack of non-brownstone real estate have been circumvented by…buying grapes from other places. Who’d a thunk?

Either way, we’ve got the Nets (err…will have them), miss our Dodgers and have already staked our claim on Lebron (assuming Europe doesn’t scarf him up for the 50 million euros they’ve been dangling in front of his Cleveland estate), so making our own fermented grape juice was the logical next step. Take that Manhattan! We don’t want you snobs to visit us anyway…so stay on your side of the bridge and tunnel barge….our tropical, east river views of your skyline are better anyway.

Here’s to you Brooklyn, Time Out New York’s favorite borough. Welcome to the leagues of wine-dom. Hey, if India can do it, so can we!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Main Event

D’Angerville Clos des Ducs Volnay, 2001
Starting off the evening w/ our ‘white’ wine, this red Burgundy’s best sip was its last, but the ride to the finish was a lovely jaunt all the way. A transparent, shy ruby color foreshadowed a lifted, primary nose of rose petals, bing cherry and freshly tilled loam. The palate was all about presence and purity, as crunchy acidity pumped along the beam of red-fruited flavors to a finish of understated elegance, firming up w/ a cackle of white strawberry fruit, 88 points.

Chave Hermitage Blanc, 1994
To me, the fine white Hermitage is the pinnacle experience in dry white wine, but how often does one get to taste an older bottle? Well, the golden gods shined upon us, and sticking our noses into this classy nugget revealed a wondrous cornucopia of honeysuckle, marzipan, citrus oil, golden flowers, walnuts and nearly over-ripe figs. The second this beauty hit my mouth I swore that my tongue was drenched in a riverbed of blue stones, only to be enveloped completely by a huge, mouth-filling array of intense fruit that just wouldn’t quit. How can a wine be impaling in its stoniness, yet hedonistic in its ripeness? Here’s the answer, 98 points.

Marcarini La Serra Barolo, 1996
Asher’s hefty 7 plus hour decant demonstrated that no airtime is sufficient for a young Barolo, yet we enjoyed the hell out of this one anyway. The nose was a slow seduction, with subtle black truffle shavings, sandalwood and dark cherry fruit filling the room upon vigorous swirling. While the aromas where a slow dance, the palate was a tour de force of razor sharp definition that cut its spicy, primary fruit w/ a blade so sharp that Rambo himself would be honored to use it. The tannins are still monstrous, yet there is extraordinary purity that keeps the fruit blissfully focused atop the structure & makes it deceptively approachable for current drinking, 92 points.

Dunn Napa Cabernet, 1996
Another pleasant surprise came from the phantom Randy Dunn table, sporting a nose that evoked imagery of ripe Cabernet Franc, w/ floral lilac, clove and milk chocolate notes coating the deep, rich core of cassis fruit in the palate. While taut and structured, the tannins were by no means intrusive & should help shepherd this beauty into another couple decades of fresh, delicious drinking, 91 points.

Clos du Mont Olivet Cuvee du Papet, 1989
Can you guess which wine I ordered? J Well, this was as flirty and exotic as I had hoped it would be, w/ a set of aromatics and intensity of color that couldn’t possibly be 19 years old (what a vintage!). The drop dead gorgeous nose of violet, black tea, raspberry ganache, black forest cake and molten chocolate was nothing short of mesmerizing. The palate reveals layers of spicy, savory fruit that incrementally build, fanning out to an expansive climax. As the finish unfolds, tiers of garrigue flood the senses for well over a minute. This is as explosive & primal as any Chateauneuf du Pape and is perhaps one of the finest inaugural performances for any special cuvee in the region, 98 points.

Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre, 2002
Yet another unexpected surprise that turned out to be so phenomenally good that we bought Chablis for dessert! A spicy, flinty nose of salted nuts paved the way for an exotic, painfully precise mouthful of melon, crème fraiche, ginger and quince jam that beamed along an incising, persistent core of minerality that echoed for over a minute after swallowing this elixir. What impressed me most w/ the Raveneau was how it cut through the monstrous Chateauneuf we just pummeled down & almost gave it a run for its money from a structure perspective, 95 points.

J. Moreau Clos des Hospices, Les Clos 1997
Perhaps the steal of the menu at Tribeca (well, in non-Rhone segments of the list) was this eleven year old Les Clos bottling from Moreau, presenting a flirty, tropical bouquet of shaved vanilla bean, hazelnut oil, mango and coconut that I’d never expected to experience from a Chablis. The palate turned a touch more firm, reeling in a flint kissed touch to the liquid stone and salted butter notes which hinted at opulence, yet maintained beautiful finesse from A to B, 93 points.

As we stumbled away to Asher’s, a forgetful bottle of Turley ’06 from Alexander Valley was sipped (which I’ll let him trash) and a ‘make no apologies’ rose from Clos Roche Blance was downed. It was an ’07 & had a earthy, rustic streak that reminded me of Cinsault, yet really charmed me with its pure watermelon fruit & grace on the finish. Do they make any sub-par wines at that domaine?

Thanks again gentlemen…off to the Naproxen bottle & and another pot of coffee.

Brad’s bachelor week- first installment

Before you cast a barrage of ‘third person title’ hate, consider the somewhat clever alliteration ;)

The wife has been away for two weeks & I’ve decided to inundate myself w/ wine-filled events everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. When Ejehan, my better half, returns on Wednesday night I can only pray that she’ll take pity on my over-bloated remains and the liquid-borne casualties that have ensued from my fourteen day bender.

What more logical place to start recounting the tales than from the end of the journey? A Tribeca Grill retreat began w/ an upstairs tasting, complete w/ a Charvin vertical, selections from Chave, Beaucastel and a ‘mystery meat theater’ line-up of 5 blind wines to seal the deal. The finale brought Peter O’Neill, Asher Rubinstein and Gary Zimberg (John Junguenet bailed prematurely as his better half’s grasp had a proximity that mine didn’t) downstairs to the dining room, complete w/ a 20 percent off coupon for any Rhone wine on their list of mass proportions (wine director David Gordon’s palate and sensibilities couldn’t possibly strike me anymore than they already do). Tribeca’s sommelier Ryan Mills-Knapp had a quick draw, bringing out a few unexpected elixirs to the table, including an utterly profound Chave White Hermitage ’94 and a ‘02 Raveneau that was to die for. In classic fashion, Ryan’s commentary that ‘Brad has had 3 Burgundies, a Barolo and only one Rhone wine tonight so we must be getting to him!’ sent us off to the Tribeca streets chuckling, and yes, in search of more wine.

Hope you enjoy the impressions from a wonderful evening.

Rhone Blancs table:

Cotes du Rhone Blanc, ‘Cuvee Viognier,’ Domaine Pelaquie 2007
A perfumey, lilting nose of orange blossom, almond paste and creamed citrus fruits turns electric and poised in the palate, with stream-lined acidity and sharp intensity. The smoky finish churns along beautifully, letting the more graceful side of Viognier shine, 88 points.

VDP des Collines Rhodaniennes, ‘Les Contours de Poncins’ Francois Villard 2006
Villard’s lowest tier Viognier is still a frank, tropical fruit driven wine, with mango, peach fuzz and lime custard notes filling out the round, but spicy mouthfeel that has ample zip to carry along its fleshy, fat textured fruit, 89 points.

Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, Janasse 2005
I spoke w/ John about ’05 white Rhones, Chateauneuf in particular, and whether or not he felt they were already shuffling away to a dormant, ‘dumb’ phase. His experiences have been a bit more positive than mine, but this is another example of an alarmingly maderized white Chateauneuf (along w/ Boisrenard, Vatican and a few others I’ve recently tasted) that made me wonder whether or not the vintage possessed a shorter window than most. John’s had several contrary experiences so there’s no need to stop the presses on your ’05 Chateauneuf blancs, but be wary of the early oxidation, NR.

Perrin et Fils table:

Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc, 2006
A rock solid white Rhone, revealing fresh macadamia nuts, lilacs, green apple and spicy kiwi fruit in a mid-weight, balanced frame that has enough follow-through to keep you coming back for an extra sip, 86 points.

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, 2005
A clean and taut expression from Beaucastel, letting the hints of spice, honeycomb, orange marmalade and buttered brioche fill out the full, yet understated palate. The creamy, round mouthfeel is simply caressing, yet lacks the complexity and tremendous richness of the ’06, 91+ points.

Vacqueyras Les Christins, ‘06
I always love this cuvee, though I found the ’04 and ’05 to have a bit more pep. The transparent ruby shades unearth a dusty, briar-filled nose of dark fig, earth and black raspberry driven nose. The attack has great lift, pushing the dark fruit profile along a silky textured midpalate that echoes a classic finish riddled in black pepper, 89 points.

Les Sinards Chateauneuf du Pape, 2005
I was particularly impressed w/ this cuvee, which combines younger vines from the Beaucastel property w/ vines from a more southern parcel, closer to the La Crau sector. A pretty, floral nose showcases pure raspberry and plum fruit in a very forward, atypically round profile for the vintage. The wine is exceptionally juicy and plump, allowing fresh cedar, garrigue and tobacco notes to sail along a plush finish, where an alluring violet note sneaks in, 93 points.

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2005
While this is locked up pretty tightly, there is a massive core of braised beef, black cherry liqueur, tree bark, damp earth and smoky dark fruits lurking in the background that are undeniably impressive. The palate is flat out huge, w/ a massively endowed, multi-layered tannic spine that sears every inch of the palate like a steak on the grill. This is a spectacular vintage for Beaucastel across the board (including the Coudoulet) and more then makes up for the stumbling previous 3 vintages (though the jury’s still out on ’03 and ’04), 96+ points.

Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape:

This vintage has been behaving a bit erratically as of late, showing seemingly tired, then picking up steam in the glass to reveal a mature bouquet of iron, grilled game, braised chestnut and black currant paste. Tasting more like a ’99 than a ’00 (much like Vieux Donjon in the vintage), w/ a resolved, generous spine that allows hints of earth, garrigue and a bloody undertow to check in along the finish. The more youthful, exuberant bottles of this vintage are more compelling, but the more progressed bottles aren’t too shabby either, 92 points.

Is this the best vintage yet for Charvin? Well, until the ’06 and ’07 hit the shelves, I’m pretty damn convinced that it is at this moment. There is so much going on in the wine’s bouquet, which propels brick dust, garrigue, dark fig, seared steak and just about everything but the kitchen sink at you. The structure of this wine is spectacular, w/ brilliant acidity, sinewy tannin and oodles of fruit that a wound in such a precise, almost chewy focus that leaves me speechless, 97 points.

Laurent Charvin is particularly proud of his efforts in this vintage, and he should be, as just about any ’03 hater has to take notice that this performance is something special. The scents are suggestive, but far from overblown or blowzy, sending rose petals, kirsch liqueur, bittersweet cocoa and hoison sauce notes from the glass in a dead sexy fashion. The attack is sweet and opulent, but always stays fresh in the palate, w/ a beautifully textured ride sailing your taste buds away to sure bliss, 95 points.

I’d only tasted this vintage previously from half bottles and have been less than enthralled with it, but this 750 ml showing was a bit more intriguing. The nose was perfumey, yet a touch more superficial than the previous years, paving the way for a spine tingling palate, with waves of baker’s chocolate, kirsch liqueur, garrigue and zesty spice box notes that send the cheeks caving in with force. Undoubtedly interesting, yet I can imagine several Charvin fans finding this to be almost too piercing & in need of food to check her back in balance, 92 points.

The worst showing of them all had to be the ’05, which revealed a flat, hot and almost feeble personality that I initially wondered if it were corked, yet came to the conclusion that it was simply closed. I’d tasted this year a handful of times previously and have come to the conclusion that it is a good, not great year for Laurent and may need quite a bit of time to reveal its charms.


I only spent my time with the two big boys, but I’d be remiss to not mention the outstanding quality of Chave’s value driven white called Sybele. The ’05 was good, but the ’06 is just plain lovely & certainly worthy of a ride if white Rhones are of interest to you.

Saint Joseph 2005
Perhaps the ‘nose of the night’ belongs to Chave’s Saint Joseph, which showcased untamed scents such as wild flowers, scorched earth, red cabbage, sweet tobacco and spicy cassis that had a distinctive, savory undertone. The full bodied palate reveals terrific structure, flesh and tremendous length that reverberates a cedar spiced note w/ such class and grace, 95 points.

Hermitage 2004
A ‘vin de garde’ for the vintage from Chave that dazzled the senses with graphite, cigar humidor, wild blueberries and roast beef notes in the nose. Surprisingly tannic and endowed in the mouth, picking up steam on the layered, persistent finish that suggests this will really blossom in the cellar, 93+ points.

The Blind Tasting Table:

Wine 1:
A fresh, forward nose of easy going red cherry and sweet strawberry fruit transitioned to a straight-forward, plush palate, spurred by a lingering spice note that added some intrigue along the way. Olivier Hillaire’s ’06 Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone offered up immediate drinkability and some decent polish to kick things off, 85 points.

Wine 2:
A smoky, sweet toast kissed nose started things off w/ a more modern slant in wine number two, but was supported by nice blackberry sauce and peppered steak notes in the background. The mouthfeel was a bit coarse and rustic, as some serious tannic grip cloaked the wine’s flesh, leaving a drying, mouth-puckering sensation on the finish. I wasn’t crazy about the Soumade Rasteau ‘Prestige’ cuvee from ’04, but I think that some more aeration could have brought things along nicely, an optimistic 86+ points (like a young Mordoree Lirac).

Wine 3:
The weakest, most charm-less wine of the bunch had to be the La Bouissiere’s Font de Tonin ’03 Gigondas, which was also a modern-twist, but a bit more sloppy in its construction than the previous sampling. Olive, violet, mocha and cassis peek through the over-extracted, firm and short effort that offered little pleasure for the intrusively structured pain that it provided. Certainly needs some hearty cuisine and should be drank up in the midterm, 81 points.

Wine 4:
I took a different approach here and decided to take no formal note of the wine w/ the exception of saying ‘it tastes like Monbousquet’ and see how that correlated to what wine it actually was. Well folks, it was a Tardieu Laurent Cuvee Coteaux Crozes Hermitage ’00 that I thought merited a 90 point score, read in to all that what you may :)

Wine 5:
The inkiest, most serious bottling of the bunch was saved for last, sporting rich cassis, flowers, warm ganache and spice cake notes in the nose that were wonderfully attractive & quite alluring. The layered, opulent Syrah carried its waves of flavors over the high tannins in a sexy style that managed to pull off the magic trick impressively and w/ exquisite polish. For all the criticism of Jean Luc Columbo, his Cornas La Louvee ’04 demonstrates he has a deft touch w/ his estate Syrah that come from plots well over 70 years of age, 92+ points.

Off to dinner...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Chardonnay, errr...Burgundy producer I'd been dying to try....

Goodness knows why I’ve been on a bit of a Chardonnay kick, but this wine actually is a bit more about person and place than that of grape & gadgetry. Pouilly Fuisse has been somewhat of a go-to, uncomplicated appellation for decent, refreshing Chardonnay, yet I’d never found much to be excited about from the region that warranted serious exploration. Well, I admit it, the Rosenthal novel catalyzed quite a bit of Pouilly Fume intrigue for me, mostly due to the tales of the venerable Madame Ferret. Neal’s passion and admiration for the worn, yet wholesome Ferret is palpable during the chapter titled ‘character,’ and it made me desire to not only spend some time w/ the lady, but sip some of her wine.

Alas, things do change. Not only has Madame Ferret expired, but Jadot has purchased the Domaine, for better or for worse. A trip to Rosenthal’s retail shop in the Upper East Side provided the final slap in the face that I needed to propel me into action. Life’s too short to not embrace this visceral experience which transports us not only to a particular place, but makes us long for those that once graced its streets, inspiring us to investigate and discover.

I hope you enjoy my brief encounter w/ Domaine Ferret & also hope this arouses a similar form of encouragement within you, to taste & experience something a bit further along the bend in the countless curves of our beloved wine road.

Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuisse, 2004 ‘Les Moulins’
A brilliant, light golden color w/ shades of green foreshadow a ripe, exceptionally clean nose of honeysuckle, crisp golden delicious apples, hot stones, baked peanuts and shades of white flowers. The palate is fantastically precise, allowing a pure beam of green fruits to glide over a mineral bed w/ ease and grace, showcasing unadorned ripeness & clarity. While this wine sees virtually no wood, there is ample structure, harmony and track record suggest that this white will impress for over a decade to come, 90 points.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Rags to Ritchies…

While this is by no means an ideal comparison between the two heavyweight Chardonnay producers that source Ritchie Vineyard fruit (the vintages were not the same), it was as good as we could manage on a sun-drenched, Sunday afternoon picnic. The characteristics of each wine were a bit more distinct than I had imagined, w/ the Ramey showcasing a bit higher-toned, racy profile, as the Aubert unwound to reveal a fleshier, broader palate that had a touch more heft than Ramey’s. All told, the wines each had clarity, precision and brilliant minerality that is often associated with the site, with more persistence that most California chardonnays could dream of. The comparison at the quality level was almost a wash, w/ the Aubert edging out the Ramey by a nose, but its reputation, rarity and tariff were hardly justified in the parallel, to my palate.

More tasting research is warranted (bummer) to elucidate whether or not the vineyard or the producers are responsible for generating such excitement in my bones, but it’s a clinical experience that I am happy to participate in.

Ramey Chardonany, Ritchie Vineyard 2005
This showed in a style that was just as I remembered it, w/ a spicy, almost piercing nose full of honeysuckle, candlewax, white flowers, apricot spread and crushed stone scents that flirted w/ the tropical end of the spectrum, but were reeled in beautifully by a grounded, mineral characteristic. The mouth-feel showcased focus and precision, letting a bracing beam of precise stone fruits cascade to a seamless, primal finish. This, like the Aubert showed a touch of toast, but to my palate, did not reveal any excessive characteristics that threatened to knock it out of balance, 95 points.

Aubert Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard 2006
The nose was a stark contrast to the Ramey, revealing smoky notes of crème brulee, quince spread, citrus zest and spicy oak shadings. The palate was full, yet reserved, deftly demonstrating a tension between expansive flavors and channeled texture. Like most Auberts, this is likely to reveal additional dimension and intensity w/ short-term cellaring, but I certainly felt like the true colors were revealed during this taste-off, 95+ points.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Rosenthal on stage