Sunday, August 10, 2008

2GrandCru On the Road (Eastern US)

Part I - Living Off The fat Of The Land

I've just spent five weeks on the US East Coast. The first three weeks were a family vacation spent mostly at my wife's aunt's house, which had small, decent cellar - for a beginner. The following wines looked like the most interesting to me.

Domaine Brintet, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005

Brintet is a Cote Challonaise producer whose 2002 village Mercurey I'd enjoyed a few years ago so it seemed like an interesting choice when my wife's aunt asked me to choose a white wine for dinner. It turned out to be a nice enough wine but not one that exceeds its humble origins. It's flinty and lime-y on both nose and palate but doesn't have a lot of length, stuffing or breadth of flavors. But it's dry and savoury and doesn't try to flatter even the slightest bit. Placing it to next to, say, Jobard's Bourgogne would put the Brintet to shame but it will kick ass out of a lot of 20 dollar New World Chardonnays. (Jul. 14, 2008)

Albert Boxler, Edelzwicker, 2002

The Alsace version of a whodunnit. Edelzwicker is a blend of the Alsace varietals though only the winemaker would know what went into it. My amateur verdict is, it smells and tastes like a Riesling-Pinot Gris/Blanc blend, with the Riesling lending red/baked apples and dill aromas and the Pinots a certain saline spiciness. And there's a certain mineraliness that is not quite variety-specific. Not very long nor complex but still quite tasty, though I have my doubts that it will hold for much longer. (Jul. 18, 2008)

Louis Jadot, Macon-Villages, 2006

Drunk for that quinessential reason, food accompaniment, the tasting note written to keep in shape. It's the Saturday Morning Cartoon version of Bourgogne: apples and white fruits, sprinkled with flint, clobbered with oak. (Jul. 21, 2008)

Part II - Digging Into My Stash

The second part of my trip was spent alone in northern Virgina on business while my wife and kids travelled to the West Coast. The wines were much better as I had been shopping for myself. Some were wines I had bought for short term cellaring anyway and opened all by my lonesome because, well, I had to drink something. Others were opened for decision-making purposes. All of these wines cost about 40 USD.

Auguste Clape, Cornas, 2000

This a teenaged quarterback wine, muscular with vague hints of possible finesse, yet raw and unpolished at present. Black fruit and leather on both nose and palate, with a sort of gentle spiciness, long and powerful on the palate, all somehow reined in by Old World classicism. Sounds good so far but on the down side, it's just a tad too sweet and lacks a bit of concentration (as opposed to power) to be really great. Though - and here I am flip-flopping again - that sweetness calms down in time, and I think that I would temper most of my reservations were I to match this wine with a good steak. I also think that sweetness is a matter of age and if I'd had more room in my luggage and if I truly trusted the bottle's condition (this wine has been on the shelves of the store I bought it from for at least three years) I'd cellar it for three-four more years. (Jul. 27, 2008)

Leo Alzinger, Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2004

Some lists have Alzinger at the top tier of Austrian winemakers. I asked around and it's not a unanimous opinion. But this wine smells and tastes like a young, top-rung Pfaltz Grand Cru. Or maybe Nahe. So I'd say Alzinger is pretty good.

On to the wine itself. The aromas spell 'class'. Granny apples, with a hint of of peaches, overlayed with pungent minerals and sweet dough, all painted in aristocratic strokes. The palate is very balanced, crisp, long, and echoes the aromas, playing a note of sweetness, the whole package getting a gentle shove from the acidity on the finish to give it extra length. I don't usually score, as readers might well know, but at a tasting, I'd give it a 93 if only to see whether anyone bites. Needs three-five years. (Jul. 31, 2008)

Muga, Rioja Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1998

Muga is one of the three classic Rioja Bodegas, along with Ygay and La Rioja Alta. 1998 is not considered as great in Rioja as 1994 and 1995 (or even 1996) but this is surely no blemish on the Muga name. The nose is fully realized, fresh and vibrant, with crushed raspberries, tobacco leaves, old leather and an exotic spiciness. What seems like a small hole in mid-palate fills up after a while and then you notice the fruit and acidity locked in such a balanced embrace that neither dominates. Though it caresses on the attack and mid-palate, the fine tannins are as yet rusty on the long finish. (Aug. 2, 2008)

The Prado Enea used to be imported to Israel. I'm not sure whether the 1998 is available locally, though.

Remizieres, Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvee Christophe, 2004

I don't run across a Crozes too often and this was probably only the fourth I've had over the last five years. I'd bought the producer's 1999 Hermitage on this trip because of Parker's rave review and wanted to get a taste of the Remizieres style.

This is, on the one hand, a very backwards wine, very tight and oaky. On the other hand, there is a promise of some elegance lurking in its depths. It never really opened much over two hours but what it did show beneath the oak were red berries as well as a dusty minerality on both nose and palate. The acidity is there but not very obvious until it gives a gentle shove on the finish. I'd wait at least three-four years were I to cellar it but I'm not very certain whether it will eventually be a wine I'd really like. But it is a good wine and that saline minerality appeals to me. (Aug. 7, 2008)

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