When life offers you lemons in the form of dismally performing top-flight Riojas, the only way to turn them into lemonade is to to enjoy the company of friends and the tasty dishes offered by the current incarnation of Nahalat Benyamin's Wine Bar. Pork terrine, Sicilian beef tartare brochettes, stuff like that.
Domdechant Werner, Rheingau, Hochheimer Domdechaney, Riesling trocken, Erstes Gewaches, 2009
Green apples, herbs, decent to good acidity, a little grassy. The alcohol on the finish conjures up all I disapprove of in Alsace, which isn't surprising, seeing as I rarely find decent balance in dry Rheingaus. Not great by any means.
Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, North Coast, 2012
A producer I'd been waiting to taste. Black, slightly bretty fruit. Tannic, a little hot, balanced by solid, warm fruit. Unfolds and works out the kinks. A good wine, even though it's hard to tell how typical the Syrah is here, but I do hope age will bring out the languid, peppery fruit I enjoy in good examples of the grape.
Marqués de Murrieta, Castillo Ygay, Rioja Gran Reserva Especial, 2000
Balsamic vinegar, moldy furniture, tobacco leaves, good acidity. Not great, just interesting, performing much like an over the hill Rioja from an indifferent producer. And even though 2000 wasn't a great year in Rioja, I look for more from a fourteen year old Ygay.
Artadi, Pagos Viejos, 2001
The first impression is of a tannic, old world classic, earthy and spicy with hints of leather. Then, at the point in the evolution in the glass where a good wine pulls itself together and shows its stuff, the Pago Viejos loses its footing and its balance, displaying high acidity that doesn't adequately balance the sweet fruit. A wannabe that ends up being too modern at the end - and the last thing you expect Artadi to be is a wannabe.
Duijn, Baden, Spatburgender, 2003
Languid, warm fruit, with notes of black pepper, that starts out tasty only to turn sweet and monolithic. Pass.