I'll start off with a classic, Champagne:
Jacques Lassaigne, Le Cotet, n.v.
This is a single-vineyard from a small Aube producer. Although there is plenty of fruit, the character and personality - and there are just tons of these - are dominated by brioche and mushrooms. A lovely example of the merits of grower Champagne.
Now let's look at some New World Pinots. The first is lovely, the other, well...less.
Kutch, Sonoma Coast, Falstaff Vineyards, Pinot Noir, 2014
Red fruit, with floral trimmings and white pepper. Very pure, a little sweet, its structure driven by acidity. Finessed and lithe, with soft tannins on the finish.
Domaine Serene, Oregon, Williamette Valley, Mark Bradford Vineyards, 2004
Extracted and a little sweet, mint adding some complexity. Plodding. Or maybe just stumbling. Either way, I'll pass.
On to two that really express all that I loathe about ripe, extracted wines.
Tor, Napa Valley, Yountville, Mast Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006
Starts as black prunes. Stays that way. I'm searching to find something nice to say about it, and the only thing I can think of is that Tor Books published Philip K. Dick. I don't think the two enterprises are related, but Dick was great and lived in California.
Pott, Napa Valley, Kaliholmanok, 2013
Obnoxiously ripe. Maybe it will improve, as Amit had opened a a different wine from the same producer four years ago I did like. The good thing about my dislike of it is I'll never have to order it off a wine list in a restaurant. Spell checkers all over the world hate that name,
I don't like Chateauneufs much. Or Brunellos. But this pair could send me back to the fold, if I could be assured they represent a trend.
Pegau, Chateaneuf du Pape, Cuvée Laurence, 2004
Tar and spices that I had me guessing Barolo at first, but no, it's a Chateauneuf, and one I liked when I was still drinking the stuff every now and then. This is very good, without the brett I remembered from previous vintages. I like.
Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, 2004
Very tasty and savory, showing a rusty, not rustic, side. with black fruit decorated by iron and hide, and focused, savory tannins. Too bad Wine Route stopped importing these - I'd bite.
Then two Old World gems. One a faded beauty, yet still showing the greatness of a legendary property. The other an exotic, graceful ballerina.
Chateau Margaux, Margaux 1er Cru, 1976
This shows a fascinating nose, with something that is wholesomely dirty (not brett, more like clean horse hide), but without the exotic sexiness of the AOC, never mind the Chateau. The palate is clean and savory, and very straightforward. 1976 was not a great vintage in Bordeaux, but despite its lackluster softness, this is still a good drop.
David Duband, Grand Cru Echezeaux, 2004
This is a great wine, the star of the night, that our host pulled out of the cellar as a bonus. It has the languid ripeness I love in Bourgognes, with fresh red fruit and exotic spices. It is the kind of Grand Cru that impresses by elegance and off the cuff ease and not power and one of the best 2004's I've ever had.
Next, an oddity, but one I'd welcome to my home.
Peyre Rose, Coteaux-du-Languedoc, Oro, 1996
How much of an oddity is this? When I googled it, I couldn't find any English site selling the damn thing. So it's salty and biting and comes off like an unfortified sherry, but I can't for the life of me figure out if that was the intent.
Finally, the two whites that did cap off the great evening in actuality and not just in the post.
Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2007
Petrol, slate, peaches, sauteed herbs - these are the descriptors I can pick out, but the overall aromatic effect goes even beyond that. Despite that wonderful nose, there is a sense that like many a Spätlese these days, it is more of an Auslese. Thus, it is maybe too fat to be great, but lovely nonetheless.
Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett 2007
Muller picks Kabinett at ripeness levels that I'm guessing would have been a Spätlese elsewhere and elsewhen. He might not be unique in that regard, but anyway, this continues a theme of wines playing above their pradikat. It is tauter, drier, than the Brücke, full of potent energy. It doesn't really have the typical Mosel nose, but it doesn't matter, it is simply an expression of the vineyard and the winemaker rather than a representative of the region.