Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Fault Lies Not in Our Stars But In Our Wines - Garrigue, April 20, 2017


You know how some wine nights are just so magical? People bring wonderful bottles and you post on Instagram and Facebook and you get a million likes and everyone is like, oh, you lucky bastard, you live so well, ooh ooh ooh, please invite me next time. Now imagine the exact opposite and you get the night we had. Even the wine glasses conspired against us, the unclean, dusty heathens.

Basically, we are talking about terribly corrupted wines here. Every fucking kind of defect you can imagine. A Gruaud-Larose with so much brett you could use the bottle as compost. Another Bordeaux laced with TCA, but not obvious TCA, but rather ninja TCA, the TCA that ruins the wine in stealth mode and you only notice after intense concentration. These are ordinary faults, however, compared to a bottle of Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Rabaja, 1998 whose decrepitude challenges my language skills, insulting with aromas that bludgeon and harass and flavors as appealing as cold pea soup.

At least we started off with two wines that I guarantee will make you smile.

Quita de S. Jose (Joao Brito e Cunha), Duoro, Flor de S. Jose, 2015

David Bar Ilan brought this from a trip to Portugal. An excellent purchase. I found the winery site. I'm not sure if the name is Joao Brito e Cunha or Quita de S. Jose, and the Cellar Tracker community is also undecided on the subject, so I went with both. The nose is very interesting and appealing, white fruit laced with minerals, indulging in a funky kink. The palate is tasty, less complex than the nose, very moreish due to its fresh acidity. The winery site says it's a blend of Viosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio, and I should remember to use that arcane fact if I run out of small talk topics at the next winery event I attend.

Francois Villard, Côte Rotie, Le Galllet Blanc, 2012

Now that I think about it, this group, we've been drinking together for two or three years, and no one has ever brought a north Rhone wine that failed to please. Not one! So, thanks for the save, Mister Pick! This has languidly ripe fruit with a sharp tannic bite at the finish, generously complementing the fruit with black pepper, violets, the works. Simply palate ravishing, even at its young age.

Hudelot-Noellet, Chambolle-Musigny, 2014

The character, even down to the specific character of the floral veil, is more Gevrey than Chambolle. other than that, this is a good village wine.

Garrigue, by the way, is doing just fine, great in fact, excellent food and atmosphere, and you should all go there on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2017)

Most of April was spent on a family vacation in the States. The wines fall into three wine geek categories. The first group is a bunch of wines tasted on a trip to Sonoma and it merits its own post.

The second group is a whole bunch of hipster friendly wines from around the world, bought at various wine shops and drunk with family and friends.
The best of the hipster wines I had in the Big Apple

Domaine Grosbois, Chinon,  La Cuisine de ma Mère, 2015

This is a new producer for me - and probably for just about everyone likely to be reading this in Israel -  but I diligently googled the domaine. They produce four Chinon cuvees and this one is comprised of the youngest vines, about 15 years old. It is extremely succulent and lithe, all about fresh berries embossed with lightly pungent streaks of earth and tobacco leaf. The finish has fairly decent length and complexity, driven by acidity rather than the soft tannins and its friendly salinity makes it very accommodating to bistro fare. The organic certification and the quaintness of the label will give the hipster sommeliers something to tempt the hipster clientele with, although in an ideal world, its tasty moreishness would have been enough. (Apr. 1, 2017)

25 USD.

Daniel Bouland, Morgon, Delys, Vieilles Vignes, 2015

I can tell it's Gamay, but at 14.5% ABV, there are moments when its fat, spicy demeanor reminds me of Carignan, or some other warm weather grape. Let's just to forget this happened. (Apr. 2, 2017)

30 USD.

Pierre Gonon, VDP de l'Arche, Les Iles Feray, 2015

I don't know if this is a declassified Saint Joseph or sourced from the wrong side of the tracks, but it plays at major leagues level, and close to the best young Syrah I ever had. Violets, bacon, the works, on a smooth body that doesn't bother to smother every edge and rough spot. At 25 USD, this is an amazing value and if this is any indication, the actual Saint Joseph will be incredible. (Apr. 3, 2017)

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, Rias Baixas, Albariño d Fefinanes, 2015

Citrus fruit with an edgy mineral streak and a salty finish driven by powerful acidity. and remarkable focus! (Apr. 3, 2017)

30 USD. This is a must buy if you ever run into it, same as the Gonon.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, Raisins Gaulois, 2015

The young version of the Lapierre Morgon is a funkier version of the more expensive wine, but I may actually like it more and it's way better, not to mention more typical, than the Bouland. The funk doesn't feel like dirty brett, more like meaty rusticity, a farm boy mooning the prom.(Apr. 10, 2017)

15 USD.

Arnot-Roberts, Medocino County, Alder Springs Vineyard, Syrah, 2007

A serious wine, almost too serious for its own good. Brooding and sexless, all iron and black pepper, as somber and unrelenting as an off vintage Hernitage or Cornas, barely yielding its secrets even after a few hours. Still, I'm glad I had a chance to taste it. It's challenging and made me ponder about the burly side of Syrah. (Apr. 11, 2017)

About 40 USD.

Domaine du Haut Bourg, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu Sur Lie, Origine Haut Bourg, 2005

I don't see that this is a particularly interesting product of cellaring. Not that this isn't a good wine. It's a very pretty wine, with delicate white/yellow fruit, mellow nuttiness and hints of flint. And it's decently complex and quite lovely to drink. All I'm saying is that seven years in the cellar would have been quite enough. (Apr. 15, 2017)

About 20 USD. Decent value despite my reservations. 

Domaine de l'Ecu (Guy Bossard), Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Taurus, 2012

This is more like it. Different producer, of course, and a neighboring AOC, but at five years of age, it shows vibrancy and complexity, a mineral cut, interesting saline flavors. Like a a minor league Chablis Premier Cru making up in beef broth and funk what it lacks in pedigree per se. Actually, I'm pretty sure it would age and improve for a decade. (Apr. 16, 2017)

About 40 USD - totally worth it.

And now for the final category, which I call Wine Craps and it is the outcome of a couple of evenings spent in the company of a Reno Casino resort's wine machine.

Kumeu Village, Chardonnay, 2014

Excellent. This would be at least village level in Burgundy. Apples, matchsticks, minerals, terrific vibrancy.

McNab Ridge Winery, Sonoma County, Russian River, Pinot Noir, Family Reserve, 2013

Definitely not a winery or wine that seeks to emulate Burgundy. The nose is ripe and alcoholic but at least the only damage it can mete is a an aesthetic one. The palate, which is also ripe and alcoholic, is capable of physical damage.

Flowers, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, 2014

This is much better and truer to what Pinot is supposed to be all about: fresh red fruit, cherry in this case, easy on the tannins and alcohol without loss of structure or depth, even when the weight is not massive. It's not especially complex, though, but rather its pedigree is carried in its lithe shape.

Chateau Simard, Saint Emilion, 2005

Eventually I tired of the New World and returned to the fold. Classic, yet unassuming, archetypical claret from a Saint Emilion property totally off the map, tobacco, cedar, just a light hint of stink.

Domaine Perrot-Minot, Chambolle-Musigny, 2012

Very typical for the appelation: rotting flowers, rotting leaves, suave fruit. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Thank you, for your wines, California"

Wind Gap - the energetic vibe of the new,
the classic sobriety of the old
I admit one of the reasons that I am not a fan of US wines is my limited exposure. While I may be a truculent Old World admirer, it is a folly to ignore an entire continent and if I was living on the west coast, I'm sure I'd find many wineries that appeal to me. So I am glad I took the opportunity to taste through an admittedly very limited selection of wineries: two venerable estates purporting to adhere to Old World ideals - whatever that may still mean decades after the Trial of Paris and all the changes the world of wine has seen since - and one, a sort of latter day boutique negociant looking to make "the kind of wines one could drink every night with dinner, regardless of season." 

Hanzell 

This is a historical winery, whose vineyards, planted with vine grafts brought from Burgundy in the 40's (fortunately, before the days of the "bad clones" in the 60's), are located on high, steep hillsides. The winery is into sustainable agriculture, organic practices, an elegant Burgundian winemaking style - all the marketable buzzwords, in short. Somehow, though, I was left underwhelmed. Good wines, for sure, but they did not captivate me on an emotional or intellectual level.

Sebella, Chardonnay, 2015

Thirty year old vines. Flint, some oak that fades. 6 months in neutral barrels. Lithe and salty despite the oak. Warms up nicely. 36 USD.

Chardonnay, 2014

Heavier, yet fleet of foot, the oak more obvious, even though I'm sure it will integrate. Complex mineral aromas dominated by flint, with  apples rather than the Sebella's citrus fruit. I bought a bottle of the Sebella for its friendly charm, but stalled with this top tier Chardonnay, because it isn't this charming now and its price point was too much for me to gamble on potential - my lack of familiarity with the style might be an issue here, I just couldn't make a confident guess and there was no electric vibe tempting me the way white Burgundies do. 78 USD.

Pinot Noir, 2014

Interesting herbal aromatics, sandalwood and red fruit adorn an elegant, subtle structure. I'm not sure if the price is worth it, but I like its subtlety and I see potential. Not Bourgogne but definitely a Pinot I like, but, at t 98 USD, not enough to buy.

Wind Gap

According to winemaker.owner Pax Mahle: “Wind Gap is all about classically styled wines that represent the new California.”

I guess many would make that claim and I always suspect wineries with a million labels (such as Wind Gap offer), but the Syrahs are terrific and the Trousseau Gris is a unique gem. I tasted two flights at the tasting room and at the end of the day, this is exactly the sort of winery I'd follow if I were a local. I highly recommend it to travelers and local importers.

The Syrah Flight: Whole cluster, good acidity in all, with fresh fruit that could turn wholesomely meaty in time, in some cases already showing that now.

Syrah, Majik Vineyard, 2014

Good backbone here, subtle yet with a more prominent presence at the finish. An almost Pinot-ish softness and a welcome greenness that took me a while to pinpoint as tobacco leaves. Weighs in at 10.4% but you would never have guessed it.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Nellessen Vineyard, 2015

12.5% ABV. Ripe fruit that veers to black and blue while retaining attractive freshness and even greater structure. Excellent.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Armagh Vineyard, 2014

More tannic and not as friendly, but the nose has additional accouterments, adding meat and smoke. It's a toss up between it and the Nellessen.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, 2014

A blend of the above three vineyards, it's the most approachable and right now paints the most complete picture, with the Syrah regalia of black pepper and captivating blueberry fruit.

Then we went through a flight of the more esoteric wines in the portfolio. 

Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Wood Road, 2016

An erratically rebellious white/orange wine (limited skin contact), with Pinot aromas, marginal tameability and pungent mineral aromas (imagine a salt bath in the background). 

Rose of Dolcetto, North Coast, 2016

This is a tamer wine -  I mean, there is a mineral streak here as well, but with less bite and bristle. The citrus acidity makes it moreish, but while it warms my sardonic heart that someone found a way to make Dolcetto appealing, the Trousseau totally outshines it.

Soif, Old Vine Red, North Coast, 2015

Seven different varieties (I caught Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan from the winery guy's spiel as he poured it for me), whole stem, carbonic maceration. Meaty and fun, short though.

Old Vine Grenache, Alexander Valley, Sceales Vineyard, 2015

Reticent. I get, just barely, white and black pepper. The candied nature of the grape is subdued. I don't know what to make of it yet. By the way, the vines really are very old, over a hundred years old.

The Syrahs and the Grenache are 30-40 USD, as I recall. I didn't note the price for the others. 

Joseph Swan Winery


A classy Pinot from a historic estate
This is another historic winery, family run, specializing in Pinot and Syrah. I loved their flagship Pinot, the single vineyard Trenton Estate, which the family planted about forty years ago; sadly, I was indifferent at best about most of the rest.

Viognier, Russian River Valley, Catie's Corner, 2015

Alcoholic, band aid, stings. 13.8% ABV.

Grenache Blanc, Russian River Valley, Catie's Corner, 2015

Formally higher ABV (14.2%) but less obvious and better balanced, with mildly appealing spicy aromatics. I'd drink a glass or two.

Pinot Noir,  Saralee's Vineyard, 2013

Very much a New World Pinot, it has the spices and forest floor that I love, but it's fat and feels ripe even though it comes from their coolest site. I don't find it particularly balanced - I think the fruit just isn't concentrated enough to shine through, despite the ripeness.

Pinot Noir, Cuvée de Trois, 2013

Intended to represent the Russian River AVA, there is additional weight and substance to the fruit here, more tannins as well, here that serve the wine well, even though I can't really appreciate Pinot at 14% ABV. 

Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate Vineyard, 2014

The earthiest, most Burgundian Pinot of the lot. Premier Cru level and even the ABV is sane at 13%. I am highly in favor of the notion that this is the best US Pinot I've had.

Syrah, Great Oak, 2010

A huge wine, too huge for me. Meaty and packed tight, alcoholic (15% ABV) and mean.