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Everything posted by jrufusj

  1. Perhaps you're being too hard on your palate. Maybe the wine simply sucked! Seriously, there are good wines from any region, as well as dreck. If you were to describe what you didn't like about it, as well what wines you have enjoyed the most, that might lead to an interesting discussion. In any case, you and John Cleese are both correct; drink what you enjoy. (Though some excellent wines can take a period of palate acclimitization. Ever had a Chateau-Chalon?) Enjoy, Jim
  2. This was definitely the most interesting wine of the night for me. Was it the best? Who knows? What is best? Was it the wine that made me sit up and take notice, make me say "Man, there's really something going on"? Did it make me imagine these steep hillsides where backs strain to pick and prune and vines strain to capture enough water and sun? Is this the reason I drink wine? Absolutely! And, yes, I feel privileged to have had a chance to drink it. But I also envy you for your knowledge of and access to so many wines that speak clearly of their place, don't cost a bundle, and have a dancer's sense of balance and proportion. There's plenty of good wine in Tokyo, but it is still much more limited than in the US or Europe. Enjoy, Jim
  3. Kristin: Glad you enjoyed it. I was there again last Wednesday night with an American friend now living in Paris who was starved for good Mexican food. He was similarly thrilled. You ordered two of the items that I order every time I go, the boudin (zucchini pudding, like a crustless quiche) and the carnitas. In the winter, the boudin is made with mushrooms and is equally good. Other regular items for us are either the chicken or enchiladas with mole pablano and the camarones (the shrimp with garlic). We've tried a bunch of things, pretty much all of them good. Only disappointment was the taquitos. Oh yeah, the mojitos rock (as do the margaritas). I probably go once a month. The food is good, the price is right, and it's a twenty minute walk from my house. Glad you enjoyed it, Jim
  4. jrufusj

    Triple H Day

    Anjou or Tavel or Bandol Rose Lighter Loire, Styrian, Friulian, NZ Sauv Blanc Soave Light Valpolicella and Bardolino (not the expensive, highly extracted Valpos!) Bugey Cerdan Vouvray Petillant Qba riesling from the MSR and Nahe Swiss Fendant and Chasselas Lightest Austrian Gruner Veltliner (with food) Muscadet Vinho Verde Lighter styled Spanish Albarino Dry white Graves, Entre-deux-Mers, etc. (if you find an example you like) Well-made Aligote (they do exist and I love them) and the list goes on... Also, a big vote for Campari and soda! Jim
  5. TN: SCHLOSSBERG AND FIXIN - Restaurant dinner with Cathryn and father-in-law (6/16/2005) Quick dinner out. Wines with crab cake, roasted beet and chevre salad, and simple grilled duck breast. 2002 Domaine Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg - France, Alsace, Kientzheim, Alsace Grand Cru AOC Light gold, with an appealing hint of green. Bright apple and apricot fruit vies with mild petrol in a pleasingly piercing nose, almost racy. There’s also a hint of orange blossom honey, but somehow it also seems a little closed, as if there is much more to come. On the palate, it is rich, but absolutely dry and buoyed by a nice spine of acid. Apples, peaches, mineral and a little smoke on the finish make this a pleasure that will only get better. However, there’s something a little leesy on the finish that I can’t figure out. Is this a fault or something that will get more interesting with time? I don’t mind it. Only criticism would be that, while there is a reasonably varied nose and palate, there is little change in the palate over the hour this is open. But, then again, it’s also very, very young. 2000 Mongeard-Mugneret Fixin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Fixin Slightly “rough” burgundy color, starting to show some evolution. Nose of pure pinot – cherry and beetroot – with some anise undertones and a little decaying leaf/mushroom. Palate was a little dilute and showed odd hints of green or stemminess, but had otherwise easy tannins safely smoothed by wild berry and cherry fruit. Just enough acid to perk it up and keep me from caring too much about a little dilution or greenness. From basic Fixin, I expect a rough edge, a little leaf/mushroom, nice slightly wild pinot fruit, and good value. This delivers and that’s all I asked for. Not great, but a very useful restaurant wine. Posted from CellarTracker!
  6. OFFLINE IN DOBBS FERRY - Dale's House (6/15/2005) When Dale came to Tokyo, all I did was gather the crowd, book the restaurant, and bring a few wines. When I went to NY, he provided almost all of the wines, as well as opening his house and joining his talented wife in cooking us dinner. First flight was with appetizers of canapes of green apple, smoked trout and (on some) horseradish sauce plus grilled rolls of pancetta, radiccio, and goat cheese . Second flight was with spinach/tofu/miso napoleans, from a recipe by Ming Tsai. The three red flights were with grilled duck breast with a red wine/demiglace sauce, accompanied by grilled veggies (sweet potato, red pepper and onion in a oil/thyme/vinegar dressing, and fennel). Berries with whipped cream would have been beautiful withe Bugey, but that was gone, so the berries stood alone. Remainders of reds, plus the port were consumed with cheeses (Keen's cheddar, a Wisconsin "melange", and a Cypress Grove Midnight Madness, and La Fournols). All of the food was excellent, as others who have eaten Betsy's cooking would expect. On the patio N.V. Renardat-Fâche Cerdan-Bugey - France, Savoie, Cerdan-Bugey Bright pink bubbler, with a nose of exploding strawberries that just leaps out of the glass. Palate is noticeably sweet, but has just enough life from fizz and a little acid not to cloy. It’s fun like berry soda, but somehow maintains interest. I only had one glass of this because there was a lot more wine to come, but with the right weather and simple outdoor food, I could drink two or three. That’s what rosés are for, isn’t it? If I had a garden and some lawn chairs, I’d buy it for sure. 2004 Château Monbousquet La Rose de Monbousquet - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Color has a little more orange/tawny than I’d expected, but still largely pink. Nose seems a little sweet with dark berry fruit. On the palate it is completely dry, but still lacks interest. Dale wonders if there is a bit of oak, but I can’t find it. Then again, one last absent-minded sip shows a hint of woody character in the back of the nose. Nothing objectively wrong with it, but where did the fun go? If I want a rosé from Bord grapes, I think I’ll stick to the Loire. 2004 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé - France, Provence, Bandol Has that clear pinkish orange that always makes me think of the South. Nose is more restrained than the Monbousquet, showing a hint of sweat and pine resin, combined with stone fruit. The palate is finely structured, with good acid and a dry berry fruit that makes you wake up. A little spine of mineral adds interest, as does that sappy, resiny element that comes back out at the finish – which goes on longer than expected. Even without a garden, this is on the buy list. 2000 Henri Boillot Meursault - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault From the Boillot negociant business. This came out with a relatively light gold color. Nose showed some baked apple fruit and a candied nut character. Palate was dry, but still had that candied note, along with some more apple, all wrapped in too much fat and not enough acid. Finish was short. For other people, excess oak or overextraction is the capital crime. I can be sensitive to both, but lack of acid is my real bête noire. With the napolean 1998 Huët Vouvray Petillant - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray Light color and a mousse that seems aggressive for “pétillant”. Even out of a white wine glass, the mousse held together and persisted until I finished the glass. Closer to mousseaux than pétillant. Nose showed the stony ground and stony fruit I like from Vouvray, along with the warm apple I’ve noted in Huet’s wines before (Dale calls it apple pie). Palate has nice acid, which combines with mousse to form a crispness that masks the seriously good lemon-apple fruit and mineral, at least until you hold it in your mouth for a minute. As the bubbles dissipate and the wine warms up, the mineral/fruit comes out on the nose. I’ve wanted to try this for a while, as I am a great Huet fan and always looking for value sparklers. This is at the top of the “buy it if I find it” list. My current house pour is the 2000 Giacosa sparkler. I’d add this as another great alternative to cheap Champagne. Pinot 2000 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Morey St. Denis Les Chenevery 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis Ripe purple-tinged red in the glass. Palate shows clear sweetness, seemingly more from ripe berry fruit than from oak. A little more sweet and forward than I might look for, but with a hint of funkiness and earth that was a little interesting. On the palate, rich and extracted, surprisingly concentrated for the vintage, but having a sweet, maybe syrupy element to the fruit that cloyed a little. No secondary or non-fruit characteristics. Better on the nose than the palate. This note sounds worse than it was; it was not flabby, had a little acid, but just lacked interest and zip. 2003 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Villages Cuvee - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley Ripe, new world color in the glass. Pretty closed on the nose, but showed typical pinot cherry and a little beetroot. Didn’t see any evolution here but, hey, this is just a baby. Palate was definitely more expressive than the nose, with more bright cherry, some acid, warm leaves. Hard for me to assess this young and without much Oregon pinot experience to put it into context, but a nice, clean, typical pinot. I’d like to have a chance to taste this with a few years on it. Nebbiolo 1990 Ferrando Nebbiolo di Carema Black Label - Italy, Piedmont, Carema, Nebbiolo di Carema I had told Dale I was bringing a 1990 Barbaresco, so he had brought this up from the cellar to make a flight. I’ve heard of Carema, but never had an opportunity to taste it. This had a relatively mature, brick red turning to deep, healthy orange kind of color. It had been decanted well before I arrived, so I didn’t get to find the “funk” Dale had noted when he opened it. What I found was a very bright, but mature nebbiolo that showed violets, dark cherry and deep plum fruit, and the kind of earth and ground growth notes that change by the minute in good nebbiolo. This was good from the moment of pouring on the nose, but took a little time to pick up interest on the palate. With time, it acquired a little body, but never that of a Barolo or Barbaresco. Showed fully resolved tannins, enough acid to balance, but not enough to overwhelm the relatively light body, and more mature dark fruit. When Dale was in Tokyo, we tried a Roero nebbiolo that showed remarkably similar characteristics on the nose (all the floral and forest floor elements of Barolo but none of the tar). Despite very different vinification from the Roero, they both showed a clear family resemblance and sense of place – even if that place is really two places and can simply be described as “parts of Piedmont where nebbiolo ripens more slowly and tentatively and, just maybe, has more nerve”. It’s not better or worse than Barolo or Barbaresco, just different. Vive la différence! 1990 Dante Rivetti Barbaresco Bricco de Neueis Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco I brought this. I was been prepared not to like it. Sure, this is a different Rivetti than the brothers of La Spinetta, but I had read that Dante Rivetti is now using 100% new barriques. However, I had found it at a great price, the merchant had assured me this was at least moderately restrained, so why not give it a try? Beyond my prejudice, the wine had one other thing going against it. It had recently made quite a trip, flying from Tokyo to Seattle to Washington, DC, to New Orleans to NYC over the course of a weeka dn a half before boarding a train for Dale’s little bit of paradise in Dobbs Ferry. We decanted it a couple of hours before it was to be served and, as Dale noted, it was “stirred up”. However, after some time to open up, it showed a nose with cherry and plum fruit, some (positive) sweaty funkiness, and hints of flowers. With more time, a little truffle and chocolatey tar came out. On the palate it was clearly more weighty than the Carema, with more of the plum from the nose, along with a strange combination of a little bright berry and some slightly roasted prune that I attribute to its difficult journey and unsettled state. Nicely developed, but plenty of time to go. So, the verdict on my producer suspiciscions? Really like the nose, no overextraction or overoaking to which one can object, but slightly muddied palate a bit hard to judge. If I can find more at a reasonable price, I’ll definitely buy it to try under better conditions. I’m intrigued. Bordeaux 1990 Haut-Corbin - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion When decanted, maybe corked, at least to Dale’s nose. When dinner started, really corked. When this flight came up, really, really corked even to this TCA-insensitive schnozz. 1983 Château Léoville Barton - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien To start with, I should admit that Bordeaux (actually merlot and non-Loire cab in general) is just not my thing. Sure, I enjoy it. You can send me all you want. I just don’t have the facility for differentiating and pulling out the details the way I may be able to with other wines. So, even though my notes suffer in comparison, my enjoyment doesn’t necessarily suffer. My notes just won’t do the wines justice, but here goes. Nice early mature Bordeaux color of red in the glass, still with darker hints depending on how the light hits it. Nose was classic, with cassis, cedar, cigar and just a hint of something deeper, a remnant of the darker concentration of youth. On the palate, I’m a bit puzzled by that lack of clarity I often get stumped by in claret. Is it the vintage or is this just a bit rough? With a little time (which it needed as it was decanted late as a substitute for the Haut-Corbin), the fruit becomes a little clearer, the slightly acid structure shows its bright edge, and there is a pleasant dry blackberry and plum core. A little roughness and a little muddle, but all-in-all enjoyable. 1997 Château Lafleur - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol If I have trouble with more mature Bordeaux, then I am hopeless with younger, more tannic ones. This one still has a darkish red robe of relative youth in the glass. Despite its visual youth, the nose is expressive with spice and rich, dark berry fruit, along with some leafy interest. Palate is quite tannic, showing astringency and a touch of dark fruit, even though this is 1997 and even though this was decanted in the morning. This is the wine I go back to just before I catch my train to the city and it has opened up on the palate some. It’s still a little rough, but is showing rounder dark fruit and a little chocolate richness, just a hint of round Pomerol character. Voluptuous? Not yet. Maybe never. But I really liked the nose and the palate has enough fruit to make this worth waiting on for a few more years. (In his notes, Dale commented on the difference between this tannic showing and the WS note that called it a wine with “light tannins”. After I finished this note, I went searching for others and all of them indicated resolved tannins and easy drinking. Every bottle is different, ne c’est pas?) Afters 1987 Martinez Porto - Portugal, Douro, Porto Rich purple, with typical port richness and viscosity. On the nose, under the high level of volatile acidity, a core of dark, dark plum and berries. As the acidity eases (or the nose gets accustomed), the volatility seems to lift up aromas of chocolate, spice, and caramel. On the palate, moderately rich and viscous, a little sweet for my taste, dark fruit on top of relatively easy tannins. This did fine with the blue cheese, but wasn’t intriguing, just adequate. Then again, my palate was mighty tired at this point. A great event and a great thanks to Dale and Betsy for being such gracious hosts. My apologies that my travels made it take so long to post my notes. Posted from CellarTracker!
  7. jrufusj

    Minerally Whites

    As others have said...Chablis and Sancerre. Additionally, you might think about... Sauv Blanc - Pouilly Fume (also Loire, just spitting distance from Sancerre), Styrian region of Austria Chardonnay - Styria, Puligny Riesling - Austria in general Gruner Veltliner - Austria in general Chenin Blanc - Savennieres These are all wines that I find have a high degree of minerality (at least in their best and most transparent forms). Enjoy, Jim
  8. jrufusj

    TN: '95 and '96 DP

    FAREWELL PARTY FOR LISA AND STEVEN - (6/2/2005) 1995 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon - France, Champagne Light, bright straw gold with a plethora of aggressive small bubbles, nicely persistent and lasting longer than my willpower to drink the glass slowly. The nose immediately showed mushroom, brie, and warm apple. With a little time yeast, toast, and butterscotch came out. Butterscotch often means maderisation to me, but not in this case – no signs of that. On entry, the biggest impact was citrus-like acidity and the minute bead. On the midpalate, the wine suddenly turns extremely, indulgently creamy. On the finish, it gives that refreshing scratch of acid and bubble that always makes me crave more. Finish is long and redolent with honeyed dough. Interesting that while this wine is very rich texturally and fairly open on the nose, the palate is still pretty closed. An absolute blast to drink right now, but with acidity and development in the glass that hints at very much more to come. Just a stunningly good wine! 1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon - France, Champagne Slightly lighter in color than the ’95, with a mousse that is a little bit less aggressive – both visually and on entry. On the palate, the mousse never turns creamy, but seems to maintain an amazing definition that makes each and every tiny bubble distinct. This sensation persists until the wine is swallowed. Nose is very, very closed, showing little more than a bit of very tight apple and grapefruit, plus a tiny element of unrisen dough and nut. It never really opens up to show anything more. Palate has citrus, acidity, and surprising body above and beyond the bubbles. Finish shows a little minerality. Completely different from the ’95, seeming to be much more than a year younger. Even though this is a very big wine, balance throughout was perfect and this clearly isn’t showing a tenth of what it has in store. For drinking today, the ’95 is a clear winner. And it may always be, at least for my palate. Posted from CellarTracker!
  9. 2000 Luigi Righetti Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel de'Roari - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (5/31/2005) With mixed grill at Il Sale. Dark plummy red color. Relatively simple nose of dark fruit, raisin, and a little floral element. Palate was round, with sweet and fairly velvety mouthfeel, but surprisingly slight body. A little empty at midpalate. Plum and chocolate cherry fruit on attack, with a persistent and strong note of cinnamon in the finish. No real development over forty-five minutes or so. Drinking smoothly and easily now, shows no signs of structure or complexity to suggest any reason to hold. Enjoyable, a good value from the restaurant list. Fits into the category of wines that I will file away as a good value solution on restaurant lists, but not something I'm buying for home. Posted from CellarTracker!
  10. jrufusj

    WTN: An evening of Syrah

    Brad: Thanks for the notes. In the "I find this extremely strange" category, I posted a note yesterday on the '93 Zenato Amarone, in which there was a distinct note of chicken bouillon in the nose. I had not read your note above when I tasted the wine and composed my note, so it's not just the power of suggestion. I have heard beef bouillon as a descriptor for some merlot, but never chicken bouillon for anything. For whatever it's worth, I found it odd but not troubling in the Amarone. Also, it was not there at opening, but came out with time and then faded into more classical territory. Jim
  11. Interesting question. I would not say that music per se interferes with my ability to focus and taste. However, if the music were loud or raucous or even particularly compelling, I think it might. I do find that when I am drinking in a social environment, I have to find a little time to tune out everything around me and focus on the wine. If I don't do that, I may have some problems. I will taste the wine carelessly, not paying particular attention to the finish, not noting evolution (rather just having a few snapshots), not being able to bring everything together into a complete package. I find that my notes (taken at the time of tasting) fall into three levels of detail. (1) At an organized tasting of a moderate number of wines (no more than 20-25), I will take notes that amount to six to eight very short key phrases. From this, I can then go back within a day or two and construct a complete and composed note very easily. (2) At a trade-type tasting with a larger number of wines or at a social event with other wine geeks (such as an offline), I take keyword notes. These may be no more than six to eight key words, if that. If I'm well focused, I can generally reconstruct complete notes from this. But a moment of focus for each wine is critical! (3) In a purely social context (where the wines are often less interesting as well), I will generally take no notes at all. If I am not careful to take a few moments when tasting to tune everything else out, I will be at a loss when it is time to write a note. So...I find that focus and tuning out the "noise" is critical if I am to get a good imprint of the wine and write a reasonable note later...especially in cases (2) and (3) above. Jack Nicklaus has said the single most important thing in becoming a consistent golfer is never, ever, under any circumstances to swing a club without planning the shot and focusing. Most serious bridge players will tell you the same sort of thing; you must never ever play a single card carelessly. Bad habits are easily ingrained. I believe the same thing about tasting, though it can be difficult to balance discipline with social grace. Jim
  12. SEVERAL REDS AT A BARBECUE - Bryan and Amy's (5/29/2005) With a "mixed grill" type barbecue, including whole beef tenderloin, beef ribs, sausages, burgers, asparagus, and portobellos. Various side salads and some red beans and rice to accompany. 2001 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley Not the estate. Still dark red/purple, solid to rim. Young and vibrant looking. Nose showed cherry and plum fruit, with a little kiss of oak sweetness. Still very primary, without much evolution over a half hour or so. Palate showed enough tannin and acid to allow some development, but was already integrated and drinking pleasantly if you’re looking for young, fruit driven Calicab with reasonable structure. A little one dimensional, tough to get past the strong impression of cherry fruit. 2001 Parker Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Terra Rossa - Australia, South Australia, Coonawarra Not the “First Growth”. Same dark, primary, youthful colors as in the Monty above. Nose showed a more classic cabernet character, with dark and red fruit, a little more apparent oak, and just a little spice. Palate was also broader in fruit characteristics, with cassis, blackberry, and plum. Fruit was fresh and forward enough to drink well now. Some ripe tannins, but very little acid. Not sure I would hold this one. I had the “First Growth” about a week ago and commented that it had the most oak of twelve wines tasted that night, but that the oak was not overwhelming. This showed a similar oak profile, except that the more I drank, the more the oak seemed to overwhelm the fruit. This wine may just be a little “small’ to stand up to the oak and was missing the Coonawarra iron that was so appealing in the First Growth. Don’t know if it will integrate, but I’d be a little anxious waiting too long given the apparently low acidity. 1993 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Surprisingly youthful in color, with rich darkish red color and only a very slight softening at the rim. Initial nose was of cherry fruit, sweet berries, and raisins. With a little time, some crushed flowers and a strong note of chicken bullion came out. Finally, with a little more time, some tar and a slightly alcoholic Pernod note dominated. Palate was rich and a little creamy, with big body. Raisined fruit notes, featuring dried cherry and dried plum. No noticeable tannin. Enough acidity that I don’t see this dying overnight, but no reason to hold as it’s drinking so well right now. Alcohol never dominated or intruded. I would pick this up if I saw at a reasonable price. Posted from CellarTracker!
  13. It was a great evening. Sorry you couldn't be there, but we'll do it again. This is my first time with the '97 BdM Charlie. Did you find the decanting time brought more of the tropical/mineral/nut complexity or did you find that it just picked up definition. I enjoyed it this time, but just felt it had a little bit less of everything. Based on that, open time may really have helped. On the Meyney...two of the people there had recently done a vertical of Meyney. Both agreed that the '90 had shown better then. Also, at least one had preferred the '89. On this night, I think it was the fault of logistics, not the wine. It had been travelling (came from NY) until four days before the event. Additionally, it was poured into glasses from bottle. Either or both of these could have contributed to the roasted character and muddy finish. The Lafarge really was astounding. I've loved '93 Pommards and Volnays from Lafarge, d'Angerville, Montille...and I think they'll continue to improve for a good long while. Take care, Jim
  14. Dale Williams from A.F.W. (and, on rare occasion, eGullet) was in town accompanying his wife Betsy and their friend Joe the Italophile. Betsy and Joe play in the orchestra for the New York City Opera, which is currently performing in Japan. Betsy is not only beautiful and interesting (and reportedly a great cook), but was kind enough to allow me to kidnap them for an offline while they were here. Ten of us gathered at Shunju for an evening that was designed to be a mix of a little winegeekery and a little more general sociability. In addition to the three of them, attendees were my ever patient, indulgent, and perfect wife (Cathryn), my budding wine geek friend (Jonathan) and his charming musician wife (Samantha), a lovely friend of ours from Seoul who is not a big wine drinker but is a great sport(Annalisa), and my Bordeaux nut friend (Bryan) and his wife (Amy). Amy is sneaky smart about wine. She’s quiet about it, but knows what she likes and expresses it well. She is also a dealer of amazing pearl jewelry and presents serious competition for my wine budget. Even if the wine had been terrible, we would have had fun discussing the Tokyo wine market, palate preferences, Joe’s visits with various winemakers (including Mascarello late in his life), critic preferences, Dale’s amazing not-for-profit program, music, and life around the world. There’s always a risk when you first meet people for offlines, but this was a group where I’d love to spend more time with every person. Shunju is an upscale izakaya, serving Japanese small plates with enough of a western influence to work pretty well with wine. The people at Shunju were gracious hosts, putting up with our trudging in and out with glasses, bottles, and dumpbucket while supplying us with plenty of great food and copious amounts of water. Jonathan and Samantha were kind enough to bring a flight of glasses. The wine theme was somewhere between eclectic and “what works with Japanese food?” Given the generally social nature of the evening, twelve wines to taste, and the vast variety of foods, I didn’t take very complete notes, but just jotted down a few keywords. I’m certain the notes below show the results of my carelessness. 2001 Nigl Riesling Privat (Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal) Dale brought this wine, which I was excited to try, as we get very poor distribution of Austrian wines here in Tokyo. Although the lighting was a little tough for assessing color, this seemed to have a little more yellow depth than I would have expected and I couldn’t find even a tinge of green. Thanks to the inadequacies of Dale and Betsy’s minibar fridge, this was served a little warmer than it might have been otherwise…and that was a good thing. Nose was very tight, with little escaping other than a strong, persistent mineral character. Palate was dominated by unadulterated – but completely balanced – acid with a thrillingly precise spine of lime fruit, backed up by a little apple and even a little peach roundness as the wine opened up more. Perfectly in balance, bracingly refreshing. I’d love to try this again, but with more than a few years of additional age. Performed admirably with the shima-aji sashimi and the omelet(!), and held up surprisingly well against the smoked belly pork. With ten years and some developed and slightly rounder riesling flavors, this would have sung with the smoked pork. WWOTN for me. Thanks Dale and Betsy! 1997 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune) This was mine. I wanted to throw a white Burg into the mix and was curious how this wine was doing. In most vintages, I wouldn’t touch this yet, but 1997 seemed like it might be about ready. Showed very young color, paler than the prior wine, but clean and clear. Nose was a little restrained straight out of the bottle, but developed a bit of smokiness, a very little vanilla milk, and a bit of apricot and a very little bit of general tropical character. However, I would say this was more restrained and a little less tropical than other vintages from the same producer. One of the things I enjoy from BdM (other than the value) is the surprising combination of minerality and tropical character. I didn’t get that from this wine, making it a bit atypical and a little disappointing. Palate was round, ready to drink, with no discernible acidity, but without being fat either. Acidity was a little more apparent with the pork bits in aspic and that, along with the uni, was the best match for the wine. General assessment is that this wine shows much better with food, is ready to drink but will hold for a while and maybe develop a little more for five or so years. I like old white Burgs, but I don’t think there’s any reason to hold this for the long haul. Slightly atypical and just a little bit less of everything, including definition, than the normal BdM. At the right price, I would pick up more for current drinking, but I’m not racing out to do so. 2000 Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl (France, Alsace, Hunawihr, Alsace AOC) Generously contributed by a friend who was invited to join us but could not make it. I have a bit of love-hate relationship with ZH. I’ve got tremendous admiration for their skill, dedication, and single-vineyard focus. I think they make the best pinot gris in Alsace and I generally like their late harvest wines. I’m less than enamored with their rieslings and ambivalent about their gewurz. True to form, this was a very well-made wine in a ripe style with explosive floral, honey, and tropical fruit character on the nose – even straight out of the bottle. Nose showed little development with time, just a growth in volume. Palate was rich and unctuous with medium apparent sweetness and a little spice backing tropical white fruits. Paired with the lime-garnished shiro anago yaki, it suddenly showed some balancing acidity and did better than I expected, but I’d rather just sip this one alone. 1993 Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chênes 1er Cru (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay) This was also a generous contribution from the invitee who could not attend. Let’s see…my favorite recent vintage…one of my two favorite villages…great producer…what’s not to like? When I double decanted this about 5:30, I didn’t taste it, but gave it a quick sniff. At that time, it showed major Burgundy funk and an earthy mushroom and forest floor focus. Color was a little more primary than expected, but did show evolution. When poured at dinner (with grilled duck – what felicity!), it showed green (in a good way) blueberry and raspberry fruit, with the same mushroom and forest floor, but with very little funk. Overall impression on nose was of budding complexity and of freshness. On the palate, the acid focused the fruit into a tight beam that is typical of the best of this vintage and the tannins were present enough to bring balance, but had that Volnay silkiness I love. Finish was good and persistent, with a little cherry and a little more berry, showing hints of spice at the end. RWOTN for me. Entering its drinking window…an absolute pleasure today…but so much more to come. Along with a recent Montille Pommard Pezerolles, this wine has convinced me that traditionally made ‘93s have both the freshness and stuffing to improve for a long time and are going to have a very long drinking window. This was focus and delineation wrapped in a little earth and funk and is a prime example of the reason I drink Burgundy. 1996 Jean Boillot Volnay Les Fremiets 1er Cru (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay) This one was mine. I was eager to taste this next to the Lafarge, as I’ve not quite made up my mind about Jean Boillot. When double decanted at 5:30, this one showed a little less funk and was more closed in general. Color was a little less evolved than the Lafarge. At dinner, this showed a tighter nose with a little less complexity, a noticeable (but unobtrusive) note of oak sweetness, and riper (but not overblown) fruit. I didn’t really get much earthiness or any secondary evolution. Tannins were more apparent on the palate, but were pretty tame, though perhaps just a little woody. Fruit was perhaps a bit juicier, but lacked the laser beam focus of the last wine. All in all, a more modern style, but not all ripeness and oak. This one isn’t in the prime drinking window yet, but it did prove richer and rounder with food. The meaty/sweet combination of a fried spring roll stuffed with fresh bamboo and shrimp was the best match I found. Rereading my note, it’s clear that I can’t think about this wine without comparing it to the last. That’s not the fault of this wine, as much as a testament to the last one. I think this one needs a few more years to be at its best, but is likely to develop more by opening up than by evolving. 1999 Fattoria di Felsina Fontalloro Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Toscana IGT) This one was mine. I’ve got half a case and – even though I knew this was just a baby – I wanted to check in on it. Also, I thought it would be nice to give Joe a chance to sip more Italian wine than the one he brought! This is my favorite super-Tuscan. I think of it more as a super-Chianti than anything else. This was still dense and pretty dark, not showing any of the lighter red/orange tinges that often surface in even the youngest sangiovese wines. Even though I double decanted this about 5:30, it was still quite closed when first poured. As it opened, it showed a little vanilla, along with cherry and blackberry fruit, with maybe a little soft violet and pine hiding in there. Palate showed what I like best from good Chianti, a tense combination of cherry juiciness and acidic restraint that is hard to describe, but immediately defines the best wines of this sort – at least to me. Solid core of tannins, not at all green, but still noticeable and up front, gentle and solid at the same time. Strong fruit core, ample acid, tannins – this one has a long way to go and is going to be damn good in time. Really wish I’d bought a case! 1997 Azienda Agricola Matteo Correggia Roero Roche D'Ampsej (Italy, Piedmont, Roero) This was Joe’s contribution and I’m really, really glad he came – both for the company and the chance to taste this wine. It’s as automatic as a word association game; when I hear “Roero”, I say “arneis”. This, however, is a nebbiolo from Roero. Maybe, I’m just uninformed (no maybe about that), but I’ve never seen or tasted a Roero nebbiolo. To the eye, this showed much more development than the prior wine, with the first hints of light red/dark orange that show the wine is starting to move along. Early decanting would have helped (but wasn’t possible in Joe’s hotel room), as the wine came out tannic and tight. From the first impression of the nose, it was hard to approach this wine other than as a compare and contrast with Barolo. There was a whiff of vanillin and toast that made clear this had seen some new oak, but it had all been done with a very restrained hand. Perhaps a touch of VA, but this was positive as it helped to open up the nose. Stepping out from behind the oak was a floral element that was much more evident and easier to isolate than that in Barolo. I was hunting for tar or mushroom next, but there wasn’t much of either – no tar and only a little mushroom. Whether that is a matter of time or terroir, I’ll never know unless I find some of this or Joe tells us. I really hope I find some to buy. Palate showed tannins that were a little rough, but not green or woody. The fruit never really opened up much for me, but what was there was well defined by high acidity that gave the wine a nice tension. Until I followed Dale’s suggestion and tasted this against a salad of wild chives with a sesame-flavored dressing, this wine was entirely about nose. In combination with the salad, the wine rounded out a little and took on a slightly smoky plum component. This was a pleasure to drink and was one of the two most interesting wines of the night (along with the Yarra Yering), from a discovery perspective. I’m not crazy about this vintage in Barolo, but the higher acid and restrained fruit of this wine made me determined to revisit the vintage. Anyone know if this is typical of Roero nebbiolo? Or is this just a standout wine from the vintage? 1999 Parker Estate Coonawarra First Growth (Australia, South Australia, Coonawarra) My friends Bryan and Amy brought this and opened it at the table, i.e., no decanting or air time. Bryan is a Bordeaux nut, with Australia being his other main focus. This wine is predominantly CS, with a little merlot and CF blended in as well. Think left bank claret. It was still dark and nearly solid purple to the rim, like a young Bordeaux. On the nose, it showed evident sweet oak, probably the most oak of the night, but it was not at all out of control. The nose also showed a nice streak of iron dust that made me think of Graves. Fruit on the nose was where the Aussie attitude came out, with a rich mix of cassis, blueberry, and blackberry, though it took a while for this to show. On the palate, the tannins were a little rough, but receded enough over time to show a huge core of cherry fruit. Eventually, the iron element was even stronger on the palate than the nose. This was a winning match with slow braised beef cheeks. How best to describe the overall impression? Imagine blending a Graves that drinks well young (say…Pape Clement) with a new world Cab that flirts with but stays just on the right side of the extraction line (say…an older Shafer or Caymus offering). This drinks well now, but will definitely benefit from time for the tannins to resolve. I don’t necessarily see a lot of secondary character developing, but time will round out the package very nicely. I’ve liked Coonawarra wines when I’ve tried them before and this is an incentive to try more…especially since Bryan has introduced me to a great Aussie merchant here in Japan that focuses on lots of things other than Barossa shiraz. 1990 Château Meyney (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe) This was the other offering from Dale and Betsy. Like Joe’s wine, this was not decanted due to the practical limitations of their coming from the hotel. At this point, I was paying even less attention to color, but I recall that this had lost its youthful red and had moved into a lighter plum range, with noticeable gradation toward a lighter rim. When first poured, this showed a huge dose of horsey bottle stink that blew off very quickly. Nose was left with core of fruit – plum, blackberry, cassis – that showed a slightly roasted (but not oxidized or bottle-cooked) character. Secondary elements included a little bit of leather, some earth, and maybe a little leafy compost. Palate wasn’t fat, but the acidity hid completely behind smooth, but still present tannins. Fruit again showed a roasted character with just a little prune added to the mix. There was an iron character that struck me as much more bloodlike than dustlike. Finish was not short, but quickly moved from fruit and iron into a slightly cloudy tannin/fruit skin combo. Almost a bit like stirred up sediment, but there was no visible sediment present. I enjoyed this, but don’t feel like the bottle showed its best. Don’t know whether this was an off bottle, was suffering from travel shock, or got a bit stirred up. Everything was there, but it was a little clouded and the volume was a little low. Other than the roasted character, some of this could also have been palate fatigue on my part. This did match very well with grilled Iberico pork and salt grilled Hinai free-range chicken. 2001 Yarra Yering Dry Red #2 (Australia, Victoria, Yarra Valley) This was the other contribution from Bryan and Amy and got no decanting or air time. Produced in the (relatively) cool climate of the Yarra Valley, this wine is predominantly Syrah, but is leavened with a small dose of viognier and marsanne. This particular blending trend seems to be a nod to Cote-Rotie that is gaining popularity both in Australia and in the southwest of France. Previously (in other wines) I’ve found it interesting, but a little too obvious, with the viognier aromatics overwhelming the rest of the nose. On pouring, the wine was still extremely primary in both color and nose, with an aggressive orange flower and honeysuckle character doing its job of overwhelming. Unlike other examples of the blend, however, I found that the nose settled down over time and a little warm leather, treacle, and ripe berry came through. Based on the nose, I was expecting syrupy fruit on the palate, but that was not to be. While clearly ripe and extracted and carrying a little oaky sweetness, the fruit showed enough acid vibrancy to do an okay job with bamboo shoot kamameshi. This is clearly Australian, but it is made with a restrained hand and shows the best of the New World without going overboard. Someone asked whether this would age well and Dale and I each commented that it would hold fine, but it probably wouldn’t develop too much…why hold it when it is so delicious to drink now? Well, we were wrong (see below), but I still enjoyed drinking it young, though I’d probably rather sip it alone than have it with food at this age. My wife’s WOTN. 1983 Jos. Christoffel Jr. Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese ** (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Middle Mosel) This was mine. There has been a spate of older Joseph Christoffel Jr. (Christoffel-Prum) wines on the market at very reasonable prices. I’m told that these have come from the cellars of the domain over the last year or so. Based on imperfect recall, I’ve seen: vintages – ’90, ’88, ’85, ’83, ’76, ’75, ’71; einzellagen – Erdener Treppchen, Urziger Wurzgarten, Wehlener Sonnenuhr; pradikat levels – Spatlese, Auslese, BA. I was eager to try this one; if it sang, I was going to be racing to the market. Color had moved into the deeper gold range, but not excessively. Initial positive impressions of the nose were of cleanliness and complete absence of oxidation. This had clearly been well stored. Initial negative impressions were the absence of any botrytis character or petrol element. Dominant tones were of ripe peach and apricot, honey, maybe a little nuttiness and mineral. With time, a very little petrol came out, but never the zing of botrytis that keeps these so fresh. On the palate, the wine was very round, without any buzz of botrytis or tang of lime, dominated by the same stone fruit as on the nose and maybe a little candied lemon. This wasn’t fat or flabby, but it lacked the precision, vibrancy, and evolution for which I was looking and which I so love in the Mosel. Blind, I might have guessed a well made riesling from a grosslage in a ripe vintage, maybe six or eight years old, spatlese or barely auslese. I’ve written an entire note, but Dale captured it best in a sentence – good wine, well made, but doesn’t taste mature or **/goldkap and completely lacks botrytis. Now I’m curious whether/how much this wine was reconditioned or topped off before release. I’ve seen good notes on other recent library releases from Christoffel-Prum, so I’ll probably try again, but I was disappointed. 1995 Yarra Yering Dry Red #2 (Australia, Victoria, Yarra Valley) Bryan and Amy are our next door neighbors. After dinner we joined them for one more bottle, which turned out to be an older version of the syrah/marsanne/viognier blend. Man, was I wrong about the aging potential for this wine. Take all of the components described above, tone the volume and ripeness down a touch, add a little more apparent structure, and you get a wine that seems to be much closer to Cote-Rotie and shows more complexity and none of the distraction/confusion. Additional elements that come out include a little anise, some smoky meat, and a tiny bit of bitter chocolate. It’s still Australian, it’s still ripe, and the structure still hides a little behind the fruit, but this is serious syrah. This is still available in the market, but with very limited allocation. I’m going hunting! Thanks to all for great wines and a great time. Dale, Betsy, Joe...my apologies for making it such a long evening...hope you made your train! Jim
  15. Love the Rafanelli, but it can be hard to find. Strangely enough, it is easier for me to get hold of here in Tokyo than it is in the US. I managed to get a full case of the 2001. I'm generally partial to the Dry Creek expression of zin, but a good Amador is something that needs to be tried at least once. Jim
  16. Kristin: You place a high degree of trust in my report! I sure hope you enjoy Shunju. (I also hope your foot is coming along well.) I've only been to the Toriizaka location. It is most convenient to my house, so I've not tried any of the others. Haven't looked closely at any of the online menus for the other places, so don't know how they compare. If the Hibiya line is not too hard for you to get to, the Toriizaka location can be reached that way (but the walk is not recommended with a foot in a cast!). Enjoy, Jim
  17. Someone gave me the cookbook, but I've hardly looked at it yet. Thanks for the warning. That's especially helpful as I was going to give the book to one of my guests as a "takeaway" from the trip. I'll probably not do that now! Yes, I mean western vinifera wines. Pairing one wine with an entire dinner can be a little difficult, given the small plates/many tastes nature of izakaya food. However, I find this sort fo Japanese food can pair pretty well. If you sugegst some of you favorite Japanese foods, I can give some pairing suggestions. When you mention the restaurant in DC, I assume you mean Sushi Ko. If so, you are talking about Daisuke Utagawa's work in pairing red burgs (not Bordeaux) with sushi/sashimi. Becky Wasserman (and her son Paul) are also big proponents. It's all based on what he has called "cuisine of subtraction" and plays on the affinity between certain elements in wine and the umami aspect of certain Japanese foods. I've successfully paired various red burgs with sashimi (including white fleshed fish) and with cooked fish (even very delicately flavored ones), especially when umami-rich things like certain mushrooms or seaweeds are part of the preparation. Nebbiolo (yes, the grape that makes up tough, long-lived wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco) has also been suggested as a good umami pairing, but I've not yet tried it. We have an Italo-phile coming to the offline Saturday night, so I suspect we'll have a nebbiolo on the table. I have a harder time seeing Bordeaux working so well, but we'll have one or two of those on the table as well. I'll report back. These links (#1 and #2) discuss the burg-sashimi thing. Take care, Jim
  18. In the thread on memorable meals of 2004, I mentioned the restaurant Shunju (春秋). Kristin commented that she had been interested in trying the restaurant, but was having second thoughts after picking up the cookbook and discovering poorly written, unworkable recipes. I've now been three times -- twice with friends, eating in the dining room, and once alone, eating at the "Long Bar". Guests have included visitors from HK and from the US, as well as Japanese friends. Each time, the experience has been great, with both foreign and Japanese friends really enjoying the food. I also really like the space at the Toriizaka (Roppongi) location. Wine selection is not very broad or well presented (and is stratospherically priced). This is a little disappointing as the restaurant serves a style of Japanese food that is much more wine friendly than many places. However, the broad offerings of sake, shochu, awamori, and furu-zake provide ample selection. I've got serious wine friends coming out from New York and am in the final throes of planning a tasting dinner ("offline" or "jeebus" to the winegeeks among us). Given that these are people who rarely (if ever before) get to Tokyo, they're keen to be eating Japanese food, not western food. I know plenty of good French or Italian restaurants in Tokyo that allow corkage/BYO, but not Japanese places. I decided to approach Shunju about this, but figured it would be better to do it in person (and in the context of an approach from a known customer), so I went in and had dinner at the bar last Thursday night. As might be expected from the name of the restaurant, the focus is very much on seasonality. At the moment, takenoko (bamboo shoots) are in prime season and appeared twice during the meal. First, on a plate of assorted otsumami, were what appeared to be lightly simmered takenoko dressed with a coating of katsuobushi. Later, I ordered takenoko tempura from the list of daily specials. This was as good as anything I've eaten in months. Served with a simple dip of good salt, the combination of the light tempura crust with the slightly fibrous structure and the creamy tender meat of the takenoko was just plain amazing. Shima-aji sashimi and uni sashimi were also excellent, as was a simple green salad. I'm really glad they agreed to allow corkage and that I'll be going back (wines in hand) on Saturday night. So...if you'd like to find a place to bring good wines in with Japanese food...or just want to try great seasonal izakaya food, I'd definitely suggest a visit to Shunju. (However, if you want to bring wines in, I would definitely inquire ahead. First, it's simple politeness to do so. Second, you wouldn't want an unpleasant surprise if you arrive without pre-clearing. There was definitely a moment of hesitation before we worked it all out.) Link to webpage is here. Webpage provides some background on the restaurant and its philosophy, as well as menus and maps for all six outlets. There are also some nice pictures of some of the food, as well as the spaces. Page is in Japanese only. Jim (no affiliation with the restaurant)
  19. jrufusj

    Alban Wines

    I've not had an Alban wine since the early-mid 90's or thereabouts. However, I used to like their viogner. This was in the early stage of Rhone ranger explosion and when viogner was being proclaimed as the next great white wine grape. I found (and continue to find) most non-Condrieu viogner to be disappointing, but recall liking the Alban version in the vintage or two from which I tried it. May have tried an Alban syrah at some point, but it did not leave enough of a positive or negative impression for me to recall it. Jim
  20. jrufusj


    While I agree with everything else you've said (and said very well), I do have to take issue with this comment. These links (#1 and #2) discuss the match. Rather than rewrite what others have said, I will simply say that: (1) Some significant members of the wine and sushi communities are enamoured of the red burg-sushi pairing. (2) I've tried it more than once and have found that it often works, but not always. At times it is revelatory. It's not for everyone (and shouldn't have to be), but "definitely wrong" is a mighty strong pair of words. Explore and enjoy! Jim
  21. Great suggestion! For a good discussion of Austrian wine, wine regions, varieties, and some excellent growers, you could do worse than to look over Terry Theise's catalogs at this link. In addition to being packed with great information, they're beautifully written and fun to read. A number of people have mentioned sauvignon blanc, but no one has suggested Styrian sauvignon blanc. You might seriously consider a Styrian SB with the dish. Even if you don't do that, take an opportunity to taste one. Theise's 2001 Austria catalog (available at link above) has a good short discussion of Styria and of one of the top producers (Polz). It also has Theise's tasting notes of a number of vintage 2000 Polz wines. In any case, please let us know what you try and how it works. Take care, Jim
  22. jrufusj

    Wine list bargains?

    I've never had this bottling either, but am a big fan of the Coulee de la Serrant. I recently had the '88 again and it was still bright and vibrant with acid and great white fruit clarity, backed up with bits of dry honey (if that makes any sense), lightly roasted nut, and a small floral element. I'm not very good with the terminology, constantly confusing "biodynamic", "organic", and the like. Thus, I may not have the words right here. Joly is one of the more prominent biodynamic producers. I've found that biodynamic methods often produce clear wines, terrifically reflective of their terroir, probably due to a generally lower level of grower/winemaker intervention. However, I've also found that, without some of the protective measures that are ruled out by biodynamic methods, there can be a lot of variability. Perhaps this is the issue with Joly. Take care, Jim
  23. jrufusj

    Chenin blanc.

    I've also liked the Chalone CB in the past, though I've probably not had it in over 10 years. It's not a pure CB, but recently I've been drinking the 2001 Pine Ridge blend of CB and Viogner (86%/14% blend). I find that the spine of acidity and peach/melon fruit from the CB combines well with the richness and floral character of the Viogner. I love the Viogner nose, but find much pure Viogner a little fat and flat to drink throughout the course of a night. Other than those two, I've not found a lot of non-Loire CB that I like that much. I'd be interested in people's thoughts, as I should try some more. Thanks, Jim
  24. jrufusj

    WTN: 14 Yrs. & Older

    George: Thanks for the thoughts. You've got a lot more tasting experience than I have, so I wasn't questioning your note. I was just curious since I've never had the opportunity to drink a mature CdB CdP. I also wonder if I'm the only one who finds such a strong, distinctive "fishy" note on the nose of younger Beaucastel wines. All of us have an odd sensitivity here and there. I wonder if this is one of my quirks. I also tend to use barnyard or funky to describe a certain brett character. What I find in Beaucastel seems to be something entirely different, at least to me. Curious, Jim
  25. jrufusj

    A few more

    (Florida) Jim: Thanks for the notes and sorry for digging up a slightly old thread. I've been travelling and haven't been able to post much over the last couple of weeks. Knowing that you are a Chablis guy, I'm curious if you've tried many of the Fevre 2002's. Here in Tokyo, prices are pretty high for wine in general, so when I find something at a potentially reasonable (at least in local terms) price, I have to snap it up pretty quickly or it's gone. I picked up three bottles of the 2002 Vaillons recently and haven't cracked one yet. Have you found concentration to be an issue across the board with Fevre in 2002? Given that I only have three, I'm not eager to break into them too soon. However, if they don't have the stuff to develop, I may as well cut my losses and drink up. Thanks for any thoughts you may have. Jim (Jones)
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