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Florida Jim

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  1. Dinner with friends – we tasted two cabernets:

    I had meat loaf with mashed potatoes and the wines both worked but . . .

    1999 Phelps, Insignia:

    This is a solid wine; integrated, smooth and properly balanced – but there is no “there” there – void of character or place and despite a pleasant enough accompaniment with the food, it added nothing to the mix.

    1999 Shafer, Hillside Select:

    Paradigm shift – this is loaded with character, brighter and more nervous in the mouth, carries the mind and senses to places they didn’t go in its absence and finishes long and vivid. ‘Night and day from the previous bottle.

    Best, Jim

  2. Whites:

    2008 Carpineto, Dodajolo Blanc:

    12.5% alcohol; 40% chardonnay, 30% grechetto, 30% sauvignon blanc; fresh and citrusy on the nose with a hint of chardonnay richness; bright, concentrated and not quite of a piece in the mouth with a tart note, good balance and a mouth-watering finish. Integrates with air and becomes smoother. Matches pasta with pesto as well as any wine could. About $10.

    2007 Quinta de Ventozelo, Cister de Ribeira:

    A white from the Douro made of almost equal parts códega, gouveio, viosinho and rabigato, 13% alcohol; almost clear in color; citrus and limestone aromas; very crisp and a touch bitter in the mouth with bright, precise flavors, good concentration and intensity, excellent balance and a finish that leaves me feeling like I just took a shower. Diane made an asparagus, quinoa, fresh tomato dish and this went with it quite well. A quintessential refresher wine for summer that is better than you bargain for. Buy it by the case. About $8.

    2006 Colonial Estate, Semillon Reserve Expatrié:

    Well fruited nose with hints of stone and no musk tones; over-ripe but not sugary, pineapple flavors, no musk, solid acidity and nice balance; excellent length. I usually find too much musk in semillon vinted by itself and rarely buy it, but I tasted this in a store and was pleasantly surprised. ‘Bought a bottle to have with a dish of pasta, zucchini and basil in a parmesan cream sauce and found it delicious and a good match. 13.5% alcohol and about $15.

    Reds:

    2007 Obvio, Malbec:

    Some varietal character, nicely fragrant; solid flavors without any cloying sweetness, a touch of rusticity in the mouth and the overall impression of a wine one step up from a quaffer. 13.5% alcohol and tasty with an assortment of cheese and toasted bread. About $10.

    2007 Bodega la Rural, Malbec La Vuelta:

    Candied, no varietal character, little apparent structure; a sort of generic processed wine-food. ‘Couldn’t get through a single glass. 13% alcohol and about $8.

    Best, Jim

  3. Strong praise indeed! Have you tried other vintages?

    Very few.

    But I am told by those with much more experience than I, that 2005 was a vintage for very delictae wines from the OGV vineyard.

    Best, Jim

  4. 2005 Inman Family, Pinot Noir Olivet Grange Vineyard:

    This OGV is not the typical Russian River pinot I am used to – it is delicate, fresh and elegantly textured. The crunchy red fruit and cinnamon/brown spice element is still there but I can tell this has had some whole cluster fermentation and has been handled very gently.

    The wine is floral and spicy on the nose; spicy cherry-fruited and so feminine and silky in the mouth with a charming and complex herbal tone that is well integrated, exceptional balance; and it finishes with a crisp, clean note. With a little air in the decanter, it becomes even more of a piece and presents a smooth yet bright overall impression. No evidence of wood anywhere. 13.2% alcohol, screwcap and found in a sale rack for $25. ‘Could cellar short term but is perfect now after a splash decant.

    I will go back today and buy what is left; I can’t think of a west coast pinot noir I have enjoyed more.

    Best, Jim

  5. Whites:

    2008 Anakena, Sauvignon Blanc:

    13% alcohol, from Chili and about $7; smells of perm solution and tastes acidulated – other then that, it’s tolerable but barely.

    Pinks:

    2008 Domaine Guy Mousset, Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé:

    Bright red fruit aromas with some mineral; crisp and clean in the mouth with good fruit, complexity and intensity, bone dry and fairly long. 13% alcohol and about $10 – and more than worth a try.

    2007 Le Pont, Bandol Rosé:

    Restrained nose; very dry almost austere in the mouth with just hints of fruit accenting a mineral/earth driven flavor profile; medium length. Much different from the preceding wine and not for everybody. But I enjoyed it – 13% alcohol and about $18.

    Reds:

    2007 Domaine des Versauds, Morgon:

    A clean, soft gamay nose is followed by an initial taste impression of round, soft gamay fruit and then . . . nothing. Oh, it’s still wine-like but it’s lost all interest as it morphs into a sort of ultra-pasteurized, processed wine product. A very weird experience; it’s not bad, it just stops being even the least bit appealing. I think this is a Duboeuf product. Its 13% alcohol and about $14.

    2007 Maipe, Malbec:

    This smells dark and rich; tastes pretty much as it smells and finishes longer than I expect. There isn’t too much wood or alcohol, there’s ample flavor, most of it in the dark fruit spectrum, and the overall impression is that its hearty accompaniment. 14% alcohol.

    2008 Maipe, Malbec:

    Similar to the foregoing but with some volatility, some red fruit and a little more interest.

    (Aside: Both of these wines lean heavily on the dark side of the grape; which is, IMO, a shame. This variety can produce such beautifully nuanced, elegant, graceful wines – almost pinot-like but with a bit more stuffing. And although neither of the Maipe’s are bad wines, they leave me thinking about Belushi’s line, “they could have given us so much more . . . but noooo!)

    Best, Jim

  6. Last year, we planted a stand of black bamboo in our yard. Recent daily rains have initiated a growth spurt and I have been watching as it appears to practically grow before my eyes. It’s putting on at least two inches a day. ‘Never saw anything like it.

    While keeping one eye on this remarkable plant, we’ve tried a few wines:

    Whites:

    2005 Pieropan, Soave La Rocca:

    For a wine that sees wood, I could barely pick-up any influence – which, for me, is a good thing. Golden in color; powerfully scented and intense in the mouth, this wine will probably outlive me. But it was also delicious with a dish of pasta with smoked salmon, artichokes and fava beans in a light cream sauce. In this vintage, this bottling is very, very good.

    2002 Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Excelsior Terroir de Schistes:

    Complex and clean nose with lots of bright aromas and focused scents; similar in the mouth but with more breadth and concentration; good length. More mineral/earth in the mouth but less precise than the Granite de Clisson but very similar in texture and depth. Perfect with Bún chả (chicken). About $20, although I got this on sale for less.

    2006 Louis Michel, Petit Chablis:

    Reticent nose; slightly herbaceous (dried herbs – not green) and a touch thin but otherwise, fairly representative village-type Chablis; surprising length. The length makes me think this could use a year or two in bottle but its tasty now. Done entirely in stainless; screwcap. About $20.

    2003 Château Réal D’Or, Côtes de Provence:

    Made of marsanne, grenache blanc and picpoul, 12.5% alcohol and about $6; slightly tired nose with a hint of oxidation; much the same in the mouth, lacking freshness, solid flavors and medium length. Past it – ‘might have been nice on release but it isn’t worth the calories now.

    Reds:

    2007 Overnoy, Arbois Pupillin:

    Translucent salmon color; pomegranate, baking spice and mineral nose; beginning to fill out in the mouth with flavors that follow the nose and add wild raspberry accents, dry, intense and beautifully balanced; quite long. Exhilarating wine.

    2006 Overnoy, Arbois Pupillin:

    Much the same as the foregoing wine except that this is built more for the long term, has greater concentration and structure but is less open now and speaks to me of the character of a mature Burgundy in ways the 2007 does not. Beyond good with a fresh tuna and white bean salad.

    (Aside: Both of these wines (as well as past vintages) are some of the most enjoyed in my cellar. They have a distinctive character that is unlike any other, they are terrific with food, they make me happy to drink them, and they appeal to the intellect. A tip of the cap to Louis/Dressner, the importer; people who truly care about the wines they select for their portfolio.)

    2007 Cadencias, Ribera del Guadiana:

    Half and half tempranillo and syrah; 13.5% alcohol and about $10; has a bit of chocolate covered cherry in the nose but also some earthiness and spice; much the same in the mouth, no wood, moderately concentrated, not quite of a piece and medium length. So much better with food that I would not drink it by itself again.

    2006 Emperador de Barros, Ribera del Guadiana:

    Mostly tempranillo, 13.5% alcohol and about $8. Smells like someone made cotton candy out of wine and tastes similar . . . at first. As it opens, more depth and character arrive but this never stops being fairly sweet. Not my style but I can see this appealing to folks who don’t like their reds “too dry.”

    Lot 48 Marietta Cellars, Old Vine Red:

    Adequate quaffing wine but after it gets some air, too much wood for me and a little thin. Still, pleasant. About $14.

    2006 Primarius, Pinot Noir:

    Charming, amiable wine; not over-stated or over-oaked, pretty aromatics, elegant textures, lovely flavors and good length. Not something to cellar but a very easy to drink Oregon pinot. $14.

    2005 Domaine des Chassaud, Côtes de Rhone:

    Smells mostly of grenache and earth; tastes dark and somewhat tannic and has good length, albeit slightly drying – but this could be CdP if one wasn’t looking at the label. A nice wine with structure and more complexity than expected. 14% alcohol and about $11; ‘worth a try.

    2006 Vinosia, Irpinia Aglianico:

    13% alcohol and about $15; smells a little like talcum powder; tastes pretty good but has a semi-sweet edge that doesn’t seem to go away and medium length. Neither obvious tannins nor noticeable structure. Definitely not reminiscent of Taurasi and, IMO, not anything I’d buy again.

    2005 Domaine A. et P. De Villaine, Bourgogne La Digoine:

    12.5% alcohol and about $32, on release; wild cherry nose that is focused and stylish; youthful, etched fruit with a firm, mineral underpinning, precise balance, vigorous yet nicely austere; dense on the finish (think young Corton). A wine of breed and class with many years left in the cellar. Lovely.

    Best, Jim

  7. Whites:

    2007 Ameztoi, Getariako Txakolina:

    Fizzy, 10.5% alcohol from the Basque region of Spain; akin to Cava but having a more mineral backbone, less bubbles and very dry fruit flavors. A starter wine but pretty good with assorted cheeses. Thirst quenching.

    2005 Pépière, Muscadet Granite de Clisson:

    The longer this spends in bottle the more defined and precise it gets. Still, plenty of flesh and depth with an individual character that is at once unique yet of its place, perfect balance, concentrated and quite integrated even with its remarkable complexity. Crisp, cool and captivating; one of the finest white wines in the world. $20 on release and about 12.5% alcohol.

    Reds:

    2000 Thomas, Pinot Noir:

    Bright and almost spritzy at first but it evolves to reveal a nicely balanced, very Oregon pinot. Some depth and complexity; a bit of cola. I’m a little suspect of this bottle as there was some leakage at the cork.

    2006 Priarius, Pinot Noir:

    From Oregon at about 13.5% alcohol this is pale and translucent; light scents of raspberry and spice with a touch of dark fruit; elegant but dense in the mouth with finesse and lovely varietal character, well balanced; long finish that emphasizes the dark fruit notes. A pretty, little wine for about $14.

    2008 Castle Rock, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley:

    Smells pretty generic; tastes OK but it has a swath of chalky tannins that overwhelms the mouth – I think this is wood tannin but wherever its from, its unpleasant. A couple of sips was all I could handle. 13.5% alcohol and about $12. Pass.

    2005 Philippe Faury, St. Joseph:

    Really pretty wine; alluring aromatics of purple fruit and leather; much the same in the mouth with excellent balance and a degree of finesse that makes this such a joy; long, fruit filled finish. A wine to compare other syrahs to. 12.8% alcohol and about $25. Superb!

    Best, Jim

  8. Hi thanks for the reply, I can't really seem to find any links towards Appalacian State University regarding their enology department. I did see the website on Niagara College, however i wonder is it worth it seeing that the wine industry in Canada is not as strong as that in the States? Although of course, North Carolina's wine industry itself really isn't all that developed , i think.

    NC's wine industry is on the cusp of developing at a rapid rate. Land is still reasonable, the climate is changing with global warming and enology is becoming more integrated in what used to be "seat of the pants" winemaking.

    However, the wines still suffer from the infancy of the industry and the fact that vinefera don't especially like a temperate rain forest.

    If you can't find anything on line, you may want to give them a call. Grant Holder is head of the department.

    Also see: http://www.allbusiness.com/education-train...11683411-1.html

    Best, Jim

  9. I was thinking since i've got a pretty big interest in wine, why not go and study wine making in College.

    So the question here is, anyone know of a good place for Viticulture and Enology studies? From what i know, UC Davis has a pretty good program, and also Cornell offers the program.

    Thanks for any help.

    You may want to check out Appalacian State University in Boone, NC. The state just gave the school a huge grant to expand the enology department there.

    Beautiful place, too.

    Best, Jim

  10. Bubbles:

    2005 Marques de Monistrol, Cava Winemaker’s Select:

    Even better than their non-vintage brut, this is quite dry, spicy, focused and elegant with a continuous bead and a clean finish. ‘Hard to beat at $15.

    Whites:

    2005 Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Clos des Allées:

    Beautiful wine; bright, charming, flavorful and so clean; as balanced and precise a Muscadet as one can find and drinking well now.

    2008 Bedrock, Cuvée Caritas:

    55% old vine semillon and 45% sauvignon blanc in 100% new French oak; powerfully scented with white fruit, spice and vanilla tones; an almost lyrical presentation in the mouth with semillon flavors emphasized and a touch of butterscotch oak; long finish. Needs 3-5 years to integrate the wood (although its not intrusive now) and was delicious with chicken Caesar salad.

    Day two: much the same; this either has too much oak or it needs time to integrate.

    2007 Quinto de Ventozelo, Douro Cisterda da Ribeira:

    A Portuguese white made from 30% códega, 30% gouveio, 20% viosinho and 20% rabigato; 13% alcohol; aromas of cream soda, citrus skin and white pepper; similar in the mouth with some unripe apricot and a light saline component added, spicy, smoothly textured but crackling acidity; a touch bitter on a very long finish. This wine is all about its acidity – it carries it and drives it but does not overwhelm it. Very good with a white bean and chard dish, pretty good on its own and well worth buying again at $7.

    Pinks:

    2008 Bedrock, Rosé Ode to Lulu:

    Mourvèdre based wine with a lovely fragrance, a dry, mineral driven palate, and a dry finish. In the Bandol style and quite nice with summer grilled veggies.

    Reds:

    2002 Clos Roche Blanche, Gamay:

    I’ve had a few bad bottles of this but this one is quintessential gamay – charming, complete, moderate weight and good sustain. A really lovely bottle – after all these years.

    2005 Georges Vigouroux, Cahors Pigmentum:

    Malbec that is blurry, earthy/dirty, unfocused and just not very good. If there’s nothing else . . . 12.5% and about $10.

    2007 Lurton, Malbec:

    Industrial grade – not objectionable but no better than something to drink if you’ve nothing else. About $9.

    2008 Maipe, Malbec:

    So much better that the last two malbecs that one might think it was a different grape; this shows the darker side of the variety but with balance and some finesse; drinking well now and very good with a bean, chard, turkey and quinoa stew. 14% alcohol and about $12.

    (Aside: it seems the feminine, aromatic, elegant side of this variety is rare. And honestly, going up in price usually just gets me more wood or more power, neither of which I find attractive. The potential of this grape is considerable in that I have tasted occasional wines that reminded me of great pinot – light, pure, scented and such beautiful textures – ah, where are they when you need them?)

    Best, Jim

  11. Ten days in California is always dynamic: from the weather (clear and cold, then rainy, then beautiful) to the dining (from very fancy to the Taco truck) to business (some set-backs, some gains), all in a compressed period. Makes coming home a welcome respite.

    Along the way, some very nice wines included the 1985 Giacosa, Barbaresco San Stefano Res. which started off a bit tight, loosened nicely with air and then faded slightly; a lovely bottle. A 1999, Jamet, Côte Rôtie was in good form with plenty of complexity and good structure but this wine has often concerned me for what I discern as a hole in the middle – and here it was again. Maybe the red wine of the trip was the 2000 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Wylie-Fanaughty with its immense complexity even while being fully integrated. And the more air it got, the better it got – a remarkable wine just coming into its own. A 1996 d’Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru was decanted prior to dinner and, over the span of the meal, became a quintessential expression of Volnay. Likewise, a 1998 Chevillon, Nuits-St.-Georges La Perrières showed its gamey, mineral-based personality after a about an hour open. And a 1996 Taluau, St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil VV was sublime once it blew off the expected initial herbaceousness.

    The 2001 Hirtzberger, Riesling Singerriedel is rich and powerful, loaded both aromatically and in the mouth and quite long but I’m betting cellar time will make it even more attractive. We also tasted the 2008 Bedrock, Cuvée Caritas that was a compelling new find. This is semillon/ sauvignon and so well balanced and together that it is cause to explore this new winery further (details below).

    There were more than a few others; I didn’t take notes, just tried to remember a few impressions.

    But a couple of wines/wineries need additional comment:

    First, the initial vintage of Westerhold Family Vineyards, Syrah was just bottled and I had a chance to taste it. I have been very excited about this project from Bennett Valley – it’s all a single estate site, all the Alban 1 clone of syrah and the barrel program appears to be fairly constant. Winemaker is Russell Bevan and the farming here is meticulous. The wine is, as you might expect, still closed but there is an underlying saline quality that I think reflects both the clone and the place. It is balanced despite big alcohol and does not feel overdone in any way. The oak is already well on its way to integrating and I expect this will be really stunning in a year or two. Special wine.

    Second, Morgan Twain-Peterson (Joel Peterson’s son) has started Bedrock Wine Co. I tasted with Morgan while I was in town and bought some of his wines immediately. As mentioned above, the Cuvée Caritas is a remarkable Bordeaux blanc blend that is fresh and so perfectly balanced that I was immediately charmed. There are also a couple syrahs, two field blends, a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot and a rosé for sale now. All are worth trying and I found Morgan to be very knowledgeable and obliging. I expect big things in the next several years from this young man.

    Last, but certainly not least, I got to taste, on several occasions, the wines from Bevan Cellars. As most of you know, Russell Bevan is a dear friend and my mentor in this business. Russell’s style is different from mine; he loves big, yummy, full blown wines with new oak. Yet his wines are not the monsters that I would expect – for instance, his 2007 syrah is less alcoholic than mine and mine is 13.9%. In any event, Russell’s wines are not for the faint of heart but they are not misshapen or incoherent and they have so much concentration and intensity of fruit that I think anyone that likes the CA style will love is syrah and cabernet sauvignon. And I hear he’ll be making a sauvignon blanc under his own label next year – after his efforts with Dry Stack/Grey Stack sauvignon in the past, I look forward to his own bottling.

    So much more to tell but this should do it for now. Thanks to all who made this trip a success and a lot of fun. See you in a couple months back on the leftcoast.

    Best, Jim

  12. Whites:

    1999 Nigl, Grüner Veltliner, Piri Privat:

    The texture of a big viognier but the precision of a fine riesling; a wine of contradictions, fleshy and cerebral; showing well but no secondary development; intensity and concentration yet no flab or diffusion; endless finish. 13.5% alcohol, about $23, on release.

    2002 Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Clos des Allées VV:

    Harmonious, crisp, complex, deep and just the slightest bit thinning; a wonderful wine that is either coming the end of its peak or beginning to close down – frankly, I think the former. One of the very best white wines in my cellar for the last seven years, I’d recommend drinking this sooner rather than later. Still lovely and charming but starting to turn a corner. 12% alcohol and about $7 on sale, several years ago.

    2005 Pieropan, Soave La Rocca:

    This is a single vineyard that is aged in wood – it is often not to my taste because the wood intrudes – not this vintage; pure, rich aromas that have lots of layers; equally rich and full in the mouth but a bubbling spring of acidity wells up and washes everything clean, huge concentration, intense, balanced and extremely long. This is the most impressive garganega I have ever tasted and one that has years ahead in the cellar. Utterly breathtaking with insalta caprese. 13%alcohol and about $24 (obviously a mistake in pricing as this is usually $20 more than that).

    (Aside: I have had the regular Soave, the Calvarino (single vineyard, no oak) and the La Rocca (single vineyard, aged in oak) from this vintage and producer; I think it is safe to say this is the most successful vintage I’ve tasted in the last ten or so. Brilliant wines, at all levels and this La Rocca is likely the most expressive Soave I’ve ever tasted. Try . . . these . . . wines!)

    Pinks:

    2007 Dom. Fontanyles, Rosé Côtes de Provence:

    Quite pale and fairly dry; light strawberry and stone aromas and flavors, crisp and clean, some layering. Comes in a Dom. Ott look-a-like bottle, caries 13% alcohol and is about $12. Pleasant.

    2007 Le Pont, Rosé Bandol:

    Twice the quality of the preceding bottle; every bit as pale (sort of a watery light copper) but the nose is stony and spicy with just a bit of fruit; lots of ripe fruit in the mouth but none of it sweet, spicy, a beautiful silky texture, great acidity that is fully integrated and a very long, tangy finish. Showing a sense of place, good finesse and flesh, and, so complex that the $18 price tag makes sense. 13% alcohol and a terrific, dry rosé. Don’t drink it too cold; this one is worth having at cellar temp. or even warmer.

    Reds:

    2004 Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore:

    Not the soaring power of Barolo nor the finesse of Barbaresco but without question nebbiolo – gutsy nebbiolo – nothing remotely feminine here: sinewy, direct, firm, strong, cool but integrated and composed; not for lighter fare and definitely better with food. Hold at least a decade. 13.5% alcohol, about $30, on release.

    2008 Maipa, Malbec:

    Good varietal character, layered on the nose and palate, very well balanced, no overt wood, some grip, a worsted texture and very good sustain. A step (or two) above industrial malbec; I will buy a lot of this. 14% alcohol and about $12.

    2000 Chat. Cantelys:

    This is from Pessac-Leognan and cost about $23; it’s got some funk on the nose but that clears to reveal very young, powerful Graves fruit with lots of earthy/mineral nuance; much the same in the mouth with a very youthful, grippy attack and plenty of complexity; decent length. This is too young but it is a terrific wine with decades to go to peak. Unfortunately, my last bottle but this wine, from the folks who make Smith-Haut Lafite is top quality.

    2007 Biggio Hamina, Pinot Noir Ana Vnyd.:

    This has got to be a whole cluster fermented wine (at least to some degree). Translucent, it shows the spice and high tones of whole cluster and its savory elements are readily recognizable. More dark fruit than red, good acidity, some complexity and a crisp, clean finish. Showing young and undeveloped but also well within limits for whole cluster wines. So many whole cluster wines are just plain green or bordering on it to the extent that one has to intellectually sort out the aromas and flavors and convince oneself that all is well. This is more poised and appealing; neither green nor leanings that way but still that herbaceous spice and lifted prettiness that whole cluster can give.

    Day two: even better as the depth is now evident and the wine is quite elegant. Diane says, “[T]his is the way pinot noir should taste.” I agree – one of the most impressive domestic pinots I have tasted in a long time. And superb with turkey/cheese panini. 12.5% alcohol, screw-cap, $38, and, again I say, this is a producer to watch – someone here has a clue, they are daring and they seem to have a good handle on what their fruit can and can not do. Stay tuned . . .

    Best, Jim

  13. 2005 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie Cuvée Tardive:

    Unwinds quickly in the glass and delivers aromatic complexity and authenticity; a deep, structured mouthful of flavor and excellent length. With food it is even more attractive as the fruit comes to the fore and the structure integrates. A fine bottle of gamay and lots of years ahead. 13% alcohol and about $20 at release.

    2000 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Wahle Vnyd. Res.:

    Earthy black fruit nose, quite savory; more fruit driven in the mouth with a distinct dirt/earth element, some complexity and lovely silky texture, medium length. Diane made turkey meatballs in broth with chard and white beans and this was ideal accompaniment. Showing well now. 13.8% alcohol and about $36 on release.

    Better still, by a pretty good margin, on day two.

    1991 Sullivan, Cabernet Sauvignon:

    Decanted off substantial sediment. Smells of tannin and torrefied earth with solid dark fruit tones and some smoke; really first-class in the mouth – lots of flavor, little overt secondary development but a cohesiveness that is uncommon, loads of complexity, great intensity, no green, satin texture and some grip; very long finish.. Nothing Bordeaux-like about this; it is 100% California cabernet and a powerful, glorious example. Here is what great CA cabernet can age into given 18 years and the right stuff to begin with. 13.1% alcohol and about $45, on release.

    1993 Laurel Glen, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain:

    Decanted off substantial sediment but unlike the above wine, this does not smell of tannin or smoke but of ripe fruit, mineral and just a touch of brett; more flamboyant in the mouth but still composed and satin textured, some grip, good complexity and intensity; long finish. This wine tends more to a Bordeaux connection but still has the power of CA fruit. Yummy with dinner. 12.5% alcohol and about $40, on release.

    Best, Jim

  14. Whites:

    2005 Dom. de l’Ecu, Muscadet Expression de Garanite:

    Very bright, juicy and fresh fruit smells and flavors backed with a peppery spice and mineral backbone; all delivered as though on the snap of a whip. This is a tremendous bottle of wine, has lots of years to go but shows beautifully now. 12% alcohol and about $17, on release.

    2005 Tribut, Chablis Côte de Lechet:

    Has richened and become more strongly flavored since the end of last year. Steely aromatics but more depth and complexity in the mouth; immense length. I’m guessing this is just starting to reveal its core of concentrated fruit. Very energetic and excellent with grilled chicken. About $26, delivered.

    Reds:

    1996 Dom. de Montgilet, Anjou Villages:

    After 13 years, this has finally become drinkable – actually, more than that – its a smooth, balanced expression of Loire cabernet franc that has good depth of flavor and some richness. For years this wine was nothing but green pepper juice – now, that element is but a hint and the fruit has come around very nicely. But that’s too long to wait for a wine to become drinkable and, while I enjoyed this bottle (my last) tonight, I’ll not be buying more from these folks. 13%alcohol and about $20 on release.

    Very brief impressions of wines at lunch and at a tasting:

    2003 Marcassin, Pinot Noir:

    Spicy and balanced but without complexity and very slightly hot on the finish. Pleasant; no more.

    Marcassin, Chardonnay (vintage and vineyard unknown):

    All vanilla all the time. Not for me.

    1982 Château Ducru-Beacaillou:

    A somewhat musty nose (not TCA) but fairly fresh fruit, some grip and a decent finish. Not special but pretty good.

    1999 Produtorri del Barbaresco:

    Beautiful, feathery wine with sustain and presence. Almost Burgundy-like in weight and texture. Drinking very well.

    2006 Bevan Cellars, Syrah:

    Too much new wood at this stage of its life for my taste but the concentration and flavor profile are just plain yummy.

    2005 Bevan Cellars, Syrah:

    Much more complex and with much less oak than the 2006; graceful despite remarkable intensity. Quite good.

    1996 Dom Pérignon:

    Oh my! Without question, the most delectable and impressive Champagne of my life. Thanks Kevin.

    We also had a Paul Hobbes, Cabernet (vintage unknown) that supposedly got 100 points from Mr. Parker. I found it nicely balanced and showing some complexity but having little varietal character and being a little hollow at mid-palate. Then we compared it to the 2006 Bevan Cellars, Cabernet and I found the Bevan to have more character, be more identifiable as cabernet and much more concentrated.

    At the end of the night, somebody poured a recent vintage Colgin, Cabernet which smelled like a pickle barrel – I never got any farther than the nose and didn’t want to.

    Best, Jim

  15. Whites:

    2007 Jermann, Vinnae:

    Mostly ribolla gialla with small amounts of tocai and riesling; 12.5% alcohol, screw cap and about $25.

    Day one: lemon, mineral and herb aromatics; fairly full in the mouth with flavors that echo the nose, a distinct tang and a tactile sensation that comes up just short of tannin; a quite long and lightly bitter finish. Reminds me a little of greco but without the resinous qualities. Probably a bit closed at the moment but indicative of character, concentration and purity. Exceptional with food.

    Day two: pretty much the same – perhaps a little more open but I think this could use a year or two (or more).

    2005 Grosset, Riesling Polish Hill:

    13% alcohol, under screw cap and about $20, on sale.

    This is one of the most powerful dry rieslings I’ve tasted. It has the concentration of a Zind-Humbrecht without the weight. Angular coming out of the bottle and showing very young but it turns fuller and more fruit driven with a creamy texture as it airs – it has plenty of structure, stuffing and acidity. Probably will age longer than I’ll live and be approachable all along the way.

    Reds:

    2002 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie Cuvée Tardive:

    Day one: fairly tannic and closed but showing its depth and concentration; not especially Fleurie-like – more Pommard or something similar. Came alive and truer to its place with lentil stew.

    Day two: although somewhat more resolved, a bit duller also. This wine needs time in the bottle; decanting won’t do it.

    13% alcohol and about $21 on release.

    1994 Penfolds, Grange:

    This has been the only bottle of Australian wine in my cellar for over ten years. It is what you’d expect; there’s evidence of American oak on the nose but it seems to have morphed into a cola-like smell; it has chocolate in the flavor profile but not the sweet kind, and it has an extraordinarily silky texture. Rich, plush stuff that is more cocktail style than food style. Even so, not a bad wine and anything that was done to it seems to have softened over 15 years. Others liked it better but I will say that this is not outsized or unbalanced and does have some finesse (probably due to its age). Not my sort but for those who like this style, I suspect you’d be very pleased.

    2006 Edmunds St. John, That Old black Magic:

    A co-ferment of syrah and grenache, screw-cap, 14.3% alcohol and about $20. Clean, expansive and attractive nose of dark fruit, salted meat, lavender and mineral; beautifully precise and alluring in the mouth with finesse and complexity, flavors that follow the nose adding an iron tone and a personality that is hard to describe but that keeps me coming back; excellent length. This is balanced, shows better than most CdP I’ve tasted recently, gives no indication of its alcohol content, has a distinct individual quality and has all the ear-marks of wine that will age well. So easy to drink and perfect accompaniment to pasta with broccoli, roasted peppers, feta and olives.

    (Aside: I think that Steve Edmunds has (after 25 years in the business) discovered the “truth” of wine; it needs to have an individual character so you can identify it from all the other wines it competes with, it needs to pair well with your dinner, it needs to age well in your cellar, it needs to be a true joy to drink and it needs to be affordable. IMO, no other winemaker currently working in CA delivers these essentials, does so across his entire line of wines and with such consistency. If you have not tried Steve’s wines, I urge you to do so. ‘Cure what ails ya.)

    Best, Jim

  16. Whites:

    2004 Dom. Pepière, Muscadet Clos des Briords VV:

    Day one: citrus, oyster shell and a hint of pickle juice on the nose; crisp and bright with flavors that follow the nose; some depth, intense; very long. More closed than expected but still good stuff.

    Day two: so much better; clean, balanced and precise with crystalline flavors, a somewhat feminine delivery but great length. Falls a heartbeat short of the ’05 Pepière, Granite de Clisson, but just.

    $13 on release and 12% alcohol. Hold.

    Reds:

    2001 Sella, Lessona;

    You know how when Robin Hood split the arrow that was already in the bull’s eye? Well, this is that much on target. Precise, detailed, graceful and complex – I have had bottles of this that have shown much less but this one is everything one could ask for. Slightly less clear on day two but still excellent. I bought a bunch of this on sale and I think I will put Astor on my Christmas card list – what a gift.

    Drink.

    1999 Gilles Robin, Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Albéric Bouvet:

    My last 750 (one magnum remains) of a wine that I have probably had more of than any other; there is a little brett here but nothing that puts me off; other than that, the most complete, complex and engaging syrah I’ve ever had. The nose is packed with nuance; in the mouth it is fresh yet has developed secondary character; and the length is a lovely and enduring echo. Fully resolved, balanced, so many different combinations of flavors that it is hard to keep track and still, that elegant, varietal essence of deliciousness that I can only hope that one day I achieve in my own syrahs. I credit Joe Dressner with suggesting one go long on this; I am pleased that I did, and I hope that I find something that comes close in the future. 13% alcohol, about $9 delivered (on sale) and as good a bottle of red wine as I have ever enjoyed. Drink.

    Best, Jim

  17. Whites:

    2005 Daniel Dampt, Chablis Côte de Léchet:

    Day one: quiet but typical Chablis nose; layered, exotic fruit flavors that are rich, deep and honeyed, steely, crisp and long. Seems somewhat closed but what is showing is absolutely delicious and characteristic of this vineyard.

    Day two: more open aromatically but much more mineral driven – an almost salty element in the mouth, good fruit, intensity and concentration; considerable length. A superb wine from a producer that uses only stainless, hand harvests, keeps yields low and is aggressive with triage. This has the stuffing to age, its 13% alcohol, $30 (including shipping) and has a quality to price ratio that is becoming difficult to find in Chablis. Drink or hold.

    1999 Nigl, Riesling Hochäcker:

    Way too fresh to be a decade old; smells of tangerine skin, rainwater and citrus; its dry, textural, intensely flavored to echo the nose and has a tang to it that I find often in Austrian riesling; exceedingly long and that tang is reiterated on the finish which has a slight pithy/resin quality to it. A very good wine that is still youthful, concentrated and balanced but shows an integration borne of its years. 13% alcohol and about $18, back in the day.

    Reds:

    2000 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Estate Reserve:

    Day one: tight, big, disjointed with some alcohol showing (14.3%).

    Day two: more approachable with spice and dark fruit smells and flavors, pretty big in the mouth, alcoholic but not hot; moderate length. I think this is just a little too much for me. Solid wine but not in a style that I am partial to.

    Day three: bordering on raisined and coming apart.

    Drink.

    1999 Michel Lafarge, Volnay Vendages Sélectionnées:

    Day one: still a bit tannic but this wine is so much better than three years ago (the last time I tried it); classic fresh cherry, beet, earth, stone nose; much the same in the mouth with some complexity, good intensity and a profile that is both hard-edged and approachable at the same time. As with all really good wines, there is a paradox (or two) in this; minerality but clear fruit; firm but open; strongly flavored but with finesse. These are the bottles we hope to find when we go back into the cellar after a decade and pull out Burgundy. With grilled chicken, rice with black pepper sauce and sautéed brussel sprouts, beyond words.

    Day two: this has wound back in upon itself – its all about structure and tannin now, although, it comes alive accompanying pasta with tomato/almond sauce.

    13% alcohol and about $35 on release.

    Hold.

    2002 Michaud, Brouilly Prestige de Vielles Vignes:

    Day one: bright, pure gamay with an earthy/granite streak and considerable depth; aromatic, graceful and nicely integrated. Often times this bottling can be a bit tannic but this is pretty smooth.

    Day two: even better, by magnitudes; there is finesse and a purity not evident yesterday; there’s real complexity and still a smooth texture; and, above all, there is this deft balance – as though all parts were meant to fit together just so. This is all a red wine I ever need and it pleases me no end to have more than a few bottles left in the cellar. Real old vine (greater than 85 years) quality. 13% alcohol and a bargain at $20.

    Best, Jim

  18. Whites:

    2005 Pépière, Muscadet Granite de Clisson:

    Benchmark Muscadet that is drinking well now but has years to go.

    If there is a finer grained, more complete, and perfectly balanced young Muscadet that is of its place, I have not had it. Drink or hold.

    2007 Do Ferreirio, Albariño Cepas Vellas:

    Day one: closed and tight with a shy nose but a palate that seems loaded but pent-up. Good Albariño character but not the depth or intensity that one expects from this bottling.

    Day two: more depth and concentration showing but not enough to get a good read. Others with experience think this even better than the 2006 (which is extraordinary in my book) but the jury is still out for me. Hold.

    2007 Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold:

    54% grenache blanc, 46% vermentino and 13.3% alcohol.

    Day one: although not fully open, much more so than three months ago; this is bright, moderately complex and a terrific wine with food.

    Day two: more of the same but still not all it has. Drink or hold.

    Reds:

    1998 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Estate Reserve:

    I last had this wine five years ago and was a bit frustrated – it really didn’t impress. I was too early to it; now it’s showing some secondary development, much more integrated and has its own distinct personality. It still probably needs a decade to be at peak, but its pretty damn delicious now, well stuffed and nicely balanced. I think this a remarkable effort for young vine fruit that spent 18 months in new wood (which comes across very gentle as this stage). Drink or hold.

    2005 Baudry, Chinon La Croix Boissée:

    The angriest wine I have had in years. Completely shut down, tannic, brutal in the mouth and way too green. Revisit in a decade, at minimum. Opening this now is a complete waste. Hold, hold, hold.

    2000 Hamacher, Pinot Noir:

    Sourced from six different vineyards, 13% alcohol:

    Day one: no secondary development here but this is silky, balanced, evinces both red and black fruit and finishes as a completely composed wine. Has time left; how much it will develop is the only question. But for now, a really charming and delicious drink.

    Day two: a touch of truffle is now a part of the nose which has richened and broadened; likewise in the mouth with a bit of complexity, a little less integrated, a very slight hint of oxidation and mouthwatering acidity; excellent length that is also mouthwatering. A nice wine close to its peak. Drink or hold.

    Best, Jim

  19. Whites:

    2007 Dönnhoff, Riesling Estate:

    Cherry pits and rainwater with a touch of flint and light RS; 10% alcohol and about $17. Straight-forward but charming and lovely with Masaman curry.

    2005 Pieropan, Soave Calvarino:

    Diane made a dish that included sautéed cabbage in mustard – it seemed a difficult match so I tried this. As good a match as Chablis with oysters, this is taut and still slightly closed but vibrantly aromatic and brilliant in the mouth. Complex, intense, nearly electric acidity and real depth in the pure fruit flavors – and everything in perfect harmony. A joy to drink by itself but beyond words with the dish.

    2007 Masi, Maisanco:

    75% pinot grigio vinted in stainless, 25% verduzzo vinted in oak after drying several weeks on racks; 13% alcohol and about $14. Clear and pale yellow with green glints; smells mostly of citrus and apricot; tastes similar but with more complexity as apple and honey tones appear and some mineral; medium length with a slightly bitter finish. Diane likes it (which of course, is all I ever need to know) so we will buy more; as it so happens, I like it, too. Excellent with grilled chicken, roasted peppers, braised fennel and grilled olive bread with EVOO. And a pretty sipper by itself.

    2005 Château d’Epiré, Savennieres:

    A cabbage and white bean dish this evening matched well with this wine; not especially aromatic but what was there was citrus, dried flowers and mineral; light bodied but moderately intense in the mouth with flavors that follow the nose, not any wool or lanolin tones but some quince and apricot; medium length finish. Maybe the nicest thing about this wine is how well balanced and open it was. A really good time to try a bottle if you have access. And quite good with the dish. About $15.

    2006 Dom. de la Fruitière, Muscadet Cuvée Petit M:

    12% alcohol and about $10; fresh citrus and saline nose; not especially deep but solid fruit with rainwater, citrus and sea shell accents, decent volume and intensity and a very pretty and long finish. This may be slightly closed at the moment but its also lip-smackingly delicious and very nice with a pasta and olive dish.

    Reds:

    2006 Duboeuf, Fleurie Fleur:

    Almost black in the glass and much less polished than expected this is strongly flavored, not overly floral, without signs of banana or candy. Deeply fruited (mostly black fruit), rustic in construction and fairly tannic; not yet of a piece. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. About $10.

    Day two: Much more integrated with only a little tannin showing; still plenty of depth and intensity. It appears a little cellar time is a good idea.

    (Aside: It has been a very long time since I have had a Duboeuf wine that I wanted to have again – this one I will buy more of. It is not as precise or complex as the Porphyry (note follows) or many of the finest producers in Beaujolais, but it is very good wine at a fraction of the price. And it is a welcome change from this house.)

    2007 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Porphyry:

    More together, less extractive and better balanced than the preceding wine – still somewhat closed but much more approachable then two months ago; juicy, stony, concentrated black fruit with accents of strawberry, spice and mineral; excellent length. 13% alcohol, $20 and well worth it. Drink or hold.

    2008 Lurton, Malbec:

    Fresh fruit nose that shows the characteristics of the variety; middle-weight, silky texture, moderately intense with light spice tones and medium length. Not structured or meant to age, screw-cap, $7; and all one could want or ask at that price.

    2005 Terra Rosa, Malbec:

    This is a Laurel Glen project in Argentina, 14.5% alcohol, screw-cap and about $13; its over-ripe, over oaked, has little, if any, varietal character and it finishes hot; this could be from anywhere and, if I had my way, I’d send it back there – wherever ‘there’ might be. With so many reasonably priced and quality or at least enjoyable malbecs in the marketplace today, this is a joke.

    2007 Castle Rock, Pinot Noir Mendocino:

    This bottle is softer, sweeter and less aromatic then the last – but it still delivers a tasty drink when paired with gorgonzola polenta with tomato sauce. 13.8% alcohol and about $12. Somewhat above quaffing status, if you ask me.

    Best, Jim

  20. I would never have guessed:

    2007 Castle Rock, Pinot Noir Mendocino County:

    13.8% alcohol and about $12. A young, well-made, balanced pinot noir that is not only varietally correct but also of its place; it has that crackling black fruit scent and flavor I associate with the Anderson Valley and Mendocino; very light touches of milk chocolate and spice; this is clean, ripe, graceful, distinctive and will likely last several years in the cellar. In weight and texture this reminds a little of a village Chambolle from a good producer.

    2006 Moon Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County:

    13.9% alcohol and about $19. A young, very pure Bordeaux blend that smells and tastes like it has never seen oak. However, it has 18 months in barrel, 20% French, 80% American and 30% new – which proves to me that a good winemaker knows how to use barrels without over-using them. It’s intense, concentrated, varietally correct, has some complexity, good depth and substantial grip. I think its structure requires five years or so in the cellar to resolve but I am semi-shocked to find this exceptional a cabernet from CA.

    Best, Jim

  21. Whites:

    N/V Marquis de Monestral, Cava Brut Riserva Especiale:

    Enduring bead, dry, clean, lemon-grass flavored, perfectly correct Cava without flaw or artifice. $9. Failure to at least try this wine is plain silly. I keep a case on hand.

    (Aside: a friend who has substantial experience with bubbly thought it an N/V grower Champagne when tasted blind.)

    2007 Marqués de Castilla, La Mancha (Bianco):

    100% airén, 12% alcohol and about $8; moderately intense nose of lychee, resin and pear; much more powerful in the mouth, full bodied and strongly flavored with the dominant flavor being lychee, some pear, spice and mineral, bright acidity, quite concentrated, texturally smooth until the finish where it sort of mimics the elements of a ginger ale aftertaste; good sustain. ‘Never had a wine from this grape before; this is both pretty and potent.

    2007 Dönnhoff, Riesling Estate:

    Cherry pits and rainwater with a touch of citrus and light RS; 10% alcohol and about $17. Straight-forward but charming and lovely with Panang curry.

    2007 Domaine des Cadastres, Picpoul de Pinet:

    13% from the Languedoc and about $8. Floral, unripe pineapple, apricot and white grapes on both the nose and palate; medium body, balanced acidity, some white pepper on a mouthwatering finish. Diane and I agree; a very nice little lunch wine.

    2008 Luigi Boca, Torrentés Fince La Linda:

    Jasmine is the overwhelming smell and flavor – almost to the point of being off-putting; some citrus blossom and green apple with good acids and a medium length finish. I have had better versions of torrentés and at $15, this doesn’t measure up.

    Reds:

    2006 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois Pupillin:

    Finally, this is beginning to shut down. It is a ripe wine and has stayed pretty approachable since release. But now things are starting to fragment a bit and its time to put it away for five years. A great bottle IMO, but not just now.

    1994 Coudoulet de Beaucastel:

    Secondary development in full swing as the nose carries enough funk (most of which, blows off) to remind one that this has been sleeping. Very pretty wine with considerable mourvèdre character, still grippy and with a long finish. Not fully resolved but in a nice place.

    2008 Gascón, Malbec:

    Score one for the guys who say, “It’s what’s in the glass that counts.” This is good wine; very well balanced, not overtly oaky, not too slick, blueberry/blackberry smells and flavors, and a clean finish. If I were at a restaurant and saw it on the list, I’d order it with dinner without hesitation. It accompanied grilled chicken with Caesar salad just fine.

    But there is no varietal signature here and absolutely no individual character. It’s a commercial success. But aging this wine would be pointless. 13.9% alcohol, about $12 (at Whole Foods) and ready now.

    2003 Bonny Doon, Old Telegram:

    Mourvèdre (100%) but too young to enjoy. Rustic, slightly disjointed, quite tannic – lay it down for 10 plus years. No noticeable flaws.

    2005 Château de la Terrière, Beaujolais-Villages VV:

    Closed on both the nose and palate; a smoked meat note, no florals with some burgeoning black fruit and a bit of spice. 13% alcohol and about $8. Needs time to resolve as the structure is in charge at the moment, but the stuffing is substantial and in balance. Hold.

    2007 Conquista, Malbec:

    Once more, a note on this wine; this is my new house “pinot” – put it in a Burgundy stem and let its nose open-up; medium body, very aromatic, satin texture and a wispy overall delivery. Not much varietal character but a pretty little wine. 13 % alcohol and about $7. Drink now.

    Best, Jim

  22. Whites:

    2001 Guffens-Heynen, Mâcon Pierreclos – Le Chavigne:

    Closed on day one – left overnight on the counter without being stoppered; fabulous on day two with rich, complex scents and flavors, no sign of oxidation and length to burn. A fabulous bottle opened way too soon.

    2001 Dom. Roally, Mâcon-Viré-Clessé Tradition:

    Some RS but not enough to throw off the balance of this wine; pure, clean, ripe chardonnay with lots of terroir coming through. Lovely now.

    2006 Badde Nigolosu, Dettori Bianco:

    Brass colored; the nose is all grapefruit and pith, flowers, ginger ale and mineral; much the same in the mouth with a bright but concentrated delivery and considerable nuance; good length. Superb with grilled chicken, caramelized onions and Caesar salad.

    2004 Quintarelli, Bianco Secco:

    Much more developed than on release with a nose and palate much like good Soave; a little citrus and some floral elements as accent. ‘Makes me wonder if another 3 or 4 years will make an even bigger difference.

    2006 Peter Michael, Sauvignon Blanc L’Après-Midi:

    Tropical fruit nose with some citrus hints (no grassiness); full and round in the mouth with flavors that echo the nose, satin texture; good length. Alcoholic and ever so slightly kissed with oak – even so, I like it.

    2007 Masi, Masianco:

    75% pinot grigio and 25% verduzzo, all in stainless; fresh scents of citrus, apricot and apple; flavors are less discrete but no less attractive, juicy, crisp and layered; medium length. Perfect lunch wine.

    Rosés:

    2007 Dom. Ott, Chat. De Selle Rosé:

    Bone dry, ripe but perfectly balanced with strong flavors, good depth and a precision that is rare in pink wines. Charming with lobster salad.

    2007 F. Cotat, Sancerre Rosé:

    Served ice cold and its still too sweet. For those who like sweet rosé, have at it. For those who don’t, bury it in the cellar.

    2006 Fortitude, Rosé:

    From Napa, made of valdiguié (sometimes called Napa Gamay) and about 12.8% alcohol; not pale; very dry with earthy strawberry flavors and a distinctly bitter note (especially on the finish) that is not altogether pleasant. Its $9 so I don’t feel bad for trying it but I don’t think I’ll be back for more.

    2007 Alta Vista, Rosé:

    From Argentina, a rosé of malbec, 13.5%, $7 and the label indicates it was not made from saignée. Not pale; very shy nose of strawberry and stone; some strawberry and pomegranate flavors, a touch of resin and salt, some viscosity and a diffuse finish. Reticent to a fault but nothing flawed or objectionable.

    2007 Mas Carlot, Rosé:

    55% grenache, 40% syrah and 5% mourvèdre, all from saignée, $9 and 13.5% alcohol; not pale; raspberry Kool-Aid® and spice nose; almost rich on the palate with solid raspberry/strawberry flavors, some depth, maybe a touch of RS, and a pretty strong finish. Certainly more generous then the foregoing wine but not necessarily better.

    (Aside: I am fast becoming convinced that the paler rosés are worth trying before the ones with more color. Dom. Ott, Tempier and several others I have had seem to be in the “very pale” category and they are certainly more complete and balanced wines than many of those that aren’t. So from now on, when I’m trying a rosé that I don’t know, I’ll opt for the palest wine on the rack.)

    Reds:

    2000 Felsina, Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia (375 ml):

    Recognizably Chianti but without the stuffing to be memorable and without the depth to be worth holding.

    2006 Overnoy/Houillon, Arbois-Pupillin:

    Open this wine with me in attendance and be prepared to fight for your pour. About as good as any red wine of character and translucence can be. Beyond words with steak sandwiches.

    2000 Beckmen, Syrah Purisima Mtn.:

    Starts out closed and gently oaky – with air, smoked bacon, flowers and fresh herbs emerge; much the same in the mouth but little concentration – with air, significant grip; medium finish. As Spock would say, “interesting, but not fascinating.”.

    2001 Forrier, Morey St. Denis Clos Salon:

    Not any green anywhere; translucent and aromatic; pinot noir in the elegant mode with laser-like definition and good sustain. Very strong wine with lots of upside.

    2006 Chignard, Fleurie Les Moriers:

    Quite floral on the nose; fresh cherries and flowers in the mouth; good length. Very Fleurie – not as much depth and structure as the 2005 but much more recognizable to its place.

    2006 Quercus Harmonia, Pinot Noir:

    An Oregon pinot that is lithe, elegant, earthy, slightly austere and did not overwhelm something as lovely as baked swordfish with a fresh tomato and citrus sauce. Wild rose scents and raspberry/herbal flavors. A producer I had not heard of but one I will remember (unfortunately, I am told the winemaker is leaving the business).

    2007 Luigi Bosca, Malbec Finca La Linda:

    Reminiscent of both cabernet sauvignon and pinot, this wine comes across as a loosely textured Pomerol - as though the merlot based aspects of a Bordeaux were allowed to dominate. This producer makes a very well-balanced version that has sufficient concentration to be impressive and the elegance to be fine accompaniment to food. I have been trying more malbec’s these days and this is my favorite so far. $13 full retail – ‘worth a try.

    2007 Conquista, Malbec:

    From Argentina, 13% alcohol and $7. I suggest having this in a Burgundy stem – very pinot-like on the nose but fuller across the palate with lots of red fruit, some floral tones and a fairly resolved structure. Not a wine for the cellar but more than good with dinner. Very easy to drink.

    Best, Jim

  23. Whites:

    2006 Fattoria l’Ottavo, Bianco Toscana Lucolena:

    11% alcohol, slightly bitter, crisp white wine; good with food, not especially so without. $6.

    2007 Dönnhoff, Riesling Qba Estate:

    With tofu, vegetables and green curry, this was exquisite. Demi-sec, flinty, some cherries, a delicate delivery and a very long finish. 10% alcohol and delicious.

    2007 Biggio Hamina, Pinot Blanc:

    Almost saline at first but turning more to carambola and ripe pear flavors with air, balanced acidity, good concentration and some interesting nuance (including a touch of bitterness); medium length. A couple months ago this was pretty innocuous and a touch sweet but today it shows complexity and relates much better to food. Nice wine.

    2006 Dettori, Bianco Badde Nigolosu:

    Vermentino from vines over 80 years old; I am guessing this is a skin contact fermentation as this has the color of cider and the aromatics of a Gravner or Radikon type wine. Somewhat flat in the mouth but with considerable flavor in the lemon, almond, mineral range, concentrated and slightly oxidized. Odd but not unpleasant but I would chose very carefully what food I opened it with.

    Rosé:

    2007 François Cotat, Sancerre Rosé Chavignol:

    Very concentrated watermelon and mineral nose; broad on the palate with flavors that follow the nose, some RS, solid structure and immense length. I am no fan of rosé that is even remotely sweet but this could make me a believer. For me, this is wine to serve very cold or to hold medium term. Superb with vegetable/chicken red curry. $40 – tough to justify at that price.

    2007 Henry Fessy, Côtes de Provence Rosé Cuvée Farigoul:

    Melon and mineral nose; lightweight, bone dry with flavors that follow the nose, bright acidity but a bit short. 12.5% alcohol, refreshing and charming for $8.

    Reds:

    2001 Gulfi, Nero d’Avola Màccarj:

    Root beer candy, chocolate covered cherries, dusty earth smells; mouth-filling with flavors that follow the nose along with some plum accents, considerable structure and concentration and lots of grip; very, very long finish. Youthful but bright and without question, the best nero I have tasted. Pretty amazing wine and of the charts good with turkey, pesto and cheese panini on fococcia.

    1989 Chateau Montrose:

    Perhaps, the most astonishing perfume I have ever gotten from a Bordeaux; I was expecting power and earth and instead got aromas of flowers, fresh cut fruit, a garden just after a rain storm and some odors I just could not identify but wanted to go on smelling; also very arresting in the mouth with a more Bordeaux profile but a freshness that belies its age, perfect balance and a finish that is full of nuance and sustain. It may not be at peak but it needn’t ever get better for me. Thanks David.

    2007 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Porphyry:

    From the derivation of the word, I assume that feldspar and quartz are most of the make-up of the Barsotti Ranch vineyard from which this is sourced. But El Dorado county vineyards are new to me. Whatever the case, the mineral character of this wine is evident. Right now it’s tight and giving up only glimpses of its fruit and where it might go. My guess, is that it will go past its variety to become a remarkably transparent expression of its terroir. But it will take several years to know. About $20; hold.

    2007 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Bone Jolly:

    I’ve written this up before; suffice to say, one of my favorite wines.

    2000 Felsina, Chianti Classico Res. Rancia (375 ml):

    Smells dark and brooding, tastes as one would expect of Rancia but is plenty tannic; dryingly so. I really don’t think I’m a Chianti lover – its OK but nothing I would seek out again. Some secondary development in this bottle.

    2002 Allemand, Cornas:

    No single vineyard designates in this vintage; 12.5% alcohol . . . this is why I love syrah. Fresh smoked ham, plums, some salt and pepper on the nose; rustic, dusty fruit in the mouth with a touch of smoke, some earthy stuff and a bit of spice; medium length, tannic finish. Not altogether yet and still better than most wines that are. And threaded through it from first sip to last echo is a quality I can not describe – I smell it and I smile; I taste it and I am taken; along about the end of the finish it reprises. ‘Reminds me of what people say about umami – “the essence of deliciousness.” This has it in spades. ‘Years from peak; even so, thrilling wine.

    (This is one of those wines that positively reinforces my awareness that certain producers are to be bought without regard to vintage. Evidently, the retailer who got this in believed the “bad year” reports – it was priced at $35 when everything Allemand does is north of $60. I bought some, tried it and went back with a vengeance. Consumer one; retailer zero.)

    2007 Dashe, Zinfandel l’Enfant Terrible:

    McFadden Ranch, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, 13.8% alcohol, 100% zinfandel; this takes me back to when zinfandel was not synonymous with big, alcoholic and overdone – clean, almost crisp nose of spice and red fruit; bright in the mouth and, at first, showing somewhat closed with plum, black raspberry and spice flavors – becomes more open with air but also more concentrated and structured; medium long, tannic finish. This appears to need cellar time but also finds an audience tonight with Diane and me in the company of some manchego. $26 and more than worth it.

    Day two: more translucent in appearance and less concentrated but much more of whole cloth; all in the high registers with very little bass/mellow/grip going on. I’d say this comes very close to ringing the bell but just misses. But what a chance the winemaker took and for that, he has my respect.

    Best, Jim

  24. This time, both Diane and I went to Sonoma for the week.

    The last couple of times out I’ve been alone and there to work – I used to travel well by myself – not so much anymore. Having my sweetie along and not much to do but play made a big difference.

    The weather was striking; unprecedented for January, I am told. And just as we were leaving, it started to rain – one could almost here the farmers sigh.

    Among many delights, a stop at Ubuntu in Napa, the new vegetarian restaurant, was great fun. Diane is a vegetarian and I am eclectic so it was no imposition. ‘Had a bottle of the 2007 Tempier, Rosé which went quite well with the fare, sat at the bar, chatted with everyone around us and came away feeling satisfied but not in the least bit stuffed. We both really enjoyed this place.

    A lunch at Don Giovani with Lou, Betty Lou, Hoke, Roxie and Bree was a chance to renew friendships and eat well. We also had a little wine, including the 2006 Tiefenbrunner, Kerner, which seems to have more flavors than most white wines, a fine old 1985 A. Conterno, Barolo (I’m sorry, I don’t recall the vineyard designation) and a bottle of the 1999 Navarro, Pinot Noir Méthode à l’Ancienne which, for me, stole the show. This wine has developed very delicate and nuanced secondary characteristics, is perfectly balanced, texturally silken and is showing at peak. ‘One of the most impressive CA pinots I’ve tasted. There were other wines on the table but I was more interested in the conversation.

    We eat often at the Fig Café in Glen Ellen but this time we also had lunch at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma – charming place, good food and a pleasant surroundings. The more time I spend on the square in Sonoma the more I want to.

    We also had a chance to taste our 2008 syrah lots and the skin-fermented sauvignon that I am making and they seem to be progressing well. To my taste, much better than when I left them to come home in November.

    And then there was one perfect evening up on Moon Mountain with friends, laughter, food, wine and a really stunning long-range sunset view.

    Wine country is so damn beautiful.

    Best, Jim

  25. 2000 Constant, Cabernet Sauvignon:

    This maker got big props from Jim Laube prior to the release of its first wine and then little reception from the Napa cab-aholics once it was available. Well, it ain’t bad. I’m not rushing out to buy it but aside from a little toast it’s a pretty cab/cab franc/merlot nose with enough nuance to make me want to taste it. On the palate it’s balanced and not overly alcoholic, a touch closed, moderate in both intensity and concentration and finishes pretty grippy. 14.1% alcohol and showing a bit young but not the horror that I’d been told nor the second coming as per Laube. If you’re pouring, I’ll have another glass, please.

    2001 Bouchard, Volnay Caillerets Cuvée Ancien blah, blah . . .:

    There is good fruit here; nothing that says Caillerets but solid stuff – and an avalanche of oak. It starts with just some on the nose and a bit on the palate but the longer this was open the worse it got. By the third day, completely undrinkable and DNPIM. The wood obscures the fruit, overwhelms the palate and dries out the finish. Bad winemaking.

    2007 Edmunds St. John, Bone Jolly Gamay Witters Vnyd.:

    Turn laughter into liquid; add a dash of raspberry juice and a splash of tonic water; bottle it and serve slightly chilled. Yummy!

    2007 Arca Nova, Vinho Verde:

    A lovely drop, this. Smells of river rocks, unripe pears and a lightly herbaceous tone (nothing green – more like fresh picked marjoram); a delicate spritz, quite dry, gentle flavors that follow the nose and a clean, medium length finish. 10.5% alcohol, $8 and exactly what I want from this DOC. Drink now.

    2005 Pieropan, Soave Calvarino:

    Diane made a dish of white beans, broth, chard, onions, garlic, bacon and red pepper flakes and served it with fococcia – I thought this had the backbone and stuffing to pair. Very good, indeed, and certainly my benchmark for fine garganega.

    1999 Paitin, Barbaresco Sori’ Paitin VV:

    Smells of nebbiolo, chocolate and insecticide (in a good way); rich and tannic in the mouth, quite primary but plusher than I’d have expected so it wasn’t harsh but simply undeveloped; tannic finish. Great pizza wine (I realize that “pizza wine” is usually saved for quaffers but I rather like my very best bottles with pizza). Of course, I was warned off this wine as late as last week by folks in the know, but that didn’t stop me. Yes, it could use a decade or two but I enjoyed it, Diane asked for more and it went great with dinner. Hence my pronouncement (in my humble attempt to catch the wave), “drink or hold.”

    Best, Jim

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