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Florida Jim

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  1. Florida Jim

    Notes from a Sunday

    Nice wines. Happy Sunday. Best, Jim
  2. Pasta with eggplant, chicken, tomatoes and onions: 1999 Gilles Robin, Crozes Hermitage Cuvée Alberic Bouvet: Probably my sixtieth or so bottle of this wine and it continues to improve and is one of the best syrahs I have tasted; initial funk on the nose that blows off to reveal bottle bouquet based in leather, olive, black pepper and deep red fruit scents; supple in the mouth with considerable complexity, flavors that echo the nose and morph into secondary and tertiary tastes, great acidity and a rounded texture that still seems to retain its focus; long, complex finish. Nearing the end of what I thought was an endless stash and this wine just keeps getting better. 13% alcohol, imported by Eric Solomon and ranged from $9-$20 on release; simply one of the best wines I ever had. Outstanding with the dish. Best, Jim
  3. Pasta with veggies and deconstructed pesto (all the ingredients of pesto, added separately): 2002 Jadot, Moulin-à-Vent Chateau des Jacques: Relatively closed but showing precision and power atypical of Beaujolais; focused, powerful and young Burgundy-like in the mouth but with somewhat more juicy fruit and a fine grained texture; medium length, somewhat closed finish. Immense potential but requires further cellaring. 13% alcohol, imported by Korbrand Corp. and about $20 on release; it would be hard to find a higher quality wine at that price. Sautéed veggies with sausage: 2001 Edmunds St. John, Los Robles Viejos: Also showing young and undeveloped (other bottles have showed more development) with good southern Rhône character and a glass-smooth texture; long finish. Needs time. 14.2% alcohol and about $27 on release; considering the amount of time this evidently needs to open up, I have all I need. Crackers and cheese: 1989 Chat. Lynch Bages: Still sporting a vegetal aspect to the nose and palate although it isn’t overwhelming and the depth of the wine as well as its texture is simply remarkable. Layered chocolate and berry flavors; if the green dies out I can see this being a pretty spectacular bottle. 13% alcohol, imported by Wildman and about $40 on release; I bought a lot. Pasta with shrimp and arugula: 2004 A. & M. Tissot, Chardonnay: My favorite wine right now, this is beautifully pure, ripe and complex with a mineral backbone and a long, sumptuous finish. 13% alcohol, imported by Potomac Selections and about $23; terrific wine for the price. Crackers and cheese: 2005 Chanrion, Côte-de-Brouilly: In a great place today with a worsted texture, delineated fruit and earth flavors, a note of cinnamon “red-hots,” with excellent balance and sustain. I don’t doubt that this will develop in the cellar but it is delicious right now. 13% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $15; under-priced. Cesar salad with crusty bread: 2004 de Villaine, Bourgogne (blanc) Les Clous: A touch sulfurous (which doesn’t blow off); not as good a showing as the last bottle but still, varietally correct, mineral infused and precise. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $20; this bottle was not worth it; others have been. Grilled chicken with spinach pesto, onion marmalade and roasted peppers: 2004 Dom. Leroy, Bourgogne: Rhubarb, cherry and earth tones, reticent; clipped in the mouth with flavors that follow the nose but are mostly earthy; medium length but not much flavor there. Entirely closed and unhappy about being opened now – nothing at all like the first couple bottles I tasted (which were exciting); HOLD. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Leroy Inc. and about $67 on release; not worth it today. Best, Jim
  4. Florida Jim

    TN: Four more

    With mushroom and olive pizza and a Cesar salad: 2004 Domino de Tares, Bierzo Baltos: Very oaky nose with lots of candied, upfront fruit; fruit driven but simple palate with a lot of oak flavor and an extremely oaky and drying finish. Became even more oaky as it opened. God awful, IMO, but I suppose this has a market. 13% alcohol, imported by Classical Wines and about $10 on sale; way over-priced for me. Bad wine with or with out food. I gave the bottle away and went and got . . . 2003 Dom. Tempier, Bandol: Flowers and lavender on the nose with some fruit and earthy funk; “like drinking a field of flowers, dirt and all” said a neighbor and I see no reason to try to improve on that; long, structured finish. Great wine now that obviously has a shelf-life. 11-14% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $30; if it didn’t cost so much, I buy several cases. Just terrific with the pizza as the cheese helps round out the structure of the wine and defeat some of the tannins but the grip of the wine and its intensity stand-up to the strong flavors in the dish. Excellent pairing. With a dish of sausage, peppers, kale, onions, olives and pasta: 2002 Overnoy/Houillon, Poulsard Arbois Pupillin: One whiff and you know this is unique; pomegranate, old ladies closet, dust, and light sulpher notes; light-weight yet smooth in the mouth with considerable complexity, no sulpher flavors, a savory tang and lovely balance; medium length finish. Idiosyncratic and not for everyone but Diane and I are smiling a lot as we sip this. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $21 on release; I didn’t buy enough. Good with the dish as neither dominates but each is complimented. After dinner: 2005Dom. Vissoux, Fleurie Poncie: Sweet fruit, deep fruit, perfect balance and a long finish; yummy. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $20; I bought plenty. Best, Jim
  5. 2001Bouchard Père & Fils, Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot: Has come a long way since release when there was so much oak that it dried the mouth; this is gently oaky, more aromatic and forthcoming and starting to reveal some depth to its Volnay character; still a bit drying on the finish but the development here seems to indicate this wine will soak-up its wood over time. One of the rare examples of oak integration I have run across over the past several years. Hold. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Clicquot, Inc. and about $25 on sale near release; I have plenty. 2004 André et Mireille (Stéphane) Tissot, Chardonnay Arbois: My third bottle out of a recently purchased case and I simply can’t keep my hands off this wine; chardonnay can be achingly beautiful but so often I find that it isn’t – this restores my faith; better than most premier cru Chablis for delivering flavor and flesh but still retaining its clean, mineral driven backbone. A gorgeous wine that begs to be drunk now. 13% alcohol, imported by Potomac selections and about $23; I intend to buy every bottle I can find. 2006 Dom Pepière, Muscadet Clos des Briords: I know that I am way too early to this bottle for it to show me all its charms but it is still better than 90% of the white Burgundy I have tasted over the last year; a crystalline rendition of the AOC and about as good a white wine as there is in the market today at this price point. Hold or drink. 12% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $15; worth multiples of that. 2005 Sumarroca, Cava Brut Reserva: Energetic bead, light aromas of pear and mineral, clean on the palate with light flavors that follow the nose and a crisp finish. Not quite as “brut” as I might like but very nice wine. 11.5% alcohol, imported by Frontier Wine Imports and about $10; I’ll buy more. 2005 Philippe Faury, Saint-Joseph: A medium bodied, round but remarkably complex northern Rhône with all sorts of alluring smells and flavors including raw meat, olive, ash, cherries, smoke and stone – a feast for the senses and one of the reasons my favorite red variety is syrah. A great food wine (we have had it with everything from tuna to steak), a delight all by itself and in no danger of fading any time soon. Just plain excellent. 12.8% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $25; I’ll buy more. Best, Jim
  6. 2004 de Villaine, Bourgogne (blanc) Les Clous: Somewhat closed at first but after an hour it opened to clean white fruit and chardonnay smells; clear and focused in the mouth as lemon, white fruit and a light spice note are delivered in a medium weight, silky texture; a medium length and balanced finish. Could use a year or two in the cellar but a decant helps if drinking today. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $25; I’ll buy more. 2006 Edmunds St. John, Gamay Rosé Bone Jolly: Off the charts delicious; strong raspberry flavors with earth and spice tones and a lift of freshness from the acidity; I can not think of a more lip-smackingly good pink. Bravo! 13.2% alcohol and about $17; back up the truck. 2001 Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba: Dusty rose and red fruit nose; dusty also in the mouth with red fruit and earth flavors and a very light smoky touch; medium length finish. A charming wine with character. 13% alcohol, imported by Locasio and about $20 on release; I bought several cases. 2005 Tanca sa Contissa, Vermetino di Sardegna: Bright, lemony and crisp on the nose; similar on the palate with a bitter almond note that keeps the fruit flavors vivid and the finish very clean. An ideal wine with seafood. 13% alcohol, imported by Vigneti d’Italia and about $10; I’d buy it again. 2004 de Villaine, Bourgogne (rouge) La Digoine: What was once a bit stemmy and narrow is now fleshy and ripe; excellent cherry flavors with earth and fresh herb accents, a silken texture and a bright, intense finish. Lovely wine. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $25; worth it and then some. 2004 Montes Alpha, Syrah: Quite a bit of oak on the nose, a touch hot and pretty sweet overall although it does taste like syrah; a soulless wine without character and obviously manipulated. I understand why this would have its appeal and why the Spectator would recommend it, but this is not my style. 14.5% alcohol, imported by T.G.I.C. Imports and about $17; no thanks. Best, Jim
  7. Pasta with gorgonzola: 1993 Fisher Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Lamb Vineyard: Good up front fruit and a bit of vinyl but not much going on here; solid flavors of berries and earth, little development, nice balance and it seems to have lost a lot of its once very tannic structure – its pleasant and not overdone; medium length, slightly drying finish. 13% alcohol and about $55 on release; no way. Day two: somewhat better as the nose has lost its vinyl edge and the palate is a bit more layered – still no where near worth even the release price. It’s relatively simple, has little to distinguish it from quaffing wine and is/was grossly over-priced. It mimics a lot (but not all) of CA cabernets; if you don’t like them young you probably aren’t going to be all that impressed at age 14 (or more). Standard grade. Nice with the dish but lacking any character or reason to repeat the pairing. After dinner: N/V Quinta de Ventozelo, 10 year old Tawnt Port: I don’t drink much port and even less tawny, but I like this; it smells like brown sugar, nuts and liqueur; tastes of chocolate, crème caramel and new leather, and finishes warm, dry and vinous. 19.5% alcohol, imported by Saranty Imports and a gift; I’d buy more if it was reasonable. Thanks Evan. Fried steak and red-skin potato salad: 1992 Sullivan, Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vigne: I deserve this . . . just when I make a general statement about California cabernet, along comes a glaring exception; aged cabernet nose but plenty of punch – blackberries, fresh turned earth, cassis and a spicy note, all penetrating and distinct; medium bodied, good grip, layers of flavor that follow the nose and add a chili note, lots of bright fruit here but it plays a part rather than overwhelms the palate; extremely long and grippy finish. In no danger of fading (15 years old in people years) and may well develop further and round out; quite a bottle. 13.2% alcohol and about $45, on release; well worth it. Good with the steak, even better with the potato salad; really a solid wine with this fare. Best, Jim
  8. Its the cheap one. (I know that designations are used by retailers/wholesalers but I can't find them on the label.) Best, Jim
  9. Smoked salmon spread with crackers: 2004 Stéphen Tissot, Chardonnay: Well, what do you know; it smells like chardonnay; not butter, or vanilla or (insert your none fruit descriptor here), but real chardonnay; and it tastes like premier cru Chablis without the steely/hard edged element and with a little more soft, ripe fruit; still it has a good acidic backbone, is focused, complete and well balanced; long, fruit driven finish. It’s like drinking already aged Chablis that has more ripe fruit and viscosity yet still has the ‘crisp’ in it. 13% alcohol, imported by Potomac Imports and about $23; my candidate for white wine of the year – and a QPR stand-out. Good with the food and good without it. A wine that will certainly age but that drinks very well today – Vive la Jura! Left over Coq au vin with extra veggies on pasta: 2004 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo Pétalos: A bit hollow on the nose with some black fruit and the smell of tannin; similar on the palate with a closed delivery; balance slanted toward the tannin and structural elements of the wine; a whole lot longer than expected considering the nose and palate. A mencia that has more promise than payoff these days and one that is both interesting and a lot more complex than anticipated. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Rare Wine Company and about $16 on release; I’d buy more. Although this wine gives every indication that it is closed, with the food it sang. The structure, so much in evidence absent food, calmed and the fruit came alive; the dish and the wine really complimenting each other. A much better pairing than first impressions would predict. Diane and I visited friends for a vegetarian Thanksgiving that was mostly beans, potatoes, stuffing and mushroom gravy: 2003 Puffeny, Pinot Noir Arbois: One of the best pinots I have tasted this year; richly fruited and spicy; deep, concentrated flavors of fruit and earth, a pleasant dryness and a smooth texture, all very well balanced, bright and quite long in the mouth. The epitome of the variety in a clean focused style. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Rosenthal and about $32 on release; so much better than other pinots at that price point as to be a no brainer. Vive la Jura! Very nice with the fare. Pasta with white beans, garlic, broccoli, chopped tomatoes and feta: 2004 Stéphen Tissot, Chardonnay: Again, Vive la Jura! Excellent with the meal as the flavors of both the wine and food are at the same intensity and the wine matches the food very well. Pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus: 2005 Alesia, Syrah Fairview Ranch Vnyd.: Alesia is the second label of Rhys and this vineyard is in the Santa Lucia Highlands; very closed on day one – recorked and left on the counter overnight; on day two it shows a penetrating nose of poop, meat, Baker’s chocolate and very dark fruit – complex and captivating; the palate is more savory than sweet with flavors that follow the nose in layers, considerable minerality, huge concentration, intense and powerful but without heaviness, gives the impression of having a “matt finish” and is well structured and balanced; excellent length. Still somewhat closed on day two but unquestionably the most impressive domestic syrah I have tasted and it demonstrates remarkable potential. This will never be confused with European or Australian versions of the grape but it is also atypical to the predominant CA style and delivers a level of interest that few wines from anywhere do. A great wine by any definition thereof and best kept in the cellar for a few years – I will relish following this one for the next decade or so. 14.25% alcohol, price unknown (not yet released); it would be hard to have too much of this wine. Shrimp sautéed with butter and thyme, Cesar salad and olive bread: 2000 Raveneau, Chablis Butteaux: Fresh on the nose with lemon custard, fresh air and mineral scents; deep on the palate and lots of complexity in the lemon, herb, mineral range with plenty of tart and good sustain. This is still a little closed but it gives ample reason to drink soon. 13% alcohol, imported by Wine Cellars, Ltd. and about $82; worth it. Outstanding with both the shrimp and the salad; counter-point to the shrimp, accompaniment to the salad. Yum. Left-over pork loin and pasta with gorgonzola: 1999 Jasmin, Côte Rôtie: Shy nose of dirt and red fruit – smells tannic; more happening in the mouth with red and black fruit, Baker’s chocolate, earth and mineral tones, weightless but intense, savory and perfectly balanced; long, slightly drying finish. Still closed and needing cellar time but sharing many of the attributes of the Alesia, syrah noted above. Unquestionably fine with many years to peak. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $35 on release; in today’s market, stealing. Becomes sweeter with the pasta dish and the fruit brightens; good also with the pork. A wine of harmony that seems to make the meal more harmonious by its force. Best, Jim
  10. Pasta with beans, veggies and turkey bacon: 2005 Philippe Faury, St. Joseph: Initially too sweet, almost candied but after about five minutes the sugar recedes and a meaty, bacon tinged syrah nose takes over; solid black fruit in the mouth with some meaty, mineral complexity, satin texture, good balance and length. A nice wine that fits a variety of cuisine and has a shelf life. 12.8% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $27; I’d buy more. Pairs well with the food, yet retains its identity. Salmon cakes with mustard dressing, a small green salad and unsalted potato chips: 2005 Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Clos des Allées: Incredible wine; full aromatics of white fruit, citrus, seashell and fresh air; crisp but broad across the palate, lots of complex flavors competing for attention, excellent acidity and balance; marvelous length. To think that one gets this much wine for this price; for me, white Burgundy is but a memory. 12% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $13, on release; back up the truck. Good with the salmon, outstanding with the potato chips. This wine is so full and complete yet without oak overtones or manipulation; beautiful on its own, killer with food. Baked egg plant with feta and pasta with red sauce: 1998 Ogier, Côte Rôtie: Day one: faint scents of fruit on the nose and nothing else; tannic, acidic and sour in the mouth; left in the decanter 24 hours on the counter . . . Day two: substantial green tones on the nose but also red fruit, ash and earth; medium body, solid fruit and herb flavors, fair balance with a bit too much tannin showing and medium length. In its early life, this showed as well as any syrah I have had from the northern Rhône. I still remember taking it to a friend’s birthday party at a fancy inn and having it be the hit of the evening. But these days it is surly, stingy and wants nothing more than to sleep. 12% alcohol, imported by Chelsea Ventures and about $41 on release; I have enough. Much better wine with the food as the co-mingling of flavors seems to blend well and the texture smoothes out. Not the wine’s best showing by a long shot but not as bad as initial sniffs might have indicated. Dinner with family: Baby green salad with walnuts and cheddar with cranberries: N/V Colet, Cava Brut A priori: Fine and persistent bead, flavors with depth and a clean, fresh finish. A very nice wine with or without food. 11.5% alcohol, imported by Vinos & Gournet and price unknown; worth having again. Pretty with the salad without any fighting between the wine and the dressing. A good choice. Coq au vin 2004 A. et P. de Villaine, Bourgogne La Diogoine: Bright scents of red fruits, fresh herbs and earth; much the same in the mouth, silky texture, good balance and an elegant, deft delivery; medium length. Showing better than expected and a very nice drink. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $22 on release; so worth it. Ben and Jerry, Orville and Wilbur, Diane and Jim; great pairings all and this is every bit their equal – made for each other. Above all, the respective weights and textures work in unison. Best, Jim
  11. With spinach and cheese pizza and Cesar salad: 2007 Dom. Vissoux, Beaujolais Nouveau: Bright, correct, solid fruit with a charming, easy delivery. A balanced, flavorful rendition of a wine that gets no respect. 12% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $20, full retail in a resort area; I’d buy it again. A light pizza and a light wine – maybe not a typical description of either but they worked well together. With lentil soup: 2005 Dom. Vissoux, Beaujolais V.V. Cuvée Tradionnelle: Coming into its own with lovely aromatics; deep flavors, balanced and sappy; and terrific length. A walk in the park with someone you love. 12% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $14, on release; I’d buy it again and again. Matching richness here is primary and each of these carries the concept to its best without going overboard. With rice noodles with stir fried veggies, salmon cakes, peanut sauce and yellow curry: 1999 Hirtzberger, Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Honivogl: Smells of pears poaching in ginger-ale with a bouquet garni, penetrating and expansive; viscous and powerfully flavored with elements that follow the nose and add fresh sugar-snap pea and black pepper, balanced, focused, bright, bone dry and more open than I would have expected; endless finish that is even more precisely balanced than the wine on the palate. Not yet showing secondary development but not without complexity, finesse and breed. Very few grüner veltliner achieve these heights. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Vin Davino and about $44, on release; ridiculously under-priced. The richness of the wine (not any sweetness) soothes the mouth after the yellow curry and brings the flavors of the veggies to the forefront. And the spicy/herb accents in the wine make the curry seem more about flavor than just heat. Symbiotic and very, very good. Best, Jim
  12. Potato and olive soup: 2005 Pépière, Muscadet Granite de Clisson: Shy aromatics; medium bodied, salty minerality and a fleshy, low-acid showing in the mouth but crisper on the finish. Perplexing wine that is either too young to evaluate properly or so atypical as to confound. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $20; I have more. Odd as it was by itself, this was sensational with the soup. The salty character brought up the flavor of the potatoes and the flesh of the wine matched well with the texture and weight of the soup. Made for each other. Grilled (rare) tuna with a tomato, red wine, caper reduction and a side salad: 2000 Copain, Pinot Noir Dennison Vnyd.: This wine is too sweet and the confection reaches from nose to finish. By itself, it showed simple and nothing I’d want a second glass of; although there is nothing flawed here, just not my style. On the second day the nose has earthier black fruit scents but the palate is just as candied. Nothing like the exceptional 1999 from this vineyard and producer. 14% alcohol and about $44 on release; not for me. But again, the food made all the difference – this time it was the capers (saline and slightly sour) that created a taste in the mouth that stripped the wine of its overt sugary quality and allowed the underlying black fruit and earthen flavors to come through – and they are there, for sure. As a pairing, quite good. Salmon spread with crackers: 2004 Pépière, Muscadet Clos des Briords: Much more typical of fine Muscadet than the above Granite de Clisson with lightening-like acidity and brilliant flavors. A baby today but delicious nonetheless. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $13 on release; I bought plenty. Excellent with the dish as the strong flavors of the salmon melt into a roundness against it and vice versa. Excellent pairing. Multigrain pilaf with Persian spices and pistachios, and, winter squash: 2002 Overnoy, Arbois Pupillin: Pomegranate, raspberry, cherry and loam on the nose; much the same in the mouth with laser-like acidity, intensity and focus; long, clean finish. The best bottle yet of a case of this poulsard and that is saying something; spectacular but idiosyncratic wine. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $21 on release; I couldn’t have too much. It needs the sweetness of the squash to be good accompaniment to the dish and fortunately, that’s what I give it. A good pairing but this bottle is so much what I love about wine I can’t really be all that objective about the pairing. Best, Jim
  13. Florida Jim

    Crush notes

    Part 1: Greetings from Sonoma County, where, for the last ten days I have been helping Bevan Cellars, Dry Stack Cellars, Argot Wines, Westerhold Family Vineyards and others during the 2007 crush. It’s not the first time I have been here for harvest but it is easily more work this time then in years past. The producers mentioned are doing mostly Bennett Valley bottlings of syrah and this year, I am making a little of that same variety for myself. The learning curve is ascending at a furious rate; I feel like such a novice among so many talented people. But all work and no play . . . so here are some brief thoughts on some wines or soon to be wines, tasted: The 2005 Bevan Cellars, Syrah is the real deal. We had it at about 4 hours open and it still was a little cranky showing more acidic than I would expect. But at about 6 hours in the decanter it opened to reveal a wine of great concentration yet one of finesse. As with any great wine, such a paradox is the rule rather than the exception and this is a great wine. A bottle of 2005 Lttoirai, Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast was so earthy, graceful and intense it was (and is) hard to put into words the delight it engendered. I hope it enough to say that this bottle appealed to me as few other domestic pinots ever have. We opened a beautiful bottle of the 2000 Raveneau, Butteaux over dinner the other night with oysters and it did what I have come to expect; compliment the food as only fine Chablis can and continue to expand and morph in the glass over time to show its pedigree. If only I could afford more of this . . . The 2006 Dry Stack, Sauvignon Blanc, continues to be a favorite of mine and I suspect we will all be hearing nice things about this wine in the press. Unfortunately, it is sold out but the 2007 is in tank and tastes very similar to the ’06 at this same stage of development. And I would also look out for the 2007 Dry Stack, Viognier, which is 100% barrel fermented, has alcohols more in my world than is the custom and remarkable acidity. I think this wine will change the way consumers look at this variety domestically. Westerhold Vineyards has planted entirely to Alban clone syrah and they could not have made a better choice. The fruit has a special intensity and character; forthcoming releases should prove worthy of a taste or two. Russell is making the wine so it will be bigger, bad-der and best-est – on that you may depend. Argot is a new project for Justin and Karissa Harmon and promises to be another fine expression of a remarkable Bennett Valley vineyard know as Dry Stack. Lots of good folks have used fruit from this vineyard including Bevan Cellars, Lewis, Pax and others – a vineyard of real character. And just in case you think I’ve been seduced by the ‘dark side,’ I did have a lovely 2005 Chignard, Fleurie the other night and a 2005 Vissouux, Poncie several days ago – as exquisite and joyous as ever. Viva la difference! Another ten days to go; I hope my body holds out and that this vintage yields the results its initial signs indicate. Part 2: Two wineries that I think deserve mention have tasting rooms across the street from each other in Healdsburg. John Holdridge is making really nice, elegant pinot noir that is both feminine and intense. I especially liked the Bucher Vineyard but there are four to choose from, each with its own individual personality. Also, Guy Davis of Davis Family Wines is making a number of varietals including one of the best syrahs (designated Guyzer Block) I tasted in the three weeks I was in Sonoma and Napa, as well as a Napa cabernet sauvignon that was correct and by no means, overdone. Both of these houses have broken away from the typical “full-tilt boogie” style and are creating wines with moderate alcohols, solid flavors, understated oak and excellent character. Do try them if you get a chance. Making wine is both exciting and tiring. As I mentioned elsewhere, I tried my hand at it this trip and will have about 25 cases of syrah bottled from my barrel sometime next year. I also helped several other makers with their harvest and it is going to take a little while to recover. Crush is an extraordinary experience for uninitiated. Everything needs to be done now (or yesterday) and scheduling is done on the fly. When there is fruit to sort, no one sleeps until it is; when there is pressing to be done, we stayed with it to the end. And I think 75% of the time I spent at the winery was dedicated to sanitation. To paraphrase Vince, sanitation isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Getting up before the sun rises and going to bed long after it has set becomes the norm. And at the facility where I worked, everyone helps everyone else in a crunch. I’m whipped, I have scars and wounds and I would do this as an occupation in a heartbeat. Old dogs, new tricks . . . Some wines tasted that impressed (aside from those reported earlier): 1999 Gangloff, Côte Rôtie: Young but beautiful with complexity, elegance and breed. I had thought this house was using a little to much wood from time to time, but not here. 2002 V. Dauvissat, Les Preuses: Painfully young but with oysters and a little time open, it showed more than we had any right to expect. Hold for ten years and serve it to someone you love. 2001 Fanti, Brunello: Polished and balanced with deep fruit, lovely aromas and good length. Drunk without food and thoroughly enjoyed. 2006 Tandem, Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vnyd.: Graceful, bright and full of flavor and judging from a 2001 I also tasted, destined for development in the cellar. 2006 Bjørnstad Cellars, Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vnyd.: A baby but with airing, this took on weight and detail that were so good I just quit tasting all the other wines that were available (and there were quite a few). Lastly, for those of you who get to barrel taste with Russell Bevan of Bevan Cellars, make him take you to Napa Wine Company to try a barrel of his 2006 cabernet; the one that is purest cassis. It is a remarkable barrel of wine with a purity of fruit that is unique. To all who made my trip what it was, my thanks. Until next year . . . Best, Jim
  14. I think Vincent Dauvissat is the brother of Mdm. Tribut and, for at least a time, actually made the wines. I do not know how they are located. No worries on shipping; we will be here until late Nov. Best, Jim
  15. Pasta with veggies and red sauce: 2005 Dom. Vissoux, Fleurie Poncie: My favorite wine, at the moment and showing vibrant, lively, nuanced, fleshy and long. A superb wine with or without food. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $20; I bought more than my share. Once again, remarkably good with red sauce with lots of cut and yet enough flesh to fill-in any blanks. A terrific pairing. Guests for dinner: Starters: 1998 Hirtzberger, Weifzburgunder Smaragd Steinporz: Full and rich but not yet integrated; we are too early to this bottle but not so much so that the concentration and flavors are not in full voice. Excellent to peak the appetite and interest the intellect. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Vin Davino and price unknown. Sweet potato soup: 2003 Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese, Schloβöckelheimer Kupfergrube: Pretty tight but with clean aromatics and flavors, some RS and good acidity. Needs time to show more than just its hints. 9% alcohol, imported by Hart Distributing and price unknown. Very good with the soup and not bad with the following course. Panzanella salad, roasted fennel and green beans, and, slow roasted wild salmon: 2005 Laurent Tribut, Chablis Côte de Léchet: Surprisingly open with lemon custard aromas; the same on the palate with good integration and balance and very nice length. Not at full song but much better than to be expected of a wine so young. 13% alcohol, imported by Vineyard Brands and about $26; I bought plenty. Really good with the meal as the wine was focused enough to keep its identity but never dominated any of the flavors of the food. One to remember. Banana, walnut upside-down cake: 1972 Bodegas Toro Albalá, PX Gran Reserva (375ml): Motor oil viscosity and appearance; remarkable depth of flavors, almost no oxidation and incredible length. How one creates a more concentrated wine I would have no idea. 17% alcohol, imported by Classical Wines and about $20 on release; well worth the price. Good but not great with the cake – had the cake been richer and more sugared I think the wine would have paired better. As it was, coffee was preferable but the wine was remarkable by itself. Best, Jim
  16. Go here: http://www.chambersstwines.com/ Best, Jim
  17. Squash soup: 2005 Dom. Vissoux, Beaujolais Villages VV Cuvée Traditionnelle: Bright, fresh wine that is open, ripe, natural and exuberant. Lovely juice with lots of life and verve. 12% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $14; I’d buy a lot again. Good with the soup as the ripeness of the wine adds dimension to the soup but does not overwhelm its earthy flavors. Chicken pot pies (homemade): 2004 A. et P. de Villaine, Mercury Les Montots: Much more savory than the above wine with a somewhat closed nose but plenty of earthy, dark fruit elements on the palate with good concentration and balance; long, earthy finish. Too early to this bottle are we but still, a most enjoyable wine with food. 12.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $30; I’d buy it again. Excellent with the dish as the savory notes play well with the savory notes in the pot pie and the relative weights match. An excellent pairing. Pizza with Caesar salad: 2005 Dom. Vissoux, Moulin à Vent Les Deux Roches: What a wine! Very aromatic with all sorts of red and dark fruits, spice and a light mineral note; smooth and supple in the mouth but with good cut, structure and depth, flavors echo the nose but add nuance and the entire package is so complete and of one cloth its hard to believe this has years left in the cellar. 13% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $22; worth multiples. Great wine by itself or with the pizza. With smoked salmon spread and crackers: 2005 Selene, Sauvignon Blanc Hyde Vnyd.: Not much ‘there’ there but not a bad wine; sort of innocuous. 14.1% alcohol, price unknown; not for me. Okay with the dish. Chicken sausage, red lentils, tomato-squash salad and Naan: 2005 Saint-Damien, Côtes du Rhône VV: Smoked meat, cooked fruit, salt nose – very enticing; much the same in the mouth with old vine sap, a worsted texture and a slight rusticity which is attractive; medium length finish. If more grenache tasted like this I’d drink more grenache; none of the sweetness and satin textures of many CdP, this is a country wine of character. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Weygandt-Metzler and about $15; buy it by the case. An excellent pairing as the salty, meaty aspect of the wine aligns with the sausage and lentils and the weight of the wine does not dominate over the food. Best, Jim
  18. Quick notes from a weekend with friends: 1999 Trimbach, Clos St. Hune: powerful, firm and structured with plenty of concentration and oodles of time left to peak. 1988 G. Conterno, Barolo Res. ‘Monfortino’: Showing somewhat hard with an earthy character and substantial structure; good fruit but still needs cellar time. 1999 V. Dauvissat, Chablis ‘Sechet’: Lemon custard nose with decent concentration and elegant flavors. Some thought it too oaky; not I. 2004 Leroy, Bourgogne: Complex nose, supple in the mouth and good Beaune character. 2004 Terre Nere, Etna Rosso ‘Calderara Sottana’: In a very good place this is light-weight but full flavored wine that goes well with a variety of dishes. 1997 Felsina, Chianti ‘Rancia”: Also in a good place but deeper than the foregoing wine and more focused. 2002 Brun, L’Ancien: Reduced and sulpherous; this bottle was not pleasant. 2003 Puffeney, Arbois ‘Poulsard’: Vibrant, happy juice with good depth, complexity and sustain; yummy! 2006 Rbt. Weil, Riesling Trocken (375ml): About as good a dry riesling as I have had in awhile; floral, juicy, bone dry and perfectly balanced; really charming wine. 2000 d’Angerville, Volnay ‘Clos des Ducs’: special wine and drinking remarkably well for so young; full of Volnay character, supple, nuanced, mouth-filling and long; a real treat. 2003 Clos Roche Blanche, Gamay: Not up to par; some thought it flawed, I just thought it needed some cellar time – we shall see. 2001 Chevillon, N-S-G ‘Pruliers(?)’: Quite young and firm; iron, black fruit and earth but not yet integrated; a little tough but certainly not unpleasant. Etc. Best, Jim
  19. Yep, Sam's is a washout. Anything from Domaine Vissoux from the 2005 vintage. Wine Searcher does not show any in the midwest but its easily available my mail order from NYC or Cal. And the offer still stands. Best, Jim
  20. Fair enough. My offer to you: If you are ever travelling to the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, area or the western mountains of NC, I will be happy to open a selection of cru Beaujolais in your honor in hopes that you will, indeed, perceive the value. Just drop me a note in advance. Best, Jim
  21. Dick, Considering your history with the wine, I understand your sentiment. Nonetheless, I can assure that you are, in fact, missing something. Right now, I have more Beaujolais in my cellar than any other wine and will continue to purchase it, in quantity, in the coming years. It may have been an unbelievable value back then; it is still terrific QPR today. Best, Jim
  22. Corn chips with melted cheese, hummus and salsa: 1999 Paloma, Merlot: A wine showing good secondary development, excellent balance and depth but too much oak (although some might say its just part of the whole). For me, the oak obscures part of the flavors, narrows the palate and is somewhat drying on the finish. But for the wood component, this is world class wine. 14.3% alcohol and about $44 on release; I’d not buy it again. Better with the dish than expected but not something I’d repeat. Roasted sweet dumpling squash; white beans with garlic, onions, EVOO and fresh herbs; and, crusty bread: 1999 Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Pruliers: Decanted in advance; still fairly closed on the nose but showing dark fruit and earth tones and enough firmness to guess NSG or farther south; sinewy and dark in the mouth with a meaty texture and a reticent, almost brooding flavor profile, well balanced and quite intense; very long finish that seems almost more expressive than the wine in the mouth. Too young, but very intriguing. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $42 on release; I’d buy it again. Vegetarians rejoice; good Burgundy does very well with such cuisine. Red sauce with chicken sausage on pasta: 2002 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie: Unexpectedly open and generous with pure dark fruit and earth scents; a deep, clean palate that echoes the nose and excellent length. This is harmonious, supple, lovely wine and although I am in no hurry to drink my remaining bottles, it was riveting tonight. 13% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $15, on release; I wish I’d bought more Fabulous with the dish. I wanted to try Beaujolais with red sauce dish as I can’t ever remember doing it before and this was a world record match. Everything in perfect balance, the umami factor at full song; a union I’ll not forget – a classic. Whole roasted chicken and root vegetables, and, broccoli with olives: 2005 Dom. Vissoux, Fleurie Poncie:, 12.5% alcohol, imported by Geygandt-Metzler and about $20; worth much more; and 2002 Dom. Les Fines Graves (Janodet), Moulin à Vent, 13% alcohol, imported by The Henry Wine Group and about $13 on release; I’d buy it again: The Vissoux is just achingly good wine with beautiful fruit and texture, lots of nuance and length and an almost ethereal delivery – a wine for all the senses. And it complimented the dish with additions of sweet fruit and a lovely mouth feel. The Janodet was more earthy with a salty minerality to accent dark fruit and the mouth feel was more about tension; the more savory wine, it was more harmonious with the dish but was more a backdrop than a co-star. Both were good choices but, curiously, neither amounted to the perfect pairing that the previously mentioned Beaujolais and red sauce were. Leftover red sauced pasta with fresh zucchini and Chinese eggplant sautéed and added to it: 1996 Laurel Glen, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain: Penetrating nose of crushed berries, dark fruit, mint/eucalyptus, freshly turned earth and dark spices – complete, layered and harmonious; full bodied and mouth coating but without artifice or any sign of manipulation, immense dry extract here with a Baker’s chocolate structure that lends flavor, dryness and texture, very juicy fruit that follows the nose and keeps any dryness from taking hold and delivers two bottles of flavor in a single 750ml, intense, perfectly balanced, supple and completely of its place; infinite finish. The most impressive CA cabernet showing I have encountered and although other vintages of Laurel Glen may be likened to Bordeaux, this bottle is 100% California and beautiful because of it. No rush to drink it but it surely is spectacular now. 12.5% alcohol and about $45 on release; considering today’s prices for cabernet, this is stupidly under priced. Good with the dish but not as good as the Beaujolais pairing reported earlier in this note. (Aside: I have this dream about making wine in California; it’s the one where I don’t try to make a popular style but rather buy or grow the very best fruit from a really fine site, take what I am given, and do only what is needed to retain that innate quality. Although I don’t see a lot of evidence to make me think that doing it that way can make great wine, there are such wines – and this is one of them. Truly, the stuff of dreams . . .) Best, Jim
  23. Stir fry veggies and chicken with rice noodles and spicy peanut sauce: 1999 Alzinger, Riesling Smaragd Loibenberg: The last time I had this was two years ago and it was pretty angry and acidic then; not so now as this was really a complete wine despite still showing young; the RS is minimal here so the fruit and terroir show through, the structure balances perfectly with the flavors – and it is remarkably long. A number of Austrian rieslings I’ve tasted of late (all from good vintages, producers and vineyards) have been too sweet for me and that profile seems to obscure the complexity that I was so drawn to in these wines on release and that this bottle delivers. I suppose it’s like anything else; we get into a region’s wines and, over the years, we start to weed-out producers that we don’t like as much as others. I think Alzinger is now one of those on my short list; his wines are pretty tough to cozy up to when released but really come on later in life. 13% alcohol, imported by M. Skurnik and about $27 on release; I’d buy it again. As expected, it went quite well with the dish and did not pale against the spiciness nor overwhelm the delicate flavors of the veggies. Tomato/carrot soup and chicken and mushroom sausages: 2005 Dom. de la Voûte des Crozes (Nicole Chanrion), Côte de Brouilly: Should anyone want to know what very well-made, Côte de Brouilly should taste like, I suggest buying a bottle. A beautiful, harmonious, wine that is perfectly of its place. 13% alcohol, imported by Kermit Lynch and about $15 on release; under priced by quite some. Excellent with the meal and so lovely against the sausages. Nan pizza (sautéed veggies, goat cheese, artichoke bottoms and homemade tomato sauce – Nan makes for a very crisp crust) 2004 Giacosa, Barbera d’Alba: Berries and musky, dark chocolate scents and flavors with some spice and earth accents; crisp in the mouth with good integration and balance; medium length, mouth-watering finish. Plenty of cut in this wine but ample flavor and nuance. 13.5% alcohol, imported by Locascio and about $24; not being a big fan of Barbera, this is one of the few I’d buy again. Went very well with the pizza as it cut the tomato sauce and cheese but did not drown out or fight with the artichoke and vegetable flavors. A good match. Best, Jim
  24. Tomato and carrot soup with cheese toasts: 2005 Terres Dorées (J.P. Brun), Beaujolais Fleurie: Very fresh nose of black raspberry and cranberry with spice and mineral scents; in the mouth there is ample acidity, solid tannin and deep flavors that follow the nose all in a package that delivers verve and freshness while still showing nuance and authenticity; long, mouth-watering finish. Ample concentration, excellent intensity and that sparkle on the palate that keeps this from being anything but brilliant at each sip; I will save the rest of mine until at least next year but this certainly will be fine in the cellar for several years. Radiant and complete; a superb wine and a joy to drink. 12% alcohol, imported by Louis/Dressner and about $17 on release; under-priced by quite some. Good with the dish and especially, the cheese toasts. And mighty fine all by itself. Best, Jim
  25. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/dining/0...r=1&oref=slogin
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