07 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part III

After a delicious lunch at la Mule du Pape, we headed to Domaine Giraud to see what this younger generation of farmers has been up to, and to taste for ourselves whether the influence of Philipp Cambie is as heavy-handed as some claim (and if, in the end, it even matters when the only question we should be asking is, “Does it taste great?”).  Let me be another voice shouting in the desert: Consultant or no, these wines taste good—no, they are better than good, better than great even; they are a new superlative not yet invented.
When I tasted the 2007 ‘Tradition’ I thought to myself, There is no way this can be just their introductory cuvee.  But it is, and it was delicious.  I imagined a Scharffen Berger sandwich, with a layer of plum jam bordered by coils of thyme-studded licorice.  It became clear to me after talking for a while with Francois Giraud, son of Pierre Giraud (after whom their 100% Grenache cuvee is named), that this was an uncompromising and visionary young man filled with age-old wisdom, a boy who grew to manhood through the soil of Chateauneuf like his father, and his father before him.  Not long after we sat down to taste with Francois, his father Pierre, the great and mighty tender of vines (and altogether prolific drinker), joined us for introductions and to inspect what wines we’d tastes so far.  From what I’m told, despite the fact that Francois and Marie, Francois’s sister, have since taken over day-to-day operations at the estate, Pierre still haunts the vines and the winery, apprehending unattended bottles, offering helpful, though perhaps unsolicited criticisms and inspecting the imminent or latest harvest.  He is a formidable figure, and if he told me something had to be a certain way, I’d listen.  If his son and daughter have the sense I think they do, they’ve listened to their father quite a bit, and thus proven him a wise man.
Marie joined us not long after Pierre did, and we tasted wines together in their modest tasting room, made all the more warm and enriching by Pierre’s stories and boisterous, contagious laugh.  You don’t need a fancy wine tasting room when you have wines as good as these and people as wonderful as the Girauds.  I was extremely impressed by the Gallimardes cuvees.  Marie was gracious enough to take us through the dynamics of that hot southern vineyard and their personal harvest culture.  The 2006 was sensational, making the decision whether to buy the stupendous 2005 or the 2006 extremely difficult.  I deferred to the 2006 because it managed to be both weightless and yet one of the heaviest hitters on the table.  Irony?  Hardly.  2006?  Assuredly (refer to aforementioned opinions).  We finished the tasting with a glass of the 2008 ‘Tradition’ (very good considering the challenges of that rainy vintage) as well as a component of the future 2009 ‘Tradition’.  

2009, according to the Girauds, will be yet another sterling vintage for Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Although a month has passed since I tasted the wine, I still recall every indication of its imminent greatness, despite its profound youth.  In an attempt to summarize the culture at Domaine Giraud, and to a greater extent the culture of consulting enologists and the proliferation of super-cuvees or new blends with atypical (read: non-traditional) cepages, let me say that Domaine Giraud need no help from outside sources to make great wine.  They have every asset they need already at their fingertips.  The influence of Philip Cambie, or a Didier Robert, is not felt in the final product, but rather in the processes that lead to a vision fulfilled.  Elements of the younger generation of Chateauneuf seem compelled to translate a new tradition, to foment the (r)evolution and exploit something unexpected, radical.  Lest we forget, the traditions we now hold so near and dear were at one time as new and radical as the vision of this next generation in Chateauneuf.  If there is talent out there—acknowledged, renowned, qualified talent—willing to help this generation realize the dreams of their youth, then you cannot fault these budding stars for reaching out to consultants any more than you can the writer who studies diligently the works of Joyce, James or Cather.  The Rollands and Derenoncourts of our day and age can be as rich a wellspring of inspiration as they can be a boatload of hints and data.  Some say these 'flying winemakers' impart too distinct a signature.  On the other hand, I beg the question: Who says this ‘signature’ isn’t exactly the kind of wine some gasping vigneron had been struggling to make for so long, believing he had the right raw materials, just couldn’t bring it all together?  Is it then the signature of a Chris Ringland?  Or is it some other dreamer’s vision at last fulfilled? 

At Domaine Giraud, these are the wines of Francois and Marie alone.  No one else.  And they are far from gasping.  They are plowing through the pitch at breakneck speed, size 5 in hand, ready to take on the world, and ripe with all the talent and veracity to do so.  Lest we forget about Pierre, he’s probably a grandpa by now, and aside from this newfound joy in his life, he’s a great giver of joy himself.  After the ballyhoo of stories shared and bottles re-tasted (and re-tasted, and…), Pierre kindly escorted us to his dear friend’s estate, Clos du Mont Olivet.

06 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part II

I fancied myself the luckiest dork in the world when I found out about a week prior to this trip that we’d been offered a scheduled appointment with Jean-Paul Daumen, the owner and winemaker of Domaine Vieille Julienne, a biodynamic estate situated just north of the official border of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.  Our introduction to the personality and dynamic of Jean-Paul began promptly at 1100, as scheduled.  If there was one thing we weren’t going to do on this trip, it would be to show up late at the doorstep of arguably the greatest farmer in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  

Vieille Julienne is situated in the northern, cooler terraced frontier of Chateauneuf, primarily in the lieux-dit of Cabrieres, as well as Boislauzon and Maucoil.  The tasting began with Jean-Paul’s 2007 Cotes du Rhone ‘Lieux-Dit Clavin’, a wine of such unabashed freshness and potent florality that I could hardly believe it wasn’t actually Chateaneuf-du-Pape.  Ahh, the glories of the little guy.  But keep in mind this parcel sits literally across the road that doubles as the dividing line between the 1933 AOC of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the rest of the Cotes du Rhone.  Clavin essentially surrounds the estate of Vieille Julienne, giving it a solitary feel in the midst of a thousand gnarled vines, like ancient aliens growing through the craggy rocks and shifting sand.  If you ever come across this wine for under $20, you’re putting a case of it in your cart.  If you don’t, you’ll have done yourself a great injustice.  The range of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, primarily from a cuvee perspective, is relatively limited.  Based on Jean-Paul’s philosophy this is a refreshing approach, one rooted in the balance of the land and not in the marketing skills of a newer generation.  Jean-Paul blends vineyard sites into a collective whole, believing the constituent parcels to be of more merit and ultimate complexity than an independent existence in some form of cuvee speciale or varietal bottling.  Even what could be classified as his super-cuvee, the Reserve bottling, remains a blend of parcels that Jean-Paul deems suitable for bottling as a unique and superior blend.  In 2007 Jean-Paul didn’t feel there was a substantial enough difference in the quality of grapes going into the traditional bottling and the grapes going into the Reserve—they were nearly identical in their superlative quality.  So he forewent bottling two distinct wines and made a single 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  And what a wine!  Sensational depth, all the vibrant freshness a Rhone freak could ask for, and even a bit of leesiness still on the nose.  On the palate the wine is pillow-like, weightless and airy but firm enough to rest your head on.  The 2006 is even more ethereal, unctuous in weight but covering the tongue and mouth with a silk throw.  I’ll probably say this a million times, but 2006 remains my favorite vintage of the 2005-2006-2007 trio, its only fault being…well, 2007 (thanks Francois for that perfect quip).  It’s a vintage of impeccable balance, buoyant acidity, lush if not flamboyant fruit, but restrained from going too far into cloying territory by a meaty, yet fine-grained texture that says Prime filet-mignon over and over again.  Jean-Paul captured this vintage’s expression with aplomb, and in a way that allowed his colder mesoclimate to invigorate the wine’s already flashy fruit with racy, uplifting acidity.  And what can I say about 2005?  It’s my least favorite vintage of the 05-06-07 trio, but in the hands of a man who will capture purity at all costs, 2005 remains a masterpiece.  It is a huge wine, without a doubt, but it unfolds like a giant red carpet, fluffy and weighty but soft to the touch.  

There is zero doubt in my mind that Jean-Paul’s biodynamic principles both in the vineyard and in the cellar contributed greatly to the feel of his 2005, as it retains that delicate balance between freshness and compression, purity and power.  When so many 2005s remain hardened monuments of the vintage of a generation, Jean-Paul’s has become a motion picture in progress, with infinite moving pieces, grandiose colors and unstable characters.  It’s complex, majestic and still sexy, something I can say about maybe one other wine from 2005: Domaine Cristia’s Chateuneuf-du-Pape (also, not ironically, a certified organic producer).  Discussing winemaking and personal philosophies with Jean-Paul was probably the richest one-on-one interaction of the trip, and I respect this man immensely for his passion and conviction.  His wines are the seventh level of Heaven and not to be missed.

04 May 2010

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Part I

Monday, 15 March 2010 - This has been one of the most—if not the most—difficult experiences to translate into some representative succession of letters and words, let alone coherency.  Hence the reason it's taken me nearly two months to figure out how to forge ahead with my collected ramblings.  Not a second goes by that I don’t think the effort pointless, meaningless.  Maybe it’s not even right, my standing at the Exit sign of those two days imagining all the moments, names and faces can be folded tidily into a substantive vinologue as easily at the days unfolded.  Maybe it’s wrong not to speak of this community of farmers, of beating hearts running red with wine and Provencal sunsets; not to share the unforgettable names and personalities of vignerons who ushered us into their lives with open arms and bottles and never flinched when we waxed vinosophical in a language no doubt foreign.  Maybe it’s right and wrong alike to prove I tried the impossible, to translate Chateauneuf-du-Pape into a story about people, and not the latest controversial trend in this constantly evolving physical and philosophical landscape.  Certainly Harry Karis took this village to new heights with the release of his own ‘Mission Impossible’, but what’s lacking in his starkly objective approach—though highly commendable and endearing—is the distinction between who will fold the carpet out in front of you when you arrive unexpected, and—if this is even possible—who will treat you coldly even with a prior appointment.  During our stay a cold reception was apparently not on the agenda, save le Mistral.
I had the greatest of intentions to document our visits at the end of every day, our impressions of the wines, and any other stories or information worth mentioning.  Obviously, I failed; I’m over a month behind.  Trying to capture Chateauneuf, even subjectively, is like trying to capture Michaelangelo’s Pieta on disposable camera.  Somewhere along the line, you’ve missed the mark—perhaps the point even.  Nevertheless, thanks to two extraordinarily generous people—Don, Tom: Thank you from the bottom of my heart—my hands felt the soil of Rasteau, and my feet the galets roules of Chateauneufsans disposable camera.  While this attempt at capturing Chateauneuf will no doubt be lacking in a number of areas, I make no claims to perfection or comprehensiveness.  I was told those two days, Monday and Tuesday, would be mine: I would call the shots, aside from appointments already booked.  So we went to the doorstep of every winemaker I ever dreamed of visiting—in this lifetime and the next.  Through those portals this story begins…

Vieux Telegraphe is a cherished traditional estate crafting fantastic wine under the direction of brothers Daniel and Frederic Brunier.  The same family is also crafting some spectacular juice at La Roquete, a Chateauneuf estate formerly known as La Roquette (two T’s) before the Brunier’s purchased it and began their transformative work in 1998 (?). Two wines are made here: the traditional Chateaneuf-du-Pape blend as well as their homage to old-vine Grenache (and, to some degree, their anti-Cuvee Speciale) known as l’Accent du Roquete (sp?).  Both are fantastic wines that should be on every enthusiast’s Rhone-dar.  Also on the Brunier map since 1998 is the Gigondas estate of Les Pallieres, a joint venture between the Bruniers and world renowned importer Kermit Lynch.  In 2007 the Lynch/Brunier team separated what was normally the blended Gigondas into two separate cuvees.  One cuvee, les Racines, is being produced from the ancient vines surrounding the estate, situated at lower altitudes and thus exuding the characteristics of a much warmer mesoclimate.  Les Racines tastes like a southern Rhone interpretation of Zinfandel, and I mean that in the best possible sense.  Not very endowed in the acidity department, but what it lacks in raciness it makes up for in sheer chuggability.  Moderate alcohol (14,5% abv) allied to creamy fig and plum textures makes for a drink with just enough southern Rhone charm and fat California-like fruit to keep things interesting.  Its stable mate, le Terrasse du Diable (sp?), is sourced from older vineyards at the highest altitudes of the estate, where the vines begin to ascend the imposing Dentelles de Montmirail (sp?), making for a theoretically cooler climate.  To my tastes, this is where the rubber begins to meet the road: Racy acidity, vibrant red fruit characteristics but still packing a subdued black-fruited kick, with lithe structure and velvet tannin rounding out this seductive wine.  The cool-climate raciness is kept even more honest by the expression of the Grenache-heavy cepage; the fruit is anti-blowsy—extremely focused, linear to some degree, but still coating the mouth from front to back, finishing with a long fuse of licorice and bramble.  I foretell the immense success and renown this estate will soon have with these two wines; certainly there is something here for every palate, and I hope they keep things honest by blending the two cuvees together if Nature or necessity demands it.  Our tasting at Vieux Telegraphe ended naturally with the tasting of the namesake Grand Vin, and me oh my, what a wine it is.  The 2007 is a svelte but hugely nuanced wine that insists on keeping your attention all the way from the first sniff to the last dance of the evening.  It is unctuously textured, a quarry of minerality with no calculable depth, a lot-by-lot introduction to the fruit stands at the Monday market.  The 2007 has the structure of 2005 and the enveloping silky sweetness of 2006—no easy feat.  Price-wise, this is hands down the greatest single-vineyard expression I’ve tasted of the famed lieux-dit known as la Crau.  It was an incredible finale to the line-up at Vieux Telegraphe, and still only the beginning of a much longer, even deeper (hard to believe, I know!) tasting journey.

After apparently misunderstandings our requests to simply purchase a bottle of the 2007 l'Accent du Roquete to taste at the domaine, our 'tasting coordinator', essentially Mr. Deeds, disappeared for a few minutes.  A fresh bottle of 2007 l'Accent appeared in the hand of Monsieur Deeds.  He refused to let us pay for it, insisted we swirl the wine violently in our glasses, and assured us with his silence that we'd not only enjoy the wine immensely, but that these silent moments are necessary.  That there would be any number of wines we'd taste in the next few days, opened with no charge but a smile and a glance, that would silence even the birds of spring.  Yes, there is something natural about this place, perhaps even supernatural, spritual.  It is either the connection to the Pope, but most likely it's people like Jean-Paul Daumen, who are changing the face of wine forever in this tiny hamlet, and doing so with spiritual verve.  Part II...tomorrow. 

15 March 2010

Cujo, Django and le Mistral

The 'Mistral', a wind that blows southward through the Rhone valley with such ferocity that even Mother Nature bows to it, equalizes everything, penetrating even the marrow of the soul.  Against all good advice I jogged into the rising sun this morning down the hill outside our Rasteau redoubt.  With the Mistral at your back, the sensation of speed becomes a function of your ability to remain upright and slow your body's natural tendency to jog at Chuck Yeager speeds.  Now, things can get complicated when the wind strikes your flanks, as it did when I first heard Cujo, the hairy black Satan dog, bark at me from a chateau's fence line across the road.  As his loaf turned into trot, and trot into sprint, my legs' compulsion to respond in kind were met with somewhat fierce opposition from le Mistral.  Long story short, I was Usain Bolt for a good 150 yards, rounding the bend towards the St. Didier cathedral full of fake energy, adrenalized only so far as the first one meter worth of incline.  Fortunately, I'd ditched the dog; or Cujo, me.

This was a day of joy, of things beyond the scope of explanation and comprehension, and I wasn't about to let Cujo interrupt my enjoyment of it.  Within an hour or so of my arrival back at the house, we were on the road again toward Avignon and its Palais des Papes and the Pont du Gard further west.  What a ride!  And how the wind owned us!

I can't say enough about the old walled city of Avignon as it progresses deeper toward the Palais.  We couldn't help but stop and peek inside la Vache a Carreaux, a restaurant that at first glance demanded we retreat into its colorful Noveau warmth with a now-ness.  We passed it by en-route to the Palais, but I harbored a secret dream to return to the restaurant one day.  Well, this was a day for dreams to come true, damn the Mistral.

After scouting every inch of beautiful scenery and outcrop of the Palais and its gardens, we returned to la Vache and had the Meal of a Lifetime.  There's no justice in describing just what arrived on my plate this Sunday afternoon.  All I can do is provide the address and pray with an almighty vigor that you do what's required of you to visit this place:  Centre historique: 14, rue de la Peyrolerie.  I washed my farmer's salad down with a VdP Vaucluse blanc from Roger Sabon.  It was spot-on, letting the salad speak for itself.

Yes, not enough can be said of the area around the Palais, so let me detail the rest of the day with a stab at brevity.  The Pont du Gard is a must-see.  It's a nature hike of the highest order, but don't pay the 15 Euro to park in the designated lot.  Park further down past the traffic circle where the locals do.  Oh, I almost forgot: les Halles near the center of Avignon's walled city, an closed-air market open on Sunday.  What a clutch encounter.  With the myriad streets available to us to reach the Palais, how we stumbled on this treasure is beyond me.  Again, this was a day of unspoken yet answered prayers, of dreams come true.  We made our compulsory wine purchases and opted for a plethora of fruits, pasta and plenty of Mediterranean fare.

Needless to say, dinner was special.  But something elevated it, brought it to another galaxy of enjoyment...  Django Reinhardt.  Discovering the music of Django Reinhardt has made the feeling of being in Rasteau and Chateauneuf-du-Pape--exploring their riveting landscape, soaking in the stories and vins of old and new generations alike--singular and celestial.

Soooo, I'm writing this on Monday night when I should be talking about what happened today, not yesterday.  Perhaps the bottle of d'Aqueria's 2006 l'Heritage Lirac, Trio Infernal's 2007 Priorat 'Riu', and Bosquet des Papes' 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape got to me.  I got a little sleepy and gave up.  So I'm giving up again with this post, cutting things short, and planning to get to ramming speed on today's events on another post.  And what a day this was...

13 March 2010

Beaujolais 101: En-Route to Rasteau and the Roots of Vintegrity

What a spectacular trip down to Rasteau. Skies clear as glass, valleys full of smoky haze, wind whipping loose the dusty topsoil.  You couldn't ask for more perfect driving conditions, nor a more perfect introduction to the mystifying, undulating waves of Beaujolais terroir.  The drive from St. Amour through the winding narrow paths of Julienas southbound toward Morgon is about as intoxicating as scenery gets for junkies like us.  While it wasn't exactly easy to find our way to Domaine de Thulon, who graciously responded to our request for tasting, it wasn't hard to pinpoint it when we found ourselves in the general area of Lantigne.  Thulon's opposing turrets are formidable, if even a bit intimidating--sentinels standing watch over a treasured landscape rich with the memories of harvests and generations.  Carine Jambon, a sprightly and knowledgeable host, greeted us in the courtyard with smiles and laughter.  This was going to be fun; I could see the dark and brooding Opale in a decanter, dangling precariously from Carine's fingertip.  She's done this before.

We began the tasting with a delicious, linear Beaujolais Blanc (100% Chardonnay).  It was certainly refreshing, its acidity muddled only slightly by the extreme stagnant cold of the barrel room in which we were tasting.  If there were one thing I would have changed about this experience, it would have been tasting in a room indoors.  But that's not me complaining; that's me dreaming.  This was real life, and it's hard not to make due when after Beaujolais Blanc comes a rapid succession of traditionally vinified Cru Beaujolais.  This stuff was great, and showed particularly well in the cold.  My assessment based on this tasting is that Beaujolais really is better slightly chilled.  Moreover, Beaujolais is better when it's Beaujolais, not Gamay with Revlon barrique.

What am I talking about here?  Have I gone mad?  Beaujolais and new oak?  Yes, I am serious.  New oak.  And no, I've not gone mad.  This is for real.  Thulon is producing three different wines that despite certain slights of tongue and hand are emphatically oak influenced, two of which benefit greatly--yes, I said it--from this regimen (one of which is not affected in any way by its new oak treatment).  The names are not important; those who care know these wines already.  My origin of discord here is where tradition and its inherently singular identities collide with the modern world and the irreversible course it's set for itself as it yields to the ubiquitous and uniform tastes of contemporary wine criticism.  I respect that Thulon continues to make exceptional and honest Cru Beaujolais--their Regnie Vieilles Vignes was more revelatory today than it's every been, as was their Morgon--but the question I had no heart to ask was, "Why doctor Gamay?"  Is there a blazing hot need to buy new barrels every year to produce these wines that contextually have nothing to do with the region?  Are there customers knocking at the cellar door demanding this style of anti-Gamay?  It doesn't sound very plausible.  From a Body und Soil perspective, it's downright sacrilege!

But a moment of clarion honesty is due.  If these wines have nothing to Beaujolais, they certainly have everything to do with flavor.  But are the two not inextricably linked?  Be honest: Is Beaujolais really about granite, or is it about tasting the Gamay rainbow?  If Thulon had eschewed all production of traditional Cru Beaujolais and opted instead for this uncharacteristic saturation of color and density of extract, I would have bone upon bone to pick.  I'd have their skeleton at my feet in heartbeats.  As it stands, this is far from the case, as I've detailed above.  The '1947' and the 'Opale', I have to believe (convincing only myself here), are strictly about flavor density, and I harbor zero doubt that customers do in fact come banging on the cellar door demanding wine that tastes great, who care little about what's 'traditional' for Gamay and even less about how much new oak was used during elevage or how much longer the individual berries sat in maceration than the traditional Crus.  These are not questions that sit at the forefront of most consumers' minds, and for that very reason the intelligent and passionate winemaker will occasionally--invariably?--take a stab at making something that's just downright crazy, experimental, even ludicrous, just to see what happens.  It isn't about integrity at that point; it's just a man, his grapes, and his passion for flavor.  And fun.   

Alright, I think I used the word flavor 96 times.  I'm spent.  But I'd be lying if I told you this trip was going to be about anything else.  Tomorrow's a day off, a day to sleep in for an hour or two, and then knock out some hill runs at the feet of the Dentelles de Montmirail.  Then off to the market at Roaix, Avignon, and a particularly famous bridge.  And Monday?  Well, then the tastings begin, so stay tuned for more from the south of France, the Land of Flav--...sorry, couldn't do it.

Off to Chateauneuf...TODAY!

I made some promises a few weeks ago that Strasbourg's tasting notes and a few other 'events' would be catalogued in detail here. That has failed to happen. Life gets in the way sometimes. Sometimes other opportunities trump the necessity to sit in front of a microchip and commemorate the past. So, here's me looking towards the future...as in later today.

Courtesy of D. Stone and Dominique the Donkey, aka Tom, who graciously demanded I accompany them to Rasteau and the greater southern Rhone (yes, that's right--Chateauneuf du Pape!!!), I'm on a mission to peel off the layers of this complicated tapestry of vines and terroirs to see what really lies beneath it all.  Passion?  I hope so.  Tradition?  Goes without saying...I think.  Progress and innovation?  Nothing wrong with that.

So...yet another event coming up, one that I'll be doing my best to document every day during our stay.  Tune in!

04 March 2010

Joe Dourthe

What a sensational gift.  The following wine was brought over to Villa de la Vogel for Christa Francis' Friday night "Wine and Dine Fiestathon" by two kind ladies, Jess and Sarah.  They brought another 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva, the name of which escapes me right now, but should also prove to be extremely interesting, if not equally good.  Though the girls probably didn't realize it, the wines for the dinner had already been preselected, and thus their own wine became ipso facto my mid-week wine # 2, Vignobles Dourthe 'Cour du Roy', Appellation Bordeaux (12,5% abv). 

While there seems to be very little information regarding this operation, lacking even a passing mention on Vins et Vignobles Dourthe's own website, www.dourthe.com , I can tell you there's enough info in the bottle and glass to prompt the questions "Where did you buy this?" and "How much did it run ya?"  At first, however, I found the low-grade composite cork distracting.  It makes the product seems so industrialized.  While I understand Dourthe is a very large--some might even go so far as to say industrialized--company, the wines I've tasted from them are nothing if not inspired.  At first glance the wine displays an opaque profile, a salmon-tinted rim, and a translucent ruby core.  The nose is far from bombastic, as one would hope from Bordeaux, but still puts out blackberry, ripe cherry, cassis and clodded earth with aplomb.   Hints of tarragon reminiscent of the other night's Pinot 'M' meet savory sage notes.  Nothing overtly says OAK, though the label boasts a 12-month élevage in new oak.  This seems to have the requisite ripeness to stand up to whatever its oak regimen may have been.  There is nothing green about the wine, and there's only the slightest hint of steminess I frequently find in these more generic Bordeaux AOC wines (though in most others, that note is far more pronounced). 

The palate is silky smooth, full of fruity flesh, restrained sweetness, imperceptible tannin, and a pleasantly herbal finish.  Cranberry and pomegranate flood the first sensations, followed closely by notes of fresh blueberry and sugared rhubarb, echoing a plowed earth note that carries stridently through the (dare I say) long-ish finish.  With ample air and swirling, black licorice really starts to take center stage.

This seems to be standard fare for the folks at Dourthe.  I don't know who the talent is behind their viticulture and winemaking team, but this is yet another wine from their large Bordeaux stable that comes free of harsh edges, full of pulpy, vibrant fruit, lacking nothing whatsoever in terms of Bordeaux typicity--acidity, savory but linear fruit, and palatable dirt--and finishing with the freshness that demands gulp after gulp. These are indeed the unifying characteristics of all the great Dourthe wines, the Belgrave's, the le Boscq's:  extreme drinkability, respectable complexity, and very fair pricing for the quality.  If you see this wine or anything else with the name Dourthe on it at the grocery or the wine shop, rest assured you're getting a fair shake at delicious bargain Bordeaux.  They're wines even Joe Dirt--or is it 'Dourthe'?--would be proud of.

Thanks Jess and Sarah!

The Long Delay

My apologies go out to those who've been anxiously awaiting the tasting notes from Strasbourg's 2010 Exposition des Vins des Vignerons Independants.  I'm not delaying intentionally; there's just other stuff going on, and that will be a long post.  In the meantime, two great mid-week wines struck me as particularly good, and  I felt them worthy of mention here.

The first wine was Georg Rumpf's 2005 Spaetburgunder 'M' (13,5% abv).  With a vibrant garnet hue and opaque profile (still translucent from above), this looks like it could be Cru Beaujolais, not what's typical for German mid-level Pinot Noir.  I'm used to the really light, almost pinkish stuff that infiltrates the wine-lists of nearly every ur-typical German restaurant this side of the Rhein.  But then again, while this wine masquerades as the 'M'id-tier Pinot at Weingut Kruger Rumpf, it's everything and anything but.  The nose is an army of assaulting forces, but it takes a good 30 minutes to grasp the onslaught.  Black licorice and cassis assail, with follow-on support from the likes of maple-y gingerbread, cinnamon powder, and steeped tarragon and rosemary.

The palate is the textbook expression of maturity and integration.  I believe this will not get any better than it is right now.  Seamlessly textured, round in an Einstein-ish way (as in perfect), and finishing with long silky poise, this Pinot expresses everything that is great and preferable in German Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir).  Judicious, discreet application of oak, tightly knit acidity, the ability to transmit both the red and dark fruit characteristics and, likewise, the ability to transmit those earthy, herby aspects specific to site that inform the Rumpfs' related bottlings.  All that in a preeminently quaffable, light-on-its-feet style that says "Drink me," as much as it says, "Study me."  Serious stuff that I'd serve to both novice and self-absorbed wine snob.

Oddly enough, this stuff tastes even better with Steve Winwood's 'Chronicles' in the background...

Check the next post for mid-week wine # 2.

18 February 2010

The Gamut...

...as in, What I've been drinking lately. I've been trying to span the globe here, though admittedly I've failed to really exploit those hidden corners of the wine world, the romorantin's of Loire's Cour-Cheverney or the mysteries of Irouleguy. The fact that I've only mentioned the apparition's of France's dynamic grape scene is by no means an indication of how I feel towards what mysteries might actually be palatable.  Only examples, folks.  Sorry.

To redeem myself, I'll start with a failed French attempt at organic goodness, the 2005 'Les Grands Champs' Cabernet Franc, from the Loire Valley's Touraine département, grown/bottled by Jean-Francois Merieau.  I don't know what it was about this wine, but it was just too wildly intense for me.  Every time I took a sip, it was me whisked away into a world in which survival depended on eating beef jerky and chewing Copenhagen, simultaneously.  I don't like that world.  I can't remember what compelled this purchase in the first place, though I suspect it had something to do with the cool labels at this estate.  I have Mandy to thank for that; she's the artist.  I'm sure Merieau's talk of organic endeavors piqued my interest as well; but did I ever really listen to the wine in the glass?  Apparently not.  A great lesson to learn for those times when you're cornered in the wine store...if you're being pressured to buy it, ask to taste it first.  Would you buy a car you never test drove?  Improbable.  Pants you'd never tried on?  OK, probably.  But is it prudent?  Who knows?  But this wine sucked.

Moving on...to Austria.  The 2007 Weingut Jaeger Ried Achleiten Gruener Veltliner Smaragd struck a chord with me initially as it was rated very highly by Austria's most prestigious wine publication, Falstaff, and came in at under 18 Euro, a steal for Wachau wines in general and highway robbery for one from such a pedigreed site.  All that said, let me drop the hammer for real.  This wine--at too low a temperature--also sucks.  OK, so maybe I should let my Smaragd Gruener Veltliners develop a little more in bottle; perhaps now was a little too early to approach this 'beauty' with "...tolles Entwicklungspotential."  But I'll reveal a little of my personal taste here: I like white wines in their youth, when their primary characteristics are nakedly on display.  It's the reason we buy these wines when we first taste them.  Those of us that say such-and-such a wine will be even more amazing in 10 or 20 years could very well be right, but there's little difference between that and the artist who paints his or her self-proclaimed masterpiece and says, "This will be the most famous and expensive painting in 10 or 20 years".  He or she could be right, but nine times out of ten their work will end up in the hallway of St. John's Home for the Old and Conversationally Prolific.  That's just the way it is, a gamble.  Me--I'm not a gambling man.  Call me uninitiated and ignorant, amateur and crass.  Oh well.  If you want to enjoy this wine, please decant it--YES, DECANT IT, PLEASE--and serve it slightly higher than room temperature, barely chilled even.  The alcohol in this GrueVe remains a challenge either way, but the Smaragd feel is there.  The enjoyment feel?  Not there.

Let's see, what else?  I'll be honest: I tipped a lot of bottles back in the last month, one of which I wrote about at length (Castellare's '04 Brunello).  Chateau de la Gardine's 2006 Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau...pure delight.  Nothing complicated, but still interesting and refreshing enough to demand that next sip.  I'm not trying to say 'I told you so' here, but I'm going out on a limb and saying 2006 will be THE most delectable southern Rhone vintage of the 2005-2006-2007 trio.  There's something, well, inflated about the feel of 2007, though there are infinite exceptions to this (case in point: Chateau de la Gardine).  But overall it seems to lack the lithe freshness, the acidic precision of 2006; frankly, many of the wines seem dehydrated.  The 2005s seem monolithic: great and mighty stones carved from even greater and mightier mountains.  I've run into more than a few '05s that just stared right back at me, like fat retarded lizards basking in Galapagos sunlight.  These wines never budged, they never blinked...they just were.  Yup, they're big, some are bruising even; but they ain't juicy.  2006?  Juicy.  And the best are structured for the long haul, enjoyable now, and--dare I say--10 or 20 years from now.

Tonight I'm taking down a tipple or two of Chateau de la Negly's 2007 La Clape 'La Côte' Coteaux du Languedoc.  It isn't WOW, GREAT, but it isn't bad either.  It's right in the middle: burly and smoky on the nose, with just enough bramble, beef and juniper to keep my palate interested.  Although I'm curious what's going on at this estate with older vines and better sites, I'm resigned to the fact that a lot of these 2007s could very well exhibit the same aspects of their not-so-distant southern Rhone cousins...dehydration.  If you can acknowledge for a brief moment that most flowery accounts of the 2007 vintage are just that, you can bask in the freedom of knowing the naked facts.  2007 was probably the driest growing season on record in the last 20 years, according to data collected at the official agricultural weather station in Carpentras and released to the public by the Fédération des Syndicats de Producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Moreover, 2007 saw more wind than usual (20 days of Mistral gusts), and saw more sun than average.  Certainly great data taken on its own, but in the context of prolonged drought, not so great.  Everyone confers greatness to this vintage because these wines are so round and lush right now, but equally fail to acknowledge the deficiencies of this vintage for those self-same reasons.  How could there be anything wrong when these wines taste so right?  All I can say is, Drink up!  I don't suspect the majority of these wines--those within reach of most consumers--will age that gracefully, and certainly not too far past 10 years.  While Languedoc is admittedly not the southern Rhone, Negly's 2007 La Côte still tastes like it ignored that wellspring of life...water.

If you're still reading this crap, I hope you're looking forward to my assessment of 2010's Independent Vigneron tasting in Strasbourg, France.  I'll share some notes from my favorite wines and estates, and I'll do my best to keep contrarian statements to a minimum.  If you can believe it, you'll probably hear me singing the praises of a few--maybe even more than a few--2007 Rhones.  Crazy.  BUT THEY TASTE SOOOO GOOD RIGHT NOW...but 2006, ooooooh 2006.  It's that sandwiched yet perfect and essential ingredient that always ends up sliding off the burger cause there's too much saucy goodness above and below it.  

Stay tuned for STRASBOURG!!!  

09 February 2010


...will never have an identity crisis.  Following a conversation with neighbor and fellow winehound Jim (who until yesterday was still a stranger to me), Inspiration kindly met me at my doorstep.  The mailbox, rather.  A nicely typed flyer and a yellow sticky, perfectly folded, waited patiently in our banal dropbox, oblivious to the record cold-snap of Monday, 8 February.  As the flyer indicated, Jim has the reigns at D.O.C. Kaiserslautern's own Italian wineshop 'DiVino' this Saturday, when and whence I suspect many a great wine will be opened, much great food consumed, and oodles of Italian inspiration shared amongst addicts.  However, it was a single comment Jim made on the flyer that fueled my own flames of inspiration, and left me panting for the self-same blaze of Tuscany all over again.

"Brunello di Montalcino is my absolute favorite red wine on the planet," Jim's flyer said emphatically.

While I could never bring myself to pick an overarching 'Favorite', I can say with conviction that every time I've had good Brunello, it's been my favorite wine of all time, too...until the bottle's empty and I move on.  For reasons unknown, I have a much easier time saying Grenache or Pinot Noir is my favorite grape of all time, but no sooner do I utter those words than a Sangiovese of stunning grace and bedazzling fruit comes along and smacks the Chateuneuf du Poop right out of my mouth.  Ironically, it's all the same; Brunello is as much a grape as Grenache or Pinot Noir.  Why not say Brunello's my favorite grape?  Because it's more than just Brunello, I tell myself.  It's Montalcino that's really speaking here; it's not 'just' Sangiovese.  While Grenache and Pinot Noir have become as ubiquitous as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Sangiovese will forever be germane to Tuscany.  And Brunello?  Forever rooted in Montalcino.  Without driveling too much on the vagaries of ampelography, let me say simply that I required instant gratification Monday night, and that required Poggio il Castellare's 2004 Brunello di Montalcino (14% abv), courtesy of San Gimignano's Baroncini family.  Favorable coverage from Signore Suckling and a 21 Euro price tag drove this purchase, and I'm fairly certain I'll be heading back to the Einoed Globus for more, as this was as close to teleportation as science has ever come (and no doubt the cheapest it will ever be).  To Jim: Thanks for the inspiration.

This Brunello is the color of blood: muddled garnet red, rusty on the rim...Brunello.  Check.  The nose is the richest dark chocolate-covered cherry one could ever imagine, covered in dry, dusty earth.  The nose just soars.  It's not overwhelmingly complex at this point (45 minutes open), but what it lacks intellectually at first, it more than makes up for electrically.  There is voltage here, amplitude, a Marshall stack of Schnapps-y kirsch, laced with thyme and paprika, and smothered in Prosciutto grease.

The palate is a veritable power plant: MGMT's 'Electric Feel' in all five senses, charged with ever-so-prickly acidity, velvet sheen tannin, and fruit weight that seeps its way into every ridge and draw of taste bud topography.  The faintest impression of toasted baguette lingers, but it's fleeting, overwhelmed by masses of mulled plum, Grandma's baking cherries, wintergreen, and Zotter's Bird's Eye Chili Chocolate.

The finish is 60+ seconds.  No lie.  As a word of caution, the nose starts off pretty reticent, even a bit corky.  This blew off completely within 5-10 minutes.  Another word of caution: Chances are this wine, or ones like it, will get you hooked for life on Brunello.  I speculate at least one other person has undergone this Sangio-vation.  OK, that was supposed to be something along the lines of 'salvation'.  Either way, there's an undeniable conversion experience I have with nearly every Brunello (even some Rosso, like Salicutti's), and I suspect this religion will only get more powerful as the zealots are recruited from the already addicted.  Jim may in fact be their Messiah; if so, I'm definitely looking forward to Saturday's DiVino taste-a-thon.  Lisini's '04 Brunello is scheduled to show, and from most accounts she'll be as prophetic and mind-bending as this or any other 'Favorite' I've ever had...

...until the bottle's empty and I move on.

10 January 2010

2010. A New Year. A Classic Wine of Vintegrity.

2007 Weingut Oekonomierat Rebholz Weisser Burgunder Spaetlese Trocken (Pfalz, Germany, 13.5% abv).  What a start to the new year--this, the first of Body und Soil's 2010 Wines of Vintegrity, and hopefully a worthwhile thought or two about what makes Rebholz so great, so nostalgic.  100% Pinot Blanc.

This is a child's first memory of traipsing through a musty fleuriste and standing at the threshold between the shop's backdoor and the gaping portal of its stuffy greenhouse.  The smell is a wet, grassy rapture, the singular and unabashed nature of the Pfalz on a rainy harvest day, the first step into a soggy sandstone vineyard.  Sauce that up with some freshly sliced kiwi and persimmon...that's your olfactory tapestry.  That's the signature Rebholz complexity.

The palate is equally transcendent.  A salty whack of celery, cox-orange, and a bit of unripe blueberry, if Pinot Blanc even permits my association therewith.  I suspect, however, it's akin to the red-berry notes of some Mittel Mosel Riesling.  The nose begins to throw off more herbal earthiness as air begins to interact with it, revealing a sort of citrus-infused Wuyuan Jasmine tea.  You never notice the 13.5% alcohol content, but this certainly has the palate-staining weight of a great Kremstal Gruener Veltliner.

With varietal integrity like this--not to mention profundity--I can really start to appreciate Champagne's attempts to bottle 100% Pinot Blanc fizz.  An incredible buy at 11 Euro.  I wish I could find a picture of this wine; it would certainly aid in the consumer's recognition factor.  Regardless, should you mention Rebholz in any self-respecting German Vinothek, some self-respecting person should be able to point you in the right direction (or at least hand you  a bottle of Messmer's Im Goldenen Jost Grosses Gewaechs instead).

As an aside, besides the Sekten of Volker Raumland, Hansjoerg Rebholz's takes on Champagne are hands-down the best in Germany.  And are somewhat ironically affordable.

Beaujolais + Triscuits = HEAVEN.

Yes, 1+1 = Perfection. And Chermette Beaujolais + Olive Oil and Cracked Pepper Triscuits = HEAVEN. 2007 Chermette-Vissoux Moulin à Vent "Les Trois Roches" Cru Beaujolais (Beaujolais, France, 13% abv). I can't say for certain what it was that made this combo work, but I suspect the olive oil and pepper had something to do with it (that...the most profound, transcendent observation of 2009).

The pepper in the Triscuit gave the Gamay this spiciness, aligning it almost categorically with the savory delineation of Delas Syrah at its best and brightest. The touch of olive oil seemed to give this substantially more length in the finish, adding a touch of candied nuts that I found demanded one sip after another.

Lest I reduce the stature of this Gamay to 'suitable for snack-time foods only', let me say this was as pure as pure can be. Gorgeous and harmonious black cherry, reglisse, and refined chocolate on the nose, echoing the suave chocolate and supple berry notes on the palate.
This was just superb, a classic and memorable introduction to the heights and depths (and subtleties) of Cru Beaujolais (and one made in an extremely natural way). I couldn't be happier to have one more bottle left.

You know...for that next Triscuit binge.

Ch-Ch-Cherry COLA!!!

Ch-Ch-Cherry Cola...the song. This wine. 2007 Andreas Laible Spaetburgunder Alte Reben (Baden, Germany, 13% abv). Almost flamboyant wild cherry Jolly Rancher on the nose, but over time some darker elements begin to assert themselves, with licorice, warm Magenbrot and candy-roasted almonds rounding things out. There is a sense of poise here, though I wouldn't confuse that with an overwhelming sense of concentration, or perhaps even ripeness, but who knows really? I only mention poise as a prevailing attribute--and a good one, by the way--because of this wine's assertive acidity.

This wine's crackling acidity isn't too far removed from the experience of biting into a just barely ripe plum, the flavors here being uncannily similar. Perhaps black cherry is even more precise, but who cares? It's hard to tell honestly; the acidity makes the distinctive flavor elements so diffuse that I'm left with the impression this is viticulture's take on a highly prized pop-culture consumer staple: Cherry Cola. But with 13% abv. And thus, a lot more fun to drink a lot of...

HIGHLY recommended party wine, and sensational at 12 Euro.

Grand Cru Spätburgunder

If you haven't noticed, I'm a huge Gregor Messmer fan. His wines are always profound, but never EVER in that in-your-face, blockbuster, cookie-cutter way. Never. I can't recommend Weingut Herbert Messmer enough. And their wines can age (if you're into that; not everyone is, nor should they be), but are occasionally expensive, as this one was. Worth it? You'd have to taste it for yourself...

2005 Herbert Messmer Schlossgarten Spaetburgunder Grosses Gewaechs (Pfalz, Germany, 14% abv). 100% Pinot Noir. Ripe plum, black cherry, nutmeg and spicy cinnamon on the nose, made all the more intense by mentholated notes of graphite and licorice as this begins to air out. The palate is sheer finesse, though the whack of cool-climate acidity keeps this from being categorically 'elegant'. There is a slight hint of tannin, but at the moment it's consumed by a broad mouth-coating array of vibrant, rich, palate-staining cran- and blackberry-cherry fruit, framed by piquant notes of slaty minerality and resiny but integrated oak.

A delightful wine, full of grace, but equally full of hubris. A tasteful wine, both in terms of civility and sensorially, but at 25 Euro I dare say there may be (read: 'are') better examples of Pinot Noir in this vintage at a more agreeable price point. I hope that last statement is read for its honesty, not for some relative assessment of quality. All things considered, even with one bottle left, I'd never be ashamed to share this at the breaking of bread with some distinguished guests.

Dirk...Is there anything you can't do with Portuguese grapes?

Just a question. I'll leave it at that. 2006 Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva (Douro, Portugal, 13.5% abv). At first, a blast of salted cantaloupe, a bale of wet hay on a bed of dry leaves, and a very distinguished note of minerality I often get from Terrassen Mosel Riesling, particularly the fatties of Heymann-Loewenstein. There's also a floral aspect to this, perhaps both the elegant nuances of rose water--it's definitely something in the red flower genus--and a hint of the pungent dankness evident in rapeseed or lotus (yes, both smell completely different, but both have a distinguished funk to them--not bad, per se, just pronounced). So it is with the nose here: Aristocratic, complex, perfumed, funky.

Palate-presence is massive, but impeccably balanced, as much about width as it is about length. Smoky vanilla and white peach. Though, it must be said, the finish still retains its youthful abundance of heat; however, I get the feeling this wine is in the later stages of swallowing it all in its abundance of flavor layers, glycerin, acidity and mineral structure.

Without delving too deep into the multitude of flavors here--most too young to discern outright--imagine this as the perfect synthesis of an outsized vintage of Nigl's Gruener Veltliner Privat and something from Chapoutier's white Ferraton stable. I'd give this exceptional wine some time, or give it something rich and buttery at the table.

Waffles anybody?

A Burgundy in Rhone's Backyard

Andre Brunel's 2006 Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition (14% abv) was certainly one of the most pure, honest and utterly quaffable CdP's I tasted in '09 (perhaps EVER!).

Garnet color with flashes of ripe raspberry red. The nose is inundated with complexity: Scorched earth, some burnt leaf notes (perhaps those two are one in the same--a certain smoky, mulled earth scent, but nevertheless baked in that southern France way), reglisse, what has to be sumptuously rich raspberry ganache, but perhaps is, in fact, white chocolate, not black; and the red fruits not so much red, but rather distinctly marzipan. There is a subtle barnyard funkiness here, but it's swirl-based (if that makes any sense at all). The more vigorous you swirl, the more pronounced the funk, which nevertheless fades expeditiously.

On the palate, there is an exemplary amount of inner mouth perfume; it both coats the palate and is effervescent simultaneously. This wine is what I presume 1er Cru Pinot Noir to be in the hands of a true master. Silky but distinct tannin gives context to this most graceful palate of black raspberry, cherry and blueberry fruit. For as graceful and pure as this wine is, air seems to turn it into an even more massive, chocolaty wine.

At about two hours open, the nose evolves into dried flowers, violet perhaps, camphor, graphite, and just a hint of vanilla (though I suspect not oak-related). The tannin is not engulfed by fruit, but rather absorbed by it. From the outset it seemed this wine would be about grace, and nothing else. Perhaps that is the signature of this place, the terroir of Les Cailloux, or just the fingerprint of an honest man, Andre Brunel. No matter; this is Burgundy in Rhone's backyard, and I'll be on that BuS any and every day.

And the price was unbeatable. 17 Euro.

"Tempranillo" with an Afterword from Nestle and L'Oreal

2006 Aalto, Vinedos y Bodegas (Ribera del Duero, Spain, 14.5% abv). From memory (as in, the day after). Towering, and admittedly alcoholic perfume, but not unpleasant or overt and overpowering. Gobs of mulberry and blackberry preserves, mesquite, new leather, maybe a shadowy hint of currant and some melted milk chocolate. This is, at least perfume-wise, indicative of fashionable Ribera double D and Tempra: A great grape with lots of cosmetics. A Barbie doll wine.

One thing about Ribera del D though is that despite the weight, the depth, the richness of the flavors, a lot of these wines retain ample acidity. It gives these wines not only vigor, a racy exuberance that seems to electrify some of these monochromatic Cadbury flavors, but a bit of savoriness that adds a meaty, spicy characteristic--and thus a little complexity--to the otherwise buried tannin.

I would say that for the quality here, the abundance of rich and fun flavors and relative integration of very ripe fruit with very good oak (there seems to be no disconnect between the two as of yet), I believe Ribera del Duero, even with its L'Oreal and Nestle tendencies, is honest wine, worth another thousand looks...and sips.

Forget Alsace...

Let the recounting of 2009 begin. 2007 Herbert Messmer "Im Goldenen Jost" Weisser Burgunder Grosses Gewaechs (Pfalz, Germany, 13.5% abv). A heavenly nectar, built for the table, destined for the heart. There is something in the nose that says emphatically FARM. Heaping wet hay, watermelon right when you cut into it at the farmer's market picnic table, pitted peach, and an almost bonfire smokiness--well, maybe not that intense, but there is the distinct scent of a burning candle just blown out. Sulfur?

Or terroir?

On top of all that, there's more--TONS more--going on here. And when you taste it, you know you just bit into greatness. Massive concentration, but delineated across every square inch of palate real estate. No lie, this is the most perfect Bloody Mary, but tastes like one with 1/8 tomato (spicy mix) and 7/8 lemonade. V8 action, and spicy like Gruener V. Wild, stunning, and I want more. Forget Alsace; this is the real Pinot Blanc.

Ripe Does Not Always = Good. Big Does Not Always = Great.

That's my little dose of vintegrity for 2010. It's been too long since last I wrote here, and that bothers me. The close of 2009 was a catastrophe of errands, appointments, plans and work. Many a wine were consumed, nary a thought composed. Thankfully, a multitude of tasting 'thoughts' had accrued prior to my being smitten with end-of-year syndrome. The time to transfer them into something worth reading and blogging was elusive, not exactly non-existent. That's what really bothers me, and it's what I'm going to fix in 2010. I believe one of Jamie Goode's Rules of Wine Blogging is that entries should be more frequent than profoundly captivating. Though if they could be both, certainly you'd have readership for life, no?

I couldn't think of a better way to start the cataloging of 2009's final BuS-nOtes with what I described above as "my little dose of vintegrity for 2010". For those who've read my first two Body und Soil posts, you'll know where I stand when it comes to wine and vinous integrity, and the following is a wine that left me downright vexed. 2007 Clemens Busch Riesling Spaetlese. Copper, wintergreen, flint, some elusive spice note, and scotch. Yes, scotch. This wine just has me torn. While it doesn't taste flawed, I dare say it doesn't taste quite like Riesling either. Mrs. (Hot) Body und Soil said, "Oh yeah, that's definitely Riesling," when she first sniffed it after my quizzical looks. But I'm convinced I'd peg this as extremely good Alto Adige--or regardless, Italian--Pinot Grigio. The wine was an emphatically Italian paradigm, nasally speaking.

Flavor-wise, this thankfully does not taste like scotch, and even more thankfully, tastes more like Riesling than the nose alludes. Right off the bat there are echoes of the dominating minerality, an almost overwhelming salinity that smacks of high-quality German mineral water gone flat. There is definitely some lime intensity in this, but darned if it doesn't start to morph into something positively Pfalz-ish, tasting more like the blazing basalt notes of Odinstal or Forst's Pechstein. My 'A-ha' moment: Aloe! An aloe note seems to permeate this wine when slightly more chilled. Warmer, this subsides more towards, well, alcohol. Scotch or vodka. Take your pick.

Day 2, this was just a strange beast. No real elegance here, just a rock of a wine, dripping with ore and saline, bitter and dogged like a stale Triscuit. An oddity--to me at least--of the Mosel. The sweeter wines of this estate, as well as their Feinherb creations (with just a bit too much sugar, but a blast to drink nevertheless), are substantially more refined and transparent than this monster. I'd put this stranger in a line-up of Mittelhaardt Rieslings and watch in wonder as a group tried to call the ringer. Quirky body, lots of soil, but not in harmony, and NOT Mosel. One more bottle left, so we'll see if this was merely anomalous.

To a Happy New Year, and even Happier, Harmonious Body und Soil Experiences!
Jeff and Mandy