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December 25, 2005
This would only taste better if my tongue were made of cheesecake. I grew up down the street from Affy Tapple, Chicago's famous taffy apple factory. If you came in some afternoons, you could buy a caramel-covered apple for a quarter if its stick broke or splintered on the line. While the discount never made up for the dental bills 15 years later, it felt good to afford such a perfect treat--juicy green apples (because the broken sticks were always made, for whatever reason, with underripe green apples instead of the Red Deliciouses they sold in stores), fresh pale caramel, and chopped peanuts--with change I found on the street. There I return with 88 Salon. After a few minutes, this is nearly still wine with Chablisienne acidity and only a bubble or two ascending every few seconds. It hasn't even begun to cream out yet, though it's picked up an off-dry sherry essence with long secondary flavors of brown butter and pecans, demanding diver scallops encrusted with truffles. Now for the cheesecake.
December 19, 2005
1834 Barbeito, Madeira Malvasia Reserva Velha
If we could all be so young. The 1834 has exactly the freshness and zing you'd expect from a fountain of youth. Its balance is as perfect as I could ever imagine for a fortified wine--still noticeably sweet and rich, but also very vibrant showing no alcohol or volatility. It's romantic and graceful, despite such natural intensity in fruit and acidity, as flavors calmly bleed into the long, silk-spinning finish. I hope to someday try the dessert it divines in my mouth: walnuts, pralines, maple, prunes, fresh figs, caramel hardening to a crisp--all covered, for some reason, in gold leaf.
December 18, 2005
79 Diebolt-Vallois, Cramant Brut Blanc de Blancs
An exaggeration of what can happen to chardonnay-based champagne over time, the 79 Diebolt-Vallois (disgorged in 2004) smells absolutely ancient, yet still tastes fresh and lively. The wine is at its peak with loud aromas of caramel cream and butter. It's overwhelmingly oxidized, but I think the truest blanc de blancs lovers in the world would find it the stuff of fantasy. The palate is almost another wine entirely. While the richness of the aroma comes out, it's countered by surprisingly youthful acidity that lends a very long, clean finish. Though a little disjunct, it's alluring--a mosaic of extremes for what old bubbly can be.
December 14, 2005
03 K Vintners, Walla Walla Valley En Chamberlin Vineyard "El Jefe"
We could be in old New Orleans right now or somewhere in the middle of Spain. There's a strange sense of place to the 2003 Jefe--strange because it seems to have so little to do with where it's from. Instead, the tempranillo-based blend communicates whatever desire Charlie has to be walking down a warm, musky street--palms moist from olive oil, lips stained blue. It's wonderfully sharp and exotic, smelling of ultra-ripe Kalamatas, persimmons, and spicy cured sausage. A friend of mine thought "muffaletta," the one from Central Grocery on Decatur to be exact. But we're back in Washington with long, fleshy flavors that carry signature depth, vibrancy, and emotion.
December 06, 2005
00 Luis Pato, Beiras Vinha Velhas Baga Red
I wonder if Chave would have anything to say to Pato after tasting this wine. It is decidely influenced by the incredibly smoky and rich, yet often tight and lean wines of France's Cote-Rotie. Yet, this 60-year-old-vines Baga is so powerful that what I really wonder is how great an influence Pato must be to the Rhone. Like many Portuguese wines, the aroma never settles down--but this one isn't trying to be pretty. Peppercorns and green mustard seed blend with a bouquet of herbs, freshly blacktopped road, and hogs. The soil is fresh from all its years--I can feel it moist between my toes--as it carries into the decadent palate. Crude earth turns to chicory, coriander seed, dry dark chocolate, chewy licorice, and smoky raw cocoa nibs in the face of ripe wild berries.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi