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July 31, 2006

04 Fritz Windisch, Riesling Kabinett Rheinhessen Gau-Bischofsheimer Kellersberg

As young as I am, I already miss my youth. So, often, it's exactly these escapades that I long for in wine--the wines that remind me of how simple my pleasures used to be. We once drank lemonade; now let us drink dry Windisch riesling. Its bright lemon flavors are calm and play gracefully against the crisp finish. They should let kids sell this roadside in the summer.

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July 28, 2006

81 Vega Sicilia, Unico

I feel helpless. This, my first Unico, like a young old school Bordeaux--and made much the same way--is a wine with more class and emotion than flavor. Despite a beefy aroma and mild tastes of black cherry, cassis, and its seven years in old French oak, it's really the persistent length, tannin, and exhaustive spice that impress me. There's not much else here. For the first time since I started drinking wine, I'm taking a step back, going outside to think, pleading with the glass to let me through the door. I can't seem to pick my way through. But the seed has been planted. The fruit will grow.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Michelaccio said...

This was a challenging wine to assess. Perhaps it was all the great wines we had before it that made it more difficult. I do remember reading somewhere that 1981 was considered an "off year" in that region of Spain. Whatever that means. And I do believe thta was around the time the winery cahnged hands, so perhaps this vintage was made under the stewardship of those "absentee Venezuelan landlords" folks are always referring to. Regardless, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I remember smelling blood, meeat and cardamom, along with a serious bit of funk. But I liked that. The palate displayed a nice, tangy level of acidity and touches of coffee,leather and cedar spice. To throw in a sexist comment I'd say drinking this wine made me think of the leather pants Dianna Rigg used to wear as Mrs. Peel on the original Avengers TV series. But where was the fruit? Has this baby closed down in its eight year of release or is the fruit fading. I'm betting on the latter. If I had more bottles of this wine I'd be looking to drink them in the next few years. All in all it was quite enjoyable. And by the way, doesn't "Unico" mean f**k you Bordeaux" in Spanish?

12:04 PM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

Indeed, where was the fruit? The critics assessing this wine on release (1998, I believe) found gobs of it.

1981 wasn't as much "off" as it was tight. The intense old oak aging of this wine might be what ultimately makes it so subtle today.

To clarify, the 1981 Unico is pre-globalized Unico, which is to say it doesn't see the same modern winemaking techniques of more recent vintages. I'm inclined to believe we tried a real dummy bottle, but by no means a dead one. It's Super Mario crouched down in mid-air. He hits hard when he comes back to earth.

I'm dreaming, though. There wasn't much there. Twenty-five years is a lot to ask.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous dfredman said...

Or could it be that you're judging the wine on the wrong criteria? I've never thought about Vega Sicilia being a wine that's about the fruit, but about the dirt in which it's grown. When I taste older (great term:"pre-globalized) vintages I approach the wine as I would Madiran or Cahors, a wine of its place.

Fruit can emerge from it with aeration (6-12 hours seems to work with older VS releases) but why do we feel as if we need to deconstruct everything? Do I look at a Jackson Pollock painting and follow every splatter? No, it's about the whole, and the emotion not only behind the painting's creation, but the emotion felt as I view it. Same thing with wines such as VS....it's about the entirety of the wine, where the wine is from (both in terms of terroir and the winery's history) and about the pleasure (or lack of same) one feels while drinking it.

The 1981 may well be going through a dumb phase, but I've got to believe that had it been decanted for a day or two you would have had an experience closer to the one you would have hoped for, given the price of this wine. Sounds like a good excuse to try another bottle down the road...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

Great insight.

Considering how nice the structure was, and how fresh the acidity, I'm inclined to think it might be just a little dumb right now--not dead. Believe me: My heart wants this to be true.

The 81 Unico was still long and luxurious, which gives me hope that it might have some life to it. It's just rather impossible to know without trying another bottle.

So, great suggestion. If the wine is still on the market, look for another note on 750 mL in two years. I promise you that. I promise myself.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

I like Fredman's comparison to tannat (Madiran). That, or Bandol, each eased of their tannin with some age are good reference points for this wine.

10:13 AM  

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July 22, 2006

03 Walla Walla Vintners, Cabernet Franc

If joy begets respect and respect love, then I love this wine. What begins as a playfully oak-driven, Napa-esque fruit bomb becomes a watermark on the sheets of cabernet franc. With a group of close friends, we all thought this was Napa cab--like all but one WWV wine, it's saturated with creamy, mint-chocolately, varietal-confusing oak--until we couldn't find any hint of dark fruit. What a diversion it is, ultraripe with the great leathery flavors of cabernet, but locked to brighter essences of cherry and syrah-like red fruit. It's confounding--seemingly over-oaked and hedonistic, but still remarkably layered. I've lauded several new Chinons for their ability to fit right into a blind tasting of Bordeaux and have none be the wiser. Try the Walla cab franc against great Napa cab and see if anyone flinches. Thank you, Drew.

5 Comments:

Blogger HV said...

I can't believe you pegged this wine blind.

-drew

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Michelaccio said...

I can't believe you used the phrase "watermark on the sheets."

3:30 PM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

...as in paper sheets, of course--though I do enjoy the ambiguity.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Michelaccio said...

...that's what we've heard.

8:18 PM  
Blogger John said...

the WWV cab franc is my "desert island" wine. If i could only take one wine with me... you know the rest! I take that wine all over and introduce friends and restaurant owners to it. Nobody has ever NOT loved it. Good call!

11:01 PM  

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July 19, 2006

01 Marques de Gelida, Cava Brut Exclusive Reserva

In addition to being more refreshing than a busted fire hydrant on a hot summer's day, this is tremendously complex Catalonian cava. The vinous flavors of macabeo and xarel-lo are more akin to pinot-driven champagne, surging with grape flesh and red apple skins, which play up the lean aroma of Granny Smith apples soaked in lemon juice, waiting to be baked into pie. Oddly enough, the texture is crisp, nearly crunchy with carbonation. This is an ensemble of classic sparkling flavors, with the fruit intensity of warm-climate grapes and yet the elegance and texture usually only derived several miles north and east of here.

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July 17, 2006

05 Terredora Dipaolo, Irpinia Falanghina

Much like the fiano-based wines of neighboring Avellino, this 100% falanghina from Irpinia in the Italian shin of Campania is brimming with bright, spritzy flavors and aromas of orange rind, lemon zest, spearmint balm, and orange jellies. Tickled by a feather of carbonation, Dipaolo's falanghina is good reason to eat outside--hands drenched in olive oil with your feet in the grass. It drinks much like a muted Spanish sauvignon blanc, but with enough weight to go course-to-course from white bean and kale soup to seafood and on into squab, roast chicken, or veal. I imagine if chef Thad Morrow, mastermind of Champaign's star-worthy Bacaro Italian restaurant, could have invented a wine for his famed shrimp bruschetta with limoncello and mint (a treasure often purer than gold), this would have been it.

1 Comments:

Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

The falanghina also does well with relatively mild North Indian spices. It showed great balance beside the coriander-laced complexities of chicken biryani and chicken tikka--each cooked with several slices of fresh lemon.

8:04 PM  

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July 12, 2006

97 Bruno Rocca, Barbaresco Rabaja

From just south of the village of Barbaresco in Piedmont, this austere nebbiolo typifies, for me, the classically light elegance of wines from this region. A full 180 from something like Gaja's rich, robust style, the 97 Rocca lingers with the slowly seeping aroma of black tar. The oak seems very light--despite what I've heard about Rocca being a modernist--and the wine overall reminds me of young Bruno Giacosa. Maybe it's just the first names. Rocca's Rabaja, in any case, is a study in purity--showing how alluring simple flavors like dried fruit and licorice can be against natural acidity and chalky, steak-friendly tannins. It whispers.

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July 04, 2006

95 Angelo Gaja, Barbaresco Costa Russi

As much as I love wine, it will be hard to get excited about another bottle after drinking Gaja for the first time. I've long said that no matter what books you read, what wines you drink, and what people you hang out with, nothing ever prepares you for a wine that sends chills down your spine. Talk all the RS, VA, or surmaturite you want, in the end a wine will give you goosebumps, if it can, whenever it wants to. You can't stop or predict it. And, so, I came close to tears drinking this, the greatest barbaresco I could ever imagine having. We won't even talk about the varietal nebbiolo itself, because this wine is a statement of far more than a mere grape. From the floral cherry lacquer aroma--its intensity deserves a new word appended to the Bible describing God's love everlasting--to the deep, fleshy, saturated raspberry flavors, this is the formula for either eternal peace or damnation. Sin or salvation. Frankly, it deserves a parade.

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