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July 26, 2007
There's a gully right behind Notre Dame where the markets get started early every summer morning. And they're empty because you woke up late and it's noon and nothing's open but--because the whole city's on its ritual siesta. So you grab your groceries, wind down the road, until you can smell the lavender flowers blowing in from the Tuilieries, and sit--sandwich and cheap sauv blanc in hand--to watch the river flow. It smells salty, even though you're miles from the sea, but that could just be the crunchy fleur-de-sel kicking up from your baguette. When all is so perfect you could snap a picture with your cell phone and Flix it to your friends around the world, you're startled by the loud tugging sound to your right. Looking up, you see the garbarge barge making its twice-daily run along the river, carrying with it the empty bottles of Heineken, cans of Kronenberg, and packets of Gauloises you guarded drunk the night before in the Latin Quarter when you said you'd die in Paris. And you see that even the prettiest flavors, like the pineapple and gooseberry that come off this Monkey Bay sauvignon blanc, are fleeting. Delicate and even provocative at times, but really just routine. As authentic as they are fake. Always remembered, but rarely revered. The Monkey Bay works because sauvignon blanc works. It's a delicious grape. But this wine does little to accent it, giving us all the requisite tastes, but nothing more. You can can chug it down, take a bite of your sandwich, and dip your toes in the water if you'd like. But look up, and you'll just see the garbage floating off into the distance.
July 22, 2007
06 Las Brisas, Rueda White Wine
Poetry repeats itself. Over and over again, like a liquid incantation, at Las Brisas. This continues to be one of the best young whites on the planet, but you knew I thought that already. I said about as much for the 2004, and this vintage is identical to what I tasted then. I'm still a sucker for this stuff. The tart, grassy grapefuit of its sauvignon blanc. The hints of green apple and melon from the verdejo and/or viura (macabeo), which lends a still Cava quality to the wine. All seasoned with the alluvial soil that filters and stains these vines as they drink up from the deep earth, the River Duero gentle but awake in the breeze.
July 17, 2007
05 Firesteed, Oregon Pinot Noir
Like a fruity young barbera, this is a warm-weather wine ideal for warm-weather food--and that means New York-style sausage pizza in the park with a Chicago dog chaser. A wine that restaurants should be scooping up in bushels because of its fruit and because of its staying power (only one of a handful of wines I think reasonable to charge for the day after it's been opened). Dominated by a plummy taste and a green chalkboard screech of tannins in the finish, it's a pinot that comes to terms with itself by bottle's end. One that seems shy and defensive before giving its plush (if not unstable) fruit flavors. On come blackberries and mulberries trampled under foot. Tangy and so just right for tomato sauce, this wine seeks all things fatty (like my big mouth) to cut into, which makes it great for the pizza, but I bet especially amazing with duck breast or ribeye. Not that this is a food blog, because it isn't. But when a wine tastes good and makes you hungry, it's something worth talking about. Something worth digesting.
July 07, 2007
03 Marques de Gelida, Brut Exclusive Reserva
This was going to be a review about how cava this old shouldn't still be on the shelves. I was looking forward to it--a fun and rare opportunity to justifiably lambast a megamart or distributor for still collecting dime on such a tired wine. You wouldn't sell months-old lettuce, would you--even if it were hidden in a pretty yellow bottle? That was my line. Then I remembered the 2001, which I drank for the better half of last year. And I remembered that this isn't normal cava. A single taste will tell you that. The eponymous regions and subregions that grow these grapes throughout Spain often leave them insipid. Afterall, if "Cava" is more a brand than a terroir, you can do just about whatever you want. Gelida takes the odd (and welcomed) step of barrel aging its wine--longer than most cava would stay fresh in the bottle--which breaks the monotony of cheap froth by lending smoky notes on the nose and some sharp spunk on the finish. I taste loads of green apple skins along with honeydew and orange rind. On open, though, this wine (2001 included) is overcarbonated, giving each glass a back-alley taste of steel. Once that blows off (who would ever think to decant a sparkling wine?!), it creams out and fills each fruity sip with bits of vanilla and a toasty, French chardonnay-like aroma. To even be able to talk about a cava this long says something about the maker. And the sad truth to me is that Champagne--at whose altar of glory and righteousness I bow--finally has some fucking competition.
July 06, 2007
05 Valcantara, Grenache Old Vine
This is a test. But it is more than a test. A test to see if you really like wine, or just names, luxury, and the movie Sideways. The 05 Valcantara grenache is, hands-down, one of the best Spanish grenaches I've ever tried. Wow, this is good. And there's hardly any of that mineral crap I always talk about. Its "sense of place" is mirage-like at best. But it manages to achieve what few wines ever do: a balance of gloriously rich, decadent fruit with Gatorade-like quenchability. The tannins are silky, and no more aggressive or bitter than the blueberry skins themselves you'd expect to chew on were the fruit flavors in this wine incarnate. It's plush without being glycerine. Creamy without being oaky. Satisfying on a summer's day without being too tart. Then, suddenly, an aroma fills the air. Sure, we have our juicy wine in hand--that would be enough--but then an unexpected earthiness starts to fill my nose. Yes, it's that damp, muddy, slightly smoky smell that anyone with a heart for Old World wine craves. What a bonus. What a gift. What an answer.
July 02, 2007
05 Sierra Cantabria, Rioja
Cantabria tends to get it right--in many ways typifying Rioja for me. Because you can't, on one sip, really figure it out. Is it Old World, is it New World? And who came up with those over-aired, oxidized words? On the open, it's tight and confusing. Too earthy, tough to make out, and really just not all that pleasant. But give it some time and the fruit comes out--a lot like Californian pinot noir, in fact. Which is just what I was waiting for. The wine's far from perfect, but I like how it shows so much. Really rich, dark cherry fruit on the palate backed by this deep finish of chocolate chip, vanilla wafers, and pipe tobacco. Enough to call it Old World. Enough to call it New World. Or maybe just Another.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi