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November 29, 2007

NV Bollinger, Champagne Brut Special Cuvee

There's something about democracy that keeps me from truly liking this wine. Oh, my American ways. We gluttonous expatriates always want more. So when this Brit-friendly champers hits the table, something inside me turns a little bit. It's fascistly austere, and while I love dry champagne (see: Andre Clouet Silver Brut), there's too much left to be desired with Bollinger. Ironically, it's outclassed by the very Ay and Bouzy wines it's sourced from, and the heavy dose of Gatinois that is rumoured to make up most of the NV cuvee bottlings is exactly the dosage I want to drink. It's bold, vinous, and searingly mineral-laden with aromatics that could make a chef fall in love with his baker. Umami meets sourdough, walnuts, shortbread, and golden roux. That makes this wine the course right after cheese but before dessert, when you sneak in one more bite of pork with the bitter orange marmalade. But then the rest of Bolli comes through--harsh and woody from all that aging on the lees. How proper, smashing--bollocks.

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November 23, 2007

06 Abacela, Southern Oregon Albarino

If there is anything true about great wine, it's that it has a sense of place. But great terroir isn't necessarily about where a wine is from--it is about where a wine can place you. And if you think the two should be the same, then start looking for a Galician penninsula just west of I-5 near Roseburg, Oregon. If there's anything distinctly Portuguese or Spanish about this varietal, Abacela has captured it with lean apple tarte-tatin and white peach flavors and a sharp, racy texture that gets just creamy enough without ever being sweet. Wines like this can be so simple, they seem effortless. It's their burden, and the best ones are the ones that don't have any mistakes, because even the lightest flaw would shadow through. The Abacela makes salt taste saltier, mussels taste more like the sea. And should there ever be a great migration of Basque people to the states, we will have a place for them--one that feels just like home.

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November 17, 2007

Francis-Tannahill, Jackass (beta)

I just found out today that Oregon's Francis-Tannahill winery has released the Jackass, a wine I first wrote about in The Short Pour over a year ago. Apparently, I'm a little slow on picking this up, as a few wine stores have already started selling it under the "Jack White" name (who knew Sam was such a White Stripes fan?). My shipment arrives soon. And as an aperitif to that review, here is a write-up of my first encounter with that mystic, mirage-like entity that I've thought about almost every day since... and his wine.

INTRODUCING THE JACKASS (May 11, 2006)
Of course the wine I love is the wine that no one can have. But I got some. And, chances are, we all might someday.

"It's that rose thing at Sam's table," whispered the Cream Wine Co. rep who helped put this whole Small Batch tasting together last month in Chicago.

Great; a freaking rose. As if the lean 04 pinot noirs and the buckets of pinot gris, stainless chard, and late-harvest riesling weren't enough to make my teeth bleed. Now to find out what underripe strawberries taste like when you put them in a bottle.

"Jackass," said Sam, as if he knew how bad I thought this wine was going to be. Winemaker Sam, the suffixed Sam of Francis-Tannahill, wearing a casual checked shirt, square frames, and incredulously blue jeans. His clothes made my teeth hurt. I was afraid the word "Burgundian" might come up soon.

"Well, call it Balalaika," technically, "not Jackass." That's what I should call it in the newsletter, he said. I promised I would--especially if he was going to sell it someday.

He said he wouldn't, though. This pristine, unusual, enervatingly complex rose... thing. This cloudy pink blend of pinot blanc, chard, and 30% et cetera. I numbingly blurted "Gravner," as if the weird Italian Breg--similarly made in obscurity--really had anything whatsoever to do with this wine. And Sam actually nodded, as if my reference could possibly be right.

We were in the oft-encountered limbo of wine cognoscenti and sheer ineptitude. The former got you free dinners at Avec. The latter made you happy.

What could he say? What could he ever do with a wine like this. It would never sell. There is no market for wine that smells like fresh persimmons, looks like ruby red grapefruit juice, and tastes like tangelos, kumquats, and blood orange pith.

His wife called him a jackass for making it in the first place. I was going up against his wife. And her name came first on the label.

Among the few hundred brilliant American wines that the Cream team showed at Small Batch, Sam's Balalaika was the best. It's the wine we all look for and hope to find before anyone else (truthfully, I was third)--the wine that no one else will ever like, to borrow Doug Frost, or even ever know how to like, for that matter.

As Jay Somers did with the 04 Croft sauvignon blanc, as Charlie Smith did with the 02 The Beautiful, Sam has done with Balalaika.

Don't you love my catharsis? My absolutely embarrassing, unabashed lust for a wine that hardly suits any normal palate. When I drank this wine, it felt like my first rock show, my first cigarette (I quit years ago), my first night on a cliff overlooking the sea in Luc sur Mer.

It is everything new, lovely, and pure that no one but you--us--will ever appreciate, ever know, and ever get to tell our friends about. We'll make them like it. We'll make them rock, smoke, and dream.

Or maybe Sam will just put it in a box, serve it with turkey next fall, and forget anyone but him ever understood. Jackass.

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November 15, 2007

NV Paul Bara, Bouzy Grand Cru Brut Reserve

I'll keep it simple with a wine this good. Point blank, it's one of the most complex non-vintage champagnes on the market. It's 100% Bouzy pinot noir, which makes it 100% grand cru. But if you know Bouzy, you know its "grand cru" status means more than just impeccable fruit. There's strong, heady terroir here that, in rare cases like this, coddles the highborn pinot noir grape into something that surpasses its Burgundian roots. The Bara is rich, very toasty, and elegant, but so powerful the flute could crack against the weight of it. Which is how I feel on the inside--ready to erupt, shoot right out of myself, and run down the street chanting his name.

1 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

I couldn't agree more. My wife and I has Christmas dinner at Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Hong last year and the sommelier recommended a glass of this to get us started for the evening... sensational.

11:44 PM  

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November 14, 2007

03 Puech Chaud, Coteaux du Languedoc

It's carnal in a way that meat is not. Instinctual. Raw fleshy desire. This is not a wine; this is an elixir--a transmuting potion that makes me feel desperate, wanting, and finally fulfilled. A syrah-driven blend from Rhone legend Rene Rostaing, sweetened by grenache and held in place by mourvedre, it has the texture of beef carpaccio--chewy, but disintegrating. And bloody. This is not wine; it's prey. Seasoned on the barbie with rosemary and thyme, then topped with black cherry compote. It might have been marinated in cola. Or maybe that's just the dank smoke and garrigue in the air. I guess that makes this pork--no, boar--but all I can think about is lamb. Yes, this is a bottle of lamb.

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November 13, 2007

05 Vincent Dancer, Meursault Les Corbins

I went looking for my Dancer notes to see how the 2005 stacks up, but there were none. Not a single "mmm" or "apply" or "buttery" anywhere, even though there's no Burgundy--red or white--I've had more of than the Dancer wines. I guess I've never had the impetus to write about it. Yeah, it's there, it's great, and now let's have another. It's a Burgundy I love drinking young. Dancer's only been around since 1996, so it's not as though there are any great back vintages laying around. And it's just as well because you need to drink a wine like this 2005 to understand what great white Burgundy is really about. It's tart as can be--mouth-puckering with lemon and tropical mango flavors. You think it's going to cream out--turn into that rich, buttery French chardonnay that's inspired a canon of oft-overdone California wines. That's the beauty of Dancer. You think it's going to do this or that, but it dances around it all. The wine's a real tease in that way and, if you ask me, the true "iron fist in a velvet glove." It seems so elegant, mysterious, but every flavor comes out in full force. The lemons become golden apples. The light vanilla becomes almonds then walnuts then circus peanuts. And before you know it, the bottle's gone, a new vintage is here, and we are young again.

2 Comments:

Blogger Asmodeus said...

YES! Finally with the circus peanuts. I keep telling my friends that this is an essential flavor for understanding wines (and cognacs) and they look at me as if I've eructated during the national anthem. Again.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

And I, my friend, have been trying to convince people that "eructated" is indeed a word. Thanks for the enthusiasm. I'll admit, it's not the most pleasant note, but there's really nothing else like it. You see it a lot in Chablis, too.

9:32 PM  

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November 10, 2007

2003 Domaine Albert Belle, Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle

This is one of those appellations I talk about all the time, but rarely get the chance to drink. A parasitic twin of the unholy Hermitage vineyards it surrounds, it feeds off the eponymous appellation--taking its gravelly terroir and sometimes producing wines that taste, in their youth, like Hermitage does after several years. The Louis Belle comes close to that. Its grapey fruit is rich and dark, something so grapey that it might be cloying in other hands. But the oak's held well in check, adding good grip to the wine, but no annoying sweetness. Of course, it lives and dies by that, and part of what's lacking here is the true depth you'd get from Hermitage proper. Cruel, I know, to hold it to such high standards. What it does accomplish, though, goes down very easy--much like the glut of low-cost Spanish garnacha on the market today--yet just as floral and pretty as you'd expect a good Rhone syrah to be.

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November 06, 2007

05 Grochau Cellars, Rogue Valley Syrah

If you slapped a Cotes du Rhone label on this wine, I'd buy it by the case. It hurts to be so shallow. But the truth is, there's just too much good syrah being produced right now in the Pacific Northwest. And sometimes, there's no fooling the soil, which here seems destined for pinot noir. Grochau's syrah is elegant--too elegant--sweet and floral on the nose. There's a real bouquet here--violets and roses--that carry on to the tongue, first sweet, then savory like bone marrow and Maldon salt. It's the romance of syrah. Love seasoned with salt and fresh black pepper. But love doesn't always call in the morning. The Grochau leaves me there, at the door to midnight, wanting more than its slim body and sharp tongue--the tart cherries and wild raspberries I taste as she walks off into the ether. That doesn't mean I won't call her. That doesn't mean I won't try to see her again.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

Great review. Next time I'm in the mood for a one night stand, I'll give "her" a call!

4:50 PM  

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November 03, 2007

05 J. Christopher, Pinot Noir Dundee Hills "Sandra Adele"

I think people will be talking about this wine for a long time. And J. Christopher's dad better get his boxing gloves ready. Because every post-adolescent young man is coming for his wife Sandra Adele. Rivaled only by J. Christopher's own 2002 vintage of this same cuvee, it's the most perfectly ripe, balanced, and sensual of Oregon's great, young pinot noirs. It's juicy to the point of being sweet--flavors of framboise over raspberry--the aromatherapy of cherry blossoms and violets. And the texture? Like someone rubbing my shoulders with lavender while singing "Unchained Melody." I've hungered for your touch. I'm beginning to think Sandra was a mistress, a nanny, or maybe just the wide rolling hills of Dundee--some great comfort Jay ran to or from. But somewhere, it says, there are secrets in the Christopher family, and this is one we are lucky to be in on, whatever the cost.

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Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

Are you kidding me? This is incredible with lamb and roasted vegetables.

8:54 AM  

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