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December 29, 2007
It's the "old lady's" wine, according to the label, but maybe it's no coincidence that AltaVista insists on translating "la dame" as "the injury"--making it the "bottle of the old injury." It tastes that way--bruised, scabby, and hastily bandaged. When they tell you to use a wine to cook with that you would at least drink, this is probably the bare minimum. And while my short ribs came out incredibly well (owing to high heat, nuclear browning, and the sage though slightly terrifying wisdom of Mario Batali--not this wine), it's a wonder they didn't jump out of the pot and stilt-walk (of course, they're bone-in short ribs) to Camaret in Southern France for a word with Mr. Jean Claude and Mme. Beatrice Bouche. I purse my lips when I drink this wine, its chalky texture, brothy, prune-like flavors. I know, it sounds like I'm describing a bottle that's gone bad. Indeed, it is a bad bottle, but one that I suspect was designed to be this way. It tastes like every element--the gristly tannin, the stomp-the-yard fruit (did somebody have a hangnail?), the weak beefy menthol aroma--were added in parts; one vial of this, one vial of that. It hurts me so much to say that. This is a Vin de Pays, a country wine, and it's organic for God's sake. If anyone puts pride, care, and affection into their wines, it's probably these guys. I bet the cellars are freezing cold; they sip out of the barrel and spit right onto the grating concrete floor. Maybe they even pick their grapes themselves. Here are your winemakers. The ones who love it. The ones who don't need any fancy oak treatment, consultants, or some American wine critic to tell them what's what. Or, maybe, they do.
December 28, 2007
04 Domaine Tissot, Arbois Trousseau Singulier
The singular trousseau. Which is to say, the only trousseau I've ever had. And it's not without superpowers that I would ever be able to tell the difference between this and a juicy Santenay--or any Bourgogne Cote de Beaune for that matter--from a ripe year. It's so pretty, I want it to go bad. I want to beat it up a little, beat the innocence out of it. This sweet, ambrosial, chameleon of a grape is almost candied and whisping in the fertile air like pollen misted with the essence of grenadine, sweet tamarind, or watermelon Jolly Ranchers, the bitter airiness of ground mahleb. Its perfume is almost cloying and, if you're one to buy the inkiest Napa cab on the shelf, this might not even have a flavor to you. Your bottle might actually be empty. For the rest of you, the Tissot trousseau is virginal--soft, creamy, endlessly curious and shy, but willing to let go, as awkward and painful as the night may be. The bed, if this were on a bed, would be covered in rose petals, which litter the hardwood floor on your way to the bubble bath. You always loved your girlfriend's bathroom at 3 a.m..--soap, toothpaste, and Chanel in the air. It tastes like young love, like everything you were sure about that turned out to be wrong. Use this wine as a guide to chart your lust. If it excites you, you need to live a bit more. If it bores you, perhaps you've lived too much. Because ultimately, this isn't necessarily a good wine--something you recommend or score. It's something you meet, talk to, maybe leave behind in an airport, but still you dream.
December 19, 2007
06 J. Christopher, Willamette Valley Riesling
If you are one of the ones who don't know what I mean when I talk about "Old World" and "New World," consider yourself lucky and pour yourself a glass. This wine celebrates you. And I'm beginning to think maybe all of Oregon does. Those two distinctions have long been our only options. Does the riesling taste German/Alsatian? Maybe it has some semblance of "minerality" or "diesel" (code for secret Martian flavors that taste nothing like fruit, yet make people think of some distant land they've never visited and probably never will). Or maybe it's just all fruit, a "fruit bomb." Hm, must be Australian. Those guys try so hard--don't they get what a waste of time their lives are? This would never go with Comte cheese, and God knows all I ever eat is Comte cheese. But then you have Oregon, where whites have flourished on their own since before the increasingly cultish pinots even, and Oregon could give a damn about your Comte. I have for years been convinced that the Willamette Valley has more potential for white wine than any other region in the world, and J. Christopher (Jay Somers) could easily be my star witness. This riesling does what is so classic--yes, the new "Old World"--about the region; it takes the rich fruitiness that seems so out of whack everywhere else on the planet and tones it down just a hair, so all the grape's natural characteristics show. No, you don't get the sharp, peppery bite of zeltinger sonnenuhr, the breathtaking depth of Clos Ste. Hune (oddly enough, it's most like Jay's own sauvignon blancs). What you get is something unmistakably Oregonian--a witness to pride and the completely adulterated, unforgiving rebirth of classics. It's encyclopedic in complexity--fuming with a gravelly lime aroma and full of flavor--first pineapple, then tangerine, key lime, cilantro stems, starfruit, rock salt, goat cheese extract, and whatever that taste is when the dentist scrapes your teeth with a hook. Riesling comes from Oregon. I don't care what you say. That's where it is from.
December 09, 2007
01 Betts and Scholl, Hermitage Rouge
I got out of bed to write about this wine. Take one part Master Sommelier (Richard Betts), add one jigger artist (Dennis Scholl), and shake vigorously over Jean-Louis Chave, and you have the best New World interpretation of syrah. And with as much as 90% of this wine sourced from Chave's own Hermitage parcels, the 01 Hermitage is quite literally an "interpretation" or close reading of this decade's most prized grapes. This is a masterpiece of a wine--as inky and juicy as the greatest of Californians or Aussies, but also as deeply nuanced, peppery, and passionate as its Rhone progenitors. It's wonderfully ripe and floral, bleeding flavors of red plums, raspberries, and violets, without any other pomp and circumstance. There's no chocolately oak. No whispy, rancid sense of "earthiness" or "terroir." This is a straight-up syrah, as powerful as anything else on the market, but with so much more feeling. This wine lingers, the way the sounds of a circus or rock concert stay with you--humming against your gums into the night. It is the "runner's high" of syrah--one that goes straight from the palate to the serotonin receptors in your brain and then out into the cool sweat on your arms. It is a marathon of pure pleasure--guilt-free, lovely, compelling. Run to it. Breathe heavy. Chave. Chave. Chave.
December 01, 2007
06 Brick House, Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge Select
Words like "soft," "delicate," and "luxurious" come to mind, before I realize that this supple pinot noir tastes like one thing: cinammon-cherry farts. It's with that mindset that I go into writing about this wine--an aged-Burgundy-like pinot that fortifies itself with the real must of Oregon. The warmth of Ribbon Ridge shows here. There's so much texture to these grapes--milky, murky, like blood wrung from the pits of fire-roasted black cherries--but it still manages to stay lovingly light. Maybe that's that "iron fist in a velvet glove" thing. But, in typical pinot form, this is also a temperamental bottle of wine. It's shy around food, almost scared, and breaks down into little more than tart cranberry juice. You could put it next to something flavorless--maybe some turkey or fried tofu--but otherwise, this is the opening course. The amuse.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi