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January 29, 2009
I think this is what Stafford Hill meant to do with the great 2002 vintage. I'll never forget that wine because it floored me, completely floored me, with what it did with that glorious vintage. I remember thinking this must be a joke. This isn't 2002 Oregon pinot noir. It's a secret Moldovan pinot from the future. It would take such a pogrom-inflected palate to take something as sweet and balanced as 2002 Oregon pinot noir and turn it into a militia. Either that, or it's an errant Jay Somers bottle with "Pavillon" written in White-Out on the neck. I tried this wine blind today and those seven sentences were the first thing I thought. So maybe it's no surprise that Stafford Hill is the second label for Jay Somers' Holloran label, and that the Le Pavillon vineyard is right smack in the jory (red, sponge-looking and sponge-tasting, sea-inflected loam) soil of Dundee Hills. Either terroir exists or Jay sweats star anise and cumin from his fingertips on the triage. I've caught this wine early, but there's no doubt it's a classic Oregon pinot noir. Unlike his more floral and contained 05, 04, and 02 (for God's sake, will someone please sell me a 2003?), this 06 has all but given up on any idea of elegance. Sure, to a Cahors drinker, this would seem mild, but its Funkberry(TM) and marrow aroma yield to a thin, but strong and medicinal palate completely consumed by licorice. The fruit is there, but it's wild: some raspberries sweet, others touched with a tinge of fox piss. Truth is, I've opened it just a few months early (which is why I have two other bottles). Because with some aeration (take a sip, press your lips together, and suck the air in through your cheeks) this wine reminds me of a high-end Oregon pinot tasting run by some mad, fascist, and entirely inspirational Oregon pinot hound (not that I've ever worked with anyone who fits that description). This glass in a year is the tasting that sold 10 cases in an hour. It has the nuance of Eyrie, the arrow-straight fruit of J. Christopher, the whimsy of Runaway Red, the lust of Sineann and Owen Roe, the candy of Bergstrom, and the unadulterated pleasure of Charmes on a Thursday in November. It's not a great wine, yet. Without some serious thinking and aeration, it completely falls apart. On release, it's the most dull of all the Sandra Adeles I've had, and I'm not sure if the shift is a result of vintages or personality. To be honest, I'd pay to see something like the 2002 happen again. But in these times, the 06 Sandra has a dominant place. There's no doubt Jay has style, one he's stuck with over at least the past five vintages, that--outside of the Ken Wright wines--may most clearly express what it means to be Oregon pinot noir.
January 15, 2009
05 Paul et Fredrik Filliatreau, Saumur-Champigny La Grande Vignolle
If Goodyear made prunes, they might taste like this. Maybe that's why it smells like new car and a pair of Ballys ankle boots in the middle of April. Stern and stemmy in the nose, oddly fruity, chocolatey, and rubbery on the palate with awkward, chalky, woody tannins, it's wines like this that make me hate traditional wine. In some ways, that's what you get with cabernet franc, especially in the Loire. And I love funky indigenous red wines as much as the next Neal Rosenthal. It's surprising, really, to get a wine this weak and dank from a vineyard site--La Grande Vignolle--with so much promise. I expect a tinge of cherry, maybe even a hint of sweetness, to balance out all this earth, but it's just not there. It's one of the strangest showings I've tried--at once as shutdown as a young wine with great aging potential and as dead as that same wine five years past its prime. Loire reds are known to do that in their first few years in bottle, and my impulse is to say it's going through a funny time. Or maybe it got insulted by the bottles of Pingus and Owen Roe on its shelf. I don't know. But maybe this wine should be labeled with its English name instead--La Grande Vignolle: The Big Flat Bottom.
January 05, 2009
NV Andre Clouet, Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru 1911
Bottle 1484 of the 1911-bottle production of cuvee 13 should have a vintage label. Originally a limited blend of the 1996, 1995, and 1997 vintages, past selections have been incalculably amazing. As is this one, which is the freshest and tightest 1911 I've tasted, disgorged just six months ago almost to the date. I wish I'd known that before buying, because it does much better with a year or two of age (or 90 minutes open in the glass). In that sense, Clouet is maybe the only vintner outside of Charles Heidsieck who's managed to produce a non-vintage blend that varies from year to year the way great vintages do, but still expresses a consistent (and bold) house style. And though Champagne only vintages in qualified years, Clouet creates years of its own, all apparently heavily influenced by the tart 1996 and, with this bottling, I would suspect the equally loud but suddenly maturing 1999. The smoky, wildly phenolic aroma is too strong at first, then the woody coconut and vanilla gives it away, gives it away, gives it away now. If Clouet's Grand Reserve is the brain of the winery, 1911 is the amygdala, responsible for processing and remembering his emotional reactions. Cold, it's austere. But once it warms to cellar temp, it's hedonistically oily and rich with the longest finish of raspberry sweet tea, pomegranate, Meyer lemon juice, tangelos, floral peaches, porcini powder, and turbinado sugar. I think I had a dish like this at Alinea. Maybe the truest testament to this wine is the note buried on the last page of the booklet that comes with each bottle, where Champagne guru Richard Juhlin writes that the original "perfectly avoids the clumsiness that is often found in blanc de noirs." At first, I thought Clouet included that as a marketing artifact, one that should be either dusted or pulverized now that we're beyond the first cuvee. But what's eminently clear is that I have no fucking idea. And the truth is that Clouet kept this note not as promotion, but as the die cast for everything it ever does. So for that, I thank Andre Clouet, and kneel to Richard Juhlin. This 1911 is not Clouet's greatest wine. I think that will come in the next few years. But it is the greatest wine that Bouzy has ever made. And Burgundy should start taking notes, too.
January 01, 2009
NV Pierre Peters, Champagne a Le Mesnil sur Oger Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee de Reserve
I want it to be my birthday right now. This tastes like the sight of fondant, burning candles, and sweet flour--moments before everyone I know gives me something. The non-vintage Pierre Peters is a gift, which is to say, whatever's in the box, I like it because it means that someone took a second to think of me. Pierre Peters thinks of us, letting us in quickly with its innocence, but then holding us there with its button mushroom, vanilla wafer, and apple milk complexity. I would buy empty, sealed bottles of this wine if I could. The liquid's almost a formality. A conduit, really, for the elegant, ethereal, expensive aromatics, which don't come out until the finish. Sure, the tart apple and spicy, woody tastes are good, but they're mesmerizing after you swallow, whisping into a noble finish of baby powder, limeade, rose, cold fennel, smoke, almond milk and, if there were such a thing, crunchy deep-fried Mountain Dew rind. Every day I drink this, I will be born again. And I intend to live forever.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi