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December 08, 2009
I shouldn't even write this. As regular readers of this wine blog know, I'm going to use some form of the word "terrible" pretty soon. I choose the adverb. Because this pinot noir, this pinot, this Cali pinot is terribly good. Terribly delicious. Yes, it's terribly true. Clearly, it's never read the blogs. If it had, it would know that none of us care about this winery. Why should we? With such a heavy corporate veneer surrounding what very well might be some decent wines, they make themselves tough to get to know. It's like having lunch with your history teacher. But that's exactly why I had to write this. I'm doing it because I know there's a decent vintner out there--maybe stored in an iron maiden during the growing season, but he's out there none the less--and Beringer seems hell bent on never letting him out. Selling us, instead, strange, clip art memories that none of us actually have. Memories about wines that are "handcrafted to deliver the outstanding quality and rich flavors that are hallmarks of the Beringer winemaking team." Oh yeah. I love me some hallmarks. And, if you don't, maybe you're more of "a youthful exuberance" kind of person. You know, someone who likes wines "that appeal to anyone looking for an easy-drinking wine that pairs well with a variety of foods." You are, "anyone" aren't you? Someone who eats a "variety of foods." Lose your inane corporate market team, Beringer, or let them drink some freaking wine during the day. Because, while you'd love to have this image of being something special, revered--I don't know, whatever strange pomp that cult of old, rich people adore--truth is, you're actually making good, people's wine. Wines that people pick up at the liquor store on their way to a BYOB, feverishly scratching off the pricetag on the sidewalk. Hip people. Who aren't looking for a timeshare in Boca Raton. It's pinot anyone can understand and enjoy. One full of a ripe black cherry flavor that, well, yes, as you say would go with a "variety of foods." It's exactly what the baseline of American pinot noir needs to be, very fruity, silky with no noticeable alcohol, just a hint of structure. But to be honest with you, I don't want to say too much. Once I hit Publish, this is all in the public domain. And I've got no intention of ending up on a bottle of one of these, or on that ridiculous website. Let's just say we got lucky. Not that the wine is particularly good or bad, but that the promise of good wine can make some people whole. Make them go outside the bounds of their business plans (a wine this good does, after all, mess up the whole "tier" sales structure). Turn them into pretty decent winemakers after all. And, one hopes, terrible employees.
December 04, 2009
00 Mile de Noyers, Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys Vineyard
Maybe it's true that nothing good lasts forever, but I'd always assumed chardonnay was the exception. At its best, it goes from powerfully tart, food-friendly fruit flavors (apple, apple skins, pear, and raw quince) to an unceasing, arm-chilling nuttiness that I believe might actually resemble the outer limits of the universe (this tasting note has proven difficult to test). But at its worst, it actually tastes like chardonnay. And there's the big risk that Chablis runs. Save for the hot (weather and business) run in 1990, common Chablis--almost by rule (but not)--judiciously, if not parsimoniously, uses new oak. The point is, they're never slipping one past us. This isn't overpriced Cali chardonnay. It's not over-delicious Meursault. It's just the grape. Chardonnay. Which tastes like apples. No secrets. And, if you believe, sometimes the earth. Terroir. Whatever. I still believe there's a secret vial of chalk butter roux that the Chablisienne slip into their aged barrels. Or maybe all Chablis is made by student teachers and hall monitors after third-period French lit, dusting the erasers clean. Regardless, nine years in, the fruit's dead in this Noyers single vineyard bottling, which means it's all over. There's no creamy spiced oak coming out, no dank woody perfume. Just some apple--no better or worse than a fall lunch in the park--with the slightest finish of butter, and a fatigued sense of "who cares anyway?" More like an old albarino than Chablis. Shocking, maybe, or short-sighted of me, considering the provenance--a vintage that the brilliant wine writer Andrew Jefford rated as one of the greatest Chablis of all time, on par with the historic 1990. Perhaps ages and ages hence, I'll turn up another dusty bottle and find to everyone's great surprise all the complex flavors I was looking for were there, just hiding in the woodwork. Or maybe in Chablis there is no such place to hide.
December 02, 2009
09, Crisis at The Eyrie Vineyards
A close friend and former colleague today tipped me to some heartbreaking news. And while it's not my place to be involved in matters personal or business, this one impacts anyone who enjoys reading this blog. Because one of the very dear inspirations for my work--as much as I'd like to pretend I have no biases--is The Eyrie Vineyards, whose wines I like well enough, but whose culture, I adore. Without the late David Lett, his son Jason, and their noble cadre of winemakers, vineyard hands, and sales staff, there might be no Oregon pinot noir. And I don't think it's much a stretch to say that I'd be drinking the same cabernets as everyone else, desperately trying to communicate the significance of "95+ points." Sure, we still would have had Ponzi, Adelsheim, Erath, and many others, but I'm not so sure we'd call it "Oregon pinot" as much as "pinot noir from Oregon." The Eyrie branded what's grown to be one of the most significant landscapes--physically and emotionally--for wine anywhere in the world. And now one of its most vital organs is under siege. Guadalupe Hernandez, wife of The Eyrie cellarmaster Julio Hernandez, has suffered renal failure and needs a kidney transplant. The generous family at The Eyrie is doing its best to help, but as any American knows, the costs of critical healthcare in this country are astronomical. In response, The Eyrie has produced two wines--a chardonnay and a pinot noir--under the La Luz label, with proceeds going to fund Mrs. Hernandez's fight. I haven't reviewed them and never will, but I will make my first official "Buy" recommendation. Buy these wines. A total of only 300 cases exist. And if you purchase them now from Storyteller Wine Company, that old friend and colleague of mine will personally donate $5 for every bottle you buy. Hell, I'll even give them 95+ points. >>
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