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February 15, 2009
There are cooking wines better than this. It's unpalatably pungent, with the nutty oxidation and thin acidity that you'd most closely identify with fino sherry. Great there, gagging here. Clearly marketed as a superyoung-drink-right-now wine (though the lack of vintaging makes me question how committed Toro Loco actually is to making sure I don't grab a wine too old--can't I at least have a freshness date?), it's clear that this bottle is already too old. And, were there vintages, I could at least say to make sure you grab the 07 or 08. But without them, all I can say is that it's a crapshoot. I've never had a white so tortured and sad. I'm not sure if every bottle tastes like Johnny Walker Red Label mixed with Canada Dry or not (though chemistry suggests it has more to do with what's going on in the tanks and barrels than what's going on in the bottle), but the point is that there's no way for you to know either. This is the worst wine I've ever paid for.
February 14, 2009
06 Lemelson Vineyards, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Thea's Selection
Briary, sappy, round, lush--I could think of no better wine for Valentine's Day. It's a lusty, red, beating heart of a wine, full to the brim with flavors of dried black cherry, framboise, cocoa nibs, almond milk, and thyme. When the pork belly came out last night at Boka, I said, "I want to live in here," right there inside the tender flesh with walls of semolina. And, if I did, I would shower each morning with Thea's Selection. You feel at home when you drink this wine. It's warm, comforting, and familiar. Maybe too warm in the end, though. The 14.5% alcohol is surprisingly calm, but does grow to be pressing by bottle's end. I don't mind making the effort, though, to finish it. The fruit's sweet enough to keep the alcohol from becoming too spicy, the winemaking clean enough to keep the wine from feeling clumsy or laden with glycerine. In that way, the finish almost reminds me of ultra-ripe Chateauneuf du Pape.
February 08, 2009
07 Cloudline Cellars, Oregon Pinot Noir
I remember the first time I had Cloudline's pinot, I was staring out the window of a boutique wine shop at a dark sky coming in. No, I wasn't doing it for the metaphor. We'd just sold a lot of wine, the Euro was gradually getting stronger, and the sudden craze over American pinot noir left us with almost no bottles of pinot under $20. Actually, almost nothing at all but the most choice selection of single vineyard Oregon pinot you'll ever see in one afternoon. So I turned to my colleague and said, "Well, at least the Cloudline's beautiful," which he immediately took to be a surprisingly poignant, affected, and wholly metrosexual commentary on the state of our vitis vinifera union. But I was talking about my first taste of Cloudline, which, on a wave of strong Oregon vintages against my prurient palate, was lovely in its delicacy. This bottle reminds me of that elegance, that grace, that discomforting indolence. In the face of so many saturated, heady, clumsy pinots on the market today, this lighter style quickly finds its cult following. Racy and clean, it reminds us of that great myth of what pinot noir is supposed to be. And yes, there are a few, like The Eyrie Vineyards, who really, profoundly, mystically nail that style. Cloudline is not one of those wines. It's pinot for pinot's sake--full of bright red cherry and strawberry shortcake flavors, with a tangy finish of anisette, vegetal grappa (Nonino's chardonnay grappa always reminds me of eggplant), mushrooms, and chalky tannins. It's not bad after two days of decanting, but that's no sign of its potential. Instead, that light oxidation helps fill the holes in this wine where ripe fruit should be. I think there are some great grapes that go into this bottle, but also a lot of muck. And the bailout, perhaps, is that Vero Drouhin (winemaker daughter of Burgundy's great Joseph Drouhin) provides the "reference palate," according to the winery, whose throat here may have been thirstier for mineral water than Oregon pinot noir.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi