Sign up to receive The Short Pour: 750 mL's quarterly newsletter of wine news and notes.
April 14, 2009
I'm putting on weight. That's not an observation (I've actually lost 20 pounds over the past year--hurrah), it's a pledge. Because I'm eating an entire sea bass with this wine, and I don't see how I can go another day without saying that again. This is riesling for the chardonnay drinker who hates his friends' chardonnays. A surprisingly lean, austere white from the otherwise Chinese massage parlor hands of Lynn Penner-Ash (whose wines are typically soothing and comforting at first, but tend to tickle you beneath the towel once you close your eyes), it fits more easily onto a shelf of warm-vintage Kabinett (slightly underripe by American standards) from Mosel Germany than anything from the New World. It has just the slightest bit of residual sugar--enough to make the racy lemon egg drop soup and warm-ammonia-inflected stone palate drinkable--but far, far less than what most people expect out of riesling nowadays. Let me be clear--this is in no way whatsoever a sweet wine. The tinge of sugar is more a Mendelian shout out to centuries of rootstock than a flavor itself. The fresh peach notes that take over the finish come to define summer for me, and the wine nerds will also quickly pick up on a whiff of minerally, tarpit aroma that smells half like diesel and half like an open canyon roasted by the August sun. Or maybe a handful of crumbly volcanic soil just damp from the Pacific mist that connects this half of the world to the other.
April 12, 2009
07 Grochau Cellars, Columbia Valley "Z" ("L") White
If arugula made a wine, this would be it. Which is to say, it takes all that's light, lovely, and easy about the world, and adds a powerful punch. Fuck you, lettuce. If grass represents the sun, these grapes--either some hardcore stainless steel chardonnay and gewurztraminer or some incredible sauvignon blanc, I'm not sure--are a sunburn cooking on the bottom of your chin as you sleep. It's a pain that creeps on and peels off of you, and despite that splotchy, raw texture, reminds you only of the good times. I completely love this wine in every possible way. Its lean, tart fruit reminds me of peeling green grapes with my front teeth, eating Granny Smith apples through an open sore in my cheek. It's spring and fall, dandelion dust and crabapples, with the same dirty, slightly smoky finish as Bouelvard's seared foie gras. I'm headed to the market right now for chicken livers--pate is in my future. It might pair well with this, but the point really is that I'm looking for something to salt. John's glorious table white inspires me to season things. It's a salt-and-peppered green mango, a note that joyously comes out in the aroma every time I say it. Salt-and-peppered mangoes. It has the lychee fruit of gewurtraminer, the white pepper of gruner veltliner, the suburban apple of underripe-please-make-me-sparkling chardonnay. I don't know how these wines trade hands, but all I can think about is Avec--the best tapas restaurant in Chicago. It fits so perfectly with that open style--communal tables, stemless glassware, one hot freaking oven cooking pork, octopus, pizza, and short ribs. Oh for God's sake, get me there. Meet me there with a case of this wine. Dinner's on me. The wine will probably be as well. Whatever it takes. Let's forget about the great Basque whites. Anything from Spain. We won't need Loire anymore either. And I'm willing to put Champagne up for review, too. There's purity in this wine--a trait I value tenfold over any prestige, pricetag, or progeny. This is where wine comes from--not Grochau or Columbia Valley, but from this base style. It tastes like the beginning. Before you get science involved. Before you start thinking about oak treatments and Parker scores and your ridiculous adjectives. This is where you start with wine and if you need to go any further, you have far too much time on your hands.
April 11, 2009
07 Stephenson Cellars, Washington State Viognier
The night started with the klink of a glass. No toast, no celebration--just the drop of three ice cubes into my neighbor's chardonnay. Paso Robles on the rocks. To be fair, it probably was pretty hot and, hey, if it tastes good drink it. But here's where I started getting worried. That Paso had nothing on my viognier, whose thick, lead-weight glass was doing everything it could to hold the 14.5% alcohol inside. But this would be warmth without fire. More hot stone massage than soup on the roof of your mouth, the Stephenson viognier is a lusty embrace of a wine--an Edenic catalog of citrus with slick, oily flavors of Grand Marnier, honey-buttered brioche, angel food cake, candied orange peel, tangerine sections, and waffles. It's a hot, heady wine, but all that alcohol actually works well here--much like in a great zinfandel--translating itself into a subtle, prickly white pepper spice that seasons and supports the fruit. It has the power and freshness that most viognier, including those from famed Condrieu, desperately lack. Viognier is a rich, forceful grape--one that has the texture of oaky, creamy chardonnay, without all that, well, oak and cream. And as a testament to that, this Stephenson study actually makes me feel more powerful. Probably just the booze talking, I know, but you really feel like you could break tables with your head after drinking this wine. I guess that's the point. This isn't a great review. It's a tough wine to write about because words aren't what it inspires. It makes you want to do something, anything, all the way.
April 01, 2009
Vintage Report: 2020 Cali Cab
I write about wine because I can't help it. I have to talk about this, and my voice is just too monotone to hear everyday. Not for you, for me. I can barely stand it. But reading my work lets me channel other voices. Today, in my head, I sound like Barry Gordy. Yesterday, it was the Indian guy from House. That one perk would be enough. But every now and then, I'm fortunate enough to get something even more tangible than that: alcohol. Unlike most wine publications, I don't solicit samples, but I do gladly accept them. And in the interest of objectivity, I either cook with them or stick them in the back of my cellar and pull them months later, once I've forgotten whether or not I paid for them. It's not Pricewaterhouse, but it works for me. So it was with great surprise today that I pulled back the brown paper bag I'd been pouring wine from this morning (oaky Australian grenache, I'd guessed) to reveal my first taste of the new vintage: 2020 Brentwood L.A. AVA California Cabernet. Sent from one of California's most respected cult wineries, this release is part of a new futures series soon hitting stores. "In anticipation of a warm year, plus the high probability of nuclear fallout and a renewed Republican government, we've gone ahead and selected our 2020 grapes. They clock in at more than 26 brix (a high sugar content in today's terms), but I should point out that one brix in the year 2020 represents 10 brix today. This is due to inflation." More to come...
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi