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November 27, 2009
People have lost their jobs for less, but I'm self-employed on 750 mL, so I can say this: you must try this wine exactly once in your life... But in the meantime, here are my years-old notes on the dry 2002, for which this 94 is a telling omen, and the sweeter 1995 Moelleux. They're proof that I'm getting old, and that nothing could be better.
November 25, 2009
04 Ash Hollow, Columbia Valley Merlot
In Oregon, they call this Bergstrom. In California, they call this Sea Smoke. In the Rhone, it is Domaine Royer. But what's amazing is that, somehow, in Walla, this can still be called merlot. Because I don't mean it tastes like pinot or syrah or grenache. It's not that. It's more that this wine defies the conventions of its varietal the same way the other three great vintners I mentioned do. At once both heavily extracted and heavily attuned to its DNA, the Ash Hollow is nothing if not all the pomp, circumstance, and bombast of Parker-era New World wine. It does nothing to define terroir. Instead, it spends all its time positioning the hand of its winemaker, which is large, deliberate, and decidedly hairy. By which I mean, let's not kid ourselves. This wine is not abalone sashimi. It's beef Wellington--a perfect cut of filet mignon unnecessarily coated in foie, mushrooms, butter, and motherfucking puff pastry. It's ripe with unctuous flavors of strawberry, blueberry, hints of fennel, and the most complex aroma of white pepper and leather. It's easy to try this wine and think it's just another juicy American merlot. It almost is just that. It almost is too much. Which means it's just right. Just perfectly right. And in so many ways not the kind of wine I've normally championed on this site. I don't taste a bunch of rocks and gravel, nitrogen and UV radiation. I taste a shot in the dark; one that hits right in the heart and keeps aiming in that same direction as I fall. First it hurts. Then I'm filled with rage. Then I'm weak, and see my life, and everything I've loved, and am filled with light, flowers, and the incurable desire to keep going on.
November 19, 2009
06 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Belle Pente Vineyard
I would have had this wine sooner, but I was looking for my good corkscrew. The one I've had since I was 21. A compass to gauge perfect center on the cork closure. Christmas lights. I had to put on my mood ring. The moment had to be just right. This wine deserves it. Maybe more than any other producer, Belle Pente captures Oregon pinot noir. Relax. Don't get up in arms at me about The Eyrie. Or Ponzi. Or any other boy up north. Let me clarify myself. I'm talking about Yamhill-Carlton. Not the oh Oregon can make Burgundy wines. Not the see I told you they can'ts. The ones that say what exactly are you talking about and who gave you permission to write about it. Let me see your yellowjacket scars. I'm talking about the kind of wine Soter makes before I even look at the bottle or remember that Soter's Mineral Springs is from the same place. Sometimes, terroir is so fucking obvious. So much so, that I couldn't care less if you knew this was from Yamhill, or even Oregon. The point is, it's completely unique, but it still reminds you of something. So what could that mean? What does it mean if that happens, but what you're reminded of is a late spring afternoon on a beach in Normandy with your dad's credit card (he still doesn't know). Or the first evening your fiancee turned the tables and made you dinner--the best fucking dinner you've ever had, yeah, sorry Mr. Kahan. That's what we're talking about when we say terroir, when we say "sense of place." It's more than soil or tradition, it's about having your bearings. Getting the fluids in your ear level. (In Yamhill's case, distinctively plush, low-acid fluids.) Absurdly smooth, rich, and spicy, when I think "Oregon," this is exactly the kind of wine I think of. That doesn't mean it's good or bad. Or that great winemakers doing something different should give half a care. But it does mean that in all the years I've been drinking Oregon pinot, a few styles have stood out to me. Styles that make me want to replace the French word "terroir" with an American word: pride. Black cherries, fennel, maduro pipe tobacco, espresso, and sweet San Daniele proscuitto fat? Yeah, those are the flavors we make. No, we didn't figure that out drinking Gevrey-Chambertin. This is our beautiful slope. Our beautiful slope.
November 12, 2009
06 Bouchard Pere et Fils, Bourgogne Monthelie Les Duresses
I might as well have been holding the oracle of Delphi, because everyone was transfixed and no one would dare question me while this was on the table. At L2O, Chef Laurent Gras' seafood capital of the world... most statements begin and end there. Yeah, I was at L2O, and it was amazing, but it was also a bit of a landmark for this wine. Because at the end of the night, tempura lobster, Osetra, even foie gras "snow" aside, it was this pinot noir that stole the show. I consider myself lucky. While paging through what might have been a 100-page wine list, I came across this bottle. But how could I have the answer? Obviously, there's a better wine in here for my meal. So I asked, I'd love this Monthelie, but I'd be up for your recommendations. "No, that's pretty much it." But even she was amazed. In its youth, this wine from the south-facing neighbor of Volnay is all the sensuous, silky pinot that one man in a committed relationship can possibly take. Pulled from Les Duresses, the region's best vineyard, it magnifies flavors of raspberry, ginger, and pepper. But the flavors don't matter. They'll be different depending on whether you're having it with sushi-grade tuna, flash-frozen foie dust, roasted vegetables, steak, or on its own. What won't be is how you feel afterwards, which is rejuvenated, slightly incredulous, raw, but handled well. Question my taste, ask me what you will, but this is the answer.
November 07, 2009
To Chicken Mamou with Brix
You look surprised. I thought you expected me. As some of your may have noticed, 750 mL recently introduced Paire, a personalized wine pairing service that we'll be running for the next week. The idea's simple. Post your meal plans and we'll send you a one-on-one email with our ideas for wine pairings. Nothing is off limits. But key to this is that your email address works. So to Chicken Mamou, who wrote me earlier this morning, I've got ideas ranging from the Brooks Amycas to, yes, even beaujolais nouveau. Unfortunately, your AOL email box is full, so you'll never know what else I have to offer. Write me back at 750mL.firstname.lastname@example.org when you're ready, though. To everyone else, click here to start using Paire.
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