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March 28, 2010
This is where bias comes in handy. Without one, this review is simple: don't buy this wine. You know I hate talking about prices, but I know from working in retail and pairing wines for several years what people expect for their money. This isn't it. It's not elegant. Not inspiring. It probably won't get you laid... ladies. Yet, Pierre Peters is quite easily one of the very best Champagne producers on the market today. I don't know anyone who would put their chips in against that bet. Dollar for dollar, their 100% chardonnay Champagne--as pricey as it is--is a value. And, somehow, it's exactly the opposite of this rose. Trade white for pink--okay, that much is obvious. But also barter the sweet, regal aromatics of the blanc de blancs for something sharp, steely, phenolic. And swap the clean, mountain air palate for something that feels more like the rocks at the bottom of the hill. Downstream from a zinc mill. But bias gets me through. Reminds me how much care and finesse goes into every bottling. It makes me wonder just how wild the grapes for this rose were. Some maybe overripe. Some a little green. So confusing that the house yeast hardly knew what to do. Not fermented, subdued. If you ever can taste it, the fruit's actually beautiful. Don't get me wrong. This is one bold, deeply flavorful wine that I'd use just like I'd use any still pinot meunier--maybe with some sockeye salmon, but really best with country ham or beef sashimi (David Burke, are you listening?). It's yet another sparkling that speaks to the problem with "non-vintage" wines. Not that they're any less--but that the labeling's not clear enough. While many have a short shelf-life, others, like this Peters, need some time to age. But without a bottling date, we have no idea how long, or if they've aged already. And, sadly, this one's just not there yet. But yours might be. And, yes, I'm wondering the same thing. Who the hell is Albane? An old friend, I'm sure. A loved, but rarely seen one. Caring, but perhaps too busy to talk to for too long. Cher, Albane. Arretes. Calme-toi. Il y a tant de temps. We've got so long to go.
March 19, 2010
March 15, 2010
NV Krug, Champagne Reims Brut Grand Cuvee
When they say the stuff that dreams are made of--I get it now. It's not some overreaching cliche reserved only for the likes of Sam Spade. I was blinded this wine for the first time last night (no one I know would ever blind Krug; we generally open it under spotlight while screaming yeah, it's KRUG mothafuckas!) and all I could think of it as was fantasy. Sure, looking back, it was obviously Krug (my guess got as far as a young Reims with "something very unusual going on"). The second we revealed the bottle, I got tornadic wafts of toasted dried mushroom from the heavy dose of pinot meunier (indeed unusual). The giant smoky sourdough, creme anglaise, and strawberry biscuit aroma finally made sense--the unique barrel fermentation and lees age that Krug receives. And sure, all that lunging acidity was the blend of young wine that every NV Krug (more appropriately labeled multivintage) is built on. But that's after seeing the bottle. Really knowing Krug is to not know it's Krug. Here's a wine I've been lucky enough to have several times--one that as far as my interest in Champagne goes is supposed to be a benchmark. Yet looking back on all my prior encounters, I only remember it as delicious. Sometimes even elegant (which Krug is decidedly not). And that's because I knew it was Krug. I came wearing my tux to meet the aristocracy. But last night. Last night was running into the princess at the IGA. Something about you draws me in. I'd like to get to know you better. Even next to the frozen peas. There's the wonder of this wine. Without its label, without its pretense, without knowing its cost, it's indeed a better, more awe-inspiring wine. An imaginative, impressionist Champagne. Cezanne corked and under pressure. If you made a wine in your mind, half asleep, imagining six impossibilities before breakfast, this just might coerce itself into existence right after animals can talk. It's wunderlust. It's fugue. It's magic without knowing there are secrets in this world. And proof that sometimes you have to close your eyes to know what stands in front of you. But for us dreamers, take a breath, purse your lips, and dare to be surprised. Yeah, it's Krug mothafuckas. Thank you, Danielle.
March 03, 2010
08 J. Christopher, Oregon Croft Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
I got a sage piece of advice the other day from a fellow wine writer: don't be afraid to make enemies. Be as honest and objective as you can--I guess the rest will basically take care of itself. And I am. But the longer you do this, the more people you inevitably get to know, and your biases bloom like mold in April. I find myself refusing samples. Or taking them with the caveat that I'll only ever write about them if I get enough friends together to do a brown-bagged blind tasting. At some point, it becomes impossible. Fortunately, I don't know these guys. And I hope they don't read this. You're going to make enemies and you're going to have to forge ahead. I couldn't care less. And I'm at an advantage because I'm rarely recommending or cautioning any wine. You have no idea how much I appreciate that any winemaker would bother to do this. It's not their jobs to impress us. It's our work to find a reason for most of these wines. A ball to wear that gown to. The problem is, I'm starting to look good in a dress. Nevermind, I mean I'm starting to make friends. That might be why I've been so reluctant to write about this Croft Vineyard sauvignon blanc, which I first tried in the 2001 vintage and fell in love with a few months into the 2004. That's when I made it my house wine. But four years later, as more of us become neighbors in this business--and I'm honored to share a fence with any of you--the house has gotten bigger, and if we all had to meet somewhere, some amalgamation of all our favorite bars with Chefs Paul Kahan (or anyone he gives his nametag to) and Dan Mondock out back, this is what we're drinking once everyone gets inside. J. Christopher's 2008 Croft Vineyard sauvignon blanc is America's house wine. Take off your socks and put on your PJs. I've had it every week this year. Where I like to wax eloquently about the ether of old white Bordeaux, the Sudoku-like mindfuck of Loire, or the explicitly Cinemax-like pleasure of all Champagne, Croft makes me just want to keep my mouth shut. I don't want to make this winery happy. Don't want to run into them at a tasting and say, yeah, hey, it's my pleasure, but you're the one doing the work! I don't want to be full of myself. And time will tell if I delete this post. Make it something short and sweet about the Kaffir lime, smoky Silex (!) minerality (okay, now I've gone too far, it's not as ethereal, but at least far better than every New Zealand wine), gooseberry, raw quince, grapefruit, grapefruit, and grapefruit. So maybe it says something that I can't. That I can't shut up. That all I want to do is open a bottle, pour a few glasses, make a few new friends.
March 01, 2010
07 Darien, Rioja Rosado
I've never asked, but I'd guess confidently that most of my favorite winemakers at some point in their lives fell in love with a bottle of rose. At least that's what a wine like this Darien makes me think. Its citrusy berry ripeness--something like a kumquat mixed with Meyer lemon peel, white raspberries, strawberries, and nectarine--has the power to put you in a place you've never been and make you think you always belonged. If this were my first wine, I would've dropped out of school and spent my scholarship on a vineyard. On a practical level, the balance of acid, fleur-de-sel-like minerality, and sweet, round fruit means that the Darien can go with just about everything (though particularly onions, especially dark green scallion tops, normally reserved for compost, tossed with coarse salt and ground pink peppercorns). But you read the other sites for practical. What I taste is terroir. By which I don't mean the slight spiciness of 100% tempranillo. I don't mean the ripe fullness of Rioja (at its core, from producers who limit their oak, who I admit are increasingly difficult to find). By terroir in Rioja, I mean territory. This is a wine that defends its space, confident as a pit bull backed up against a wall. I won't hurt you, but if you Google me, you'll see the many ways that I could fuck you up. And it doesn't. It's a sweet dog inside. You just know that if there were a touch more acid, lingering tannin, strange oak, an odd amount of alcohol, a confusing addition of old vine garnacha--it could clamp down on your taste buds and never let go. Darien takes the nobler route. The sensitive seduction. A tryst in some alley with a French girl behind the dirty pintxos joint in Basque country that no one will ever ask you about. (We were there on study abroad, both had an interest in Suarez.) Quick, let's finish this wine, so we can order another. There are mussels coming. And if anyone gets in our way, we'll pull out our elbows. If there's a fight tonight, it's for the greater good. Your adrenal sweat will season these langoustines. The air is heavy. I belong here. I wish I could make my own wine and give it to you. But if not, I'd like just to be something you've never brought to your lips before.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi