Thursday, July 31, 2008

Businessmen, They Drink My Oaky Cab-Merlot Blend

I've gotta have this. I will even invest in a slowly rotating pedestal for displaying it:

Though the Streisand and KISS editions are hard to resist, nothing says "supple tannins" like an etched caricature of Mick Jagger's mouth.

I wonder, non-judgmentally, who really buys these things. Surely they're in highest demand around Christmastime, when Bill Wyman's divorce lawyer's clients need reminders of how good they've been all year. And the corporate logo ones probably make nice briefcase-stuffers at Caligulesque i-bank holiday parties. The right wine to the right person is the most meaningful of gifts, but vitis vinifera's true strength come December is that it's the best impersonal gift imaginable. To the recipient, it offers a cozy, inoffensive obviousness--you know 50+ other people got the exact same thing from the deep-pocketed master of etiquette who sent it, likely with the same typed message. But that's fine because you either a) like wine, in which case you'll enjoy evaluating the contents, b) are indifferent to wine, in which case you'll enjoy getting drunk from the contents, or c) don't drink, in which case you have a re-gifting trump card.

Do these rock bottles ever twist'n'shout their way into distinguished private collections? I'm guessing not, though I welcome evidence to the contrary. The liquid inside is produced by Miramonte. I've never had any of their wines, which appear to be middle-class SoCal fruities, but assuming the Syrah with the gold-tongued Stones icon is the same as the one advertised on the Miramonte site, you're paying a fancy restaurant markup (nearly 3x) to get Mick's kisser on the bottle. Only the truest fan, sure the wine will transubstantiate into Keef's dope-saturated blood once it crosses the threshold of his teeth, would personally invest in this supreme piece of kitsch.

But what a pleasant surprise as the centerpiece of an anonymous gift basket on your desk one sleety morning during the endless corporate goodwill season when, to understate the matter, you can't always get what you want.

Recent notables:

  • Domaine de L'Ameillaud Vin de Pays Vaucluse 2006 - Basso profundo flavors of dark berries, pepper, and smoldering tobacco make this Grenache-heavy Vin de Pays an incredible value for under $10. Buy buy buy!!
  • Domaine Guy Roulot Bourgogne Blanc 2006 - Apparent wood influence of slightly burnt sugar on the nose. Spicy apple flavors and nice acidity equal a good ambassador of an underrated white Burgundy vintage.
  • Miner Pinot Noir 2000 - Elder statesman. Tantalizing wet leaf/forest floor nose totally falls apart five minutes after pouring. Stewed strawberry and rhubarb fruit flavors survive a little better, but this offers a difficult paradox--a cerebral, complex wine that must be guzzled.
  • Louis Michel Chablis 2006 - Pale with green hue. O.G. Chablis--green apple is the only obvious fruit flavor. No pear, melon, toast, etc. Major acidity. Gains depth as it gets a little warmer.
  • Silverado Merlot 2003 - Very mellow with the only remaining tannins coming from the bigtime French oak. I didn't perceive the cocoa you're supposed to take for granted in Napa Merlot, but there was vanilla a-plenty and juicy blackberry that was delicious with blue-collar Brooklyn pizza. Time for these great wines to get their reputation back.
  • Cos D'Estournel 1995 - A baller Bordeaux that distinguishes itself with browbeating black and white pepper flavors supporting incredibly pure and concentrated cigar box, blackberry, and cassis. I opened this a bit too early--over two hours before pouring, and so there was more oxygen than I would have ideally liked in the composition. But no biggie--a defining experience.
  • Bollinger R.D. 1996 - Oh wow, oh wow. A Champagne that would make you sit down if you weren't already. One of those wines that hits you so hard and so completely that the specific flavors (candied apple, Christmas spice, yeast) are trivial.
  • Louis Latour Corton-Grancey 1999 - Grand Cru all the way--imagine eating a black cherry the size of a plum. Characteristic Cote de Beaune Pinot heaviness might overwhelm in the second glass, but the elegance imparted by nine years of age counters that hazard. I'd love to try this again in 2013.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cos D'Elena

I own a lot more Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon than a person in my income bracket should. I haven't purchased it all, but suffice to say I haven't stolen any of it. It is such a good wine. If I had more experience with high-end California reds I could say something like: "Admirable old-world restraint distinguishes this aristocratic Cabernet amidst a sea of cloying Napa syrup". But that would be an especially putrid strain of bullshit, and I also happen to love that cloying syrup.

I digress. Montelena just became the first in a not-unlikely succession of top American wineries pursued by foreign buyers with fistfuls of muscle-bound currency. In this case, the suitor was Montelena's oenological frat brother Cos D'Estournel. The Prats clan has combined a keen business acumen and a Midas winemaking touch to build quite a little empire over the years, but acquiring Montelena makes a particularly strong statement vis-a-vis the Paris Tasting (in theaters soon!).

Undoubtedly James Laube knows Montelena a lot better than I do, but I can't contort my palate around his gloom'n'doom post about California red wine, capped by the assertion that Montelena's "quality has lagged" lately. Having tasted the '04, '03, '97, '89, and '88 vintages of Estate in the past month, I think it's doing just fine.

Better, even. Whether the purple-black intensity of a younger vintage or the brick-brown finesse of a Bush/Quayle harvest, I see no yawning gulf between Montelena's quality today and the ideal of a perfect red wine. Versatility? Try their decidedly un-jammy Estate Zinfandel or, if you can find it, the rich, crisp Riesling. I can only imagine Mike Grgich's flag-waving 1973 Chardonnay, but I'll be goddamned if the current release, a sparingly oaked, zero-malo iconoclast is much inferior.

Laube writes somewhat dismissively that Montelena "still has fans who admire its sturdy, distinctive, ageworthy style, but most of them are old-guard collectors". The implication is that the winery is ossifying into a crusty memory that won't spark any nostalgia--let alone interest--in young turk collectors. Well now. As long as Estate is racking up consistent mid-90s from Parker, I don't think it's headed for any clearence racks. First-hand observation bears this out.

And though some seething Montelena-sucks missives from WS commentors make me doubt my frame of reference a little more, I still side with Parker. If the winery's cellars are still infested with TCA, that's a serious issue that needs addressing and I trust the new management to do so--their track record of improving the wineries they acquire is solid. But I have a good feeling Jean-Guillaume Prats, Michel Reybier, et al. won't feel the need to overhaul the Montelena portfolio or the style of the wines.

Why? Because they know that premium, historic terroir like Montelena's doesn't respond well to meddling. They're even smarter wine guys than they are businessmen, which is why I look so forward to opening one of the crown jewels of my modest collection--a Cos D'Estournel 1995--tonight.

Recent notables:
  • Captain Lawrence "Liquid Gold" Ale - Looks like Budweiser, tastes like what Budweiser might taste like if you reduced it over high heat for 10 minutes. Huge malt attack with some interesting woody, violety flavors on the midpalate. Profoundly bitter finish.
  • Lagunitas "Censored" Copper Ale - Spicy, round, slightly doughy character keeps this brawny ale eminently gulpable. The comforting color of a 10 year-old penny. Just edges the Capt. Lawrence as the best new beer I've had in the past 3 months.
  • Magic Hat "Lucky Kat" IPA - Nice floral hoppyness on the attack, disappoints just a little on a finish that could support more bitterness.
  • Ardbeg 10 Year Single Malt Scotch - Not the peat beast it's reputed to be (less so than Laphroaig 10). Definitely some heavy smoke, plus dashes of sugar and brine. OK.
  • La Sacrisite de la Vieille Cure 2005 - The eagle has landed! Finally a non-Petit Chateau bottle of 2005 Bordeaux. A little tight now, but not especially tannic and fantastic balance. I suspect the blackberry, mocha, and mellow currant flavors would be clearer with decanting. Given the reasonable price, I'd like to lay a few of these down.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


To be fair and balanced, my California jaunt involved more than stepping on a landmine at The French Laundry. One, my sister got married and I inherited sole responsibility of keeping the family name alive. Two, I did a 36-hour tour of Napa and Sonoma where my cup ranneth over with all the juice I could gargle.

An early-morning drive to Calistoga--a pastoral oasis after the Hamptons-esque vibe of 29 as it cleaves Rutherford and St. Helena--ended at Chateau Montelena. As Odette Kahn's vengeful spirit hissed at us from the rafters, we tasted eight wines beginning with a crackling, powerful Potter Valley Riesling and ending with a 1989 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon that, blindfolded, I would have pegged as a high-end St. Julien. Roaming the grounds was therapeutic, notwithstanding a faceoff with a three-legged turtle (below).

We ditched the car in St. Helena and continued south on bicycles. I hate bicycles. My knees and neck were wretched after 800 meters. The pickup trucks screaming past inches from my left elbow got progressively older and rattlier as we approached the next merciful stop. At Hall, we sipped brooding, chocolaty cabs with a Frank Gehry skeleton looming in the background. I thought of the Atlantic Yards and reflexively spit on the ground.

On the road again, a familiar sign came into view beyond some protruding train tracks: Provenance, a new-ish Rutherford winery that I had encountered months ago at a tasting conducted by its winemaker Tom Rinaldi. This was not on the itinerary. I hollered at my friends, far ahead of me at this point, to please stop. The opposing wind slapped my voice back into my face as they pulled further away.

Now how's this for fate: Just past the far corner of the vineyard, the speed demon so indifferent to my floundering yelped and swerved off the road towards the tracks. The chain had detached from the gears of his bike. With an earnest effort to hide my schadenfreude, I pulled up next to him and gently suggested we walk back to Provenance to catch "our" breath.

Between nosings of a lush, unabashedly American Sauvignon Blanc, I identified myself to the pourer and asked if Tom was by any chance around. Affirmative. Tall, bearded, and emanating an intelligence as laid-back as vast, he is the quintessential California wine dude. I would have been stoked with a simple "nice to see you again", so when he blindsided us with a comprehensive tour of the fermenting, aging, and bottling facilities--holy shit! The thrill of staring into a huge box containing maybe 10,000 corks was eclipsed only by the Wonka-esque bottle assembly line full of sound (metal clanks, hydraulic whooshes) and fury (corks slammed into openings, labels smacked on faces). And, just to verify that he is in fact Batman, Tom fixed the crippled bike and sent us on our way.

To Quintessa. Even the eye candy on the Silverado Trail can't prepare you for how incredible this estate is. First off, 280 acres--this is COLOSSAL compared to neighboring wineries. The structure itself is a sprawling crescent embedded into an east-facing hillside. Guzzling my third complimentary split of Voss in the cathedral-like reception area, I was reminded of Cameron Frye's house: "It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything". You can touch stuff at Quintessa, but it's the kind of place where a drop of water reverberates for ten seconds.

Underground, narrow candlelit corridors jutted spoke-like from a central fountain. Barrels everywhere. How nice to sniff the same wood (below) that may or may not have been selected by M. Michel Rolland (whom I consider a genius, more on that later). Our tasting was the 2005 Red alongside young, unblended lots of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was an instructive exercise in the craft of blending--tasting the pure cab made it possible to imagine exactly how the blend would taste without it. Ending with posh canapes prepared onsite, the Quintessa experience was an appropriately bling-bling farewell to Napa. I'm never getting on a bike again.

Eighteen hours later we were lost in Sebastopol, desperately searching for the Gravenstein Highway so as not to be any later than we already were to Dutton-Goldfield. Sonoma (below) has a very different vibe from Napa, with more clunky old farm equipment than BMW's in the scenery. There are even redwoods and a townie or two hundred. W instantly formulated plans to move there by 2012.

Dan Goldfield
, alongside whom I've had the privilege of pouring, is to me the potions master of the Russian River Valley. He keeps his non-Zin wines under 14.0%, achieving Burgundian finesse without sacrificing American muscle. His Rued Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 is the best American white I've ever had. The wizard was gone from his workshop that morning, but his colleagues treated us to A LOT of barrel samples, including embryonic single-vineyard wines that I'd never encountered on the east coast. Couldn't bear to spit.

Our last NoCal stop was Iron Horse. I'd always known it primarily as a bubble factory, and was caught off guard by an array of impressive dry red wines, particularly the T-Bar-T Bdx-3 2004. Robot name aside, it's a toothsome, dense Cab/Cab/Petit Verdot cuvee made from young vine Alexander Valley grapes. It has a refreshing old-world austerity and pulls off the cigar-box-full-of-fresh-mud Bordeaux thing with style. Of the sparklers, the pointy, complex Wedding Cuvee 2005 beats the creamy, opulent Russian Cuvee 2003 by a nose, and you can tell the poor pourers are so tired of having to repeat the Gorbachev anecdote to every visiting bumpkin.

That did it for "wine country", though I'll quickly mention a couple of fortuitous Cal-Ital discoveries during the long drive south: Witch Creek Winery's jammy, meaty Aglianico (Mexican-grown fruit!) was booming when the winemaker pulled a dram of the '07 from barrel, so I'm interested to see how a the '06 I bought will be after a year (or two, if I can bear the suspense). And I left a pit stop in Paso Robles with a bottle of Pianetta Sangiovese 2005. Kool-aid for grownups--that's the only way I can describe the intensity of the cherry flavors in the best treatment of this varietal I've ever tasted from outside The Boot.

I'm left with rumblings that I'd like to be a winemaker one day, though completing the prerequisites to apply to Davis would take at least two years. What's neat, however, is that with average price of Napa land hovering around a hundred grand per acre, California's status as the only US destination for an interesting winemaking career is going to be on the ropes by the time I'd theoretically be graduating from an academic program. I guess it is already, what with it raining great juice in Oregon, Washington, and New York every year. But they'll eventually be Napa-fied to some extent, and I'll optimistically posit that the next wave of scrappy winemakers will find a way to wrest magic from the terroir in Virginia, Texas, The Carolinas, Pennsylvania... Raise a Kluge to that happy thought.

P.S. In case you hadn't heard, California is ON FIRE. Here's what it looks like driving past Santa Barbara just before sunset.

The silver flecks are ash reflecting the camera flash. Guess what the "clouds" are. Ultra-premium Sonoma winery Hanzell had a near miss the day before we were in that area. How many vintages will pass before at least one major vineyard gets speed-raisinated by a roaring inferno? I'd wager you can count them on one peace sign.

Recent notables:
  • Nicolas Feuillate Palmes d'Or 1997 - I've never been a huge fan of the Feuillate style (see earlier post about the champagnes I dig), but this prestige cuvee carries itself with a voluptuous dignity. It's light, no doubt, but there's a creamy, bready intimation towards the back that keeps it level and swallowable. A long and satisfying finish elevates it to memorable.
  • Taittinger Prelude NV - Fine mousse. Lemony with considerably more body than the delicious Brut Francaise. Toasted nut notes and lots of flowers define the midpalate and finish. Accompanying berries and whipped cream, goddamn.
  • Conundrum 2006 - I guess I can't be surprised that this boastfully off-dry California heavy is a love-it-or-hate-it wine, but for my money there's nothing better with sharp cheeses. Five odd-couple white varietals play very nicely together in this bottle, generating tropical and floral flavors coated in oaky vanilla.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


"I am looking for a restaurant, can you help me?

It exists quietly sixty-plus miles from any major city, on a dark street where people live all year. You walk into the hard-to-find and unassumingly blue front door and are met by an unknown friend who's been expecting you without a blink of impatience. She asks you to wait five minutes on a luxuriously familiar sofa where the chef's own cookbook, obscene in its temptation, opens itself in your hands.

Then you're at a large table--all the restaurant's tables are large--with your companion, and it feels like you're in the house you've always wanted to live in for the rest of your life. A server appears and speaks to you in a high baritone that you know is a performance but such a perfect one that you forgive it immediately. You glance at the menu but there isn't much choice--you're there to eat what the chef wants to cook for you that night. Trust is the mother sauce.

A few words and that server is gone, but another soon materializes in his place. This isn't a restaurant where a single wage slave is lashed to your table all night. Here, a gently buzzing hive cooperates as suavely as the zeroes and ones in the guts of an iPhone to get you what you want, when you want it, and nothing more.

There is a wine list, over a hundred pages long. Its nectars range from geeked-out gems like Pacific Northwest Gewurztraminer to the baller blockin' five-figure extremes of DRC 2005. Nothing is cheap, but everything is purposeful--as it must be when the same dinner is served to a hundred people, each of whose different noses and tongues need a specific wine to carry the food to their personal euphoria triggers.

And, the food: Nominally French/New American, but truly the borders-be-damned Esperanto of culinary transcendence. Flavors you're surprised you can comprehend wait like a cocked Mayweather right and punch your lights out the instant you dare to swallow. Every conceivable texture is conjured fearlessly: creamy, crunchy, tingling, liquid, chewy, popping, ambrosially slimy. Spread over nine (de facto eleven) courses, the array of stimuli suggests nothing less than infinity. It is a selfish and thoroughly unproductive achievement of man to create a restaurant this good. Please help me find it."

"Well, pilgrim, you stand under the Golden Gate Bridge, point your nose to the North Star, and stop when the locals correct your pronunciation of 'Yountville'."

The name of this restaurant is, of course, The French Laundry, and I would like to relate a recent evening spent in its care. Not because I want to trumpet my ability to get the reservation (you just need an account on, two months' notice, and a talent for left-clicking) and to foot the bill (you just need a black AmEx or a low financial IQ--guess which one applies here), but because I left 6640 Washington Street way past midnight with a bulging doggy bag of perspective on indulgence, gastric wellness, and why I bother making my mouth available as a port of entry.

Paeans to Thomas Keller's virtuosity come easy, so I had ample time to get excited about experiencing his food, then become cynical and lower my expectations, and finally get excited again. In the week before leaving home, I read M.F.K. Fisher's "The Standing and the Waiting" three times on the subway, sure that her lyrical account of a near-perfect meal would put me in the proper frame of mind for "the best restaurant in the Americas".

Then I was there, and the "Pinces de Homard Pochees Au Beurre Doux" with Morels, English Peas, Garden Herb Salad, and "Mousseline Americane" were in front of me, and I felt very sick. I swallowed a salty half-teaspoon of saliva to stem the reverse peristalsis that was threatening to propel courses one through four across the tablecloth. It did not pair well with the Rebholz "Kastanienbusch Birkweiler" Grosses Gewachs Riesling Spatlese 2004. Perpendicular, W's rapture was apparent as her second piece of lobster dissolved in her mouth. I ran my fork's rightmost tine through a blot of pea puree and drew a little hook.

Suddenly I was sweating and asked if I could remove my jacket. The server mumbled that it was against policy before graciously consenting. An oncoming burp promised temporary stomach relief, treacherously arriving as a searing acid bath for my esophagus. I'd heard of these ultra-rarified restaurants occasionally doubling as vomitoria, but it was a much funnier notion on a sheet of newsprint than in my gullet as I stared down a savory, glistening "Pressee" of Four Story Hill Farm "Poularde" with Hobbs' Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Arrowleaf Spinach, Sunchokes and Royal Blenheim Apricot.

I was suffering this way because I had eaten too much--way too much--the previous day, and drunk just enough to compound the torment. For breakfast in San Francisco, black bean cakes, eggs, and cornbread at Dottie's True Blue Cafe. Mid-morning, a sourdough loaf from Boudin Bakery on the Fisherman's Wharf. Late lunch at Swan's Oyster Depot--dense clam chowder, six icy Blue Points, and a huge hill of crab salad accompanied by Muscadet and Anchor Steam. An aperitif bottle of Artesa Pinot Noir 2005 upon arriving at the Best Western in Napa. Very late dinner at Mustard's Grill beginning with Far Niente Chardonnay 2005, Perrier-Jouet NV, and small plates galore, continuing with rich Sonoma rabbit and a killer Willamette Valley Pinot 2006 called Antica Terra. Zero physical activity all day.

I probably would have gotten away with all this if I had held off on the banana cheesecake, key lime pie, and Prager Port-style Petite Sirah at Mustard's, but I didn't, and crumpled into bed around 1AM with a spinning head and distended belly. I woke up at 3 and never got back to sleep. Nothing had been digested. I was dehydrated and it hurt to move. I thought of Bruce Bogtrotter in Roald Dahl's Matilda, a zaftig child forced to eat a gigantic chocolate cake by an evil schoolmarm. For two hours I writhed, hoping no one else was awake. Finally, I made the death row walk to the toilet and vomited prolifically.

The pain faded as the sun rose, but any thought of consuming food met with severe physiological punishment. I steeled myself for a day of wine tasting and managed to swallow some canned pineapple and grapes at Denny's, while burying the prospect of dinner at The French Laundry as deeply as my brain stem allowed. Nothing budged over the next twelve hours. As we traveled I envisioned my body as a porno-addled hard drive, infested with free radicals and chemical imbalances.

Back to the evening, my despair peaked when I realized that the second bottle of wine I had ordered, a Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny "Les Sentiers" 1995, would be on the table soon and there was no way I'd be able to finish it. I faintly beckoned the sommelier and explained my plight. He returned with a half bottle of Gros Frere et Soeur Grands Echezeaux 2005 and transferred it to a Riedel "Duck" Decanter. Seeing this was comforting. And tasting the wine--the most intense, lilting Pinot Noir I've ever encountered--was temporary anesthesia.

Not a miracle cure, but I caught my breath. Then, like when the Yellow Submarine triumphantly returns to Pepperland at the Fab Four's most desperate moment, our initial server descended and asked if we were ready for the next course. I handed him my half-finished "Poularde" and our eyes met with understanding. The Elysian Fields Farm "Selle D'Agneau Rotie Entiere" with Panisse, Globe Artichokes, "Piperade", and Spring Garlic Jus came next and W accepted a third of mine. She was happy, which was wonderful.

Minutes later, watching a local cow cheese being quenelled tableside over Yellow Corn "Financier", Caramelized Fig, Mache, and Black Truffle Coulis, I knew I was out of the woods. My GI tract was free of acid and inching towards equilibrium, I had a half-glass left of gorgeous grand cru Burgundy, and the remaining two courses brandished relatively few animal proteins. I smiled weakly (see right) and passed on coffee.

The bill arrived on a charming laundry ticket: One thousand sixty-one dollars and thirty-four cents. To reveal the cost of this four-hour hallucination certainly breaches etiquette, but it's necessary to understand my final impression of the night. There was no sense of wastefulness, and only a twinge of anticlimax. What followed me home down Route 29 as the witching hour approached was a conviction that my approach to dining--and more broadly, nourishment and consumption--needed adjustment.

Food has been a cerebral pleasure of mine since 2005, when I tossed my pothead Munchos-and-salsa jones onto the junk heap alongside my DiGiorno-and-YooHoo high school meanderings. Day to day now I don't demand haute cuisine that costs a month's rent--I just want food that sits on my spork minimally altered from its natural state, free of artificial chemicals, and capable of telling me something interesting. This affords me a sense of wellness without compromising my unwavering love of fat, salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol (which, if need be, I am perfectly willing to let kill me a decade or two early).

My lesson from a tumble in The French Laundry is that the food one consumes is an ongoing and interconnected narrative--once it's done keeping you alive, it sets to work coloring your perception of your next bite, your next meal, your next restaurant choice. If you, the author, value a good story over a good sentence, you need to consider how today's Wyoming burger will flavor tomorrow's gravlax. I didn't. It's so easy to deface the big picture when Sonoma rabbit and banana cheesecake tease you from a menu page, but you pay in the end--well over $1,061.34.

The only objective complaints--and they really don't matter--involve Keller's two alliterative vices: Quenelles (at least three, they got boring) and quotation marks (count 'em--seventeen pairs on the menu). But everything he prepared was delicious--the finest ingredients on earth handled minimally in the most innovative and perfect proportions imaginable. The setting is beautiful without ever intimidating. And a trip to the restroom is so much more satisfying knowing that Tom Cruise and Heidi Klum occupied the same commode days earlier. Nothing about this evening gives me reason to begrudge The French Laundry's place at the pinnacle of American eateries.

And yet it lands at the bottom of my twenty most pleasurable dining experiences. I'm reminded of (and confounded by) an analogous 24 hours in Philadelphia when I followed a Yuengling bender with four Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast, cheesesteak at D'Alessandro's for lunch, and then the ten-course degustazione at Vetri, which was top three without question.

It's hard to grapple with the Orwellian truth that we are mobile food bags, and I frustrated myself trying as I lay voluntarily awake that night. Comfort came when I remembered that "The Standing and the Waiting" ends with madame in tears.

Today's damage:

  • Domaine de Lagrezette "Zette" Malbec 2003: Perfume of dried fruits and clove gets you ready for brawny raisin and tobacco flavors. Gains some acidity and depth after being open and re-sealed for a day. Take that, Argentina!
  • R Wines, "Boarding Pass" Shiraz 2005: No mistaking this 15.7% bigfoot, though the finish is impressively non-boozy. Smoky attack and nice blueberry syrup midpalate.
  • Domaine A. et J-P Colinot, Irancy "Les Mazelots", 2005: A black sheep from Burgundy, this 90% Pinot Noir / 10% Cesar (Julius should have kept it) is sharp and austere with scant varietal typicity. Nice for the novelty, but not for enjoyment.
  • Chateau de Rully, Rully "La Pucelle" 1er Cru, 2005: Fat, almost California-style oak jumps out first, but closer examination reveals a basket of Cote Chalonnaise fruit: Green apple, barely ripe pear, a little lime. Toes the new world-old world line well.