April 30, 2005

Courtesy of Fred Dame MS and Jay Fletcher MS, a few remarkable wines to report: Claude Dugat Charmes Chambertin 1995 was all earth and muscle, but showed red plum and sarsaparilla as well as hints of Bretty leather.

The Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux 1995 was dull in comparison. H2S aromas pervaded the thing. Aargh.

April 29, 2005

There were some gems, as there should be when people like Randall Grahm are involved. My favourite quote of his? “I think that to some degree all wines are corked,” he said during the panel considering alternative corks and packaging. It was dubbed, “Seeking Closure”, of course.

April 28, 2005

The Monterey Wine Festival ate my homework. Strike that, it ate my brain. That is the primary reason why this blog fell so miserably behind, though typical human sloth played a role as well. The preparation for it was bad enough, but the execution of the event was mind-bending. Things will change that’s for sure; the program will probably see different ownership next year and I may not play a role, for better or worse.

For the attendees, though, I hope it was good. I certainly believe that we executed well and that only those of us in the background saw the chaos.

April 27, 2005

A visit to a new spot at the Bellagio in Vegas: 55 Degrees. A fun selection, a very fun display and all wines served in the new Riedel stemless wine glasses. I’m a big fan of everything Riedel does. Until now. These glasses don’t keep the temperature of the white wines (and even the reds) and the wines lose their balance. And why? Just for design’s sakes?

April 26, 2005

The 2002’s seem similar to the 1990’s at this age, as I understood the 1990’s to be at the time. They are very, very exciting wines with very, very long lives ahead. Just to prove it, I opened a Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2002 ten days ago, poured out a glass (the notes were good, believe me) and now I’m trying it again. Ten days in the frig – try that with your Marcassin Chardonnay.

April 25, 2005

I continue to be pleasantly befuddled by the great German estate wines of the last decade. Is the 1996 going to be the keeper? Are the 1999’s just fat and pleasing wines with the depth of Paris Hilton? Each time I begin to conclude such simple-minded generalizations, I find myself surprised.

The 1990’s have always been brilliantly structured, and Ernie Loosen’s wines of that vintage have reflected the incipient excellence and structure. Still the 1990 Gold Kapsule Auslese I tasted was rounder and lower in acid than I expected. Not in a bad way, but in a 1999 way.

Yet the wine finished nearly austere; imagine the sugars in a GKA 1990 from Dr. Loosen and ponder that last statement. Maybe there is structure for days here, but it’s too easy to focus on the friendly stuff.

April 24, 2005

Picnic wine is important. Anyone who says it’s not doesn’t go on enough picnics. I vote for this Gewurztraminer, the next time I’m drinking wine in a public, relaxed and grassy setting. Once Chateau St. Jean had a reputation for this grape, but since the late 1980’s the mantle of best Gewurztraminer has been worn by others such as Navarro, farther north in Mendocino County. This won’t challenge Navarro for greatness and that’s why it’s lovely picnic wine, – it’s pure drinkability. But simple? No, there’s something like cherry juice at the end.

April 23, 2005

Henry is a fan of Granato, as I certainly am. Elizabetta Foradori’s wonderful Teraldego-based wines from the hills above the Trento Plain are fantastic. It’s damning with faint praise to say that they are brilliant values. They’re worth far more than you will ever pay for them. You must buy one; the straight-forward Teroldego Rotaliano is succulent enough to make you think about Aussie Shiraz, but without the head-banging oak, alcohol and with enough acid to kick a mule. Strike that. Enough balance to withstand a cannon shot straight to the belly.

April 22, 2005

Had a remarkable meal at Spiaggia in Chicago. Henry Bishop is a great sommelier and runs a world-class program there. I’m still trying to figure out the name of the Swiss Fendant that was so delicious that he was pouring by the glass. Chef Tony Mantuano explores intense food and flavor without losing his deft touch.

Henry, it turns out, is as avid a fan of musica obscurant as yours truly. He and I waxed over our respective Eno collections more than over the gorgeous Italian reds he had to offer.

April 20-21, 2005

April 21

I still have a few bottles of Montebello 1977 left but one of them (from a friend’s cellar) tastes like very powerful, sinewy California Cabernet. I thought it was a California Cabernet from a mountain vineyard but from the tight 1986 vintage.

I mention this because I have been tasting Montebello for many years and have been uncannily consistent in calling it ” Bordeaux from a California vintage” for years. Suddenly, in this tasting, I have started getting Montebello right. Give or take a decade of age.

April 20

Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage 1990 is still powerful, compact, muscular and completely in need of another five to ten years. And that’s the bottle from my cellar, which is not usually the most long-lived version of the wine you will find.