(With apologies to the international contingent, who will most likely find this gibberish...)
With all the baseball fever that's been gripping New York in the past few weeks, one hardly has a moment to spare to catch up on one's tasting notes. Tattered notebooks full of half-baked (sc)rawlings lie scattered all around our apartment, ignored for the moment in favor of the latest diamond heroics. Both local sporting clubs are in the hunt for the championship in the post-season for the first time in forty-plus years. Loyalties are clear and overt; friendships and family bonds are sorely strained when they cut across allegiances. Soon things will all sort themselves out, but for now a joyous chaos permeates the streets, with strangers cheerily berating other strangers and spontaneous competing chants erupting unforeseen from warring factions on the subways.
What has this got to do with wine? Not much, but it certainly gives us an excuse to dip into the stash for some goodies to either a) celebrate a victory, b) console ourselves after a defeat or c) numb ourselves until it's time for the next game.
So we toss a few weenies on the grill (pan), pull up a comfy armchair, and pop a few corks...
A white to start: Domaine du Tremblay Quincy 1998: Very pale; aggressively grassy, stony, zingy nose. A taste, and a mess of white grapefruity citrus flavors, the acidity is a hair short of shrill, tart and fairly extravagant. I would have thought this was a Kiwi wine if I'd had it blind, as it's very grapefruity-grassy. Line shot off the pitcher's glove, bouncing into center for a single.
A nice weenie cab: Hendry Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Block 8 1995: I've long been a fan of Hendry zins, and this cab follows the elegant house style fairly closely--velvety-smooth nose, forward, clear and rich, but far-from-lush cassis & smoke, hint of vanilla. A sip and some trim cab fruit emerges. This is a silky wine, its most striking feature to me is its balance; it's got a small amplitude, but within that scope it's a very nice, seamless package. I like it, although if you're looking to have your socks blown off, this won't do it. A double to the right field corner, sliding into second just ahead of the tag.
Joseph Phelps Insignia 1995: Much has been said about this, but I hadn't had any of mine until recently, and it made me very happy. Rich and darkly-colored, with a nose that is tight and slow to emerge (the difference between the last glass of the first bottle and the first of the next is striking), but eventually blooms into layers of dense cassis, coffee, plum & smoke. Sweetly rich crisp fruit, with big ol' tannins that still manage to seem integrated. This wine, too is wonderfully balanced and is just a rich glassful of pleasure. A happy guest calls this a killer wine, and he is not wrong. Two-run home run into the third row of the left-field bleachers.
And what might go with barbeque better than a couple of zins?
Lava Cap Zinfanel Reserve El Dorado 1995: Hadn't had this one in a year and a half, and I fear it's faded a bit. Still nice, but it seems less vibrantly fruity--some good muted zinny flavors, raspberry and black cherry fruit go great with ribs, and there's some smokiness and some vanilla in the nose. Seems as if time has only served to fade the fruit and let the potential disjointedness begin to emerge. Nevertheless, it's a pretty decent zin for the price. Just might not want to hang onto 'em too much longer. Runner reaches base on muffed grounder. E6.
A contribution of the aforementioned guest, the Rosenblum Sonoma County Zinfandel Samsel Vineyard Maggie's Reserve 1994, although older than the Lava Cap, shows much better to my tastes. Rich and smooth and still fairly vivid, with some interesting baking chocolate notes kicking around in the raspberry/black cherry/zinberry stew; some good, crisp acidity and a long, tangy redfruity finish. Clean single up the middle.
For a victory dinner celebrating playoff advancement, what will do but some Bordeaux?
Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac 1988: Nice clear ruby color, could've been bottled last week; fresh, open nose of cassis, tobacco & hints of green olive. The aromas coming out of the glass are pleasant and soft, and in the mouth, soft too. A medium-weight wine, pleasant raspberry-cassis-smoke notes, but lacks grip, no edge. Bit limpid, just lays there in the glass. The catcher is running, is thrown out by a step at first base. Move on--
Château L'Arrosée St. Emilion 1983: Medium-dark ruby with slight browning around the rim--smooth, round, velvety nose, coffee, black raspberry, leather, smoky meaty aromas. Round and rich in the mouth, smooth, meaty feel, with herb-tinged cassis flavors, a rich mouthful with nice supporting acidity keeping it crisp. Some firm, slightly sandy tannins and a long smoky/fruity finish. Tasted blind, it seemed Rh™nish to me. My last bottle, and it's drinking very well now, but still has plenty of life. Very nice indeed. Stand-up double to the gap.
A couple of other Frenchies...
Domaine Faillenc Syrah Corbieres Cuvée SYRH Conference de Presse 1997: Medium to medium-dark garnet color; soft dark grapey/blackberry aromas, light tough of menthol wafts up. A sip... medium-rich, medium-crisp, light in body. Soft, purplefruity, light notes of soft blackberry fruit, decent crispness, some surprising dry tannins come out of left field. Small, soft, moderately pleasant, very unremarkable. Routine ground out to the shortstop.
Gilbert Alquier Faugeres 1997: A perennial favorite of mine, this year's edition doesn't disappoint: medium garnet; light nose, plum, menthol & stony minerality; medium-rich in the mouth, with a fair amount of crispness but a certain softness around the middle. Muted plum & tar flavors with a dark, lightly tarry finish. Smooth and quaffable, and I go back and grab all the bottles in the store (unfortunately, only four). Bunt base hit.
And finally, when your team's down in the dumps, go for the sweeties...
Beringer Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling California 1993: Dark gold-amber; orange-rind and honey on the nose; Yow, this is just sweet as hell and gloppy as pancake syrup. Man. No discernable acidity to swim against the tide of all that gooey sweetness. Phew. Tiring. Called third strike, batter argues, is ejected.
Dashe Cellars Late Harvest Zinfandel 1997: Boy, this smells nice, smooth and richly zinny. I haven't had great experiences with many LH zins, but one taste tells me this is something special. Richly fruity and very nicely balanced, very expressive of zin. Just a delightful wine for a zinhead like me--sweet and rich and crisp, it goes down smoothly and quickly, and between three of us the half-bottle is empty in about forty seconds, even though we've been tasting all night. A fun wine, but seriously well made. Safe at third with a head-first slide.
Château Filhot Sauternes 1981: Just turning a slightly off-light shade of gold. Light botrytis, vanilla & apricot aromas, very light nose, soft and quiet. A bit more robust on the palate, tangy and fairly woody--fruit seems a bit faded, but there's still some decent pear-apricot notes. Silky and a bit simple, but not bad. Hit batsman.
Château Guiraud Sauternes 1988: Medium-light gold, here's a bit more complexity--botrytis, hay and honey on the nose, along with a slight waxiness. There's oak here too, but it's more integrated with the richer fruit. Balanced and smooth, with a fairly light feel in the mouth. The oak emerges a bit more clearly on the finish, but it's a nice wine. Single off the wall, the fielder bobbles the ball, and the runner reaches second.
So the games continue, the fielders rock back and forth on the balls of their feet, and the pitcher adjusts his grip on the ball and stares in for the sign. What more could you ask for?
October is the kindest month.