Saturday. Summer in the Northeast.
It's hot. We have a busy summer weekend of drinking ahead of us. Here's what went down.
We go to Bradley's favorite deli on Manhattan's historic Upper East Side. We drink wine there. Here's what we drink.
First up: Jay Miller has a mystery wine, and a toast: "Blind tasting," he announces, "is the true path to enlightenment." Thunderous applause, universal agreement, hearty backslapping. We drink lustily.
Jay's Mystery Wine. Pale straw color. Bright but easygoing aromatics, pineapple, lemon and white peach, almost tropical but not quite. In the piehole it's hard and tart and intense, with lemony acidity coming right at you, making you pucker up a bit as it moves through the midpalate, then easing up and softening on the finish. An intensely-focused wine, almost to the point of severity. Okay, it's clearly German, seems rieslingesque but still not exactly riesling. The pineapple notes make me think scheurebe, so I guess some kind of young scheurebe trocken. (Müller-Catoir Muskateller Haardter Burgergarten Trocken 2001)
Next is a Clos des Briords Muscadet Sevre etc. Vieilles Vignes 2002 ($10). Yep, he's done it again, another stunning Ollivier wine. No, wait. What I mean is, don't bother with this wine. Stay away, keep your hands off it, it's none of your concern. C'mon, really: how good could it be if it only costs ten bucks? Move along now, nothing more to see here. Especially you, Florida Jim.
Kane is heartsick; his floor-molding contractor has backed out on him at the last minute, leaving his floor scandalously unmolded. We express our sypathies, he tries to enlist us as makeshift floor-molders, aforementioned sympathies are quickly withdrawn.
Scott-Clark Cellars Pinot Noir California 'Weeds' 2000. Light ruby color, ambering lightly at the rim. Muted strawberry-earth aromatics, This wine, like many of the Scott-Clark 'minimal process' wines, has reinvented itself several times in its short life. Its latest incarnation is as a rosé of pinot noir. Speaking frankly, I would drink any large stores of this one sooner rather than later, although I hear the large-format bottles are a horse of a different color.
Greg and Michelle are back from honeymooning in Hawaii. Michelle has somehow turned a deep chestnut color, quite striking really. Greg is in fine form; when Lisa is wondering what to order and I mention that I'd enjoyed the duck breast, he burbles "ALL the breasts at this table are nice," then chortles heartily at his own bon mot. Lisa's eyes narrow and her hand tightens perceptibly on her fork. Michelle, who must surely be used to this kind of thing by now, merely rolls her eyes.
Here's a Robert Pecota Cabernet Sauvignon Kara's Vineyard 1994. Medium-dark garnet color. Broad, aromatics, plum-cassis and marinara sauce laced with cedar and smoke, bit of baking chocolate. Bright and crisp, someone is carrying on about "bags of overpowering acidity," but they must be wasted because it has merely good, firm structure, nothing more. Actually, it's more tannic than acidic, but that's another quibble. At any rate, it's a pleasant, straightforward cab with a bit of complexity and a firm backbone. It's a little insistent, and there's a coppery tang on the finish that I'm not crazy about, but overall a solid M+.
Greg has a mystery wine, and a toast: "Blind tasting," he declaims, "is the last, best hope for mankind on this earth." Throaty cheers, roars of approval, cries of "Huzzah! Huzzah!" We drink lustily.
Greg's Mystery Wine. Medium dead red, bricking just a hair at the rim. Muted berry-cassis, touch of cedar, touch of oregano, smells very quiet. Tastes fleshy and fully resolved, no tannin remaining. There's dark fruit that's faded but still tasty enough. But the flavors are fairly nondescript; because it was Greg's bottle I had half-expected something that screamed ITALIAN. I guess that it's an older merlot, when pressed for a vintage, I say 1982. (Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Reserve 1987)
Well, that's interesting. Didn't see that coming. Still tastes like merlot, though.
Speaking of merlots, here's an actual specimen, a Château La Pointe Pomerol 1995. Medium-dark garnet color. Smells of oregano and cedar over a blackfruity base. Nice dark red-black fruit up front, subtle and reserved in the middle with a dark velvety skin. Crisp acidity but overall feels rather shy; finishes quietly but nevertheless has enough give to be slyly pleasing. A wine that's not showing its hand yet, it's easy to drink right now but has enough left to warrant some more aging. Nice, easy merlot with a dollop of gravitas.
Here's a wine that I'm told is made by vandergrift-baiting gnomes somewhere deep in the wilds of Spain, a Finca Sandoval Manchuela 2001. Dark garnet, purpling at the rim. Velvety plum-blackberry and smoky-toast aromatics. Tastes smooth and rich, generously wooded and seemingly in what the kids like to call the 'International Style.' Well packed but not heavy, wood and fruit run alongside each other but are still a bit standoffish. Crisp and contained, very toasty finish. I like it enough to take the remains of the bottle home and stick it in my fridge, where over the course of the next three days it doesn't budge an inch. Plenty of potential, very young. Give five years, redrink.
Why it's a Brovia Barolo Monprivato 1990. Smells lightly cherried and brown-herby, bay leaf, tar and saddle leather. Tastes delicate and cohesive, strangely friendly and accessible for a toddler Barolo. Finishes with a sweet licorice note; very smooth, layered and nimble, a negligée of a wine that is hard to resist.
Two sweeties now, first a Bert Simon Riesling Serrig Herrenberg Auslese 1989. Pale straw-lemon, looks quite young. Smells of lemon and kerosene, tastes lean, lemony and straightforward. A bright wine that's strikingly young and tight, with just a bit of lamp-oil aroma to give its age away. Good, crisp riesling, not quite medium-sweet, refreshing and well-built, but without a great deal of complexity.
Now an old friend, a Château Pierre-Bise Côteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1995. Amber-orange color, browning lightly at the rim. Smells of dried apricot and mango peel, spiced-hay botrytis and maple syrup, touch of acetone. Sweet and rich, light caramelized flavors infuse the stewy fruit, toasted marshmallow emerges on the finish. Big and rich and chock full o'flavor, it does seem rather advanced, the latest in a recent string of Pierre-Bise sweeties that seem to be maturing with striking rapidity. Kane denies everything with his usual bluff certitude, claiming that this wine was this same orange-brown color when it was released. Let's just say I remember it somewhat differently. I hold it up next to the pale yellow auslese and say "One of these sweeties is almost twice as old as the other. Hmmm, let's see..." It's glib, but it serves to annoy Kane, so I'm happy.
From there we go to Kane's new apartment, where he attempts once again to enlist us to help lay down molding. We decide a movie would be more fun and reel off to see Pirates of the Carribean, which is as silly and amiable a piece of summer fluff as can be imagined and fittingly employs that suddenly popular device, the post-credit scene.
Sunday. Summer in the Northeast redux.
It's hot. We head off by commuter train to darkest New Jersey to tour the new gamay plantings that Andrew Munro and Jennifer Scott are so proud of and which will provide cuttings for more extensive plantings in upstate New York. On their own roots, just like Marionnet! Will nongrafted gamay be the next big thing in the east coast? Is the Pope cathartic? Do bears schvitz in the woods?
"Fizzy Muscadet!" squeals Andrew. What the hell? He pours a bit of Guy Bossard Ludwig Hahn Vin Mousseaux de Qualité NV. and by god, he's right: lime, rocks and sea air. It's good but it's rather severe, all rocks and oyster shells. It's Muscadetish all right, but I think I like a little more flesh in my fizz than this can offer.
I don't quite get the details straight, but this next wine is the initial offering of the new Scott-Clark Cellars east coast négociant consortium (I believe they bottle it under the name "Garage Scott-Clark"), that is using purchased riesling fruit until their own plantings come on line.
Here's a fresh sample (having been bottled only a few days ago) of the Garage Scott-Clark Riesling Finger Lakes 2002. Mmm, smells like grapefruit, white grapefruit laced with plaster of Paris. A sip, and there's just a hint of sweetness, as well as a touch of fizziness. Bright, light and citric, an easy summer sipper, but comes across mostly as riesling disguised as sauvignon blanc. With air the strong grapefruitiness fades to the back, and more yellow apple-white flower notes emerge, so maybe it just needs some air and time to assert its varietal character. After all, it's only a few days old.
Chadds Ford Chardonnay Pennsylvania 2001. Medium-light straw-gold color. Smells of vanilla, ripe pear and butter, with a good dose of burnt firecracker paper underneath and a banana-candy hint above. Tastes burnt, plenty of ripe pear and vanilla, good acidity but no finish. Ugly, but not quite undrinkable. Strangely, Andrew seems to like it, his point being that it's just as good as more expensive bad chardonnay from California. Point taken: if you like woody California chardonnay here's an opportunity to save some serious simoleons.
It's the wine that supposedly doesn't stand up, the Clos Roche Blanche Gamay Touraine 2001. Medium red, lavendering lightly at the rim. Quiet cherry-strawberry fruit, lightly perfumed and minerally underneath, touch of herbiness above. Looser at the core than the '00, trace of bitterness on the finish, but a pretty, unadorned wine whose lightness is soothing and deceptively straightforward. Nice stuff, if not exactly a true humdinger. I can see why they skipped bringing this vintage in (except for Andrew), but I like it nonetheless.
Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée Les Orveaux 1997. Medium ruby color. Spicy horehound-cinnamon-cherry nose, interesting but rather tritonally monoaromatic. Crisp at the core, but loosely wrapped, more spiced cherry in the middle, along with undertones of English Breakfast tea. Nice unassuming burgundy, but it seems a little advanced. Perhaps not a perfectly stored bottle?
Sourdais Chinon Les Cornuelles 2000. Medium- to medium-dark garnet color. Ripe nose, tobacco-laced cassis-cranberry aromatics, smoke and a hint of pine. Tastes dark and sinewy, with a barely-contained exuberance of dark flavorosity. Striking, pure and rich wine, brawny young echt-Chinon. I'm more impressed with this every time I drink it. How stupid was I for only buying three bottles?
Next is a Justin Vineyards Paso Robles Isosceles 2000. Dark garnet, purpling at the edges. Smells smoky and blackberry-cassisfruity, plenty of toasty wood, shiny dark fruit. Tastes big and ripe and red, laced with coffee and cocoa. Rather well balanced for all its heft, with good structure and decent follow-through. It's big, rich and too young and glossy to drink now: the '99 is better for current drinking, having settled in a little. I tend to like wines like this by themselves; the Chinon wipes the floor with it, it seems manufactured and pumped-up in comparison. I know I'd like it more in another context. Give it time, it'll come together.
One annoying note: we were all astonished by the bizarre print on the cork, which reads: "just Red, just White, just Blue, just Stars, just Stripes, just U, just S, just A, just PATRIOTIC." Now, I'm as jingoistic as the next guy, but I don't need lameass kneejerk southern-rock faux-patriotic flagwaving bullshit thrown in my face when I sit down for a glass of wine. I think my vertical ends here.
Domaine Guertin-Brunet Vouvray Doux 1989 (.375). Medium pale straw-lemon color. Slightly flinty lemon-quince aromatics, just a whisper of spiced-hay botrytis. Tastes follow the smells, with more of a light apricot flavor emerging in the middle, then fading quickly as the quince flavors dominate the finish. Sweet and smooth and still quite young, not profound or terribly complex, but supple and fresh and friendly, with enough age to lend a bit of complexity.
We have fond memories of buying this last wine from a garrulous young kid at a roadside stand in Vouvray while killing time waiting for the dog-infested bus to Tours. He mentioned that at his parents wedding in 1973 everyone had drunk the 1873, which was apparently a very decent year in Vouvray, despite what Connell says. The kid reported that at the time the wine needed a few more years to loosen up, so it's probably entering its prime drinking years right about now; drink it if you've got it.
There. I got through a whole set of tasting notes without once using the word 'pussy.' Lisa, having noticed that when she searched the archives that every entry that came up was one of mine, bet me I couldn't do it.
I sure showed her she's got the wrong idea about me.