Wine, wine, wine. Always wine. Lisa and I drink a lot of wine. It goes with our active, on-the-go lifestyle, except when we fall down facefirst into out rotini. But even then we always enjoy the enhanced status that we feel our choice of lifestyle beverage brings to us. In my new series of Basement Notes (BNs) I will go on to explore the interplay of status, lifestyle, and isolated subterranean dankness and its comcomitant effects on mental health here in the slate-grey confines of the Basement, our newly constructed pen for the Zany Wine Discussion Group.

The lovely and talented Andrew Munro Scott and his mate Jennifer Munro Munro have consistently been kind and generous hosts to various and sundry wandering geeks, drunkards and castoffs, the flotsam and jetsam of society, today's New Wine Achievers. More jetsam than flotsam, but that comes with the territory with the New Wine Achiever lifestyle. At any rate, that's the way they like it, god bless them, and we've done some major imbibing at their Metuchen vineyard compound while we were taking unhealthy advantage of their generous hospitality and retreating to the confines of their dark and moist basement, the better to celebrate the first few days of the ZWDG's new accomodations.

We tell Andrew about the new digs here in lovely Basementland, and he perks up a bit and seems to consider the possibility of returning to active posting of his dearly-missed notes, now that there is a nice Silly Slum all built and ready to accomodate them. We rejoice at this news, and cross our fingers that it comes to fruition, as the Goofy Ghetto seems a perfect match for Mr. Scott's peerless quasi-psychadelic blend of nonsense, metaphor, and spelling errors.

Incidentally, this year's grape crop was looking lovely--young, robust and healthy, although they'd apparently lost many clusters to storm damage the week before. But I'd get my name on their mailing list now if you haven't already, as I sense a new lifestyle-status wine in the offing, possibly the first wine to successfully merge the two disparate genres of lifestyle and status wines into a seamless if marginally hyphenated whole, with the goal for the year 2001 being to eliminate the hyphen entirely through the application of traditional burgundian vinification techniques augmented by the best of modern technology.

In the meantime, all we had to drink was some other crap that had no effect whatsoever on our lifestyle other than to slow it down and slur it up a bit, although we did eventually achieve a bit of a heightened status in one another's bleary assessments, or at least I did. Or so they tell me, although they've been lying to me rather more than usual lately.

We get out our flashlights and look around us to see what's available.

Let's try a bit of the fizzy stuff, a Domaine Barmés Beucher Cremant d'Alsace Brut NV, shall we? It's a medium straw-tan color, and it's got bubbles. Bubbles, you hear, bubbles! Smells lightly smoky and lightly yeasty-bready, with a foundation of yellow apple-accented fruit, with flinty undertones and smoky overtones, as well as light buttery hints, all in a fairly reserved package. Very fine tiny bubbles make me feel fine, tastes tangy and quite smoky-tart at first, lean, but a bit more light creaminess fills in through the midpalate, lean yellow fruit, tangy, smoky, very decent, with a bit of an edge.

A little something from the vigneron formerly (and presently) known as Prince Poniatowski, the Aigle Blanc Vouvray Cuvée Abbe Baudoin 1993: Medium lemon-gold color. Smells lightly honeyed, trace of oxidation, apple-juicy notes, chalky minerality underneath. Fairly heavy in the mouth, with some sharp acidity that dances to its own tune. A bit flattened, a bit shrill. A dense wine with a trace of sweetness, this bottle seems to have had a hard journey to reach our table. Rest now, friend, your troubles are past.

Here's a Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner Qualitatswein 1998, and it's a pale straw color, with a quiet but interesting aromatic profile--plaster of paris, white pepper and yellow pear hints over a tight streak of minerality. Tastes balanced and lean, brightly acidic but a bit neutral-tasting, with some strength but not nearly the coiled intensity of fruit of the higher-up bottlings. Still, not bad for around $13, and it's quite balanced and accessible now.

Here's the AC-less Couly-Dutheil Les Chanteux 1998. Pale, pale straw color, smells bright and chalky, white flowers and an eraserful of chalk. A sip, and it's very crisp and tart, a bit aggressive, more white flowers and damp stones, with a metallic tang coming through on the midpalate that segues into a lime rind quality by the time the finish rolls around. Interesting, if a bit stony-sharp and tight.

We hear clunking noises coming from overhead, and we all freeze in the dark for a moment until we realize that it's just the cat, who is high on catnip, banging around uncertainly. We have a laugh at what we see as a metaphor for life here in the Basement (Andrew loves metaphors), relax, and return to some reds.

Maréchal Bourgogne Cuvée Gravel 1996: Medium-light garnet color. I take a whiff, and it's lightly green-brown herby, forest-floor leafy hints over a base of smoky, gravelly cherry fruit. Yes, it does indeed smell gravelly, with a pronounced minerally streak under the tangy red fruit. Andrew calls it "The cab franc of Burgundy," but I don't know what he means by this curious metaphor. Fairly light and bright in the mouth, this wine has a crisp, nimble mouthfeel, light cherry-tinged fruit skipping about with that mineral streak laying back and keeping its feet on the ground. Nice long smoky-stony finish, what more do you want in a young, lithe little Bourgogne?

Château Bouscassé Madiran 1993: Medium-dark garnet color. Smells of light blackberry, hints of barnyard and bandaids, dark licorice and green stalky hints commingling oddly. Tastes darkly smoky, with red-black fruit holding court over a dark bitter-espresso tang, turning licoricey on the finish and drying out my mouth with sandpapery tannins. Not entirely pleasant, a bit of a rough ride.

Château Montus Madiran 1995: Medium-dark garnet color. Smells much riper and redder than the Bouscassé, raspberry and dark blackberry fruit is more lush and friendly. There's some earthy funk, hints of smoke and menthol, this wine is much friendlier than it was this time a year ago, and we're all a bit surprised. It's quite pleasant, actually, and seems to have blossomed as if to spite me since I swore I wouldn't open one for another ten years. The fruit is silky and plush, masking the fierce tannins nicely. A pleasant surprise.

Dashe Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 1998: Medium to medium-dark garnet color. Cherry, black cherry and vanilla on the nose, not a lot going on. Tastes a bit lean, a bit astringently oak-tannic, some good rich plush fruit, but not much integration and smoothness and balance, hallmarks of the '97 version. This is the third time I've had this one, and I keep expecting it to do something more than it does, as each time it has seemed to be oddly disjointed, all elbows and knuckles and uncut toenails.

Château des Tours Vacqueyras 1990: Medium dead center red. Plush, soft nose--cherry, red berry, orangy baked-yam notes with a high note of light eucalyptus. Tastes soft, velvety, with a nice spine of acidity surrounded by nicely resolved feather-edged cran-cherry-leather fruit. Light, tart & tangy, this wine has almost no tannins left and seems mature to me. Drink 'em now if you got 'em. No, go ahead, I'll wait...

Okay, while those of you who have that last one are off drinking 'em, the rest of us will carry on, and hopefully we can wrap it up and be out of here before they get back and discover the subterfuge. There's only one wine left after all, a Quinta do Crasto Vintage Porto 1994, and I'll get through it quickly: Dark garnet color, sniff, sniff, light, quiet nose--light plum, cocoa, along with something weird, a white peachy pit-fruit or lemon-zest note that smells like a stray white wine note that has stowed away in the porty recesses. Tastes medium-lightly sweet, dark berryfruit and very light hints of brambliness, a restrained style of port, not a lot of high or low notes, but elegant and silky and slightly soft, with a bit of a burn on the finish. Not quite all there but not at all unpleasant either, a very middle-of-the-road experience.

All right, that's it for this installment of Basement Notes. In next week's (3 of 36) episode we'll discuss putting some wallpaper up down here, reveal the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa and Judge Crater, give advice on changing your default text colors, get to the bottom of the unified-field theory, offer up working blueprints for a perpetual motion machine and posit a credible thesis that summarizes completely the mind of god.

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