NB: My previous dubbing of my above-$15 series ("Rivers of Liquid Gold") provoked somewhat of an outcry, with many readers suggesting the title resembled nothing so much as a salacious specialty DVD of some kind. With the comfort of my reading public always foremost in my mind, I'm trying out a new name, in the hope of inspiring the healing that our community so desperately cries out for.

So anyhoo, I'm in one of those 'life is short, why not drink the good stuff' phases, mostly inspired by the terrifying notion of being pried out of my apartment of nineteen years by the irresistible forces of change. Change, the one thing that is to be feared above all others.

Must drink...

The good stuff...

Takes away the fear....


Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Touraine 'Numero 5' 2001 ($20). Medium straw-tan color. Smells pleasant--light gingery lemon-honeydew, chalk and a dollop of cream. There's a languid feel to the midpalate that comes off as tiredness at first, then starts to seem more like calmness.

Domaine du Closel Savennières Cuvée Speciale 1996 ($20). Pale straw-gold color. Pretty, pretty nose with a lot going on--ginger candy, honey, beeswax, yellow flowers. The wine is concentrated and substantial but has great balance so it seems nimble. Slightly waxy-oily, tangy yellow fruit, a delight. Smells sweet & golden.

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition 2004 ($18). Pale pale straw, the palest young Tradition I can recall, almost colorless. Bright, nervy-herby aromatics--chamomile, limeskin, quinine and a gentle chalkiness. Tastes tart and lipsmackingly crisp, or perhaps crisp and lipsmackingly tart. Pleasantly aromatic but rather lean and vivid in the piehole, with just a whisper of sugar as a cushion. A small, nervy Tradition, bright and crisp but lacking substance. It's very pleasant to drink, but I don't think I'll be stocking up on this one.

Domaine du Clos Naudin/Foreau Vouvray Demisec 2002 ($27). Very pure aromatics--rainwatery minerality, hints of lemon zest, with air some flickery pineapple notes emerge. Tastes clean, crisp and pure, surprisingly ethereal, given the producer. There isn't a great deal of substance or focus, instead the wine relies on a light prettiness and a subtle, dignified finish to win me over. It's nice Vouvray, but not at all what I'd have expected. Where's the usual Foreau heft? Curious.

M. Grünhauser Riesling Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Spätlese 2001 ($21). Light tart yellow apple & peach aromatics, pleasant to smell but slightly ethereal. A sip, and here's some chiffonish flesh draped on shy lemony acidity and light sweetness. Pleasant but fleeting and inconsequential, a meringue of a riesling.


Robert Arnoux Nuits-St.-George Les Corvées Pagets 1999 ($42). Firm cherry-beet aromatics, dark truffliness underneath. With air a forest floor mossiness begins to manifest, nice. But it tastes hard, glossy and well stuffed, but not giving much in the way of flavorosity, and the finish has a charred, slightly bitter note. Seems to have a lot of potential in the bottle, maybe needs some real time to come together? I come back to it the next day, it's gotten much silkier, the rough note on the finish has turned towards clovey-spiciness, the hardness now seems more like litheness. Tangy and taut but velvet-skinned and gently intense, real nice stuff after a while.

Luddite Vineyards Abouriou Russian River Valley Gibson-Martinelli Vineyard Old Vines Dry Grown Natural Yeast 'Unspoofulated' 2002 ($20). Medium dark purply-garnet color. Smells gently gamey, pomegranate & sweaty saddle laced with asphalty minerality and a dark note that calls India Ink to mind. Tastes purple-earthy, with lowish acidity. It's lightish right up front, then gently fleshy, roughish and a bit short. Interesting wine, funkily offbeat. My attention has been got.

Robert Arnoux Nuits-St.-George 2000 ($33). Easygoing aromatics, light earthy black cherry, toast, wet rocks. Tastes tangy and crisp but rather diffuse, lacking focus. Glassily tannic finish, but basically a loose drink-me-now kind of wine, decent and vague.

Faively Nuits-St.-George Clos de la Maréchale 1988 ($65). Touch of sherry on the nose, slightly faded hints of tea and horehound over quiet bricky redfruit. Tastes tart and angular, a compact wine laced with brown herb and forest floor flavors. Quite crisp but lacking much in the way of flesh, this seems fairly well resolved, kept afloat by buoyant acidity. Drink up.

Domaine Jean-Louis Sirugue et Fils Côte de Nuits Villages Clos de la Belle Marguerite 2002 ($18). Medium pale ruby color, smells gently horehound-laced, sour cherry and tree bark. Tastes quiet and light, softly flavorful pinot noir, loose and shyly expressive in a smallscale way. A touch of plumskin surfaces briefly in the middle, then turns tail and runs, leaving an herby-earthy finish dusted with glassyfine tannins. Medium acidity, could use more focus. There's a bit of vagueness at the heart of the wine, but in the end it's a soothing, relaxing wine, gently charming and amiable.

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha Calatayud Viñas Viejas 2003 ($20). The upscale version of the ubiquitous froot-loopy cheapie--you can tell this is the expensive cuvée, because it's in a heavyass burgundy bottle instead of the light bordeaux-shaped cheap one. The aromatics are a little more interesting, there's a bit more complexity, some mintiness and smoky-tea hints up high and a leathery-earthy vein down deep, but in the middle there's the same raspberry bubblegum frootiness, blowsy and bland. There's middling acidity, but there's nothing of complexity here; not even tritone, this is duotone wine, jammy and simple.

Château de St. Cosmé Gigondas 'Valbelle' 1995 ($30). Dusty earth- and leather-laced redfruit, muted and calm smelling. There's a good dusting of wood, and the brickdusty fruit seems to have lost its youthful verve, so I'd say drink up. Loose, easygoing and layered, in a nice place now.

Joseph Drouhin Beaune Greves 2001 ($24). Happily spicy nose, clove and truffle, forest moss and wet rocks. Tastes warm, soft and loose, gently layered and flavorful. Not a lot of focus or heft, just soothing drink-now pinot noir.

Abbaye de Tholomies Minervois 1999 ($19). Corked. Back it goes, try again.

Abbaye de Tholomies Minervois 1999 ($19). Medium dark purply-garnet color. Smells like barbeque-flavored bubble gum, smoked meat and candied black raspberry. Medium acidity, composed and compact but with a pleasant fleshiness, a chewy-rich wine with a flicker of tarriness in the middle that hangs on through the aggressively tannic finish. There's lots of stuffing here, but it's a bit off its game right now, maybe it just needs to settle.

Château Brainaire-Ducru St. Julien 1999 ($42). Medium-dark garnet color. Big toasty-jammy aromatics--grilled chocolate cherries are what come to mind, strangely enough. Plenty of toasty wood, plenty of ripe cocoa-blackcurrant fruit, hollow center, ripe and simple. It's okay if you're looking for a simple burger wine, but the wood and the fruit are at odds and there's very little complexity. Shrug.

Contino Rioja Reserva 1999. Corked. Back to the store with you, hombre.

Lorenza Lake Winery Zinfandel California 'Blockheadia Rignosii' 2000 ($20). Rich peppery-raspberry-brickdusty aromatics, smoke and berries, velvety smelling. Tastes a bit more exuberant than it smells, rich zinnish flavors while the nose seems almost Southern Rh™ney. Large but balanced, the finish is a bit raspy-rough, but the wine has good focus and a pleasantly ripe richness. Very nice zin, more towards the elegant side than the blockbusterish, might do well with another few years' rest.

Altos las Hormigas Malbec Mendoza Reserva 'Vina Hormigas' 2004 ($20). The more expensive cousin of what is generally an agreeable cheapie, this tastes and smells like generic pointy shiraz--plummy and blackberried and suffused with toasty wood. Seems they've taken the regular stuff and applied the steroid treatment; the result is quite topheavy and jarringly unbalanced, although if you're a fan of Astralis this would be a perfectly acceptable substitute at one-twentieth the price: just save the bottle and refill with this, no one will know the difference.

Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia Bin 407 2001 ($25). Smells Coppertoney, coconut oil over dark plum-cassis. Tastes thick, cassis jam spread on toast, turning strangely austere in the midpalate. The acidity is a bit spiky, there's an overall clumsiness to this wine, thickset and squat cabernet sauvignon. Me no likey.

Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 'Rutherford' 2002 ($25). Smells of sawdust: cassis jam spilled on a woodshop floor. Tastes woodsoaked, lean and lathe-marked, hard acidity at the center, gravelly-stony undertones, taut and yes, woody. Ungiving, pleasureless wine. Did I mention it tasted like new carpentry?

Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 2001 ($27). Dark garnet color. Smells ripe and generously wooded, plum and black cherry fruit laced with toasted vanilla and coconut, like the condensed-milk bread you toast at camp. Tastes large and in charge, supple and tritonal--plum, cherry, oak. Not really huge, but a commanding presence. Just a hint of bitterness on the finish, along with some sneaky creeping tannins. Needs time or a big grilled steak or both.


Clos de la Bergerie Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1997 ($30). Medium gold color, ambering lightly at the rim. Yikes, vividly tropical smelling, mango and quince, light botrytis, butterscotch and honey. Tastes just as raucous as it smells, apricot-creamy at first sippage, turning quincy-pineappleish in the middle, finishes with a sweet butterscotchy flicker. It's big and viscous and very sweet, with just enough acidity to not cloy. Utterly unsubtle stuff, but a fun ride.

Quinta Santa Eufêmia Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000 ($20). Plump, cocoaberry aromatics, tastes glossy-silky and medium-plus sweet. Smooth and easygoing, a gentle, flavorful little port with velvety flavors and a hint or two of depth. Nothing profound, but not bad.

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1998 ($40). Medium gold color. Very quiet nose, light apricot and quince. A small, relatively taut wine, medium sweet and compact. No botrytis so as I'd notice, anyway, but a sense of calm politeness and good focus keeps my attention from wandering. Not bad, really, but not really all that exciting either. Pleasant, smallish Quarts de Chaume.

Eric Texier Nôble Rot 'Botrytis' 1999 ($27). Medium amber-brown color. Smells of hay and brown sugar, figs and botrytis, almost Oz liqueur-muscatty. Very sweet but flat tasting after the initial golden-raisiny wave; there's a brown heaviness giving the middle a sluggish feel, this seems to be sliding towards lifelessness.

Chapel Hill Red Dessert Wine of Australia '1865' NV ($24). Medium ruby-amber color, hinting towards orange at the rim. Effusively spicy-smelling, orange rind/pomander spice, clove, marshmallow, vanilla, burnt sugar, maple syrup, smells like an old world candyshop. Tastes sweet and tawny-woody, orange rind and more maple, nice balance of sugar & acidity, turns slightly wood tannic on the finish. It's broad, it's kind of coarse, but it's flavorful and fun to drink. Good unsubtle tawny-style portlike thingie.

Well, that's all for this installment of whatever this is called now. Peace out, dawgs.

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