Jay Miller was in a dreadful bind: he had finally pulled off his triumphal 'Clean the Fridge' dinner party, and yet somehow had only used up half his stock of food and drink. "What in the world am I going to do with all this strawberry soup?" he asked himself semirhetorically. And then the solution came to him, blinding in its simplicity: I'll host a second party, he thought, identical to the first but with entirely different guests. Thus, the REJEEBUS is born.
Lisa and I would never have learned of this skulduggery had it not been for a late cancellation by Jayson and Laura Cohen. But fate has a way of scraping us along its gravelly riverbed, so here we are knocking on Jay's door, bottles of the same wine in hand and dressed in our identical summer finery.
Okay, I lied about the same wine bit. Jay threated to club me with a Sine Qua Non bottle if I brought another bottle of the ghastly Martinelli zin from last time, so exceptions are necessarily made to the theme.
The minute I walk through the door I am indazzled--my eyes are used to the bright sun outside and this room is quite dark. All I am able to see are some indistinct shapes waving at me. "You're just in time for the nondescript mystery white!" a male voice shouts. I express relief, and a glass of something pale (I think) is thrust into my hand.
Nondescript Mystery White: Pale tan color. Smells lightly honeyed and stony, flecks of ginger and lemon. Seems marginally oxidative, a crisp and light wine of considerable vagueness. I've had mediocre Touraine sauvignon that had a similarly ethereally gingerous lemonality, so that's my guess. Others guess other things, which I neglect to write down.
Turns out to be Heliopoulos Vineyards Santorini White Dry Wine 2000. Ook, that was going to be my next guess. The label seems to imply that this is a blend of assyrtiko, athiri and aidani, but Jeff Grossman (the source) believes it's a purebred assyrtiko. I concur, as it shows nothing of the fragrant aidani character and precious little aithiriness.
By a not at all canny coincidence I have a Nondescript Mystery White of my own, and I figure now's as good a time as any to get it out of the way, especially as I hear Kane behind me saying "I'd kiss you, but I'm all sweaty." I don't turn around.
Nondescript Mystery White 2: The light swampy funk in the nose is offputting at first, but it blows off to some degree with air, leaving behind citric Lemon Pledge hints, stewed celery and traces of lime and honeydew, all very matte and subdued. Tastes crisp and quietly honeyed, green streaks over light minerality. It has good concentration but it's a little weird, at odds with itself. The pieces seem to be either fading into submission or coming unglued. Jeff eyes his glass quizzically and says "I have the idea this is something that I know that's just been around too long." I nod agreeably, but I have absolutely no idea what the wine could be.
Oh wait, actually I do. It's a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 1997. A different wine than it was on release, nary a gooseberry in sight. I'd been saving it since then to see how it would hold up. It hasn't held up very well.
My eyes are adjusting to the darkness now, and I see some familiar faces. There's our swingin' Savoyards Marty and Jill, Jeff Grossman and Jim Whose Last Name Continues to Escape Me Despite Being Reminded by Jeff Several Times, Greg dal Piaz & Michelle, Cindy Who I Don't Know, Cindy's husband? boyfriend? therapist? whom I also don't know and of course the irrepressible Bradley Kane. Our host has not deigned to wear his striking pleated magenta WLDG shirt again; I fear peer group fashion-police pressure has struck. Either that or he was tired of fielding endless questions about hybrids.
There is a rumor going around that Callahan has gone into seclusion because he's had plastic surgery to remake his face into that of a young Patrick McGoohan. I am pressed for details on this and assure everyone that it is utter nonsense, but these things have a way of taking on a life of their own and my strident denials are seen as further evidence of truth. I attempt to enlist Kane to help quash this silliness, but he is somewhere back in the darkness complaining boisterously about the huge oakiness of the Cloudy Bay. *PHEW!* SMELL ALL THAT OAK! GAHHHHHH! HOOOWHEAAAAAA!!! he bays to everyone and no one. At times I worry about him. But then I remember, and stop.
Hey, it's a Lopez de Heredia (Tondonia) Viña Gravonia Blanco Reserva 1991. Is this the wine that led Manuel to threaten to kick and eat Victor's ass and head? It has a rainwatery nose, with flashes of honey and old leather. Tastes quiet and somewhat lifeless--turns lightly almondy in the midpalate, finishes meekly. The acidity is there all right, even a bit spiky, but the wine just seems inert, like soda gone flat. Damaged? Not very enjoyable, or perhaps I just need someone to explain it to me. Where is Callahan when you need him? Besides having plastic surgery, I mean.
Good lord, I thought I'd seen the last of the Cazin/Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Vendage Manuelles 1999. Here's something that I told Lisa to stick [TASTING NOTE REMOVED AS A RESULT OF LEGAL ACTION--I HEREWITH STATE FOR THE RECORD THAT I TAKE NO STAND ON THIS WINE, AND, UPON THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL, NEITHER RECOMMEND NOR ATTEMPT TO DISSUADE CONSUMERS FROM PURCHASING SAID WINE.] and even more, with a melon!
Jay has the odd notion of announcing to everyone that he won't serve dinner until I've decided I'm finished with all the whites. This generates a good deal of merriment and much concern that we won't be eating until sunrise. I assure him that his gesture, though thoughtful, is wrongheaded and potentially disastrous. He is dissuaded.
There's a wine from Germany here. A small crowd has gathered to try and decipher the usual impenetrable label--the consensus is that the wine is something along the lines of the Weingut Schafer-Fröhlich Riesling Nahe Bockenauer-Schnockenauer Felseneck Spätlese 1999. At any rate, it's got a bright stonyfloral nose, honeysuckle and green apples over white coral chips. On the sweet side, plenty of crispness, an unflappable midpalate with considerable composure. Lemonlime flavors well up in the middle, flow into a brief workmanlike finish. A quiet and cohesive little wine, unsubtle but quite genuine and solidly built. A lovely match with Jay's watermelon, tomato & celery root salad. Yes, you heard right.
Jay tells the story of last week's "No Theresas" Jeebus at Manhattan's historic Café Loup, after which he was chased down on the sidewalk by the astonished staff after leaving what appeared to be a $7 tip. Turns out the hundred-dollar bill he had left along with the $7 had been blown into the garbage by the ceiling fan. After some careful sifting, feelings were soothed and a sound ass-kicking by enraged waitresses was narrowly avoided.
I inquire as to the reason for the peculiar theme and am told that there were figs and Hors Choix in evidence and that, even given the absence of Geyserville, this represented a potentially explosive situation were any Theresas to wander in off the street. Seen in this light, it does seem appropriately cautious.
Here's a little Swiss number, a Rouvinez Le Tourmentin Valais Assemblage de Cepages Nobles 1993. Pale ruby color, ambering lightly at the rim. Smells quite earthy, pondwater and muted cherry hints, cedar and cooked tomato. Tastes like it smells--bay leaf and cherry-tomato flavors, along with a tarry burnt-rubber note that surfaces in the midpalate and hangs in a little too long. Not showing as well as it did at Kane's house last year, I wonder if the clock is running down on this one. I understand Steve Tanzer has downgraded the 1993 vintage for Swiss pinot noir to thirty-one points, maybe he's on to something. Nevertheless, Jill likes it, and that's enough for me.
Jay peels the capsule off a Lopez de Heredia Rioja Viña Bosconia 1973 and black bubbles starts to fizz up through the cork like some kind of high-school science experiment. This does not seem like a good sign, and a taste confirms our suspicions: here be Madeira, matey.
Somewhere in the lacuna between the whites and the reds we realize that we've been sitting in almost pitch darkness for quite a while now for no particular reason. Kane opens the blinds a little, the sun lights up the room and we wonder what the hell we were thinking. Ain't people funny that way?
Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 1993: Rather primary nose, dark powdery cherry, hints of fallen leaves and forest floor. A sip, and it's rather easygoing, lightly meaty and feathering out at the edges. Medium-light bodied, decent balance--the acidity is there, but the center of the wine is a little unfocused. Still, it's a pretty good, uncomplicated little pinot with a marginal amount of complexity. Shrug.
Greg, in full brainstorm mode, proposes he and Kane host a cooking show called "Two Fat Guys." It is decided that further market research is needed.
Rocca di Montgrossi Vigneto San Marcellino Chianti Classico Riserva 1995: Smells simply black-cherried, ripe and sharp-smelling. Tastes dark and tight and closed, with puckery acidity and enamel-stripping tannins. Brutal. An abusive wine with a habit, a ruler and a scowl. Hold, for the love of god, hold!
Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1990: Muddy ruby color, ambering at the rim. Smoky berry-hickory smellies, roasted raspberry and just a suggestion of eucalyptus leaves. A sip, and it's nicely developed, rather delicate and girlish, hints of violets emerging in the middle to dance with the smoky-meatyness. Elegant and restrained, with a surprisingly supple core and a languid, relaxed finish that's not in a hurry to go away. Light and pretty, layered and flavorful.
Tardieu-Laurent Gigondas 1999 After the balletic Ogier this has the air of a drunken lumberjack. Deep purply-black color, smells smoky and medicinal--Robitussin with a splash of Liquid Smoke. A sip, and it's a brawny purple mouthful, big fruit and big oak. The midpalate swings through my mouth on a vine lustily bellowing its jungle call, then slides clumsily down into astringent oak tannins. I guess there's a market for blockbuster Gigondas, but this does nothing for me. One wag dubs it "Shirazgondas," but that may be overstating the case. Six and a half velveteen-covered Prongs with storebought mylar balloons that say HAPPY BIRTHDAY in large black and red letters tied to their points, each brushed down with glitter and barbeque sauce and baked in a 350-degree oven until the first sign of caremelization, then nailed to plywood squares and set adrift on Lake Waramaug.
At this point Brad's true calling in life comes into evidence, as he shocks and horrifies the assembled geeks with uncannily accurate imitations of various cartoon characters, beginning with Ren & Stimpy and climaxing with the most skin-crawling version of "E.T., phone home" that you'd ever want to hear. I'm torn between the dualing impulses to applaud or to race into the kitchen and scrub myself down with Lysol and steel wool.
Fortunately for my jangled nerves someone has carelessly left something red in a decanter, and it's a Château Pape-Clement Graves 1990. Hey, smells luscious--lightly herbal nose, flecks of tobacco leaf and oregano over warmly aromatic pools of red cassis, a sylvan glen with blackcurrant stream. Richly flavored and on the soft side, it's a meaty-warm wine with an easygoing fleshiness and prettily unangular layers of flavor that come to a sweetly fruited finish. The rare wine that brings both the Goblovers and Sodsuckers to agreement; just low-acid and fleshily ripe enough for the Kane crowd, elegant and layered enough for the right-thinking folks.
Quinta de Parrotes Alenquer Vinho Tinto 2000: Hm. The label claims this is 85% perquita and 15% cabernet sauvignon, but I'd swear it tastes more like 90% perquita. Simple and ripe nose, blackberry and plum. Tastes pretty much like it smells, simple and straightforward red-black fruit flavors, nice mouthgrab, an undemanding quaffer without pretensions and without a finish. I would drink this with pizza or a burger, I would.
While I'm nattering with my friends the bottles the rest of the crowd is having a wide-ranging discussion that encompasses fad diets, manual labor, secretaries and the number of calories required to lift Brad Kane to the top of Mount Everest (apparently it's surprisingly small). I ignore them all. No time for human contact, must concentrate on wine. Only wine will never betray me, only wine will ease the pain.
Here's another go at the Marc Angeli Rose d'Anjou 2001. A repeat cult Anjou from last time. I've flipped all my own allocation on Winebid, but Jay is opening the stuff like it's going out of style. It hasn't changed--still a sublime match with the salty goat cheese. I note with annoyance that what I thought was Rosˇ d'Anjou is in fact Rose d'Anjou. Damn primma donna cult winemakers.
Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 1999: The ubiquitous muscat. I'm not sure why this is showing up everywhere these days, but it's reliable stuff--spicy cinnamon-apple nose, hints of citrus and honey. Medium sweet but not cloying, it's got the usual straightforward apple-candy muscat spiciness, but it's well balanced and smooth--the rare supple, subtle muscat. Quite nice.
Here's a jolly Müller-Catoir Rieslaner Mussbacher Eselhaut Auslese 1997. Light gold color, smells happily tropical--lemon, guava and beanbag chair. Medium-plus sweetness, lemony-crisp and bright. I'm a sucker for the happy, slightly wacky MC style of rieslaner, and this is a fine example. As always when this wine, the compulsion to go "Wheeeee!" comes upon me like a freight train. I give in, and just roll with it.
My ears perk up as I realize that the group discussion topic has shifted to trying to think of the best way to lure Jancis Robinson here to the Big Apple so that we may offer up the obeisance that is her rightful due. The question "What kind of wine does she like?" is thrown out, and there is a moment of stunned silence. "The good stuff?" someone posits. "Gobless?" is another idea, along with "Any wine that Kane hates?" These all seem like sound suggestions, but the discussion is thrown out the window when Greg begins shrieking "The blue cheese has an anaesthetic in it! The blue cheese has an anaesthetic in it!" We eye each other and titter nervously, but he goes on "I'M NOT KIDDING! MY TONGUE IS COMPLETELY NUMB!"
Much consternation. The offending cheese is quarantined and Greg is taken to the corner in an attempt to calm his hyperventilating by the judicious application of cult Anjou. Within minutes his tongue has regained some sensation and it's clear that he will make a full recovery; the crisis passes as suddenly as it arose, a summer cloudburst.
Speaking of cloudbursts, here's a Domaine Lars Choufleur Gris du Toul Moëlleux 'Trie Tres Triste' 1985: The year of the disaster, the year that prompted the elder Choufleur to pass the reins to the next generation, it's a hopeful medium lemon-gold color, still looks fairly young. Smells lighty cabbagey at first, with air the classic Gris du Toul steeliness emerges--hints of wet stones, Sherman tank and a light green honeydew note hovering over it all. First sippage brings a light hint of melony sweetness tinged with beeswax and tea, then the screechy acidity kicks in like nails on a chalkboard, driving all before it. Curiously, it rallies on the finish, turning towards proscuitto and yellow flowers. Rather freaky and not of one mind, it's a wine that needs either another ten years or ejection into deep space.
Lisa is physically dragging me away from the dessert wines so she can go home and pick my brain on physics problems, but our host insists we wait for one last pour, a J.J. Prum Wehlehner Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese 1976. Medium gold color. Light hints of very ripe mango, turpentine, orange marmalade and butterscotch. A sip, and it's densely flavored, quite sweet and a little bit fizzy. Brisk but not sharp acidity, layers of flavors, lots going on. Actually, the slight fizz helps add to the sense that the wine is light on its feet. After the Choufleur this is a model of cohesion. Very nice, and a thumb in the eye of those who say there's no point aging riesling.
With the opening of the final bottle a great cheer goes up, for this is the first jeebus in almost twenty-nine months at which there has not been one single corked wine. We all savor the historic moment, there are handshakes and backslaps all around. I believe there is even one "You da man!" but I wouldn't swear to it.
And with that, we're gone.