So Jay Miller is throwing his usual 'Summer's Here and I Need to Clear Some Bottles Out of the Storage Unit Before It Gets Too Hot' party, and I'm jazzed because for the first time it's in winegeek central, beautiful downtown Jersey City. Plus, it's the hottest day of the year and with all the crazy antogonists in attendance there're sure to be some noteworthy fireworks that'll serve to add some spice to my lackluster prose.
Winegeek catfights off the port bow, Captain! Full speed ahead!
Lisa has brains to dissect, so I'm going stag, and it's in the low 90s as I shamble in through Jay's door, waving to the assembled geeks and making proper obeisance to our host. There's Manuel, who is Josieless, there's the irrepressible Brad Kane, there's Jennifer Munro and Andrew Munro Clark-Scott. There's valued wine professional and understander of many things that are above many of us, Joe Dressner, and the lovely, talented and socially skilled Denyse Louis.
We'll start with a Channing Perrine Sauvignon Blanc North Fork of Long Island Mudd Vineyard 2003. From Long Island's oldest sauvignon vines! Frescaish sort of feel to it, crisp and lemon-limey. Inconsequential but decent enough.
Nikolaihof Riesling Wachau Im Weingeberge Spätlese Trocken 1986. Medium lemon-gold color. Smells of hay and kerosene, baked lemon and Earl Grey tea. Tastes crisp but quite developed, the flavors spreading out from the taut core towards citric amber-honeyness. Not quite holding up as well as the '86 gruner we had last year. A little bit tired and past peak, but with a lot of good stuff going on nonetheless.
Nikolaihof Riesling Wachau Im Weingeberge Smaragd 2001. Medium gold color, noticeably darker than the '86. Crowingly aromatic--pineapple and botrytis, vinyl and hay, citric Earl Grey tea notes. A sip, and jeez, a massive, blustery young riesling. There's a touch of sugar, vivid acidity, broad shoulders, it seems to get even bigger with ai--the aromatics turning more tropical, lilikoi and guava notes. Despite the heft, there's impressive focus and a sense of command. Damn, an impressive baby beast.
What's going on here? Maddeningly, the lion seems to be laying down with the lamb. Brad & Manuel, Dressner & Scott, Jayson Cohen and Brad, Brad and Andrew, Jennifer and Brad, Brad and Jay, Brad and everyone, are all standing around and chatting as if no one really, deeply wanted to smack anyone else with a halibut. Or even Brad. This is very distressing to those of us who feed on conflict, and I begin to perspire again despite Jay's effusive airconditioning.
Clos de Coulaine Savennières 1997. No, no, no. No, no, no. No. Make it go away. Like licking ashtrays that have been sprayed with Lemon PledgeȘ. Please, somebody, make it stop. Gone belly-up. Pushing up the daisies. Rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible; this is ex-Savennières.
Unlike the Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon 2002. Medium straw-gold color. Boisterously aromatic--quince jam, almond, bergamot, chamomile, hay. Hoo, it's a party in my nose and everyone's invited! A sip, and geez, here's a lumberjack of a Savennières, striding through my mouth with a song in his heart and his best girl by his side. There's a lot of muscle here, a bit of waxy-oiliness to the midpalate texture, a long quincey-orange finish. It's a large-scale Papillon but the usual honeyed minerality is there to bind everything together. Noted pessimist Andrew Munro Scott complains about residual sugar, but try as I might I don't find it distractingly sweet. Go figure.
As I'm mulling the Closel, Camblor tries to make a sideways entrance into the kitchen and knocks the dump bucket off the table, all over my legs and feet. I perk up immediately--here's an interesting turn of events!
Um, right? Wearing the dump bucket? Conflict? Something...?
Shit. Where can I go with that?
Back to the drawing board.
Robert Sinskey Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2004. Pale salmon color. Dried cherry and mineral aromatics, touch of potpourri, dried flowers. There's some broadness in the midpalate, but the overall impression is of a pleasant medium-bodied ros, feathering out to dusty preserved-cherry flavors at the edges. I like it, nobody else does. Fuck 'em, it's nice wine.
Lopez de Heredia Rioja Viña Orango 1995. Yes, we've got orange wine. I find this less tricksy than the '93 version, more open and friendlier. Pale coppery-orange color. Quietly complex aromatics, preserved cherry, orange juice, leather, a series of descriptors that don't make much sense but somehow work together rather beguilingly. There's a hint of CreamSicle to the midpalate, but also a pleasant rainwatery minerality. Smooth, supple and expressive ros, still an odd duck but happily letting its freak flag fly. Better than the '93, but also something like six bucks more pricey, so caweat emptor.
There's a white Burgundy of some kind, but I can't summon the enthusiasm for woody chardonnay now. Go away, please.
Dressner has somehow gotten ahold of an advance copy of a book about one of the pointy critic guys (Tanzer? Parker?), apparently it mentions Callahan or something. He reads selections aloud; my eyes slowly glaze over. Honestly, I think the fact that people are writing or reading books about wine critics is the clearest sign that our society is in trouble that I've seen since the advent of the Paris Hilton Era in the popular media.
After that, talk turns to the recent brain trust campaign to shut down Paul B. No one has any answers, we all stare at one another guiltily. "It... it just seems so... so petty," says Jayson, "The one original voice of our generation... they just can't stand the offbeat..." he trails off sadly. No one wants to speak. Maine Coon Cat, I think wistfully to myself.
These are trying times.
But wait--here's something from my special year. Jay has saved a Bouchard Pere & Fils Chambolle-Musigny Charmes 1972 for me because he knows I have a soft spot for '72 Burgundy. Medium ruby color, bricking to amber well in from the rim. Ooh, smells nice, earthy-spicy, cumin and cinnamon over muted dusty cherry. With air a leathery streak comes to the fore, lots of happy spiciness here. A sip, and it's light bodied and a bit faded, brown-earthy and honeyed. A light wine, hanging in there like the cat on the poster. "Like an old velvet bathrobe" observes Jennifer. Yeah, that's good. Nice one. It's no wonder I love her. Like a friend, I mean, a very good friend with silky red locks, a beguiling hint of Southern gentility and a way with words.
Sigh. Old Burgundy makes me fall in love with everyone in the room. That doesn't make me a bad person, does it?
Ooh, Jay has a Mystery Red Wine for us! Let's drink it and try to guess what it is! Fun for the whole family!
Jay's Mystery Red Wine. Smells like muted cassis and peat, sweetly ripe, with cedary hints, tobacco and toast, wow, smells like warm classic Bordeaux. Tastes rather soft, light and a bit plump, but flavorful and with good midpalate focus. Comes to a lovely layered fruity-earthy finish. Very nice. Mid-80s Bordeaux? That's as far as I can go. (Château Brainaire-Ducru St. Julien 1982.)
Sneaky sneaky Jay is having some fun, playing against the general prejudice against the Californian '82 Bordeaux vintage, and it actually works--the wine has none of the fleshiness and lack of nuance that seem to plague all too many Bordeaux wines from that benighted summer. Just goes to show you--vintage generalizations are for dumbshits. Good producers made decent wine, even in Bordeaux, even in 1982.
Here's a quick Montevertine mini-diagonal, starting with a Montevertine Toscana Riserva 1998. Smells stonyfruity--pure dark cherrypit aromas, a bit shy on the nose but impressive focus and balance, taut and gravelly-stony at the core, but with a wonderful lightness. Rather tannic, sinewy wine, with a dancer's strength. Here's one to lay down for a decade or so. Jay does a figurative backflip over this one, which (even figuratively) is very impressive--the man is awfully flexible, figuratively speaking. Anyway, it's young and tight now, but a lovely zygote.
Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana Pian del Ciampolo 1999. Very earthy-smelling, leather and dried cherry and a stack of twigs. Looser, more easygoing than the '98 Riserva, more friendly at this point, more of a drink-me-now wine rather than one built for distance, but wonderfully layered, light bodied and loosely knit. Nice wine, but pales a bit after its elder sibling. Still, very nice as well, in a more open sense.
Dressner pulls me aside, calls me into the kitchen and expounds at great length about the nature of soil-related issues in Muscadet and his perception of the problems with the 2003 vintage. Great! I think, happily taking it all in, red meat stuff, perfect for the techno-geeks. But after a good half-hour's harangue, he insists I don't report any of it. "This is not to be published on the internet!" he thunders in his best Emperor Dawes voice. Stricken, I meekly close my notebook and attempt to forget what he said. In the meantime, several rhubarbs have broken out and been resolved. I think someone (Jennifer?) finally took a poke at Kane, but I can't swear to it.
Château de Coulaine Chinon La Diablesse 1999. Light tobacco-pine needle aromatics, quiet redfruit and rocks underneath. Fairly soft, a light-bodied, soothing kind of Chinon, easygoing and inconsequential, although pleasantly straightforward.
Joseph Drouhin Bonnes Mares 1988. Yikes, quite tight at first, young and taut and clove-horehoundy smelling. Pure and racy, takes about an hour to begin to loosen up the tight cherry-earthy core. Very precise wine, impressively focused and pure, on the lean side.
Hey, lookee there, it's a Mas des Chimères Vin de Pay de Côteaux du Salagou Cuvée Buster 2000. Haven't seen one of these in awhile. I think I drank up my stash within a week after it was released. It's still got that combination earth/cherry cough syrup/old leather nose, still medium-bodied and loosely knit, still primary. It's got a friendly wash of redfruit up front but a disjointed second half, the tarry streak that emerges in the middle turning towards bitterness on the finish. Half an interesting wine, at least, although probably my least favorite Buster.
Koura Bay Pinot Noir Marlborough 2003. "Dont' touch it!" squeals Jayson, "It's grenache masquerading as pinot!" Sweet fancy Moses, what a notion--more Kane wine! Actually, it's a deep garnet color, and does smell rather cough syrupy, dark cherry-berry lightly dusted with clove. Big and ripe and a bit overbearing for my tastes, but if you're a fan of what the kids call 'zinot noir' it might be right up your alley. There's almost-ample acidity, but I'd wager dollars to doughnuts that this wine was made by someone fond of saying "I'm not trying to imitate Burgundy, damnit!" Not that there's anything wrong with that, but be warned.
Ah, here's a sweet young thing, a Francois Pinon Vouvray Moëlleux Cuvée Novembre 2002. Should've bought more of this, damnit. Lovely, fairly small-framed, but ever so flavorful and flickery-ticklish. Long quininey finish, just really nice medium-sweet Vouvray. Ahhh, so pretty. I've called Quintarelli the Huet of Italy--Francois Pinon may very well be the Huet of Vouvray.
Except... wait. No, scratch that, that's not right. The alcohol may be going to my head.
Jay makes three attempts to get the geeks to put down their glasses and venture out to a local ice cream parlor, but it's hot out and it's cool in here; there's no enthusiasm, and he eventually gives up and melts back into his couch.
Kane knows I have a soft spot for Deiss's sweet gewurz, so here's a Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewürztraminer Altenberg de Bergheim SGN 1994. Pale straw color. Hoo, vivid aromatics--rose petal and hay over honey-drizzled lychee, bubbling with smellies. Tastes crisp and quite sweet, a charming little gewrz that blooms as it goes down. The midpalate meanders off in the direction of syrupiness, but is pulled quickly back by bright acidity. Happy happy mouth! Good to be alive!
So, um, I guess that's it. No fights, no screaming, no interesting profanity, nothing. Sorry about that. I promise to be back on form next time.