So Thor and Theresa come to town, and wouldn't you know it, a war begins. Now, everything was fine until they arrived. I'm not saying there's necessarily a connection, just, you know... feel free to draw your own conclusions.
But arrive they do, and after I frighten them by coming to the door wild-eyed and in sweatpants, we set off on the trek to the Upper West Side's historic La Rocchetta, bottles in hand. I explain along the way that when they said they'd arrive between four and five I had mentally translated that into New York party time, which would mean that their 4:15 arrival was at least an hour and fifteen minutes early. They apologize profusely for the misunderstanding, and all is forgiven.
When we arrive a few minutes after the appointed hour it is no surprise to find Jay "Mr. Punctuality" Miller already there, ever magnanimously friendly to those of us who are chronologically challenged. We are soon joined by the irrepressible Bradley Kane Sr., and our designated chaperone-waitron introduces herself as 'Becky'; fortunately Dressner isn't there yet to do his patented introduce-everyone-to-the-waiter routine.
We kick off the evening's festivities with the Nikolaihof Riesling Wachau Im Weingebirge Jungfernwein 1999, and it's as luscious and enticing as I've come to expect, pretty and friendly in my nasal passages, lightly tropical and floral. With each increasingly happy snuffle different colors emerge, swirls of passion fruit, beanbag chair, lime and peach over a quiet, background minerality. I taste it, and am immediately struck by the balance and friendliness--the light sweetness, the acidity that isn't assertive but is calmly supportive, just there doing its job. The chameleonlike fruity-florality and the underlying base of white rocks all blend smoothly into a wine that might be called sublime if it didn't have a certain peacockery about it, a nudge and a wink that says 'pretty nifty, ain't I?' Not the ager that the '99 Steiner Hund is, doesn't have that wine's coiled strength and light austerity, but it is more friendly in its youth. Quick winner of the Prix de Thunderbird.
While we're oohing and aahing Dressner arrives, sweaty from his bike ride, takes a few sips and proposes that these wines be banned from future jeebi, as they simply make tasting the rest of the whites a chore. The motion is seconded but not passed, failing to gain the necessary two-thirds approval.
Here's a Muller-Catoir Gewürztraminer Haardter Burgergarten Trocken 1989. Typically exuberant MC smellies, although there is a tired quality to the lychee and yellow apple fruit, and the rose petal notes that emerge with air are those of week-old roses. The wine has a big, oily mouthfeel but is austere on the tongue, and the midpalate seems to be at odds with itself, disjointed and a bit hot. Kane, as usual, complains about the lack of sweetness. I offer him a sugar packet to mix in his glass, but his point is almost not wrong.
The Thunder God passes me a Leonildo Pieropan Vigneto La Rocca Soave Classico Superiore 1995. Soft, small nose, waxy-lemon hints, maybe a trace of nuttiness, not all that much going on. A sip, and it's puzzling--fairly low acidity with a nice weighty mouthfeel but lacking in flavor, rather neutral-tasting fruit spreads out soothingly on my tongue. Dressner complains loudly about reacidification, but I find it simply lifeless. Four small Prongs sculpted from paraffin, chilled briefly in the walk-in freezer of an Arby's Restaurant, then placed on a formica base at right angles to one another and set in front of a television playing 'Jeffersons' reruns.
Jay and Lisa bond about a newly-discovered love for Anthony Trollope. Thor chimes in with his first wretched clench of the evening, something about Jack the Ripper having done away with all the trollops. As we know more and deadlier are sure to follow, we open a Puzelat Touraine Le Buisson Pouilleux 2000, which is not ropey this year, but is cloudy and pale, like freshly squeezed lime juice. Thor opines that it smells like Pine-SolŠ brand disinfectant cleaner, but I find the distinctive aroma more citrusy, white grapefruit and lime rind. The wine is light but gloriously unfiltered--full of cloudy life, much like drinking pond water, but in a good way.
We discuss the reaction of various internet wine board communities to the late crises. A theory is put forth that "The more you like cult cabernets, the more you want to bomb someone." This is much debated and finally ratified, six to one. The link between "Allocated wine" and "Al Queda'd wine" is also explored, but no clear conclusions are reached. It turns out that Joe's wife is French, and often says cryptic French things like "A dog always finds its bone," which Joe says now. Just to be sure, he says it again, then takes the opportunity to firmly put to rest the rumor that this afternoon France surrendered to Afghanistan.
Here's the latest entrant in the menu pineau craze, the Clos de Tue-Boeuf Touraine 'Le Brin de Chevre' 2000. It's chalky and lean, hard at first but opening marginally with air. Crisp and tangy, a cool, minerally wine with flashes of white flowers that has more structure than fruit. Decent, but I'm not jumping on the menu pineau bandwagon just yet, despite the critics.
A Château de Trinquevedel Tavel 1999 quickly brings out Lisa's yellow flag. Corked.
A Puzelat La Tesniere (Pineau d'Aunis) 2000 is not quite as corked as the Tavel.
Dressner, smelling new blood above the clouds of TCA, begins to prod and poke at Theresa's soft spots in his inimitable 'let's see what they're made of' fashion. When she mentions she lived in France for a long time he says she can't have lived in France for a long time because she can't have lived anywhere for a long time, being an infant unlike him who is now over sixty and crippled by four heart transplants. She makes the mistake that many have made, which is to attempt to take his nonsense seriously, and makes a tactical error by saying "Don't ask me about Jason Brandt Lewis." This of course sets off a good thirty minutes of twenty-questions-style interrogation on the subject of JBL, his knees, his haircut, his job, his shoe size, his love life, his medical history, the exact nature of the relationship between them, and so on and so forth.
Here is a brief sample:
Joe: 'Close friends'? You're 'close friends' with Jason Brandt Lewis? You've seen the man twice in your life, you've had a few dinners together, how can you be 'close friends'?
Theresa: No, I...
Joe: I mean, do you tell him about your hopes and dreams, do you share your fears, do you call him when you're depressed or your life has gone bad?
Theresa: Well, I...
Joe: I mean really now, you call a winegeek when you have real problems? Someone you know from the internet? I'm just not sure I understand this. Maybe it's just me. It could very well just be me. Chris, if you (god forbid) should break up with Lisa, would I be the first person you'd call to talk to?
Me: Um, no.
Joe: No, of course not, I wouldn't call you first either if I broke up with my wife, who by the way is French. Not that Chris and I aren't friends, but when times are bad I'm going to call someone I've known all my life, someone who knows me intimately. Of course, I'm sixty years old, I've had more time to make close friends, I've had four heart transplants, I have a different perspective on life than you do...
Theresa: But, I...
And so on, for a good half hour, until a Chave Hermitage 1994 comes around and steals Joe's attention. This, friends, is the real thing, with a lovely meaty-bacony nose laced with baked yam hints and a high note of light menthol. The wine is neither still young nor yet very developed, but the place it's in is fine with me. Plenty of rich, well-balanced, meaty fruit with a shoyu note emerging in the midpalate and a long, hummingly tart finish that turns towards dark soddiness. Great, just great.
My notes indicate that I say "Giant breasts do not a babe make," but I can't remember why. Oh, that's right--we were chatting about the female companion of a well-known WIWP who is not Jason Brandt Lewis, and when the notion was put forth that she may or may not be a babe, Kane asks if she has giant breasts. Oh, it's just too sordid to relate, take my word for it. Grown men, for god's sake, it's humiliating. Lisa, taking the ball and running with it, embarrasses Dressner by pointedly adjusting herself. It's funny when he turns pink, and when he can take no more he shrieks "Will you please stop that?!"
A Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgeuil Vaumoreau 1993 is monstrously corked. Ugh. We're not doing well tonight. Back into the bottle it goes.
During a brief Chave-inspired lull in the conversation Theresa drops a figurative bombshell by claiming to find me goofier in person than on the web. Having spent many years developing a WIWP with what I thought was a Goofy-Smug Rating (GSR) of at least 93/96, I find this perception to be very disturbing, and as a result grow sullen and hostile. Worse yet, both of them say all sorts of ridiculous flattering things about my WIWP. Feeling that it's fairly widely known that I can't handle praise, I vow under my breath to write something crappy just to show them how wrong they are.
And here it is. Happy now, kids?
Here's a Tablas Creek Adalaida Hills Assemblage Rouge San Luis Obisbo County 1994. Okay, you've got some matte cherry-raspberry fruit coming at you, some pleasantly complex dark leathery/pipe tobaccoey undertones emerge in the midpalate, but as the finish approaches everything is choked off by swarms of angry tannins. Air helps, but the killer tannins are too much.
A Tenuta Oliveto Rosso di Montalcino Il Roccolo 1997 comes around, and a sniff reveals little of the coppery-corpuscular character that had this dubbed "The Blood Wine" the last time we tasted it. Now the black-cherry/cassis fruit is more dominant, smoky and ripe. The finish is crashingly short, but I find the wine likeably zinlike and quite decent, if a little generic.
Becky the waitress asks if we need anything. Dressner, feeling his oats, sings out "Do you have any more of that Chave?" She smiles fixedly.
An Italian sweetie is the first dessert wine, a Feudi di San Grigorio 'Privilegio' 1998, and it's got a quiet nose, pineapple, orange rind and vanilla notes. Tastes very sweet, almost but not quite goopy, like light pineapple syrup with a golden raisin/figgy streak. Decent enough, if unremarkable.
Here's a Quinta do Infantado Vintage Character (Organic) Port NV, a deep muddy garnet wine, tasting of dark red berries and crushed brick, with a streak of baker's chocolate. Medium sweet, earthy, a darker and more concentrated version of their lovely ruby, matte-textured and rich.
Dressner, still heckling Becky the Waitress, says to her "You'll excuse me if I talk dirty." She, having caught on, replies "Nothing surprises me from you anymore" and gets a round of applause from all.
The final sweetie comes around, a Niepoort Colheita 1987, and it's lighter than the Infantado but more refined, smoothly nutty to smell, with a warm brown streak radiating out from a softly muted berry core. An elegant wine whose velvety bricky-red midpalate gives way to more nuttiness on the finish. Medium sweet, ethereal and lovely.
As we enjoy our postprandial glow there is a great deal of puzzlement as to why the word "ollaieberries" always seems to come up at West Coast jeebi, much as the words "circumcision" and "retromingent" are invariably used at gatherings here in the East. Nobody is able to give a good explanation of this phenomenon.
The rest of the evening is a blur. I remember careening in a cab through Central Park with Lisa protesting from the backseat that we were going the wrong way, I remember the wasted bum who wouldn't leave the women alone, I remember reminiscing about our brush with death via taxicab the last time Thor was in town, I remember more port, I remember showing Thor my precious incunabulum and him not being impressed enough, I'm pretty sure Lisa had a fit of pique in there somewhere, or maybe that was the next day.
Anyway, that's it.