Sweet Chenin Blanc

Domaine des Aubuissières Vouvray Moëlleux Le Marigny 1996 (Recluse Convention): Quiet stony-honey aromatics, botrytis, apricot, pineapple, rich and fun to smell. A sip, and it's pineapple-apricot sugar syrup, Vouvray candy. Moëlleux my ass. There's acidity, but the wine is just too syrupy-sweet to enjoy more than a sip or two. Kane loves it, of course. Connell too, but, as he takes pains to explain, "just for the nose." (11/22/02)

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon (Paon) 1990 ($30) (Geyservillainy): Medium-light gold color. Plumper than the QdC, more botrytised. Smells of pineapple, peach and spicy botrytis. Has some babyfat but enough acidity to get away with it. A big wine without the focus of the QdC, there's some heat on the finish that distracts a little but it's hard to stay miffed when there's so much else going on. Very nice. (2/17/02)

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon (Paon) 1995($20) (Heat: A refined apricot-botrytis nose, touch of slightly underripe pineapple. I've always thought this a very decent base-level Paon, balanced and medium-sweet, not overenthusiastic, not at war with itself, with a smooth glyceriney mouthfeel and serene chenin fruit. Mellow, crisp and smooth. (6/16/01)

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon 'Paon' 1997 ($23)(Blind Syrah): Crisper, thinner, sharper than the Bise, more botrytisy, also a lovely wine in great balance, bit of an interesting aluminum note in the finish. (8/16/99)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1967 ($65)(Return to Kane Manor): This wine is a medium pale lemon-gold color, and the first thing I get on the nose is a hint of kerosene, followed quickly by sweet honey-lemon mineral fruit laced with tea and ginger. Very interesting to smell, a bit lean to taste, the fruit having faded to a pressed-flower quality, more lemon tea & slightly mummified yellow apple tastes, with a medium level of sweetness and some hard acidity. Fades a bit quickly, seems a wee bit tired. (6/10/00)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1971 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Medium gold color, ambering lightly at the rim. Smells spicily apricot-honeyed, with a bit of a burnt-sugar hint. Tastes crisp and rich, the flavors swing towards apricot-orange citrus in the midpalate and back towards honey again as it heads into the finish. Generously sweet (What?! Not magically turned dry!?), but with bright acidity and lovely cohesion, a wine in a good place, possessed of great sustain and persistence, still with the pink of youth but oh so nice to drink now, really coming into its own, the rare Baumard wine that I find genuinely exciting. (6/05)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1991 (Geyservillainy): Medium gold color. Light apricot and pineapple over a slab of white rock. The fruit here has a pressed quality to it but the wine is compact and balanced, on the lean side for a Baumard but very pleasant. (2/17/02)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1992 (Adlers): Medium gold-amber. Smells honeyed, hints of orange rind, apricot and quince jam. Medium sweet, only the vaguest trace of botrytis. Loosely knit, smooth and cohesive, it nevertheless has a baked-apple quality and seems older than I'd have guessed. Decent enough, just not much character and not particularly interesting. Guess that's why you don't see it a lot. (9/2/02)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1997 ($75): Pale straw-yellow, with hints of gold. Fairly quiet nose on this one, rich & soft & tropical, slowly coming around with some air and swirling, gradually becoming effusively pineappley-botrytisy-apricotty. A big, rich, sweet wine, not quite as stuffed-full as the Pierre-Bise QdC, but doesn't dance quite as close to the edge of over-the-topness either, with plenty of spine to balance all the fruit and sugar. Turns nicely pineappley on the finish. Very good stuff. I'll say it again so you can be sure I meant it: very good stuff. It's overpriced, but it's sure tasty. (12/25/99)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1998 ($40) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): 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. (3/06)

Château Bellerive Quarts de Chaume 1996 ($40) (Yo-ho for Pinot): Pale gold. Lean nose, vivid and racy but not giving up too much. Tastes bigger than it smells, richly sweet and with good crisp acidity, this has the good balance I've found in a lot of 96 QdCs--plenty of tangy apricot-pineapple fruit in a lean base, crisp acidity and a mess o'botrytis. Good stuff, if not quite the lush over-the-top style that tickles me in places that I like to be tickled. (3/19/00)

Clos de la Bergerie Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1997 ($30) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): 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. (3/06)

Marc Bredif Vouvray Nectar 1985 (Loirenatics): Getting into the sweeties now. Nice nose on this one, chalky and lemony, but I find it a bit limp in the mouth, a bit lacking in zip, a bit sweet and simple. (11/99)

Marc Bredif Vouvray 'Nectar' 1996 (Lou Turns the Worm): Gentle-tasting, mo‘lleux-sweet, not as sweet or as crisp as I'd have expected, although the name might've tipped me off. Calm, soothing Vouvray, flavorful and quiet. (10/05)

Champalou Vouvray Trie de Vendages 1997 (Muscajeeb): Medium gold color. Small, quiet nose that's fully packed with botrytis-laced apricot and pineapple. Very sweet, with just enough acidity, the fruit is dense and glossy in the piehole, just skating away from the precipe of goopiness and finishing with a pretty mandarin-orange note. Big, flashy and interesting, somehow leaves me cold. Champalou is the Baumard of Vouvray; the wines are always correct and well-made but just don't press my buttons the way they ought. (11/10/02)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Cuvée Isa 1989 ($30) (Lucid Jeebusing): Pale straw-gold color. Striking, distinctive nose, leather and dirt mixed with yellow fruit accented with spicy-hay botrytical notes. Could not be anything other than Savennières. Tastes not quite medium sweet, on the light side of moëlleux or the heavy side of demisec. Smooth, strong and oh so long, a subtle wine with hidden depths and a spine like a steel spring. What vandergelder might call God Wine; I'm in love. It's young and coltish now, tight and somewhat angular, but in a few decades this will be one to sit around the fire and tell stories about. (2/02)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Cuvée Isa 1989 ($30) (Greg Gets Us Wasted): I know I sound like a broken record, but I'm smitten with this wine. It's such an individual expression of chenin, so clearly of its place and yet such a different animal than a dry Savennières, that it never fails to sweep me off my feet. Less sweet than I remember, just the other side of a demisec. Kane starts yelling "Wine of the night! Wine of the night!" which is a little worrisome, but what can be done? Twelve hours of air has given it more expansiveness and partially allayed the youthful awkwardness of the last bottle, although it's still a lithe, nimble young wine, Leslie Browne in The Turning Point. Don't mind me, I'll just sit here awhile with my glass. We have a lot to say to each other and some of it is rather private.

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Les Coteaux 2002 ($32) (Football Fever!): I do love Closel wines, but I wish they'd stop renaming the various cuvées every few years. This seems to be the former Cuvée Isa--there's some story here that I remember Mme. de Jessey telling about Isa not being in the family anymore or something, but with all the football excitement I can't call the details to mind. Anyway, it's straightforward medium-sweet chenin, pretty and balanced. There's a supple midpalate earthiness, but it doesn't speak to me vividly of Savennières the way the astonishing '89 and the light-and-lovely '97 do, I find it rather closed. Shutting down, or not terribly expressive? (1/05)

Domaine Deletaing Montlouis Moülleux Grande R´serve Tris 1997 ($16/.500 ml) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): I'd been less than impressed with other big-sweet Montlouis from Deletaing in 1997, but this one turns my head. Medium-light gold color, extravagantly botrytised--apricot, hay, honey, quince jam. Lovely aromatics, quite sweet and broad-beamed. Damn, I opened this bottle after a poor showing of another at the carb jeebus in New Jersey earlier in the year: mistake, and a lesson in not drawing conclusions from one bottle--this needs more time. Firm acidic core, focused and sweet and honeyed, a real lulu of a chenin, really well-balanced big-sugar-big-botrytis sticky wine, taut and rich and vivid: superb. My last bottle, ugh, this cost me something like $16 when it was released. Double ugh. (11/06)

Domaine des Douveliers (Claude Pinon) Vouvray 1953 (Pinon): We all sit smelling the wine for awhile, taking in the aromas of mature Vouvray--leather and honey and apricots, truffles and tea. Beautiful. Smiles start breaking out, small chuckles. We catch each others' eyes and smile and shake our heads in wondrous appreciation. "What do you think of it?" he asks. "Pas mal," I say. This amuses him, which is good. I sip at it; there's a leathery-honeyed taste up front, along with light sweetness, then the midpalate turns towards a duet of truffles underneath, dried apricots, quince and lemon tea above. Truly striking mature chenin. I ask if it's moëlleux or demisec, as tastewise it seems to fall somewhere in between. "It's Vouvray" is the answer. "On paper it's moëlleux, but they tended to just throw it all together back then." The wine is wearing its age very well but it hasn't the uncanny freshness that the '59 had a few months ago. (3/02)

Domaine des Douveliers (Claude Pinon) Vouvray 1959(September 15, 2001): The same medium gold color as the Huet, perhaps a trace more amber. The aromatics have more of an orange-rind quality, tea, honey and a rich vein of chalkiness. Tastes more robust than the Huet, larger and more weighty in the piehole. There is a touch more sweetness (although there is no sweetness designation on the bottle--is this a moëlleux?), and the general impression is of a brawnier, more expressive wine that might not be as balanced or delicate but has its act together better on this night. (9/15/01)

Château Gaudrelle Vouvray Réserve Personelle 1997 ($22)(Wasted Hours):Medium gold color and smells nicely ripe and rich, hints of botrytis, hay and tea over honeyed apple-apricot-pineapple fruit. There's an odd smoky-plastic note that won't stay down, but it doesn't detract too much. A big wine, Liquoreux-sweet, with some weight and density in the mouth but with plenty of supporting acidity to keep things moving along. Tangy, sweet, pleasant and rich. Not profound, but very nice. (7/15/00)

Domaine Guertin-Brunet Vouvray Doux 1989 ($10/375 ml.). (Summer Mishmash): Medium pale straw-lemon color. Slightly flinty lemon-quince aromatics, just a whisper of spiced-hay botrytis. Tastes follow the smells, with more of a light apricot flavor emerging in the middle, then fading quickly as the quince flavors dominate the finish. Sweet and smooth and still quite young, not profound or terribly complex, but supple and fresh and friendly, with enough age to lend a bit of complexity. (4/03)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150) (Trilateral Offline): There is more talk of corkiness when this is poured, but I'm not sure--there are rich, lush apricot-pineapple aromas, and something like the mythical wet wool in there with it--Drezler calls it 'off,' but there's a great deal of sweetness and power balanced with firm acidity. A big, powerful sweet and viscous wine. Finishes with wool and tea notes as the lush fruit subsides. Maybe a bit off, but still a lovely mouthful. (3/14/00)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150)(Sitting Jeebis): The wine is showing very atypically tonight in that there is no trace of corkiness, breaking a two-year streak of consistently tainted '89 Huets of one stripe or another. Without the usual TCA the wine shines like a beacon, lighting up the inside of my glass with vibrant smellies and tasties: pure pineapple, apricot and botrytis, dessert-sweet but only just, with a whiplike acidic spine behind creamy dreamy fruit and spicily noble rottiness. It's a tremendous relief to finally taste this the way it was meant to be tasted; this is a philosopher-king among wines. (3/31/01)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150) (Shanks): This is as always a wonderful, intensely flavorful wine, but this bottle isn't quite firing on all cylinders, not as vivid and vibrant as it ought to be. The usually phosphorescent pineapple-lemon fruit seems more laced with marmalade than usual, a little more advanced, and the botrytis has faded into the body of wine instead of hovering spicily above. Still, even a slightly off '89 Constance is a delight, layered and impeccably balanced and beautifully complex and seductive, a class act all the way. (4/24/04)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux 1er Trie 1996 ($50)(Huet-a-Thon): Medium straw-lemon color; smells brightly tropical and lightly waxy, hints of pineapple and apricot over a firm base of stony minerality. Weighty in the mouth, intensely packed with lemon cream-tropical flavors and more chalkiness, quite sweet and intense but also very crisp and balanced, giving a sense of holding some strength in reserve, biding its time. Quite a trick, to be so rich and yet have a sense of firmness and reserve at the same time. Delicious. (9/17/00)

Next up is its younger brother, the Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux 1er Trie 1997 ($55) (Huet-a-Thon), and the different character of the wine is apparent from first nostrilization--a lush noseful of exuberant pineapple, botrytis, hay, apricot, a bucketful of bright, vividly fruity nosecandy. The wine tastes equally exuberant, hard to tell if the mineral component is there under all the puppyish fruit, but it hardly matters to me. Seems a bit softer than its younger brother, but that might be a trick of the fruit-forwardness hiding what's underneath. Desserty-sweet and rich, a creamy, happy mouthful that waltzes close to the edge of over-the-topness, then dances nimbly away from the precipice. Beautiful. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Mëllow Premiere Trie 1997(The Longest Night): I find this most extravagant of the three 97 PT wines, and tonight it's as compelling a youngster as any of us can envision, layered and rich, exuberant but with a happy, festive sense of balance. There is a nice firm spine, but it's covered with silky, sexy layers of velvety flavors and scents. Truly profound and sinfully pleasurable, a wine that stirs the intellect and the loins equally. Medium-sweet and then a bit more, it's not really desserty-sweet. Jennifer looks thoughtful and says "I don't even like dessert wines, but I'm going to buy some of this." (12/31/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux Premiere Trie 2002 (Doghead All Grown Up): Medium-pale lemon-straw color. Smells bright and rather shy, quiet lemon/underripe-pineapple yellowfruit, minerals, paraffin, not much botrytis in evidence. Tastes pure and crystalline, taut and finely-honed. I've grown used to drinking the last round of 1ere Trie wines, the '97s, and this is racier than those: not as sweet, less botrytis. Atypically delicate Bourg, more in the mold of the '96s, but even sleeker, like speed-skating a frozen lake on a breezy day. (11/04)

The next 1997, the Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997 ($55) (Huet-a-Thon), isn't quite as brash as the Bourg, although that's not saying much. Chalkier-smelling, less botrytisy, the nose is a bit lighter and less tropical, although all the same components are present. A taste, and a bit more structure is in evidence, more of a sense of focus, although not nearly to the same extent as the 96 Bourg. This one may be a touch sweeter, with a bit less weight in the mouth than the first '97, although again that's not saying much and this is still quite a dense, richly packed mouthful. Very nice. No, scratch that, I'm getting spoiled: Another beautiful wine. (9/17/00)

To complete the trio we have the Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997 ($55) (Huet-a-Thon), and, to oversimplify, this wine seems to strike a fine balance between its two vintage siblings, with a velvety fruity pineapple-wax-apricot-mineral nose that isn't quite as fervid as the Bourg but is happier than the Le Mont. This is the silkiest of the three, with the best compromise between structure and lushness, you sense the stony undercurrent while being tickled by the happy fruitiness, hitting both bass and treble. Botrytis is there, as it is in all three, but it doesn't dominate and serves to spice things up and add another layer to the mix. The wine has great fullness but is balanced to the point of zero-G, velvety and nimble. Extraordinary, and my favorite of the three, although it feels a bit silly to make nice distinctions between three such wonderful wines. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1959 (Lucid Jeebusing): I take a noseful and immediately want another; the Huets from this vintage that have been kicking around New York geek circles lately have a history of spottiness, of firing on three cylinders or just missing the brass ring, but this one sings the way they ought. Medium gold-amber color. Pretty pretty package of smells; lemon and chalk, tea and honey, apricots, almonds and butterscotch. Swirling makes the youthful chalk and lemon character come to the fore, letting it sit allows the darker tea and apricot-almond tones to dominate. A sip, and it's medium-sweet and layered like the banks of the Colorado, flavors piled upon flavors. Lemon and chalk again dominate the initial surge, then the midpalate spreads out kaleidescopically until it refocuses on the daintily thrumming finish. Whee, what a ride. The Isa is a young marvel, but this has the weight of years and the refinement of high breeding behind it; it will not be denied. 86 points. (2/02)

Huet Vouvray le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1947 (Chateauneuf-du-Joe): . The few occasions I've had the opportunity to taste the storied '47 Huet, the bottles have been a bit off, not in good form, damaged or just cranky. This one isn't, and I begin to understand in my gut what all the fuss is about. Topaz-amber color at the core, with that greenish-tinged rim that so beguiles Joe. Smells like love, all quince paste and dried apricot, honey and tangerine rind, clove, toffee, hay, other unidentifiable spicy things. Tastes quite sweet, perhaps not as sweet as the modern Constance Cuvées, but certainly the equal of the big '97 1ere Trie wines, markedly sweeter than the '02 1ere Tries. There's firm but not aggressive acidity, a bit of tannic fuzziness on the caressingly long finish. Spicy, delightful, happymaking stuff. (11/06)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1971 (Doghead All Grown Up): Medium gold color, just a hint of ambering towards the rim. Richly aromatic, calm and mellow smelling layers of lemon-quince, flint and pollen notes down deep, flecks of orange rind up high, traces of hay-botrytis spiciness above that. Tastes medium sweet, there's a weight to the midpalate of this wine that gives it more substance than the demisec version but also keeps it more earthbound, chunkier. But oh, the finish is ever so delightfully flickery-ticklish on my tongue. (11/04)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1995 (The New Year, With Bordeaux): Aromatically shy, shut down and not giving much away at all. There's a gentle earthy-funkiness right up front that settles slightly with air, then light lemon-quince, touch of chalkiness... that's about it. Demisec-plus sweetness, lacks focus, just kind of ambles around aimlessly in the middle before finishing with a whisper of almost SavenniŹresish wooly-earthiness. Rather disappointing: a wan and listless wine is the last thing I'd expect from Huet, but here we are. (12/31/05)

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux de L'Aubance 1997 ($18) (Farid Fete): "Quince!" I shriek, just to make sure everyone's awake. It's a lightly honeyed wine with hints of chalk, medium sweet and ripe. It's also rather flat and two-dimensional and gets weird in the glass with air time, coming up with an odd matchsticky note that slowly resolves into a distracting flintiness. Simple, sweet, decent but a bit weird. (7/28/01)

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux de l'Aubance Clos des Huttieres 1997 (Bastard): Medium gold, ambering at the rim. Mess o'botrytis suffuses the creamy orange-apricot aromatics, dark caramel-earthiness underneath. Earthier and not as boisterously fruited as the same year's Trois Schistes, but still pretty darn large and sweet, perhaps a bit lacking in the structure department. Weighty, a ripe St. Bernard of a chenin, big and slightly ungainly, a fun wine that is devoid of finesse but quite rich and slurpable. (11/23/03)

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux l'Aubance Les Trois Schistes 1997 ($10/.500 ml) (Boatloads I): Whole bunches of this stuff have turned up lately, heavily discounted. Suspicious, I try one before buying: nope, not cooked at least. What the heck? Great-vintage Loire sweeties for ten bucks? What's the catch? I can't figure it out, whatever, who cares at this point. Anyway, smells exuberantly botrytised, spicy hay and apricot-orange. Ripe and sweet, glyceriney-viscous and plump, with just enough acidity to get by. Spicy caramel-apple flavors well up in the quincey midpalate and are the last solo notes remaining as the finish glides off. [Buy again? As many as I can carry.] (8/04)

Papin-Chevalier La Pierre de Coulaine Savenni&egave;res Doux 1995 ($18) (Loirenatics): Rich gold color, with a sprightly honey-apricot-mineral nose. Thickly sweet and viscous, with apricot and apple-juicy flavors. A very nice sweetie, crisp, but it could be crisper--to me it seems a bit round compared to the '97, and it comes thisclose to cloying, but skates jauntily away from the precipice. (11/99)

Papin-Chevalier La Pierre de Coulaine Savenni&egave;res Doux 1997 ($20) (Chateau Joe): Pretty light gold color; spritzy apricot/hay/pineapple notes just leap out of the glass at you. Crisp in the mouth, a lively, very sweet and rich sweetie with a nice backbone of acidity that keeps it from even beginning to cloy. Very tasty. (8/99)

Papin-Chevalier La Pierre de Coulaine Savennières Doux 1997 ($20) (Lou Turns the Worm): Kane holds a glassful up to the overhead light: it's a medium-dark gold color, brownish at the core, ambering out from the center. Flat-tasting, sweet and viscous, orange-and-earth laced flavors. Still alive and tasty enough but strikingly advanced, slipping gently into oblivion. Drink very soon. Very very soon. No, no, sooner, sooner! Oop, damn. Too late. (10/05)

Domaine des Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux 1979 ($24) (New Value Region): which smells simply luscious, layers of honeyed baked-lemon and tea hints in a quincey base suffused with a light almond nuttiness. The wine isn't quite as complex in the piehole as it is in the nosal passages, but there's still a pleasant layering of flavors along with a firm thrust of acidity. Lovely rather than profound, it's roughly demisec-plus in terms of sweetness, but not desserty-sweet. (12/22/01)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux la Malabé 1989 (McNetta 2002): Smooth peach-apricot-hay nose, lots of botrytis. Dessert sweet, with zippy supporting acidity. Richly aromatic, richly flavored. Yum. That's all, just yum. Still a baby, but starting to come out of its shell and flap its butterfly wings. Really pretty, with the beginnings of complexity peeping through the babyfat, a pleasure. (6/02)

Domaine de Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux la Malabé 1992 ($35) (Stupid Fizzies): Medium lemon-gold color. Lightly tropical aromatics, baked pineapple, lemon and almond paste. In the piehole it's crisp and middleweight, medium-sweet and small in amplitude. Soothing, sweet and unremarkable. Wine of the night! (9/14/03)

Domaine des Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux la Malabé 1997 ($32) (Journey to Queens): Light gold color; bright pineapple-honey-hay-botrytis nose; Fat, viscous and rich on the tongue, sweet and dense and very flavorful. A big, round Bonnezeaux with a lot of sugar and just barely enough acidity to get by. I do like it, but it skates along the edge of goopiness. (10/30/99)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux Vendange Grain par Grain 1997 ($90) (Prodigal Hawaiians): Holy cats! Gold, deep gold. A whiff of this blows the doors off my mental Cadillac--just a Poltergeistish blast of pineapple-apricot, amazingly concentrated and dense. Whew. A taste, and whoa Nellie, it's crazily dense, absurdly sweet and shamelessly concentrated. This is a brazen hussy of a wine, sweet as all hell but with a sashaying backbone of acidity that drives me crazy. It takes me over the top like the waves at Pipeline, but I don't mind eating sand all that much when it's as golden and sweet as this. Amazing. (1/12/00)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Côteaux du Layon Village Faye 1996 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Brightly tropical aromatics, pineapple and apricot, quince and lemon. Plump, glyceriney and apple-pie-spicy on the finish. A big, rich infant with medium-plus sweetness and fine broad shoulders. One to lay down for a few decades, at least if you're planning on being around in a few decades. (6/05)

Château Pierre-Bise Côteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1995 ($17/500 ml.) (Summer Mishmash): Amber-orange color, browning lightly at the rim. Smells of dried apricot and mango peel, spiced-hay botrytis and maple syrup, touch of acetone. Sweet and rich, light caramelized flavors infuse the stewy fruit, toasted marshmallow emerges on the finish. Big and rich and chock full o'flavor, it does seem rather advanced, the latest in a recent string of Pierre-Bise sweeties that seem to be maturing with striking rapidity. (4/03)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1996 ($21/500 ml.): Pale straw color; zingy nose of pineapple & lilikoi; crisp, young and sweetly light--very light feel in the mouth--tangy pineappley/citrus flavors just burst onto your tongue; light again, fresh-tasting, crisp; concentrated & nicely balanced. Wheee--a fun, friendly, jazzy mouthful. (5/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1996 (Lucid Jeebusing): Medium gold color. Richly sweet to smell, honey pineapple and apricot. Tastes big and sweet after the two more delicate sweeties, but it's got zippy acidity to balance the sugar and it's quite tasty and a lot of fun to drink. The complexity is of a less delicate nature, but it's still there. Good slatternly fun, although the wine is darker and more developed than I'd have expected it to be at this point. (2/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1997 ($22/500 ml.): Young, lush and vivid and monolithically fruity, this is a big, rich, vividly tropical wine with a lot of sweetness, a lot of fruit, a lot of everything. More lushly fruity than the '96, I think this one is my favorite of the 97 P-B CdLs, having better balance than the 97 Rouannieres, which is a bit more over-the-top (but which I like very much as well). Tonight I'm getting more apricot on the nose than the pineapple notes that usually strike me with this one, but whaddaya gonna do? Very tasty. (9/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu les Rouannieres 1996 ($20/500 ml.): class act--rich apricot/pineapple notes; sweet, but with plenty of zingy acidity, not as densely sweet as the '97, one of my favorites, could drink this all night. (8/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu les Rouannieres 1996 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Medium gold-amber color, oranging lightly at the rim. Smells buoyantly orange-quincey, gone are the yellowfruity pineapple notes, but there's a good dose of sugar and a firm spine and lots of shiny-viscous flavorosity to coat the tongue. I think Kane is continuing to unload these wines on us before they turn brown, but this is showing pretty well tonight, still quite vivid and impressive, albeit with a different flavor palette. (12/05)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieau les Rouannieres 1997 ($23/500 ml.): nice golden yellow/amber; effusive, spritzy nose--pineapple, tropical fruits, candied pear. Rich, sweet and very concentrated--sparkly, tangy dense fruity/hay/fig notes wander through the midpalate; rich as hell, denser than the '96 and a real pleasure. (7/16/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1995 ($20/500 ml.) (Lucid Jeebusing): My concern about the dark amber color of the first wine is repeated for the second, which is visually indistinguishable from the '59 Huet when held next to it. Still, it's got its mojo workin' and it's workin' for me--more botrytis here, apricot, pineapple, rocks, generally more exuberant than the last. Tastes equally extravagant, big and sweet and thisclose to being over the top. There is a streak of caramel that arises to mingle with the tropical-apricot midpalate that again raises issues of premature aging or damage. It's goofier and less focused than the '96 L'Anclaie but it's a whole lot of fun to drink. (2/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1996 ($20/500 ml.): lager-yellow, with hints of amber; lush matte nose of pineapple, apricot & fizzy-straw notes flitting in and out. In the mouth fairly round and sweet, not as much crispness as the '96 P-B Beaulieu L'Anclaie I had a month or two ago. There's a light tinny tang that hangs behind the wash of round citrus/pear/apricot fruit that seems a little out of place. Very viscous & glyceriney. Nice, but I like the better-structured L'Anclaie more. (6/21/99)

Châtea Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1996 (The Return of Marty & Jill): This has held up pretty well, medium gold color, only lightly orange at the rim, ambering in towards the core. Smells of apricot-pineapple, then more apricot-pineapple, then a tiny hint of overripe bosc pear juice sneaks in. I wait to see if it's going to do anything more, but it seems content to quietly sidle up to the apricot-pineapple and hang around nearby. Hm. At any rate, the wine is still very sweet and viscous, just a bit shy on structure but not alarmingly so. I do miss the happy botrytis of other vintages, but this is still a charming fat little sweetie. (2/06)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort 1995 ($17/500 ml.) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Medium gold-amber color. Smells of caramel, apricot and pineapple, lightly botrytisated. The amount of sugar is a little startling after the Huets, and the wine comes off as ponderous and borderline goopy. But on top of that there's a flattened-out quality to the fruit. I'm getting increasingly edgy every time I open a Pierre-Bise sweetie these days, as several have shown signs of premature aging. This one smells and tastes ten years older than it ought--the color is roughly the same as the Huet 1971. If it were just one bottle, I'd assume bad storage, but it has been a trend. (A troubling trend, as I've got scads of the stuff stashed away.) (7/14/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort les Rayelles 1996 ($20/500 ml.): Pale straw-gold. Every time I try the 97 I think I like it better for its lushness and exuberance, every time I try the 96 I think I like it better for its concentration and balance. Life is tough. Plenty of pineapple-apricot chenin fruit, not the botrytis of the 97, but whaddaya gonna do? Sharp and crisp, sweet and nimble, a delight, its youthful exuberance an interesting counterpoint to the profundity of the Hermitage. (4/19/00)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort les Rayelles 1997 ($20/500 ml.): Light yellow-gold. Rich nose of apricot/pineapple & that spicy hay scent that I want to call botrytis but am reluctant to because I'm just not sure that's what it is. Thick, sweet & tangy, this is the fourth P-B CdL I've had from this year, and it shows the really dense sweetness that I've found in the others. Not quite as richly sweet as the Rouannieres, this one also has the slight metallic/aluminum note flickering across the midpalate that I noticed in the Chaume. Anyway, the scales are a little tipped towards sweetness right now, but it's very nice. (8/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume 1997 ($30/500 ml.)(Return of the Jeebi): Dainty sipping is required with this one, as it's so ridiculously sweet and densely packed that even a tiny sip is almost too much. This is the biggest and craziest of the Pierre-Bise 97s, and just a tiny taste of it is like surfing a pineapple-pear-lilikoi-botrytis tsunami with a reef of minerals many fathoms beneath your tongueboard. There is structure, but it's buried deep beneath waves of technicolor fruit and sweetness. SFJoe has warned me to save it for last because "you won't be able to taste anything else." It's almost too much even for me, a known sugarsucker, but it sure is fun. (10/7/00)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Botrytisée 1996: Wow. Takes the intensity up a notch. This is wild stuff, startlingly concentrated and coiled. In the same mold as the 1er Trie, but larger and dusted throughout with spicy-hay botrytical notes. A sip, and the flavors are nervy, tense and stony, white peach and rock dust, all hung on a spring-steel spine. Quite sweet and yes, there is botrytis here--not the overflow of the stuff that's evident in the 1997 Botrytisée, just enough to add seasoning to an already complex and balanced wine. Truly breathtaking young Vouvray that will outlive everyone reading this. "Almost no sulphur," he adds as an afterthought, "Just a tiny, tiny bit. You have a winery in California whose bottles say 'minimal process,' that is what I try to do as well."

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Botrytis 1997 (Kane Manor): Pale gold; aromatically light, spritzy-straw, honey-apricot, but in the mouth bright & sweetly rich & dense, apricotty/apple flavors, hints of mandarin orange; very sweet & still balanced, tangy & complex. Yum. Hits your tongue in a tiny quantity and the flavors advance like a wave. Very, very tasty indeed. (7/24/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Goutte D'Or 1990 (Loirenatics): Darker than the 89 Botrytisée, deeper gold color, more honey on the nose, less botrytis. This wine is a bit heavier, a bit rounder, sweeter and more viscous, and the flavors are more honey-apricot yellow than floral-citrus white, but this is very nice too. (11/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Reserve Botrytisée 1989 (Loirenatics): Pretty, rich nose--peach and citrus and hay and, oddly enough, botrytis. Lightly sweet, rich and tangy in the mouth, more great pale, citrus-edged fruit, wonderful balance, nice grip in the mouth, a really delicious sweetie. (11/99)

Rene Renou Cuvée Zenith Bonnezeaux 1996 ($60)(Cellar Gems): Quiet nose, seems a bit tight, I swirl and swirl but it's not giving much, soft pear-pineapple hints, but boy, one taste and it just explodes with flavors. Vivid pineappley tropical fruit zings around the mouth and echoes for ages. The fruit is young and seems a bit simple, but extremely concentrated. Crisp and bright and viscous and dense, not to mention sweet as hell. But still not much nose. (10/14/99)

Domaine Roullet Coteaux du Layon Cuvée Harmonie 1998 ($8) (Boatloads I): Okay, eight dollar bad-vintage Layon from a no-name producer that's been sitting on a shelf in New Jersey for a few years, how can you go wrong? Actually, the joy of diminished expectations kicks in, and it's surprisingly palatable. Medium-light lemon-gold color. Light hint of volatility (odd for chenin, although I'm not quite sure why that should be), quince and lemon-tea hints, light apricottiness. The wine is medium-plus sweet and on the lean side, with firm acidity and a decent if not exactly striking follow-through. Really quite drinkable, and the Layon character is there, if perhaps in not entirely presentable shape, fraying at the edges. But really, for eight bucks it's a steal. [Buy more? Yes.] (8/04)

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Marc Angeli) Bonnezeaux 1992 (Iron Winegeeks): Light-medium gold; distinct initial gunpowdery notes blow off to reveal a bright apricot-pear-botrytis cocktail underneath. Crisp & medium-sweet & tangy, very well balanced, lightly viscous tropical-apricot fruits make themselves heard over a mess o'botrytis and linger gingerly for awhile in the twilight of the palate. Very good. (2/19/00)

Château Soucherie Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu Cuvée de Latour 1997 (Five Jews): Okay, I'm probably drinking these in the wrong order, but whaddaya gonna do? Kane says this apparently sees "25% oak," but you couldn't tell it by me: nose of light apricot and pineapple in a rich minerally base, more minerals than I've seen in a '97 CdL. Tangy and spritzy, a lean and racy wine, not showing the lush dense fruitiness of some others from this vintage, but very nice nonetheless, with a crisp stony mouthfeel, good balance and a nice acidic bite. (12/99)

Château de Suronde Quarts de Chaume 1988 ($17.50)(Blind White): Okay, everyone's been bandying 'marzipan' and 'almonds' around all night, finally I find it in this one (in the interest of full disclosure, Lisa & I brought it). Deep first-pee-in-the-morning yellow, light, sweet, nutty, marzipany aromas, light apricotty notes; knowing this was a Quarts de Chaume I was taken aback by how unsweet it was compared to others I've had--it seemed to have a slightly funky, mushroomy quality to the nose, especially at first. Nice balance, but a little wan, and not really what I was expecting. (On a side note, Andrew, sitting next to me, said "I'm writing down the name of a grape" on first tasting this, and showed the words "CHENIN BLANC" to all after the unveiling. Woohoo!) (7/8/99)

Château de Suronde Quarts du Chaume 1988 ($20) (Scheduling): Medium-dark yellow-gold color. Smells slightly pomanderish, scorched orange rind, hints of marzipan and mushroom, traces of lemon, vanilla bean. Flattened out and limpid in the middle, there's an offputting lifelessness here. Tastes more moëlleux than desserty, I'm not sure when the Age of Big Sugar began but I don't think this would pass muster as a Quarts de Chaume these days. Still, it's a pretty nice match with Laura's sinfully good cheesecake. (12/8/02)

Château du Suronde Quarts de Chaume 1999 (MoJoe 2004): Orange-amber color, just about the same color as the '61 Huet. Smells very tangerine-apricotty, tastes viscous and weighty. Broad, simple and sweet, like a decent generic Layon. I'm not sure anyone made decent sweeties in the Loire in '99, so I guess it's a good effort, but it seems to be covering up a lack of character with a great dollop of sugar. If Kane were here he'd be shrieking "WINE OF THE NIGHT! WINE OF THE NIGHT!" (7/10/04)

Château de Suronde Quarts du Chaume Trie Victor & Joseph 1996 ($60) (Cellar Gems): Pale gold; interesting, small nose, with a nice flinty note mixed in with the honeyed tropical fruit. The intense sweetness, almost goopiness of this wine is a big surprise, as I'm only familiar with this house's late 80s bottlings, done in a much MUCH lighter style. Rich and flavorful, but a bit cloying, just not quite enough acidity to cover all that sugar. It tastes thick and concentrated and rich, but after a sip or two I'm done. (10/14/99)

Sweet Gewürztraminer

Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewürztraminer Furstentum VT 1994 (Swedes Invade): Pale straw-gold. Honey, white flowers & a good hit of spicy botrytis on the nose. Medium-sweet, tangy and crisp, but lacks any real gewürz character, fairly neutral-tasting and a little disappointing. I like my sweet gewürz a bit more extravagant and gewürzier. (3/24/00)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewürztraminer Altenberg de Bergheim SGN 1994 (Cellar Gems): Oh man, I'm a sucker for this. Rich lychee and honey and spritzy floral notes just make me smile. I've loved lychee since I was a kid, and there's a mess of it here. Best balance so far among the sweeties--nice and sweet but not gloppy or frighfully dense and perfectly balanced acidity make for a glass that I can't put down. Dessert wine of the night for me. (10/14/99)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewürztraminer Altenberg de Bergheim SGN 1994 (Sedate Evening): 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 gewźrz 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! (6/05)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewürztraminer Altenburg de Bergheim VT 1992 (Quiz Show I): A pretty, gleaming pale gold color, with a rich, lush mineral-floral nose, plenty of nice bright lychee with a touch of cheesiness that mostly blows off with time and air. Sweet, viscous and round, but decently crisp, with a long stony-flowery finish. (4/7/00)

Domaine Marcel Deiss Gewürztraminer Altenburg de Bergheim VT 1994 (Robin in the Big City): Ah, sweet gewürz--my fatal weakness, my Achilles' heel, subject of my next book Smart Gewürzhounds, Foolish Choices: pale gold color, rich fat gew&u uml;rzy nose--plenty of lychee, honey & attar. Actually, it's only lightly sweet, it's soft and round in the mouth--doesn't have the acidity or balance of the 94 SGN, it's a bit oily, a bit flabby, but I forgive it its transgressions, accept its apologies, take it back one more time, and enjoy the rich ripe fruit. (2/7/00)

Weingut Kurt Erbeldinger und Sohn Gewürztraminer Bechtheimer Helig-Kreuz Beerenauslese 1999 ($32) (Miller Time): I like what I smell here--apricot and lychee at the first whiff, with a dried-flower spiciness and hints of attar emerging on second sniffage. Very ripe, very sweet, but there's enough crispness to keep it from cloying. A freshly decadent little sweetie, pleasantly over the top and fun to sip. (1/12/02)

Müller-Cattoir Gewürztraminer Gimmeldinger Meerspinne Auslese 1989 (Bradcave): Brad always breaks out the sweet gewürz when he sees me coming, and I'm a sucker for this one as well: pale yellow-gold; nose of all things good and gewürziful: rose petals, lychee, honey, with some pleasantly flinty undertones. Smooth and crisp, light to medium-sweet, vividly fruity, slightly unctuous mouthfeel. Yum. (12/19/99)

Müller-Catoir Gewürztraminer Rheinpfalz Haardter Bergergarten Auslese 1988: Light golden-amber; flinty lychee nose, lush & velvety; in the mouth lychee/honey, nice & rich & slightly oily-feeling, well balanced by some nice crisp acidity. I didn't take too many notes on this because I was enjoying the pure sweet gewürz fruit go down. Very, very nice. (7/24/99)

Domaine Ostertag Gewürztraminer Fromholz VT 1994 (Trilateral Offline): Medium straw-gold. Flinty aromas mix with pale rose & light lychee, but there's a flat quality to the fruit here, it seems suppressed and subterrranean, and a nice crisp base mouthfeel just doesn't quite gel around the fruit. With time and air the gewürziness emerges a bit, but it still seems a bit fuzzy and gnarled under some wood. (3/14/00)

Domaine Schoffit Gewürztraminer Alsace VT 1989 (Iron Winegeeks): Medium gold. Fairly light hints of minerally gewürziness--lychee, softly floral-fruity. In the mouth a nice flash of lychee-spicy fruit that quickly comes apart amidst light sweetness and fades into a watery disjointedness. Disappointing, as I am usually a Schoffit booster. Is this over the hill or was it odd all along? (2/19/00)

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Clos des Capucins VT 1990 (VS Eats at Joe's): Spry clementine-mineral-lychee accented nose. The body of the wine is a bit shy, not offering up much. Just not much going on. What's the story? A lightly sweet wine, not quite desserty-sweet. I find this curiously neutral for a VT gewürz. (11/7/99)

Sweet Muscat

Bera Moscato d'Asti 2003 (Misplaced Weekend II): Smells of spicy ripe yellow apples and white flowers. Very lightly petillant (or just open for awhile?), fat and glyceriney. Bright and floral and candied, a fun little wine. (5/9/04)

Bonny Doon Muscat 'Vin de Glaciere' California 1997 ($17): Light amber. Bright, spicy nose or pineapple, pear & especially apricot. Densely flavored--layers of spicy fruit--bright, crisp & balanced, despite considerable viscosity & sweetness. Very tasty. Not the complexity of a top Sauternes, but tangy & delicious. Only marred by a slight plastic-y quality to the fruit that bothers Lisa a bit more than me, but overall a very nice 'freezer' wine that seems to disappear quickly. (4/99)

R.L. Buller & Sons Fine Muscat Solera NV ($10/.375 ml) (Boatloads I): Dark amber-brown color. Smells like caramel laced with light orange rind, maple syrup and toasted marshmallow. Sweet and dark and toasty-caramelly, with ample acidity and a lot of flavor. Very concentrated, rich and sweet and big and dark. Pretty good, pert acidity saves it from being syrupy. [Buy again? Yup.] (8/04)

Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Muscat Rutherglen NV ($11/.375) (Boatloads VI): Sweetly aromatic, toffee, toasted marshmallow, butterscotch, orange rind. Viscous and shiny, very sweet but with a vivid acidic snap to it as well. There's a bit of a boozy burn in there amidst all the sugar and flavor, but with everything else that's going on it's easily forgiven. Good sweet sloppy muscat, not terribly complex but a lot of fun to drink in small quantities. [Buy again? Yup.] (12/05)

Coppo Moncalvina Moscato D'Asti 1998 (NYers Go Italian): Yipes! Vividly fruity apricot-pineapple-peach nose, lush and tropical. Tastes just the same, tropical-fruity, sweet and exuberant. Simple, but fun. (11/10/99)

Kurt Darting Muskateller Eiswein 1991 (Waiting for Callahan): [They taste.]

CHRIS: What a nice gold-amber color, and hints of orange rind and honey-apricot on the nose. A slightly unctuous wine, very thick, viscous and tangy, with just barely enough acidity, and a long, tangy finish. (9/12/99)

Kurt Darting Muskateller Dürkheimer Hochbenn Eiswein 1999 (Memorial Day): Big, furiously fruity nose: lilikoi and grapefruit, then honeyed orange rind and still more grapefruit. Hugely sweet, with gland-squeezing acidity. Just too much at the extremes--the intense sweetness is at war with the searing acidity and neither is winning, a little Somme in my glass. I'm fond of Darting and there are compelling elements here, but the whole is a bit of an amiable mess. (5/31/04)

Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 1999 ($20) (Rejeebus): 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. (7/21/02)

Eos Muscat Paso Robles Late Harvest 'Tears of Dew' 2004 ($21/.500 ml) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Medium gold color. Smells like fresh-baked apple pie, spicy, with maybe a skosh of ripe pineapple in there too. Quite sweet, but also quite crisp, the acidity sufficient to balance the sugar. The mouthfeel is glossy, almost viscous. It's kind of a silly wine, but it has a certain sly charm, not to mention a lot of sugar. I'm a bit of a softie for sweet muscat, so it's okay with me. (11/06)

Golan Heights Winery Muscat Galilee 'Yarden' 1997 ($8/.500 ml) (Boatloads V): Creamy vanilla & yellow apple candy, along with a good dose of spiritousness ("fortified with oak-aged brandy" says the label). Medium-plus sweet, with a glossy plasticky mouthfeel and round apple-vanilla flavors. Once you get past the unintegrated flashes of vodkalike heat it's actually kind of decent, at least for eight bucks. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.] (10/05)

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1996(September 15, 2001): Medium gold color, and smells of sweet orange rind and spicy apple-honey-vanilla, yellow apple and caramel. Brightly acidic, it's tangy, almost puckery-tart, with baked yellow apple flavors and spicy cinnamon notes. Quite sweet, it approaches the viscous but is reined in by the strong acidic spine. Nice. (9/15/01)

Trevor Jones Old Muscat Barossa NV(Of Bass and Men):Amber-brown colored, smelling of raisins, caramel, orange rind and crushed filberts. Quite "sweet" and "goopy-thick" (one wag can only wail "Gooparossa!"), there's a decent spine of acidity and if you're a fan of Aussie liqueur muscats it's "not a bad one," although it does get "a bit hot on the finish," and it "won't win any awards for delicacy." (2/01)

Lava Cap Muscat Canelli Sierra Foothills 1995 ($14): medium yellow with a hint of amber; light but interesting nose with traces of mandarin orange, pear & apricot along with some hints of dry straw. Lightly sweet, smooth & crisp, with an orangy tang that carries through to the finish. Fairly light feel in the mouth, nothing viscous or dense here, nor a great deal of complexity, but a small-scale sweetie that has a lovely bright balance of sweetness & structure and is a very nice value (yes, that price is for 750 ml.). (7/15/99)

Luigi IV Moscato D'Asti 1998 (Loirenatics): Musky, mellony-peachy nose, sprightly and sweet. I've never smelled a ripe muscat grape, but I'm assured by those who have that this is it. Sweet and candied (4% alcohol), light and faintly fizzy, I don't really know what to make of this. I am confused by it. It's like candy. I must move on. (11/99)

Renwood Muscat Canelli Amador County Clockspring Vineyard 1995 ($18/.375 ml.)(Return to Kane Manor): This gets some happy shrieks of dismay and horror right off. Someone cries "Linseed oil!" and someone "Flat gingerale!" and I take a sniff and find out why. It's actually quite odd to smell, with weird stewed apple & mandarin orange hints along with some vinyl and, yes, flat gingerale. Sweet and fat and limp and stewed, the clockspring has wound down. (6/10/00)

La Spinetta Vigneto Biancospino Moscato d'Asti 2003 (Misplaced Weekend I): Sweet and apple-spicy, a little goopy, in need of something to sprighten it up, acidity or something. I look for a lemon to squeeze into my glass, but no luck. (5/2/04)

Tamburlaine Hunter Valley Old Muscat Liqueur NV (Quiz Show II): Amber-brown color, very complex happy nose with layers of caramel, raisin, orange rind, brown sugar--I like these sweet muscats and this is a very nice specimen, more layered and beguiling than most, especially commendable for its balance, avoiding any hint of cloying or goopiness, a crisp, medium-rich sweetie with a lot of character. (4/15/00)

Yalumba Museum Muscat Victoria NV ($14/375 ml): Deep orange-brown, very dark indeed; caramel & cloves on the nose. Thick & sweet, caramel cream, vanilla & a touch of orange rind. Has some acidity, but could use a little more. Tasty & interestingly complex -- a bit thick, but that's a quibble. This is a tasty wine at a decent price. (3/99)

Misc. White Sweeties

Marc Angeli Rosé d'Anjou 2001 ($17) (Guess Who's Coming to Guzzle): Fresh, lovely and creamy-light. It's not the boisterous thing that the Yquem was, but rather light and supple and oh so flavorful. Cherry-vanilla, spicy hay and orange cream, there's that CreamSicle note again. Medium sweet, the spine is always a presence, the light cherry-creamy fruit clothes it as it flicks back and forth like the business end of a nervous kitty. (7/4/04)

Anthony Road Vignoles Late Harvest Finger Lakes 1995 (Blind Syrah): Orange-amber; sweet apple/mandarin orange nose. Thick, richly sweet & monolithic, simple & with a streak of sharp acidity. I'm afraid it doesn't stand much chance when tasted with the Baumard & Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layons. (8/16/99)

Anthony Road Vignoles Late Harvest Finger Lakes 1998 (Finger Lakin' Good): Pale (but not quite pale, pale); nice spry nose--apricot & peach hints, a nicely balanced wine, pleasantly sweet and zingily acidic. Goes down smoothly; I like this much more than the '95 that I had at the blind syrah offline a few months back, which seemed much heavier in style, darker in color, and not as easy to sip. This one is friendlier, and goes very well with my tart. My raspberry tart, I mean.(12.5% RS) (12/8/99)

Bolla Recioto del Soave 2001 (Memorial Day): This is extraordinarily peculiar smelling. The aromatics suggest a potent mix of Kona coffee and seared corn, with a warm vanillin streak emerging with aeration. Even stranger, it tastes pretty much like it smells: singed corn, vanilla and light-roasted coffee. Everything else is well in hand, it's a fairly sweet wine with crisp supporting acidity, good weight and composure, but it's just so weird tasting that nobody knows what to make of it. Hoke? (5/31/04)

Château Bouscassé Pacherenc du Vic Bihl Doux Vendemiaire Octobre 1995 ($18/.500 ml) (Waiting for Callahan): [They taste.]

CHRIS: This wine, pale straw in color, has a light, tight nose; soft pineappley-flinty-nectariney notes drift around the glass. Tastes a bit thin, too, yellowfruity and not terribly sweet. Thin, light and crisp. (9/12/99)

Château Bouscassé Pacherenc du Vic Bihl Doux Vendemiaire Octobre 1995 ($18/.500 ml) (MoJoe 2004): Medium gold-amber color, oranging at the rim. Light smelling, hints of lemon and nectarine, not much going on. Tastes mo‘lleux-sweet, and starts promisingly enough with some quiet apiricot-lemon fruit, but then along comes a strangely tannic streak and a bit of bitterness on the finish, the second half of the wine just kind of falls apart. This was better a few years ago; it doesn't seem to be aging terribly gracefully. (7/10/04)

Domaine Cauhape Quintessence du Petit Manseng Jurancon 1989 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): If this is the quintessence of petit manseng, it looks like the stuff is best drunk young. Tastes very caramelly--very sweet, like melted caramel cubes [BLUR SMEAR BLUR SMEAR SMUDGE] too long, or at [BLUR SMEAR BLUR SMEAR SMUDGE] tonight, would I? (6/05)

Chapoutier Hermitage Doux 'Velours' 1982 (Clash of the Ayatollahs): Medium brownish-gold. Verrrrry interesting aromas are emanating from my glass. Sweet nutty gold raisin, light molasses, caramel and gingery earth, yow, there's a lot going on here all at once. Tastes nutty-brown, lightly sweet and earthy, with hints of marzipan flitting in and out of my field of taste. Layered and fascinating, a real beauty of a wine. (4/19/00)

Domaine Lars Choufleur Gris du Toul Moëlleux 'Trie Tres Triste' 1985 (Rejeebus): 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. (7/21/02)

Dal Forno Romano Nettare 1995 (Memorial Day): Dark amber-gold color. Smells intensely caramelly, dates and figs and apricots, along with a marzipan nuttiness, boisterously aromatic. Tastes almost syrupy, thick and dense and very sweet, maple and pecan and more figs and caramel. Very interesting, but in the end just too too much; two sips and I'm done. (5/31/04)

Kurt Darting Huxelrebe Forster Schnepfenflug Beerenauslese 1996 ($25/500ml) (Farid Fete): It's a medium gold-amber color, more tropicality here, guava and mango intermingled with a brown caramel streak. Desserty-sweet, it's a deep, rich mouthful, a viscous wine with bright acidity, simply Huxelriffic. (7/28/01)

Elderton Golden Semillon South Eastern Australia 1997 (Quiz Show II): Medium amber-orange color, sweet-smelling and flecked with apricot and orangey notes. Crisp and tangy apricot-based flavors and an interesting nutmeggy spiciness swirl around in a very glossy mouthfeel--this wine tastes shiny, almost laminated. Clean, tangy, straightforward and decent. (4/15/00)

Fassati Passito del Santo Vino Liquoroso NV(Fridge): Deep brown-amber color, smells of raisins and beef stew, traces of caramel and orange rind. Quite sweet and viscous, brown-sugary with that persistent beefy note. Too borderline goopy--not unpleasant, just odd. (5/12/02)

Feudi di San Grigorio 'Privilegio' 1998(Thoresa): 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. (10/7/01)

Pierre Frick Tokay-Pinot Gris Alsace SGN 1989 (Bastard): Elegantly floral-smelling, caramel hints down below, gentle spicy-hay botrytis above. Tastes smooth and medium-lean, a pretty, sweetly earthy little wine, a charmer. (11/23/03)

Henry of Pelham Vidal Ontario Special Select Late Harvest 1999(NEVER Say 'Spit'): Spicy muscat-apple and yellowflower aromatics, apple brown betty garnished with daisies. Soft, simple, straightforwardly spicy and unassuming. Better balance than the riesling, less sugar and lighter on its feet. Pretty decent, I guess. It was the late Creighton Churchill who first called vidal "The Mosel riesling of the Great White North," but I believe that just this once he was overstating the case entirely. (4/03)

Hunt Country Vineyards Finger Lakes Vidal Ice Wine 1996 ($10/375 ml): Lisa picked this one up at the outdoor market at Union Square... Butterscotch-candy colored--amber/orange; sweet candied nose of light apricot & honey. Sweet in the mouth & possessed of a nice acidity, but somewhat simple and monotonal. Pleasant, but not a lot of character or complexity. I guess this would be vidal? On the other hand, is there a better $10 ice wine out there on the market? (4/99)

Inniskillin Vidal Niagara Peninsula Ice Wine 1997 ($60/.375) (No Hook): Mmm, smells like oranges and apricots wrapped in plastic and dusted with nutmeg and clove. A sip, and it's got a shiny apple-citrus thrust of glossy fruit, with a juicy lychee quality arising in the middle to meld nicely with the spicy apple-citrusicity. There's enough acid, but it's quite sweet and the dense mouthfeel has that vidal liquid-Saran-Wrap thing going on. SFJoe, a puzzled look on his puss, opines that "It tastes like it's made from Fine Corinthian Leather." Exactly. Still, it's spicy and expressive and well balanced for such a big, sweet wine, and it has some pleasant aromatic intensity. If it weren't so absurdly overpriced I might actually buy some more. (6/7/03)

Klingenfus Tokay-Pinot Gris Bruderthal SGN 1994 (Yo-ho for Pinot): Pale straw-tan. Lots of botrytis, hay, lemon cream on the nose. Not dessert-wine sweet really, almost moelleux-style. Soft, smooth, a bit dilute through the midpalate, but a small, whispery wine with a decent botrytisy medium-length finish. Nice, but small and quiet. (3/19/00)

Kracher Cuvée Beerenauslese Neusiedlersee 1997 ($20): Very pale straw color; ethereal, bright nose of wet stones & mandarin orange & honeysuckle. Very light in the mouth, very light. Medium-crisp with a minerally background behind some tangy orange-citrus notes that lurk behind at first, then rise up and dominate by the time the finish rolls around. Lightly sweet, not even remotely viscous. Bright and flavorful, but a bit transient, doesn't leave much of a sweetie impression. Still, I go through a few pours of this stuff. (8/99)

Kracher Nouvelle Vague Grande Cuvée Number 10 Trockenbeerenauslese 1998 (A New Low): Yow. This may be nouvelle, but it sure as hell isn't vague. Rich, almost overpowering nose, botrytis-infused caramel, hay, ripe pear, vanilla, orange rind and Snickers bar. There's a whole lot going on, but it's trying too hard. A sip, and it's like tasting maple syrup, sweet and more sweet, rich and weighty in the piehole. There's enough acidity to get by, but the sweetness is overwhelming and a few sips are all I can handle. Finishes with just a touch of woody bitterness. Pretty interesting stuff, a powerhouse that is absolutely suffused with botrytis, but strange and slightly alarming. (7/14/03)

Weingut Landauer Ruster Cuvée Grosslage Vogelsang Nieusedlersee-Hügelland Trockenbeerenauslese 1995 (Miller Time): Smells delightful, richly botrytised yellow fruit limned with apricot and mandarin orange hints. With air a sweet plumeria-floral streak emerges and mingles creamily with the orange-yellow and nobly rotted elements. A sip, and the wine has great balance and structure, a nimble and fresh mouthfeel, flavored with zingy lemon-grapefruit/orange-apricot flavors. Perhaps a little oversweet, but there's so much else going on that it's hard to quibble. Nobody knows what the grape varieties involved are, but it tastes like pinot blanc to me. Quite delicious, whatever it is. (1/12/02)

Müller-Catoir Rieslaner Mussbacher Eselhaut Auslese 1990 ($37/.375 ml) (Bordeaux Bash): Smells richly tropical, pineapple and Kona orange, with a rich vein of beanbag-chair vinyl underneath. Tastes rich and dense and a bit monolithic, but there's good acidity, nicely balanced and crisp, and there's a tropical-vinyl close that hums pleasantly for a few clear moments. As good a 1990 dessert rieslaner as I've had, I suppose, but I don't find much complexity here. (12/11/00)

Müller-Catoir Rieslaner Mussbacher Eselhaut Auslese 1997(Rejeebus): 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. (7/21/02)

Muller-Catoir Rieslaner Mussbacher Eselhaut Eiswein 1998 (Casus Bello): Gonzo rieslanerocious pineapple-ginger-mango-apricot nose, like tropical fruit salad, delightful to sniff at. Medium-sweet, plenty of acidity, a little cartoonish but rich, balanced and delicious. A wonderfully fun, slightly silly wine that has all combatants from all sides smiling. (3/02)

Müller-Catoir Scheurebe Haardter Mandelring Auslese 1998 ($37/.375 ml) (Heat): a wine that figuratively explodes into my nostrils in bursts of white grapefruit with pineapple accents, exotic and exciting to smell. With air more fruit salad emerges--lilikoi, guava, mandarin orange, wheee! Crisp and bright in the piehole, desserty-sweet but nimble as a bunny, with a whiplike spine and velvety-ripe tropicality. A wine that has us figuratively jumping up and down excitedly despite the heat. (6/16/01)

Müller-Catoir Scheurebe Himmelscratcher Somethingdinger Moosebacker Auslese 1998 (Fisting Punts): Whee, white grapefruit, lilikoi, pineapple and lipstick, like a fruit salad out for a night on the town. Rich and big and sweet, there's a zippy spine of crisp acidity keeping the wacky fruit in line. I've always had a soft spot for this rather silly wine, and tonight is no exception. (10/13/02)

Pellegrini Vineyards North Fork of Long Island Finale White Table Wine 1999 (Walt Begs for Mercy): Apparently a blend of sauvignon and gewürztraminer, but it's the gewürz that dominates as I take a sniff and get a noseful of lychee with a white-flowery frosting. Bright, crisp and desserty-sweet, a two-dimensional wine with a lot of flavor that is cheerful and surprisingly tasty. (5/01)

Joseph Phelps Scheurebe Napa Valley 'Eisrebe' 1996 ($18/.375)(Quiz Show I): Medium amber-gold, smells of plastic apricot, candied pineapple and orange rind. Thick and very sweet, tangy and viscous, but with some crisp acidity in there running alongside a carload of vinylized fruit. Candied, rich and simple, but not unpleasant in small doses. (4/7/00)

Quintarelli Amabile del Cere 1985 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Medium gold-orange color. Smells nuttily complex, mandarin orange, chestnut and apple pie hints. Amber flavors, rich and sweetly caramellish tasting, with a [BLUR SMEAR BLUR SMEAR SMUDGE]. The rest of the note suffers water damage; I remember liking the wine but finding it pretty weird, nutty and almost Tokajiish. (6/05)

Renaissance Sauvignon Blanc North Yuba Late Harvest 1995 (Nine Characters): Medium gold color, smells of honeyed orange-lemon and Saran Wrap, with light hints of hay, pleasantly spicy. Tastes quite sweet and rather thick, with almost enough structure to get by. Simple, spicy and sweet; inoffensive and sippable. There isn't a lot of typicity here, but as always the crowd divides along traditional lines: partisans of the leaner North Yuba style, who favor balance, and South Yubaphiles, who love the ripeness and exuberance you get from the warmer climate. (11/02)

Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos Betsek 1991(Bordeaux Bash): Happily oxidative nose, orange rind and apricot, almonds and light brown sugar. Crisp and racy, medium sweetness, tangy, dense and rich. Impressive grab in the mouth. Pretty darn tasty, if not terribly light on its feet. (12/11/00)

Weingut Schmitt + Kinder Silvaner Randersaker Main Sonnehnstuhl Eiswein 1998 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Tangerine, pineapple, mandarin orange and honey, tropically vivid but almost like fruit syrup, hugely sweet and viscous despite a vivid acidic spine. Startlingly flavorful and intense, but a little bit goes a long way. (6/05)

Standing Stone Vineyards 'Vidal Ice' Icewine 2000 ($25/375 ml.): Smells like pineapple-tangerine candy with an underlying Saran Wrap streak, and high notes of muscatish spice. Simply flavored, candied and sweet, but with a crisp acidic spine, well balanced and that pleasant spiciness. Has no subtlety and hints of bloppiness around the edges, but keeps itself immaculately groomed and impeccably dressed, a social climber of a wine. (2/03)

Swedish Hill Vignoles Late Harvest Finger Lakes 1997 (Finger Lakin' Good): Finally some hue! Light orangy-amber color; mandarin orange hints on the nose; very sweet and thick--there is some good acidity here, but it's working on a parallel line with the sugar, and the result is a somewhat shrill goopy wine. Rich pineappricotty flavors, but I can only take this in small doses, and it's a bit wearing. (20.5% RS) (12/8/99)

Swedish Hill Vignoles Cayuga Lake Late Harvest 2000 (Bastard): Medium lemon-gold color. Smells of canned pineapple slices wrapped in Saran Wrap and left in the sun. Very sugary and simple, with a lipsticky mouthfeel. There's a good spine of acidity, but it can't support the weight of the sweet glossy fruit. (11/23/03)

Eric Texier Nôble Rot 'Botrytis' 1999 ($27) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): 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. (3/06)

Domaine du Traginer 'Tuilé' Vin Doux Naturel NV(The Longest Night): Gold-amber color (tuilé is 'tile'), smells bright and vividly apple-melonfruity, almost muscatlike in its sweet brightness, with a light hint of orange-vanilla creamsicle. Tastes medium sweet, honeyed apple candy and orange marmalade, tangy through to the finish, with a creamy coating. Someone calls it a 'gewürz on steroids,' but that only captures the character and exuberance of the flavors, not the specific flavor profile itself. Very nice. (12/31/00)

Domaine du Traginer Banyuls Blanc Vin Doux Naturel 1998 ($24) (September 15, 2001): Really pretty to smell, spicy muscat-like notes, sweet baked cinnamon-apple and pineapple-tropical hints. Crisp, medium-sweet, a pure tone of fruit like a yellow-amber laser. Really very nice, with the best balance of any of the sweeties, bracing acidity and a nimble mouthfeel and expressive, concentrated fruit with many facets. Really good. (9/15/01)

Trimbach Pinot Gris Alsace Vendage Tardive 1997 ($22/.375) (Recluse Convention): Medium-light gold color. Smells lightly milky--gardenia, tangerine, hay and a light whiff of botrytis. Low-acid but nevertheless quick on its feet, only lightly sweet. Very flavorful but rather demure, a soft, feathery small-scaled wine. (11/22/02)

Fattoria Viticcio Dolce Arianna Vin Santo 1995 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Medium amber color, smells of toasted orange rind drizzled with honey and cloves. With air a light figgy-nutty streak emerges. Medium sweet. Richly flavored. Plenty of acidity. Bit of a burn on the finish. Rather weighty texture. Sentence fragments. Pretty good stuff. (3/02)

Wittman Westhofener Steingrube Albalonga Beerenauslese 1996 (Ferality): Rich yellow-gold, hinting towards amber; spritzy apricot nose, hints of orange rind; crisp and zingy, sweet lemon-citrus taste, more apricot, medium-thick and pretty sweet, but with a lot of zing, some really nice firm acidity to keep it from cloying. Not terribly complex, but a nicely-balanced zippy mouthful, without a hint of blop, just sleazeriffic. Sweet, sweet albalonga... takes away the pain. (9/99)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 1998 ($70) (Of Bass and Men): A "big brute" of a wine that is "a bit spritzy" at first, then comes on strong and blowsy with big white plumeria-gardenia fruit, big sugar and big acidity, a wine that has a peculiar kind of big balance that isn't displeasing, but it seems inflated to me, pumped up so much as to smooth out small interesting features. A very odd wine, I must say that I like it but I feel a little guilty for liking it, as it's rather over the top and goofy, begging to be liked with a hint of desperation. Someone calls out "This wine is slutty!" and one faint-of-heart soul sinks onto the table, muttering "It's too much, it's just too much..." (2/01)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2000 ($70) (MoJoe): Sweetly floral in my nose, plumeria-gardenia, hints of tangerine and lemon. Fat and friendly in the piehole, a low acid, slightly oily wine with a good deal of heft and what seems like a touch of sweetness as well. It's pretty good pinot gris in a blowsy sort of way, eager to please, obvious and flavorful. What's not to like? Four and a half squat battered Prongs fried in peanut oil, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar and left on wax paper to cool. (9/23/02)

Sparkling Reds

Bonny Doon Ca del Solo Freisa Frizzante NV(Oddball Grapes): Smells like strawberry candy. Tastes like fizzy strawberry candy. A bit too sweet and soda-poppy, kind of a kiddie version of Alain Renardat-Fâche's perennial masterpiece. Fun, but a bit cloying after a few sips. (7/27/03)

D'Arenberg Sparkling Chambourcin McLaren Vale 'The Peppermint Paddock' 1996 ($20)(Kane Manor): Medium-dark garnet with a purply crema; peppery, plummy nose--I don't know much about chambourcin or what it's a hybrid of (of what it's a hybrid?), but it seems like shiraz-light, with peppery, candied plum aromas; in the mouth it's a pleasant, rich quaff, without the roughness that I've found detracts from some fizzy shiraz. Richly flavored, medium-light candied plum/cherry with some tiny, tiny tannins. Sparkling red is still an odd duck to me, but this is the best one I've had to date. (7/24/99)

Hardy's Sparkling Shiraz NV ($17)(Swedes Invade): Eep. Medium-dark purply garnet. Candy-peppery plum and fruit hits my nose. Strange and stranger, not a good match with lemon tart. Seems very candied and simple, medium bodied, odd--mostly, if not entirely dry. Can't taste too much of this stuff now. Perhaps a hot summer day sometime? (3/24/00)

Alain Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey NV ($15)(Clash of the Ayatollahs): A fizzy gamay with a shot of poulsard (gamay clone #A732, not sure about the poulsard #), which made for a delightful apertif: pale pink, lightly bubbly, lightly sweet, fairly low alcohol, with juicy strawberry-watermelon flavors and a nimble underlying minerality that gives some weight and intrigue to the taste without detracting from the fun. This wine makes me giggle like a schoolgirl. More so, I mean. (4/19/00)

Alain Renardat-Fâche Cerdon de Bugey NV ($17) (Guess Who's Coming to Guzzle): Bigger and juicier than I remember the last batch or two being (I wonder, is this another product of the goofy '03 weather?), ripe and full of horehound-earthy strawberry fruit. Also a touch sweeter and squishier than I recall, although still possessed of cheerful acidity and frothy bubbles. Year in, year out, the perfect summer wine. (7/4/04)

Alain Renardat-Fâche Vin de Bugey Cerdon NV ($17) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Fresh strawberry juice, just a hint of earthiness, frothy pink fizz, lightly sweet and juicy-crisp. Happy happy stuff, consistently one of the top three wines in the world, summer afternoon division. This year's seems a bit plumper and redder-hued than usual; I suppose it's probably juice from the dreadful summer of '03, but the character of the wine is merely a bit glossier, while the essential character remains unchanged under a fluffy blanket of babyfat. (5/05)

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