Aligoté -- Offbeat Bastard child of Burgundy

Roberto Cohen Aligoté Bourgogne 2002 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Medium-lean and bright, pure and lemonstony, but also rather neutral. Not nearly as structured as either Muscadet, there's a wan quality to the middle, but it's quite pleasant to drink. Very decent, if not exactly a wine that makes me want to get up and boogie. (12/05)

Alice & Olivier de Moor Aligoté Bourgogne 1997 ($13): Very pale indeed, just off-clear; spritzy, lemony nose with a touch of grassy herbaceousness. Tangy & crisp, but not sharp--indeed, there is a very slight lemon-creaminess that sneaks up on you. Balanced and smooth; not a strongly-flavored wine, but crisp & pleasant. I might have mistaken it for an easygoing kiwi sauvignon blanc. A nice little wine. (3/13/99)

Alice & Olivier de Moor Aligoté Bourgogne 2002 (Football Fever!): Smells lightly whiteflowery, gardenia and lemon Pledge hints, touch of breadiness. Tastes firm and stonyfloral, tight in the middle, with a flickery mineral streak, mediumweight wine with presence but not a lot of complexity and some unintegrated yeastiness. Pleasant, but (in a twist) much less interesting than the lovely '03. Hey, we've finally found a white grape that turned out okay in 2003! (1/05)

Alice & Olivier de Moor Aligoté Bourgogne 2003 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): Cloudy-pale color, the color of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Bright, citric, vivid wine. Pure, focused and whiteminerally, with light floral hints. Come to think of it, this is rather like a weightier cousin of blatterle, Blatterpithicus Robustus. Who knew this disreputable grape had such potential? These guys do aligoté like Wittman does albalonga or Muller-Catoir does scheurebe: in a class by itself. A stirring match with the wonderfully smutty oysters, fish-briny little sacs of lovejuice. (1/05)

Altesse -- Only from Bugey...

Franck Peillot Roussette du Bugey Montaignieu Vendages d'Antan 1998 (Horrifying the Newbies): A sweet and fresh smelling young altesse, perfumed and pleasant, with light hints of fresh yellow apple and sweet gardenia. Lighly oily mouthfeel, an agreeable unctuousness, not very complex and just a shade off-dry. Quite pleasant, although its lack of edge leaves me a little cold. (3/3/01)

Franck Peillot Altesse de Bugey Montaignieu Cuvée Buster 1999 ($18) (Walt Begs for Mercy): A prettily aromatic wine, soft white honeysuckle and anise hints over a stream of rocky minerality. Tastes mouthcoatingly full but quite bright, with a hint of sweetness and snappy acidity in fine balance. With some air the light florality fades and the minerals come to the forefront. Young and primary, but this is happy stuff, a crowd-pleaser that pleases the crowd. (5/01)

Franck Peillot Altesse de Bugey Montaignieu 2002 ($14) (Misplaced Weekend II): Mmmm... smells floral-stony, honeysuckle and coral chips, hints of yellow appleskin. Seems a bit smaller and more loosely wrapped than usual, but perhaps I'm just more used to the Buster version. At any rate, it's a little gem of a wine, pure and friendly and clean. (5/9/04)

Bordeaux Whites -- Sauvignon/Semillon Blends, For the Most Part

Domaine de Cantelys Pessac-Léognan 1996 ($22)(Cape Mayhem): Smells of grapefruit, honeydew and vanilla, decently wooded. Tangy, tight, citrusy-tart, lightly buttery and somewhat clunky, with the individual flavors sort of jostling each other rather than hanging together. Dressner grumps that they must've "used the grapefruit yeast for the semillon and the melon yeast for the sauvignon blanc." We may never know. It's too young now, all sharp elbows and uncut toenails, perhaps it just needs twenty years. (5/27/01)

Château Carbonnieux Pessac-Léognan 1998 ($27) (St. Andrew): Pale straw color with a decided greenish cast; some nice vivid grassy sauvignon fruit here, buried under a blanket of creamy toasted lumber. Creamy lemon-lime and toast. Too young and oak-dominant now for me--I would say this needs a lot of time. We are, however, collectively tickled by the hologram on the back of the label that twinkles merrily at us through the greenish fluid inside the bottle. It's like Crackerjack! What will they think of next, these wacky Bordelais...? (1/15/99)

Château Carbonnieux Pessac-Léognan 2004 (Island Life): Pale straw color with greenish glints. Young and generously wooded. Vanilla cream and lemonlime-citrus running in parallel, nice firm acidic core, good balance. It's pleasant enough for a fetal white Bordeaux, but why drink this now? Actually though, it goes pretty well with the summer-veggie chopped salad. (5/06)

Domaine de Chevalier Graves 1962 (All CNN Wines): Pale straw-gold. Light buttery-flinty, lush, honeysuckle, sings with extravagant, complex--buttery-pineapple-vanilla aromas. Tangy, tangy-crisp, with a finish that goes on and on--young and rich. The wine evanesces on the tongue and fills the inside of my skull--tangy lemon-creamy hints--balance, integration, harmony, youth. I am put in mind of a dry Sauternes with no botrytis. I was poured this blind and got the wine, but was twenty+ years late on the vintage. Extraordinary, profound. (11/11/01)

Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan 1978 (Bordeaux Bash): Pale gold. Smells lightly pineapple-vanilla with a suggestion of minerality underneath that, like a rainbow, evanesces the more I look back for it. Tastes brisk and tangy but the initial rush of white fruit fades quickly into a watery, dilute midpalate with a streak of sharp unsupported acidity. I am surprised, but I find this lean, tart and unpleasant. (12/11/00)

Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan 1992 (Five Jews): Very pale gold color; lush, soft nose, velvety and somewhat Sauterney-smelling--slightly waxy, creamy lemon and light tropical fruit, hints of pineapple and apricot. Very beguiling nose. Slightly round in the mouth, with good weight and presence, this is a rich wine with great grace and, for all its expressiveness, nice restraint and balance. Very tasty stuff, a fine start to the evening. (12/15/99)

Clos du Pape Graves 2003 ($8) (Boatloads II): Pale lemon-straw color. Quiet aromatics, shy hints of white grapefruit, lemon and a whiteflowery-gardenia streak. Slightly jarring Vitamin C-tablet acidity, a bit spiky. I'm of two minds on this--it seems composed and balanced, calm and unmarred by wooding, but there's that odd tartness again, lingering medicinally on the finish just a bit too long. Otherwise it's a very nice wine, lightly whitefloral and citric, touch of waxiness, calm and smooth and flavorful. Enough good qualities for me to give it another chance, I think. [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Château Le Devoy Martine Lirac Blanc 1997 (Cape May Geeks): Pale tan-gold. Not too much going on in the nasal regions... light gingery-minerally hints, seems a touch oxidized, tastes tangy and crisp but rather neutral, with light cream soda, chalk and lemon rind flavors. Decent, drinkable, unremarkable. (6/3/00)

Château Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2003 ($13) (Boatloads VIII): A sniff, and there's a touch of coconut and an odd curry note at first, over a base of celery-infused lemon cream. Tastes round and soft, lemon-ginger and vanilla rise up in the middle and overwhelm a light stony streak, then linger briefly on the finish. There's acidity, but not enough to bind the squishy fruit into anything close to focus. Not bad, but dull and broad. [Buy again? No.] (9/06)

Château Haut-Brion (Blanc) Pessac-Léognan 1989 (Bordeaux Bash): A pale gold colored wine with a rich, creamy nutty-marzipan streak in the nose over light layers of honey, wet stones, yellow flowers and wax. Quite surprisingly big and dense in the piehole, creamy-rich and concentrated, happily expressive, with beautiful poise for such a large wine and an extremely persistent nutty-creamy coda. It's a bit of a show-off to be so extravagant so young, but it delivers the goods all the way, effortlessly hitting high and low notes and booming out happily in the midrange as well. Exquisite. (12/11/00)

Blanc de Lynch Bages Pauillac 1999(Foodies): Smells of creamy, creamy oak, and lots of it, along with light lemon and waxy hints. Tastes smooth and rich, well balanced and crisp, oppressively oaky and young. Try again in 30 years. (10/14/01)

Mayne Sansac Bordeaux (Blanc) 2002 ($6) (Boatloads I): Smells... watery. Light ginger-cream water, touch of lemon. Tastes a bit better than than, light and lemony and medium-crisp, a simple, watery wine with lemon-creamy flavors and not much going for it, but drinkable in a pinch if you're not looking for character or anything else good. [Buy again? No.] (8/04)

Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux 1993 ($24) was a nice, smooth mouthful, with some zippy, lemony SB tang and a buttery/vanillin followup. In general I'm not sure about white Bordeaux, really, it strikes me as being neither fish nor fowl, but this was a darn good one, with a very nice body, very round & well-integrated. Not exuberant or a fruit bomb by any means, but friendly and classy, a good, strong food wine. Its restraint seems curious after all the ZING-y kinds of whites we've been having, but it has a beautiful kind of self-contained grace, saying in effect "I'm not going to leap all over your palate like an overeager puppydog, but if you come to me, I will show you lusty treasures of the Orient...." (9/98)

Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux 1993 ($24): Pale straw-tan color; bright, slightly creamy lemon-oak on the nose. Sipping it, light minerals, fairly crisp, but some nice sauvignon-style fruit seems to be struggling under the weight of a Home Depot-load of buttery oak. Where are the noisy power tools when you need them? (9/99)

Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux 1993 ($24) (Premier Cru Jeebus): This seems to have worked through the 2x4 phase that I've noted the past few times I've had it, as this bottle is showing less woody, more lightly honeyed and minerally. Nicely balanced and still quite young, this bottle seems rather boisterous, creamy and bright, still plenty of oak, but the other layers are beginning to peek through more than even a year or two ago. Still, time is needed. Drink December 2011-April 2012. (9/31/00)

Les Plantiers de Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1996 (Premier Cru Jeebus): Pale gold color. Quiet nose, toasty-bready notes, almost a flat-champagne quality, along with lemon and rainwatery minerals. Tastes tangy with decent acidity, but a bit diffuse and watery through the midmouthroof, lacking density and focus. There's some unintegrated vanilla oakiness emerging on the finish, but the overall impression is of a decent, slightly pallid wine. Oomphless. (9/31/00)

Château les Queyrats (Henri Dulac) Graves Grand Vin Sec 1969 (Lou Turns the Worm): Turns out he'll have to wait for another day, as the wine is well past whatever brief prime it might have had. A good whiff of old cheese is the first thing I get, followed by lemon tea and leafy pond water nuances. Tastes thin and hard, all structure, finishes lemony-leafy with a hint of quay rat. The bottle has a white tag on a string hanging from its neck, which gives it an appropriate mortuary look. (10/05)

'R' de Château Rieussec Bordeaux 1989 ($10) (Occult Wines): It's a pale tan color, and yes, it's got some starfruity hints dancing about in a base of honeyed yellow flowers and minerality. Tastes tangy, with bright, lemon-edged fruit that has soft fruity-floral hints and a light creamy-waxy mouthfeel. There's wood here, but it's not quite enough to make me uncomfortable and there's a good level of cheeky-monkey acidity that leads nicely into a creamy, lemony finish. Pleasant. (5/15/00)

Monsieur Touton Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2004 ($6) (Boatloads VI): Light lemoncreamy aromatics, hint of a sort of dusty-talcish minerality. Crisp, simple and surprisingly tart on the finish, it's a thin little thing with a lot of spine and some lemonpuckery acidity. Actually, despite its rather bland lemonhead simplicity, there's at least a sense of lift to it, it has the nervy tautness that one might find in an industrial Muscadet. Or an industrial white Bordeaux, for that matter. Not bad, just nothing interesting. [Buy again? Nah.] (12/05)

Grüner Veltliner -- (It's from Austria)

E. & M. Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremstal 2005 ($10/1L) (Boatloads XI): Shy tropical-spicy aromatics, pineapple and celeryseed, touch of white pepper, rainwatery hints. Rather robust-tasting, broad and muscular, if somewhat sloppy and loosely wrapped. Still, there's a pleasant tanginess to the fruit, there's an abundance of structure, plus I have a fondness for wines that taste pineappley. Not quite the insane steal that the Hšfer grüner is, but close. [Buy again? Oh yeah.] (11/07)

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Qualitatswein 1998 ($13)(New Wine Achievers): pale straw color, with a quiet but interesting aromatic profile--plaster of paris, white pepper and yellow pear hints over a tight streak of minerality. Tastes balanced and lean, brightly acidic but a bit neutral-tasting, with some strength but not nearly the coiled intensity of fruit of the higher-up bottlings. Still, not bad for around $13, and it's quite balanced and accessible now. (7/00)

Bründlmayer Langenlois Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 1995 ($15) (VS Eats at Joe's): Rich, open nose with some smoky mezcal notes that have Kane and I wondering about oak. We are wrong. No oak. Smooth, with good weight and a pleasant, slightly oily mouthfeel. Peachy-floral hints emerge with some swirling. This is a fairly full-bodied wine with lovely balance. I like it. (11/7/99)

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 1997 ($17) (Manuel and Josie): Pale tan; bright, flinty-earthy nose with soft lemon and pineapple hints. Tastes whiteflowery, coiled and dense, with a slightly oily mouthfeel and strong acidity. Lean, tight, powerful, gone too soon. (4/23/00)

Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Langenloiser Berg Vogelsang Spätlese 1983 (Culling Me Softly): Yep, it's old gruner all right: the yellow fruit has muted into a baked-pineapple tone, the floral aromatics have a suggestion of pressed flowers, but it's still quite lively. Light sweetness, very flavorful, quite decent. (9/03)

Glatzer Grüner Veltliner Carnuntum Kabinett 2000 ($9) (McNetta 2002): that had a friendly white pepper, lemon and white grapefruit nose, cheerful to smell. Tastes bright and crisp, vague in the midpalate but with a persistent grapefruit rind tang on the finish. Not big or concentrated, but flavorful and easy to drink, a happily unchallenging wine. (6/02)

Glatzer Grüner Veltliner Dornenvogel 2000 ($17) (Foodies): Here's a grunery poached pear-baked pineapple yellowfruit nose, flecked with white peppery hints. Squeaky-dry and rather large, the wine has a bumptious side but manages to stay on this side of the chunky line. Finishes prettily and peppery, a very decent young gruner. (10/14/01)

Hirsch Kammerner Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein Alte Reben 1998 ($22) (Journey to Queens): Pale tan-yellow; apple-bready nose, applejuicy hints; slightly sweet, yellowfruity, tangy and crisp and bright. More of a good brisk palate waker-upper than an actual dessert wine. I have my usual trouble reading Austrian labels. Somebody needs to explain this wine to me. (10/99)

Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Kammerner Heiligenstein Kamptal 1999 ($17) (Continuing): Aromatically reticent, quiet and chalky, light tropical-pineapple hints, traces of baked yellow apple, not much in the way of nosality. A sip, and it's got great balance, a fine strong spine and a nice sense of substance without being weighty, but there's more structure than anything else--the young , tightly coiled fruit isn't coming out of hiding any time soon, no matter how often I cry "Olly-olly-in-come-free!" (9/23/01)

Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 1998 (Jason Takes Manhattan): Oh boy, fruity-floral honeydew-pineapple nose. A wine that fools you with friendly fruitiness, then slowly reveals the muscle and sinew underneath. Lightly sweet, strong, dense and coiled up and gnawing its own tail. Good, seriously intense stuff, needs lots of time, but rich and impressive now. (5/00)

Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Spitzer Honivogl Smaragd 1999 (Peach Tree Vines): Medium gold color. Poached pear and celery seed, hint of anise, white pepper and roasted pineapple aromatics, gruneriffic. In the piehole it's got an ever so slight touch of sweetness, almost but not quite neglible. Well-muscled but not huge, a broad mouthfiller that throws its weight around. Crisp, concentrated and brightly acidic, a greco-roman wrestler of a wine, and a splendid match with my sumac-infused mushroom-catch-of-the day quiches. (4/03)

Weingut H.U.M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Trocken 2004 ($6.74/1L) (Boatloads VII): Playfully tropical aromatics--pineapple, white peach, touch of snap pea. I'm not sure I'd peg it as gruner veltliner, but it's sure tasty--slightly exotic and floral-fruity, crisp and racy tasting, nervy at the core. My friendly local retailer calls this 'The best value in white wine in the world today.' It's hard to argue. CROWN CAP! [Buy again? YES YES YES YES YES YES.] (4/06)

Weingut H.U.M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Trocken 2005 ($8.50/1L) (Boatloads VII): See above note, add a light whiff of yeastiness. A great value, and a rare bulk purchase for me--perhaps I got carried away, but despite the price hike I actually bought four bottles of the stuff, so it's going to be the house white for awhile. Plus, the one liter bottle makes it a great wine to have if you're stuck on a tram for twelve hours. CROWN CAP! [Buy again? YES YES YES YES YES YES.] (4/06)

Högl Grüner Veltliner Ried Schön Wachau Smaragd 2002 (Shanks): Pale, almost colorless. Sharp, minerally nose, stones dipped in ripe pear juice with a bit of a green-pea streak underneath. Rich and focused, a well-honed wine with serious structure that gives the initial impression of leanness, quickly dispelled by the racy musculature that flexes self-admiringly in the midpalate. A taut-bellied wine that seems to enjoy its own reflection, this makes a very decent match with Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

Weingut Knoll Grüner Veltliner Loibner Federspiel 1999(September 15, 2001): There are some pleasant smellies, yellow appleskin, grilled, pineapple and white pepper, but the wine tastes awkward, flashing acidity, fruit and alcohol at you in that order, then clapping shut like a giant clam. Strange. (9/15/01)

Weingut Knoll Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Ried Kreutles Loibner 1993 (Liberation Celebration): Firecrackery note in the nose, celery seed and lemon custard, a bit odd-smelling. Tastes hard and somewhat ungiving, knife-hard right at first, spreading but flattening in the middle, finishes green and citric. Interesting and complex but a little overstern for this pleasure-loving hedonist, at least on this celebratory evening. Does go well with the charcuterie, though, which, it turns out, is just French for 'cured meats, fruit, cheeses and liver.' (11/6/05)

Weingut Knoll Grüner Veltliner Ried Kreutles 2001 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): "Would you like some wine with your sulfur?" asks the proprietor congenially. I would, in fact, but it's very hard to find any underneath the waves of brimstone. Jay tries dropping a penny in his glass, nothing happens. I always forget which type of sulfurousness that's supposed to work with, but one thing is certain: it's not this kind. (1/05)

Nigl Grüner Veltliner 2000 ($17) (Winterfest 2003): Quiet smelling, baked apple-pear hints laced with white pepper and peapod. Tastes clean and pure but not terribly expressive, a restrained and lightly-spiced gruner that turns rocky on the surprisingly sustained finish. Very decent, a cheerful way to kick off the festivities. (2/03)

Nigl Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben 1996 ($22) (Party House): Zippity, here's some structure for you, a steely spine of puckery acidity wells up immediately, dives under my tongue and squeezes my glands. The backbone is clad with a velvety skin of yellow lemon-pear fruit that has a convincing roughness as it moves through the midpalate, turning towards limeyness on the tart finish. A hard and manly wine with an Eastwoodian squint and a dangerous gleam in its eye. SFJoe calls it "A gruner for fans of romorantin": since I am one, I love it. (1/5/02)

Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Wachau Honifogl 1986 (Football Fever!): Pale lemon-straw color, with a slight greenish cast. Smells vibrant and expressive, a sneakily complex blend of quiet baked pear-pineapple yellowfruit, green sweetpea and white peppery earthy notes. The flavors are muted and tend towards minerality, there's good heft, a solid wine with firm acidity and a beautiful follow-through. Very very nice. (1/05)

Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Wachau 1990 (Impostors): This wine is a little green lizard sitting on a rock in the sun. Or so I am told. It does have a bit of green cast to the color, I must admit. The nose is lightly kerosened over green apple and yellow flowers, and the wine has a waxy accent in a big racy body. Very good gruner with a few years under its belt, a big package with nice focus. (11/4/00)

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd Wachau 1997 (VS Eats at Joe's): Much larger in scale than the Bründlmayer, sweetly floral nose, rich and velvety honey-gardenia and limestone. John ventures 'banana candy,' and that fits nicely. Weighty and minerally in the mouth, honeydew and peach and other stuff too, rich and vivid and flavorful. A gruner veltwinner by me, easily the best I've had. (11/7/99)

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd Wachau 1999 (Sitting Jeebis): Pale straw-gold color. Smells lightly tropical and white-peppery, pineapple, banana hints, very rich in the nostrils. Tastes robust, a big bruiser of a wine, full of deeply flavorful fruit and with a glyceriney feel as it blusters its way down my throat. Yow, I see why SFJoe decreed that this one be the last of the whites. Great stuff, perhaps a little topheavy, but it's hard not to be impressed by it. (3/31/01)

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Loibner Berg Smaragd 1998 (MoJoe 2004): Whee, ripe pineapple smellies, lemon custard, white pepper, hint of snap pea. Large-scale gruner with the poise that comes from self-assured strength. I sip at it and it clears my palate like sherbet on a hot day, but it's a bit too intense to dally with for long. (7/10/04)

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner 'M' 1998 ($95) (Culling Me Softly): Quiet poached pear and yellowflower aromas, with a good dusting of white pepper. Big, ripe and easygoing, a weighty wine that spreads out in my mouth like a flood tide. A bit unfocused and broad, but easy to like and smooth to drink. (9/03)

Italian Whites

Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino 2004 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): We're just aching to find flaws here. "Green and dirty," sniffs Camblor. "Tastes like the Quenard," says Jayson, "that is to say, like nothing." Nice structure, though. (5/05)

Botromagno Gravina 2001 (Greco/malvasia) ($6) (Boatloads III): Pale straw. Smells lightly nutty, some whiteflowery hints. Brisk, composed and straightforwardly crisp, a pleasant little wine to wash something down with. Crisp, slightly puckery-citric acidity, rather neutral rainwater minerality. Kind of nondescript in terms of flavor quotient, but well-structured and happily crisp, with a surprisingly tenacious stony finish. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)

Castelvero Cortese Piemonte 2003 ($7) (Boatloads II): Pale straw-greenish color. Yellow pear, touch of honeydew melon in the nose. Tastes lightly waxy, lemon-paraffin with an underlying stoniness and some bright acidity. Crisp center, slight creaminess around it. Maybe a little watery, but simple, crisp and pleasant. [Buy again? I guess.] (11/04)

Colli Ripani Ninfa Ripana Offida Passerina 2004 ($10) (Boatloads V): Smells quietly minerally, chalk and lemondrop. Medium acidity, light rosewatery-peachy hints come out in the midpalate. The wine is kinda soft but pure and focused and crystalline. A little quiet winner, speaking in a soft voice but saying interesting things. [Buy again? Yup.] (10/05)

Colterenzio Sauvignon Alto Adige Lafóa 1997 (No Hook): Pale, slightly cloudy straw color. Egad, pungent litterbox aromas. I pass my glass towards Lisa, who looks at it quizzically, sniffs and yelps "Meee-OWWWW!" Underneath the catspray there are hints of grass and grapefruit, traces of lime rind and a light spicy creaminess. There seems to be good material here, it's got fine acidity and is bright and crisp, but I can't get past the overweening kittipissinicity. (6/7/03)

Di Lorenzo Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2003 ($5) (Boatloads VI): Pale straw-tan color. Slightly cheesy hint at first, blows off a bit with air. Underneath that, hay and yellow pear, touch of peachiness. Medium acidity, clear and very gently minerally underneath a whiteflowery fruitiness. Pretty nice for five bucks, somewhat neutral but pleasantly so. [Buy again? Yup.] (12/05)

Falesco Umbria Bianco 'Vitiano' 2003 ($8) (Boatloads I): Pale straw-lemon color. Quiet nose, minerals and light lemon-chalk, along with a high, almost medicinal note that is familiar but I can't really pin down. I bring the glass over to Lisa, who takes a sniff and says "Chorine; it smells like a swimming pool." Yup, that's it all right, it's rather pleasant if a bit odd. The wine tastes crisp and the fruit is bright, with lemon-peel acidity and a brief stony finish. Pretty decent, with a tart aggressiveness that gives it food friendliness and a bit of character. [Buy again? Yes, I think so.] (8/04)

Ferrando Cariola Erbaluce di Caluso 2004 (Pigfest): Smells stonyfloral, there's a light white honey streak, lemon blossom, pure and bright smelling. A firm wine, with medium-plus acidity and a racy mouthclearing quality, it's clear they're back on track after the curious but atypical '03 (should we be figuring out a shorthand abbreviation for 'atypical '03'? Like @03, maybe?). Really quite lovely despite being rather secretive about the core. Actually, its secretiveness gives it a hint of mystery. Charming, almost cheninlike wine. (1/06)

Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2000 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Airy, minerally nose, rainwater and a light streak of fresh green peapods. Crisp and zippy upfront in the piehole, a rounded, lightly creamy texture emerges in the midpalate to clothe the bright acidity. Finishes with a gingery white coral buzz. Nice cohesiveness, nothing out of balance, a bright friendly young white. (3/02)

Gulfi Sicilia Bianco 'Carjcenti' 2003 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): This winery seems to have bought Js by the gross and sprinkled them indiscriminately hither and yon. The grape is something called caricante, and it smells outdoorsy, yellow apple and hay, a touch of cinnamon-almond spiciness, just a gente suggestion of lilikoi tropicality. It's broadbeamed, nothing whatsoever like Muscadet (at least not in this vintage), but there's an honesty and a gentleness that I find quite appealing despite the outsized character. Finishes with a quiet hum of hay and ginger creaminess. Quite pleasant really, if a little slatternly after the Muscadets. (12/05)

Leonildo Pieropan Vigneto La Rocca Soave Classico Superiore 1995 (Thoresa): 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. (10/7/01)

Angiolino Maule Pico 1999 (All About the Chicken): which, he claims, is a 100% pure varietal Gorgonzola or Gargamel or something else that sounds made up. I'm pretty sure he's pulling our leg, but let's give it a try....'s a medium gold color, oddly dark... smells a bit baked-appley, a little oxidative, hints of oregano and tangerine, perhaps the first time I've enountered that combination. Tastes flat and lifeless, short and dull, not very interesting. (7/05)

Angiolino Maule Pico 1999 (All About the Chicken): Rrrrrrrr, smells a little more lively, rocks drizzled with tangerine and lemon, pleasantly citric. Noticeably vivider, similar heft and crispness but more life to the midpalate fruit. Still fairly short, much better than the last. (7/05)

Nereo Verduxxo Friulano 2001 (15 Fox Place): Hmmm... lessee.... Pale gold color. Smells honeyed, honey laced with spicy apple-pie hints, almost muscatty, with a light citric edge. A sip, and it's got good heft, a nice dense richness along with bright firm acidity. Tastes apple-spicy, hint of orange rind, undertone of minerality, almost like a dry tokaji. What is 'verduxxo,' anyway? Andrew pipes up: "It means 'caffeine-free' in Italian.'" General merriment, light applause. Matches nicely with the Italian quichelike thingamajigs that are going around now. (3/22/04)

Palazone Orvieto Classico 2002 ($7) (Boatloads II): Pale straw-gold. Quiet honey and minerals, touch of tangerine spiciness. Medium acidity, smooth and lightly honeyed going down. Plain and easygoing, rather loose and unaffected, very decent. [Buy again? Yes, I think so.] (11/04)

Next was a Quintarelli wine-I always find his labels fairly confusing. We've had a bottle of his red vino sitting in the racks for awhile now and it took us a few months and inquiring of a few wine shop employees simply to figure out that "Quintarelli" was the name of the producer. Deciphering the wacky script typeface they use on their labels is always an adventure. So this was apparently Secco Ca Del Merlo Quintarelli 1991 Vino de Tavola Bianco Veronese ($14). At any rate, it had a nice, full nose of honeydew, watermelon & figs, sweet aromas with an earthy undertone. Apricot/almond colored, pale brown-yellow. Medium to full-bodied, smooth, glyceriney texture. Tangy taste with crisp acidity to balance the rounder, fruitier side. Medium finish. Pretty nice. I'd be curious to try this one young to see if the character would be different. (8/99)

Vigneto Sgarzen Pinot Bianco Trentino 1995 (Memorial Day): Faded orange zest and almond aromatics, wet-stone minerality underneath. Tastes flat and tired, some spry acidity is keeping its heart beating, but there aren't too many other signs of life. Over the hill. (5/31/04)

Castello di Spessa Pinot Bianco Collio 2000 ($19) (Adlers): Smells rather neutral, subtly yellowfloral with very light gravel-in-the-oven notes underneath, traces of banana and honeysuckle above. Nice weight and balance in the piehole, the midpalate turns pleasantly polleny-gingery, but there's a distinct lack of vibrancy. Is this oaked pinot blanc? The wine has that freshness-sapped-by-wood feeling along with a light hint of ashtray underneath that becomes more pronounced with time and air. "Tastes like... an Italian white," says someone. Not bad, but doesn't do much for me. (9/2/02)

U Pastine (Lugano) Golfo del Tigullio Bianchetta Genovese 2002 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Smells a bit sulfurous, firecrackery. Under that there's a light lemonosity, rocks and acorns, touch of pearishness. Tastes puckery-crisp, zingy lemon acidity, crisp and taut wine, too sulfurous now but interesting and nicely compact, good focus. (6/05)

Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 1993 (Memorial Day): Medium straw-gold color. Lots of good smellies here, very minerally, bit oxidative, just a hint of lemoniness, touch of hay. Good heft and balance, quite compact, some almondy nuttiness emerges in the midpalate. Very stony-earthy, no "fruit" per se, reminds me of a decent middle-aged Savennires. Pleasant, complex wine, but some of the ITB types are swooning and turning back handsprings and I'm not entirely sure what all the enthusiasm is about. Is this guy some kind of secret-handshake geek celebrity or something? I guess this is one of those wines that has to be explained to me. (5/31/04)

Villa Raiano Aedòn Irpinea Bianco 2001 (No Hook): Close enough. Smells interesting, spearmint and apricot in equal doses, hints of caramel and vanilla. Tastes ethereally creamy, quite light, both lightly sweet and lightly acidic. Interesting but odd, it just sort of evanesces on the tongue, I don't quite know what to make of it. (6/7/03)

Viticoltura di Ferdinando Zanusso Clivi Brazan Brazzano di Cormons Collio Goriziano 1999 (Island Life): Smells sweetly vanilla-gingery, with a gentle chamomile streak and a touch of hay. Tastes relaxed and languidly pure--medium acidity, feathery at the edges, a nice sense of easy heft. The finish just lingers and lingers, humming and buzzing with quiet waves of stones and herbal-tea herbs. Really nice wine, offbeat and chameleonically complex, a wine to sip and listen to--it seems to have a lot to say, but it's not saying it all at once. Lovely, meditative stuff, a nice match with the potato & shrimp soup. (5/06)

Miscellaneous -- Blends, the Odd or Unusual

Banrock Station Semillon Chardonnay South Eastern Australia 2006 ($4) (Boatloads XI): Gentle pear-yellow apple hints laced with vanilla and a light waxiness. Light but flavorful, this smacks of mass production but is really rather agreeable, gently flavorful and lightly creamy. Sort of like a semillon-chardonnay flavored Jell-O shot, broad and unsubtle but a bit of fun and some nice flavor, with a bit of middling acidity as a bonus. Amiable, friendly and cheap. [Buy again? Yup.] (11/07)

Domaine de Bellivière Les Giroflées Coteaux du Loir 1999(September 15, 2001): A pale salmon colored wine, with a beguiling and puzzling nose--ginger candy with traces of cinnamon... red earth... I don't know, this wine escapes me. Tastes smooth and feathery, with a slightly limpid feel at first that is buoyed by snappy acidity and tangy fruit. Strange, and I am forced to give up on it as I have consumed my ounce or two before I can parse it any further. (9/15/01)

Bérail-Lagarde Roque Sestière Carte Noire Corbières 2000 ($11) (Drunken Hawaiian Holidays): Pale straw. Smells weird, light pineapple, pear and sawdust hints along with an odd curry-powder streak. Tastes sawdusty, woody and disjointed and just not very nice at all. There's a crisp acidic spine, but the wine is clumsy and broad, there's too much wood and a burn on the finish. Blech. (5/03)

Beringer Alluvium (White) Knights Valley 1995 ($20): Blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon, chardonnay, viognier & the kitchen sink; sweet floral nose of pear, light peach & honeysuckle, overlaid with light lemon & buttery vanillin. Slightly waxy mouthfeel, bit of heat on the finish. Some crispness, but fairly round. Buttery, oaky flavors linger in the mouth on the finish. Don't get much sauvingnon blanc--speaks more to me of chardonnay + viognier. (6/3/99)

Bonny Doon Vineyard Ca' del Solo Big House White California 2002 ($8) (Boatloads I): Bright tropical nose, pineapple juice in spades, along with peachy hints, yellow flowers, touch of Saran Wrap. Crisp, slick-feeling and pleasantly floral, a pleasant little white unmarred by wood or oddball manipulations. There's that same plasticky/glyceriney thing on the finish. Pretty decent. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Sure.] (8/04)

Fairview/Charles Back Wine of Western Cape (South Africa) 'Goats do Roam' 2003 ($7) (Boatloads II): Pale straw-gold color. Yet another blend of rouchen blanc, clairette blanc, grenache blanc and muscat frontignac, it comes across like a sort of chenin/muscat mix. Lightly flowery-citric with an undertone of Saran-Wrapped minerals, the nose is quiet and rather shy. In the piehole it's loose and spreads creamily out on my tongue, with more whitefloral and taut lemon-quince over a stony base. No sign of wooding at all, the finish turns pleasantly bittersweet, with a honeysuckle almond-paste hum. I don't like it much at first, it seems limp and aimless, but it rallies in the middle and turns pleasantly eccentric by the time the finish ambles around. Not an entirely successful wine, but okay, so I'm a sucker for odd cepage and goat labels, so sue me. FAKE CORK! GOAT ON THE LABEL! [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Domaine Gauby Roussillon Vieilles Vignes 1996 ($22)(Chateau Joe): Pale ecru color; light, light nose, mineral/rainwater/ginger. Slightly viscous in the mouth, medium-bodied, crisp enough but far from sharp. Flavor base is rainwater/minerally, with a light peachiness in there as well. Interesting wine--very calm and restrained and silky. Some folks guess white Bordeaux. (8/99)

Garage Clark-Scott Apple Wine Upstate New York 'Estate' 2005 (Liberation Celebration): The first foray into fruit wine by the iconoclastic vignerons-negociants, this smells yellow-appley, yellow apples laced with yellow apple, all over a quiet yellow apple base. Tastes gentle and whispery-soft, tart around the edges but cottony at the center. More winey than appley, simple and straightforward, a pleasant and light opener. "The variety; guesses, anyone?" question arises. Macoun? Macintosh? Yes! I get it on the second try. (11/6/05)

Giorla Family Winery Liebfraumilch 'Happy Holidays' 2005 (Passages): Mmm, smells like canned peaches and applesauce. A sip, and it's a lightly sweet wine, apple juicy, with a hint of Welch's white grape juice. Soft textured, almost oily, with some tart Vitamin C tablet spikiness in the middle, which, it turns out, is really the finish. "Kit wine," says Andrew sagely. We nod, wide-eyed. It's hard to frag a wine called 'Happy Holidays,' and in truth I've had much worse from real commercial producers, so let's just say it's not my preferred style of wacky homemade chemistry experiment. (4/06)

Havens Albariño Napa Valley Carneros 2004 (Birthday Engorgement): Smells brightly lemonstony, rather quiet neutral-citric aromatics. Tastes taut, shrill and hard, shriekily acidic, much like drinking fruitless watered-down lemon juice. Even in this high-acid-loving crowd this wine draws only grimaces and puzzled frowns. Pleasureless, borderline sadistic wine, cheerful as nails on a chalkboard. You've got to give them credit for structure, but really now, this is from Napa Valley? Harvested in late May, perchance? (6/06)

Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rosé Napa Valley 2001 (No Hook): Vivid pink, almost neon color. Smells bright and fruity, watermelon-strawberry candy, with a touch of yamskin underneath only slightly grounding the bright cherry-soda fruitiness. Crisp, simple and glossy, a happily one-note little New World rosé. Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare is my guess, or, just to be cheeky, a deeply colored Louis/Dressner red. (6/7/03)

Heliopoulos Vineyards Santorini White Dry Wine 2000 (Rejeebus): Pale tan color. Smells lightly honeyed and stony, flecks of ginger and lemon. Seems marginally oxidative, a crisp and light wine of considerable vagueness. I've had mediocre Touraine sauvignon that had a similarly ethereally gingerous lemonality, so that's my guess. Others guess other things, which I neglect to write down. The label seems to imply that this is a blend of assyrtiko, athiri and aidani, but Jeff Grossman (the source) believes it's a purebred assyrtiko. I concur, as it shows nothing of the fragrant aidani character and precious little aithiriness. (7/21/02)

Hugel Alsace 'Gentil' 1997 ($7): A a blend of unspecified grapes (sylvaner?) but came off rieslingish, with a minerally nose, a clear, pale color (almost no color at all), with a note of apples at first taste, resolving into more flinty, wet-stone kind of flavors, not one bit floral or citrusy, not an ounce of fat on it. Consumed with tetrazinni, its crispness cut through the cream sauce nicely and I will look for more of it, especially at this price. (1/99)

Hugel Alsace 'Gentil' 2005 ($12) (Boatloads XI): It's been a few years since I've managed to get around to trying this staple cheapie from Alsace. The '03 wasn't up to snuff (surprise surprise), but the '05 smells much more promising--lightly lemon-orange citric, touch of underlying rainwatery stoniness. Medium bodied, slightly oily texture, some quiet heft, pleasantly citricfloral, medium acidity. Not a great deal of character, but firm and composed. [Buy again? Yup.] (11/07)

Château Jolys Jurancon Sec 2003 ($12) (Boatloads VI): I approach this with a bit of trepidation, it being a favorite around our house, but how did they do in the heat of '03? Well, pretty much like everyone else, it seems. Medium-light gold color, smells apple-apricot-pineappley, there's only a suggestion of the usual whitefloral notes. Tastes a bit plump, a bit ponderous, there's some spiky lemony acidity trying its best but the usual vibrancy isn't quite there. [Buy again? Next year.] (12/05)

Lafazanis Regional Dry White Wine of the Peloponnese 'Roditis' 2004 ($10) (Boatloads V): I have no idea what this wine is. I've never been to the Peloponnese, or Greece for that matter, so I have no business talking about it. Still, it's wonderfully floral-smelling, sweetly honeysuckley and gardeniaed, with a hint of pollen and a touch of lemoncitrus for depth. Bright, crystal-clear and almost weightless upon first sippage, it grows as it heads into the midpalate, and gains presence, if not weight, turning whitestony on the finish. Nice stuff, a real vivid wine for ten bucks. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Enthusiastically, yes.] (10/05)

Lava Cap Winery Lava Cap White El Dorado 1996 ($11)(semillon/muscat canelli): Very pale straw-colored wine; light, waxy nose that is hard to figure--sort of lightly tropical-fruity in the baseline, but with an odd slightly-funky-honeydew note rising above the background of pear, flint & light vanilla. One of those noses that you keep on trying to figure out, but can't quite decide what's going on. In the mouth it's much easier, light, crisp, good structure but not strongly flavored, with a slightly slippery mouthfeel, maybe just a touch of sweetness under the light body. Kind of an odd duck; I may pick up a bottle or two just to see if I can pin it down a bit more. (7/10/99)

Mazza Vineyards Vidal Blanc Lake Erie (Pennsylvania) 2000 ($8) (Party House): It's got an odd lactic smell to the nose, tastes flaccid and lightly sweet but inoffensive enough. As I'm beginning to sniff and sip SFJoe takes a small taste, howls "Bacteria! Bacteria!" and flings his glassful into the sink. After that I'm a little leery of appraising further. So much for a brief flirtation with our friends the hybrids. (1/5/02)

Heinrich Mayr-Nusser 'Blaterle' Tafelwein NV ($16) (Broken Rules): Very pale straw color, light greenish highlights. Crisp, floral aromatics: at last, no lumber! Instead we've got a hint of gardenia, flecks of tangerine and a green note that strikes me as almost minty until Eden correctly pegs it as 'cucumber.' Light-bodied, bright and almost evanescent after the ponderous chardonnays, it's quieter and lighter in the piehole than up the nose, but the insubstantiality just adds to its charm. How to characterize blatterle? Hmmm, well, this one comes across as something like the Bastard child of a pinot blanc and a dry furmint. Got it? Good. (11/04)

Millbrook Tocai Friulano Hudson River Region 2004 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Smells lightly tropical, hints of canned fruit cocktail and plastic plumeria lei. Plush mouthfeel, low acidity, limp and flabby, maybe a touch of sugar. The response is muted and ambivalent, lots of shrugs and "Eh" noises. (5/05)

Château de Pibarnon Bandol (White) 1997 (Journey to Queens): I swirl a bit, and it's a very quiet wine, not giving much away. Light plumeria-floral notes over kind of a cementy-stony backdrop. Curious. Sipped slowly, it tastes much the same as it smells--reserved, slightly buttery-feeling, fairly round in the mouth with decent but slightly low acidity. Nevertheless, I had a feeling of expectation--a very quiet wine that seems to be hiding something. Maybe it's just young. (10/30/99)

Pindar Vineyards Winter White NV (Boatloads II): Long Island's biggest selling wine! (I actually don't know how much this costs, as it was a gift, but the white-zin resemblance has me assuming it's fairly cheap.) Guest TN--Lisa speaks: "Smells of cloying canned honeysuckle-fresia. Touch of sugar, limp and low-acid, grapefruit-lemon citric, touch of plastic. Not terrible, pleasant lemony-fruitiness, but broad and bland, with hybrid plasticity. Finishes with an odd and slightly unpleasant metallic twang. Three melted plastic Prongs stuck in a Barbie-issue pink glittery base." The bottle, I might add, is utterly puntless. [Buy? No.] (11/04)

Domaine Raymond Quenard Chignin-Bergeron 2004 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): More taut, minerally wine. Light lemonstony nose, hint of bananaskin. Crisp and more crisp, with just a touch of creaminess flowing into a pleasantly polleny finish. Seems infantile, young and not showing much besides structure. I've more experience than most with Chignin-Bergeron wines (almost half a glassfuls'-worth at this point in my career), so I feel entitled to pass judgment, and my judgment goes something like this: Buh? Where's Callahan when you need a wine explained? (5/05)

Domaine Raymond Quenard Chignin-Bergeron les Damoiselles 2004 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Bright, stonyfloral and lean-smelling, aromatically young and primary. Tastes like it smells, lively and pure, mineral water with hints of lemon and peachblossom. On the simple side, or perhaps just unadorned, a pleasantly uncomplicated glass of brightness. (7/06)

Domaine Raymond Quenard Chignin-Bergeron Vin de Savoie Vendange de Novembre Eléve en Futs du Chêne 2002 (500 ml.) (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): I'm under the firm impression that this is a sweet wine, at least until Kane, who of course is first at it, makes a squinchy face and yelps "Hey! That's not sweet, it's dry!" I assume that means it's medium sweet, not the kind of sugar syrup he likes, but no, a quick taste proves he's right, it's not sweet at all. Not only that, it's muted and firm, neutral-stony-tasting and not at all what we need right now. (7/06)

Sakonnet Vineyards Vidal Blanc Southeastern New England 2003 (Spuds, We Hardly Knew Ye...): Smells lightly tropical, lemon-pineapple, hint of gardenia, good whiff of beanbag chair. Tastes simple and crisp, relaxed but with decent acidity, pleasant enough but quite unremarkable. There's a touch of sweetness and a general plasticky neutrality that has me thinking maybe an '03 scheurebe or some offbeat German grape. (12/05)

Schloss Thorn Elbling Dry QbA Trocken NV (Muscajeeb): Fresca? Fresca in a wine bottle? Flabby and soft, with fakey-fruity lemonlime flavors, this says both DRY and TROCKEN, and yet it's still got noticeable sweetness. The combination of spinelessness, sugar and contrast with the Muscadets makes drinking this seem like slurping candied jellyfish through a straw. Icky. (11/10/02)

Sine Qua Non 'Twisted and Bent' 1997 ($55)(VS Eats at Joe's): Figgy-pear-apple hints are buried under a mountain of toasted-buttered-popcorn oakiness. It seems like there's a bit of fruit under there, somewhere, a crisp, slightly waxy-fruity wine crying out for help, but to no avail. The oak wins, in a crushing landslide. Nice label, though. Save the bottle, make a nice lamp, skip the wine. I think this is rousanne/marsanne/chardonnay. (11/7/99)

Pierre Sparr Alsace 'One' 2003 ($9) (Boatloads VI): One what? Not sure, as the label claims every white grape variety under the sun except hondarrabi zuri. Anyhoo, it's a light straw-gold color with pinkish highlights. Smells applespicy-floral, like muscat more than anything else. I guess this is Sparr's answer to Hugel's Gentil, but the curse of 2003 has done this one in. It's light and floral enough at first, but grows broad and diffuse in the middle, the traces of acidity running away and hiding, general flatness setting in. [Buy again? Not this vintage. Maybe in '04.] (12/05)

Tablas Creek Tablas Blanc Paso Robles 1998 ($30) (Manuel and Josie): Pale straw-colored juice, with spicy, gingery hints on the nose, along with creamy paraffin and chrysanthemumishness. Some nice crispness, it's pleasant and balanced enough, lightly lemon-creamy through the midpalate and segueing into a gingerspicy finish. (O Ginger Spice, what hast thou wrought?) Very decent, perfectly okay. (4/23/00)

Terre Rouge Sierra Foothills Enigma 1997 (Kane Manor): I was trapped--as this wine was sniffed around the table the murmur began... "angel-food cake"... "angel-food cake"... "angel-food cake", so by the time it arrived in front of me the suggestion was well planted: Pale straw; sweet honeysuckle/melon/bready/yeasty nose (OK, ANGEL FOOD CAKE ALREADY... sheez...). Light & slightly buttery feel in the mouth, with a vague slippery/waxy touch. Not much else there--I don't know. Enigmatic. (Roussane/Marsanne/Viognier) (7/24/99)

Three Choirs Madeleine Angevine Estate Reserve English Vineyards Quality Wine 1997 ($19.99)(Jason Takes Manhattan): Downright scary nose of rotten eggs and litterbox. Even now, days later, I shudder as I type, thinking of this stuff. Jayson, ever the cockeyed optimist, offers that it doesn't taste as appalling as it smells and suggests drinking it with nose held. He is absolutely right. It tastes fairly neutral, actually, a bit like an industrial pinot grigio, crisp and lightly lemon citric, but the nose-held method of wine drinking isn't one I can fully cotton to, so this one gets dumped. And rinsed, vigorously. (5/00)

Tomasello Winery Traminette Atlantic County 1999 (Occult Wines): Pale straw with a slight greenish cast. Callahan weighs in: "Smells like New Amsterdam Ale," and he is right, as there's a distinct yeasty beer-head aroma to this one, with hints of yellow apple and gardenia florality. Tangy, a bit listless and giving only a slight nod to its gewürzy parentage, this has a hint of sweetness and no real finish to speak of, but it's not bad. A light, simple little floral softie, although a bit of a vicuna in this lineup. (5/15/00)

Treana Marsanne-Viognier Central Coast Mer Soleil Vineyard 2001 (Doghead All Grown Up): Woof, a big floral beastie, tropical-flowery and alarmingly flavorful, not to mention broad, clumsy and spiritous. The label says 14.8% alcohol, so we're in Savennires country, without the focus or finesse. Strangely likeable for all its flaws, a good match with the overspiced papadum--once you have both in your mouth it's hard to tell why your palate is burning, a confusion that necessarily turns in the wine's favor. (11/04)

Clos de Tue-Boeuf Touraine 'Le Brin de Chèvre' 2000($13) (Thoresa): 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. (10/7/01)

Clos de Tue-Bouef Touraine 'Le Brin de Chèvre' 2002 ($14) (Misplaced Weekend I): Cloudy lemon-straw color. Smells chalky, lemon drops, minerals and hay, slightly oxidative. More extravagant than previous editions, with lime/citrus flavors cushioned by a velvety peachiness. This is homestyle menu pineau the way Mom used to make it, minerally and juicy and flowery-rich, a substantial wine that's bright and light on its feet. Quite a pleasure to drink. (5/2/04)

Clos de Tue-Boeuf Touraine 'Le Brin de Chèvre' 2002 ($14) (Subdued Festivization): Is this still around? Sigh. Menu pineau is sooooo aught-three. Isn't there a new heirloom grape yet for this season? Same cloudy-pale color, same chalk/hay/lemon aromatics, same light limey-peach flavors, same lovely wine, move on, nothing more to see here. (6/13/04)

Clos Uroulat (Hoars) Jurancon 2000 (Muscajeeb): Medium gold color. Rich smellies here, tangerine, cinnamon, mandarin orange, waxed apricot and hay. Surprisingly sweet, demisec-plus or moëlleux-minus. A creamy, glyceriney middle with well supported sugar adds to the feeling of substance--this is a robust, flavorful wine that has a brawny, gonzo quality that I like very much. Unsubtle, rich fun, although when it's announced that the wine is "Made by Hoars," there is a slight misunderstanding. (11/10/02)

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Zind! 2001 (Bastard): I don't know what the hell this is. "Zind!"? Egad. It smells of ripe pear and yellow apple, minerals underneath, whiff of vodka spiritousness above. Tastes ripe, dry, and chardonnayish. Not bad, if you don't mind a bit of booziness and blowsiness, rough edges and loose strings. A big, clumsy wine without much cohesion, but with a great deal of flavor. Strange, big and broad. (11/23/03)

Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet)

Domaine De l'Aubepine Muscadet 1995 ($9) (September 15, 2001): Ah, that's better, lemon hints over crushed white coral is the first impression, a bright *poof* in my mouth, but then the wine relaxes and spreads a little in the midpalate, coming over with a trace of honeydew but losing none of the initial focus as it flows into a long rocky finish. Very nice, plenty of the structure you'd expect but enough easiness to keep from chafing. (9/15/01)

Domaine de l'Aubepine Muscadet 1995 ($9) (Muscajeeb): Lightly cheesy-funky note over a base of honeydew and chalky-coral minerality. In the piehole a bit zipless, somewhat blunted mouthfeel--there's plenty of acidity but the fruit's footwork seems to have lost a step. Still, it's pretty good and makes up for a slight stodginess in the middle with a long coral-chip finish. (11/10/02)

Domaine de la Borne Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine 'Cuvée Servir Frais' 2005 ($10) (Boatloads VIII): Rich but restrained smellies--hay and quinine, gentle yellow apple, hint of yeast. Tastes bright and vivid, medium-high acidity clothed in earthy-minerally flesh. Very flavorful, tart and breezy wine, delightful. If this is representative of '05 Muscadets, it might be time to buy three or four. [Buy again? Yes, yes.] (9/06)

Brégeon Muscadet Sévre et Maine Sûr Lie 1999($9)(Cape Mayhem): It's got a whiff of matchstick sulfurousness but is more aromatic than the Allées, more minerals, hints of green melon. Not as crisply coiled as the last, there's a slight roundness to the mouthfeel, a touch of looseness, yet more than enough acidity to get by. A kinder, gentler Muscadet. (5/26/01)

Domaine de l'Ecu/Guy Bossard MuscadetSévre et Maine Sûr Lie 2004 ($11) (Boatloads VII): Sweetly floral smellies, chalkdusted gardenia, touch of honeyed lime rind. Firm core but softish around the edges, with a gentle give that's quite appealling. Super Muscadet, nervy enough yet with enough stonyfloral flesh to keep it from being stark. The acidity is middling, rather delicate, present but unobtrusive. Perhaps it hasn't the character or depth of the 'Expression de...' wines, but there's an easygoing plainspokenness here that's really appealing. Clean, bright and fresh as a mountain spring, if not quite as crisp. [Buy again? Immediately, as much as I can carry.] (4/06)

Domaine de l'Ecu/Guy Bossard Muscadet Sévre et Maine Sûr Lie 'Expression de Gneiss' 2002 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan):Pale color. Straw, touch of grapefruit, lots of chalkiness.... Tastes big and broad and taut, pure and more than a little imposing, a doorless castle that I'm having some difficulty breaching. Whatever it is, I'd give it time, as it's a bit impenetrable now. I leave my guess of a Denis Touraine Azay-le-Rideau Sec unspoken and just say "Whatever it is, it's nice." Joe decides that this is close enough and I win the door prize, a three-pound lobster dinner. (12/31/03)

Domaine de l'Ecu/Guy Bossard Muscadet Sévre et Maine Sûr Lie 'Expression de Granit' 2001 ($13) (Muscajeeb): Big, hard and stony-smelling, lime and rocks. Crystal-hard in the piehole, a flashily stony wine, there's a keenness and flashes of cruelty here, this wine is a bit of a show-off, a primadonna, but it's hard to resist its coiled strength and purity. Impressive young stuff, a quartz menhir of a Muscadet that goes wonderfully with my braised shortribs in catsup sauce. (11/10/02)

Domaine de l'Ecu/Guy Bossard Muscadet Sévre et Maine Sûr Lie 'Expression de Granit' 2003 ($14) (Boatloads VII): I eventually came around to liking some of the odd '03 Muscadets, but this isn't one of them. Smells like a hayfield, with a strange flintiness that seems subtle at first, then less so. Flat tasting and stony-strawish, like sucking a whisk broom that's been used to muddle grapeskins. I have moments where I think 'Hm, wait, that's kind of interesting,' but soon realize I'm rationalizing because I dig the producer. A strange wine, not entirely pleasant. [Buy again? No.] (4/06)

Domaine de l'Ecu/Guy Bossard Muscadet Sévre et Maine Sûr Lie 'Expression d'Orthogneiss' 2002 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Similarly large and hard, a bit more citric and not quite as chalky-smelling. Tastes very marginally rounder, ever so slightly more relaxed, still imposing and in need of time. Damn these are fine wines, but they're also a bit much right now, a little overwhelming. (12/31/03)

Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu Sûr Lie 1999 ($9)(Cape Mayhem): Another wine in much the same mold as the Allées, a touch more stony, but equally steely and crisp, with a velvety skin of light honeydew-green fruit to ease the thrust of structure into my gullet. (5/26/01)

Pierre Luneau Le "L" de Pierre Luneau Muscadet 1989 (McNetta 2002): Smells like a quarry, rock dust limned with lime, traces of honeydew. Racy and bright in the piehole, the light skin around the steely spine is starting to feather out at the edges--the sense of being clenched is less than the last time I had it (a year or two ago). It's coming around, but still in need of time. (6/02)

Pierre Luneau Le "L" de Pierre Luneau Muscadet 1989 (Muscajeeb): More rock dust here, more lime rind, traces of honeydew and straw. It's not as big and impressive as the Granit, but it's got a whiplike spine of steely acidity that is lightly clad in a satiny skin of yellow and green fruit. This has been showing signs of opening up ever so slightly in the past year or two, drink with caution. (11/10/02)

Luneau-Papin Muscadet Clos des Allées Vieilles Vignes 1999($8)(Joey): Wet quartz, white flower and hints of green melon. Compact and racy, bright and nervy in the piehole, a wine that is packed tight with massive structure but can turn on a dime. This has more give than the last, a bit more of a velvety skin over the Terminator-style skeleton. Andrew declares it "The best Muscadet in the whole wide world," and I appreciate his happiness, although I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool Muscadeer. (1/6/01)

Luneau-Papin Muscadet 'Excelsior' 2002 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): What is this, a luxury Cuvée or something? Whatever it is, it puzzles me, I simply can't figure out what it's saying... I swirl and sniff, and I'm just confused, I'm not on the right wavelength. No time to fiddle with the dial now, pass pass pass, try again sometime later. (6/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet 1991 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Elegant, taut and racy, slightly musty-funky in the high register, bracingly snappy in the piehole. Very spare, all lean structure and unadorned stoniness. Very nice, with an ascetic's purity and a hint of self-flagellation. Phew. A severe wine. (12/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet 1995($8) (Cape Mayhem): The wine is all minerals, airy-rainwatery and steely, with a low-frequency honeydew note clothing the bright, slightly stern spine. Very pretty, a whiplike wine that wakes up my tastebuds and gives them the bitch-slapping that they secretly crave. (5/25/01)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet 1998 ($9) (Muscajeeb): Much more expressive aromatics here--green starfruit, lime rind and white coral. Nervy and bright in the maw--briny, concentrated and brisk. Here's the echt-Muscadet after all. Very pretty stuff, still could use some time to mellow but it's really hitting its stride now. (11/10/02)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Sevre etc. 1999 ($9) (Joey): Smells like quarry dust. Tastes dense, sharp, tight, all structure. An impressive wine on an intellectual level; there's a whole lot of coiled intensity here but it's slightly rough going for me. (1/6/01)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet 2000 ($9) (Party House): Hey, it's Muscadet! Chalky, rainwatery fruit edged with a silky hint of honeydew, friendlier than last year's quarry-dust version but still nervy and taut. (1/15/02)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet sur Sevre, etc. 2003 ($10) (Misplaced Weekend II): Holy cats, this is weird. There's the usual chalk and lime rind, but for a Pépière this is a marshmallow of a wine, soft and squishily atypical. Not what I want when I drink Muscadet, but it might be a home run for the low-acid crowd. (5/9/04)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Sevre etc. 2003 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): I owe this wine an apology. When I first tasted it I was so startled by the atypicality that I wrote it off without benefit of counsel. Today, I greet it on its own terms, as a wine born of a freak vintage, and I find the meeting much more pleasant. The aromatics are still rather vague and diffuse, light citric lime-lemon over a base of quiet yellow apple and a suggestion of minerality, but the flavors are bright and friendly, the medium acidity is enough to get by, and the softness that I previously decried doesn't seem so troubling when removed from burdensome expectations. At any rate, it's an amiable little wine that drinks smoothly and uncomplicatedly on its own terms, although the De Moor suits the oysters much better. (1/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Sevre etc. 2004 ($11) (Boatloads IV): The color is back to normal, transparent palest straw, after last year's deeper lemon color. Rather shy aromatics at first, opens up to smell rocky and stoney, touch of limeskin, more rocks and stones. Ah yes, back on form. Lean-bodied and bright-tasting, vivid but not shrill acidity, there's a sense of ease to its nerviness that soothes wonderfully on a hot summer night. Long gin 'n tonic-laced finish, really nice wine. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? In a heartbeat.] (6/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1996 ($10)(Kane Manor): Light nose, rainwater, lemon/citrus & maybe a hint or two of peachy/melon warmth. In the mouth crisp & tangy & stony, not a whole lot of fruity-fruit, more minerally, but firm & nice weight & feel. (7/24/99)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1997 ($10)(Kaneturbury Tales): Elegant, reserved minerally-based nose with a happy zing to it, hints of lemon and carambola. Or perhaps the carambola note came from the actual carambola that Andrew had placed in my glass prior to pouring, I can't say for sure. A racy wine, tangy-tasting, crisply acidic, stony and bright, with some honeysuckle-plumeria hints emerging after some glass time. Lively. (9/20/99)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1997 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Much gentler than the nervy '91--still has a racy core, but it's clothed in a velvety carambola-honeydew skin, dusted with a shy whiteflorality that's absent in the older wine. I know this isn't exactly echt-Muscadet, but I'm really digging it tonight--the kinder, gentler thing hits me the right way, at least until the oysters come around, when the '91 matches better. '97 for sipping, '91 for washing down the brinebags. (12/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1997 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Medium straw color. Chalky hay and lemon-grapefruit aromatics, though with a slightly pressed quality, largely missing the carambola whitefloral hints I've always associated with this one. Tastes lightly petillant, bit of a tongueprickle, followed by a wash of rather flat stonycitric fruit and some shrill acidity. Not a very good showing for an old friend, but it's apparently been open for a day or so already, so who knows. (7/06)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1999 ($10) (Joey): There's some strangeness here, an odd plastic note that Mr. Scott sums up nicely as "shower curtain." Underneath that is a racy, structured wine with traces of melon and white flower hints over some serious minerality. Whassup here? No time, Toulouse, move on, you've got to move on. (1/6/01)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 1999 ($10) (Muscajeeb): Sniff, sniff... ngh, this doesn't smell like anything. With aggressive swirling I get some vague rainwatery notes and a hint of plastic, maybe a trace of white flowers that are growing far, far away on a hilltop. In the piehole it's entirely neutral, all bracing acidity without much flesh. "This wine has always been fucked up," says Dressner affably. General agreement. (11/10/02)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($10) (August): Hard, squeaky-dry, light green honeydew hints with a touch of what Andrew likes to call 'shower curtain' plasticity. Crisper than crisp, refreshing and bright but fairly ungiving. (8/7/01)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 2002 ($10) (Summer Mishmash): Yep, he's done it again, another stunning Ollivier wine. No, wait. What I mean is, don't bother with this wine. Stay away, keep your hands off it, it's none of your concern. C'mon, really: how good could it be if it only costs ten bucks? Move along now, nothing more to see here. Especially you, Florida Jim. (4/03)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieilles Vignes 2004 ($13) (Boatloads V): A ride in a white convertible through a car wash of limeskin and coral chips. Super--pure, vivid, even breathtaking at times. But stay away, leave some for the faithful. No really, go buy something else. [Buy again? Me yes, you no.] (10/05)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Cuvée Buster 1997 ($17) (Muscajeeb): Quite citrusy, white grapefruit smellies, hints of tart yellow apple, rainwater. A sip, and there's bright lemony-straw fruit, zippy acidity comes at you right at first, then the middle unclenches and a certain melony fleshiness emerges to clothe the central acidic spine, blooms quietly, then ebbs again as the finish turns once again towards lemon-citrus and rocks. Still quite young, but prettily expressive and long, long, long. Close to flawless, it's clear that being the most expensive Muscadet in the world has created some serious quality here. Is this what all those "points" folks call a "four hundred 'point' wine"? (Four hundred is the most "points" allowed in one 750 ml. bottle, right? I can never keep that whole "points" business straight.) (11/10/02)

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Cuvée Buster 1997 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Quiet aromatics, light hay and grapefruit, lemon and minerals. Tastes a little mellower than when I had it last, more muted--the citric zing up front has turned matte, leaving the hint of honeydew in the middle more prominent. Finishes with a tart lemon-stony flourish. Lovely and chameleonic as always, but I'm not sure if it's shutting down or just going through a quiet phase. Whatever is going on, the former most expensive Muscadet in the world is still a delight. (12/31/03)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Cuvée Eden Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($9) (McNetta 2002): What's left to say about the wine that put Marc Ollivier's name on everyone's lips? Why is it in a Burgundy bottle? Is it really fermented in acacia wood? Ollivier is giving a talk tomorrow, perhaps we'll find out. I taste, I smell, I can't figure it out. Not the lime-and-rocks profile of the regular Pepiere, there's an almost Lemon Pledge or shoe polish streak in the nose, I can't pin it down, there's yellow apple but also a green-brown thing going on, like honeydew soaked in dark rum. The balance is impeccable, the acidity bracing, but I can't cut to the heart of it and after fifteen or twenty minutes I quit trying and vow to meet it again another day. Eden 1, Chris 0. (6/02)

Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Cuvée Eden Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($9) (Muscajeeb): It's still got that dark rum/melonball thing going on, along with light yellow apple and straw notes. Less minerally than the other Muscadets, it's beautifully balanced and cohesive, if young and tight at the moment. Snappy acidity gives it an angular feel in the middle but it's got great sustain and length. The flavor profile hasn't the classic feel of the regular Pépière, but it does me fine. Still, it too seems to be in need of time. (11/10/02)

Domaine Pierre de la Grange (Luneau-Papin) Muscadet Sevre etc. 2004 (All About the Chicken): Airy plaster-and-limeskin nose, quiet and charming smelling. Tastes lean and taut, lemoncitric and racy through the middle. It's a little evanescent, leaves an impression of shy purity with a slice of lime. Doesn't seem to have the presence of Luneau-Papin's other bottlings, but a nice little Muscadet. (7/05)

Clos du Poyet Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sûr Lie Vendanges Manuelles 1997 (Sitting Jeebis): Pale, almost colorless. Smells rocky, chalk and white coral chips, with white-flowery notes that catch my nose and beguile it. A sip, and it's surprisingly robust, quite ripe, almost fleshy in the chowhole, with a strong backbone surrounded by velvety fruit. Impressive, an imposingly silky Muscadet that flows richly into a sustained white-flowery finish. A muscadet for fans of bigass hooties. As the kids like to say: this wine rocks! (3/31/01)

Domaine Saupin Muscadet Sevre etc. Cuvée Prestige 2003 ($7) (Boatloads III): Wow, I feel prestigious drinking this! There's actually a hint of pineapple-tropicality to this, something you didn't see a lot in Muscadet before '03. Under that there's a light chalkiness, hint of honeydew, white coral chips. Soft, loose Muscadet, easygoing but still decently structured. It's a bit generic, but it's still a decent wine and a steal at $7. [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)


Messmer Muskateller Burrweiler Schlossgarten Gutsabfullung Kabinett 1999 (Lucid Jeebusing): Smells lightly of lychee and yellow apple candy with a light lipsticky hint. Zippily acidic, crisp, simple and friendly enough to wash the road dust away. Yixin, already pregnant with opinion, suggests that "It's nice if you like fifty-year-old prostitutes," which stops the conversation dead as the assembled geeks attempt in vain to parse the metaphor. (2/02)

Müller-Catoir Muskateller Haardter Burgergarten Trocken 2001 (Summer Mishmash): Pale straw color. Bright but easygoing aromatics, pineapple, lemon and white peach, almost tropical but not quite. In the piehole it's hard and tart and intense, with lemony acidity coming right at you, making you pucker up a bit as it moves through the midpalate, then easing up and softening on the finish. An intensely-focused wine, almost to the point of severity. Okay, it's clearly German, seems rieslingesque but still not exactly riesling. The pineapple notes make me think scheurebe, so I guess some kind of young scheurebe trocken. (4/03)

Yves Pastourel & Fils Muscat Sec Vin de Pays D'Oc Cuvée de Liles 1998 (Swedes Invade): Pale straw color. Sweet-smelling, spritzy nose, some apple and gardenia. Yeep, this is another bigass wine, thick, not too complex, and with a touch of sweetness. Fairly low acidity and a bit of heat on the finish. A big Cal riesling? (3/24/00)

Scott-Clark Cellars Muscat Central Valley 2000 (barrel sample)(Discreet Jeebus): This wine may be going through an awkward phase--there are strange plastic-chemical notes over the slightly brownish appley muscat fruit. A dry muscat is an odd duck anyway and this producer is known for taking chances, but this may be a failed experiment, although I'll be curious to taste it from bottle once it's a finished product. (11/20/00)

Scott-Clark Cellars Muscat Central Valley 'Shellack' 2000 ($17) (Shanks): Medium straw-gold color. Smells very floral, white flowers with a hint of attar over a quiet lychee base and a hint of potato-field earthiness. There's a whiff of nail polish remover, but nothing like I remember. Medium-low acidity, wanders into diffuseness in the middle, little bit of roughness on the finish. A quiet, soft wine; dry muscat is not my favorite tipple, but this has benefited from a few years in bottle. The overpowering volatile acidity that (according to the label) inspired the name has definitely receded. I don't know where it went (does VA normally resolve?), but it isn't here now. A surprisingly good showing for a wine that's always been an oddball. It's funny, every time I write a Scott-Clark wine off it will come back and show well in front of a crowd, as if to spite me. (4/24/04)

Alice White Muscat of Alexandria 'Lexia' South Eastern Australia 2003 ($7) (Boatloads I): Bit of lychee in the nose, apple pie and lemon. Pleasant, simple muscatty flavors, decent balance, maybe just a touch off-dry. Simple, inoffensive and flowery-fruity, actually rather fun. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Maybe.] (8/04)

Pineau d'Aunis-- Okay, So Maybe It's Really Pinkish...

Clos Roche Blanche Pineau d'Aunis Rosé Touraine 2003 (Misplaced Weekend I): Very pale pink, almost white. Smells of white flowers and minerals, with a light peppery hint. Crisp and balanced, but chunky and indistinct as well, with a bit of a burn on the finish. Oddly characterless after the striking '02 version (which was also a much deeper color). Okay, perhaps I'm holding it to too high a standard: it's still a decent little rosé, it's just that I was expecting something more exciting. Hmm, more data are required. (5/2/04)

Pinot Blanc

Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc Alsace 2002 ($10) (Boatloads II): Medium-light gold color. Effusive nose, whiteflowers and quince jam, touches of mandarin orange and honey. Very ripe for a pinot blanc, verging on overripe, with a Schoffitian late-harvest quality to it that is interesting but a bit much for a wine that I'd hoped would be crisp and refreshing. Instead, this is a bit topheavy, too bosomy for its frame, the pillowy yellowfruit-spice flavors overwhelm the wine's small-boned nature. Still, there's some good material here. Medicinal-herb notes on the finish. Pull back the reins, M. Blanck. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Chalone Vineyards Pinot Blanc 1993 (Culling Me Softly): It's good that this wine is frosty-cold. Plenty of butterscotchy unintegrated wood, light lemon and yellowfloral hints. Limpid, disjointed, flat and tired in the piehole, bit of a burn on the finish, but I suppose it's as good as a ten-year-old overoaked California pinot blanc could be. The warmer it gets, the worse it seems: this may be a long night. (9/03)

Pierre Frick Pinot Blanc Alsace 1999 ($10) (Threesomes): I've been somewhat ambiguous about the Frick wines that I've tasted; many of them have an unvarnished, straightforwardly honest quality that can seem a little frumpy or Birkenstocky, and the 1999 pinot blanc is no exception. Bartlett pear, lemon and rainwater on the nose, with a suggestion of an earthy streak just beneath the muted yellow fruit and a trace of gardenia just above. It's a quiet, unassuming wine that just goes about its business of being pinot blanc, it may even be wearing a flannel shirt and worn bluejeans, although the shirt is knotted in front and a flash of smooth midriff isn't out of the question. Steely around the edges, there is that limpidity in the midpalate, despite some tangy fruit and sufficient acidity, but the finish is earthy and sustained and there's a beguiling side to its straightforwardness. Fits somewhere on the continuum between Sarah Plain and Tall and Ellie Mae Clampett. (2/02)

Albert Mann Pinot Blanc Alsace 2001 ($10) (Winterfest 2003): Sweetly floral nose, yellow and white flowers. Low-acid and delicate, a small soft wine that has a light spine of acidity underneath soft flowery fruit. Delicate, easygoing, floral, with a light lactic hint. An ethereal wine, lightly pillowy, a bolster stuffed with daisies. Quiet, whispery finish. Small, soft, soothing. Once I get past Schoffit I'm not normally a huge pinot blanc fan, but this really wins me over.

Albert Mann Pinot Blanc Alsace 2004 ($12) (Boatloads VII): This has become my favorite baseline pinot blanc. If I'm not drinking wacky Schoffit stuff, this is the one for me. Smells sweetly plumeriafloral, touch of white honey and shy yellow pearishness. It's a quiet rounded wine, but it's so light on its feet that it has the feeling of shy substance. There's enough acidity, but mostly just gentle pale whitefloral fruit. Not for everyone, but I'm smitten. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Oh yeah.] (4/06)

Gerard Schueller Pinot Blanc Alsace 1998 ($16) (A Discreet Jeebus): A pale straw-gold wine with a brightly floral nose, honeysuckle, white and yellow flowers. Tastes big, lightly white-honey creamy on my tongue, taking on a slight waxiness as it goes down and finishing tangily lemon-floral. Neither weighty nor unctuous, pinot blanc on a large scale with good balance and bright flavors, quite pleasant. (11/20/00)

Domaine Schoffit Pinot Blanc-Auxerrois Alsace Cuvée Caroline 1996 ($15) was a wonderful, light wine to have with food--we had it with cashew chicken and ribs, but it had a mellony fruitiness that was moderately delicate but not at all overwhelmed by the food. More boisterous than I expected from a Pinot Blanc, with sort of a chardonnay-light mouthfeel, just a hint of soft roundness. Very nicely integrated and smooth, a nice, seamless package. Almost no color at all. Must get more. Perfect with Indian or Chinese food; just the right balance of light, slightly exotic fruitiness and round, refreshing strength. (11/98)

Domaine Schoffit Pinot Blanc-Auxerrois Alsace Cuvée Caroline 1998 ($20) (Impostors): Schoffit is the king of pinot blanc in my book, and this version is no exception, smelling bright and happy, white-flowery on top, minerally underneath. There is a touch more sweetness than in the past few years, but there's also nice crisp acidity to balance it out. A robust pinot blanc that is smoothly integrated and easy to sip, a fine wine that we like to have with spicy Asian of Indian food. (11/4/00)

Consumed Trimbach Pinot Blanc Alsace 1996 ($9) with some chinese food--it wasn't quite up to snuff. Seemed very subdued, with light floral flavors and small citrusy notes and an unpleasant metallic tang over it all. This is the second of Trimbach's lower-end wines that I've found to have an odd metallic taste, and this one didn't have the more exotic flavors of the Gewürztraminer to cover it. Not terrible, but somewhat disappointing and not up to the smoothness and flavor of the Schoffit. (12/98)

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Adelsheim Vineyards Pinot Gris Oregon 2003 ($12) (Boatloads VIII): Quiet, neutral aromatics--light plumeria, unripe pineapple. A sip, and it's a little spritzy, soft at the edges but with a gently nippy tartness at the core. Smooth, soothingly easygoing wine, with a surprisingly long finish. Small and unadorned but very pleasant. [Buy again? Definitely.] (9/06)

A to Z Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2002 ($10) (Boatloads I): Soft lemonflowery aromatics. A lightly plush wine with a sense of inconsequentiality about it, it's nevertheless smooth and soft and flavorful enough not to be boring. Uninteresting yes, boring no. Even for pinot gris it's pretty vague, although there's a likeability to its nondescriptitude. I'm ambivalent. Or maybe I'm not. No, I'm indecisive, that's it. Or maybe.... [Buy again? Probably not.] (8/04)

Belle Pente Winery Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Reserve 2002 (Oregon): Mmmm... plumeria, honeysuckle and rainwater, robustly sweet-smelling. Tastes crisp and focused but also politely extravagant and moist--the semifirm spine is wrapped in several layers of ermine. Very seductive yet with a happily saucy tartness: Mae West in a glass. I find that I've drunk my taste up before I can really pin it down. (5/04)

Burn Clos St. Imer Tokay-Pinot Gris Goldert La Chapelle 1998 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium-light gold color, vivid lychee-floral nose, plumeria and orange rind. Big, plump and demisec-sweet, the acidity is just enough to keep the intense pineapple-citric flavors knit together in a glyceriney web. Happily extravagant--almost silly--this is a delightful wine, and a superb match with the liver. (11/04)

Elvenglade Vineyards Pinot Gris 1998 (Elegant Americans): Slightly honeysuckley-floral over some light wet stone minerality. Low acid, round and a bit limp, with plain light yellowfruit notes. Very okay. (9/99)

Elvenglade Pinot Gris Elvenglade Vineyard Yamhill County 1999 (Jason Takes Manhattan): Interesting honeysuckley-floral-kiwifruit notes over some light wet stone minerality. Better acidity than the '98, not nearly as limpid, with plain light yellowfruit and whiteflower notes. Very decent, I like this much more than I liked the last release. (5/00)

Lemelson Vineyards Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Tikka's Run 2004 (Rivers of Liquid Gold I): ($20). Smells prettily whitefloral, pear and gardenia hints, sweetly and calmly aromatic, soothing to smell. Tastes soothing as well, with a touch of lemondrop citricity to add tang to the midpalate. Not the most complex or vivid pinot gris (oxymaroon?), but well-balanced and appealingly flavorful, nice stuff. (11/05)

Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio South Eastern Australia 2005 ($9) (The Return of Marty & Jill): Smells rather like a plastic tropical fruitbowl, quiet wax pineapple and fake lemon-lilikoi. It hasn't the character of the Raveneau, possessing instead a rather artificial shininess. Medium bodied, slight glossy quality to the mouthfeel, peculiar SweeTart acidity. No finish to speak of, just an abrupt vitamin-c tablet stop, which is in fact a bit of a relief. I prefer the Raveneau or the Nikolaihof, but I could drink this in a pinch, if there wasn't anything else and I was really really thirsty and maybe trapped on an airplane watching a Rob Schneider movie. (2/06)

Clos du Tue-Boeuf Pinot Gris Vin de Pays du Loir et Cher Demisec 1998 ($13) (Waiting for Callahan): [They taste it.]

CHRIS: This wine has a very light nose, light stones and honey-plumeria. It is very limp in the mouth, low acid and soft, and has an odd note that I can't place...

.SASHA: I like this wine. The '27 was better, but I could drink a whole bottle of this.

BRAD: [Spitting wine out] Ugh! Ugh! You like this?!

STUART: That note that you can't identify I call 'puke in the gutter.' But in a good way. (9/12/99)

Clos de Tue-Boeuf Pinot Gris Vin de Pays du Loir et Cher Demisec 1998 ($13) (Recluse Convention): The infamous 'rancid butter/puke in the gutter' wine returns for yet another appraisal. I've noticed that there are two clear strains of this wine: one that comes out of the bottle a coppery-gold color and seems weighty and one that is pale yellow-tan and seems bright and nimble. This is the latter. Smells lightly lactic, with a strong streak of plumeria mingled with flecks of mandarin orange. Soft and a little vague, it's got a chalky streak that's shy at first, emerging mainly on the finish and lingering lightly. Only the faintest perceptible hint of sweetness, which serves merely to add juiciness to the fruit. Hard to pin down, a blurry wine with shifting contours that resists analysis. (11/22/02)

Dönnhoff Grauburgunder Trocken "S" 2001 (Misplaced Weekend II): Smells richly whitefloral, plumeria with a slatey minerally streak underneath, hints of spicy hay. Crisp and brightly acidic, rather oily mouthfeel. Lots of heft here, but it's also oddly stark for such a rich wine. Definitely one of the best trocken grauburgunders that I've tasted this month, although the genre is not one I often crave. No one can tell me what the "S" means, if it means anything. (5/9/04)

Weingut Munzberg Grauer Burgunder Pfalz Kabinett Trocken 2004 ($17) (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Whoa, this Munzberg bottle has a glass stopper instead of a cork. What a cool thing! What will they think of next? Crazy, baby. The wine is a pale straw color, with pale pale pinkish highlights. Smells whiteflowery, plumeria and rainwater. Bright-tasting; supple acidity and smooth light flesh lead to an overall impression of gentleness. A petite wine, well focused and perfect for washing the sidewalk dust from my mouth. (6/05)

Nyakas Cellars Pinot Gris Hungary 'Monarchia' 2003 ($7) (Boatloads IV): Pale straw, with greyish-tan undertones. Smells quiet, light whiteflower and melon hints, honeysuckle and cantaloupe perhaps. Tastes rather soft around the edges, but with a hint of racy acidity running underneath the velvety flesh. The initial flowerfruity wave rolls over in the middle, turning towards minerality as it heads into the finish. Rather Alsatian in style, it has a certain compactness and restaint that I like, while remaining varietally flavorful. Nice enough. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yeah, sure.] (6/05)

Three Thieves Pinot Grigio California 'Bandit' 2005 ($8/1L) (Boatloads XI): 'Cheap Wine Snobs Rejoice!' shouts the back of the one-liter tetrapak box that holds this wine. And I do! But wait, is the wine any good? Lessee... smells perfumed, sweet, almost oily-smelling gardenia and light tropical fruit hints. Tastes soft and fleshy, not much substance, but clean and with a light citric zip. Abbreviated finish with a bit of abrasiveness, but genial, fruity and decent pinot gris. Somewhat perversely, the label on the box reads "Bottled by Rebel Wine, Tualatin, OR." Bottled? [Buy again? Sure.] (11/07)

Trimbach Pinot Gris Alsace Réserve Personelle 1996 ($28) (September 15, 2001): Whoa, a party in my nose. Sweetly and playfully aromatic, there's a whole nursery of white flowers in here, honeysuckle, plumeria, gardenia, over a rockpile core. Tastes tight and big and concentrated, stony, stony and long. Impressively boisterous, a bigass hootie of a wine that's wrapped very tight right now. (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)

Weinbach Tokay Pinot Gris Clos des Capucins Cuvée Laurence 1997 (Bastille Day): Smells happily extravagant, a quiet core of minerals overlaid with white plumeria florality and light pineapple tropicality--almost makes me think of home. Creamy and big in the piehole, a mouthful of chubby glyceriney fruit with a generous dash of sugar thrown in; on this we can all agree. It's rather puppyish, bounding up and down and licking my face, but it's a fun wine to drink. (6/16/01)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal 1996 (Quiz Show I): Pale gold-tan, a bit of sulfury funk here, but nice aromas of earth and mandarin orange in a honeyed base, although it seems aromatically reticent after the extravagant Deiss. A rich, strong, tangy earthy-citrusy wine with a sharp spine of acidity, lightly but noticeably sweet. (4/7/00)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 1998 ($60) (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)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Herrenweg de Turckheim 1997 (15 Fox Place): Lush tropical-floral aromatics: mandarin orange, pineapple, plumeria, smells like a gift shop in the Honolulu airport. Tastes big and thick, richly flavored and glyceriney. There's a demisec level of sugar, just a skosh of acidity, almost overbearingly flavorful, with a light almond note emerging on the finish. It's not unpleasant, but sipping at it is rather like drinking the syrup left in the can when the fruit salad is gone. It is an interesting match with the salty anchovy-olive appetizer that's going around, though. (3/22/04)

Rhône and Languedoc Whites

Frederic & Valerie Alquier Roussane-Marsanne VDP de l'Hérault 1998 (60% rou, 40% mar)($10): A pale gold-tan wine with a pleasant creamy-bright nose, pretty hints of Bartlett pear, lemon & honey-ginger. At first sippage there is a slippery-waxy impression in the mouth, on top of a good skeleton of bright acidity that leads into a tangy citrus-ginger-cream finish. Very nice, just super QPR at around $10, this wine only adds further resolve to my rule to automatically buy as much as I can of any wine I see with the name 'Alquier' on the bottle. The bad news is that Andrew Scott scarfs up all the rest of the bottles, the good news is that he promises to save a few to open when I come a'knockin, as is my wont, unless the trailer's rockin. (2/29/00)

Frederic & Valerie Alquier Roussane-Marsanne VDP de l'Hérault 1998 ($9) (Cape May Geeks): A creamy lemon-honey-gingery smelling wine, with plenty of waxy pear-lemon fruit, but it seems a bit more marked by toasty-vanillin oak than the last time I had it. It could be because it's unfortunately a bit warm (due to draconian wine-handling statutes), but there are some furrowed brows among the assembled truants. Still, it's a nice drop, and hard to beat it for QPR. (6/3/00)

Frederic & Valerie Alquier Roussane-Marsanne VdP de l'Hérault 1999 ($10) (Horrifying the Newbies): This wine has an odd and pungent gluey note over a light tropical-butterscotch body. Slightly oily-waxy in the cakehole, with good acidity. There is balance, but a balance of what, I ask? I answer my own rhetorical question with a quick "Now is not the time." The moderately wooded fruit in the midpalate is flattened out and has a fruit-cocktail-juice quality that makes me wonder if this bottle isn't damaged. Quite disappointing, one adjectival stripe shy of icky. (3/3/01)

Domaine du Bagnol Cassis 2004 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Quietly floral nose, light hint of cherry, touch of yamskin earthiness. Tastes calm and composed, bright acidity, on the lean side, nicely pure and focused but not giving a whole lot right now. (6/05)

Château La Baronne Montagne D'Alaric Corbières Vigne Combe Donzelle 1999 ($8)(Joey): In the time it took me to write that name I could've tasted three more wines. Nevertheless, it's got a quiet nose, reserved hints of white and yellow flowers, light lemonial citrus, a pleasant earthiness. Good weight and balance, a wine with focus, crisp and rich but with an airy quality that gives it lightness in the mouth. Nice enough. (1/6/00)

Château La Baronne Montagne D'Alaric Corbières Vigne La Prière 1999 ($8) (Joey): A bit smellier, lightly creamy-waxy, hints of butterscotch in there with the lightly perfumed floweriness. Doesn't quite have the focus of the CLBMDACVCD, mellower and a bit softer and more diffuse, but quite pleasant nonetheless, a decent little wine. (1/6/00)

Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Languedoc 1999 ($7) (The Longest Night): Pale lemon-gold color. Lightly tropical nose, hints of pineapple with a minerally undertone, some waxy and lanolin hints, kind of interesting if not terribly complex. Tastes pretty good, crisp and full-flavored, with a hint of mineral-oil texture. A bit chunky and not much of a finish, but rather amiable, quite decent, purty okay by me. At around $7, what the kids might call a 'QPR fave, yo.' (12/31/00)

Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux du Languedoc 1999 ($7) (All CNN Wines): Pale lemon-gold color. Lightly tropical nose, pineapple hints with a mineral undertone, traces of wax , lanolin. The wine has some weight and density, a slightly oily mouthfeel, not unctuous, just a hint of mineral oil. Plenty of flavor, crisp and tangy fruit that finishes not much at all but has a friendly, amiable quality while it lasts. A pleasant little wine with some interesting nuances. (11/11/01)

Louis Bernard Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Blanc) 1999 (Foodies 2): accompanied by Eden's striking mushroom-onion tart. The wine has subdued aromatics, creamy-floral, waxy yellow and white flower notes. Rather neutral in the tarthole, a substantial wine with good heft but just not a lot going on. Good acidic spine, nice weight and balance, but very little in the way of flavor. (2/03)

Andre Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 'Les Cailloux' 1996 ($20) (Kaneturbury Tales): Straw-gold, with baked apple and cream soda-ish hints drifting around the bowl of the glass, and a slightly round, flat, buttery mouthfeel. Seems a bit limpid, with some heat on the finish. May have been a touch oxidized, but I haven't had enough white CdP to quite put my finger on it. (9/20/99)

J.L. Chave Hermitage White 1995 (Peach Tree Vines): Medium-light gold color. Quite effusive to smell, ginger and vanilla high notes over a base of warm lemon-peach-honey and paraffin, with streaks of toasted almond. A sip, and it's creamy and plump, warm and plush in the middle, where golden raisin and honey-ginger flavors emerge. The finish continues the honey-ginger flavor, with just a hint of vanillin oak and a flash of heat. Not a style of wine that I'm normally partial to, it seems soft and squishy after all these well-hung wines, but somehow maintains its dignity. Not enough acidity for Andrew, but it goes very well with naan. (4/03)

Cuilleron St. Joseph (White) 1997 (Waiting for Callahan): [They taste.]

BRAD: This is a killer wine!

CHRIS: This wine is a pale straw-gold color, with a minerally nose, bright and mutedly yellowfruity. It is rich, tangy and slightly buttered-toast oaky. The fruit is charmingly dense and flavorful, with some crisp acidity to balance out the medium-weight mouthfeel. The oak is only very slightly distracting; this is very appealing.

BRAD: Like I said, a killer wine! (9/12/99)

Mas Carlot Marsanne-Roussane Cuvée Tradition 2001 ($10) (Nine Characters): Hmm. Fragrant and perfumed-yellow honeysuckle, pineapple-pear hints. Quite hefty pieholefeel, waxy-creaminess buoyed by crisp acidity, bit of a burn on the finish. Bright, floral and big, there's a touch of complexity, but it's basically a big slobbery puppydog of a wine, juicy and cheerful. (11/02)

Château Le Devoy Martine Lirac Blanc 1997 ($13)(Cape May Geeks): Pale tan-gold. Not too much going on in the nasal regions... light gingery-minerally hints, seems a touch oxidized, tastes tangy and crisp but rather neutral, with light cream soda, chalk and lemon rind flavors. Decent, drinkable, unremarkable. (6/3/00)

Domaine du Clos des Fées Vin de Pays de Val d'Agly Vieilles Vignes 1998 (Motor Oil): Medium straw-lemon color. This smells like... well... like almost nothing at all. I swirl and swirl, and finally manage to coax some light gingery mineral-rainwater hints, but it's a struggle. Tastes crisp, clear, nicely balanced, but quite neutral, with a slightly soapy mouthfeel accenting some lemon-ginger fruit that has a touch of yellow apple and finishes on a very quiet gingery note. Not bad, just not a lot going on. (6/29/00)

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 1997 ($10): Very pale gingerale color, almost clear. Very little on the nose, slight lemony notes, slight minerality. Low acidity, light flavors, slightly tart, bit of smooth glyceriny texture. Kind of like lemon water--pleasant enough, just not a whole lot there.

Château Jolys Jurancon Sec 2002 ($11) (Boatloads III): Bright, happy aromatics, underripe pineapple and yellow flowers, white flowers and more underripe pineapple, touch of honey. Tastes crisp, taut, stony-minerally flavors with a light tropical skin wash over my tongue, finishing long and charmingly minerally. Very nice, not terribly complex, but firm, focused and crystalline. [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape White 1998 (NEVER Say 'Spit'): Mmm, very quiet smellies, a base of light chalky minerality, traces of lemon-ginger and a soupon of vanilla. With air it warms up aromatically, light flecks of apricot and orange rind hang on the mineral tree like tinsel, but it's quite whispery in my nose. Tastes rather limpid; nice composure but just not very expressive, with middling crispness and a soft-edged corona of achromatic fruit. Mysterious: the neutrality of this wine keeps me coming back to it. I want to hear what it's saying, but eventually I decide that it's just saying "Eh. Ooh, I've got an itch. Oh no, false alarm. Eh." (4/03)

Château d'Oupia Minervois Blanc 2000 ($8) (Winterfest 2003): Pineapple-pear yellow fruit and yellow flowers as well, strong flinty undertones. Intensely flavored, the mouthfeel has some heft but is buoyed by crisp acidity. Very juicy and flavorful, open and peppy. Always a favorite at Château Coad-Allen: very good, very cheap. (2/03)

Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Réserve 1993 ($30) (August): Medium straw-gold color, smells sweetly honeyed, lightly nutty and vanillaed. Rather weightily textured and slightly nut-oily, it's a wine that lets you know it has arrived, layered and complex. (8/7/01)

Domaine Richaud Cairanne Blanc 2001 (Doghead All Grown Up): Creamy smelling, pineapple, vanilla and flint notes. Tastes smooth and pleasantly rich, with moderate acidity. I'm not normally a big fan of white Rhônes, but this is lovely, elegant and poised, with a lightly viscous mouthfeel, a pleasant waxy-oiliness. (11/04)

Domaine Sainte-Anne Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2000(Nine Characters): Smells rather like yellow dish soap or Lemon Pledge, quite slickly and concentratedly floral. A sip, and there's a quick burst of weighty yellow fruit that quickly implodes, turning strangely coarse in the midpalate and then vanishing entirely, leaving a fierce alcoholic burn. A three-stage descent into wretchedness, almost fascinatingly awkward and disjointed. "Paint thinner," says Camblor, but as usual he's being too kind. Godawful. (11/02)

Clos St. Michel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1996 (Quiz Show II): It's pale gold and smells quite interesting, with perfumey gardenia notes mixing with earthier dried apple and dried apricot hints over a limestoney background. A sip, and it's not giving much, a bit tight, with a waxy-honey impression at first, moving into a fairly round and limpid midpalate and fading into a bitter tang on the finish. To recap for those who just tuned in: Smells great, less impressive to taste, then turns bitter. (4/15/00)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Brézème Roussanne 2000 ($18) (Bastille Day): Much swirling reveals little, a reticent little wine, light creaminess, vanilla, wax, cream soda, a hint of white flowers, more vanilla. It's got nice crispness and a candied, oily mouthfeel but it's not doing much for me now, coming across as a slick neutral wine with some oak, more texture than flavor. Very young and monolithically neutral though, perhaps it just needs thirty years. (6/16/01)

Vinum Cellars Roussanne Santa Barbara County 2001 ($13) (Boatloads IV): I like most of what these folks do, so when I saw this I thought I'd give it a try, but damn, it smells oaky--not just oaky, but WOOD-SOAKED. Was there a marketing meeting in which someone decided to emulate a Sine Qua Non monstrosity? Butterscotch-pineapple, lemon-cream soaked with toasted vanilla, the wine smells like tropical French toast, eggs and all. Underneath the carpentry there seems to be some interesting waxy-tropical fruit, hints of paraffin. The mouthfeel is rather oily-viscous, the acidity is firm at the core but there's pillowiness showing around the edges. It's a bit hot, too--damn, it's reeling closer and closer to awfulness with every sip. [Buy again? No and no.] (6/05)

Romorantin-- 'Heirloom Grape' from Cour-Cheverny

Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny 1993: I flinch a bit as this approaches my mouth, remembering the shrieking acidity of the 96 VM. A taste, and yup, it's shrill all right, but not overpoweringly so, a bright, light, tart wine, stony-tasting and lightly floral. Has time mellowed it, or was the '93 always a bit less sharp I wonder out loud to no one in particular, but there is no one to answer because a heated dispute is breaking out over another bottle. (11/99)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 1996 ($11) (Chateau Joe): Pale yellow; very light nose, light honey/mineral background with some interesting raspberry notes floating above. A sip, and YOW mouth-puckering acidity grabs me under my tongue and won't let go. Very, very, very tart, but also a pleasantly rich, medium-weight wine that has more beguiling raspberry notes that emerge with a bit of air. Brad and Andrew, sitting by me, like this very much, but it's a bit shrill for my tastes. (8/99)

Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 1996 ($24) (Lou Turns the Worm): Medium-light straw-gold color. Smells rich and vivid, hints of vinyl and lamp oil over lemon-wax and raspberry. Tastes much looser and fleshier than it did six or seven years ago, still brightly acidic but more velvety skinned than before. Just a hint of sweetness, great sustain and length, a wine that has lost nothing of its tensile strength but has gained a good measure of complexity. Finishes with a raspberry-mineral hum, vivid and lip-smacking. Still very young, but coming into its own wonderfully. Great wine, a delight. And wonderful with the risotto, which, despite Bettylu's assurances, does not come in the form of foam. Lisa asks Brad if he has a seltzer bottle with which we could remedy the situation, but he demurs. (10/05)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 1997 ($12) (Super Bowl): This seems a kindler, gentler romorantin, smelling lightly beeswaxy, with a flinty-gunpowdery note under the waxy lemon yellow fruit. Seems like the mellowest, ripest, roundest version of this wine I've had, still crisp and bright, but without the rollercoaster shriekiness of other years. (1/22/01)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 1997 ($12) (Peach Tree Vines): A few years have been very kind to this wine, as it has acquired some interesting complexity, notably some light petroleum aromatics that have me wondering if I've mispoured a riesling. There's still a buttery beeswaxiness coating the lemon-mineral core and cushioning the gland-squeezing acidity, but now it's flecked with hints of tangerine and kerosene. This was always a friendly young romo, and now it's becoming layereder and more complexer, a renaissance wine. If only I'd had the foresight to put a few away instead of drinking them young. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you're a fool, Chris Coad, you're a fool. (4/03)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 1998 ($13) (Joey): Plaster and lime rind aromas, bright and sharp nasality. Put it in the mouth, and yowee Sally, there's a shrieking tsunami of acidity rising up under my tongueboard. I ride it as long as I can, feeling the burn and finally crashing into a persistent gin-and-tonic limey finish. Romoriffic! A wild ride that gets you roamin' and rantin', focused and intensely crisp. Should've saved it for later, as the next few wines are going to seem limp in comparison. Viva romo! (1/6/01)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 2002 ($18): Bright, vivid aromatics--hay and rocks and lemon zest, clean and crisp-smelling, like breathing Haleakala air at ten thousand feet. A sip, and there's juicy, saliva-jolting acidity, but firm velvety flesh as well, perhaps even a tiny hint of sugar? Lemonstony-tasting, limned with yellow apple flavor/green apple acidity. This has the toe-curling vividness of the '96 and the turn towards exuberance of the '97, but it's more complete than either. Damn damn long, the flavors just echo back and forth across the cavern of my gullet for ages, was ever a wine so persistent? (Were I a crass bonehead I'd be tempted to do what the pointy guys do and take out a stopwatch, but I was raised right so I don't.) Supernatural focus, like the wine is flowing through a dime-sized hole in the middle of Hoover Dam. Sour raspberry, rainwater and one petal from a lone white flower on the finish, just going on and on. (4/05)

Francois Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance Vendange Manuelles 2002 ($18) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Okay, I am a dumbshit: I forgot this wine only begins to open up after twenty-four hours of air. Right now it's impregnable; puckery-taut acidity dives under your tongue, grabs fistfuls of glands and squeezes hard. Why didn't I decant it? What the hell is the matter with me? Goddamn it. Angry, so angry, must choke down rage, bile. Wasted, wasted, foolishly wasted. I look up, and everyone else is chattering on about porcupines or something and they don't seem to be noticing my dark night of the soul. Deep breath, take another sip, let the fear and pain ebb. (5/05)

Claude Courtois Romorantin les Cailloux du Paradis NV (2000) ($33) (Shanks): (There doesn't seem to be a vintage designation anywhere on the bottle, but Connell says it's the 2000, so I'll live with that.) Medium gold color. Mmm, interesting flowery-spicy nose: fragrant gardenia, light honey, minerals, a dusting of cinnamon. "Hyacinth!" declares Vanessa. I want to agree or disagree, but can only confess my ignorance: I've never stopped to smell the hyacinths. Tastes surprisingly plush, almost squishy; a warm wave of honey-spicy flavors washes over my tongue, there's a hint of oxidative character, all couched in viscous, almost oily flesh. A strikingly individual wine, velvety and lush but rather uncharacteristic for romorantin; this could almost be pinot gris, or perhaps a Zind-Humbrecht version of romo. Where's the domineering acidity? At any rate, it makes a great match with Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

Claude Courtois Romorantin les Cailloux du Paradis NV (2000) ($33) (Foodies 3): Really the 2000 (or so Connell says), it's a medium-gold color, smells of white honey, lemon blossom and hay. In the piehole it's firmer at the core than I remember, with a velvety-plush skin and just a hint of oiliness. But wait, there's a gentle oxidative streak mingling with the honey-apricot-mineral flavors, the wine flickers spicily and loosens in the middle. Very peculiar romo, comes at you like romo erectus at first, then softens and feathers out unctuously, spreading on my tongue like an oil slick. Makes for a peculiarly fine match with the limey papaya salad--I'd actually first made this salad as part of a 'Dishes That Can't Possibly Match With Any Wine' evening; turns out I'd underestimated my own subtle genius for food-wine matching. (2/26/05)

Henry Marionnet Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France 'Provignage' 2004 ($65) (The Return of Marty & Jill): This is romorantin from ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines, apparently the oldest still-producing vines in any of the three parts of Gaul. Fast Lyle warned me that it needs at least a forty-eight hour decant, but we haven't the time tonight, so it's pop and go. The aromatics are one lone lemon blossom resting on a granite slab sunk in the bank of a mountain stream. The flavors tend more towards grapefruit citricity with a rich vein of minerality, gently pure mouthfeel. There's a delicacy here, the citric-whitefloral flesh is gently overlaid on some lipsmacking acidity. Seems young and tight--not exactly ungiving, but rather shy. Intruiging but inscrutible. (2/06)

Savagnin-- Jura Thingamabob

Pierre Overnoy Arbois Pupillin Savagnin 1998 ($17)(Sitting Jeebis): It smells like lemony soil, earthy, with hints of yellow and a smoky-mezcal streak. Tastes shrill and agressively tart, sharply honed and smoky-puckery, more sensation than taste, with a knifelike finish that just won't stop. I opine aloud that I can't understand why the wine press goes crazy for this stuff, it's never done much for me; as a result I am given the silent treatment by several of the faithful, and later I will find that my shoes have been shockingly vandalized. Not that I'm accusing anyone, just stating the facts. (3/31/01)

Pierre Overnoy Vin Jaune Jura 1990 ($35)(We Arrive Late): Pale yellow-tan. Smells nutty and oxidized, sherry-like, which is a dealbreaker for me, as sherry and I don't see eye to eye (my secret shame). Brittle and highly acidic, tart and shrill, with sweat-socky aromas hovering malignantly over yellow-brown flavors that linger like a bad houseguest. I have a unusually personally averse reaction to these kinds of oxidized wines, so I must recuse myself on this one, otherwise I might be tempted to call it "icky," something that would be both unfair and beneath what remains of my dignity. I suspect I'm not the target audience for this wine anyway, as the more sophisticated toffs seem to dig it. Me, I'd sooner drink paint thinner, which this stuff resembles in terms of coiled concentration and laserlike focus. Needs thirty years. In a lead-lined vault. At the bottom of a well. In Mongolia.

Scheurebe-- Cross Grape from Germany

Kurt Darting Scheurebe Pfalz Dürkheimer Spielberg Spätlese 2000 ($13) (McNetta 2002): Pale straw-gold color. Effusive floral-tropical aromatics with a lipsticky or yellow-crayon undertone. Slightly oily mouthfeel, but then some puckery-crisp acidity wells up and counterbalances the oiliness while flashes of lemon-tangerine fruit appear in the midpalate. Interesting, if a little all over the place. Still, Darting makes wines with character and keeps the prices fair, so I'm a fan. (6/02)

Weingut Kurt Erbeldinger und Sohn Scheurebe Beckheimer Hasensprung Kabinett 1999(Foodies): Smells cooly tropical, waxy--someone says 'lipstick!', which is just about right. It's got a trace of sweetness, good acidity, but it's rather two-dimensional. (10/14/01)

Müllër-Cättöïr Scheurebe Häärdtër Mändëlrïng Kabinett 1996 (Robin in the Big City): Whee, here's a carnival ride! Aggressive notes of tropical fruits & kerosene jump right up my nose and jangle my brainpan. A taste, and I recheck the label to make sure it's a Kabinett, because it's easily Spatlese-sweet, with sharp acidity battling side-by-side with the sweetness in a slightly waxy, mango/citrus-tinged body. This wine is wacky and all over the place, but eminently likeable for being a bit of a freak. (2/7/00)

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 Haardter Mandelring Spätlese 2001 (Rivers of Liquid Gold I): ($30). Pale straw-tan color. Boisterous smellies, stony pineapple, grapefruit, lipstick, yellow flowers. Bright, rich and vibrant-smelling, a cheerful noseful. Tastes like it smells, lively and bright and rich, with just a touch of overt sweetness intertwining with crisp acidity and smoothly plasticized heft in the middle. Finishes surprisingly low-key, with a low lemon-tea buzz. Not so gonzo as in some vintages--just bright, pretty and smile-inducing. (11/05)

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)

Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Franken Iphöfer Kronsberg Spätlese Trocken 2002 (Beaucoin Revisited): Hm. Smells similar to the riesling, with the addition of some underripe pineapple hints and a touch of that ol' scheurebe lipstickiness. These flavors alone make it an improvement over the riesling, the light Saran-Wrap quality clothes the naked acidity and gives it a bit more palatability, but this is still a severely underfruited wine, without much to recommend it other than lean mineral purity. Not that there's anything wrong with that... (3/7/04)


Henschke Semillon Eden Valley 1992 (Beaucoin Revisited): Before we drink, we practice saying "semillon" in the Australian fashion. Sem-uhl-lohn, sem-uhl-lohn, sem-uhl-lohn. Smells of woodshop and caramel, laced with old vanillabean hints and ginger-cream. Tastes of wood and more wood, caramel and muted vanilla. Flaccid, with annoying spiky acidity poking at the back of my tongue. A wine that lays motionless and bored despite my best attempts at stimulation, watching me through half-shut eyes and muttering snarky criticisms under its breath. Quite unpleasant, this has me looking back on the pure flavorlessness of the Frankenwines with nostalgia: heaven preserve us from flavors such as these. Goes very poorly indeed with the light, flavorful lobster bisque. (3/7/04)

Penfolds Semillon-Chardonnay South Eastern Australia Koonunga Hill 1998 ($7): Clear pale lemony-yellow; light but bright nose, with some soft pear/peach/butterscotchy notes. In the mouth a bit less interesting, though nicely crisp, but fruit is a bit flat & thin and there's a citric tang that kind of dominates the midpalate. Closes up on a buttery note. Not unpleasant, but not a lot of character either, and not up to the KH red.

Rosemount Estate Semillon-Chardonnay Australia 2002 ($7) (Boatloads III): Very peary, smells of pear, paraffin and yellow apple. Crisp and a bit watery in the middle, hints of pineapple come through on the finish. Has balance, no overt woodiness that I can sense. The mouthfeel is soft and slightly slippery, there's a sheen there, whoops I lied, there's a hint of vanilla emerging on the finish now. Easy-sipping and cleanly tropical stuff, not bad. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.] (2/05)

Signorello Semillon Napa Valley 1991 (Elegant Americans): Pale gold; slightly waxy floral nose; bit tangy... I don't know. This is fair, but really unremarkable. (9/99)

Alice White Semillon-Chardonnay South Eastern Australia 2002 ($5) (Boatloads III): Pale lemon-straw color. Tropical lemon-pineapple aromatics, cream and a bit of vanilla. Rather glyceriney mouthfeel--waxy apple-pear yellowfruit, fleshy but with enough slightly spiky structure to get by. Touch of heat on the finish, but all in all rather pleasant, you could do worse for five bucks. More of a sippin' wine than a food wine, but pleasantly composed, industrial wine with a sense of reserve. FAKE GREEN CORK! [Buy again? Yeah, sure, whatever.] (2/05)


Weingut Schmitt + Kinder Silvaner Randersacker Marsberg Trocken 2000 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Vividly aromatic, lemon, peach, white rocks. Tastes equally vivid, a nervy, taut core of bright acidity is wrapped with gentle whitefloral-citric flesh. Wonderfully expressive sylvaner, hitting all the notes just right, high and low and middle. Damn yummy. Slam it back, move on. (6/05)

Hans Wirsching Silvaner Franken Iphöfer Kronsberg Spätlese Trocken 2002 (Beaucoin Revisited): More of the same, with a light lemonality instead of the lipstickiness of the scheurebe. Lemon, minerals, hard acidity and a pervasively pure flavorlessness. Speaking frankenly, this is the best of the bunch, as the lemoniousness matches well with the stony undertones. The wine is very cohesive and pure, but again there's just not much there, even for the motley band of acid freaks in the room. (3/7/04)

Spanish & Portuguese Whites

Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde Loureiro 2004 ($7) (Boatloads V): "A cooperative, but a good one," says David Lillie, so I take a shot. Smells lightly of lemon-ginger and rainwater, with a bit of air a quiet minerality emerges and says hello. Light bodied and medium crisp, actually rather calm-tasting, not lean n'mean, with a hint of small-scale fleshiness. Cheerful and bright, a soothingly neutral wine, just pure and lightly lemonstony, nice and smooth and undemanding. [Buy again? Yup.] (10/05)

Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Txakoli 2003 ($12) (Rioja Redux): Pale, with greenish highlights. Smells chalkier than the last, white grapefruit and rocks, tastes leaner and fizzier. Rather thin and hard, all structure, lacking the velvety skin of the Txomin Etxaniz. If this wine is this screechy in 2003, my god... my god.... (10/04)

Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Txakoli 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Basque Muscadet, or perhaps, given the petillance, Basque Vinho Verde. At any rate, it's lean and minerally and very spare, happily zippy as always (even in '03) but not a lot of meat on the bones. Actually, no meat at all, just happy zippy bones. (8/05)

Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2003 ($7) (Boatloads I): Pale, almost colorless. Just a hint of prickliness here, fuller than the Avelada, more rounded. Tastes lightly lemony, with green apple crispness and a touch of creaminess in the midpalate. Loosely knit, simple and friendly little wine. {Buy again? Yup.] (8/04)

Avelada Casal Garcia Vinho Verde NV ($6) (Boatloads I): Pale, almost colorless. Lightly fizzy, bit of yeast on the nose, along with light lemon-lime hints, bit of quinine, rather gin n'tonicky. Think, crisp and twotone, puckery-tart and bright, but also rather flavorless, all structure. Neutral, but I really need some kind of flavor here, guys, you gotta give me something. [Buy again? No.] (8/04)

Rene Barbier 'Mediterranean White' Calatayud NV ($3) (Boatloads I): This may in fact be the cheapest wine I have ever bought (marked down from $3.99). I wasn't expecting much, but this is a pleasant surprise. Crisp, limey-citric with green apple overtones, like a decent cheap kiwi sauvignon, touch of yeastiness. Fairly neutral and lightly fizzified, just slightly off-dry and a little dilute in the middle, but still decently crisp and drinkable, a definite QPR champ. [Buy again? Three for $10? Absofrickinlutely.] (8/04)

Blanco Nieva Verdejo Pie Franco 2005 (Birthday Engorgement): The price of rootstock must be soaring, as this is yet another wine from ungrafted vines, pie franco being the Spanish equivalent of franc de pied, or something like that. Deeply minerally aromatics, chalk and rainwater, light lemon-ginger hints. Closed up tight, all rocks, all deep rockiness, taut and stony and vivid. If I recall correctly, the '04 blossomed after about twenty-four hours of air; I suspect something like that would help here too. (6/06)

Bodegas Cerrasol Verdejo Rueda 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Gentle floral aromatics, touch of citrus, hint of herbaceousness. Light and loose, not well honed but decently balanced, pleasant and innocuous (which may be as good as it's going to get tonight). (8/05)

Lagar de Cervera Albariño 1999 (I Get the Shakes): Pale, pale straw color, fresh and brightly grassy-lime smelling, almost an austere kind of sauvignon nose. Crisp, lean and racy, a bright, simple wine that hasn't an ounce of fat on it. (6/6/00)

Viña Clavidor Verdejo Rueda 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Mmmm, green chiles, limeskin and litterbox. Tastes lightly lemoncreamy, smooth and decently crisp but fairly simple. Were this a New Zealand sauvignon we could have the old enzyme/Fresca argument, but it's not and this doesn't seem the time or place, so it's pushed to one side, dismissed. (8/05)

Dominio de Eguren Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 'Protocolo' (White) 2002 ($6) (Boatloads II): Pale lemon-straw color, greenish highlights. Smells of cement dust and talc minerality over taut lemony yellowfruit, touch of old-wood spiciness. Robust consistency is balanced by vivid acidity, simple lemonstony flavors but good balance and mouthgrab, takes over and lets you know who's boss. Okay, so there's not a lot of complexity, but it's heart is in the right place. [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Enate Gewürztraminer Somontano 2003 (Never Do What We Have Done): This seems to really bother some people, so I'm curious to try it when it comes my way. Hmmm... smells faintly of lychee jelly-candy and plastic wrap, oddly fakey-perfumey smelling. Tastes watery, with a bitter tang in the midpalate, not much going on and what's going on isn't very nice. Okay, I begin to understand the cries of anguish that preceded this down the table. Awful Lousy. (8/05)

Fâmega Vinho Verde 2005 ($6) (Boatloads VIII): Gently spritzy mineral water with a touch of alcohol, sugar and lime rind. Kind of like a minimalist wine cooler. Could use a bit of structure, but it's okay for what it is, though thoroughly unremarkable. [Buy again? No, not really.] (9/06)

Bodegas Godeval Godello Valdeorras 'Viña Godeval' 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Smells of white honey and white flowers. Tastes pure and minerally, light but snappy green apple acidity, good composure and focus, nice balance. A straightforward and flavorful wine with fine tensile strength, good stuff. (8/05)

Gramona Penedès 'Gessami' 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Sweetly whitefloral aromatics, honeysuckle dusted with ginger candy. Tastes lightly honeyed and pure, like deep spring water with a touch of spiced apple. Pleasant and restrained, a middleweight wine whose only real shortcoming is any real sustain at the end--it just kind of stops short with a gingery sigh. Other than that, though, the wine is very decent and has a pleasantly unadorned purity. (8/05)

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Rueda 2002 ($7) (Boatloads IV): Grapefruit and sweet honeydew aromatics, hints of white flowers, velvety-smooth smelling. Smooth, medium acidity and lightly creamy mouthfeel. Tart fruit compensates for fairly shy acidity, gives the wine some midpalate zing. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.] (6/05)

Bodegas Itsas Mendi Hondarrabi Zuri Bizkaiko Txakolina 2004 (Never Do What We Have Done): Quiet-smelling, light honey-lemon with a hint of white coral chips. Medium-lightweight, is that a touch of sugar, not sure. Citrus flavors turn towards lime on the finish. Decent enough, rather uninspiring but quite drinkable. (8/05)

Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva 1985 (Rioja Redux): Medium straw color, tinged with pale gray. Spicy old-wood nose, coconut husk, rainwater and bookspine. Good heft, tastes focused, stony and spicy, but there's a tiredness in the middle that even the rather fierce acidity can't hide. More of an intellectual than a sensual pleasure. (10/04)

Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva 1987(Fridge): Manuel mentions that Victor-sama has referred to this wine as "American oak soup," an opinion with which he vehemently disagrees. So vehemently, in fact, that he cheerily vows to "Kick his ass and eat his head." This being an idiom that many of us are unfamiliar with, Jim takes advantage of the silence to observe "How... Goya." At any rate, the wine smells of sweet vanilla, honey and coconutted flint over a white-rocky vein. Medium weight, creamy, a little limpid and lifeless in the piehole. With air the vanilla fades and a gingery rainwater-mineral streak comes to the fore. Still, there's a flatness to the middle of this wine that leaves me cool to it. (5/12/02)

Lopez de Heredia Viña Gravonia Reserva 1991(Rejeebus): Is this the wine that led Manuel to threaten to kick and eat Victor's ass and head? It has a rainwatery nose, with flashes of honey and old leather. Tastes quiet and somewhat lifeless--turns lightly almondy in the midpalate, finishes meekly. The acidity is there all right, even a bit spiky, but the wine just seems inert, like soda gone flat. Damaged? Not very enjoyable, or perhaps I just need someone to explain it to me. Where is Callahan when you need him? Besides having plastic surgery, I mean. (7/21/02)

Lopez de Heredia Viña Gravonia Reserva 1994 (Unclear Identities): Coconut-vanilla woodiness right up front, aromatically shy, hints of ginger and lemon-cream. Even shyer in the mouth, tight and hard and dense. I can't understand what this wine is saying. Where's Camblor, he could probably explain it to me, or Victor. Or maybe they'd just disagree and I'd be more confused than ever. (8/8/04)

Lopez de Heredia Rioja Viña Gravonia Reserva 1994 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): Ah, the smell of freshly cracked coconut shell brings me right back home to the islands. There's a lemon-creamy edge to the aromatics as well, but it's mostly coconut and rocks. Tastes hard and taut, seems a bit watery. Nope, still not convinced. Even when paired with the rillettes, seemingly the French term for 'mystery meat swimming in lard,' the wine is lackluster. (1/05)

Bodegas Martinez Bujanda Viura-Chardonnay Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 'Infinitus' 2004 ($7) (Never Do What We Have Done): Tastes yellow-appley and limp, touch of residual sugar in the old Kendall-Jackson mode. Amiable right up front, it quickly slides away into hollow bloppiness. A lifeless, bland wine that has nothing to recommend it except for maybe the fact that it isn't overwooded. (8/05)

Mendoza Rioja Blanco 1998 (VS Eats at Joe's): Victor breaks out a bottle of what sounds to my unschooled ear like 'malvasia riojana,' but I have no time to have the label explicated for me in the excruciating detail that I crave. Pale, almost colorless wine, with a nose that reminds me of a very light Alsace riesling--sprightly and stony. A soft and friendly light little wine, with flavors that echo the stony nose and spread nicely and finely over my mouth. (11/7/99)

Palacio da Brejoeira Vinho Verde 'Alvarinho' 2004 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): This has an AP number, a hand-numbered bottle (no. 6086), it's cult Vinho Verde! Smells stony. Brightly acidic at first, it fleshes out marginally in the middle, turning whitefloral and flickery-gingery. Finishes quietly, with a gentle mineral nudge. Not bad, but rather neutral wine, hard to pick anything to like or dislike. Nice structure, though. (5/05)

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño Rias Baixas 2004 (Pigfest): Camblor mentions some shady character or other mistaking this wine for a Frederic Emile, and although he's kidding I find the notion not entirely crazy. There's a hint of vinyl, rainwatery minerals underneath, light honeydew note, brightly aromatic. A sip, and the focus continues--it's tight and stony and squeaky-dry, taut and pleasantly bracing. Very nice, a little stern but very nice. (1/06)

Pazo Pondal Albariño Rias Baixas 2002 (Pigfest): into my hand. "The winemaker told me to put some away for a couple of years..." he whispers. "I don't know how well it worked!" He winks, and puts his finger aside his nose. I wrap my arms protectively around my middle, to protect in case of nudgeage. (1/06)

Remelluri Rioja Bianco 1997 (Robin in the Big City): I am assured by reliable (if anonymous) sources that this contains various and sundry grapes of a contraband nature (viognier, xynisteri, lemberger...). I will take this information to the grave with me. You too, please. But wait, before you do that, here's a pale wine, with some light floral-honeysuckle notes struggling to emerge from under a blanket of smoky vanillin oakiness. On the palate an oak leisure suit nailed onto a frame like Manute Bol. On second thought, this wine's not worth dying for after all. (2/7/00)

Quinta da Romeira Arinto Bucelas 2003 ($8) (Boatloads III): Smells fresh and rainwatery, yellow apple and lemony hints. Bright-tasting, lemony and lightly creamy. Very nice, simple, zippy-crisp and taut, with just a bit of heft to give it definition. [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)

Viña Sila 'Las Brisas' Rueda 2003 ($6) (Boatloads II): Very grassy-herbaceous at first, then white grapefruit, lemon and a touch of peachy softness. For all the sauvignon-like nose I was expecting it to be brighter and crisper; it's actually medium crisp, minerally-citric and has a not exactly weighty but certainly substantial mouthfeel, a bit of heft, can I keep this sentence going if I keep adding commas? No. The grapefruit elements fade into the background as the midpalate runs its course, the finish is all lemon and rocks. Pretty good stuff, a nice match with Lisa's paella. [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina 2003 ($12) (Rioja Redux): A plague on both of Manuel's houses for subjecting me to Basque labels first thing this evening, before I'm even drunk. One curious thing about Basque: the drunker you are, the easier it is to read. I should probably hide these bottles and approach them again at the end of the night, but I'm not one to plan ahead, so I don't. Pale, with greenish highlights. Bright, mineral-lemon-hay aromatics, light hint of chlorine/swimming pool. Quite crisp and light, but with a velvet skin, maybe a bit of a tongueprickle. Pleasant and very crisp, sort of Muscadetish in terms of focus and brightness. Bad design note: I have to look very hard to find the vintage, which is hidden in tiny type on the neck label. (10/04)

Valle de la Vega Verdejo Rueda 2003 ($7) (Boatloads VI): Pale straw color. Lemon blossom up high, interesting ginger-bark hint in the midnose. Tastes bright and crisp, lightly creamy and ever so slightly minerally. There's a fleshy roundness right at first that plumps up marginally in the middle, then the mineral streak rises and takes over the finish. A bright, simple wine, honest and zippy. [Buy again? Yes.] (12/05)

Venta d'Aubert Bajo Aragón 1998 (Return of the Jeebi): Pale straw color. Smells lightly floral and bit limey-tropical. Very crisp, with a light tanginess and a rainwatery background that comes off a bit neutral. Can't figure this one. Dunno. No time. Move on. (10/7/00)


La Jota Vineyards Viognier 'Barrel Fermented' Napa Valley 1994 ($22): Light yellow-amber; tight on the nose, doesn't give away much, light waxy apricot & pineapple notes, kinda tropical fruit-salady; In the mouth some butterscotch, bit of round feel in the mouth, bit of fat, some acidity to balance it out, but yowee, there is an unmistakeable flash of heat as it goes down, boy, that's something. I check the bottle and the alcohol's at 15.5%. Hmmm. Not having too much experience with cal viognier, I don't know if this is par for the course or not, but I don't think I've ever had a hotter white wine. Very odd, and definitely distracting from the fairly pleasant fruit flavors and body of the wine. (4/99)

La Jota Vineyards Viognier 'Cold Fermented' Napa Valley 1996 ($22)(Blind Whites): Musty-hot, alcohol leaps out at you on the nose, along with a bit of licorice. Ick. I know what this is because I brought it and it's even worse than I expected. Really hot and nasty, rubbing alcohol & yellow food coloring. Apologies for inflicting this calamity on an unsuspecting public. (7/8/99)

McRea Viognier Columbia Valley 1997 (Swedes Invade): Pale straw-lemon color. Ooh, a lush, creamy nose, slighty honeyed, floral and lemon-waxy smelling, almost gewürzy-lush but with no gewürz character. Tangy lemon-floral fruit, big, waxy and thick in the mouth, but a bit soft and limpid, and finishes a bit abruptly. What is it? I have absolutely no idea, and I don't hear any other guesses, either. (3/24/00)

Andre Perret Condrieu Coteaux de Chery 1996 (MoJoe): Muted yellow tropical-floral smellies insinuate themselves into my nose, waxy gardenia, pineapple, with an underlying minerality. I confess to having more trouble pinning viognier down than I do most other grape varieties (groslot and savagnin also tend to evade me), and this time is no exception. After the initial perfumed rush, a pleasant spinal rockiness emerges. A few years of age seem to have muted the bright flowerality, but the wine still seems to have the borderline slatternly impulse to wield that like cheap perfume. It's a flavorful, mouthcoating wine that seems outsized at first but soon slims; it's only when it relaxes and the minerality surfaces in the middle that a kind of calm grace is achieved. The finish is brief but satisfying, all stones no perfume. It's a mysterious glass of wine that has me frowning and muttering small exclamatory phrases to myself for a good twenty minutes, but when I've found its center I like what I see. Three and a half relatively small Prongs tied up in those purple velvet drawstring bags that Crown Royal whiskey comes in and set in a dark corner behind the bar under a nostalgia print of Carmen Miranda. (9/23/02)

Terre Rouge Viognier Shenendoah Valley 1998 (Prodigal Hawaiians): (Callahan takes a whiff of this and exclaims "Ah! Winemaking aromas!") Very peculiar candied nose--if they ever made a pineapple-flavored cotton candy, this is what it would smell like. Tastes like it smells--candy-fruity, creamy-pineappley and florid, with a touch of sweetness and a real good alcohol burn by way of a finish. (1/12/00)

Eric Texier Viognier VdT 1999 ($9)(Prodigal Hawaiians): The new Turning Leaf-style label throws me for a moment, but I shake it off; it's a pale wine that seems to have a light pinkish cast to it. Have I just gotten some stray red in my glass? Hm. Anyway, it's very quiet, lightly aromatic, stony, with light tropical and floral hints, banana, apple candy, white flowers. Rather quiet in the mouth as well, with pleasantly tangy yellow fruit, but it's rather neutral today and not saying much. (1/6/01)

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