Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Check out these DUBS!

Now that I'm not a regularly performing member of JohnStone, I suppose that I don't feel as shy about promoting a new record release. OK, I wasn't shy about doing so before, but all you musicians and artists out there, does it not always seem a wee bit awkward promoting your art? I mean, in an ideal world that's what the publicists, the marketers, and the labels are for, right? However, given the dual realities of the record industry's demise and the ability of social media to work for those who work it hard, why not work it hard, right? I mean, if someone as busy as ?uestlove can tweet throughout the day, any self respecting musician should at least aspire to do the same, right?

As many of you know, Tuesday is the official day for new album releases, whether it is at your local record shop or on iTunes. This Tuesday, I encourage you to check out Dub Confidence, the new release from my former bandmates. These are dub remixes of songs from the Innocent Children album the band released in 2007. If you're not familiar with dub reggae, look for largely instrumental versions of songs where the various components of a song are at turns emphasized, removed, and doused with healthy doses of reverb and delay.

You can check out snippets of the songs on iTunes or CDBaby. If you're so inclined, I'd love for anyone to help in one of the following ways:

A.) Listen to the music
B.) Tell friends about the music
C.) Buy the music
D.) Any combination of A,B, and C
E.) Extra credit! Review the record on Amazon, iTunes, and/or CDBaby.

Alright, that's it for now. But not for the week. For my twitter peeps out there, things may be getting a little more self promotional than usual. Consider yourselves forewarned.

Until the next time, good DUB to you and yours.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The job ain't that bad: More notes on old wines

When I'm not stocking, helping customers, tasting with suppliers, reading email offers, deleting email offers, crafting our very own email offers, or conducting staff tastings, I might be tasting through a line-up of curiosities from vintages past. A sampling of one such recent tasting:

1992 Etienne Sauzet Batard Montrachet

While I would argue that this particular wine does not make the case for long-term cellaring of your big, fancy white Burgundy, I had a tough time finding too much fault with it. It was not maderized or otherwise flawed. The nose was creamy, with ripe grapefruit, a hint of marzipan, maybe some botrytis? The palate also showed a creamy, citric quality, with moderate acidity and most impressively, a wonderful texture. A spicy, bitter honey inflected finish. It would be like an aged Auslese if only there had been more residual sugar, higher acidity and lower alcohol.

1986 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Napa Valley

This was showing terrifically. Red fruits, particularly cherries, with some savory and leafy qualities on the nose, opened up to a lovely palate that semed nearly delicate at this point. Unbeknownst to me, this bottling is not all from valley floor fruit, but rather has a significant chunk of Spring and Howell Mountain grapes in it.

1979 Chateau Palmer Margaux

A favorite from this vintage for many people, many think that the '79 Palmer was the best Bordeaux wine of the vintage, a year which was difficult and which favored the wines of Margaux. Aromatically it did not disappoint, showing a real spicy quality - sort of like a house made chipotle ketchup but more subtle and less sweet. Flavors were savory, with the fruit hanging in and the tannins fully resolved. Subtle, to be sure, but still showing plenty of interest and elegance at over 30 years of age.

1971 Chateau Coutet Sauternes

I don't have that much experience with older Sauternes. Drinking them young, though, holds no appeal for me. The wines conjure up an image of dissolving orange blossom honey and marmelade in sauvignon blanc, and blending by immersion. Climens is always the exception. I don't know why, it just is, I do like that wine. Anyway, this aged sauternes was not quite a revelation, but was really damn tasty. My notes read, "No spit wine." Exotic mango and guava flavors were balanced. The wine reminded me of a very good older Auslese for its texture and sense of balance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Deux Chinon from '02 and an unexpected pairing

I was craving cab franc. Not a usual wine craving for me in the summertime, more likely a Fall, winter and early Spring craving. That is when I'm more inclined to want to drink something substantial and a bit savory, but with the bright flavors and relative textural lightness where you know you are still in the Loire Valley. Seeing as I live in San Francisco, though, and that July as well as August can well offer many cool, autumnal nights, I caught the Chinon bug and decided to crack open a few.

The Chinons

2002 Philippe Alliet Chinon

A basic bottling from this producer, it was honestly clumsy. It was like an aging, out of shape athlete type of Chinon. The muscle had turned to fat, maybe there was a hint of stale cigarettes on its clothes. The wine was front loaded, with a clipped finish and some brett which was increasingly noticeable.

2002 Olga Raffault "Les Picasses" Chinon

I know, comparing a specific terroir such as this to a basic domaine bottling is not fair. Needless to say, this was the far more enjoyable and complex wine of the two. To my tastes, this is nearly perfectly balanced right now between fruit, acid, tannin structure and secondary development. The wine has silky Chinon texture, terrific fruit purity and real presence on the palate. Given that this bottle continued to develop and drink well over a few days, I would not hesitate to age and re-visit this wine several years from now (in fact I will likely do just that as I have a bottle left). However, it sure is drinking well now.

The Pairing

Ever try Chinon with pesto? While pesto with a crisp Italian white is the more often recommended choice, I found that the slightly herbal, leafy quality of the Raffault Les Picasses complemented the pungent, garlicky, herbal pesto, and provided enough acidity to refresh between forkfuls.

The Trivia

Chinon is also the name of a photographic lens manufacturer. They are supposed to be pretty good.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SF Natural Wine Week 8/23-8/28

SF Natural Wine week. Do it.

Many thanks to Wolfgang and co-organizer, Nattie Light (just dubbed him that, but I think it's a good nickname that might stick) for all their work putting this together.

For your convenience, I am copying and pasting the schedule of events from their site below:

Monday 8/23 – Terroir Natural Wine Merchant

Time: 6.30pm for the first seating; the second seating is at 9pm.
What: The boys at Terroir – one of the premier natural wine destinations in the US – are hosting a special dinner 3-course dinner with wine pairings in their shop/bar on Folsom Street.
Cost: $80
For more information, please contact Terroir at 415-558-9946

Tuesday 8/24 – Bi-Rite Market

Time: 7pm – 9pm
What: Bi-Rite’s wine buyer, Trac Le, will feature a selection of 6 – 8 everyday natural wine values, available for $20 and under. In other words, wines you can take home tonight for not a lot of money!
Where: Hosted at Bi-Rite’s 18 Reasons space at 593 Guerrero (at 18th St.)
Cost: $10 for members of 18 Reasons; $15 for non-members
For more information please contact Trac Le at Bi-Rite Market at 415-241-9760

Wednesday 8/25 - Biondivino

Time: 6pm – 8pm
What: Local italophile Queen Bee, Ceri Smith, will feature a selection of Italian natural wines at her intimate shop in lower Russian Hill.
For more information, including cost and specific wines being served, please contact Biondivino at 415-673-2320

Thursday 8/26 – Arlequin Wine Merchant

Time: 6pm-8pm
What: Ian Becker, wine director at Arelquin and Absinthe as well as the co-founder of SF Natural Wine Week, will host a walk around tasting featuring the innovative winemakers leading the way for natural wine in California.
Cost: $20
For more information, please contact Arlequin Wine Merchant at 415-863-1104

Friday 8/27 – San Francisco Wine Trading Company

Time: 5:30pm-7:30pm
What: One of San Francisco’s top independent retailers and bastion of fine wine in the fog-bound western half of the city, the San Francisco Wine Trading Company will present natural wines from Europe and North America. Featured producers include La Grange Tiphaine, Occhipinti, Maestro Sierra, Luis Rodriguez, Stave 28 and County Line.
Cost: $15 (including appetizers)
For more information please contact San Francisco Wine Trading Company at 415-731-6222

Saturday 8/28 – The Jug Shop

What: The lovely Floribeth Schumacher will host a tasting of her favorite natural white wines from Italy — mostly Friuli, but also other Italian wine regions. Of course ‘white’ is relative here; expect a few of these to be orange wines.
Time: Afternoon
Cost: $25
Please contact the Jug Shop directly to confirm the exact time of the tasting.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long time, no beer post

As the title suggests, it's been a while since I have discussed beer - at least on this site. As we recently received in (and very quickly sold through) our allocation of some lambics and geuze from Cantillon, and as I anticipated the usual run on them by purchasing two of each (one for now, one for the cellar) I thought that it would be an opportune time to write about these fantastic, peerless beers of the sour style. If you are not familiar with sour beer, their home base is in Belgium and Flanders - though they are so popular now that most countries with a serious craft brewing scene produce at least a few examples. Lambics and geuze beers consist of water, hops, barley, wheat, and often times a single variety of fruit. They ferment spontaneously with native yeasts as well as bacteria such as Brettanomyces. After fermentation, they are typically aged for at least a year in used oak barrels and then refermented in the bottle. Lambics are from a single batch. Geuze is a blend of 1,2 and 3 year old lambics blended for their distinctive flavor components.

From my experience, Cantillon makes the tastiest, most balanced and elegant geuze and lambic beers. Below are some quick notes for the Cantillon beers I drank last week.

Cantillon Geuze

Crisp, tangy sour apricot flavors with some subtle Brett characteristics. Refreshing in a tough to pinpoint way, this is sneakily complex as well. I like to serve it in a white wine glass, just as I prefer to drink champagne.

2007 Cantillon Iris

Whereas the Geuze above is a blend of different lambics, this is a single lambic brew. There is no wheat in this one, just barley, water and a 50-50 blend of dry and fresh hops. As a result, the beer has a darker, more amber color. Its aromas and flavors are more burnished, with a bit of sour, but less fizz and deeper, bassier tones than the geuze. In a seriously high quality line-up, this might be my favorite
of the bunch.

Cantillon Kriek

Spicy, tart, complex and deeply satisfying. The essence of fermented cherries as only a lambic can manifest. I find a tough time describing how good this is without employing profane language....

Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus

This is usually the most challenging of Cantillon fruit lambics. It can be really sour. This batch, however, is mouthwateringly delicious in a way similar to the Kriek above. Rasberry flavors are pure and evocative of the fruit. Elegant and addictive.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Drinking Notes - Geeky Italian edition

I drank a good amount last week (maybe too much?) But this is an important part of acquiring wine knowledge, drinking. An obvious point, perhaps, but plenty of people, even professionals, could stand the occasional reminder. To the aspiring oenophile, I offer you some words of advice: Engage in some regular exercise, eat a sensible diet, drink lots of water, and you should be ok drinking a few glasses of wine on a nightly basis. OK, last week there were a few nights where I had a few more than a few, but sometimes things need to go down that way. It's the natural ebb and flow of the wine drinker's drinking.

Some wines drunk last week with brief notes:

2006 Tenute Dettori Vermention

Wonderful freshness, texture and pungent fennel snap make this 2 day skin macerated, hazy yellow white a must order at La Ciccia.

2004 Tenute Dettori "Dettori" Cannonau di Bade Nigolosu

Co-owner Massimiliano Conti generously opened a bottle and gave us a taste. A friendly gesture to be sure (it's not cheap). 16.5% alcohol old vine cannonau. Not shy. Likely a one off for me.

2001 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Showing well initially, with deep, structured dark fruits and some Brett. As the wine opened up, it showed an ever increasing proportion of brett, and monster tannins. Fun for an hour, shut down city the rest of the night. NCAA hoop fans, remember the heyday of Dicky V? As he might say, "Shut down city, baby!"

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Freisa

As good as a wine can taste at 3am after a day of work, a big dinner, and lots of wine preceding it. Ask Wolfgang for a real tasting note on this piemontese classic.

1979 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino

Still hanging in there. This wine was, amazingly, made from 7 year young sangiovese vines. '79 is not as well regarded as '78 for old Brunello, but this is hanging in more than fine. Wonderfully perfumed, with elegant savory cherry fruit, some subtle barnyard savory funk, and a bit of a creamy, lactic quality in the particular bottle I drank. I meant to have it with meat, but as we had a later reservation we just got too stuffed to go any further. Weak, I know. The well respected, currently on wine internet hiatus GG on this wine, "It tastes like old fucking wine."

2003 Marques de Murrieta "Capellanía" Rioja

Is there anything that old vine viura cannot do? This is hot vintage, estate grown viura from very calcareous soils on the Murrieta property. The wine is fermented and then aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Think of this as a slightly riper, richer, oakier LdH Viña Gravonia. What it lacks in Gravonia's understated grace and silken texture it more than makes up for with great intensity, freshness and acid driven structure. [Pause for the pimpin' cause: at the shop we sell this wine for $15, order it if you're intrigued].

1999 Lopez de Heredia "Viña Gravonia" Crianza Rioja

Somehow this wine is eminently drinkable, serious enough to analyze while sipping, and great with a variety of foods. A most complete package.

2006 Pedralonga Do Umia

High acid blend of caiño, espadeira and mencía dazzles the Spanish wine haters with beautiful, spicy, floral aromas, 12% alcohol and high acidity, a smidgeon of it volatile.

Old Overholt Rye Whiskey

"Old overalls" as I have heard it called is a classic San Francisco rye whiskey. I do not advise drinking this after Mount Gay and ginger ale drinks and Boont lager.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tasting Notes - Some Dunn, lots of Spanish

Here we go, another batch of tasting notes for your reading pleasure.


2009 Montebuena Rioja

Fresh, unoaked tempranillo, to me, is rarely an interesting wine. Neither is this, but it is certainly easy to drink and tastes of its place. It's $10, you know? A wine that if you are on my employer's email list you will likely hear about today....

2008 Volver Tempranillo La Mancha

Purely a commercial prospect, this is wine I would not personally enjoy drinking. However, given the sweet-ish, Taransaud laced ripe La Mancha flavor profile, there is a place for this wine amongst my customers, so yeah - I bought it. Sometimes there are buying decisions that I make with the end customer and our bottom line in mind more than my inclination to drink a wine. Most buyers work that way, and though it is not coming from an aesthetically pure place, such is life in the great big online wine retailer game. Don't worry, we still have rueda dorado, traditional rioja, sans soufre macabeu and Canary Island wine for your drinking pleasure (and mine).

2008 Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas

I do not want to rush to judgement for what is typically amongst my 2 or 3 favorite albariños each year, but this tastes uncharacteristically ripe and lacking in minerality this year. Simple golden stone fruit. In its current state, a huge disappointment. Let's see where it's at in 4-6 months.

2007 Benito Santos Viñedo de Xoan Rias Baixas Albariño

Terrific wine. Todd Blomberg, a San Francisco native, is a partner in this winery, which takes its name from the original owner and one of the early pioneers in the Rias Baixas D.O., Benito Santos. This vineyard, a mere .5 hectares, is farmed organically. Vines here are old, about 80 years I believe, and they grow in granite soils which are so typical here. There is a density, and flavor intensity that reminds me of dry chenin blanc. Plump and generous but mineral, full of fruit yet bolstered by good acid structure. No fru-fru, simple, flabby albariño here.

2006 Benito Santos Viñedo de Bemil Rias Baixas Albariño

Another fantastic example from a separate 80 year old vineyard, this one containing limestone. The structure here is a bit more tense. The acid bites more, in a good way though. I love the minerality, deeply intense flavors and length of this wine. Could age and improve longer for sure.

2008 Ferreira Soalheiro Alvarinho "Primeiras Vinhas" Vinho Verde

The formerly cool, edgy, tense, tangy green fruit profile has opened up considerably since I last tasted a few months ago. It is slightly tropical, in a totally acceptable, structured way. The fruit is intense and persisent. Very interesting alvarinho.

2007 Pedralonga "Barrica" Albariño Rias Baixas

I have never found an oaked albariño I liked. Until now. Somehow, the elevage here does not take away from the amazing acid and mineral structure. If anything, it contributes some subtle nuance of flavor and sweetness, adding a component which blends quite well with the intense, steely acids and minerals. I like to think of some white wines (often times my favorites) as having big, mouthfilling acidity. Savagnin, menu pineau, Chenin, sauvignon grown in Mont Damnes...stuff like that, you know? This wine has got a similar acidity and somehow the oak does not mess it up.

2007 Mengoba Godello y Doña Blanca "Sobre Lias" Bierzo

I am still not a full fledged godello believer. I've seen some interesting wines such as this, but they just get a bit too creamy and soft after some bottle age for my taste. 6-7 months with weekly battonage can have that effect. The acidity is here, but not as present or dominant as I prefer. I have heard the comparison that some people make to Muscadet for these wines, and I think that perhaps for the cooler climate godellos there is something to that comparison. I'm just not sure if the best wines have as much drive and ability to transform in bottle as their Atlantic climate French counterparts in the pays nantais.


I have a lot of respect for what the Dunn family, with Randy's son Mike now at the helm, have accomplished and continue to achieve with their wines up on Howell Mountain. Their wines have been known to age extremely well, given their tense, tannin driven structures in their youth (structures which, for cabernet based wine, also are not shy in acid). Dunn is old school Napa, anti cult cab, critical of the critics, and proud to be that way. These are folks with whom I would be inclined to roll, so to speak.

2006 Dunn Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

I liked this a lot. Very promising black fruited nose, with the sort of tensely knitted balance which these young wines are known for. I have not much experience with older Dunn wines, and would be curious as to how the Napa bottlings age compared with those from Howell Mountain.

2006 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Like the wine above, but with more intensity to the darker fruits, more richness. The wine has a denser core to it. I could see drinking the first wine with a steak, whereas I would definitely hold off on drinking this wine for at least 5 years, but ideally for much, much longer. Maybe Dunn wines have a shutdown period, as well? That should be taken into account for cellaring and drinking purposes.

2004 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

For some reason, this wine showed a rather soft, precocious quality which seems at odds with the winery's reputation for producing hard, tannic wines which need a long time to become drinkable. Black cherry fruits dominate here, and though the wine is still primary it shows well enough to enjoy now if you like a youthful, fruit dominated wine.

2002 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Here is where the questions arise and some doubts began to surface in my mind. There is a weird, band-aidy flavor in the wine, and a certain volatile quality aromatically. I would be curious to see if this is a widespread issue with this vintage.

1998 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Just as I was taking in the rather large stamp which Brettanomyces has imprinted on this wine, Mike was mentioning how the wine has transformed and become a wine that people really enjoy, regardless of the panning of the 1998 vintage amongst wine critics. I have had good wines from this vintage and enjoy that the wines are typically more elegant and balanced than usual. Montelena, for example, made a very good estate Cab in 1998. With this wine, or at least this bottle, however, there is just too much Brett for even my taste. More barnyard like and fecal Brett than savory and meaty Brett. My understanding of Brett in wine is that, over time, it will not go away with extended bottle aging.

So, I guess you can say that the Dunn tasting raised more questions than it provided answers. For a variety of reasons (chief amongst them time constraint and no prior contact with Mike Dunn), I did not get into any of these questions. By the way, I have no problem with a winery producing some wines that (at least for my palate) miss every now and then. But I would love to hear from anyone who has more experience with Dunn than I do. Maybe I had some bad luck with individual bottles, or maybe I just need someone to school me and tell me to shut my pie hole.

Next up, my preferred variety of notes, drinking notes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes from New World (part 2): Waiting for Weinert, or what's wrong with Argentine wine

I taste Malbec every week. EVERY WEEK. While some people may view this to be cool or fun, are maybe even a bit envious, let me assure you that this is not my idea of a good time. It is not one of my favorite responsibilities of the J-O.

Argentina boasts abundant sunshine and cheap land - even planted acreage is comparably cheap. As a result, foreigners spend lots of time here. They may hail from Napa, Bordeaux, Tuscany or elsewhere, but ultimately what these wine industry and entrepreneurial types are invariably looking for is a piece of the growing Argentine wine export market. To do this, they all suggest similar means to reach the same result: overly fruity, extracted wine that tastes more like a room of new French barriques. While one may argue that these types of wines have infiltrated all over, from their epicenter in Napa and Bordeaux, to Tuscany, Piedmont, Rioja, even Greece, Argentina remains so disappointingly steadfast in its dependence on a single varietal, cultivated, harvested and vinified in similar ways. Please feel free to correct me if you believe I'm wrong here. However, tasting Argentine wine every week, this is my opinion. To prove me wrong, you will need to point me towards individual wines that are more than merely well made, fruit forward, intensely flavored wine from old vine fruit aged in Allier barrels.

One notable exception to my difficulty with Argentine wine would be Bodegas Weinert. These are unique wines. They are not aged in new barrique. Their wood foudres range in size from 600 to 2500 liters. Not a single new barrel is used; in fact, barrels are conditioned for 4 years with tannat prior to being used for their wines. Prior to their elevage in wood, these wines are fermented in concrete. There is acidity in these wines. Sometimes, a tiny portion of this acidity is volatile. Some brettanomyces makes the occasional appearance. All of this is fine by me, as these characteristics make Weinert wines some of the most unique and characterful in Argentina. You might call Weinert the Lopez de Heredia of Mendoza.

The same week which I tasted the Luigi Bosca wines (see my earlier pt. 1 post) I had the opportunity to taste through some Weinert wines.

2008 Bodega Weinert Carrascal Blanco

Composed of 70% sauvignon blanc and 30% chenin blanc. Sweet citrus and starfruit aromas lead to a fresh, zippy palate, with good texture as well. An original wine.

2005 Bodega Weinert Carrascal Red

A blend of malbec, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, aged two years in cask and another year in bottle. Savory dark cherry fruit shows a sunny, warmer climate generosity and richness, but does not veer towards sweetness or oaky wine flavored beverage status.

2004 Bodega Weinert Malbec

This is like a more intensely flavored, richer version of the wine above. A darker fruit profile and a shade oakier, but still nothing approaching Bordelaise consultant levels of oak here. Enjoyable enough, but as often is my experience with a producer's range of reds, I enjoy the cheaper one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Notes from New World (part 1): "F'd up"

Though I seldom write up wines from the New World (feel free to refer to the blog title if you're wondering why) I taste quite a few at work. In fact, in addition to my Spanish and Portuguese buying duties, I also help select the wines from Argentina and Chile. While they are not my favorite, peoples out there still like these wines quite a bit, and it is important that I cull through the oceans of swill to determine the best from the rest. Due to, um, let's just call it uniformity of product, this is not an easy job. I was going through my notebook, looking for anything of interest, and I believe that I found a nice contrasting morning of two tasting appointments. We will start this two part series with some quick notes I took on the wines of Luigi Bosca.

2006 Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir Mendoza

Baked and f'd up.

2007 Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir Mendoza

Plum, dark fruit. Not much wine or pinot noir character here. F'd up.

2006 Luigi Bosca Gala 2 Mendoza

Nose - sweet dark fruit, a bit greenish. OAK.
Palate - ripe, tastes forced. F'd up.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tasting Notes and Drinking Notes

Here are some wines tasted and drunk recently. Drinking notes always provide a better sense of the wine, but most of these are tasting notes as that is how I am exposed to the vast majority of wines, with a quick 1 oz nose, swash around and spit.


2008 JM Brocard Chablis Vieilles Vignes

Produced from estate fruit grown in a vineyard planted in 1946, this Chablis is a big step up in concentration, minerality and interest from the basic Brocard Chablis. For $5 more this is undoubtedly worth the extra cost. Good weight and ripeness for a basic Chablis bottling, while not sacrificing the cut, minerality and acidity you should get in the region's better wines, particularly from a spectacular (some would say best in a quarter century) vintage. While I tasted 08 Montee de Tonnere, Les Clos and Bougros from Brocard, it is this bottling that stands out for its value and deliciousness. Apparently this is what the Brocard family drinks most often. Out of magnum, of course.

2008 Jean-Marc Vincent Auxey Duresse "Les Hauts"

Holy shit, this took me by surprise. I tasted this immediately after the aforementioned Chablis and prior to a Meursault 1er cru. This is another killer 08 white burg. Spicy citrus and a touch of new oak stand out on the nose, which is briny and sort of pickled, in a good way. All of the same qualities present themselves on the palate, with some delicate white flower qualities in the background. Serious wine.

2005 Poggiarellino Brunello di Montalcino

As always, this is a direct import where I work (consider that the disclosure). Nonetheless, this is one of the few Brunelli I enjoy tasting, at least at this young age. Instead of the ripeness, toasty barrique, and overtly fruity quality, what you get here is smoke, savor, a touch of brett, and more of a traditional sensibility. A bit rough and tumble, rugged and rough, but it's wine with grit, good acid, and a likelihood of developing well in bottle for at least a decade.

2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico

This shows the softness and elegance of 2007 in Tuscany. Pretty dark plum and cherry aromas lead to a wonderful palate. Fresh, mineral, pure berry flavors and a touch of sangio savor.

2007 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino

Another DI. Just to balance out the coverage here, I'm including this wine because I don't dig it. This wine, how to say...I'm not feelin' it so much. OK...I hate this wine. Ripe cherry fruit and wood, a whole lot of it. As anonymous as a Rosso di Montalcino could ever be.

2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco "Pora"

I love this wine. Intense mixed berry aromas with an elegant, feminine, mineral and acid driven structure. But still not lacking in fruit - I could drink this now and likely will after shelling out for a handful of bottles. If you like Italian wine, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend $55.

2000 Lanessan Haut Medoc

Lanessan is one of the few more traditionally structured Bordeaux that I know. They are generally seen as being classed growth quality, but since the chateau missed the 1855 classification it is a cru bourgeois. This wine is in a weird spot right now and I'm not sure that it will come out of it for the better. The bottle I tried was tough and lacking in fruit purity, with some dry tannins on the finish. I prefer the '99, '96 and '03.

1990 Chasse-Spleen Moulis-en-Medoc

The mostest in Moulis, Chasse-Spleen can be the quality of better class growths. This one, however, shows some dark fruit and not a whole lot of interest aromatically. Another tough wine from a well regarded, but more than occasionally tough vintage for present drinking.

1989 Chasse-Spleen Moulis-en-Medoc

Much better, with deep cherry aromatics and flavors, though the complexity was not what I remember in this wine the last time I tasted it three years ago.


2009 Mancini Vermentino di Gallura

Initially disappointing, this wine showed a riper, fruitier quality than I like. Minimal mineral or acid. However, with some fridge time, the wine's structure tightened up and revealed more acidity, minerality, and the sappy, herbal, slightly piney quality that vermentino is known for.

2009 Quinta do Feital "Auratus" Vinho Verde

This wine showed the opposite progression from the vermentino. I had the opportunity to drink them both side by side last night, which was a fun study in comparative wine drinking (this is like comp lit but easier). While this vinho verde came out the gate with golden stone fruits leaping out the glass, and a similarly delicious quality on the palate, with just a hint of CO2 driven minerality, it did not last too well with extended fridge time. To be fair, though, this was subjected to at least a five day slumber in the work wine fridge before I remembered to take it home. At that point, though, much of the minerality and immediacy of the wine had softened, which made it seem simpler and riper.

2001 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Crianza Rioja

Though it was a bit too rich and plump to work with some roasted chicken and fried yuca, I have a feeling that this was partially due to my opening it immediately prior to dinner. We still drank most of the bottle, though, and as a result have neglected to follow its development over the week. If past experience holds, however, I suspec that this wine will still be drinkable (and possibly even interesting) a week after I opened it. I will be sure to try it tonight and report back.

2005 Edmond Vatan Sancerre "Clos de Neore"

Intense, ripe, slightly tropical and pungent. There is none of the herbaceous quality here, as I believe these types of flavors in Sancerre to be the outcome of larger yields, inferior producers, and cooler vintages (roughly in that order). This is such an intensely flavored, immovable wine right now. I had it in the fridge for a week and did not notice a whole lot of evolution. There is some minerality there but in a few words I would describe this wine, in its current state, as bright, pungent and chunky. Yes, the wine is a baby and I opened it young but I just couldn't hold back the temptation to try it. Fortunately I have another bottle to re-visit. In five years? Ten?

2008 Dashe Riesling "McFadden Farms" Potter Valley

I have to hand it to Mike Dashe. This Riesling is delicious, with bright yellow stone fruit flavors and a Kabinett level of residual sugar. A pure fruited, balanced, California riesling. Well done.

Well I will end there. Thanks for hanging in and making it through the TN's and DN's. I know they're not always the most exciting to read, but to me they still serve a purpose and hopefully you have found at least one or two interesting nuggets.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sugar Minott (May 25th 1956 - July 10th 2010)

As I'm getting some work done in a local coffee shop playing a reggae playlist, it's fitting that I finally post a long overdue obituary for Lincoln Barrington "Sugar" Minott, a legendary singer, producer, performer and promoter in the reggae world for four decades. To do so, I have supplemented my own knowledge of his career with some information taken from obituaries in The Guardian, The Gleaner and The New York Times.

Sugar Minott was underrated. A favorite amongst serious reggae fans, especially in the UK where he charted higher than anywhere else, and in Japan, where he popularized sound systems, the reggae convention of a selector (DJ) and DJ's (MC's) who chant over the music and collectively perform at parties and night clubs.

"Coxson (producer Clement Dodd) and Prince Buster, dem man deh a the king of sound system, U Roy a the king of deejay, him a the teacher," Minott said in a 2003 interview with The Gleaner.

"Mi gi dem man deh dem respect but as a man who start the new wave dancehall, nuh man nuh gi mi dem kinda reverence."

In other words, Minott agreed that he did not always get his due. His was a career that not only traced a good portion of reggae's evolution, from the charmingly low-fi R&B and jazz influenced Studio One recordings, to the smoother, more commercially oriented, danceable lovers rock, to early electronic synth based dancehall, and back to a hybrid of these latter two styles, but also helped to develop the careers of many other artists. Junior Reid, Tenor Saw, Tristan Palmer, Garnet Silk, Tony Rebel, Yami Bolo and many others were all mentored by and in some cases, produced by, Mr. Minott on his Black Roots label.

At the beginning of his career, Minott achieved moderate success with Tony Tuff and Derrick Howard as part of The African Brothers. After the group disbanded, Minott began recording for Sir Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, singing and playing guitar as well. Here he helped to give a boost to Studio One during a time when the studio's influence was waning, with his Live Loving and Showcase records.

After his brief Studio One stint, Minott focused on his Black Roots imprint, where he recorded his own records as well as those of young aspiring artists. On the two volume series, Hidden Treasures, New York City's Easy Star Records compiled a selection of some of these tracks hand selected by Minott himself. It is excellent.

I'll remember Sugar Minott as much for the memory of his smooth, breathy vocal delivery as for the positivity he projected, and of course for his famous smile, which according to reggae archivist and former publisher of The Beat, Roger Steffens, was "a hugely gap-toothed smile that you could drive a minibus through.”

We have no shortage of wonderful music to remember the man and his musical talent.