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Jean-Michel Guillon Bourgogne 2002 and Tom Petty’s Heartbreaking Soundtrack from She’s The One

July 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Once again, I’m dipping into the mixed case of Bourgogne rouge and I’m deep into the 2002s. Today’s is Jean-Michel Guillon Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2002. 100% Pinot Noir, as the label- and regional norm- attest, from the village of Gevrey Chambertin. Guillon produces a handful of reds from some important plots in and around Gevrey Chambertin and a smaller handful of whites of slightly more humble sourcing.

I’m listening to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ soundtrack from Ed Burns’ second film, She’s The One. While there has been an awesome amount of great music written, over the years, specifically for films, very little of it stands on its own as a record in the catalog of a specific artist the way that this one does for Petty. Besides the fact that half the tracks on the record remind me of the woman I used to live with back in Seattle, the songs coalesce in a way that made a decent movie aesthetically three dimensional. This record contains some of Petty’s prettiest song craft (“Angel Dream”), a great Blood on the Tracks breakup song (“Hope You Never”), and a remarkably well placed cover of Beck’s “Asshole” from his raw as hell One Foot in the Grave record.

Medium ruby to garnet in the glass, this Guillon Bourgogne 2002 opens with a near-typical Burgundy earthy funk, but with ruminations of briny sea air. The palate immediately delivers raspberry liqueur, dark tart cherry and cigar box. The wine is medium bodied with initially just a touch of effervescence to the texture, which blows off with some breathing time. The raspberry sweetness that exists and persists on the nose comes off much drier on the palate, leaving almost no sweetness on the tongue. This ’02 Guillon Bourgogne has good structure and length, but despite its intricate nose (for its pedigree), the palate is somewhat austere. It’s difficult to discern from the flavor and texture profiles here if this wine has time left to evolve or if the fruit will only thin out from here, on its way past its plateau. Perhaps we’ll revisit in a year or two.

Hot Nights in NYC: Rampolla Sammarco ’94 at Novita and Sex Mob Does Bond

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

A fitting label for a classic Italian red.

Amongst some of the finest, most consistent Italian food in New York, at Novita, I braved the $28 corkage fee and brought a bottle of Rampolla Sammarco 1994. Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco is the original bio-dynamic Super Tuscan, predating (1980) the much more hyped (and expensive) Ornellaia, both of whose vines reside deep in the heart of Chianti Classico, also next door to Sassicaia and Solaia. As far as I’m concerned Rampolla Sammarco is one of the classic Italian red wines and it has always felt like an Italian take on Bordeaux to me, encompassing a cabernet-based structure and a deeply earthy berry character.

I’m listening to Sex Mob Does Bond. Sex Mob is a New York based jazz quartet lead by Steven Bernstein and his slide trumpet. They don’t play together as often as they used to, largely because each of the band’s members is involved in so many other bands and projects, but when I first moved back to Brooklyn from Seattle, Sex Mob was regularly playing the midnight set at Tonic (RIP) for $5. I don’t believe I’ve since spent better entertainment dollars. Sex Mob does Bond is a collection of interpretations of John Barry’s legendary soundtrack work from the James Bond film series, taken to the jazz club level. The resulting record maintains both the power and subtlety of the original John Barry orchestral compositions while completely transforming the language by which they are conveyed, renewing the vitality of their spirit.

Work, work, work, all the time.

Rampolla Sammarco 1994 is rich with black and red fruits, ash, underbrush, pine needles, a dusting of white pepper, a hint of menthol, and wisp of chalkdust to the nose. There are also notes of overripe raspberry, tobacco, cedar, and after an hour+ of breathing time, smoked bacon emerges from the depths of the glass. The finishing mouthfeel is as dry as the Sahara. This ’94 Sammarco is far more integrated than a recent ’95 of the same, which is still a tannic monster, begging for several years more of cellaring. Conversely a recent ’93 Sammarco tasted 10 years older and was showing soft, powdery tannin, giving it that old cabernet (in a good way) feel. This ’94 Rampolla Sammarco displays fine integrated tannin, just hinting at approaching powdery. It is full and complex with excellent structure giving the impression that it has several good years left to evolve and likely adecade or more to live. This wine is ideal for roast lamb, braised beef, or a peppercorn fillet.

Pacific Northwest Daydreaming: Foris Port 2002 and Jimi Hendrix’ Stages

July 27, 2011 1 comment

And a pretty label too...

I’ve gone back into the mixed case of half-bottles and pulled to taste, Foris Port 2002. Foris is a high quality, low cost wine producer in Cave Junction, OR (Rogue Valley) whose first estate vines were planted in 1974. While it’s their unreasonably inexpensive per quality Rogue Valley Pinot Noir that has kept me coming back, I’ve also tasted and enjoyed several of their whites and stickies, and beyond Syrah and Cabernet Ports, they currently bottle a good number of different varietals (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, various Cab, etc.).

I’m listening to the Jimi Hendrix Stages Box Set which, in all my years of collecting live shows, both official releases and bootlegs, remains one of the greatest documents of American music of whose existence I am aware. Each of the 4 discs is a single set from ’67 (Stockholm), ’68 (Paris), ’69 (San Diego), and ’70 (Atlanta). Just a brief listen to these shows reminds one of just how good Jimi actually was and the recording quality here is about as high as it gets, given the era and circumstances. There is so much listening gold on these discs, but it’s hard not to give the nod to the ’67 disc as tops. Not only is it clear that Jimi’s sounds was already fully developed, but he was in the process of writing his best songs. On the Stockholm ’67 disc, when he shyly admits, before a glorious “Burning of the Midnight Lamp“, that he and the band had never before played that tune in front of people, one gets a tiny glimpse of the man’s sincerity and the joy he took in doing what he did.

The back tells several stories.

The 2002 Foris Port was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and spent 19 months in barrel. It was bottled at 18% alcohol and 8.5% residual sugar. The resulting port-style wine is aging quite well and, by the time of these notes this one had the advantage of a couple of days sealed by the Vacu Vin, after having been opened. The wine is aging beautifully and what was once (pleasantly) grapey at last taste is now more raisin and chocolate, though fruit still persists in the form of wild blackberry jam. Foris Port 2002 drinks almost unreasonably nicely for the price point yet the residual sugar and current mouthfeel lead me to believe this wine will continue to age with grace for the better part of the decade. If you are unfamiliar, do yourself a favor and pick up just about anything bearing the Foris name and taste a secret slice or Oregon.

Back to Bourgogne Rouge and (John Hartford’s) Back in the Good Old Days

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Back into the mixed case of 2000-2005 Bourgogne Rouge and next up for tasting is Domaine Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000. While this Bourgogne Rouge is Chevillon’s générique Pinot Noir, they are known primarily for their (Grand Cru quality) Premier Cru Nuits St Georges and I have been impressed especially with (and continue to hoard a few of) their Les St Georges and Les Cailles releases of vintages past. Those of the late ’90s were drinking beautifully at last tasting.

I’m listening to John Hartford’s “Back in the Good Old Days” from his 1971 landmark Aereo-Plain album. In that same year, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” appeared in Rolling Stone and John C. Lilly wrote Center of the Cyclone. Aereo-Plain marked the moment when the hippies met the hillbillies (none of whom cared to be drafted) and some pretty fantastic music ensued. Hartford’s band for Aereo-Plain included Vassar Clements, one of the most naturally gifted and accomplished bluegrass fiddle players that ever lived.

Back in the glass, the Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000 is deep ruby. There’s an earthy funk to the nose that’s heading toward animal, almost barnyard, but not heavy enough to obscure the soft red fruits, raspberry, and cherry. On the palate, those red fruits are joined by ripe black currant. There is an acidic structure to the finish that suggests that this wine will happily last another few years, properly cellared. These aged base line Burgundies continue to provide excellent drinking per dollar.

Gerard Bertrand, Where For Art Thou? and Tom Waits’ Wild Years

July 22, 2011 Leave a comment

This is how I came to review Gerard Bertrand Viognier 2010 today: Several years back, a friend returned from the south of France with one of the finest substances ever to pass my lips. The wine of power and poise in question was a Gerard Bertrand Le Viala 2001. I snapped up the few I could find back here in the states, but very little came into the country and I haven’t seen anything more recent that 2002 and can only assume they’re no longer exporting it. Other friends retrieved a 6-pack of the 2005 Le Viala (which had gotten expensive) directly from the winery a couple of years ago. I have since seen nothing available outside of France. Recently, at my local(est) wine shop, I saw and immediately purchased 4 red, 2 rose, and 1 white, all Gerard Bertrand, and all under $15.

Light, crisp, and inexpensive.

I’m listening to Tom WaitsThe Heart of Saturday Night (1974) and trying fathom just how many Marlboros were required to turned that voice into the one on Small Change (1976), which ground out “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” and “The Piano Has Been Drinking”. Granted, the grittiness of Waits’ vocal tone was often exaggerated for effect, but in his softest moments on “Drunk on the Moon” and “Heart of Saturday Night,” he’s more silk than sandpaper. Waits has been doing his own thing for a very long time at this point, and while a number of his more recent records have been largely noise projects, at the heart of it, he’s one of the greatest living storytellers, and he’s worn so many voices.

In the glass, the Gerard Bertrand Viognier 2010 is very pale gold and from first sip, the palate is soft and integrated, but its lively, palate cleansing, acidity gives it significant vitality. It’s ripe with pear, peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, and orange blossom. At its price point, this ’10 Gerard Bertrand Viognier is a top notch summer white that will pair well with most poultry, fish, pasta, and salads.

Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2007 and Rana’s Greatest Hits

July 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I enjoy both Whitcraft as a winemaker and Stolpman Vineyards for their fine syrah. I am more familiar with Witcraft for their pinot noir and recently, a nearly decade old Whitcraft Pinot Noir sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard showed quite favorably, at my table. So, when Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2007 came up on the boutique flash discount site Lot18, at the lowest available price in the country, I grabbed enough to qualify for free shipping. Speaking of which, Whitcraft Pinot Noir Bien Nacido 2007 is up on Lot18.com right now, expires soon.

Nice wine and a great label font.

I’m listening to Rana’s “Carbombed Again” from their Here in the USA album. Members of Rana are involved in multiple other bands and projects now, though they do occasionally still play together here in the NYC. About a decade ago, they were actively writing effective songs, rocking hard every time out, and packing a small circuit of local clubs. During the stripped down rock resurgence of that time which birthed the White Stripes and the Strokes, Rana seemed poised to get as big as they desired/deserved. Their best stuff like “Carbombed” and “Backstage Pass” sounded undeniably anthemic in their moment(s) and, as of today’s listening, they stand the brutal test of time, like champions.

Having sampled an assortment of  Stolpman syrah as expressed by the winemakers at Ojai, Arcadian, and at Stolpman Vineyards, I know that they grow world class grapes. This Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman 2007 is yet another worthy expression of said lovely fruit. It’s deep, dark, almost opaque red, heading toward black. Is Vamp still a color? The experience opens with a nose of smoked meat and morning fog. The palate is predominantly dry black raspberry and the mouthfeel is lush; it’s dense and brambly, but not biting. This is big, high alcohol (14.9%) syrah, that manages to stop short of brooding. It’s surprisingly integrated for a wine of it’s youth and build, but much of the palate is yet to evolve and it will most certainly benefit from another few years in the cellar, and will likely drink quite well for another decade.

Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone Vineyard 1998 and Cash by Johnny Cash

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

An American classic.

I’m at the bar again at Apiary, checking in with the menu updates and tasting some world class pinot noir. Before this post, Ken Wright Cellars was already officially the most reviewed wine label here on WineGeist and I make no apologies for it. Ken Wright is an artist and I dig his work. Most recently, I was floored by the experience of a Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone Vineyard 1998. Much pinot from that vintage in OR was a little off, and what was nice tended to age quickly. In this way, ’98 OR pinot is similar to the much maligned ’98 Cote de Nuits wines (Burgundy). Even in 1998 OR and Cotes de Nuits, as in all challenging vintages, great winemakers generally find a way to make nice wine.

I’ve been reading (finally) Cash, Johnny Cash’s eponymous autobiography. I’m very near the end and am already planning to pick up Cash’s previous autobiography, Man in Black, if only to get the 3 or 4 stories he says are in it, which he didn’t feel like retelling in the more recent book. Cash also penned Man in White, a novelization of six years in the life of St. Paul the Apostle, which will not likely make the reading cue anytime soon. But back to Cash, by Johnny Cash: like him or not as a musician, a performer, or a man, but there’s an undeniable honesty to his tales and there just aren’t that many people who have ever been able to tell first hand tales of touring with Elvis. It’s been a highly entertaining read.

Tasting notes at Apiary.

Back to the Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone ’98, which turns out to be far more comparable to 1996 Cote de Nuits, which will likely prove to be the longest lived vintage for that region, of the decade. But we’ll discuss that in another 7 years or so. The Ken Wright PN McCrone ’98 is shockingly fresh for its age and has a long backbone of firm acidity. This leads me to order the Scottish salmon (yes, red with fish!) with asparagus, shaved fennel, trout roe, and white port beurre blanc, which paired swimmingly. The initially somewhat muted nose shows wild raspberry, black cherry, and ash. These notes pass seamlessly into the palate where they mingle with damp fall earth and a suggestion of petrol. After over an hour of breathing, a hint of apple dryness blankets the mid-palate. This is a nuanced wine of excellent structure and concentration that is drinking beautifully at over a decade in bottle.

Riesling Throwdown: New York vs. Germany (and the Sloppy Heads!)

July 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently, I worked a tasting hosted by chef and wine educator Jacqueline Lombard. So, in a 34th floor financial district boardroom, over some fine small plates, we tasted a German Riesling and one from New York. We also tasted a Chinon (Loire Valley, France) Cab Franc against a New York Cab Franc/Merlot blend, but they were so young and overwrought with tannin that several of our guests couldn’t tell the difference. Besides, I’ll stand on a soapbox for CA 100% Merlot before I would offer this gesture towards 100% Cab Franc from NY. Riesling is native to Germany and was first brought to America in the middle of the 19th century. The Finger Lakes region of New York was one of the earliest US producers and Riesling has long been one of the few things New York has done right in regards to wine.

I’m listening to Brooklyn rockers the Sloppy Heads on a soundboard recording from their recent gig at Maxwell’s, Hoboken’s legendary rock club, and the only reason to go to New Jersey. So, the joke begins like this: A rock critic, a promoter, and a sexy redheaded Smurf walk into a bar. But the punch line is a sincere-as-it-gets Brooklyn garage rock act with enough lingering innocence to sound wholly human, while still rocking convincingly. I’m very much interested to see what comes next for and from the Sloppy Heads.

First up was the German, from the Nahe region: Jakob Schneider Riesling Kabinett 2009 (1L). The wine is as close to clear as a white can be, but the aromatic is nice, and the fruit on the palate is full yet gentle and could probably masquerade as a Gruner. It’s a Kabinett which is one level sweeter than bone-dry, but the sweetness seems more prevalent than that. Jakob Schneider Riesling Kabinett 2009 is floral and sweet with green apple and stone fruit. This is a very nice light, yet versatile Riesling for the money, particularly as it comes in 1 liter .

The challenger, from the Finger Lakes region of New York: Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2009. It’s pale gold w/ a slight green tinge, though next to the Schneider, it appears deeply yellow. This dry New York Riesling has a firmer acidity than its German counterpart and shows just a hint of effervescence that is typical to the region. Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2009 is light/medium bodied and displays pair, apricot, light citrus and subtle herbs. The crisp acidity makes this one of the food friendliest of wines, and it pairs well with a large range flavors.

Chanson Pere & Fils Bourgogne 2005 and Baez Does Dylan

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Still tasting through my mixed case of 2000-2005 Bourgogne Rouge (though the Labouré-Roi Pinot Noir from yesterday wasn’t technically a Burgundy). Next in line is Maison Chanson Bourgogne Pinot Noir from the much lauded 2005 (before the more lauded 2009) vintage. This wine is a blend fashioned from select vineyards of pinot noir from the slopes of Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits in Burgundy.

I’m listening to Joan Baez’ rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” from her Baez sings Dylan record. Like so many of Dylan’s songs, “Don’t Think Twice” has been covered and recorded by many others, but Baez’ is the most overwhelmingly heartbreaking I’ve yet heard. On its own, “Don’t Think Twice” is one of the great breakup songs of all time, from the male perspective. On top of this, Joan Baez is one of the truly tragic (living) characters of the ‘60s counterculture movement. Looking back it seems that she really believed that she and Bob would become the king and queen of the People’s Revolution Prom. The dichotomy between that moment and Dylan’s personal and artisic momentum can be seen quite apparently in parts of  Don’t Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker’s famous document of Dylan’s 1965 tour of Europe.

Chanson Pere & Fils Bourgogne 2005, in the glass, the wine is bright ruby w/ a slight purple hue toward the center. It’s light/medium bodied with prevalent raspberry and tart cherry. As the wine breathes and expands it shows some black licorice and white pepper. Chanson Pere & Fils Bourgogne 2005 is another nice, light(ish), food friendly pinot noir from a lower cost Burgundy producer, representing good drinking per dollar spent.

Labouré-Roi Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc 2010 and Childish Gambino

July 12, 2011 1 comment

A regal cap.

Continuing thoughts on low cost baseline Burgundy, I recently opened a brand spanking new Labouré-Roi Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc 2010. Vin de Pays simply means “country wine” which is a French designation a hair above table wine. Vin de Pays d’Oc is the largest area from which this classification of country wine hails: the LaguedocRoussillon area of Mediteranian France. I first became interested in Labouré-Roi as they bottle some of the most reasonably priced wines out of Nuits St Georges in Burgundy, a region of long-time fascination for my palate.

I’m Listening to some (free) Childish Gambino tracks which warms the heart that gave up on rap and hip hop a long time ago. The last good album of this genre that I reviewed was the first Black Eyed Peas record, which was long before Fergie, fashion, and pyrotechnics. Since then, only Brooklyn-based Masterminds have turned my ear, and they were never able to gain any mainstream traction. Childish Gambino is the rap persona of writer, comedian, and actor Donald Glover, who was the youngest writer on 30 Rock, but is best known as Troy on Community. While much of his flow pays homage to Lil Wayne (whose work I do not enjoy), Gambino employs a wit and a self-awareness that would make a real rough-neck’s head explode. He puts it best himself, “You used to have to act street and now you’ve got a choice.” Thanks for that, Donald.

Simple, but well made pinot.

At first waft, the Labouré-Roi Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc 2010 hits with sharp new wine alcohol in a way that feels like a light bourbon or a heavy red fruit liqueur, but that blows off in short order. Beneath is properly drinking medium/light bodied young pinot. The wine has solid structure, but modest depth and nice fruit, showing a palate sprinkled with cool- edge of the forest- earth, spring raspberries, and wild herbs. Oak takes over toward the finish, leaving a dry savory aftertaste. As with any young wine, 6 months in the bottle can only help, but for around ten bucks, this is fully palatable (food friendly) pinot noir today.