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Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 and Jackson Browne’s “These Days”

August 15, 2011 2 comments

I had only recently stumbled upon and found significant fascination in the Burgundy of Denis Mortet when I heard the news that he had taken his own life, early in 2006. It was his ’96-’98 Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques which first struck my palate’s interest. I had ordered but not yet received a parcel of his Gevrey Chambertin from the mid ‘90s and upon the news, I snapped up what else I could. To experience the wine of a deceased master is a glorious indulgence, finite and fleeting. It’s both a celebration of life and an acknowledgement of loss and of mortality, and I afford great respect to bottles from winemakers like Denis Mortet, David Lett (The Eyrie Vineyards), and Alois Kracher.

All that Nico, John Cale, Lou Reed, and Velvets en masse, that has been injected into my now through the grace of David Byrne Radio, got me seeking out other semi-related cool tracks. After pulling up Nico’s cover of These Days,” which was so artfully appropriated by Wes Anderson for the soundtrack of The Royal Tenenbaums, I found other thoughtful renditions of the same. While I knew that tune was originally by Jackson Browne, I didn’t know that he wrote it when he was 16, until he told me. Then YouTube informed me that Elliott Smith (2nd Tenenbaums soundtrack connection) also covered that track live, which thankfully some nerd posted, and I also came across a pretty and breathy version by St. Vincent. But as YouTube giveth, YouTube also taketh away. Apparently, the Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Nate Dogg, Alien Ant Farm, and Rascal Flatts have all recorded “songs” with the same title as (but otherwise unrelated to) the Jackson Browne classic, each one more soul crushingly worthless than the last.

The Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 is bright, though softening, translucent ruby in the glass, and there’s just a touch of sedimentary cloud to the color, but no signs of oxidation. The first waft is of an earthy, flirting with swampy, funk, though the latter begins to wane with air. The palate is of dry raspberry, subtle tart cherry, leather and ancient cigar tobacco. This is a refined medium-bodied pinot and there is a greater overall presence and depth here than has been found in other recent lithe ’97 Burgundies. As the swamp dries up, damp fall leaves remain, and an encompassing, but not overwhelming dryness approaches the palate. And the last glass is raised to the memory and fruits of a tormented master.

Deep into 2004 Napa Cab and Deeper into David Byrne Radio (part 2)

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

At the same time as the delightful ’04 Ruston Family Napa Cab, a Flying Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004 was opened. While these were sold to me as “made by consulting winemaker Denis Malbec (of Chateau Latour fame),” to the best of my research, 2006 was the first vintage Malbec actually had his hands on. That being said, it’s an interesting and attractive Cabernet Sauvignon, none the less.

David Byrne’s playlist is still having a Velvet Underground moment, which it turns out is due to the legendary Chelsea Hotel and its new owner who apparently has directed the property to no longer accept hotel reservations. Amidst speculation of what may become of the historic Hotel/apartment building, Byrne offers a brief history lesson on where the Velvets met the Heads, musically speaking. It’s worth listening, even if only for Nico’s nightmarish rendition of “The End” which make’s the Doors’ original sound like the opening act for Yo Gabba Gabba. I’m currently enjoying John Cale’s “Paris 1919” from his 1973 release of the same title.

Flying Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004 is deep, dark, and bordering on inky. The largely muted nose shows an unusual blend of chocolatey roasted espresso beans and crème de menthe. The last bottle from the same parcel was slightly oxidized, but only a touch, and was still quite drinkable. This one is a much better example of itself. The mouthfeel is brambly and then broadly dry on the long tapering finish with a faint recollection of mint. The palate shows deep red and black fruit, ash, and a touch of vanillin over a larger presence of glycerin. The prevalent tannin needs a little bit more bottle time to settle down, but given its weight and depth, it’s integrating nicely. This wine would be as comfortable accompanying a steak as it would a bold to creamy cheese selection, and it will only get better for the better part of another decade.

Deep into 2004 Napa Cab and Deeper into David Byrne Radio (part 1)

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Classic Napa.

Digging through a case of predominantly dry red half-bottles, I pull a Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004 and a Flying Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004. I have been a regular buyer and proponent of Ruston Family wines ever since stumbling across their Bordeaux-style flagship blend, La Maestra, from ’01 and ’02, releases I am still hoarding in multiple formats (which are aging quite nicely). Since they have only been making this wine for a little over a decade, it has been (and continues to be) especially interesting to follow its aging progress.

Serious juice, nice presentation.

I’m listening to David Byrne’s current playlist as streaming from his website. Byrne’s selections usually involve obscure, often instrumental, and more often than not, vocals in tongues other than English. But today, I seem to have caught dear David in the midst of a melancholy rock block of Nico. When I ducked in, it was “Valley of the Kings” playing, which makes thick textural chaos of its slow tempo, and features Nico’s signature haunting, accented, charmingly dour vocals that are now inseparable from the image of Margot Tenenbaum. Then came “Afraid” and “Chelsea Girls”, which I had little time to digest before being interrupted by a voice that could only be Lou Reed, in his post-Velvets solo years.

In general, Ruston produces small batch primarily Cabernet-based wines that tend to drink above their actual price point(s) and this Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004 is no different. This blend of 66% Rutherford fruit, 34% Oakville boast blackberry brandy, dry raspberry, cassis, damp fall earth, tobacco, and crushed nuts. There’s a fair amount of alcohol on the nose, but the palate is much more nuanced and refined. Tannin still looms large, but it is integrating well, and this wine has the structure to age well for a decade more. There is now a textural roundness that is so exemplary of good Rutherford Cab, once it has truly begun to settle into itself. Ruston Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2004 ($40) is a solid value per quality and is an ideal wine to accompany a properly seasoned steak.

Checking in with Old Friends: O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Rouge, and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

July 10, 2011 Leave a comment

An earnest beast.

I recently exhumed from storage 2 cases of pinot noir for tasting purposes, one vertical of O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir (’05, ’06, ’07) and a mixed case of Burgundy blends from some of my favorite labels including Meo-Camuzet, R. Chevillon, Claude Dugat, and Domaine Forey. I’m planning a proper vertical tasting of the O’Reilly’s, for which I’ll likely dig up an ’08 and ’09, for the half-decade run. O’Reilly’s is a lower cost pinot noir blend made up of declassified grapes sourced from the numerous significant vineyards from which Owen Roe crafts their fabulous Oregon wines. Recently, an O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir 2006 showed very nicely, but could still benefit from a couple of years nap. Further tasting notes after the vertical.

I’m listening to the pulsating beats and awesome urgency of David Byrne & Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. No matter how many times I hear this record, I always have to check the liner notes: yup, recorded in ’79 and ’80, released in 1981. The thick African-based beats, deliberate repetition, and haunting “found voices,” foreshadow almost all electronic and sample based music that came after. This stuff, all these years

A serious AOC villages blend.

later, is still quite stirring, most notably “America is Waiting” and “Jezebel Spirit” which play off of secular and religious aspects of American yearning. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts remains one of the most engaging pieces of music that has been recorded in the this country, during my lifetime.

The Meo-Camuzet Frere & Soeurs Bourgogne 2002 is much bigger than I would have expected from a nearly decade old introductory level pinot noir, even from a serious Burgundy house like Meo-Camuzet. Much like the 1996 Cote de Nuits, I’ve found the 2002s to be very slow to mature. This wine is a tannic monster and much of the detail is lost to the sheer weight of this juice, so in goes the vacu vin. Many big wines and most especially big dessert wines often fair much better, after being opened and then vacuum sealed for a day or more. A day later and another hour of air and the Meo-Camuzet Bourgogne is approachable, but still weighty. Red fruits have begun to emerge, countered by petrol, fresh mint and white pepper. The wine is nice, but the three remaining bottles are going back into temperature controlled storage for at least another couple of years.