Monday, April 23, 2007

Selected Tasting Notes, 4/22/07

I'm in the middle of completing a transaction for some Bi-Rite creamery Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream when the call comes.

Adam: Jason, we're going to go large at Hog Island today.
Jason: *deep breath* Alright. Let's do it.

So much for my well-intentioned sleepy Sunday. Not going to be lazily reading books at the park, or doing my required cardio. Nope. Instead, I'm going to look directly into Satan's lard-encrusted maw. Yay!

Later, when I meet Adam at the Ferry Plaza, he looks angrily at the box I have in tow - apparently I had been there long enough to blow a chunk of my paycheck at the Wine Merchant.

Adam: Now how can I justify buying a bunch of wine if it's not part of a movement? I'm already having buyer's remorse and I haven't got to buy anything yet.
Jason: It's all part of my plan to go hopelessly broke buying wine so I can claim it on my tax return.
Adam : That's not going to work.

We take two seats at the bar at Hog Island and Adam begins to detail how it's a pretty narrow selection for a supposed Oyster Specialist. He's not a native, but he's become a Bay Arean. Why, Zuni Cafe has two dozen different oysters! Hog Island offers FIVE! Zuni, in a word, is badass.

2004 Didier Dageneau "Silex", Pouilly-Fume, Loire Valley, France

This wine was appropriate. I kept wanting to have some sort of detuned hypnotic cosmo-epiphany but the wine was just perfectly matched to the oysters. Just kept the glasses full, and portioned some out to the bar manager with the covetous eyes. He needs to know...for career research...of course. I even tried pouring it onto a HI Sweetwater in lieu of lemon or mignonette. For future reference, not necessary at all. The alcohol creates a weird diesel-y taste. Better to alternate between oyster and wine. Minerals, a lick of lemonade (the french kind, not ours) and a fair amount of heft in terms of palate weight. I don't think I would pay retail for this wine, for what it's worth. I could be just as happy with a Brocard Chablis or a lesser Pouilly-Fuisse. 36 oysters later, no sign of tainted seafood (despite an unsettling interlude where all of the staff were smelling a plate of oysters for freshness followed by a round of shrugs), and a glass of Silex left in the bottle as thanks for taking the corkage off my tab. Still no sign of the bottom of the abyss, so Adam and I resolve to move more briskly.

Adam: I want to buy a white Burgundy, and maybe a mid-weight red, but stronger than a Burgundy.
Jason to FPWM employee: Please sell my friend a bottle of Chablis and a Northern Rhone.
FPWM: *blinks* Ok.

SETTING: In Cole Valley. Outside, med-students and hippies with a bad sense of direction mill around enjoying the sun and enjoying being seen. Adam and I enter Say Cheese, a small local foodie shop where they know us as the guys with four days beard growth and a lack of dignity.

Jason (to Mike): Mike, I want to purchase foodstuffs that are disgustingly tasty, bad for you, or soon to be outlawed.
(there are some laughs from other customers)
Adam: I really want to get...
Jason: The stinkiest washed-rind cheese they have?
Adam: Yeah.
Jason: I know, Adam. I know you do.

2004 Hope and Grace Pinot Noir, "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard", Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Bought this on recommendation. It was hot and tasted like strawberry jam. Even when I drank after combining the washed rind cheese and the duck liver mousse, it was still hot and simple. If that doesn't work, I don't know what could. It cost me $36. Wouldn't buy this again. I kept drinking, but each sip was followed by dragon-breath. That hot, evaporating sensation. I like to think that the reason my insides hurt today is this wine. Hope and Grace and Kidney Failure.

2004 Moshin Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Molinari Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California

This was light, well-balanced and delicious. Beautiful raspberry and cherry fruit, bright, tangy acidity, and silky, soft tannins. Great find and a great value - about $25. At one point, Adam sprang to his feet, snatched the bottle and drank half the contents in one guzzle before bellowing. Which left him completely vulnerable to a strike to the solar plexus. You can't let a man get too high off his own power. He needs to be tempered. You let Adam get too many crazy juices in his head and he's prone to do something stupid, like kidnapping. I like to think this is how wine critics operated back in the Dark Ages. I give this wine four stars out of five. It paired nicely with mixed olives, truffle mousse, Red Hawk cheese and rilletes du perigord. Not so good with the hot coppa. I intend to purchase this for the store.

2004 Chablis (producer not remembered), 1er Cru "Vaillons"

I was pretty out of my head by this point. Everyone else seemed to agree this was a very pretty wine, but I just remembered that it was very refined, liquid stone and light fruits. Its delicacy was completely ignored. It stirred in me a desire to eat more oysters, but some pre-conscious brainstem instinct warned me to quit while I was ahead. I spent the next two hours talking to Johnson about life (he's a skilled conversationalist) and then packed up and went home.

This morning I awoke in great pain. All in the name of career research. I suffer so that you might drink well.

Your humble servant,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

2005 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

If you want to test the mettle of any wine geek you have the pleasure of knowing (and I may humbly submit that it is a pleasure), just ask them about the 2005 Vintage in the Mosel. You might see a small, knowing smile appear in one corner of their mouth, no doubt acompanied by a un-restrainable giggle usually reserved for five year olds who have been given the keys to Lego-land. And mention, "Zeltinger Sonnenuhr" and the giggle turns into a nervous laugh that tells you that they are having naughty wine-related thoughts and they are glad you can't peer into their soul. Or at least they hope you can't. You can't, can you? If so, don't ask me these questions. I said don't look at me!

Ahem....What was I saying? Ah yes, back to Selbach-Oster's Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese offering from 2005. If we were in Burgundy, this would be the Premier Grand Cru offering from one of the top vintages in the last twenty years. Mosel Rieslings are known for their depth of minerality and their brilliant acidity, and Johannes Selbach has melded them with an almost surreal alchemists brilliance. This is a wine that you want to find a flaw with. The reputation that preceeds it is so glowing that you want to find a chink in the armour. But you can't. If this wine were a Super Model, he or she would donate their earnings to charity, teach underprivileged children to read, adopt wayward puppies, and get out of bed in the morning looking like they just fell off a magazine cover all while being nominated for three Oscar categories, one of them being best original screenplay. You want to resent them, but they are just so pure and good, that you can't help yourself in lavishing praise on them, even if it makes you a little uncomfortable to do so with such conviction and vigor. Get over it. Self-hatred has no place in the Riesling world. We are hedonists! This pleasure should be scooped up with both hands and slathered over our naked torsos. TMI?

So you stick your nose in the glass and inhale its alluring aromas of lime, green apple, pear and crème brûlée. Then you let the nectar impregnate its flavors on your tongue and wonder, how can wine taste this good? You have completely forgotten about finding flaw, because you want another chance at rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. You are now officially wine papparazzi! I see a court ordered 100 foot buffer zone in your very near future. Something in your subconscious is screaming at you, "How can I get more of this?" You thank God that your local wine shop offers case discounts and that this isn't a NET item because this is a wine that you will want to check in on over the next twenty years. But I dare you to make it very far into 2009 with more than one bottle in your cellar. Go ahead, prove me wrong. I double dog dare you...

2006 Château de Ségriès Rosé, Tavel, France

2006 Château de Ségriès Rosé
Tavel, France

I’d advise any pastry chef to walk around a serene forest with this open bottle of Tavel, and a mint sprig. For inspiration- when thier culinary repertoire runs a little dry and all they can think of making is something boring and vanilla- but with vanillan. With it’s bright scent of rasberries, cream, and roses, it’d be enough to make me run home and whip up a tub of like artisan ice cream. Ici Ice Cream Shop, can you hear me? But before hitting my hand-cranked ice cream machine, I’d enjoy a glass or two of this Rosé in the same forest in which I was inspired, with a picnic lunch. Absolutely dry, Ségriés bright acidity can hold a candle to pâte maison on a red-checkered blanket.

Monday, April 16, 2007

05 Darnaud Crozes-Hermitage, Les Trois Chenes, Rhone Valley, France

It's much easier to fall in love with a wine when it can be enjoyed, understood and adored without someone else intruding into your right to form your own opinion. I let Jay and Gary chop it up about 05 Burgundy and set to the task of ignoring their voices, blocking out light, and generally setting myself up in a sensory deprivation state so I could drink the wine.

The color of one of those dark, crayola/pantone purples that are so flawless and pure that they look like a industrial pigment. It apparently comes from cold soaking, which draws out intensity of color. Gemlike ruby rim. But I don't care much for the color of the wine - I'm not to that kind of completist appreciation yet.

Mm. Like this. I love a wine that is ripe, extracted, dense and tastes nothing at all like fruit. It seems so healthy. Not only that, but when a wine tastes like something other that fruit, it gives wine in general a sort of validation and exotic attribute. It's all meat, gamy meat. An oscillating mass of pungency, with layers peeling off as you wait for the wine to disintegrate. Spicy, bloody, iodine/iron, and just skimming along the very bottom, a tiny bit of black plum and a sort of brushiness to it - you know, the generic dried herb sensation.

Really fine-tuned - I think I use this to mean the wine is not only balanced, but explicit about being designed and executed to that design. Wines that don't taste like they made themselves. It sticks to itself a bit, and while not a imperious mouthful, still very dense and crowded with flavor. Amazingly enough, full of lively acid, which strings the dark meaty flavors out into almost raspberryish tanginess as it finishes. The conclusion is that it's clean, velveteen/nubuck slick and leaves you longing for another chance to listen in.

I let Gary re-establish contact and he tells me it's been open for 2 days, and that Darnaud is a superstar. I'm not yet sure if Gary uses that as an empirical term or if it's his own personal slang. I get the sense that Jay feels a little overshadowed because he only dropped by with a 7-year-old closeout Chenin Blanc. They both get up to leave, Gary leaving a couple of burned CD's of acoustic guitar in excelsis (not him, but he plays as well). I buy 2 cases of the Crozes.