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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

"Short/Boring" - Some Miscellaneous Notes from January-June, 2008


    After the first '05 RedBurg I tried was terribly underwhelming at $36, I cracked this open:
    1. Plumpjack Syrah NapaVlly (15.8%) 2005: Very dark color; strong pungent/peppery/cold climate/smokey some roasted/Rhonish light toasty/oak some blueberry/Syrah somewhat complex nose; tart some roasted/Rhonish/pungent/toasty rather strong blueberry/Syrah bit tannic flavor; long rather roasted/Rhonish strong blueberry/Syrah bit toasty/oak/pungent finish w/ some tannins; needs 2-5 yrs; quite a lovely Rhonish Syrah. Fairly priced at $43.
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I picked up this wine ystrday simply because I'd not seen a Plumpjack Syrah before. I had very low expectations for this wine and just sorta assumed it would taste like just another NapaVlly Syrah made by a NapaVlly Cabernet producer. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was quite struck by the roasted/Rhonish character it displayed. The Plumpjack WebSite doesn't identify the source of the grapes but I'd have to guess it was Carneros Syrah and probably LasMadres vnyd. If it's up-valley Syrah..then I'm really impressed. Anyway..one of the better NapaVlly Syrahs I've had in sometime.

    Tried last Fri night for dinner:
    1. Havens Syrah Carneros (13.8%) 1995: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; strong pungent/blackberry/Syrah bit smokey/peppery/green olive/cold-climate some bretty/horsecollar rather perfumed/complex nose; tart some spicy/peppery/blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak bit bretty/horsecollar bit tannic/dried out somewhat complex flavor; long bit dried out/tannic/astringent rather bretty/horsecollar some blackberry/Syrah/peppery light toasty/oak finish; very attractive/interesting nose but starting to get a bit dried out/hard on the palate
    2. Dehlinger Syrah GoldRidgeVnyd/RRV (EB; 14.5%) 1995: Dark color w/ some bricking; attractive/complex pungent/graham cracker/oak some pungent/Rhonish slight reduced light blackberry/Syrah nose; tart complex/pungent/toasty/oak slight Burgundian/charred slight tannic light Syrah/blackberry flavor; long tart/Burgundian/charred/oak some pungent/smokey little Syrah finish w/ some tannins; a very interesting red that seems more Burgundian than Rhonish in character; starting to dry out a bit and should be drunk up.
    ___________________________________ ______
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Havens: MichaelHavens has made some rather impressive Syrahs over the yrs, but seems to fly below everyone's radar. He did a lot of the seminal work on co-pigmentation. I think this Syrah was about the first Syrahs from LeeHudson's vnyd, though not labeled as such. The brett level on this wine was pushing the limit a bit of what I like, but still it was a pretty good drink.
    2. Dehlinger: I've always like TomDehlinger's Syrahs over the yrs. Stylistically, they're a bit different than most Calif Syrahs. Sorta like a Syrah made by a Pinot producer...they bear much the same character as his Pinots, just a bit bigger. It's interesting how this Syrah at 13 yrs of age, shows a character of RedBurg than of a Rhone Syrah. Still, it's pretty tasty Syrah.

    Inspired by a thread asking why Steele wines were so good and reasonably priced, I tried:
    1. Steele OldVine Zin PaciniVnyd/MendocinoCnty (13.5%; http://www.SteeleWines.com) 2006: Dark color; strong blackberry/Zin rather Am.oak/vanilla slight spicy/earthy/dusty pleasant nose; huge legs at 13.5%??; soft rather strong vanilla/Am.oak some blackberry/Zin/spicy attractive/simple flavor; med. quite vanilla/oak slight dusty/old vines some blackberry/Zin lightly spicy finish w/ slight tannins; needs yr or two; a pleasant Mendo Zin w/ some dusty/old vines character and lots of Am.oak at an attractive price; $17.50
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I've followed JedSteele's wines from the very start. I first met Jed at a dinner party at DarrellCorti's in the mid-'70's when he was still a student at UC/Davis as I recall. At that time, DeronEdmeades had started his eponyimous wnry up in the AndersonVlly. The wines were pretty dreadful, very amateurish. In fact, for a number of yrs, when my group would encounter a bad wine, we'd call it an Edmeades or a Husch, a derogatory label for the wine.
    Fresh out of school, JedSteele became winemaker at Edmeades. What a turnaround that was. From about the '76 vintage, Jed turned out one stunning Zin after another from some of the old vnyds up on the MendocinoRidge...Pacini, Dupratt, Anzelotti. They were as good as any Zins being made in Calif then..Ridge, JoeSwan, DavidBruce, Montevina, HopKiln, Milano. He made some Pinots that were pretty terrific, back afore the AndersonVlly was known as capable of great Pinots. Moreover, he made some Cabs from MendocinoRidge grapes that were bottled under a CortiReserve label that were as good as any being made in Calif then. Who'd thunk...great Cab from the AndersonVlly??
    Jed left Edmeades around '80 or '81, to go to work for JessJackson, as I recall. Eventually, he left Jess to start his own Steele label there in LakeCnty. He made some pretty good Chards under his label, but I felt his red wines never measured up to what he made at Edmeades. Not even close. Over the intervening yrs, I've tasted Jed's wines from time to time. I'm always pretty underwhelmed. My feeling is that Jed has lost his passion for his craft and his day job has just become his...day job. I think his son is now more involved w/ the winemaking, so maybe something good will come from that.
    This '06 Pacini is, actually, pretty good Zin...better than I was expecting. At a more than fair price. There's no arguing that point. However...Pacini is a great/old vine vnyd. Jed knows how to make a great Zin..he's done it in the past. This wine could be one of the great Zins of Calif. Alas...it is not. Kinda sad I think.

    Tried this last night at dinner:
    1. Hamel Syrah AlegriaVnyd/RRV (14.4%; Vitis Allobrogica?) 1995: Very dark/black color w/ slight bricking; very strong spicy/peppery/blackberry/Syrah bit licorice/tarry light toasty/oak slight roasted/coffee lovely some complex nose w/ loads of Syrah fruit; soft quite lush/blackberry/Syrah lots of fruit slight toasty/licorice light roasted/coffee gentle/smooth/polished spicy/peppery some complex flavor; soft/smooth spicy/blackberry/Syrah/licorice light toasty/oak some complex finish w/ light tannins; a smooth/polished/ready to drink Syrah w/ lots of fruit left, especially for 13 yrs old.
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This wine was made by KevinHamel, long a highly regarded winemaker in the RRV for a number of wineries. I originally liked this wine because of its strong Rhonish/roasted character. That has faded into the background and is only a subtle reminder now.
    I haven't had any of Kevin's recent Syrahs for probably 5-6 yrs when he quit showing at HdR as it got so big.
    The Vitis Allobrogica? refers to an original suspecion that the VitisAllobrogica vine that the ancient Romans grew was the native Syrah that was brought back from the RhoneVlly. The origins of Syrah were identified (of course) by CaroleMeredith as a cross between Deureza and MondeuseBlanche and suspected to have developed up in the Savoie and made its way to the Rhone, where it found its true home...at least until its true home was later found to be SantaBarbaraCnty and SonomaCoast.

    As I started to brine my pork chops ystrday afternoon, I decided to go ahead & crack open the btl I'd been eyeing for a week now:
    1. EdmundsStJohn DurellVnyd SonomaVlly Syrah (14.4%) 1995: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; rather earthy/dusty some light cedary/pencilly/old-Zin-like rather tired nose; tart/hollow/tinny/metallic dusty/no fruit slight cedary/pencilly/old-Zin flavor; tart/lean/hard/metallic earthy/dusty hollow finish w/ some tannins; very disappointing; just another tired/dried-out relic from the TomHill archives. Score: 74

    I was expecting a lot from this wine and was totally disappointed. Not even a glimpse of its former glories. Better pour it down the drain and find something younger w/ more life.
    Pull out an EdStJ Calif Syrah '01 and stand it up to settle.

    So I go about finishing up my afternoon chores: out to slop the hogs, go feed the chickens, combine the ripening wheat out on the back 40, castrate a few sheep, code up a new rebalance scheme to accelerate the inner iterations, call up ParisHilton to share with her some new discoveries about the Higg's Boson and its impact on Western Civilization...all the normal things a Kansas guy does with his time.

    Came back in from chores, stuff the limeade-brined pork chops w/ rosemary gremalato and broil them in the oven & sit down to dine. Absentmindedly pour a glass of the:
    1. EdmundsStJohn DurellVnyd SonomaVlly Syrah (14.4%) 1995: Holy schmoley, this isn't the wine I tried three hrs ago. Very dark color w/ slight bricking; slight pencilly/cedary/old-Zin somewhat smokey/dusty/pungent rather green olive/quite Rhonish/some Graillot StJoseph-like perfumed slight blackberry/Syrah quite complex/Rhonish nose; tart rather pungent/green olive/licorice some Rhonish/roasted slight coffee/espresso/pungent very complex/Rhonish bit hard/dusty lovely flavor; med.long tart slight metallic/lean very complex green olive/Rhonish/roasted/espresso some earthy/dusty slight old-Zin/pencilly/dried-out finish w/ a slightly tannic bite; not a big/huge Syrah and starting to dry out but still a very attractive wine w/ a lot of Graillot-like/Rhonish character. Score: 90
    I was stunned by the difference in this wine. It went from a down-the-sink wine to something that was really good. Maybe a bit beyond its peak, but still a very pleasurable drink. Wound up drinking nearly 2/3'rds the btl it was soooo friggin' good.
    The next morning, the wine was somewhat murky/brown and totally shot; hard/tannic and hardly anything left.

    Tried this the other night from my latest ATP shipment:
    1. Ridge Calif PetiteSirah LyttonEstate (23% Zin; DryCreekVlly; 14.6%; Drk: 8/05-8/15-8/20) 2003: Black color; strong peppery/blackberry rather fragrant/toasty/oak some earthy bit tight/closed nose; rather hard/tannic/tight/closed some earthy/peppery/PS slight blackberry tart very structured flavor; very tannic/structuredlight toasty/oak some peppery/blackberry/PS tight/closed finish; needs much age. $30.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This is a pretty tight/hard/closed PS for a recent Ridge release and lacks some of the forward/lush character that some of their PSs show. It badly needs some age. I suspect, with 5-15 yrs, this will probably become another legendary Ridge PS. YorkCreek '71?? Probably not, but then you never know. Don't crack this for another few yrs. I'm going back for more. Was not impressed by it now, but am confident it's a keeper and will get a whole lot better.

    Tried this Sun night:
    1. Garretson Mourvedre HastingsRanch/RozetVnyd/PasoRobles TheGraosta (14.8%) 2003: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; lovely ripe/very plummy/licorice bit boysenberry light/toasty/oak classic Mourvedre slight PasoRobles/jammy big fruit nose; soft/ripe/jammy very plummy/Mourvedre/licorice very spicy/framboise bit alcoholic slight vanilla/oak flavor; soft long very plummy/licorice classic Calif Mourvedre light vanilla/oak finish w/ light tannins; loads of plummy/licorice/Mourvedre fruit; bit lacking in structure but very good drinking.
    A wee BP:
    1. Sometimes Mat's wines can be a little over-the-top and develop a bit strange. This one was no such thing. Big ripe Mourvedre fruit and probably at its peak.

    Tried this last night in my recent shipment from MissionWines:
    1. Matthiasson NapaVlly WhiteWine (SauvBlanc/RibollaGiallo/old vine Semillon; 13.6%; http://www.Matthiasson.com) 2006: Med.yellow color; beautiful figgy/floral/aromatic/perfumed slight spicy/nutmeg very light herbal/SauvBlanc nose; tart somewhat minerally ripe/figgy/floral quite spicy bit nutmeg rather complex flavor; very long ripe/floral/minerally quite perfumed/spicy finish; a really good drin king/interesting white; some like a Livermore Semillon, some like a Slovene Ribulla, some like a Savoie Roussanne. $35.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. My first experience w/ this producer. This is not the kind of wine I'd be at all tempted to try; but that DaveMcDonald at MissionWines in SouthPasadena is quite the enabler when it comes to my buying wine. His comment that it contained RibollaGiallo is what pushed me over the edge, since I'm a big fan of Friuli whites. The Ribolla give this wine a nice minerality that really lifts it above the pedistrian and the old vine Semillon gives it an added complexity. The SauvBlanc is very low key in this wine, giving it a slight herbaceousness. A very lovely white.

    Tried these two from the archives this week:
    5. Mayacamas CalifMtn Zin (15%; BaldinelliVnyd/ShenandoahVlly; Dry) 1973: Dark color; lovely/complex dusty very spicy/raspberry/blackberry/brambly light cedary/oak rather complex nose; tart ripe brambly/blackberry/AmadorZin very spicy light cedary/pencilly/cigar box beautiful/complex flavor; very long/lingering very spicy/blackberry/brambly/Zin light cedary/cigar box slight dusty/earthy fairly complex finish w/ very light tannins; just as young and fresh as if ir were only 5 yrs old; terrific mature Zin w/ plenty of fresh fruit.
    6. Mayacamas LateHrvst Zin (16%) 1974: Med.dark color w/ slight bricking; rather overripe/raisened/pruney bit alcoholic some cedary/pencilly/pungent/tarry/oak not particularly complex nose; off-dry slight herbal very ripe/boysenberry/Zin/grapey somewhat cedary/pungent/oak bit hot/alcoholic slight dusty/briary flavor; med.long very ripe/grapey/boysenberry/Zin somewhat cedary/tarry/oak/charred finish w/ little tannin; still lots of very ripe/grapey Zin fruit but not much complexity has developed over the yrs; just a bit on the overripe/dull side; a survivor for a LHZin
    and a mystery wine from JimFriar:
    17. CharlesLeFranc Special Harvest of 1978 SanBenitoCnty Zin Royale (13.7%; RS: 6.1%; TA: 0.77%; 2500 cs; SaH: 28.6%) P&B by AlmadenVnyds/SanJose 1978: Very dark/black color w/ some bricking; very strong/grapey/overripe/raisened/pruney slight blackberry almost PX-like nose; rather sweet bit metallic very ripe/overripe/grapey slight spicy/blackberry/Zin raisened/PX-like flavor; med.long very grapey/ovverripe/pruney/raisened/PX-like slight boysenberry/Zin finish w/ some tannins; hanging on pretty well for a LH but probably never going to be a great wine.
    ___________________________________ _____________________
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Mayacamas: Mayacamas made their first LateHrvst Zin in 1978, when the first of that genre showed up in Calif, including ones by DavidBruce and Ridge. It was made from NapaVlly grapes. Their next was the '72, where they went up to AmadorCnty/ShenandoahVlly and purchased grapes from Ed & Kay Baldinelli's vnyd. They had bought the former DicksonRanch there in 1972 and then started producing Zins & Cabernets a few yrs later. The original Zin vines were planted during Prohibition, but I believe the Baldinelli's planted the Cabernet. The vnyd was eventually sold to BillEaston. The VinoNoceto property is right adjacent. Ed & Kay lived down in Oakland, where Kay was in charge of the UC Benefits program. The vnyd manager was JohnMiller, who lived in a trailer there on the vnyd property.
    I had my last '72 LH some 5-6 yrs ago and it was in pretty shakey condition. The '73 was always a pretty tight/wirey wine in its youth, which is probably why it's in such terrific condition now at 35 yrs of age. The '74 is still holding on pretty well for a LH, but I don't think it's ever going to develop into anything profound.
    2. Almaden: It's hard to believe but Almaden once made some very good wines back in the '70's under their Charles LeFranc label (he being the founder, pre-Prohibition days, of Almaden). Winemaker was, as I recall, EdFriedrichs, who went on to fame & fortune starting the Georgia wine industry. Because of the modest alcohol level, this was an obvious stuck fermentation wine that the packaged up smartly in order to salvage the wine. Their CabernetPfeffer was one of my favorites.
    Back in the '70's, Almaden got a lot of small farmers to plant vnyds w/ the promise to buy their grapes for the rapidly expanding portfolio. Of course, they got into $$ trouble and reneged on the farmers, leaving us the benificary these days with lots of old-vine vnyds.
    SanBenitoCnty never gets the recognition they deserve as a premium wine-growing area. I've had some terrific wines back then from Enz and LimeKilnWnry. Some of the current wines from Flint and DeRose are still pretty good. And, of course, Calera is the flagship wnry for the area.

    We tried last night in our tasting:
    3. Ridge Calif Zin CoastRange (6% PS; 12.7%; Bttld: April'75; Drk: 4/75-4/76-4/77)
    1973: Light color w/ slight bricking; lovely cedary/pencilly/Am.oak/old Zin light
    raspberry/spicy slight earthy/dusty fairly complex nose; soft/smooth/gentle
    somewhat light/raspberry/spicy/Zin light cedary/pencilly elegant/complex flavor;
    med. light/raspberry/spicy slight earthy some pencilly/cedary/old Zin finish w/
    no tannins; a smooth/gentle/poplished Zin that still speaks soundly of Zinfandel;
    not just a survivor but a genuine pleasure to drink. $2.99
    And my original tasting note from late May 1975:
    6. Medium purple color; strong berry/Zin nose with a little smoke that fades; good
    acidity; a strong rich grapey Zinfandel flavor; long finish of grape; little
    complexity; a strong rich grapey Zin and a very good buy; better than the '72 CR
    and almost as good as the '72 LyttonSprings.
    ___________________________________ _______________________________
    And the usual profundities from TheBloodyPulpit:
    1. Holy crap...this wine is not just a survivor....it's a lovely wine to drink.
    Who'd thunk....a 35yr old bottom-line Zin. Susan had JohnHopkins & Yvette for dinner
    a month ago and he gifted me w/ this bottle from outta the past. I was mildly
    amused by John's gesture as I was absolutely certain that this was a totally shot
    wine but, given my propensity for vinous archeology, would find something interesting
    in the wine. I started hearing quiet murmurs trailing me as I poured around the
    room. I was flabbergasted when I took my first sniff...some of that oldZin complexity
    but there was still a fair amount of raspberry/Zin fruit remaining. Awwwright...but
    it'll be dead & dried out on the palate. Nope....still a nice amount of fruit left
    as it kinda whisped across the palate like a gentle zephyr. Holy crap....this
    ancient relic still lives!!! It's damn good wine...and not for just a 35yr old Zin.
    2. There is, of course, a story behind this wine. When we tried this wine in May'75
    (note the lack of an agglutinative style in my tasting notes back then), I was
    pretty impressed by the wine, especially for the price (The MonteBello '73 Zin
    was $4.49 then). After we tasted it, I took orders for it and came up with an
    order for 65-70 cases of the stuff. A quick call to PhilReich at Boulder's Liquor
    Mart landed me probably most of Colorado's supply I would guess. I rented a covered
    U-Haul trailer, hitched it up to my trusty Slant6 Dodge Dart '68 and headed North.
    It was not a popular move w/ the spouse in authority. Loaded up the 70 cases
    and headed back. Made probably 35 m.p.h. heading over LaVetaPass. Got it home
    just fine (the NewMexico law then read that you could bring in to the State a
    "reasonable amount" for one's own use. I considered 70 cases damned reasonable) and
    the wine out to their happy homes. There was probably more Ridge Zin, per capita,
    in LosAlamos than anyplace in the Nation outside of Cupertino. John probably got
    a whole case and this was probably his last surviving bottle. I probably got only a
    few btls and drank them up over the next yr or two, certain that the wine would not
    go anywhere. I had another one sometime in the early '90's and it was on its last
    legs. Good memories from a time long ago.
    3. This was back in the early '70's when I had first discovered the Ridge Zins that were
    in good supply up at LiquorMart. We had a lot of people from LosAlamos continually
    travelling up to RockyFlats, so there was a pretty continual stream coming back
    from there....Ridges, DavidBruces, SutterHomes (remember...this was back when they
    actually made good wine), BaroletBurgundies, Cote-Rities, the whole shebang.
    The CoastRange line was bottom-line blended by Ridge for an inexpensive Ridge
    experience for just a few yrs in the early-'70's. They even made a Ridge CoastRange
    PinotNoir that was pretty underwhelming. This '73 Zin was really nice drinking but
    not terribly highly regarded. It got only a 82 from WineSpectator, an 84 from
    RobertFinegan, an 80 from RobertLawrenceBalzer, and a miserable 79 from RobertParker,
    who characterized it as a "low-brow Crljenak Kastelanski".
    Not sure where the grapes for this wine came from, but would guess it had a fair
    amount of SantaCruzMtnZin in it, probably some Sonoma, probably some Mendocino; the
    usual sources for Ridge back then. Even though that Draper guy was a relative
    unknown, and had a bit/lot less gray in his hair back then; it was clear he knew a
    thing or two about making wine. I think it was only that following Fall that I finally
    made it up to MonteBelloRidge and met Paul. He was also entertaining one Jerimiah
    Tower, along w/ a bunch of his froggie friends. I think he (Jerimiah) was a bit miffed
    that Paul was spending so much time answering my questions. At the time, I had no
    idea who JerimiahTower was and that I was horning in on a Celebrity tour.
    TomHill (trippin' down memory lane)

    Pulled my last btl last night w/ dinner:
    1. Port O'Call Brand NewWorldRed Authentic CalifTW (12.8%; 50% Zin, 25% Mourvedre, 25% Charbono; TheGenuineArticle-AcceptNoSubstitutes) EdmundsStJohn/Emeryville 1989: Med.dark color w/ some bricking; slight bretty/funky oldRhonish/CdP-like/earthy light cedary/pencilly complex/interesting nose; smooth some cedary/pencilly/old-Zin/old-CdP slight dried-out/astringent light funky/SouthernRhone very interesting flavor; med.long slightly dried out/astringent smooth/complex/cedary/pencilly finish; a bit aged but holding pretty good for TheGenuineArticle. $9.50(SolanoWineCellars)
    ___________________________________ _
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I had another btl of this over a month ago and it was pretty dead, so I cracked this one w/ very low expectations. Though it was probably better 5-10 yrs ago, it was still a pleasure to drink.
    Not sure where the grapes all came from but I suspect BrandlinRanch. This was made when Steve was in the facility in Emeryville out back of the OaksCardShop...not exactly high-rent district..but it worked fine. This was where I had my first visit w/ Steve...back when he was making wines that were highly-revered in some circles. I suspect BillEaston was still working at SolanoCellars when Steve sold them this wine.
    HdR was just not quite the same this year w/o Steve there. I'm sorta surprised that they actually went ahead and held the event.

    Tried this last night after the 2 cheapie whites from TJ failed to deliver:
    1. OjaiVnyd Chard SolomonHillsVnyd/SantaMariaVlly SpecilaBottling (6 brls; 14%) 2006: Med.light gold color; some toasty/oak very slight nutty/oldRhone/old Oz SSemillon some honeyed rather minerally/celery/melony/Chard quite fragrant somewhat atypical nose; tart some toasty/pungent/oak honeyed/honeydew melon/celery/Chard rather minerally slight nutty/old Oz Semillon complex/interesting flavor; very long/lingering minerally/honeyed honeydew melon/Chard some toasty/oak slight old Oz Semillon finish; very interesting/unusual rendition of Chard. $34.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Before this SH Chard was harvested, Adam observed there was botrytis growing on some of the grapes, so he harvested these first and fermented it out dry. Having had a number of botrytis-effected Chards, both dry and sweet, I was expecting something a bit on the bizarre side. Not so, not bizarre at all. I'd guess the botrytis was rather light and didn't concentrate the juice all that much. It was a bit more intense/concentrated and had a very slight honeyed/old Oz Semillon character underneath, but it definitely spoke of Chard. Very interesting wine. He also has a dessert wine version of this as well, harvested after other SH customers rejected their botrytised grapes.
    I don't think Adam gets the recognition for his Chards he deserves. They are always one of my must-buys every year. Same story on the SauvBlanc as well.

    We had these Fri night w/ Susan's ShortRibs:
    1. Babcock 11 OaksRanch SauvBlanc SantaYnezVlly (13%) 1989: Med.dark gold color w/ some browning; rather caramel/butterscotch pudding/burnt forest/Kansas prarie fire slight nutty/herbal/celery seed slight oxidized rather complex/interesting nose' soft/smooth slight nutty/oxidized rather butterscotch pudding/celery/prarie fire/charred slight herbal pleasant/complex flavor; med.long caramel/butterscotchy puddin some charred/burnt hay field slight herbal/celery complex slightly oxidized finish; lots of butterscotch pudding and burning Kansas prarie but pretty interesting and a pleasure to drink.
    2. Novy Syrah DryCreekVlly (15.1%) 2001: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; beautiful very spicy/DryCreekVlly/raspberry/blackberry/Syrah/licorice almost Zin-like some toasty/oak very perfumed/aromatic nose; tart very bright/very spicy/raspberry/blackberry/Syrah slight Zin-like some toasty/pencilly/oak complex flavor; very long/lingering very spicy/raspberry/blackberry/Syrah slight pungent/licorice/pencilly/toasty oak finish w/ light tannins; loads of very spicy/DCV character and almost like a DCV Zin.
    Reverend is out, no BP today.

    Tried this ystrday at my OpenHouse reception:
    1. BabcockVnyd SantaBarbaraCnty GWT (12.5%) 1990: Med.dark gold color; rather piney/valve oil quite minerally very complex/perfumed nose; hollow/weak slight minerally/earthy/piney almost no flavor; very short/virtually no slightly bitter finish; very interesting/complex nose that speaks more of old Riesling than GWT, but virtually no impact on the palate. Little signs of oxidation or being way over the hill.
    1. Pretty strange/unusual/interesting wine. I'd had the '89 version of this a month ago and it was pretty much shot. I didn't expect much from this GWT and it pretty much delivered on those expectations. Very lovely to smell but almost nothing on the palate. Where'd the flavor go??

    After my Barolo refused to open up, I cracked the:
    1. Redline Syrah Mendocino EaglepointRanch (15.2%) 2004: Very dark color; very spicy/blackberry/Syrah bit tomatoey/earthy/chocolaty light toasty/oak very attractive nose; tart slight tomato sauce bright/blackberry/Syrah bit licorice/chocolaty very spicy light toasty flavor; med.long very spicy/blackberry/Syrah some tomatoey light toasty/oak finish w/ some tannins; can still go another several yrs; a lovely very spicy Syrah.
    1. This wine was, of course, made by LarryRoberts down in Paso. Don't remember the price, but recall we got it for a song (which is remarkable if you've ever heard me sing). Apparently, from what I read, that Hartlip guy up North knows a thing or two about growing grapes. I just know that I'm about to swear off Piedmontese Barolo...it just hurts too much. Would love to see Casey try some Nebb up there.

    Opened this last night to go w/ my spinach samwich:
    1. Turley TheWhiteCoat SLOCnty (16%; Roussanne/Viognier blend) 2000: Very dark brown/murky color; nose reeking of oxidation/acetaldehyde w/ no fruit or alcohol; bitter/terrible flavor of sherry (not madeira) and oxidation; totally dead & gone.
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This was, I believe, the first Turley WhiteCoat. Tasted it first at VillaCreek afore HdR one year. I kinda liked the wine for its over-the-top character, thought it a bit hot/alcoholic, pretty heavily oaked and butterscotchy, and a little bit on the oxidative side; but some interesting/pretty intense fruit underneath all this.
    When I grabbed the btl, the dark brown color was the first sign I'm in trouble here. The cork was tight in the btl, pretty pliable, and there was absolutely no signs of leakage or failure of the cork.
    A white Rhone blend shouldn't be dead at 7 yrs of age. Anybody got any idea what happened?? Was it cooked in transit? Did the oxidative character catch up with it faster than I expected? Did the cork really fail, despite signs to the contrary? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Had this last night w/ my spinach samwich:
    1. GarretsonWineCo TheCraic Syrah CentralCoast (15.4%; Gill/Hastings/Rozet vnyds + Viognier; 800 cs; screwtop) 2003: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; lovely blackberry/Syrah bit licorice/chocolaty light toasty/oak very attractive nose; soft/fat/rich very strong blaclberry/boysenberry/Syrah some pungent/licorice bit Oz-like attractive flavor; med.long soft/lush very strong blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah slight licorice/chocolaty finish w/ light tannins; ready to go; an absolutely lovely/drinkable classic Paso Syrah.

    Tried these (among a few dead&goners) this weekend:
    1. IlPodere dell'Olivos SantaBarbaraCnty Nebbiolo (TW) 1988: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; rather pungent/tarry/road tar slight fragrant/floral/dried rose petal bit herbal/leafy slight oak complex interesting nose; tart rather floral/lilacs/dried rose petal some tarry/pungent/Nebbiolo rather tannic/hard flavor; long lilacs/dried rose petal/floral fairly tarry/pungent pretty hard/tannic finish; much like an old Gattinara; fairly classic old Nebb w/ attractive fragrance but hard on the palate; still alive & interesting.
    2. EdmundsStJohn Syrah ElDoradoCnty Wylie-Fenaughty (14.1%) 1999: Very dark/near black color w/ no browning; beautiful/complex very peppery/smokey/pungent some roasted/espresso/rather Rhonish bit minerally/WWII beacon some blackberry/Syrah lovely nose; very long some hard/tannic very roasted/espresso/Rhonish pungent/minerally slight blackberry/Syrah finish; a beautiful/complex very Rhonish Syrah that still going strong; no "low-brow" Cote-Rotie this wine.
    3. LaJota NapaVlly/HowellMtn Zin (13.5%) 1988: Dark color w/ slight browning; slight herbal smokey/pungent/cedary/old Cab some licorice/blackberry bit dusty/earthy somewhat complex nose; soft slight dried out/tannic/astringent light licorice/blackberry/herbal light cedary/pencilly/toasty flavor; long soft some dried out/tannic light blackberry/licorice/dusty/earthy slight peppery finish; really interesting nose but a bit dried out/tired on the palate; interesting old Zin but not much sensual pleasure.
    ___________________________________ _____
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. The IlPodere was one of the first good Nebbiolos in Calif. I believe this was one of the first crops off BienNacido that the Millers planted for JimClendenan. Don't recall from my conservations w/ Jim if it was Michet or Lampia. The first really good Calif Nebb was by Nick Martin at MartinBros in PasoRobles. Their first 3 vintages were from an old Nebbiolo vnyd over in the SanJoaquinVlly until the '85, when their Nebbiolo/Michet vnyd began producing.
    Despite the lousy reputation Calif Nebbiolos have, I've had some that I've liked quite a lot and that compare favoriably w/ the best Nebbiolos from Italy...from the Valtelline.
    2. Anybody know whatever happened w/ Nick Martin?? After he & his brother parted company, I kinda lost track of Nick. Last I'd heard, he was making wine at some relatively unknown wnry there in Paso.

    After my Ravenswood CookeVnyd Zin '90 fell short, I cracked last night:
    1. RiverRunVintners Syrah VentanaVnyd/MontereyCnty (13%; 9 mo. in Nevers oak; <300 cs) 1988: Btl loaded w/ sediment along the side; Med.color w/ fair amount of browning; lovely/complex very Rhonish/roasted/espresso slight herbal rather metallic very interesting/complex nose; tart some herbal/roasted/espresso/Fr.Roast coffee/very Rhonish complex bit tangy flavor; long somewhat tangy/metallic quite charred/roasted/espresso/Fr.Roast coffee very Rhonish slight herbal finish w/ light tannins; somewhat on the downside but beautiful very Rhonish slight herbal character some like a CoteRotie from an underripe yr. Next morning: Quite murky/brown; lots of metallic some Rhonish/charred character on the nose and pretty shot/metallic on the palate.
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. DougMeador started planting Syrah in his VentanaVnyd in 1981. Since Syrah is "known" to be a warm climate grape, most people thought him pretty stupid. He reasoned that the best Rhone Syrah comes from the North where they have this fierce mistral winds, not unlike what they get thru the SalinasVlly on a daily basis.
    His first VentanaVnyd Syrah was rather on the herbal side, but it had a lot of interesting, somewhat Rhonish, character to it. Now, of course, some of Calif's most interesting Syrahs come from VentanaVnyd, now one of the oldest Syrah plantings in Calif.
    DougMeador is a guy that sorta flies under most folks radar. Over the yrs, he's made some very/very interesting wines. He, of course, was responsible for popularizing the SauvBlanc Musque clone, which had lain undiscovered in the Davis library for yrs. He's made some outstanding CheninBlancs in the past. He is probably more responsible than anyone for improving the viticulture and farming techniques in the SalinasVlly (differentiating this from the ChaloneBenchlands and the SantaLuciaHighlands), an area that was mostly known for their herbaceous/vegetal red wines in the past. Truly a Calif pioneer.
    RiverRunVintners is a wnry, located down near Watsonville, who has made some very interesting wines over the yrs; both w/ Syrah and Zinfandel. I've not tried anything recent from them and really should revisit them.

    Larry pulled out this auction wine last night (3/23/08)for the cheese course:
    1. MtVeederVnyd NapaVlly BernsteinVnyd CabernetSauvignon 1973: Med.color w/ slight bricking; classic aged Cab/pencilly/cedary slight blackcurranty/fruity rather complex nose; soft bit lean/tannic classic pencilly/cedary slight charred/oak light blackcurranty/Cab/slight herbal flavor; med.long cedary/pencilly/light charred oak light blackcurranty fairly complex finish w/ slight drying tannins; still in great shape and a genuine pleasure to drink but not gonna get any better; a wine that sorta whispers eleganty across the palate w/o a great deal of ruckus.
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Mike Bernstein was a SanFrancisco lawyer who, with his wife Arlene, bought this property w/ orchards up on MtVeeder in the early '60's. They ripped out the orchards and put in grapevines to CabSauv and Zin (and Chard?) and made their first Cab in '72, miserable yr but it was a pretty decent Cab for that rain-besotted vintage. Their winemaker was Kim Giles.
    They really hit the big time in '73 w/ this Cab. The Zin was dynamite as well. In addition, they produced a LateHrvst Chard (w/ a slight amount of r.s.) from Bob&Zelma Long's grapes, and an absolutely killer PS from the MarstonVnyd (along w/ FrankMahoney at CarnerosCreek) that was as inky/black as they come. Thru the mid-late '70's, the MtVeeder wines were some of my real favorites.
    Then (for reasons I'm not sure) they put the property on the market and sold it to a Florida couple, the Matheson's, in 1982. They brought on PeterFranus as their winemaker and some pretty decent Cabs came from him in those yrs. Then the property was sold to Franciscan and went into a long/slow decline...from the wines I tasted. Hardly ever make an effort to try them anymore.
    Questions for the cognescenti:
    1. Who was KimGiles and what other wineries did he make wine for??
    2. What ever happened to the original BernsteinVnyd? Is it still producing? Does it still have any Zin??
    3. What ever happened to Mike&Arlene Bernstein?? Once did a visit w/ Mike..very friendly/pleasant guy..even for a lawyer.

    Tried this last night after we got the newest vintage:
    1. Cline CoolClimate Syrah LazyC Ranch/PetalumaGap/SonomaCoast (www.ClineCellars.com) 2006: Very dark/near black color; intense cracked black pepper/cold-climate Syrah some blackberry/Syrah/spicy bit bacony/roasted/espresso slight Rhonish lovely nose; soft rather strong/cracked black pepper some Syrah/blackberry light toasty/oak some Rhonish flavor; med.long strong cracked black pepper/cold-climate Syrah some blackberry/spicy/Syrah finish w/ light tannins; a lovely example of a cold-climate Syrah at a great price. $15.50
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. When Cline first released their Cool-Climate Syrah, I found it rather simple/blackberry and not much cool climate character. The '04 was a good step up. We tried the '05 several months ago, was pretty impressed by it, and ordered a case. When it finally arrived, it was the new vintage, the '06. Though I thought the '05 had a bit more structure, acidity, and tannins; the '06 version is right up there and a worthy successor. Terrific example of that cracked black pepper character you get in cold-climate Syrah, typically in Sta.RitaHills or extreme SonomaCoast.
    The PetalumaGap is an interesting area. Though in the SonomaCoast, that AVA covers a multitude of sins, ranging all the way from the far North near Annapolis, all the way over to the town of Sonoma. Though on the Eastern edge, the PetalumaGap is one of the colder areas in the SonomaCoast. Eventually it will have its own AVA I hope. The winds that go roaring thru there certainly make it cold-climate. Some of the Pinots and Syrahs I've had from there are clearly cold-climate in character, some (like the Neyers OldLakevilleRd) don't show a whole lot of cold-climate character. It's an area I think we're going to see some truly great wines emerge from over the next yrs.
    Cline has sort of been an under-achiever to me over the last 3-5 yrs, since MattCline's departure. The wines seem soft & soupy and not all that distinctive as they used to be. I hope the turn-around on this CoolClimate Syrah is a hint of things to come.

    Tried last night (3/16/08) for dinner:
    1. MioloFamilyVnyds PinotNoir Vale dos Vinhedos/BentoGoncalvos/Brazil (13.5%; www.Miolo.com.BR) 2007: Dark color; some Burgundian some toasty/oak/smokey earthy/light floral/black cherry/PN nose; soft slight earthy/funky/goat-pen/hot-climate rather Burgundian/toasty/oak bit lean flavor; med.short funky/Burgundian rather toasty/oak/smokey light floral/Pinot finish w/ light tannins; rather pleasant Burgundian Pinot at a good price. $13.00
    2. SantaCruzMtnVnyds McDowellVlly Durif (McDowellVllyVnyds; www.SantaCruzMountainVineyard.com; Planted:1948) C&B by SCMVnyd/BoulderCreek 2003: Dark color; bit volatile/EA slight reduced/fecal that clears some earthy bit blackberry/peppery/PS some toasty/oak earthy/dusty/old-vines interesting nose; soft some tannic/hard earthy blackberry/plummy/PS flavor; med. tannic/hard/rather lean plummy/PS/peppery some earthy/dusty finish; somewhat clunky/1-dimensional/rustic/rough PS; fairly priced at $17.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Miolo: Brazil...of all places...who'd of thunk. No great shakes of a Pinot but still rather interesting and surprisingly good given the provenance and very fairly priced.
    2. Durif: Back in the early '80's, KenBurnap made some pretty stunning Durifs (PetiteSirah) at SCMV. Inky black and built for the long haul. And they did well over the long haul. This is not one of those wines. The C&B suggests that the wine was made up at McDowellVlly vnyds and purchased and finished by SCMV. At one time, McDowell made some very good Zins/Syrahs/PSs. I've been pretty underwhelmed by what I've tasted of theirs over the last 5-8 yrs. Rather disappointing given the quality of their old-vine vnyds. The best McDowellVllyVnyd wines are now being made by other folks.

    Another "throwaway" wine last night that didn't go splat:
    1. GeorgesDuBoeuf Domaine de la Rousse AC: Cote-Rotie (13%) 1988: Very dark color w/ slight browning; light/delicate dusty/roasted/espresso/C-R very attractice/classic NorthernRhone some complex nose; soft very smooth/elegant light earthy very light/roasted/coffee slight tannic/dried-out slightly complex flavor; med.short soft light roasted/coffee/C-R lightly tannic finish; a gentle/delicate fully mature C-R that gently swishes across the palate and coos Cote-Rotie quietly in your ear.
    And my note from Feb'02:
    16. Georges Du Boeuf Domaine de la Rousse Cote-Rotie (13%) 1988: Dark color; strong roasted/espresso/peppery beautiful/complex very smokey nose; soft rich beautiful/complex C-R/coffee/espresso/mocha elegant/ perfumed/pungent flavor; very long smokey/espresso/coffee/roasted complex/elegant/perrfumed peppery finish w/ light tannins; at or beyond its peak; Howard&Rhoda's mystery wine; about $22 on release.
    ___________________________________ _
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This wine was George Duboeuf's first foray into the Rhone as I recall. Did it only a couple of yrs and then guess he dropped the effort and have not seen it sense. Would be mightly interested as to where the grapes were grown and who actually made the wine.
    I was expecting this wine to be pretty much DoA. It was not. It was a lovely/mature wine that still had a slight character of Cote-Rotie.

    Cracked this "throwaway" open for dinner last night (3/2/08) and was pleasantly surprised:
    1. Domaine du RieuFrais Syrah AC: VdP des Coteaux des Baronnies (MeBalP; 12.5%) JeanYves Liotaud/StJalle 1990: Med.color w/ some bricking; rather attractive old Syrah/Hermitage some roasted/toasted/smokey/coffee fairly complex nose; soft/smooth smokey/pungent/roasted/espresso dried rose petal/old Syrah bit coffee/green olive complex flavor; soft slightly dried out/tannic somewhat roasted/smokey/old NorthernRhone/old Hermitage finished; a pleasantly surprising full-mature Rhone.
    And a bit of the BP:
    1. Don't recall anything about this wine when I bought it nor anything else, but I probably bought it because I thought it was pretty good Syrah at a great price. I've not seen it in the US market anytime recently. Don't know where I bought it but it was an Oakland importer. They have a WebSite out there: Liotaud
    I was (obviously) not expecting anything from this wine and was certain it was dead, hence had it w/ a steamed artichoke (dreadful match).
    It was not dead and gone. Though fully mature and probably better a few yrs ago, it had all the character of a fully-mature Hermitage from a good producer. Quite a good wine and still have several btls left.

    Tried this over the weekend:
    1. Failla PinotNoir SonomaCoast (14.2%) 2006: Med.light color; lovely floral/cherry/spicy/Pinot light toasty/Burgundian bit peppery nose; tart light/elegant some Burgundian/toasty/oak light earthy/cherry/Pinot flavor; med.long elegant cherry/Pinot slight peppery/dusty bit earthy/Burgundian finish w/ light tannins; an attractive Burgundian-style Calif Pinot but just that. $33.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This is EhrenJordan's blended Pinot from several SonomaCoast vnyds. A nicely done Pinot at a reasonable price, rather Burgundian in style, but doesn't speak near the volume of SonomaCoast that his Hirsch or Estate Pinots do.

    My Peay order arrived last week. Just had to try:
    1. PeayVnyds SonomaCoast Estate Viognier (14.4%) 2006: Pale gold color; rather fragrant/melony/pear/Viognier some minerally/chalky elegant/restrained aromatic/floral nose; tart somewhat floral/aromatic/very pear/Viognier quite minerally/citrusy/melony/juicy elegant flavor; very long some minerally perfumed/pear/Viognier light floral/carnations finish; lots of floral/pear/ripe character but good/zippy acidity; very expressive of terroir; lovely restrained Viognier. $35.00
    2. PeayVnyds SonomaCoast Estate Roussanne(65%)/Marsanne(35%) (14.1%) 2006: Pale gold color; tight minerally/stoney rather appley/Marsanne slight floral/honeysuckle/Roussanne light toasty/oak nose; tart/lean/austere appley/melony/Marsanne somewhat minerally/stoney/earthy very light floral/honeysuckle flavor; long very minerally/stoney tight/wiry slight spicy/nutmeg some melony/appley finish; a tight/wiry white that badly needs age; speaks mostly of the Marsanne. $40.00
    ___________________________________ ____________
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Do not...repeat...not open these wines for another 6 months to a year. They are both tighter than a drum and badly need some age.
    The Viognier is more approachable but it far/far removed from the usual Calif DollyParton Viognier. It's a very elegant/restrained Viognier that I am confident will be much better & even more perfumed down the road. It's not the same minerality you get in Condrieu..maybe it's just the Annapolis minerality..but..whatever it is, it's a very terroir-driven wine. Absolutely lovely Viognier.
    The Roussanne/Marsanne blend speaks far more of the Marsanne w/ its appley character and doesn't show much of that Roussanne/floral character. It's a pretty underwhelming wine right now but I'm certain it's going to be a killer wine down the road...but clueless as to how many yrs.
    Both of these wines have a bright/zippy acidity and need to be served at cool room temperature (low 60'sF) to show their best. Sometimes...you gotta have some patience.

    Tried this from my recent shipment last night (2/25/08):
    1. EaglepointRanchWnry Syrah MendocinoCnty (14.4%; www.EaglePointRanch.com) 2005: Black color; very strong blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry bit minerally/licorice/herbal/olive light toasty/oak slight roasted/Rhonish/coffee nose; tart bit hard/tannic very strong blackberry/Syrah slight roasted/Rhonish/pungent flavor; very long somewhat tannic/hard/chalky light roasted/Rhonish/espresso strong blackberry/Syrah/licorice/pungent finish; needs several yrs yet and should go out ten; a lovely/beautiful Syrah w/ great structure in the SteveEdmunds mold; a steal at $23.00
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. Grown and made, of course, by our own CaseyHartlip. We tried his trio (Grenache/PetiteSirah/Syrah) upon their release last Fall and was mightly impressed, especially the Syrah, and ordered a bunch. The Syrah has gotten even better over the last 6 months and is starting to show some Rhonish character that I really liked. One of the best Syrahs coming out of MendocinoCnty these days.

    Tried this weekend (2/20/08):
    1. Ridge Calif Zin OldSchool/AlexVlly/SonomaCnty (6% PS; 15.3%; 42 brls; Drk: 12/06-12/14-12/16) 2005: Dark color; rather strong blackberry/spicy/Zin light oak/DraperPerfume loads of fruit nose; soft rich/lush big/ripe/blackberry/Zin/very spicy light vanilla/oak/slight toasty some tannic structured/balanced flavor; fairly long lush/blackberry/Zin/very spicy light toasty/oak finish w/ some tannins; good drinking now but needs several yrs. A very good AlexVlly Zin. Fairly priced at $30.00
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I usually try my Ridge ATPs right off the boat in hopes that they've hit another home run and I can glom onto another like the StoneRanch Zin '02, one of the best ATps I've had in some yrs. They frequently seem underwhelming. Then when I finally get them folded into a tasting a month or two later, I find I like them a whole lot better. And then I often find they have this way of putting on weight and evolve into very interesting wines a few yrs down the road. Friggin' Zins...I don't have this problem with my YellowTail Zin!!
    I actually cracked this btl w/ dinner w/ company Sun night and thought the wine was pleasant enough....but just that. Pleasant/simple raspberry fruit w/ lots of the DraperPerfume. Best red we had, but still underwhelming. So stuck the cork back in it & carted it home, to sit on the counter for two days, about 3/4'th the btl remaining.
    Decided to blow it off w/ my leftover Coffee-braised short ribs last night (Tues) after a tough night on the fencing strip. Whatta a surprise it was. It had lost a lot of that DraperPerfume and oak and developed into this wonderful fairly intense blackberry Zin that spoke less of Ridge and more of good...very good...AlexVlly Zin. Travel shock Sun night?? Breathing effect Tues night? Beats heck out of me..clueless as usual. Friggin' Zins!!
    I'm not a very big fan of AlexanderVlly reds, Zins in particular, in general. I find them often a bit soft/squishy on the palate and sorta Oakland wines...there's no there there. They seem to lack the bright Zinberry fruit of DryCreekVlly Zins and the deeper/peppery bass notes of RussRvr Zins. This OldSchool was one of the best AlexVlly Zins I've had in probably over a yr. A very good ATP Zin.

    Cracked this open last night (2/11/08):
    1. BabcockVnyds JohannisbergRiesling DryBarrelFrmtd EstateGrown/SantaYnezVlly (13.4%; 24 cs) 1989: Deep gold color w/ slight browning; lovely oldRiesling/valve oil/gout de petrol slight piney/earthy spicy light toasty/pungent/smokey rather complex nose; tart bit celery/piney some gout de petrol/old Riesling light pungent/oak slight nutty/Rhonish/toasted hazelnuts some old Riesling flavor; fairly long light pungent/oak Rhonish/nutty/toasted hazelnuts some old Riesling/gout de petrol rather complex finish; quite an interesting wine that speaks some of old Alsace Riesling, some of old Rhone blanc.
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This was fermented in old/fairly neutral Fr.oak, but the pungent/oak character is clearly there. Therefore, I guess, I'm not supposed to like this wine because Riesling and oak are not supposed to go together. But I found it a fascinating old bones of a wine and still a pleasure to drink.
    Over the yrs, I've had a number of barrel frmtd Rieslings that have been quite good, if a bit eccentric. DavidBruce used to do his Estate Riesling in new French oak and it had huge extract and made for an interesting Riesling that aged rather well. The early Ridge WhiteRieslings and Sylvaners were also barrel frmtd and made for good old bones. Even though the oak was evident, that old Riesling character eventually came thru.

    Cracked this open last night w/ my leftover pasta after fencing:
    1. EdmundsStJohn Port O'Call Brand NewWorldRed Authentic Calif TW (12.8%; 50% Zin, 25% Mourvedre, 25% Charbono) 1989: Dark color w/ slight bricking; slightly funky/barnyardy/horsey/SouthernRhonish nose that cleared to slight spicy/blackberry/Zin some spicy/cardammon/Indian spices/exotic some earthy/dusty quite complex nose; soft/smooth very slight Rhonish/funky/gamey some spicy/blackberry exotic Indian spices/peppery very slight tannic/dried out complex flavor; long slight tannic/dried out old Zin/cigar box slight licorice/spicy/blackberry exotic Indian spices/cardammon complex finish; not a lot of fruit left and slightly dried out but in great condition and pleasurable drinking w/ the pasta and balsamic braised cippolline. $9.50
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This was a cheap Vin de Table in its day, but it's only very slightly past its day now. My recollection was it was a bit rough-hewn sort of wine but pretty good drinking for the here & now. Here & now was quite awhile ago...but it's still pretty good drinking.
    According to Steve, this was 2'nd crop Zin and 1'st crop Charbono from ChesterBrandlin's Ranch, and PatoVnyd Mourvedre.
    It's very reassuring to read on the label that the wine is "Authentic". It's a whacky wine world out there and you just never know!! :-)
    The next morning, the glassful remaining in the decanter was pretty much gone; dried out and astringent and pretty woody/cedary on the nose.
    I had pretty low expectations of this wine when I pulled it, but Steve assured me he had one last yr and it was still holding well. The btl was ullaged about 3" below the cork and the cork was pretty soft/moist and a ton of sediment/coating on the side of the btl. But the wine, though probably better several yrs ago, was holding up very well, a genuine pleasure to drink, and very exotic in character. Good job on this one.
    Some ?? for Steve:
    1. Share with us your thoughts on 2'nd crop Zin. What are they like compared to 1'st crop Zin? I had a 2'nd crop Zin back in the late '70's and found it a rather strange wine; a rather plummy-like/licorice nose that only hinted of Zin; and kind of soft/soupy on the palate w/o a lot of structure. What was the Zin like by itself?
    2. What in Gawd's green earth prompted you to make this wine? The grapes were available, at a good price, and you were just messin' around in the cellar? Very neat old-timey label... where'd that idea come from? There must be a story therein??
    3. When you were making this, did you envision making a wine that'd go for almost 20 yrs? Don't suppose "intuition and blind luck" had anything to do with it??
    4. This was the only vintage that you made?? Did you ever mess w/ 2'nd crop Zin again? Or Charbono? I assume Chester's Charbono is now gone?
    5. Would it be fair to characterize this wine as a "low brow" NewWorldRed?? Ohhhhh...that was a cheap shot...I didn't say it!!

    At the Taos WinterWineFestival, I tried
    1. Calera Viognier MtHarlan (14%) 1990: Med.burnished gold color w/ no browning; beautiful/powerful very perfumed/aromatic quite floral/honeysuckle somewhat honeyed/creme brulee incredible/complex nose; soft/round very lush very floral/honeysuckle somewhat honeyed/creme brulee glycerined slight herbal spectacular/complex flavor w/ no trace of oxidation or bitterness; very long/lingering rich/powerful/lush honeyed/creme brulee very floral/honeysuckle complex finish; as spectacular an old/mature white wine as I've had. Still some youthful/DollyParton character therein.
    2. JosephPhelpsVnyds VinDeMistral NapaVlly Viognier (13%) 1990: Med.gold color; very slight hazelnutty/nutty lovely/floral/honeysuckle some ripe/peach waxy very powerful/aromatic quite complex nose; strong rich/lush glycerined very floral/honeysuckle waxy bit creme brulee rather spicy bit nutmeg beautiful/complex flavor; very long slight nutty/hazelnutty lush/rich/ripe slight peachy very floral/honeysuckle honeyed quite complex finish; beautiful complex balanced svelte Viognier w/ slight youthful/peach character.
    3. Qupe Viognier LosOlivosVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (12.5%) 1990: Med.gold color w/ little browning; some floral/honeysuckle slight waxy/old Rhonish slight toasty/pungent/smokey very perfumed/aromatic slight oxidized/nutty complex nose; soft/lush/ripe some nutty/hazelnutty slight oxidized/waxy some floral/honeysuckle/honeyed light pungent/smokey finish; very long ripe/floral/honeysuckle slight nutty/toasted hazelnutty slight creme brulee/waxy finish; still in beautiful shape and a lovely complex old Rhone.
    4. LaJota HowellMtn/NapaVlly Viognier (13.0%) 1989: Med.dark gold color w/ slight browning; some spicy/black pepper light toasty/oak some nutty/hazelnutty/oxidized slight floral/honeyed bit earthy nose; tart/lean/austere rather earthy little fruit some nutty/hazelnutty/oxidized some bitter/astringent bit coarse flavor; med.short leant/austere/tart/hard/raspy slightly bitter rather hazelnutty/nutty slight oxidized rather earthy finish w/ very little fruit; shouts of that HowellMtn/rough terroir; interesting white but a little too oxidized and not much of a pleasure to drink. Started off not very good in its youth and seems to never have gone anywhere.
    ___________________________________ ________
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I found these relics in my archives and decided to take them up to Taos to try. I offered the Calera to JoshJensen and the Phelps to AshleyHepworth to try under the caveat that, if they were DOA, they could stash them under the table, never to see the light of day and, if they were good, could share them w/ folks that seemed particularly interested in their wines. Both were pretty spectacular, the Calera a bit better of the two. Few of the tasters were particularly familiar w/ Viognier, fewer still w/ older versions. But most who tried the wines seemed blown away by them from the feedback I got from Josh and Ashley.
    The Qupe we had at dinner at Lambert's of Taos (terrific restaurant) plus another btl of the Phelps, which was pretty much the same as the one up at the ski valley. The LaJota I cracked at home the next day out of curiosity.
    2. The Calera (Josh's 2'nd vintage of this wine) I was particularly impressed with in its youth. The Qupe was also one of my favorites. The Phelps, less so. And the LaJota was typically my least favorite of those early Viogniers. The Calera was always classic DollyParton Viognier. I recounted w/ Josh how the DollyParton term entered the Rhone vernacular and he got a chuckle out of it.
    I've always liked the early Qupe Viogniers, though they often (as were many of Bob's whites) were a bit on the volatile side. The Phelps were always a bit on the lean/tight side in their youth and I was not a particularly big fan of them. The LaJotas I never cared much for in their youth. They always seemed to have that typical rugged/rough/hard HowellMtn character and typically had a paucity of fruit....more like a Russian female lumberjack than DollyParton.
    3. So..three of the four Viogniers were pretty impressive....not just good old bones and pleasing intellectual experiences, but truly terrific mature Viogniers w/ lots of richness, little aged character, and very complex. So...what makes me so friggin' brilliant to stash these wines away for 15+ yrs, to pull them out now....when we've been told by the wine authorities that Viognier doesn't age and you must drink them young? Well...I'm here to tell you...I'm totally clueless about older Viogniers. They're very much a crap shoot. I've had 4-5 10+ yr old ones over the last few months that were pretty much dead&gone, or on their last legs. I fully expected all four of these Viogniers to be DOA. But they wern't. Shows how little I know about laying wines down to age.
    None of these Viogniers had that classic peach/pear/floral fragrance you get in young Viogniers. So, on that basis, most tasters would judge them over the hill. But, to my palate, they showed little to none of that slightly oxidized/hazelnutty/nutty character that mature white Rhones have. These were as good mature white wines as any I've had from Chard.
    All four were served at cool/room temperature...the proper serving temperature for mature white wines. Serving them at the traditional cold temperatures in the upper 50'sF can frequently bring out a bitterness and greatly mute the aromatics these older whites offer up.
    So....even though the wine authorities admonish us that Viogniers don't age and scold us to drink them young...sometimes the authorities don't have all the answers. Be adventuresome and stick a few away to age for 10+ yrs. Just don't ask me which ones these should be....I'm pretty clueless.
    4. Learned a new trick from JoshJensen about opening older wines. Oftentimes the cork can be dried out and crumbly, well-attached to the neck of the btl, and the centre of the cork rips out when you try to pull it. Josh related w/ older corks, aftern you've driven the corkscrew into the cork, it helps to give the cork a slight downward push to break the seal w/ the next, then proceed to remove it w/ a pull. Worked quite well at home on the LaJota.

    So I tried the LaJota again that afternoon at room temperature (the original try was on the cool side, upper 50'sF), probably in the mid 60'sF. Much/much better:

    4. LaJota HowellMtn/NapaVlly Viognier (13.0%) 1989: Some nutty/hazelnutty/Rhonish rather honeyed/floral slight earthy fairly complex nose; bit tart rather earthy some nutty/hazelnutty light honeyed/butterscotchy smooth/round slightly lush flavor; long rather earthy honeyed/creme brulee slight butterscotchy/toasty finish; far/far better on the palate w/o the hard/raspy/bitter component, more textured and nuanced.
    1. This wine was far better at a warmer temperature than it was early in the morning at a cold temperature. I attribute the vast change in character merely to the warmer temperature. Some would assert that it was merely that the wine was allowed to "breathe" for 8 hrs, but I doubt the oxidation was the culprit. There was virtually no change in color (that I could note) that would indicate oxidation was taking place. Hmmm....I've always wondered how much of the so-called "breathing effect" is merely due to change in temperature of the wine.
    Anyway, this wine was far/far better at a warmer temperature. These old whites should really be served at cool room temperature to maximize their pleasure, IMHO.

    Tried this last night w/ my pasta:
    1. JadeMtn LaProvencal (Mourvedre/Syrah + old vine Zin; ??%) NV: Dark color w/ slight bricking; some old CdP plummy/earthy/licorice/balsamic bit cedar/cigar box slight dried rose petal/aged somewhat fragrant nose; soft slight bretty/funky rather earthy/dusty some dried rose petal/licorice/balsamic bit cigar box/cedar bit dried out/tannic flavor; med.long plummy/licorice/dried bing cherries some cedary/cigar box somewhat tannic/dried out finish; attractive/interesting nose but starting to dry out on the palate; still a pleasant wine to drink w/ food. $12.00
    And a bit of TheBloodyPulpit:
    1. This was a NV-dated wine but from its neighbors in the box, probably about an '88 or '89 or both. There interesting thing about this wine was there was nowhere on the front/back label a mention of the alcohol %, or a statement of TW or RTW. Curious.
    This was a pleasant/little Rhone blend in its youth...nothing profound. So I was pretty surprised that it had hung in there this long. Getting a bit long of tooth, but still interesting/good to drink.
    This wine was made back in the JadeMtn hey-days, when DougDanilek was making the wines. They had some pretty exceptional Syrahs, from ParasVnyd and HudsonVnyd. With the sale of JadeMtn to the ChaloneWineGroup and now to ??, the wines have not been nearly so interesting. Doug is now back to making wine (at MikeHavens place) for ParasVnyds, a part of ScottWoodward's AppellationWineGroup, and the wines there are absolutely first rate.

    Celebrating a BD dinner w/ the Brooks at Lamberts of Taos, after the Taos WWF GrandTasting, we cracked:
    1. BottFreres GWT ReservePersonnell AC: Vin d'Alsace (12.8%) 1989: Light gold color; beautiful/spectacular very perfumed/aromatic slight cheap hair oil strong GWT/spicy/nutmeg lovely/mature GWT quite complex nose; soft/lush/rich/mouthfilling/glycerined mature GWT/very spicy/nutmeg quite complex flavor; very long/lingering lush/glycerined very spicy/nutmeg very complex finish; as about as good as old GWT ever gets; a beautiful GWT.
    2. Qupe Syrah BienNacidoVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (RTW) 1988: Med.dark color; beautiful/fragrant/strong very smokey/FrancoisFreres/oak rather Rhonish/roasted some blackberry/Syrah complex nose; soft/round very rich/smokey/Fr.oak
    rather Rhonish/roasted slight blackberry/Syrah complex flavor; very long quite smokey/Rhonish/pungent some blackberry/Syrah finish w/ little tannins; a lovely example of how the Qupe Syrahs can mature; beautiful complex old Syrah that's still very much alove.
    3. EdmundsStJohn LesCotesSauvages Calif RTW (13.1%; 53% Mourvedre, 24% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 6% Carignane) 1989: Med.light color; slightly funky/wet wool rather peppery/SouthernRhonish/roasted slight bretty/gamey/meaty/sausage fairly complex nose; tart slight funky/bretty/SouthernRhonish quite spicy/meaty/sausage/peppery complex bit tannic finish; long slight bretty some roasted/SouthernRhone/gamey/meaty/peppery/pungent complex finish w/ slight dried-out/astringent character; loads of older/SouthernRhone/mature character; still very interesting and a real pleasure to drink but should be drunk up afore it fades away into senility.
    And a bit of a BloodyPulpit:
    1. BottFreres: Back with the '76 vintage, my group bought a bunch of the BottFreres CuveeExceptionelle and ReservePersonelle Riesling and GWT at very attractive prices. They were imported by Draper-Esquin in those days. I had my last ones at 25+ yrs of age and they were absolutely spectacular mature Alsatian wines, much like the '71 Dopff Au Moulin ones. This Bott GWT was one of the most spectacular mature Alsatian GWT's I've had in several yrs. I tried the '89 CE GWT a few weeks ago was pretty shakey and on its last legs. The more recent ones (Riesling/ GWT, Muscat) RP I've tried from Gomer's/MT were nice, but just that...a bit underwhelming.
    2. QupeSyrah: BobLindquist uses well-toasted FrancoisFreres barrels on his Syrahs and it gives them a distinct smokey character. This one leaped out of the glass as an older Qupe from that distinct smokey character. He often seasons the new barrels w/ BienNacido Syrah and then backblends some into his HillsideReserve to give it that same smokey character.
    3. EdStJohn: If memory serves me right on this, the Mourvedre in this wine came from BrandlinRanch afore they were ripped out.

    Tried this last night w/ pasta:
    1. RobertVoerzio VignaSerra Nebbiolo e Barbera (13%) 1987: Med.dark color w/ considerable browning; beautiful/fragrant dried rose petal/floral/spicy/lilacs/violets slight tarry/pungent/meaty very aromatic/complex nose; tart slight astringent/tannic beautiful Nebbiolo/floral/lilacs/violets spicy/spicy sausage/meaty complex flavor; very long/lingering beautiful/floral/violets old Nebb quite spicy/Italian sausage/meaty dried rose petal some road tar/pungent finish w/ light tannins; a terrific example of a mature/complex Piedmonte red; I wish more Barolos would age this well. $24.00
    The Reverend is out; no BloodyPulpit today.

    Next Afternoon: A slight loss of floral aromatics and a bit more pungent/tarry, but still smooth/polished/elegant on the palate and still a pleasure to drink

    Tried this last night (1/22/08) w/ pasta:
    1. AuBonClimat RanchoVinedoVnyd/SantaMariaVlly PinotNoir (TW) Clendenen-Tolmach Vintners/SantaMaria 1989: Med.light rather murky color w/ significant browning; lovely classic aged Burg/dried rose petal/dried herbs slight tomatoey/earthy some toasty/smokey/oak rather fragrant/complex nose; soft/smooth smokey/toasty/pungent/pencilly beautiful aged Burg/dried flowers very Burgundian complex flavor; very long/lingering classic aged Burg/dried floral some toasty/cigar box//pencillt/smokey bit mushroomy/tomatoey finish w/ a slight astringency on the backpalate; a beautiful/complex lovely old lady w/ very strong Burgundian character. $14.00
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. I pulled this out of my stash last night as a throw-away wine. It was ullaged almost 4" below the bottom of the cork; the cork was loose in the neck and started to twist when I ran the corkscrew in. The cork was very crumbly and pretty much disinitigrated when I tried to remove it, so had to decant it thru my filter funnel. I had tried the ABC '88 BenedictVnyd/SantaYnezVlly a few weeks earlier and it was totally DOA and went down the drain. So I had pretty low expectations for this wine, especially given the murky/brown color on decanting.
    What a huge surprise when I took my first sniff. It had all the earmarks of a lovely/old/mature RedBurg. But I suspected it was going to be dried-out/astringent on the palate, like many older wines. It was not. It had this wonderful smooth texture of a mature RedBurg; still loads of flavor, and a total pleasure to drink. I expect any Burgundyphiles would not be able to identify it as Calif. When you gamble w/ old wines...sometimes you connect and outta the park it goes.
    2. JimClendenen, Adam Tolmach, and BobLindquist, all striking out on their own from low-level jobs at ZacaMesa, first made their wines in a retired dairy barn on SamHale's property up in LosAlamos (the lesser one). MaryVigarossa, then pushing 90, was Sam's winemaker there, a lovely vigorous (goes w/ the name) sprightly lady. The Ojai, AuBonClimat, and Qupe labels were housed there. I first visited there in the mid-'80's on one of my early trips to SantaBarbaraCnty. First met BobLindquist and JimClendenen there on that visit. Adam, ever the stealth partner (Bob refers to him as the anti-marketing guy), was not there. Although I had ben sending Adam my tasting notes on his Syrahs with high/florid praise; he (of course) never responded to my missives. This unrequited love went on for years (followed Adam from the very start, I did) until I finally met this elusive winemaker at a WineCask futures tasting around '89 or '90 (also met BernieRoth for the first time then...but that's a whole nuther story...no unrequited love there!!). Sorta reminds you of Jacques Reynaud a bit.
    I had forgot that Adam & Jim were a partnership on these early ABC wines. I don't know if this wine was made in the dairy barn (no merde therein) or they might have moved to the Miller's CentralCoastWineCoop in SantaMaria. Shortly thereafter, they disolved the partnership, Jim & Bob went to their wnry on the BienNacido property, and Adam went to his wnry down in Ojai, to which I was eventually allowed to actually visit..the first of many subsequent visits.
    Anyway...it was a lovely trip down memory lane last night.

    Next morning: Pretty much dead & gone. Dried-out, astringent, nothing but charred oak on the nose.


    Tried the relic last week:
    1. Ramsay Calif Syrah (13%) 1988: Med.color w/ some browning; some toasty/charred/smokey slight Rhonish/roasted slight blackberry/Syrah old CdP/complex nose; soft slight metallic/dried out some roasted/Rhonish bit charred/smokey/pungent flavor; med.long some Rhonish/roasted slight metallic slight blackberry/Syrah finish w/ little tannins; a bit too dried out & some tannic but still interesting and much like an aged Cheateauneuf.
    A wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This wine was one of the very first Syrahs to come from Lee Hudson's vnyd in Carneros. The only year KentRasmussen got Syrah grapes from Lee. Kent's recollection of this wine was what he thought was an ugly blue label, but I didn't think it looked so bad. He continued to make Syrah under the Ramsay label (his wife's maiden name) and thought it one of the best wines he made under the Ramsay label. Alas...the realities of the marketplace....and the wine has been a pretty hard sell, so Kent finally gave up the ghost on Syrah after the 2002 vintage. Actually, since Syrah does so good in Carneros, I wouldn't mind seeing Kent plant some on his Estate there.
    The wine was getting a bit long of tooth, but still rather pleasurable to drink and a rather interesting glimpse of early Syrah history. It reminded me more of an aged Cheateauneuf Du Pape than anything. In its youth, it was quite a nice wine, more along the lines of a PinotNoir than a big Syrah, than anything.

    And yet one more relic from the archives:
    1. Sky NapaVlly Zin (TW) 1987: Dark color w/ some browning; rather earthy/dusty/pungent slight raspberry/blackberry/Zin bit perfumed/complex some cedary/cigar box nose; some dried out/astringent/tannic rather earthy/dusty some cedary/pencilly/cigar box bit bretty/rustic light blackberry/Zin flavor; med.long rather tannic/astringent/dried out some cedary/pungent/pencilly/ cigar box pretty earthy/dusty finish; only a slight amount of fruit left & rather dried out on the palate; a rather interesting nose dominated by an earthy/dusty character and a bit like an older Languedoc red.
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. This wine was a bit long of tooth on the palate but still an interesting nose and somewhat pleasurable to drink. Drank about half the btl, but the next day it was pretty dead and gone and a pretty murky brown (highly reduced wines can often fall apart overnight). Back in the '80's, I thought LoreOlds was making some of the most interesting Zins in the NapaVlly. I hardly ever see them at retail anymore (they are still making wines) and so have pretty much dropped out of contact w/ his wines. I really should order some and see if I still like them. Wonder what the alcohol levels run on them??

    We Tried another relic last week (1/14/08); egads...a friggin' Merlot:
    1. DryCreekVnyd Merlot DryCreekVlly (12.7%; 20% CS, 2% CabFranc; American oak) 1988: Dark color w/ slight bricking; rather vanilla/Am.oak/pencilly some herbal/blackcurranty/licorice bit cedary good fruit some complex nose; soft/smooth slightly tannic/dried out rather vanilla/cedary/ pencilly/oak/toasted coconut/ZagNut bar light herbal/blackcurranty some complex/cigar box/aged Cab flavors; med. rather pencilly/cedary/cigar box slightly astringent/dried out bit blackcurranty/ fruity some complex finish; a really lovely/complex/mature Cab nose but just slightly dried out on the palate; still a very pleasurable wine but starting its downhill slide. $15.50
    And a wee BloodyPulpit:
    1. DryCreekVnyds Merlot: I very rarely try or drink Merlot. I just find them a bit on the one-dimensional and boring side; a pleasant fruitiness, usually, but not much structure and just nothing that appeals to me. That being said, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Merlots from DryCreekVnyds. They usually are nothing profound, but just seem to have a certain tastiness to them I find appealing. This wine was a bit dried out on the palate, but had a really lovely old Cab nose and was quite a pleasurable drink.
    Not sure who the winemaker on this wine was but probably JeffMcBride or Marilyn(?) Zagunis. Under Bill Knuttle's regime at DCV, I think they're making the best wine they ever have in DCV's history. And reasonably priced as well.
    Percy Dweeblefuss (can't let it be known on the InterNet that TomHill drinks Merlot)


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