On the Fourth of July, I was far too busy wishing I was in Monaco to give much thought to what’s probably the biggest backyard BBQ holiday in America. A relaxed Sunday brought the opportunity to at least give tradition a nod, with some easy cheeseburgers and asparagus on the grill along with a potfull of early season corn on the cob. What we chose to drink seemed appropriate enough to the food if not the holiday.
Rheinhessen Grüner Silvaner trocken, Wittmann 2006
$28. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Frederick Wildman, New York, NY.
Glowing medium yellow in the glass, with aromas of corn, fresh pressed linen and crisp green pears. At once rich and nervy on the palate, ever so slightly pétillant and showing a few graciously handled grams of RS. My first tasting impressions were hazy but one thing was certain right away: the wine has amazing length. Spätlese-like extract levels stain the palate, the wine’s flavors clinging with great tenacity. There’s also a great mineral depth lurking behind the up front pear and garden-fresh flavors. Much richer and more intense than Keller’s estate Silvaner trocken, and correspondingly more expensive.
Saumur-Champigny “Terres Chaudes,” Domaine des Roches Neuves (Thierry Germain) 2006
$25. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vos Selections, New York, NY.
This displayed the side of Loire Cabernet Franc that still sometimes leaves me scratching my head, showing aromas that nudge right up against those often associated with TCA though absolutely not corked. It’s little wonder that so many people have a hard time coming to grips with Cab Franc. In the end, just to be clear, I did like the wine. It showed lots of pepper – both black peppercorns and bell peppers – balanced by juicy plum and blackberry fruit. With a little time in the glass, it showed more aromatic depth: sweat, blood, pencil lead and some animal character. Firmly tannic, slightly low on the acid front and a little bit awkward, this needs some more time in the cellar to find its harmony though I expect it will always be more intriguing than elegant. It also needs meat on the table, so was a happy match with our burgers.
Rioja Crianza “Viña Cubillo,” R. Lopez de Heredia 2002
$22. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: USA Wine Imports, New York, NY.
65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacho, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo. Medium red, with faint garnet, brick hues. Its nose of forest floor and dried cherry tobacco hints at the beginnings of maturity yet the wines was juicy and sprightly as could be on the palate. This is Heredia’s “everyday wine” – and a really tremendous value. Beef jerky and dried cherries develop on the nose, as does a leathery streak on the mid-rear palate. But above all, the wine has energy and spirit. It’s as if you can taste the striations of the vines – sinewy, cut and fully detailed yet with no sense of clinical precision. I’ve heard of some bottle variation with this vintage – the last bottle I opened was corked, but that’s another story. This one was singing.
Moulin à Vent “La Réserve d’Amélie,” Domaine Gérard Charvet 2002
$16 on release. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, VA.
This we opened just to check in on its progress. My notes read something like this: “Pepper eau de vie, pepper juice, black pepper tea, brined green peppercorns….” You get the idea. Either I was wrong about this one when it was released or it’s going through an extremely strange stage. I’m heavily inclined to think the former is the case. When young, this was delicious and showed what I though was great potential. Now, though, it’s not exactly shot but it’s far from becoming. My last bottle is going into the experimental bin for a final examination a few years down the road. You’ll find slightly less disappointing notes on the 2004 vintage here, though my dining companions on this Fifth of July related that their last bottle of ’04, opened recently, was in a less enjoyable state than was this bottle of ’02. A never ending mystery….