23 Jan 2008

'New, Pristine Territory'

'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'
[William Morris, key founder, Arts and Crafts movement]
Pictured, an inauspiciously titled café near Charing Cross.
January is an important month within the trade calendar, especially for Burgundy (e)valuation. I confess, however, that even after a few seasons practice, getting the best out of any bustling tasting can be hard work. Discipline is key. The trouble is, one is expected to honestly judge a team's extremely hard work in a few moments, often in front of its creator, normally too young and 'all shook up' by recent movement. Something which took minimum one year from pruned vine to branded bottle.
Andrew Jefford wrote an honest piece in last month's Waitrose Food Illustrated about how important attractive, simultaneously functional labels are to the consumer. But they speak to the professional too. A flaccid, day-glo, gimicky cover does an absolute disservice to its contents. And I must confess, I have on occasion ignored what on paper look like an interesting wine when confronted with its actual outward ugliness. Perhaps a little like a dating site...?
I went to a seminar then tasting focussing on Oregon, 45th parallel, on Monday, Howard Rossbach, President of Firesteed Cellars leading. The experience confirmed that Oregon should in my opinion bury its ambition for Pinot Gris, which lacks finesse and texture in the hands of its seemingly elderly producers. In terms of Pinot Noir, this region with 'more cachet than cash', which apparently led the new world into this variety from the 60's, still has a way to go to broach the gap between boasts of quality versus actual. Indeed 'the greatest vineyard for Pinot Noir may not even be planted yet'. The seminar soon fractured when delegate posed questions of US entry policy, involving fingerprinting and retina scans, were raised. -Just because the chap hosting was American did not mean he was responsible!
Domaine Drouhin's West coast investement unravelled an '05 with a very individual signature. Rhubarb stalk in colour; on the nose, feminine, but in a manufactured way, like Jordan. Recovering on the palate, however: clean, powerful, sweetly accented with big, flash, fleshy strawberries and a lovely sly spice. Suprisingly tannic, with a tenacious finish.
Bethel Heights Estate '06 was dark beetroot in colour with more serious, gamey notes presently masked by charcoal. It could well develop into something quite 'funky', although for now it resembles a burning florists.
Sokol Blosser's '05 was so much better than the '03 I tasted last year. That was drab, this was much more dimensional, coyly charming even. Purely put together, with a milkiness, overall evoking dark glacé cherries.
But Lachini Vineyards '05 'Giselle' strongly resembled pickled onions.
What really impressed me, however, were the Washington State Merlots, shown alongside, which felt mature in their unity of style. Powers Winery '05 was particularly luxurious. I would like to spend more time looking at this area in the future...