As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

The men who knew too much?

An impromptu lunch with Michael Ferguson and Scott Levy

Believe it or not, as much wine as I have the opportunity to taste, drink, consume etc., I don’t really do it in a way that most probably imagine. So often I hear “Wow - what a cool job!” or, with a decidedly Beavis and Butthead-like tone, “Gee, I wish I had a job like yours. You must just sit around a taste wine all day long...huh..huh.”

Well, my friends, for those of you who think for a minute that tasting insurmountable heaps of wine and spirits over and over is all pleasure, think again. In fact, the reality is even if I could, I wouldn’t. Most importantly, as much as tasting a hundred or so wines a week sounds glam, when you couple the idea with all else that must go on and all else that I do my best to manage, there really isn’t much left over for gallivanting from place to place whimsically tasting and bobbing in and out of inebriation.

On occasion (and I've gotta stress on occasion), if the stars, workload, invitation, tasting line-up, etc. are all doing it together, I just may scramble out of the office or a meeting at one of our restaurants to join in on the tasting ritual. Remember, the taster's code of ethics and you'll be able to pridefully proclaim "I don’t swallow..I spit.”

Earlier this week, the one and only Mr. Michael Ferguson - a man I’ve affectionately dubbed "sales person anomaly of all sales people anomalies" in Georgia, or perhaps even the entire North American wine scene, called and asked me to join him, along with the ever-so-attentive Mr. Scott Levy, to a quick luncheon. New releases of Jim Clendenon’s ABC were on tap. The moon was approaching its apex of fullness and the pressure in the sky invoked pleasant memories of Colorado mountain living where the wind blows with a purpose and the endless horizons encourage the daydream. This fleeting inspirational moment gave rise to my enthusiasm and lent meaning to the idea of tasting a bunch of ABC all at once.”

2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris / Pinot Blanc
Bright and refreshing aromatics suggesting red and green apples with a compelling leesy character reminiscent of some top northern Italian producers. Mouthwatering from the initial attack through the palate, where the signature Clendenon acid arrives earlier than expected, adding a lift and vibrancy to the fruit, accentuating the slight stony minerality and literally raising the roof - and, if you will, the palate - ceiling height, enabling a myriad of complexity to fill in where the typical domestic PG/PB’s fall short. A brilliant effort that shares those uncommon elements of satiating richness and overall palate brightness and “light footedness” that beckons you to buy up a case in preparation for the coming warm season and the seafood fiesta you’ll be having in your backyard.

Undeniably fantastic, straight down the middle, good for the SB and Chardonnay drinkers all at once. An epic value! Highly recommended!

2003 Au Bon Climat “ Hildegard”
Jim's rendition and homage to the the ancient or undocumented traditional, more than likely, blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligote. When I first tasted this two or so years back, it hadn’t evolved and, while it was impressive from a stylistic standpoint, it was a bit overbearing; waxy, single dimensional and dumb. On this day, however, with two additional years of bottle age, let me say again, the stars were aligned and the wine showed brilliantly! Despite the heat of the vintage and what appears to be some additional barrel ageing aimed at countering that massive fruit, the key elements have evolved nicely. Utterly attention-grabbing aromatics of almost schistous, wet black rocky minerality, more leeseyness, and a good smearing of sweet oak that led into a striking mouthfeel that reminded me of how great wines of this caliber are with proper maturation. How rare it is to find domestic whites that can, and do, actually hang on for the haul! Finishing strong with graceful acidity and a tinge of oxidative nuttyness, the wine is ready to drink. While the 2003 Hildegard is a thinking wine for those of us that enjoy the pastime, it would just as well serve the progressive and or moderately adventurous chardonnay drinkers that appreciate distinction in that oh so Clendenon way.

2006 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County, Chardonnay
With the typical ABC distinction, this young chard might be the best food chardonnay I've ever tasted at this price point. Showing like a Macon village wine from a hot vintage, this little betty does all that you could possibly want from a $15 chard - and more. Enticing aromatics of lemon oil and apricot kernel are flanked by that aromatic nippiness that suggests the bright acidity to come. Round in an atypically round way, again, the acid arrives quickly about two beats into the mid-palate, repeats some of the oily stone fruit and citrus, flashes you with a smidge of what feels like 2nd year barrel oakyness and then darts out of the room like Roadrunner. You say, "Wow, how delish, how satisfying and how good would it be to have another sip!” I wish more chards were built like this. Highly recommended. Buy a case of this one too!

2005 Au Bon Climat, Pinot Noir “La Bauge au Dessus”
This wine is sooo fresh, soooo bright and soooo ultra delicious! Noticeable on sight, in this vintage, Jim opted to include fruit from a new parcel which imparts a decidedly more masculine, unctuousness and streak of flesh to what has historically been a bottling all about finesse. Probably a good marketing decision, the wine showed very well and, again, as much as I despise the overuse and over contrasting of domestic wines to the likeness of European counterparts, this wine really hits hard in the best way. Emulating all that is wondrous about a good Bourgogne rouge from a good producer in a good vintage, this wine is that plus a splash of ripeness which is in my mind the one element that makes this vintage domestic. Trapeze artist would be proud to serve this at the carnival! Bounding aromas of sweet red cherry and raspberry are joined at the hip each waving a sachet of cinnamon and dried huckleberry and conifer briar. The palate, although noticeably rounder than in previous vintages, still shows elegance amid the darker fruit profile. The wine finished with a refreshing slap and a lingering suggestion of thanks giving baking spice. A graceful medium bodied La Bauge that will age nicely and provide immediate pleasure for those in need of a good schnootz.


Hardy / Dirty said...

Nice notes on the ABC wines. This is a producer I may need to revisit. "Epic Value" always has my attention.

acidfreak said...


thanks so much for the feedback! i really enjoy reading your blog as well.