Thursday, March 03, 2005


This is a sans-vintage Greek Retsina. If features a pop-off ferrous cap, duo-tone label, and the word "RETSINA" molded into the glass. As this is more of an experimental excursion of a decidedly amateurish terrior, I will leave out the usual musings regarding bottle, label, and sealing canon. Though I would like to draw your attention to the startling image of a man being impaled on a giant skeleton key, the metaphor no doubt realating to a peculiarly Greek mythology.
A curious, initial waft of wax moustache/lips, or scented marker is noted. Aside from a minor, frightened treble of black pepper, the bulk of the bouquet (or smell, rather) is reminiscent of any number of olfactory trompe l'oeil. This is apropos, as the wine seems like something one should not put in ones mouth. This is a wine masquerading as a cleaner or as dish washing effluvia. I also could swear it was undergoing some process or change as I let it breath. Rarely does one get a visceral impression that a wine is truly respiring.
There was also something haunting in the nose. It was either too esoteric or advanced for me to pinpoint other than to say it made me think of...well, Idaho.
I did not want to drink this wine, from the label to the nose, to the way the retail sommelier shook her head, I was new this was to be no '77 Gran Mutard d'Alexandre. Luckily I had "Marakesh," from Peace Orchestra (CD, G-Stone G-CD 004) on the Levinsons, and had been drinking Bushmills since 6.
Again the haunting whisper of Idaho.
A selection from my notes:
First sip.... At first no flavor, nothing, the wine is galloping to the sides of my tongue, leaving in it's wake numbness and a musty, almost emasculating regret.
Second....This wine may have shared a prison cell with a poor Juet once, but that is as close as it ever came to anything I might drink voluntarily
Third...rag, dish rag, sleeve, leather, Idaho
I was 27 and working Ski Patrol in Sun Valley Idaho, it was 1987. My friend, an architect that was making a killing setting up vacation audiophile listening rooms, and I had a great set-up in a large chalet not far from the mountain. We were living rent free in exchange for showing the owner, a fairly well known casting agent, a good time whenever he flew in from LA. This usually entailed dragging a bunch of my ski school students over on a Thursday night with the promises of "clouds of coke" and both a hot tub and a pool. On one particular night we had failed to create the requested good time, we had in fact failed even to wake up and clean the house that day. Making matters worse was the hole in the passenger seat of his BMW 633i, put there during a blacked out attempt at using incense to mask pot odors.
As it was, he had always had a thing for me, undoubtedly a large part of why were able to use his chalet. He was pissed, I was wasted, I made out with him. He was 60ish, and he smoked cigars, a habit he attempted to mask with a complicated regimen of breath freshening tools. Thankfully some fireworks started after a few minutes and we all ended up out on the porch to watch. The fireworks lighting up our breath, making us all into winter dragons. I noted a hand print in the snow covering the cedar railing that had turned to ice, ice in the shape of a hand. Winter dragons and frozen people. The owner's hand was grabbing my ass, softly.
I can't drink this wine. It is making me think of all that I have done in order to live what I deem a "rich" life, and my utter lack of real accomplishment despite the opportunity and means I have disposed of. This is a terrible wine, three sips was too many. Dr. L.F. III PhD.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dry 1995

A wine review:
Vintner: Dalmacijavine Splite
Variety: unclear, "Quality dry red wine"
Vintage: unclear, "dry 1995"
Country of origin: Croatia
Importer: Stawski, Stanley

Initial Impressions:
The label and neckfoil were of excusably naive construction. While little is known of this winery, I can safely assume the neckfoil hails from the rather pedestrian Uconsy Taprisom Foilhouse of the Adriatic region, thanks to its telltale damascing. It was fairly seran in its removal and offered little satisfaction in the palm-crumple department. Given the romantic and mysterious nature of Dalmation reds, my hopes were high for a generous and sweeping label. I was not let down. The label, with its striking container-stamp font selection makes no mistake as to its rich, passionate, and ultimately intimatly romantic origin. A bold schooner (undoubtably the famed Dalmation vessel, Dubrovnic Skra Mesto [For Her Doth We Thrust]) cuts a handsome figure in orange and red across the stark black canvas of the labelfield.
The bottle, of the now commonplace "Hussar Scout green" glass, is a straight-sided variation of the Catalan Double Recurve. There is a full liter of enjoyment. One does, however, detect the slightest hint of unfluxed potash in the glass, a sign of unartful annealing.
The decorking went smoothly, no surprise as the Dalmation coast of Croatia is unusually rich in the coveted third growth, Alpina Cello variety, cork trees. These trees are revered for their supple neckfeel as well as being about as close to the DRmax breathability ratio as any cork one
can find. While the cork lacked the true refinement of a fine Bordeaux de Cello 'alpina, due to it's being carved outside the St. Pierre-pont-Avon Master School of Corkery, it none the less posseses the raw materials and thus the soul of those history shattering, world eating corks.
The first wave of nose speaks of unfiltered vodkas and cool tires. I was reminded of the third lap of the 1977 Montreal Gran Prix, I was standing near turn 6 (if you won't recall, it was a left decending radius hairpin, with moderate marbleing in the outer third of the apex) with a borrowed binaural recording setup. My lovely and patient wife and I had been drinking Screwdrivers since 7 am and we had just witnessed four drivers vault their Lolas and Williams into the barrier. My job was to record the sounds of that day, but what really struck me in that moment were the smells of those tires buring layered with those of my own sour, feotid breath. This bouquet brought me back, I could almost hear them putting one of the corner workers out of his misery. This was a late-braking bouquet, not afraid loose the rear end. And while this bouquet may not have scored the lowest laptimes, it certainly made for fine footage as it exhibited the sheer, visceral joy of smell for the sake of smell.
Later in the bouquet cycle, rained on keys loiter about for a moment until the final notes of empty buckets and a two-cycle Husky fighting a loosing battle against wet doug fir perform a final adieu conscriptum.
Post-processed wood flavors dominate the initial palate. The flavor was about 65/35 split between a mid-80s Dixon Ticonderoga No2 and Danish mid-century pressboard furniture, the splintery, almost dental mouthfeel of the former being the star. Other, minor initial flavors include library dust, soft tannins, as well as a hint of crocus. The initial palate narrowed considerably at the end, the harsh wood flavors were focused into a sharp tang, which pulled me quickly into the second act.
I found myself in a large room, the walls a tidal flouresce of flavors. One could easily make out arguments through doorways and down distant halls. TVs, recieving broadcasts from channels you have yet to see in your young years, flickered in the alcoves.
The tannins were almost flourescent in their redolence, they served to illuminate this foriegn tastescape with an almost familiar, puce glow. I humor myself to imagine there was a self-portrait of Goulyant himself on the wall.
There were flavors of bacon, cherry bark, pennies, toasted Malbec, OED binding glue, nitrile, ozone, etc. The usual suspects for a mid-ninties Vine D'Adria. But there was one first flavor, a beguiling friol. It was unmistakable, uncanny, unexpected and totally familiar to anyone of taste. It was the taste of the napkins available at the Musee D'Orsay, being eaten while staring into the eyes of Manet's Olympia with the fading taste of Nutella covered Chateau D'Eaux baguettes still on the tongue!
Psychotropics Notes:
At the 750ml mark I began to be consumed with old flames and the self loathing that accompanies thoughts about "those that got away", not surprising given the poetic nature of this terrior. The surprise for me was the all consuming anger that blossomed in the last, gritty dregs of the bottle. Dregs that I enjoyed straight from the bottle between (i'm told) terrifying tirades directed towards my family. Given the state of my kitchen and the my destroyed SH-833 150W Single-Ended Mono Block Power Amplifier (it was quirky and a bad match for my loudspeakers anyway), I would say this is wine deserving of respect, and a small dose of fear.
Final thoughts:
Any wine from an unfamiliar region deserves both the respect always offered to foreigners of means, as well as the fear and contempt of those who are different than us. In the case of this wine, I was modestly rewarded with a confusing and, at times, hallucinatory journey. In the end, it served to remind me of my own charmed existence and easy wealth, which is really what wine is all about. -L.V.F. III PhD