Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cellar report: 2003 Cameron Pinot Noir; 1998 San Vincenti Chianti

Sometimes when I pull a bottle of wine up from the basement I find it amazing I got to here from where I started. I mean there was time, back when I drank more for effect than for pleasure (not that old habits don't occasionally creep back!) that I would buy Taylor's California Cellars Chablis in the 1.5 liter bottle because I thought that since it had "fancy" script writing on the label and it was a "chablis" that I was pretty sophisticated way to get loaded or impress whatever random date I had back then...or both at the same time. I think the last time I partook of the TCC was with a friend when we were going to the drag races here in PDX back in the early '80s (and believe me, the picture of me at a drag race is pretty incongruous since that is not exactly my normal milieu. Although using a words like "milieu" and "drag race" in the same sentence is pretty incongruous, too.) and since we forgot glasses we were drinking it right out of the bottle. Not exactly connoisseurs, but it had the desired effect!

Those memories are still with me, and I think it is part of the reason that while I love good wine and have amore than healthy quantity laying in wait downstairs, I try to keep it all in perspective. And two of bottles I've had recently certainly improved my perspective. As a starting point, let me say that I love Tuscan sangiovese. There is nothing like (in its good versions) its dusty cherry fruit, earthiness, and how it just screams of where it comes from. What they call terroir. I don't carry any domestic sangiovese at the wine shack. What's the point? They will NEVER be as good, have nowhere near the food affinity, and oh-by-the-way cost two to three times as much. This 1998 from San Vincenti was Tuscan loveliness. In my experience regular Chianti Classicos (as opposed to Reservas) from good vintages/producers really hit their stride at about ten years of age. This one was surprisingly young, really taking time to open up, even after decanting. But it had all the requisite cherry, blackberry, and dust that I like with perfect acidity. It would easily last another five years, but the other night it was exactly right with Marcella's spaghetti alla carbonara!

Then to move as far across the wine dial from Chianti as possible you have the profoundly pleasurable pinot noir from Oregon's Cameron Winery. Idiosyncratic winemaker John Paul is the Willamette Valley's version of a reclusive Burgundian squirreled away in his cellar, doing things his way, making political pronouncements as powerful as his wine. In other words, I am a huge fan! John's pinots are elegant, and he eschews the new oak/overripe-fruit school that way too many pinot producers have signed up for, letting his incredibly pure fruit speak volumes. And he never submits his wines fro ratings by the various wine publications. He knows they're good, and everyone else should too. Along with the amazingly Burgundian pinots from Thomas, I think his are one of the two best Oregon pinots out there. They are nothing if not true. His 2003 "Arley's Leap" bottling we had a couple of weeks ago was delicious. Still very young, but showing his characteristic strawberry-cherry tinged fruit, with earth, spice, and violet notes peeking out, then making their presence known as the wine opened. Brilliantly balanced tannins and acidity. Great stuff, and I'm feeling better about my future happiness knowing I have a two more bottles stashed away.

Sorry for the photo quality. I'd blame it on jet lag from our trip, but that was, uh, four days ago it is actually just a crappy picture!

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