Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bad tasting note of the week

Mmm, a wine that tastes like this!
Thanks to alert reader Bob Silver, I present you the latest Bad Tasting Note of the Week.

This one comes for David Schildknecht, writing for the Wine Advocate. Many followers of the Advocate praise Schildknecht for being more restrained than his colleagues. But sometimes you get a little Syrah in you and all that goes out the window.

This review is of the Rôtie Cellars Northern Blend 2010 ($40), still available from the winery website in case the descriptions make your mouth water.

I prefer to run these reviews verbatim but in this case I had to put in some paragraph breaks because trying to get through this long block of copy made my head hurt.

Boyd’s 2010 Northern Blend – its Syrah co-fermented with 5% Viognier – is all Walla Walla (half from the cobbles of Milton-Freewater), but he still utilizes the Washington State appellation because he wants the label of this flagship bottling to remain unchanged and wishes to retain open options to source from any part of the state.
Scents of bacon; fresh cherry and red raspberry shadowed by their distilled counterparts; violet, honeysuckle, and acacia; musk; lavender and other resinous herbs; along with pungently bittersweet citrus oils, all capture one’s attention. Their counterparts on an infectiously juicy, fine-grained and strikingly buoyant palate are mingled with veal stock and mouthwateringly savory pan drippings. Cardamom and black pepper add yet greater complexity. The clean, marrow-like meatiness that extends all the way through this Syrah’s lusciously long finish is anything but gamey.
While I generally turn a skeptical eye toward associations of New World wines with Old World icons, I have to say that tasting this open, elegant beauty immediately put me in mind of one of the great, old Cote Blonde Cote Roties of Pierre Gallet. And while I wouldn’t – absent a track record – predict a two decade life span for this Walla Walla Syrah, neither would it shock me if it were to achieve that. In any event, one ought to at least plan on following this terrific value for the better part of a decade.
‘For us, 2010 was great for Syrah,’ comments Boyd, ‘but there were huge powdery mildew issues in many valleys as well as frost. So you had to be in the right location, especially on hillsides, with wind flow’ to ward off both fungus and rot. ‘As long as you have that, your grapes are going to ripen eventually. This one we picked on November 3.’ 94pts.

First, I'll give Schildknecht credit for doing some work. He interviews the winemaker; there's some good information about winemaking philosophy in the general intro to all Rôtie Cellars wines. However, all information is not created equal, and if good journalistic writing is about choices, bad writing is often about bad choices. Do you care about "powdery mildew issues in many valleys" when you're reading a tasting note? If Syrah was good on hillsides, was this wine from hillsides? Would it kill him to list the alcohol percentage?

And here's what he REALLY missed: Milton-Freewater and its cobbles are actually in Oregon. Parts of northern Oregon are in the Walla Walla appellation. However, the way I read the TTB label laws, 75% of the grapes from a wine labeled as "Washington State" have to be from Washington State. So is this wine illegally labeled?

Still, this is not why this review makes my Bad Tasting Note of the Week. Let's look at what this wine tastes like: "veal stock." "Marrow-like meatiness." And my favorite, "mouthwateringly savory pan drippings." I don't know whether I should approach this wine with a glass, a fork or a shotgun. Or maybe antibiotics, as it's "infectiously juicy." Ewww. And just in case four flowering plants aren't enough to pinpoint the aroma, Schildknecht hedges his bet with "other resinous herbs," which brings to mind -- what, exactly? Do seed catalogs have an aroma?

I do know that I just love the review's finish: "This one we picked on November 3.' 94 points." How many points would the wine get if he'd picked on November 8? We can only wonder.

Here's a bonus from alert reader Jack Everitt: A brilliant tasting note of 2008 Screaming Eagle Second Flight from Cellar Tracker. If only I had a Great Tasting Note of the Week.

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Patrick Frank said...

There are more problems with it: The writer made almost no mention of the color, texture, level of grip, or tannins in the wine. This note is not wine analysis but cheerleading.

Matt Mauldin said...

If you like that one you should read his reviews of the Cayuse wines... they're like reading Blood Meridian...

Emily H. said...

I, for one, do like the comments about the vintage. I get a lot more out of those kind of comments than the descriptors that contain obscure fruits and the like. That said, the tasting note does seem as opulent and over-the-top as the wine sounds :)

Rarig said...

I have turned my entire office's attention to your blog after reading this post. Bookmarked!

I love how this blog is nothing but real content - let's laugh but let's laugh at the bull**** and really analyze things here.

I call it approachable content!

W. Blake Gray said...

Thanks Rarig! Hope I don't lose you next week when I write about sake and karaoke. At least you won't be able to hear me singing (although my former colleagues in Tokyo, after enough booze, occasionally said, "Blake-san, please sing Metarrica.")

Jonas Landau, everydaywineguy said...

That is way over the top! I was reading a Tanzer tasting note the other day on a Rosso Conero from '09 and in talking about the aromas he said, "...with notes of tobacco and pastrami" - Pastrami? , from Katz's Deli?