Field Recordings Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2008

Look, I know I really shouldn’t be saying this, but I’m sure we can all admit that we’re innately predisposed to like certain wines and not others – and that before having ever even tasted them. The name alone of this wine makes me smile: as an old school music nerd, I’ve got plenty of CDs around that are, well, field recordings: right now, I’m listening to Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Dartmouth Street Underpass just, you know, because.

The packaging of the wine is beautiful: beautiful typography, very fresh and clean, and the overall vibe is that of a winemaker who is content to get out of the way and let the wine be itself: fine by me. Heck, even the wine itself appears cloudy, unfiltered: if your idea of vinuous beauty is liquid that looks more like an agricultural product than lemon crush, then you’re in excellent territory here.

Speaking of territory, it’s always delightful to see lieux-dit on the label: there seems to be a growing trend of bottling wines with labels that emphasize where they’re from and not “what they are” (in a varietal sense), and I think that’s pretty awesome as well. The overall effect is undeniably kinda awesome; I would expect to see this on Terroir’s wine list before the year’s up… but of course only if the wine itself measures up.

Does it? Thankfully yes. Beautifully textured, displaying golden yellow clouds in the manner of fresh cider, the wine smells of chalky gravel, fresh lemon zest, and neroli. It also smells very wine-like in a way few New World wines tend to: it’s got a real edge of steely austerity to it as well, smelling less like primary fruit and more like a Serious Adult Beverage.

Texturally the wine tends towards medium weight, with not much haptic impact. Stylistically it reminds me more of oaked South African chenin blanc than it does of anything French – there’s something in the texture that’s reminiscent of lees – but there’s no obvious oak here at all, so my guess is that it saw bâtonnage but no new oak.

The experience of a drink of this is exceptional at this price point. It begins with a calm, almost barley water-like note, backed by forceful acidity, before fattening out in the midpalate to be almost Meursault-like, with suggestions of hazelnut and cream, before slinking away into a soft, gentle, lengthy finish with an almost-bitter edge to it. It’s a beautiful thing, lovely to drink, and I’ve replayed it a dozen times just now, marveling at the experience.

Best of all, I distinctly get the feeling that the winemaker’s input here was indeed minimal: there’s no obvious chicanery going on here, just good wine made from good grapes grown in a good place. I don’t believe I’ve ever had an American chenin blanc this good before; here’s hoping he’s able to not only make more in the future, but that it finds the audience (and market) it so richly deserves.

Field Recordings
Price: $15
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Qupé Marsanne 2007

It looks like I have Jancis Robinson to thank for one more thing: the third edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine has turned out to be not only an invaluable reference but also heavy enough to serve as a flat surface to park my wine while lounging on the sofa, MacBook at hand, to blog.My first, fleeting impression was of dried sugared pineapple, but that quickly dissipated in favor of something not unlike popcorn flavored jellybeans. In short, it smells strangely buttery, salty, mineral, sweet, tropical, nutty, and flowery all at the same time – overwhelming, almost, but of course charming as well.The palate is much more restrained than the aromatics; it tastes much more French than Californian, with firm structure and a mouthfeel reminiscent of beeswax. The finish is lovely, with hints of wildflower and length to spare; acidity is present, not unsettling; color is elegantly pale (think Tilda Swinton, perhaps).If this wine were French, it’d cost a hundred bucks; this wine isn’t, and I’m thinking I should lay some down for a good, long time. Just as Tahbilk marsanne lasts decades, I suspect this one would as well.Qupé
Price: $14
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail