We've had a long layoff from the Usual Suspects, the holiday season created commitments for all of us, and back there in mid-December when I was working holiday hours at the shop and also working musician's hours with the band, I was pretty beat anyway.
But now we're back, North Carolina's no-smoking rule has gone into effect, Elaine got a big new job (we would never be so insensitive as to ask how much she's making, but I think it is quite a bit more than she was being paid to sell wine, since this is a much bigger job for a much bigger company), and--not that this was a big surprise--Elaine and Karl are dating. It's nice.
And I couldn't help but notice, looking around, that the smoking ban didn't seem to have chased away any regulars. And we can all stop complaining about smoke interfering with our enjoyment of the wines.
Anyway, we had a lot to catch up on, even though we see each other almost every day at the job, and I'm afraid conversation about the wine was sparse. Not that the wines weren't worth talking about: First up was a 2005 Condrieu from Éric Texier, which showed the characteristic nose of yellow fruit and orange blossom, as well as some hints of aromatic herbs. In the mouth, the wine managed to be both brisk with acidity and quite full. With food, a little creaminess showed up. This was very different from the '05 Delas I'd tasted a year or so back, which showed a lot of orange and a lot of creaminess, and was pretty straightforwardly in the off-dry camp. A creamsicle for grownups, I called it then.
We also discussed the generally poor results we got from cheap viognier. The only one we really liked was the '08 Domaine la Bastide, from Guilhem Durand, which had freshness and vivacity that was lacking in comparably priced wines (including the wildly popular Yalumba, which tastes to me of canned fruit salad). Elaine was of the opinion that good cheap viognier was essentially a matter of luck: "They're never consistent from year to year," she said.
Next up was a Canon-Fronsac from Chateau Moulin Pey-Labrie 2000, which made Elaine smile. "I've been buying this wine for almost as long as I've been in the business," she said. Naturally, it is a Joe Dressner pick, although the bottle we had did not have the fancy artwork shown on the Louis/Dressner web site. I got a big snootful of chocolate mint on the nose, and Karl mentioned a kind of green wood note, "…like when you scratch the bark off a tree in early Spring." Elaine added that it was also really juicy, "…like blackberry juice, and raspberry juice." I agreed, and thought the juicy quality was worth remarking on since the wine was 99% merlot (plus a pinch of malbec), and some of my recent merlot-heavy Bordeaux notes had included references to "chocolate milk." In this wine, it's just a hint, not the whole show.
Happy New Year, everybody, thanks for looking at this, whoever you are, and no, I would never dream of inflicting a 10-best list on you. There are plenty of those already.