When you're in retail, November and December are nothing short of manic. The store is constantly flooded with people, deliveries are being shot out the door machine-gun style and the phones ring with such constant abandon that the noise almost begins to feel a soundtrack for the holidays.
January, however, is a much different season; the phones grow quiet, the staff collectively exhales. Then - housecleaning. This week has been inventory week - counting all the bottles in the store, making sure that the computer's inventory is at least as close to accurate as possible - an impossible task it seems, but necessary nonetheless.
With the "wall wines" inventoried last Sunday (these are the wines in the front 2/3s of the store - the ones not in our temperature-controlled room), Tom, Ian, Dan and I (Stephen) took to the cube last night to do the inventory; naturally one does not work till 3am+ without cracking open a few bottles. Here's the lineup:
1989 Foreau Vouvray Moelleux Reserve
Though the wine started out slow and decidedly funky, with dark, syrupy and confusing fruit skins, earth and an undeniable scent of wetness that flirted with the idea of TCA, over the course of maybe two hours the wine came into its own - it cleaned up its act, gained focus and poise, and was nothing short of very, very good. Chenin Blanc is just miraculous in the cellar - big, burly and clunky when young, with a decade or so behind it the wine really becomes so elegant, with a sort of dainty tip-toeing step to it, though in the hands of a producer like Foreau, in a vintage like 1989, the concentration is immense - as if every molecule of the wine has been stained with flowers, dark figs and honey. Great stuff.
2005 Jean-Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets
Undeniably closed down - even after being dumped into a decanter for an hour or more. That said, the raw material is there: A concentrated entrance, full of flair and plenty of green apple and flowers, very powerful stuff. Over the midpalate the wine tightens up, though it remains broad and gushing, a core of sea shell minerality pushing itself forcefully across the palate - great salinity and a mineral-dried-herb finish that clamps down so strongly, it leaves reverberations that echo on an on. An excellent use of wood - totally integrated into the wine. The verdict? Very, very good Cailleret, though it will be most rewarding for those with patience.
1990 Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin
Eighteen year-old village wine showing such class and charm! To my palate, this was the wine of the night, even though the Foreau was probably the better wine - it's just that Burgundy is so precocious, and visits with it always seem to be too early, too late, too this or too that... Well, it's memorable when the stars align and you visit a bottle when it's in the mood to be visited, as this Bachelet certainly was. Right out of the bottle it was just glowing with great top soil, moist earth, truffles, saw dust, a river bed minerality of rocks and pebbles, all peppered with dark red fruit skins and a lively perfumed strawberry note - the soprano to the bass of earth and truffles. At once delicate, supple, absolutely open for business, though with a lazy and friendly finesse, a soft embrace not at all too aggressive and forced, or too tired. Great length and purity.
2002 F.X. Pichler Sauvignon Blanc
This one just showed up at the store and it was probably a mistake to open, simply because the bottle was definitely shut down and probably a bit shocked from its travels. That said, any time an F.X. Pichler shows up at the store, my first inclination is to open it, and to open it quickly. Though closed down, wrapped in all sorts of bees wax, lanolin, mashed up stones and the like, the wine, as Ian said, definitely shows class and breed; it's linear, very suave, the concentration is evident even if it was inward-turned this night... Good length. My guess is this wine will come out to play in the next year or so, and when it does, it will be just gorgeously minerally and cutting, lithe and elegant... Fans of Pichler should grab some 'cause we don't have much!