WINE REVIEW for NoMerlot.com
Beaulieu vineyard, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002
Beaulieu Vineyard, born in 1900, is too well-established (think Georges de Latour) and large to elicit warm and runny feelings in most wine drinkers, especially given its website’s self-important list of firsts, including but by no means limited to “First to import vines from France to fight phylloxera—saving Napa Valley.” Snoop around the winery’s press-release section and you’ll discover that BV was the featured wine at the 2004 Emmy Awards.
There are 350 wineries in Napa, and although most make a cabernet sauvignon, they don’t all strike the right balance between bang and buck. BV does. As I said, Beaulieu is a big ol’ estate bottler, with UC Davis grape-geek Joel Aiken at the winemaking helm, so what it lacks in terroir it makes up for with science. Especially when applied to cab-ology.
Like its flashier Rutherford big bro, the Napa Valley cab will get you where you want to go, and for about half the price. I uncorked a bottle to sip with my ho’made whole-wheat triple-pepper pizza. The rush of cherry flecked with vanilla prompted a sigh. Dusty minerals were capped at the close with black olive and new oak. And structure? This wine is built like a bunker. Though I’m about as underemployed as I can be, I laid in a small supply to get me through the winter months. All hail BV, the winery that saved Napa Valley, and, for all we know, invented the Internet.
WINE REVIEW for NoMerlot.com
Maniña Vineyards, Maipo Valley Carmenere, Spain, 2003
Historically, carmenere was among six varietals used for making red wines in Bordeaux, but, being a pissy little thing, it resisted ripening from year to year. Now it’s pretty much gone missing from France, finding a happy home in Chile, where the grape gained importation in 1850. Carmenere was originally mistaken for merlot (largely because it had been planted inadvertently among Merlot vines), and, like merlot, it was deemed a good mixing-it-up grape but not one that should venture out on its own.
Well, Chilean vintners have been bottling carmenere as a single varietal since the mid-1990s, and some would say at their peril. I would not. Now that I’ve sampled a cheap version, I’m eager to go all out.
The label’s own notes boast “generous fruit flavors.” I couldn’t disagree more, and this lack of fruit, in my view, is what makes Maniña Vineyards’ liquid silver so otherworldly and tongue-teasing. Once I popped the cork, poured, swirled the garnet juice, and swirled again, I did a double take on the aroma. The best descriptor I can manage is “manzanita.” Suffice it to say that this is the most exotic, herbaceous, and balanced bargain wine I’ve ever tried. Sage eclipses all other flavors, and to utterly delicious effect, in this hefty Latin lovely. The tannins are perfectly demure and the finish as long as a good laugh. Carmenere is my new favorite
Article for NetGuide
Suffering for Art?
A controversial exhibition of Willem de Kooning's abstract paintings has just opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Jan. 26 to April 29). Showcasing some 40 paintings culled from a colossal 300 canvases painted between 1981 and 1987, it represents one of those infrequent instances in which the insider's art world and mainstream media collide.
The exhibit, Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, The 1980s, has been causing a stir since opening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art back in October.
Up for debate is whether these final works, painted as de Kooning's mental health deteriorated from Alzheimer's disease, deserve the same critical attention as his earlier masterpieces.
The Dutch-born 92-year-old artist first began showing symptoms of Alzheimer's in the late 1970s. In an essay installed at the MoMA website, curator Robert Storr addresses de Kooning's struggle with Alzheimer's, which he and many others think is the driving force behind the artist's late works. Other critics disagree, pointing to the eradication of free will and cognitive reasoning—conditions that can kill the creative spirit—that is endemic to the disease. It's also been alleged that family members and studio assistants set up a painting "factory," placing canvas after canvas before the aging master. The New Yorker's Calvin Tomkins reports that de Kooning was unable to sign his name after 1986, but painted for three more years.
Regardless of your take on de Kooning's late paintings, whether you see them as strikingly animated or overtly simplistic, there's no denying that his mighty 60-year career bridges the gap between Pollock, Gorky, and Kline. And those with an eye on the Web would have to concur that Willem de Kooning has no true agent in cyberspace.