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Day May 24, 2005

Book #31: Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow

Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe lived up to his previous work, despite a seemingly weird and wacky plot device, the “tribes” based on time zones. Like most of Doctorow’s writing, the story moves at an incredible pace, and quite quickly I was amazed at the depth to which he’d worked out a plausible future with cultural “tribes” based on the time-zone affiliations of those who are deeply addicted to wireless communications. Once sold on this somewhat odd future vision, though, Doctorow delivers a wacky but well written story, and almost before you know it, the book is over.

This brings me to what is, perhaps, my only real “beef” with Doctorow’s fiction thus far: it’s time for him to write something more substantial. His first novel and Eastern Standard Tribe are both fairly short, and now that he’s proven his chops as an idea guy, I’d like to see more development, more depth, and more story. Let’s hope this happens as his writing matures, because these “snack” stories go too quickly, leaving me back in reality facing a gigantic pile of non-fiction. In the meantime, his next novel is pre-selling on Amazon…

Notable Recent Wines

I’m catching up a bit, finally, so I thought I’d write about a few of the notable wines I’ve tried lately.

Earlier this month at our regular tasting group, several white burgundies really caught everyone’s attention. Ramonet’s 1988 Morgeots was gorgeous, presenting a lush, spicy nose and terrific weight and depth on the palate. Even more surprising, however, was the Ramonet 1987 Ruchottes. This was a bit oxidized, with a hint of apple and botyrtis on the nose, but since this was the only good 1987 white burgundy any of us had ever tried (the vintage sucked across the board), we were pretty impressed.

This was followed by a nearly-perfect bottle of Niellon 1990 Chevalier-Montrachet, brought back from – of all places – Gillette, Wyoming by Chuck Miller. The wine was massive (for a white), with an incredibly long finish and presence on the palate. The wine held up well for several hours in the glass and stood up well to the various reds on the table. It was that kind of white wine. Sadly, this wine is incredibly rare, but it was terrific to get a chance to try it.

Also that evening, a Cos D’Estournel 1979 was wonderful, though still quite primary and leaving us to wonder if it will actually change much in the years ahead. We always wonder that, however, and the wines always mature. Except the 1986’s, of course…

My friend Bryan was in town recently, so we dug out Tempier Bandol and went to Cafe Campagne. I brought the 1993 Migoua to match up with his 1993 Cabassaou. Vinny brought a terrific 89 Tourtine, which was much more ready than either of the 93’s, of course. We started with a half-bottle of 1990 Clos Ste. Hune, which was slightly corked and not showing anything interesting. Fortunately, Campagne had a half-bottle of the 1987 Frederic Emile on the list, and we tried another 1987 white wine. Still very much alive, but with definite oxidation, it was simply nice to try it. The 1989 Tourtine was a classic maturing Tempier, with a spicy sweet nose with “tree bark” (as we’ve come to call the aroma), and a brown sugar sweetness on the palate with plenty of minerals and fruit. This was followed by the 1993 Migoua, which was pretty young and primary still (hold ’em!) with an abundance of the wild blackberry aroma, hints of blood and herbs on the palate, but mostly still tannic and unformed. The 93 Cabassaou, in contrast, was much tamer, with a restrained and somewhat delicate nose, but immense depth on the palate. Dark and almost beef-like, the minerals and tree bark really came out only on the finish. A terrific evening.

Most recently, a couple of us met at Seattle Wine Storage for a casual Sunday tasting, and ended up following a California cab tasting that had happened the night before. So we got to try a good number of 2001 “cult” cabs that had been opened the night before, and a couple of Washington counterparts. As usual, my impressions of the Leonetti Reserve were strongly negative – Figgins is a talented winemaker aiming at a vision which I simply don’t share. The wine is oaky to the point of being unpleasant in my book, a characteristic shared among the California “cult” cabs by the Pride Mountain Reserve, the Blanket Estate Paradise Hills, and especially the Harlan Estate. I’m glad somebody likes these wines, because it’s money they’re not spending on French and Italian wine. The Colgin was much more balanced and was a very nice wine, but my favorite was the Bryant Family. Of the “cult” cabs, Bryant has been my favorite along with Phelps, simply because they achieve a good balance between fruit, tannin, and oak, and the wine is pleasurable along all of its dimensions. Oh, and I almost forgot the Bond St. Eden, which was pretty good, along the lines of the Colgin but not as good as the Bryant Family. After this, we moved onto a few of our own wines; notables included the Robert Arnoux 2000 Suchots, the Quilceda Creek 1982 (which was mature and terrific), and the nearly immortal 1983 Quilceda Creek. The latter is still inky black and primary, and is either a quirk which will never mature or will be the first Washington wine to achieve Bordeaux-level aging potential. I’m betting on the latter. We finished up with the remains of the Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich 2001 Eiswein “Junior” (from magnum!) from the night before, still bright and very tart, like eiswein should be.