Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shorashim 2010 Launch (July 17, 2015)


In July, Vitkin Winery* launched their flagship wine, the Shorashim ("roots" in Hebrew) 2010, in a series of sit-down tastings showcasing the Shorashim, other current releases and surprises from the library. I attended the final gig at their brand new winery/visitor center, which started with a short video tribute to Nahum Ben Gal, Doron Belogolovsky's uncle, to whom the wine was dedicated (each vintage of the Shorashim is dedicated to someone important to the family). Following that, Assaf talked about the winery's philosophy and history. If I may say so myself, I did a good job transcribing those after my visit this winter, so you can read the full spiel here, but if you want a recap, Assaf wants to make interesting, fruity wines, that pair well with food, don't necessarily require a lot of bottle age and that are imbued with local character. Which is what you'll hear from many winemakers, but Assaf was just about the first to try attempt that with varieties that the industry viewed as scourge: Carignan, Colombard, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Franc.

Vitkin has been a favorite of mine for so many years that when Assaf Paz recalled how tough it was in the early years to sell their concepts, not to mention the wines, I was almost shocked to realize I was probably one of the nay-sayers who were reluctant at first to try wines like the Carignan.

* Vitkin is a family owned winery. Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky runs the show, her brother Assaf Paz and husband Doron Belogolovsky make the wines.

Riesling, 2014

Assaf might well admit that growing and vinifying Riesling in Israel isn't a very convincing way to make a wine imbued with local character. What the hell has the Mosel's favorite son to do with the hot, humid Israeli summers? The answer is he really loves Riesling and was offered good grapes years ago, and with a little foresight and a lot of talent and luck, not to mention good fruit, he wound up making a good dry Riesling. I buy it haphazardly; it's not my first choice in Vitkin whites, my first choice is the next wine, but it's a good drink and my wife likes it (although at the tasting, she too preferred the Grenache Blanc). The 2014 is a little more intense of flavor than previous vintages, rounder as well, while showing good structure and complexity. Right now, it's all about fruit, although not necessarily apples, more yellow summer fruit, such as apricots. Deserves a couple of years. 90 NIS.

Grenache Blanc, 2014

I am very wary of white Rhone grapes, especially Grenache Blanc, due to its association with white Chateauneufs, arguably the one white wine most people never manage to open at the right stage in its evolution. But Assaf made a very intriguing white Grenache in 2013 and this is just as fascinating, with tobacco, ash, summer fruit again, and acidity that brightens the fruit and imbibes it with structure and a saline finish. I don't know if this or future vintages will ever turn to be profound wines, but they will always be a welcome companion to fish and salad dishes. 125 NIS.

Petit Syrah, 2008

For me, this is the real star - of both the winery and the tasting. This is exactly what I want to get from local wines: character and the rough, muscular rusticity that comes from grapes acclimated to Mediterranean weather. It's very impressive, without being a trophy wine, but rather a still untamed, leathery, Old World wine for the discerning middle class, with acidity and savory tannins well matches with a good prime rib. This was made from the fruit of thirty year old vines, but the vineyard was torn down and later vintages came from a plot with even older vines, from the same general area (Ella valley in the Judean hills). It didn't seem to make a big difference in the quality and personality of the wines. 115 NIS for the recent release, 300 NIS for a magnum of the 2008.

Shorashim, 2010

At this point, the groom was hoisted in. My first thought was, this is too much in the mold of ripe Israeli reds, with blue, almost liquorish fruit. But, even if it is that kind of wine, a sensitive hand made it, tempered it with good acidity and hints of violets and I think it will turn out very good - it's already starting show the same leathery feel as the Petit Syrah.

Shorashim, 2006

Assaf says this 2006 was a  vintage of similar characteristics as 2010 and that year's Shorashim was a similar blend of grapes, and thus this wine, with four more years of cellaring under its belt, should be a good indication of where thes 2010 is going. Which is probably true, despite the 2006 still having sweet, baby fat to shed - but you can tell the leather and floral notes are more prominent now.  The 2010 is selling for about 300 NIS, so I think it's more expensive than many peer flagship wines. On the other hand, if the 2006 still needs more time nine years post-vintage, then these might be contending with Katzrin level aging specifications. I think these would be a fair deal if futures prices bring them down to about 200 NIS. At any rate, you'd be getting a lot of character in the bottle.

Pinot Noir, 2011

I struggled with the Vitkin Pinot 2006, finding it too full and sweet for my tastes, but the 2011 charms me with crushed berries and leather aromas. I know I shouldn't make comparisons with Burgundy (I'm such a Bourgogne-head that it's hard to avoid them, especially once my nose and palate start to register Pinot-ness), so let's just say this is a good New World Pinot Noir at a decent price. 85 NIS.

Late Harvest, 2011

Made from ripe, botrytis infected Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this is a terrific Sauternes styled dessert wine without the heaviness of a big Sauternes vintage. 125 NIS for a half bottle, a solid price.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dear Lamy (Jun. 24, 2015)


Dear Olivier Lamy,

We tasted some of your wines, with your local importers, Daniel Lifshitz and Eldad Levy, a.k.a. Bourgogne Crown. I understand you're hard at work at the domaine, so you might want to hear how it turned out. We started out with a Champagne, because it's a given that Eldad will open something from his Boutique de Champagnes portfolio.

Larmandier-Bernier, Brut, L'Attitude, n.v.

Brioche and mushrooms on the nose. This is a broad shouldered Champagne and seemed a little too ripe at first, so I was ready to dismiss it, but a few minutes showed it has enough acidity for balance and it ended up winning me over. Very good. About 300 NIS.

Bourgogne, Les Chataigners, 2013

This is a declassified Village Cru, as you know, showing lime with a streak of minerals. Very pure and saline, the acidity lends great tension. One of the best white "Bourgognes" I've tasted. 180 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2013

Do you agree with Daniel's assessment that Clos de Meix is the most archetypal cru in Saint Aubin? I ask because I don't have a clear notion of what a typical Saint Aubin is, but from my experience, this seems to be a wine people warm up to quite quickly. Whatever, it's showing citrus fruit and greater depth than the Chataigners, as well as marine aromas and flavors that just grow and grow. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Blanc, 2013

This is a cooler wine, with notes of pears that coolness showing in the aromatic profile as well as in the more prominent acidity that drives through to the saline finish creating great length. There's a mineral-laden character that is similar to the Meix with an added overlay of rainwater. 290 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Rouge, 2013

Apparently you are as good with reds as you are with whites, which is a pure delight. I understand this comes from fifty year old plus vines and I'll pat myself on the back because I spotted the old-vines intensity and length. Pungent minerals, sweat and a hint of flowers, a firm acidic backbone and persistent tannins. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de la Chateniere, 2013

How can I quantify the fine differences between these wines, all great, all equally mineral laden? The mineral sensations here are more intense and focused. The finish is the longest so far, the fruit the most concentrated. I find the Clos de la Chateniere to be a highlight in many tastings. The last time Daniel held a tasting of your wines, the Clos de la Chateniere was my favorite for its subtlety, here it's my favorite due to the way it slyly hints at what's in store. 365 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet, Les Tremblots , Haute Densite, 2013

An over, overachiever: a village cru planted with a very high density of low yielding vines, the result displaying detailed nuances of flowers and, again, minerals. It's way more intense than any of the Premier Crus - likely one of the most intense village wines I've ever tasted - although it's not as expressive as, even, the Les Chataigners. Not in stock.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Jun. 2015)

Shvo, Chenin Blanc, 2012

Hey, I try to avoid white wines weighting in at 14% ABV, but this is fascinating, in the rough, grainy ways that Gaby Sadan's wines sometimes present because he lets the vintages speak. It's a fat, round wine, but the roundness is thrillingly rough, the kind of wine where you find yourself drinking rocks rather than drinking fruit,  There are oranges and their lightly bitter peels, flint , and finally, a 'color' reminiscent of rye, which I sometimes get in Loire Chenins. (Jun. 4, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Gerard Betrand, Picpoul-de-Pinet, 2013

A very refreshing bistro white. Lime, minerals and oysters and that's just about it. Pair it with salads and fish.

Wine Route, 75 NIS. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Tua Rita, Toscana IGT, Rosso Dei Notri, 2013

The winery's entry level red shows typical Tuscan character filtered through a modern prism, so it's black fruited, ripe and smooth - with a Tuscan personality that is all about herbal/dusty aromas that are the Italian version of garrigue and evoke a working kitchen. I recall previous vintages of the Guistri di Notri (the affordable of the upper echelon of the winery's lineup) needed a few years to show their best, so possibly even this could use a year or two to shed its more modern aspects.  (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 97 NIS.

G. D. Vajra, Nebbiolo, 2013

This offers complexity of Barolo with a light flair: roses, tea leaves and iron on the nose, the latter reflected in the rusty, yet tasty, tannins. This is an excellent value, and wins over the Rosso dei Notri for its purity and general interest level. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 90 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

I was intrigued by the bottle I drank at Halutzim a few months ago, so when bottles finally reached the stores, I immediately grabbed one. This is terrific right now, one of the best local whites, with juicy acidity and a bouquet of flint and dry grass straight out of the Cote de Beaune. I still fret over apparent traces of oak, but I think it will be fine in a year. And I can't believe I just wrote that about a four year old Israeli Sauvignon Blanc! (Jun. 9, 2015)

130 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

Like Rene Engel and Oronce de Beler, Jean Foillard crafts wines that combine iron fillings and earth with a fresh, yet funky, fruitiness. This, especially, is close to the Platonic ideal of Beaujolais, and offers aromas of exotic spices and a very juicy core that leads to a long, saline finish. (Jun. 10, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2008

An enjoyable, albeit primary bubbly: apples and chalk abound, with little of the accouterments of maturity that make Champagnes so enjoyable, such as brioche and mushrooms, But the fruit is so vibrant that this wine affirms my belief that the BdB is Golan Height's best wine. (Jun. 13, 2015)

Domaine de l'Arlot, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Clos de l'Arlot, 2009

I wasn't really sure how much I'd really like Arlot, since I never tried the high end plots, so I thought I'd just indulge and check a big name from their portfolio. Actually, what happened was I had moved the Clos de l'Arlot from long term storage to short term, changed my mind and was then too lazy to put it back - so it wound up on the "to drink" queue. Anyway, this is excellent, with smoky earth on the nose, very savory fruit and crunchy tannins, and a piercing complexity. It's so forward and drinkable now, the acidity so relatively low keyed for Burgundy, that it's easy to miss the need for slow fine tuning the balance of sweet fruit and the tannic bitterness. I have a bottle of the Clos des Forêts-St-Georges 2009 that I will definitely wait a decade on.(Jun. 13, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 350 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Brut, n.v.

There's a moment within this wine that is indescribable. Mind you, Champagne has greater wines, but this Champagne captures the saltiness of Leroy's Aligote and blends it with the weight of a Chablis Grand Cru and tops it off with Pinot funk. All of which I can describe and just did, but at the core is a backbone, much less readily encapsulated, of truffle oil and chicken broth, which twists and turns like a roller coaster. Rave on. (Jun. 16, 2015)

Fat Guy, 269 NIS.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Cornets, 2011 

I love Redde, we all love Redde. Based on this, if Sauvignon Blanc were grown in Chablis, it could easily rise to the level of a Grand Cru. Les Cornets has a similar profile of rain waters and salty minerals, with subtle, yet distinctive, complexity and power and is one of the best values you can find in Israel. Which is true of Redde at all price levels. (Jun. 18, 2015)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Ecker-Eckhof, Wagram, Zweigelt, Brillant, 2013

Fun and friendly, interesting aromatic fingerprint, dusty and minty. If you know where to look, Austria makes terribly moreish lunch wines. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, I don't see it in the price list on the site, I assume it's about 100 NIS.

Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Scheurebe, trocken, 2012

I once called Scheurebe the Dusty Springfield of grapes and I'm sticking by that moniker. This shows a spicy side of this lustful grape, with a modicum of flowers rather the full blown effect I usually find, complemented and abetted by guayavas. Lovely, really, and you all should be doing drinking more Scheurebe. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Giaconda, 80 NIS.

Domaine du Rochouard, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Argiles a Silex Vieilles Vignes, 2009

A typical, tasty Loire Cab, with a saline, juicy finish, Even though it's not one of the big names in my fridge, I was disappointed by the lackluster aromatics: it checks off the typical herbal greenness but doesn't go much beyond that. (Jun. 20, 2015)

20 USD.

Moric, Burgenland, Blaufränkisch, 2013

A year and a half ago, I tasted a seven year old version of this same wine. The savory, crunchy, peppery reminded me of a Saint Joseph and I vowed to score a bottle. Two trips to Austria proved fruitless but I was so enthralled by the magic of this red wine that most of my purchases were of various red wines (in lieu of the more obvious choices, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner), but most were overdone, overextracted or overoaked, without the simple charms of this basic bottling. Only a very simple Brundlmayer Zweigelt rose up to my expectations. And now, Eldad Levy has once again saved the day by importing Moric to Israel. You could say I've earned my dues waiting for Moric to arrive at my home. This youthful version is just as charming as I'd remembered, with clay and black pepper complementing the red fruit, the soft, dusty tannins and the ripe acidity that props the plump fruit without being too prominent. Drinkable by the gallon with more than a modicum of interest. (Jun. 23, 2015)

About 120 NIS.



Ahat, 2014

Ahat ("One") Winery is the lovechild/boutique of Nitzan Swersky. Eldad Levy recommended her debut wine on Facebook, and even though I usually keep away from Rhone whites, I have faith in Eldad's palate, so I bought a bottle of this Viognier/Rousanne blend.

Turns out a little faith can go a long away. It's fresh and fruity, but the fruit (grapefruit and pears) concedes center stage to a light earthiness and even more subtle nuttiness. There is none of the opulence that Viognier gives in Condrieu, which I never liked, and, thank God, the alcohol is down to a very reasonable 12.8%. What else? Oh, the fat, round body you'd expect from Viognier and Rousanne is there, but it's tempered by very good acidity, so the wine is very fresh - and I already wrote that. If I needed to tweet a note, I'd say that Nitzan captured the Dr. Jekyll face of the Rhone whites. (Jun. 25, 2015)

120 NIS.

Faustino, Rioja, Edicion Especial, 2001

I love Riojas when they're good, but there's a point in their adolescence that I'm indifferent to, where the impact of the American barrels is still obvious and rough (coffee and drying tannins in this case). And that's where this wine is at, and not only that, being a special edition produced for the winery's fiftieth anniversary, it feels as though it's trying to make the best of all worlds: make an impressive first impression as well as insinuate that it needs to be cellared for a long time. I hope for the best, because even though I worry the tannins will outlast the fruit, I have great faith in Tempranillo and this does already hint at Rioja character, showing earth, sweat, crushed raspberries and tobacco leaves.  (Jun. 28, 2015)

Imported by WineRoute, I bought it for about 230 NIS at Bin 281.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who Let The Burgs Out? (Jun. 11, 2015)

Our monthly service at Halutzim 3
Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, En Remilly, 2011

This is pure and nuances, deep and electric, with racy minerals, juicy acidity, with not a trace of oak. I know 2011 is meant for relatively early drinking, but this has a lot of growth potential over five plus years. If one is into petty comparisons, I think it could well go toe to toe with an excellent Puligny Premier Cru, but I believe it merits attention and praise in absolute terms; drop dead gorgeous, with such juicy acidity that I'm sure it wouldn't easily succumb to premox.

Bourgogne Crown, 360 NIS.

Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

Fresh Pinot fruit, silky and juicy, with a hint of sweat and a saline finish. It has a very complimentary impact on the palate - that is, it's very moreish - but it lacks complexity at this stage. Taking into account the domaine's track record, I'm willing to blame the wine's age, despite the vintage's reputation for early drinking.

Wine Route, I believe,

Domaine Georges  Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny, 2000

Arguably beyond its peak, at least to the point where it doesn't show any obvious Chambolle character (although Daniel Lifshitz says the wine in older vintages was sourced from vineyards on the Morey border and was usually atypical at any age) , but it's tasty. More of a cross of Nuits and Gevrey, with a light veneer of exotic spices. I was very surprised it was as lively as it was, it really is quite a coup for Roumier to produce such a village wine in 2000.

Price unknown,

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Saint-Joseph, 2012

This takes time to hint at Northern Rhone pepper, but it's off to a good start with its languid fruit, which is in need of time to show nuances, such as a lovely, meaty stink.

Wine Route, 300 NIS. Dubious return in investment, as I feel Graillot, at two thirds the price, would trash and thrash it.

Kalleske, Barossa, Clarry's GSM, 2013

Once again, Avi Feldstein brings a wine that beats most Chateuaneufs at their own Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre game. A bros wine.

Mersch, 169 NIS.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bourgogne Crown 2014 Catalog - Final Tasting (Jan. 29, 2015)

Corkscrew and the damage done
Daniel Lifshitz has a new partner, Eldad Levy, a.k.a. Fat Guy. The merger has already made a foothold in Eldad's site, and I assume the portfolio to be fully available there in the near future. The prices quoted are from the original catalog, sans discount.

Anyway, while I've drank my merry way through a lot of the catalog already, I yet joined Daniel in the final tasting of the 2014 catalog in Tel Aviv's Raphael restaurant as there were wines I either hadn't tasted yet or wanted another look at.

Domaine Chauvenet, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2010

Red fruit, forest floor, a touch of animal essence. Smells fine and drinks elegant, good acids, tannins still gripping. Feels lighter than I'd expect from 2010, but I believe it will gain body in bottle. 210 NIS.

Domaine Olivier Guyot, Gevrey-Chambertin "Les Champs", 2010

This is more intense than the Chauvenet on the nose, and I think very Gevrey in character. More complex, too. Far less ready, but showing much appeal, due to the somewhat juicier acidity. 270 NIS.

Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay, 2011

The nose, surprisingly, is more intense than the Nuits and the Gevrey, and ready, even eager, to play. Here again I find red fruit and forest floor, maybe some sweat. The palate, in contrast to the aromatic intensity, is soft and luscious. Very fun to drink. Saline and tasty. 265 NIS.

Domaine Serafin, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2010

Now I'm truly captivated! This is intense and typical Gevrey, the nose making you sit up and pay close, close attention. Long and focused. Gevrey is supposed to be muscular and this is, but in a sinewy manner. 280 NIS.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru, Aux Guettes, 2011

An elegant  nose, meandering and round on the palate. I like Pavelot but the combination of vintage, vineyard and order in the tasting makes for a bad showing. 260 NIS.

The Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru, Dominode, 2011 is better balanced on both nose and palate. It's more complex and of a finer breed. Close to Volnay in personality. Lovely saline finish. 290 NIS,

Domaine Chauvenet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Vaucrains, 2010

Mostly about sweet fruit on the nose with a touch of minerals, compact fruit that hints at length and savoriness on the palate. The mineral finish hints at potential. 430 NIS.

The 2007 is an offhand fast forward to show that potential, although 2010 is expected to outshine 2010. It shows that same savory finish, that's for sure, and fine elegance. 410 NIS.

Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin "Mes Favorites", 2011

This is always a very clean, even floral, Gevrey, only hinting at the Gevrey sauvage. What I like about Burguet is the wines are very tasty but in an understated, almost elusive, manner. 310 NIS.

Domaine Serafin, Morey St. Denis Premier Cru, Les Millandes , 2002

This has matured nicely, without a hint of fraying, sheer joy of a wine that took its time to arrive. Leather, truffles. Long, firm yet giving. Showcases why 2002 is a great one. 465 NIS

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Morey St. Denis Premier Cru, La Riotte, 2010

Fruity and floral. Regal. Very clean. Very young, but its youth shows as a friendly monolithism. I expect time will expose what lies inside that soft marble. For example the minerals that are only hinted at after air hits the glass. 410 NIS.

Domaine Alain Burguet, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Les Rouges du Dessus, 2011

The nose is likely as closed as any wine in this tasting was going to be, seeing as Daniel had opened all the wines earlier in the afternoon, but it shows the floral clarity and purity Burguet always displays. So there's hope. 590 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Lavaut-St.-Jacques, 2010

The new kid in the portfolio. Actually even more closed than the Dessus. Good fruit in there. 425 NIS.

Domaine Morey-Coffinet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Caillerets, 2011

Lime and minerals. Exemplary nose but the palate is at an awkward stage, one it hadn't shown the last time I tasted it. I expect it to grow out of the adolescent phase, but I base that estimate on intuition and the trust I've built on Daniel's palate. 300 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru, 2011

Minerals a la Chablis, fresh, steely and racy. A hint of brioche. Terrific. 350 NIS.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Piedmont, Head On (Jun. 3, 2015)


This started out, as these things often do, with an enterprising friend with an itch for Piedmont and a bottle of Barolo to scratch it with. The entrepreneur sent an email to a group emphatic towards his needs. One thing led to another and finally, there we all were in the private dining niche in the Brut wine bar, a minuscule establishment with a giant heart and heartwarming cuisine.

G. D. Vajra, Langhe, Freisa, Kye, 2011

Spicy, dusty, with a green bitterness I thought it first to be oak - but I'm thinking, after the fact, might be the grape (Freisa, which is apparently Nebbiolo's country cousin).  The greenness is drying at first, but in time, the package becomes idiosyncratically tasty with lovely acidity and hints at future complexity, if not necessarily depth.

Imported by Dani Galil, 150 NIS.

Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Falletto, 2005

A fine balance here between a rusty nose and tannins and ripe fruit with a light funk. This is a big, ironclad wine, with juicy acidity and a long, elegantly tannic finish. Needs a decade.

Giaconda, 980 NIS.

G. D. Vajra, Barolo, Bricco Delle Viole, 2005

Elegant and a little smoky, embellished by roses. Very fresh and the acidity, while no less high than that I find in the other wines in the lineup, is seamlessly integrated. No rust here but no gloss either. Wine of the night.

Dani Galil again, 320 NIS.

Mauro Molino, Barolo, Vigna Gancia, 1999

A classic nose, complex and deep with spicy black cherries, meanwhile the palate is represented by savory, rusty tannins. Quintessential Piedmont magic highlights the most immediately pleasing wine of the night.

Wine Route, purchased for 249 NIS eight years ago. Molino was dropped off the portfolio some years ago.

Sandrone, Barolo, La Vigne, 2005

At this time, this is a monolithic stumbling block: ripe, modern with just a hint of typical Nebbiolo spices that grows stronger. Good tannins with rust on the fringes. Possibly hints at future complexity and mystery, and with time becomes more rusty beneath the ripe fruit, a development which serves it well.

Wine Route again, price unknown.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Premium Wine Tasting (May 27, 2015)

Premium Wine is a  boutique import business operated by Shimon Lasry and Dan Moshovitz. They don't have a site as far as I know, but you can look up Dan on Facebook.

The original themse was to taste Crois de Labrie, a small garagiste from Saint Emilion that Shimon and Dan have started importing, but since they only had sample bottles of three cuvees, they also added a few Tuscans and a rose from Languedoc-Roussillon. I was especially enamored of the Old School Tuscans, a really moving pair of classics - the Brunello and the Grandi Annate. I've forgotten how much I love this stuff when it's spot on.

Domaine de Montmarin, Les Oliviers, Cotes de Thongue, 2013

This orange colored rose is very dry and minerally, much drier than even the roses I usually imbibe. It has a lovely scent and in all, a refreshing, interesting quaffer. 70 NIS.

Gianni Brunelli, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, 2006

A deep nose, alcoholic and muscular, clenched yet detailed, showing spicy black fruit, chives, leather, a hint of violets. Very tannic on the palate and, again, muscular as well as detailed, full yet not bombastic. Needs a decade, but already shows the glory of Tuscany. 495 NIS.

The I Poggetti vineyard, birthplace of the 2011 Grandi Annate
Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Grandi Annate, 2011

If the Gianni stood in the corner, counter punching lithely, this dances around slipping punches. The nose is even more detailed than the Brunello and shifts and expands all evening, showing a regal rendition of classic Tuscany (again, spicy fruit, chives, leather). The bottle wasn't decanted and it's awfully young and closed tightly on the palate, but 10+ minutes in glass and it shows fine fruit, that while almost crushed by the tannins. 495 NIS.

The Grande Annate is the flagship wine and Avignonesi promise it will be the best expression of pure Montepulciano Sangiovese, That does not necessarily mean a single vineyard wine, although 2011 was sourced from 40 year old vines in I Poggetti.

Avignonesi, Grifi, IGT, 2010

A modern, much more accessible wine, showing Tuscan character on the nose, but a letdown on the palate. It's hard to appreciate coming right after the Grandi, as the sweet fruit clashes with the bitter tannins. I guess there's a commercial reason for making such a forward super-Tuscan, but it's hard to reconcile the two styles made by the same winemaking team. 300 NIS.

A few days later, at home, I also tried the Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano,  2011, which, at 150 NIS, offers a taste of the same Tuscan typicality as the Grandi Annate, yet without the same depth and intensity. It's still young and awkward, the tannins still bitter and gritty, a lot like the Grifi in that regard. But you know what? That only serves to underline, to me, what a great wine the Grandi Annate is.

On to the Right Bank.

Les Hauts de Croix de Labrie, 2012

A fruity wine with a light layer of minerals, not very complex but attractive in a manner reminiscent of the Loire. It offers immediate pleasure, although not necessarily a lingering one.

140 NIS (for a six pack and up).

Chapelle de Labrie, 2011

This lives up to the hedonistic label the critics have tagged on this small garagiste, providing pleasure as well as moderate intellectual depth. The palate has decent acidity and moderate tannins, while the nose has the typical bass-heavy Merlot character. Considering the Right Bank is always highly priced, this is a comparative bargain.

248 NIS (three bottles and up).

Crois de Labrie, 2007

More of what the Chapelle had to offer. At first the hedonism overwhelms the more interesting structural aspects. Then, it calms down and the structure asserts itself, always keeping true to the forthright personality, while the nose shows more details. I think it's now a very good example of Right Bank Merlot, and it would be interesting to match it against the second tier names - although, since everyone - owners and critics, admit it's a wine to drink on the early side -  matching it against more ageworthy wines would be awkward yet fun. But on its own, it's highly enjoyable and the high price is in line with the current market as well as the very limited production - as well, it's a very solid showing for 2007!

The 2006-2008 vintages sell for 590 NIS and are in their drinking window.