Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Octoberfest


Zarate, Rías Baixas, Albariño, Balado, 2016

Sourced from 60+year old vines, this is not even the flagship wine. But it's good enough to fool me. The top dog, the El Palomar, is sourced from 150 year old vines. It probably needs more time that I gave it to show its best, which is why the bottle I had in May was less spectacular than this beauty, which explodes with minerals and acidity. This is what Sauvignon Blanc would taste like if it drove a pink Cadillac. (Oct. 22, 2018)

Fat Guy, 120 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, Blanc de Blancs, 2007

I'm a fan of the GHW sparkling wines - and of little else in the portfolio. So this is the first Katzrin, of any kind, that I've bought in almost fifteen years. Running through the technical details, this is 100% Chardonnay from the northern Golan Heights, it is brut nature (so virtually no dosage) and recently disgorged (I assume 1-2 years ago). Its Champagne peers would be a mid tier vintages - not the blue chip cuvees or the Special Clubs. There's a backbone of fine acidity with excellent focus, but the substance atop of that backbone is too clunky for blue chip filigree. However, given that backbone of acidity, I feel comfortable letting it cellar for at least 1-2 years and see what happens. At any rate, easily one of the best 10 local whites released this year. (Oct. 5, 2018)

About 250 NIS.

Flam, Syrah, Reserve, 2016

An excellent nose, peppery and sexy, very much Syrah, almost Rhône: riper than Saint Joseph, less complex that Cote Rotie. Needs a couple of hours of air before its sweet and bitter flavors to come into balance. (Oct. 1, 2018)

About 140 NIS.

Harashim, Black Bird, 2016

Another Syrah (from the Galilee, just like the Flam), from a small, bio-dynamic boutique this time. The Syrah character is less obvious, on the sweet side, rather than the savory, peppery side. Just okay.

Domaine Geantet-Pansiot, Chambolle-Musigny, Vieilles Vignes, 2012

The floral character of the village is here, but I admit that, were I to taste it blind, I might confuse this for a Gevrey. Well, this is probably appropriate given that this is a Gevrey domaine. The complexity and depth are on par for an upper tier village wine, while the black fruit is a tad rustic. Very good, with a tasty, saline finish. (Oct. 2, 2018)

60 euros.

Lahat, White, 2013

Mute at first, we put the bottle aside and by the time we returned to it two hours later, this Rhône white blend opened up to show funky minerality and persistent presence a la Burgundy. Lovely! (Oct. 4, 2018)

Chateau de Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Lisagathe, 2010

With a cedar streak and subtle minerals, this is clean and easily one of the best Loire reds I’ve had. Good form and potential, potential it is already living up to. (Oct. 4, 2018)

Bar-Maor Winery, Chardonnay, 2017

This isn't bad, showing a tropical side of Chardonnay that is almost Sauvignon in character. It's a bit sweet and limpid, perhaps rather short and simple, but its clean and pure flavors are very refreshing. However, I think Chardonnay needs more tensile strength to show best. (Oct. 7, 2018)

About 100 NIS.

For the same price, and a similar approach (elevage in stainless steel), Sphera, Chardonnay, 2017 is a wine with greater focus and verve. I don't know if it's due to better terroir or a more confident hand in the winery, but Doron Rav-Hon has again crafted an elegant marriage of apples, chalk and salt, with the tensile strength I missed in the Bar-Maor. 

Muga, Rioja Blanco, 2017

What my recent experience with Iberian whites as taught me is that they can be some of the most mineral laden of wines, in a sense more so than Burgundy. Maybe it's because the specific character of the minerals they evoke can be more sulfurous and saltier. This is a good example of that, especially since it retained a lot of freshness after a mere three months in barrel, so that it shows limey, citrusy flavors complemented by  salt. (Oct. 15, 2018)

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuh, Riesling Spätlese, Ur Alte Reben, 2012

Drier than an average spätlese without being outright dry, this is a well measured and balanced cocktail of green apples, pears, pink grapefruit and slate aromas and flavors. (Oct. 19, 2018)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Chateau Golan


I haven't drunk, or even tasted, Chateau Golan in ages. Maybe the odd bottle of the Syrah in restaurants. I last drank the Eliad and Sauvignon Blanc fourteen, fifteen years ago. I don't remember ever drinking the Merlot or Cabernet and I know for sure I never drank the Rhone blends in the Geshem line.

In fact, since the last time I drank a bottle of Chateau Golan, a tidal wave has hit Israel. 

A tidal wave of "Mediterranean Wines". 

For a winery calling itself a Chateau, Chateau Golan has been very matter of fact about the Geshem line. Everyone who has visited the winery has told me that these are the wines dearest to winemaker Uri Hetz, yet you never hear or read any spiel about the suitability of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre to Israeli terroir or cuisine, no high brow, second hand PR about identity and heritage and "Mediterranean Wines". No self-congratulatory Facebook posts, either.

I should really have been paying more attention to a winery that has done virtually nothing to make me zone out. I missed out on the Rose and Sauvignon Blanc, which are seriously lovely.

Geshem, Rose, 2017

This is mostly Grenache. It's probably the best Grenache based rose I've tasted, the nose streaked with clay and chalk for an evocative effect. I know it's excellent because I sniff it so much you'd think it was a Bourgogne. And it's not only tasty, it has a persistent enough presence to make the palate impact both long and memorable. Justifies the 100+ NIS price tag.

Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

I have to go really far back for a memory. Fifteen years ago, a local wine store organized a tasting of Israeli Sauvignon Blancs. Fifteen years ago is like Israeli Sauvignon Blanc: Year One, when everyone released their inaugural SB. The Chateau Golan probably cost about 100 NIS and was the most expensive wine in the tasting lineup by far, over twice the cost of the runner up. It was the only one aged in barrel and the elevage showed as yeastiness rather than overt oak. It costs about 140 NIS these days and the competition has caught up, price wise. As for quality, well, in one sense this is the most 'serious' Israeli white I've ever drunk, taking almost an hour to open up and then coalesce. Very mineral-laden, a cross between Sancerre and Puligny, this is a wine that yearns for a cellar where that bubbling spring of minerals, oak and fruit will have time to settle down.

Geshem, Red, 2015

I get that the name Geshem was a sort of hommage to the classic GSM blend (it only works in Hebrew, sort of), but I'd have gone full pun retard and called it Chateauneuf Golan - even though the 2015 reminds me more of Gigondas and carries its 15% ABV with greater ease than many CdPs carry a 14%. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Master and Milgo


This lineup from a birthday dinner covered the full emotional range known to wine geeks: disappointment through heartfelt enjoyment to the sublime and immortal and back to disappointment, with a detour through a weird back-road or two. 

We started out with a disappointment.

Drappier, Grand Sendree, 2008

If this is the best Drappier could come up with for their premium cuvee in a great vintage like 2008, then someone needs to take a long, hard look at the house's decision making process. Despite a fine nose with decent complexity, the total package is underwhelming because the palate is sweet and under-dimensional (there was nothing we could perceive that would suggest a bottle-specific fault).

Domaine André et Mireille Tissot, Arbois, Les Bruyères, 2015

All the Tissot Chardonnays that I've tasted were weird in a good way and this is no exception, a Chardonnay that marries the intensity of Corton-Charlemagne with the peaty accents of Islay Whiskey, while letting enough fruit to shine through to make the package very palatable.

Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2004

And, speaking of Corton-Charlemagne...Shining after a few minutes of air, this shows the Corton-Charlemagne signature of high octane minerals married to fruit that is exotic and reserved at the same time. My batting average with Bonneau goes up to .300+ at long last with this great, reserved filigree

Anthill Farms, Sonoma Coast, Peters Vineyard, Syrah, 2015

There are things I look for in a Syrah: pepper, flowers, bacon. I don't suppose I really need them all in one wine. What I get here is bacon and a touch of exoticism. It's a ripe wine, not excessively so, and underneath the ripeness is a tannic backbone. Merits an extended session and another look in a few years. I'm adding Anthill to my wish list.

Pierre Gaillard, Cote Rotie, 2013

No useful notes here. It feels typical, yet mute and uninspiring at the same time. I really hope it's just a question of youth and that in better surroundings, and that with longer and more rapt attention, I'd have been able to perceive its potential.

Domaine Rapet, Corton Grand Cru, 2012

A winsome nose, spices, mint, autumnal forest floor shit. Sadly, the palate is coarse with its drying finish, and lives up to Corton's reputation for being an underpeforming Grand Cru. 

Dujac, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2011

There are producers and vineyards you can always bank on. Dujac, I think, is on that list, and Echezeaux, while not in the short list of the great Grand Crus, is certainly consistent. I think this is a very top tier Echezeaux, even in a vintage not destined for the history books. It has great depth, finesse, poise and the aromas of rotting leaves are so evocative that I can imagine the Cisterians had no recruitment problems.

Egon Müller, Mosel, Scharzhofberger, Spätlese Riesling, 2011

Icy slate blazed by sulfur tinged minerals. The balance is so exquisitely focused that the sweetness flows like liquid crystal across the palate until it culminates in a salty finish. A great wine with effortless composure that will probably outlive me.

Domaine l'Aiguelière, Coteaux du Languedoc, Montpeyroux, Côte Rousse, 1995

This cuppa full of brett is going to sway a lot of hipster hearts. Not mine, though.

Kracher, Burgenland, Welschriesling, TBA, Nummer 3, 2009

This makes me question Kracher's reputation, but then again, I also tend to question Sauternes' reputation. In both cases, a spicy, hedonistic nose is followed by a palate constructed favoring low acidity. I think more wines are ruined by low acidity than any other single fault.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

September Songs (Sept. 2018)

Mostly Burgundy and top flight Israelis this month. And a white Portuguese - the whites of Portugal need to be on your shopping lists!

Niepoort, Duoro, Dialogo Branco, 2017


We had spent a week in Portugal and drank a Duoro white almost every day. Usually 10 euro stuff, which translates to sub 100 NIS wines in Israel (which is more or less what this should cost). Without exception, they were very balanced and tautly shaped, ripe without excess and all ingrained with a fine mineral character, salty a la Chablis. I'm just going to recommend you try whatever is available until you find your house white. The Diaologo is a good starting point. (Sept. 30, 2018)

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2015

This is a wine I've adored through three vintages, 2011 through 2013. I'm keeping the 2014 because it's such a sharp, focused vintage - a marathon lady - but 2015, well, it looks like the kind of vintage that flatters the reds and turns the whites into hussies. (Sept. 10, 2018)



Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, St. Joseph, 2014

This is my first encounter with the Chave estate St. Joseph, and, off year or not, it's a beautiful wine. One of the things I love most about North Rhone Syrah is the combination of black/blue fruit, flowers, pepper and bacon that evoke an almost feral wildness, even in the most elegant wines. I find all that here, especially the bacon. What I like less is how the acidity and plump fruit don't mesh very well on the palate, obscuring the savoriness that only emerges after three hours, but the density, structure and depth remind so much of a good Cote Rotie that I would wager on cellar time to resolve this issue. (Sept. 14, 2018)

Wine Route, 200 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, 2013

In addition to the usual substantial substratum of minerals (and the Shoresh is always a very mineral-laden wine), there's an echo of flowers in deep center field. (Sept. 2, 2018)

Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2015

Not only do I buy this wine almost every year from Bourgogne Crown, it's the wine I look forward to the most. It doesn't have the body or depth of a Premier Cru, but it does have the flair and excitement of one. What you look for in great white Burgundies is a certain kind of nose where the fruit aromas set the stage for something else, usually minerals. The point is, the fruit is never supposed to be too forward. Actually, nothing should be too forward - the charm of the filigree whites is always in their reserve. The magic here is in the interplay of dry grass and minerals. As far as the palate is concerned, it has an electrifying presence, with a lithe body and terrific, juicy acidity that lends great length to the snaky, salty finish. 

Aligote is a racier grape than Chardonnay, which is, presumably, why the wine feels as though it came from a cooler year than 2015. The quality is a testament to Benoit's winemaking skills, as well as the source of the juice: plots planted in 1949, 1953 and 2002 in Puligny proper. It actually impresses as a wine that could develop for at least five more years. I promise myself to hold on to my next bottle, but I know I won't.

(Sept. 4, 2018)

100 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigners, 2015

Like the Ente Aligote, this is an overachiever, a declassified village plot, with solid weight and girth. 2015 is a warm vintage, yet this doesn't come off as ripe or fat, just a little bulky.  The vintage is obviously less rewarding for Chardonnay than for a grape like Aligote, which seems to eat up the sun like a performance enhancing drug. Nonetheless, this is in no way ripe, sweet or tropical. If, like me, you enjoy a savory finish to your white Burgundy, you're going to get it here - it's just not going to be very focused. (Sept. 5, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 140 NIS.

Feldstein, Argaman, Appassimento, 2016

Argaman is an Israeli wine grape. It is a crossing of Souzão and Carignan. The intention was to produce a variety of wine grape with good rich color, which had been a problem in Israeli wine. (Wikipedia)

Appassimento: Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavors. (Wine Spectator)

Avi Feldstein has long been the proponent of Argaman in Israel, extolling its virtues and potential and producing the first varietal Argaman wines in his days at Barkan. This latest version from his eponymous winery begs the question: if you love the grape so much, why do you think you needed to dry it? Well, he only dried half the grapes that went into this wine and he did it to avoid a longer hang time in the vineyard (meaning, he could have gotten the same concentration in the field, but with some cons he wanted to avoid). The end result is interesting and appealing, achieving a plump, earthy character similar to Israeli Carignan or Marsellan, but with a different texture and set of aromas. (Sept. 8, 2018)

160 NIS.

Feldstein, Rose Carignan, 2017

Feldstein’s roses are another of my annual highlights. They are worthy of anticipation because they show varietal character, intensity and focus without losing the basic character of a good rose: a light body with a smattering of pungency providing structure, winding up in a savory finish. I can’t say they’re the best roses in the world (mainly because I haven't tasted a wide enough range of roses), but they're surely the Platonic ideal of rose. Anyway, the Carignan has an earthy, spicy character with a nose as complex as, say, a good Cote de Nuits village red. Seriously, this is as close to Burgundy as I've ever had in Israel. (Sept. 9, 2017)

The Feldstein, Rose Grenache, 2017 is a lighter wine, and less intense. I prefer the Carignan because it's so winey it exists on a level beyond rose, yet remains a rose. I have less to say about the Grenache rose, alas, but it's always a step more pure and focused than an average good rose, with shadings of flowers and clay. (Sept. 13, 2018)

Rizzi, Barbaresco, Pajoré, 2013

Yaffo Tel Aviv and Eldad Levy imported this bargain house a few years ago at a really low price (that I forgot to write down in Cellar Tracker). This is very pungent, on both palate and nose (but especially on the nose), a blast of red fruit and tar - wild and unruly, yet with a soft, friendly center. A very complete, small scale classic. (Sept. 25, 2018)

Imported by Eyal Mermelstein.

Sphera, White Signature, 2017

This flagship is dominated by Semillon, as I recall, and it's glorious this year, coming off almost like a New Zealand Sauvignon with its fresh gooseberries. The spanner in the works is a fine, pronounced strain of chalk and salt. (Sept. 29, 2018)

About 150 NIS and worth every shekel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Terrible Truth About Riesling

Settle down for a haul. The annual Riesling post is always wordy.



Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 'Rotlay', Riesling Auslese, 2006

Although Germany can be just as vineyard oriented as Burgundy, some would argue that the variety of ripeness levels and style across the different pradikats obscures the character of the cru system. I'm not supporting that argument, I'm just stating it. I don't really agree with that argument because I've been able to find common themes in kabinetts, spatleses and auslese from the same vineyard. 

I'm not the one who has to set winery policy and make wines. At Selbach-Oster, Johannes Selbach does and a long time ago he decided to showcase his terroirs by harvesting select plots of his top vineyards in a single trie, in addition to his usual lineup of pradikats. Rotlay from Sonnenuhr was the first product of this experiment and the Himmelreich Anrecht and Schlossberg Schmitt followed a few vintages later. 

I forgot that the only time I drank the three side by side (the 2015 vintage), I concluded the Rotlay needed 3-4 decades to shed its sweetness. I'm not sorry I opened the 2006 so early, because the cork was wet to the point of crumbling, so I doubt this specific bottle was very fit for the long haul. Like the 2015, this is ripe and sweet, hinting at botrytis, initially without any obvious structure to provide focus and direction. But I think the structure - the acidity, basically - is all in there. You just need to spend a couple of hours with a bottle to watch the nuances unfold and gauge how the seeming lack of structure is just mass and depth of fruit. When I did that, I got notes of slate beneath the fruit. 

A great wine in need of great time. (June 8, 2018)

About 40 GBP.

Margalit, Riesling, 2016

With less than ten serious Rieslings in Israel, everyone who makes a Riesling can lay claim to being one of the top ten Israeli Riesling producers. I'm quite satisfied with having four or five good ones, and they don't even have to be great, or be a toe to toe match with the Mosel or Austria, to satisfy me, as long as they express something a little different. I'd say Margalit is a decent addition to the ranks. It's herbal and minty, with a very light touch of kerosene. The palate is quite tasty and dry for its 11% ABV. This is what I find most surprising about it. I wasn't expecting this fine a balance between extract and finesse. Final verdict: well made, but lacks a distinct character. (June 19, 2018)

About 110 NIS.


Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Auslese ***, 2002

It's probably the specific bottle and not the wine or vintage, but I miss acidity here. There's a complex canvas of aromas and flavors, dominated by kerosene and dill, and it's fun to drink, but without enough acidity to propel it along, I don't find the vibrancy I expect from a three star. (July 19, 2018)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett, 2016

There's apricots here as well, although I think that, as is often the case with young Mosels, the predominant character is green apples There is also dust and earth, on top of the more typical slate. What I really like is the shape it forms in the mouth, light and ethereal, almost water-like, its grip tightening and become more tactile and cooler at the same time, with air. (July 26, 2018)

Fat Guy, 130 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling, Auslese #14, 2006

What I consistently get from various encounters of top tier Schaefer wines is that the fruit is so multi-layered and deep that you can find profound nuances and depth at every stage of the wines' evolution. This is almost at the top of the Schaefer hierarchy (save for auction wines) and that boundless depth and complexity made it hard to nail the wine's age. The apricots, underpinned by honey and minerals, seduce effortlessly. It's very likely that this wine will survive me, never mind more recent vintages. (July 19, 2018)

It's worth remembering why we love this stuff. Not for a sense of place so much as for a sense of being. That combination of place, grape, year, winemaker. And all too rarely, a divine spark coursing through one or more of the four. The Domprobst is blessed with that spark, which I experienced on more than one occasion. Hundreds of miles away, the Nahe has a vineyard and winemaker of equally high repute. 

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

Always laced, when not packed, with minerals, at ten years of age, this is complex, detailed and subtle, the apricot and apple fruit speckled with spices that verge on the exotic. (Aug. 1, 2018)

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I've been drinking E-S for over a decade. I remember drinking the 2004 Frühlingsplätzchen Kabinett with Anat Sela when Giaconda's first batch came in. Anat later told me I was Giaconda's first private sector customer. It's a close call, but sometime I prefer Emrich to Donnhoff. The terroirs are different, but usually the Emrich-Schönleber's are clearer and more crystalline (on the other, Donnhoff's at their best have more depth). I'm down to my last bottle in the foreseeable future.

This is a great wine, with an exquisite, ethereal balance of sweetness and minerals, already showing finesse and complexity. If ever a wine carried bottomless depth on a gossamer frame, this is the one. (Aug. 23, 2018)

Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2007

Ausleses are always delicious. Sweetness can be such a hedonistic pleasure. But if I stop and analyze this, it really is too unctuous, without enough acidity to uplift it. Whether you examine the aromas or the palate, it is just huge gobs of baked, caramelized apples, slightly tempered by hints of petrol and botrytis-fed spices. Fans of Sauternes will love it. I like it, too, but purely as guilty pleasure. (Aug. 10, 2018)

Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett feinherb, 2015

The racy side of Mosel: lively, freshly picked granny apples, the juicy fruit propped by a vivid backdrop of acidity, the mineral veneer stretched over the surface like a taut drum skin. Still primary. (Aug. 25, 2018)

A terrific value in the US at 20 USD.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wines and Meat (Sept. 6, 2018)

Wines for hipsters vs. wines for the affluent
If someone asked me to pick a wine for hipsters, the last place I'd look for one is Bordeaux. I love Bordeaux. I love the infinite variety and richness, the heritage, the dream of a lush life the wines offer, the taste. But, Bordeaux is basically about getting the best wine money can buy. It's been like that since the Dutch drained its swamps and the upper class came rushing in to build their chateaus. Even the garagistes were just a tweak to the system, not a real change in direction.

In short, good to great wines all over the place, dependable and predicable, but, as Hugh Johnson put it, "not much novelty - hence less sommelier excitement".

But there's one small domaine in Saint Julien that's been doing things their way for centuries, a Carl Fredricksen hanging on to his house while skyscrapers tower over him. The Fillastre family has been tending the Domaine du Jaugare and their meager 1.3 hectares of vineyard since 1654. But they've come to the end of the line. Jean-François Fillastre is a childless octogenarian who's been preserving his family's heritage and flying in the face of modernity to the point that the domaine was rejected from the appellation for lack of typicality.

Judging by the prices this sells for at Manhattan wine stores, the hipsters have indeed been taking to Jean-Francois like Russel took to Carl. 

We recently drank the Domaine du Jaugaret, 2012 that Yotam Sharon brought for a belated birthday celebration. I liked it. It didn't make me swoon, but it really is a charming wine and if the establishment is successful in grinding down the domaine, it will be a tragedy. The grapes seem to have been picked slightly earlier than the norm in Bordeaux, so the fruit is very red (not green, just red). That's probably why pundits compare it to Burgundy - I personally find it Loire-like, rather, on the palate. The winemaking is solid, with no bombast or flash. The fruit is clean, with good acidity and no brett. A wine of great, rough charm and the "lack of typicality" claim baffles me. Sure, it's miles apart from the Leovilles, say, but for me, well within reasonable bounds of variety.

Benoit Ente, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Sous Le Puits "Terre de Blagny", 2012

This is one of my favorite producers in the Cote de Beaune, with a style and approach that highlights balanced, acidity driven wines. The wines cost roughly as much as the better known Puilgny name Etienne Sauzet, but Ente consistently thrills me more. This is lovely, with a nose of decent complexity, if not more, and detailed nuances of flint. It's lithe and savory and develops and grows well in glass.

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2011

This family establishment, and this wine in particular, are a long time favorite of mine, but I'm not sure aging really serves the Champs des Billons that well. At four years old, it was as great as the very best Chablis Grand Cru. Two years later, it started slowing down. This bottle is still holding steady, but it sure doesn't seem like there's an upcurve in the future. I am going to be more conservative about aging Sauvignon Blancs.

Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2004

I've been fortunate enough to have drunk more than a dozen vintages of Lynch-Bages over the years. And what a classic claret it is, with that elegant richness of form and taste of the best of Bordeaux. This is more of the same and very presentable. If you have multiple vintages, this is the one to open now.

And this is the wine to keep away from for the next ten years:

Chateau Canon, Saint Emilion, Premier Cru Classe, 2015

Too young. Fruity but not raw. 

Alion, Ribera del Duero, 2006

I usually find this boring. At best, it's a well made wine that impresses without straining to do so, but lacks excitement nonetheless. That's just me, of course, but I do try to like any wine I buy, if only to justify the expenditure. Tonight, though, it really meshed in the lineup and there’s a freshness and persistent buzz of iron that lifts it beyond its usual game. Best Alion experience I’ve had.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Hot Days of Summer's End (Aug. 2018)

The Crianza that decided to be a Grand Reserva
R. López de Heredia, Rioja Crianza, Blanco Viña Gravonia, 2007

The problem with mature white Riojas is that the style is the quintessential acquired taste. I have acquired a taste for them over the years, to the point I now regret I didn't buy more of the Gravonia. It's easy to pigeonhole the savory aromas - roasted nuts and minerals bordering on cured meats - as oxidized, and that's certainly what I thought when I first encountered white Riojas. And, surely there is light touch of deliberate and measured oxidation. Yet, the Gravonia's bouquet is so complex, vibrant and convincing that it wipes out any preexisting bias. Same for the palate: there's a richness bordering on sweetness, but even after years in bottle, the acidity is still in vibrant balance with the fruit, so that the form remains focused and culminates in food friendly saltiness. 

There is actually another problem with mature white Riojas: bottle variations I've had a decent amount of white Riojas from Heredia. Some were gems, some were really off and some just did not meet expectations. I've had Reservas playing at Grand Reserva level and vice versa. The best white Heredia I've had was a twenty one year old Grand Reserva Tondonia 1991. This is a very close second. (Aug. 15, 2018)

Fat Guy, 150 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2012

I don't have too many data points on Drouhin, but the best of the wines I've drunk ranked as the best wines of their class from the negociant houses. A wine store near our offices accepts lunch vouchers as payment and I'd had my eye on this for a few months. The thing was, I didn't trust the store's climate control. When I asked the seller to bring a bottle from the back of the shelf (less exposure to light), he said the batch came in "just this week". Yeah, right. But this bottle is in decent shape, a sous bois, umami shape. It's an old school Gevrey, a wine that coughs and scratches, rather than seducing: drying tannins and aromas of black fruit, blood and iron, and not one to age further. Yet it does have its roguish charm and those tannins eventually soften up and put out. I like. (Aug. 2, 2018)

Vitkin, Israeli Journey, Special Edition, 2016 

What's special about this edition is that it's based on Marsellan (and then Carignan, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdo), which has been hit and miss with me so far. It's different from the regular Journey in that it is more floral and riper, whereas the regular shows iron and graphite. It reminds me of their 2014 Grenache, and although it is less convincing than that beautiful wine at this point, I think there's mid term promise here. (Aug. 3, 2018)

About 90 NIS.

Vitkin, Grenache Noir, 2015

I didn't think this is up to the par of the 2014 when I first drank it a few months ago, and I still don't think so now, but it's improving. The nose is more complex and the palate has gained a lithe shape that I really like. I do find it hard to find a tangible reason why it's a lesser wine - mostly the length and I probably miss the floral element that I loved about the 2014 - but it is a wine that I want to follow in future vintages. The reason for that is the way Assaf Paz was able to get pure, fruity, spicy flavors out of Grenache while keeping the alcohol, sugar and extract down to very reasonable levels. Take that, Chateauneuf! (Aug. 16, 2018)

Arnaud Baillot, Montagny Premier Cru, Vieilles Vignes, 2016

This is the new Burgundy negociant that Wine Route has started importing and I know nothing about the enterprise. It was a whim buy and I forgot that Premier Cru is overvalued at Montagny, with about 50 Premier Cru vineyards. This is a decent wine, nothing especially exciting here, it could serve as an introduction to Bourgogne but that's it. (Aug. 4, 2018)

About 200 NIS.

Margalit, Paradigm, 2016

2015 was the vintage where Margalit released their first red made of non-Bordeaux grapes since the one-off 1999 Carignan. I liked it a lot and I like the latest release almost as much, with some reservations, as it it's on the oaky side, on the cusp of the area where I tend to lose interest. My gut feeling is that another year of experience with the Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre grapes and the better harvest conditions in 2016 promise a wine I'd like even more down the road, when the oak integrates better. It's very well made, balancing deep dark fruit with a good flair of acidity, and despite the 14.5% ABV, it's lither than its Southern Rhone peers - even if right now the finish becomes coarser as the wine airs. (Aug. 11, 2018)

135 NIS.

Chateau Clerc-Milon, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2008

A fifth growth that sometimes deserves its rank and sometimes overachieves. This is the former, although it is enjoyable. The nose is typical Pauillac - blackcurrants, iron, earth and cedar. And a little rustic, with a touch of brett. The palate is still disjointed, the tannins and acidity in disharmony, and that makes it tough to enjoy the bottle. (Aug. 18, 2018)

Wine Route, 299 NIS.

Netofa, Latour White, 2016

Netofa is a new one for me, a small winery in the lower Galilee. I checked out the winery's site and I'm a little bothered by the formulaic nods at contemporary PR trends, i.e., references to "Mediterranean varieties" and "compatibility with the terroir" - but the wines are so attractive and tasty, with so little artifice, that they should be judged by their own meritsThe Latour White is a pure Chenin Blanc, aged 10 months in barrel, and it's a well made, worthy wine, with demure notes of pears and earth and a dry, bitter finish. How the Israeli wine world has changed. Fifteen years ago, if anyone made a Chenin, they certainly didn't position it as one of their flagship wines. And, fifteen years ago, a flagship wine was certainly never as understated as this. (Aug. 20, 2018)

Tel Netofa, Tel Kasser Red, 2016

This is an appealing Grenache-Syrah blend, one of two or three that Netofa positions in its top tier. To be quite honest, it's the kind of wine that's easier for me to enjoy than to write tasting notes for. It's very understated and it just doesn't have a very trendy story - just an aromatic signature that recalls Portuguese reds and a gently lithe structure that will pair well with many foods. (Aug. 22, 2018)

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

I thought this was close to village level when I drank it three years ago, and certainly the fact that it's still thriving three years later lends credence. As do the weight, texture and complexity - neither of which are world shattering, but of village level nonetheless. Black fruit, fresh forest leaves, rusty tannins. (Aug. 26, 2018)

Wine Route, about 170 NIS.

Harashim, Blue Moon, 2017

Harashim is a bio-dynamic, vegan-friendly winery in the Galilee I'd actually never heard about until we more or less drove by. This Chardonnay is fermented with wild yeasts, like all their wines, and it weighs in at 11.6% ABV. Until I tasted it, I was worried it'd be either too sweet or too lean. Well, it is lithe and on the lean side, but it's a welcome change of pace and I love its matchstick aromas and a salty, citrus finish. On the minus side, it's a little awkward and rough. This is a wine that will force pundits to drink some Muscadet-Sevre-Maine, instead of Chablis, when they try to find a foreign reference point. (Aug. 27, 2018)

80 NIS (I think).

Denis Race, Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains Vieilles Vignes, 2015

I suppose I may have found it too formulaic the first time around, but the Chablis formula is a pretty good one in the first place - and six additional months have made the experience a more intense one. (Aug. 29, 2018)

Wine Route, 2 for 300 NIS

Domaine Triennes, Côtes de Provence, Les Aureliens, 2014

This is a co-venture located south of Aix-en-Provence and co-owned by Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. I wish it was as interesting as the owners' resumes, but it's basically a solid wine that's duller than many local so-called 'Mediterranean' wines, some of which I've written about above. (Aug. 31, 2018)

Wine Route, 2 for 150 NIS.