Tuesday, July 16, 2019

June Bugs (June, 2019)


First evening of June was the Champions League Finals and a simply brilliant wine to accompany it.

Zarate, Rías Baixas, Albariño,  El Palomar, 2016

The Grand Cru of Albariños, with aromas of shells and flint superimposed over flavors of lime, closer to the vibrancy, precision and power of a young Blanc de Blancs champagne than it is to any Rías Baixas or Vinho Verde that I've ever had. An amazing wine with an extremely vibrant backbone of acidity and a very long, saline finish. (June 1, 2019)

Eldad Levy, 155 NIS. 150 year old vines! That's almost a shekel a year!

Domaine Blain-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Clos St. Jean, Rouge, 2014

This has always been one of my favorite 'value' red Bourgognes, a relatively lightweight Premier Cru that embodies that Burgundy ideal of fragrant, nuanced Pinot. The nose and palate both show sour cherries, wet forest leaves (you're just at the border of the forest, you can smell the leaves but you're not in the woods yet so you're not overwhelmed by the scent of the undergrowth) and hints of exotic spices .The saline finish makes for a versatile food match for just about anything with a bit of umami that's not too oily or too chewy. (June 30, 2019)

Bourgogne Crown, about 200 NIS.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Riesling Alte Reben, 2015

Ideally, I would have more to write about this, but it's only a good dry Mosel, not the outstanding wine I'd hoped it would become, with only fair complexity and depth. (June 2, 2019)

Wine Route, 160 NIS.

Feldstein, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

The blend has been dominated by Semillon every year since the inaugural 2014, but its presence was never as dominating as it is this year, which espouses the French principle: "the fruit is the frame, not the picture". So the fruit is there, but the gist of the wine is nut oil and herbs and flint, apricot and melon providing the groundwork and walls. Drinking great now, with a more refined form than its predecessors. (June 4, 2019)

Lewinsohn, Vendage Entière, 2016

The clean purity of the black and red fruit, adorned as it is by black pepper, is still obscured by a bitterness that is half espresso and half stems. It’s a really fine wine that is only going to get better but it still needs time to develop the intriguing meaty/herbal note I already enjoy in the finish. (June 8, 2019)

The 'regular' Lewinsohn, Rouge, 2017 is, as usual, a tasty early drinker. The cliche is that a red wine as 'serious' as this shouldn't be this tasty in the flush of youth, but this feels like someone sauteed red grapes in olive oil and marinade. It's a treat. (June 15, 2019)

Chateau Golan, Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

A classic, serious wine starting to hit its stride, coming out of the shell it was in half a year ago, to show a youthful, fruity aspect, as well as hints of nuts and minerals. (June 10, 2019)

149 NIS.

Château Montlabert, St. Émilion Grand Cru, 2012

Seems like a dependable Right Bank for people who like oaky Merlot, decently priced, basically spicy fruitcake with too much oak. Not for me, though. Definitely not for me. (June 22, 2019)

Israco, 190 NIS.

Prunotto, Barbaresco, 2015

Piedmont, the only place where a glass of light, muddy red wine makes you optimistic about the outcome. The recent Produttori dei Barbaresco tasting sparked an itch I needed to scratch. This needs coaxing. The start is very mute, red cherries and flowers - the tar so closely identified with Nebbiolo starts to show after two hours. I very rarely run into a truly dumb wine, but this nails the definition. I suspect it will turn into a lovely, elegant, yet grippy\ing, feminine beauty in three-five years. (June 29, 2019)

Hakerem, 155 NIS.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Yaacov Oryah


I've been following Yaacov Oryah's career through his various stints at Assif, Midbar, Psagot and now his namesake label*. Actually, you could say I've been paying attention to the guy since he walked into one of Tomer Gal's Burgundy tasting about ten years ago. A religious Jew in a tasting of non-kosher Burgundy  wines is always an unusual sight.

* I didn't forget Ella Valley - I just never tasted any of the wines he made there.

I was fortuitous enough to taste through a wide lineup of his recent releases over the course of May and June. These included a red wine, a rose, a blanc de noirs, a trio of orange wines and quite a few whites. 

Yaacov has always taken pride in his white wines. When I first tasted his Midbar whites about seven years ago, I was quite taken with their refreshing leanness. Drinking through the his latter-day whites now, I find the theme a little redundant. I enjoyed each wine on its own, but it feels as though every blend winds up showing the same lean figure, the strive towards freshness almost formulaic. I found the rose and blanc de noirs much more captivating. 

I'm not a great fan of orange wines, but drinking the Alpha Omega series, Yaccov's orange wines, I felt that the extended skin contact gave the wines a little more stuffing while preserving the lean figure of the regular whites. In fact, I mostly wished they were a little fuller and more intense, which isn't something I'd imagined I'd feel about orange wines.

I tasted three wines from the 2016 vintage (I skipped the Chardonnay, which was corky, a very strange experience: a corky orange wine).

Chenin Blanc

One of arguments against orange wines is that they allegedly obscure varietal character. Or terroir. Well, I say, how do you know? Just because we're used to drinking white wines without skin contact doesn't mean it's the best way to capture the essence of grape or place, just that it's arguably the best way to make wine out of white grapes. The safest, anyway.  The technique we're the most familiar with. The extended skin contact can take them to places you couldn't readily extrapolate from experience with 'normal' white wines. Take this. Granted, Chenin can be taken to almost outre expressions of minerality even without skin contact, but the slightly deranged nose here surprised me, recalling Nicolas Joly's Savennières, The ripe apricots, pickled mango, ashy earth and roasted cashews are fascinating, but the fruit at the core is soft and I wish Yaacov had coaxed a little more intensity on the palate to match the pungent intensity of the aromas. 

Rousanne/Viognier/Semillon

With a blend, varietal authenticity is a non-issue, and, considering I like/hate/love the varieties in the blend, extended skin contact might even be a blessing in disguise. The nose has a rocky/earthy sheen that's almost claret-like. Unlike the Chenin Blanc, here the intensity of the flavors are a match for the intricate pungency of the aromas. Whatever picture Yaacov was trying to paint here, it's a great success.

Gewurztraminer

Gewurtz is so deeply tinted and intense to begin with that the skin contact merely intensifies the character of the grape, rather than transforming it too radically. Of all Yaacov's wines, this is the one I was most eager to taste. That's because I have a love/hate relationship with Gewurztraminer, leaning towards hate actually, and I keep getting drawn back a couple of times a year. The nose highlights the rose petals and litchi aspect of the grape (rather than the ginger and white pepper, which I usually prefer) and suggests a sweet wine. However, the palate is very dry, not quite as deep and complex as the nose, and the contrast is interesting. At the end of the day, it's my least favorite of the three.

Pretty As The Moon, 2018

A Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Syrah blend is a witty variant on the GSM theme even as a red,, let alone as a rose. The result here is a reserved wine that need time to open up, eventually showing more than decent plus aromatic complexity, minerals and herbs taking on a prominent role. The palate is lithe and focused, with a very saline finish. The pleasures of a rose, even an excellent one, are fleeting at best, and the Pretty As The Moon is a very ephemeral rose by Israeli standards - yet it manages to leave a surprisingly lingering impression.

Light From Darkness, 2018

This is a blanc de noirs made of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah. I haven't tasted enough BdR's to form any opinion other than that they're never really white and arguably not as interesting as a rose.This, however, is a surprise. The aromatics are charmingly embossed by chalk and flint with a faint echo of red cherries and flowers. If you only sniff it, you really might think it's a white wine. Tasting it blind, though, it's sweeter and rounder than the nose suggests and you'd think it a rose. Either way, I'm engaged. 

Eye Of The Storm, 2016

A GSM blend, heavily dominated by Grenache, judging by the aromas and flavors, closer to a Cotes du Rhone than a Chateauneuf. (May 2, 2019)

The Silent Hunter, 2018

Yaacov's signature wines in his days at Midbar Winery were the Semillon and the Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend. This is a variation on a theme, Chenin Blanc taking the Sauvignon's place. The name is a homage to Australia's Hunter Valley, which was the first (and only?) appellation famous for varietal Semillon. This is a successful variation, summer fruits adorned by flint and oyster shells. the palate tautly juicy and well delineated by acidity and a saline tang. Quite lovely in its youth. 

The Silent Hunter, 2017 is more of the same, not much further evolved. Both are fresh and vibrant, but not especially complex.

The Soulmate, 2018 is a another unexpected blend, Chardonnay (55%) and Chenin Blanc (45%) this time. Like the Silent Hunter, the nose is a mix of summer fruits, flint and shell, while the palate is lithe and tautly fruity, without great length, intensity or complexity, just tasty and charming. 

To find out how Yaacov's whites evolve, I turned to the Valley of the Hunters, 2009, a library bottle of his first Semillon from the Midbar days and paired it with the latter day 2018. The 2018 is, again, a very lean wine, almost slender thin, without a lot to set it to apart from the other Semillon variations. The 2017, on the other hand, is starting to come together and show a personal character, lime and minerals, like Muscadet and oysters. Yaacov has always felt the Semillons needed a few years after release to play, if I recall, but if he had expected it to bloom after ten years, then he'd set the bar a little too high. The 2009 is still alive, which is quite an achievement for a first vintage of an Israeli white, but it's past its best, the fruit withered back to a skeletal frame its best and there's not a lot going on beyond an interesting sea water funk on the nose. I'd tasted it quite a few times over the years and it was quite lovely at three-five years post vintage. So I'd recommend cellaring any young vintages you buy for a couple of years. Admittedly, I've read better reports about the 2009, but you know how it is with mature bottles.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Produttori Dei Barbaresco 2014 Cru Tasting (June 25, 2019)



Loving Piedmont did not come easy to me. I always appreciated Barolo and Barbaresco, but it took a few years until I was able to really get the wines and connect emotionally, sensually, and intellectually. What I finally learned to love about Nebbiolo is the specific texture and flavors of its fruit and tannins, that unique combination of earthy cherries, tea, tar and spices no other grape can match. I suspect a lot of that comes from the tannins, which explains why I do enjoy the tannic punch of a young Nebbiolo.

Looking back, I definitely remember the 'straight' Barbaresco from Produttori (circa the 2006/7 vintages) being one of the significant steeping stone in my Piedmont romance. It was the first wine that made me long for the flavors of Nebbiolo and I became a fairly regular (if not very extensive) collector of the Produttori's cru bottlings shortly afterwards.

Produttori Dei Barbareco is a cooperative with a venerable history. Despite being a cooperative, it has always been highly regarded, not just for the quality of the wines but for allowing the aficionados something no other house in Piedmont can: a side by side comparison of nine different crus, all vinified the same way. With so many growers in the cooperative, the Produttori can source enough quality grapes from each of the sites owned by the separate growers for a Riserva bottling from each vineyard, and still have enough quality grapes left over for a very fine Barbaresco bottling.

Which explains why I was looking forward so much to the Cru tasting hosted at importer Wine Route - even though I knew it would be tough going. I usually don’t care if young Barolos and Barbarescos are tough to drink as long as they’re expressive, but these really were a challenge. Not that each wine on its own was that difficult to read, but making out comparative differences was a struggle, when the wines are still so young and opaque.

You can’t really go wrong with any of these, but my favorites are, in more or less ascending order: Muncagota, Montestefano, Pora, Rabaja and Asili. The Produttori's site reviews the different crus, but don't expect it to describe any cru as less than classic, complex and expressive. Well, that they certainly are, but the descriptions don't really provide an easy way of understanding the qualitative and stylistic differences between the vineyards. Perhaps no one can encapsulate them and it's probably something that requires a few years tasting through them, anyway, so I'm not exactly criticizing their web site here.

The Barbaresco is from the 2015 vintage and costs 249 NIS. The Crus are all 2014 and all cost 349 NIS.

Barbaresco, 2015

The nose is very raw and young, with hints of leather, menthol and tar. Palate is readier, very balanced. Despite the tautness and restraint, the potential for complexity is there, even for this quality level. 2015 is reported to be a great vintage and the entry-level Barbaresco is always a good buy at this house.

Muncagota

This is the highest, coolest cru Produttori has. Compared to the Barbaresco, this immediately impresses as a riper, bolder wine with a pronouced earthy character. The palate is a closed fist of power, while the nose is already expressive.

Rio Sordo

Rio Sordo has the lowest elevation of the crus, so the contrast between the Muncagota is quite marked The nose is more expressive and delicate, a little tarrier with redder fruit and the palate is softer. While I'd never turn it down, if you have access to all nine crus and are not buying all nine, this probably will get the least attention. It will need less years in the cellar, but I doubt that the difference between laying a wine down for three years or five will be a very big influence on purchasing strategy.  

Ovello

The aromas are deeper here, compared to the Rio Sordo, yet somehow the fragrance is what I usually I associate with a lighter hue of fruit. Abundant fruit on the palate makes the wine approachable despite the tannins.

Montefico

A direct and fruity nose, almost chocolatey but not quite. Both nose and palate are damn expressive with a most savory finish. The Produttori's site says Montefico is austere in youth but it plays a very friendly game right now.

Paje

Reserved yet expressive, which is a good combination, and my first impression was of a sauvage character reminiscent of Gevrey. In time, I find it less captivating than its peers.

From here on, we're entering a stretch of what came off at the tasting as the grand crus of the house. Nothing less than outstanding.

Montestefano

A nose to fall in love with, really the most expressive and complex nose so far, already tarry and floral. Concentrated and long and never loses refinement.

Pora

Both the Pora and Montestefano are concentrated and complex and show the liberal expressiveness framed by fine reserve that is the hallmark of a great wine, but there are stylistic differences that make life interesting. The Pora shows a greater abundance of minerals. Since it's always popular to compare Piedmont to Burgundy, I'd suggest the Pora plays Pommard to Montestefano's Volnay.

Rabajà

This is one of the most famed and highly regarded of Barbaresco's crus so it's quite apt that the Produttori's offering stands firmly on the same high ground as its three peers. Stylistically, it combines the floral and mineral aspects of the preceding pair.

Asili

Descriptors are beside the point here. It's simply a seriously grand and intense wine, almost virtuously so. Alas, I was a little slow to get to the cashier at the end of the tasting and all the bottles had been grabbed. Which makes tasting it one of the greatest and saddest experiences of the year.




Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Borja Perez - Canary Islands

I tawt I taw a putty tat
I think Eldad Levy's manifest requires him to carry a quota of wines from volcanic soil in his portfolio. When Etna's Terre Nere reduced allocation, he looked for an alternative. And found one in Tenerife, where Borja Perez has been making wine from indigenous grapes since he took over his family winery is 2011.

I found a great quote by Borja himself that tells everything about how this great winemaker wound up busting tradition while making wines that are fresh and uncontrived, moreish with a backdrop of serious depth, exotic yet as cozy as your own backyard.
Although Tenerife boasts a long wine history, it is pretty worthless because we have been making things badly for 20 years.
And here's one that nails his approach to sustainable wine growing and biodnyamics, an approach that maintains a level, empirical head about the whole thing.
I’m not a Taliban. If the vines need to be treated, I’ll do it. And if I can clear weeds with a tractor, why would I do it by hand?”
The Artifice range is the entry level, grapes purchased from growers who maintain a small production from old vines

Ycoden Daute Isora, Artífice Tinto, 2017

Listán Negro, Baboso and Vijariego Negro

Believe me, you've never tasted anything this vibrantly tasty since the last time you drank your first ever really good Beaujolais Cru. If anything, the acidity is even finer and more joyous. The Tinto sports gorgeous red fruit that is accompanied by aromas and aftertaste of fresh meat (If you think I mean brett, then you should apologize. I believe the meaty character comes from the grapes. If I'm wrong, though, then the strain of brettanomyces in the Canary Islands is a particularity hygienic yeast because there's nothing malodorous here at all). Best of all is an intoxicating floral note which will make you think of Chambolle and a bong. (June 20, 2019)

120 NIS.

Two whites, more complex and interesting than you'd expect from islanders.

Ycoden Daute Isora, Artífice, Listán Blanco, 2017

Listan Blanco is actually Jerez' Palomino Fino, but there's no way of making a comparison with sherry. The closest parallel I can think of are Portuguese whites. It has a similar crazed bouquet of exotic minerals and fruit. But the palate is even spicier and more herbal than those Iberian counterparts, with a long, intense, salty finish. A jaw dropper, one that may prove too extreme for some, but sometimes you just need to get away from the day to day. (June 21, 2019)

120 NIS.

Ycoden Daute Isora, Artífice, Vidueños, 2017

A blend of white varieties Marmajuelo (30%), Gual (30%), Albillo Criollo (30%) and Listán Blanco (10%) vinified separately and blended in foudre.

This, too, is a very extreme white wine. The minerals are almost sulfurous, so much so that a mind with a poetic bent might think of brimstone, before noticing the apple peel and lime beneath the surface (as well as a leafy greenness - think young Gruner Veltliner). While the fruit profile is less exotic than the varietal Listán Blanco, it also is not a wine for a conservative drinker, but because it's a little more focused than the Listán Blanco, it's easier to come to terms with. (June 23, 2019)

130 NOS.

Eldad also brings in a varietal Babosa Negro (cute name for a grape, and none of us are going to be quizzed about this, no worries) from Perez' premium series, Ignios Orígenes. I'll hold off on that and wait for Eldad to hold a tasting. It's not a cheap wine and, regardless of the price, I really want to hang on to the magic a bit longer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Sherry Darling - Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

The wine sparkled in his eyes
Jerez was the first wine region I came to terms with on my own. Not many people in Israel were into it so I didn't feel insecure about my lack of knowledge and experience  And there were two other factors. It was convenient that an open bottle could endure for a very long time, so I didn’t have to look for drinking partners. And it was cheap for its quality. The greatest sherry I ever drank, the Domecq, Capuchino Palo Cortado, the Montrachet of sherries, cost 50 euros in 2006.

And I adored the the background details: the expatriate British colony in Jerez, the venerable houses, decades old soleras hidden away in warehouses and private houses, a dying craft, grapes no one has ever, or will ever grow elsewhere. And such evocative names for the grapes and styles: Fino Palomino, Pedro Ximinez, Amontillado, Palo Cortado. 

Jerez even came with a wealth of literary references dating back centuries: Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado”, to quote the most well known.

None of the really good stuff was ever imported to Israel. The most venerable name to make the journey was Humbert and Williams, but I think provenance was always a bit dubious, here and abroad. For a few years, I explored the range whenever I traveled abroad (the premium bottlings from Lustau, Domeq, Gonzalez-Byass for the most part). I never thought anyone would ever import anything interesting.

Rey Fernando de Castilla certainly qualifies as interesting. The bodegas's site is in Spanish, but I found an excellent write up here, in what looks like a good source for sherry notes and information in general. The bodega is a 50+ year old house - a newcomer, in other words - that was taken over in 1999, along with neighboring almacenista José Bustamente, by a group of investors lead by Norwegian-born Jan Pettersen, who had been working in the Spanish alcohol industry for decades.

Jan Pettersen recently visited Israel, guest of his brand new local importers Eldad Levy and Uri Caftori, participating in marketing events for restaurateurs and private clients. I paid my shekels for an evening at Habasta, where the staff managed, quite successfully to go for food pairings beyond the almost compulsory jamon and gazpacho.

We tasted through two series of dry sherries. The grapes for both are sourced mostly the from the renowned (in Jerez, at least) Pago Balbaina vineyard, but the wines in the Antique series are aged for longer periods in smaller, soleras, with a older reserve stocks, so they're deeper, more concentrated. In most cases, I'd pay the extra price for the Antiques, except in the case of the Finos, where the style is a greater differentiator than quality and I'd recommend that both styles be experienced .

I'll touch on the basic sherry terms as I go along, but if you're new to sherry, you might want to google the basic terms and styles - or try the link I mentioned earlier.

Fino Classic

Finos are the lightest of the sherries, as close as you can get to an unfortified white wine. The Classic is aged for a few years in a solera with reserves 2-9 years old. It combines fresh fruit flavors - I thought apples jam - with nutty and pungent (iodine and brine) aromas and flavors. 15% ABV.

Fino Antique

Finos evolve into Amontillados as the flor covering the wine dies in time, so it's not very surprising that the Antique, which remains in the solera for a few years longer than the Classic, feels halfway to Amontillado on the palate. It's deeper, more apple pie than apple jam, the aromas and flavors of nuts and cured meat more complex. 17% ABV. 

Amontillado Classic

If the Fino Antique is halfway to Amontillado, this seems to be just past the metamorphosis. An adolescent Amontillado, if you will, with an added layer of complexity compared to Fino, yet light and fresh. 18% ABV.

Amontillado Antique

A truly excellent wine that was aged in a 20 year old solera, angular and pungent, yet silky at the same time, with a fine finish, carrying a complex array of briny flavors that beg to be sipped slowly. 18 ABV%.

Oloroso Classic

There's a common misconception that all sherries mature under flor. As I mentioned, Finos evolve into Amontillados once the flor dies, while Olorosos either never develop flor or else the flor is killed by the winemakers. It's a richer style of sherry, which makes it suitable for sweet sherries, which has created a sort of a backlash, due to the negative image of English grannies sipping a thimble of sweet sherry at Yuletide: if sweet sherry is a more plebeian style and Oloroso is the base of sweet sherries, then Oloroso is an inferior wine. Personally, while I prefer the edgy angularity and pungent kick of the other styles, I appreciate the richness of a good Oloroso and, man, I'd drunk some lovely sweet sherries back in the day. Having said that, the Classic is a little tame after the Finos and Amontillados: there's brine and nuts, melded into a very mellow piece, and what pungency is there to be found flares up on the finish. Good complexity, though. 17% ABV, from a 9 year old solera.

Oloroso Antique

This is aged in a smaller solera, with stocks aged 20-30 years. It's earthier than the Classic, yet finer at the same time, fuller and deeper, longer too. While it's still a dry wine, the richness creates a pastry-like effect. 17% ABV.

Palo Cortado Antique

Google it if you don't believe me: no one really knows what Palo Cortado is, except that it's very fine and rare. Even Pettersen laughed about it, before offering the first halfway understandable explanation I ever heard: sometimes the flor just doesn't settle right and you either get vinegar or something combining the pungency of Amontillado and the richness of Oloroso. In short, Palo Cortado happens. This is aged in the house's oldest solera, 30+ years old. It's very reserved, forcing you to concentrate and contemplate, but it's well worth the effort because this reserved beauty is complex, ethereally nuanced and expressive, the ultimate figure of refinement. It’s also the tastiest wine of the tasting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

May Days (May 2019)

This month rocked. Looking back, the wines we drank covered almost all my loves and almost each deserved a solo post.


Terre Nere, Etna, Il Quadro delle Rose Feudo di Mezzo, 2015

It's been seven years and odd days since I attended my first Terre Nere tasting. Wow. I should buy more. I always love the reds whenever I drink them. In fact, just about the only Italian wine I drink outside of Barolo and Barbaresco is this house in Sicily's Etna DOC. Which is appropriate since both Nebbiolo and Nerello Mascalese show tarry, earthy aromas and pack a dense, complex lattice of tannins and acidity into a deceptively lithe frame. In this case, this is especially true since the Feudo di Mezzo vineyard, which the winery classifies informally as a Premier Cru, is located relatively low with mild inclines, making for a friendlier wine than the other crus, lighter and superficially more elegant. (May 11, 2019)


Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre, Les Romains, 2016

Sauvignon Blanc as a geology seminar, this is foremost a wine geared towards intensity of expression, rather than complexity, extreme in its display of shells and chalk, with a touch of leafiness adding marginal additional nuances. I think this is an excellent Sancerre, but please excuse me if I prefer the house's Pinot Noirs. (May 3, 2019)

Wine Route, 280 NIS.

Pierre Gonon, Saint Joseph, 2014

This confirms Gonon's reputation as the king of Saint Joseph. A very complete, complex nose of olive tapenade, bacon and pepper heralds a mellow, yet persistent palate: silky tannins, balanced, lingering acidity and lovely, elegant fruit. Close to Cote Rotie in texture, depth, finesse and quality.  Also, in the way so many flavors are densely packed unto a deceptively light frame. (May 4, 2019)

50 GBP.

Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2011

A long time ago, a 2003 Nuits convinced me that Drouhin was one negociant that deserved my money. Everything has to work perfectly to make wine work at the village level and although 2003 was from from a perfect vintage, the ripeness of the 2003 vintage actually provided more heft and depth than you'd expect from a village wine. Since many 2003's were flabby and/or over the top, I award all credit to team Drouhin. 2011, on the other hand, is one of those vintages where you feel that every aspect is somehow lacking: the wines are a little too light, the finish a little too short, the tannins a shade or two less than fine, the aromatics missing a bit of complexity and definition. The 2011 NSG illustrates all of the above, especially since 2011 was a vintage of suspect durability. Thus, although the aromatics are pleasant, forest floor and iron tinged with balsamic vinegar, the tannins and finish are stern and drying. On the plus side, the fruit is still clear and fine. Drink up and enjoy. (May 19, 2019)

Quinta da Pellada (Alvaro Castro), Dão, Jaen, 2011

Jaen (or Mencia as the grape is known in Spain, especially Bierzo where it is most famous), is another of those grapes often compared to Pinot Noir. And I can get that. It shares a similar silky texture and lightness of being. And this specific specimen also shows a distinctly floral character on the nose, almost as though the Chambolle rose petals had been hung out to dry among the bushes of the Iberian peninsula. The tannins are integrated and everything is in perfect balance, yet the Jaen still seems youthfully fresh and impresses as a wine that could easily develop for another seven-ten years. An excellent, lovely wine, one of the best Portuguese reds I've had - at the end of the day, one that doesn't need comparisons to Pinot to shine. (May 21, 2019)

Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Saint Julien 4me Cru, 2008

A tasty claret, well made, quite ready, a typical expression of Saint Julien finesse. Brainaire-Ducru is not a great house and 2008 is a classic Left Bank year with all the classic Left Bank drawbacks, so the cedar-tinged aromas, although very friendly and charming, are austere without a lot flair, while the tannins outlast the drying fruit on the finish. But it also has all the classic Left Bank charms, which used to be about drinkability years ago.(May 24, 2019)

Wine Route, a very good purchase at 250 NIS, prices we won't see again, even for a relatively modest chateau.

Domaine Pavelot (Jean-Marc et Hugues) Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru, La Dominode, 2011

Had I known Bourgogne Crown and Pavelot would eventually part ways, I'd have bought more. Even though it seemed, at the time, that I had bought quite a handful across the range, I did not buy enough of the house's crown jewels, the La Dominode. If you know your Burgundy, then you know 2011 is a vintage valued more for charm and approachability than for intrinsic qualities of complexity, heft and depth - and indeed, at a tasting a few years ago, the 2010 impressed as a dense, muscular wine with many years of cellaring potential, while the 2011 seemed more meandering and less focused. 

The Dominode 2011 has come into focus in the intervening years. The finish is now firm, fresh black cherries buttressed by rusty tannins, the fleshy texture and aromas and flavors of iron, rotting leaves and animal hide making for an impressive character that is a cross between Pommard and Gevrey, with the true weight of the excellent Premier Cru that Dominode is. I love it. (May 26, 2019)

About 290 NIS.

Gunderloch, Rheinhesse, Riesling Drei Sterne Auslese ***, 2007

As soon as I read the label, I knew the 13% ABV meant I wasn't going to get a classic Auslese. The nose is rich and laden with candied botrytis spices - if ever could a bouquet could be called unctuous, this is the one. The palate feels like a dessert wine with all the sugar leeched out of it. At first I thought it was awful, but as it found its footing, I found it oddly intriguing. I suppose a 52 year old Auslese would taste this way, but for a 12 year old it's a little too weird.  (May 25, 2019)

Giaconda.

Château Haut-Bergey, Pessdac-Leognan, 2008

This is a very dependable château. I've never tasted a bad wine or read any bad tasting note for any of their wines, but in the eight years or so since I first tasted its wines, this is the first bottle that went beyond the house's modern style to show any classic Pessac traits: food friendly acidity, savory tannins (still not fully integrated at this point), a form that has shed the impact of the barrel regime to show firm, yet mellow fruit with a touch of iron, earth and cedar. Much nicer than I expected. I guess it's a wine that needs 10-15 years. (May 31, 2019)

Wine Route, about 150 NIS in futures.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Mostly Cult Wines At L28 (May 6, 2019)


Martin Mullen, Mosel, Krover Steffensberg, Riesling Spatlese** Trocken, 2017

Not only have I never heard of Martin Mullen, I've never even heard of the village of Krov. I understand he's somewhat of a cult favorite, although his fame is still small and young enough to keep prices sane. It also helps that I'm not the only one who's never heard of the Krov vineyards. This is dry enough to deserve the trocken label, but not enough to lose the Mosel balance and edgy, tasty raciness, and it shows flowers, apples and generous minerals.

00 Wines, VGR, Oregon, Williamette Valley, Pinot Noir, 2015

Another cult producer, an expensive one this time, specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, quelle surprise. The VGR (Very Good Red, I shit you not) shows ripeness and sweetness that you can't get in Burgundy without loss of form and focus. I mention that because the wonder here is how well form and focus are preserved. A clean, clear wine, the aromatics are quite complex, showing exotic spices.

Leo Alzinger, Wachau, Loibenberg, Smaragd, 2012

And now, for the first time in about eight years, I'm out of Austrian wines. I wish the (hopefully temporary) swan song was more auspicious, because despite complex, mineral-tinged aromatics and a tasty sweet-spicy finish, the form and mid-palate lack the convincing depth and easy finesse of the other Alzinger wines I've had.

Shvo, Chenin Blanc, 2011

Gaby Sadan's red and Sauvignon Blancs are consistently excellent, the 'Greshon' cuvee even inspirational, but I rarely enjoy his Chenin when I drink a young bottle and this is so middle aged and flat that I wouldn't risk aging it, either.

Adelsheim, Williamette Valley, Pinot Noir, 2013

The 2015 I drank last  month was tasty and very good, but this is a decrepit bottle that I hope is not indicative of, well, anything.

J. L. Chave, Saint Joseph, 2012

A sexy wine, not profound, though, the plump fruit obscuring the savoriness I look for in North Rhone Syrah. The nose, though, black and blue fruit with splashes of black pepper and coffee grains, is lovely and, its worth repeating myself, sexy.