Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Yotam, Birthday, Friends, Yaffo Tel-Aviv (Sept. 15, 2016)

Going to a restaurant is one of my keenest pleasures. Meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life.

Adam Gopnik

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. 

Fran Lebowitz

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 2006

There's substantial, botrytis inflected fruit, tasty and deep, and a complex nose highlighting all the gifts of mature Riesling: a hint of petrol and that ephemeral juggling act of fruit and minerals. For all that, though, this is not the great wine you'd expect from Prüm and the vineyard - whether this is an off bottle or the vintage, this lacks acidity and vibrancy.

Gulfi, Rosso de Etna, Reseca, 2007

This Sicilian producer was unknown to all, except for Ido who brought the bottle. Even with the recent emergence of new star Etna producers, such as Terre Nere, Benanti et al, you still can't accept as a given that the initial vintages were as well made as the more recent ones that directed the spotlight towards the region - nor that they matured finely. With that in mind, this is very good, concentrated yet with fine balance, the spicy red fruit reminiscent of Pessac with that sense of burnt rock, but sweeter, with a thicker body.

Auguste Clape, Cornas, 2007

I don't have a great deal of experience with Clape, really, I know he's one of the Rhone greats, but the few bottles I've had have moved me less than newcomer Paris or even Crozes stalwart Graillot. Not for lack of quality - you can't argue this is a well made, delicious bottle of Syrah, full with black fruit and pepper, a touch of olives and a slight band aid funk adding interest and nuances. But there's a roundness, a seamlessness, that's too flattering and middle of the road for my tastes. Even the light brett can't counteract that excessive politesse.

Cordero di Montezemolo, Barolo, Vigna Bricco Gattera, 1997

I'm not familiar with the producer, but this is excellent with the typical tar and spices. Despite the warm vintage, this is still fresh and the tannins savory rather than sweet. Very complex and long.

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, Carrocel, 2008

I'm a fan of Castro, but I have to admit I sometimes find the top flight wines less charming than the mid-tier (although I loved the Tounot), but I have chalked it up to youth and figures this flagship wine would show better after eight years. There is good fruit underneath the oak and the overall effect is very monolithic and big, as though designed to impress rather than highlight the personality of Touriga Nacional.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Goldtropfchen, Riesling Auslese, 2012

Haart is in no way the household name that Prüm is, yet this does shine much brighter. It's likely even sweeter, yet shows fresher with better acidity and purity of fruit. Whatever edge the Prüm might have aromatically is just a matter of age, not inherent quality, and the Haart will surely catch up in a few years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer Of Riesling? Hell, Year Of Riesling

Leo Alzinger,  Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

An outstanding wine, at the start of its maturity, that lives up to all my expectations. Long, dry without in any way being overwhelming, crisp and saline. Simply awesome minerality on the nose, and then spicy yellow apples, grapefruit and lemon zest. (Apr. 18, 2016)

Fat Guy, 239 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2014

I've told you about this before, so just go ahead and buy some. Nothing in Israel even came this close to the German mold. The acidity is low compared to the Teutonic prototype, even if it is excellent in local terms, but the nose - the nose has that steely character of green apples, with salty nuances that make their way to the palate as well. (May 4, 2016)

About 90 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

While still in the flush of youth, this already shows confident complexity within its gossamer structure, its aromas and flavors of granny apples and pastries coming across pastel like, with a hint of mint and an even vaguer hint of tropical fruit. If real apples were this exquisite, we'd all be vegetarians. (May 5, 2015)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2012

More of the same, with, naturally, more pronounced sweetness, a deeper veneer of slate, and so sexy it hurts. (May 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS for a half bottle.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

This is at the point where the intense sweetness and fruit are starting to recede, their memory being replaced by nuanced aromas of minerals and petrol (that gain presence and power with air), only to have the fruit reappear on the finish as red apples and sweet grapefruit. This is great, although not in the way the Sistine Chapel is great, more in the way sunsets are great. (Jun. 4, 2016)

Giaconda, 180 NIS when I bought it long ago, 200 NIS now (presumably a storage charge while the importer was looking for buyers?)

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal Reserve, Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2010

I've been drinking this for over four years, and in the flush of youth it was perched exquisitely mid-way between a crystalline expression of green apples and icy slate and the quintessential spicy baked apples so typical of Austrian Rieslings. Now the balance has shifted towards the baked apples. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the earlier incarnation. It was just as deep and complex four years ago so cellaring my six pack didn't really so much for it, except prolonging the drinking experience, which in itself was a good thing. (Jun. 11, 2016)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

I'm lucky in that I enjoy German Rieslings almost equally in all stages of their development. Surely the complexity and depth are there from the start, and so are the flowers and.or minerals (depending on the terroir) and age merely provides additional complexity, breadth and the taint of maturity. But there's a sweet spot, about 8-9 years after the harvest for spätleses, where the intensity of youth is balanced by a certain sauteed herbaceousness, and where the real magic begins, right there where Riesling starts speaking in tongues. That's what we have here, a nose evoking cool, aloof elegance, which I think is the due to minty aromas. There's a bit of dill and parsley in the background. As for form - an almost feathery body belies the tense backbone. A great estate that single-handedly put Mozing on the map. (Jun. 23, 2016)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor, Riesling Spätlese, 2011

Sensationally drinkable, so much so I almost didn't have enough time for a proper note. Enough time, though, to note the typical Model delicacy and slate defined complexity. (July 9, 2016)

36 Euros at the Berlin duty free.

Sphera, Riesling, 2015

I wish we were a Riesling country. Then, besides the obvious advantage of have more Rieslings to drink, wine writers could stop prefacing their reviews of the local Riesling stuff with a spiel about the wonder of winemakers actually rising up to the challenge. But we're not a Riesling country, and it is a wonder and a challenge. And, to be quite honest, not a challenge always successfully met. This is a good wine, one that meets the challenge even if it's no GG (Doron Rav-On is the obvious suspect you'd place your bets on to make a good Riesling). It's a dry Riesling, one that leaves a salty impression on the finish and a decently complex array of minerals on the nose. (Jul. 11, 2016)

Peter Lauer, Saar, Ayler Kupp, Fass 7, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I was not familiar with this producer when I bought this two years ago, and online opinions have been split, but this is fantastic! I've drunk many great Rieslings and I have to say the acidity here is arguably the best I've ever tasted, framing and melding perfectly with the sweet, succulent fruit. The aromatics are embryonic but hint at complexity. (Jul. 13, 2016)

40 USD.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Riesling Brut, 2013

This sekt is more about Riesling and Mosel than the autolytic character of méthode champenoise, the Mosel green apples set to bubbles, mint and minerals, dominating the traces of brioche. What the secondary fermentation does provide, I find, is a more somber aspect to the mineral edge, even though the fruit itself retains the playful Mosel character. (Jul. 22, 2016)

Fat Guy, 145 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Kabinett, 2015

Saar is colder than the Mosel, which cool climate to begin with, so this is so very racy that the sweetness is even more integrated. It doesn't really have the gossamer sparkle of Slebach's single vineyard Mosel stuff, but it's not meant to, so just enjoy the pungent green apples and specks of salt. (Aug. 8, 2016)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is the second bottle I've drunk without writing down any notes. Could be because it was drowned too quickly for contemplative thought, or because there's no way I could ever match my notes for the lovely 2012. As usual, though, it's remarkably pure, you don't need to expend undue thought processes to get that. (Aug. 27, 2016)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Cuvée Théo, 2014

Well, what do you know - an Alsatian I find I wholeheartedly love. It's sharp and focused, yet packed with flavors. It reeks and tastes of minerals and somehow packs a hefty punch in a very lithe, crystalline succulent frame. (Sept. 1, 2016)

180 NIS.

And what's a Summer Of Riesling without Donnhoff?

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser, Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

The nose riffs with petrol, minerals and herbs, the fruit way in the background - so layered and complex it could reward a couple of hours of contemplation. Likewise, the palate is sheer power and grunge, albeit focused with single-minded perseverance, with enough acidity to lend vibrancy and enough sweetness on the finish to temper what would otherwise have been a quinine-like bitterness - even more so with air. I sometimes struggle with the GGs, both drinking them and then writing about them (and I think this note reflects that struggle), but with a wine like this, what eventually crosses over is the sense of place - both the vineyard and the winemaker's respect of the vineyard, vintage and fruit.(Sept. 17, 2016)

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spain, France - and Feldstein! (Sept. 8, 2016)

This wasn't supposed to be an especially memorable night out, just a few guys hanging out, drinking wine. But there was a thirty-four year old Rioja Zacki and I wanted to check out, a dark horse if there ever was one: a little known bodega none of us had ever tasted and the label was only a Reserva (so not only was the provenance questionable, but you can rest assured there were few online reports on the wine available). And then Zacki brought a Grenache from a small boutique in a Spanish D.O. none of us had ever heard of, and that worried him enough to open his backup bottle, a Chablis from a producer who is arguably the best Chablis you can actually buy in Israel. We had an Ente, a producer of such minuscule quantities that any bottle shared is a rare treat indeed, then a wine from the twilight days of Avi Feldstein's association with Barkan (the operations has since collapsed under the weight of managerial dictates and the sheer tonnage of grapes and sluice into a sort of Dark Age). Finally, we capped the night with another rare treat, a vintage Sherry, after which the four of us somehow managed to totter home.

Bodegas Olarra, Rioja Reserva, Añares, 1982

In the immortal words of Nero Wolfe: "quite satisfactory". Complex, old world aromas of tea, spices, the fruit red, shifting subtly to black. The palate still kicks and thrives and improves and grows with time. We had enough to liquid to re-visit over three hours and the wine showed no signs of weakening. This is what you get when the tannins have integrated so well that resultant nectar is unadulterated mellow sweetness of the fruit and warm, confident savoriness of age.

This cost 107 USD at K and L Wines. Add shipping and having had to wait over a year until it was delivered to my sister-in-law and finally couriered to Israel - and it's still worth the money and time.

Daniel Gomez Jimenez Landi, D.O. Mentrida, Las Uvas de la Ira, 2014

Jancis Robinson seems to like Landi more than I do, but I realize it was too alcoholic for the setting and up against fiercely elegant competition. This is pure Grenache, but it has an autumnal, leafy character not unlike a Côte de Beaune, with a hint of licorice as well. It also has this funky aspect to it, but in a clean way, like the sweat of a healthy horse, as opposed to the droppings of a sick one (in other words, the non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae often colloquially referred to as "Brett").

Price unknown.

Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, 2013

This is in a tight embryonic stage, where what you get is lime and rocks and not that marine, fossil Chablis thing, so I'd wait a year for it to come out of its shell (pun half-intended). It's lean, yet dense with fruit, a combination only great Burgundy producers can conjure. You can get lean or you can get dense, you can get a halfway point - most of the time, most of the rest of the world, you just can't get both.

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS. Amazing quality for the price.

Arka, 2009

Avi was going to run a mini-boutique secreted away within Barkan-Segal and Arka was one of the wines he was crafting. This has Cab, Syrah, Avi's pet Argaman and maybe some others I missed when Yotam was reading out the label. It's just on the edge of over ripeness, but there is very good acidity that balances that, and it shows Avi's trademark mix of muscle and elegance.

Price irrelevant. It was never sold commercially and Barkan, in an absurd fit of corporate lunacy, shut down the operation.

Domaine Benoit Ente, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champs-Gain, 2012

Ente is such a fantastic producer that I'm tempted to write a tasting note punctuated only exclamation points. The fresh, lime acidity is almost startlingly vibrant and highlights that Bourgogne sparkle of apples, flint and dry grass. Ente is a great one, indeed, and it's hard to believe the domaine is only seven years old.

Emilio Lustau, Oloroso, Rich Abocado, Anada 1997

I used to drink a lot of sherry, 10-12 years ago. I moved on, but every now and then a bottle of Lustau tempts me at Fortum and Mason. This tempted me for two reasons. One - the pound was very low following Brexit, and, two - I've never had a vintage sherry, which is a very rare creature. This is typically fragrant with a combination of olives, cured meat and toasted nuts, layered with dusty/briny notes, with the pungent/sweet finish that is a taste I'm glad to have acquired, even if I only indulge it once every couple of years.

30 GBP.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Jul. 2016)

Exciting new import
Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2007

I had a sudden Nebbiolo craving, Italy was playing Germany in the Euro quarter-finals, the air conditioning was going full blast - suddenly, drinking Barbaresco in July made sense. This is a solid effort, with Old World charm, decently complex if not especially expressive or deep. The fresh - if stoic - black fruit, the rusty tannins and the aromas of black tea grains and rotting rose petals nail the idiom. This is the kind of wine where the fruit dries up before the tannins, yet the tannins are so savory and saline that they can sustain the show in their own right for a few years.(Jul. 1, 2016)

Wine Route, about 250 NIS.

Sphera, White Concepts, Chardonnay, 2015

This has just about every fruit you might find in Chardonnay - green apples, citrus fruit, even guayava - but it's far from being a cacophony of flavors of aromas. It's very tightly reined in, so much so that it's on the limpid, austere side, with the flavors markedly saturated with chalk. (Jul. 3, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Frederic Mabileau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Eclipse No. 9, 2009

The Loire is full of producers most of us have never heard of. While it's full of excellent, fair valued wines, shopping is hard. Most of my purchases are made online, the result of copious amount of Googling. This seemed like a good buy at K and L Wines, but what my searches missed was that, in the 2009 vintage, Mabileau's barrel supplier, Vicard, sold him overly toasted barrels for this, his flagship wine, and the laws of the jungle dictated that this small producer was stuck with them. I was worried about a possible charred character, but further research indicated that  the barrels are 600 liters and that only the juice that survived the ordeal was bottled as Eclipse. Without any framework for comparison, as I have no experience with other vintages, I can say that I get oaky notes on the nose and a drying finish, but nothing that seems, to me, to be specifically charred. With air, the oak transforms into an interesting, spiciness. Maybe this is an example of good wine-making somehow making a decent, if not overly exciting, wine under the circumstances? (Jul. 6, 2016)

K and L Wines, 35 USD.

Château du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Fours à Chaux, 2010

This just so much better, a great example of Cabernet Franc, at a ridiculous price. Hureau can be bretty, but the fruit here is remarkably pure, lithe and peppery. The aromatic complexity and beauty of it need time to show, while the fruit is as succulent as a roasted pig and supported by its acidity rather than tannins. (Jul. 7, 2016)

Fat Guy, 115 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Petite Sirah, 2014

I always overlook this. It's the cheapest wine in the Mediterranean Reserve series, and the Carignan and the Marsellan seem to get all the press. It seems like a holdover from the Lewis Pasco days, even though the Zinfandel is gone from the blend for good. Yet, when I do open a bottle, it comes off as further proof that Petite Sirah is a candidate for a local signature grape, along with Recanati winemaker Ido Lewinsohn's use of it in his boutique winery and its de facto stature as Vitkin's flagship wine. This is certainly ripe, but not overripe or extracted, and the black fruit and black pepper on the nose is a very pretty combination, at times reminiscent of a good beef and vegetable stew. And if the finish is still constricted, tannic and bitter, that seems to me to be a promise for cellaring potential rather than a permanent fault. (Jul. 15, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Domaine Huet, Vouvray, Clos du Bourg, Moelleux Premiere Trie, 2002

In pristine shape, this should be one of the best dessert wines in the world. The color was way too burnt, though, the nose and palate reticent. So I was worried. But the nose blooms slowly, showing wet wool and brown sugar. The palate lacks the liveliness that would spark it towards greatness, but it's still an interesting, worthy wine that captures a moment. (Jul. 19, 2016)

About 50 USD.

Domaine Denis Berthaut, Bourgogne, Les Prielles, 2014

Berthaut is one of the recent additions to the Bourgogne Crown catalog, and one I was very curious to taste, having read about the domaine in Bill Nanson's guide. This is a very fresh, refreshing Bourgogne, with delicate minerality. A lovely house wine that epitomizes the style of the portfolio - wines that win over your heart and aesthetic sensibilities by their silken finesse, even though you would be tempted to gulp down a bottle without pause. (Jul. 20, 2016)

110 NIS.

The village wine, the Fixin, 2014 is, as you'd expect, better formed, longer and more precise, the greater aromatic detail showcasing a distinct floral aspect. The dense, dark-red fruit is buffeted by more persistent, grainy tannins and a tart acidity that I find lovely. Still a little raw, yet very pretty for all that. Now I'm tempted to try the lieux-dits that the Crown imports (the les Crais and the les Clos), but I should probably hold off on them for a few years.(Jul. 25, 2016).

155 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligoté Sous Le Chemin, 2013

This is a regular buy for me, year in, year out. The 2013 is relatively reticent and takes an hour to open up and show a pungent mix of lime and minerals on the nose and a flavorsome finish. Very typical, for its lean body and pungency. (Jul. 21, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 100 NIS.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Terroirs De Béru, 2014

This is the classic Burgundian tale of the prodigal son returning to the family domain revitalize it - only in this case, it's the prodigal daughter, Athénaïs. She's got a good hand and the Château's site claims the family's vineyards are located in the slopes of the Grand Cru foothills. it took me a while to find it on the maps - it looks like a good 5 miles away, but anyway, this is really good, a textbook Chablis, very clear and sea-shell saline, tense and limpid at the same time. It doesn't have the breadth and depth of a Premier Cru, but rather feels like a very pure distillation of the basic appellation. (Jul. 24, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2004

This was lean and tight years ago but now is a perfect mix of apples, orange blossom, salty rock and mushrooms, complex, deep, endless, with an almost mentholated lift. Many Chablis Grand Crus I've tasted were not this good. (Jul. 26, 2016)

Fat Guy, 329 NIS back in the day.

Lahat, Red, 2014

Itay Lahat, former Barkan winemaker, is a very busy consultant for various wineries around the country, also heading the Tel Hay College wine program. He has released a couple of vintages of whites under his boutique label. This is the first, much anticipated red. This a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, dominated by Syrah, I think, at least aromatically (black pepper). It is well made and fault free, which is not damning with praise, in Israel - there is very good balance here, no excessive heat, sweetness or tannins to wear out the palate, giving the fruit ample stage. (Jul. 27, 2016)

About 150 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2009

A funky, sweaty, local rendition of Crozes or Cornas, with blue fruit, black pepper, fruitcake and iodine, capped by a tannic crunch. (Jul. 28, 2016)

Château de Pibarnon, Bandol, Rosé, 2015

Explorative curiosity, that's why I bought this. It starts out nothing much more than a pink-hued Sauvignon Blanc, and while it grows beyond that to display minerals and herbs, nothing about it is distinctive enough to teach me what makes Bandol rosés special. (Jul. 29, 2016)

Wine Route, 150 NIS.

Domaine Ferret, Pouilly-Fuissé, 2014

Me being curious again. I read in the Wine Route newsletter about this new import, thought I'd give it a try. The funny thing is, the salesman was trying to talk me into buying a Jadot Bourgogne - I told him I wasn't into Jadot and he didn't bother to tell me this domaine is owned by Jadot. I'll try to be objective. The fruit here is very decent, very clean, with nuances of flint and dry grass and good acidity. The oak is a little obvious, though, and I think it's too pricey, but the saline personality is promising. (Jul. 30, 2016)

Wine Route, 220 NIS.

Monday, August 22, 2016

50th Birthday Bash, Part 2 With Zacki R. (Jul. 17, 2016)

I have a vision of what a great feast should be like. The setting should resemble a pirate cavern. Or a Paris bistro with Ernest Hemingway getting drunk in the back. The jackpot would be an invitation to dinner at West 35th Street. The food should gladden the soul of hunters, farmers, poets and  blacksmiths alike. The wines should speak of both the past and future, they should be honest and moving and they should reflect somehow on the human spirit without being obvious and pretentious.

The tasting room in the back of Habasta in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market filled the requirements of both the setting and the food. It carries on the tradition set by Yoezer Bar in Yaffo, which had the same ambiance and also the same style and quality of food. A legend in the making, arguably already there.

As for the wines - I'm here to tell you about the wines.

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 2004

Serving Champagne at the start of a dinner is like starting a Rolling Stones gig with "Brown Sugar". Gimmonet is like bringing Bobby Keys on stage for the sax solo. This is very focused and dry and, almost surprisingly, better than the 2002. Very long, deep and generous in doling out a full and detailed serving of brioche and minerals

Bollinger, 007, 2009

A letdown after the Gimmonet, nuttier and wider, without the focus or that same persistent dryness.  

A beautiful moment, the kind I live for.
Prunotto, Barbaresco Riserva, 1967

This is as close to a birth year wine that I was able to manage, but that technicality aside, it fulfilled all I expected of a wine intended to celebrate your half century mark, uncannily offering decades of history in a well preserved bottle. A mature wine, on the cusp of a graceful decline, but still thriving, a testament to grape, terroir and old time craft. It begins with a nail polish aroma that evaporates and morphs into tar and red fruit. Beautifully delicate on the palate with a long savory finish. 

Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo Riserva, 1976

You'll see a lot of 1976's, as the feast was a co-production with Zacki Rosenblum, who celebrated his 40th (co-production? Who am I kidding, ZR brought more wines, worked out the costs and menu with Maoz Alonim, set up the whatsapp group. My main contribution was to text him from Manhattan to  let him know I found a few oldies and let's do it). We've had this specific wine before, I loved it then and I loved it tonight. Once again, it shows as a very Burgundian wine, with rusty red fruit. I can understand why Daniel Lifshitz, in attendance and playing sommelier, did not totally agree with me, but I still insist there's a family resemblance. Anyway, ethereally lovely and the first in a string of very vital forty year old.

Daniel switched us to a couple of whites, since we were served a platter of sashimi and shrimps.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne, 2014

Really just a palate cleanser in a dinner such as this, in many circumstances you could serve it as a village wine ringer, with a persistent core of rock and lime. 

Domaine Christian Moreau, Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos, 2013

Tropical, a hint of minerals, with fantastically lively acidity. A concentrated core of lime with the Chablis minerality only showing up on the finish. 

C.V.N.E., Grand Reserva, Imperial, 1976

At forty years of age, the fruit still shows the fat sweetness of youth of a young Rioja, but  at almost any age, these old time Riojas have a wonderfully savory finish.   

Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Bussia Soprana, 1976

Until the Tondonia came along to give it an honest fight, this was undeniably the wine of the night, with tar, truffles, cured meats and olives delineating a superbly balanced wine. A GREAT wine! 

R. Lopez de Heredia, Tondonia, Grand Reserva, 1976

Long and savory. Very long. Very savory. How should I put it? Riojas have a savory, pungent, almost green character that is feels as though  a particle accelerator condensed the Tempranillo and embedded it with green tobacco leaves. This is an epitome of that style. With the ephemeral body that swings between savory and sweet. Ahhhhh....

Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo Riserva, 1996

In another setting - say a long evening with it at home - this would knock me out with its tar, spices and rust. But you can see what it had to contend with, and it really comes of very young in comparison with its 1976 brother. 

R. Lopez de Heredia, Tondonia, Reserva Blanc, 1999

Chlorine and peroxide. Interesting and unique, but not for everyone. 

Domaine Prieuré Roch, Ladoix Premier Cru, 2011

I have yet to be impressed with this house. This wine is very fresh, for sure, but doesn't show a whole lot beyond that.

Chateau de Beru, Chablis, Clos de Beru, 2012

This, on the other hand, is fresh and impressive. Daniel says this monople should have been a Grand Cru. I'll have to get back on that until I taste it with a considerably less fatigued palate , but it's surely as intense and long as a Grand Cru - I'm just undecided on issues like complexity and depth.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

50th Birthday Bash, Part 1

I'll say this about the Krug and Trotanoy -
Some kings can go abroad without their crown
and traffic will still stop to let them pass.
Inasmuch as I ever stopped to think about it, turning fifty always seemed like something that happens to other people. My family, neighbors, the old blokes on the bus. But never to me. Never to me. It really only started to dawn on me about two years ago that the Big Fifty was coming up. The imaginary line that defines the generation gap even more than forty does. I mean, at forty you're not that far off from your teens and early manhood. If you kill a man when you're twenty, by forty you'd be out and still young enough to enjoy your freedom, still plenty of years down the road. Fifty is more like, hey, wha' happen'? Can I get a second chance and do this all over again?

So I've been ignoring the clock hands for years. On the other hand, I'm this wine guy, you know, and what do wine guys do? Right. Collect and age wines. Obviously, that part of me is very well aware of the never ending passage of time, buying presents for myself to enjoy when I'm sixty four. Perpetually adding bottles to my time vault.

But there never seem to be enough wines in that vault. Certainly, as the big day approached, I found myself in a shopping frenzy, searching for special, mature wines to match the occasion. Luckily, I have friends to share them with, friends to bring their own special wines to the table.

This is the first installment in the week long Bacchanalia that my birthday celebration turned into.

Krug, Grand Cuvee, n.v.

Every house will tell you that they construct their non-vintage cuvees as carefully as their vintage Champagnes. Eventually, you stop to buy into the hype. But in the case of Krug, the hype is real (and so is the price - it does cost as much as a vintage wine from most houses and growers). Full and ripe, very complex and beautifully detailed, any complaints aired 'round the table about the high dosage were adequately addressed by the juice in the bottle and the huge helpings of brioche and minerals that were lush and restrained at the same time - which really is the combination you look for in Champagne.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Taillepieds, 1998

I have my moral reservations about how this house turned into an empire that sprawls across so many vineyards in both Beanue and Nuits. I also have my reservations about how much this bottle reminds me of a Nebbiolo. I would, in all honesty, never have guessed Burgundy blind. On the other hand, 1998 was still pere Hubert's vintages, and he was notorious for making tough wines in need of time. So I can see where I need to adjust my expectations. With the tight black fruit and minerals that are more about tar than forest floor, this is in sharp contrast with Ettiene's wines, where the fruit is redder and sexier. I've never tasted the elder Montille's wines, so, at the end of the day, this was a great birthday gift, because it really expanded my knowledge of Bourgogne lore.

Lucien le Moine, Clos de la Roche, 1999

I'm not a fan - in fact, I'm usually rabid enough to despise this negociant's pandering to the American palate (and wallet) - but this is a very good wine, even if it starts off resembling Côte Rotie with all that black pepper. Sigh. If a red Bourgogne has to resemble a Syrah, Côte Rotie is the lesser of possible evils, as it's the softest, most Burgundian appellation to begin with. Don't get me wrong, though - I'm a very big North Rhone fan, it's just that I like my Bourgognes to smell and taste like Bourgogne. Call me a classicist. But, this really is an excellent wine and any of the oak that has made (or broke) le Moine's reputation is well gone by now, integrated into the fruit. Just give it time to show its Bourgogne character.

Chateau Tratonoy, Pomerol, 1989

At the price I manage to score this, it is just a little higher priced than the latest vintage of the Katzrin red, we all noted, with ten times the class and pleasure. If there is anything wrong with this twenty seven year old Right Banker, is that it's still young and has not yet started to show its best, I actually think we should have decanted it. What you can get, even now, is the depth and pedigree shrouded by the iron and tannins.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Euro Cup Finals Wines (Jul. 10, 2016)

I'm not going to try to describe the game in detail. I leaned towards France because I was watching and drinking with a bunch of militant Francophiles, but I honestly could have gone both ways. Somehow I managed to see past Ronaldo's posturing and appreciate his talent and dedication, for a change.

As for the wines, this is what you get when you take a few game wine importers and their clientele. And invite Yair Haidu.

The whites were not, looking at the group as a whole, terribly exciting. Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2012 showed good balance and excellent acidity, but to some degree, the nose masked its pears and flint behind the oak. Domaine Bachelet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Macherelles, 2011 was better, the oak certainly less obtrusive, similar enough in style to declare itself Chassagne, but not really a leap in quality. Hospices de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne, 2010 was an underachiever, oily and fat with low acidity. Domaine Fourrier, Bourgogne Blanc, 2010 was a curio, a white from the Cote de Nuits, but a nice curio, fresh, pure and rocky, and my favorite of the Bourgognes.

The best white of the lot was a Sauvingon Blanc.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fume, Majorum, 2012

The Redde family is a great Pouilly-Fume producer and this is their top wine. It needs time to express itself, but even now you get mint and nuts, guayavas and, foremost, minerals.

The reds ranged from interesting to excellent to sublime. Domaine Fourrier, Chambolle-Musigny, Vieilles Vignes, 2009 was one of the interesting, if not very Chambolle IMHO, the muscles and iron speaking of Gevrey, where the domaine is located. Chateau Palmer, Margaux, Alter Ego, 1998 also did not speak much of its origins, obviously Left Bank with its black fruit and iron, but without any Margaux opulence or sexiness. Haidu brought the Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape, Reserve des Celestins, 1999 and thought highly of it, but while I have great respect for his taste and judgement, all I got was brett.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Taillepieds, 2011 was excellent and savory, with a complex nose of black fruit and spices, but very tannic and tight, giving much less than the 2011 Champans, which had really knocked me out in the past. Armand Rosseau, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2013 is floral and harmonically lush and spicy. The tannins are present but soft and well enveloped. Olivier Guyot, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 2007 was the final red in the "excellent" category, before we went on to the sublime. I always love Guyot and this shows the house style, lithe and sexy, floral and focused. Where is the Grand Cru? Not in the depth or complexity but in the composure and purity. Lovely.

At the heart of every lover of French wine, at the deepest core, is a lifelong desire to drink wines like the following two. And this desire, it defines and forms us. It doesn't really matter whether Bourgogne or Bordeaux is your drug, you want that moment when the wine combines the nuanced subtlety of age with the potent freshness of youth.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 1979

Sous bois maturity and a touch of sautéed fruit and coffee grains, with those mature nuances and almost poetic composure that make you swoon.

Domaine Hudelot-Noellot, Richebourg Grand Cru, 2008

This shows a similar mature character, which belies its actual age, but it is more vibrant and focused than the d'Angerville. The nose, with its exotic spices, is ethereal.

The evening ended with, first, a Champagne that I had brought to celebrate French victory, followed by a Port, because, well, the French lost and the Portuguese won.

Fourny et Fils, Vertus Premier Cru, Grande Reserve, 2009

Primal with an extravagant mousse. It does remind me of Larmandier, who is also a Vertus producer, but at this stage, the ripeness of the fruit captures the limelight at the cost of all else..

Taylor's, Quinta de Vargellas, Vintage Port, 1996

Here  I find that typical Port character - band aid and raisins - love it or leave it, the team earned our respect and deserved a vintage Port.