Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cos To Cos (Jun. 1, 2016)

Cos to Cos
Brother Zacki isn't much of a Bordeaux drinker, but he somehow managed to rope a bunch of us into bringing out some mature, high profile wines. And supplied the 1989 Cos. Me, I brought the 2001 Cos, and connived to open the evening with it. Because there's nothing I wouldn't do for a bad pun.

Chateau Cos d'Estournel, Saint Estephe 2me Cru, 2001

Tasted blind, everyone (except me - I brought the wine, remember?) went for Pauilliac. I agree this has something of the characteristically iron-laden lift of black currants and cigar box. The tannins are bitter and earthy at first and, even with air, the palate is still mute, deep but not very complex. It's still too young for my tastes, even after fifteen years, and 2001 is only a very good to excellent vintage, not a great one. Which makes me sad when I think about it: basically I have something on the order of five more years to buy new Bordeaux vintages before I'd be too old to reasonably expect to drink them at their peak.

Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauilliac 5me Cru, 1998

These days, Lynch-Bages is one of the most expensive Left Banks, especially given its official 5me Cru ranking, I wouldn't cast doubts on its quality, because I love it and I think it's high class indeed, but some might. What I believe is inarguable is how seductive, even sexy, it is. The 1998 is a classic Pauilliac, with pungent, rustic aromatics, and it opens very nice to show a soft, classic facade, which is very seductive indeed.

Chateau Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Leognac, 1989

This is what a mature Bordeaux is all about, with the fruit in the background and a herbal, cedary character. Having said that, it still has a rusty, tough aspect that I guess will always be there. So yeah, further evidence I'm almost too old to buy young Bordeaux.

Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Margaux 4me Cru, 1996

This, too, is a sexy wine, like you'd expect a Margaux to be. Be it the vintage, or the fact that this wine arrived at the table at a warmer temperature than the other wines, this was the softest wine of the evening.

Chateau Cos d'Estournel, Saint Estephe 2me Cru, 1989

A very complete, complex wine, on the nose (bacon, cigar box and smoke) and the palate isn't very far off, either, with its savory, muscular tannins. It's a ripe wine, but ripe in a reined in way, the way the warm vintages used to be, before ripeness became such a holy grail that other considerations were overwhelmed.

Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes 1er Cru, 2003

Sauternes and its satellites are the most over-hyped region and style in Bordeaux. And I don't like them much any more. I've said it before, and its acolytes can only kill me once. But this is quite nice. The acidity is very low, as is often the case in the region (which is why I always veer towards German, Loire and Tokay dessert wines, where the acidity is sanctioned, preserved, even championed) but the botrytis funk saves the day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (May, 2016)


Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay, 2013

Lushly perfumed, a sexy, silky glove covering an earthy core of black cherries, with the cool, languid elegance I have found in the wines of the Domaine in the past - albeit without the detailed complexity and depth of the Premier Crus. The big picture is, I'm very pleased with it. (May 6, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 345 NIS.

Château Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan, 2008

I don't like young Bordeaux much, and 8 years old is a young Bordeaux, even for 2008, which is a good, yet friendly vintage. The nose is excellent, black fruit with smoke and rock, but the tannins are still bitter, even after a couple of hours. At the core is the classic claret form and the Pessac accouterments of minerals and smoke that I mentioned. The modern wine making doesn't take it into the realms of over-extraction, but there is a bland polish that renders it a bit too safe and round. (May 7, 2016)

Wine Route, this cost me 150 NIS in futures, wow, I can't believe we could once buy good Bordeaux for that price.

Domaine des Lises, Crozes-Hermitage, Equis, 2014

This is the domaine of Maxime Graillot, son of Crozes legend Alain (arguably the best producer in town).  Pere Graillot goes for whole clusters, whereas Maxime de-stems, which might account for the the plusher, less tannic result - yet Maxime also works at the family domaine and has retained some stylistic touches. The end result is a floral, complex wine with velvety, limpid, effortlessly succulent fruit hinting at bacon. (May 13, 2016)

Château du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Lisagathe, 2010

I knew this is Hureau's 'serious' wine, I just didn't expect it to still be this seriously closed. It's brooding, almost petulant, monolithic black fruit, which is adorned by notes eucalyptus and distracts, at first, with alcoholic band-aid funk. Later, I find hints of black pepper and ozone drenched earth. Cabernet Franc doesn't produce massive wines in the Loire, and this isn't a massive wine, but it does impress as dense and it's almost aggressively tannic, and so tight, it seems like it still hasn't escaped the cold cellars of the Chateau, and won't for at least five years (cue Dylan, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"). (May 26, 2016)

Fat Guy, 170 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2014

The trend is to be anti-oak, and I've been guilty of that. But oak is useful and, for certain, grapes, necessary. Chardonnay takes to it - there's a reason it's used to such an extent in its homeland in the Cote d'Or. Lewinsohn models his Chardonnay on the Cote and so the oak is obvious, both in the the texture on the palate and the aromas of roasted nuts and flint it coaxes. Knowing how this wine behaved in past vintages and in different stages of its life, and judging by the balanced ripeness of the fruit, I suspect that the oak will become less obvious in a couple of years. But you can still enjoy it now, for two reasons. One, the quality of the fruit provides enough pleasure. And two, the subtle and precise winemaking technique is, in itself, an intellectual pleasure to witness. (May 27, 2016)


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sphera and Tzora Launches

Winemakers, colleagues, friends
Sphera and Tzora have recently launched their latest wines. I attended both launches, and, while I didn't take detailed notes, I'd like to talk about general impressions. Because both wineries are playing at all star level.

Sphera is a boutique owned and run by Sima and Doron Rav Hon. And what you get when you see the clean, minimalistic labels and when you look at Doron - lean, white haired, usually dressed in white - is what you get in his all-white lineup: nuanced, 'quiet' wines, the equivalent of a Japanese rock garden. Drinking them is almost like drinking cold spring water - they're that invigorating - and there's always a distinct and distinctive structure that hovers between limpid and nervy. Tasting the wines in the context of a launch gala doesn't do them justice - they require meditative attention -  hence the lack of notes, but I'll re-visit. I will say this: the style and quality is consistent across the lineup and the Chardonnay gets my vote for the best in the country.

Eran Pick has been the winemaker at Tzora for a decade (he's been recently promoted to CEO as well) and his work has been improving by small increments each year; I wouldn't expect major jumps, given the already high quality of the previous three or four vintages. The Shoresh Blanc is, as always, a major contender for the country's best Sauvignon Blanc (which I think is the country's best white grape). We opened it later at home and it's explosively expressive and balances tropical fruit with minerals, which is its signature really - the way the minerals shift between foreground and background. You know what? Who cares which Sauvignon is the country's best - the Shoresh's big achievement is how consistent its character is, year after year. Not just the quality, but the character. Which is what terroir is all about, really.

The 2014 red Shoresh might be the best so far, the structure tannic, yet friendly at the same time. The iconic Misty Hills is excellent as always, but I'll defer comparisons to previous vintages until I attend a vertical tasting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

From Le Clos to Clos de Beze - Domaine Duroche 2014 (May 3, 2016)


Gevrey is not just about meaty, gamey aromas and flavors. There's a floral character in the wines (especially those made from the cooler vineyards) by winemakers who aim for elegance and eloquence, instead of the more cliched, roughhouse style. That character may not be as intensely flowery and perfumed as Chambolle, but it's there, in the Burguet portfolio, for example. You can also find a lot of minerality.

Such are the inclinations of the Duroche domaine, which is imported by Bourgogne Crown and which this post explores, following a tasting of select examples of the 2014, examples which course the range from Village crus, through Premiers and up to the Grand Crus, one of which is stellar enough to make a grown man cry.

Gevrey-Chambertin

This is not very aromatically expressive at first, but air renders more detail, such as exotic spices and flowers. The palate is on the light side, with sleek tannins.  A nice house wine at the tasting price of 155 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Le Clos

More expressive and open, also more typical of the village with its sauvage character and the floral element is more pronounced as well. Because the vines are the youngest in the Village wines lineup, the wine is ready to play at a younger age and plays the role of a trailer, in the way you'd usually expect an unnamed Village wine to play. And, it signals the harmonic, precise wine making of the rest of the lineup.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Champ

Daniel says this is one of the tightest wines in the domaine, but the nose is a step up in expression from the first two Village crus. It is textbook Gevrey aromatically, with that sauvage, again, that you can't pinpoint a strictly funky stink on. Some people call it fur. There is also a tense aromatic signature of earth and minerals. The palate, though, is truly tight and closed, the fragrant fruit of the previous wines locked behind brooding tannins. Which doesn't distract from its feminine elegance. And the potential is foreshadowed by the long, acidity driven finish.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Champeaux

This is, on the one hand, more obscure aromatically, while, on the other, the palate is more expressive, framing richness in an insistent, yet elegant, structure. Anyway, it continues the style of the Champs, but adds a degree or two of breed. When the nose finally opens, it shows even more minerals than the Champs.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Jeunes Rois

Very expressive, more than any of the Village wines, mixing flowers and minerals, and languid fruit draped by dusty tannins that are seemingly designed to captivate the intellect.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier, Cru Lavaut St. Jacques

Very intense fruit that jabs at your face with a hint of blue fruit and retains that elegance and rich austerity that is the essence of Bourgogne. Here maybe what clinches the fight is focused tannin control. Amazing how it has that blue fruit character without any sign of over-ripeness. You spend years studying wine just to be able to recognize that this has much more to grow into than the previous wines.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru,  Lavaut St. Jacques V. V.

All I said about the regular, except the impact is much more reserved and austere.  Plus, there's an additional dimension of density and depth of expression.

Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru

Again, that blue fruit sneaks in, but there's additional depth. When we tasted the Charmes and Lavaux 2013 last year, there wasn't a clear cut distinction of quality between Grand and Premier Cru. In fact, the Lavaut was the better wine, certainly the more interesting one, and the same holds here, although the Charmes has greater clarity and purity, while the Lavaut (both of them) greater depths of pungent mineral essence. I think, though, the Charmes has more of the exotic spices you might associate with Vosne.



Clos de Beze Grand Cru

Holy stinking cow. You could just copy random lines from all of the above and place them here, then add a caveat about the endless depth and multiple layers interacting with each other. What I personally love about this is how it recalls my first taste of Clos de Beze ( Jadot 2001) years ago. Like someone shoved mud and earth in your face and it turned into nectar.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last Rites For Bertie (Apr. 30, 2016)


I really thought the last time was the last time, but I wound up coming to the last service.

So, until Bertie is reborn in a new form in a few weeks, thanks for the memories and the seafood.

Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauelrain, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2012

You might say this is a cult winery. A small, family operation whose wines you can barely find anywhere, growing all their grapes from the steep Plauelrain vineyard right next door. This is the last of three different wines that  I bought on a visit two years ago, and I wish I'd bought more or that there was a local importer (or that I could find the wines anywhere at all). All were  lovely and complex. The GG is their flagship wine and it is one of the most elegant dry Rieslings I've ever had. The nose is deep and complex, with red apples, sour apple peels, minerals and a dollop of red fruit and flowers as well. The palate is full in Riesling terms, yet with very focused finesse and a structure steeled in minerals.

Domaine Romaneaux-Deatezet, Vin de Pays de l'Ardeche, Syrah, 2014

The domaine is the love child of Herve Souhaut, who owns or otherwise works old-to-ancient vines in and around the North Rhone AOC's. This wine is partially made of grapes bought from growers, but the average age is decent enough: 30 years. I'm not sure whether the VdP designation is due to the origins of the grapes declassification, but it comes off as a lighter version of Cornas or Côte Rotie, with moderate, friendly tannins and traces of bacon funk.

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

I have no idea where this old school producer sources this, but it drinks (and, from what I can tell, costs) almost like an entry level Barolo. But, as it's designed for a softer impression, in its own right this is a lovely, fetching, wine, with dusty floral soft red fruit, a firm but not overpowering structure. Very high complex quality for the level.

Domaine Hubert Lignier, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Baudes, 2006

I usually swoon for this producer, but something here just doesn't work for me. It's funky, almost reductive, and although that, taken on its own, is charming in it way, it obscures the Cote de Nuits spices and forest floor. Others liked more.

Clos du Mont-Olivet, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Cuvée de Papet, 2005

Super ripe and alcoholic. If you drink this, you won't pass a breath analyzer test for a month.

Clos Marie, Pic-St.-Loup, l'Olivette, 2014

I should buy more of this. I bought the first couple of vintages, than I stopped, for no better reason than it got too tedious to look for it. But it was always a personable wine, a model representative of the best of the Languedoc. This is actually a finer rendition than the prior vintages that I loved. They were funky and bretty, this, on the other hand, is meaty and briny, tasty and full of character.

Orlando Abrigo, Valmaggiore, Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2010

Extracted, but expressive, peppery and spicy, a fascinating contrast to the Rinaldi. It's relatively tame, but you can get an idea of how intense, for good or bad, the higher wines would be. This hovers back and forth across the red line of over-extraction.

Tua Rita, Guisto di Notri, 2006

A Bordeaux blend that, as always, conveys the notion that, under a sensitive hand, the essence of Tuscany goes beyond the indigenous grapes.

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 2005

A fitting closer to this farewell night. Fresh, lively, vibrant green apples and sautéed mushrooms with brioche nuances delineate a captivating structure. Everything you might ever want in a Champagne, larger than life, all the while imbued with breed, breed, breed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New Vitkin Releases


Vitkin have never bothered with very obvious wine grapes. Their claim to fame has always been their Carignan and Petit Sirah. Over the the last couple of years, they've added a few more varieties, which are also off the beaten path in Israel and which expand on the Vitkin house style of characterful wines that eschew excessive polish and go for a funky punch.

Gewurztraminer , 2015

Considering that Gewurztraminer is very popular in Israel - easily recognizable, extroverted and, when off dry or sweeter, lush and friendly - it's quite surprising there are not a lot more varietal wines made locally. Equally surprising, considering Assaf Paz' track record at Binymina, is that Vitkin has never released a Gewurtz as far as I recall. Well, now they have, and it's perhaps the first dry one designed to be a top tier wine. This is arguably even drier than its Alsatian peers, with rose petals, minerals and salt rather than litchi and white pepper. It's so dry it's even a little aggressive right now, but lurking behind, and around, that aggression is a lot of personality. A good first effort, that right now is bones and sinews and needs to put on weight and muscle. In that sense, it continues the stylistic direction of the other Vitkin whites, specifically the Grenache Blanc. 85 NIS. (Apr. 21, 2016)

Grenache Noir, 2014

Candied and closed, with hints of tobacco leaves and back and white pepper, which become more pronounced overnight. That day's worth of air also brings out a floral element and fleshes out the palate, so that the finish leaves a wonderfully saline impression. There's plenty of promise and I applaud the introduction of a new varietal wine to Israel*, especially when the implementation is so much lither than the obvious benchmark, the Southern Rhone. 140 NIS. (Apr. 22, 2016)

* Galil Mountains also makes a Grenache, which I haven't tasted, but it's not designed to be or marketed as a premium wine, as far as I know.

Tempranillo, 2012

This isn't the first appearance of Tempranillo in Israel (I recall Binyamina, Assaf's former employer, has or had one) and it really captures one aspect of the grape, with a pungent nose laden with iron and iodine, as well as a dose of brett and a sweet musk reminiscent of old wood. It's full of personality, albeit it does not seem to be a wine that is built to age (as opposed to Vitkin's Carignan, Petite Sirah - or the Grenache, for that matter) and a lack of structure detracts from its interest quotient. 140 NIS. (Apr. 25, 2016)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2016)

Luis Pato, Vinho Regional Beiras, Baga Natural, 2012

A fresh red, that is at once vivid and languid, with earthy cum spicy aromas and flavors, that morph into sub scorched minerality and black pepper. Very taut and, for a relatively inexpensive import, backwards and in need of time. (Apr. 4, 2016)

Gin Proof, 116 NIS.

Comte Armand, Auxey-Duresses, 2012

Comte Armand's Clos des Epeneaux is, I'm proud to say, a wine I can and have identified blind. It's a one of a kind, but, alas, very expensive and too long to mature (I'll probably open my bottle of 2010 in my 70's). So I make do with the Auxey, which marries the domaine's stern, muscular style with the village's soft fruit, without the two clashing. It's an easy going wine, a boxer relaxing after a fight in a game of golf, not especially complex or deep - but I like how the forest floor and lithe black fruit are speckled with iron. (Apr. 6, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2010

2010 was a great vintage, so I'm still approaching many of my stash with trepidation. But this seems to be starting to open up. The nose has a lot of fresh red fruit, with shades of black, and exotic spices that are almost Vosne-like, except they're just earthier and a little blunter. The palate has that edgy focus that is the trademark of the vintage, from all I've heard and tasted, and is already showing a mellow drinkability on the finish, as well as an almost Chambolle languid softness. (Apr. 8, 2016)

Scottish Company, about 300 NIS. Drouhin is arguably the best of the old guard, big houses. And in 2010, anyway, this specific wine is above the average NSG village wine, even if not up to the level of a Premier Cru,

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Côte de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches Blanc, 2013

It's almost a Chablis knockoff, with all the seashells on the nose, except there's a hint of flint and more mid-palate fat than you'd get up north, I think. There's some oak that needs more time to complete the already ongoing the process of being integrated, though. (Apr. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Mullineux, Swartland, Syrah, 2012

Eran Pick let me sample a half bottle's worth of leftovers. It's nice and sleek, floral and lightly peppery, and poised on the proper side of over-ripeness. Even a couple of days after opening, it improves with air, showing more even pepper, laced with minerals, as well as a very clean, subtly spicy aftertaste. (Apr. 13, 2016)

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, Pape, 2011

A field blend (Baga and Touriga Nacional). The expressive nose has a lot going on, while remaining focused and concise: red fruit with that tang I always mentally label as tobacco leaves, forest floor. The palate has richness but doesn't meander, remaining focused as well, with the richness balanced by integrated tannins and savory acidity. There's a modern polish to it that I don't find in the lower prices Reserva red, which is a shame, but I think I tend to try the top Castro wines too early, so I'll try again. (Apr. 19, 2016)

Gin Proof, 220 NIS.

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.


Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Grandi Annate, 2004

This wine deserves to be scored: 75. And I'm being generous, because I'm giving it some points for being made of good fruit - artistically, this is a disaster: ripe, unbearably sweet and extracted, impossible to drink. Yet impossible to put down, sniffing and sipping it is like stopping to photograph a car wreck. (Apr. 18, 2016)

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Rouge, 2014

Continues and refines the style of the previous vintages. Lithe, floral and peppery. (Apr. 22, 2016)

150 NIS.

Dalton, 20th Anniversary, White Wine, 2014

Dalton is the smallest of the large Israeli wineries - or the largest of the medium-sized ones - and they celebrated their birthday with two limited editions, a red and a white. The white is a throwback to the days when the New World was aping Burgundy, before they went overboard with the oak. Which means you get obvious minerality with obvious oak eyeliner and rouge, but at least the oak isn't suffocating the fruit. A good wine, it's just that I can think of at least four local wineries that make better wines every year, not just when they're setting out to accolade themselves. (Apr. 23, 2016)

90 NIS. A decent price, I'll give them that.