Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Theme-less BYO Night Out. - Garrigue, Jun. 27, 201

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

This is further proof of my pet doctrine, that Sauvignon Blanc is the signature Israeli white grape. The Gershon is a special edition that Gaby Sadan makes from a special sub-plot of his vineyard and has matured surprisingly well, with decent complexity, very good acidity driven length and a detailed nose redolent with mineral funk.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling trocken, 2007

To some extent, this came under criticism, due to, in equal parts, the relatively warm serving temperature and the fact that Donnhoff, being Donnhoff, is always placed under great scrutiny. I like it and find it intriguing, for the sherbet taste/feel that is deftly counterpointed by piercing, surreal minerality that blends with the sweetness of the fruit. I admit the palate is challenging in spots, in a way that the classic, off dry style probably would not be. The nose is lovely, with smoke, sweet white fruit and cold rock. 

Joseph Drouhin,  Pommard Premier Cru, Rugiens, 2010

I tend to consider Drouhin one of the 'good' negociants (yes, there's a grower bias here), but this is underwhelming, mostly because I find it too ripe for the vintage. The nose is of Premier Cru breed, intense with iron and spices, easily identifiable as Pommard, it's only the palate that disappoints. 

Dominique Laurent, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2002

This is an excellent, classic Charmes with red cherries, forest floor, exotic spices. Laurent is usually derided for his excessive barrel regime. Looking back at my notes, it looks like I'm not a particularly ardent follower, but this wine survived the oak with age and grew way beyond it. It doesn't hurt that 2002 was such a great vintage, either.

Marqués de Murrieta, Castillo Ygay, Rioja Gran Reserva Especial, 1994

There is a reason I like my Riojas very mature and this twenty-three year old shows that even two decades is not enough to shed enough baby fat to suit me (Ygay used to be placed on the market in the past after decades in barrel and bottle). Even the nose is not completely in harmony, although it does already show a funky, vegetative aspect of old Rioja. 

Oddero, Barolo, Vigna Rionda, 1998

What a visceral disappointment... I tried to be charitable, because I brought it and it wasn't cheap, but at best I would say this is not a good bottle, a more objective taster might even say a bad one. The nose barely shows some dust and iron. The palate is looser, but still mean and grungy. You look at the label and consider the producer, the vineyard and vintage and you just think, aw shit. The lesson here is be very careful where you shop.

Clos du Marquis, Saint Julien, 1996

As usual, a good claret, but hardly very exciting, even with bottle age. At that period, Clos du Marquis was truly a second wine and not the independent property it later became.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Jun. 2017)

Niepoort, Duoro, Vertente, 2014

The major portion of the wine is sourced from sixty year old vines, the rest thirty years old (mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca). This is an everyday wine and to begin with, it's closed without being harshly or overtly tannic. It needs time to unveil its medium body and length, and then I like it for its pungent earth and tobacco aromas, for the floral notes it develops slowly and charmingly and for the freshness and refinement of the fruit.(Jun. 3, 2017)

Porto, 109 NIS.

I also tasted a glass of the more expensive (180 NIS) Redoma, 2014, which is round, with sweetness of fruit. It's claret like and needs age to develop complexity. Of course, Niepoort's reputation was won by its ports, before they ever ventured into table wines. Colheita, 2005 is a vintage tawny port. It's subtly tertiary, combining and contrasting savory and sweet aromas and flavors: chocolate, cherries, nuts and cured meat. It's an excellent value at 160 NIS even if you're not a huge Port fan. At this point, I admit Pato and Alvaro won me over much more quickly, but I recognize that the Redoma needs at least five years while the Vertente is not meant to be profound in the first place. In other words, I need to taste more, and buy more Colheita for winter. 

Eyal Mermelstein, who imports Neipoort as well as the other Portugese producers I mentioned aboive, has also started bringing in another Duro estate, owned by the romantically named Roboredo Madeira. I tasted a white, Carm, Duoro, Reserva, 2015, which consists of yet more odd indigenous grapes: larinho, rabigato and viozinho. It's a reserved wine at present, showing yellow fruit with a herbal edge, and only hints at the exotic aromatic profile that the Portugese varieties show at their best.

A celebratory Champagne

Pierre Gimonnet, Cuis Premier Cru, Special Club, 2004

Here's why I don't score wines. A good Champgne doesn't need a score and a bad one doesn't deserve one. When a great Champagne such as this hits its peak, it delivers such a perfectly balanced blend of apples and citrus fruit, brioche and sauteed mushrooms that even a self-dubbed cognoscenti stumbles trying to compare it to others of its breed. In Burgundian terms, it has the intensity, complexity and length of a Grand Cru. I don't think I would be able to recognize the Cuis terroir blind, but I think can comprehend by now the character of a pure chardonnay Champagne (pinot noir would add a touch of strawberries and forest floor). In the end, you wind up remembering the little things, like the way the sweetness of the fruit morphs into a savory, salty finish. (Jun. 10, 2017)

Far Guy, 350-380 NIS.

Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2004

Bemoaning how I used to love Châteauneufs and now I don't enjoy the style - that's tedious and I've really worn that song out. But this is really rich with useless beauty. There're some points of aromatic interest: the dried fruit, the lead pencil - they're not very complex, but they do evoke decadent abandon. Much later on, the nose starts to show Châteauneuf's signature garrigue - as much as I try to avoid grocery lists of flavors and aromas, you do need to know if and when garrigue notes show up in your Châteauneuf. As for the palate, well, oddly enough, despite the mushy sweetness, there's a convincing, tannic tension on the finish, yet the attack and mid-palate are very obvious and pulsate with rich warmth as though I was coping with a huge bite of rare fillet. (Jun. 13, 2017)

Wine Route. I stopped buying the stuff so long ago that I have no idea what it sells for these days, but I probably bought it for 250-300 NIS ten years ago and I assume it now sells for 400-450 NIS. Good luck to them.

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Saint Romain, 2013

I've been waiting to this for three or four years. Not this specific vintage, of course, but any vintage at all. The producer's sensual style had captivated me in the past and the little village's underdog status piqued my curiosity. It's one of those villages without even a Premier Cru to boast of. I'd tried a couple of Saint Romain whites - found them honest and appealing, capturing the classic Burgundian style with no frill but no overblown pretensions, either - but never a red. I have no idea why this particular wine was always out of stock. Maybe the price point appealed to the restaurants (I can just picture cartons stashed away in the back of HaBasta). Anyway, when the Bourgogne Crown 2017 catalog came out, this was the first wine I ordered.

I've milked the build up for all it's worth. Like I said, Taupenot Merme, sensual style; Saint Romain, unpretentious town. This is what you get. A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest the freshest red fruit, adorned by young flowers. There's a mildly rustic grit, but mostly you just get soft, mouthfilling fruit and the thrill of its visceral vividness. But you know something? That's just its first phase. An hour of air, and it picks up a darker, earthier, more profound aspect, all the while maintaining the same forthright personality.

Beaucastel, looks like you've been outplayed! (June. 15, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 165 NIS. Merits multiple purchases.

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils, Chorey-les-Beaune, Vieilles Vignes, 2014

Chorey is another Beaune town with no Premier Crus to its name. Rapet is a domaine I adore for its white wines- they seem to have many Premier Crus in Aloxe And Pernand; I'm only familiar with their Control-Charlemagne and Pernand-Vergelesses, but I've developed a crush on them. Compared to the Saint Romain, this has more forward sweetness,with darker, fuller fruit, yet with a slightly more astringent finish. Despite the Vieilles Vignes designation, it's not especially long, and, slow to open, looks to need some medium term bottle age, despite its lowly origins. (Jun. 16, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown again, 155 NIS.

Benoit Ente, Bourgogne Blanc, Golden Jubilee, 2014

This is only a regional wine, the lowliest Burgundian AOC, but it's made by a man who's already proven himself to be a masterful winemaker, and he's based in Puligny, so I assume the grapes come from either declassified village vineyards or close by. Look, it's not meant to be very complex or broad, and it's even on the lean side (which I like, because that's where my tastes usually take me). but Benoit brings a lot of purity and clarity, as well as Puligny character - meaning a filigree balance of fruit and minerals, a touch of dry grass, as well as the clarify I spoke of - without being especially special. (Jun. 17, 2017)

Bourgogn Crown, 175 NIS. 

Tzora, Judean Hills, Red, 2015

I used to optimize my Tzora buying budget by ignoring the Judean Hills and heading straight for the Shoresh and Misty Hills, but this year, it just didn't make sense. The red and white were just too good. If there's one thing I learned from Eran Pick over the years is that talking about balance may sound pretentious, but balance makes for tasty wines. This grounds its earthy red fruit in abundant acidity, so it's neither overripe nor astringent. It's not especially tannic, but its tannins are savory and meaty. (Jun. 18, 2017)

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Renner Erste Lage, 2012

This is the least renowned/exceptional of the house's Gruner crus, and thus priced accordingly. It's a fine wine in its own right - and the price makes it very attractive. It strikes me as lighter than the Lamm and the Grub, the domaine's great Gruner Veltliner crus, but the nose is quite stirring, even though it evokes with rather broad strokes. (Jun. 24, 2017)

Fat Guy, 185 NIS.

Catherine et Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, Trinch!, 2015

Breton was one of the first red Loire producers I encountered. I have very fine memories of a mature Les Perrieres, 1995 I drank with the embryonic version of my current tasting group. This is a Bourgueil meant to be enjoyed young and I certainly did that very thing. I would compare it to a Beaujolais. It certainly has the same succulent, fresh fruit. It doesn't have the greenness usually associated with Cabernet Franc, but the fruit is joyfully red, before it turns a little darker and conjoins with the lead pencil typical of the grape when it's at its most comfortable in its homeland. To me, it even has a scent of apple cider, before it starts to show raw meat and, finally, iron. The tannins are soft, not astringent, even though they do make a rasping impression on the finish. I don't want to carry on with the descriptors for too long - it feels like that would ruin the immediacy and intimacy of it. But the thing is, it does get surprisingly complex as it opens up. (Jun. 25, 2017)

Bought in Amsterdam for 20 euros.

Pintia, Toro, 2010

15% ABV, 95 Parker points, this is really far out from my sweet spot. Aromatically complex, evoking dry herbs, it does belong to the same stylistic school as Chateauneuf, that is, big, meaty fruit lanced by bitter tannins. The main point of interest, for me, is that Parker reference to "plump, rounded tannins". The tasting note is from 2013. His judgement was always suspect, but was his palate also gone at that point? (Jun. 26, 2017)

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Man And A Bottle Of Rousanne Walk Into A Bar. (Jun. 1, 2017)

The evening played out like a bull fight. The picadors played around with Californian wines of varying pedigree. The pace picked up with classic French wines. Finally, matador Avi Feldstein waltzed in to deliver the coup de grace.

Feldstein , Rousanne, 2014

I wrote about this wine in the past. I liked it, I truly did (I don't think Avi could make a bad wine even if he really tried), but it's a white Rhone grape and I approached the wine with prejudice and trepidation. In fact, I actually went as far as to write:

"Jesus, Avi - Rousanne?"

But what an amazing wine it turned out to be.

Fresh and funky, sweet white fruit on the nose, a dry, flavorsome wine that proved much better than what previous bottles had led me to expect of it. Respect, Avi has conjured an all-star wine out of what I would normally consider a journeyman grape, especially in Israel.

Halutzim - not only is the food great, but it's the best place to photograph wines
Wind Gap Winery, Sonoma Coast, Nellessen Vineyard, Syrah,  2015

There is a surprising lack of consistency, as this bottle was not as good as the glass I drank at the winery a couple of months ago, which I thought excellent at the time. This bottle was simple and short and none of us thought greatly of it. So, this is either a case of bottle variation or too little air and cellar time, we'll never know.

Or just me, caught up in the atmosphere of the hipster winery.

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Clos de la Dioterie, 2011

I'm going to avoid drinking Loire reds from serious producers before they turn ten. That's the only tasting note you need here. Seriously. If you want to buy a bottle, I'd recommend it with suitable cellar time - because the structure and the producer's track record make this a good gamble - but a description of the current state of the wine is just not going to be very useful.

Wind Gap Winery, Alexander Valley, Sceales Vineyard, Grenache, 2015

I brought this because I thought it would be of professional interest to Avi Feldstein, who turned out to be the taster who enjoyed it the most. It's low keyed, fruity, candied with a layer of white pepper. Deceptively short and simple, I think it's a suggestion of what Grenache can be when it's not over-extracted. 

Rhys, Santa Cruz Mountains, Skyline Vineyard, 2008

This purports to be a stellar wine, but I find its monolithic stage presence quite boring and, despite its ripeness, it's a little hollow. 

Alain Voge, Cornas, VV, 2013

Unlike the Rhys, this is the real deal, dense and expressive, laced with black pepper and minerals. The palate is painfully, illegally young. 

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru, 1996

I had an initial impression here, which ended up embarrassing me within ten minutes. I thought it was ripe for the vintage and on the simple side. Then it suddenly reveals a much more complex nose, mixing red and black fruit with espresso, as well as savory tannins. Turns out it's just what you'd expect of a twenty year old Margaux, that is, good balance and a lithe body.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (May 2017 and some leftovers from April)

Israeli Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz for brunch -
bet you didn't see THAT one coming
Venus La Universal, Montsant, Dido, 2015

Venus La Universal is a winery started by Rene Barbier the fourth, son of Rene the third of Clos Mogador in Priorat. The site is a little heavy on romantic PR, but does convince me that the Barbier and Perez team are hard workers. As for the wine itself. I sometimes like to group together wines that have roughly the same style and personality, and this Grenache dominated blend falls into the Grenache Fanboy Family: wines made by people who understand what the grape can provide, if you don't allow to succumb to its own alcoholic, candied tendencies (which is what has been ruining Chateaneuf for years). What we have here is an intense nose that combines red fruit and dust and meaty broth and a palate that, despite 14.5% ABV, never gets out of hand. Look, it's not very complex; I can't tell if that is due to its youth or the wine's own glass ceiling but I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be able to lay it down for three-five years and find out. At any rate, definitely worth a look. (Apr. 28)

Wine Route. I bought at a mixed box discount, so I don't recall the original price, but it was probably about 150 NIS.

Olivier Guyot, Marsannay Blanc, La Montagne, 2013

A wine not just driven by acidity, but plowing through the palate on almost unbearably racy liveliness. There's an edge to the finish that only a cold terroir can conjure - it feels like La Montagne might actually be colder than your average Chablis vineyard. Aromatically, it's a lot tamer, chalk and roasted nuts, nothing as extreme as the palate. A very charming package, but in surprising need of time. (Apr. 29, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 160 NIS.

Domaine Jean Chauvenet, Nuits St. Georges, 2010

I don't know if the poor showing is because the 2010's are going through a tough period or because Chauvenet is a particularly demanding producer. Maybe I just opened it on Root Day. Whatever, this has potential, even the herbaceousness, meanness and stinginess can't hide the inherent breed and complexity. But I was really looking forward to some Bourgogne sexiness. (May 2, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 210 NIS.

Elian Da Ros, Côtes du Marmandais, Clos Baquey, 2011

I think there are fewer small local importers these days (actually, I think the big ones have narrowed the breadth and depth of their offerings as well) but while the market was, at least superficially, healthier, the smaller players had to carve out a niche by travelling the side roads of the wine world. Which is how Uri Caftory wound up carrying Elian Da Ros from the Marmande commune, whose AOC's are just outside the Bordeaux border. At least on one level, this flagship wine is a rustic version of claret, which is a way of saying there is light brett in it. It's a personal judgement call whether that would be a sign of personality or of a lack of hygiene and I'm still on the fence here. That's not all there is to it, thankfully. There's also a backdrop of earth and olives, with enough richness and complexity to relegate the brett to the background, while the good balance of fruit, tannins and acidity makes the wine very moreish. (May 6, 2017)

IProVinum, 220 NIS.

Marquis d'Angerville, Bourgogne, 2013

You would rightly expect a great producer to make a generic Bourgogne that punches above its weight and the Marquis, in my experience, makes one of the best. This is even better than what I'd tasted before. If the roughness of its structure reveals its lowly origins, its weight and length are certainly out of the ordinary. (May 12, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 190 NIS.

Dujac, Vonse-Romanee Premier Cru, Aux Malconsorts, 2014

This is the famous vineyard bordering and jutting out of the La Tache. At this young age, this has the length, focus and balanced structure of a Premier Cru, even a Grand Cru, with the fruit dormant. Tasted blind, it was easy to note the quality, less easy to pick the level or village -  I thought it was a Chambolle or Gevrey Premier Cru, which I think is a legit guess, even if wrong. A treat, one I can't afford every day, and I have to thank the generous friends who offered me a glass.(May 12, 2017)

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2016

I've been meaning to revisit this, but I usually wind up going for the white Shoresh, which is a more obviously special wine - and also a Sauvignon Blanc, which I prefer as a local white, all other things being equal*. But, this is a very good wine. I don't remember if it's a varietal Chardonnay in 2016 or a Chardonnay dominated blend, but it just about hits the glass ceiling of what the grape can do in Israel. It's concentrated without being heavy handed, ripe or tropical - a blend of spicy pears and minerals making it a marriage of Macon and Meursault of sorts, if that helps give an idea of the style. It's very moreish, but if you slow down to contemplate it as you drink, you will find a good amount of interest in its flavors and structure. (May 13, 2017)

About 110 NIS, your mileage may vary.

Standish, Barossa, The Relic, 2004

I'd call this hedonism under a tight leash, which, when you think about it, is what you want in a great wine. I admit this is a great wine, New World and all. It's ripe and liquorish, but in no way over the top, with nuances of roasted meats and truffle, as well as excellent acidity. And, a decade of maturity in bottle is a great boon. (May 13, 2017)

Mersch, the price for recent vintages average at 700 NIS . This wasn't my bottle. It would never have crossed my mind to spend so much on an Aussie Shiraz but I'm glad somebody did.

* Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

This and the Shoresh show what I meant by Sauvignon Blanc being my go-to white grape in Israel. Actually, it could well be declared the national white grape, but then it would be too obvious a choice for me and I'd snub it. For example, the Shvo SB is actually so ubiquitous that I probably do wind up snubbing it. I haven't had it in over two years - well, I had the Gershon two years ago and it's so hard to find that I can't afford to snub it. Anyway, I should buy more of it, Efrat would love me to buy more, and, at about 80 NIS a bottle, it would ease the strain on my wine budget. It leans towards the green, grassy side of Sauvignon rather than the tropical, with an elegant stamp of smoky minerals. (May 14, 2017)

Tzora, Shoresh, Blanc, 2016

Once Israel manages to create an appellation system and gets around to demarcation of individual vineyards, Shoresh is a good candidate for a premier cru, for the excellence and consistency of both the red and white wines Eran Pick coaxes out of it. Of course, you have to give him credit for his meticulous skills as well. Then again, skills are what I think gave us the white Judean Hills. The vineyard and skills gave us this, truly a benchmark Israeli Sauvignon. The nose is more extravagant than either the Judean Hills or the Shvo, while the structure is more detailed and sustained, making for a wine whose texture is as memorable as its aromatics. (May 15, 2017)

130 NIS? 

Domaine de Clovallon, Vin de Pays Haute Vallee de l’Orb, Pinot Noir, 2014

This is another niche wine imported by Caftory and that niche is "the best Pinot you can buy in Israel that isn't from Burgundy". It might not be much of a niche, but it's a lovely wine, on the same level as, say, a Cote Chalonnaise , with an autumnal nose that is much about rotting earth and leaves and mushrooms as it is about fresh red fruit. The palate is totally driven by acidity that gives the fruit a tinge of oranges and pomegranate. (May 17, 2017)

IProVinum, 109 NIS

Domaine du Coulet (Matthieu Barret), Cornas Brise, Cailloux, 2013

This is much less of a niche wine, inasmuch as the North Rhone sells well in general, and I guess fairly decently in Israel. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, it's not the oddity that a Languedoc Pinot is. Although I'll qualify that statement with the observation that many still think Cornas is all rusty nails and that might make it a hard sell. But this is an eminently drinkable, fruit forward wine, lithe fruit supported by almost citrusy acidity that makes room for fine tannins on the finish. The floral, peppery aromas, so typical of Syrah and the North Rhone, make it very attractive on that front as well. (May 19, 2017)

IProVinum, 250 NIS. This is more or less what I'd expect a good Cornas to cost, my only complaint is that for that price, I'd expect a wine with more cellaring potential than I can spot here. By the way, Caftori also sells the domaine's Cote de Rhone for 105 NIS, which is apparently a Syrah based CdR, which is kind of a rarity.

Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre Rouge, 2015

This is a new producer brought in by Wine Route, and they actually specialize in red Sancerre, rather than white. Sancerre reds are pure Pinot Noirs. This one is, I guess, a sort of village bottling - there are also a few single vineyard wines (Wine Route carry the Belle Dame) - and it would be considered pale and light even in Burgundy. The nose is timid and while it eventually opens up, it never fully blooms and emerges. It shows fresh red fruit, dust and earth, even a hint of flowers, but hardly any of the forest floor you'd find in Burgundy. However, there's a strand of baking spices whose personality has no parallel in Burgundy, so the aromatics have subtlety and distinction to commend them. The palate packs decent amount of flavors unto its light body and the long, rusty finish is surprising. What's more, that light body puts on considerable weight and punch after 2-3 hours, and I'm very partial to Pinots that react that way to oxygen. (May 20, 2017)

200 NIS - I would say this price is determined by the rarity of a Sancerre red and the domaine's reputation.

The domaine's Sancerre Blanc, 2016 is, of course, a Sauvignon Blanc. It's very good and does an excellent juggling act of acidity and tropical fruit. The latter is my main objection as I find it New Zealand-ish in style, despite an overlay of chalk. Just a little too straight forward and maybe a little over-priced. (May 27, 2017)

150 NIS.

And there's the single vineyard Sauvignon, the Sancerre, Les Romains, 2015. Oddly, it feels fuller and yet, at the same time, more nuanced, even subtle. The style, all smoke and stones, is what I love about Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume and I highly recommend this. It's sold out, but there's always next year - Wine Route is not always very consistent with what they carry year to year, but I think I detect an earnest effort here. Plus they sold out, with I hope will motivate them.

250 NIS.

Alain Hudelot-Noellat, Bourgogne, 2014

A while back, Wine Route imported the Van Canneyt 2013 Bourgogne which I really liked and now both they and Bourgogne Crown have brought in this sibling (Van Canneyt is both the Hudelot-Noellat winemaker and the owner of his own mini-negociant). The Van Canneyt reminded me of a Chambolle, whereas this, with its rusty tannins, sauvage and sous bois aromas seems sourced from the Gevrey area. This isn't very complex but the length is impressive for the generic AOC. (May 23, 2017)

I don't want to get into prices here, since there is a worrying disparity between the two importers.

Tscharke, The Potter, Grenacha, 2011

There's a complex interplay of white pepper and black fruit. I can't really put my finger about what the fruit is all about. There's the candied trademark of Grenache, but there's also a savory, almost meaty face on it. And a great deal of purity, as though its maker, Damien Tscharke, knew that cleanliness doesn't need to come at the expense of expression. 

Mersch, 130 NIS - one of the best values you can find in Israel.

Tscharke, Matching Socks, Touriga, 2012

It's obvious the same man made these two wines - with the initial tastes, the style and sensibilities almost overshadow the differences in the grapes. The Touriga, though, is darker and more saline, no less meaty and savory. I think Touriga and Tempranillo have a similar character, one rooted in a pungent herbaceousness, often termed tobacco leaves in tasting notes. Having tasted my fair share, my mind often labels the expression of that character "Iberian", albeit with some producers, actual Iberian producers, that character is often accompanied by brett. The Tscharke sensibility I mentioned, being what it is, is firmly opposed to the concept and presence pf brett.

Mersch again, of course, At 90 NIS, this is another great value. (May 31, 2017)

A Mini-Spotlight On Teperberg

Teperberg, Legacy, Cabernet Franc, 2014

Let me start off with the praises. This is very well and precisely made, with care and attention in both vineyard and cellar. It's clean without being sterile and I think it would stand up well against most of its varietal peers outside of France, especially the Cabernet Franc mentioned here. Within France, its peer group would be the Loire and that would be an interesting engagement, one that would underline my personal leanings. But, in order to explain how that would work out, I need to address typicality. The common complaint against Cabernet Franc is "lean and green". Having tasted a few dozen Francs over the years, I prefer to think of the good examples as "austere and herbal". The Legacy is certainly herbal, but far from austere. In fact, it is rather lush. Not ripe, and actually the tannins even leave a brittle, mineral after effect, but the overall impression is nigh-flattering richness, especially the hints of mocha on the nose. How well would it do against competition from the Loire? Putting aside stylistic preferences, I'd rank it against the upper mid-tier.

Teperberg, Legacy, Petit Sirah, 2014

If I'd guessed before tasting the two which would be the better wine, I'd have put my money on the Petit Sirah. Having tasted them, I give the Cabernet the nod for sure. The Petit Sirah shows a very sweet aspect - indeed, even after a few hours, the ripeness of the fruit is persistent, but it's not a jammy, blockbuster sweetness, more of a fullness of fruit that hinders the more savory aspects of the grape that I find in the Vitkin and Lewinsohn versions.I get some graphite and pepper notes, but they're encumbered by the same mocha aromas - the barrels, I guess. The Cabernet Franc fruit stands up to, perhaps even thrives in, the oak. The Petit Sirah just struggles with it, and that's a shame, because the fruit itself is very good and interesting.

Google tells me both sell for about 160 NIS.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Fault Lies Not in Our Stars But In Our Wines - Garrigue, April 20, 2017

You know how some wine nights are just so magical? People bring wonderful bottles and you post on Instagram and Facebook and you get a million likes and everyone is like, oh, you lucky bastard, you live so well, ooh ooh ooh, please invite me next time. Now imagine the exact opposite and you get the night we had. Even the wine glasses conspired against us, the unclean, dusty heathens.

Basically, we are talking about terribly corrupted wines here. Every fucking kind of defect you can imagine. A Gruaud-Larose with so much brett you could use the bottle as compost. Another Bordeaux laced with TCA, but not obvious TCA, but rather ninja TCA, the TCA that ruins the wine in stealth mode and you only notice after intense concentration. These are ordinary faults, however, compared to a bottle of Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Rabaja, 1998 whose decrepitude challenges my language skills, insulting with aromas that bludgeon and harass and flavors as appealing as cold pea soup.

At least we started off with two wines that I guarantee will make you smile.

Quita de S. Jose (Joao Brito e Cunha), Duoro, Flor de S. Jose, 2015

David Bar Ilan brought this from a trip to Portugal. An excellent purchase. I found the winery site. I'm not sure if the name is Joao Brito e Cunha or Quita de S. Jose, and the Cellar Tracker community is also undecided on the subject, so I went with both. The nose is very interesting and appealing, white fruit laced with minerals, indulging in a funky kink. The palate is tasty, less complex than the nose, very moreish due to its fresh acidity. The winery site says it's a blend of Viosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio, and I should remember to use that arcane fact if I run out of small talk topics at the next winery event I attend.

Francois Villard, Côte Rotie, Le Galllet Blanc, 2012

Now that I think about it, this group, we've been drinking together for two or three years, and no one has ever brought a north Rhone wine that failed to please. Not one! So, thanks for the save, Mister Pick! This has languidly ripe fruit with a sharp tannic bite at the finish, generously complementing the fruit with black pepper, violets, the works. Simply palate ravishing, even at its young age.

Hudelot-Noellet, Chambolle-Musigny, 2014

The character, even down to the specific character of the floral veil, is more Gevrey than Chambolle. other than that, this is a good village wine.

Garrigue, by the way, is doing just fine, great in fact, excellent food and atmosphere, and you should all go there on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2017)

Most of April was spent on a family vacation in the States. The wines fall into three wine geek categories. The first group is a bunch of wines tasted on a trip to Sonoma and it merits its own post.

The second group is a whole bunch of hipster friendly wines from around the world, bought at various wine shops and drunk with family and friends.
The best of the hipster wines I had in the Big Apple

Domaine Grosbois, Chinon,  La Cuisine de ma Mère, 2015

This is a new producer for me - and probably for just about everyone likely to be reading this in Israel -  but I diligently googled the domaine. They produce four Chinon cuvees and this one is comprised of the youngest vines, about 15 years old. It is extremely succulent and lithe, all about fresh berries embossed with lightly pungent streaks of earth and tobacco leaf. The finish has fairly decent length and complexity, driven by acidity rather than the soft tannins and its friendly salinity makes it very accommodating to bistro fare. The organic certification and the quaintness of the label will give the hipster sommeliers something to tempt the hipster clientele with, although in an ideal world, its tasty moreishness would have been enough. (Apr. 1, 2017)

25 USD.

Daniel Bouland, Morgon, Delys, Vieilles Vignes, 2015

I can tell it's Gamay, but at 14.5% ABV, there are moments when its fat, spicy demeanor reminds me of Carignan, or some other warm weather grape. Let's just to forget this happened. (Apr. 2, 2017)

30 USD.

Pierre Gonon, VDP de l'Arche, Les Iles Feray, 2015

I don't know if this is a declassified Saint Joseph or sourced from the wrong side of the tracks, but it plays at major leagues level, and close to the best young Syrah I ever had. Violets, bacon, the works, on a smooth body that doesn't bother to smother every edge and rough spot. At 25 USD, this is an amazing value and if this is any indication, the actual Saint Joseph will be incredible. (Apr. 3, 2017)

Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, Rias Baixas, Albariño d Fefinanes, 2015

Citrus fruit with an edgy mineral streak and a salty finish driven by powerful acidity. and remarkable focus! (Apr. 3, 2017)

30 USD. This is a must buy if you ever run into it, same as the Gonon.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, Raisins Gaulois, 2015

The young version of the Lapierre Morgon is a funkier version of the more expensive wine, but I may actually like it more and it's way better, not to mention more typical, than the Bouland. The funk doesn't feel like dirty brett, more like meaty rusticity, a farm boy mooning the prom.(Apr. 10, 2017)

15 USD.

Arnot-Roberts, Medocino County, Alder Springs Vineyard, Syrah, 2007

A serious wine, almost too serious for its own good. Brooding and sexless, all iron and black pepper, as somber and unrelenting as an off vintage Hernitage or Cornas, barely yielding its secrets even after a few hours. Still, I'm glad I had a chance to taste it. It's challenging and made me ponder about the burly side of Syrah. (Apr. 11, 2017)

About 40 USD.

Domaine du Haut Bourg, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu Sur Lie, Origine Haut Bourg, 2005

I don't see that this is a particularly interesting product of cellaring. Not that this isn't a good wine. It's a very pretty wine, with delicate white/yellow fruit, mellow nuttiness and hints of flint. And it's decently complex and quite lovely to drink. All I'm saying is that seven years in the cellar would have been quite enough. (Apr. 15, 2017)

About 20 USD. Decent value despite my reservations. 

Domaine de l'Ecu (Guy Bossard), Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Taurus, 2012

This is more like it. Different producer, of course, and a neighboring AOC, but at five years of age, it shows vibrancy and complexity, a mineral cut, interesting saline flavors. Like a a minor league Chablis Premier Cru making up in beef broth and funk what it lacks in pedigree per se. Actually, I'm pretty sure it would age and improve for a decade. (Apr. 16, 2017)

About 40 USD - totally worth it.

And now for the final category, which I call Wine Craps and it is the outcome of a couple of evenings spent in the company of a Reno Casino resort's wine machine.

Kumeu Village, Chardonnay, 2014

Excellent. This would be at least village level in Burgundy. Apples, matchsticks, minerals, terrific vibrancy.

McNab Ridge Winery, Sonoma County, Russian River, Pinot Noir, Family Reserve, 2013

Definitely not a winery or wine that seeks to emulate Burgundy. The nose is ripe and alcoholic but at least the only damage it can mete is a an aesthetic one. The palate, which is also ripe and alcoholic, is capable of physical damage.

Flowers, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, 2014

This is much better and truer to what Pinot is supposed to be all about: fresh red fruit, cherry in this case, easy on the tannins and alcohol without loss of structure or depth, even when the weight is not massive. It's not especially complex, though, but rather its pedigree is carried in its lithe shape.

Chateau Simard, Saint Emilion, 2005

Eventually I tired of the New World and returned to the fold. Classic, yet unassuming, archetypical claret from a Saint Emilion property totally off the map, tobacco, cedar, just a light hint of stink.

Domaine Perrot-Minot, Chambolle-Musigny, 2012

Very typical for the appelation: rotting flowers, rotting leaves, suave fruit. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Thank you, for your wines, California"

Wind Gap - the energetic vibe of the new,
the classic sobriety of the old
I admit one of the reasons that I am not a fan of US wines is my limited exposure. While I may be a truculent Old World admirer, it is a folly to ignore an entire continent and if I was living on the west coast, I'm sure I'd find many wineries that appeal to me. So I am glad I took the opportunity to taste through an admittedly very limited selection of wineries: two venerable estates purporting to adhere to Old World ideals - whatever that may still mean decades after the Trial of Paris and all the changes the world of wine has seen since - and one, a sort of latter day boutique negociant looking to make "the kind of wines one could drink every night with dinner, regardless of season." 


This is a historical winery, whose vineyards, planted with vine grafts brought from Burgundy in the 40's (fortunately, before the days of the "bad clones" in the 60's), are located on high, steep hillsides. The winery is into sustainable agriculture, organic practices, an elegant Burgundian winemaking style - all the marketable buzzwords, in short. Somehow, though, I was left underwhelmed. Good wines, for sure, but they did not captivate me on an emotional or intellectual level.

Sebella, Chardonnay, 2015

Thirty year old vines. Flint, some oak that fades. 6 months in neutral barrels. Lithe and salty despite the oak. Warms up nicely. 36 USD.

Chardonnay, 2014

Heavier, yet fleet of foot, the oak more obvious, even though I'm sure it will integrate. Complex mineral aromas dominated by flint, with  apples rather than the Sebella's citrus fruit. I bought a bottle of the Sebella for its friendly charm, but stalled with this top tier Chardonnay, because it isn't this charming now and its price point was too much for me to gamble on potential - my lack of familiarity with the style might be an issue here, I just couldn't make a confident guess and there was no electric vibe tempting me the way white Burgundies do. 78 USD.

Pinot Noir, 2014

Interesting herbal aromatics, sandalwood and red fruit adorn an elegant, subtle structure. I'm not sure if the price is worth it, but I like its subtlety and I see potential. Not Bourgogne but definitely a Pinot I like, but, at t 98 USD, not enough to buy.

Wind Gap

According to winemaker.owner Pax Mahle: “Wind Gap is all about classically styled wines that represent the new California.”

I guess many would make that claim and I always suspect wineries with a million labels (such as Wind Gap offer), but the Syrahs are terrific and the Trousseau Gris is a unique gem. I tasted two flights at the tasting room and at the end of the day, this is exactly the sort of winery I'd follow if I were a local. I highly recommend it to travelers and local importers.

The Syrah Flight: Whole cluster, good acidity in all, with fresh fruit that could turn wholesomely meaty in time, in some cases already showing that now.

Syrah, Majik Vineyard, 2014

Good backbone here, subtle yet with a more prominent presence at the finish. An almost Pinot-ish softness and a welcome greenness that took me a while to pinpoint as tobacco leaves. Weighs in at 10.4% but you would never have guessed it.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Nellessen Vineyard, 2015

12.5% ABV. Ripe fruit that veers to black and blue while retaining attractive freshness and even greater structure. Excellent.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Armagh Vineyard, 2014

More tannic and not as friendly, but the nose has additional accouterments, adding meat and smoke. It's a toss up between it and the Nellessen.

Syrah, Sonoma Coast, 2014

A blend of the above three vineyards, it's the most approachable and right now paints the most complete picture, with the Syrah regalia of black pepper and captivating blueberry fruit.

Then we went through a flight of the more esoteric wines in the portfolio. 

Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi Wood Road, 2016

An erratically rebellious white/orange wine (limited skin contact), with Pinot aromas, marginal tameability and pungent mineral aromas (imagine a salt bath in the background). 

Rose of Dolcetto, North Coast, 2016

This is a tamer wine -  I mean, there is a mineral streak here as well, but with less bite and bristle. The citrus acidity makes it moreish, but while it warms my sardonic heart that someone found a way to make Dolcetto appealing, the Trousseau totally outshines it.

Soif, Old Vine Red, North Coast, 2015

Seven different varieties (I caught Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan from the winery guy's spiel as he poured it for me), whole stem, carbonic maceration. Meaty and fun, short though.

Old Vine Grenache, Alexander Valley, Sceales Vineyard, 2015

Reticent. I get, just barely, white and black pepper. The candied nature of the grape is subdued. I don't know what to make of it yet. By the way, the vines really are very old, over a hundred years old.

The Syrahs and the Grenache are 30-40 USD, as I recall. I didn't note the price for the others. 

Joseph Swan Winery

A classy Pinot from a historic estate
This is another historic winery, family run, specializing in Pinot and Syrah. I loved their flagship Pinot, the single vineyard Trenton Estate, which the family planted about forty years ago; sadly, I was indifferent at best about most of the rest.

Viognier, Russian River Valley, Catie's Corner, 2015

Alcoholic, band aid, stings. 13.8% ABV.

Grenache Blanc, Russian River Valley, Catie's Corner, 2015

Formally higher ABV (14.2%) but less obvious and better balanced, with mildly appealing spicy aromatics. I'd drink a glass or two.

Pinot Noir,  Saralee's Vineyard, 2013

Very much a New World Pinot, it has the spices and forest floor that I love, but it's fat and feels ripe even though it comes from their coolest site. I don't find it particularly balanced - I think the fruit just isn't concentrated enough to shine through, despite the ripeness.

Pinot Noir, Cuvée de Trois, 2013

Intended to represent the Russian River AVA, there is additional weight and substance to the fruit here, more tannins as well, here that serve the wine well, even though I can't really appreciate Pinot at 14% ABV. 

Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate Vineyard, 2014

The earthiest, most Burgundian Pinot of the lot. Premier Cru level and even the ABV is sane at 13%. I am highly in favor of the notion that this is the best US Pinot I've had.

Syrah, Great Oak, 2010

A huge wine, too huge for me. Meaty and packed tight, alcoholic (15% ABV) and mean.