Monday, July 30, 2007

Saturday Night Tasting (Jul. 28, 2007)

To celebrate my birthday the previous week, I not only hosted but my contribution to the tasting was a mini-flight of Chapoutier's Sizeranne Hermitage.

Chapoutier, Hermitage, Sizeranne, 1999

A wild, funky nose that yells out Rhone and made me anticipate a gripping palate that just never arrived. I love this kind of wine and while I wouldn't throw it away, I was disappointed by the palate.

Chapoutier, Hermitage, Sizeranne, 1998

A much better wine, with a nose that identifies itself as northern Rhone without any of the bretty telltales of the 1999, just peppery black fruits with loads of complexity. The palate lacks complexity and definition; yet, unlike the 1999, it hints at future potential.

By coincidence, a guest brought his own Chapoutier wine:

Chapoutier, Chateauneuf du Pape, Criox de Bois, 2000

A real screwball. A very ripe wine that somehow manages to restrain its ripe fruit so it never turns into a blockbuster while both nose and palate exhibit almost white fruit traits that taunt and never let you fully comprehend the wine. I liked it and would buy a bottle of my own though I might just have been a minority that evening.

Chapoutier is imported to Israel by the Scottish Company.

Among other things:

Muller-Catoir, Mussbacher Esselshaut, Rieslaner Statlese Trocken, 2001

I tasted it over half a year ago and it's still a youngster, not yet delivering the promise of its elegant nose. I try not to dwell on the opinions of others but more than one person complained about a bitterness on the palate. Personally, I found a gentle fruitiness on the attack that turned into a grapefruit pip finish (that didn't turn me off) so I'm still a believer and suspect longer cellaring or airing will do it good.

Imported to Israel by Giaconda, listed at 230 NIS (about 50 USD).

For dessert, the oldest wine in my fridge, though arguably it's somewhat of a youngster within it's paradigm:

Bodega Toro Albala, Montilla-Moriles, Pedro Xominez, Gran Reserva, 1971

Pedro Ximinez produces the thickest, sweetest, blackest wines from white grapes and ages like time is on its side. It's surely a matter of personal taste (my friends voted with their feet - that's democracy for ya!) and though I prefer subtler forms of sweet Sherry, I like PX just fine, in small doses anyway. This wine is not even a Sherry because it hails from Montilla-Moriles and not from Xerez. Although the winemaking is similar - The Pedro Ximinez style doesn't rely on flor the way the other Sherries do (even Oloroso, which is a Sherry from casks where flor never developed, shares an affinity with the other styles, but I'm really straying from the point here) - I found both the 1971 and the 1975 versions of this wine to have much more finesse than the Xerez PX I've tasted. The fruit feels fresher and it's a bit more lightweight.

Not imported to Israel.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The End Of The Road

After almost four years of being a road warrior, I'm calling it quits.

I know that sounds dramatic and it implies I was on the road constantly. Well, it's not quite that dramatic of a turning point but it is a loss and a change. And no, I wasn't on the road constantly except for a fifteen month stretch where I spent almost 100 days abroad. But my tour of duty as my employers' main trouble shooter had me visiting sixteen different cities for the very first time, tenuous as some of the visits might have been, and had me staying at twenty five different hotels - that's about a decade's worth for 'civilians' - with about fourteen one night stands. The experience has changed me, arguably matured me, and I'll miss it.

What I'll especially miss is the wine shopping. I know, I'll still have family vacations and private trips to look forward to but somehow it won't be the same without the fringe benefit of eating out of supermarkets to save money from the per diem expenses for buying wines.

At least I went out in style, with one final trip to Paris. If you read the previous paragraph carefully, you'll understand why I will not be describing my culinary adventures in the city of lights though I will share one item on from my final shopping list as a road warrior. Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, "Les Cras", 2004. Yes, friends and prior experience have informed me that red Burgundy 2004 is a vintage to buy only after tasting, but I have such intense memories of the 1997 version of the same wine (1997 arguably being as much a problematic vintage as 2004) that I felt I owed it to the woman who introduced me to sex - I mean Bourgogne. True to the 2GrandCru ethos, the other three bottles purchased were white.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Mostly Italian Tasting (Jul. 24, 2007)

Travaglino, Poggio della Buttinera, 2002

According to the winery's site, this Pinot Nero hails from Calvignano district. I managed to write down "ripe fruit with green nuances, minerals and leather on the nose, aggressive and alcoholic on the palate" before a Winemaker walked in, tasted it and pronounced it corky. Well, he is a trained professional so thanks, guy, it's nice to have a scientific reason why I don't like a wine for a change.

The same Winemaker brought:

Recanati, Chardonnay, 2005

Quite nice on the nose, fruity and somewhat flowery, with light traces of oxidation and spices. There is oak on the palate but not obnoxiously so. Could use more dimension.

Odoardi, Vigna Garrone, Scavigna, Calarbia, 2000

Weighing in at 14% alcohol, this is a modern-tasting wine made of an indigenous varietal called Galliope. By modern-tasting I mean zanily-concentrated fruit with lots of vanilla on the nose. Not something that particularly appeals to me but the palate has impressive body and length, though the dry-ish tannins obscure the fruit. Having said all that, a lot of the wood vanishes after time in glass and the palate opens up nicely, though it never developed any particular complexity.

Masciarelli, Marina Cveltic, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, San Martino Rosso, 2001

I was somewhat surprised to find this winery has a web site. What a modern world! Initially dominated by cheesy aromas over red fruit ("reductive!" said the Winemaker), time coaxed sweeter fruit and some herbs out of it. Terrific acidity, soft tannins and good length. A heartwarmer. Were this a commercial tasting, this is the wine I'd buy.

Cantina del Briccheto, Ombranera, Barbera d'Alba, 2003

A fruity, albeit brett-y wine, that turns minerally, even sulphuric, as the brett recedes. Reasonable acidity for a hot vintage. A pleasant wine that turned tannic in time. Hard to tell what more cellar time will do to it.

Fay, Ronco del Picchio, Sforzato di Valtellina, 2003

A very weird Nebbiolo based wine. The Hugh Johnson Wine Pocket Book calls Sforzato di Valtellina "the most concentrated type of Valtellina; similar to Amarone". Judging by this sample, I can't figure out why anyone would want to do that to a Nebbiolo. Usually a wine needs to be much riper than the Fay was for me to dislike it as much as I did this little jewel. A weird flavor profile, lots of oak but the ultimate insult was a depressing sensation of stale chocolate that decimated anything and everything in its path. 14.5% alcohol, just like the Masciarelli, actually, but more obvious here. To toss back in the water.

Azelia, Barolo, Bricco Fiasco, 1996

And after that fiasco came the Bricco Fiasco... Alright, I had to get that joke out of my system.

An interesting seasoning of minerals and mildew on the nose. Good structure but I thought the fruit was still dormant. An elegant wine that is drinking well right now but I think it's still too young despite some accelerated maturing due to (non-existant) cellaring conditions.

A quick change of locale for the dessert wine:

Abbe Rous, Banyuls, Helios, 2002

Chocolate, dry fruits as well as fresh balck ones. Refreshing and somewhat surprising acidity. Good structure. This resembles Port, verifying what I'd read about the AOC, and though I'm a Sherry man, I liked it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday Night Tasting (Jul. 21, 2007)

Another blind tasting and I guess it showed.

Francois Jobard, Mersault, "En La Barre", 2002

At first, the nose showed signs of oak, albeit tucked in behind elegant mineral notes but the palate was attenuated and the fruit hidden a veil of oak, with a short, bitter finish. A voice in my head was saying, "you opened this way too early". But the voice wasn't just in my head, it was also the voice of my friends 'round the table. After an agonizing hour, however, the "En La Barre"'s nose blossomed into an amazing, pure essance of flinty minerals, and the palate fleshed out nicely and spaked up all the oak. So I gather it will never be a particularly fruity wine but rather a very dry, elegant, minerally wine in about three years. God knows when my bottle of Genevrieres 2002 will be ready.

Dauvissat, Chablis, 2005

A brain teaser. No one guessed Burgundy in the first round, a sole voice said Chardonnay and I wish it was mine. At no point did anyone even mention Chablis. There were plenty of apples, some flowers, some oak murmuring in the background, but hardly any minerals, though they did come later on when we retasted the wine at the end of the evening. Another young white, with a tight palate right now, my guess is it will need two more years to transform into a Chablis and then it will rest on its laurels for a few years more.

Chateau Ormes De Pez, St. Estephe, 2003

I'm such a Bordeaux newbie sometimes I feel that the only thing I know about Bordeaux is that I like it. So when everyone said the wine was from a cool vintage, I thought it came from a ripe, though not an extremely hot, one - yet kept my mouth shut. Whatever, I did like it more when I tasted it at the Bordeaux 2003 tasting at WineRoute six months ago. It was rounder and more elegant now, but more interesting last time. And like last time, not a wine you'd pick to be a 2003.

Domaine de Colombier, Hermitage, 1996

A big, meaty, peppery wine, yet quite elegant for all that. Lovely, refreshing acidity and a long finish that does a figure-eight on your palate. If WineRoute had a suggestion box, I'd slip a note with the name "Colombier" on it.

Dauvissat and Jobard are imported to Israel by Tomer Gal, Les Ormes-De-Pez by WineRoute.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chateauneuf de Pape Tasting At WineRoute (Jul. 19, 2007)

Chateauneuf is one of my favorite red wine regions and it's arguably the last affordable great, classic red wine region. And WineRoute have always had a good selection of North and South Rhones. So I fully expected this to be a fun tasting... but it wound up being a minor headache.

Leaving aside two white CdP's from 2005, the tasting was predominantly 2004. Now I've read - and agree - that 2004 is a very good vintage, of the type usually termed "classic" - which, as a joke goes, means "cellar for a long time and see what happens". The wines at the tasting ranged from quite good to fine and excellent, and I'm sure they'll age fine - but picking my favorites was hard enough; guessing which ones I'll enjoy in ten years was almost impossible. So I wound up making a list of candidates for purchase and looking at Parker scores for the final decision. Very debasing.

At least the 2003's were easy to make a decision about. Surprisingly balanced for this controversial year yet in both cases bearing a stamp of over-ripeness that made me place them relatively low on my purchase list. Don't get me wrong, if WineRoute had imported just the 2003's, I'm sure I'd have found worthy wines to buy but with so many 2004's to choose from, it was "thanks, but no thanks".

Domaine Marcoux, Blanc, 2005

Ever since I spent three hours last summer trying to coax some life out of the Vieux Telegraphe, Blanc, 2001 (swirling glasses, decanter, the works), I've been wary of white CdPs. I'd have been hard pressed to say no to a knockout sample, though, but this wasn't one. Lots of lemon on the nose, low acidity, shy fruit forcing the alcohol to the fore. I bow to the professional critics' greater experience but for me, it's just not a wine that justifies its high price tag.

Offered at the the tasting were three very good value wines, listed at 179 NIS (about 30 USD). Of these, the Usseglio was probably the best.

Domaine Roger Sabon, Reserve, 2004

The nose is closed enough so that only a very pleasant leather signature leaks out, but that's a very fine thing for my tastes. The palate is a bit hollow at first but both nose and palate improve in time. Reasonable complexity and finish, bitter, tannic finish. Just a good ole Chateauneuf, I guess.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio, 2004

A nose that says "cool vintage", very fruity in an elegant way. But though the elegance carries on to the palate, the finish is still a bit harsh right now.

Les Cailloux, 2004

There is enough green-ness on the nose to notice, if not to bother. It lends interest but unfortunately the palate is less interesting.

Perrin et Fils, Les Sinards, 2003

Though ripe and extroverted, it is surprisingly graceful and made me regret not buying any 2003 Beaucastels.

Le Clos du Caillou, Cuvee Traditionelle, 2004

The closed nose lets out hints of red fruit and even a touch of lime, similar to a what Viognier does in Cote Rotie (though God knows where that came from here), earth and leather, before shutting down again. Impressive structure on the palate!

Vieux Telegraphe, La Crau, 2004

This wine is all about elegance, the nose - with its traces of cherry liquer - the palate, everything. Despite being one of the most backwards wines of the tasting.

Vieux Telegraphe, Blanc, 2005

Lemon tea, lime and mild spices on the nose. Beautiful acidity and a length that could make you gasp. If it wasn't for my frightful experience with the 2001, I'd have gone for it.

Guigal, 2001

For some reason, probably because Guigal is a "northerner", I was prejudiced and did not want to like this wine. But it is very impressive with a complex, fully realized nose and a palate that still has plenty of room to grow, After some consideration, though, I concluded that it tries too hard to please. So there.

Le Clos du Caillou, Les Quartz, 2004

I found it strikingly similar to the Guigal, though it's more focused and more elegant, much less of opulent, making it for me a better wine.

Domaine Marcoux, Rouge, 2003

I fell in love with this domaine last year when my private Mephisto introduced me to the 2000 version with the leer in his eye and a chuckle on his lips. But though the 2003 is probably a tremendous wine for the vintage, I'll purchase my own Marcoux from other vintages. To be fair, I didn't expect such fine acidity from 2003 and yet, though the ripe and wild nose is really impressive, I do want more from a wine and that more is usually elegance, which the 2003 Marcoux simply doesn't have.

Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, 2004

Another very elegant wine, whose signature is a balanced, minerally palate with ripe, integrated tannins. Excellent potential.

Domaine Roger Sabon, Prestige, 2004

Red and black fruit and leather on the nose. Ripe acidity, elegance, balance and length, what more could you want?

Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee, 2004

An impressive wine by any standard. A “wow” nose with red fruits, leather and hints of brett. Full bodied, rich and concentrated, with traces of sweet fruit on the finish that are balanced by integrated tannins and acidity. I don't think it has the brilliant elegance of the 2000 Cuvee de Capo, which for me is the standard by which Pegau’s wines must be judged, but it does posess an overwhelming sense of presence and the question for me was: would this presence be too overwhelming. I think not, and thankfully it doesn’t have that New World swagger that would have pushed it over the top for me, but at this stage, I’m just not a good enough judge to tell for sure.

I've listed the prices for some of the wines. To check out the full price list, go to the WineRoute's site.

Monday, July 16, 2007

El-El-Elrom

I understand there's a shortage of the Golan Heights Winery's premium Elrom Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Apparently, though GHW deny any artificial manipulation of supply, allocations to stores are so mean-fisted few can find a bottle to buy, though 6,000 bottles are released locally (out of 12,000 produced), which should work out to at least 100 bottles per store.

Naturally, conspiracy theories are going 'round, a dime a dozen. I would love to spread some venom around myself, but you know what, I just don't give a fuck.

I just can't get that excited about it. I was pissed off earlier this year when Tomer Gal released his new catalog and I couldn't buy any Dauvissat Grand Crus but that passed after a couple of days. But this, this didn't even register. I've got a bottle of the 2001 Elrom left and that's fine by me. If GHW want to sell me a bottle of the 2003 Elrom that's great and if they don't, that's fine too. As far as I'm concerned, they can sell them all directly to the religious observant, who obviously need it more than I do. Or maybe this will blow over in a few days and GHW will deign to have supply meet demand and their captive audience will have a great simcha.

Just wake me up when this is all over, because the biggest news for me this week is that the white wines in my collection now number 40% of the grand total.

Friday, July 13, 2007

An Evening At PorterHouse (Jul. 4, 2007)

Yep, the place still has me licking my chops, both before and after and yes, distinguished readers, I'd still make the drive all the way from Tel Aviv. A few very informal notes from memory, because any attempt to write notes would have marred the moment.

Antinori, Tignanello, 1999

I remember a tasting at WineRoute a couple of years ago that wound up as a showdown between Old and new World Italian wines. The Tignanello 1999 impressed me at the time as hovering somewhere in the middle, smooth and smoky in a modern way yet with a distinctly Tuscan personality. Two years on, it's more of the same except this particular bottle opened with so much mildew on the nose we were worried about TCA, except TCA never quite goes away, does it, and in this case, the mildew was eventually absorbed into the succulent red fruit. At any rate, this particular bottle seemed less impressive than the one I'd had two years ago.

Antinori, Brunello, Pian Dell Vigne, 1997

Modern and elegant, with a chcolate-y overlay over the smooth black fruits. In fact it's too smooth for my tastes, as I always look for something to upset the applecart and make things more interesting and complex. And thus, it paled in comparison with the next wine.

Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello, Vigna del Fiore, 1997

The two Brunellos were served as a flight and if the Pian Dell Vigne had any fighting chance with us Old World lovers, this matching killed it. A very traditional and complex wine. Most likely in need of further time. This is Barbi's flagship Brunello and it's not available in Israel. Thanks, Ran, keep this up and I might start to think that you like me.

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 2000

Brought by our dependable Bordeaux candy man. A very classic wine, that demonstrates my favorite trait of Bordeaux wines of this level of quality: a nonchalant elegance that almost convinces you every wine should be this good until the glass is empty and you're forced back to reality.

Frescobaldi, Lamoine, 1997

You know all the things people who hate Merlot hate about Merlot? Well, take them out of the equation and leave in everything else that defines Merlot, turn the intensity dial up to 8 or 9 and what you've got is the Lamoine. This is a wine that should make me re-think my attitude towards Super Tuscans.

Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St. Julien, 1989

The final wine, as usual, finds my plate and brain too tired to write sensible tasting notes even had I not decided against writing any to begin with. Besides, I don't have enough experience with Bordeaux to judge it in context. But I am grateful for an opportunity to taste another mature claret. It was an experience beyond what the wine as a wine had to offer and was an apt culmination of a wonderful night.

Monday, July 9, 2007

What I Did This Saturday Instead Of Drinking Wine (Jul. 7 2007)

My cousin got us free tickets to the Iggy Pop and the Stooges concert in Tel Aviv last night. I haven't been to a rock concert in twenty years, if you don't count a few local small shows and a John Cale acoustic set in 1993 (and no, I don't count that as a rock concert by any means).

Iggy truly is the energetic performer he's hyped to be but the act left me unsatisfied. I'm glad the other Stooges are finally seeing a good payday after forty years but what's the idea of turning the one-time psycho bomb of Funhouse into a vulgar, narcisstic muscle fest? Here's an idea, Iggy: the more you use the F word, the less it actually means.

Maybe I'm just selfish. It really is okay if James Ostenberg no longer wants to cut himself up onstage and whirl his ding-dong for the girls and boys. I don't pretend it's still 1969 and I could care less since I wasn't there in the first place. And it's fine by me if he's making lots of money and taking care of his buddies on the way. He also made a statement of sorts that I appreciate by not playing any songs from his long solo career and especially not playing anything from the Raw Power album, technically a Stooges album but one with little creative input from the original Stooges.

But while it's selfish to want an Iggy that would never have survived, artistically and physically, had he not evolved, I don't think it's selfish to at least want an Iggy that is till up to making art or at least statements. I prefer - personally, personally - an Iggy Pop that acknowledges that the past is truly the past without parodying it.

At the end of day, who cares? I really to the show for Mike Watt of the Minutemen (subbing for the late Dave Alexander on bass), a band that still means more to me than the Stooges ever did.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Saturday Night Tasting (Jun. 30, 2007)

Another Saturday night. A few short notes.

The Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004 proved once again to be a terrific value at 140 NIS, offering village level quality at a price somewhere between generic Bourgogne and village. I spotted the Clos de Gat, Sycra Syrah, 2004 as an Israeli, because of its super-ripe fruit complemented by spicy oak, although I admit it's very elegant for what it is. The price (160-180 NIS) is a big turn off, though. I have little experience with South African wines so I can't contextuallize the Kanonkop, Pinotage, 2000 but it is a very fine wine, albeit I was more pleased than others by its initial burnt rubber aromas, which blew off soon enough anyway. The palate was on the young side but what the hell, I wouldn't kick a bottle out of my fridge. A bottle of Phelan-Segur, St. Estephe, 1999 left me somewhat indifferent but the real deal was Clusel Roch, Cote Rotie, 1999, which I think showed signs of Viognier (a short argument ensued over this but the presence of Viognier has since been confirmed), but whatever is in the blend, the nose kept changing as the wine kept opening while the palate showed a well-structured if somewhat fruity and modern, character.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling, Gueberschwihr, 2004

This wine is mostly about power, though it does show a potential for elegance as it opens. Minerals and cookie dough on the nose, with fruit in the background framed by a certain smokiness that comes and goes. The palate right now is not just youthful, it’s primary, quartz peppered with grapefruit pips and etched with acid, with a long, fiery finish. (Jun. 28, 2007)

This wine was imported by WineRoute last year and sold for about 130 NIS (30 USD). I admit the price rekindled my hope for eventual peace on earth, that is, it's still expensive for a non-Grand Cru but decent for Zind-Humbrecht.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Yellow Shade Of Oaky White

Muga, Barrel Fermented White, 2000

Bought to satisfy my curiousity, this is a blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia from one of my favorite Rioja houses. It is obviously oak-aged, that is oaky, but there are plenty of minerals beneath and besides the oak as well as a unique blend of spices, with little or no toffee-caramel notes. It is on the austere side on the palate, the fruit in the background, with enough acidity left after seven years to keep the structure intact. There is evident oak on the palate but somehow it bothers me less than it would in a New World Chardonnay, and I think it's because the varietals are new to me. Or maybe Muga uses the right barrels for the varietals. Whatever, an interesting wine. (Jun. 24, 2007)