Friday, August 31, 2007

Brunello Tasting at Anavim (Aug. 30, 2007)

Anavim, which I've mentioned before, is a local importer specializing in Tuscany, headquartered in a very friendly store in Tel Aviv, on the corner of Ben Guriyon and Ben Yehuda. They don't have a web site but you can contact them through Hagit Sasportas, the store manager.

The Brunello tasting was a mixture of some recent and not so recent vintages, some regular Brunellos and some Riservas. Some of the wines were decanted for a couple of hours and some opened on the spot, making it tricky to gauge their drinking windows. I'll mark the decanted wines with a (D).

CastelGiocondo, 2002 (D)

A good wine from a bad vintage, I suppose, though it has some obvious faults. Both nose and palate are very rich, with earthy overtones, though after a while in glass, the richness turns jammy. There is some hollowness in mid-palate and the tannins are coarse.

Banfi, 2001 (D)

Going up a few steps in class. The nose is more interesting and nuanced, with shades of earth and mocca over a background of black fruit, then a bit of leather, pine and herbs. Very concentrated with ripe acidity. I'd guess it needs a couple of years of aging but I don't know how to factor in the decanting.

San Felice, Campogiovani, 2001 (D)

A much more reserved nose, with great aromas of wild berries, leather and smoke. Then... you know, it's a common disappointment with wines. You sniff and get excited then you sip with great anticipation and wind up muttering curses in your neighbor's ear. In this case, the palate is so ripe it's near sweet and you look for the grip and structure the nose hints at and it's barely there, though the tannins do assert themselves on the finish. I can't tell for sure, but maybe the decanter did it.

Il Poggione, 2001 (D)

This wine elicited different reactions 'round the table yet I'm not sure it's taster variation, more likely a bizarre case of glass variation, because I compared my glass with a friend's and they were much different, mine having been the last poured from the decanter. Mine was very stingy and austere, highlighting the alcohol on the nose. I managed to make a note of a spicy/bitter finish before the wine died in my glass. Obviously, the decanting did it little good.

Banfi, Poggio alle Mura, 2001
This is the middle rung in Banfi's Brunellos, the regular Brunello being the lower rung and the other Riserva, the Poggio all'Oro, being the upper one. Quite a nose on this one, a concentration of berries, leather and smoke, with good impression being carried over to the palate, which is powerful, chewy and long.

CastelGiocondo, Ripe Al Convento, Riserva, 1995

A little carmelized at first, it solwly, very slowly, opened to show wild berries and hints of meat. I'm not sure whether the serving conditions did it any justice. It probably didn't need decanting, which it didn't get anyway, but a longer time in glass to open. Actualy, I thought we rushed to the next wine much too fast so I poured the Ripe Al Convento to a second glass but the other glass was too small and though the wine did start opening, at the end of the day I had to give up on it. Possibly a wasted opportunity.

Il Poggione, Riserva, 1998 (D)

Ripe and modern on the nose, possibly the fruitiest wine of the evening, before it shuts down in glass. Makes up for a relative lack of power and complexity with smooth elegance.

Banfi, Poggio all'Oro, 1999 (D)

A very focused and elegant nose, though it feels embryonic. The palate is very youthful, showing great length, beautiful acidity and elegant tannins. High breed.

Banfi, Poggio all'Oro, 1993

Lightly oxidized at first, which might have been the reason a few people proclaimed "Bissli Grill!" Whatever, as the wine recovered from its long slumber, the bissli aromas became more refined, more along the lines of steak seasoning. Very elegant and fresh on the plate, if not very complex, with the mellowness of bottle age.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Paternoster, Don Anselmo, 1997

This is one of the leading wineries in Basilicata (south Italy, folks) and this wine is one of the outstanding examples of Aglianico, the signature grape of the area. I've had it several times, and at its best I'd describe it as:

A fascinating Old World wine. Browning yet solid color. The nose has a signature of cherries at first, then black fruits, but as this wine isn't really about fruit, the prominent notes from the first are of an intriguing herbal mix and some earth. The palate shows good acidity, the kind that backs up a solid core of fruit and doesn't make a lot of noise; a spicy, lingering finish; bitter tannins that are very well integrated; and it's so well balanced you don't feel how full the body is. (Oct. 29, 2006)

If only I was lucky enough to consistently catch it at its best. My second encounter was very similar only less enchanting. That is, similar notes and a lower potential score. My last encounter was a couple of weeks ago, when the palate proved as structured as in the past but its aromatics were so raisen-y it pushed the wine in an Amarone-ish direction and as a whole, the wine was so befuddling it turned everyone off.

Imported by Anavim. Not sure about the present price but it's still available. Wine Advocate liked the 2000 vintage, by the way.

Off Topic

My wife thought my new glasses were rather Elvis Costello-ish and searching through YouTube to follow up on this premise we found this: the famous appearance on Saturday Night Live that practically got him blacklisted off American radio (some months later he would get into a bar brawl and describe Ray Charles using the N word, putting the final touches on the unenviable task of killing his own career). As you will see in the clip, he starts out singing "Less Than Zero" before stopping the song, saying "there's no reason to sing this song" and plunging straight into "Radio, Radio". I suppose prime time American TV in the late 70's was just about ready to accept a song about fascism in the UK but not a song that claimed fascism was everywhere on the radio.

Personal growth really sucks if it means you stop writing songs like this and start writing songs about people who write letters to Julliet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Penfold's, St. Henri Shiraz, 1996

How often do a bottle's leftovers survive overnight? How often do they improve? And how often does that happen with an eleven year old wine?

The St. Henri 1996 was an excellent wine on the first night, accompanying a sirloin steak at Porterhouse. A complex nose of black fruits interlaced with mint and eucalyptus was complemented by a rather simpler palate, which was elegant and structured enough, but still young and fruity with succulent acidity. The 1/3 bottle that I carried back home made good use of a night's oxygen and on the second night, the nose was very much the same but the fruit had complexified and receded somewhat, without being overwhlemed by the tannins. Thus, the structure was highlighted while there was enough fruit to keep the whole thing very palatable and a better and more interesting wine by my palate. (Aug. 26-27, 2007)

Friday, August 24, 2007

German Wine Tasting At Giaconda (Aug. 24, 2007)

I tasted the following wines at a very recent tasting at Giaconda. The tasting cost 125 NIS (30 USD) and the prices are quoted from their catalog and are for non-club members. I'd tasted most of the wines before but was interesting in following their development.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Weisserburgunder (Pinot Blanc) QBA, 2004

Initially closed aromatically, leaning towards tropical fruit, but after a few minutes, green apples take over as well as a chalky minerality and hints of oatmeal. A nice wine, albeit not especially complex, that didn't really really catch my interest when I tasted in winter (at a Nahe tasting at Giaconda in the pre-2GrandCru days), so I was moderately surprised by the minerality. 99 NIS.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Weisserburgunder (Pinot Blanc) QBA Trocken, 2004

I prefered this Pinot Blanc in the aforementioned tasting and likewise this time. Surprisingly slow to open, it too showed minerality, though more intense and edgier than the Schafer-Frohlich's. The nose, with an abundance of flint, is almost Burgundian but the palate is very German, with sweeter fruit than you'd get in a decent white Bourgogne, balanced by ripe acidity. Decent length but lacking the complexity of the nose. 139 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfaltz, Kallstadter Steinacker, Gewurztraminer Spatlese, 2005

This is a wine I'd been waiting to taste since I saw Giaconda were importing it, since I thought Gewurztraminer would thrive within the Koehler-Ruprecht style. And I was right, although it's an unexpected spin off a typical Gewurztraminer, and I loved it as much as I usually do this producer's wines. The signature rose petals are there so it's recognizable as a Gewurztraminer but it's a cooler kind of Gewurztraminer than you'd get in Alsace, say, with varietal intensity but little lychee or spices. It's also very, very young and disjointed right now, with a sweet attack followed by Gewurztraminer spiciness but as separate elements and not as a harmonic whole. My guess is it needs a couple of years of cellaring and I intend to follow it. 118 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfaltz, Kallstadter Saumagen, Riesling, Kabinett, 2004

I had this wine a couple of times, most recently with friends where due to lousy logistics on my part it was served too warm. Very intense and complex minerals on the nose, with the fruit in the background. Again, the palate is overshadowed by the nose: it's balanced enough, but closed and right now simply doesn't have the intensity nor the complexity of the aromatics. But at least I was reassured that the lack of acidity we noticed last time was due to the temperature and I intend to cellar my bottles and see how it develops. 130 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfaltz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Riesling Kabinett Trocken, 2004

Another wine I'm familiar with. It's starting to emerge from a slightly fizzy stage and shows gentle fruitness complemented by flint and, once again, sweet dough, oatmeal or whatever you want to call the yeast induced aromas a lot of Rieslings imported by Giaconda show (which I enjoy, mind you, and which I suppose will be gone within a few years as these wines mature). It's much more approachable than the Koehler-Ruprecht Saumagen, but less intense and complex. 130 NIS.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Vom Porphyr, Riesling QBA Trocken, 2004

Like their Weissburgunder, this wine had failed to impress me in the past. It's much better now, with simple fruitiness on the nose but surprising acidity and crispy minerality on the palate. Giaconda has a couple of QBA's that surprisingly manage to seem to be in a league above QBA; this one doesn't but it's still at the very top of the QBA league. 139 NIS.

Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Schieferterrassen, Riesling, 2004

I tasted this wine rather offhandedly because I'd had it so many times in the past months, but it surprised me for feeling lighter than I remembered, despite being higher in alcohol than the other wines at the tasting. 129 NIS.

Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau, Graziosa QbA Feinherb, 2006

The fruitiest wine of the tasting, but not a blockbustery kind of fruitiness, but rather the usual German kind: mellow, pure and clean. So clean, in fact, that I started looking for some minerals and yeasts to capture my interest. And they do come in time, hints of them anyway. I've tasted Kuhn's Quarzit QBA so I know he produces wines that are QBA only because it says so on the label, but the Graziosa seems like a 'regular' QBA, albeit an expensive one. 139 NIS.

Langwerth Von Simmern, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Riesling Kabinett, 2003

I was looking forward to this wine in order to get a gist of how Kabinetts fared in hot 2003. This one did very, very well and seems to be at the start of its mature drinking window, with traces of petrol on the nose and the beginning of a complex palate. Despite the ripe fruit, it is not at the least over the top, but shows instead a very taut structure. Better for my money than the 2004 and decently priced. 103 NIS.

Leitz, Dragonstone Riesling, 2005

Terry Thiese, Leitz's US importer, raves about this wine in each edition of his catalog and though he's obviously biased, he writes so well that my curiousity was aroused. So naturally, I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely wine, classic German for its sweetness but I was looking for a bit more, maybe just more focus and intensity. I'll try it again in a few months. 109 NIS.

Unckrich, Scheurebe Kallstadter Annaberg Auslese, 2004

It never fails. Whenever I drink this cute (and I mean that in the most positive way) wine, an inner voice tells me this is a wine for immediate enjoyment, not note writing. So, if you must have a note, here it is: guayava sherbert. NIS 89.

All in all, a nice couple of hours, with very pleasant company (both customers and hostesses). Perhaps not the greatest Rieslings in the world, or even in the Giaconda catalog, but very good ones, some of which are starting to become the main staples of my home consumption.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Barkan, Altitude 720, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

When V. recommended this wine to me last year, I considered tagging her email as spam, but then V. does not suffer Israeli wines gladly, so this seemed worth looking into.

She not only liked the wine, but I think she used the term "old world". Or maybe she said it was the most old world-ish of Barkan's Altitude series and I think I can see her point. It's as slick, clean and commercial as you would expect from Israel's second largest producer (yeah, I know I'm stereotyping) and as ripe as most Israeli wines get. But, probably because it hails from the highest vineyard from Barkan's Altitude series (the others are 415 and 624 meters high), the near-sweet ripeness of the fruit is reined in by a earthy, tobacco leaf overlay and nicely complemented by crisp tannins. So good call, V., but while the relative elegance lends weight to your old world reference, I think I'd have guessed Australia blind.

A very nice wine, drink now, could survive cellaring for a couple of years but I'm going to save my personal storage space for Riesling.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Domaine Weinbach, Muscat Reserve, 2004

There's a bit I like in hip-hop classic Entroducing D.J. Shadow where Shadow samples a somewhat dorky sounding music teacher who says "I'm a teacher of the drums, but I'm also a student of the drums". I enjoy the moment because I know the feeling. That of being a student, I mean. Of my various hobbies, wine and music give me the greatest intellectual pleasures because they (still) make me feel I'm actively learning new things.

That's why on trips abroad I try to buy at least one wine that expands my horizons. A joker, an oddball. Something to befuddle friends with. On a recent trip to Paris, the Weinbach Muscat Reserve 2004 was it.

I'd read Weinbach is a very good domaine and I was debating whether to buy one of their Gewurztraminer cuvees offered at one particular store but I was dubious about the vintages in stock and finally decided that - since I'd already tasted Alsace Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, albeit much too few - it was time to try Alsace's fourth 'trademark' varietal.

According to the Weinbach site, this wine is sourced mostly from their Clos des Capucins monopole, which I'm not sure is a part of their grand cru holdings but does supply fruit to the domaine's premium cuvee. And that's it for the background spiel. Now for the wine.

The kindest thing I could say is I don't know what to make of it. The textbook on Alsace Muscat says it's a fruity, "drink close to purchase" wine. The wine I had this evening was no example of the former but arguably proves the latter. On both nose and palate, it is very minerally and peppery, which is good, good, but only if it's backed up by fruit. But insofar as the wine opens over the course of the evening, there is so little fruit the 13% alcohol shoots straight to the fore as though it was a much more alcoholic wine. I can't really tell whether I opened it a year too late or a few too early, but tonight, this particular bottle was a depressing experience. Probably one I wouldn't even be able to rightfully chalk up as an educational experience.

Overpriced for the 25+ euros I paid for it and not available locally.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Margalit, Special Reserve, 2001

Eldad Levi was rather harsh on this wine on his (Hebrew) site and the question was, would I (should I) be any harsher? Well, he's a professional and, when he wants to, quite adept at walking a (sometimes thin) line between sarcasm and diplomacy. Sadly, however, this wine did not inspire me to attempt a similar feat of acrobacy.

Simply put, this is a well made bad wine. I tasted it four years ago but I was in a different place then and much less experienced. Therefore, I won't discuss its past. And since I don't have the skills right now to make an edcuated guess about its future, I can only talk about the present.

And its present is miserable. A rich nose with chocolate, burnt wood and meat over a nice currant background would be a nice place to start if I didn't have to actually drink the stuff but while I can usually live peacefully with the oak in Margalit's wines, this time it was way too much. It's not even even a young wine's "look, I'll be outta here in a few years" oaky, it's a middle aged wine's oak that's here to stay. Alright, I realize I am trying to predict this wine's future and I just admitted I don't have the skills for that, but I just can't sense any fruit just biding it's time in there.

For fans of the style only!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Thoughts About The Vougeraie Tasting And Elvis

I've been thinking about my recent post on the Vougeraie tasting and worrying about my tasting notes. I like them and I stand behind them but I realize they are more about the experience of tasting the wines. The wines were not tasted blind and I had a conscious set of expectations from the producer, the AOC's and the vintage. Plus I like Tomer, he talks very well and his enthusiasm is contagious. I recognize I approached these wines less critically than, say, a group of Brunellos, and I think that with fewer distractions, I could have gotten more out of them.

Whatever, the Bonnes Mares is one beautiful wine.

Elvis Died For Our Sins

Thirty years ago this week, ain't that a hoot.

Evlis Presley was such a joke for such a large part of his career that it's easy to forget how great he was when he was in command of his amazing talent and how much he changed the world we live in. You can draw an almost direct line between Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters through Chuck Berry and the Beatles and then on to Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and even on to rap. But Elvis' early singles at Sun Records were totally unprecedented. It wasn't just a white voice (and Elvis' voice was totally Southern white) over black music. It was something fresh, vital, totally new, that cut a swath through fossilizing, middle class America.

Elvis at his best had an uncommon, intuitive, totally encompassing grasp of what made American music (blues, gospel, country, even folk) great. His voice carried his best songs the way a top model wears a thousand dollar suit.

Where to start? Collections of his Sun singles and the acoustic set from his 1968 NBC 'comeback' special are must-own. Then buy Reconsider, Baby, a collection of his best 'blues' tracks and Back In Memphis, a soul album recorded in the months following the NBC special. If you're a freak like me, buy the 50's, 60's and 70's boxed sets, even though they're 30%, 50% and 80% rubbish, respectively; the best tracks will knock you out. Power users might consider The Million Dollar Quartet, a jam session with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis (for years it was thought Johnny Cash also participated, hence the title) which is an archeological dig through Elvis' gospel roots. One hundred percent, unabridged charisma.

Suggested reading material: Greil Marcus' Mystery Train and Dead Elvis contain definitive analyses and Dave Marsh's Elvis presents an innovative, positive crit of the King's 60's and 70's work. Lester Bangs eulogy (collected in Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung) is one of the most moving pieces of English prose I have ever read. I will lend my copies to anyone with an interesting first growth to share.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Domaine De La Vougeraie Tasting At Hinawi (Aug. 8, 2007)

The latest in a series of Bourgogne tastings, hosted at the Hinawi Wine & More Tel Aviv store, the wines pulled from Tomer Gal's catalog.

If you're a Bourgogne lover, then what you want to know about the following wines is how much they reflect their terroirs, how much they reflect the vintage and whether Vougeraie's Pascal Marchand managed to overcome the vintage's faults.

I know Burgundy well enough to recognize that the wines we tasted were very much Bourgogne, in an elegant, succulent style. I do not, however, know the specific terroirs well enough to tell how typical they are, so I'll have to take Tomer's word for it that they are.

These wines are all very young, so often the acidity would overshadow the fruit but for all that, they had the best structure and fullest stuffing of the few 2004's I've tasted. Even the sole sample from the 2003 is probably the best I've tasted from that vintage. Naturally, I suppose, the Grand Crus are very closed aromatically yet the better ones (the Close de Vougeot and the Bonnes Mares) have great presence and hint at future aromatic complexity.

As for how good these wines are, since I don't score, you'll have to read between the lines. I think, though, it's quite obvious which were my favorites but just in case: the Bonnes Mares, the Clos de Vougeout and the Bel Air.

Bourgogne, "Terres de Famille", 2004

If you don't know Burgundy, this is a good place to start. This is so much better than most generic Bourgognes that you can get almost village level quality at half the price. It has typical Burgundy red fruit with an earthy overlay on the nose, while the palate right now is a bit off-balance, with the fruit overwhelmed by acidity.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Evocelles, 2004

A very focused, detailed nose; spicy, minerally, animalistic, so open and typical it's almost a Bourgogne-slut. Probably the best nose of the evening, maybe because it's only a village so it's readier than the other wines. The body is a step up from the "Terres de Famille", very long and also, despite the acidity, quite elegant.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Bel Air, 2004

This is an interesting contrast. The nose is more withdrawn than the Evocelles, yet it drops enough animalistic hints to entice and comes off as reserved rather than simply closed and suggests a greater depth. The palate is a class act, powerful and long. A very good value.

Corton, Clos du Rois, 2004

Weak for a grand cru, in my opinion. A very weird nose that after some thought I decided to characterize as hints of lemon drops over red fruit. The palate starts out watery and takes its time to develop body and some interest, but, at the end of the day, is still one-dimensional.

Mazoyeres-Chambertin, 2003

Perhaps the best 2003 I've tasted. That's probably not saying much because I still found it ripe, aggressive and a bit one-dimensional. On the other hand, the ripeness isn't over the top and the great length suggests to me that it will likely improve as it ages.

Mazoyeres-Chambertin, 2004

Oddly similar to the 2003, almost as though they came from different, yet similar vintages, whereas 2004 is very much the opposite of 2003. Its greater finesse implies it's the better wine, though. Takes time to open as it slowly releases miserly hints of spices.

Clos de Vougeot, 2004

Foremost, this a is a very silky wine, yet juicy as well, with a slightly spicy finish. A very elegant wine that is so closed aromatically that it's hard for me to write a lot about it but there is obvious depth there. Like the better wines of the tasting, it doesn't make any obvious statements, it suggests.

Bonnes Mares, 2004

A superlative wine. Very complex, very elegant. A chimera of a nose, rather more open than the Close de Vougeot. I really hate to get carried away so all I'll say is this wine is borderline moving. Because, like the Clos de Vougeot, I can sense buried secrets within the exquisitely balanced structure.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Misc. Notes (July 2007)

First, two imports from Tomer Gal, already sold out so I'll skip the local prices.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2004

Much flintier and more saline than it was a year ago, it has also shed its tropical fruit personality, now showing grapefruit on the attack and quinine on the finish. A very good, though not great, Chablis. (Jul. 1, 2007)

Dauvissat, Chablis, 2002

As saline as the Durup Vau De Vey but more elegant. And like the Durup, a very, very good wine, though the Dauvissat pulls away within five rounds: the crispy, reserved palate and the flinty complexity of the nose (opening into a nut oil accent which I'm starting to think is a trademark) simply captivate me even more as they leave me feeling its potential has not quite been consumated. Almost Premier Cur in quality, though it ultimately lacks concentration, it's probably close to its peak. (Jul. 9, 2007)

I finally tasted one of the notorious Chave Hermitage Selections imported by WineRoute.

Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage Blanc,Selection, "Blanche" 2001

Hard to pin down, the flavors and aromas pull in different directions. It's disjointed right now and flat as well austere and the only distinct trait I could put a finger on was a floral aroma. Like most un-young Rhone whites I've tasted, it left me thinking "what the?" but the romantic in me is willing to give it another shot in a couple of years. (Jul. 14, 2007)

Masi, Tupungato, Psso Doble, 2004

The nose is initially on the oaky side before the ripe red and black cherries start to assert themselves, though with every pour they have to start their struggle all over. Starts sweet before the bitter, drying tannins lend some balance on the finish. Truly at the midpoint between Old and New World, this is rather like a modern Spanish wine were it not for the sweetness of the fruit (unlike the 2002 which emphasized the Ripasso connection). Not my cup of tea ,though, to be fair, a little more acidity or minerality would have turned it around. (Jul. 15, 2007)

Imported to Israel by France-Israel and I think it sells for about 100-110 NIS (about 25 USD then).

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2003

I haven't had a Barkan for a while and apparently, nothing much has changed. Competent, oaky stuff, with ripe, chocolate-y fruit that is obscured by the oak and what I suspect to be adjusted acidity disrupting the balance. Good length, though. (Jul. 16, 2007)

Sells for 70-80 NIS? locally (18 USD).

Heymann-Lowenstein, Kirchberg, Erste Lage, Mosel Saar Ruwer, 2004

When I tasted this wine a few months ago, it was overshadowed by Lowenstein's fantastic 2005 Uhlen single vineyards. So I was curious to see how it'd stand up on its own. Here goes: Summer fruits and apple pie on the nose, complemented by complex spices and a hint of flint that creeps in unexpectedly. Crispy palate with a green apple finish, the acidity is there yet somehow it never quite lives up to the expectations of the nose. While I enjoyed its first flush of youth, I'll hang on to my other bottle for another three years or so to see how it survives puberty and hope it improves. I think it's got at least that much life in it. (Jul. 31, 2007)

Imported to Israel by Giaconda, listed at 189 NIS (40 USD).

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bodegas Faustino, I, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1998

I really wanted to go bananas over this wine. I'm a sucker for mature Riojas and although this isn't a great sample, I think it's downright amazing that you can buy this in Spanish supermarkets for less than 20 euros.

But my dog crapped on the carpet so I was in a bad mood and a bottle of the 1996 Faustino opened minutes earlier turned out perfectly oxidized (Oloroso, anyone?), reminding me of the downside of romantic ol' Spain... No bottle variation, this, simply a wet, moldy cork, either indifferent production or indifferent storage, probably the latter, maybe even both.

The Rioja Gran Reserva hyperbole can be summed up as "a great wine, made only in outstanding vintages." Well, 1994 and 1995 are considered great years in Rioja and I've tasted enough to agree; 1996 is also considered very good to excellent and the 1996 Faustino (which I had a few weeks ago) was at least as good as other vintages I'd tasted. But 1998 is not highly touted from what I've read and the the 1998 Faustino is neither concentrated, nor complex nor elegant enough to be considered great. On the other hand, it offers the classic Rioja experience: juicy red fruits, tobacco, a hint of mildew, meaty, earthy overtones, fun, FUN acidity, soft yet chewy tannins. So it's not a great wine but few wines sold in Israel could touch it at the price it's going for in Spain.

I traded two bottles of Sea Horse for the two bottles I opened tonight, and even with an oxidized bottle, I figure I still came out ahead.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Thursday Night Tasting... Instead Of Saturday (Aug. 2, 2007)

Koehler-Ruprecht, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Kabinett Trocken, 2004

Koehler-Ruprecht's Bernd-Philippi is heralded as a master of the Saumagen vineyard and here he coaxes a very complex, high-definition nose from Kabinett level grapes, with powerful yet nuanced aromas that had everyone thinking it was an Auslese. I'm not sure it's a distinction you can pick up just from the nose, though, and the palate was not Auslese-class, for sure; but personally, I think Kabinetts simply serve a different purpose and you need to accept them for the light, delicate creatures they are meant to be. Not that Philippi makes particularly delicate wines from what I've read and tasted... Whatever, the wine was probably served too warm because the acidity was less pronounced than the last time I tasted it, some months ago, and the temperature probably killed the mineral nuances I remembred.

Imported to Israel by Giaconda, listed at 130 NIS (about 30 USD).

Clos du Marquis, St. Julien, 1999

Ignoring the blue-chip wines I never even get to taste and the barely affordable wines I drink only a few times a year, this is for me the distillation of what I love in a red wine. Yummy red fruit that no one tried to over-extract and all the wonderful, subtly earthy aromas and flavors bottle age can give you when its makers get the acid, fruit and tannins just right. An elegant bastard that made me grin like an idiot. This used to be one of the great values of Bordeaux, once upon a time.

Imported to Israel by WineRoute (1999 was sold out a long time ago and the price has increased since for more recent vintages).

Chateau du Trignon, Gigondas, 2001

Now for something completely different... This wine has more black fruits, which I never like as much as red fruits, but they are completely appropiate here and there is enough going on to complement the fruit. A somewhat rustic, yet elegant wine where everything just clicks together. This is the second time I've this wine this year and I keep kicking myself for opening my own bottle about three years too early.

Not imported to Israel.

Silvio Nardi, Brunello di Montalcino, 1997

The most modern wine of the evening, yet realizing it might be faint praise coming from me, I have to add that it was quite nice and elegant. I liked it enough at the time to think to myself that I'd buy a bottle yet it didn't leave a distinct enough impression for me to remember, the next day, exactly why I'd buy it. Yet I wish I could remember more of it. Confusing, eh?

Not imported to Israel.

Off Topic, Really

They say alcohol dulls the brain yet for some reason, driving home, some synapses clicked and the name Raymond Pettibon floated up through my foggy sub-conscious. Go read the Wikipedia article and follow the links to see this great artist's works and see how he wipes the floor with Roy Lichtenstein.