Ran Shapira's Birthday - Grand Cru Inside

A birthday party is just the right occasion to reflect on people's best sides and the best of Ran Shapira is this: he lives well, he knows it and he shows it; and when you dine with him, he wants you to live well too.

Thus this. September 18, 2007, the Voilet restaurant in Moshav Audim, a nearly cult secret on the cusp of becoming everybody's latest fling. Ran brought all the wines, one from each of his favorite wine regions. The notes are more impressionistic than usual because we came to party, not to take notes.

Golan Heights Winery, Blanc de Blancs, 1997

I'm sure GHW's reds don't show as much old world character as this wine, though I don't have enough "bubblie" vocabulary to talk much about it. Shame the mousse faded so fast, though.

Pichler, Von Den Terrassen, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, 2004

I'm rather distraught over my dismal experiences with young Gruner Veltliners, since this was similar to my encounter with Nigl, Kremser Freiheit, 2005. A nice enough nose with flecks of minerals, but the palate is tight, bitter and drying, the effect exaggerated by having been paired with the next wine. Better with food, though.

Weingut JoS. Christoffel Jr., Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Spatlese, 2006

I never thought I'd drink so many Christoffels in the same month. Infanticide for sure, although it offers plenty of enjoyment as is. As usual with the good, off dry German stuff, the sweetness simply highlights the graceful elegance of the fruit.

Domain Bouchard Pere & Fils, Corton-Charlemagne, 1996

The lineup was half blind: we knew which region each wine came from but not producer, age or pedigree - but this was obviously fine stuff from the first sniff. Though I do recall it felt just about to fall off its peak plateau, it proved one thing: when Burgundy gets it right, few dry white wines can get within spitting range. You'll find better dry whites elsewhere than this one (I'd score it 91-92 if I were still into that just to contextualize) but few would be as savoury, elegant and characterful.

Ceretto, Barolo Bricco-Rocche, Brunate, 1996

Chateau De La Tour, Clos Vougeot, 1998

Served together in the same flight to prove - or disprove - that Piedmonte is Italy's Burgundy, which with the wines in question is like comparing Chalie Parker's Dial Masters with the Miles Davis twin-sax group with Coltrane and Adderly, that is, one is brainy yet heart-breakingly ephemeral, the other so sensously groovy you can't put it away. Thus, excellent stuff, similar enough in style to note a connection, different enough to evoke debates.

Chapoutier, Cote Rotie, La Mordoree, 2000

Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Laurence, 1998

Another flight. How Ran made us suffer... The Mordoree was pure, distilled, unadulterated elegance - I could wax poetic but I rather extended myself with the jazz stuff just now - yet the Cuvee Laurence caught my fancy as well, not just for being a "blonde with big boobs" sort of wine (it's never wrong to recycle a good metaphor because you never know where your next metaphor is coming from) but because its initial hyper-ripe, over-extracted core opened up and calmed down so nicely in glass that I couldn't help but thinking, ten years from now, this wine could be the ultimate test as to whether Robert Parker, Jr., knows what he's talking about.

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1998

Let's hear it for great, tight-assed Bordeaux. Queen of the class, everybody's Saturday night fantasy, yet won't put out, won't even kiss, simply give you her cheek when you bring her home.

Chateau Suduiraut, 2000

Great, expensive, liquid toffee but, to be just the slighest bit super-critical, noticeably alcoholic.