Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Misc. Notes (Oct. 2007)

Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage Rouge,Selection, "Fraconet" 2001

A nose laden with ripe fruit, complemented by leathery notes. The palate is balanced enough and though I'm not enamored of its sweetish overtones, I think it will outgrow them. Not a great wine and I really don't have a lot of interesting things to say about it but it is a bargain Hermitage, a rare creature indeed. (Oct. 6, 2007)

Imported by WineRoute, out of stock by now, but sold for about 170 NIS.

Sea Horse, Antoine Special Edition, 2004

The nose nods at high extraction, cherry-berry aromas over chocolate and spicy oak, with a hint of something musky I can't quite pinpoint, almost feral, though it does not overcome the wine, just gives it an interesting shade. The palate follows it up with a rustic bite at the end, which I find charming. As I've said before, I'm not very confident of the cost effectivenes of cellaring Dunie's wines but I quite like their rustic youth these days, when over-extracted ripeness doesn't kill them.

Domaine Brusset, Gigondas, Hauts de Montmirail, 2001

In Raging Bull, Joey LaMotta counseled his brother Jake about taking on a tough opponent: "if you win, you win, and even if you lose, you still win". I often feel the same way about the Rhone and this is a lovely sample. An expressive if not an immensly complex or refined nose. Cherries and berries, leather, earth and coffee, with the typical Rhone stink in the background. Somewhat more earthy on the plate, in a charming way. The tannins are still obvious, driving the long finish. Good value abroad so why doesn't anyone import the stuff? Too little money and too many Chateauneufs vying for local attention? Damn it. (Oct. 23, 2007)

Guigal, Condrieu "La Doriane", 2005

An almost inconceivable disappointment, on the order of the Katzrin Chardonnay (order of quality, not disappointment, I haven't had any high expectations from the Katzrin in a long while). It has a pretty nose - not great but very nice - laden with flowers and honey, textbook Condrieu I suppose. But something went really wrong with the palate, which I found alcoholic, bitter, unbalanced, lacking acidity and fruit. (Oct. 30, 2007)

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge, 2000

An oddity, for me, although I think Ramonet makes a respectable amount of red wines. 2000 wasn't an exciting vintage for red Cote de Beaune and this being a village wine, you wouldn't have expected it to survive and thrive after seven years and, indeed, at first it seemed quite senile. Well, not quite; it cleaned up its act enough to show mature Pinot aromas and though the body was a bit limpid, I'd have enjoyed it in its own right alone at home. You know, there is a time and place for a not-so-great Bourgogne. As it was, in the context of a group tasting, it got a thumbs down. (Oct. 6, 2007)

Used to be imported by Tomer Gal but not any more. I called it a not-so-great Bourgogne so you'd expect to pay a not-so-great price and I see it listed in the US for about thirty dollars.

Other Tomer Gal imports:

Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004

Look, the guy's a genius, okay?

I suppose white Burgundy comes in a few distinct flavors. The nose on this wine is a distillation of a couple of major themes: a heavy dose of flint on a background of ripe pears with some citrus and nuts lurking on an even deeper level. Guaranteed to put a smile on any fan of the style, especially those of us who can't afford the really expensive stuff. The palate falls short, however; there is very good acidity but it is at odds with an astrigency on the finish. There's an interesting tug of war and the weight and oak level continually change and there are enough good things about it to make me want to gamble on a year or more in the cellar. (Oct. 9, 2007)

Listed at 140 NIS.

Dauvissat, Chablis, 2002

Much longer and more intense than the previous bottle I had, actually the best bottle of Dauvissat village I've tasted (2000, 2002, 2005) and better than almost any Premier Cru Chablis I've drunk. An intense and pungent nose of grapefruit peel and chalk at first, then more subtle citrus aromas join the fray and even hints of white chocolate, oddly enough. I can sense a very specific mineral bite on the palate and this is really a flavorsome wine with an excellent acidic backbone and a lightly saline finish. It boasts 13% alcohol, just like the La Foret 2002, so I guess the grapes were more or less as ripe as a Premier Cru. I love it right now though more bottle age might mellow it without making it too tame. (Oct. 25, 2007)

Listed at 150 NIS and sold out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

And Now Puligny-Montrachet (Oct. 21, 2007)

The latest in Tomer Gal's series of Burgundy tastings found us tasting the wines of, well, Puligny-Montrachet. Just a little town no one's ever heard of...

On the downside, the wine list was too short to be very educational; we only got a glimpse of the producers and vineyards. And of course Burgundy is a minefield if you want to do any shopping. Really expensive wines, the entry price for an exciting wine is over 300 NIS (70 USD). Granted, I splurge it up every now and then but I have to swallow the receipt and smuggle the bottle home late at night.

On the plus side, we tasted at least four very serious wines to cellar and drool over.

A few technical comments. First of all, I'm going to revert back to scoring just this once, to put the quality of the wines in context. Against one another anyway. Also, I'm listing the discount price of the tasting because let's face it, without the discount, even the cheaper wines are barely affordable. (1 USD ~ 4 NIS)

Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Bourgogne Close du Chateau, 2004

Delicate lemon aromas complemented by chalk powder. Nice acidity with mellow bitterness on the finish. I'm going to call it a fun wine if it's understood that it's not a simple quaffer. This has come a long way since I last tasted it, in June. 88. 120 NIS.

Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, 2004

Much more of a presence though I'm tempted to chalk it up to more oak. Not that it's an oak bomb by any means just that it has more oak to soak up. Lemons again, flint, and an overlay of greeness, of a herbal character more than a Sauvignon Blanc/ cut-grass greeness. The palate exhibits youthful incohesion right now. I'll open my bottle of the 2002 in a year and decide when to drink the 2004 based on that. 89. 280 NIS.

Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Chalumeaux, 2004

A joyful leap upwards in quality. Cut from the same cloth as the village, but to extend the metaphor, the tailor used better threads and took his time. The nose shows lemon and flint again and adds honey, baked apples and grain wheat to the mix. The palate is even more minerally, with the acidity lending greater grip and structure. 90. 340 NIS.

Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, La Garenne, 2004

This is the first wine that showed terroir-y personality. Very flowery, crispy, austere, even ephemeral at times, though I'm not sure if that isn't too much of a good thing. La Garenne is a high, cold vineyard so I'd be interested in tasting the 2005, which was a hotter vintage. I think just a bit more ripeness would have given it an extra dimension while still remaining faithful to that endearing austerity. 91. 340 NIS.

Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champs Canet, 2004

A very austere nose that hints at complexity as it opens. The real story is on the palate, whose great length and even greater structure, laced with gripping acidity, will surely serve as a fine foundation for its future development. Even now, it tells an exciting story to my taste-buds. 92+. 410 NIS.

Montille, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Cailleret, 2004

Cailleret is a direct extension of the Montrachet vineyard and it shows. A head-turning, gorgeous nose, rich and complex, with flinty minerals compactly integrated with the fruit. The palate is not quite as complex right now and I prefer Champ Canet's palate because I think it had a better structure and greater length but the Cailleret is the better wine overall right now. 93-94. 590 NIS.

Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2004

A flowery nose with notes of apple pie. Closed, even non-descript on the palate but has appealing purity. Longer than the Cailleret but unrefined in a way that casts doubts. I'm not sure whether this is an extremely young wine or simply not living up to the Grand Cru tag. 91. 1100 NIS.

Auvenay, Puligny-Montrachet En La Richarde, 2000

Madame Leroy makes expensive wines, for God's sake, and the price isn't a typo. This wine not only has to justify the hefty price but also prove that it merits it without being even a Premier Cru. Talk about having to live up to expectations.

A mature wine at last. The nose is a fascinating oddball, with the usual minerals but sea salt and mushrooms as well. The palate has restrained power and length, but the structure is frayed compared to the Champs Canet and the Cailleret. 91-92. 1600 NIS.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Perils Of Tasting Blind (Oct. 20, 2007)

The evening started off with a white wine that was obviously Burgundy, the question was where in Burgundy. Now, the nose really said "sea". Sea air, sea breezes, sea water, fossils. So I said, tentatively, Chablis. But the palate just wasn't crisp enough so I withdrew my guess and opted with the majority for Puligny. Turned out to be a Chablis, Louis Jadot, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2000. I tasted it last summer and thought it was going downhill at the time. This bottle survived and fared better and I must admit it was an interesting experience, especially the nose but overall, nothing to sings psalms about. WineRoute have been selling it for 200 NIS for close to three years and can't seem to get rid of the stuff.

The first red was mine, so I didn't have to endure another fumble but as soon as I tasted it, it was obvious to me no one would guess the country or varietal. Darkly colored and highly extracted, the almost unanimous opinion was Super-Tuscan; what it was, though, was Alion, 1999, a Ribera Del Duero in other words, 100% Temperanillo. I had read it was a modern wine but I had hoped eight years post-vintage would have been enough to bring out some Spanish characteristics but no such luck. Sweet, ripe black fruit, a touch of red, great length and all but really not what I (used to) buy Spanish wines for. I've been told since that Alion needs more time to mellow and I think it had enough structure for laying down some five-seven years longer but it's academic as I don't have another bottle. My bottle was bought in Barcelona, thank God, as HaKerem imports it for a marked up price, which I don't recall offhand.

The second red had me guessing Bordeaux for some reason, then Rhone. Turned out to be a Chianti. A very good one, though: San Felice, Chianti Classico Riserva, Poggio Rosso, 1999. In my limited experience with Chianti, only the Castello di Fonterutoli was better. Nice touch of leather over the red fruit, savoury, very good structure. Imported by Zamir, price unknown.

Finally, a wine I found boring at first and said so out loud. It started to catch my attention just about the time it was revealed to be Giacosa Fratelli, Barbaresco, 1997 (not imported to Israel). At this point the conversation went something like this:

- So you didn't like my Barbaresco.

- I didn't quite say that.

- You said it was well made but boring.

- Well, I like it better now that it's started to open up.

- You're just saying that now that you know it's a Barbaresco.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Wine Fridge Arrived Today

I am such a hopeless junkie.

"There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself." - Philip Marlowe

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Koehler-Ruprecht, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese, 2001 (Oct. 16, 2007)

Arguably one of the greatest producers in Pfalz, from what is acknowledged as his greatest vineyard and a vintage hailed as Germany's greatest in recent years... Oddly enough, the first non-dry wine I've tasted from Koehler-Ruprecht.

A fine example of pubescent German Riesling, it's almost profane to call it a sexy wine but it is, with plump fruit over a backbone of crispy acidity and such harmonic sweetness it's tempting forget dry wines forever. The nose - lime, peaches, apples and chalk - is not powerful per se though it's so aromatic you can smell it from feet away. At first, it doesn't have quite the nuances the 2004 Kabinetts are already showing, though they do come after a couple of hours, and anyway right now the real story's on the palate, where the fruit, acidity and sugar really carry the finish and aftertaste a long way, revealing layers of quinie and spices, even hints of strawberries as the wine opens. It's elegant and airy on the attack but really dense beneath that.

We'll meet again in a decade, my friend, I promise you that.

Imported by Giaconda, 166 NIS for club members.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Banfi, Brunello, 1997 (Oct. 13, 2007)

Steve Tanzer's IWC loved it (97), Parker was lukewarm (86), Wine Spectator rated it highly (94) but called it "a Brunello for everyone", a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one. From where I'm sitting (Seinfeld and Boston Legal re-runs instead of the Israel-Ukraine game, too depressing that one, no matter how it turns out), it's a wine I'd prefer to drink alone rather than have it get lost in a tasting.

Not a Brunello powerhouse ten years post-vintage, in a way it almost seems like a Chianti or a Vino Nobile. Very elegant, the fruit is very mellow on both nose and palate, adorned by roasted meat, gentle spices and chocolate as well as a hint of mushrooms. Quite an aromatic nose but not a huge body. A lot of flavors, though, etched in small strokes over the juicy acidity, that linger at surprisingly great length. I think this particular bottle has peaked but the structure is firm enough to ensure some three to five years at this plateau. Adding my bit to the score controversy, it's probably a 91.

Current vintages are imported by Anavim.

I actually only paid about 160 NIS (less than 40 USD these days) for it and in retrospect should have bought more at that price.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Flogging Israeli Reds With Pelter, T-Selection, Cabernet Franc, 2004

"...May impress once or twice with consistent craft... then it won't". *

Don't get me wrong, I like Tal Pelter's wines and this is a very good one, but, good as it is, it exhibitsthe usual faults of Israeli reds. Here it is, folks, the futility of scoring wines if you approach wines with love instead of professionalism because it probably merits something close to a 90, objectively.

But...

Though it boasts (I abhor Parker's excessive use of the word but it is very appropiate here) a powerful, long, iron, minerally finish and a fine structure backed by crisp tannins, everything up to that is just the same old scene. Ripe fruit and chocolate on the nose followed by a sweetish attack. It is mellowed by spices but even these somehow seem as though they came from the same local cookbook: a bit of this, a pinch of that, yadda yadda yadda. What the hell about this wine makes it that different from a Cabernet Sauvignon? It seems fairly ready now and though time might mellow it, there's little in there to make me me think that in a couple of years I'll be eating crow.

* Robert Christgau

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Domaine Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Selection de Grains Nobles, 1997 (Oct. 6, 2007)

I was impressed with the 2001 version of this hedonistic dessert wine a few months ago yet I like this older vintage much more, though I can't really explain why. They're very similar to each other and the extra four years of bottle age were not that obvious, perhaps a bit more mellowness and complexity on the palate but nothing quite earthshattering, nothing that would obviously place one wine above the other.

Perhaps it's just a case of familiarity breeding appreciation. Now I do indeed see the complexity and the elegant acidity behind that delicious sweetness and in hindsight recognize they were also present in the 2001. This revisionistic insight may simply be a product of post cloital bliss yet for whatever reason, and further examination would require professional help, the encounter left me longing for more.

Purchased in Paris for about 40 Euro for a 500 cc bottle.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Misc. Notes (Aug - Sep. 2007)

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

This is the fourth time I've had this wine over the last year. The nose is still discrete at first, playing a quiet peaches-and-minerals riff, but the palate has finally opened up, having consumed all its earlier fizz and delicately balancing sweet fruit against a lightly bitter, minerally backdrop and ripe, well integrated acidity. An hour later, the wine releases aromas of green apples and apple pie and gains a greater length and sense of ripeness. Not a great wine but a delightfully good one. (Aug. 4, 2007)

Imported to Israel by Giaconda, listed at 117 NIS (about 25 USD).

Langwerth von Simmern, Rheingau, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

A graceful wine delineated in simple strokes: apple pie on the nose and green apples with refreshing acidity balancing the delicious sweetness on the palate. Slightly fizzy. The least complex of Giaconda’s 2004 Kabinetts? Well, yes, and it's so delicious now a part of me wishes it will never grow up. But as it picks up mineral nuances on both nose and palate, I find myself having second thoughts. A sweet wine, pun intended. (Aug. 13, 2007)

Imported by Giaconda, listed at 110 NIS.

Sea Horse, Antoine, Tete de Cuvee, 2004

Ze'ev Dunie gets it right, really right. Earthy, red fruit with mineral overtones on both nose and palate, with a rich, slightly hedonistic personality that asserts itself as the wine opens to reveal more and more chocolate. Very succulent with nice acidity. There's obvious oak but not more than in a decent Ribera Del Duero, which I think it resembles. On the downside, I can't find a lot of Syrah typicity, as you can probably tell by the Ribera comparison. Which might not bother everyone and certainly if Syrah thrives in Israel it will find its local identity; I just miss, personally, the peppery notes of a good Syrah, which this wine only hints at. This bottle seemed at its peak; will keep but in my opinion won't improve. (Aug. 28, 2007)

About 90 NIS at the winery but it's sold out anyway.

D'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, Shiraz/Viognier, 2002

Black fruit over charry oak, at first, but then the fruit turns a bit candied before the telltale black pepper kicks in to even the score. Potent with little trace of the Viognier, except, possibly, for some candied fruit at the end. Bigger and less elegant than the 2001 as well, with the alcohol in the fore, exaggerating the sweetness and tiring the palate. Overall, I prefer the 2001, 2-3 points worth. (Sept. 1, 2007)

Imported by WineRoute and current vintages are usually listed at about 150 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000

Still the classic Israeli Cab, I suppose, although overshadowed by the irregularly produced Katzrin and Elrom. Typical Cabernet nose, with hints of chocolate and leather complementing the spicy currant aromas. Very long and rich. Almost too rich for my taste, actually, though the smart structure keeps the richness in check. (Sept. 15, 2007)

Lucien Le Moine, Bourgogne Blanc, 2003

Well, well, well. An improvement over last time. The nose is flint and pears complemented by, yes, oaky notes, but altogether very reined in, subtle and decently complex. The palate is oakier, but still less so than previously, well structured with no signs of over-ripeness or flabiness, good acidity leading to a long, saline finish. I opened my second bottle only because I was disappointed by the first; had I waited until now for an initial try, I’d have made a note to wait until 2009-10 for the next bottle. Despite some local hype, it would only scrap the 90’s for me, but a savoury, impressive wine nonetheless. (Sept. 23, 2007)

Imported by Private Wine Collection, out of stock.

Riesling, Jubilee Riesling, 1998

This venerable Alsatian producer, like Trimbach among others, is opposed to the Grand Cru classification in Alsace, so the label won't tell you this is 100% Schoenenbourg Grand Cru. And although it doesn't offer the kind of earth-shattering experience the words grand cru evoke, it's the kind of very-good-but-not-great wine that makes the world a fun place. I've had it a couple of times this past year and it's been rather youthful but now there are hints of petrol and even mildew over a backdrop of peaches and stone and in general the fruit has very much receeded. The palate is very minerally, indeed like sucking on quartz, sporting a wonderfully saline finish with a green apple overlay. (Sept. 25, 2007)

Imported a few years ago by France-Israel, when they were still bringing in French wines.

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2003

A very Recanati and Israeli wine, which for me means it reins in the worst tendencies of Israeli reds without streering wide clear of them. Ripe on both nose and palate, though on the nose the ripeness is tempered by red fruit and earthy and herbal aromas (Lewis Pasco's signature) and later chocolate and mushrooms, while the palate is structured enough albeit still needs to shed some baby fat. (Sept. 27, 2007)