WineRoute's Shaked family can - and often do - produce excellent tasting events. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of them.
Maybe it's the vintage. From the samples I tasted, 2004 seems to me like a relatively hot vintage but without the luscious sex appeal of 2003. I didn't read up too much on the vintage beforehand and the tasting didn't really make me want to run out and catch up.
Or maybe it's the logistics. The Tel Aviv event was a stand up tasting. Ran Shapira attended the sit down tasting in Raanana and said many of the wines needed some twenty minutes in glass, even though the bottles had been opened previously. In Tel Aviv, new bottles were opened on the spot and the pourers admitted they were not at their best. And that's annoying. Come on, Shakeds, you've been doing this for years, you knew how many people were going to show up and you knew the wines needed air and time. Was it so hard to come up with some sort of plan so that there was always a bottle ready and already aired?
I think in the end it's a mixture of the two. This is not an easy vintage and at least some of the wines required time to present themselves and the discourteous hosts decided to ignore that need. I assume RP, WS and DR - as listed on the score sheet we were handed, whoever they are, wink - had a better setting for their tasting. Though I ahould stress that time was not a factor for all the wines; with some, say Gazin and Rauzan-Segla, I felt this is as good as they get.
Here, then, are what pass for my notes on this year's Bordeaux tasting, the crown jewel of the Shaked empire. I admit I was so fed up I almost didn't bother to post them at all. Some I almost couldn't be bothered to write down, as will be quite apparent. Prices in NIS (1 USD is about 3.9 NIS as of this writing) before tasting discount and refund.
A generous, expansive, jammy nose. The ripe fruit is not echoed on the palate, which is tight and lacking depth and length. Mediocre. Will anyone really pay 349 NIS for this?
Magdelaine, St. Emilion
At first there is an illusion of improvement over the Gazin but I found the wine less appealing as it opened in my glass and the oak took over. Still, a better nose for what it's worth, not as obviously ripe and arguably more nuanced. 349 NIS again and by this time I'd never suffered so much for so much money.
An actual improvement this time, especially on the nose, albeit still displaying the same drawbacks - ripe nose (though more reined in than the previous two) and a certain lack of depth on the palate. Though the palate has a better tannic structure, it is strcture without any depth or interest discernible at the tasting. 449 NIS (gulp).
Starts off well, until the ripe fruit and oak take over. The nose calms down in time and this went well with the bread and spicy spreads served. Elegant though still not inspired nor inspiring. 349 NIS.
Pavillon Rouge du Chateaux Margaux, Margaux
The evening finally started to resemble a tasting with Chateau Margaux' second wine. A tempting, smoky nose that nods to the New World in an offhand way. I could bury myself alive in the nose and the structure is pretty neat too, very classy. Still, I ask myself whether I would want to pay 379 NIS for it. Like most Bordeaux, it used to be cheaper and I can't concile myself to the rise in prices.
Leoville-Poyferre, St. Julien
An elegant, almost austere nose. And an elegant palate as well, deep, long, light on its feet despite the depth, very focused. Actually worth the 349 NIS.
The 2003 was a very tempting, sexy wine and the 2004 shares the same qualities but on a lower level. And the price has gone up to 549 NIS. Give my regards to the oligarchs.
Pontet Canet, Pauillac
A cross between the elegance of the Leoville-Poyferre and the sexiness of the Lynch-Bages, this is an excellent wine - in the context of the tasting, that is. I've tasted the 2000 through 2002 and they were better and cheaper. 399 NIS.
Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
A nice wine, well made, but uninspiring. 599 NIS and I'm tired of joking about the prices.
Pape Clement, Pessac Leognan
I think this was the only wine I actually caught improving in glass. On the dull side at first and too similar to the worse wines of the tasting, it went on to surpass that bad start and to reveal greater appeal and, even now, complexity. Appealing smoke on the nose and a minerally bite on the finish. 579 NIS.
Calon-Segur, St. Estephe
One of the best of the evening, and made an impression even on my fatigued palate. 319 NIS is an increase in price over previous vintages but still relatively sane.
Has everything you'd want in a Sauternes only less of it. Glaring lack of concentration. 249 NIS (half bottle). The 2003, I'm told, is better and still available for 199 NIS - a no-brainer.
The Shakeds must have lost their marketing touch. The way some of these wines tasted last evening, pouring them at the tasting was a foolproof way to ensure that no one would buy them. Or maybe it was a setup to push the Leoville Poyfere and the Pontet Canet by making them look even better than they were.