Back In Business - A Night Out In Rokah 73 (Dec. 17, 2007)

Various obligations had kept me away from informal tastings with friends for about a month. This, then, was a return to the fold, in much the same way as Rokah 73 is chef Eyal Lavie's return after a somewhat longer absence than mine.

At its heyday, before Lavie left, Pastis was one of my personal favorites, though it never made the absolute top of the critics' lists. And truthfully, I've never minded. All it ever seemed to want to be was a small bistro with personal, creative flourishes. Rokah 73 presents a different atomsphere and although the table count is probably more or less the same, it seems less homey. Right now still has some growing pains; the dishes don't quite display the same precision as the ones in Pastis did. They're creative without going overboard but something just doesn't click. I assume the staff still hasn't got the details just right. But it's nice anyway to have Lavie virtually in my backyard and I'll wait a couple of months and come back for a re-visit.

As for the wines...

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Bourgos, 2005

Very obviously a Chablis, though I'm not sure it cries out "Grand Cru". A blast of sea air on the nose and very saline on the palate. The palate is very tight, though the length is very obvious. So are the influences of the oak. Imported very recently by WineRoute for around 300 NIS. I would pay a few extra shekels for the Clos 2004 from the same producer, though admittedly I haven't tasted it yet, just going by the vineyard's rep.

Chateau La Nerthe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, 2003

White chateauneuf kills. I haven't enjoyed one in ages. Drinking them is like coming into a party at the wrong time, unable to tell whether you're too early or too late. I've enjoyed a few early in life but then they go into a slumber that true believers say is just the start of something much more glorious. Except for a mature Beaucastel, I've yet to find proof of this potential. One dud after another. This one seems to have already gone into that dreaded shell. Alcoholic and flat. Just expensive mouthwash, as far as I'm concerned.

Faustino, Rioja Reserva de Autor, 1994

Mature, classic Rioja is terrific but sadly this is very much close to the end of my stock. I worried it would be a modern Rioja but this is an Old World beauty. Leather on the nose at the start, later joined by herbs and dried figs. Mellow red fruit on the palate followed by that leather again on the finish. Balanced, long and continually changing in glass. Faustino labels it a Reserva though miles ahead of their Gran Reserva I. France-Israel imports it at a rip-off price unless you buy it on sale or in duty-free Eilat.

Muga, Rioja Reserva, 2001

A fine match for the Autor. Since Muga has at least three labels ahead of the Reserva in the pecking order, its performance was an amazing display of the surprises (and smiles) wine can bring. It feels more modern than the Autor, but that is due to a certain cleanliness of the fruit and not, God forbid, any overt oakiness or anything nasty like that. It's got enough old Rioja traits as is that I'm sure time will only enhance as it seems very virile and five more years seems like a very conservative prediction. I sure am glad I've got another bottle. I don't remember who imports it but I've seen recent vintages sold for about 120 NIS.

And I almost forgot...

Chateau Climens, Sauternes, 2004

A honeyed nose full of botrytis and hintes of orange peel. There was much candied lusciousness on the palate that quite a few of us were fooled into guessing 2001 or 2003 but it was only 2004, a Bordeaux vintage not renowned for its dessert wines.