Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Hard Day's Night (Jan. 19, 2008)

A Distinguished Reader of this blog made it known to me that he thinks I don't drink enough wines. That is true but on a good night, the company more than makes up for any such defeciency. And one of the best nights was last Saturday night's gathering at Ran Shapira, the spitting image of the congenial host of good cheer, who served us a variety of cheeses, huge slabs of steaks and complimentary cigars. And the wines... I must apologise, Dear Reader, for drinking only seven wines this weekend.

Zind-Humbrecht, Rangen, Clos St. Urbain, Pinot Gris, 1995

Hmmph. I was a house-husband for two weeks while my wife vacationed in the States and got two bottles of this nectar as my booty. Sadly, bottle number one was lightly corky. Enough to bother yet at least two of the gatherers enjoyed it nonetheless, one declaring it the wine of the night. They felt the TCA yet they enjoyed what was hiding behind it: a deep, hedonistic nose, full of honey-ed fruits and minerals. Bitter grapefruit pips on the palate put some off but what length and intensity! Corky, yes, yet few wines would show this well with a good dose of TCA. Purchased for about 75 USD.

Brocard, Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains, 2003

Minerals and lemon on the nose, with a pungent, metallic note that added interest and did not at all offend. A crisp, austere palate that was like no other Bourgogne white I'd tasted or expected from a gruellingly hot year like 2003. I suspect it was harvested early at the cost of some phenolic ripeness but very promising in all. Not imported, price unknown.

Bruno Giacosa, Barbera d'Alba Superiore, Falleto di Serralunga, 2004

Live by the nose, die by the nose. Opened by Ran, the ripe, hyper-fruity nose inspired one of the guests to decrie, "Ran would've kicked me in the head if I'd brought it". Yet the palate was tannic and structured so just goes that show the nose don't tell all. A big wine, opened way too early, that despite the roller-coaster fruitiness of the nose doesn't sacrifice any varietal typicity. Imported by WineRoute for about 190 NIS.

Two beauties still awaited us.

Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac, 1998

What do you want out of your Bordeaux? One answer is an elegant, classy nose of currants and ground coffee, with a touch of minerals, and a structured palate that grabs you even when it's obviously too young and murky. A young ten year old claret from an average vintage. Only a mid-level Bordeaux, it is a forbidding yardstick for local reds. Imported by WineRoute, used to sell for about 120 NIS I'm told, the price having since balooned to over 300 NIS.

Antinori, Bolgheri Superiore, Guado Al Tasso, 1998

Yes, I've read that 1998 was a better year for Bolgheri than 1997 and, uh, yup, I guess this wine would lend that opinion great weight. Overtowering its elder 1997 sibling it pays its dues to Bordeaux, but with an Italian character and flair, just compare your notions of the French aristocracy versus the Italian upper-class to get my drift. Though in hindsight, you could spot a certain Mediterranean herbal streak on the nose, I guessed Italy due to a certain curlicue expression of the acidity on the finish(I'm just rationalizing my intuition but I did guess Italy). Drinking great now, in that respect leaving the Duhart-Milon behind (on the nose the Duhart Milon has an edge), I would chance 5-10 years in the cellar but why wait? Imported by HaKerem, price unknown.

And finally...

Golan Heights Winery, Heightswine, 2005

I respect this labratory icewine in good vintages and this might possible be the best. The viscuous palate might lack a true icewine's racy acidity, but it sure is delicious stuff. It has a certain toffee-like appeal, like a Botyrtis-free Sauternes, lacking only acidity to kick it off into true greatness. When you factor in its price (95 NIS), it is a no-brainer for religiously observant and secular alike.

Isn't reality boring?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wine Of The Night - Muga, Prado Enea, 1991 (Jan. 17, 2008)

Wine tastings are not just about picking the best wine of the night, but when the Other Bald Guy hosted a small informal tasting the other night, the results were so overwhelming, it was like watching a heavyweight king being crowned in the prize ring. Though, as in a championship title bout, there were a few other fights on the undercard.

Louis Jadot, Meursault, 2002

There were enough mildew aromas upon opening to worry some ringside spectators about possible TCA but the nose simply needed a few moments to assert itself and show minerals over citrus fruits; though in the end, the nose's signature move was honey, and it played that move for the duration of its performance. But it lacked a punch in the palate, which was sweet on the attack then stingy in mid-palate, for all the ripeness of the fruit, and disspirited on the finish. Seems on its way down rather early for an excellent year like 2002. Not a contender, not a prospect, but it would be a useful wine with the proper food.

Antinori, Brunello di Montalcino, Pian delle Vigne, 1997

The nose was promising, with plenty of suave black fruit complemented by notes of tea. But, a good nose only gets half the job done, and we were again let down by the palate. Something there just didn't gel. The body was only medium-bodied, thus on the light side for a Brunello, which was at odds with the impression of ripeness and concentration it projected, and lacked the luscious, chcoclate-y elegance I remembered from the last bottle I had in the recent past. Other spectators, too, reminesced about better performances in the past. A prospect on an off night.

Chateau La Nerthe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1998

Well, this one reversed the pattern set by the previous wines by performing better on the palate, which, though not particularly complex, showed length and a spicy finish. The nose was mute though in time showed an interesting, pungent mint overtone. A contender winning by points but possibly on its way down.

Muga, Prado Enea, Gran Reserva, 1991

Ladies and gentleman, the winner by a knockout in the fourth round and once again champion of the world! I've had my share of Prado Enea (though never enough as I really love this bodega) and this is the freshest, youngest tasting bottle I've had so far, an amazing performance considering this is the most mature bottle I've tasted, reminding me of how Archie Moore used to trounce younger fighters when he was in his fourties. It didn't quite display, yet, the mature Rioja aromas (tobacco leaves, chocolate, leather etc), indeed it seemed like a somewhat modern version of Rioja with its purity of fruit; but that is not to say the nose wasn't already captivating and inviting. Its neatest trick was on the palate where it showed an amazingly juicy and integrated acidity. Let's face it, Rioja acidity can sometimes be a matter of taste but in this case, I doubt that any wine lover would fail to be impressed with how lively it made the fruits. Any vintage of this wine that you can find for the equivalent of its price in Spain is a bargain and a steal.

But it aint over until the fat lady in the 375 cc bottle sings.

Tzora, Gewurztraminer Or, 2006

This is Israel's second go at an artificial icewine (GHW's Heightswine was the first) and I don't really know the details of its production. A very hard wine to place, blind. It had a candied, vaguely tropical nose that didn't really recall Gewurtz but it had enough going for it regardless. Any acidity it might have had was buried deep within large slabs of sweet fruit but it somehow had a self-contained balance anyway. It could well have been improved with higher acidity and maybe just a slight seepage of Gewurztraminer typicity, yet it is very tasty right now though it's hard to tell how it might develop.

I used "but", "though", "yet" quite a lot. Guess I'm a peek-a-boo boxer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Couple Of d'Arenbergs (Jan. 10, 2008)

What a drag it is to get old...

The evening started out with the Custodian, 2001, which is a moderately priced Grenache. I was rather fond of this wine in my early wine years, just four or five years ago. But in retrospect, one of the turning points in my the path my tastes have taken was when I stopped enjoying this wine. The first bottle of the 2001 managed to interest, if not entirely please, my palate, seeming to pull in contradictory directions, jammy and savoury almost at once - but the next two bottles were awful, hot and alcoholic. They were still drinkable but today, I couldn't even finish a half glass of my last bottle, which I found devoid of structure and overcome by an alcoholic, band-aid funk on the nose.

As the saying goes, life is too short to drink bad wines, so I put the Custodian away and opened the Laughing Magpie, 2001. This Shiraz-Viognier blend has been dubbed by Robert Parker the Australian Cote-Rotie, or words to that effect.


This also is perceived by my palate as too alcoholic. I say perceived because the Montecastro 2004 I tasted a couple of weeks ago has marginally less abv% but is balanced by fine tannins and an almost electrifying acidity, which just goes to the show the number on the label isn't everything. The Magpie has fine tannins too (as do many d'Arenberg wines with the same price tag) but the acidity isn't as fine as the Montecastro's, and the overall impression is sweet and glycerine-y, even though the savoury tannins assert themselves on the finish. I have to take under consideration the possibility that this may be bottle variation or a final surge of the Viognier element before the wine settles into its full maturity but most likely this is yet another drinking alternative shutting down on me.

Anyone interested in buying a well aged Magpie, 2002?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Back 2 The Base - Barcarola, Jan. 5, 2008

By now Barcarola feels like home, though I'm not crazy about the Saturday Night bands. Very consistent quality, creative without being overbearing and very attentive service.

Zind-Humbrecht, Hengst Grand Cru, Gewurztraminer, 2002

I bought this wine to find out what a world class Gewurtz is like. The nose is very layered, highlighting as it opens citrus and tropical fruits, minerals, spices, rose petals, honey. The palate is bitter though, slightly alcoholic and not as arresting. I like the wine overall but with 15% and a sweetness index of 4, the grapes must have been harvested so very ripe it's no wonder there is so little acidity. I think I'd buy the wine again from a different vintage when the alcohol % is lower. Used to be imported by WineRoute for about 220 NIS but Z-H imports have been rather irregular since.

Trimbach, Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierr, Gewurztraminer, 1997

Just a coincidence, two Gewurztraminers at the same evening. Minerals on the nose but that's where it ends. Very one dimensional on nose and palate. A bad bottle perhaps? Or maybe I'm just not a Gewurtz fan. Not imported to Israel but recent vintages sell for about 40$ in the US.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Clos St. Jean, 2002

This is what happens when Chardonnay and oak marry almost perfectly. The nose is all flint and shades of cordamom, so captivating you can drown in it. The palate needs to flesh out because the oak renders it austere and a bit drying but it is still rewarding right now. I would have it any time except that WineRoute sells it for over 300 NIS.

Robert Arnoux, Vosne-Romanne, 2004

I tasted this wine this summer and I'm glad to see it's living up to its promise. It still has the same lovely red-fruits-and-tobacco-leaves nose but the palate's grip has tightened up. WineRoute sold it this summer for about 170 NIS, not sure how much is left but it's a very good village that I think might improve in a year.

Domaine Brusset, Gigondas, Hauts de Montmirail, 2001

Another re-tasting of a beloved wine. Gigondas rules! My overall impression of the wine is so similar to my last impression it could well have been the same bottle. This is one of my favorite renditions of black fruits, with gripping, yet integrated tannins. At its peak now. Not imported to Israel, god damn it.

Chateau Bouyot, Sauternes, 1983

This made such a sorry impression on I'm not even sure I wrote down the correct vintage. Brown sugar on the nose and uninteresting on the palate. Like drinking a bottle of Love Story, with a 70 year old Ryan O'Neill.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, 2001 (Jan. 3, 2008)

Some have called this the best Merlot from Israel.

Concentrated, modern and sleek and still hasn't escaped the influences of the oak. Maybe it doesn't want to. It started out with more or less typical Merlot aromas and smoke then picked up an appealing milk chocolate overlay. So it's got its bases covered as far as the nose is concerned but the palate is a different story. Nice, sweet fruit on the attack finishing with off-putting, bitter notes (that word, "notes", can be such an abused term...) that really tried my patience by the time it eked out a sour, cranberry finish. Some might think it's going through a difficult stretch (another abused term) and will surely be flattered by its superficial richness and length but I remain doubtful, pissed off and glad I didn't buy more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Misc. Notes (Dec. 2007)

Brancaia, Tre, 2004

This Sangiovese-dominated blend smells and tastes Italian, though not obviously Tuscan, I think; it's got the acidic, fruity zest, just the wrong shade of it - too black, wrong spices. In fact, when I tasted it a few months ago it reminded me of a good Cotes du Rhone with its rustic bite. Though you need to pair it with food to get the connection, as on its own the sweetness of the fruit is somewhat overbearing (that's true of all the Brancaia wines I've tasted, actually). On the simple side, palate-wise, it needs a year or so to shed its baby fat although not a wine for the long run. (Dec. 1, 2007)

About 100 NIS from Anavim.

Two from Giaconda:

Weingut Unckrich, Kallstadter Steinacker, Gewurztraminer Spatlese, 2005

Oddly enough, this had been one of my first encounters with German wines a year and half ago. At the time, it seemed like a muted variant of the Alsace paradigm, all lychees and rose petals but without the pungent, spicy kick. Now, after further bottle time, while just as delicious, it is more complex and the telltale spiciness and slightly alcoholic coctail whiff of the varietal is there. It's still softer than the Alsace version but it works very well with fine, understated acidity and a lightly peppery finish. Makes for a lovely companion piece to the same producer's Scheurebe. (Dec. 9 and 29, 2007)

75 NIS at the end of year sale but even the original price of 90 NIS made it arguably the best value Gewurztraminer in Israel.

Leitz, Dragonstone, 2005

Leitz' entry-level wine, more or less, sports two labels, Rudesheimer Drachenstein on the back for the local boys and Dragonstone for the American market, the pradikat somewhat obscured. Probably QBA. The wine itself is also of two minds. The somewhat pungent lime and chalk nose fools you into expecting something along the line of a Chablis so the typical German semi-sweetness seems sweeter than it actually is, with the acidity balancing it in a very non-nonsense manner. Not especially long, nor does it possess the crystalline structure of a great one. It's one of the Terry Thiese portfolio's core-wines and he usually predicts a life expectancy of up to ten years for most vintages. This is so very ready now I wouldn't wait that long which is very weird because the bottle I tasted in August was too primary. For more or less the same price, the Magdalenenkreuz is more exciting but this is probably better for current drinking.(Dec. 16, 2007)

Decently priced at about 100 NIS. Better value than the Leitz QBA (unless you prefer dry Rieslings) but I still prefer the Magdalenenkreuz, which is the one I'll probably wind up stocking up on.

Weingut Loersch-Eifel, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Vogelsang, Riesling Spatlese Trocken, 2006

I think dry German Rieslings can sometimes be awfully unforgiving in their youth and this example from a little-known producer seems to be a good example. Taut green apples aromas and yeasts on the nose suggest beer, while the palate is at least superficially tart. That is, it seems complete within itself but gives little indication of future direction. Didn't leave me very hopeful.

Not imported to Israel. Price unknown.

Condado De Haza, Ribera Del Duero, 2002

This used to be a favorite of mine. The 1999 was terrific and I'd like to think I'd still like it lots. The 1996 was impressive if somewhat of a showoff while the 2000 and 2002 taught me how consistent this estate can be. You'll always have a great nose, sweaty and stinky with red cherries and a chocolate overlay developing in glass. The palate will have useful acidity and poise, bhe vintage variations will affect the stuffing, length and complexity. Sadly, 2000/2 are lacking in this respect, starting off great until the good first impression falls apart as a hole begins to grow in the mid-palate. Useful for hosting but a little too predictable for me by now.

Imported by WineRoute, price usually going between 95 and 100 NIS, depending on sporadic marketing considerations.