Holon Rocks, 2GrandCru Drinks (May 29, 2008)

While perennial Israeli basketball champions Maccabi Tel Aviv were dropping their title for only the second time in almost forty years to Hapoel Holon, I was dining and drinking at Barcarola. Which is the truest sign of how deep and how wide the wine geek cells have spread in my brain, since I have dreamt and longed for a night such as this for years. But I probably wouldn't have been able to withstand the excitement and it had been two-three weeks since I'd been out with my wine friends (almost a lifetime, the way the wine cancer victims reckon time) so there I was, basking in my gastronomic narcism while 40 minutes away, an earthquake was rumbling.

Barcarola, since the recent change of chefs, is still a very good value restaurant if you care to venture out of Tel Aviv, albeit stronger on fish and seafood than on meat, terrific desserts as well. Service was especially attentive last night.

Larmandier-Bernier, Terre de Vertus, n.v

This grower Champagne is non-vintage only because it was taken off its lees two months earlier than the legal requirements for a vintage declaration. But it's pure 2004 and pure Chardonnay. And despite its youth, its nose and palate are at a place where you can enjoy their current complexity while easily imagining where different nuances will emerge as it matures and softens. Right now what you'll get is doughy/yeasty/minerally aromas over fresh, vibrant fruit and a crisp, balanced palate that gains breadth and length as the wine opens. What you won't get is any sign of oak. Terrific. Brought by Hagit Koren.

Imported by Boutique de Champagnes and sold for 299 NIS. Remember how much Bourgogne whites cost? This is a no-brainer, just buy it.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

This is one of Ran Shapira's favorite German wines and one of mine as well, though this particular wine has aged rather prematurely for some reason. Don't worry, it drank great - only it drank like a great fifteen year old, which is what we all guessed it to be, with the trademark petrol/kerosene framing the white fruit. In hindsight, i think the palate did show its true age, with the fruit and sweetness still upfront with all the sexiness of young Riesling. It should last some ten years more at least.

Imported by Giaconda, sold for 170 NIS before it sold out. See, it was a no-brainer too and certain people just couldn't keep their mouths shut about it...

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Vergers, 2003

This was my wine and let's be clear about one thing: in my circle, bringing a white 2003 Burgundy is very, very risky. If it works, fine, if not - accusations, taunts and insults will be heaped and flung from all corners. Luckily, I didn't buy a lot of 2003's and this one turned out to be the best 2003 I've tasted yet. The nose is inlaid with oak but it doesn't overwhelm the fruit and there is certainly enough room for a wonderful gust of flint to whirl around in. The palate suffers more from the oak (though it melts when encountering some food over the taste buds), but doesn't lack acidity, as you might suspect of a 2003. It does lack some fruit, as though Ramonet had picked a bit early but in all, it's an attractive package whose biggest fault right now is its youth in general, not the specific year it was born.

Imported by Tomer Gal and I believe I'd bought it 2-3 years ago for about 270 NIS.

Sierra Cantabria, Rioja, Coleccion Privada, 1998

Ido Meir's contribution was my wine of the night. This ten year "Super-Rioja" (100% Temperanillo, made with no adherence to Rioja DOCA regulations) took all evening to open up. It was throughout a very upfront wine but still managed to carry a lot of elegance. I first thought it was a Super-Tuscan, because of that upfront character, then it morphed into something resembling a warm vintage Bordeaux. Though I admit I'd never have guessed it blind even if I'd kept at it all evening, when unveiled, I could see the Rioja connection via the red fruit and acidity though it has more body than the tradtional Gran Reservas and none of that mature mildewy funk. But it has so much charm and complexity, I have no reservations about falling for this modern spin on Rioja. Plus, there's no real hurry to drink it.

Sierra Cantabria used to be imported by WineRoute, though they've stopped since. It's a shame as the 1999 Coleccion Privada used to be sold for around 200 NIS and at that price, I'd buy more vintages.

Chateau Lascombes, Margaux, 1997

Brought by David Wolberg. Time has singed the fruit around the edges and added some earth without adding any minerals, leather or any such Old World niceties. Still, it's very interesting and suggests a brooding personality. On the palate, it has plenty of acidity and tannins but lacks some fruit in mid-palate.

Price unknown but WineRoute regularly imports Lascombes.

Finally, Barcarola's sommelier offered us the following:

Tzora, Gewurztraminer Or, 2006

I've tasted it before and I think it's a good example of what a good winemaker can achieve with Gewurztraminer as a dessert wine in Israel: pure, comely fruit that is thick and hedonistic on the palate, with the Gewurtz spicniess just slightly working the outer perimeter of the fruit. I understand this is already sold out, probably even before Robert Parker scored it 92. I also understand that the wholesale price for restaurants is about 70 NIS for the half bottle which would make about twice that in the stores which would be rather excessive. Though to be charitable, Tzora have always been fairly priced at the winery door so maybe it was sold there for about 100 NIS.