Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lost In The Stars - Saturday Night Tasting (Jun. 28, 2008)

Just one of those nights where almost everyone's guess was totally off the mark, for various, unrelated reasons.

Only the Croix de Bois is imported to Israel but I'm not sure whether the Scottish Company imports it regularly and if so, what the prices are.

Weingut Johann Ruck Iphofen, Franken, Scheurebe Trocken, Estheria, 2001

A Scheurebe whose label obscures - indeed actually hides - both the predikat and the varietal. The telltale guayava notes should have clued me in but I was sure none of my friends had ever bought a Scheurebe so I guessed an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Just one fallacy of blind tasting with friends, you can't help but second guess the contents of their fridges. The nose kept developing and showing earthy and citrus note while the palate lagged behind, thus a good wine but not really inspiring.

Gigi Rosso, Barolo, Arione, 2000

An excellent nose, earthy and leathery, with a soft palate that had the entire company but yours truly guessing Tuscan Sangiovese. And what clued me in? Well, I had brought the wine... Anyway, I wish I could say I had unearthed a hidden gem but if this producer is relatively unknown, then there are solid reasons. A nice, charming wine but no big shakes.

Chapoutier, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Croix de Bois, 1998

The closest guesses were northern Rhone. I guessed southern Rhone but only because it vaguely reminded of the 2000 version Ran Shapira brought last year, only where the 2000's ripeness made for an interesting extrovertion, here everything was too much over the top, from the sweetness of the nose - almost a cross between a Pedro Ximinez and an Amarone - to the Über unrelentingness of the palate. This is a unique wine but whether Chateauneuf fans will like it is not a wager I'd place serious money on. But it's long and generous and if you like a certain kind of wine that hits well with Parker, you'll adore it.

Francois Gaunoux, Pommard Premier Cru, Les Rugiens, 1999

A neat wine that would be the staple of people who like, well, well-made wines, but again, not a wine that yells out "Bourgogne", let alone "Pommard". But it does have a certain typical forest floor aroma once you're clued in, with a New World forwardness.

Domaine Weinbach, Grand Cru Altenbourg, Pinot Gris, Vendanges Tardives, 2003

Inarguably the best Pinot Gris I've had so far, with a minerally nose that just crosses the line into salinity. The palate is just as good, hedonistic yet with a structure that belies the warmth of the vintage, reining in the slutty wildness of the varietal. If you don't like this one, Pinot Gris just isn't for you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Pink Salvo: Mejan-Taulier, Tavel, Canto Perdrix, 2006 (Jun. 20, 2008)

Giaconda's new venture into rosés intrigued me when I first heard about it because obviously these wines a good match for the Israeli summer and at this point in my oneological odyssey, their 20 dollar price point (more or less) make them an excellent economic option for everyday drinking. The questions that pressed me were how good would Giaconda's selection be and how much would I actually enjoy a classical French rosé and as answer to both questions, this initial tasting of a representative from the world's premier (and lone?) rosé-only appellation seems to supply a promising answer.

A forward blast of raspberries and cherries creates an initial impression of juicy plonk but this shallow impression fades away in minutes as the wine reveals a leesy-minerally attitude. So much so, that after a while, only the color gives any hint of red fruit - sniffing it with my eyes shut, it seemed like a young, yeasty white. There is also a slight whiff of alcohol that Giaconda's Anat Sela explained is due to the Grenache element in the blend. The palate is a lattice of minerals and spices, with the fruit in the background. Very crisp and food friendly, yet an intellectual pleasure as well, as, flourishing its mineral-speckled fabric, it flickers between the white and red wine spheres.

The final blend was made to order and handpicked by Giaconda's Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen, just to remind you they're trained winemakers.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Enough With The Cheeses Already - Porterhouse, June 9, 2008

Sahvuot, among other things, is the Jewish holiday of dairy products. So what better way of celebrating its end than to re-visit our favorite meat restaurant?

Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erste Lage Uhlen Laubach, 2005

This dry Riesling should have a "Site Under Construction" sticker on its label as right now it is very much shut down. Nice nose of peaches and hints of minerals, but the palate is very constricted. I'm patient and optimistic, though, as I loved this wine before it entered its shell and as further proof of what the future holds for it, after a couple of hours, it showed a very lovely and promising nose reminiscent of Alsace.

Imported by Giaconda and sold for 225 NIS before it was sold out.

Smith Haut Lafite, Pessac-Leognan, 2001

A brooding, animalistic nose of black fruit bodes well and I think the palate, while still young, delivers: good acidity, grade-A tannins and plenty of fruit. The question is typicity. No one guessed Bordeaux and even when the B word was finally placed on the table, Pessac-Leognan was the last AOC to be offered. Probably a question of age, though this is a modern wine with no qualms about its modernity and thus I'm not entirely whether time will devlop more typicity. Time in glass does help it develop a more typical, cedary overtone, but you know what, even if it retains its international sheen and never develops into something more typical, I'm not enough of a purist to deny its charms and I like it very much.

Imported by WineRoute.

A.F. Gros, Vosne-Romanee, Clos De La Fontaine, 2004

The nose is nice enough, typical young Bourgogne with strawberries and raspberries and a hint of exotic spices. But though the round fruit is well counterpointed by the acidity, it lacks complexity and concentration. I'd try again in a couple of years.

Imported by WineRoute, not sure about the price.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boutique de Champagnes Tasting (June 5, 2008)

Eldad Levi had been writing locally about wines for years but appropiately enough, his greatest impact on the local wine scene has been the introduction of boutique Champagnes to Israel. There's nothing ironic or sarcastic in my making this observation; I'm very grateful and very pleased.

Now then, to the tasting. Eldad's intent was to compare three growers from three different villages, to show the effect of the terrior - and to prove that Champagne is foremost a classic wine.

Eldad has already proven the last by me as far as I'm concerned and as for the comparison of the terroirs, well, I don't like to reach any conclusions based on such a small sample. But Eldad did a good job highlighting the different characteristics of the growers tasted. Each grower we tasted showed a distinct style with interesting nuances within that style across the different wines. It was also interesting to note how within each flight, how the basic non-vintage always displayed the house style in a much more forward style while maintaining a high quality. Like many of my friends, I prefer to pay somewhat more for the high end vintage wines but it's nice to know there's good stuff lurking 'downstream'.

Jean Milan (Cote Des Blancs)

Crystalline wines of great power.

Brut Millenaire, n.v.

The most forward nose of the Milan group: orange fruit and peel, fresh bread, chalk, developing a touch of tropical fruit in glass. Long and sharp yet tempered by a certain roundness. Rich yet with plenty of finesse. Gives an initial impression of dryness until a light, sweet overtone creeps in on the finish. 249 NIS.

Cuvee Reserve, n.v.

The nose is very closed at first, with the fruits indistinct, but some air uncovers apples and bread. More time shades the fruit with flint and toast, even hints of coffee. Of course, many wines will change in glass but in this case, there was greater charm than usual in the way the nose opened and showed a light oxidized note reminiscent of a mature Bourgogne. The palate highlighted what was lacking in the Millenaire as the Reserve was longer, more powerful, in a word, inspired - with an aftertaste that blended a citrus flavor with red apple acidity. 279 NIS.

Symphorine 2002

Somehow more powerful than the Cuvee reserve and at the same time more elegant and airy. A very flowery nose, that starts out citrus-y and then shows baked apples and yeasty overtones. Here too, a light oxidation shows, blending well with the rest of the elements. The palate is broad yet focused and very elegant, moving further up the elegance scale. This would need a few more years in the cellar for sure. 309 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet (Valle De La Marne)

It's hard for me to encapsulate the Gaston house style. I'd say the wines have a chalky minerality as opposed to the Milan's more crystalline strucuture, but other than that, the house style is just not as obvious.

Brut Tradition, n.v.

The Brut Tradition reminds me of my dog: cute, loveable, charming yet somewhat obsequious . The leitmotif here is green apples, with an approachable roundness countering the acidity. 199 NIS.

Blanc de Blancs d'Ay Grand Cru, n.v.

Storms out of the gate in a cloud of chalk and baked apples and develops a funky overlay of mushrooms and leather that captivated me. Broad on the palate, and though more focused than the Brut Tradition, it is not as sharply defined and crystalline as the Symphorine, say, but rather loosely minerally and chalky. Right now, this seems to be the first of the Champagnes that I will open from my fridge and I can hardly wait. 100% 2004 fruit, by the way, thus a non-vintage only because it wasn't aged long enough to comply with the AOC's vintage regulations. 229 NIS.

Millesime Or 1999

A contrast between the nose and palate. The nose is very ripe and laden with mature aromas - baked fruit, honey, sea breeze, biscuits - and also possesses an oxidized overtone. So you would be expecting a mature wine at first sip and would be taken aback by its distinctive freshness. 279 NIS.

Vilmart (Montagne De Reims)

Whether it's the terroir or Vilmart's doing, all his wines showed the influence of the Pinot element, which in the case of the Grand Cellier d'Or was just drop dead gorgeous.

Grande Reserve, n.v.

70% Pinot Noir (vs. 30% Charodnnay) and it's very obvious, as though someone painted a Pinot overlay over the Chardonnay canvas. You can sense it very strongly on the nose, those Pinot exotic spices, that Pinot forest floor aroma. Though the Chardonnay dominates the palate. This is a 'wow' wine but overshadowed by the Grand Cellier's finesse. 249 NIS.

Grand Cellier, n.v.

The Pinot-Chardonnay proportions are reversed here, so while you still gt the Pinot, the effects are more subtle, creating an aromatic impression that owes to the Pinot but somehow reminds me Francois Jobard. The palate is very elegant, the Pinot dominating the attack and the gently merges into the Chardonnay on the mid-palate and finish. Great, but you ain't seen nothin' yet. 309 NIS.

Grand Cellier d'Or 2001

If I thought the Grand Reserve was a 'wow' wine, what can I say about this vintage Champagne? It continues the direction delineated by the previous wines then waves bye-bye as it passes them by. Sheer elegance yet within lurks an acidic backbone that remains unobtrusive until it flares up on the long, citrusy finish. Fantastic and is already drinking very, very well, though I would guess there's no rush to drink it. 359 NIS.

Finally, a bonus wine:

Larmandier-Bernier, Cramant Grand Cru (labelled n.v. but 100% 2004)

Minerals, toast and again a light note of oxidation (which is starting to wear well with me). Like the Chiquet Blanc de Blancs, this wine is chalky rather than crystalline. And very young. 369 NIS.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Leroy Tasting at Hinawi (June 3, 2008)

Leroy, the Domaine and the Maison, is of course one of the most venerable names in Burgundy. Which, as is the nature of the beast, comes with a hefty price tag and until this tasting, I was content to leave Leroy to the oligarchs and scratch another name off my shopping list. One less temptation, you know. And this tasting did little to change my mind. Leroy's wines are surely top-notch and inspired but my rule of thumb is they usually cost about twice as much as what I would pay.

According to importer Tomer Gal, all of the Maison wines are bought as finished wines and then bottled and aged until Madame Leroy deems them ready to drink. Which sometimes, as you'll see below, can take decades. She relies on her judgment to pick wines that can bear under her scrutiny and considers her standards to be so high that many village wines that live up to those standards will be sold at other merchants' Premier Cru prices and so on up the AOC ranks.

The tasting cost 290 NIS for 9 wines which considering the shelf price of these wines, is a bargain. Speaking of prices, the prices listed below were the ones offered at the tasting itself.

Whites

The three whites tasted all displayed a similar aromatic progession in glass, starting out shy and discreet and building up to a slightly pungent flintiness.

Montagny, 2002

The first impression I had when I sniffed the wine was "this is simply charming" and I can't really say whether that impression was influenced by the wine's humble origins but who cares? The starts out with light touches of oak over citrus fruits, roasted nuts and a light mineral essance that builds up to a more extroverted flintiness. The lightest bodied of the whites, yet so very balanced, classic and delicious. 289 NIS.

Meursault, 2000

Though Meursault is, off course, a much more famous village - and justifiably so - I think the Montagny gave a very good fight (I'd reckon both to be 90-pointers). Aromatically, the Meursault is more complete and yet a bit too generous and thus less challenging. There is a distinct aromatic similarity though the Merusault adds nut oil and a perfumed/flowery musk. The palate is longer and rounder, more fruity than the Montagny, but again, just a bit too friendly. 630 NIS.

Meursault, Premier Cru Charmes, 1990

A mature wine with plenty of freshness intact. On the nose, honey, baked pears, truffles and a submerged minerality that is more of an earthiness at first until it flares up as pungent flint. Long and with a firm backbone. Ripe, juicy acidity on the finish. 1100 NIS.

Red Wines

Bourgogne Rouge, 1999

I wasn't thrilled about this wine at first sip, as it seemed just an over-priced Bourgogne but in time I saw it was pretty much a village level wine, albeit a rustic one and as such a good value (if you can overlook the Bourgogne AOC on the label). Cherries and straberries on the nose, followed by earth and old leather. It's got weight and fair structure but relatively little finesse for a Pinot. 189 NIS.

Chorey-Les-Beaunes, 2000

A very weird nose, reminding me of a Gernam Pinot though I can't quite put my finger on the "why", maybe this similarity is due to a combination of fruity, liquerish ripeness and herbs, though in time it developed an animalistic overtone around the fringes which endeared it to me. The palate is much better, clean, focused and with a minerally finish. 450 NIS.

Monthelie, 1999

A beautiful nose, complex, tempting without being unduly flattering, with cherries, strawberries and an intirguing herbal mix. Tightly structured without loss of a certain casual elegance that can sometimes be overwhelmed by structure. The ripeness of the fruit is well balanced by the ripe acidity. Again, a minerally finish. 450 NIS.

Saint Aubin, 1993

The nose is vaguely distant with ripe fruit and interesting nuances that are hard to pin down because it's like a restless child and keeps drifting off, offering some beautiful moments but no continuity. The palate offers its own set of hurdles. It is rough and rustic without being powerful, starting out very well then fading in the middle. 599 NIS and obviously not a great value by my palate. Like I said, I find Leroy's wines to be overpriced but this one was just too much so.

Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru Dominode 1974

An odd nose, with an oxidized element that is almost Sherry-like, with leather and stew and some earth in the background. The plate is surprisingly fresh and it is a delicious wine but I'd expect such long aging to give me something more, more complexity, greater depth - but besides the thrill of drinking such a mature wine, I don't see its age as a great asset, epsecially considering the price tag that goes with the age. Which is 730 NIS.

Vosne-Romanee, 2004

This is the by now famous Domaine bottling which incorporates declassified Vosne Premier and Grand Crus. The story is that Madame Leroy was too affected by her husband's death to give the wines the attention she thinks they merit so she declassified all her wines across the board. So this is a blend of some Vosne-Romanee village, Premier Crus Les Chaumes and Les Brulees and Grand Crus Romanee St.Vivant and Richebourg.

Well, this is a great wine but I can't tell just how great as it is simply too young for me. Very murky-colored and a knockout nose that is already draping the fruit with minerals, earth, smoke and exotic spices. I know the term 'boquet' is supposed to be used for mature wines but its perfume is so beguiling, even now, it almost deserves the term. Very fresh and fruity on the palate with great length and structure. Very rewarding right now which is a good thing as I can't afford its 1490 NIS tag and so will most likely never encounter it again.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Misc. Notes (May 2008)

Olivier Leflaive, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2004

One of those time where my impressions are so similar to my last tasting note that I'll just refer you to it. A very nice wine but I simply have nothing new to add, except nothing beats two guitars, bass, drums and a good Chablis. (May 3, 2008)

Imported by WineRoute.

Domaine De La Vougeraie, Bourgogne, Terres de Famille, 2005

Vougeraie's workhorse generic is once again consistent in this excellent vintage, although it is still primal and young. Cranberry and cherry aromatics, smoke and a hint of earth lurking underneath, with a certain leafy pungency lending it a kick. The palate, while still simple and lacks a bit of stuffing in mid-palate, is suave and shows village-level weight and a gentle salinity on the finish. Should be a nice one to cellar for a two-three years. (May 24, 2008)

Imported by Tomer Gal and sold for about 100 NIS.

Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Schieferterrassen, 2005

The aromatics are chalky-saline minerals overlaying ripe peaches, suggesting Chablis until a hint of apple pie tips you off. Yet the palate could only be Riesling with its hint of sweetness counterpointed by that telltale racy acidity. Deftly-balanced and long, rich yet crisp, with green apples on the finish. If this wine was a woman (or man, depending on your gender and inclinations), it would be the ultimate dream-date: charming, fulfilling and promising. Though apropos its promise, since fridge space is at a premium, I think this is a wine I'd drink early on, not because it won't last or develop (it develops a certain herbal tinge in glass which bodes well for the future until it dies out after 90 minutes or so) but because I love it now and I suspect the other German Rieslings I'm laying down won't show as well at three years of age as the 2005 Schieferterrassen does. The ultimate 90-pointer. (May 27, 2008)

Imported by Giaconda and sold for 121 NIS.

Bouchard Aine et Fils, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2005

This is another Bouchard, not the Bouchard, which maintains the Bourgogne tradition that every family who owns a Domaine or a Maison has some estranged member with his/her own winery. My group tasted it last year blind and were impressed but I now find it less appealing, as it has lost some of its initial freshness, which was really what was so charming about that first tasting. The nose is fine, initially slightly oxidized and metallic yet with green apples and poached pears beneath that veil, but the ultimate failure is on the flat palate, which unlike the nose, does little to utilize the oxygen I provided it over the course of the evening.

Imported by Karmei Tzvi and listed at about 200 NIS which is way overpriced.