Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm Back - Saturday Night Tasting (Aug. 17, 2008)

Hosted at Hagit and Noam Koren's home at Haniel, this Saturday night tasting turned out to be a sort of cross-sideways vertical tasting: Two Chateauneuf, one of them a 1995, thus seguing into a a mini 1995 tasting.

Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1995

The lords of the crapshoot handed me a real dud this time. A sweet, ripe nose, with traces of caramel, no hint of the complexity and animalistic overtones this wine should deliver. The palate is chewy, I'll give it that. But everything else falls apart. The fruit is hardly discernible and neither is the acidity, while even the tannins can't manage to lend any weight. I've read enough about this wine to assume this is s just a bad bottle, but why did it have to be my bottle?

Subsequent vintages were imported by WineRoute.

Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape , Cuvee Reserve, 2000

This is really a class act. Not a knockout thriller, just a terrific wine that keeps you wanting more. A complex nose with short, elegant strokes of red and black fruit with a bit of brett on the fringes. The nose and palate are both restrained and elegant and the palate offers such an intruiging, taut structure I thought it was from the North Rhone. Quite a surprise considering 2000 is by all accounts a warm, fat vintage.

Imported by WineRoute.

Chateau Dauzac, Margaux 5me Cru, 1995

A rustic wine at first, with the components not quite meshing together on the palate - though the nose, as Bordeaux will be Bordeaux, is quite charming. Smoothens over time but never quite relinquishes that rustic character. Not a great wine, simply a good wine, more or less, and just how many wine regions can claim that an average wine from a mediocre producer, even from a good vintage, can last thirteen years?

Imported to Israel? Dunno.

Chateau Leoville-Barton, St. Julien 2me Cru, 1995

Very classy and restrained. For me, the key point here was how elegantly all the components fit together seemingly without calculation. Still fresh and young and, on the negative side, not immensly complex, which detracts little from its pleasures. Like finding a silk bathrobe in your hotel suite.

Imported by WineRoute.

Friday, August 15, 2008

French Rose Tasting At Giaconda (Aug. 15, 2008)

Giaconda's Rose catalog was a bit of a surprise when it came out a few months ago, going as it did after a potential niche that wasn't obviously there, with the local scene still leaning towards heavier, headier wines and fostering malignant memories of atrocious roses heaved upon the public by previous incarnations of Carmel and its like. I gather the local sommeliers are of a more open mind and that Giaconda is doing quite well with the restaurant trade, which pleases me. These wines do go well with food and would provide a welcome addition to the wine lists.

I was looking forward to trying these wines as I am on the lookout for interesting weekday wines. That is, not just Value For Money wines, but Interest For Money wines. And as this tasting proved, there is ample room for variety within the rose paradigm.

Domaine le Couroulu, Vacqueyras, Vin de Pays, 2007

The Couroulu roses turned out to be the lightest in color. The nose is blatantly cherry in character and, to be honest, little else. Crisp and offers just enough complexity to flesh out its frame. A nice enough wine for its price, though I'd personally shop higher up the food chain. 50 NIS.

Domaine le Couroulu, Vacqueyras, 2006

A tad darker in color, and almost visibly more complex. The nose offers more shades and nuances beyond the fruit - a bit of lime and earth. A fuller body and greater complexity that are at first thrown off-balance by an alcoholic streak. It just needs time in glass, though, for the palate to calm down and fully echo the appealing character of the nose. At 79 NIS, though, it offers just a bit less than the similarly priced Tavels, though I might eventually give it another chance. But it's a close enough call and anyone who find the Tavels a good value might want to try this one as well.

Chateau Belle-Rive, Loire, 2006

This is more in a raspberry/strawberry vein with an outgoing, perfumed nose. Round and harmonic with a pleasant, bitter note on the finish. I don't expect a rose to offer the same intellectual thrills as premium red or white, simple because it isn't cut from the same cloth, but I do expect it to give me some pause and this wine just doesn't do that to me. 63 NIS.

Chateau d'Aqueria, Tavel, 2007

Oh my, this is a step up. Maybe more than a single step. The nose is initially a rather monolithic slab of cherries but opens up to reveal minerals and pepper. There is a subtle vein of alcohol that is absorbed within the wine's structure. This is indeed meets the expectations I refered to before as it provides just enough of an intellectual challenge. 76 NIS and well worth it.

Mejan-Taulier, Canto Perdrix, Tavel, 2006

This lives up to my previous encounter so well, I feel entitled to just lay back and let you read this. 67 NIS and well worth it.

Chateau du Seuil, Bordeaux, 2006

This offers an honest-to-God red wine nose, though maybe a Bourgogne rather than a Bordeaux, with top-heavy red fruit and more than a hint of forest floor. I'm still undecided about the palate, though. It doesn't have the taut structure of the Tavels which rather forces the question just how much of a Rose it is, as opposed to a light red. I think I'll just call it a winter Rose. 63 NIS and a good value if you're not too hung up about a Rose being especially light.

Domaine du Closel, Chateau des Vaults "Le Tentation", Cabernet d'Anjou, 2006

This is no "food wine" Rose. This is an appertif for a romantic dinner, as it takes off in a semi-sweet direction that is totally unlike the dry, crispiness of (most of) the previous wines. I can't find a lot of complexity or interest in it, personally. I need more than its outright sultriness, appealing though it it is. 90 NIS.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2GrandCru On the Road (Eastern US)

Part I - Living Off The fat Of The Land

I've just spent five weeks on the US East Coast. The first three weeks were a family vacation spent mostly at my wife's aunt's house, which had small, decent cellar - for a beginner. The following wines looked like the most interesting to me.

Domaine Brintet, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005

Brintet is a Cote Challonaise producer whose 2002 village Mercurey I'd enjoyed a few years ago so it seemed like an interesting choice when my wife's aunt asked me to choose a white wine for dinner. It turned out to be a nice enough wine but not one that exceeds its humble origins. It's flinty and lime-y on both nose and palate but doesn't have a lot of length, stuffing or breadth of flavors. But it's dry and savoury and doesn't try to flatter even the slightest bit. Placing it to next to, say, Jobard's Bourgogne would put the Brintet to shame but it will kick ass out of a lot of 20 dollar New World Chardonnays. (Jul. 14, 2008)

Albert Boxler, Edelzwicker, 2002

The Alsace version of a whodunnit. Edelzwicker is a blend of the Alsace varietals though only the winemaker would know what went into it. My amateur verdict is, it smells and tastes like a Riesling-Pinot Gris/Blanc blend, with the Riesling lending red/baked apples and dill aromas and the Pinots a certain saline spiciness. And there's a certain mineraliness that is not quite variety-specific. Not very long nor complex but still quite tasty, though I have my doubts that it will hold for much longer. (Jul. 18, 2008)

Louis Jadot, Macon-Villages, 2006

Drunk for that quinessential reason, food accompaniment, the tasting note written to keep in shape. It's the Saturday Morning Cartoon version of Bourgogne: apples and white fruits, sprinkled with flint, clobbered with oak. (Jul. 21, 2008)

Part II - Digging Into My Stash

The second part of my trip was spent alone in northern Virgina on business while my wife and kids travelled to the West Coast. The wines were much better as I had been shopping for myself. Some were wines I had bought for short term cellaring anyway and opened all by my lonesome because, well, I had to drink something. Others were opened for decision-making purposes. All of these wines cost about 40 USD.

Auguste Clape, Cornas, 2000

This a teenaged quarterback wine, muscular with vague hints of possible finesse, yet raw and unpolished at present. Black fruit and leather on both nose and palate, with a sort of gentle spiciness, long and powerful on the palate, all somehow reined in by Old World classicism. Sounds good so far but on the down side, it's just a tad too sweet and lacks a bit of concentration (as opposed to power) to be really great. Though - and here I am flip-flopping again - that sweetness calms down in time, and I think that I would temper most of my reservations were I to match this wine with a good steak. I also think that sweetness is a matter of age and if I'd had more room in my luggage and if I truly trusted the bottle's condition (this wine has been on the shelves of the store I bought it from for at least three years) I'd cellar it for three-four more years. (Jul. 27, 2008)

Leo Alzinger, Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2004

Some lists have Alzinger at the top tier of Austrian winemakers. I asked around and it's not a unanimous opinion. But this wine smells and tastes like a young, top-rung Pfaltz Grand Cru. Or maybe Nahe. So I'd say Alzinger is pretty good.

On to the wine itself. The aromas spell 'class'. Granny apples, with a hint of of peaches, overlayed with pungent minerals and sweet dough, all painted in aristocratic strokes. The palate is very balanced, crisp, long, and echoes the aromas, playing a note of sweetness, the whole package getting a gentle shove from the acidity on the finish to give it extra length. I don't usually score, as readers might well know, but at a tasting, I'd give it a 93 if only to see whether anyone bites. Needs three-five years. (Jul. 31, 2008)

Muga, Rioja Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1998

Muga is one of the three classic Rioja Bodegas, along with Ygay and La Rioja Alta. 1998 is not considered as great in Rioja as 1994 and 1995 (or even 1996) but this is surely no blemish on the Muga name. The nose is fully realized, fresh and vibrant, with crushed raspberries, tobacco leaves, old leather and an exotic spiciness. What seems like a small hole in mid-palate fills up after a while and then you notice the fruit and acidity locked in such a balanced embrace that neither dominates. Though it caresses on the attack and mid-palate, the fine tannins are as yet rusty on the long finish. (Aug. 2, 2008)

The Prado Enea used to be imported to Israel. I'm not sure whether the 1998 is available locally, though.

Remizieres, Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvee Christophe, 2004

I don't run across a Crozes too often and this was probably only the fourth I've had over the last five years. I'd bought the producer's 1999 Hermitage on this trip because of Parker's rave review and wanted to get a taste of the Remizieres style.

This is, on the one hand, a very backwards wine, very tight and oaky. On the other hand, there is a promise of some elegance lurking in its depths. It never really opened much over two hours but what it did show beneath the oak were red berries as well as a dusty minerality on both nose and palate. The acidity is there but not very obvious until it gives a gentle shove on the finish. I'd wait at least three-four years were I to cellar it but I'm not very certain whether it will eventually be a wine I'd really like. But it is a good wine and that saline minerality appeals to me. (Aug. 7, 2008)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm Not Dead

I will post tasting notes on the wines I've drunk, and am still drinking, over the course of my vacation in the US (aka The Never Ending Shore Leave) as soon as I get back to Israel. In the meantime, you can peruse this rare (I'm sorry to say) update of my music blog.