David Wollenberg's Birthday Party at Raphael (Sep. 6, 2008)

A fun night, a big table full of wines, enough wines to sate the soul, yet not quite enough to overload the palate. A perfect balance. One thing I want to mention before I move on to the tastings notes: I have usually found Rapahel's first courses to be much better executed and much tastier than the main dishes and tonight was no exception.

Larmandier-Bernier, Brut Tradition, N.V.

No traces of the Pinot Noir element I noted when I first tasted this elegant non-vintage (see here for the previous tasting note as well as the grape/vineyard breakdown). Instead it smells and tastes like one version of the Chardonnay story, distilled citrus fruits with most of the sugar sucked dry. Which lends it a welcome, somewhat austere focus. Tasty and elegant if not as complex, naturally, as the producer's vintage Champagnes.

Imported and sold by Boutique de Champagnes for 249 NIS.

J.J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenhur, Riesling Auslese, 1994

It's amazing how a sniff can paint a smile over so many people's faces. The nose here is in that glorious petrol stage but the true mark of this wine's breed is all the nuances beyond, beneath and around that petrol: ice cold slate, some dill and said petrol over peaches and guayavas. The palate shows more nuances at first when the bottle was a bit warm, but once re-cooled, it showed more structure. But forget such considerations, this is simply a lovely, delicious wine that will last for years.

Imported and sold by Giaconda for about 300 NIS.

We then moved on to three young Bordeaux. All had elegant noses leaning towards red fruits, with enough black fruits to attest to extraction without being overbearing. The Kirwan and Gruaud-Larose are imported by WineRoute but Bordeaux prices being subject to so many fluctuations, I'm not going to bother to look them up.

Chateau Kirwan, Margaux Third Growth, 2003

The palate started out nicely then shut down into a very dumb and backwards phase, so much so that I really can't say enything very wise about it.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux Second Growth, 2001

A step up in quality, which I'm tempted to say is due to 2001's greater accessibility ensuring the wine is out of any early childhood kinks. Medium-full bodied, still tannic but balanced and tasty.

Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St. Julien Second Growth, 2003

The best Bordeaux of the evening. It feels slightly lighter in body compared to the Brane-Cantenac (rather surprisingly so, given the vintage) but much more nuanced even this early on.

Tua Rita, Giusto di Notri, 2001

This Super-Tuscan Bordeaux blend is famous for scoring slightly higher in this vintage than the same winery's first wine, the Redigaffi, which costs three times as much. The aromatics start out very minerally and leathery, but in time the fruit - mostly blueberries - dominates the nose. I think the Tuscan terroir maybe shows in notes of cloves on the nose but overall, I preferred it when it was just struggling to get out of bed, so to speak, rather then when it had aired. It deserves most of Parker's score of 97 and is, to my surpise (given that same score) rather elegant and not a blockbuster. I have a bottle and I think I will wait five more years with it.

Imported by WIneRoute and sold for close to 300 NIS at the time.