Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Misc. Historical Notes, Mostly French

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Rosemont Estate, Balmoral Syrah, 1998

The color is dark black-red with hints of browning and shows aromas and flavors of ripe and very fresh plums and blackberries, sweet cedar, leather and hints of coffee. Abundant super-fine tannins, long and full-bodied yet elegant despite the size, probably due to a proportioned measure of acidity. The glaring fault is that it becomes one-dimensionally fruity after a few hours. It’s a very impressive wine that leans towards the Old World, probably a solid 92 as is and might improve (so the experts say anyway). (Jul 6, 2005)

Bought in Atlanta, GA for about 40-50 USD.

Brundlmayer, Kamptal, Langenlois, Gruner Veltliner, Alte Reben, 2000

A wonderful aromatic and flavor profile I can’t place. I get the apples and spices but there’s a specific overlay of minerals that disorients me. Something about it is Burgundian; though the fruit is obviously not Chardonnay, it’s just too vivid and nervy from the green apple acidity to the mildy spicy finish. Obviously a wine meriting discussion, especially as it keeps opening, revealing nuts and tropical fruits. (Jul. 30, 2006)

Bought from Anavim for about 160 NIS. They could never get rid of these beauties and I think they've stopped importing them.

Trimbach, Cuvee Fredrich Emile, Riesling, 1998

Needs time to open, as at first it only showed petrol on the nose and a tight palate. As the evening wore on, it started to show more fruit and minerality, developing complexity and grip on the palate. It’s a subtle wine but I can appreciate where it got its reputation. (Mar. 8, 2006)

New Hampshire doesn't have sales taxes and it has a state monopoly which cuts down on one level of middlemen. But I bought this wine the week after New years when the main branch had a 15% discount across the board and it only cost me 27 USD!

Pfaffenheim, Grand Cru Goldert, Gewurztraminer, 2001

Leechee, grapefruit, minerals, spices, some toast. Good balance. Medium bodied, maybe even full. At first I thought it was a bit too alcoholic and acidic, but at the proper temperature and some time to work out its kinks, it shows very good balance. (Feb. 2, 2006)

HaKerem sold this three years ago for about 135 NIS.

Chateau Coutet, Barsac, 1996

Passion fruit, spices, a hint of pastry. Long, refreshing and complex with excellent structure. (Dec. 8, 2005)

One of my first purchases in the US, from Sam's in Chicago. Can't recall the price, though.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2002

Pale gold color. Nice thick legs. A minerally/toasty nose, with spices and roasted nuts. The palate is wet rock with pears and apples and good grip. I do see it as improving a bit within a year or so. (Aug. 4, 2005)

Imported by Tomer Gal, recent vintages cost about 150 NIS.

Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Cras, 1997

Dark ruby color starting to thin. An enchanting, highly sniffable nose of good complexity showing cherries, berries, coffee (cake?), light hints of chocolate and sweat. Medium bodied with good acidity, tannins are soft but more prominent on fairly long finish. Elegant, austere yet concentrated. A couple years before its peak, I guess, though I think it’s a matter of fine-tuning rather than major leaps. I do wish I had a few more of these or anything else by Barthod. (Sep. 29, 2005)

The Les Cras deserves honorable mention for making me click with Burgundy. Purchased at the discount shelf in Table and Vine for 40 USD. Lucky me.

Domaine De La Vougeraie, Bourgogne, Terres de Famille, 2002

Good color extraction. The nose is red fruits, mostly strawberries, brett, developing spices laster on, with almost an oriental touch. Medium-bodied, balanced, with a sort of country-elegance. It’s a little green at first but almost ripens in glass. The tannins are smooth but with a rustic character. Seems to grow longer in glass as well as picking up some complexity in the finish. (Jan. 5, 2006)

Tomer Gal imports. usually sold for about 110 NIS.

Domaine Gaec Cluny et Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1989

A revelatory experience to make you believe all wines could be this elegant, just when I’d stopped believing I’d ever run into a wine this elegant anytime soon. A very clear red color, not browning so much as fading a bit. The basic personality is sour red cherries and that’s all it had to begin with. Then little by little, in the course of a couple of hours, more and more elements showed up: light hints of sweat, light hints of spices and leather, light hints of coffee, beefing up both nose and palate, all with almost perfect poise. And through it all, that warm cherry personality running like a thread. (May 5, 2005)

Shimon Lasry imported this directly from the winery where it had been stored since bottling. Which explains the terrific state of the bottle. Many of my friends bought multiples. I wasn't that much into Bourgogne at the time and only bought one bottle.

Armand Rousseau, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1996 ?

A mature, semi-transparent, browning color. An airy nose which picks up more presence after an hour or so: strawberries, herbs and spices on an earthy background. A pretty, quiet nose. The palate also needs some time to flesh out and follows the nose, with sour cherries on the finish. Good, somewhat shrill acidity, not fully integrated with the fruit which lacks some freshness. Fully integrated tannins. Drink now. (Feb. 26, 2006)

Another find from the Table and Vine discount shelf. This cost about 30 USD as I recall and it was obviously not as good a buy as the Barthod.

Domaine Brintet, Mercurey, Vielles Vignes, 2002

Dark for a Pinot. I think the nose is typical Bourgogne, and pretty damn good at that, with red fruits and some chocolate and eastern spices, with a touch of lemon taking it in another direction. Soft tannins and good length but the high acidity and the buried fruits make it seem thin. I think, though, it just needs age that might raise the score by a point. Drink 2008-12. (Dec. 16, 2006)

Bought in New Hamphire for about 30 USD.

Deux Montilles, Saint Roman, Les Jarrons, 2004

Buttery and pure Chardonnay fruit, with some mildly sweet spices, minerals, some smoke on the nose but it’s main appeal is in the mouth-watering acidity on the palate, with a zippy, almost pungent finish. I would have guessed Chablis in a blind tasting except for that happy, hyper acidity, which will either win you over or put you off. (Sep. 10, 2006)

A Tomer Gal import which cost about 170 NIS, making it inexpensive in the context of Burgundy. I am still, two years on, undecided on whether it's a good price for what the wine gives. But it's a charming wine.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Is A Job For 2GrandCru - Giaconda at Katit

Last Thursday night, I attended a tasting at Katit restaurant in Tel Aviv. This joint production, hosted by Katit and Giaconda, who supplied the all-white wine list from Alsace and the Loire, cost 450 NIS, including the wines and tips. Considering that the cost of dining out in Israel in the kind of high quality restaurant that I can afford is between is between 250 and 350 NIS, with corkage and tips, and that I usually bring a wine costing at least 200 NIS to such outings, this is was an excellent offer. And further considering the fact that Giaconda's Anat Sella and Rafaella Ronen and Katit's Meir Adoni matched the food to the wine (thus avoiding the usual pairing quandaries) and that Katit is usually priced out of my reach, I'd have to have been an idiot to ignore the offer.

Katit's dishes turned out to be as creative as I'd heard, with the seemingly unavoidable little pretensions of 21st century haut cuisine. But I won't describe the dishes because, one, I hate writing restaurant crits and I suck at them, and two, I'd have to translate the menu from Hebrew into English. So, I'll just say three dishes out of the seven were terrifc, one was great but really small and the others were either just okay or tried too hard to be creative. I think there was one dish where I had my doubts about the wine pairing but everything else worked.

So on to the wines.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Brut, nv.

This sparkling wine is made in methode champenoise and shows sweet yellow fruit and minerals on the nose, as well as a musk that recalled female sweat: tangy and acidic, yet not overbearingly funky. The palate is dry, certainly drier than the nose would lead you to expect, crispy yet softening up in time to reveal a fruity-flowery personality. Not very complex but fun and decent value for a sparkler. 117 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Grand Cru Schlossberg, Riesling, Cuvee Saint Catherine L'inedit, 2004

I have a problem tasting young, dry (!) Rieslings. I find Riesling of most levels of quality, but especially the high end ones, realize their aromatic potential almost from the start (you might get more nuances and then petrol as they age but they start out well endowed to begin with) but the dry ones are too tight and unrelenting for me for me to taste in their youth. This is a good example. A lovely, minerally nose on the one hand and taut palate laced with grapefruit peels and a somewhat alcoholic finish. It's a very good wine but I can't tell right now if it has the extra something to make it an excellent wine that can justify the 369 NIS price tag.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Clos du Papillon, 2003

Well, this another Closel I like more on a second encounter, although it behaves strangely, in that it's hard to grasp where it's going exactly. A very ripe nose, alcoholic, ripe fruits leading into apple cider. The palate is powerful, semi-sweet and somewhat alcoholic before it finds its footing and the fruit finally stands up to the alcohol. Powerful if not very complex right now, yet fascinating. (157 NIS)

Marc Tempe, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

I have to say I find the Burgreben disappointing. The nose is appealing though not as detailed as the other Rieslings, but the palate is bitter and alcoholic and not as long as the L'inedit. I would like to be more generous because I wanted to like it more and I gave it plenty of time in glass it never really took off. 162 NIS.

Marcel Deiss, Engelgarten, 2005

A good runner up to the L'inedit and I find it gives more right now, if you're patient with it. The nose is arguably better than the L'inedit, with minerals, honey and even a hint of petrol. So tight and puckering it almost hurts to drink it at first, but after a while, the nose shows more and more flint as the minerals balance the bitterness on the finish and it steps up a notch or two. Alas, by that time, it was a bit too warm. I'd give it five more years and try again. 225 NIS.

Albert Mann, Grand Cru Hengst, Pinot Gris, 2005

I am finding Alsace Pinot Gris very difficult for me lately and this is no exception, though I must say, it is a very interesting wine. Very. A fascinating nose with tropical fruit and a mineral overlay I can't pinpoint. You know, chalk, flint, slate - those are easy to get, yet the Hengst smelled like it came from an uncharted geological source. It is an off-dry wine, yet with the lush roundness of an outright sweet desert wine, just without the sugar. However, I find the integration of sweetness and bitterness challenging, to be diplomatic. That is, it's well made and offers a unique experience, but it doesn't feel complete. Again, this could be a matter of youth, I just don't have the experience to tell, but I worry that, even when it matures, this won't be the Pinot Gris to make a convert out of me. 193 NIS. Any cheaper and I might try it, but it's too borderline for my personal taste.

Chateau Belle-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Quintessence, 2003

And back to the Loire for a lesson in patience. It starts out slightly oxidized on the nose and lacking vibrancy on the palate and honestly, in most cases I'd be tempted to give up, but then somehow it comes alive, showing a personality distinct from its Sauternes and Toakji brethren. Right now, it only shows moderate compelxity but a tantalizingly saline finish is very promising. 256 NIS (for a 500 cc bottle).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If You Open A Few Bottles, They Will Come (Oct. 16, 2008)

One thing led to another. Ran Shapira wanted to drop by Giaconda for a chat and bring along a bottle. He asked me to tag along and soon other friends heard about it through the grapevine (an apt term if there ever was one) which eventually led to an impromptu tasting, nine wines split among five wine junkies and their two dealers. Due to, ahem, short term memory loss, some of the following notes are really off the cuff this time.

Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v. had a promising nose of nuts and yeasts that is becoming habit-forming, though it lacked a lot of nuances it displayed when I tasted it in the spring (mushrooms, leather). The palate also underperformed, showing a bit too much sweetness. Chalking it up to warm serving temperature, we put it back in the fridge to cool down and moved on (but forgot to come back to it later). Imported by Eldad Levi, 229 NIS.

Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004 managed to obscure its oak for a while, while displaying unexpected elegance. Gorgeously flinty and tasty, albeit in the stage where you wait for it to open and by the time it does, the oak is also fully awake. Imported by Wine Route, about 250 NIS before discount.

Interspersed among the wines were four Chenin Blancs from the Loire, which for comparison's sake, I will describe and discuss as a group. All are imported by Giaconda.

While I'm not ready to make a total overhaul of my criticism of the Closel style, I must admit the performance of the Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Caillardieres, 2003 (135 NIS) gave me room for thought. The nose was very reticient at first but the mouth was very long and powerful with barely a hint of the alcoholic style that so bothered me last month. Then the nose opened to show multi-tiered aromas of minerals, peaches and honey to close off a very attractive package. Slightly disappointing, though, was the Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Trie Speciale, 2003 (189 NIS) since it lacked the smokey-spicy signature I loved so much last time. Still, the first-timers around the table were quite taken with it and anyway, it's still a lovely wine that I want to get back to in a few years. Let's just call it bottle variation.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Art Monia, Moelleux, 2003 (126 NIS) is an outstanding value that strikes a balance between acidity and sweetness that is similar to what a good Spatlese or even an Auslese does in Germany. Taking into account the different feel and shape of the Chenin grape, of course. One thing this tasting showed me is how hard it is to guess when to open a Chenin. With this wine, I'd say you could drink it this year with a spicy Asian dish or put it away for another five. With the Chateau Bell-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Cuvee Traditionalle, 2002, I think the best food pairing strategy is to treat it just like a Sauternes. At 216 NIS per 500 cc bottle, the price point is of the same order. And so is the quality.

Aiming to stump Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen on their home turf, Ran and Meir Ido brought the Weingart, Mittlerhein, Schloss Furstenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2006 which was like a muscular version of Mosel. While lacking the elegance of wines from the more prestigious areas (Ach, only in Germany would a wine like this be criticised for a lack of elegance) you have to bear in mind one fact: this cost a single digit figure (in euros) at the winery door.

Jamet, Cote-Rotie, Cuvee Harys, 1997 was the first wine served with the cured meats and cheeses, quite appropiately as its nose matched them almost perfectly, with similar aromatics over what to me come across as red fruit (at least, the nose doesn't have the ripe notes I associate with black fruit). On the palate, it was a smoother, more elegant wine than the funky nose had led us to expect. While Ran Shapira complained of a certain lack of complexity, I found the 90 points scored by Robert Parker to be justified. Bought in Washington DC for 80 USD.

The second red wine was a Barolo and not just any Barolo, but an eighteen year old Barolo. Ceretto, Bricco Rocce, Barolo, Prapo, 1990 finally struck home the fact that my neglect of Piedmont is criminal (even if the only person harmed is me). This conviction is based on its length, elegance (coupled with just a touch of rustiness) and most of all, freshness. Ran and Meir Ido, who brought this one as well, did not disclose the price.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Jean Durup Historical Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaumes, 2001

A golden-yellow colored, fairly complex, pure and austere wine that starts out very taut and closed and opens very nicely over 1-2 hours. Starts off very shut with some pears and hints of honey then reveals some lemon and smoke then the lemon becomes candy-ish, like lemon drops. Then it goes through a nutty-oily phase and then that too is replaced by a grapefruit-like sourness. Eventually, it winds up encompassing all these aromas and flavors, showing a minerally facet that keeps growing more prominent. Despite putting up a terrific show, it feels like it’s still keeping some secrets in reserve for, say, 2 years time. (Aug. 21, 2005)

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaumes, 2002

A golden yellow wine that evolved for hours in glass, while keeping within a well-delineated frame. I would say that while the 2001 seemed in control all the time, the 2002 seems to be both shyer and more unpredictable. The nose starts out as vaguely citrus-like and buttery, then the fruits become easier to pick out and more fragnant in glass and build up a delicate interplay of apple and various citrus fruits and hints of flowers; then shifts towards pears and apples with a vague whiff of metal. The palate is very packed with flavors, though all are kept in rein with a harp acidity. Riper but less impressive than the 2001 right now but in what should be as good if not a better vintage, I expect to see it develop further. (Sep. 24, 2005)

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2002

Pale gold color. The nose starts off with distinct notes of sea air, guayavas and oranges, then grows richer and more buttery and the aromas melt into each other. The palate displays similar sensations and is lean, steely, very fresh and balanced, with a minerally-salty finish. Seems readier than the Fourchaumes and more minerally if less nervy. Drink until 2008-9. (Feb. 27, 2006)

Tomer Gal usually imports Durup's Vau De Vey for his Burgundy Wine Collection but from the 2001/2 vintages, he brought the Fourchaumes. I bought my bottle of the Vau De Vey in Table and Vine in Northamption, MA (the other bottles I bought from Tomer). Tomer was only arguably right, for me it's a matter of apples and oranges. At any rate, whatever Durup Premier Cru he brings, it is usually sold for about 125 NIS which is comparable to prices abroad and a bargain.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We Came, We Drank, We Ate - At Marie Antoinette (Oct. 11, 2008)

Marie Antionette was one of the pioneers of Israeli haut cuisine late in the previous century. It was located in southern Tel Aviv, near Jaffo and closed down as far as I can remember in 2000. My memories of it are hazy and probably sweetened by nostalgia. The recently opened reincarnation is located in a radically different setting, Ramat HaHayal's hi-tech ambience replacing southern Tel Aviv's vaguely Soho-ish charms. I will not dwell on restaurant critiques but will just say that Marie Antionette's past is not exactly betrayed nor it is not reverantly upheld. I am, in all, in no great hurry to return.

Bollinger, Brut n.v.

A lovely nose of citrus skins and yeast. Tense, vibrant and long on the palate without any great complexity or weight but an appealing wine for what it is.

Price unknown.

Georg Bruer, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Bischofsberg, Riesling Auslese, 1995

The nose was just what you'd expect from a classic, mature German Riesling, if you don't assume that obvious whiffs of petrol are a pre-requisite: icy slate and dills over peaches sauteed by slow aging. There was, with this particular bottle, a certain lack of vitality and length. Whether this was actual or perceived is hard to tell as Ran Shapira had pronounced that the cork was in very bad shape: it had not only crumbled but had slipped a few millimeters down the neck when he pressed on the capsule. How blind can a tasting be when someone tells you the bottle may be off? Well, it certainly didn't lack acidity and time in glass rather revitalized it so the question remains unanswered.

Price unknown.

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

A lovely, nuanced nose full of minerals and mushrooms. Note that I do not mention any fruits in my listing of the aromas. If anything, that absence was even more marked on the palate where the oak was obvious (managebale but obvious). It would take almost two hours for the fruit to assert itself on the finish. Let's say it's a tasty wine that didn't really deliver any special class, complexity or originality that I would expect in a Premier Cru. I enjoyed a previous bottle rather more.

Sold by WineRoute for over 300 NIS. (It was my bottle but the reason I don't remember the price is that the wine I bought was the 2002 Boudriottes but the Clos St. Jean is what eventually wound up in my locker).

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, 1995

Just two months ago, my own bottle was as great a bomb as any untainted bottle has a right to be. This bottle was inarguably better though not at a stage to bring any great sensual pleasure. This is forgivable as the reason for its poor showing seemed like a case of Grenache and Mourvedre being locked in adolscent battle. Although the donor had opened the bottle four hours prior to our engagement, it came across as a muscular, over-extracted youngster that only exposed any nuances after an hour of coaxing at the table. This bottle would need about five years of cellaring.

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, St. Julien, 2me Cru, 1996

I still find the experience of drinking fine Bordeaux intimidating. I love them when they're good but I'm always the least knowledgable about Bordeaux around the table and I feel it skews my perceptions. I certainly never started out in Bordeaux with the same immediate, intuitive sense of affinity that in the case of Burgundy and Germany helped me overcome my inexperience. So again I find myself delivering a general accolade without feeling that I can place the wine within its proper context (as opposed to scoring it, which is a different matter and one I feel confident about: it's a 92 by me). Thus, we have here slight smoky red fruit on both palate and nose, a balanced, long elegant wine that manages to be both lush and structured at the same time.

Imported by WineRoute and may be found at the Ben Guriyon duty-free for 155 USD.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - d'Arenberg Historical Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked with a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.
Since I am going over my database alphbetically, this will start with d'Arenberg.

d'Arenberg, Dead Arm Shiraz, 2001

(Dead Arm Vertical) Very deep, dark color. The nose starts a bit jammy and alcoholic, though less alcoholic (and less oaky) than the 2000 that preceded it; spices, mostly black pepper. Develops very nicely, uncovering many layers, including a biscuit-y, cooked vegetable-y thing, which I personally find appealing. Very full-bodied and long, yet balanced and, judging by the 1998 which is said to be a similar vintage, with a potential for elegance. The palate is till very closed. (Nov. 24, 2005)

d'Arenberg, Dead Arm Shiraz, 2002

(Dead Arm Vertical) Dark color. On the nose, ripe fruits, a bit of leather. Not as alcoholic as the 2001, but just as closed. On the palate, very forward fruits, full-bodied, lower acidity than the 2001, a long bitter finish. (Nov. 24, 2005)

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz, 2002 ?

Polished brawn. Less elegant than the 2000 (which is said to be the better vintage overall), muscular but lacking structure. Cherries, candy, smoky wood, spices, cocoa. Low acidity and high alcohol, full bodied with integrating tannins. Near sweet, alcoholic finish. One dimensional and disappointing. (Jan. 1, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Custodian Grenache, 2001 ?

Alcoholic nose. Ripe, candied fruits with spices and hints of roasted meats. Full bodied, almost sweet, but it withdraw within itself a little after a while. I’m moving away from this style but it’s well made. (August 28, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, 2001

A nice nose of sweet fruit, pepper, some leather at first,
then grilled meat. Elegant with dry, crisp tannins and the high alcohol % seems carried well, with its sweetness balanced by a lemon drop sensation on the finish from the Viognier, presumably. Very well made, long and deep, a hybrid of old and new world that is drinking well now and should drink well for 5+ years more. (Sep. 19, 2006)

Hmmm, the next bottle I had of this wine rather put me off but I really think it was just bottle variation so I'm not marking this wine, just for the benefit of the doubt.

d'Arenberg, Coppermine Road, 1999

Still a youthful wine, showing very Cabernet aromas and flavors of elegant currants as well as herbs, characoal and a hint of mushrooms. Very polished and focused and to its detriment, very straightforward, offering complexity and depth without any mystery. A balanced New World Cab that won’t offend Old World fans that is at the start of its plateau peak. (Sep. 30, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Galvo Garage, 2002

A great surprise. Initially very reticient on the nose, it bursts and complexifies with red berries and cherries and minerals. The palate is very savoury to start with but is initially somewhat soft; however, the tannins firm up over time and the fruit grows purer. After drinking 5 ass-licking Aussie Shirazes this week, it’s soooo nice to drink a wine that doesn’t put out quite that much. I’d buy again. (Feb. 1, 2007)

d'Arenberg, Ironstone Pressings, 1999 ?

Hmmmm... very aggressive. Solicited the same reaction from everyone ’round the table: “did we really like this style once?” Fair enough, it’s a well made wine that’s sure to please newbies but the aggressive attack is not backed up by any sophistication and although it might prove to be hiding some pleasure in the future, right now all I can say it’s no longer my cup of tea. (Feb. 10, 2007)

This was one of the first wines I did not score. I guess in this case, the tasting note spoke for itself.

d'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, 2002 ?

Black fruit over charry oak, at first, but then the fruit turns a bit candied before the telltale black pepper kicks in to even the score. Potent with little trace of the Viognier, except for some candied fruit at the end. Bigger and less elegant than the 2001 as well, with the alcohol in the fore, exaggerating the sweetness and tiring the palate. Overall, I prefer the 2001. (Sep. 1, 2007)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Domaine Les Pallieres, Gigondas, 2001 (Oct. 7, 2008)

I tasted this wine four years ago at a Southern Rhone tasting at WineRoute. In the company of its outstanding 2001 peers (Beaucastel, Tardieu-Laurent, Pegau and Vieux Telegraph CdP's as well as Tardieu-Laurent's Gigondas and Vacqueyras), this stuck out like a sore thumb with its stingy fruit and medicinal overtones. But for some reason it piqued my curiousity and as its reviews were favorable and the price very very nice indeed, I bought a bottle to see where it would go.

My curiosity pays off as I am greeted by aromas of ripe red and black fruit that never stray over the top, short blasts of cranberries slicing through black cherries over a hint of herbs. The mouth has an Old World rusty feel to it, which I like, and, initially, an austerity which is at odds with the ripeness the nose displays. Slow to open, the nose starts to show coffee and pepper over those herbs as the palate begins to flesh out. Despite the warmth of the vintage and 14% alcohol, and because of the crisp tannins, this feels like a cool climate wine. And a food wine. I think this will really peak in two-three years but it's a very good drink now if you're patient, as that patience will reward you with an exquisite intellectual pleasure as you watch the wine unfold. Confession time: I wish I'd bought another bottle.

In certain respects, this may be one of the brainiest wines WineRoute have ever sold.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Misc. Notes (Aug. 2008)

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, La Jalousie, 2006

Mid-tier wines are harder to write notes for than for obvious masterpieces or obvious bombs.

This dry Chenin Blanc from one of the major Loire AOC's initially has a nose of ripe, slightly baked bears and some green apples in the background. It's a bit disjointed at first, crisp and minerally overall yet with a soft attack that flares into a somewhat harsh, acidic finish. The elements do coalesce in time, retaining the softness of the attack while toning down the shriller notes of the acidity, as the length of the earthy, spicy finish becomes more obvious and brainy at the same time. The aromas turn minerally and a bit citrus-y and reminescent of Chablis. A very adolescent behavior does suggest the keeping power associated with Chenin, thus a very personable, if not quite elegant, wine with potential. (Aug. 25, 2008)

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Urziger Wurzgarten, Riesling Auslese ***, 1990

The familiar pungent nose of petrol and dill, intricate and minerally. The palate is more reserved than I remembered. These mature Chrtistoffels have been a familair backdrop in my life these past two years and it's a bittersweet feeling to say goodbye to the last one. (Sep. 10, 2008)

Tulip, Reserve Syrah, 2005

This is a very well made wine, within its own style but I have no patience for styles I find offputting. Thus, though my tasting note echoes the winemaker's description on the back label, my own personal reservations speak loud.

Dark purple well, it's 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet, whaddaya expect, ruby-orange? Aromas and flavors of black fruits read: prune juice, vanilla read: oak and caramel read: too thick, too sweet. Aged for 14 months in French and American barrels. Match with veal, chicken or pasta if you must pair anything with it at all until all that oak melts. It's smooth and, like I said, well made but if it's holding anything in reserve for a few years down the road, I'm not as good a taster as, say, Mark Squires, to pick it up. (Sep. 10, 2008)

I'm not sure about the price, but the friend who brought it thinks he bought it for 150 NIS at a discount.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000

A disappointing bottle. The first glass is worrying, with stewed fruits on the nose with soft tannins enshrouded with somwhat sweet fruit on the palate. The second glass is better and shows some dust and light hints of spices. Overall, this specific bottle seems a bit past its best. The nose is a good sample of a hot climate red but it's a little distant while the sweetness on the palate is too much for me and overwhelms what complexity and structure might hide within. (Sep. 28, 2008)

100 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

Uh, I don't much care for this vintage either. The nose is typical Israeli cab, sweet currants and some cranberries, a hint of chocolate. The palate is long but sweet and structurally ambient despite tightening up after three hours. It's tasty and there's a salinity I enjoy that opens up on the finish but it just doesn't have the multilayering of flavors I'd expect from this wine's stature as an Israeli classic, despite being GHW's third wine after the Katzrin and Elrom. Maybe the 2000 bottle wasn't off, maybe the Yarden cab and I are no longer suitable for each. In which case, I'm not sure which Israeli red is. (Sep. 30, 2008)

100 NIS, is it?