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).