Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Misc. Notes (Dec. 2008)

Chateau de la Guimoniere, Anjou Blanc, 2005

I came here looking for a quaffer, I found... I don't know what I found. The nose is very intriguing. As in "I can't figure out what this is". There is an undecipherable mineral note that I decided was that of a dusty road on a summer morning, the air dead calm. Somewhere in the background is an apricot farm and someone is making tea. The palate would serve the definition of a quaffer if not for a saline note on the finish. Weird. (Dec. 11, 2008)

Sold by Giaconda for 90 NIS.

Albert Mann, Grand Cru Furstentum, Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes, 2007

One of the wines I missed at the Albert Mann tasting, I caught up with it a couple of days later. A fantastic nose even a dead man would recognize as a Gewurtz. Lychee? Check. Rose petals? Check. Spices? Yup. And there's a specific mineral note that recalls the Furstentum Pinot Gris from said tasting, as well as a hint of white meat. Now on to the palate and my usual complaint with the variety. I discussed it with Anat Sella as we were tasting it and my problem is that even when Gewurztraminer has structure and acidity - and this one does, living up to its Grand Cru status - the heady, fullblown spiciness of the grape overwhelms the acidity and the overall effect is disjointed, as if the acidity was on rim of the palate while all the fruit extract and alcohol is right in the middle. Anat claims this is typical of a young Gewurtz and that maturity will mellow it. Whatever the future holds for this wine, though, it is one of the best Gewurztraminers I have ever tasted and, even after such a short acquaintance, looks to become my personal favorite. 202 NIS. (Dec. 12, 2008)

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Kabinett, Trocken, 2004

One of the wonders of wine is how some samples change so much across a span of a few months. Previously, this wine was all about flint. Now, it presents somewhat mellower facade, as peaches and grapefruits strut before an aromatic screen of chalk, sweet dough, mint and a hint of kerosene, while the palate crouches in a defensive stance, offhandedly echoing the nose over a crisp, minerally frame and a surprising, sweet note on the finish. As the wine opens, the palate offers an increasingly broader specture of flavors while its structure shows no sign of erosion, thus I think the palate is finally living up to its potential and this should drink well over four-five years. Maybe even more, as this wine offers terrific acidity. (Dec. 13, 2008)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2005

Aromatically, it's the same old song for this wine: a gust of sea air as always (shells, sea weed) over citrus fruit and apple skin. The palate is steely and saline. Mouthwatering. Textbook stuff. (Dec. 14, 2008)

Imported by Tomer Gal, sold at Hinawi for 120-130 NIS if you're a 'regular'.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Bourdonnerie Demi Sec, 2003

Poached pears, chalk and flint on the nose. You can feel the residual sugar on the palate yet there is something bitter, almost dour about it at first. This is not really a wine I'd recommend for everyone and I've encountered a bit of bottle variation with it (which I think is due to this wine being on the cusp of a dumb period and some bottles may have entered it sooner than others). Even after the initial glass, I thought I'd stick with my previous hunch, i.e., that it needs more time, and as it opened, it repaid my faith. The aromatics picked up intensity and nuances (cut grass, sweet spices) and the acidity reaffirmed itself and helped the palate find a better balance; while not quite subduing the bitter notes, it seemed to promise to preserve the wine for future growth. (Dec. 20, 2008)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Albert Mann Tasting At Giaconda (Dec. 11, 2008)

I love my kids, I really do, but with my wife away on vacation, my two older girls couldn't handle my four year old son's consternation at my being away for the evening and I had to leave the tasting in the middle. Many thanks for Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen of Giaconda for letting me have a quick go at one of the latter bottles of the tasting as well as a doggie bag. The tasting was enlightening and rewarding and finessed one personal change of opinion, as can be seen below.

Albert Mann is a small, artisan winery from Alsace and you can read about them here. I will focus on the wines, as usual. Those I managed to taste, that is.

Grand Cru Schlossberg, Riesling, 2007

The nose was somehow reminiscent of Champagne, what with the more conventional Riesling aromas of apples being laced with orange blossom. The palate was dry, crisp and minerally, with a spicy finish, and while it didn't show any great complexity in its present incarnation, it packed a lot of flavors on a frame that felt deceptively light. In short, an elegant creature and I greatly enjoyed it. 189 NIS.

Rosenberg, Riesling, 2007

This wine contained more residual sugar, perhaps to make up for a relative lack of breed of this non-GC vineyard. It continued the stylistic direction of the Schlossberg, albeit in a sweeter vein and a touch of funk on the nose. It was more straightforward and more obviously impressive but didn't show the Schollssberg's class. Nor it's acidity. 166.5 NIS

Rosenberg, Riesling, 2001

This wine went through two distinct phases. At first, it gushed forth with petrol aromas that overwhelmed all other nuances. It was nice, because petrol is always nice, but it felt too obvious and at any rate, it greatly overshadowed the palate. In the wine's latter stage, the nose revealed some minerals, parsley and dill. The palate fleshed out as well but at the end of the day, it still left me wanting more. Not for sale.

Alright, so the Rosenberg 2001 proved to be only an intellectual interest. The next flight, however, was a different matter. As I've said before, I'm not a Pinot Gris fan. I liked the variety a few years ago, especially for the saline notes it can sometimes have but I lost interest after a few disappointments. The Pinot Gris flight of the tasting was the first time in a long time I've enjoyed Pinot Gris.

Grand Cru Hengst, Pinot Gris, 2005

Alsatian Pinot Gris is not caressing wine. It can have an overbearing personality, but this wine avoided it. It still left me sitting on the fence, mind you, because a certain bitterness on the finish was too much for me. But I enjoyed its heady mix of quince, beeswax and sea air. 193 NIS.

Grand Cru Furstentum, Pinot Gris, 2005

This made me a convert, if only for that one specific wine. In fact, I liked it so much, I even developed a greater appreciation for the Hengst by way of transferance. An utterly fascinating nose, with a unique aromatic signature none 'round the table could pinpoint. I thought it recalled hot springs, though the salinity nods at Xerez as well. An intellectual delight until the fruit asserted itself and then it became a sensual one as well. A structured wine that is already enjoyable, as is obvious from my note, although I'd guess it still has at least 5 years of development. 193 NIS.

Alas, at this point, my little angels at home tolled the midnight bell a couple of hours early.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling, Gueberschwihr, 2004 (Dec. 6, 2008)

Far freakin' out!

If a good German Riesling purrs like a finely tuned engine, an Alsace hums and sputters along the expressway like a bat out of hell. And from my limited experience, none roar louder than a Zind. Here, the nose seduces with aromas of baked pear and and apples, flint, dill and slate. And, oh boy, an appealing substratum of smoke. The palate has the lush roundness of an off-dry Riesling coming into its prime along with a certain quinine bitterness I find, and don't always like, in Alsace. Though here it is balanced by the sweetness of the finish. There is a fiery acidity as well and an oilyiness that together form a hardfisted - as opposed to crisp - structure and mouthfeel that could stand three-five more years of softening up in the cellar.

Imported by WineRoute. I remember three years ago, someone told me, "Alsace rocks. Now, all we have to do is convince the Shaked family to give a good discount on Zind-Humbrecht." They got the message because, for the last 2-3 years, they've been selling the non-Grand Crus for 135 NIS. And more power to them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Recession? Depression?

To paraphrase an old joke, a recession is when this here wine geek cuts back on his cru classe budget.

A depression is when he can't even afford a cru bourgeois.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Misc Notes (Nov. 2008)

Lilian Ladouys, Saint Estephe, 2000

Jammy cranberry fruit on the nose with notes of smoke and spices. Spicier on the palate than I first expected, long but not obviously Bordeaux, quite new World. Medium-bodied, not quite as balanced as I'd like and not quite up to expectations for such a vintage. Time does work its wonders as the nose gains greater details and nuances, those cranberries turning into currants and strawberries, the palate also growing more elegant. But even then it's not a very convincing wine. (Nov. 4, 2009)

Imported by WineRoute, sold for about 120 NIS four years ago.

Domaine le Couroulu, Vacqueyras, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, 2003

Dark, young purple hue and very young as well on both nose and palate. With ripe, almost jammy aromas, this is just about as ripe as a nose can get and retain any red fruit characteristics. It is tempered by initially subtle mineral and pepper notes that gain complexity and presence with airing. The palate is (considering the nose and the hot vintage) surprisingly structured with good acidity, soft yet delineating tannins and a saline, savoury finish. Parker says drink until 2009 but I beg to differ. Though I know what it means because it is a very compelling wine right now, despite a certain lack of stuffing on the mid-palate, but I think it has about four years left. (Nov. 12, 2008)

Imported by Giaconda for 135 NIS.

Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005

Comes flying out of the gate with sigh-inducing pear and flint aromatics with a touch of oak that is also present on the palate. However, it is well balanced by the saline finish. How saline? My five year old son said "it's a salty wine, abba". Exactly. I could pick out other faults besides the oak, like a certain greenness and lack of concentration, but this is just a Bourgogne and as such packs a lot of quality, almost village level and if I were to be too harsh on it, I'd have nothing to drink while I wait for Jobard's bigger wines to mature. (Nov. 20, 2008)

Sold by Tomer Gal for about 150 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Kalstadter Steinacker, Gewurztraminer Spatlese, 2005

Saumgen is Koehler-Ruprecht's great vineyard, but as it is devoted solely to Riesling, if you want to see how the magic plays out with other varieties, you need to go to Steinacker. A worthwhile pursuit in this case, as you get the classic Gewurztraminer traits - lychee, spices, a certain headiness no matter what the alcohol level is, the feeling that your palate is heavily coated with spices - with a certain German restraint. And there are a a couple of contradictions in place to beguile the innocent. Although the acidity feels as low keyed as its Alsatian counterparts - it's not, really, just concentrate and you'll find it but its obscured by all those spices - the wine as a whole feels cooler. Although the label does not say "trocken", it feels very dry except for a burst of sweetness on the end. It's almost at the start of its drinking window, with the fruit somewhat submerged in mid-palate, and I would give it five more years of life (Nov. 22, 2008).

Imported by Giaconda, sold for 106 NIS.

Domaine de la Mordoree, Lirac, La Reine Des Bois, 2005

Arguably one of the benchmark Liracs, this very young wine as deep a colored a wine as I've ever seen and it's quite monolithic at this point, with black fruit and licorice melding with hints of pepper on both nose and palate. The ripe fruit starts out sweetish before being clobbered by the persistent, yet smooth, tannins and throughout the evening, the wine displays a juggling act between sweetness, size and structure. I'd like to say it finesses this juggling act but I have to admit it's not very consistent and loses grasp of the structure more often than not towards the end. Needs air right now or, better yet, more cellar time, as patience is rewarded by lovely aromatics that recall an Oriental bazaar. My other bottle will wait some four years. (Nov. 29, 2008)

Imported by WineRoute. Old age is catching up with me so I don't remember exactly how much it cost, but I think it was about 130 NIS on discount.