Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spanish Night At Toto (Apr. 21, 2009)

Toto have started hosting special BYO nights, coordinated by their sommelier, Roee Yaniv. The idea is simple: Roee chooses a theme, Toto supplies the food for a fixed price and the participants supply the wines, pending Roee's approval. Last night's theme, as the title of my post makes quite clear, was Spanish wines. I have grouped my notes by region of origin and not by the order in which they were served in order to make the comparisons easier.

Hacienda Monasterio, Ribera Del Duero, 2004

The first impression was not awfully terrific, lots of vanilla and such, but knowing my companions' collective tastes, I expected to see improvement and I was right. The vanilla blew off, and while this is not a subtle wine, it is balanced and an initial hint of minerals grows more pronounced. A good example why even modern Ribera is so appealing but just wait, further proof is forthcoming.

Hacienda Monasterio, Ribera Del Duero, 1999

Much more Old World than the 2004, it offers this very precious 'stink' of mildew, tobacco leaves and old leather, just yummy. Crisp, savoury tannins where the 2004's are more foursquare. Currently, a wine more to my taste than the 2004.

These wines are not imported to Israel and I have no idea how much they cost.

Ismael Arroyo, Vol Sotillo, Ribera Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1996

Even more Old World-ish, nooooo complaints... The nose is a blast of cardamon but not at the expense of red fruit and there are also some olives in the mix. In all, the nose is just, well, grand. The palate, alas, lags behind, but it's still the kind of wine I relish, although I prefer the 1995.

Imported by Giaconda, 360 NIS.

Abadia Retuerta, Sardon Del Duero, Pago Negralada, 1996

A different kind of Old World style, clean fruit and sweet-ish, but sweetness that comes from the fruit, not the alcohol or oak. It's elegant and tasty but left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Maybe I'm just doing it an injustice, as it was the last wine served and my concentration was flagging.

Abadia Retuerta used to be imported to Israel, by HaKerem. I'm not sure what the current situation is.

Clos Martinet, Priorat, 2001

This isn't an outright blockbuster, but in boxing terms, this and the other Priorat were a few weight divisions up from most of the other wines of the night. This wine has a certain stink that I'm almost sure I remember from a tasting about five years ago, not full-blast brett but a hint of barnyard complexified by some chocolate and graphite. The tannins are prominent and emphasized by a certain lack of acidity. A very good wine, within its style, which is not a criticism, mind you, just putting things in context.

Imported by WineRoute on and off, this cost 220-250 NIS four-five years ago and I think current pricing is not very far off.

Clos Mogador, Priorat, 2000

Since I brought it, I am sad to report it was somewhat overshadowed by the Clos Martinet (not to mention by the El Pison which followed it), although it is a good wine in its own right. The nose boasts fruit seemingly picked at the apogee before the ripeness gets out of hand, and it is tempered by mineral notes. These notes are then echoed on the palate which is too monolithic for my tastes, but which ends in a saline finish, and that is fine indeed.

Also imported by WineRoute and at similar prices.

Artadi, Rioja, El Pison, 2001

The most amazing nose, a profound mix of red and black fruit, overlain with tobacco leaves and flowers. Very complex, balanced and long, the palate has crisp tannins and a saline finish, all of which somehow harken to the wine's place of origin, despite the modern winemaking technique. A score of 96 might do it justice.

Imported by WineRoute and sold for twice, maybe three times the price of the Priorats.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Henri Bourgeois at WineRoute

Henri Bourgeois is, as Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book puts it, "a leading grower/merchant in Sancerre" and surrounding villages. Apparently, he is also the Loire Valley representative in WineRoute's catalog. They usually prefer to test the waters with one big producer who offers a wide range of products from its area (cf.  Louis Jadot, William Fevre, d'Arenberg, Dr. Loosen), later following up with other medium-to-large sized producers, if and when they decide there is a viable market. Fair enough. In meantime, while I wait for developments (will the Shaked family repeat their Bourgogne invasion of two years back with other Loire producers? Probably not, methinks), I thought it was time for 2GrandCru to check out the new kid.

Sancerre, Les Baronnes, 2007

According to the winery's site, this is a tier or two above their entry-level, and, while not an earth mover, it is quite nice. But just that. The nose is a pleasant expression of lime, lemon peels and hints of flint and some apples in the background, while the palate is simple yet tasty and crisp with very good acidity. It's a bit too sweet and round in mid-palate at first but then winds up with a chalky finish in contrast, and anyway in time it loses some of the the fat in lieu of a green apple tang. Despite a certain blockiness, it has enough acidity and just enough balance to keep and maybe improve for two-three years, but, at 100 or so NIS, the QPR is only okay-minus, mostly because it lacked a certain inexpressible something that makes a wine more memorable than the sum of its parts. (Apr. 5, 2009)

Pouilly-Fume, La Demoiselle de Bourgeois, 2006

The aromatics here are more subtle yet more focused, harking from the same lime and lemon peels family, with saline nuances. The palate is really a step up, crispier and drier and, again, just more focused. The acidic backbone lends structure and complements the chalky finish, not allowing it to turn bitter. The QPR isn't an improvment over the Les Baronnes; it's a better wine but at 160 NIS, it's also more expensive.. (Apr. 12, 2009)

Sancerre, La Bourgeoise, 2006

A further step up.  Once again, the same lime-and-lemon and saline notes, propelled by hints of flint. The palate is much longer, the acidity more refined yet more intense, the whole package carrying over with a distinct grapefruit personality. A very distinguished finish.

Is this a better buy? At 160 NIS, this is the only wine I'd buy from this trio. Yet, on the next shelf in the Tel Aviv branch, you can buy Zind-Humbrecht's "village" wines for 139 NIS, and while I probably shouldn't compare the Loire to Alsace, it's a sobering thought. (Apr. 18, 2009)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dinner At Toto (Apr. 16, 2009)

This was a dinner with friends who are not as - what is the word I'm looking for here? captivated? enchanted? obsessed? obsessed is that most apt descriptor, I'm sad to confess - obsessed about wines as I am, so I was really not expecting any major surprises...

We started off with a bottle of Regnard, Chablis St. Pierre, 2007, a simple village with a classic Chablis nose of citrus fruit enhanced by saline, sea-shell notes. The palate, alas, is not very focused, too round and somewhat sweetish. A good introduction to Chablis but not much more. Imported by HaKerem for about 100 NIS.

My offering was the Chave, Hermitage, Selection Rouge, 2001, not the renowned cuvee but rather a domaine bottling. This wine has a curious history in Israel, because when WineRoute imported it some three years ago, everyone thought it was the Chave bottling at first, offered for a ludicrous pricet. It wasn't, obviously, and my first taste of it was rather disappointing, but it has since blossomed into a very good Hermitage, with appealing leather notes over fruit solidly placed between the red and black areas of the spectrum. The palate is savoury with meaty tannins and a minerally finish. While not a very complex creature, it is delightful and a great value at 170 NIS.

At this point, my friend Yahali wowed me with a dessert wine he brought from Germany. Not just any dessert wine but an eiswein, and not just any eiswein but a bargain basement one from an unknown producer that cost a bit less than 20 euros for a half bottle. This Krebs-Grode, Rheinhessen, Eimsheimer Sonnenhang, Riesling Eiswein, 2002 shows apples cider notes sprinkled with brown sugar and its secret weapon is a marvellous acidity that balances what would be an unctuous texture in any other context. It's not very complex but that acidity makes it livlier than many a Sauternes. Terrific value.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Saturday Night Tasting - Hagit Koren's Birthday

No fancy wordplay on my part this time, just a moment to bask in the memories of a select choice of excellent wines and the comradeship of old friends enjoying them together.

Pierre Gimmonet, Fleuron, 2002

I rather enjoyed it more last year, when it seemed better structured and slightly more complex. It still has that elegant combination of orange blossom, minerals and yeasts, now complemented by nutty overtones, but it simple less convincing, with the mousse less enticing. A good wine even so.

Imported by Boutique de Champagnes and sold for 295 NIS before discount.

Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc, Bourgeois Cru, 1990

One man's Platonic Ideal of Claret. Both nose and palate show soft fruit on the borderline between red and black. Not especially complex, but offering small scale pefection in its harmony and balance - and amazingly delicious. I could have finished the entire bottle without noticing, which is the charm of such wines.

Price unknown but more recent vintages are imported by WineRoute.

Fratelli Revello, Barolo, Vignia Gianchi, 1997

Textbook Barolo, methinks. Iron notes over red fruit, savoury tannins and a minerally texture. Structured, yet ready to drink. Wine of the night.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Tardieu-Laurent, Cote Rotie, 2001

Classic Cote Rotie nose, with black pepper over red fruit as well as flower and lemon notes in the background. A relative disappointment, all things considered, as it is somewhat disjointed, with what some perceived as overly high acidity (but what was from my point of view overly mellow fruit, same difference really). One to try again in four-five years.

Sold five-six years ago by WineRoute for about 350 NIS.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

2GrandCru Strikes Out With Another Corky Wine - Saturday Night At Toto (Mar. 28, 2009)

Just another night in Tel Aviv City...

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2004

This took an hour to open up in my glass and even then it was still young. This is a wine that should be almost spell-binding when ready but now it only hints at its potential, with pungent minerals over lime and lemon on both nose and palate and a taut structure. Still, even in this embryonic phase, it was my wine of the night. Imported by WineRoute, sold in the upper 300 NIS range as far as I recall.

Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie, La Landonne, 1996

Sad, sad, sad. Cost me 80 USD and my wife never knew how many milligrams of TCA she lugged home in her suitcase. I bought it at MacArthur wines in Washington DC and I really like the store, despite the disappointment, so here is a link to their site: peruse and enjoy!

Domaine Cauvard, Pommard Noizons, 1999

Great year + village Cru + so-so producer = cherries and just-okay spicing over an annoyingly extracted core, with crisp tannins which would have been enjoyable had the fruit been capable of exploiting them. Shimon Lasry exported it some three-four years ago and sold it for about 200 NIS. I'm going to be petty and forego linking to Shimon's site; this is the kind of wine that gives Burgundy a bad name.

Chateau Grange-Neuve, Pomerol, 1998

Every now and then, someone will bring a wine that that fell off everyone's radar screen and this is such a wine. I think it's very rare to find such an obscure wine coming from Bordeaux of all places (how obscure? Parker doesn't even have a review for it!) and it's so good that if you'd tasted it, you'd want to buy a case for the right price, which in Pomerol terms probably means anything under 60 dollars or so. The Bordeaux afficiandos 'round the table guessed Bordeaux but didn't guess Pomerol, which is fine, that still doesn't detract from its charms. It has soft black fruit, somewhat rustic yet crisp tannins blanketed by silky fruit to complement them, and any weak spots viz a viz complexity or finesse are more than made up by plain, outright yumminess. Thanks a bunch, Hagit!

Chateau Montus, Madiran, Cuvee Prestige, 1999

There was something Spanish about the spicing of this wine and when we hazarded Spain as a guess, Rani Osnat, who'd brought it, said "close" and here I got lucky. I remembered my geography and said Tannat (open your Johnson and Robinson, boys and girls, and look it up). The nose has a certain warm climate tinge to its black fruit, although not overripe per se, but the palate is much more crisp and minerally than the nose might lead you to assume, with a nice flare of acidity on the finish. This was very drinkable, if not especially complex, after the wine had been open for three hours and in our glasses for another half hour. Price unknown.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Closing Of A Circle - Martin Nigl, Kremstal, Kremser Freiheit, Gruner Veltliner, 2005 (Apr. 2, 2009)

The wine geek genus I belong to evolves in leaps. Every few years, the angels (or is that demons?) harken and invite you up into another sphere of wine appreciation, the change marked by spending more time and money on the hobby, discarding old interests and picking up newer, inevitably more expensive ones. I first encountered this wine just before the birth of my previous incarnation, and, although I had drunk a Gruner or two before, I didn't enjoy this specific sample. It did attract my intellectual curiousity, and, knowing my current inclinations, I saw it as the kind of wine that straddles both past and present loves and was very curious to finally re-visit it.

The nose is limey and saline in a way I tend to enjoy even in humble wines and I'd probably take it for a village Chablis in a blind tasting. The palate is crisp in the same Chablis mode, lighter than a Chablis actually, but behind the chalky texture and ripe acidity is a vein of sweetness that I would have taken for German Riesling, maybe an off-dry Chenin (though admittedly the label does say trocken). This sweetness fades back in mid-palate and allows the minerals dominate the finish. This isn't a complex wine and obviously it isn't very powerful, but it is very savoury and appealing and although I've read GV can age, even this wine, this bottle was spot on for me right now.

Not imported to Israel and I don't remember how much I paid for it, probably 20 something euros at the Vienna duty-free. I think it would be a good value under 20 USD.