Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sirloin Heaven (May 16, 2009)

Dogs have fleas. Porterhouse has me and my friends: symbiotes drawn by the lure of cuts good enough for Jehova, gravitating towards Kadima like a horde of locusts, fueled by dreams of sirloin and wine, dreams lurid enough to be banned in most Christian countries. And let it be be written in bold, crimson letters that on May 16, 2009, Porterhouse's Yossi really outdid himself, amen.

Jos. Christoffel, Mosel, Urziger Wurzgarten, Riesling Auslese **, 1989

No petrol, no overt minerality, the only clue to this wine's age is how twenty years in bottle have gently sauteed and singed the fruit, which is purely apricots at this stage. I'd have expected more complexity, but the remarkable freshness of the fruit just about makes up for that. An excellent wine, although I've had better mature Christoffels at this level.

Although this specific bottle was a personal import, this used to be sold by Giaconda for 225 NIS.

Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac, 5me Cru, 2001

This wine yells "Cabernet", then it yells "Bordeaux", but not before an initially overly-extracted facet bugs the hell out of me. As much as I usually enjoy the intellectual or (depending on the wine) erotic pleasure of watching a wine unfold, here the payoff's the thing, time in glass revealing a medium-bodied claret, with an overlay of coffee over telltale currants and cherries, a juciy acidity and a saline tweak on the finish. Very good and oddly enough, this bottle seems younger than a bottle I opened a year and a half ago.

Imported by WineRoute. If my memory serves me, it was sold four years ago for about 200 NIS.

de Trafford, South Africa, Roobernet/Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001

Hmmm... My friends tell me that if you've nothing good to say, just keep your mouth shut... This is embrassing then, let's just say that though the nose is interesting enough, there is no discenerable structure on the palate, no tannic framework, just oodles of fruit. Here are the winery's notes, please pay attention to the number at the bottom, just to the right of the string "Alc.".

Price unknown.

Henschke, Asutralia, Eden Valley, Mount Edelstone Old Vine Shiraz, 1999

Rani Osnat is building up an outstanding (if short, for now) track record of bringing excellent Australian wines that are outside the mold of fruity blockbusters we locals are familiar with. Perhaps because importers are not very eager to educate and thus only bring wines that comfortably fit within the recognized paradigm. Here, however, the savoury tannins complementing just a hint of sweetness, as well as a dash of pepper over the black fruit, made me think of Northern Rhone. The great finesse tidily obscures the wine's great size. Excellent.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Domaine Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Selection de Grains Nobles, 2001

I must say the color of this wine was so deep, dark gold, verging on brown, that I was sure this was an off-bottle, except that my previous note indicates this is probably how this wine is supposed to look. At any rate, the dark color belies the wine's freshness. This is an incredible melange of brown sugar and apricots, not much more than that, except bottle age has painted complex shadings of sweet spices unto this apricot soup, with more than enough acidity to balance any hedonistic tendencies. A highly indivdualistic treat.

Not imported to Israel, sold in the US for aboout 50 USD for a 500 cl bottle.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Typing From Memory (May 14, 2009)

When I taste with friends, I usually write some shorthand notes on paper or on my cellular phone, but the notes here are strictly from memory, written the day after. I enjoyed the challenge as it forced me to focus on the important matters and with only four wines, it was still well within the capacity of my memory cells.

Moreau-Naudet, Chablis, "Caractere", 2006

This is one of the new Chablis producers in the Giaconda portfolio, although this specific wine is not available in Israel. Tasted blind, it does take a (relatively) long time to show Chablis characteristics. Even then, these are mostly on the nose, in the way it develops a chalky streak that envelopes the citrus fruit and orange skin notes. The palate is really hard to get at, with a sandpaper-y texture making for a solid grip, taking a long time to open and even then, its flavors are not at the intensity level of the nose.  It feels as shut down as I would expect a Premier Cru of a similar age to be, albeit without a similar concentration of fruit.

Price unknown.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise, "La Digoine", 2006

The nose is so well fleshed it's hard to believe it is only three years old, showing raspberries, strawberries and that certain seasoning (for lack of a better word) that I can never comfortably break down into words but simply says "Bourgogone" to me. It's only medium bodied and fairly delicate at that, though it has a sneaky punch despite that. Right now it's fairly simple though tasty and we had excellent Epoisses with it that really highlighted its flavors. The winery says it's a long distance runner but my thoughts are less ambitious: it will be a terrific village wine (at about half the price)  in two-three years and I think I won't be able to keep my hands off it when it comes around.

Tomer Gal imports this wine regularly now and sold the 2006 vintage through Hinawi, where the price was never really consistent, as the salesperson would, somehow, always quote a different price. I paid 135 NIS on the average for it, which I consider good value.

San Felice, Chianti Classico Riserva, Poggio Rosso, 2001

There is something about the way the nose shows black fruit and leather that made me think Gigondas at first, but then Ran Shapira, who brought the bottle, indicated dissent and I joined the others 'round the table who said Italy. From there on, guessing the wine was easier. Obviously not the right structure for a Nebbiolo, not big enough to be a Brunello, it could have been a Barbera or a mature Super-Tuscan, except I thought I recognized the wine and what's more, I know what Ran likes, at which point I made my final guess, which turned out to be correct. This wine shows more black fruit than you might expect from a Sangiovese, but then again, I do expect it by now from this wine. Along with the Fonterutoli Riserva, this is the best Chianti Riserva I know, standing at mid-point between modernism and classicism.

Imported by Zamir, with the price fluctuating. Ran bought it about 160 NIS, which is good value.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Monsheimer Silbergerg, Rieslaner Auslese, 2005

The first glass was a couple of degrees too warm but even at that temperature, the acidity was amazingly uplifting, almost eiswein-like. I thought it was a Scheurebe at first, as it was initially dominated by guayava notes. Then it started showing passion-fruit and then the the botrytis started strutting its stuff and it was bye bye blackbird. I first tasted this nectar when I was still regularly scoring wines and I thought it was worth 93 points. I'd give it at least another point now.

Imported by Giaconda, sold for 240 NIS.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2006 (May 11, 2009)

Normally, I would post my notes on a superficially humble, mid-week wine such as this on the monthly "Misc Notes" post, but as WineRoute have marked it down this month to 80 NIS, I felt a modicum of urgency in posting was warranted. 

The nose is fairly complete and on the move, as it very elegantly develops in the glass: green apples and apple-pie with a hint of flowers, more than a dash of chalk and, somewhat surprisingly, flint, and later on showing subtle herbal notes. The palate is sweet on the attack, though a green-apple acidity complements that very nicely throughout. Though it offers a moderate complexity of flavors, it is somewhat austere and quinine-ish on the finish, but not enough to keep me from buying a few more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday Night At Toto, Again... (May 9, 2009)

I had lunch at Otto Enoteca Pizzaria in New York's West Village last week. My wife's cousin (who said, "I go after food like you go after wines", to loosely translate from Hebrew) recommended it to us, claiming it was his favorite restaurant in the Big Apple. He's a local Manhattanite, thus his opinion seemed valid. Alas, while the first courses were just yummy, the main courses left me musing that our local Toto is better than Otto. Which is a nice rhyme, except Toto is not strictly an Italian joint and anyway, it just lost a few points by dropping their fantastic, saliva-inducing ragu from the business dinner. Nasty, but it's still my fav'rit restaurant. Can't beat their 120 NIS business dinner deal, but guys, bring back the ragu.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese, 2001

The nose delivers all the goods you might expect from an Auslese in early maturity, a complex package that is mostly in a herbal way right now, the fruit in the background and a hint of petrol way back in the outfield. Alas, the palate is nowhere near as provoking nor delicious was it was a year and a half ago. There's a bitter, quinine note running through its backbone which makes it feel drier than it actually is. I'm willing to tentatively guess it's going through a dormant phase but as it showed on this particular evening, it was a disappointment. Oddly enough, friends from a nearby table sent us a glass of the same wine from 2005 (albeit, in 2005 it was a trocken) which felt even more taut and constricted, the alcohol enough upfront to make me guess it was a Viognier.

Imported by Giaconda, about 160 NIS, good value when it's on form.

Faively, Mercurey Premier Cru, Clos du Roi, 1999

A good journeyman wine, meaty and rustic, smelling a bit overextracted, although quite good on the palate with time and air. Nothing to write home about and I couldn't help feeling how much better the Villaine Mercurey is (at least the 2006 I tasted a short while back).

Imported by HaKerem, price unknown.

Chapoutier, Chateauneuf du Pape, Crois de Bois, 2001

Don't go by first impressions. It starts out with an annoyingly over-extracted nose and just tons of gooey glycerine on the palate, feeling vaguely Australian. Time, however, does wonders, as the nose starts to display a burnt mineral note and in general enough nuances to delight. On the palate, it is still big and sweet, but overall, it too shows traces of salinity. It is thus obviously young enough for me to reserve an adverse criticism. Although I hesitate to dub it Wine Of The Night due to a lack of obvious contention, I suspect that on any given day it would have been a strong candidate regardless.

Imported by the Scottish Company and I don't really remember how much it cost when it came out. However, I've seen recent vintages go for about 70 USD and at that price and with the way the 2001 is showing, I'd call it fairly priced.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Misc. Notes (Apr. 2009)

Chateau l'Arrivet Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1998

The nose is a fine example of a red wine that is mature and complex enough so the specifics of the fruit don't matter, except they're mostly red, which is how I like 'em. Beyond that, the aromatics are vaguely brooding without being over-dramatic, with hints of blood and enough iron for a year's worth of Popeye cartoons. On the palate, the fruit is fresh and succulent, while the tannins are crisp and tasty, and in general the whole tasty package echoes the mineral vein of the nose. The only thing it lacks is great finesse or any pretensions thereof but it puts on a really great show. I have one more bottle left and I regret not buying more so that I could follow this wine's development on an annual basis. Sold by WineRoute for 200 NIS about a year ago, it is an excellent bargain I hope few passed by.

Marc Tempe, Zellenberg, Gewurztraminer, 2005

Maybe I just oughtta give up. Gewurztraminer is always going to be too heady for me to enjoy a stable relationship with, although I do enjoy an occasional fling. Having said that, this is a very good specimen for me, being somwhat lighter than usual. It starts with a classic Gewurtz nose, perhaps leaning more towards the litchi-flowery side, with a good helping of tropical fruit, rather than towards the spicier facets of the variety. The palate has very good acidity and ends on a crisp, mineral note, although the mid-palate is one again the grape's weak spot, displaying pink grapefruit that could use more texture and nuances. I think it has enough structure to age for a few more years and in that time might become more nuanced. (Apr. 5, 2009)

Giaconda, 144 NIS.

I also returned this month to the Burgreben, Riesling, 2001 of the same producer. Peaches and honey on the nose, an undertow of minerals, but also hints of poached apples and mildew. Tasty, crisp yet fatty at the same time, with acidity and sweetness complementing the minerals, pepper and quinine on the finish. A very good wine and an excellent buy at 162 NIS. (Apr. 23, 2009)

I also revisited another Giaconda import, the Donnhoff, Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) QBA, Trocken, 2007. Yet again, even a short time in bottle brings out a Burgundian facet, specifically Chablis, with a citrus and chalk tinge on both nose and palate. At about 100 NIS, it's priced at Chablis village level and the quality is on par, although a backdrop of tropical fruit, apple pie and flowers makes it much more idiosyncratic. Honestly, the Donnhoff label should read, "tasty at any level of quality". (Apr. 25, 2009)

A. Et P. De Villaine, Mercurey, Les Montots, 2006

The winery, Burghound and number one Villaine fan Florida Jim (usually found somewhere in here) are all in agreement: this wine still needs a few more years. Why then did I open it now? Curiousity, a sudden craving for Pinot Noir and an urge to complete my travels through the Villaine catalog (though I still have to get to the La Fortune, the entry level cuvee which is only available in Israel starting with the 2007 vintage).

The nose is pure Pinot fruit, wild strawberries and cranberries, with a bubblegum aspect when first poured, until it becomes earthier and more adult and matures into a classic Bourgogne nose. The palate is tannic for a Pinot, and a bit rusty on the finish, almost Nebbiolo like in its angular structure. This too seems like a product of its young age, as more air renders it softer and rounder, even if it does retain that angularity. If at first the wine is not very impressive, one might even call it one-dimensional, it is nonetheless quite balanced, and I tend to agree this wine has the potential to become a very good to excellent wine. But it's going to be the type of wine that builds up weight in bottle over time which will frustrate people who expect a wine to start out big and soften. (Apr. 15, 2009)

Imported by Tomer Gal, bought for about 150 NIS.