Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006 (Aug. 22, 2009)


I was a jejune taster when WineRoute imported the 2000 Crozes seven years ago. The next vintage was the 2002, which, despite the acclaim bestowed on it by one demented reviewer, was a mediocre wine that just barely managed to escape the very worst of that vintage's abysmal faults. So this is my first real encounter with a good Graillot Crozes, which I bought at WineRoute for about 130 NIS, if I'm not mistaken.

Right off the bat, before the wine has a chance to truly open up, I am enchanted by the nose. Very Syrah, very Rhone, with rich black fruit and spicy/peppery notes. Not a blockbuster, folks, although it hits the ground running and takes off as it airs. The palate is still primal and tannic but has a suave, saline finish. This wine is truly all I expect from a young middle-weight Syrah though it will have to integrate its tannins - not to mention its acidity, which at its core is very graceful only right now it is very adolescent and loud - and then I think it will show as decently elegant wine. It should be an interesting voyage.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nuits-St.-Georges Tasting (Aug. 12, 2009)

I've been to quite a few of Tomer Gal's tastings and this one, rather unexpectedly I must say, was one of the best. Forget any preconceptions you might have of Nuits-St.-Georges, some excellent wines are made there and the wines tasted showed both typicity and individuality. None took sturdiness to any extreme, except for the Leroy Aux Allots perhaps, and all highlighted Pinot fruit with decent elegance and often more. All were easy to write notes for, which means they displayed a certain transparency, this without in any way detracting from their quality or mystique.

Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2006

From vineyards in central Nuits. The nose has a certain candied tingle which I find in many young Burgundies and gets it just right, being fruity and subtly spicy. The attack is quite soft and silky, but there is an acid backbone which delivers a big kick on the finish. Quite long for a village, although the tannins are not very finessed. I am quite intrigued by its character, and, as I was to find out later, I seem to have an affinity for the Gouges style. Excellent value at 190 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2006

Sourced from the Bas de Combe vineyard in north Nuits, bordering Vosne. Everything about the wine is darker, from the color to the palate. Which is true for all three Meo-Camuzet wines tasted, although to my taste they are still very much Pinot and very much Bourgogne. The nose is riper and more forward than the Gouges, although I find the Gouges aromatics are more captivating from a stylistic point of view. Even though the wine had been open for several hours, it kept improving in the glass. At first, I found it shorter than the Gouges, and heavier, but it kept growing more harmonic and elegant. Although, at 280 NIS, it costs more than what I'd like you to pay for a Villages, it is certainly right at the top of its classification.

Jean Grivot, Nuits-St.-Georges Charmois, 2005

From central Nuits again. This is even better. What a lovely nose, utterly Bourgogne, with a sultry smokiness I also found in the Gouges, as well as hints of chocolate and loads of style. The palate is also reminiscent of the Gouges, what with its brainy angularity, but it's much more monolithic. It's another case of an iron fist in a velvet glove, still kicking within its elegant envelope, with terrific acidity complemented with precise ripeness. Between the Meo-Camuzet and the Grivot Villages, this is the one I'd actually pay 280 NIS for.

Domaine Leroy, Nuits-St.-Georges, Aux Allots, 2005

North Nuit. I'm not quite sure how to swallow a 1300 NIS Villages, especially one as closed as this one is. Sorry, maybe I shouldn't joke about wines as expensive as this one... At first, the fruit is so shut down, all I can get on the nose is barrel-induced spices and only tannins on the palate, albeit very fine tannins. This is obviously more about Leroy than about Nuits.

Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos des Porrets St. Georges, 2006

Central Nuits. This is a very pretty wine and although it is no less closed than the Leroy, it is more about fruit and is in a very good place, even now. It is aromatically cut from the same cloth as the Gouges Villages, although the fruit is subtler and it adds some chocolate notes as well as light, welcome hints of sweat and barnyard. At first, the tannins seem to choke the fruit, but even then, you can sense the power and focus the wine holds. Then the wine opens a bit and lets out more hints of its quality, complexity and, again, focus. This delicious wine seems a bargain at 280 NIS for a Premier Cru.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2006

From a vineyard located just over Clos des Porrets. My written notes repeat the phrase "what a lovely nose" so I guess I must have liked it. Yes, the nose is so alluring and sensual that the word "whore" was bandied around the table, although I think "geisha" nails it better, as the wine presents an intellectual facet as well as a sensual one. The nose, then, is earthy and smokey over all that sexy fruit while the palate has a brainy mineral/tannic finish. Over my budget at 490 NIS but I can still dream, can't I?

De Montille, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Thorey, 2006

North Nuits. I think this wine's place in the tasting was problematic. I think wines age by one of two routes. They either mellow out with age or build up in bottle. And the ones that build up and gain weight with maturity, as this wine seems to be, just don't show well against the other type. Having said that, this is lightly colored and has a highly perfumed nose, very delicate and feminine. The palate is more of the same, with the sensuality of a woman who doesn't put anything out to hang but rather saves it all for the bedroom. And a lightly minerally finish caps off a very charming package. Good value at 300 NIS.

Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos des Grandes Vignes, 2006

From south Nuits and the same winemaker, Etienne Montille, as the Thorey. The nose is very de Montille, with gunsmoke, earth and a light meatiness draping over a very solid background of red fruit. The palate has good length and is drinking well, but as a total experience, offers less than the other wines of the evening.

290 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Murgers, 2005

North Nuits. The nose starts out very closed but develops radically, offering earth and hints of coffee. This kind of nose could spoil me rotten, but, even at its most hedonistic, there is a captivating sense of it elegantly holding back. It has the finest tannins of all the wines of the tasting, offering a light bitterness without pinching the fruit. Elegant and silky, it has a great future as well as a terrific present. Wine of the night.

Okay, I guess I like Meo-Camuzet a lot, too, even if he doesn't exactly fit my budget. 580 NIS.

Jean Grivot, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Roncieres, 2000

Central Nuits. What I like about mature Burgundies is how that candied fruit of their youth becomes a mellow sweetness that comes totally from the fruit and not the alcohol or residual sugar. Thus, this is a very good drop with its well-evolved purity. However, most of its breed is in its nose - which is much better than the palate - where the red fruit is just the background for the Old World lovers' favorite players: sweat, saddle leather and the sewers of Paris.

490 NIS.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rauzan-Segla Tasting At WineRoute (July 28, 2009)

The winery claims that Thomas Jefferson regarded this Margaux Second Growth very highly. Me, I've always been an Aaron Burr fan.

Name dropping heckling aside, while the tasting was a highly educational experience, and while I enjoyed the wine's elegance and classicism, I didn't exactly depart with an itch I just had to scratch. Although I wouldn't kick the 1996 out of my fridge, you know. But overall, I think the Rauzlan-Segla is a very good wine, just not a must-have.

Aromatically, most of the vintages are of a kind: the fruit profile strikes a nice balance betwen red and black fruit, overlaid with tobacco and coffee, while the older vintages have a slightly nutty quality to them. The difference is in the palate, and, while the style is more or less consistent, the quality is not immune to vintage variations.

(I have not yet received the prices from WineRoute. I will update this post once I have them)

2004

A very pretty nose that starts out somewhat modernish and then unfolds and displays more classic nuances and a touch of spices. Alas, while the nose is first-class, the palate doesn't even have a boarding pass. Just about medium bodied, you can feel how the palate just doesn't have the substance or balance to contain the oak and it winds down on an astringent finish that doesn't seem to have a lot to do with the wine's youth (the comparison to the 2005 is riveting) but rather with the style of the vintage.

2005

As I said at the top, Rauzan-Segla showed great aromatic consistency during the tasting and nowhere was this more evident than with the pair that kicked off the tasting. The 2005 was the better wine aromatically, showing great vibrancy and ever growing presence and definition, but it really showed its true breed on the palate. The fruit is more concentrated, longer and with enough ripeness to totally avoid any astringency. A real winner.

2003

Although very forward, the nose is surprisingly elegant for the vintage. However, its typicity is very hazy, so much so that there was a general concensus that it was much more Pauillac in character than Margaux. The palate also surprises by being rather more reminiscent of the 2004 than the 2005, with a slight bitterness on the finish. A better wine than the 2004, it actually has less personality than the 2002.

2002

A terrific, unique nose that manages to tweak all the aromatic components of Rauzan-Segla and spin them off in another direction altogether. I'm tempted to call it funky, but it would be a rather elegant style of funk. The palate is ripe, not especially long, but very balanced and methinks it will be one of those useful wines that will drink relatively early while retaining its vitality for over a decade.

2001

The nose is even funkier than the 2002, broader too, with slightly blacker fruit, and it really hit home with me. A continuous, side-by-side comparison of the 2002 versus the 2001 showed that the 2002 was a more interesting wine, longer, with the tannins supporting the fruit with greater finesse. This was a surprising breach of the book on these two vintages and thus a second bottle was opened, which showed a better structure, with an interesting play of astrigency and ripeness on the finish. The second bottle beat the 2002 on points.

1998

This is a good wine, but there is something bland about it. The nose adds nothing new and the palate is very fruity and accessible. While it gains focus in glass, overall it remains a very indifferent product.

1995

Although the nose is tighter than any preceeding or suceeding wine, it retains the family signature. The palate has terrific balance and power, without ever breaching the elegant facade of the house style. This is the most Old World wine of the tasting and if my note is rather skimpy, it is only because it is in a very monolithic stage right now.

1996

The nose simply roars and the more it opens up, the more I'm amazed by it. it just has this meaty, animalistic feel to it yet somehow it remains silky and elegant. The palate is fuller and bigger than the 1995, yet somehow it is just as balanced and elegant. For my money, this is the wine of the tasting. Excellent.

1989

The 1989 boasts a captivating nose that is even more animalistic than the 1996, with nutty overtones. It starts out very yummy, unfurling incredible freshness for a twenty year old as well as integrated and supprortive tannins - but it loses steam in glass, as opposed to the 1983, which just showed no signs of quitting.

1983

Starting out a sluggish step and a half behind the 1989, the 1983 quickly makes up the distance, never showing any fraying on the palate, while the nose develops a real 'stink' of a bouquet. The most captivating wine of the night, Ran Shapira called it classic Margaux and I'll have to take his word for it. Maybe all mature wines are this much fun, if they survive this far - which this one sure did, and more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Porterhouse (Aug. 8, 2009)

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Brut, n.v.

A very Chablis-like nose of flint, sea shells and oranges. There is a crisp, chalky mouthfeel but there is also an underlying sensation of sweetness that doesn't really thrive on its own but begs for food to subsume it. A nice bubbly, good value, not very memorable but quite charming for what it is and what it costs.

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Delas, Hermitage, Marquise de la Tourette, 1999

The nose is all about pepper and earth, and, while there are also plenty of black fruit - and some red too - it's a fairly hardcore Old World wine, meaning the fruit is not at center stage. The aromas follow through on the palate, which is balanced and has good acidity and a rusty finish.

A rusty finish can only get you so far, to be truly high class, a wine has to show elegance as well; having said that, this is, to my tastes, a very good sample of a heartwarming second-tier wine, worth about 92 points.

Improrted by Anavim, years ago, purchased for about 250 NIS. I'd drink it within the next three years, even though the critics make it a twenty year wine, because I was never overwhelmed by the climate conditions of the Anavim stores.

Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac, 5me Cru, 2000

The fruit profile is riper and friendlier than the Delas, leaning towards black cherries but with a touch of red fruit as well. The nose has a smoky-minerally personality, which I think is terribly appealing. Bordeaux, folks, remember that name!

Imported by WineRoute, costing less than 200 NIS when the 2000's hit the shelves.

Ishmael Arroyo, Vol Sotillo, Riber Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1995

There is a currant-y kick on the nose which might be misleading in a blind tasting, but other than that, no complaints at all. Good concentration and ripe acidity on the deftly balanced, nicely knitted palate and a complex overlay of spices on the nose.

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Misc Notes (July 2009)

Golan Heights Wineries, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

With this kind of wine, geared as it is for upper-middle class neophytes looking for wines to flatter their newly-found perceptions of what fermented grape juice should taste like, it is actually easier for me to imagine the winery's press release than it is to formulate an interesting tasting note. Thank God I'm not a professional, but anyway, here 'tis: Sweet fruit with a spicy, minerally aftertaste. A good wine in the typical Israeli mold, ripe, alcoholic with green streaks. These traits are in enough of a balance to make this a successful wine but I just can't conjure the energy to write anything more about it. (July 4, 2009)

The next wine I had that same day is, thankfully, much easier for me to write about.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Haardter Herrenletten, Riesling Spatlese, 2006

Unlike other wines I've had this year from the Pfalz, this is an off-dry wine and the roundness of the fruit in this mold is so easily accessible and tasty that I might have a problem returning to drier wines from the region. The nose is lush, almost tropical, with a hint of botrytis funk, creating an impression of the dessert wine but that's not the way it functions on the palate, as it is more of an appertif or a food wine. Whatever, on the palate the dominant red apple notes are enveloped by more tropical fruits on the fringes and the whole package finishes with a long tasty blast that is all juicy, fruity acidity. This excellent wine should develop for over a decade. (July 4, 2009)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

A. Et P. Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2006

I am obviously incapable of keeping away from this Chardonnay, even though I knew it was not quite ready. Still, I remembered how lovely the nose was and I needed to clear some fridge space. Plus, it really helps that I've got a few more bottles stashed away. Because, with this particular bottle, although the eloquent flint and spicy pears on nose just make me want cuddle up in bed with a smile, the solid fruit on the palate is overwhlemed by the oak and the overall effect is a choppy, blocky and ungainly. Damn. (July 7, 2009)

Imported by Tomer Gal, I was lucky enough to find it for about 120 NIS.

Albert Mann, Muscat, 2007

Since Albert Mann makes my favorite Alsatian renditions of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, it's only fitting that this is one of the few Muscats to arouse my interest. I dont think I'd buy an entire bottle but it seems like a good wine to buy by the glass, as its blend of white fruit, quinine and minerals seems like a good match for light summer fare.

Mann's importer, Giaconda, doesn't carry the Muscat, although it does import the more expensive Weinbach rendition, which, at slightly less than 200 NIS, simple doesn't fit into any ecological niche in my culinary life. There must be a strand of irony in there somewhere.

Albert Boxler, Pinot Blanc, 2005

Apricots with flint overtones on the nose. The palate is round and there is no lack of acidity, thankfully. There is, however, a bit of an alcoholic sting in mid-palate which carries through to a bitter finish. Overall, there's a rough feel to it that doesn't really appeals to me. (July 18, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v. (2004 based)

A sharp wine until the sweetness of the citrus fruit asserts itself, with a yeasty nose that bespeaks of chalk and baked apples. This is one of the best non-vintages that Eldad Levi imports and I'd be tempted to age it further if I had the room for it. Time to move on to the Special Club. (July 19, 2009)

About 230 NIS, Boutique des Champagnes.

Schafer-Frolich, Nahe, QBA, Riesling Trocken, 2007

The nose initially reminds me of Champagne, with its green apples laced with hints of oranges and yeast, but then the various elements blend together to produce a more typical apple-pie character. And then the minerals and baked apples start roaring and there you go, that German shit just smells so good, even when it's just QBA stuff. The palate is balanced and tasty, if not especially complex, with an elegant backbone of juicy acidity and a welcome salinity on the finish. (July 25, 2009)

Giaconda, 80 NIS. Decent value.

J.L. Chave, Cotes du Rhone, Mon Coeur, 2007

This initially has very 'southern' aromatics, with ripe plums and herbal/meaty notes. Then it develops a more peppery, Syrah personality, so I'm not sure whether it comes from the North or South Rhone (Chave, of course, hails from the North). Maybe it's just a Syrah-based CDR from the South. The palate has a heady, sweet, ripe feel to it, balanced by solid tannins and ends in a peppery, dusty finish. (July 30, 2009)

WineRoute, about 100 NIS, expensive for a Cotes du Rhone, but reasonable considering the overall quality. Personally, I prefer the Chave St. Joseph, and I'm sated with mid-priced Southern Rhones for now, anyway.