Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sitting In A Tel Aviv Garden - Informal Dinner at Catit (Sept. 23, 2009)

Eight of us gathered in the bastion of local haut cuisine to partake of Catit's garden menu. Let's face it, as creative as Meir Adoni can be, Catit is hardly free of pretension that comes with a high price tag, and thus the garden menu is a chance to experience Catit without administrating an electrical shock to the bank account.

It wasn't an easy menu to match with wines, especially not red wines.

I had a really witty line about the perils of matching white fish with Alion, but I forgot to write it down with my notes and now it's lost forever. Anyway, it wasn't my faux pas anyway; I went for the sinta.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004

Recently, even villages from the 2004 vintage are too young for my tastes and here the scented oak is overwhelming on both nose and palate. But its mineral cut and saline finish are very nice indeed and it should be a very decent wine in two-three years.

Imported by WineRoute, the price I think is around 200 NIS.

Domaine Arlaud, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2004

Starts out very fruity and flowery and then in time adds a dash of typical Bourgogne spices to the mix. As you would expect from a Grand Cru, the palate is better than the nose but despite its punch, it comes off stylistically more like a Chambolle or a Volnay than a Chambertin.

Imported by WineRoute, price unknown but I'd guess 600-700 NIS.

Chateau Lascombes, Margaux 2me Cru, 2001

I love how a well-made claret balances black fruits with red and this is a solid example. The nose is not complex but is a very pretty creature that will soothe you even if it won't make you tingle and is handsomely lacquered with notes of ash. The palate is rather rougher and shows its youth. Purchased for 50 Euros at the Anatalya duty-free and as I am wary of aging wines purchased at such places, I erred on the side of caution when I brought it on this occasion, some three years earlier than I should have. It's drinking nicely, though.

Ceretto, Bricco Rocce, Barolo, Prapo, 1989

It's hard for me to place or label the nose but the palate is long, balanced, with juicy acidity, and is subtly spicy and earthy on the finish where the lively fruit flares up. Know what? I will try to describe the nose, after all: orange peels and wet coals. And wonderfully idiosyncratic.

Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Cicala, 2001

The nose is more forward and complex than the Prapo but the palate lacks acidity and is over-sweet for me. There is a note of chocolate on the nose that is overbearing but it is tempered by a whiff of tobacco leaves.

Alion, Ribera Del Duero, 2001

This was the only wine not served blind and as Danny Galil (of Mersch) poured it, I told him I was waiting for an Alion that I would actually love. This is it. The nose starts off with a ravishing bottle stink, but adds more elegant embellishments. The palate is modern, yes, but in a tastefully fruity way, with a smoky minerality on the finish.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sushi And Riesling At Sakura (Sept. 12, 2009)

Sakura is one of my favorite Sushi places. In Israel anyway. And while Riesling and Sushi should be a great match, the wines we brought were a little too dry for a perfect match. Still, it was a fun evening. I mean, my friends and I really don't buy any crappy Riesling. It's the 2GrandCru 3rd Amendment.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese, Trocken, 2005

A pungent nose that obscures the fruit but is terrrific anyway for its chalk cum vegetable soup nuances. The palate is not just young and tight, it's so disjointed it's almost paraplegic. There is obvious acidity present but it floats in a universe parallel to the bitter quinine finish and the wine is so closed I couldn't spot enough body in it for an Auslese. Still, I do like this wine for its somberly rugged personality so while I'm not opening any of my bottles in the next five years, I remain hopeful about its future.

Giaconda, about 160 NIS.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Von der Fels, Riesling QBA, Trocken, 2005

Here is another lovely nose with an almost Burgundian overlay of flint and dry grass over citrus fruit, while a kinky note of burnt rubber points the compass elsewhere. Unlike the Samaugen, the Von der Fels opens to show a very flavorsome profile and lovely acidity, yet never quite advances beyond a somewhat churlish adolescence. Very good and will improve.

Giaconda again, about 200 NIS (this is declassified juice from various Keller Grand Crus).

Marc Tempe, Alsace, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

Honeyed apples on the nose with something akin to light botrytis. The palate starts off dry and finishes on a sweet note that is laced with minerals. We all liked this wine in the past and, thankfully, little has changed. I think this wine is well entrenched in a peak plateau that will last some three-five years, thus no rush to drink but no reason to wait.

Giaconda make their third and last appearance of the evening. About 160 NIS.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Evening With Neophytes (Sept. 11, 2009)

Our host supplied beef carpacio and assorted cheeses, I brought the wines, which, for better or for worse, are not the kind of wines I'd normally open with the wine geeks.

Hmmmm. When I think about it, this weird behavorial pattern (that is, excluding certain wines from tasting with my more snobbish friends) calls for some discussion, but seeing as my bosses totally pissed me off this week and I'm still recovering from that, I will stick to my literary comfort zone and just doll out the tasting notes.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Primavera, 2006

I have never smelled a wine more redolent of raw meat than this one did on first pour, which for my tastes is a terrific thing, even though I am aware that some might see it as a fault. This aroma never quite faded but in time mellowed a bit and was joined by black cherries, violets and damp earth. The palate is very fruity but let me clearly state that I'm talking about a very pure and pretty sort of fruitiness, not the blockbuster variety. The fruits are complemented by soft yet lightly bitter tannins that make the wine eminently drinkable right now, although I suspect some short-term cellalring might fine-tune this wine. As pretentious as I usually find the phrase, this is quintessentially "a good wine for what it is".

Giaconda, 110 NIS.

d'Arenberg, The 28 Road, Mourvedre, 2001

Sweet and monolithic at first and perhaps not much more than that even at the end. Whatever fruit profile this Bandol ripoff might offer is buried beneath notes of sweet, old wood and caramel. Less refreshing, much less refreshing than the Primavera, I find the tannins somewhat pungent, which is a descriptor I never though I'd ever use for tannins. A weird, rough beast of a drink. But interesting, I'll give it that, no regrets here.

WineRoute, about 130 NIS.

Krebs-Grode, Rheinhessen, Eimsheimer Sonnenhang, Riesling, Eiswein, 2002

Admittedly, this bottle was not as fine as the previous one I had drunk, but it was still as a fresh as daisies. Right now, German wines are firmly on top of my dessert wines hit list, with the Loire, Tokaji and Sauternes slugging it out for second place.

Not imported to Israel, available in Frankfurt for about 20 euros.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2GrandCru At Assif (Sept. 1, 2009)

"Where Have All The Good Times Gone?" pondered the dilligent wine-blogger left shipwrecked on the vineological desert island called Family Vacation In Turkey. Oh, how he awaited to return to the fold as his skin peeled off in the sun-bleached pool-side while his friends feasted on first growths and Montrachets.

Thus, 2GrandCru did make his jolly way to Assif in southern Tel Aviv to reclaim the wine lover's ground that he had squandered away in order to please his children and womenfolk. He had heard good things about Assif, but, in reality, the chef's reach did indeed exceed the grasp of his creative juices.

And what was heaven for? The wines...

Pierre Gimonnet, Cote des Blancs, Oenophile Extra Brut, 2000

This Champagne sparked some controversy. I admit the dryness and and acidity could be perceived as brutal but I loved it for its meditative reserve and its saline finish (and while I do believe the acidity would easily be tempered by food, sadly we had it as an appertif). Everyone did, however, enjoy the nose, with its fascinating, fossil-like minerality.

Markus Molitor, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

This is so typical of the Mosel, the nose has peaches and dill along with ample signs of petrol even now, while the palate has that delicate coupling of fruit, sugar and acidity that no other region can match. It also has typical 2004 minerality. I almost caused a food fight when I claimed I found a certain coarsness on the end, where the fruit dwindles down. Which will probably fade away in, say, five years.

Not imported to Israel. Too bad.

La Rioja Alta, Gran Reserve, 904, 1995

This has one damn, fine nose. It is animalistic and dusty, with tobacco leaves and chocolate over red fruit with a currant-y kick. The palate has the kind of crisp tannins I associate with minerally reds and typical, savoury Temperanillo fruit. A lovely wine that grows more and more Rioja as it opens up.

Imported by Hakerem, about 30 Euros in Spain, 250 in Israel.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, La Guiraude, 1999

A gorgeous nose that is at first too extracted for my tastes then shows black fruit (sometimes I think only the Rhone makes black fruit this good), olives and pepper. The palate is tasty yet has this languid structure that works because of the peppery kick of the Syrah. This is my Wine Of The Night and is right in the middle of its drinking window (but has plenty of life left).

WineRoute still imports Graillot but has dropped this single-vineyard Crozes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Misc Notes (Aug. 2009)

Chateau d'Arcins, Haut-Medoc, 2005

A few years ago, I believe, Al-Hashulchan (local gourmet and wine magazine) gave the 2001 a very favorable review. Thus, when I saw this selling for about 100 NIS, I thought it'd be an interesting wine to try, because we all know how useful a bargain Bordeaux can be, especially with a vintage like 2005.

The nose has a typical Bordeaux feel to it, with a Graves mineral tint as well as a very pleasing touch of leather. The oak is still obvious on the nose as well as on the palate, which is surprisingly smooth and has a warm sense of fruitiness backed by good acidity. And thank God the winery doesn't seem to have the money to make it a muscular fruit bomb. It's Minor League stuff but rather nice for that level (almost AAA, hahaha, baseball joke) and a few years will mellow it out.

Imported by Tiv-Taam, for about 100 NIS. Tiv-Taam, a food chain which started out specializing in non-kosher food, initially distributed the Shaked family (WineRoute) wines, along the "regular suspects" Israeli major wineries, some local boutiques, a few odds and ends from other small importers as well as some Eastern European stuff. For the last few years, it's been trying to market itself as less of a niche player and now the selection of wines is rather uninspiring (not to mention over-priced). Chateau d'Arcins is one of the few wines I've seen on their shelves recently of any interest.

Condesa de Leganza, La Mancha, Reserva, 1998

Another case of the palate not living up to the promise of the nose. The nose is very Spanish, full of smoky red fruit complemented by tobacco leaves and hints of caramel. The palate is not quite balanced, somewhat stewed and sweet in mid-palate and burns on the bitter finish. Not bad for an eleven year old at this price level, but not much more.

WineRoute, 90 NIS.

A. Et P. Villaine, Bouzeron, 2006

Lime and mineral notes on the nose, which develops tropical nuances. As with the 2005, this has a very pleasant sailnity on the finish and is longer and better defined than was the 2005. The acidity is well integrated and offers very vivid freshness. Drinking well now and I actually feel it will even improve in a year or two.

Tomer Gal, about 70 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Carte d'Or, 2005

A terribly charming nose, and a hedonistic one as well, that combines a melange of fruit (apples, apricots, melons and pineapples) with a hint of white chocolate, while a dash of flint keeps things in check. The palate might lack some acidity and complexity but is lush, sexy, multi-layered and yummy. It could be a dessert wine but I think it could accompany light, dairy sandwiches. This is at the start of a four or five year drinking window. (Aug. 25, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS. This is the wine I drank the night Haifa (which Haifa? There is only one team in Haifa) advanced to the Champions League for the second time. The love you take is equal to the love you make.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007

I tried to avoid returning to this wine so soon after the previous encounter but I found myself longing for a delicate Bourgogne and every time I opened a wine at home, I wound up staring at the Lapierre through the glass of the wine fridge door. Got what I wanted, at the end. Those fresh and fragnant red fruits over a backdrop of light funk and earthiness. A crisp, medium-bodied palate that lets the fruit roll unto the saline finish.

Tomer Gal sells it for about 100 NIS.