Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Saturday Night (Nov. 28, 2009)

A. Et P. De Villaine, Rully, Les-St.Jacques, 2006

I am a fan of this winery and was glad to see this wine so well received by my friends. Initially, there is a note of tropical fruit on both nose and palate that adds a misleading touch of sweetness that made it hard for those tasting blind to pinpoint its origin. However, time and some warmth bring out its mineral nature and Bourgogne character. There are still some remnants of oak, but overall, it is lighter than its northern brethren.

Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection, sold for about 120 NIS. Excelllent value.

Chateau Destieux, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2000

The initial sniffs and sips worried me that this would be somewhat over-extracted but it turnedout quite balanced after all. It has tasty red fruit with an earthy, rustic appeal and a light veneer of minerals on the nose.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000

It's quite a treat to have two Bordeaux 2000's on a 'regular' Saturday night. This bottle had been double-decanted a few hours before drinking. It has more subtle aromatics, compared to the Destieux, yet very currant-y. It has a nice mouth-feel, grainy and velvety at the same time, yet less impressive than I'd have thought. I certainly preferred the Destieux on this occasion.

Imported to Israel by WineRoute. I believe the price these days is in the mid 300's.

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1999

I love Beaucastel but I wouldn't have expected a relatively young one to show more elegance than a Bordeaux, as this one did. The nose is complex enough to make me want to chalk that up to its famous blend of thirteen varieties and the palate has more vibrant acidity than I'd have expected. Showing very well.

Imported by WineRoute. Before fame went to Beaucastel's heads, this used to be sold for about 210 NIS. Now the price is closer to 400 NIS.

Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac 2me Cru, 2001

Unctuous and flattering, yet it works. This was perhaps opened a couple of years too early, but it is very appealing already. I wish I had more, if only because I was too tired to make a more detailed note.

Purchased in the US for about 30 USD, some six years ago, but I think it's one of those smaller Sauternes that never quite get the spotlight and thus its prices have remained stable. Not imported to Israel, however.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Misc Notes (Nov. 2009)

Gunderloch, Rheinessen, Riesling QBA, 2007

Citrus and lots and lots of chalk on the nose. The palate is similar as far as flavors go, while structure-wise it is lean and crispy. This is a good QBA, with perceivable personality. (Nov. 5, 2009)

A second bottle a few weeks later shows greater focus and more breadth of flavor and is perhaps the best 'straight' QBA I've had yet.

Giaconda, 80 NIS.

Gunderloch's Jean Baptiste Kabinett of the same year is a step up. Although my enthusiasm for Kabinetts has been curbed lately, this is one of the best I've had. As with the QBA, the nose shows chalk and citrus, specifically lime, but there is a thread of baked apples, adding character, and overall the aromatics have a greater scope, a wider array of colors. The palate is also better defined, and, although still on the lean side, offers a vibrant acidic backbone that should allow for five-seven more years of development. (Nov. 18, 2009)

Giaconda, 90 NIS, great value.

Chateau d'Aqueria, Lirac, l'Heritage, 2005

Red fruit on the nose, slightly veering towards black, with plenty of leather and minerals, and a ripe core hinting at a high level of extraction. The palate is reasonably elegant and delicious, a little hollow in the middle, but captivating in its own context, with good acidity levels. (Nov. 5, 2009)

Giaconda, 162 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Bourgogne, Terres de Famille, 2005

The nose hits you with all the goodies even entry level Burgundy (from a good producer like Vougeriae) has to offer: smoky raspberry fruit; that finely wrought earthiness that is often a balm to the soul; finally a hint of exotic spices that belie the calm austerity of a good Bourgogne, even from a more opulent vintage like 2005. Typically for this level of quality - and I must qualify this statement with a reminder that the Terres de Famille is often at Villages level quality and 2005 was no exception - the palate cannot match all that, so I just focus on the homely charms it does possess: lively acidity, savory fruit and a mineral finish that coats the palate even as it fades away before you're ready to let it go. It's also quite yummy. (Nov. 6, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS. Always a good value.

Leitz, Rheingau, Dragonstone, 2008

The usual great value, drier and lighter than the 2005. Flavors and aromas of red and green apples with a hint of strawberries and a wonderfully chalky texture. It's actually kind of lean now but with enough extract to flesh out in time. (Nov. 11, 2009)

Not imported to Israel, yet.

Smith Haut Lafite, Pessac-Leognan, 1996

Old style wininess. Light barnyard, tobacco and mineral infused aromatics over classically subtle fruit, the whole package asserting that there's no place like Bordeaux. On the palate, savory tannins and excellent acidity complement sweet, calmly vibrant red fruit, winding up in a wonderfully saline finish. This is so patently drinkable, so typical of what the phrase 'classic claret' should conjure for Bordeaux lovers everywhere, that is pointless to give it a score, so let me just say this: sniff, drink and sleep smiling. (Nov. 13, 2009)

WineRoute import Smith Haut Lafite regularly to Israel. This was purchased from MacArthur Wines in Washington DC for about 50 USD. MacArthur is a great store and the source 90% of my purchases in the US.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling QBA, 2007

The nose is very pungent, and nicely so, along the line of orange peel and sea shells. The palate is dry and angular, crisp and a touch under-ripe. A good QBA (at near Kabinett level I'd say, if not higher) and I enjoyed it... but there are better values at this level of quality and this style of wine. On the other hand, the style and quality of the nose make a good argument to follow up on this producer - and FWIW, I have a nigh-erotic memory of this producer's Grand Cru. (Nov. 15, 2009)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

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

Koehler-Ruprecht, in general, is not for the faint of heart. The nose here is borderline sociopathic, with pungent, slightly off-putting notes of kerosene alternating with friendlier notes of chalk and oyster shells over dry apricots and baked apples, perhaps a hint of rose petals as well. The palate is well defined but more interesting than it is tasty, building up to an intellectual, mineral peak, with an acidity that only shows up in the finish while remaining dormant in mid-palate. I do wish I liked it as much as I did two years ago; I'm not sure whether I've changed or whether the wine has faded before fulfilling the promise I saw in it in the past. A little of both, I guess. (Nov. 20, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007

Another goodbye to another good friend. I wish I could have kept away from this wine or bought more of it. It's not great but it's a delightful quaffer in the best sense of the word. Pure raspberry fruit with a touch of minerals, and that blend of forest floor and meatiness that easily conjures comparisons with its cousins up north in Pinot land. Now, it's on the tart side, but in my book that's better than being on the ripe side. (Nov. 23, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 100 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

In keeping with my very strong recollections of Colombier's cheaper Primavera, the nose has a distinct note of raw meat, although its effect is more subtle here, as it is buffeted by violets, minerals and black pepper. There are enough soft tannins to establish a round, yet firm, structure; succulent acidity beneath the vibrant red fruit; and, finally, a tasty, saline finish. Though air is a boon for the wine, at three years of age it is just about ready to drink, and, while it will age and keep, its youthful exuberance makes it so tempting now that I doubt I will age it for more than two-three years (just enough for the little tyke to pick up some manners). Which makes it a very useful wine and very good value. (Nov. 26, 2009)

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pflaz, Kalstadter Saumagen, “R” Riesling Auslese, 1998 (Nov. 11, 2009)

Koehler-Ruprecht was my first encounter with major league German Rieslings and I can still remember sniffing the 2004 Kalstadter Saumagen Auslese and thinking to myself, "this has it all!". My friends' experience was similar. I know because it is a shared experience that we've discussed it several times since.

Something else we've discussed is a certain feeling of disillusionment for Koehler-Ruprecht that has edged into our collective consciousness over the past three years. For one thing, virtually all my wine friends - myself included - prefer delicate Mosel or elegant, lithe Nahe, thus Pfalz always comes off somewhat clumsy in comparison (admittedly, our base of comparison is limited to Koehler-Ruprecht themselves and Muller-Catoir, but while I'm not sure how typical they are, they are widely recognized as regional benchmarks) . And then, winemaker Bernd Philippi's style is not for novices; nor, judging from what I've tasted and what I've read, does it show very well in its youth. Especially its Ausleses, it seems. And none of us had never had any of his wines in their maturity.

Until now.

I drank this wine all by my lonesome in Cambridge. My suitcases were already filled to the brim with vinological loot and thus when I ran into this wine at BLM Wine and Spirits, I knew exactly what I wanted to drink with my takeaway Sushi.

This particular bottle was not about kind karma. My first attempt at opening it broke the cheap plastic corkscrew the saleslady at BLM gave me and when I went out to buy a new one the next morning, I found a parking ticket on my rental's windshield, silent witness of my carelessness at parking near a water hydrant.

Was it worth it? Let's talk points for a change. An Auslese should be worth at least 90 points in order to be worthy of the label, and this one makes the grade with a couple of points to spare and its sense of place and unique personality would be worth another point.

The nose is very memorable yet makes me feel edgy at the same time, as it dances perilously close to the edge of kink, pulling back with a shade of a wink. It shows chalk, black tea, petrol and burned rubber, combining for an almost bretty impression, while gently shoving the sugar coated apples to stage right. The palate is fresh, light and elegant, yet packed with flavors, and although the wine is an Auslese sans any mention of trocken, its balance is such that it doesn't register as more than off-dry, despite measuring in at 10% ABV and showing plenty of ripe fruit. It's not as silently domineering as K-H's wine can be in their youth, instead etching well-measured phrases across the palate, only wobbling at the finish, where a lightly alcoholic strand flares up.

Koehler importers Giaconda have not imported the "R" series to Israel. I paid 60 USD for it. If I throw in the 100 dollar fine I might eventually be coerced to pay, this is the most expensive Riesling I've bought to date.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Misc Notes (Oct. 2009)

All Giaconda imports this month.

Domaine de Font-Sane, Gigondas, Tradition, 2005

This is surely not a great wine, nor within its drinking window, but recently, Gigondas has become my personal favorite amongst the Southern Rhone villages, so I like it beyond its current or even potential worth. Tight on both nose and, especially, palate, it still offers enough intellectual puzzles to wade through to be an interesting experience even now. The nose is dusty in a way that suggests influences of both barrel and terroir, with hints of flint, then it picks up that Provencal herb essence we all love, while sweet black fruit lies dormant underneath. Dormant is the operative word on the palate as well, which is so tannic it doesn't only pucker, it floods the palate with bitter flavors. There is good acidity, too, and, with some effort, the fruit can be discerned, but every element floats apart from its compatriots, in what I would like to call a tempting manner, but which right now is simply annoying. The nose, on the other hand, eventually blossoms in full and gets good marks and I believe in time the palate will as well.

PS. The back label makes a claim for 15% alcohol which is very well contained, not an easy trick. (Oct. 8, 2009)

126 NIS.

F.X. Pichler, Wachau, Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz, Gruner Veltliner, 2007

The book on Gruner Veltliner says peas and lentils, and I can see that notion reflected in the sweet and fragrant, yet pungent, aromatics, that frame a core of lemon drops, apples and minerals. The palate is intense yet somehow limpid at the same time, drilling through the palate as though it carried more than the 13% ABV listed on the label, winding up in a rough, spicy finish that mellows right before it would have broken my tolerance for kink. Overall, an interesting wine but one I have to try too hard to like. Maybe time will mellow it. (Oct. 11, 2009)

91 NIS.

I'd been neglecting German Rieslings at home for a while, so time to correct that lapse.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Riesling Kabinett, Trocken, 2005

This is one of those wines where the nose and palate are almost totally in synch. Both show fresh apples, sweet herbs and chalk, with a touch of sweet dough. The acidity is very racy, lending it great verve. A lovely Kabinett, typical Pfalz, which I'll probably drink sooner than later - it's not going to fade soon but I like to drink a fresh, young Riesling and I'd prefer to use a Kabinett for that pleasure, while laying down the bigger girls. (Oct. 23, 2009)

117 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Blanc, 2006

I haven't tasted a white Crozes since a Rhone tasting at WineRoute, December 2002 (and I was so new to wine at the time of that tasting that I wouldn't trust my recollections - even if I could actually remember anything). Since then, I've been disappointed in a few Condrieus and white CdP's, so white Rhone is not a style I am eager to investigate further and thus I approached this wine out of intellectual curiosity more than anything else. Whatever, the wine itself has apricots and honey on the nose, tempered by a welcome earthiness, and is bitter and a little alcoholic on the palate. Although it is aromatically complex and intriguing and simple tastes unique (unoxidized Fino Sherry is the closest description I can conjure)- it's hard for me to actually sit down and enjoy it outright. So I guess I'm not convinced yet, although I will reserve my final judgment until I taste Colombier's white Cuvee Gaby(Oct. 24, 2009)

126 NIS.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Riesling QBA, Mineral, 2007

I love Schonleber and while this unassuming QBA has no pretense at greatness, it at least lives up to its moniker, with notes of flint framing the peaches and flowers on the nose and flecks of minerals subtly touching up the rough spots on the quinine finish. I don't want to leave this as a one sentence tasting note, so I'll add that it's exactly what most people have in mind when they call a wine 'crisp'. (Oct. 28, 2009)

120 NIS, which I have to say is expensive for a QBA, especially as I preferred the Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett, the 2004 version of which was sold for a few shekels less.

Leitz, Rheingau, Dragonstone, 2005

This is always a very yummy wine but four years post-vintage, it is subtly less fruity and more minerally than I remembered, sizzingly green apples complemented by chalk on both nose and palate. Easy to drink while offering its share of intellectual pleasures as well, with enough vitality and balance to cellar for the better part of a decade. Yet it's so irresistible now... which is what I always seem to say about it. (Oct 30, 2009)

98 NIS. The label is an Americanized version of the German Rudesheimer Drachenstein and is picked at 90 degrees Oechsle, enough to make it an Auslese, then chaptalized to 95, the chaptalizatiion robbing it of its legal right to be anything but a QBA.