Closing out the year was a delightfully delicious display of Georgian (as in Eastern Europe Georgia, ex-USSR Georgia) cuisine, courtesy of Benny Rosen. I do regret not being as adept at writing about food as I am about wine, as this meal truly deserves my best wordplay. I will say it was a unique experience and the wine pairing taxed impromptu sommelier Oron Stern's imagination, knowledge and diplomatic skills to the max. Thanks for effort, Oron and many thanks for the hospitality, Benny.
Billecart-Salmon, Rose Brut, nv
This is not a very complex Champagne and somehow the Pinot character is not very distinct, but that's just about where my criticism runs its course, as this is as fine a non-vintage as I've ever drunk. Well made, tasty and structured and refreshingly crisp. If there's a bedroom in sight, this is the ticket to ride.
Imported by WineRoute, I didn't catch the price but I will shop for it.
My group has rarely drunk white Rhones, let alone a flight. Oron thought the food mandated it. Personally, I'd have dropped the Beaucastel and planned another Pinot Gris to pair with wine number four, especially as the group had the resources for it between us.
Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, Blanc, 2001
Oy oy oy, wha' happened? Is this wine dormant or dead? Oron has another bottle so stay tuned. This has a very interesting mineral aspect but, whether due to style or dumb adolescence, this is one undrinkable bastard.
Imported by WineRoute, this used to cost about 250 NIS some five years ago and I'm not sure whether they still carry it.
Chapoutier, Hermitage, Chante-Allouette, 2001
Like the Beaucastel, this has a very unique personality in a specific, mineral-ly style, yet this is more approachable, alive and vibrant despite the low acidity. Not everyone would like it, but few would fail to be impressed by this very good to excellent wine.
Imported by the Scottish Company, price unknown.
Our group has rarely appreciated a Pinot Gris quite the way we enjoyed the next wine.
Domaines Schlumberger, Grand Cru Kitterle, Le Brise-Mollets, Pinot Gris, 2001
Some wines are so fun to write about because you can peg them with a simple phrase that belies their complexity. The magic words this time are "quince and pepper". Beyond that, this is a very sexy wine. If this was a woman, she'd be all curves and smiles, languid yet firmly built. And she'd smell utterly yummy, with and without perfume.
Not imported, price unknown.
Come to think of it, our group has rarely drunk two Australian wines in one session. 2009 truly rang out with an idiosyncratic bang.
d'Arenberg, Dead Arm, Shiraz, 2001
Here's how it works. It's fine by me if the Aussies are forward, but I like them to jab my face with a left while cocking a right, I don't want a constant whirlpool of hooks. What I'm trying to say is, this wine has composure. It's a ripe wine, but not so ripe that it's all about jammy black fruit and chocolate. Instead, its fruit is actually somewhat redder than, say, a Hermitage - although it does have enough black fruits to fulfill the requirements of the paradigm - with notes of eucalyptus and black pepper and a sweetness that is never cloying. To go by the Dead Arm, as well as the next wine, 2001 was a balanced vintage and these wines whet my appetite for more.
Imported by WineRoute, sold in the days for about 250 NIS. The price has remained more or less constant. For a change!
Tim Adams, Clare Valley, The Aberfeldy, Shiraz, 2001
Like the Dead Arm, this is as complex and as deep a wine as any produced in a classic vintage in the Rhone. It is, however, arguably more complex, better structured and more interesting than the Dead Arm, with a similar fingerprint of eucalyptus and black pepper, fine tannins and great poise.
Not imported, price unknown.
Chateau Nairac, Barsac, 2me Cru Classe, 2001
Polished intensity here, the botrytis endowing the wine with a peppery streak. The relatively high alcohol and low acidity of a high-scoring vintage like 2001 (or 2003) bothers me, but at the same time, the quality of these vintages ensures that a stickie like this will have enough sweet stuffing to counteract such drawbacks. Lovely, all in all.
Imported by WineRoute for about 250 NIS.