Friday, March 26, 2010

2GrandCru Does Massachusets

On the road again, searching for wine, I bought some bottles for laying down back home, and drank a few more I bought at Gordon's Wines and Liquors at Waltham that I either saw no reason to age or was just curious about.

Now, some of these wines were recommended by Gordon's Cheryl Lechan, but this first one wasn't. I tasted Moreau's Les Clos a few months ago and loved it. The rain and wind drenching Massachusets the weekend I landed reminded me of a sea storm and, by association, wet, brimy oysters. And thus, Chablis.

Domaine Christian Moreau, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2004

There's a relatively underused cliche in wine that goes "a blind man would recognize this wine as a...". Never mind that a cliche, by definition, can't be underused - the Moreau Vaillons is a textbook example of such typicity of wine, as it shows its Chabli-ness immediately upon opening, with pungent citrus aromatics counter-pointed by saline, seaside notes. The marine aspect grows more pronounced as a hint of seaweed also emerges. The palate shows awkward greenness and oakiness until it integrates with some air and warmth, and then, while it retains its structure, it is limpid, off-the-cuff, unassuming, almost feeling as though you're not drinking a wine at all . Despite, or because, of this almost ethereal impression, there's nice, sappy juice here with integrated minerality and a lovely, saline finish. Bundles of joy in what is, objectively, "only" a 90-pointer. (Mar. 14, 2010)

Imported by Tomer Gal, the debut vintage in Israel was sold for 180 NIS. My bottle was purchased in Waltham for 40 USD.

Jean-Marc Burgaud, Beaujolais, Cote Du Py, Vieilles Vignes, 2006

The first glass ain't much but each pour finds the fruit growing purer on the palate, even as the nose becomes more complex. Aromatically, what we have here is red fruit with a touch of smoky black pepper and a leathery essence that just smells savory. The palate is a middleweight on the simple side, yet makes up for lack of complexity with a round form, one that is counterpointed by rusty tannins and balanced acidity that only announces itself on the finish, where it gives the fruit a hint of peaches. Although on the short side, and rustic, it is very tasty and a great value, but drink now, as it feels fully mature, maybe even a quarter step beyond, and I miss some freshness. (Mar. 17, 2010)

About 18 USD.

Cheryl recommended this when I asked for a white Burgundy from one of the fringe AOC's that would be relatively unoaked and fresh.

Domaine Belleville, Rully Premier Cru, Montpalais, 2007

Good call, Cheryl, even if I still prefer Villaine or Deux Montilles. The nose is citrus fruit laced with gunpowder, the palate as fresh and as full of fruit bound with fruity acidity as promised. What sets it apart from its northern cousins is the fruit's leanings towards citrus fruit, as opposed to apples and/or pears (well, maybe there is a bit of Meursault-ish pear in there). This has its faults - somehow there is a green streak at the core of the ripe fruit - and I'm not really smitten by it, but give it an hour or so to pull itself together and and to merge that green streak into the infrastructure of the fruit and it really is a nice wine, with quintessential (albeit, in this case, small-scale) white B savoriness. (Mar. 19, 2010)

About 32 USD.

I've tasted my fair share of world-famous wines, from First Growths to Grand Crus to Lebanon's Chateau Musar, but for some reason, this is the first time I've drank the harbinger of New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc revolution.

Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

I don't know about cat's piss, this smells herbal and minty, with a grapefruit note bordering on tropical fruit punch that's even more pronounced on the palate. The palate feels very limpid at first, the fruit too passive and thus the 13.5% ABV feels too obvious. What saves it is a mineral note, reminiscent of Loire Chenin, that verges on funky, and which evolves from an embryonic stage until it gives the wine a fully-developed form. But to be perfectly honest, I'm being a little more tolerant of it than I might have been in a comparative tasting: it's nice, it's interesting, and it pulls a satisfying act in the end, but I expect better craft and a little wow factor from a piece of history. (Mar. 22, 2010)

About 30 USD.

I tried the final wine on this trip because I'd recently read a very interesting article about the winery (read it here in Hebrew).

Patricia Green Cellars, Oregon, Williamette Valley, Pinot Noir, Reserve, 2007

This is immediately recognizable as Pinot. And it's not that far off from the Burgundian model. That is, while it's overtly fruitier than its Old World relatives, it bears comparisons with the lower AOC's, except for being a bit on the sweet side. The nose shows similar fresh red fruit, with initially the same candied undertow that a young Bourgogne would show. It's greatest affinity with the Old World, as I perceive it, is a disinterest in polish: the color is murky, the palate feels murky despite the ripeness, while the aromatics balance the fruit with minerals on the verge of pungency. In the end, that disinterest fosters faults, as the ripe sweetness of the fruit is a little too much for the tannins and acidity, but it's a good wine and an interesting experience. (Mar. 25, 2010)

About 30 USD.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Misc Notes (Feb. 2010)

A. & P. de Villaine, Mercurey, Les Montots, 2006

The winery and fellow Villaine occultists say this wine needs age. Even Meadows says to hold until 2012. But I have been on a Burgundy binge since 2010 started and anyway I found a new stash at Hinawi, so here we go. On the nose I find earthy, red cherry fruit that takes some coaxing to open up and has a focused wildness about it, with hints of cocoa and much broader strokes of funky minerals. The palate is wiry and angular, with no flab and has a juicy acidity, which you can almost sense on the nose, yet the whole thing is grounded by a stemmy sensation, albeit one which melts away into the fruit in time, thus the structure is comprised of high and bass notes, with little in the middle ground for now. (Feb. 4, 2010)

Imported by Tomer Gal. Hinawi salesmen quote a different price each time I pay a visit and I believe I paid 150 NIS this time.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Caillardieres, 2003

Another encounter with my reformed nemesis* finds a nose masquerading as a wild, heady, fuel-injected apple cider backed by unique, ash-like mineral notes, while the palate is full-bodied and packed with flavors almost to the edge of exhaustion - or would be if the complex, mineral and almond laced finish did somehow curb the hedonistic tendencies. No one will ever mistake this for an elegant wine, but then again, why should they? While I favor elegance and restraint, an idiosyncratic brute such as this is a welcome guest every once in a winter's night. (Feb. 5, 2010)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

* The reason I'm not linking to a previous note is there are too many tasting notes describing my personal voyage in Closel-land, a voyage that starts with utter dislike and ends with weird fascination.

Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac, 2003

Yes, I know Michel Rolland's home chateau should be too modern-styled for my tastes but I like it and it's a good value for what I paid for it on discount. The nose is dense and constrained, only slowly revealing hints of black fruit that lurk behind a lattice of herbs and wet charcoal. The palate is compact and closed, again hiding any traces of black fruit beneath grainy, dusty tannins and what is quite decent acidity for the vintage. Perhaps the wine's personality is not typical Bordeaux but its balance is. (Feb. 6, 2010)

Bought on sale at WineRoute for 160 NIS.

Leitz, Rheingau, QBA, Dragonstone, 2005

The funnest drink in town. (Feb. 10, 2010)

Giaconda, 98 NIS.

Falesco, Montiano, 2003

The nose is very Mediterranean in its roasted, herbal character - mint, chives - with hints of chocolate and coffee embracing red and black cherries. And it improves in glass, gaining evocative complexity, but at the end of the day, I need to drink the wine, not just sniff it and the palate doesn't get as far as the nose. It is is dry, which is good, with no hint of the hot 2003 vintage - if anything the fruit is overwhelmed by the tannins, which drench and coat my tongue on the finish. But it lacks depth and a little life. The last bottle was much better. (Feb. 11, 2010)

WineRoute snatched this producer by Anavim. I bought two bottles for 300 NIS about two years ago.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Steinacker, Scheurebe Spatlese, 2005

This wine always shows textbook Scheurebe guayava aromatics, overlain with typical Koehler touches of herbal vegetable soup, brioche and chalk, even a touch of cardamon. The palate as always is a touch austere, tasty and crisp - even fairly complex - on the one hand, while on the other hand something about the acidity always bothers me. It's in place for sure, in correct proportions, yet lacks a bit of zest and doesn't balance the bitter, pip-like sensations on the finish. This, in my experience, is common to all the wines in the K-K portfolio and is why I've started approaching them with intellectual curiousity more than pleasure per se, but the style works better with Scheurebe and thus I keep coming back to this small-scale charmer. (Feb. 12, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Roger Sabon, Chateuneuf-du-Pape, Reserve, 2004

This nose, man, it really is a Kodak moment of everything great about the South Rhone, with mellow black fruit, garrigue, leather and rust. And it's been a while since I've enjoyed a South Rhone palate this much, probably since my last Beaucastel or Pegau. The structure is very good, in a rustic way, with decent acidity and drying, rusty/rustic tannins meshing with ripe fruit. The finish is long and fairly complex, with tons of spicy personality. This wine can surely play with the big boys. (Feb. 13, 2010)

WineRoute, about 170 NIS. A bargain, glad I bought it, should have bought much more.

Marc Tempe, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

I hate it when this happens: I should have bought more. This is so typically Alsatian, I thought I'd only need two bottles, but it's very much a solid, no-frills sample, with smoky-spicy peaches and apples apples and a long, quinine finish that turns honeyed over time. (Feb. 19, 2010)

Giaconda, 160 NIS.

Deux Montilles, Rully, 2006

This isn't very complex or deep but plays its cards very deftly, spelling out "house wine". An exemplary one-two punch: gunpowder, flowers and citrus fruit on the nose; succulent fruit and vibrant acidity on the palate. Alix rocks. (Feb. 20, 2010)

Tomer Gal, about 120 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Primavera, 2006

As always, I love the nose, which is chock-full of goodies, even if it doesn't present them in a particularly nuanced fashion: raw meat, olives, iron filings, pepper and smoke, with plums in the background. The palate is fruitier and much more one-dimensional and has only adequate concentration or length. But it is very succulent and saline with a soft yet grainy feel. (Feb. 24, 2010)

Giaconda, 110 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2006

Maybe the novelty has worn off - although I suspect storage conditions at Hinawi, where I found this bottle on the shelves over two years after release - but this is the first time this wine has impressed me as being "just" a quaffer. I understand the wine and grape better now, the way they behave like distant cousins of Bourgogne Chardonnay (citrus cum pear with a mineral overlay and much less fat on the palate), but sadly, this bottle, by the time I straightened out the family tree, had started to fade away without leaving a very great impression on my palate. (Feb. 25, 2010)

Tomer Gal, about 80 NIS.

J. L. Chave, St. Joseph, Offerus, 2006

This is a nice quaffer, the 2006, sort of like a peppery Gamay. The nose is fruity in typical north Rhone fashion, with cranberries, strawberries and black pepper; but the palate, while pure, savory, and tasty, is on the soft side and the tannins disappear in mid-palate. Later, while they start to assert themselves on the short finish, it's really a matter of too little, too late. I miss the sexier 2003 - which didn't just turn my head, it made me positively swivel and drool - however, as the 2006 does improve with air, maybe it will age like a Gamay or a Pinot and pick up some weight and structure in the cellar. (Feb. 26, 2010)

WineRoute, 135 NIS. Good value in a good vintage.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In A Silent Way - Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Carte d'Or, 2005 (Mar. 2, 2010)

Was it the wine or the atmosphere? Was it the singer? Was it the song? How does it feel to be out on your own? Hugh Johnson said a great wine should ask questions rather than make statements and while this was surely not a great wine, it had a lot of questions that needed asking, without quite being able to guide me to the answers.

Like I said, not a great wine; it's biggest fault, as I've noted in the past, is a lack of what I consider the divine spark: that is, uplifting acidity. However, aromatically, it has enough sparks for an eveningful of relaxation and romance; presenting, during the course of the evening, chalk, clay, a still river bed and the unique, spicy kick of botrytis - all behind a veil of apricots and pineapples. On the palate, despite the lack of acidity that I've duly noted, is very enticing fruit that quenches the thirst without the structure or aspirations to greatness. Speaking with deceptive transparency, this is Quaffer Deluxe and yes, dear readers, in the 2GrandCru universe, that's high praise indeed.

Giaconda, 117 NIS.