Thursday, April 29, 2010

Misc Notes (Apr. 2010)

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2008

Right now, the 2008 is not showing as well as the 2007, but my intuition tells me it's just a matter of (young) age; it has its quirks, but they are a product of personality - and, as I always like to say, while ripping off Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way. Whatever, even now this is a savory wine with a cleansing finish that is meant to be no more, no less, than a house wine for relatively simple fare. The Gamay DNA is obvious in a hint of bananas on the nose, but beyond a red berry-cherry personality, there is this pungent note of overturned earth that is so idiosyncratic, you just have to chalk it up to terroir. (Apr. 3, 2010)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise, Rouge, La Fortune, 2008

The reason I find such a young, unassuming Bourgogne so attractive, despite a certain tartness on both nose and palate, is the earthiness lending the aromatics a hint of complexity and the linear purity of the fruit. It is on the light side but its length and depth are both reasonable for the price (in Burgundy terms). Plus it's got just enough Burgundy magic to rock. (Apr. 5, 2010)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Rislaner, Spatlese, 2001

The first time I had this wine (about four years ago), I was new to German wines and it came off as delicate and flowery. Then, a couple of years later, either I changed or it had gone into a bad phase and it seemed fat and ungainly. Now, it's regained its footing and comes across as an alliance between the Riesling and the Chardonnay family of white grapes. It still has more fat than a Riesling would have, but it's racy enough, although with mellower acidity than a Riesling. The aromatics lean towards apples with some peaches and a hint of pears, with the palate closely echoing all that, the entire package sprinkled with sweet spices and some minerals. It has a fairly impressive presence, in a quiet, subtle way. To sum: swallow or contemplate, you'll enjoy it either way. (Apr. 8, 2010)

Giaconda: wow, senility hits hard, I don't remember the exact price, about 200 NIS. Not cheap, but an interesting, worthwhile purchase, considering the rarity of the variety.

Perrin et Fils, Vacqueyras, Les Christins, 2007

Black fruit that is so on the reticent side, despite the wine's obvious ripeness, size and length, that it leaves the stage for a grainy slab of roasted herbs and minerals to overshadow it and do all the talking on both nose and palate. Good balance, within the particular style and size, so there's no sweet, alcoholic punch that you may find in CdP; in fact, it's so austere, and it's mineral core is so pronounced, it almost feels like a big, red Chablis. There's virtually no finesse here, though, unlike a good Chablis. (Apr. 10, 2010)

WineRoute, 90 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2007

I often write about this wine and even though it's not a masterpiece for the ages (just a fascinating specimen with nothing comparable in my fridge), I do find my understanding of it has grown over the years, so hopefully I won't bore myself with yet another note. The aromatics are always on the quirky side, with a unique toast and mineral fingerprint over pungent citrus notes. The palate is as saline as a Chablis, yet its shape is different: it feels less tamed and its mineral cut is less tempered by the fat languidness that even a cold climate Chardonnay can offer. (Apr. 17, 2010)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 80 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2007

This is Chablis City and is a total repeat of the last time I had it, with flint and citrus on the nose and juicy citrus acidity and a mineral cut on the palate. A Premier or Grand Cru would offer more complexity and focus but this is a lot of fun for what it is. (Apr. 19, 2010)

Giaconda, 126 NIS. House wine.

Inniskillin, Niagara Peninsula, Chardonnay Icewine, 2007

I don't think this is one of Inniskillin's more famous icewines, but it is really gorgeous and tasty. I think the nose hints at botrytis and the palate is creamier than Riesling based stickies. While the acidity is there, it just barely manages the contain the sweetness. Not that I mind, it really is yummy as is and I wasn't looking for complexity and depth, just honest fun, which is what is is there for. (Apr. 20, 2010).

Not imported to Israel, I bartered for this wine so I'm not sure what the price is.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

I sometimes think Nahe is the German Saint-Julien: the most balanced of the big wine regions, while not as quite as delicate and airy as the Mosel; every component in synch with the others, with the mineral aspect never overshadowing the fruit. And this is as good a sample as you are likely to find, at this price point for sure. There's a focused purity of fruit with a reserved, limpid mineral tone that rather forces you to indulge in a little contemplation. Right now, it's really drinking well, but since German Rieslings always seem to keep something in store at every stage in their life, I would still hang on to my remaining bottle. (Apr. 22, 2010).

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

Graillot makes very balanced wines. There's always a ripeness about them that is never allowed to run wild, and that ripeness is always tempered by an almost feminine softness. Which is how he balances them and why many aptly call his wines Burgundian. Here I find virile, ripe fruit that is at the same time almost languid in its gentleness. Yet it is also complemented by typical pepper and a touch of earth while the finish grows longer and more tannic in time. This wine is not going away any time soon and I'm glad, because I like it, I really, really do. (Apr. 24, 2010)

WineRoute, about 130 NIS. I bought five bottles. Guess what? It won't be enough.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, L’Indigene Sec, 2005

What a friggin' closed wine! I mean, I'm used to Savenierres being this closed but honestly, I always expect Vouvrays to be friendlier. Yet this is just about the most shut down Chenin I've ever tasted. It barely shows any fruit, and what there is beneath its earthy and nutty facade feels like lime peels. The nose is as an intriguing as any Loire white I've had, brooding and indecipherable, but the palate is much more interesting than it is drinkable. (Apr. 27, 2010)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Few Wines From Vitkin

I'm not a professional wine writer but I portray one on my blog.

Unlike professionals - or even semi-professionals with affinities to commercial sites or papers - I don't receive any samples and rarely get invited to free tastings. If I want to write about an importer or a winery beyond the tastings I attend as a consumer, I have to pull the wines together from my own resources and examine them at home. So, if I tend to write a lot about Vitkin, it's not just because I enjoy this boutique winery but also because I don't have the time or resources to actively pursue other local wineries. Thus, you readers are kind of stuck with reading about the one winery that fate threw in my path.

My wife's uncles brought me a few samples from a visit they made a few weeks ago while I was abroad and I've been going through them recently.

Petite Sirah (sic?), 2007

This is certainly sweet on the palate, but seems to be decently balanced by the savory tannins and mineral finish, even if there isn't quite enough acidity for me. A very good nose, anyway: ripe, yet reined in, meaty and spicy, inspiring a craving for roast beef - which in the event it pairs with very well. Surprisingly elegant for such sweetness, this lives up to my expectations of the winery, that is, a wine I'd return to once a year but not much more than that. (Apr. 2, 2010).

115 NIS.

Carignan, 2007

Democracy at work. Wine geeks like it, laymen like it, and I find it equally tasty in any kind of stemware, with its light notes of black pepper and earth over black fruit with a hint of red. Sweet fruit, not jammy fruit - there's a distinction and I think that distinction is the key. This wine is very consistent from vintage to vintage, displaying enough personality not to bore me. (Apr. 4, 2010).

95 NIS (a word to the wise: at the Hinawi meat stores - not Wine & More - you can find it for 80 NIS).

Riesling, 2008

If winemaker Assaf Paz can serve as a barometer, then the local craft has improved while I was busy drinking European wines. The nose has chalk and citrus fruit that recall Chablis as much as the Pfalz and the palate pretty much follows the same path, with vibrant acidity that should be tempered by a bit more fruit but isn't. Can't win 'em all. It's still an improvement over previous vintages and good value. (Apr. 16, 2010)

85 NIS.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Karma Is What You Make Of It (Apr. 1, 2010)

How do you explain bombing out with the same wine two times?

The last time I brought the Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie, La Landonne, 1996 to a tasting, it was corky. No TCA this time, but a wine collapsing due to old age is just as bad. Thankfully, this time I had a backup, and the Remizieres, Hermitage, Cuvee Emile, 2000 gave Rani Osnat and me a glorious voyage that started out with a fairly high extract of black fruit, then picked up extroverted notes of black pepper before going through a more genteel phase of bacon and barnyard, finally coming up with an encore of minerals to fully make up for the Rostaing fiasco. The palate was very fulfilling and intense and declaimed the glories of North Rhone with great gusto. Purchased in the for about 50 USD. Terrific value.

Earlier that evening at Rokah 73, the Donhoff, Norheimer Kirschheck, Spatlese, 2001 pontificated on the virtues of noble German Riesling as it displayed nuanced mineral notes over cool and noble fruit, all hung out to dry with perfect poise. Balanced and harmonious, this is typical of why German Rieslings always ring my bell, preying as it did on my nose and palate without ever hitting a sour note. While it doesn't have the complexity or the intensity of the Brucke or the Hermannshohle, the sheer yumminess will keep me coming back for more. Damn good, the current releases sell for about 180 NIS these days.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Misc Notes (Mar. 2010)

Domaine Le Couroulu, Vacqueyras, Cuvee Classique, 2005

I thrive on the elegance of my favorite wines but I can also find rustic wines from the warmer climes very appealing and convincing. This is such a wine and I'm glad to find it drinking this well earlier than I expected. The nose is earthy and dusty, with garrigue and a touch of saddle leather over fruit that starts out comfortably red and grows blacker and sweeter even as a note of cardamon emerges. The palate still has a nubile bite, but the dusty tannins are well matched by a saline acidity that is akin to blood (I prefer it when the acidity and fruit combine for a moister mouthfeel, but the combination here works out just fine in its own right). Full-bodied, round and reasonably long. Drink over the next three-five years. (Mar. 4, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

I want to like this wine but I'm not sure it wants to like me. My usual complaints about GHW wines have to do with a technological approach that leaves little room for personality but except for the dreaded Yarden Pinot Noir, I never complained about quality control. Until now. This is alocholic and raiseny, almost Amarone-like, sweet and lacking structure. Not the kind of wine I ever want to drink in my house. (Mar. 6, 2010)

About 110 NIS.

On to the next wine.

Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva, 2004

This is really manna from heaven coming after the Yarden. The Riscal wine has made me feel uncomfortable in the past - somehow it it always came off as a wannabe, a nerd trying to impress the cool guys in school, but this time it finally clicked (not that I've fallen for it, I'm just feeling much friendlier). There is surely a relief factor here, like returning to an ex-girlfriend after a lousy date, but I would rather pretend I'm finally catching up to the inherent, small-scale, hometown qualities of this wine: from the mineral-tinged raspberries on the the nose; to the savory, meaty tannins balancing the round fruit; to the slightly saline finish. (Mar. 6, 2010)

WineRoute, about 100 NIS on sale.

Albert Mann, Alsace Grand Cru, Furstenstrum, Pinot Gris, 2005

A wow nose, regal and complex, with apples, quince, gunnpowder and other mineral nuances that recall Burgundy and a touch of cardamon on top. The palate is heady and hedonistic, most of its 14% ABV reined in until the finish, where some heat flares up. I gave up on Pinot Gris a few years ago, until this specific wine pulled me in. Stay tuned. (Mar. 7, 2010)

Giaconda, originally listed at about 200.

Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Rheingau, Rauenthlaer Balken, Riesling Spatlese, Trocken, 2004

It's easier and safer to write about a wine that goes one way or the other - this one does not, alas. Certainly the nose is pleasant and, while not especially evocative, gets the job done with some finesse and aromas of apple pie, minerals and a touch of petrol. The palate is more interesting to write about, less to actually drink. The apple-tinged fruit feels as though it has to stretch to rein in the admittedly racy acidity. Maybe it's the context, maybe it's personal taste, but dry Rheingaus are certainly not my thing. On the other hand, it could be a matter of age. There's still a slight fizz that was there, and more obvious, three years ago. Thus, it might just need two-four more years to release the energy lying coiled within its bone-dry structure that today is only realized in its long, saline finish. (Mar. 8, 2010)

Giaconda, about 250 NIS. A problematic price for me considering its competition even within the importer's catalog.

Albert Mann, Alsace, Grand Cru Steingrubler, Gewurztraminer, 2005

Even if a wine isn't great - and this was excellent at the very least - it always wins extra points from me if it reveals more of itself and changes over the course of the night. The scenery along the way, friends, is even more important than the destination. Initially, the nose was classic Gewurtzraminer, lychee and spices and all. Then it sported a veil of sculptor's clay, which obscured the Gewurtz signature until the wine went through a third coming and made a synthesis of all the elements it had unfurled earlier, while showing traces of grapefruit and peaches. Then there's the palate. I do love Gewuztraminer but I have to admit the high extract that shows in mid-palate can be overwhelming. The Steingrubler started out that way but it gained breadth in time, and balanced the extract with sugar and acidity. It's fiery but not because of high alcohol (relatively low for the variety at 13% ABV) but because of the power of its liquid mineral essence. Lovely. I'll let the other bottle settle down more over the next two-three years. (Mar. 11, 2010)

Giaconda again, about 180 NIS at discount.

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

Last bottle and we sure had our ups and downs over the last three years, haven't we? At least we're parting on somewhat friendly terms. I was at first wowed by the unique aromatic signatures of K-H Saumagen bottlings, then as they developed in bottle they became stingier and laden with kerosene. Even at points in their life cycles where I wouldn't have expected them to shut down (five year old Kabinetts, eight year old Ausleses). The palate from the start - and I'm generalizing again about all the various bottles I've drunk, not just this one - always seemed tart and immature, and while I was optimistic, even enthusiastic, eventually my patience ran out. Anyway, back to the 2004 Kabinett. The nose is interesting and moderately complex and even though the kerosene is still somewhat overbearing, I get apples and sweet dough. The palate is as complex and I think has reached its peak, it won't get any better and that's just fine. It's dry but softer and rounder than an Alsatian, no bitter quinine notes either, just a brainy, grainy, chalky finish that improves as it becomes fruiter after an hour. (Mar. 12, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2005

This relic of the previous wine-making regime at Recanati is likely to be the last lewis Pasco wine I will drink in the forseeable future. Unfortunately, it is touched with TCA. Next. (Mar. 27, 2010)

Listed at 150 NIS.

The next wine I tried the same evening was Colombier's Primavera 2006 which I've enjoyed numerous times and has not changed enough to warrant a new note, just re-read this if you wish.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise, La Digoine, 2006

Good stuff. It's developed to the point where it still shows purity of red fruit in the flush of youth that is slightly sauteed with typical Bourgogne spices and a touch of forest floor. The structure is elegant and focused enough to lend its light body a presence that Burgundy fans will adore and has a fine pungent twang on the finish. It obviously doesn't come from a great vineyard but it shows very little traces of rusticity, and has loads of class within its context and near-ephemeral frame. (Mar. 30, 2010)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 130 NIS.