Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two Aromatic Wines At Sakura (June 19, 2010)

Jos. Christoffel, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurzgarten, Auslese Halbtrocken, 2001

Christoffel rarely produces this style, midway between classic (read "sweet") and dry. I only got the region right on my third try or so, although in retrospect - that is, when the wine was revealed - the apples and cold slate on the nose are very typical. What threw me off was the palate. Ran Shapira had recently brought a dry Mosel and I didn't see him pitching another screwball so soon after stymieing us like that. I still don't feel comfortable with the style when it comes from the Mosel, as I feel the finish is attenuated and the wine as a whole is less satisfying, although it might just be me. Having said that, this is a satisfying wine until the finish dulls the wonderful interaction between the penetrating acidity and sweet fruit. But as it is, most of the fruitiness I love in Riesling remains intact, and as long as Ran knows he has a great ace up his sleeve for blind tastings, I'm sure I'll encounter and enjoy this style again, until his stocks are depleted.

Price unknown.

Marcel Deiss, Bergheim, Gewurztraminer, 2004

Although the nose lacks the trademark lychee notes, it is still typical enough in displaying rose petals and Alsatian spiciness. I love a good Gewurtz every couple of months or so, even though this one displays why, to my tastes, there's a glass ceiling on the variety's aspirations to greatness: the fruit extract seems concentrated on specific points in mid-palate, almost overloading the senses, like a good dish overdosed with mustard. But I always come back to this over-dressed, over-perfumed slut and this wine does a good job at reminding me why I do.

Giaconda, 207 NIS list price.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Small Collection Of Wines To Go With Our Steaks (June 17, 2010)

The occasion: our friends Ina and Yahali Sherman's 22nd wedding anniversary.

The place: Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Makom Shel Basar, which translates literally as "a place of meat", which is an apt description indeed. A different setting and style as compared to my regular haunt Porterhouse, but same motif: meat, meat and more meat.

The wines: see memo below.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Reserva, 2001

This wasn't my bottle but since Yahali consulted with me on the choice of wines, I am directly responsible for choosing a wine I had drunk only a couple of weeks before. Which only goes to show how much I love this wine, as I never drink the same wine so soon if I can help it. Whatever, it's somehow a bit blacker and harsher than last time, but still mineral laden on both nose and palate, funky and wild and at a good place between old and modern.

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Numanthia, Toro, 2001

This is nowhere close to my tastes these days, but a very good pairing for the big slabs of porterhouse steaks that arrived at our table. Oaky and extracted at first, with a streak of graphite that turns me off in such modern settings, but in time it started to stray on the borderline of the Arroyo's stylistic realm, showing a similar minerally, almost saline facade. The oak is still obvious even with air, though.

WineRoute, about 250 NIS at the time (five, six years ago).

Royal Tokaji Wine Co., Aszu 5 Puttonyos, 2003

Amazing nose! There's a lot of orange marmalade, with sweet spices and obvious botrytis funk, and more complexity than my descriptors can convey. The nose is more complex than the palate as well - at this point in its life, anyway. On the other hand, the palate sure is long and sleek, yummy and well complemented by the acidity, and the botrytis bite gets stronger and stronger on the finish as the wine opens. I have to score this one for a change: 93-95.

Price unknown.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Duty Calls - Dinner at Maraboo (June 9, 2010)

It must be quite obvious by now that my dining and wining activities have dwindled recently. Ever the optimistic explorer of food and wine, I recently joined my friends in an attempt to remedy this sad state of affairs. The wines we tasted ranged from very good and tasty to excellent and tasty (plus a DOA bottle of Bruno Clair, Corton-Charlemagne, 1996). Maraboo, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment, as I found none of the dishes especially creative, inspired, or generous.

All the red wines were decanted thirty to sixty minutes before we drank them.

Jean Milan, Oger Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Symphorine

What a terrific nose! The first adjective that leapt to my mind was "inspirational" and as I write this, two days after the fact, I still stand by it. It reeks of lime and chalk and, most of all, that champagne-y yeast aroma that has mellowed very nicely with a few years of bottle age. Very complex aromatics. It's a tasty wine, sure enough, even if the palate is less complex than the nose, starting out with a sweet impression that turns dry on the finish, thus combining lushness with a touch of intellectual stoicism. Another mark against it is that the mousse doesn't really last a long time in glass.

Imported by Boutique de Champagnes, 309 NIS.

Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 1995

This wine doesn't score extremely high on the classy, pretty, or elegant scales but it's the kind of wine whose aromas will always make me salivate and, thankfully, the palate follows suit and satisfies my cravings. The nose and palate both offer mellow fruit flecked with black and green peppers, a relic of the days before wine-makers lived and died by the ripeness of their ware. Others around the table commented on its juicy acidity but it wasn't that notable to me, but then again, I thought the wine was served a couple of degrees too warm, which only makes its showing an even greater achievement. I did love its savory, tannic bite. While it was obviously not in the same class as the other reds (and priced accordingly), I found it more food friendly than the more renowned wine that went up to bat next and I would enjoy owning a couple of bottles.

I think WineRoute is now importing Mondavi to Israel. I don't know what current prices are like but I see the 1995 can still be found in the US for about 60 USD.

Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, Montosoli, 1998

I know that, in hindsight, the fact that I found more similarities than differences between the Mondavi and the Montosoli is odd, but there it is. I can't say there are a lot of similarities in specifics of the aromatic and flavor profiles, it's just that both wines seem to subscribe to a vaguely similar school of style. Which is, again, odd and I can only explain it away by Tuscany 1998's relative coolness. This is, like the Mondavi, a savory wine, if not quite as food friendly as the other reds, despite its obvious class. A certain aroma of chives lends it an Italian character, even if that's not enough to make its origins easily discernable.

Also imported by WineRoute, usually costing around 450 NIS.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac 2me Cru, 1996

Before Bordeaux prices hit the ceiling, this wine didn't cost that much more than the Altesino. It's not leagues beyond it in quality, either, but somehow, there's enough of a difference here to put the final touches on my conversion to the land of Gironde: you can't beat a good Bordeaux, not really. If you want anything resembling a claret stylistically, ultimately Bordeaux will simply have more class and elegance and that touch of aloofness. By this I'm not talking about the common definition of claret; rather, I mean any red wine where the tannins are the big players alongside the fruit, which covers the Altesino, the Mondavi - every red wine, in fact, outside of Burgundy, which has its own set of rules and where the fruit is balanced by acidity first and then tannins.

Anyways... The nose here has a great focus and purity, despite a wash of sewer stink, with an excellent balance between graphite, tobacco leaves and red fruit. This is echoed on the palate, which has the best acidity of the evening - its trump card, actually, as it lends the wine a great vivacity and freshness. A winner.

More recent vintages are imported by WineRoute. The price of this bottle is unknown.

Chateau Coutet, Barsac Premier Cru, 2003

When it comes to stickies, I'm starting to part ways with Bordeaux, as it's usually my fourth choice these days after Germany, the Loire and Tokay. The reason for that is the alcohol can be too obvious to me (you can also read that as "not enough acidity"), but that's not the case here, as the extract and acidity are balanced and vibrant enough to mask the 14% ABV. The botrytis is obvious, but beyond that I don't really remember too many specifics of aromas or tastes, but when it comes to such gorgeous liquid candy, who cares?

Imported by WineRoute, this cost me about 150 NIS in futures.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Misc Notes (May 2010)

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Steinacker, Riesling Kabinett, 2005

It seems as though each time I drink a Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling these days, it seems drier that I remember from the previous encounter - and this is no exception. The nose is great, such is always the case with Koehler-Ruprecht, but I find myself yearning for just a little more sugar. (May 6, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Clos Marie, Coteaux du Langedoc, Pic St. Loup, l’Olivette, 2007

I can spot a common thread linking this wine to both the Rhone and old-school Spain, vis a vis the interplay of black and red fruit, minerals and meaty notes. There's a nice marriage of robust, fruit-forward, New World wine-making and and the idiosyncratic, terroir-driven craftsmanship I associate with the Old World. The package is backed by meaty, savory tannins that keep me coming back for more, marking this as yet another house wine, especially in a supporting role of a tasty slab of roast beef. (May 8, 2010)

IPVinum, about 120 NIS at Wine Depot.

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

I must admit I don't really know what to make of this wine. It's interesting, but... The nose has citrus fruit and citrus skins that are almost candied and annoyingly so. Then the candied aspect fades out a bit and there's a welcome hint of smoke. Okay, I can live with the nose and enjoy it but the palate is harder to, ahem, digest. It just pushes and shoves too much and there's an energetic vibe that creates a lot of annoying white nose, despite it all winding up in a mineral finish that I would enjoy in other contexts. I guess it just doesn't feel balanced enough for my tastes. (May 13, 2010)

Giaconda, 91 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Rouge, 2006

Black, smoky-peppery fruit on the nose, the ripeness of which only expresses itself as sweet, almost chocolate-like notes, nothing more forward than that. The palate echoes and complements these characteristics, as it is balanced and structured, despite the tannins which are still slightly rustic and grainy, with lovely acidity giving it an extra oomph. (May 15, 2010).

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Astrolabe, New Zealand, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc, 2009

The nose with its tropical fruit, its funky, mineral tint and its herbal overlay is very pleasing and worthy of contemplation but the palate is too taut and steely even for my penchant for austere wines, although I enjoyed the saline finish that developed in time. (May 16, 2010)

Mersch, bought for about 120 at Wine Depot.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Rully, Les St. Jacques, 2007

I find it quaintly fascinating how much the Les St. Jacques resembles a young Chablis, which is of course way on the other side of the Burgundy, way up north. There's a similar pungency on the nose, comprised of citrus skins, chalk and a hint of flint, while the palate has a similar citrus-y tautness and a similar saline trace on the finish. Indeed, as I recall, when we tasted a bottle of the 2006 blind in November, my friends thought it was a Chablis. Whatever, give this youngster an hour to open up and it will fulfill any expectation you might have of a so-called simple Bourgogne. (May 26, 2010)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 130 NIS.

Pfaffenheim & Gueberschwihr, Goldert Grand Cru, Gewurztraminer, 2005

Utterly classical Gewurtz, spicy on both nose and palate, and absolutely ready to drink. The palate, with its mineral cut and saline finish, is finer and more complex than the nose, which isn't a bad act in the first place: just so typical that it fails to break any new ground. And there's no reason why it should. Lovely in a small-scale way that I've yet to decide whether is in keeping with its Grand Cru status. (May 28, 2010)

Imported by HaKerem, sold at Wine Depot for 130 NIS.

Muga, Rioja, Reserva, 2005

Except for extreme cases, even modern Riojas smell like, well Rioja. Case in point: this great value from my personal favorite Bodegas from Rioja, which is pungently minerally to the point where it almost reeks of iodine, showing also notes of tobacco, cardamon as well as sweeter spices. And enough mellow fruit to conjure memories of Burgundy (I kid you not, this wine smells like Montille's Cote de Beaune premier crus). Anyway, very complex aromatically. The palate, while already showing the Rioja magic and rustic elegance (not to mention yummy salinity on the finish), still has some bitter, albeit light, tannins to integrate with the monolithic, candied fruit. The 2001, which was probably of the same quality level, was still adolescent at seven-eight years post-vintage and I guess the 2005 will mature along a similar arc. (May 29, 2010)

Sold at Wine Depot for 108 NIS.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dinner At Cafe Italia (June 1, 2010)

Francois Gaunoux, Meursault Premier Cru, La Goutte d'Or, 2002

The nose is classical and delightful, with a reductive stink (which I love) at first, then notes of citrus fruit and minerals. The palate has a tense, mineral structure that is overwhelmed by oak. Air does it some good , although not enough to make it very captivating, and I think a Premier Cru from 2002 should have more fruit to counterpoint the oak.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 1996

Damaged. The fruit was meager to begin with, and while air seemed to uplift its spirits after an hour or so, it eventually went with a whimper. The previous bottle was good if not up to my expectations.

Campillo, Rioja, Reserva Especial, 1996

The nose feels extracted and modern before it calms down. The palate is balanced enough , although there is something too sweet about, certainly compared to the next wine. There are enough mineral accents on the nose and palate to make it an enjoyable wine, even though it never gains that leathery-earthy Rioja feel.

Price unknown.

Ishmael Arroyo, Vol Soltillo, Ribera Del Duero, Reserva, 2001

This is, for me, an exciting wine, as I really love its mouthwatering cardamon and sea salt aromas and its almost grainy mouthfeel. It's rough and untamed but has enough complexity and dimensions (length, breadth and depth) to walk all over the Campillo.

Giaconda, 220 NIS.