Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moreau-Naudet Tasting At Giaconda (July 12, 2010)

This was not an easy tasting for me. Moreau-Naudet's wines are obviously of their place but the 2006's were too sullen to enjoy. See, I can't shake of my fears that a moody wine won't emerge in the future a bright and happy wine - and I like my Chablis quiet yet joyous. So I'll hope for the best. And certainly the Valmur 2002 was a wine worth waiting for.

Petit Chablis, 2007

Smells like a Chablis for sure with its citrus, chalk and sea shells; certainly tastes as good as a village, even if doesn't have the length or depth to keep the pretense up for long. Unoaked, and it shows.

92 NIS.

Chablis, Les Pargues Vieilles Vignes, 2006

Even more than the Petit, the Les Pargues' nose is all I want in a Chablis: the truest expression of terroir, with aromas of sea shells and fossils that remind you of the area's underwater origins. Although the palate is noticeably longer and more intense than the Petit, there is an astringency that runs in parallel with the acidic backbone instead of being buffered by it. In short, too young and, as noted in my introduction, adolescently sullen. From ~50 year old vines.

148 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2006

The nose is a step up, because the fruit, which leans towards peaches and apricots, is more generous. The oak is obvious on nose and palate, as is a vein of butter. This wine is where the adjective "brooding" first made its way into my notes, and although I find balance in its depths, it is less interesting the the Les Pargues and doesn't really go anywhere in particular during its time in glass.

171 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Forets, 2006

I do wish this tasting was better at highlighting the differences between the terroirs, but the Vaillons and the Forets were too much alike both stylistically and quality-wise. Except that whatever faults the two wines shared - subdued fruit leaving the spotlight to the alcohol - the Forets had brighter acidity and sharper focus.

171 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains, 2006

Another tiny, weeny, teeny increment in quality over the previous Premier Crus. Better acidity, more graceful harmony. Best of all, it simply tastes better.
171 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre, 2006

A more discernable increment in quality, while not wandering far afield style-wise, this is the most elegant and, perhaps, aloof, of the Premiers. Lovely.

190 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur, 2006

When you finally reach Grand Cru territory in a difficult tasting like this, you expect a payoff and I finally got one. This is like God turned the dial and suddenly everything is in focus and you can sniff subtle nuances floating before you. Besides that, the much greater extract makes the palate easier to approach.

320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur, 2002

Home run! All the sea-side aromas the previous wines display have morphed into a lovely stink and a savory palate that is Burgundian - and Chablis - to an extreme.

Not for sale.

One surprise dessert:

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Moeulleux, Art Monia, 2003

I don't want to write about this wine. I mean, I love it and I've drunk it a lot and written a lot of notes about it. But it depresses me to consider that I didn't have the patience - or, let's face it, fridge space - to cellar it. So now it's all gone at home and I had to by another one, knowing one more is not enough and I'll probably drink it too early, too.

About 130 NIS.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

World Cup Wines (July 2010)

I had a notion of watching the games with friends but six year old Adam discovered the world of football this year and I had so much fun staying at home and watching the games with him. Turns out he remembers the scores and scorers better than I do! Of course, there were wines to be drunk; I did share a few sips with Adam, please don't tell the authorities.

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

Drunk over the course of the first day of the World Cup Quarter-Finals. I opened it at around five in the afternoon, hoping a few hours of air would help it perform better than K-H had done for me in the recent past. It needs it, too, as it initially tastes like battery-acid tempered by apples cider. The nose has a mineral tint with a pungent, kerosene notes, showing sweet herbs as the kerosene winds down. As the evening rolls on, I'm confused by my reaction towards this wine, and find it really hard to write about. Sometimes I like the nose and not the palate, sometimes it's the other way around. Two silver bullets work for this wine: first is the long, lime-ish, saline finish; second is the wonderful aromas left inn the glass once it is empty, lovely minerals and yeasts. In the end, I miss the days when I just enjoyed K-H without reservations. Nowadays, it's just too challenging for me to try and figure out them out and I have come up with three possible reasons for that:
  1. The wine-maker's a genius and I don't understand him.
  2. The wine-maker doesn't understand me.
  3. The Koehler-Ruprecht wines go into a deeper slumber than my tasting skills can cope with.
(July 2, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004

This wine, on the other hand, accompanying the second day of the Quarter-Finals, is like a homecoming. The nose is a little wild, yet complex and detailed, with ripe citrus fruit rippling under the flint and dry grass. The palate is just as good, even if less complex, with good length and savory salinity. (July 3, 2010)

Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pflaz, Haardter Herrenletten, Riesling Spatlese, 2006

I abstained on the first day of the Semi-Finals while recovering from Hagit Koren's farewell binge. For the Spain-Germany match, I had a tough choice to make and went with a German wine, thinking I had more German wines to spare should the German squad make the Finals.

What I love about Muller-Catoir and makes him my favorite Pfalz producer - well, out of the three or four that I'm familiar with - is the way the wines combine an almost Alsatian ripeness with a sleek, German frame. As such, this wine is a fantastic value and an endearing creature. The intense, lush nose has red apples and tropical fruit against a backdrop of minerals and sweet dough. The palate is as sweet and round as the nose would have you believe while balanced with juicy, green apple acidity. (July 7, 2010)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

Patricia Green Cellars, Oregon, Dundee Hills, Ana, Pinot Noir, 2006

Third-place match on Saturday. Despite the 14.1% ABV listed on the label, this looks and smells like a Pinot, if not a Bourgogne, but the palate shows heat and sweetness, though in time the tannins assert themselves and balance the effects of the alcohol. The nose has all the candied fruit of a young Pinot, with very nice herbal and meaty notes, as well as some white pepper; while the palate, all through the interplay of alcohol and tannins, remains hard and tight at the core and not that pleasant without food - I matched it with ossobucco, which was a nice, if not great, pairing. I will say it improves with air, until the tannins and alcohol make for a bitter, austere effect. I hate to admit stuff like this, but I opened this bottle two-three years early. (July 10, 2010).

Not available in Israel bought abroad for about 40 USD.

For the Finals, I wanted a real Bourgogne, after the Patricia Green teased me without coming close to delivering the real thing.

Comte Armand, Volany Premier Cru, Les Fremiets, 2002

A light, fragrant Bourgogne, with subtle aromatics of red fruit and minerals, that takes hours to open up. The nose opens first, showing greater complexity without ever talking very loudly - an apt choice for meditation if not a football match. The palate has less stuffing and body than I'd expected from an '02 and at first the tannins don't really gel with the fruit, while the acidity is rather muted. During the first half of the match, there is little action on the palate - echoing the play on the field. But towards the halftime, things start falling into place. The tannins are still bitter and green but now that the fruit is starting to emerge, there's a better balance so the overall effect is herbal and mildly astringent rather than harsh and off-putting. In the end, like the game, it promised more than it delivered. (June 11, 2010)

Tomer Gal imports Comte Armand, although not this bottling, which I purchased in London for about 40 GBP.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Saying Goodbye (July 6, 2010)

No, not to the blog (although I bet the post title is an eye-catcher) but to Hagit and Noam Koren, who, after hosting numerous wine dinners at their home, are California-bound where they will be living, working and drinking the next few years. I can't believe it's been four years! Good luck, folks, and thanks for the good times and the hospitality.

Granted that great company can uplift the quality of a given set of wines, this particular set was one hell of a lineup.

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 1999

The initial impression of citrus fruits on the nose makes way for apricots, brioche and honey. The palate has a great structure, dry with a hint of sweetness. One of the best Champagnes I've had yet and at half the price of of the few that I've tasted that were better.

Imported by Eldad Levi, the 2000 sells for 349 NIS.

J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenhur, Riesling Auslese, 1994

A highly nuanced slab of icy rock and mature Riesling fruitiness, amazingly light and tasty beyond adjectives. Ran Shapira claims the 1999 is even better - the future looks good!

Imported by Giaconda, the 1994 was sold for about 350.

Olivier Leflaive, Corton-Charlemagne, 1995

The nose shows lightly oxidative notes that blow off and morph into nuttiness. The big story is the palate, which is at a stage where the fruit is even less than secondary: spicy, long, powerful, Bourgogne.

Recent vintages imported by WineRoute.

Dosio, Barolo Riserva, 1982

Muddier than Exile On Main Street. The nose with its tarry colors is austere compared to the palate, which sails on the strength of its integrated, ripe acidity to great places. A "wow wine" for its sheer deliciousness.

A handful of ancient Dosios were imported by the Doosh and sold for about 650 NIS.

La Rioja Alta, Rioja Gran Reserva, 890, 1995

Classic and intense. At fifteen years of age, it's young enough to carry an earthy, spicy punch, mature enough to smell like the true Rioja deal. The palate, while not as complex as the other reds of the evening, has an appealling, sauteed sweetness born of fruit, not residual sugar or sweet oak per se.

Imported by HaKerem and sold for upwards of 600 NIS.

Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac 2me Cru, 1986

Ran and I both thought we detected a light hint of TCA, so how can it possibly still taste so good? Just how good would an untainted bottle be? The nose is still rudimentary, with notes of cedar and saddle leather, while the palate is balanced and elegant, TCA or not.

Chateau Montrose, St. Estephe 2me Cru, 1995

The Montrose had the best nose of the evening, oscillating between cedar and sewer. The palate is muscular, yet refined, with a bitter-tannic finish.

Recent vintages of the Pichon-Lalande and the Montrose are imported to Israel by WineRoute.

Kiralyudvar, Tokaji, Aszu 6 Puttonyus, 1999

Annoyingly (because I can't get a bottle) fresh. The botrytis is subtly and seamlessly integrated on palate and nose. One of the most complex stickies I've tasted.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Misc Notes (June 2010)

Dauvissat, Chablis, 2005

Three years ago, I had guessed this village wine would be ready by 2010. I was wrong. It's still tight, holding its potential in reserve. Still, its Chablis character is obvious on the nose with its citrus skin aromas and hints of sea air, while the palate is classical in its crisp, nervy energy. (June 2, 2010)

Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection, about 150 NIS.

Chateau d'Or et de Gueules, Costieres de Nimes, Trassegum, 2003

60% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 15% Carignan. When I was originally investigating IPV's catalog, Ori Kaftory very broadly hinted this would be too modern for my tastes. Thus, timing and budget constraints prohibited my tasting it. This week I saw it on the shelves at Wine Depot and asked head honcho Ronen just how modern it was. "Well, it's pretty modern", he said. "Modern as in too sweet or too forward?", I inquired further. "It's forward, not too sweet, but it's got character and tastes good." Since my reading up on it seemed to hint it had a Provencal herbal thing going for it, it seemed to intersect my gastronomical plans for the weekend, i.e., entrecotes with a cardamon and rosemary based seasoning. In the event, I found a forward, fruity nose,with a neat herbal constituent that makes up for a slight alcoholic strain. Like the Les Cimels (and unlike the la Bolida), there's a tannic austerity on the palate which is at odds with the roundness of the fruit. Thus, it's not very balanced, even though it makes up for that by sheer personality - although without the brilliance of the la Bolida. (June 5, 2010)

Imported by IPV, about 110 NIS. A good, interesting one-off buy.

Flam, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2006

Back when I was still drinking Israeli wines regularly, I always preferred Flam to, say, GHW. And what a surprise, I still do, even though I probably don't drink more than three local reds a year. While the Reserve has its own share of faults, this is still good wine-making that leaves room for personality. There are, at four years of age, plenty of signs of oak and barrel, but they seem decently welded to the currant-y kick of the Cabernet. The fruit isn't too ripe on the nose, and while it's solidly entrenched on the black side of the spectrum, it is balanced by red notes and hints of earth. The tannins are drying on the palate (and there are green notes as well) while the effects of the barrel seem to grasp the fruit very harshly.But there is, at the core, something very homely and warm about this wine. Having said all that, I will confess that upon my first few sips I entertained notions of buying another bottle or two to lay down but these thoughts dissipated by the end of the bottle. So it's pretty good, just not good enough. (June, 12, 2010).

About 140 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2007

It's interesting to compare this village Chablis with the more mature Dauvissat village. The nose is just as well realized, although, with notes of flint and dry grass serving as a foil to mellow citrus fruit, I find it somehow slightly less typical of Chablis and more representative of a more 'global' Bourgogne ideal. The palate is, one the one hand, friendlier and more fully realized than the Dauvissat; on the other hand, it is still youthfully vibrant with pungent, acid-driven citrus fruit. (June 20, 2010)

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Gunderloch, Rheinessen, Riesling, Kabinett, Jean Baptiste, 2007

This is, for me, what a young German Riesling is all about (and why I make sure I have a sufficient supply of bottles around for early drinking - just because you can age them doesn't mean you always have to age them): juicy, zippy apple fruit, complexified enough - aromatically - by mineral tinged dough-y notes to arouse interest. And so yummy. (June 21, 2010)

Giaconda, 90 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2006

Love the nose: textbook Bourgogne with pears and flint. The palate is initially rather disjointed and unformed, the acidity not properly welded to the fruit, thus leaving a bitter sensation from mid-palate to finish, which dissipates with warm air. The improvement in glass is actually so pronounced that it leaves plenty room for optimism. This wine needs to be served warmer than many village level whites to show its best at present - the initial coarseness really fades away once the wine warms up and the salinity on the finish starts to take off. (June 24, 2010)

Imported by Tomer Gal, my bottle cost me about 120 NIS. Good value.

Faustino, Rioja Gran Reserva, I, 1998

One of the best I've ever had from the I series, maybe because Faustino's new importer, WineRoute's Shaked family, has better storage facilities than the both the previous importer (the dreaded, dreadful France-Israel) and my foreign duty-free sources. The new importer is also responsible for finally matching this wine's foreign prices. France-Israel, quite frankly, played the local consumers for suckers, selling this at almost twice the price in Spain. Enough whining and back to the wine. The nose is not especially powerful or complex but commendable for being so utterly typical with its fresh red fruit and tobacco leaves - and who cannot help but love Rioja? The palate shows the best of old-fashioned, down-home Rioja: savoury, meaty tannins and ripe acidity in balance with the red fruit, with a delivery designed to cleanse the palate rather than impress. (June 26, 2010)

Two side notes:
  1. My wife said she remembers the Faustino's Gran Reservas but doesn't remember them tasting this fresh and powerful. Which is true, compared to imported bottles and ones purchased from France-Israel. I mean, this is still a relatively mellow wine but so full of life compared to any other Faustinos I've tasted, even the premium de Autor.
  2. So, on the one hand, we have a wine that's obviously meant to be paired with food rather than compete at tastings. On the other hand, a bottle that I hope is representative of a very vibrant and freshly styled batch. Does anyone else think this reads very much like a Bourgogne impostor?
WineRoute's list price is about 160 NIS, I believe; this was on sale at Wine Depot this month for about 130 NIS. So it's either a good value or a great bargain.

Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux Du Layon, Carte d'Or, 2005

Let me try to be specific about the mineral aromas for a change: there's both sculptor clay and flint, god knows how, making an intruiging frame around the ripe cantaloup. The palate is languid and hedonistic, the fruit ripe here, too, and somewhat more alcoholic than in the past. They make great sweeties in the Loire, that's for sure, even if the style of this wine doesn't limit it to dessert. (June 30, 2010)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Grosses Gewachs, Part 1 Of A Series Of 17,416 (June 27, 2010)

I now know I could spend a lifetime tracing the intricacies of these beauties. Of course, I also say that about my beloved Bourgognes and clarets, not to mention the classic, sweeter German Rieslings; however, this tasting at Giaconda was something of an epiphany, as for the first time I was both impressed by and greatly attracted to the dry wines of Germany.

Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Nackenheim Rothenberg, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

This wine is so transparent in color that I expected a certain purity and was not disappointed. It has a lovely nose, mostly apples, with a pretty and complex lattice of spices and subtle minerals. In time, the mineral essence grows more pronounced; the verb "to unfurl" would be very apt here. The palate has vibrant, green-apple acidity and becomes sweeter on the finish where it is is balanced by the same acidity and a saline bite. This bite, along with a hint of sea shells in the mineral notes on the nose, gives the Rothberg a Chablis-like appeal. While only a runner-up for second place objectively, this is still the wine I wanted most to take home with me.

260 NIS.

Georg Breuer, Rheingau, Berg Roseneck, Riesling Erste Gewachs, 2007

Slightly deeper in color and (correspondingly?) "warmer" on the nose where I find apples and some peaches and a light touch of kerosene. It is rounder on the palate than the Grunderloch, and despite the good balance of fruit, sugar and acidity, it feels coarser. A good wine that left me a little underwhelmed, as it doesn't really soothe and doesn't really bite.

260 NIS.

Rebholz, Pfalz, Im Sonnenschien, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

The nose here is the most forward of the tasting, with tropical fruit, honey and flowers. The round palate replays the same motif, note for note. Very impressive on the surface, but not really what I look for in Germany. But it's all good and I suppose a modicum of taming will help it shed some baby fat.

351 NIS.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Niederhauser Hermannshohle, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

This is the most primal wine we tasted, one that almost nonchalantly shows its pedigree before it starts to shut down again. The fruit is very ripe on both nose and palate, but where the ripeness of the fruit acted as a sort of glass ceiling for the Rebholz, here it is only the backdrop. And what a long finish!

Sold out. This cost 260 , the 2008 costs 300 NIS.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Hallenberg, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

I love this from the first whiff: complex, idiosyncratic, perhaps a touch animalistic. The nose develops a terrific show of minerals towards the end, while the palate tries its best to match it, starting out one dimensional, then filling out, complexifying, gaining a very handsome length and a crisp finish.

330 NIS.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felsenberg, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

I want to be a rebel but I come from a family of Polish Jews, so I'm embarassed to stick out in a crowd. So imagine my consternation when everyone except me went gaga over this wine. It's not that I disliked it or failed to take note of its fresh fruit and the subterranean vein of minerals lurking beneath its present one-dimensional facade and flaring up on the saline finish. I would like to have a good excuse for my indifference because this is a good wine and I love Nahe in general.

260 NIS.

Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saaw-Ruser, Roth Lay, Riesling Erste Lage, 2007

True to form, Heymann-Lowenstein is the most Alsace-like wine, with a Gewurtz-like flowers on the nose. Alas, I felt it unraveled on the finish, where the acidity did not really gel with the sweetness of the fruit.

250 NIS.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Dalsheimer Hubacker, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2006

Wow! The nose is really it! It is just so complex and vibrant and even now the fruit plays second fiddle to the flint and mushrooms. The palate is just as good, and probably more stimulating and challenging - raw, vibrant, its sheer energy and length besting most of the competition. And all that flint on the nose is as close to being moving that a damn rock has a right to be.

350 NIS.

Wittmann Rheinhessen, Westhofen Aulerde, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

Another great nose. I guess I really love how the minerals beat the crap out of the (mostly white?) fruit. The palate is obviously balanced and elegant yet so closed that I can almost sense it strain to express itself and that sense of struggle is a plus, for me, in this context, as it lends it character. Fine acidity, once again.

260 NIS.

Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Westhofen Kirchpiel, Riesling Grosses Gewachs, 2007

This is much more refined and elegant than the Aulerde, yet in a way they're both two sides of the same coin, which is to say the wine-maker's signature is as clear as the difference in terroir. Terrific structure and a fine bite on the finish.

300 NIS.

Finally, for dessert, a surprise:

Rebholz, Pfalz, Godramsteiner Munzberg, Muskateller Auslese, 2005

Slutty guayava fruit, mint, lavender. Round, with acidity on the low side, but very tasty and a good sudden-death round in blind tastings.

190 NIS for a half-bottle.