Monday, January 31, 2011

Pomerol Tasting (Jan. 23, 2011)

I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing. Not that I don't want to. I just don't have enough bottles. Even my more affluent fellows don't have enough, so this evening at local bistro Coffee Bar was a one-of. But a glorious one-of, originally planned as an all-Merlot evening that evolved into a Right Bank tasting, finally focusing solely on Pomerol.

Chateau Providence, 2006

This garagiste (1500 cases a year) doesn't even make Johnson's Pocket Book. Parker likes it more than we did. Closed shut aromatically, showing, with air, black fruit, mint. Monolithic palate, with sweet-ish fruit lurking beneath its moody, tannic facade. Very much New World.

Chateau Trotanoy, 1996

A sly and sublime nose, with subtly fruity aromas that are vaguely laced with minerals and mint. As ethereal and coolly elegant as as the nose is, the tannic palate feels as though it is lumbering stoically behind. Tastes pretty good anyways.

Chateau La Fleur-Petrus, 1999

The most open and inviting nose is also the spiciest and shows the most signs of robust maturity. The palate is not much more complex than, say, the Providence but is yet so much more delightful to me for being so Old World. A palate cleansing finish that combines languid softness with tannic grip makes up for certain void in mid-palate. A fun wine and utterly drinkable.

Chateau La Conseillante, 2001

Gorgeous black fruit with saddle leather and touch of sweat and tea. Tannic and grainy on opening, it retains most of its muscular length and spicy tannins even as it opens up and softens. I think it has more structure than fruit, but that's probably just the vintage and it is still highly enjoyable.

Chateau Clinet, 1995

A complex and complete nose along the same stylistic lines as the La Conseillante, albeit arguably deeper. The palate is packed and dense, approachable yet further from peak than the La Conseillante. Vibrant yet unassuming acidity: that's balance for you.

Chateau De Fargues, Fargues, 2003

An alcoholic bomb that calms down in time to show a complex lattice of brown sugar and toffee. Terrific nose, though, a complex, spicy candy with a dash of minerals.

Many thanks to Uri Gilboa for putting the evening together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Grosses Gewachs, Part 2: 2008's (Jan. 10, 2011)

This was a tough tasting. All the wines were served blind, in pairs of wines from the same producer, and revealed only at the end of the evening. Which tends to place me in a position where trying to identify the wine is more important than understanding and enjoying it. Add to that the fact that these wines were just starting to come out of their slumber and you have more of a finals exam for the palate than a tasting.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Norheimer Dellchen (300 NIS)

The nose offers only apples at first before erupting into a very lovely minerality. The palate is dry, crisp and laced with minerals and today I prefer it to the Hermannshohle.

Donhoff, Nahe, Niederhauser Hermannshohle (300 NIS)

The nose is arguably more forward and ripe with hints of yeast on the fringes. The palate is riper and one dimensional. Having tasted previous vintages at a somewhat older age, I'm shocked at how closed this is and how great a difference a few months can make.

Schaefer-Frohlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felseneck (300 NIS)

Apple pie with a touch of minerals. Very elegant and focused, with no single component overwhelming its glass-mates.

Schaefer-Frohlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felsenberg (300 NIS)

Very extroverted minerality on the nose, which is a very pretty one, if less complex than the one that the Felseneck presents, that later develops a somewhat funky overlay. At the end of the day, this is one of my favorites as it presents depth and complexity and not only sheer power.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg (330 NIS)

Another favorite and one of the most enjoyable today, as its intensity allows it to burst the cocoon of its youthful austerity. This has apple pie and sweetness tempered by a lovely, saline finish.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen (310 NIS)

These two are eerily similar, although this winds up losing to the Halenberg (rightfully one of my favorite vineyards) by a long shot, even though it is fruiter and even more approachable.

Witmann, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Kirchspiel (300 NIS)
Witmann, Rheinhessen, Morstein (340 NIS)

I found this somewhat one-dimensional pair to be the weakest in the tasting - I guess someone had to be. The Kirchspiel starts out round and fruity and develops almost overwhelming minerality that outstages the fruit. The Morstein goes the other way, starting austere and mineral-laden, the fruit only coming out later. They both feel less invigorating than the other wines tasted but the Morstein seems to have the better balance and potential.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Dalsheimer Hubacker (350 NIS)
Keller, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Kirchspiel (330 NIS)

These two also seem to have more similarities with each other than differences, the Hubacker being rounder, though, the Kirchspiel longer and sharper. Both are so hard to grok that I guess this is the one question on the finals that I really bombed out on.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bring on 2011 - Part Two (Jan. 4, 2011)

With the regulars, at Cafe Italia.

Robert Weil, Rheingau, Kiedrich Grafenberg, Riesling Auslese 1999

A sniff-and-smile nose: petrol, mellow minerality, apples, honey. On the palate, luscious fruit with a self-assured backbone. This is a wine that did a whole lot of good to all present, but it was so delicious and easy to drink that it was gone before I could dwell on it long enough.

Not available in Israel, purchased at MacArthur for about 80 USD. The sole bottle that I bought, alas.

Louis Jadot, Corton-Charlemagne, 2000

I find the nose reminiscent of a Champagne, mineral and nut laden, with the fruit very much in the background. The palate offers a firm structure but despite being enjoyable and intense, it leaves one wanting more.

Imported by WineRoute, about 450 NIS, six years in my fridge.

Vincent Girardin, Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2002

The nose is at first all reductive stink, then clears up to show red fruit and forest floor with mineral notes. Lovely, ever changing and ever improving, the aromatics really won me over. Great length and laser-like precision create an elegant, silky impression. My wine of the night, despite all the competition, ready to drink and surprisingly so.

Imported by WineRoute, price unknown.

These three were just a prelude for a Jaboulet, La Chapelle vertical - a therapeutic experience after the 2004 I had a few days before. These wines were purchased from various sources around the world, as far as I know. I did not ask about the prices. It seemed too tacky.

1996

This wine offers a lot of contradictions, especially on the palate, where sweet, yet subtle, fruit combines with rasping tannins to create an effect that I flippantly described as drinking the boots of Outlaw Jessie Wales. The nose is harder to grasp, being self-composed yet rustic in a leathery way.

1999

A fruitier nose with, initially, raw meat that is complemented later on by leather and black pepper. Very impressive by the time it warms up. The palate is, for the time being, arguably less interesting than the 1996, friendlier despite the drying tannins. Whatever, it is very yummy, and improves in the glass, showing increasingly riper acidity, until it bests the 96 by a hair - at least in potential but even right now it is a sweet yummy wine. I know I was in the minority, but I enjoyed it even more than the undoubtedly great 1990.

1988

Corky.

1989

Not quite the therapy I needed. Claims that it was dying in glass abounded. Understandably so. Madeiraized

1990

The best of all possible worlds: a peppery nose with hints of herbs and a balanced and tasty palate. On a purely personal level, I enjoyed the 1999 more, but this is a profound wine. 2GrandCru writes no more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bring on 2011 - Part One (Jan. 1, 2011)

New Year's celebration with wine laymen. I guess I've educated this crowd well, because the class of wine we've been drinking on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays is now on par with what I drink with the wine geeks on regular outings.

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

A floral nose with apples (and, later, more typical notes of guayava/litchi) and a hint of botrytis that creates an impression akin to a dessert wine. The palate is sweet but not dessert-wine sweet, with striking clarity of expression. The difference between this and the 2005 Spatleses, which I went through the last year or so like a lush, is obvious in the ripeness of the fruit, but also in the style. In hindsight, I could have done with a couple of Spatleses less in favor of this. Lovely.

Giaconda, about 160 NIS.

Chateau Haut Batailley, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1996

This has the kind of Bordeaux aromatics that make me tingle with delight: mellow, cedar-y fruit with a touch of iron and blood and just a whiff of barnyard. Firm, yet savory, tannins provide ample grip for the delicious fruit and will help it keep for a few years but without, I think, very much improvement. Which is fine, I love it as it is: exquisitely typical in its Pauillac-ness.

Not imported to Israel.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1996

The aromatics evoke images of rugged finesse, with their black fruit and cardamon, and there is touch of barnyard here as well. As handsome in its grainy, Old World way as you'd expected a Gran Reserva to be. Friendlier and sweeter than the Haut-Batailley, with arguably better balance. Ready to drink.

Giaconda, about 350 NIS.

Jaboulet, Hermitage, La Chapelle, 2004

The nose started out almost Aussie-like at first but then... sweaty socks, yay! And my guests thought the barnyard aromas of the previous wines were bad enough. Beyond the stinky veil (which I like), lurks peppery black fruit with typical North Rhone allure. On the palate, the 14% ABV doesn't show as heat or sweetness, instead I get bitter, young tannins. It doesn't soar to any great heights, really, at least not to those I'd expect from the appellation, but it does have the stuffings of a Hermitage. At the end of the day, there's something a bit shaky about this wine that I don't think time will help.

Price unknown.

Postscript for Hebrew readers

People are asking: how did Haaretz finally grow a set of cojones?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Celebratory Wine (Dec. 31, 2010)

I don't want this to get too mushy, so I'll keep it short. Today I ran my first official race. Ten kilometers. Came in 427th out of 562 runners. 56 minutes, 12 seconds.

And how do you suppose 2GrandCru would celebrate this athletic feat?

Donnhoff, Norheimer Kirschheck, Riesling, Spatlese, 2008

I have a confession to make. I love young Donnhoffs. So while this isn't top of the line Donnhoff, it's good stuff and relatively inexpensive. Inexpensive enough for me to open a two year old without a hint of remorse. This is still on the primary side: both on the nose - which offers aromas of apple pie, a hint of minerals and a continually growing note of tropical fruit- and the palate, which feels in need of time to flesh out and gain a little weight. While this has the classic restraint that I have come to expect to expect from Donnhoff, there's a bit of lushness on the nose, that, for better or for worse (a matter of personal taste), is not echoed on the palate. Naturally, the acidity is fresh, juicy and simply gorgeous. It will improve, I think.

Giaconda, about 180 NIS.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Misc Notes (Dec. 2010)

Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz, Riesling Spatlese, 2007

I just had the "Maggie" the month before, but I was ravenous for German Riesling. And this wine sort of says "Drink Me" as opposed to "Cellar Me". (Dec. 2, 2010)

Giaconda, about 100 NIS.

Later on that month, I also put to bed my last bottle of the 2006, which has fine-tuned its crystalline sweet aromas and grip. These two vintages are so yummy in their deviously transparent way.

Domaine de Font-Sane, Gigondas, Tradition, 2005

I've been saying lately that southern French wines (which includes Southern Rhone as far as I'm concerned) is a style I like to visit (only) occasionally. This was such an occasion. The nose is pretty likable: very earthy, almost iron like, with hints of garrigue - the French Marlboro man. The palate is taut before it finally reveals the welcoming, warm fat of the South at the core of its austere, quasi-metallic trappings; all the while hiding its 15% ABV, a fact that I naturally welcome - there's a trace of sweetness without undue ripeness and no alcoholic burn . It's good, and much more cohesive than the bottle I drank last year. In the end, though, my problem is that North Rhone wines at the same price point are just much more tasty as far as I'm concerned. (Dec. 4, 2010)

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Chateau de Pibarnon, Bandol, 2005

And having just said that I only open a southern wine on occasion, I went and opened this youngster the very next day. Why? Because I'd been waiting to taste a Bandol for a long time, and because I'd really loved the last Mourvedre based wine I'd tasted (La Bolida, 2006) - plus, I wanted something to go with the left-over roast beef that the Font-Sane had accompanied.

There is initially an almost ridiculous amount of minerals and garrigue aromas over the fruit, which starts out black and becomes increasingly redder with airing even as the garrigue transforms into something from the meatier (and all the lovelier in this context) side of the aromatic spectrum. The palate needs air because while the tannins are initially soft and sweet, the fruit is on the dormant side at first and the finish is bitter and drying. It eventually develops a savory accent that almost overcomes the increasingly harsher tannins and becomes a more integrated wine, even if not exactly a friendlier one. Let's say it's characterful and interesting and opened 3-4 years too early - which is 2GrandCru tasting in the name of science. (Dec. 5, 2010)

About 30 euros at the Charles de Gaulle Airport.

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

Initially, this bottle shows signs of premature retirement. The cork is almost totally wet, the neck is sticky with gunk, the nose feels more tired and the palate leaner than I remember from the recent past. But although I guess something went wrong with this bottle, it still possesses typical Nahe transparency and purity, and it picks up focus and vibrancy with air, even if it never quite reaches the quality and harmony of previous showings. Probably the best off-bottle I ever had, for what it's worth. (Dec. 6, 2010)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, 2008

This is the most Pinot-like and Burgundian so far of the Beajolais pack I bought in Paris. The nose is very much like a good Cote de Beaune village, perhaps Volnay, with underbush notes and a warm spiciness over bright red fruit. However, something about it feels a little tired, although it is still enjoyable as it does boast a mellow sweetness of fruit that only Bourgogne can conjure. I like it despite its faults for its inherent character and all its promises of what might have been. (Dec. 7, 2010)

Purchased in Paris for about 20 euros.

Deux Montilles, Rully, 2007

Maybe if I give this wine a rest, I'll have something new to write about it, but I can't keep away. That lovely perfume of flint and the delicious acidity that make up for any lack in complexity keep suckering me back in. And the ever-evolving saline/marine streak makes me glad I succumbed. (Dec. 8, 2010).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 120 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

Initially, the Colombier shows olives and raw meat on the nose but later I find an added layer of aromatic complexity: smoke, pepper, sweet red fruit. The palate is fresh and tasty, slightly rustic and grainy on the finish and fatter than the Alain Graillot, which is the other Crozes I drink regularly. (Dec. 9, 2010)

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Chapoutier, Saint Joseph, Deschants, 2005

This was a whim purchase: Wine Depot has this on sale for 99 NIS. The nose has a lot of details and nuances that will impress for their harmony, even if they won't have you crying hosannas: black pepper, which takes some coaxing to appear, at which point it is accompanied by sweet red fruit and intermittent flashes of bacon. Ditto for the palate, which, after a lean and tannic start, offers small-scale, down-home pleasures that would be lost if the Deschants had to share the spotlight with another wine. (Dec. 12, 2010)

Imported by the Scottish Company.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

Followers of my blog will know by now how much I adore this winery, and this showing does little to discourage this love affair: this is a top-notch Crozes-Hermitage that is in such a yummy place right now. A wonderful performance almost from the initial pour, sniff and sip - it takes time to really show its stuff but it doesn't start as coiled and reticent as I'd expected. The aromatics are a perfect accompaniment to roast beef: a bit of black fruits and a bit of red, with meaty funk and a touch of herbs and charred earth - the typical black pepper aromas emerging only very much later, alas. The palate is a grocery-list of components dedicated to creating a delicious effect: soft, almost silky tannins that contribute to an elegant, long, saline finish; remarkably fresh, succulent fruit; balanced, almost feminine composure, without a touch of rusticity. Even though the '06 Crozes is less mature than the '07 Saint Joseph, it certainly won't need age to soften it, just to add some complexity and allow it to bloom further. (Dec. 18, 2010)

WineRoute, about 130 NIS.

Leo Alzinger, Wachau, Steinertal, Riesling Smaragd, 2004

Delightful aromatics, where what I get at first is a ton minerals, then honeyed, slightly baked apples, with all the sweet-cum-spicy zest they bring to the table. A fantastic nose, in short - Gross Gewachs quality for sure, to put things in perspective. The palate is also high quality, solidly placed in Bourgogne Premier Cru tier. A compact middleweight, with a sweetness that is not borne of alcohol or residual sugar - instead it seems to come from high-class fruit that doesn't feel overly extracted. (Dec. 20, 2010)

Purchased at MacArthur some two-plus years ago for about 40 USD. A good buy.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Gewurtzraminer, Trocken, 2007

I don't often love Geurtzraminer, but I like it a lot and I enjoy the pursuit of a Gewurtz I might fall for. Since one of my favorites is, oddly enough, a Pfalz rendition, namely the Koehler-Ruprecht Spatlese 2006, I thought of hitting Germany again. And I had great hopes, since Nahe is a region I much prefer to the Pfalz, being in my limited experience (albeit my experience in the Nahe runs to some of the most illustrious names in Germany ) more balanced and elegant, and not prone to fleshy, nigh-exotic ripeness. The thing is, Schafer-Frohlich is a trocken, and weighs in at 14% ABV, so stylistically, it runs into the same glass ceiling as the Alsatian versions do - and I will elaborate. The nose is typical, exactly what I look for, and love, in the variety - lychee, grapefruit, rose petals and that warm spiciness that anyone who's ever stuck their head into a glassful of the stuff will recognize straight off the bat. The palate is very good , I'd call it spicy grapefruit punch with a surprising touch of salinity on the finish - but the typical quinine and grapefruit peels/pips sensations limit its capacity for elegance and user-friendliness. Not that I think user-friendliness is necessarily an asset, but Gewurtzraminers tend to treat hospitality as a nuisance. However, this is one specimen that manages to contain those tendencies to an extent, and thus winds up punching well above its weight. (Dec. 24, 2010)

Giaconda, 90 NIS - a very good value.