So by now I've tasted just about all the Saint-Josephs available in Israel: Graillot, Chave, Chapoutier, and now this. Anyway, I don't have a great depth of experience with Saint-Josephs, but this wine doesn't seem too typical of the appellation to me. The nose is interesting: black and red cherries with black pepper, stony minerality and a hint of garrigue, which I find odd in a Northern Rhone. It really takes a long time to open up enough on the palate to show typicity, but even then, the vague sense of familiarity that typicity affords is ephemeral. The palate is way too masculine and four-square for my tastes (or for my expectations of a good Northern Rhone wine), with dusty tannins masking the acidity that certainly is lurking underneath. I couldn't help but think how much it reminds me of the Vacqueyras and Gigondas that Giaconda have been importing; maybe it's a stylistic decision on their part. Whatever, Graillot this ain't. (Jan. 6, 2011)
Giaconda, about 150 NIS.
Domaine de la Mordoree, Lirac, La Reine Des Bois, 2005
Graphite, garrigue, black fruit, black pepper. Although there is something modern about it, a grainy, slightly bitter finish combines with sweet tannins to make for a surprising, intellectually challenging effect, even if not the most delicious one. One of the more likable Southern Rhones I've had recently. (Jan. 8, 2011)
WineRoute, about 130 NIS on discount.
Tardieu-Laurent, Cote-Rotie, 2001
I was planning to open something else, but this bottle virtually yelled "open me!" from the fridge, so I did. Call me the Dr. Doolitle of the wine fridge, but it's a good thing I was paying attention because the cork was so damp - and there was such a worrying brown tint to the liquid - that I'm not sure how much longer I could have afforded to wait with this bottle. There is initially a distressing whiff of acetone that recedes to allow aromas of red fruit, roasted herbs, cured meat and black pepper to come through. The palate is propelled by acidity, as was the case two years ago, but it's much better integrated today, fostering a pretty swirl of sweet fruit on the back end that combines with soft, sleek tannins to make for a Bourgogne-like silkness. Faulted, perhaps, by the still somewhat high acidity, but lovely for me anyway for displaying a femininity I had not previously chanced upon in the Rhone (I know, they say it's present in Cote-Rotie, I just personally haven't had the good fortune of drinking one at just the right phase of its evolution). (Jan. 15, 2011)
WineRoute, 350 NIS.
Albert Mann, Furstenstum Grand Cru, Gewurztraminer, Vieilles Vignes, 2007
This is some Gewurtz and, before I mention where it goes beyond the varietal checklist, I want to say that it has enough acidity to lend focus to the usual intensity of extract that the grape always offers. Having said that, the checklist: rose petals, litchi, spices. Then a mellow, yet complex, overlay of minerals that I find as regal as anything coming from my favorite Germany vineyards. The palate has a complex, saline aftertaste of great pedigree. Fine, fine, fine. (Jan. 16, 2011)
Giaconda, about 200 NIS.
A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2006
My patience is finally starting to pay off. This wine has always had gorgeous, and very typical, aromatics of dried grass, flint, pears and apples - but the palate, after an initial bottle that displayed its quite obvious potential, has been been brooding and moody for the last couple of years. Now, while there is still a vague impression that it's not fully baked yet, it's fun again, with a firm grip and a complex, savory, saline finish. So my thinking is, I'll open my last bottle this summer or the next, just to get an impression how long to cellar the newer vintages awaiting in the wings.(Jan. 21, 2011).
Tomer Gal, about 120 NIS.
Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac, 2003
Mineral and herb tinged aromas of black fruits, with a hint of chocolate and roasted meat. There is an initial sense of high extract on the nose that is thankfully not quite as blatant on the palate, which has sneaky acidity that lurks beneath the plump fruit and winds up with a savory, lightly tannic bite. Quite Bordeaux, despite the sweet tannins, the lush figure, the vaguely international style. Pretty good, even if not more, but gets the job done. (Jan. 22, 2011)
WineRoute, 160 NIS. Good value. I bought two bottles and suspect I'd buy more in a more classically-molded vintage.
Albert Mann, Grand Cru Furstenstrum, Pinot Gris, 2005
A nose like no other, quince, red apples and minerals that suggest bathing salt, plus what is now evolving into hints of spices. The palate is flavorful and reasonably complex and restrains the 14% ABV rather well, I think. (Jan. 26, 2011)
Giaconda, about 200 NIS.
Meishar, #41, 2006
This is a Shiraz based blend (60%, the rest equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) from a small local winery that I have fond memories of - partly for the down-home quality of their wines and partly because they never seemed to encourage the usual hype that boutique wineries seem to thrive on. This has ripe, slightly candied, nose of wild berries with a hint of herbs that is not very complex or interesting but well done. The 14% ABV shows as bitterness on the finish, but it is balanced by saline notes that seem to come out of left field. So the palate, although already starting to tire, is better than the nose and overall, this is a nice wine for casual drinking that avoids overt signs of jamminess but doesn't set off any firecrackers either. Which is just fine for its price. (Jan. 29, 2011).
60 NIS at WineDepot.
I thought I'd give Meishar another shot and went for the Reserve 31, Merlot, 2008, which is priced a little higher at 75 NIS. It's nicer, fresher, although not enough so considering its youth. It has typical Merlot aromas and the same saline notes on the finish as the #41. It's more refined and lively but I doubt it will keep more than a year or so. But I think the herbal-tinged reticence is what wins over the winery's fans and who cares if a 75 NIS wine from the desert is made to drink young. (Jan. 30, 2011)