Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two From Pessac-Leognan (Mar. 17, 2011)

Two wines that Ido Galon and I had been scheming for ages to get together and drink.

Chateau Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan, 2006

Lovely, complex nose: lime, minerals, slate, honey, mushrooms - a bit of 'dirty' funk. The palate is a little hesitant and disjointed despite solid grip and acidity; started out dominated by Semillon, later giving way to the Sauvignon Blanc, but just didn't scream Bordeaux for the longest time. Still raw.

Chateau l'Arrivet Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1998

Initially, a cedar-mineral laden nose with sweet currants, and a tannic, puckering palate (although even at the start, the savoriness of the tannins is obvious). An hour or two later, the nose shows iron, brett and a gorgeous melange of red and black fruit. The palate by then is warm and inviting, though the tannins are still rusty, yet even more pronouncedly savory than at the start. The acidity starts out on the low side then flares up along with the fruit. Journey ends in balanced, elegant flowering.

At this point, we drank up the glass or two that had remained from the white. A couple of hours of hours had passed since the bottle had been opened, and the nose became New Zealand-ish to me, with tropical fruits, especially guayava. The palate, on the other hand, became much more elegant as the zesty acidity was mellowed by nuttiness. Which is where I felt it finally arrived in Bordeaux territory.

Both are wines purchased from WineRoute over the last two-three years, costing about 200 NIS at the time of purchase.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Garage d'Or (Mar. 3, 2011)

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2009

How objectively can you approach a wine that has already sparked specific comparison, on the local scene, to all things Bourgogne - from Chablis to Puligny? Not that I haven't been disappointed by acclaimed Israeli ringers (not to mention the real deal), but I find myself on such occasions falling into two traps. I'm either too optimistic and keep spotting the similarities or I'm hyper-critical. Anyway, since this wasn't tasted blind, I just have to deal with the circumstances and do my best to contextualize the damn thing.

The nose has the same pungency of citrus fruit that I find in Chablis, as well as in the AOC's in the south, where traditionally the oak has been kept in rein. There is also a note of flint and just a hint of toffee in the background, that develops into a more prominent note of tropical fruit. The palate is crisp and driven by citrus acidity and winds up with a saline touch. Here, too, time brings out a tropical color, but it's not close to overwhelming. It could use more focus, and, while the acidity is exceptional for Israel, I think it lacks a touch of flavoring and force.

So that's the descriptors for you. As far as the whole picture is concerned, yes, it's about as good as the village Chablis, the Macons, the Rullys and the Chalonnaises I drink regularly - although it lacks some coherence. Price-wise, at about 140 NIS, it's in the same ball park as those - even if I do expect a local wine, even from a small boutique such as this, to be cheaper than an import. I think that in a blind tasting, I'd guess it were a Bourgogone lookalike, but then again, there's a good chance I'd say the same thing about a bona fide B.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, 2007

After drinking my way through the 2008's, I continued with my master plan and went on to taste the 2007's.

Macon-Uchizy, Les Maranches

Classic Chardonnay, classic white B., with dried grass and so much citrus fruit on the nose that a more poetic man than I might compare this to a walk in an orchard. Very savory on the palate with just a hint of sweetness tempered by a mouth-filling bang and a saline finish. Coarser than the 2008 and less of a revelation - which I'm willing to concede might just be a case of anti-climax. (Jan. 12, 2011)

Macon-Chardonnay, Clos de la Crochette

Here the citrus fruit is pungent enough on the nose to suggest the skins and it is complemented by flint and dried grass. Hold on - there's plenty of green apples as well as, later, a gorgeous blast of orange blossom. The palate is shapely, with a mineral cut and just a little roundness, which emerges with air, that is useful to combat the initial bitter astringency. Food also helps. This is fun and interesting, but, again, lacks a bit of the 2008 magic, except maybe on the nose. (Feb. 24, 2011)

Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four

Continues along the same lines as the Macon-Chardonnay, but with a little bit more of everything that wine had to offer. The aromatics have a greater definition, all the while letting the flint flirt with the citrus fruit and thus create a complex interaction. The palate has a magical balance, airy elegance and savoriness that made me fall for the 2008's. The magic fades after the bottle has been open for an hour, but in this case, I feel that the first impression is the definitive one. (Mar. 6, 2011)

The first two wines cost 140 NIS, the Macon-Lamartine 150 NIS.

I have to admit that until I opened the Clos du Four, I was starting to fret that maybe I was initially too enthusiastic about Les Heritiers. But the Clos du Four reaffirmed my faith: this is careful, sometimes inspired, wine-making applied to terroir that "lacks" class only in comparison to its illustrious brethren up north. But judging by what it can achieve within its best plots, if it were located elsewhere in the world, there'd be a real estate boom in the Macon vineyards.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Premier Crus at Herbert Samuel (Feb. 28, 2011)

A great night.

I was joined at Roshfeld's Herbert Samuel in Tel Aviv by Ran Shapira, Oron Stern and Giaconda's Anat Sella and Rafaella Ronen (who did a terrific job ordering a set of dishes that complemented the wines very handsomely). Everything clicked: the food, the wine, the people - especially the people.

Around this time of year, my loosely-formed circle of wine loving friends usually hold a Burgundy evening. This year, I wound up organizing the gig and decreed that we'd be "limiting" ourselves to Premier Crus. The idea was twofold. One, there's plenty of Premiers that we never get around to drinking, and, two, I thought it was time we started being stingy with our Grand Crus - we need to save some for later (at any rate, I do). As it turned out, we wound up with a splendid selection. You just can't go wrong with 2004 for whites and 2002 for reds.

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2004

A complex, slightly austere nose here (oyster shells, green apples) that carries over to the very savory, very elegant palate. The palate boasts a saline, mineral and persistent, yet at the same time subtle, acidity. Utterly delicious and very pure.

Imported by Tomer Gal, about 250 NIS. I've got two bottles of my own: happy, happy, happy!

Jean Paul and Benoit Droin, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaucoupin, 2004

An impressive nose, with a lovely, nigh reductive stink, oranges and apples, reminiscent of the producer's Monte de Milieu, 2004. The palate seems younger, greener, more closed than the Raveneau, but then it was opened on the spot, whereas the Raveneau was opened a few hours in advance. Even with some air and time, it seems less ready, but impressive nonetheless - with prominent, mineral-laced acidity - even if it doesn't match the purity of the Butteaux.

Not imported to Israel (although other Droin wines are, courtesy of Giaconda), price unknown.

These Chablis make such a strong argument for their AOC - we've never had such a strong showing from two white Burgundies at a single tasting.

Domaine A. F. Gros, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezzerolles, 2002

This wowed me three years ago and again today. Red fruit, obviously, with slightly musky old leather. The palate starts out short, grows longer in glass, with a lovely tannic structure, and very focused. Still relatively unformed, I recommend keeping for four more years.

Imported by WineRoute, about 290 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Vogeout Premier Cru, Les Cras, 2002

The readiest to drink, starts out extracted, fruity and sweet,then calms down and becomes more complex and structured. Won't make old bones but at a very nice place right now. It's about dried fruits, figs and such, also a shade of black fruit, which is probably a vintage thing. Another vintage trait is density and sensuality of the fruit, which in the case of this wine serves to obscure a certain lack of focus on the finish.

Imported by Tomer Gal, about 250 NIS.

Domaine du Chateau Gris, Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru, Lupe-Cholet, 2002

I've got less to write here - I don't mean to disparage, as this is a lovely wine but it's less structured than the Pezzerolles and less filling and fullfilling than the Les Cras. But in a way, it has a purer core of Burgundian red fruit than either. Oddly, the nose exhibits the exotic spices that I would associate more with Cote de Nuits. A very welcome surprise from one of the more obscure Bourgogne producers I've ever run across.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Misc Notes (Feb. 2011)

Leitz, Rheiingau, Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz, Riesling Spatlese, 2007

A killer to spell, a delight to drink due to its freshness, deft balance, mineral cut and decent complexity. (Feb. 1, 2011)

Giaconda, about 100 NIS.

Domaine des Hauts Chassis, Crozes-Hermitage, Les Galets, 2007

A very nice wine - not especially complex or unique, but quite charming. The aromatics start out where red fruit meets black and resolve unto: cranberry, backed by black pepper, smoke, iron fillings. The palate is quite lovely, with soft tannins, tangy acidity and plump fruit. (Feb. 10, 2011)

Berry Bros, 17 GBP

Montecastro, Ribera Del Duero, 2004

A deeply colored wine, with a modern, highly-extracted, sweet nose and saline nuances that soothe a passing, initial discomfort on my part. The palate shows underlying acidity that pokes through the sweetish fruit and is abetted in its efforts to cleanse the palate with a tannic, grainy, lightly minerally finish. This is good, but although I never actually tasted the 2004 and 2005 versions side by side, I think the 2005 is the better wine and the one that warrants the longer cellaring. (Feb. 12, 2011)

Giaconda, 160 NIS.

Perrin et Fils, Vacqueyras, Les Christins, 2007

Ripe, mineral-laden, spicy/peppery fruit. Friendly. (Feb. 13, 2011)

WineRoute, 90 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvee Gaby, Rouge, 2006

This, then, completes my survey of the various Colombier Crozes. This offers greater complexity, ripeness and presence than the lower-end reds, while retaining a similar fingerprint. The nose has a similar brett-y attack at first, but wields it more elegantly and combines with with enough tobacco leaf-infused black fruit to put it in the background and paint an aromatic picture that would not be out of place in more prestigious AOC's. While not much more tannic than the regular, it has more of a youthful zest, and finer balance, so although it is already as ready to drink as the regular, I think it will last and improve over three-five years, whereas I'm ready to drink up the regular now. (Feb. 18, 2011)

Giaconda, about 150 NIS. Having tasted through all the Crozes now, I realize that they all have a smooth tannic structure that verges on sweetness and I need to see whether age tempers that smoothness. Although, as I said, I feel only the Gaby can quite muster the capacity for going any distance.

Chateau de Villeneuve, Saumur-Champigny, 2008

This is virtually my first Loire Cabernet Franc. Flowery, earthy, red fruit on the nose. Later, there is also a tinge of Bordeaux-like cedar. The palate is savory and lithe, with a mineral cut. Uncomplicated, a little tart and of no more than medium length, it is still very nice and tasty for what it is. I'm sure glad I bought it and I'd buy more were it available locally. Wifey really liked it as well. (Feb. 19, 2011)

About 12 GBP at Fortnum and Mason.

Alain Graillot, St. Joseph, 2007

Once again, I return to this wine a few months earlier than I had planned. My excuse this time was a slab of roast beef that begged for black-pepper infused Syrah. As always, there is something languid and sensual about the fruit, which is ripe to the point where it presents yellow - almost tropical - fruit characteristics. But the ripeness is never over-done and never feels over-extracted, while the fruit is well complemented by saline, iron notes; crunchy, supple tannins; and refreshing acidity. I've never quite known how to keep my hands off this, but I've recently Googled upon a statement by the winery that it's best enjoyed in its fruity stage, so that's the end of my dilemma. Well done. (Feb. 26, 2011)

WineRoute, 150 NIS.