Checking Out A 'New' Place (Mar. 29, 2011)

I missed out on the heyday of Ha-Zela Ha-Sheminit (The Eighth Rib, we Israelis are a funny people). In fact, I can't even recall when exactly its heyday was, except that it was over a decade ago, but I had been looking forward to trying out the degustation menu in its reincarnated version in Tel Aviv. Chef/owner Shlomi Katzin's original vision focused on meat; the latter-day Zela is a small boutique-sized thing and offers other indulgences, such as a lovely dish of shrimps and cadaif (small, dry Arabian noodles). Having said that, the culinary highlights were the meat dishes, especially my very first taste of kobe beef.

The vineological highlights were as follows:

Servin, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2000

The nose is coarse and oaky at first, although it does show lime and stone, making me ponder whether I'd discovered an alchemical formula for limestone.With air, I get more nuances and a sense of complexity, as well as hints of minerals and sea shells. Although the acidity is evident, although not amazing, the palate is unbalanced and heavy until air soothes it, then it turns bitter again. Oh, not great at the end of the day - just not lively enough - but interesting.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan, 1998

Deep and minerally, tannic yet soothing. Earthy, restrained, with notes of tobacco leaves. Lacks length and structure but has a core of claret-ness, Yet I don't get any sense of Pessac-ness. Patience and air lend it length and focus. And Pessac-ness. So, a mediocre start, but very good at the finish line.

Chateau Rauzan-Segla, Margaux 2me Cru, 1996

The nose is closed at first, so I focus on what it tastes like. Long, outgoing. Tannic, yet not harsh at all, complex, with a lively finish that creates an impressive first impression. Fresh and lively with '96 purity of fruit. With air: an appealing, complex, lively nose, with a touch of barnyard, alongside more prominent notes of roasted coffee.

Valbuena, Ribera del Duero, 1999

The nose is about coffee and spicy black fruit, on the monolithic side at first, but an impressive one nonetheless that opens up and complexifies nicely, showing a touch of new leather. Round, long, with big, ripe tannins which yet maintain an elegant decorum. The 14% ABV doesn't burn, but I think it shows up as hint of sweetness. This would appeal to both neophytes and geeks; having said that - or because of it - to me, it's not more than a step ahead, if at all, of the less expensive Alion.

Chateau Kirwan, Margaux 3me Cru, 2003

Blatantly Bordeaux. Subtle, complex, mineral-laden aromas with a touch of barnyard. The palate is round, not over the top, and I love the savory tannins on the finish. Good, even if not especially challenging.