Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jacky Janodet, Moulin a Vent, Domaine Les FInes Graves, Vieilles Vignes, 2009 (Sept. 30, 2011)

As far as I can Google it, it seems that Janodet is perhaps the one top-quality producer in Beaujolais who does not eschew sulphur. So maybe I was hasty in opening one of the few Crus that I could have safely cellared, but after contemplating my sole bottle for almost a year, curiosity got the better of me.

However much it may discomfort me to say goodbye to this sole bottle, this is already tasty, with a velvety smoothness (as opposed top-flight Cote d'Or silkiness) that is borne of very fine tannins and coupled with acidity that makes the mouth drool rather than pucker, leading to a crunchy, saline finish. The aromatics are TCB Beaujolais Cru: black cherries with minerals on top, unfolding their complexity very nicely with air. At this point in its evolution, it's a little too close to the Lapierre Morgon stylistically for me to tell them apart (which is at least appropriate -they're at the same level of quality), but my, doesn't it really taste good! And that vibrant acidity is to kill for.

About 20 GBP in London.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mister 2T. (Sept. 29, 2011)

Somewhere, in a wine country far, far away...

Golan Heights Winery is, arguably (no, make that certainly, and hats off to them) Israel's most innovative winery, and it has been introducing new grape varieties almost from the very start. After kicking off with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, they introduced, in dazzling succession: Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier and Nebbiolo. Not to mention their bubblies and single-vineyard bottlings. And the Katzrin. And the Rom. In short, they displayed a hunger for expansion and quality, an almost insatiable need to fill every niche in the food chain. Which may have been driven by a business plan, but it was always, persistently, actively, there. Being kosher never hurt - a keeper of kashrut could conceivably fill his fridge solely with GHW offerings and still have representation of most major grapes. If he or she also wanted a great variety in style, well, that's a different matter, but I'm sure one could find plenty of interest pursuing the differences between the vineyards and matching the Katzrin against the Rom.

If one can sense a critical tone here, it's because I object to the winery having become a supermarket of wine, catering to every possible need and sometimes coming off as a "me, too" contender. Although, to be quite fair, they've avoided coming out with a varietal Carignan or Cabrnet Franc when they became all the rage, because head winemaker Victor Schonenfeld thought the varieties were not up to the GHW standard (on the other hand, I'm not sure what high standards the early editions of the Pinot Noir and Viognier adhered to).

And now the 2T, a dry blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao, two Portugese grapes hardly grown outside the Duoro as far as I know (although I suspect someone in California or Australia has planted them, and someone will one day find some obscure, genetic relative in Bulgaria or something). Whatever possessed the wine-making team to make this or the marketing heads to think there might be a niche for it, I can't deny it's an interesting choice and indeed even had me coughing up the shekels for it. And no, I didn't get a freebie from the winery; after over four years, 2GrandCru is still off the radar screen, but I've whined enough about it on the box on the right, so let's just move on to the wine.

It's different, I'll give it that, but, although I could go at length about its evolution in glass from sweet and formless to sweet with soft, yet meaty, tannins - and just what that may imply about its cellaring potential - the final picture is this: it just doesn't feel - to me - that much different than the picture other varieties paint under the GHW idiom. Not knowing a lot about these grapes, I feel the wine teaches me more about GHW than about the grapes. You could make an argument that it teaches something about Israeli wines as well, except that I don't like the message it preaches and it's not spectacularly new; anyway we've been making flattering, ripe wines for over a decade and it drove me nuts years ago. So, I'll pass, especially since a recent tasting has shown me local alternatives I find more exciting and palatable.

So, to refresh myself, once dinner and wine were over, I opened a cider from Normandy. Domaine Dupont, Cidre Reserve, 2008. It's utterly delicious, to me, and stimulating. It's got a rubbery, funky stink and taste to it that my wife immediately detested, even as it instantly smote me, but it speaks to me of very frank attachment to its place of origin. Let's put it this way: Dupont may have introduced a few tweaks to the technique, but basically the Normandians have been making this sort of stuff for centuries; GHW have been making wine for only three decades and the 2T is their first attempt at Portugese varieties. Guess which wine seems fresher and more original?

Shana Tova!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Town Called Chambolle (Sept. 27, 2011)


Fredric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny, Vieilles Vignes, 2007

Sous bois, animalistic, minerally. The nose is nice, yet the palate is a little short. But its ready and tasty and expresses its origins reasonably well.

30-40 euros.

Domaine Bruno Clavelier, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, La Combe d'Orveaux, 1999

Animalistic, almost Gevrey-ish, on the nose, with an added benefit of minerals - the fruit blooms later and plays hide and seek with the minerals. Tannic, still, and a little raspy. More structure than the Magnien and more interesting. But it doesn't give out enough.

40 euros.

Lucien Le Moine, Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru, Les Amoureuses, 1999

I admit this gave me a hard time. Terrific nose, really, like a blown up version of the Clavelier, but the palate is also a little more blown up. Just a little too ripe, and, even though the tannins give a savory finish, it's on the order of too little, too late. But I do like it, after a fashion, it's just too uptown for me.

Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Cras, 2004

Ripe nose, not over the top, with 2004 languid-ness backed by pungent minerals of overturned earth. Pure and transparent on the palate; still young, with sweet fruit at odds with bitter tannins, until the acidity emerges to glue everything into place. One of the highlights of the evening, but, although it's ready, it's some good years before its eventual peak.

80 euros.

Comte Georges de Vogue, Chambolle-Musigny, 2004

Ok, time for the Vogues that Daniel Lifshitz promised. It says Chambolle and it says 2004 and there is aromatic complexity and class. The palate shows the traits of the vintage but not quite so much the faults. That is, its sweet and languid but with no shortness of length and depth, and the nose is most Bourgogne in its soft earthiness.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 500 NIS.

Comte Georges de Vogue, Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru, 2004

Great length and depth, with fine etched tannins. This takes the same path as the village wine, but with more torturous curves and roundabouts, as though the simpler wine was expanded into a multi-volume epic. As its tale unfolds, the 2004 languidness pulls you this way and that, and then the tannins raise their sleek heads to remind you this is, after all, a young vines Musigny.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 900 NIS.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Recanati Special Reserve Vertical (Sept. 25, 2011)

Wild Thing

Recanati is one of the few Israeli wineries I've tasted extensively, although it's been a while, as I've obviously been drinking few Israeli wines in recent years. I'm not sure what sparked my interest, as I was initially very much put off by the connection to the Recanati family (I'm sure Lenny is a fine guy, really, but maybe I'm still a punk at heart and the Recanatis are E.S.T.A.B.L.I.S.H.M.E.N.T.) and the label design. But I liked the first Reserves when WineRoute had them on sale in 2003 and then I was pals with former winemaker Lewis Pasco and drank with him on a few occasions. I also drank a few times with CEO Noam Jacoby, and I've been drinking with Ido Lewinsohn recently as well. So that's the personal background.

Anyway, this tasting came about as a result of some discussions on the Fat Guy forum, as well as my own notes on the 2008. The scene of the crime was a new place in Tel Aviv, Yirmiyahu 7 and all the wines, except for the dessert, were supplied by the winery. Many thanks to wine-makers Gil Shatzberg and Ido Lewinsohn, CEO Noam Jacoby, and finally, Ehud Walter who put it all together.

Special Reserve, White, 2009

A short voyage of disovery here. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier from the Upper Galilee. Floral, hints of minerals. At initial cold temperature, I can't discern discrete varietal traits, in time I get the Suvignon Blanc and Viognier but not so much the Chardonnay, which I guess is the most neutral of the three. The Viognier's florality seems to dominate at first and eventually I do get some Chardonnay on the nose and a tasty nuttiness on the finish. Better than last time, but at least initially it's still more interesting to taste than to drink, due to its complexity. Having said that, it's so very interesting and becomes tastier in time, to the point where it's actually one of the most interesting wines of the evening. I may have been over-cautious here.

The Special Reserve Reds.

2003

Nice color, nice nose, although not very expressive or complex. Olives set the tone, I think. Palate is dry and single minded, not to say one dimensional. Hanging on for dear life.

2004

More lively than the 03, but in a riper style. More old-school Israel. Then it passes on.

2005

Same old song, with some rusty muskiness on the finish. It's more complex than the previous two, especially the nose, and it's pretty good for what it is (or used to be), but I think it's not in much better shape than the others. Not tonight, anyway.

2006

Fruity, and sweetish, yet the sweetness is reined in. I don't think it's a stylistic break with the previous wines, just a younger version of them.

2007

Still the same style. But quality-wise, an improvement. Very clean and relatively complex and I'm sure it will do well. But it just really ain't my style.

2008

Needs time and I guess I tasted from a bottle that had been open for a long time, last time, because that wine now seems wildly different, in retrospect. Having said that, I can still recognize the savoriness that appealed to me at the time. It's much better delineated and complex than the previous versions. And I still think it's the best SR ever.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Syrah/Viognier Reserve, 2009

Ooh, I like this even more than the SRs! So much so that I actually found it hard to return to the SR 2008. Focused meat and pepper stink on the nose. Meaty, savory tannins. Pays hommage to the North Rhone (think Cornas with the immediacy of Saint Joseph) while bringing a lot of Israel to the table (sun drenched fruit). It's a tough call between this and the Carignan: I think this has better focus and versatility, yet the Carignan lays out a course that is more interesting and, well, wilder. Both are true gems and worth a look even if you're non-Israeli.

Wild Carignan Reserve, 2009

Obviously Carignan, with characteristic (AFAIK) sweetness of the grape, yet with a meaty edge on both nose and palate. It has this sweaty tint on the nose, with underlying minerals. Lovely saline finish. If all Israeli wines were like this and the Syrah/Viognier, I'd be drinking more of them. And both wines sport lovely labels.

I kind of skirted around the question of cellaring the two of these - but don't. I mean, they'll keep for a few years but why wait, they're really groovy now.

Petit Sirah/Zinfandel Reserve, 2010

Very youthful fruit that paired well with our steaks, it has a certain coolness to it that I like. But it's nowhere as special as the other two.

As Recanati don't make dessert wines, we finished the evening off with a Sauternes brought by two of the participants.

Suduiraut, Preignac 1er Cru, 1999

Let's start with what I still love about Sauternes: that richness on the nose, with the spicy kick of the botrytis. The palate offers the same kick with an acidic backbone and a certain bitterness. Yet I'm still not re-converted.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farewell To Rogov


A posse ad esse non valet consequentia

I wrote this piece a short while after the funeral, and then fretted over it for a couple of weeks. There was no way that the things I wanted to say in parting could come out as rosy as the other eulogies. Although in the end, I believe I behaved myself and treated the man with respect.

My original approach to Rogov was as pure fanboy. I was a member of his original forum on Strat's Place, until the hero worship (of which I, too, was guilty) became too much for me, and until some things on the board stopped adding up nicely. There were things he did that he tried to cover up, and these were things that I couldn't abide. There were plenty of people who could - and did - stomach all that, simply because they loved the guy, but I couldn't, and so I dropped out and stopped being a fan.

Having said that, I will testify that he was there to welcome me to the world of wine, and treated me and the other newbies with utmost respect and patience, and for that I'm grateful. And if I didn't like and admire him so much in the first place, the break wouldn't have been so wide and oh so deep.

He wasn't perfect, but then no one really needs to be. And he wasn't a truly great man by my definition of the word, but he might have been, if he hadn't spent so much energy hyping up the mysterioso and tending to his self-portrait. He was charismatic, charming, intelligent and articulate, truly likable and even more complex than the public image he worried over would have let on. He cared about Israeli wine and cuisine with a passion that I found, at least with the local wines, misplaced - but he struck a nerve with a lot of people, even his harshest critics will admit that.

But let me talk about what was, for me, the most charming thing about this strange visitor to Israel. And for that, I need to become a fanboy again for just a few minutes more.

Rogov, Daniel, David. My parting gift to you is my favorite quote in the whole wide world, and it aptly describes your attitude towards the joy of living. And it's Liebling, so I know you'll love it.

... [he] proved that the world isn't going backward, if you can just stay young enough to remember what it was really like when you were really young.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Misc Notes (Sept. 2011)

Chablis and Muscadet set the tone for this month's selection of crisp, mineral-laden wines.
At least, until the rain came.

Chereau Carre, Chateau du Chasseloir, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, 2009

God, I hate typing the name of the wine - thank God I've drunk it before so I can just cut and paste. It's hard to write about a wine from a relatively new region for me, while trying to ignore what I've already read about it, except it's fairly true in this case. This is a very "marine" wine, like the textbooks say, stone, salty and crisp like a Chablis; limier than a Chablis, though, but like many Chablis, the fruit profiles offers plenty of fruit peel as well as fruit flesh. It's cheaper than even a village Chablis, and it's different, which is always a plus (and I think said difference originates with a lack of obvious apple-ness), and I like how it expands and empowers with air while retaining a nervy tension. So I think I should get more. (Sept. 1, 2011)

WineRoute, 50-60 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Haardter Burgergarten, Riesling Spatlese, Trocken, 2006

My inventory is immaculate until I get to Muller-Catoir. With so many vineyards and pradikats, I wound up ordering more trockens than I'd bargained for and entering them as "sweet" wines into my software, and now I really have no idea just what's waiting in the fridge until I re-organize the shelves. So I wasn't planning on a trocken today, but it was a nice one to wine up with. The nose has the minerally-spicy overtones that lay equal claim to Pflaz and Alsace, on a background reminiscent of apple cider. The palate has just a hint of sweetness and is as bold as a good Pfalz can be, with a stony complexity and a long finish, and sandpaper texture that wins me over. I'm just prejudiced enough against 2006 not to fret too much that I may have opened this on the early side, and a little lack of acidity seems to support my prejudice. (Sept. 3, 2011)

Giaconda, 153 NIS.

Bouchard Pere Et Fils, Meursault Premier Cru, Genevrieres, 2004

At first, this is overwhelmingly spicy pears and a wisp of sweetish oak, with a lode of minerals underneath that isn't emerging fast enough for me. I mean, there's a tasty salty, cured note but the palate is still cloaked by the oak. Then mother lode bursts open and the wine comes to life, or what I would call life, at any rate (my wife liked it from the start). There's a clearer sense and purity of fruit, and the initial sweetness of the oak becomes a rather honeyed sensation atop a stony texture. There's still something missing there, for me - and at this point I think that a good bottle of the Jobard En La Barre (a mere Villages wine, mind you) of the same year beats it, but I'm willing to guess a few years might bring more forth a more articulate expression of purity. (Sept. 7, 2011)

WineRoute, about 350 NIS.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2009

I had the munchies for it, and found this slightly more evolved on the nose this time, with a pungent note of freshly turned earth over fresh red fruit (not to say I hadn't gotten this earlier, only the refrain was more articulate and obvious this time). The tannins grow more savory with air, and its fruitiness is like a pair of soft slippers, and for the first time, I sense an old-vine intensity beneath the light elegance. I need to find out how old the Lapierre vines are. (Sept. 10, 2011)

Okay, according to the winery site, they're 45 years old on the average.


Moreau-Naudet, Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains, 2006

The nose is big and bold, rife with citrus fruit, wet sand and chalk, and the palate is more of the same. This is very good - not a lot of finesse, just a palate-staining extract of Chablis. And, yo! Pe-ople: Chablis is good for you! (Sept. 11, 2011)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre, 2007

It ain't just oysters that go well with Chablis - 2GrundCru in general goes very well with Chablis! This is even better than the Sunday's Moreau-Naudet (but then I'm a bigger Droin fan in the first place, ever since I attended the kick-off tastings at Giaconda), with more aromatic nuances and better poise and finesse. As you'd expect, it has a very marine personality, yet not just iodine and sea-salt, but also a touch of sea weed. It's Chablis-ness is so redolent now, I don't see the point of aging it for too many years on down. Of course, it might pick up more nuances, but it won't be any more delicious and it won't be any more typical of the style. Or will it? It strikes me that the fact that I've never found a reason to age Premier Cru Chablis doesn't mean I may not be missing out on something. Well, maybe I'll keep the last bottle safe in the fridge and see. (Sept. 17, 2011)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Astrolabe, Marlborough, Sauvingon Blanc, 2010

Is this the quintessential formula of gooseberry over a mineral background, or what? This seems more complex, slightly richer and deeper than the Durvilea, given that there's a limit on the depth that an SB of this style can achieve. Plus its saline finish is exceptionally long. Recommended. (Sept. 22, 2011)

Imported by Mersch, this is supposed to cost 147 NIS, except I got it for about 100 NIS in Eilat and I'm quite pleased with that.

Guigal, Cote Rotie, Brune et Blonde, 1999

I originally planned to open another Chablis, but the first rainfall of autumn made a red more appropriate for the mood (even though I hardly have a problem drinking whites in winter and red in summer). This seems more mature than I'd expected, with a hint of caramelization and acetone obscuring the Cote Rotie character. Better on the palate, which is tastier and a little fresher than the nose would have let on. The fruit is sweet, but the body is lithe and smooth, and its relative delicacy certainly gives some expression to its origins. The nose inches its way forward in a snail pace, and is pleasant, if not terribly exciting, once it reaches the finish line. (Sept. 24, 2011)

This wine is not the equal of the first bottle, which I opened only a few months ago. It's always hard to judge whether a given wine was opened at the right age and whether it received enough air to show its best, but I believe I gave this a fair shot and in the end it proved its reputation for not being the most exciting Cote Rotie around. But the price was nice, for Israel.

Imported by the evil France-Israel Group, purchased at Wine Depot (who are always the good guys) for 160 NIS on discount.