Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Few More Sekts

Sekthaus Raumland, Rheinhessen, Blanc de Noir Sekt, Cuvee Katharina Brut, n.v. (disgorged 01/2012)

Raumland is a sekt specialist from Rheinhessen and this non-vintage blend is composed of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier , which might explain its Champagne-like character: smoky brioche, orange blossom, citrus fruit, subtle strawberries, a hint of flint - yes, the Pinot is quite obvious, with air. Dry, with a hint of sweetness and salinity on the finish, and fine focus, if not especially a lot of weight. Quite tasty, congenial and fun. (Dec. 14, 2012)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau, Riesling Sekt Brut, 2010

Certainly fruitier and less complex than the 2007, but nice in its own right, given the quirks of its youth, which I'll expound on shortly. Green apples and chalk, with barely any sign of the biscuity-briochy nuances of a mature bubbly fermented in bottle. At this point, the acidity and sweetness don't really geld and, overall, it's not quite as interesting as the other sekts I've tried and should be served as cold as possible. (Dec. 15, 2012)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Riesling Sekt, 2008

Finally, this is Donnhoff, and as usually with Donnhoff, you get a "what the fuck is this all about" nose, that's a little reductive and more than a little mineral-laden, only the minerals speak of colors and sounds that evoke by innuendo, without quite the full intellectual and sensual effect and depths of the man's cru bottlings. This is the only one of the three here that I would lay down. (Dec. 17, 2012)

Giaconda, 140 NIS.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Albert Mann, Grand Cru Schlossberg, Riesling, 2007

Going back to Alsace about a healthy diet of German and Austrian Rieslings is like going back to David Bowie after you've gotten into the Velvet Underground and Brian Eno.

Not that this is is, say Diamond Dogs. More like Station To Station, I guess, but no Low or "Heroes". The nose is compelling, with dill, spices, tea and petrol, the fruit in deep shadows, but the palate is where I feel let down, as is usually the case for me with the Alsatians. It feels constricted, attenuated, and while it holds some intellectual appeal, especially on the complex finish, it lacks sensual charm. The fruit fans out, eventually, but still feels one-dimensional and anorectic.

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2012)

Newest house-wine candidate

Midbar Winery, White 44, 2010

This "everything but the kitchen sink" cuvee actually feels as though every variety has a specific role in the blend, although I'm guessing the tone and volume of each one in the ensemble will change as the wine matures. This time, I think the Viognier and the Charodnnay are the dominant forces, as the 44 speaks now of spicy honey and apples. The Sauvignon and the Gewurtz harmonize in the background, with hints of gooseberries and lychee, respectively, that grow stronger as the two varieties come more and more to the fore. The Semillon probably adds texture, minerals maybe, I'm not sure. The only thing that mars the performance this time is a bitter, quinine finish, for which I blame the Gewurztraminer. (Nov. 4, 2012)

Midbar Winery, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

This is in a very austere stage - initially I thought it dumb. It's tasty, but so laid back it almost belies the depth it showed in the past. But there are still promising signs of melon and sculptor clay, and in time, this gains depth, focus and complexity, as well as a mineral-rich texture, enough to make me nod my head in consent and content. (Nov. 7, 2012)

Tzora, Judean Hills, 2010

This is very Israeli, ripe black fruit with typical 'Judean' spices, yet polished and not lacking elegance. There's also a touch of earthy minerals and leather. As always the case with Eran Pick's reds, this conjures up St. Estephe for me. It's not as outright interesting as some of the more esoteric local reds (Shvo, the Barkan Assemblage series, the various local Carignans), but it's tasty in a classic mold. (Nov. 8, 2012)

About 90 NIS.

Chateau Musar, Lebanon, Bekaa Valley, 2002

It's never easy to write about this wine; some tasting notes write themselves, off the cuff almost, but Musar is hard work. Maybe it's because it has a mystique that's highly publicized, yet after several bottles of two, three vintages, I'm not exactly in full agreement with the Musar hype. And that sort of conflict causes a mini writer's block, because I can't really put my finger on exactly why I don't go for it. Because I really should. What we have here is very much an endangered Old World species: funky claret, with sweet cherries, with an earthy, rusty overlay that hints at barnyard, and a light touch on the palate.  But all these decidedly appealing elements coalesce into a clockwork with its gears out of whack. I mean, if someone offered me a glass and told me it came from the nether regions of Southern France, I'd be curious, but I'd never think this is a legend that warrants hunting down. (Nov. 10, 2012)

About 15 GBP in the UK.

Yannic Amirault, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Le Mine, 2009

Some of these Loire appellations sure have long names, don't they? Juicy, succulent red fruit, that is already developing a touch of iron, tobacco leaves, with soft tannins and a succulent finish. I've had more multi-layered and structured Loire Cabs, but this is most likely the tastiest. (Nov. 15, 2012)

18.5 GBP. Oh yes, I'd buy more if it were available here.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four, 2010

This is more restrained than last time, but in a way, that makes it an even finer drop - restraint should be Burgundy's calling card. It's all about nuts and rocks, and its salinity and ripe, balanced acidity are both shining, and at this point really recalls the light, ethereal, yet deep and complex effect of my first encounters with Heritiers du Comte Lafon. A terrific wine for its price on yet another day that begged for escapism. (Nov. 16, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Jean-Luc Colombo, Crozes-Hermitage, Les Gravieres, 2010

Obviously Syrah, less a Crozes than it is a Colombo, although my experience is limited. Currants and cranberries and black pepper, with soft tannins and meaty notes. Gains complexity, length and depth with air, while the tannins become more prominent, and there's enough ripe acidity to lend it a fluidity that recalls Colombo's Cornas. Tasty and impressive, but doesn't seem particularly age-worhty and certainly not as exciting as Graillot, which I'd still buy by the case if WineRoute ever got off their asses and started importing it again. (Nov. 18, 2012)

About 18 GBP.

Tzora, Neve Ilan, 2011

I know, I told myself I'd age it. I'll have to hunt up another bottle with a chastity belt for the next vintage. Typical marriage of apples, flint, chalk and a whisper of oak that I love to find in classically molded Chardonnay, with acidity on the high side (which I always like). which serves the mitigate the tropical sweetness. (Nov. 21, 2012)

89.90 NIS.

Albert Boxler, Alsace Grand Cru, Sommerberg D, Riesling 2007

The nose showcases green apples, minerals, honey and petrol, while the palate shows green apples imbued by a hint of tropical fruit. This must have been harvested very ripe, because even at 13.5% ABV, there's a hint of sweetness. A delicious, complex wine that mixes ponderous depth with a joyous wildness. (Nov. 23, 2012)

Giaconda, 186 NIS.

Montecastro, Ribera Del Duero, 2005

Hard as I try, I can't find a lot of classic Ribera in here, as it's rather closer to Priorat with its sweet ripe black fruit, but there's a smokey, meaty overlay of minerals, mint and tobacco leaves to temper that. Smooth at first, but with interesting aromatic complexity and both a more angular structure and a savory finish that are revealed with air. The acidity is low keyed but manages to be refreshing and balanced enough so its tasty core of ripe fruit shines clearly. (Nov. 24, 2012)

Giaconda, 160 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Mercurey, Les Montots, 2006

As much as I love de Villaine reds, this doesn't work, at this point in time. The nose is tired, even if it does show a certain earthy/spicy complexity, while the palate never grows past a faded attenuation. I hope this is the off bottle it seems to be. (Nov. 26, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Huet, Vouvray, Petillant, Brut, 2005

The nose creates a deep, poignant impression, using a relatively meager set of props: summer fruit, clay and brioche; while the palate carries along the same lines, elegant and light, balancing a sense of sweetness with an undertow of green under-ripeness. This is in a really great place, and I love it so much there's a good chance I'll never get to see what it turns into with more cellar time. (Nov. 29, 2012)

Giaconda, 140 NIS.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, La Romanee, 2006

The nose is promising, showing a mineral influenced marriage of Chadonnay and oak that can be very satisfying handled with subtlety, and is the regional style anyway, no matter how much we like to romanticize upper-class Bourgogne whites. It's just that I've yet to decide whether Fontaine-Gagnard handles it right and the final test is the palate. At the start, there's a savoriness that is what I look for and I'm grateful that it manages to maintain a balance between that savoriness and the sweetness that some barrel regimes can impart to Chardonnay. Even if it lacks Premier Cru level focus and complexity, it certainly has the required weight, making it a passable Premier Cru. (Nov. 30, 2012)

WineRoute, about 300 NIS.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Damn, I Want A Good Wine Tonight (Nov. 17, 2012)

It's ironic that once upon a time my biggest dream was
 to join the Seventh Grade Rocket Club.

Like everyone in Israel in mid November, I needed an escape, and I didn't worry about tempting fate by luring the missiles in with an expensive bottle. I'm not sure this was the best I could open, under the circumstances, the circumstances being I still need to keep the big guns for wine geek dinners, birthdays, anniversaries, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault Premier Cru Les Perrières, 2006

My initial impression is that this is a better wine than the 2004 (oops, the 2004 was the Genevrieres, but this is still the better wine). Very classic in shape, texture, aromas and flavors: nuts, dry grass, flint, green apples, spicy pears and a touch of toast. There's a oak-ish sweetness in mid-palate that I'm wary of, though, but the saline finish is almost enough to eke forgiveness out of me.

Wine Route, about 350 NIS.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Sektond That Emotion (Nov. 9, 2012)

There's a storm threatening my very life today
Efrat's birthday weekend was a lull in the constant, stormy whirlpool that work had recently transformed my life, and ours, into. We celebrated both the occasion and the lull with a very idiosyncratic sparkler.

Rebholz, Pfalz, "R”, Blanc de Noir Sekt, Pi Gold, Brut, 2006

A funky,slightly smoky showcase of minerals, from Bedrock to Sand-and-Stony-o, with the fruit present, yet discreet, and vaguely citrus in character. All aptly framed by a note of brioche. Ripe, yet utterly dry, very elegant and classy. This is a pure Pinot Noir cuvee that really doesn't taste like any Pinot based Champagne, any more than a German Pinot tastes like a Bourgogne, but it's a real treat and I'd like more of it in my fridge.

Giaconda, 190 NIS.

Of course, the real storm was yet to come...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Oct. 2012)

Two Chablis Are Better Than One

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2008

The nose is, right now, as complete, as complex and as deep as Chablis Premier Cru can ever get (well, if you're not a Raveneau or a Dauvissat, that is), the marine aromas so fully realized you can just feel the beach sand between your toes. The palate is pretty good, too, what with its mixture of just ripe fruit and bracing acidity. (Oct. 1, 2012)

WineRoute, this is typically in the 140-180 NIS range, barring the usual sales and discounts, which I'm growing weary of listing.

And another Vaillons:

Christian Moreaux, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2010

This, like the 2008 Fevre, is savory, mid-tier Chablis at its best: lime and green apples on a bracing background of marine minerals. I loved the 2004 a couple of years ago, and here I find a wealth of aromatic nuances and a tightrope balance of ripe power and cool elegance that convince me this will be even better than the 2004, when it also reaches six years of age. (Oct. 27, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection,

True Love Tavels On A Gravel Road

Chateau d'Acqueria, Tavel, 2011

I got into rosés four, five years ago when Giaconda started importing this Tavel, then always planned to make it a habit, but never quite got around to them, until the Shvo caught my attention. So I bought another bottle of the d'Acqueria, which waited in the Giaconda storage until we managed to find the time to settle the delivery and by then, summer was almost gone. This then offers plenty of strawberries, watermelon and pomengrate, tempered by a healthy dash of spices and  minerals (and just a hint of mustard) that serves to add enough complexity to tempt the intellect. It's not a light, friendly quaffer, and offers an interesting challenge on the palate, which needs time to get itself acquainted with the stemmy bitterness on the finish. And airing doesn't hurt it, either. (Oct. 4, 2012)

Giaconda, 90 NIS. I'll score for a change, just to highlight an interesting aspect. At first pour, this is an 80. A couple of hours later, close to a 90. Outrageous behavior for a rosé. Is this an acute showcase of the Tavel mystique or something?

Wait A Sekt!

Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau, Riesling Sekt Brut, 2007

On this first personal encounter with the classic German Riesling, my primary concern was how well pure, crystalline fruit of prime Riesling would interact with the side effects of secondary fermentation. Turns out, quite well. There's no brioche or nuttiness to obscure the smoke and chalk that demark the fruit, just a very light hint of freshly toasted bread, and there's a very nervy backbone to the fruit. My secondary concern was how much I'd like a brut from the Rheingau, a region that's never bowled me over with its dry Riesling - and whatever dossage goes into the making of a brut, the end result is 12.5 ABV, which is dry enough for me to worry. This turns out to be a non-issue as well. Bubbles and Riesling make a happy union here, and while they sing on a higher scale than Champagnes, it's a baroque voice I'd enjoy hearing more of. (Oct. 8, 2012)

Giaconda, 145 NIS.

Here's why I need to drink more Italians:

Contrada Michelle, Taurasi, Hirpus, 2005

This was on the lower end of the Giaconda Italy catalog, but it caught my eye when I was looking for honest representations of regions I wanted to get to know better. See, I've had a thing for Aglianico since the days Anavim used to import Paternoster. Whatever, it was a good hunch - this is terrific value. A tasty, saline wine with no sign of oak and a typically (for me) Italian chive and tobacco combo on the nose. Also on the "why I love this checklist": juicy acidity and caressing tannins. A real pleasure to sniff and drink. (Oct. 9, 2012)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Of course, I never need an excuse to drink German Rieslings...

Donnhoff, Nahe, Oberhauser Leistenberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2010

A Donnhoff Riesling,  even at the Kabinett level, is always a great exercise in balance and focus. This offers red apples with just a hint of peaches on a background of minerals and a touch of mint. This is where the Nahe is the most akin to the Mosel, although the Nahe is perhaps less nervy in its youth? But I hate to generalize based on the small sample I'm exposed to. (Oct. 10, 2012)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Leitz, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

Apples melting into peaches, dill, petrol. There's a touch of intoxicating complexity on the nose. The palate has a heady sweetness that makes sudden turns between cloyness and airiness. The bottom line is its tasty and I like it but it's not as profound as I'd hoped it would turn out to be. (Oct. 11, 2012)

... Or Bourgognes!

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Cote de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches, 2009

I've said it before, most of the Domaine's lower level wines punch above their weight, and this is no exception. I'm not sure it's even a villages, but it drinks like a very good one. It's a very joyous style of red Bugundy, redolent of strawberries, forest floor and minerals. There's a slightly bitter streak to the otherwise savory tannins, but while it detracts, the saline acidity makes up for it, and the package in its entirety is a very appealing one. Especially the nose (well, that's Bourgogne for you). (Oct. 12, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Deux Montille, Rully, 2009

Even in a warm vintage, Alix maintains a firm hand on her craft and steers this white in a direction I approve of. What we have here is the stereotypical Good Son of Bourgogne: flint, dry grass and pears with a touch of nuts; crisp and austere with a peacock feather of sweet apples, and, although not especially complex, quite the charmer. (Oct. 14)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Deux Montille, Bourgogne Rouge, 2009

The initial attack is on the sweet side, reminiscent of cranberries, on both nose and palate, and the flavors are a bit insipid, hanging on too loose a framework. But there's an undertow of forest floor and flowers and a tannic bite on the finish that keep my optimism up - repaid when the juice fleshes out with air and time. It's not as good as the 2008, but tit's still a tasty, sanguine Burgundy quickie. (Oct. 26, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Domaine de L'Arlot, Côte de Nuits Villages, Clos du Chapeau, 2009

This is a round, simple Bourgogne, whose appeal is based in a one-two combination of black fruit and rotting leaves. You'd expect a '09 to be ripe and round, even on the generic level, but this is a tart treat, the way a generic Bourgogne often turns out in the hands of an excellent producer. (Oct. 19, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 160 NIS.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2010

An utterly tasty showing: bright red fruit that is earthy and leathery, with a hint of exotic spices a la Cote de Nuits. Oh, that Old World savoriness! (Oct. 29, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Vitteaut-Alberti, Cremant de Bourgogne, n.v.

This is a rustic, no-frills bubbly, that is more about Chardonnay than about bubbliness. I've written enough about it, so I'll just adorn our mutual history with this final observation. (Oct. 30, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 90 NIS.

Unjust Desserts

Chateau Coutet, Barsac Premier Cru, 2003

Another 2003 Sauternes with not enough acidity for my tastes, this is better than the Guiraud, as it shows more finesse, the nose and palate both being more airy (well, the palate is still as viscous as you'd expect a hot vintage Sauternes to be, but it feels elegant despite that). The nose is especially enticing, with creme brulee and apricot marmalade over nuanced botrytis funk. There's still not enough acidity in it for the requirements my palate poses these days, but it does contain its 14% ABV better than I'd hoped. (Oct. 13, 2012)

This cost me 150 NIS for a half bottle in futures from WineRoute.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Gift To The Living (Oct. 20, 2012)

When you're a kid, eventually you become aware enough, of both the external world and your own internal workings, to seek sense out of life, and you expect adults to provide the meaning for you. One of the painful points in reaching adulthood and maturity is the realization that life doesn't always make sense. I arrived at that point at about 2002, when my mother-in-law became an imbecilic invalid in a car accident. And with my recent promotion, my life has become even more hectic and less prone to rationalization.

It's probably jejune of me to expect a bottle of wine to offer solace from chaos and to somehow lay out a logical picture of the universe, but if any genre could offer such a vision, it would surely be a German Riesling.

To wit.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

There's a steely veneer to the nose, with apples and peaches and a well placed dash of saline minerals, as well as a lightly leesy note. The palate is still sweet and simple, with calm, soft acidity, requiring time to display the light airiness of the Halenberg of the same year, and just starting to hint at its depths.Yet, this is a spectacularly pretty and delicious wine, offering all the balance, clarity and regal breed of Nahe, and I expect greater complexity and delineation in the years to come. It's not deeply profound, right now, but it's a beautiful escape from the day to day grind.

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

And before I finish, here's one man's attempt at explaining away the secrets of existence.

And another man's.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Prelude To Chaos (Oct. 16, 2012)

Francois Jobard, Meursault Premier Cru, Genevrieres, 2005

An amazing nose. Smoky minerals, sulfur, citrus, a touch of white meat. A very good structure, with a sweet, peacock tail finish. Although the vintage makes for a rich wine, the acidity plays for a multi-layered effect without being too heavy. So, I finally get to drink prime time Jobard that isn't too young or dead.

Beaunneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne, 1999

TCA here, but the Martray gives a great fight to the Cork Devil, being honeyed and nutty, its richness somehow managing to sweep the TCA under the carpet. Just enough to give a preview of what might have been.

Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Colonnelo, 1996

Languid red fruit with bright acidity and an overlay of pepper and a saline finish. A happy wine with mellow tannins. The only thing that says Barolo to me is the tannic bite on the finish and layer of spices on the nose.

Chateau Trotanoy, Pomerol, 1996

Ripe fruit, although not overtly ripe, leather, pepper, with a touch of earth and mushrooms. Lithe and long, with rustic yet somewhat sleek tannins.

I didn't drive, so I took in more than my share of mouthfuls. To the point where I was almost sleepwalking my dogs when I got back home. Then, after three hours of sleep, I was rudely awaken by a crisis at work, that kept me at the office for fourteen hours. That's moi, the Highway Patrolman of Hi-Tech and Wine.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Wines (Oct. 5-6, 2012)

Thankfully, I actually remember the wines we drank this weekend.
Hmmmm, how should I put this? No matter what attitude this blog presents, I don't often host dinners at home with wines that are worth devoting a separate post to. Not two nights back to back - that's a first for me.

First, Friday night.

Domaine de Font-Sane, Gigondas, Terrasses des Dentelles, 2005

This is one of the best 15 proof reds I've ever drunk. It's sweet with alcohol and glycerine but there's a layer of minerals and a saline finish that makes me take to it. Nigh surprising balance. And the nose is typical South Rhone with its black fruit pepper, iron and garrigue. Thus it's a beast, but not without its share of finesse.

Giaconda, 189 NIS.

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes Premier Cru, 2003

When I made my first forays into the world of wine, noble rot wines absolutely fascinated me, and Sauternes were the only option available locally, so that's what I bought for the most part. I started to turn away from Sauternes because I found that the marriage of high alcohol and low acidity, especially in warm vintages such as 2003, made for a a clumsy, bitter effect on the palate. Which is the case with the Guiraud, although there is certainly plenty of complexity and a sense of lush and posh on the long finish. The nose is great, that's for sure, making a power-play of apricot marmalade and that botrytis essence of mustard and spices.

WineRoute, about 180 NIS for a half-bottle.

Then Saturday.

R. Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Vina Tondonia, White Reserva, 1991

Of all the classic Old World wine regions, Rioja is the only one that really shies away from discoursing on terroir in its labels, except for Heredia, whose Tondonia and Bosconia labels are single vineyard designations.

Sweetish on the palate, with a Spanish presence in the nose: minerals, a hint of leather,and enough slightly ozidized kink so that no other region could easily claim a stake for. As you'd likely expect, this is a classic - maybe not on the order of a Gran Reserva, but a classic nonetheless.

Domaine De Montcalmes, Coteaux du Languedoc, Terrasses du Larzac, 2008

Shiny black fruit with such an overt presence of black pepper you have to wonder what they put in the juice besides Syrah. It's two thirds Syrah - the reminder made of equal parts Grenache and Mourvedre - according to the Michael Skurnik fact sheet, so what you have here is an upside down, min-CdP. Or just call it a GSM blend, if you like. However, the way it tastes (crunchy black fruit, savory tannins), it sure doesn't feel like anyone paid the Chateauneuf model too much attention, more like someone should consider paying Saint Joseph some royalties; .

Returning to a glass full leftover a couple of days later, this is now in Cornas territory, with notes of leather and olive brine. Cool.

Wenzel, Ruster Ausbruch, Saz, 2006

Very Tokay vis a vis acidity, maybe a little thicker, and the botrytis feels different, somehow. Eran Pick, who brought it, says it comes from Burgenland the Austrian side of the Austria-Hungary border and made of mostly Furmint (60% according to the winery, the rest Muskateller). Saz is the name of the vineyard and the winery claims the wine has half a century's worth of aging potential. Seems like it's got a decade ahead at least, although we didn't suffer opening it at six years post-vintage.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Promotion Time (Sept. 29, 2012)

I'd gotten promoted at work to a managerial position and had virtually lived through an entire week during each work day for the first week on the job. So it took Efrat and me a while to get around to celebrating, but when we did, it was at Bertie at Tel Aviv (an excellent sea based dinner: the squid, eggplant and humus dish was especially commendable), accompanied by, what else, Champagne.

Larmandier-Bernier, Champagne Vieille Vigne de Cramant Grand Cru, n.v.(technically, but all 2004)

Austere and mineral-driven, with brioche and walnut notes, and a purity that shows why the relatively neutral Chardonnay grape excels so much at  displaying terroir - or whatever it is that is responsible for the magic of Champagne and the Cote d'Or. And magic is what this is all about, because on the technical side, this wine mumbles a bit; the nose is somewhat mute at times and the mousse isn't very persistent, but part of the magic and charm is how even its still form shows to an even greater degree how tasty Champagne can be.

Fat Guy, not the cheapest wine in the world and I think the Special Clubs offer better value: about 450 NIS.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2012)

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2007

The Schonleber Halenbergs are not just great wines, they soothing wines and the 2007 is particularly ethereal, with its granny apples, slate, dill and a hint of petrol - which is the quintessential grocery list. The balance on the palate is so fine that it strengthens my opinion that in the hands of a Schonleber or a Donnhoff, the Nahe is the Teutonic version of St. Julien. And it's so refreshing that it belies and perhaps obscures its own complexity and depth. A classic.(Sept. 1, 2012)

In retrospect, soothing is exactly what I needed. The day after we drank the Halenberg, I plunged into a two day vortex of round the clock work. Re-reading my notes, the contrast between the peace and quiet of Saturday night and the chaos of Sunday and Monday is astonishing.

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Huet, Vouvray, Petillant Brut, 2005

This here has a fine nose that is as nutty as the best the Cote de Beaune would have to offer, and just as flint and toast laden. Beyond that, it is all Chenin: apricots, green apples and a hint of cherries on the nose, then a lean, steely body culminating in a dry, chalky, saline finish. Ah, charming. (Sept. 7, 2012)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Barkan, Altitude, 624, 2009

Because I've been exploring Israeli wines lately, and specifically enjoyed Barkan's Asemblage series, I was curious about the Altitude. Which is rather ripe and sweet, as it turns out, and very soft. But air brings out some mitigating factors: some herbal notes, figs, good tannins spicing the fruit through its solid length. Balanced within its ripe, sweet idiom. Served too warm at Joya Herzeliya. (Sept. 14, 2012)

Hugel, Jubilee Riesling, 2005

A class act that walks the razor's edge between clean Riesling fruit and the fiery chalk and quartz I usually find in other Grand Crus from Alsace (and the only reason this isn't labelled as the Schoenenbourg it is is because the Hugel family eschews the Alsatian Grand Cru system). It's not a harsh wine, but its soft, lithe structure is quite assertive and still tight, and is in a grainy, mineral phase that seems, to me, to require some fine tuning in the bottle. (Sept. 14, 2012)

WineRoute, 200 NIS.

Recanati, Shiraz, 2011

Not all Israeli Syrahs are as Rhone-like as Recanati's Syrah-Viognier, in fact most of the local Shiraz I've tasted have been fairly Australian in nature and this is no exception, with its candied cherry-berry personality and a touch of black pepper. Maybe it's the grape imposing the style, but this seems like a Lewis Pasco wine. A little hollow and green in mid-palate, yet with good acidity. A crowd pleaser. (Sept. 17, 2012)

70 NIS (2 for 100 in the Rosh Hashana discount rush)

Salomon, Kremstal, Undhof, Kogl, Erste Lage, 2009

Eldad Levi's Austrians Rieslings are like mellower versions of Alsace, easing up on the quinine and letting clean fruit and a complex array of minerals shine. This is a good example, very popular around these parts, that shows both baked and sour apples, fine acidity  and a long finish. (Sept. 21, 2012)

Fat Guy, 129 NIS.

Barkan, Assemblage, Eitan, 2009

I hadn't noticed that the latest vintages of the Assemblage have been released; I thought I was re-visiting the 2008 when I bought this. So this is a new one and here we go. This is on the ripe side on the nose, even a touch raisiny, but with an earthy, spicy touch that sets the ripeness in a an aromatic frame that I find pleasing. The palate is on the sweet side, but here, too, things work out, as there is a nice streak of acidity on the medium-sized body and tannins that are just firm enough to add structure. (Sept. 22, 2012)

80 NIS.

Caruso and Minini, Sicilia IGT, Tasari (Nero d'Avola-Merlot), 2010

I read an abridged version of "The Three Musketeers" in first or second grade, and one scene that has remained with me ever since is the one where the heroes are attacked during a picnic - which they finish off while killing and maiming their enemies. Great folks. That's while I loved them, and the book. While the Musketeers didn't bring a Sicilian to their luncheon, the Tasari is the style of wine I imagine they drank: tasty and fresh, suffused with enough tobacco and earthy aromas and flavors to be considered hearty, yet light enough for a brunch. (Sept. 25, 2012)

Fat Guy, 69 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2008

Time for some Chardonnay, I thought, but this is always a rather tricky wine to open just right, as it needs an hour or two to show well. At first, this is rather mute aromatically, and fatter than I'd like, not to say flabby, with an almost oily texture, and quite nutty. Good acidity, good fruit, deep inside, but not showing that well, even with time. (Sept. 26, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

Pfaffenheim, Gewurztraminer, 2010

This entry level Gewurtz is more about grapefuit and spices than lychee and rose water and it provides entry level experience without what sophistication Grand Cru Gewurztraminers can provide. In short, it's more about the grape than about Alsace. Pretty good, though. (Sept. 28, 2012)

Hakerem, 60-80 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal Reserve, Gainsberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2010

There's pure, crystalline fruit at the core of this QPR Grand Cru, but it's always initially shrouded by apple peels, peaches and spices - which are fun in themselves, but nothing to hold a light to the focus and depth that this juice transforms into with air time. There's excellent acidity in there that lends the apple fruit a tint of mint and grapefruit. (Sept. 30, 2012).

Fat Guy again, 159 NIS. I'm not doing a very good job keeping my hands off this beauty.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Trio Of Kiwi Sauvignons To Wind Up The Summer

Cloudy Who?
The Israeli wine scene is young enough to have  avoided the backlash against Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand that I seem to sense in international forums and articles. Which is good for us, because the better imports are exciting and bold and are rightfully very popular here. As the following trio from Mersch prove, and at a very good End Of Summer deal: 249 NIS for a bottle of each, which is about a 30% discount, plus  wine glasses tossed in.

Astrolabe, Marlborough, Durvillea, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

Gooseberry Fields Forever - fruit so fresh and vivid it feels as thought it had just been plucked off the vines. Crisp and saline as well. (Sept. 13, 2012)

Astrolabe, Marlborough, Voyage, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

In Israel, the Voyage is synonymous with Astrolabe, but it's not even the flagship label, it's just a step up from the Durvillea, right before the single-vineyard bottlings (which Mersch will be importing soon). Whatever, it's just as vibrant as the Durvillea, but the gooseberry fruit seems deeper, more complex - and the mineral edge more pronounced. It's really lovely, with clarity that will win you over if you have any empathy for the grape at all. (Sept. 15, 2012)

Seifried, Old Coach Road, Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

The last of the three demonstrates the fallibility of the style: the wines are kind of same-y. It's not that easy to tell these wines apart, unless you're tasting side by side - which I wasn't - or you're blessed with a very good memory - and mine is quite good, but it still taxed me to formulate where the Old Coach Road diverges from the Voyage.

It's a better, finer wine, for my tastes, if I look at it holistically. It's more complex, a little more elegant and focused, and more than a little more interesting. Stylistically, they're cut from the same cloth and make use of the same building blocks - although I'd say the Old Coach Road adds a shimmering mint and pink grapefruit tint to the gooseberry. But it attracts me more than the Astrolabes, fine as they were, do. (Sept. 18, 2012)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Recanati's French Colombard, 2011 (Sept. 9, 2012)

I met up with Recanati's Ido Lewinsohn and Vagnilia's Itay Rogozinsky at one of our favorite haunts, Habasta, to taste a wine Recanati made according to specifications by Habasta owner Maoz Alonim: a refreshing, non-pretentious, yet reasonably complex, food-friendly white. Ido claims French Colombard retains its healthy acidity at almost any yield, and can make a decent quaffer even at high yields, yet he preferred to find out how much quality he could squeeze out of it with lower yields appropriate for quality wine. There's nothing special about the vineyard, he says. It's on the coast, it's not very high and the vines aren't very old. The results aren't explosive, their charms are more down home, which means they live up to Alonim's expectations.

The nose starts off with flowers and hints of oak, and then with air shows sweet, nutty spices that don't really appeal to me. It's an okay nose, I guess, it's just that those spices are a bit vulgar, for me. But the palate really works well, especially with squid and okra, showing a great mix of sour and saline sensations.

We continued on to a wine I really should buy more, of, Grosset, Polish Hill, Riesling, 2008, which has a gorgeous nose of apples and peaches, chalk and a very developed strain of petrol, which in no way overwhelms the freshness of the fruit. The palate is fresh and very vibrant, a very joyous mode of Riesling fruit, which is probably the happiest grape in the first place. This is imported by Mersch and sold for 270 NIS.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cork And The Damage Done - Ran Shapira's Birthday at Herbert Samuel (Sept. 12, 2012)

Damn, this was good!

Great wines as always at Ran's birthday bash, despite a couple of disappointments.

Nicolas Feuillatte, Palmes d'Or, Brut, 1999

Oranges and apples (more oranges than apples, now that I think of it), brioche, a hint of minerals. Still young, yet soft and inviting. Complex, elegant, yet somehow not quite as exciting as other Chanpagnes I've been drinking lately.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Oberhauser, Riesling Auslese, 2001

Heavenly.  Red Apples and cherries and slate, but this is yet another case where the wine's spirit lies not in individual components but in how they're put together - which is why great wines thrill us. There's a gossamer veil of petrol, talc and spices, and rhe palate is light, yet firm, as the backbone of acidity is  vibrant, yet subtle.

Giaconda imported this a few years ago for 300-350 NIS.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Ruchottes, 2001

Oxidized, very, very mature, yet with hints of life shimmering through somehow. Like a dish left in the oven for too long, where the chef's intents and the ingredients are implied. With premox running rampant in post-1996 Bourgogne whites, I just had to question Oron Stern's ambitions in buying a 2001, let alone bringing one to dinner, but he said he'd bought a batch and others were terrific. So chalk another one to Burgundy's impetuous wheel of fortune.

Next, we had a Mature Rioja Flight. Which I think was a great notion; I don't think there are a lot of wines remaining as true to the Old World idiom as do the Gran Reservas, so tasting such mature specimens from two of the greatest bodegas was a special treat indeed.

La Rioja Alta, Rioja Gran Reserva, 890, 1985

Sweaty currants and strawberries. Still tannic and spicy. Both this and the Ygay are classic, savory expressions of the highest order, with lively acidity.

Ygay, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1984

The more reserved of the two and the more harmonious and saline, yet in the end it is the more powerful as well, in its elegant way. Also, for my tastes, it is the more interesting and the more complex, and sports that classic formula of mature Riojas: red fruit, vegetable stew and mildew.

Then,we were supposed to have a Vieux Chateau Certan flight. Which was another great idea, a mini-vertical of this revered Right Bank chateau, except, as Amir Sheinman said, you can't bank against the attraction trichloroanisole seems to have to Ran's birthday party wines. Nor to some of my brighter purchases.

Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol, 1986

Corky. At 180 USD, this is the most I ever paid for prime TCA.

Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol, 1995

A fine claret, with subtle fruit and restrained finesse. Perhaps, coming after the Riojas and served in conjunction with the TCA, it comes off a little lackluster. But if I try to loo beyond that, it paints a fine portrait of the Right Bank, even if the Cabernet content is on the high side.

Chateau Bellerive, Quarts de Chaume, Quintessance, 2003

Botrytis heaven on the nose, abetted by notes of bakes apricots and burnt sugar. The palate shows fine acidity, but despite that, it is on the alcoholic side, so like Sauternes, it is a dessert wine that doesn't go with desserts. I expected more, because I loved the tastes I've had of this wine in the past.

Also imported by Giaconda, for more or less the same price as the Donnhoff.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Midbar Winery

I know Ya'acov Oryah tangentially. I'd seen him in tastings in Tel Aviv. You can't miss an Orthodox Jew tasting Burgundies or German Rieslings. And you can't miss his aura of calm and intellectual curiosity. I guess one aspect of quiet charisma is when you want to taste a guy's wines because you just gotta know what he'll bring to the table. So I'd tasted a couple of the wines he made in his previous winery, Asif (although not in a tasting where I thought note based on vague recollections notes would do them justice - I do that sometimes, but not with wines I feel deserve a longer date), and was just dying to get my nose and palate into his new project, the Midbar Winery.

I favor a "save the best to last" approach when exploring a new producer, but I wound up starting with a winner.

Semillon-Sauvignon, 2010

The classic white Bordeaux formula is divvied up here 70% in favor of the Semillon. This is such a precocious wine, painted in miniature strokes of aromas and flavors. There are flowers and wet rocks, and the fruit ranges from lime and mandarin oranges to mango. Lovely acidity that serves as a solid backbone and maintains harmony. A bitter finish reminiscent of peels. I think this could use a couple of years to flesh out - it certainly grew and changed a lot during the two hours Efrat and I gouged away at it. (Aug. 23, 2012)

100 NIS. Thumbs up. This works both as a Graves hommage and in its own right.

White, 44, 2010

Let me sum up Ya'acov's goal with this Gewurztraminer/Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay/Viognier/Semillon blend, as described in the winery's site: gain the intoxicating aromas of Gewurtz and fix its typical deficits on the palate by using the other varieties in the blend. And it works, for the most parts. The Gewurtz and Viognier battle it out on the nose, while the other three grapes, which are the more neutral aromatically, serve to tame them, so you get a somewhat less vocal version of the first's spicy lychee and rose petals, and of the second's luscious honey and flowers, and finally the Sauvignon Blanc lends its own hints of gooseberry and grass. On the palate, you get an echo of these two's hedonistic leanings, while the rest of the cast serves to fill in any holes and to lend structure where the two prima donnas prefer to coast. The label says this is off-dry, but it isn't any more off-dry than a Gruner Veltliner, the way it plays out on my palate, and that has to do with the great acidity once again, as well as with the tasty saline finish. Detailed analysis aside, I like this approach at utilizing Gewurztraminer and this is a very attractive package. (Aug. 24, 2012)

110 NIS. I can't make up my mind about the price. Objectively, it's on the high side, but when I consider how rare and hard it is to find a Gewurtz-based wine that makes good conversation before putting out...

Unoaked Chardonnay, 2010

This is the one wine in the line-up that I was the least looking forward to tasting. I mean - Chardonnay again? Personally, local versions of unoaked Chardonnay had left me unimpressed. Not that oak in itself is a virtue, but it seems like the grape needs whatever oxidative effects the porous barrels can impart. Finally, I was wary of the 14% ABV this weighs in at. Anyway, given that Chardonnay is a chameleon of a grape (one of its virtues, actually, one that allows it to mirror the lands that it grows in), this doesn't feel especially typical or impressive. It reminds me not a little of Sauvignon Blanc, on the nose, and because of its relatively high alcohol content, it tastes a bit like Viognier, what with its bitter finish. Stylistically, it is akin to the former two wines, but it doesn't work nearly as well as they did. The nose shows fairly complex, mineral-led aromas, but the palate is guilty of very high alcohol defect: a sweet attack and a bitter finish, both overwhelming what acidity is present. (Aug. 25, 2012)

85 NIS. I'm sticking with the Tzora, Neve Ilan at this price.

With the Chardonnay out of the way, I got back on track with Midbar's more interesting offerings and what I feel are Oryah's special pride and joy.

Chenin Blanc, 2010

I don't know where Israel's produce of Chenin Blanc used to go into, but the wine that put the grape on the map a few years ago was Sea Horse's James, which I used to drink by the glass at Beta Cafe and never wrote a note down for. I did find it intense and a bit rough, a la Savennieres, that I remember. Then Gaby Sadan made a bottling at Shvo last year, which was a very strange and unrelenting creature - and not all easy to digest, in any sense of the word. This, in contrast, starts out very reserved, almost austere, with a lightly pungent overlay of minerals that makes me expect a sharper bite on the palate than I actually get. As it opens, the volume increases without being gaudy, showing apples and summer fruits, an earthy overlay and a saline finish, and all in all, it shares the same DNA with the Semillon/Sauvignon and the 44 - whether that DNA is terroir or winemaker, I've yet to determine; but as all three are gentle yet confident creatures, balancing the sun-drenched sweetness of their ripe fruit with a firm, savory backbone, it's not really a critical issue. (Aug. 27, 2012)

Sold out, since it was a very limited production. I suppose it would cost 100-120 NIS.

Semillon, 2009

This low alcohol (11%), lightly colored wine is referred to on the winery's site as special early harvest - only in Israel would that be a point of distinction. It has such a fragrant nose of green apples and chalk and talc, with a an aromatic breed that is almost Riesling-like, yet that restraint comes alongside a vital intensity. The palate echoes that, with purity and understated depth. I've only had maybe one or two pure Semillon, so it's not that easy for me to place this wine, but I found it totally captivating, and its aromas and flavors don't so much change with air as modulate their pitch and volume. This is one of the best whites in Israel, a noble wine that presented myriad facets in its evening date with me and the missus. Ya'acov plans to release this in 2014 and, while I can see the point, the suspense is going to kill me. (Aug. 30, 2012)

No price yet. Hopefully, it, too, will be 100-120 NIS.

Orange, 44, 2010

This is very much an oddball, which is what orange wines are all about, employing red wine making on white grapes. Even were this a conventional white, the blend of Chenin Blanc (52%), Chardonnay (24%) and Viognier (24%) would be unusual. This smells and tastes like lightly oxidized rose, with notes of rocks, apples, carmelized nuts, Mediterranean spices, and the palate is surprisingly fresh despite the oxidation, with a lovely saline finish, and a firm, if subtle presence of fruit. This is a very complex, very interesting, very challenging wine - so challenging that I can sense words haltering and stalling in a way they didn't in the notes above. (Sept. 5, 2012)

At their best, Ya'acov Oryah's wines have a wonderful purity, a velvet fist in an iron glove style. I spent about a week with them, and became a fan - that's it, I confess, pure fanboy. I adore them and in an ideal world, people would drink loads of them on their patio and watch the sunset, and leave a glass to contemplate after dinner. But, I'm worried their potential audience has been ruined for life by oaky fruit bombs.

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2012)

Another convincing statement by Gaby Sadan

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

Beyond the expected, obvious, typical green apples and slate, this lithe Kabinett shows flowers, guayavas and red cherries. Also expected, obvious and typical is the racy acidity. Shoulda bought more. (Aug. 3, 2012)

WineRoute, 129.90 NIS.

Caruso and Minini, Sicilia IGT, Tasari (Nero d'Avola-Merlot), 2010

Black raspberries with a tobacco leaves and a meaty, herbal, Mediterranean tint and a lightly tannic finish with pleasant mineral notes that, together with the juicy acidity, offset the mild sweetness in mid-palate. An attractive, wholesome wine that isn't shy about divulging the merits of its personality. (Aug. 4, 2012)

Fat Guy, 69 NIS. I can't think of a better red available locally at this price point. Simply lovely.

Recanati, Reserve, Syrah-Viognier, 2010

The buoyancy of a lighter style of Syrah is now more obvious than it was a few months ago. This is savory, fresh and vibrant, with notes of blackcurrants, cranberries, black pepper and underbrush (and even hints of roast beef), and if anyone had any need to manipulate the acidity, it was done seamlessly. There are more and more local wines on my table lately, but this is still my favorite, and for my palate - the best. (Aug. 16, 2012)

120-150 NIS.

Tommasi, Veronese IGT, Appassimento Adorato, 2010

I had zero expectations from this wine. In fact, I didn't even buy it. It was a bonus wine that WineRoute gave me because I made a large purchase this month and I tried it out for educational purposes; it was either that or its red sibling, the Graticcio, and I've been keeping away from the Venetian reds for years, with no intent of returning to the flock. But a white Italian is at least an area I'm willing to experiment in. I'm not sure why this isn't a Soave, as it seems to fulfill the minimum requirement for Garganega grapes. I suppose it might be because half the grapes are dried out, Amarone style. Whatever, this is a nutty, honeyed wine, well-mannered and tasty, with sweet, somewhat citrus-y fruit, but with little depth, and, quite honestly, not a lot of complexity or interest either. It's not bland, exactly, but neither is it very distinctive. (Aug. 17, 2012)

WineRoute, 90 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

I loved the Rose, I liked the Red, I found the Chenin Blanc weird (but I plan to re-visit) - so this now completes my tour of the Shvo portfolio (although I never got to taste the 2009 version of the SB, which I gather, from what I've read, was sweeter, with less alcohol - something about stuck fermentation). This, too, is very idiosyncratic, smelling and tasting like someone tried to make a Corton-Charlemagne out of Sauvignon grapes. The nose has dried grass, flint, rainwater and honey, some melon being an offhand clue to the variety. The palate is dense, almost sweet, with a hum of minerals reminiscent of Savennieres. It's initially rather aggressive, but calms down with air to show a saline finish. At no point is it very typical: at half way past this slow-drinking, brooding wine, I lost my orientation enough to forget what varietal I was drinking and caught myself thinking: "maybe Chenin Blanc just isn't my thing anymore".

An interesting wine, and although I can't pledge I'll make any returns to this vintage, I'll gladly check the upcoming ones. (Aug. 18, 2012)

About 100 NIS.

Tzora, Neve Ilan, 2011

100% Chardonnay, but the label doesn't say that, it doesn't even say "White" or "Blanc" (or "Lavan", at that), because Tzora is all about terroir. Which I really like. I also really like Eran Pick, head winemaker, just in case due diligence is expected here. Anyway, this is a really lovely wine. Just a couple of months ago, it had a green grass and tropical fruit character that made me think of Sauvignon Blanc rather than Chardonnay, but now it's pure Chardonnay, and the good kind at that. You know, Chablis. Because it's so fresh and pure, with vibrant acidity that turns saline at the finish. And the aromatics already show decent chalk, citrus and apple peel led complexity. I'll see about aging a bottle for research purposes, but this is very tasty already. (Aug. 19, 2012)

A steal at 89.90 NIS.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Galil Mountain Winery Redux

This is where it dawned on me: how much harder the local wineries are going to have to work, now that Daniel Rogov is gone. Whatever you might have thought of him (and me, personally, I thought the hype was misleading at best, to be charitable), a high Rogov score drove sales, and after a few years of consistently high scores from this particularly patriotic man, wineries could afford to coast, at least as far as maintaining an image.

These days, the Israeli wineries have to put in a lot of leg work, peddling samples and dinner invitations to every professional and amateur writer, building and maintaining images slowly and laboriously. Slowly and laboriously: because their efforts won't necessarily translate to immediate sales, what they need to do is constantly maintain a brand name that is recognized for its quality and, sometimes, quality-to-price ratio.Which is perhaps why I'm finally on the radar, which is nice - even though, to be quite honest, I don't lack for supplies in the happy and content bubble of my charmed existence. But it's an exciting feeling to talk shop and feel recognized, I must admit.

One result is the set of Galil Mountain wines I had delivered for tasting. I'm not sure how many of these I'd actually buy (and at their price point, they're destined for the restaurant trade, where they'll probably sell for a marketable 100-120 NIS), but it was easy for me to fall for their comely charms while I tasted through my loot.

Viognier, 2011

Just about every textbook on Condrieu mentions the fact that two of three decades ago, Viognier was on the point of extinction, and how now many growers and winemakers in the Old and New World are trying their hands at this extravagantly flattering variety. Me, I something mutter, "aw, shucks, we were so close...", although I can sympathize with the description in Hugh Johnson's "A Life Uncorked" of his first encounter with Viognier: I can imagine how the first impression must have felt almost extraterrestrial to a palate weaned on white Burgundy and Italian and Spanish whites. Riesling and Chenin don't prepare you for Viognier's hedonistic attack, either. Gewurztraminer has a similar effect, with a different palette and methodology. Viognier plays in a different timbre, and if Gewurtz smells like a luscious wench, Viognier is the same wench after a few years in finishing school. Unfortunately, the palate rarely lives up to the aromatics, in my opinion - and I've tasted some expensive Condrieu in my time.

Well, having gone through that lengthy introduction, I must say this is a very cute specimen, especially considering the price (55 NIS).The nose displays peaches and apricots, is floral in a languid way, and hints at Asiatic cuisine, without being spicy exactly, and also at green tea. The palate is about as focused as you can get at 14.5% ABV, where the alcoholic kick gets translated to spiciness, but with better granularity than I get in Gewurtz. Others have noted and complained about the oak - me, I don't really get that, but it might be because I'm so surprised at actually liking a Viognier these days. Let's put it this way, if someone told me that some appellation in southwestern France or Spain was experimenting with the grape, I'd be real interested in finding out more about the place after I'd tasted this. And like I said, I'n not a fan of the grape. (July 30, 2012)

Ella, 2010

This is the softer, more feminine (including the name) complement to the Alon blend, in this case 45% each of Syrah and Barbera, plus 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It's suitably ripe, yet not overdone, with sour black cherries and cranberries, black pepper and violets. Its 14.5% ABV shows as a warm afterglow on the finish and that feeling of fullness, without a being in any way jammy or muscular. It's quite tasty, and due to a sanguine note on the finish, I prefer it to the Alon (both the 2009 and 2010 versions), while juicy acidity (the Barbera's contribution?) gives it enough shape for interest. Fun. At 70 NIS, this goes for the same niche as sister Golan Heights Wineries' Gamla series, but this just feels like a much more authentic specimen. (Aug. 1, 2012)

Alon, 2010

I like how this smells, and if you've ever gone through any kind of fling with the Rhone, you'd understand why. It's got that mixture of fresh currants and blackberries, with a touch of herbs and black pepper, and the overall effect is very Israeli, the way my nose understands the more restrained versions of the local paradigm. The palate is a different matter. It's cute, too, and tasty, but it's 15.5% ABV this year, and it shows as sweet, ripe fruit and not particularly structured, which makes it less useful to me. (Aug. 15, 2012)

Barbera, Yiron Vineyard, 2010

Attractive black fruit, with a distinctive smokey/peppery overlay. The alcohol (14.5% again) is concealed even better than it was in the case of the Ella, and the plump, juicy fruit is quite tasty. The oak is obvious here, even annoying, and while I feel it will integrate in time, I think a more cautious barrel regime would have made for a more distinctive statement,. At this point, a couple of steps behind the Ella - wait, I take that back. I feel the oak is more and more distracting as the wine opens. This might be the worst of the lineup, on par with the Pinot. (Aug. 26, 2012)

The bottom line is, I like the Ella a lot for drinking, the Viognier for experimenting and the Alon and the Barbera for serving to friends.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wedding Anniversary Wines

Another evening in the clouds
At Bertie.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, Blanc, 2009

I was so taken with this at Uri Caftori's tasting, that I just had to share it with Efrat. I think this is a very tasty, very interesting wine, but it's more fascinating than it is actually great, if that's what you're looking for in a wine for special occasions. Its fruit profile is hard to place, a mixture of quince, melons and mango, but so laid back the fruit never veers close to being tropical. In addition, the aromatics have a smoky, mineral-laden, spicy feel, later even showing a dash of sculptor's clay. The palate has an almost sweet ripeness, well complemented by very juicy acidity, and culminating in a lightly saline finish. I'd reckon the reason it shies away from greatness per se is that while it is highly individual and makes a unique statement, it doesn't really have a whole lot of pieces on its game board to play with. (Aug. 10, 2012)

IPVinum, 280 NIS.

The anniversary-year wine.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1995

The aromatics are deep and complex, redolent with black fruit, cardamon, ground coffee, leather and meat - very, very Old World. The evolution in the palate has been slow since I last had a taste three years ago, and based on that, I have no idea how long this will last, probably for years and years - there's enough tannins and acidity for comfort and plenty of fruit - but it will probably remain muscular until it succumbs to dotage. Whatever, it's ripe, almost sweet, and the finish is lightly saline and grainy. It's an oaky wine at that, but old school Spaniards are probably one of the last places I accept that. (Aug. 11, 2012)

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Thank you, Efrat, for the lovely weekend and for a lifetime of love and happiness.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yet Another Eclectic Collection (Aug. 8, 2012)

Still an endangered species?

Vigneti Massa, Derthona, 2009

This is 100% Timorasso, a grape on the edge of extinction, like Viognier three decades ago, only much more to my tastes. Despite some light oxidation on nose, the palate is surprisingly lively, albeit with an almond-like bitterness on the finish. Beyond said characteristics, there's a nuttiness on the nose, and just a hint of flowers. Very much Italian: that nuttiness and savory, low-key fruit, with unobtrusive acidity.

J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 1993

The nose has a crystalline feel to it, as though you were sniffing a snowflake: herbs, slate, petrol, apples receding to peaches on the nose (but more obvious on palate). Lively and lovely, demure and under-stated. At the peak of still youthful maturity.

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Chambolle-Musigny, 1999

Forest floor, coffee, red fruit overflowing into black. The earthy side of Pinot, not very Chambolle. Unbalanced, as it is too tannic: bitter tannins, not savory ones. Granted, some '99s I've tasted were still unyielding, but this doesn't feel like it will ever surrender anything worthwhile.

Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuit-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, Les Vaucrains, 2004

A gorgeous nose, on the elegant side of NSG: forest floor, minerals, a balanced blend of red and black fruit. The palate is fresh, vital, full of life. Not complex but charming and tasty, which I guess is 2004 at its best.

Jean-Luc Colombo, Cornas, Les Ruchets, 1999

Black fruit, light traces of brett, pleasantly green notes, just a touch of black pepper. A soft, lovely wine with no sign of rusticity. Fantastic acidity.

Michele Satta, Bolgheri Superiore, i Castagni, 2003

Red fruit, chives, leather, slightly earthy. Luscious yet structured. Tasty, excellent acidity. Another argument for exploring Italians again.

Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Selection des Grains Nobles, 2006

Quince, brown sugar, apricots, no sign of botrytis. Lower in acidity than other vintages I've tasted (1997, 2001), less elegant, but still a very tasty, hedonistic pleasure.

Many thanks to Yotam Sharon for hosting, as well as for everyone who shared a bottle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Of Riesling (Aug. 6, 2012)

Toto's sommelier, Aviram Katz, the Fonz of the Israeli wine scene, came up with a local 'franchise' of the Summer Of Riesling event, dedicated to this, ahem, little known grape (of course, I hardly need a special event - I'd drink Riesling as often as possible even if I were living at the North Pole). Efrat and I enjoyed a short evening out and shared a few glasses together. Short, offhand notes follow.

Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Riesling Spätlese, 2004

Sweet and seductive, with peaches and notes of petrol. At the cusp where its fruitiness is starting to evolve into true maturity. I have two more at home which I'm going to very much enjoy in a couple of years.

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Weingut Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberg, Riesling QBA, 2009

Red apples, as dry as Mose can get without losing its light, elegant charm. The QBA tag is misleading in Muller's case, I think the purity of the fruit suggests this is somewhere between Kabinett and Spatlese in quality.

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Hirsch, Zobing, Riesling, 2009

Feeling ungainly right after the Muller, but its Austrian charms are persuasive and obvious: green apples, spices and chalk. I need to explore this one more.

Fat Guy, 119 NIS.

Carmel, Kayumi, Riesling, 2011

Very tropical on the nose, dry and mineral on the palate. A charming version of the grape.

Not sure about the price, 70 NIS?

Albert Boxler, Sommerberg Grand Cru, "D", Riesling, 2007

Quince, cherries, apples, spicy, full and complex. Dry, yet its intensity creates an illusion of sweetness. Excellent, only don't look for finesse, just complex stuffings.

Giaconda, 186 NIS.

The full menu, just to give you an idea of the breadth and depth and Aviram's orchestration.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Sea Of Love - A Chablis Tasting (Aug. 2, 2012)

The picture I want to paint here looks better in my head than on paper.

All Chablis - the good ones, anyway - are woven from common threads. The nose should evoke sea air, moss, shells, fossils, chalk; while the palate should be stony and tense, yet with a somewhat limpid core at the same time, the fruit a cross between granny apples and citrus fruit, culminating in a saline finish. The difference between the different crus is often in how all these elements come together in different ways, creating different tapestries and textures. The village wines will show these characteristics in relatively broad strokes, while the Premier and Grand Crus will display them in ever increasing complexities, so you will get a better delineated feel of locale, even if you can't recognize a specific cru.

Thus, while a cross tasting is an educating - and tasty! - experience, I find it excruciatingly difficult to scribe the notes, limited, as I am, to a narrower vocabulary than usual. So I'm almost glad for the duds, as they help me put the highs in context. But Chablis is such a great pleasure for the senses, so just use the highlights below as a draft for your shopping list.

The Solid Performers

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2010

Quasi-typical Chablis nose (fossils, citrus), but a bit mute. A good mineral finish, even if the mid-palate is too round and simple. More Chardonnay than Chablis, although it echoes all or most of the prerequisites: the saline finish, the acidity.

Giaconda, about 130 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

Greater typicity here and better definition, on both nose and palate. Crisp, focused, with a powerful, salivating finish. Village level complexity, or even that of a young Premier, if I'm feeling generous.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS. Worth a buy, if you want a Chablis sampler.

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2008

A step up in quality on the nose: minerally, wild and funky. Juicy citrus fruit. The palate is more one-dimensional. Wilder than I expected Vaillons (especially Fevre's) to be, and different than my own experiences at home. I think I will let my last bottle wait a year plus.

WineRoute, where a typical discount is about 3 bottles for 400 NIS.

The Highlights

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2008

A terrific balance and interplay of fruit and minerals. Great pedigree. Very, very tasty. Glad, so glad, to have a couple at home.

WineRoute, 339 NIS.

Christian Moreaux, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, Clos des Hospices, 2008

Elegant, with a kinky, complex note of marine minerals. At this point in time, better than the Les Preuses. Very pure citrus fruit. Another wine I'm glad to own.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 360 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudesir, 2007

Oyster shells, iodine. Funky. Good fruit and acidity. One of the most electrifyingly marine Chablis at the table.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

The Duds

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2010

Pink grapefruit, white peaches, flowers - gooseberries?! The mineral bite on the finish is the only thing the discloses its origin. Needs decanting and a lot of time in glass to show minerals.

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchot, 2010

Like the Billard-Simon Les Clos, this is tropical and flowery (even though this wasn't decanted as the Les Clos was). The Chablis fingerprint is very faint in the background.

Simon-Billard is not imported to Israel, but I understand these cost about 40 Euros at the winery.

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2004

Dried apricots, mushrooms, a faint but definite whiff of soap. Mute. Palate is okay, even though it's too sweet and round. Everyone is shocked, and although stories are told of similarly malfunctioning bottles, I recall a brilliant one from last summer. This bottle wasn't typical of Chablis at all, and in no way a Grand Cru

WineRoute, about 350 NIS.

I'll give the Fevre the benefit of a doubt, but the Billard-Simon is definitely black-listed.

The Wine Of The Night

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2004

Cheesy and funky, more about shells and the sea than the fruit. Good grip and acidity. Pure, and very Chablis. Saline finish. The most complete wine of the night, and it's fascinating to see how well a Raveneau Premier Cru competes against some very fine Grand Crus. This will keep for sure, and develop - although I'm not sure whether such developments will reveal deeper Chablis characteristics, as opposed to mature Chardonnay traits.

Burgundy Wine Collection, this cost 270 NIS in the first year it was imported, by now the price has creeped up to 420 NIS (and thus, costs more than the Grand Crus it arguably overwhelmed). Yet price isn't the issue, availability is! This sells out within hours of the annual release here in Israel.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Languedoc-Roussillon Tasting (July 23, 2012)

The Wine Of The Night
When the serious wine afficiando drinks a Bordeaux or a Bourgogne, what he or she is looking for is the classical archetype. Let's face it, it's hard enough to find a good Pauillac, Puligny or Chambolle, let alone afford one, so when you do get your hands on one, you really want nature and winemaker to paint you a letter-perfect picture of the Platonic ideal. You want a solid stock in your portfolio.

I approach Barolo, Chianti, Rioja with similar expectations.

So where do you experiment?

Riesling and Chenic Blanc, naturally, almost force a certain inconsistency down your throat, as these varieties by their nature reflect their origins almost too well. And many times the weather and their makers' idiosyncracies. But where I really look for a wild, personal sense of dare-doing is the nether regions of the Old World of wine, where tradition never laid down a rigid map and compass - just enough tradition to ensure someone has food in mind when they make and drink wine. Of course, I want elegant old school where I can get it, but I don't mind if someone wants to play Fairy Chess.

Which is where Uri Caftory and the latest IPVinum portfolio come in.

I'm riffing off too much on Hugh Johnson. I'll really need to crack a joke soon.

Present were a partial roll call of the Daniel Lifshitz Burgundy Revue plus two local winemakers. And a guest. And Uri himself.

Saint Antoin, Faugeres, Les Jardins, Rose, 2011

A light, very refreshing and drinkable wine - dry, earthy and all about strawberries. Just enough interest on the nose and palate. Equal measures of Grenache and Cinsault. 70 NIS.

Clos Marie, Languedoc Pic St. Loup, Manon, 2011

Lovely nose: light notes of iodine, nuts, gunpowder, with the fruit present, yet restrained, in the background. Refreshing acidity, maybe needs to settle down a little? Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and more varieties. Worth a purchase. About 150 NIS.

Domaine de Mouscaillo, Limoux, 2008

100% Chardonnay. Just the kind of nose you always want to get in Bourgogne, give or take stylistic variations: dried grass, flint, smoke, nuts. But the palate is rounder, more honeyed and fat, than you'd get in the Cote, maybe more of a Macon or a Chalonnaise, if a more precise context is needed. 150 NIS. The Manon is much more interesting, to me, but the Limoux presents a pleasant surprise vis a vis what Chardonnay can produce in unlikely settings.

Clos Marie, Languedoc Pic St. Loup, l'Olivette, 2010

Where did the brett go? Out with the Carignan, this year. But it's still very Mediterannean, meaty and peppery. Ripe yet fresh. And very Syrah (if not Rhone), which is perhaps why I prefer it to the La Nine (below), that we tasted alongside it. 135 NIS.

Domaine Jean Baptiste Senat, Minervois, La Nine, 2010

Black and spicy. A fruity wine which I like less than the l'Olivette: it's a style I approach with suspicion. But it's sure to be a crowd pleaser, no sarcasm intended. 130 NIS.

Coume del Mas, Collioure, Schistes, 2010

Ripe, yet peppery and smokey. I find it a winner like the 2007 I had a couple of years ago. Chocolate-y, seductive. Which is why I like it, for the way it builds a foundation of seduction on a surprisingly firm structure. 150 NIS.

And speaking of the 2007:

Similar ripeness here, less pepper on the other hand. Black and blue fruit. Meaty and a little musty. More complex, less fresh. An interesting comparison.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Rouge, 2010 280 NIS.

L'Esprit de l'Horizon, Rouge, 2010 195 NIS.

Two wines that smell like twins. Taste quite similar, too, both quite juicy and mineral-laden, with savory tannins. Maybe l'Esprit is a little softer and juicier, the Rouge muscular - A Volnay/Pommard contrast, perhaps?

Jean Baptiste Senat, Minervois, Le Bois des Merveilles, 2010

Fruity, modern, a touch meaty. Very juicy. 190 NIS.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Blanc, 2009

If the Bois des Merveilles doesn't inspire a wordy effort on my part, this is a drop dead gorgeous, wine of the night, utterly unique drop. An amazing nose. As complex and deep as a Chablis Grand Cru, but more honeyed and sweet without actually being sweeter. Whereas the other wines in the tasting feel like they sprung out of nowhere, this feels like it's deeply embedded in a background of wine and food culture, even if the Domaine is only about six years old. 280 NIS.

Domaine Bott-Geyl, Kronenbourg, Lieu-dit, Riesling, 2009

The last stop is Alsace and a wine I've had before, the 2005 from IPV's inaugural catalog - which didn't knock me out, exactly. That one was too mineral (if you and I can somehow conceive of a wine too minerally for me), this is better balanced, intensely floral without being sweet. Refreshing, for sure, but somehow a little dull, but it'a a Riesling and I wouldn't bet against its potential for increasing its interest level. About 150 NIS.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (July, 2012)

This month finds me totally in tune with the aesthetics of Austrian whites. Among other things.

Clerc Milon, Pauillac, 5me Cru Classe, 1996

A classic Pauillac: the currant-ish lift on the nose sets an example for all Cab-based reds. Of course, it's just Clerc Milon, so while there's a nice earthy/leathery/mushroomy overlay, it's not really profound or anything like that, but the aromatics whet my appetite, so it passes the entrance exam. Then there's the palate, with fresh red fruit and a rusty, savory tannic bite. The bottom line is: decent complexity, decent finesse, decent bottle-age wine-iness - and terrific food friendliness. (July 2, 2012)

About 80 USD.

Mount Etna
Can't you just imagine this weird old vine growing at
the crossroads where Robert Johnson met the devil?

Terren Nere, Etna Rosso, Calderara Sottana, 2009

So the hype is, as I wrote when I covered this rising star, is that the Etna Rosso DOC/Nerello Mascalese grape is the either the Bourgogne or Barolo of Sicily. The question is: which is it? With this cuvee, the vote is split down the middle, as the aromas (red cherries, flowers, a hint of salty sweat and the slightly cured spicines) have an affinity with both Pinot Noir and Nebbilo, while the palate has the light touch of the former and the tea-bag tannins of the latter. Approachable, once you get by the not-formidable-but-stubborn tannins, but this could go for as long as a decent Nebbiolo of a similar age, I think. (July 7, 2012)

Fat-Guy, 230 NIS.

Caruso and Minini, Sicilia IGT, Tasari (Nero d'Avola-Merlot), 2010

Very appealing rustic charm, without any chunkiness, just fresh, savory berry fruit with a hint of herbs and minerals. (July 8, 2012)

Fat Guy again, 69 NIS. Great value!

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Vergers, 2006

It seems that every time I'm ready to write off Cote d'Or whites (in favor of their humble brethren from the south or their upscale competition from Chablis), along comes an affirmation. One that is especially surprising in this case, as I've had some mediocre experiences with Fontaine-Gagnard recently. But this bottle reminds me why my friends and I found this producer so appealing when WineRoute started importing the house five years ago.

This has an attractive nose that presents dried grass and matches (perhaps not the best image in an Israeli summer), with baked apples in the background, and lightly oxidative notes that add complexity without carrying over to the palate at the cost of freshness. The palate: the palate is tasty and supple, without any obvious fat, with a grainy texture tempered by the filter of finesse, and with a complexity worthy of the Premier Cru label and price tag. (July 12, 2012)

WineRoute, about 250 NIS., making this particular bottle an excellent value.

Alzinger, Wachau, Leibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

One of the things I look for in wines is a sense of fun, and Eldad Levy's Austrian imports are fun! I mean, they're drop dead gorgeous at times, but also (mainly?) fun and tasty.

I liked this at Eldad's introductory tasting, but my impressions were still embryonic, and now the shape of this wine is clearer to me. This has a tropical, exotic character but most of all, it is defined, for me, by a gorgeous evergreen mint note, with perhaps a faint echo of ginger. The structure has better focus now, and the spicy finish so typical of Austrian is more obvious. Plus, with more and more air, the vibrant acidity lends the fruit great vitality. (July 13, 2012)

Fat Guy, 209 NIS.

A. Et. P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2008

Four years is a bit on the early side for this wine (depsite its relatively lowly price) but I find it approachable already. It's a very nutty wine, but rather in the way that Champagne is nutty rather than, say, Meursault is nutty. Beyond that, it's about citrus rather than apples and pears, with a compact stoniness on the palate. Good acidity, that blends in very well with the fruit. Needs an hour or two of air at this point for the fruit to reach its inherent purity.(July 15, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

Salomon, Kremstal, Undhof, Kogl, Erste Lage, 2009

This, typically, starts out more Austrian than Riesling, with the balanced dose of spices and minerals that good Austrians bring to the game field embracing fruit that has an almost exotic aspect, without obscuring the innate clarity and purity of the fruit. Of course, this being Riesling, the aromas show more and more apples, and a pretty herbal streak, with air and time. (July 21, 2012)

Fat Guy, 129 NIS. Go for it, fanboys - wait, it's already sold out, I guess good news travels fast!

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

Oh damn, this is tasty. Granny apples, slate, parsley, dill and - grapes. Still a little fizzy. (July 25, 2012)

WineRoute, 90-120 NIS. Depends.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Bernkasteler Lay, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

Greater purity and breed here, compared to the Treppchen, even if this is somewhat less racy, but just as tasty. Hard to be sure without actually tasting them side by side, but I think this is the better wine. Certainly, it has a bigger reservoir of gems to draw from: starting with the usual apples and slate, as it opens, it shows flowers, mint, rainwater, even cherries.(July 27, 2012)

Same details as the Treppchen.

Chateau Charmail, Haut-Medoc, Bourgeois Cru, 2005

Cassis, licorice, earth, cedar, a touch of violets. Obviously a product of a very warm and ripe vintage, and to be quite honest, while it's obviously a claret, I'm not sure I'd recognize it as an actual Bordeaux, blind. There's a core of fresh fruit in there, but the tannins surrounding it are grainy and bitter, so despite the heralded vintage, I'm not sure about the future, despite a more optimistic reading a year ago. (July 28, 2012)

WineRoute, 2 for 300 NIS, when the 2005's came out.