Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Daniel Lifshitz Burgundy Revue Does Whites (Jan. 17, 2012)

Leroy at her idiosyncratic best

Despite my love for white wines, I have some issues with white Burgundies. I've run into my fair share of disappointments, which has to do, for the most part, with specimens that did not age as well as advertised. For that reason, I've been buying about three bottles of Chablis for every equivalent bottle from the Cote. I'm mad in love with Chablis! The Chablis acidity keeps those lovelies lively and they show better young, so they're a good drop at almost any age. Plus, that marine thing they have going makes them so appealing to me.

About a year ago, Daniel Lifshtiz and Zacki Rosenblum put together a Burgundy tasting group. A short while afterwards, Zacki had twins and Daniel took the job over completely. We meet together every few weeks for light fare and bigger wines - and lotsa fun. It's a great group and it's about time I thanked the two founding fathers for their enterprise and Daniel for his consistent hustle.

The latest tasting that Daniel Lifshitz came up with chimed in with a few duds, but offered enough lovely examples to renew my faith. It also convinced there are quite a few wines in my fridge I'd better open sooner than later.

Bouchard, Aligote, 2009

Obviously Aligote. Citrus and flint. I adore the reserved, light touch on the palate.

WineRoute, not sure about the price.

Chablisienne, Aligote, 2007

The first question I asked myself was, is it reductive or just unpleasantly over the hill? With this stewed, cooked - the proper adjectives allude me - one-dimensional brine, the right answer is moot.

Didn't catch the name of the importer, or the price.

Vincent Girardin, Puligny-Montrachet, 2007

This is very disjointed right now. The oak makes it smell a little like an air freshener, while the palate is better, with solid acidity. After ten minutes, I like more, as it becomes an unobstrusive food pairing. Although for the price of Puligny-Montrachet, that's something of an under-achievement.

Domaine d'Auvenay, Aligote, Sous Chatelet, 2002

A complex, stinky nose, minerals, dry grass. A foursquare attack, but in its wake is lots of depth and a streak of acidity. Very tasty. Amazing how well this exciting wine has aged.

Burgundy Wine Collection. 220 NIS at the time (I still remember very well), 290 NIS now, and considering the quality is on par with a Premier Cru, a fair price. It kills me to say it about Leroy, but there it is.

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2004

A subtle and complex nose, vibrant yet restrained on the palate. This isn't a wine designed to knock you out but rather to convince you of its purity and its ability to communicate its origins. As you can see, my ardor for Chablis is well earned!

Burgundy Wine Collection again. This costs 420 NIS these days, but I still remember when it sold for 270.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Ruchottes, 2004

350 NIS worth of DOA, courtesy of Burgundy Wine Collection.

Fontaine-Gagnard, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Vergers, 2006

Stewed apple cider, with honey on top. The palate is lively, if too sweet and fat. I think this is the style of the winemaker, unlike the case with the previous wine, which can't be held accountable for being dead.

WineRoute, this cost about 250, 300 NIS.

Henry Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Clos de la Mouchere, 2007

Kids, don't try this at home: This bottle was opened at ten in the morning of the tasting!

This, at last, is what I look for in whites from the Cote: minerals, dry grass, roasted nuts. The palate is vibrant and detailed and very filling without excessive fat.

WineRoute again, this is a 500-600 NIS wine.

Etienne Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, La Garenne, 2005

Very self assured and more restrained than the former wine, and less of a show off. A nutty, intellectual finish.

Burgundy Wine Collection for the final time. This usually costs in the neighborhood of 350 NIS.

Bachelet-Ramonet, Bienbenue-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2007

A ripe nose that grows minerally in a somewhat idiosyncratic way (a bit of sculptor clay and a bit of flint). Balanced and tasty on the palate, and, although it leans towards tropical ripeness, that's not enough to dent its balance, nor distract from its breed.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Marc Morey, Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2008

A less worthy Grand Cru this is. It has some tropical fruit on the nose, which it balances with some minerals, but, overall, it's too perfumed for me. The palate is too sweet and ripe. And too creamy.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bordeaux 2002 (Jan. 9, 2012)

Behind the ultra-conservative label
is one of the great wines of the universe

2002 wasn't so good for me. Lots of family tragedies, the height of the second Intifadah, bombs in the streets, economic depression. Not a happy time, you'll all recall. But in the midst of all that, the wine bug bit me.

Meanwhile, Bordeaux was struggling, too, with the weather uneven and on the cool side (the Reader's Digest weather report). Bordeaux had suffered a decent share awful to mediocre vintages throughout the 90's, just about batting .500,  and I can imagine that contributed to a "once bitter, twice shy" attitude in the public consumer's mind. Combine that with anti-French feeling in the US (by then the biggest market in the world) when the en premieur campaign was taking off, plus the big shadow that 2000 was casting, and you have a vintage that no one at the time cared much about.

Ten years later, it's still being overlooked.

I don't think our kind hosts were dead set on re-educating the lot of this evening, but they wound up opening quite a few eyes, I think. Certainly the wines they shared with us got my attention, and I'm grateful for their amazing generosity.

The first three wines were served blind in a sort of calibration flight, three different vintages of St. Julien 4me Cru Branaire-Ducru. They were served blind and more or less fit in with my expectations of the vintages. The 2001 is elegant and the most reserved, despite its soft tannins. The 2002 is more tannic and minerally, and, of the trio, develops the most in glass. The 2003 is the ripest and most modern.

With our palates as much in synch as possible, we proceeded to the 02's.

La Tour Carnet, Haut-Medoc 4me Cru

Enticing fruit that is warm and rich on the palate without being overdone, ending in a mineral finish. A lovely wine, and while it might lack dimension and is a little too rich, 90% of the Bordeaux wannabes around the world can only dream of being like this.

Malescot-St-Exupery, Margaux 3me Cru

This is a more expressive, even 'serious', nose, with notes of sweat and tapenade. A classic claret.

Margaux, Margaux Premier Grand Cru

The nose is simply overwhelming with sheer hedonistic style. The palate is more austere, but well balanced. Ye Gods, if the Malescot was a classic claret, this is the Platonic ideal.

Leoville-Barton, St.Julien 2me Cru

A complex, well-made, delicious wine that is very Cabernet Sauvignon in character, with its spicy currant fruit. Yummy. Less extravagant than the Margaux, but no less poised and balanced.

Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac 2me Cru

I admit I don't have the sleuthing abilities to search for the fruit that is MIA behind the curtain of oak. Maybe a case of time will tell? The disappointment of the evening.

Cos d'Estournel, St. Estephe 2me Cru

There is oak here as well, but enough muscular, brawny black fruit to pound at the oak and hint at a promising future.

Mouton, Pauillac Premier Grand Cru

Obviously high class but not as high as the Margaux, Leoville or the Cos. Nor as high as the following two wines.

Lafite, Pauillac Premier Grand Cru

This has the extravagant allure of the Margaux, but different in character, defined as it is by an intoxicating, earthy vein with spicy/meaty overtones. The magic is sweeping, and so is the balance and power. The most complete wine of the evening.

LatourPauillac Premier Grand Cru

Closed on the nose at first, but on the palate, the savory tannins are refined enough to carry the wine even now. Actually, after some time in glass, the nose also shows the wine's complex greatness. Perhaps the most powerful of the First Growths of the evening, but right now it is also the most reticent.

And for dessert...

Suduiraut,  Sauternes Premier Cru, 1999

Less overwhelming and more to my tastes than more renowned vintages.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Post-New Year's at Cafe 48 (Jan. 2, 2012)

I wish I was better at writing about food, because any place that lists "pork belly" in its specials is love at first sight.

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 2002

Walnuts, brioche, sweetness born of fruit not sugar, minerals. Full, surprisingly soft and approachable, flavorsome with sweet salinity on the finish. I think years from now I'll look back on this as the point where I became addicted to Champagne.

Eldad Levy, 409 NIS.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Ruwer-Saar, Eredner Treppchen, Riesling Auslese **, 2002

Faint whiffs of petrol, minerals and dill over white fruit. Perfectly balances sweetness and acid. This would merit praise solely for the minuet it dances with my palate, even if it is not that complex or gripping. But the gentle caress of Mosel is enticing as always.

Not imported, price unknown.

Corino, Barolo, 1997

A classic Barolo with soft tannins, black fruit and typical Nebbilo spices. A very nice treat.

Not imported, price unknown.

Pio Cesare, Barbaresco, I'll Bricco, 2003

Another Barolo? The nose is similar to the Corino, starting out red, tannic and earthy with notes of leather. Air brings out riper, sweeter, blacker fruit, rounding out too many sharp corner. Less my style than the Corino, as becomes obvious in time.

Not sure who imports it, list price is over 700 NIS.

D'Armailhac, Pauillac, 5me Cru, 2000

Lovely stink of raw meat over lightly black fruit. A light body, so light I wonder maybe the brett killed the soft fruit here? Not sure. The bottle we drank a couple of years ago was much better. I doubt this is representative, as the 2001 was more consistent and I just don't see d'Armailhac screwing up a vintage like 2000.

WineRoute sells recent vintages for about 250-280 NIS.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1996

This is stinky too, yet the stink here is more balanced than the d'Armailhac, and the palate is more savory. Soft red fruit, very enticing. Oddly enough, only a light layer of marine minerals identifies it for me as Arroyo, so there is a strange feeling of displacement once the wine is revealed, but that's just me being ornery - this is simply wonderful.

Giaconda, 360 NIS.

Clos St. Martin, St. Emilion, Grand Cru Classe, 2001

Soft black fruit, stinky again, with very balanced acidity and savory tannins. A very light overlay of minerals and minerals. Very good, although I like less than the Arroyo. Having said that, the success of a relatively modest wine like this (apparently, this is the smallest classified property in St. Emilion) is why Bordeaux rules!

Not imported, price unknown.

Friday, January 13, 2012

TNweets (Dec. 2011)

A wine blogger's work is never-ending

Dr. Loosen, "L", 2008

I treated my colleagues to a bottle after lunch at work, drunk out of plastic glasses. Democracy at work. Actually, this wine drinks the same out of any type of container. I plan on taking it to the gym in a plastic bottle one day, in fact. (Dec. 1, 2011)

WineRoute, two for 50 NIS.

Albert Mann, Furstentum Grand Cru, Gewurztraminer, Vieilles Vignes, 2007

My favorite Gewurtz, utterly textbook (spices, lychee), yet with a foray into elegance that is not quite common for this slutty grape. I must say the variety's typical quinine bitterness is way more prominent than it had ever been in my past encounters with this wine, making me wonder whether this is meant to teach me something about its maturity curve. Finally, there's a hot-waters/clay stench I've also found in Mann's Pinot Gris from this vineyard, all you geology fiends take note. (Dec. 1, 2011)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Rieslaner Spatlese, 2005

A tough note to write up. I know Rieslaner is one of those Teutonic crosses with Riesling in the mix, but the more I drink it, the less obvious do I find the family resemblance. And the less am I able to fathom how this grape behaves. This time, I find a spicy kick resembling a Pinot Gris from Alsace, while the body starts out with the feathery lightness of Riesling,without quite the noble forebear's verve and exquisite balance of sweet fruit and acidity. Instead it has a luscious sex appeal reminiscent of Scheurbe. The aromatics are complex enough to make it a wine to contemplate for hours, especially as it never really gives a straight answer to anything. Was that mint in there? Is there a red tint to the fruit? Or was that mango? Is this the white wine equivalent of brett??!! It does taste really good. That's about the only answer it's willing to eke out. (Dec. 3, 2011)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Astrolabe, Sauvignon Blanc, Voyage, 2010

Ah, I think I actually get the cat's pee this time, and the gooseberries are so lush, I can almost smell the bloom of whatever flowers these bushes sport (assuming they do, botany is not exactly my strong suit). I love this, I mean, I've liked Kiwi SB's before, and I've flirted with the Astrolabe, but I'm smitten this time by the combination of flowers and salinity, and the mineral depths that are softly delineated on such a light framework. (Dec. 5, 2011)

Mersch, 147 NIS (I paid less).

Donnhoff, Nahe, Norheimer Kirschheck, Riesling Spätlese, 2004

I just love Donnhoff so much, and I was excited all day at the prospect of ending my Friday evening sipping this wine as a digestif - I'd gone too long without a German Riesling and now I feel replenished. This is all about purity, finesse and elegance, as nature, God or Helmut seem to have applied a measured dose of minerals to the fresh, lively fruit with laser-sharp precision. The playful touch of salinity on the finish, at the crest of the vibrant acidity that lends the fruit such great length, is especially sublime. (Dec. 9, 2011)

Giaconda, current releases are about 170-180 NIS.

Domaine des Lambrays, Morey St. Denis Premier Cru, 2002

Here's the lowdown on the contents of this juice: a blend of two premiers crus, La Riotte and Le Village, plus 50% young vines Clos des Lambrays. While it does possess enough complexity on both nose and palate to prove the mettle of its pedigree, it doesn't really have Premier Cru body and presence, let alone Grand Cru. However, there is plenty of blood, earth and Cote de Nuits spices and good interplay of fruit and structure. A nice wine to enjoy at home, even if I've had a number of Bourgognes that gave my palate a more sensual massage. I'm not sure I want sensual every time, but I admit I got more pleasure out of the Deux Montillles Bourgogne recently; less challenges, more pleasure - at this level of quality, pleasure is more important than a challenge, methinks. (Dec. 10, 2011)

WineRoute sold it for 200 NIS a while back, which would have been a good deal, had this lived up to the label.

Huet, Vouvray, Pétillant Brut, 2005

I just had to know what flavors and textures Chenin Blanc brings to a sparkling wine - or is it the other way around?

At first, this is remarkably yeasty - almost unbearingly so, and I love yeasty! Thirty minutes on, the yeasts start to calm down, transforming into more palatable toast and brioche, the fruit comes out to play, and I get citrus, chalk and vaguely marine notes. This is very tasty, with refreshing acidity and a subtly saline finish. I'm not an expert on sparkling wines, but this being Huet, I'd say it's a no-brainer candidate for cellaring for a few years. (Dec. 16, 2011)

Giaconda, 140 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Haardter Herrenletten, Riesling Spätlese, 2006

The cork is totally wet, with a big glob of gunk on the outer end, and the color is on the wrong side of promising. The contents don't lack acidity per se - if you relax, it comes out to say hello - but the overall effect is almost that of a dessert wine, and thus at odds with the body of this Spatlese, making for a cloying effect. It's a testament to Riesling's noble pedigree that it shows just enough liveliness to exhibit classic Pfalz spiciness, but other than that, this bottle kinda sucks. (Dec. 18, 2011)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Marcel Deiss, Grasberg Bergheim Premier Cru, 2004

This is made of equal (?) parts of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, which seem to have melded into a seamless whole on the palate, where the sweetness is balanced by the salinity. Sometimes I find the quinine bitterness of Alsatians off-putting, but here it's just a background note that lends interest. The nose has a smoky character that seems to have been equally contributed by the Riesling and the Pinot Gris. In addition, there's spices and a hint of petrol. All in all, the nose, which grows ever more complex, offers decent finesse and charm, moreso than the palate. As the wine opens, the  Gewurztraminer asserts itself more and more, so you get a sense of the basic essence of Gewurtz without its overt characteristics. (Dec. 21, 2011)

A very good, ineteresting buy at 200 NIS from Giaconda.

Bouchard, Nuits-Saint-Georges, 2007

In the latter-day perception of Bourgogne, the big negociants are not held in the same esteem and regard as the smaller, artisan producers. But Bouchard is one of the better of the 'biggies' and this is good stuff. The nose is an intoxicating depiction of down-home Burgundy - fresh red fruit, minerals, a little sauvage - while the palate is at an intersection, where savory red fruit cuts a swath across brooding, slightly dusty tannins. There's a solid backbone of acidity and it makes for solid drinking right now. I'm not that sure about the future, though. (Dec. 22, 2012)

God bless the WineRoute two-fer-300 NIS deals. Because at that price, I can ignore the lack of flair and my doubts about its aging potential.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2009

At first, this bottle seems to be more about Gamay than about Morgon, then its breed shows as a pungent mineral streak that is even more powerful and complex than in previous appearances. And there's the icing on the cake: a note of blood and iron that is graceful and rustic at the same time. Hmmmm, for a wine that sees so little sulphur - this is about my tenth bottle across three different vintages and not a bad bottle among the lot. (Dec. 23, 2011)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

A rainy winter evening, roast beef and this, my haven wine. Totally North Rhone: loads of black pepper on the nose, juicy red fruit on the palate, with silky, slightly dusty, tannins, and a hint of olive tapenade on the finish. I have guests over and I'm kinda loath to share this, even though I'm generous with other, more expensive wines: this is my secret mistress and now I have only one bottle left. (Dec. 24, 2011).

WineRoute, about 130 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurzgarten, Riesling Spatlese, 2009

I needed to wash the traces of a half glass of Blue Nun from earlier in the evening off my suffering lips, so I turned to this blatantly more worthwhile specimen. The signature "apples on frosty slate" itself is worth the price of entry, before the bracing acidity and the typical Wurzgarten aromatics (spicy, baked apples) make me keel over with pleasure. It would be a waste not to let it age for at least three more years. (Dec. 26, 2011)

WineRoute, 160 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2007

It's just great when you wait and wait and cellar a wine and finally your patience pays off (and it didn't hurt that I opened the bottle two hours before the first pour). The awkwardness that I've seen in the former bottles and vintages during the wine's puberty has vanished and instead I get aromas of citrus fruit, citrus blossom - and a melange of spicy pears and light earthiness that is like a cross between Cote Chalonnaise, Meursault and Champagne. The palate is light, yet vibrant, mildly spicy with a solic backbone of acidity and salinity. It captures that zest that made the Rully my favorite Villaine white in previous vintages, yet with the 'seriousness' of maturity. So now I know how long to hold on to my Les Clous 2008's and will start buying the Les Clous again and not just the Rully. (Dec. 29, 2011)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau, Oestricher Lenchen, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

This is a rather heavier, candied style of German Riesling, the apples on both nose and palate leaning towards baked apples rather than fresh red and green ones. I'd have expected racier acidity from a 2004, but this is very lush and hedonistic, which fits New Year's Eve, but not always what I have in mind from Germany. Having said that, it is tasty in its buxom way and there are hints of petrol on the nose, which is always nice. (Dec. 31, 2011)

This comes from the initial shipment when Giaconda started, six or sever years ago, and I'd like to think they wouldn't charge 220 NIS for a Rheingau Spatlese these days, even if the producer is bio-dynamic.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Things I Do For Love (Dec. 17, 2011)

Bernhard Ecker

I drink a lot of wines at home, and sometimes my wife actually pays attention and gulps down a wine with gusto, signifying it's a wine to live with, as opposed to yon wine geek simply peering up his butthole to contemplate the contents of his goblet.

And sometimes I try to court her with something special. Which she deserves. Sometimes she actually lets me.

Some really special evenings are a mixture of both.

On this Saturday night, Efrat stir-fried some zucchini, cabbage, onions and fennel. I expounded by sprinkling cumin and paprika. The end result seemed to call for Gruner.

Ecker-Eckhof, Berg Wagram, Gruner Veltliner, 2010

I'd like to think the minerals and white pepper on the nose, plus the roundness of the palate, would have had me peg this as a GruVe in a blind tasting. In a non-blind setting, it sure feels typical. Whatever, it strikes such a savory balance of acidity, salinity and juicy sweetness of fresh apricots that I have this ear-marked as a new house white - it's almost too easy to drink, while an exotic flair on the nose makes things even more interesting and exciting. (Dec. 17, 2011)

I believe Eldad Levi and Eigy Alony are calling their Austrian import boutique Wine Domains Of Austria - however they call themselves,they sell this for 119 NIS.

For the second act, I suggested a dessert bottle for two.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Ruwer-Saar, Riesling Beerenauslese, 2006

Presumably, if I read the label correctly, the Loosen staff picked BA-level grapes from all over their vineyard holdings. Thus, this is supposedly a bargain-basement beerenauslese. Now, Efrat complained about this being cloying and I can certainly see her POV, as I've had livelier dessert wines, but to my palate, the balance is good, albeit not outstanding, enough to make this yummy while avoiding any distractions. The nose oozes so much clementine and apricot toffee that it overwhelms a strand of botrytis funk that just hangs there all on its lonesome, waiting to be invited to the party. The palate is, well, as hedonistic as hell. I love it when dessert wines stick a tongue of juicy acidity up my canals, and if this wench doesn't quite live up to that, at least it smothers me with affection. Thus, just very good, not great.

WineRoute, about 100 NIS for a 187 ml bottle.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 - Hightlights and Discoveries

I don't really enjoy writing anything besides tasting notes, so I'll make the obligatory annual summary short and sweet:

Chave vertical tasting Didier Deguenau tasting Pomerol tasting Exploring Beaujolais Cru Louis Dupont Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Daniel Lifshitz's Burgundy Tastings Habasta with Zachy and Itai WineRoute starts importing Dubeouf Giaconda starts importing Huet Palmer and Mouton on my 45th birthday Eldad Levi starts importing Austrian wines Rogov dies Recanati Wild Carignan and Syrah/Viognier Reserves Ran Shapira's birthday (lots of Grand Crus!) Sociando-Mallet 89 with Efrat Toto and Cafe Italia Vietnamese in New York My first Huet

And I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon.