Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Note's For You (Mar. 30, 2012)

"I'm special, so special..."

If I like you, if I really like you, I'll open my best bottles for you. If you're not there to share the joy, I'll just share the beauty with the best words I can find.

Case in point: today I ran another race. the 10K at the Tel Aviv Marathon. I was pleased with my time and treated myself to a special wine and drank a silent toast to one of my best friends ever.

A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2004

The reason I prefer Chardonnay in its Champagne incarnation is the way the citrus-y aspects of the grape are emphasized in this form (same as in Chablis, my other favorite Chard). Here, the citrus fruit is coupled with gorgeous chalk and typical brioche on the nose, while the palate is steely in a Chablis Grand Cru way. Yet, while it's very delicious right now, the tension on the palate only hints at potential complexity. Do I feel any remorse at opening this now? Nah, the fact that this will only get better doesn't diminish the pleasure it offers now. I wanted to spoil myself, and no matter how good this will get, it spoiled me silly today.

All of the above only begins to hint at the abstraction of the Champagne experience this offers. Hey, there's a reason the Special Clubs are called "special" as opposed to, say, "same old, same old".

Boutique de Champagnes, 329 NIS.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Galil Mountain Winery

Galil Mountain Winery were kind enough to send me some samples of their lower-tier wines (as well as the pictures included herein), which is a first for me, actually reviewing wines like this. Having said that, I haven't drunk any of their wines in ages, but in my first couple of years as a wine geek, I was rather fond of their Sauvignon Blanc and Yiron, before my tastes shifted and expanded.

It seems, however, that the labels changed while I wasn't looking.

Alon, 2009

This is a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Syrah, 9% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, and it weighs in at, drum rolls, 15% ABV, which I find extravagant on paper, although it manages to carry the alcohol decently. It's ripe, with pleasant green streaks, overall very round and flattering, and there's a candied aspect that makes me think of Australian Shiraz. But it's a tasty drop and the dusty tannins complement the sweet fruit handsomely. And despite the Australian resemblance, it's quite Israeli without too many of the glaring the faults that I'm usually too inclined to dwell on. (Mar. 7, 2012)

About 70 NIS and good value for that, especially if you don't need 'interesting' as much as you need 'delicious'. Which is really all you should be looking for at this price point, anyway, and if you are looking for tasty, you came to the right place.

Pinot Noir, 2010

I guess if you're willing to accept 15% ABV in a Bordeaux-plus-blend, you shouldn't have an issue with a 145 ABV Pinot, but for me, it raised my hackles even higher. The initial impression enforces my prejudice, as the nose shows an alcoholic streak, along with candied fruit. Otherwise, there's some complexity and interest there and a comely earthiness that Pinot will almost always give you, if you treat it right - as well as a Mediterranean herbaceousness. But the palate, I'm sad to report, is not the most balanced expression of Pinosity that I could imagine (and my imagination is pretty darn good, where Pinot is concerned). (Mar. 11, 2012)

About 70 NIS, too, and as always, I have to wonder what makes so many wineries attempt Pinot at a price point where you really can't do the variety justice. I guess someone has to stock the kosher table with every possible grape, and Golan Heights Winery, and their daughter winery, Galil Mountain, are always ready to take one for the team.

And we have a winner!

Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

Of all the samples that the winery provided me, this was perhaps the one I was most looking forward to tasting. And my anticipation was amply rewarded.It leans towards the New Zealand paradigm, with gooesberries, green apples, lime and minerals on the nose and a crisp palate that culminates in a hint of salinity. It's vibrant and refreshing and although arguably a little austere even for an SB, it yet shows why mass production works sometimes, no sarcasm or irony intended. (Mar. 12, 2012)

55 NIS. I think the price is higher than I remember from 7-8 years back, but I'd buy again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Which 2GrandCru Plays Teacher (Mar. 10, 2012)

The Shermans, especially Yahali, are my wine proteges, sort of, and I've been teaching them the ropes for a few years now. I think the evening's lesson was an especially rich experience. Let's just say I wanted to drink well.

Francois Jobard, Meursault Premier Cru, Poruzots, 2004

How I prayed for a good bottle, as a Premier Cru from this producer can be quite amazing on the one hand, while I've been batting .500 with Jobard on the other. The first whiff and sniff are certainly reassuring, with all the fossil-laden complexity you'd like to get from a white Buorgogne, and that a great vineyard like Poruzots is supposed to deliver. However, by the time I got to the Shermans, an hour later, it had gone all flat with only a monolithic note of dull pears. The lesson here is: I'm going to curb my purchases of white B's that require cellaring.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 350 NIS at the time.

Bricco Rocche, Ceretto, Barolo, Prapo, 2000

The nose immediately impresses with its typicity: red fruit, tar and spices and the aromatic depth and complexity you'd expect from a single vineyard Barolo. Flat out amazing! The attack on the palate seems as though the overall effect would be overwhelming, but the fruit, acidity, alcohol and spicy tannins are in fine balance, and the ripeness of the vintage comes across in a friendly warmth on the finish, as opposed to ripe bluster. Onlike the Pozurots, it keeps giving the whole evening through.

This was yet another McArthur purchase, 60-70 USD four years back, to the best of my recall.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Small, Ecclectic Collection Of Wines (Mar. 4, 2012)

The night's theme: Not French!

I came anyway.

La Vicalanda, Rioja Gran Reserva, 2004

Very much Rioja, albeit young! Elegant red fruit, some leather, a hint of mushrooms. Very tasty and savory, not obviously oaky, but then we were drinking the remnants of a bottle opened the previous evening. This makes me long for more Rioja.

Pott, Pantagruel, Napa Valley, Hagen Heights, Cabernet Franc, 2007

Aromatically attractive, with an intense nose that is more about spices and balsam - and later on a bit of meat - than fruit. The palate is still raw after five hours, but there's good substance and balance and this New World wine fits into my tastes.

75 USD.

Mauro, Tudela de Duero, Vendimia Seleccionada, 1996

A ripe and perfumed, piercing nose. There's a stink in there that's vaguely bretty, let's just call it leathery. The palate is muscular yet elegant with Spanish acidity. It's modern yet will pair with hearty food.

Lisini, Ugolaia, Brunello di Montalcino, 2001

Very Old World. A TCA suspect. I disagree with said accusations and it was one of the nicest BdM's I've had.

Szt. Tamas, Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttyontus, 1991

Very yummy and pure, maybe not spectacularly complex, but addictive nonetheless.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Corton, Corton-Charlemagne (Feb. 29, 2012)

So, once again Daniel Lifshitz twisted a few arms, got some of us to bring some wines, others to subsidize the cheese and breads and piled up a lot of arcane data into a powerpoint presentation. All to highlight the weirdest hill in Burgundy, where plots and sub-plots combine to create a battleground of Pinot vs. Chardonnay, which the Chardonnay proceeds to win hands down.

First, the obligatory appertif:

Deux Montilles, Bourgogne Blanc, 2009

A ripe wine, yet lean and fossil-mineral-laden at the same time. I like.

So we all know red Corton sucks, right? Or, to be more politically correct, it is yet to be ascertained whether the Corton Grand Cru AOC justifies its ranking. Because Corton is so iffy, I have rated the samples tasted based on how close they approach the ideal of a Grand Cru. My ideal, anyway.

Lucien Le Moine, Corton Le Clos du Roi, 1999

Band-aid  funk with a surprising sense of poise, coming as it does after the funk. Also some iodine. The palate is beefier, rustic, with roughly hewn tannins. A passable Premier Cru.

It's Le Moine, so it's over-priced.

Michel Picard, Corton, Hospices de Beaune, 2002

A riper nose, almost liquor-ish, all the while retaining its Pinosity, sous bois and salnity. Powerful yet elegant, this doesn't hook, it jabs. An excellent Premier Cru.

Not imported to Israel, about 100 USD

Bonneau du Martray, Corton, 2002

An unrewarding nose: overt band- aid and a roasted fruit profile; and a one dimensional palate. A mediocre Villages, which I carried for Daniel from London.

Not imported to Israel.

Joseph Drouhin, Corton-Bressandes, 2006 

The funk is minerally here, gun powdery, a la de Montille. Very good, almost a Grand Cru.

Scottish Company, about 400 NIS?

And now the whites. Corton-Charlemagne is the last affordable white Grand Cru. Except for Chablis, which is played out on a different field.

Vincent Girardin, Corton-Charlemagne, 2004

Honeyed, flinty Bourgogne, with some sesame oil. Dense and multi-layered, yet elegant. Very detailed on both nose and palate - and very, very long.

WineRoute, about 500 NIS.

De Montille, Corton-Charlemagne, 2007

Just how tight is this? Catholic-anal tight? Dunno. Or maybe this just proves Etienne's lack of jism with whites. Furthermore, it's debateable how typical a Corton-Charlemagne this will evolve into. But it still manages to be tasty.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 620 NIS.

Bouchard, Corton-Charlemagne, 2006

Closed too. I don't think it really matters how good it might turn out to be, because right now I just can't gauge it. But recalling how good the 2004 is, I'd assume this will turn out alright, too.

WineRoute, about 600-700 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Corton-Charlemagne, 2008

A slightly, just slightly, slutty nose with fossil-boned aromas. The complexity builds up exponentially. An elegant, honeyed palate, culminating in a dense, sweetly spicy finish. This, and the Girardin, were the evening's winners.

Scottish Company, I didn't catch the price.

Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne, 1991

The nose presents lovely bottle stink, while the palate is one long, lovely, subtle understatement. Arguably a bit past its best but still one hell of a treat.

Price unknown.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Feb. 2012)

This month's winner hails from this great vineyard, Halenberg

Leitz, Rheingau, Berg Roseneck, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

Something kinda weird happened to a friend of mine last night and watching it unfold spooked me and made me want to get into the mystic. Which is always a good excuse to open a Riesling, right?

This is rather sweeter and a little more cloying than previously, as the acidity seems dormant, so the limpid fruit I usually find in Rheingau is even more pronouncedly limpid than what I find typical for Leitz. The nose is reasonably complex, with apples and peaches complemented by hints of petrol and mushrooms. It's a good, tasty wine, but at this time (or maybe it's just this particular bottle, with its wet, gooey and unpromising cork), it lacks the electric tension I've come to expect from Leitz. (Feb. 3, 2012)

Giaconda. 150 NIS.

Jobard, Meursault, En La Barre, 2005

I deserved this after a three hour drive each way, in a failed attempt to place Max, the 30 kilo dog we're fostering, in a new home. I guess the market for depressed eight year olds with sad, sad eyes isn't as large as one might think. Anyway, the En La Barre had a better performance. It's got typical Meursault nuttiness and typical Jobard minerality and acidity, and while quite forward on both nose and palate, it still retains some demure reserve. I've had some off bottles from Jobard, but when they're on, they're very good value for Bourgogne. This, while a bit rough around the edges, really works, with aromatic complexity, a solid grip, and savory salinity that culminates in a finish of cured meat. (Feb. 4, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 250 NIS at the time, 290 for the 2009 vintage. I know I get all those depressing misses with white Burgundies, but a good one like this is what makes me keep trying.

Ecker-Eckhof, Berg Wagram, Gruner Veltliner, 2010

Okay, so this wine sure didn't last a long time at home. This was the last bottle out of three. I had a slight cold and was drinking a lot of soup and I figured the spicy, peppery nature of Gruner would be a good match. I was right. (Feb. 9, 2012)

Wine Domains Of Austria, 119 NIS.

Georges Dubeouf, Moulin-A-Vent, Flower Series, 2009

Very nice, if not profound, Gamay fruit, with earthy notes and soft, lightly bitter tannins. I'm still not convinced the Flower Series has a lot of cellaring potential. (Feb. 10, 2012)

WineRoute, about 75 NIS.

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

There's a bovine, rubbery, black pepper laden rusticity here that I associate with the less elegant northern Rhone AOC's (which Crozes is, let's admit it) and a surprising level of refinement in the dry, tannic finish complementing the the plump black fruit. (Feb. 11, 2012)

Giaconda, about 150 NIS.

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

As always, the Halenberg showcases the purity and elegance of the Nahe (the German Saint Julien). The 2007 is especially light and ephemeral, with apples, melons and wisps of herbs and smoky minerals transmitting the vineyard's signature with great calm and restraint. In fact, it's so restrained and shy that it's almost Mosel-like in its demureness. This is drinking beautifully now - if somewhat monolithically, yet with great breed - but certainly has enough balance for a long stretch. The complex, understated aromatics by themselves mark this as a great wine, at the level of Prum and Donnhoff, and I'll bet my Leoville-Bartons that the palate will catch up. (Feb. 17, 2012)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Faustino, Rioja, Edicion Especial, 2001

Priced like a Gran Reserve, but labelled outside of the Spanish appellation system, this leans towards modernism, yet is loosely molded in an Old World template. Very Temperanillo, red fruit with accents of tobacco leaves and earth, savory tannins and a saline finish. Needs more time! (Feb. 18, 2012)

Imported by WineRoute, I bought it for about 230 NIS at Bin 281.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2007

Here we go again. This bottle offers more subtle and complex aromatics than last month's bottle. And is that a hint of mushrooms? The palate is crisper and more savory, while retaining a typical lean disposition. It's still on the simple side, but, man, Mosels can be so delightful! (Feb. 23, 2012)

WineRoute, 109-120 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2009

Black fruit with hints of pepper and earth on the nose and hints of chocolate on the palate. The fruit is dense and sweet (not over-ripe, though), but at little loss of finesse and it's complemented by pleasantly drying and spicy tannins, whose savoriness somehow recall Bordeaux. I don't know how it will age -  it's Carignan after all, but I'm optimistic because it has this aura of uniqueness - but it's precious and delicious now. I guess I'll have to get another bottle or two, that's all. (Feb. 25, 2012)

145 NIS.

I also tasted Efrat's cooking wine, which had surprised me at a wedding earlier in the month:

Recanati, Yasmin Red, 2011

Surprisingly tasty and characterful, given its price, sporting cranberries with a green streak that comes across as herbal as opposed to making the palate stingy. (Feb. 25, 2012)

35 NIS.