Saturday, April 28, 2012

Barkan Assemblage

I apologize if I'm infringing on someone's copyright for this photo,
but it's the best example I could find to highlight how this lovely wine
also sports a label that break's the mold of Barkan's previous, stuffy image.

Assemblage, Barkan's new series, highlighting terroir, excited me both when I read about in the online wine media and when I tasted the wines.

I noticed a minute after pouring a glass to my wife that I described the Eitan to her simply as "you'll like it, it's very tasty", which is usually what I tell her when I serve a German Riesling.

Barkan, Assemblage, Eitan, 2008

Virtually half Syrah, half Merlot, with a little Cabernet Sauvignon tossed in. A pleasant nose of of ripe fruit, mostly red, with some leather for good measure. The palate is ripe and friendly, with balanced acidity and a dusty finish. A very honest wine and savory enough to tempt even me. (Apr. 1, 2012)

About 90 NIS. Certain people, of a mind not unlike my own, seemed to like the Eitan, so I knew I'd like it, but I really didn't expect to find another Israeli wine I'd earmark for a re-purchase, especially when on discount. Even if the basic Yarden Cabernet was still being sold for a similar price, I'd pass it by for this.

 I suspect Catholics feel this way
when the white smoke announces a new Pope

Since I'd already tasted Barkan's Reichan and wasn't excited enough to buy, I went on to try the final piece in the Assemblage trio, and potentially the most interesting one due to its weird varietal blend of grapes grown mostly nowhere else: predominantly Marselan (WTF?) and Caladoc (say what?), with touches of Carignan and Pinotage.

Barkan, Assemblage, Tzafit, 2009

Right of the bat, the sheer idiosyncracy of the blend is patently there on the nose. If someone had told me Tibetian monks made it from grapes from Mars grown on the slopes of the Himalayas, I wouldn't bat an eye.There's a a fairly complex, dusty concoction of spices that reminds me of Barolo, but without the diesel-powered hum of Nebbiolo, plus a few quirks of its own. The palate is not quite as complex as that, nor very intense, but its warmth and friendliness carry a similarly unique stamp of character. Sometimes personality goes a long way (I know, I've cribbed this line in the past) and the fact that the fruit is so firmly red toned doesn't hurt. Nor the fact that it the finish displays my numero uno litmus test: s-a-v-o-r-i-n-e-s-s!( Apr. 8, 2012)

About 90 NIS. I can go back to reading the Claremont/Byrne X-Men run now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

God Bless The French - Dinner At Pronto (Mar. 31, 2012)

Two excellent French wines at a mediocre degustation dinner at Italian restaurant, Pronto. Both wines cost about 500 NIS.

Deiss, Mambourg Grand Cru, 2004

A zany, knockout nose, with lots of fossils and flint, the fruit (pears, baked apples) way in the background. Somehow, all the trillion Pinot varieties in the field blend make for an initial aromatic Burgundian impression, with the sweetness of Pinot Gris coming into bloom on the palate, which is very Alsatian. Even the quinine that laces the mid-palate and finish is very appropriate here. Impressive, complex and balanced.


Delas, Cote-Rotie, La Landonne, 2001

I had assumed that this would be a modern blockbuster striving for the style of the Guigal's La-La's, but this is quite old school (I think, I do wish I had more experience so I could be dead certain).  Leather, black pepper, bacon, swell acidity, red fruit with a hint of black. Soft, feminine, without loss of length. I love wines like this that thrive on their acidity, although there is also a pleasant tannic bite on the finish. Harmonic and finessed and shows just how delicious a mature red can be. Simply a classic Cote-Rotie!

Imported by Anavim years ago. Since I'd always distrusted their storage facilities, I opened this on the early side.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Mar. 2012)

Donnhoff jams econo! See below...
Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese, Trocken, 2006

Although I don't score wines anymore, I'll make an exception and state that this is a 90-pointer. The reason I'm going to all this trouble is for context. This wine stands at the gate of comfortable excellence, which it can reach or exceed in other vintages, and it makes a good case for trocken Rieslings. The nose shows a mineral-laden sense of identity and terroir; you sense its Riesling-ness in the melange of minerals, spices and even a hint of petrol and you can sense a focus that strives to describe its place of origin. And then there's an echo of mango and passion-fruit that possibly reflect the vintage. The palate is crisp and dry, but with a sense of sweetness of fruit (echoing the summer fruits from the nose) and a long, spicy finish - and it unfolds in an interesting yet reserved manner. It says stuff, lots of stuff, but it doesn't make an issue of elaborating too much about what it's saying. Finally, it's becoming more refined each time I drink it, although I'm not sure I regret finishing off my stash with this bottle (Mar. 1, 2012)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

A. Et. P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Rouge, La Digoine, 2008

Ah, sous bois! It's a always a good sign when rotting forest leaves jump out of your Burgundy glass and greet you with a warm hello.

This is a lighter wine than the previous vintages I've tried, with delicate, demure aromatics, but it manages to impress my taste buds nonetheless. In fact, I suspect maturity would actually refine the delicacy, while the emerging purity of fruit would render it more powerful somehow. Contradiction can be the greatest expression of truth. (Mar. 8, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Norheimer Kirschheck, Riesling Spatlese, 2008

This is brilliant. The aromatics already display complexity and depth, and a pretty interplay of apples and minerals that impresses with a sense of identity. And the palate, wow, the palate shows a lithe body, laser-like focus and juicy, succulent fruit and acidity. As usual, the Donnhoff elegance is amazing - maybe if I drank it with the products of Donnhoff's better vineyards, some of the cracks in the veneer would show, but on its own, it makes the evening sparkle. (Mar. 9, 2012)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Bouchard, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2007

I drank this last year and was struck by its enjoyability, and great QPR, as it was sold on a two-for-150 NIS discount at WineRoute. I was surprised how well it was drinking, given that Meadows, for instance, predicted a drinking window starting in 2014. Looking at the mediocre type of cork on the bottle I've just opened, I don't think Bouchard were as optimistic about its staying powers, although perhaps the Burghound tasted a different bottling than I have. Whatever, at first impression anyway, this bottle is less vibrant, the nose less forthcoming, the palate less finely delineated. Little by little, it blooms, displaying its Gevrey-ness, such as it is, but even at its peak, tasty as it is, its bloom is nowhere as good as last year's and I've been drinking better Bourgognes lately at this price point. (Mar. 17, 2012)

Bouchard, Nuit-St.Georges, 2007

This, on the other hand, is an improvement on the previous showing and a much better wine than the Gevrey. It's feral and earthy, with a mushroom-y note over fragrant red Pinot fruit, perhaps on the light and acidic side at first, but the soft red fruit buoys quite well with air to offset any undue astringency. There are some raspy tannins in the background, but the fruit is soft enough that I probably wouldn't have called this as a Nuits in a blind tasting. (Mar. 22, 2012)

WineRoute, a different two-for-150 NIS deal.

"When something is wrong with my baby, something is wrong with me"
Typically, I find solace is a German Riesling.
Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling Spatlese, Trocken, 2006

I find apples in the Nahe, but they're never as intrinsically and intensely apple-ish as in the Mosel, and besides, I find them to be to be red rather than green, as in this case, and tempered by summer fruits, also in this case. To continue with the current sample, on the non-fruity side of the spectrum, there's petrol and sea breeze and other mineral aspects that continually unfold and add detail twists to the tale. On the palate, there's purity, grip and depth, but only decent complexity and length and while the acidity is not exactly shy, neither is the baby fat that I don't intuit is just a matter of adolescence. But I've been known to be wrong. I miss the ethereal elegance of the Halenbergs, but this is a good drop. (Mar. 23, 2012)

Giaconda, about 170 NIS.

Shvo Vineyards, Red, 2009

The current trend in Israeli wine circles is to promote the cultivation of Rhone grape varieties. A close inspection reveals they don't mean just Syrah, but also white Rhone varieties and GSM blends. Oddly, some of the people who preach this have cut down on their GSM purchases (me among them) and have virtually never even strayed into white Rhone realms (I have made a few forays into fairly marquee names; Condrieu? I find it gaudy at best, flabby in other cases; white Hermitage and CdP? Interesting in youth and full maturity, peanut soup in between and a gamble in any case). Gaby Sadan adds Barbera to the classic formula, although I'm not a good enough taster to discern it - all I get is something between a CdR and a Gigondas, tasty and approachable, with a dusty/peppery nose and a tannic structure that seems to mock the usual jammy local idiom. Given that I'd rather drink a dozen St. Josephs or Crozes for each Gigondas or Vacqueyras, I still like this. (Mar. 25, 2012)

95 NIS. This could serve as a companion-piece to Recanati's Syrah-Viognier and it's really, really cool that it's about a third cheaper. On the other hand, I have to honestly say it doesn't have the Recanati's wow factor, either.

And speaking of the devil...

Recanati, Syrah-Viognier, Reserve, 2010

At first, this is so brooding it reminds me of the Wild Carignan's somber earthiness, unlike the 2009 S-V, which sang of sunshine. The fruit is blacker this year, but is not over ripe and is vibrant with typical Syrah pepperiness, and besides the black pepper, there's a bit of meatiness. Maybe someone's going after Cornas this year (the 2009 had a more immediate, Saint Joseph kind of approachability, at a roughly similar stage)? Whatever, the tannins are dusty and even now lend the wine a savory appeal.  (Mar. 26, 2012)

The price, as always in Israel, falls into the Your Mileage May Vary category. Let's just say anywhere between 120 and 150 NIS.

Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-Saint-Georges, 2006

Even the initial pour, even while the wine is still relatively closed, is very Nuits in its earthiness. It's a deceptively simple wine, whose soft fruit belies its dusty tannins; yet despite the relative simplicity, I enjoy its purity of red fruit - and my faith pays off, because the nose develops greater nuances and depth, and the earthy aromas gain an almost tactile presence and a slightly meaty background; while the tannins lend the cheerful red cherries a pungent bite. At this point, though, the appeal is largely intellectual, and I'd wait a few more years for my next bottle. (Mar. 28, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 200 NIS.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bourgogne Odds and Ends

An ugly label, an attractive wine

Tomer Gal came out with the Burgundy Wine Collection 2012 catalog a couple of months ago. The following wines from said catalog each represent some sort of new experience for me.

My first Cremant de Bourgogne.

Vitteaut-Alberti, Crémant de Bourgogne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, n..v (actually all 2009 fruit)

This is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Aligote. It's the first wine listed in the winery's site, so presumably it's the entry level. This is a nice wine, delicious (the bottle was gone within ninety minutes) not profound nor complex nor especially long, and the mousse is coarse and unattractive, but at its price, it's a very attractive alternative to  the Cavas imported locally. It has a mineral tinge to it, and is also suitably yeasty, but all that's backed up by solid fruit, some of which has a tropical characters, which I think is contributed by the vintage - although I've also come across it in some Aligote based wines, so who knows. (Mar. 2, 2012)

90 NIS.

My first l'Arlot.

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

The domaine is one of the new additions to Tomer Gal's catalog this year and this wine is basically the domaine's entry-level, one step up from Bourgogne. It shows earthy, slightly vegetal Pinot fruit, with a healthy pinch of exotic spices and a lightly meaty pungency. The fruit is very red, and despite the ripeness of the vintages, it is on the light-bodied side of the Pinot Noir spectrum, with soft tannins that hint at savoriness and a welcome (to my tastes) astringency. Air brings out a very rustic vivacity and the final glass, after three hours, is really something else. (Mar. 3, 2012)

160 NIS.

Yowsah! Another winner!

I've had Beaune reds, of course, but never this simple AOC. Of course, Vougeraie always make good value entry level wines (e.g. Terres de Famille) wines, but it's an extra thrill and interest to have one from a relatively specific locale.

Domaine De La Vougeraie, Cote de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches, 2009

This here is just what I would like to get from all young Burgundy reds. Specifically, I get aromas of suave red fruit with a mineral streak, reminiscent of gunpowder, a funky overlay as well, and, finally, a just-so slightly roasted character in keeping with the warm vintage, And a tasty, savory fruit and soft tannin combo on the palate, where there's a lightly green herbal streak, albeit the crunchy fruit complements it quite well, and the saline finish is especially delicious. Will it age? Probably, but this is so good right now - so much exactly what I like, right now - that I might not bother to find out. (Mar. 14, 2012)

150 NIS.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Vire-Clesse, 2010

I'm a fan of Lafon's Macon project and this year Tomer has added a new village bottling to the catalog, the Vire-Clesse, which is the first Macon village to be awarded its own AOC without the Macon prefix. Technically, legally, I'm not sure it's a huge difference, but supposedly it's due to the higher level of quality in the Macon-Vire and Macon-Clesse villages, of which the new AOC was comprised. Since the level of wine-making at Heritiers du Comte Lafon is very high, the difference between the many Macon labels is usually that of terroir rather than quality, so this doesn't feel like a leap upwards, compared to the wines I've drunk in the past, but it's quite lively and lovely, with aromas of fossil, clay, dried grass and citrus fruit, which reverberate on the palate. Like other Burgundy whites south of the Cote, it's rounder and somewhat sweeter than its more prestigious brethren (but the tasty acidity restrains the fruit nicely), but with less oak and earlier approachability, there's almost no risk of heartbreak - just buy and pop. If you've been reading this blog because you share my tastes, you'll love it. (Mar. 16, 2012)

150 NIS.

Roulot is hardly a recent addition to the portfolio and I've tasted the domaine's wares in the past, but never this favorite among the local cognescenti.

Domaine Guy Roulot, Bourgogne Blanc, 2009

This is the kind of cerebral wine that gives white Burgundies their great name. And best of all, you don't need to tempt pre-mox fate by aging it. I get the Meursault terroir, what with the roasted cashews on the nose, but there's plenty of flint and clay and citrus as well, no pears, and the palate is an elegant and light specimen for the warm vintage. Very tasty, with a saline, chalky finish, and an acid backbone that grows bolder with air and warmth. Should keep for a couple of years. (Mar 19, 2012)

140 NIS.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cafe 48 - Another Visit To My New Haven (Mar. 15, 2012)

Location, location, location: Cafe 48, seventy six years ago

Great friends, great wine, great food, in more or less that particular order, was what I needed to light up a gloomy day.

Larmandier-Bernier, Terre de Vertus, nv (actually all 2006 but labelled nv)

A somewhat austere Champagne with a brainy appeal due to its depth and clarity, while the nose offers classic brioche and minerals, and baked apples morphing into green ones. Very, very good.

Domaine Weinbach, Schlossberg Grand Cru, Cuvee St. Catherine, l'Inedit, 2004

The nose is complex enough with petrol and spices leading the apples and grapefruit. The palate offers good acidity and ripe fruit that creates an illusion of sweetness (at 13.5% ABV, I doubt there's much residual sugar in there) and a spicy, long finish that, as usual for Alsace, winds up on the  bitter and alcoholic side. The coarse medicinal finish is the deal breaker, but at least the l'Inedit makes no attempts to flatter.

Giaconda, 369 NIS. When I tasted it three and a half years ago, I thought it was too young for me to decide whether the price tag was justified; at this point, I'm afraid I've concluded that it's not.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1995

At sixteen plus years, the nose is still reticent at first (despite having been opened five hours prior to the first sip, just like the next wine) but fairly quickly opens up to reveal lead pencil, new leather, black fruit. In short, textbook Pauillac. The palate echoes the nose, with a well balanced blend of fruit, acidity and tannins that are suave and rough hewn at the same time. The way the tannin crunch builds up to a savory finish is why I'm hooked on Bordeaux.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000

This is riper than the 1995, yet still possesses the same immaculate balance, the same grainy-yet-smooth tannins, the same sense of savory vibrancy - even if the tannins are less resolved at this point. Better than the 1995 even now, with miles ahead of it. If the 1995 still needs five years or so to fully compose itself, this needs at least ten.

GPL is imported by WineRoute. I have my own bottle of each and they cost about 100 USD at K&L Wines.

Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, 1986

Really off, not TCA, but rather something that calls for a professional to decipher. We waited in vain for a recovery that never materialized.

WineRoute for recent vintages and again about 100 USD from K&L Wines.

Tua Rita, Guisto di Notri, Toscana IGT, 2004

The first two or three times that I tasted the Guisto di Notri, I didn't get it and thought it was another Parker Hallmark Card ode to ripeness and extraction. I was wrong. This proves the merit of Super-Tuscans with lots of spare change. The fruit is ripe, for sure, but there's plenty of sauteed mushrooms and pungent earthiness to temper that. Mouth-filling with a tannic mineral-laden finish and a simply lovely acidity that screams Tuscany. Lovely and complex.

WineRoute, last time I checked these were sold for about 250-300 NIS.