Monday, June 25, 2012

Friday Morning Event At Tzora - And More (May 25, 2012)

You should note that the first local winery to actively advocate the concept of terroir
is the only one to user the word vineyards in its name.
Tzora was my first.

The first winery I ever visited, just about the first bottles I ever bought, the first wine I served to friends at a gourmet dinner at home.

Things have changed since. Eran Pick has replaced the later Ronnie James (the 'father' of the winery) as head winemaker and  former Petrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet (see below) has been consulting since the 2010 vintage. But Tzora is still a firm advocate of the concept of terroir, as the wines are designated by vineyard and not variety (and, indeed, the blend may and does change from year to year). I think they do a good job, and by that I mean wines that pique my interest, and apparently Michael Skurnik Wines share my enthusiasm: hey, look, a kosher winery is being distributed in the US not by a kosher specialist but by this very fine distributer of class, boutique wineries.


Neve Ilan Blanc, 2011

100% Chardonnay, but there's a tropical, grassy feel to it that reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc. Good acidity, no obvious sign of oak. Hints of minerals that grow stronger, a saline finish. A lovely wine that I plan to revisit.

99 NIS.

Judean Hills, 2010

A dense, masculine nose that reeks of leather, and not just of minerals but rather of rocks. Not overtly ripe, not very elegant either, but tasty and Old World in character. Doesn't show its 14.5 % ABV.

89 NIS.

Shoresh, 2010

Continues the same theme, adding elegance yet even more primary fruit at the same time. Despite feeling riper and fruitier, it feels less approachable. So that's two contradictions, which makes things interesting. This also holds its comfortably contains its 14.5 % ABV.

129 NIS.

Misty Hills, 2009

Combines the best of both of the previous wines: the Old World leathery touch of the Judean Hills with the fruitier statement of the Shoresh. Albeit, the ripeness is more obvious, which might be vintage variation. I don't know, I like the 2010's more and I'm not crazy about the price either.

210 NIS.

Or, 2011

Very typical Gewurtz nose. The palate is lush, with low acidity. No great shakes but it's tasty and I'd definitely understand if it sells out fast..

All in all, I find the 2010's very appealing - despite my antipathetic, unpatriotic bent -showing Old World aesthetics while still displaying signatures of the Tzore vineyards that I recall.

This was supposed to be it for this post, but a few weeks later I attended a more extensive tasting at the winery, consisting of vertical tastings of a few of the dry wines above and I thought the additional impressions were noteworthy.


Neve Ilan Blanc

2010

Saline minerals on the nose. Quite lovely. Starts out Sauvignon Blanc in character and becomes quasi-Chablis. A little tropical on the finish. Decently complex, might need a little time to round out a little although I'd drink it on the early side. I really like it, despite some obvious oak (but it's really at sweet spot where the oak marries the Chardonnay fruit really well).

2009

Classic Chardonnay without over and/or overt manipulation. More reserved than the 2010. The acidity is still a little sharp. Less interesting, for me, than the 2010 - it's somewhat too obvious.

2011

Now this really shows the tropical fruit of a Sauvignon Blanc. Delicious fruit, good acidity. I'll bite. The best of the flight. Subtle oak here. The minerals emerge in time.

Shoresh

2009

Black fruit, minerals, gunpowder, some leather. Sweet fruit in mid-palate. Simple palate, the nose is better. A matter of youth? Might be better with appropriate food. Decent length. Much improvement in glass.

2008

The fruit on the nose is more subtle. Better definition on the palate. After a while I find better performance from the 2008.

2010

(3 hours in decanter) More Bordeaux than the previous wine, with an obviously Israeli flair. Black fruit with a leathery wisp. The most tasty and balanced, constantly shifting between the Bordeaux and Israeli paradigms. You can guess where I'd like it to end up as.

Misty Hills

2009

(Also decanted) A very Israeli nose. Ripe black fruit on the nose. Sweet fruit on the palate. The kind of well made local wine that leaves me indifferent, even when it picks up more aromatic complexity.

2006

(Also decanted) Ripe fruit again, but more detailed and a little subtler on the palate. I prefer this. There's something about the spices here that balances out the Israeli ripeness that I usually don't really like. Later I decided it had a green tint reminiscent of old school Bordeaux.

2007

Midway between the two previous. Blacker than both, sweet, but tasty for all that. Israeli but focused without the welcome green tint I found in the 2006. More powerful than the 2006 without being jammy. The 2006 is arguably the more interesting wine, but this might be the better.

For whatever reasons, I find it easier to get into the Shoresh than the Misty Hills, but I'll reserve final judgement until I taste the 2010. Eran is making obvious progress with each vintage, consulting nowithstanding -  Bourrouet only consults on the red wines and the improvement is as obvious with the Neve Ilan Blanc.

Or, 2006

This artificial icewine has somehow developed botrytis-like mustard and dried fruit. The fruit is still lively, even if the acidity low keyed. My impressions of previous encounters don't make a good case on the merits of aging this (my formula is, if cellaring doesn't make a noticeable improvement or change, I don't spare the fridge space just for the sake of age), it sure was nice to re-visit.



Monday, June 18, 2012

2004 Bourgognes at Bertie (June 7, 2012)

We really had a good thing going!
Bertie is a small bistro-bar that opened in Tel Aviv last summer. It was my first time on the premises and I will surely be back (even though they don't have an Burgundy glasses and we actually had a set delivered to us from a competitor establishment by cab).

Etienne Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champ-Canet, 2004

The initial impression is mostly lime and minerals, then sauteed mushrooms, honey and a hint of river water. Balanced, focused and saline with lovely acidity and keeps improving in glass.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 400 NIS.

Etienne Sauzet, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Perrieres, 2004

Wonderful acidity with a very interesting palate presence and more refined on the palate than the Champ-Canet. A few hours later:  the nose continues the direction delineated by the Champ-Canet with a touch of cake-y sweetness. The sweetness is echoed on the palate while the refined balance is somehow maintained. There's a note of minerals that is less obvious than it was on the Champ-Canet, and yet, there's a forceful mineral persistence on the finish.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 400 NIS.

Domaine Arlaud, Clos De La Roche Grand Cru, 2004

Sous bois, hide, earth, violets. Deep nose. Gains intensity and presence: the violets especially grow more intense and meld with sweaty funk. Sweetness of mature fruit with a tannic bite on the finish. Here, too, time endows the wine with greater definition over a freewheeling wildness. Grand indeed.

WineRoute, as I recall it was a super deal at 350-400 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, 2004

A sweeter rendition of Grand Cru. But there's that touch of Cote de Nuits spices and light funk. Seamless. Better on the nose. A pungent finish that grows more tannic. An espresso note lends the spices an extra kick in time.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 800-900 NIS.

Chateau Rayne-Vigneau, Bommes Premier Cru, 2001

Not all Sauternes are created equal. And this from a guy who doesn't go ga-ga over Sauternes in the first place. The is is weird -Weird with a capital "W". The botrytis asserts itself too overtly as mustard. Low acidity. Not very memorable.

Price unknown.

Roundup: the Rayne-Vigneau is mediocre and I'm a little indifferent to the Meo, but the other three are heartwarming, and I'm especially glad that the Sauzets showed so well after a run of malfunctioning white Burgundies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bordeaux 2009 Tasting At WineRoute (May 31, 2012)

My wine of the night,
although arguably not your typical Saint Estephe
You don't seem to have good or bad vintages in Bordeaux anymore. Instead, you have "difficult", "hard", "early drinking", "over-achieving" vintages. And, of course", the "Vintage Of The Century" every four or five years.

2009 is a "Vintage Of The Century". And priced  accordingly.

No wines are as heavily scrutinized as the new Bordeaux vintage, even when it's a "Vintage Of The Century". Especially when it's a "Vintage Of The Century". Thus, the annual stand up tasting in the basement of the Tel Aviv branch of WineRoute turned out to be a convention of skeptics looking for hidden rays of glory. Loads of fun, despite that. But then again, Bordeaux is my jail bait.

Chateau l'Arrivet Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan, Blanc

A healthy dose of minerals, slightly tropical. Balanced. Savory. Lovely, just lovely.

349.90 NIS. I still struggle to force myself to buy white Bordeaux and the price tag, especially this year, isn't helping.

Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac

Very ripe on the nose, even moreso on the palate. After drinking this wine, the fact that owner Michel Rolland consults to so many wineries is not a comfort. Although the nose gains a streak of minerals, the fruit and tannins are not in tandem and the tannins are not up my alley. I wasn't overly thrilled by the 2003 and chalked it up to the vintage. Guess it's the producer, although I'll admit I like some of his consulting gigs.

215 NIS.

Chateau Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan

Very Pessac on the nose, maybe blacker than I'd like, but there's earth and tobacco leaves, which is always a good thing. The tannins are on the sweet side but there's good balance overall and they become grainier with air, which makes the whole package more interesting, for me.

250 NIS.

Chateau La Grave, Pomerol

Black, dense fruit. Minerals. Very much Pomerol, yet with enough structure to avoid over-lushness. Quite nice.

269.90 NIS.

Chateau Bourgneuf, Pomerol

A step up. Mineral-laden complexities. Leather. Maybe less typical of Pomerol.

279.90 NIS.

Chateau Magdelaine, Saint Emillon Premier Cru

The Merlot hits hard here, to good effect. Currants and fruitcake. Seems more Pomerol than the actual Pomerols. A lovely wine.

449.90 NIS.

Chateau Talbot, Saint Julien 4me Cru

Saint Julien under the filter of a big vintage: classic claret in very vivid technicolor. Savory. Balanced. Not a lot of breed, though, despite the fireworks and despite the price.

469.90 NIS.

Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac 5me Cru

Very Pauillac. I like how the wines here are typical of their respective origins, which can be a concern with the bigger vintages of recent years (say, 2003). Thus, there's lots of currant fruit and the boldness typical of Cabernet dominant Pauillac. Very tasty.

350 NIS. This is the most WTF price here. I still recall this selling for about 200 NIS when the 2000's and 2001's hit the shelves.

Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe 4me Cru

More mysterious than any wine in the tasting and less masculine than I'd expected. Ripe black fruit, minerals, tannic but in balance. Saline yet sweet. Very tasty.

419.90 NIS.

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru

This is arguably less typical of Margaux, although I get the finesse on the nose where the black fruit dissipates into a mineral laden nose. Same on the palate. One of the night's elegant wines, but a bit of a bore at this point.

499.90 NIS.

Chateau Doisy-Verdines, Barsac 2me Cru.

Tropical fruit, light botrytis. Sweet and hedonstic, but I loved it. Which is an odd sensation for me these days: actually loving a Sauternes. Just about everyone at the tasting complained about the lack of acidity, but all I could perceive was the lack of flagrant alcohol. So it worked for me.

259.90 NIS.

That's Bordeaux for you: give the people what they want, when they want it, and they'll want it all the time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wines For Shavuot

I don't adhere to holiday dates or for holiday culinary rules. These are the wines I had around the extended Shavuot weekend and they were all special.

With Efrat at Cafe Italia. Obviously, not a very dairy dinner.

Pierre Gimonnet, Champagne, Fleuron, Brut, 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs, 2002

To paraphrase Dylan: "Wine is simple, to coin a phrase, you've known it all the time, I'm just learning it these days". Four years into drinking Champagnes, I can say this is a vivid embodiment of Chardonnay-based Champagnes. And it's very simple to understand, yet merits in-depth contemplation. Green apples, baked apples, walnuts, brioche, minerals, orange blossom. I don't think I left anything out of the Champagne checklist. So once you get Chardonnay, and once you understand how Chardonnay is transformed by the Champagne-making process - and believe me, once the pieces fall into place, this understanding is, like I said, simple - this is a very easy wine to read. But the ease of reading doesn't mean its allure is shallow. This has depth. And forget depth, this is sexy and delicious. Make sure your treat your lover to a bottle. (May 24, 2012)

Boutique de Champagnes doesn't list this anymore (out of stock), but as I recall it's in the 400-450 NIS range.

Friday night dinner at home with the kids.

Francois Jobard, Meursault Premier Cru, Genevrieres, 2004

With so many problematic-to-dead Burgundy whites over the past year or so, I've been going through my stash with great haste recently, thinking I'd rather drink them sooner than later. At first, this also seems like another dud (which I've had way too many with Jobard: 2002 Genevrieres, 2004 Purozots, 2005 En La Barre), and it would probably seem that way to most people, but to me, it's really more of a marginally questionable curio. It's got mature, spicy/oxidized, honeyed notes on the nose and is more about roasted nuts than fruit. But the palate is lively, if very much on the reserved side, with a long saline finish. It's an intellectually stimulating wine, that somehow, with a couple of hours of air, reveals hints of fruit that add interest. So while I like it and fulfills my romantic notions of what a mature Meursault should smell and taste like, I haven't made up my mind whether it lives up to my expectations of a Premier Cru, and furthermore, I highly suspect that in the context of a group tasting, we'd have moved on before the Genevrieres had a chance to show its hand. (May 25, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 350-400 NIS, depending on the vintage.

I considered continuing my depletion of white Burgundy holdings, but instead went Austrian.

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

Very good becomes great and translucent!

Tingling with vibrant energy, this, initially, is is still in the green apple-ish, nubile stage of Rieslinghood, but the spicy aromatics are already developing decent complexity, and it's so tasty now that it's tempting to drink up my meager stocks, 1er Lage or not. After an hour, it stretches out of the mold by presenting an elegant cloak of ice-cold minerals and greater purity of fruit (coupled with absolutely jubilant acidity). If this clarity it seems to strive for is any indication of its potential, then I'll gladly wait five-plus years for it. I mean, this purity and focus really deserve a wow - and, damn it, the Jobard wishes it was this good! (May 27, 2012)

Eldad Levy's Wine Domaines Of Austria, 159 NIS.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (May 2012)

Keller, Rheinhessen, Von der Fels, Riesling QBA, Trocken, 2007

Young vines from Kirchspiel, Hubacker and Morstein Grand Crus. While this doesn't possess the depth and intensity of an honest-to-goodness Grand Cru, it does have plenty of complexity and clarity, with green apples, flowers and notes of chalk/fossils. The palate packs offers quite a scintillating, acid driven focus and in all, this is how I like my dry Rieslings: when they offer the same purity and light elegance as the sweeter version -only, obviously, dry. It's worth noting that I like this more than I did the 2005 at a similar age. (May 4, 2012)

I think this is, in addition to all of the above, an example of the kind of wine that is sometimes labelled terroir-driven. Why do I say that? Because, as I drank it, I felt it was moving away from the place where its Riesling-ness was the key to its identity to a place where it spoke more of its origins than of its variety.

Giaconda, 160 NIS.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Moelleux, Tris de Nobles Grains, 'La Coulée d'Or', 2003

I find the nose intriguing. Beneath the spicy/wooly aromas of Chenin approaching maturity, I think I spy a hint of honeyed botrytis, but whatever is going on in there, the aromatics have a piercingly intellectual charm. The palate is sweet, of course, rich and hedonistic without, for me, going over the top, with a strand of botrytis funk that is even more obvious than it was on the nose.

Yet another dessert wine I prefer to Sauternes (even if I did have it with spicy Asian food, and even if, like Sauternes, it's not exactly bulging with acidity), but not enough for a repeat purchase. (May 5, 2012)

Giaconda, 243 NIS for a full bottle.

On Wednesday, my bosses explained to the team that a tough week was ahead.
I prepared over the weekend with some elixirs.

Recanati, Syrah/Viognier, Reserve, 2009

Better than I remembered, better than I'd hoped it would turn out to be. The Syrah showcases tell-tale black pepper and a hint of savory meatiness that borders on brett - which I think is just the Syrah being Syrah, but  it also combines with the meaty tannins to evoke Spain. The acidity is about the best that we can aspire to in the local climate, but there's a fine touch of salinity on the finish to make up for any deficit. (May 10, 2012).

120-140 NIS, your mileage may vary.

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

The petrol notes on the nose are at first too overt for me, but beneath I get apples and slate and the palate is vibrant enough to wash away any pressing doubts. Anyway, the first impression is not significant here, because the petrol fades away and the apples become less prominent as tropical fruits emerge (although never to the point where the wine reeks of a fruit punch; they merely add an exotic sweetness), complemented by notes of mint and talc. On the palate, the acidic backbone pairs with and balances quite deftly said tropical fruit, driving a long, tangy, expressive finish. Noble stuff that shows more and more complexity, purity and depth as it unfolds. (May 11, 2012)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Fuastino, Rioja Gran Reserva I, 1999

It's hard to tell whether Faustino has taken a step up in quality or whether they are being treated with more respect by their latest importer. I've written about this before - the previous importer, France-Israel Group, simply had no respect for their portfolio and their customers, and in their heyday, I'm sure this bottle would have already been fully mature. Instead, this seems rather young and adolescently lively, which is surprising since 1999 is supposedly relatively dilute in Rioja (my sources are the Hugh Johnston Wine Pocket Book and the Tom Stevenson Wine Report). The initial pour shows typical Tempranillo fruit (red fruit, pungent tobacco leaves) in its primary form, alongside the typical aromatic effects of American barrels. In time I find a hint of the vegetable stew that Gran Reservas can develop, but it still feels like this needs a few years to fully express all of its potential. Anyway, what you get now is juicy acidity and savory tannins - implying a fine future -, a sturdy palate and a somewhat surprising overlay of minerals (surprising because I rarely get it to this extent in Riojas, and never with Faustino). (May 12, 2012)

WineRoute, 150 NIS, 130 on discount during May (which is Faustino month in the chain). At this price, worth buying a couple to lay down.

The Shvo Rose is Big Pink!

Shvo, Rose, 2010

The best wine I've tasted from Shvo so far, and a really fine, really tasty Rose. Delicately expressive and sanguine, with fresh, earthy strawberry fruit that might not be very complex but is instead single-minded in its purity, rather than being simple (however you wish to use that term). (May 16, 2012)

80 NIS, your mileage may vary.

Moreau-Naudet, Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre, 2006

When I first tasted the wines from this estate, a few months after their arrival, I thought they were sullen and in need of cellaring. That was over three years ago and the bottles I'd opened since proved to be moving in a good direction. This bottle is back to sullen. It's a very proper Chablis, from the more mineral-laden side of the Chablis spectrum - in  this case a blend of chalk and sea shells (which I think is characteristic of this Cru) - with green apples melting into oranges. It's steely and crisp on the palate and seems to hide a lot of nervy energy inside an intellectually stimulating structure, which is expressed mostly in the lightly grainy finish. Yet today, its sullen pout is distracting and as a drinking experience (rather than tasting), it lacks joy. I guess I really should have tried harder to actually pair it with food - on its own, it was too much like drinking chalk juice at times. (May 18, 2012)

Giaconda, 190 NIS.

Marqués de Vitoria, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1996

This is apparently a small Rioja Bodegas owned by Faustino, which explains why it also appeared this month on discount at WineRoute. According to the winery's site, this sees 100% French barrels, as opposed to the Rioja norm of American. At sixteen years post-vintage, it's hard to tell the specifics of the oak, but Tempranillo and oak is the classic Rioja formula, and even modernists usually get it right. The oak here doesn't feel like on overt act of Modernism, or an attempt to court Parkerian favor, but the fruit feels a little tired and the whole hasn't congealed into the magic that can take place when a Gran Reserva has evolved into true maturity. Takes a while to open up and even then, it's a very nice, but hardly spectacular, version of Rioja, and not, to my tastes, up to the Gran Reserva standard. (May 18, 2012)

160 NIS at WineRoute, 110 NIS on discount.

Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, 2005

This has all the elements I found in previous bottles - canteloupe and the unique smoky, ashy signature of Savennieres - the difference, is, everything has finally come together. The fruit is fresh and vivid, without any sense of heaviness. There's a light bitterness on the finish, but it evokes grapefruit rind, rather than pips. After a couple of hours, a sweaty muck emerges, which reminds Efrat of piss. I find it very appealing. Whatever, this is an excellent, decently complex drop. (May 21, 2012)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett 2007

I've never really smelled quartz, but, for some reason, this is what the nose reminds me of. Whatever, it's all about rocks and minerals, with some red apples making a coy appearance stage right, and there's a light overlay of petrol as well. The palate is the epitome of light, ethereal Mosel., very balanced and elegant, very tasty, with a somewhat dusty mouthfeel. (May 28, 2012)

Giaconda, 220 NIS. I had my qualms when I bought this whether any Kabinett is worth this much money, but this is leagues beyond any other Kabinetts I've ever drunk, packing loads of flavor and finesse in the light, crisp, austere body of a Kabinett.

Ramonet, Chassagne Premier Cru, Ruchots, 2004

The last of my small stock of Ramonet. And it's a classic. Spicy pears, nuts and rock. Fantastic acidity. Good structure, yet with a slight touch of wild hedonism. However... a note of perfumed sweetness creeps in after a while, which isn't my favorite aspect of 'classic' Burgundian whites, but at 16-18 degrees Celsius (which is the serving temperature of this wine), there is enough going on to offset that. Good, but - I hate to say it - not great. (May 30, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 380 NIS now, 270-300 NIS back in the days.