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.