Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Excellent Wines - Even Better Company (Jan. 24, 2013)

The tasting - a panoramic view
I don't think I've ever drank so many wines in one night. Fifteen wines, none corky, twelve friends. That's a good ratio. Our host was not only generous with the condiments, he was also patient with us rowdy lot, so thanks, man!

As will be made quite obvious as this post unfolds, the Northern Rhone had a very good showing.

Jerome Prevost, La Closerie, Champagne, Extra Brut Rose, Facsimile, n.v.

Strawberries and earth, not especially complex but fresh, tasty and idiosyncratic, due to the large proportion of Pinot Meunier.

Fiorenzo Nada , Barbaresco, Rombone, 1998

The nose is so typical, it loudly spells out n-e-b-b-i-o-l-o, and the Piedmont magic is going strong there, with that telltale dusty/spicy/tarry character. But that's where the magic ends, as the palate is on the down slope, and while it's fun to experience the mellowness a mature wine can bring, it's just not backed up with enough presence here. And, hey, anyone can age - the trick is to age well.

Domaine des Remizieres, Hermitage, Cuvée Emile, 1999

This has the mature mellowness of a Cote-Rotie, oddly enough, and is nowhere as extravagant and jejune as I'd feared it'd be, going by it's Parker score of 96. Instead, there's cedar and sweet currants on the nose upon opening, which soon enough turn into black pepper and roasted meats. The palate displays the mellowness I referred to above, with much depth and complexity and a savory backbone.

Roger Sabon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Prestige, 2004

Everything here is alcoholic and aggressive, even the nose is grumpy. At least it shows some garrigue after a long while, but it's just too ripe and sweet for comfort. The kindest thing I can say about is it offers a starting point for a spirited discussion about the woes of Chateauneuf and its super-cuvees.

Celler de Capacanes, Tarragona, Cabrida, 1998

Okay, this is an interesting wine that took me a while to come to grips with, mainly because it's a Grenache that just doesn't behave like most Grenaches. I get rubber at first, then animalistic notes and finally black pepper. It's sweet, yet structured, and really improves in glass.

Yves Cuilleron, Saint Joseph, l'Amarybelle, 2009

The nose seems on the stewed side, at first, until it resolves into black pepper and black fruit, with a hint of summer fruits. It's a tasty, balanced wine with room for growth, although its youthful, yet gentle, vigor is already captivating.

Matthew Cellars, Washington,  Colombia Valley, 2002

This is a Bordeaux look-alike, and tastes like it, too. It's got that mellow claret thing going, and it's a tasty drop.

Chateau Fonbadet, Pauillac, 2000

And back to the original Land Of Claret, although this wine serves as a reminder that even Bordeaux has its share of non-entities starring in WTF moments. The nose is as ripe and spicy as you'd expect from a warm vintage like 2000, and the palate still has plenty of fresh vigor; but it just feels so humdrum, and in a glorified vintage like 2000, the least you'd expect from a former Cru Bourgeois from Pauillac is to actually taste like a Puillac.

Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Place des Lois, 2007

This is the second time I've had this in recent weeks, and it's a fine Bourgogne in its own right, but five years post-vintage, I still don't read a lot of Gevrey character in it.

Clos Du Marquis, Saint Julien, 2000

Unlike the Fonbadet, this does smell and taste like its archetype, although I have some reservations: I do prefer my Saint Juliens a little more athletic and lean, and here the wine is more about 2000 than about Saint Julien. However, it's really, really good and anyone who had the foresight to stock up on this in 2003 when its price was still sane can start enjoying their cache.

Glaymond, Barossa Valley, Shiraz, 2005

This is so obvious and ripe that I can't write a decent note on it. Remember that last post-millenium Aussie blockbuster you had? You can regurgitate your own note, then.

Clos Marie, Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, Manon, 2011

This would be a great pairing for a Mediterranean sea food meal, that got lost in the context of such a wide tasting, especially coming in after the Behemoth from Down Under. It's a restrained, subtle, mineral-laced wine that deserves another chance.

Cloudy Bay, Chardonnay, 2006

This has all the funky, saline minerals of a good Burgundy white, without the leanness I'd like, but it never overdoes anything and is very far from the ridiculously bland mold of New World Chardonnay.

Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie, Cote Blonde, 1998

This and the Jamet were opened as bonus wines and in retrospect, we rushed through them too quickly. Certainly in this case. I had the 1999 three years ago and it was simply a stunning wine. The 1998 shouldn't be too many steps behind it, yet it felt like it never got a chance to unwind.I will say that the nose is smoky with hints of funk and the palate is elegant and tasty. Damn, we really needed more time with it.

Jamet, Cote-Rotie, 2010

The Jamet, on the other hand, manages to spread its word within minutes.This will be a great wine one day, and it's actually already a great youngster. It's suitably ripe, with all the elements in place, and you can feel the sure, confident hand of its maker. Nothing was manipulated here, yet nothing is out of balance, and it's full of vibrant, vital energy. Kudos.

With this kind of setting, I think quoting prices is a bit impolite. 'Sides, with fifteen wines on the table, I'm not, just not, going to Google each and every one for the market prices.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Election Day (Jan. 22, 2013)

It'll take days until the dust settles,
so for now, just enjoy the landscape of a faraway land...
It's been a while since a local election had any sense of urgency or drama. I decided to watch the polls and returns with a dessert wine, so I'd have something sweet for celebration or for washing away the bile. Or both.

Chateau Bell-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Quintessence, 2003

What a nose! An amazing, complex nose, with all sorts of goodies: caramelized nuts, spices, earth, marmalade, hints of oxidation, all held in place by a mercurial thread of botrytis funk. The color is golden-brown, like other sweet Chenins I've had. The palate here is livelier than a previous bottle, although it is very rich, almost hedonistic, ending on a long finish laden with orange jam. It offers the same idiosyncratic sense of origin and place that you get in a great wine and makes you sense the tale of the land inside your glass.

Giaconda, 256 NIS for a 500 cc bottle.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bourgogne Crown

My wine friends Daniel Lifshitz and Dan Roman have recently turned wine entrepreneurs and followed their hearts to Burgundy, where they picked up a small portfolio of small, interesting domaines. I can't speak for the entire local market, but this is what this consumer has been looking for: small producers from the smaller appellations that offer well made wines with site-specific characteristics. I can't splurge for a lot of Premier Crus anymore, let alone Grand Crus, and while the pricesat Bpurgogne Crown  are not cheap enough to aim at every day wines for the masses, I can still find enough room in the budget to allow me a glimpse at the produce of towns like Saint Aubin, Saint Romain, Savigny - as well as some idiosyncratic Aligotes.

Their site is here.

Domaine Matrot, Bourgogne-Aligote, 2011

This is from the bottom of the pecking order and there shouldn't be a whole lot to write about it, except it's fresh and crisp and mineral, vaguely lime-y and simply fun. And the finish is remarkably long and complex for such a light wine. (Jan. 7, 2013)

95 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Bourgogne-Aligote, 2010

This Vieilles Vignes bottling is an interesting eample why we wine geeks salivate when we spot these Old Vines cuvees. Certainly, this is more intense than the Matrot, and displays the Meursault origins of the domaine in a certain light nuttiness on the nose. I'm not saying you'd be likely to mistake this for a Chardonnay (too lime-y and too tart, nowhere near chubby enough to be a Chardonnay), but I do think you'd spot the village. And it it's so clear and focused, the saline finish so convincing, I was sure the Aligote is planted in Villages level vineyards, but Daniel says not. So chalk it all up to the age of the vines. (Jan. 11, 2013)

120 NIS.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny-les-Beaune, 2010

A gorgeously young Burgundy, with sous bois notes and typically exotic spices on the nose - and a delicate lattice of soft tannins that right now is smothering the fruit somewhat, although not enough to obscure its quality nor its sanguine finish. (Jan. 13, 2013)

165 NIS.

The above were drunk in the comfort of my own home, and I must say they're very much the kind of wines I like to drink at home. They feel cozy. The following wines were drunk on Jan. 16, at an event that Daniel and Dan put together at Habasta, which is sort of a(n expensive) home away from home.

Domaine Alain Burguet, Bourgogne, La Princes Vins, 2008

Still in the fruity stage, hinting at Gevrey, and actually becoming more obviously Gevrey in short order (sweaty, savory). Sweet fruit, not over ripe, not too lean, good acidity, subtle salinity. Very 2008, I think.

160 NIS.

Domaine Amiot Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny, 2010

Full, not over ripe. Oaky and closed and not much in it right now. I can't even get a good notion of its Chambolle-ness.

280 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Pommard Premier Cru, Largilliere, 2010

Complex and full, oaky now but nicely complemented by the fruit. Still tannic. A hint of sweat, spices, raspberries, saline finish. A lot to contemplate here. Tasty.

350 NIS. I want to say something about the price here. This would be a terrific price for a more famous Premier Cru, such as Epenots, Pezerolles, Rugiens. Largilliere is such an obscure vineyard, however, that it's not even mentioned in Clive Coates' Cote d'Or, so even though I trust Daniel's tastes, I was wary of buying a bottle until I tasted it. After the fact, I think it's a good buy.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru, La Dominode, 2010

More complex than the village. I tasted it in passing, but this has nice presence and potential.

270 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Saint Romain, 2007

Tasted in passing. Good grip, friendly stink, great length, complex minerals. Warrants a re-visit. Quite excellent.

170 NIS.

And back at home...

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigner, 2010

I've been leaning towards this kind of white Burgundy for a while. Well made juice from the lower end of the Burgundy pecking order, that offers the Burgundy experience at a lower level of intensity and complexity, some sense of origin - and no need to age and risk the Curse Of The Premox! This specimen has good fruit, slightly pungent aromatics of flint and dried grass, a light touch and welcome salinity. (Jan. 18, 2013)

The back label on the bottle includes a map of the domaine's general neighborhood - Chassagne, Puligny and Saint Aubin - and apparently Les Chatainger is right next to Saint Aubin villages vineyard Saint-Aubin.

145 NIS. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Damn, Grand Crus Can Be Great - And Tondonia Doesn't Suck, Either! (Jan. 6, 2013)

Welcome to Gevrey - have nice day!

Daniel Lifshitz put together yet another great tasting, at Raphael at Tel Aviv, which I hadn't visited in over two years. The theme was Gevrey-Chambertin (plus one palate calibrator and one special "guest star").

Meo-Camuzet, Fixin Premier Cru, Clos du Chapitre, 2005

Very Camuzet: dark fruit, spicy, not complex, but very mouth-filling and seamless. A touch over-ripe, though, and somewhat underwhelming for a Premier Cru, even for Fixin.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 250 NIS for recent vintages.

Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Place des Lois, 2007

A simple nose with just decent complexity made lively by animalistic overtones. The palate is also on the simple side, short but tasty.

This is imported by Daniel, and his partner Dan Roman, by their new import business, Bourgogne Crown. It costs 320 NIS.

Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Lavaux St. Jacques, 2001

A ripe and exotic nose, also with animalistic notes. Nuanced despite the ripeness. A Brave New World in Burgundy ?

Burgundy Wine Collection started importing Mortet a couple of years ago. This typically sells for about 600 NIS.

Domaine Fourrier,  Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Clos St. Jacques, Vieilles Vignes, 2006

More intense and complex than the Mortet, with less ripeness and more finesse. High class.

Louis Jadot, Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, 2001 (labelled as Chambertin)

Ok, this is my wine, which I'd aged for years, so I want to be charitable about it, but... Takes hours to open and even then, it's hard to decide if it's over the hill or just in a bad spot. The nose is refined and insinuating, but both it and the palate lack punch. Weak.

WineRoute, this cost about 700 NIS seven, eight years ago. One of my biggest purchases, especially considering I spent less money on wine at the time.

Alain Burguet, Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, 2007

A highly complex nose, sporting chicken broth and sous de bois, with fresh, red fruit. Clean fruit on palate, soft, focused tannins, integrated acidity. Structured, yet not obvious about it. A comfortably confident youngster.

Bourgogne Crown, 1300 NIS.

Robert Groffier, Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, 2008

Sous de bois rendered with black, ripe colors. Good potential but doesn't ring my bells right now, despite it sporting the kind of restrained power I usually go for.

Prince unknown.

Armand Rousseau, Ruchottes, Clos des Ruchottes, 2000

A mediocre vintage, yet a great wine with that seems to still have a long life ahead of it. Animalistic and sous de bois aromatics. Savory tannins on the long finish with a mineral tint. Great presence and personality.Wow!

R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia,  Rioja Gran Reserva, 1968

An an almost ethereal nose of vegetable stew that only gains presence and delineation in glass. Very tasty on the palate, with the slightly volatile acidity of a mature wine and a silky finish. A memorable experience.

This and the Rousseau were both purchased for the tasting from the Superdrink store in Ramat Hasharon for about 800 NIS.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Taking Care Of Business (Dec. 2012)

Final stash for 2012
Domaine le Sang Des Cailloux, Vacqueyras, Cuvee Lopy, 2005

One of the benefits of having a wine collection of any depth is the ability to pick a wine that matches not only the food selection, but a mood. And I was in the mood for a taste of garrigue, and I preferred to go to Vacqueyras, rather than Chateauneuf, thinking they mature a little earlier. Maybe so and maybe not, the garrigue here hides in murky, almost impenetrable aromatic depths and the palate is chewy and oblique, with a tannic, dusty finish that obscures the fruit at first. Well, fruit is not what this wine is about anyway, so even when it fans out in time, what you get  liquid earth and a surprising streak of acidity (surprising because I never expect it in the Southern Rhone). And a distinct sense of place, which is what makes a wine memorable for me. (Dec. 1, 2012)

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise, La Digoine, 2009

This is the most backward of the lower end 2009 reds I've tasted yet, with just a hint of violets and pungent earth adding complexity to the red fruit that borders on black, and with a tannic finish that buries the silky fruit. In dire need of cellaring, as its blossom late in the evening makes clear - La Digoine usually seems like a wine to drink in its fifth or sixth year, but this seems to have more upside. (Dec. 3, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, Chateauneuf du Pape, 2004

There's a reason I stopped buying CdPs. Their ripe fruit and their depth can be unfathomable, but I miss the interplay of structure and expression that made me fall for  Bordeaux and Burgundy. Case in point: here the aromatics barely register at first as prunes, mildew and maybe a touch of garrigue, while the palate tries to pass off an impression of Amarone. Air improves things: the aromatics gain focus, while a leathery feel on the finish makes things more interesting on the palate - but not pleasing enough to bring me back to the fold. (Dec. 8, 2012)

WineRoute, 250 NIS.

Midbar Winery, Semillon, 2009

More about purity and charm than about any great complexity at this point, vaguely hinting at Chablis with its citrus and minerals. While it's just a little too one-dimensional on the palate right now, if there's one local wine that deserves faith in its potential, this one is it. (Dec. 20, 2012)

Ecker-Eckhof, Landwein, Gruner Veltliner, 2011

Ripe fruit that is never cloying or fat, with the typical GV pea-soup aromatics. (Dec. 12, 2012)

Fat Guy, 89 NIS for a liter.

Shvo, Red, 2010

Pepper, minerals, herbs, red fruits, with the typical local ripeness present, yet quite restrained, with fine, non-obstrusive acidity. A Bistro wine extraordinaire, one that hides it's 14.5% ABV better than some wines hide their 13.5. (Dec. 15, 2012)

95 NIS was a good price for it on the store shelves this summer, Toto sells it for 160 NIS in the restaurant, which in today's market is a relatively low markup for such a posh establishment.

Contrada Michelle, Campagnia, Linea Top Fiano di Avellino, 2010

I'm not a huge fan of Italian whites, but sometimes I like to pretend that I am and go looking for one. And inevitably, they seem to be of the same mold, no matter what the grape or origin: nutty, spicy, with the fruit leaning towards the sweeter fruits: pears, mandarins. So this is nice and tasty, just not what I usually hunt for.(Dec. 16, 2012)

Giaconda, 100 NIS.

Bouchard, Vosne-Romanee, 2007

A lovely nose, intoxicating yet reserved at the same time, showing bright red fruit, exotic spices, musk. A marriage of austerity and elegance, on the palate, that earns its payday for its sappy fruit and gentle acidity, rather than any obvious tannic structure. There's a fine touch salinity on the finish, as well. (Dec. 18, 2012)

WineRoute, 250 NIS. Nice but the price tag sets high expectations. If this had been offered on a two for 300 NIS deal, I'd been okay with the price.

Masseria Felicia, Falerno del Messico DOC, Ariapetrina, 2007

This is my kind of red Italian (well, outside of Piedmont, which I sort of view as a separate state). Powerful black fruit, with savory tannins and a saline finish, and somehow the punch and the relatively high ABV (14%) don't obscure the tasty effect on the taste buds. And there's a dusty layer of chives on the nose that is simply lovely. I think this is a blend of Aglianico and Piedirosso and I believe it will improve after three-five years in the cellar. (Dec. 19, 2012)

Giaconda,  140 NIS.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Final Wine For 2012

It's fitting that I ended the year with on a sweet note, even though Sauternes and its satellites are no longer my first choice in dessert wines.

Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Bommes Premier Cru Classe, 2003

This has the burnt, carmelised sugar notes of hot vintage Sauternes, with a backdrop of apricot marmalade. The botrytis not very obvious at first - but when it hits, it's flat out intense, lending the wine a lot of complexity. Oddly, there's also a note of cigar ash on the nose, which I've never picked up in a dessert wine before. The acidity is better than in the other 2003's I had, making this a yummy treat, but don't expect an Eiswein or a Tokay here. (Dec. 30, 2012)

WineRoute, about 170-180 NIS for a half bottle when I bought it six years ago.