Friday, June 28, 2013

Elba, Again (Jun. 24, 2013)

Once again, it was time for hearty food and tasty Bourgognes. I headed out to Elba with the goalkeeper/importer and his erstwhile business partner, the Man From Babylon and the diamond guy and his family.

Thevenet, Morgon Vieilles Vignes, 2010

The bottle I had in Bedford was just about Premier Cru in quality, while this seems like a vin natural that didn't survive the flight to Israel. No fruit, no structure. No fun.

35 USD.

Arlaud, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2004

This had such a discouragingly old brown color that I asked for it to be served as early as possible, and not tempt fate by letting it breathe too long, but it turned out I was over-cautious. The nose is complex and lively, with red fruit, bordering on black, spices, sous de bois. The palate is equally fresh, with decent-plus complexity and a raspy, tannic finish. Wonderful. A bargain Grand Cru that offers soothing finesse and breed, albeit without any great intensity.

130 USD, marked down to 90.

Arlot, Nuits-St.-Georges, le Petit Arlot, 2010

Young and ripe, and quite modern: there's a gamey, slightly pungent stink which I find appealing, but it's counterpointed by ripe, candy drop aromas and flavors, which I'm less enamored of. I'd let it lie for a few years and try again.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 190 NIS.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Criots-Batard-Montrachet, 2005

An oaky and sweet facade quite effectively masks the mineral elements that lie underneath. A waste of Grand Cru juice, and what's worse, I suspect the winemaker intended the wine to be like this in order to court the American market (or, at least, Fontaine-Gagnard's notion of it).

Wine Route, about 700 NIS.

Olivier Guyot, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Champeaux, 2007

Mineral laden, lightly pungent and focused, with dusty, savory tannins. A coiled spring years from unfurling. This is very fine, and I salivate at the notion of buying the 2010.

Will be featured in the Bourgogne Crown catalog around December.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault Premier Cru, Charmes, 2010

A wacky mix of subtly fecal mineral stink and flowers, with visceral acidity. One of the better, more focused white Burgundies I've had recently.

Bourgogne Crown, 400 NIS.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ya'acov Oryah Leaves Midbar Winery (Jun. 22, 2013)

Sometimes life presents an unfathomable "what the fuck" moment to a discerning wine geek. Whatever in the world caused a break between Oryah and the owners of Midbar Winery? Despite my relief that his former venture, Assif, had found a buyer and that Ya'acov had found a way to continue his work, the winery's site caused an initial feeling of disorientation. The site seemed to focus more on the owners and less on the winemaker, and in general seemed too high-techy and at odds with my perception of Ya'acov as a craftsman and person. I can't say the news of the break bowled me over my feet in surprise, but still, this is a damn shame and a blight on the reputation the winery had garnered within a relatively short time, no matter what the hell happened over there.

The buyout and label changes seemed to come just at the point where Oryah was coming into his own as a winemaker. The Midbar wines received a lot of praise and, more to the point, a lot of love.  It was a good period for him, and I have to give the owners credit for letting him pursue him muse, however atypical it was in the local scheme of things. Having said that, I'm sure that, to a lot of people, the wines were Ya'acov Oryah first, and the Midbar label was only a secondary consideration.

This post is written without any knowledge of what went behind the scenes, and I don't know how important the full story is, to me, as a consumer and a blogger, except perhaps to demonstrate how frail and inviable the local industry can be. I'll continue to be a Midbar client in the short term, buying up whatever of the Ya'acov crafted vintages are still in the pipeline ,especially the jewels of his modest and all-too-human crown: the Semillon based wines.

Speaking of which. Here's the bottle I opened as a farewell toast.

Semillon-Sauvignon, 2010

Imagine what you'd get if you could transpose the flint and burnt match aromas of a mineral-laden Bourgogne white unto a fruit flavor deeply entrenched in mandarin oranges instead of the apples and pears that Chardonnay would usually bring to the table. Imagine, as well,  an oilier - not necessarily fatter - palate.

That's Semillon for you, and while Ya'acov didn't invent anything new with this blend of white Bordeaux varieties, he crafted a clear and clean, seemingly straightforward wine, with enough joyful acidity, balance and structure to ensure that the fruit will continue to speak with purity and clarity as it gains complexity. In short, he let his ego take a back seat and in the end made a personal statement after all.

Best of Luck, Ya'acov. We didn't meet that many times in person, but I felt enough of a connection with your wines to consider you more than just a passing acquaintance. I will look forward to meeting your work in the future.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Domaine Bernard Baudry In Israel

Whoever at WineRoute had the bright notion of importing Baudry to Israel deserves a raise.

There are various sources of interesting wines at reasonable prices, but few can match the Loire for the thrills and bargains offered by Muscadets, Chenin Blancs and two Cabernet Sauvignon progenitor: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Of the four, I'd expect Chenin to scale to the loftiest, while I believe (based on my limited personal experience, but on a lot of reading up) that Cabernet Franc should be the most facile in mirroring and exposing the nuances of terroir. At the right hands, it should be light, yet structured, supple and clear, espousing nuances in lieu of power. Certainly every sample I've had so far was tasty, a fine food pairing and a wine of focus and detailed delineation.

DomaineHureau, recently, was where I crossed the line between like and love, but there were foreshadows: Breton, and, earlier, Baudry himself. So I was primed and welcomed the latest acquirement in the WineRoute portfolio with open arms and palate.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, 2010

Surprisingly, this isn't the domaine's entry level red, despite the generic label - "Les Granges" is, and you can read more about the range here, in their US importer's site. This offers a whole lotta wine for the price (unless, that is, you're expecting a dense, modern, crowd-pleasing brute). The nose has fresh, bright fruit, embellished by pencil shavings and enough pungent earthiness to let me know I'm back home in the Old World. The palate is savory and on the long side, lean and focused, with bright acidity and balanced tannins. (May 17, 2013)

85 NIS, which is peanuts for the effect it has on the taste buds, as well as the complexity and character it has to offer.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2010

This, unlike the estate bottling, is a single vineyard bottling. It's more of the same, presumably better, certainly weightier and darker, and, while already more complex, seems to hold more in reserve. Beyond a lovely, sanguine finish, there's also an earthy, almost leathery overlay that develops nicely in time and I feel it bodes well for the wine's development with some mid-term cellaring (cellaring I'd personally insist on). (May 25, 2013)

120 NIS.

Having whetted my appetite for Cabernet Franc, I ordered a couple of bottles of the Baudry "Grand Cru", La Croix Boisses. While waiting to pick them up, I explored one of my Loire purchases from the recent family vacation in France.

Langlois-Chateau, Saumur-Champigny, Vieilles Vignes, 2009

2009 is a reputed to be a great Loire vintage, as good as its counterparts in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Langlois-Chateau specializes in Cremant (sparkling Chenin for those not in the know), so intuitively I had this red wine slated to be opened rather earlier than my other buys. At this point - chalk it up to either winemaker, vintage or terroir - this Samaur-Champignys has a less immediate charm than the Baudrys (or Hureau for that matter), not to mention a kiss of spicy oak that's obvious after a couple of hours. It's an earthier wine, playing Pommard to Baudry's Volnay; more severely structured where the Baudrys seemed to work out the considerations of structure with well-practiced complacency belying their craft. It's a good wine, albeit on the extracted side for the variety and AOC in my opinion. There are notes of tobacco, black pepper and iron complementing the red fruit (fruit that only turns blacker with air), as well as savory tannins and juicy acidity promising a somewhat longer fridge life than the one this bottle lived. (May 31, 2013)

20 Euros.

My anticipation was at fever pitch by now.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, La Croix Boissée, 2010

This plays Grand Cru to the Clos Guillot's Premier Cru, even though learning to apply those designations to the Loire is an acquired skill and taste that I have not yet mastered (and the differences are much more subtle than in Bourgogne). The color is deeper, the nose and palate have an extra dimension (the bouquet especially is the loveliest of all the wines featured in this post), and the additional body does not come at the cost of any loss in acidity. What else have we here? Crushed raspberries with the tangy pungency I mentally peg as "tobacco leaves". Savory tannins that rasp and dry and need taming time. A saline finish. Work in progress. (Jun. 8, 2013)

150 NIS.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Taking Care Of Business (May 2013)

Domaine de l'Arlot, Cote de Nuits Villages, Clos du Chapeau, 2010

I debated for a long time whether to try and age this a bit, but, as usual, thirst and impatience won out. This is earthy, almost pungently so, with a core of fresh red fruit, Nuits spices, rustic tannins (which would have been smooth with any other grape but Pinot Noir) and small-scale complexity and charm. Not an earth shaker, but if you're a Bourgogne lover on the lookout for a new house wine, give this a try. (May 2, 2013)

(Interestingly enough, this seems readier than the 2009, even though I expected 2009 to be more forward and the 2010 to be more 'classical', i.e. in need of softening time)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 160 NIS.

Domaine Servin, Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchots, 2005

The Chablis here isn't very obvious, at first, although this is obviously high grade white B. With air, I get the pungent sea shells, but without the depth, complexity or finesse I'd expect from a Grand Cru, although there is a saline inflected intensity on a Grand scale. (May 3, 2013)

Giaconda, about 300 NIS.

Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc 5me Cru, 2007

A quite classical nose of currants and cedar, without a lot of complexity or finesse. Tasty enough, in a clunky way: good fruit, solid acidity, a grainy texture, and savory tannins that soften nicely with 3-4 hours of air. Just a pleasant claret that is ready to drink. (May 4, 2013)

WineRoute, 2 for 300 NIS.

Domaine Etxegaraya, Irouléguy, 2009

Well, here's a wine that my spell checker hates. This is a Tannat based wine from the Basque province of Irouléguy, hence the decidedly un-French sounding name. This is a very, very good value supermarket wine (purchased for 12 Euros in Paris) is all about black fruit framed by black pepper and upturned earth, nothing fancy, just hearty fun. The palate is bold and full, the sweetness of the fruit well counterpointed by rustic tannins and fine acidity, leading to a savory finish. This extremely delicious wine has roast beef written all over it. (May 11, 2013)

12 Euros. That stings! Is anyone going to import wines like these to Israel and keep the price as reasonable? WineRoute have the breadth (although I'm not sure how the logistics of transporting wines from the Pyrenees work out; and besides, their notions of QPR lower end wines are not always consistent with mine, as they tend to lean towards obvious crowd-pleasers). Eldad Levy or Uri Caftory might go for it.

Midbar Winery, Winemaker's Edition, Chenin Blanc, 2010

This steel, crisp wine recalls the Loire, a hypothetical hybrid of Savennieres' torrid minerality and Vouvray's melon tinted mellowness, without trying to mimic either one, instead merely reflecting their maker's cerebral reserve. A complex, classy act. (May 12, 2013)

This limited edition sold out before I ever saw a formal price, but I was able to get another long bottle in a mixed case, so its cost came out to about 70 NIS or so.

Segal, Rehasim, Dishon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

Smoky, sweet black fruit. Very friendly and very Cabernet. Some sour cranberries possibly reflect the wine's youth. Rich and modern, but with a purity of fruit somehow reflecting the fingerprint of the maker and possibly the vineyard as well. (May 15, 2013)

165 NIS at Makom Shel Basar.

Huet, Vouvray, Petillant Brut, 2005

Back again at the scene of the crime, where the nose is showing more minerals than ever before, and an enticing, complex funky strain that I can't find an apt descriptor for - I grope for rotting flowers and then it flashes a random, mysterious nuance and I lose my train of thought. The palate is fat, yet crisp and elegant at the same time, not quite as deep and off the wall as the nose, with the complexity it has to offer flaring up on the finish. (May 16, 2013)

Giaconda, 140 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Bourgogne-Aligote, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

The first time I had this, it was somewhat more Meursault than Aligote, which was a nice display of terroir, but now it's leaning back even more towards its varietal roots, with mineral-inflected lime fruit, an acidic verve and a lightly salty finish. I think this is the best and most authentic Aligote available in Israel (more comfortable, in a bathrobe and slippers kind of way, than the Villaine Bouzeron, and certainly more authentic than the admittedly wonderful Leroy).  (May 23, 2013)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS.
Textbook white B

Domaine Matrot, Saint Romain, Blanc, 2007

By all rights, I probably would never had gotten a chance to drink a six year old Saint Romain, because I doubt I'd have bothered to age the few samples imported to Israel. So it's a nice treat that this new importer to bring in a specimen from the producer's cellar. This is nicely tosses some minerals and pears that combine for a funky impression. Fantastic acidity! A tasty, wine, although not very complex. (May 24, 2013)

Bourgogne Crown, 160 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Kabinnet, 2011

Classic chalk, slate and apples with a touch of petrol. Delicate balance. One of the better Loosen Kabinnets that I can recall. (May 25, 2013)

160 NIS at Taizu.

Midbar Winery, Rose, 2012

Let's get rid of a mini-diatribe first. I can understand the marketing and aesthetic considerations of a pink label for a rose, but it never really works with the actual hue of the juice of the rose as it comes through a transparent bottle. Whatever, what's in the bottle is really tasty, looking, smelling and tasting like raspberry juice filtered through quartz. This is powerful for a rose, with a long, saline finish, focusing its punch so it doesn't come off as brawny. I suppose the punch is due to it being comprised of two of the heavyweights of the world of red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (May 28, 2013)

About 80 NIS.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First Time In Elba (May 21, 2013)

Daniel Lifshitz, Rani Osnat and I met up at Elba, which is a Tel Aviv bistro that I'd been wanting to try for a while now. My expectations were quite satisfied: it's a very friendly place with delicious food that marries France and Israel. Daniel got to hawk his Bourgogne Crown wares to checf Yair Yosefi, who's not only a terrific guy and a great conversationalist, he also knows his wine.

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2005

Light touch of sea breeze, good acidity for the vintage, with bracing Chablis minerality. Not just a warm vintage Chablis, albeit one with deft balance, but a warm sea Chablis, that is one that evokes the Mediterranean and not the Atlantic. Less complex than the 2004 was at a similar age, but develops nicely with air.

Burgundy Wine Collection, this used to sell for 270 NIS, prices are not over 400 NIS, making it as pricy as a Grand Cru (admittedly, it's as good as a Grand Cru).

La Maison Romane, Corton Grand Cru,  Les Perrieres, 2008

Lovely barnyard stink and exotic spices! Vibrant acidity, as well. This bottle, opened at the restaurant was way too young, but a pleasure to follow as it develops. Whatever, its youth is apparent in the way the fruit shows itself primary as opposed to closed.

Bourgogne Crown, 500 NIS.

Nicolas Potel, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2002

Weightier than the Corton with rusty tannins. Typical Cote de Nuits spices, but I miss the Gevrey gaminess. A good drink, but I find it less interesting than the Maison Romanee.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.