Friday, September 26, 2014

Yotam Sharon's 40th Birthday (Sept. 11, 2014)

Wine creates a special kind of bond, which is formed when you recognize you and a wine friend both love a wine because of stylistic preferences that reflect your personality and aesthetic philosophy. It's not just a paraphrase of the old Seinfeld routine: "You like Chambolle? I like Chambolle! Let's be friends!"

It is actually about sharing a love for something that moves you.

The first time I met Yotam, he brought a Pegau 2001 to a tasting. Good call. If you do bring a Chateaneuf to a tasting, better make it Pegau, a sane man's CdP. I don't mean that to be a back handed compliment. It really made perfect sense that night, and it was a lovely bottle. It was a good omen, a precursor for a bunch of fun evenings. I really enjoyed Yotam's humor, observations and insights then, and I've enjoyed them ever since.

Anyway, thanks for company, man, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to share good wines with you over the years.

Col d'Orcia, Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva, 1980

Very mature, yet still fresh, the fruit still lively and the acidity perfectly juicy, a touch of mildew, cedar and mushrooms adding complexity, chives adding Tuscan character. It's not a great bottle at first, but quite tasty and improving to such a degree we were actually considering this might be a case of yet another wine fraud  - I mean, a 34 year old Sangiovese?

I need to get some Col d'Orcia - I rarely drink Brunello, yet I see that I had a Poggo al Vento 1995 three years ago that I thought was the best Brunello I ever had.

Serragilli, Barbaresco Riserva, 2007

Typical nebbiolo nose, with rose petals, spices and red fruit. It's quite tannic, yet also ripe, so while I think  that the balance works, I have to agree with comments that the wine-making shows signs of imprecision.

Luccarelli, Bianco Salento, Chardonnay Malvasia, 2011

Lime and spices. Enlightening, in a way, but doesn't really convey, to me, any special character or sense of locale.

Vilmart & Cie, Cuvée Rubis, n.v.

So Pinot, so Champagne! Or should I put it, Champagne laced with the exotic magic of Pinot that lights up the taste buds. I could die happy drowning in this earthy, brothy and complex concotion.

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1999

The best CdP I've had in the last five years. A very spicy, animalistic,  furry nose  and very complex. The palate is reasonably lively, and I think this works better than a more vaunted vintage would.

Petit Figeac, Saint Emilion, 2009

The second wine of Chateau Figeac is an excellent young claret, with red and black fruit, tasty tannins, and an obvious Merlot character. To my tastes, it plays a meaner guitar than the Beaucastel at half the price.

Domaine Garon, Cote-Rotie, 1999

Black pepper and blood define the rules of engagement. A lovely luncheon wine, fresh and vivid, soft and comforting, the fruit mellow, the tannins resolved.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Becomes A Legend Most: Redde and Allemand in Tel Aviv (Sept. 9, 2014)

Thierry Allemand - or is that Avi Feldstein moonlighting in Cornas?

 Elad Levy and Uri Kaftori put together a joint presentation of their two latest gems, Michel Redde and Thierry Allemand. I'd already tasted through 80% of their Redde offerings quite recently, so basically I came along to taste the Champs des Billon, which I had laid away as the domaine recommends to age it  further - and of course, to taste the legendary, rare, expensive Cornas legend, Allemand.

It was nice to drink the first four wines without any compulsion to take down tasting notes. I will, however, say that the differences between the Pouilly bottlings and the Sancerre are very obvious in the context of a tasting, the Sancerre  showing very clean and fruity, the various permutations of Pouilly very funky and minerally. Uri says the domaine Pouilly and the single vineyards see oak to give them a smokier character, although from my experience, the Sancerre also shows a somewhat similar mineral laden attitude given time and air.

And as for the bottle I hadn't tasted:

Michel Redde, Pouilly-Fumé , Les Champs des Billon, 2011

Monolithic, yet more elegant than the Cornets (the other single vineyard, similarly priced), showing lime and minerals. The Cornets is really more likeable right now but damn, they're both great - so buy them both. Hell, buy 'em all, even if it means cutting down on your Chablis! (259 NIS)

But I really came for Allemand, didn't I? And his wines performed as advertised.

Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Les Chailliots, 2011

The nose shows manure at first, then aged meat over black fruit. I'm struck by how the terrifically juicy fruit shows such great focus and depth. And what length! This has the weight of Hermitage with the clean purity of a juicy Saint Joseph, and, although outrageously young, is already very complex and elegant due to its fine tannins.

Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Les Reynards, 2011

This cuvee is sourced from old vines, up to 90 years old, whereas the Les Chaiiliots comes from younger vines, 5 to 40 years old (still fairly mature at the extreme of the range), and as is usually the case, the older vines offer more of everything. Thus, this is more reserved, more tanninc, longer by at least a leg length, and overall feels more 'serious' and moody. As well, it's more refined and the meat aromas are tempered by black pepper. In both cases, I am struck by the purity. These are classics that will likely carve in a niche in your heart.

The pair costs 950 NIS and are not sold separately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Jul. - Aug. 2014)

I suppose I could just have called this the Summer of Champagne

Marc Hebrart, Champagne, Mareuil-Sur-Ay, Premier Cru Brut, Rose, n.v.

This is a grower from Terry Theise's portfolio that Eldad Levy doesn't carry (yet ?) and it's very, very good.  Interestingly, it's comprised of 47% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir, including 7% still wine, so there's citrus and apples in there along with the more expected strawberries. It has very decent complexity for a non-vintage, with brioche, salted nuts, even a hint of flint and flowers, and it's very saline and dry, in a reserved, ladylike manner. Like the the other grower Champagnes I've tasted, this feels as though someone had managed to merge the freshness of fruit with the salivating, brothy warmth of crisp, freshly baked crust of bread dipped in bouillabaisse.

56 USD.

Simon Bize, Bourgogne, Les Perrières, 2010

Even though I thought this wouldn't reward drinking before 2015/6, I gave optimism a chance (mostly because it'd been a few weeks since I had a red Burgundy), but this is still nubile and oaky. Beneath the oak I can spot red fruit and flowers. I don't know if it's the vintage or the winemaker, but this just isn't tasty right now, and while time might absolve its sins, there are too many contenders I can opt to drink instead. (Jul. 20, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Ashkar, Iqrit, Sauvignon Blanc, 2012

This is more delicate than I remembered, very pale colored, all lime and grapefruit with a racy, chalky streak and terrific acidity. It's one dimensional, but packs a lot of charm into that one dimension. As much a pleasure the second time around. (Jul. 24, 2014)

Not that easy to find, I scored it at Goodies in Tel Aviv for 70 NIS.

Pierre Péters, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Brut Rosé, For Albane, n.v.

Right. I've waited for a long time for Eldad to reel Peters in. This is quite dry and austere, with oranges almost crowding out the red fruit, the Pinot Meunier in the cuvee (it's the sole red grape) lending a very earthy character. No brioche or nuts here, and I wind up liking it less than the less expensive Herbrat, even though it feels more refined if I limit my inspection solely to its structure. (Jul. 29, 2014)

Fat Guy, 399 NIS.

Delamotte, Champagne, Cote de Blancs, Brut, n.v.

Another very nice non-vintage, from the only producer in Eldad Levy's catalog that's an actual Champagne house (albeit a small one) and not a grower. Chalk, nut and citrus comprise a very mellow Champagne for an evening by the fire - 'cept we had it in the midst of yet another heat wave. Efrat says, and I agree with her, that this, too, gives more pleasure than the Péters Rosé. (Aug. 1, 2014)

Fat Guy, about 270 NIS.

L. Aubry Fils, Jouy-Les-Reims, Brut Premier Cru, n.v.

The blend is heavily into black grapes, 45% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and the remaining 5% are ancient varieties that few besides the Aubry twins grow: Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Fromenteau. Unlike most non-vintage blends, the reserve wine (40%) comes from not from a back vintage or two, but from something akin to a sherry solera system, with the juice dating back to 1998. My bottle was disgorged in January 2013, which means the non-reserve juice (60%) is 2010, and it also means it has had a year on the shelves to settle and age. The final result is lovely, with the nutty/brothy/bready nuances that have already wreaked havoc on my heart when I 'discovered' Lallament earlier this year. It's in a similar funky style, although a less intense rendition. (Aug. 17, 2014).

About 50 USD.

Jean-Louis Denois, Limoux, Brut Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, n.v.

Disgorged Dec. 2012. I've been craving Champagne so much lately that I was content with a ringer, but this faced the handicap of being drunk while the memory of the charming and funky Aubry was still fresh in my mind. But it's still a tasty sparkler, with nuts and mushrooms and fresh Chardonnay citrus fruit underneath. (Aug. 18, 2014)

Fat Guy, 105 NIS.

Pierre Gimonnet, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, 1er Cru, Cuvee Gastronome, 2008

And here we go again. This is the low-rung vintage wine, a step up from the Gimonnet n.v., right before the "big gun" vintage wines, but still a treat (even if, as some on Cellar Tracker have written, it is a tad too sweet): a cloud of roasted nuts and mushrooms floating over bright apples and citrus fruit, with a structured laced with chalk. (Aug. 21, 2014)

Fat Guy, 279 NIS.

Prager, Niederosterrich, Hinter Der Burg, Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, 2013

Typical GruVe: melon, apples, green peas, white pepper, mint. Decently complex, long and very pure and moreish. Really a wonderful little wine, whose finish lingers like a Grand Cru. (Aug. 22, 2014)

18 euros.

Pierre Péters, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, Cuvée de Réserve, .n.v

As in the case of the Gimonnet Gastronome, the floral Chardonnay fruit is very obvious, lending the wine  clean purity, with brioche lending nuances initially, followed quickly by a layer of chalk and nuts. Since the Peters non-vintage is sourced from a perpetual 'solera' (Terry Theise: "in principle this is half of the current-prevailing year and half a cuvée of all the preceding years"), I expected a more mature character, but this is amazingly fresh, with a finish that complements citric sweetness with a dash of salt. Good breed. (Aug. 23, 2014)

Fat Guy, 289 NIS.

Weninger, Mittelburgenland, Blaufränkisch, Saybritz, 2012

I bought this at the wine store in Egg, Germany, at the recommendation of the owner, after he noticed I didn't like the oakier wines he let me taste. He said the 2012 version saw less oak than the earlier vintage I was looking at. Well, there is oak in here, at first complementing the peppery aspects of the grape nicely, then subduing it, and it's not as light and lithe as the Moric, Schloss Gobbleburg and Brundlmayer reds I've tasted (which I'd drink by the gallons, if I could get any). I guess the wine store guy got it right, or I was too optimistic. (Aug. 28, 2014)

16 Euros, but what does the price mean anyway? I bought it in a town way out in the hinterlands, it would probably be 10-12 Euros in a major Austrian city, but anyone importing it to Israel would probably have to charge the equivalent of 20-25 Euros.

Ashkar Winery, Iqrit, Shiraz, 2012

The label might say Shiraz, but it smells and tastes like a warm vintage, Old World, Syrah, yet at the same time very Israeli as well. Lots of black pepper and spices, sweat, red and black fruit, maybe even a hint of bacon. Ripe, yet reined in at the same time - sweet, with a touch of sanguine. Smells great, tastes yummy, albeit rustic and grizzled. (Aug. 31, 2014)

90 NIS.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer Of Riesling, 2014

I can't explain - I think it's love

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, 2012

I think this is the first bottle I've opened that's labelled Mosel instead of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, and I'm grateful for having less to type in going forward. Anyway, we have here apples, melons and guyavas, a combination that makes for a vaguely tropical effect, except it's tightly reined in by a minty leafiness and slate. Hmmm... that's one long, spicy complex finish over the deceptively light, crystalline frame. (Jun. 27, 2014)

Fat guy, 115 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2012 

Of course, if I had my way, all Mosels Kabinetts would be like this more traditional rendering (unless you subscribe to the view that classic German Riesling is dry, and I'm not getting into that argument -  I simply know too little on the subject): light, lithe and ethereal, all succulent apples and slate and thrilling acidity, as refreshing as jumping into a cold lake on a hot August afternoon. Quite honestly, this puts just about every Kabinett I've had to shame, except benchmark Egon Muller. Especially when an hour of air releases some chalk into the mix. (Jun. 30, 2014)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett, 2012

This is always a dependable Mosel Kabinett, apples and slate and all, fantastic acidity, and even if it doesn't have the electric, refreshing thrill of the Selbach-Oster Schlossberg, there's very little to find fault with in a dependable Mosel Kabinett. I mean, it's so yummy that it's not boring even in repetition.(Jul. 4, 2014)

Wine Route, about 130 NIS.

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

It's been a fun ride, but I'm finally down to my last bottle. This is showing ripe red apples and lime with delicate trimmings of stone and petrol, as well as zippy acidity, very good grip, length and depth. This is just as fresh and tasty as it was six or seven years ago when I first tasted it, but age has turned it into a complex statement of place and character. (Jul. 8, 2014)

Giaconda, 150 NIS back when I bought it years ago, remaining stock is now being sold for 180 NIS.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

The nose is complex and ever morphing, almost Sauvignon Blanc like with its grassy and tropical (guayavas) notes and minerals, while the palate is pure Riesling: sweet, yet racy, with fine grip and structure, and excellent length driven by green apple acidity. A memorable, lightly funky character. (Jul. 9, 2014)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

This is even better formed than the Roseneck 2004, formulating a clearer, more complex, more crystalline statement. The fruit is purer, even tastier, with a smoky veneer of minerals, lingering on forever. A better vineyard and a better year, I guess. (Jul. 11, 2014)

Giaconda,  180 NIS.

Karthäuserhof, Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Schieferkristall, Riesling feinherb, 2012

The back label calls this a kabinett, and it certainly has the lithe body of one, with intense green apple acidity. The nose shows the same green apples, as well as lime, pungent minerals and a hint of coffee. Tasty and fun, with good complexity, a unique aromatic signature and a very persistent finish. (Jul. 16, 2014)

31.49 USD.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Grosses Gewaches, Riesling, 2008

At this point, I was certain my distrust of aging trockens or grosses gewaches was a healthy one, but this six year old really begs for more time. An intense, highly detailed and complex nose of apples, lemons, and slate. The palate is intense as well, long and vital, driven by incredible acidity. One of the most focused wines I've ever drunk, in the way it marries grand cru concentration with clarity and purity of fruit, as well as an elegant, light touch. (Jul. 19, 2014)

Giaconda, 330 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Spätlese * trocken , 2012

A lot to like here: from the complex nose that leads with green apples and slightly oxidative notes, before it opens up to showcase a bedrock of minerals; to the fine acidity that makes for a very long finish, with a hint of honey. An excellent dry Riesling (a Grosses Gewaches for all practical purposes) and, for my money, ready to drink. (Jul. 26, 2014)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Model, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

A fantastic marriage of sweet fruit and electric acidity that makes every sip feel as though one is biting deep into the core of a perfectly ripe, freshly plucked apple. Already complex, with notes of slate and mint, but it has enough balance to cellar and develop for a decade. (Jul. 27, 2014)

Fat Guy, 155 NIS.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, -R-, 2007

As focused and pure as a diamond, with lithe green apples that perfectly marry acidity and sweetness. A complex nose, showing green apples, granite, iron, kerosene - intense and funky, yet light and elegant, the same wonderful paradox resides on the palate as well. There's a whole lot of sides to this wine, but at the end of the day, as is my usual experience with the Emrich-Schonleber Halenbergs of all pradikats, what I take away is the aloof purity. (Aug. 3, 2014)

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Weingut Wittman, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Kirchspiel, Riesling Großes Gewächs , 2007

The intensity here is so focused that the final effect is that of elegance. The aromas and flavors, are of apples and peaches, grapefruit pits, spices and minerals, with depth and complexity beyond what the mere list can convey, and the finish is long, saline and complex. As I was drinking it, I thought: "mein gott, I really haven't had a dud this summer!" (Aug. 27, 2014)

Giaconda, about 300 NIS.

Of course, excellent Rieslings are also produced outside of Germany.

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

I've been following this for about three years, almost always getting off the crystalline veneer of the icy slate, here complemented by green apples, sweet grapefruit and a note of spice inflected tropical fruit reminiscent of botrytis. A thoroughbred, that marries the spiciness of the Austrian idiom with a sweet Spatlese-like veneer. (Aug. 2, 2014)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Weingut Markus Huber, Traisental DAC Reserve, Berg 1er Lage, Riesling , 2012 

An appetizing, complex nose: green apples, lime, iron and a slender, yet intense, aromatic spike that is equally of minty green leafiness and spices as of pungent minerals. And is that a shy flower lurking in the cracks of thawing slate? As good as this summer's batch was to begin with, this was of the finest filigree and arguably the most distinct, almost ready to go, except the finish needs time to soften. (Aug. 25, 2014)

30 Euros.