Friday, December 26, 2014

Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret

Wine is a constant reminder that God loves us and loves to see us happy
The rules of engagement were very simple, "bring a Bordeaux". Chateau, classification, AOC, vintage - all were left to the participants' discretion. Except we let an outsider white in, because we didn't have enough Bordeaux blancs and the venue, Halutzim 3, simply has too many tasty starters that beg for white wines.

Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol, Les Champs Libres, 2011

The first Lafleur white, ever, but our bottle was corked. But enough to obscure the vibrant acidity. This should have been a very lively wine.

Vigneti Massa, Colli Tortonesi, Montecitorio, Derthona, 2010

This wine is made of an almost extinct grape, Timorasso, that was rescued by Walter Massa. Amazingly enough, this is the second vintage I've shared with the same group (probably because everyone has been receiving travel advice in Northern Italy from the same source - Ido Lewinsohn). An interesting blend of sweet fruit, tumeric and minerals. A dry wine, detailed with fair complexity and good length. I can understand why Walter Massa fell in love with the grape.

Chateau Coucheroy, Pessac-Leognan, 2010

This breaks my private rule that if the name of the chateau is obscure, it's a Graves, as opposed to a Pessac. Whatever, this is fresh and tropical, almost New Zealand in character, but with greater focus. Very cute.

Clos du Marquis, Saint Julien, 2000

Saint Julien is Home. This, of course, was once the second wine of Leoville-Les-Cases, but is today a separate estate as far as vineyards and facilities go, and would rank as a growth if it was an actual chateau, based on its intrinsic quality. This evening, it was easily the tastiest wine, with currant fruit painted in bold strokes and framed by earth and cedar, well balanced as a Saint Julien should be.

Chateau Talbot, Saint Julien 4me Cru, 2000

Deeper and darker than the Clos Du Marquis, with a hint of brett. No real spark, despite the depth, and looking over past notes, the last 2000 Talbot was exactly the same - a  character study of a stodgy, conservative uncle you wish you liked more - while the 2009 was cut of similar cloth.

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000

Two steps up over the Talbot. At least. Nuanced and sexy, yet firm and structured, with funky, supple sweetness that carries easygoing magic. Overall, the best of the night, with loads of potential.

Chateau Leoville-Barton, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1995

This caused a glitch. The initial pour at the start of the evening showed a disease free wine. However, by the time we reached it, the winemakers in the group thought they spotted TCA, then backed off from that claim. Myself, I get TCA easily and TCA in a 19 year old wine would break anyone's bones. So not TCA. But any wine that makes you search for signs of TCA has some kind of fault, so I'll go by my initial notes, which probably represent the Leoville-Barton at its best: classic Left Bank claret, with cedar and minerals, and so long, harmonious and tasty that it's easy to dismiss its complexity.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Giaconda Beaujolais

Now you know I just love Beaujolais, right?

I wrote a post about George Descombes when I brought a batch over from Paris. I posted when Wine Route started importing Georges Dubeouf to Israel and I'm especially proud of my piece about the Beaujolais Cru portion of the Tomer Gal portfolio.

Now I write about the Giaconda foray into the fiefdom of the Gamay grape, a.k.a. the hunting ground for excellent, interesting, well priced wines.

Roland Pignard, Régnié, 2011 

Even in a perfect world where Beaujolais Cru is a household word, I expect most consumers would gyrate towards the better known AOCs: Morgon, Moulin A Vent, Fleurie, Brouilly even. Regnie would register a "what the?" reaction. I've only had one before, Charly Thevenet's rendition, which is great. This is a different animal. This an earthy, herbal affair with fresh red fruit, quite tasty, with initially timid tannins that grow more forceful. It's akin to a pretty, lower tier Cote d'Or red, with a plumper, yet rougher build, and without much of the airy, heady intoxication that even a lowly Bourgogne from a good producer often provides. (Dec. 1, 2014)

120 NIS.

So the Pignard is nice, but with the following producer, Giaconda picked out a pair of winners!

Potel-Aviron, Morgon, Cote du Py, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

This, of course, is from the more widely known Morgon (which probably accounts for 80% of all Beaujolais Cru imported to Israel). Not only that, it's from the more highly regarded Cute du Py sub-appellation. The sensual appeal is more immediate and intense, as the wine quickly registers that earthy, juicy impact created by a very good Gamay wine. It's meaty smelling, too - like a good Nuits-St.-Georges - the tannins meatier as well, compared to the Pignard, and savory and saline. On the other hand, the fruit is languid, so it's both meaty and languid. And very, very good, on par with Foillard and Thevenet, the kind of wine that builds up in glass, strips, teases, unfolds and seduces. (Dec. 4, 2014)

120 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Morgon, Moulin A Vent, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

This is more reticent than the Morgon, although its relative silence is not enough to hide its qualities. It's arguably finer and more floral, while still projecting the same fresh, languid core of fruit, as well as fetching salinity. The Potel-Aviron Beaujolais Crus are both in need of time, but while the Morgon could use a year or two to gain more refinement and clarity, for the Moulin A Vent it would be time well spent in fleshing out the details and nuances.  (Dec. 5, 2014)

130 NIS.

Well, that was fun. Thank you, Giaconda.

Now, some observations about Beaujolais Cru in general.

One. It's easy, if not tempting, to call Gamay a country cousin of Pinot Noir. But it's not that the wine are much less refined, so much as different: it's like God took a Cote d'Or cru halfway between village and premier and grilled it as opposed to slow cooking it.

Two. The local imports are of such high quality (and we're still not getting any Clos de la Roilette, Guy Breton or Jacky Janodet, so there's still room for improvement) that I'm just about  in tears. Along with the local Loire reds, someone like me finally has ample choices for house wines.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2014)

Domaine des Rémizières, Hermitage, Cuvée Émilie, 2004

The initial face of the wine was stewed and flat, so I was thinking, this doesn't seem like a great vintage for Cuvée Émilie. But then the stingy bastard starts putting out, giving iron, black pepper, bacon, with lithe fruit sculpted by etched tannins - and basically showing the elegant side of mature Syrah. It's a little shallow, though, so maybe it really isn't a great vintage for Cuvée Émilie, at that. (Nov. 1, 2014)

29.99 USD, instead of 65.99.

Charly is doing his old man proud
Charly Thevenet, Régnié, Grain & Granit, 2012

This is brilliantly fun and tasty - probably better than any vintage of Lapierre Morgon I've tasted, just to put the quality in context - with complex earthiness and juicy, savory fruit. As well, there's dash of raw meat and spices. (Nov. 4, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 120 NIS.

Man, I've been drinking the father's wines for almost four years now!

Jean-Paul Thevenet, Morgon, Vieilles Vignes, 2012

This is a more sombre, nuanced wine, and, what's more, a good bottle, which I have to say is an iffy proposition for pere Thevenet. But when his wines are good, such as this surely is, they sure are deep and trenchant. This has subtle, fresh strawberry fruit, with almost Pinot-ish spices, and the same lean angularity, soft and inviting at the same time, as the defunct Rene Engel or the very much alive Maison Romane. (Nov. 6, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

A great Champagne we opened for a family dinner as an early celebration of Efrat's birthday.

Vilmart & Cie, Cuvee Rubis, n.v.

This is one of my favorite Champagnes, probably the best non-vintage available in Israel, easily on par with any excellent vintage Champagne. It has the lush, yet at the same time lean, expressiveness of a Bourgogne Grand Cru, earthy, supple and spicy - married to the mushrooms and brioche of Champagne. (Nov. 7, 2014)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligote, Sous Le Chemin, 2011

Oh, my! The Aligotes in Daniel's catalog are about Bourgogne as much as they are about the grape. So this beauty decorates the salty lime of the variety with the funky flint and dry grass we purists love about the Cote de Beaune village whites. Salivating. (Nov. 8, 2014)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS.

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2013

This Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend has a pretty tropical/floral element in the background, but other than that is all about smoky minerals,a la Puilly-Fume. Yummy. (Nov. 10, 2014)

About 90 NIS.

Vitkin, Israeli Journey Red, 2012

Really surprising. A nose redolent with minerals, a hint of smoke, sweet currants. A deliciously saline finish. (Nov. 12, 2014)

Luciano Sandrone, Barbera d'Alba, 2010

I never liked the label, so I was putting off opening the bottle. And the dark color upon pouring immediately alarmed me. And the initial aromas are modernly styled. But there's a nice mineral/leathery tint on the nose, and friendly warmth in the mouth. (Nov. 13, 2014)

Wine Route, 170 NIS.

Midbar Winery, Semillon, 2009

I was offered a taste at Wine Depot, and was wowed. I've always been a fan of this wine, Yaacov Oryah's baby, so much so that I went through my stash within a couple of years. Yaacov told me to wait and he was right, because the aromatics are so funky and complex now. (Nov. 14, 2014)

Delas, Cornas, Chante-Perdrix, 2005

Delas has been slipping under the radar for years, both locally and, from what I've read, abroad. But I've enjoyed the few mature bottles I've encountered, and so purchased this on a whim and opened the same day. Interesting, Not great, but interesting, and of course it's always fun to drink a relatively mature Rhone. There's plenty of the requisite black pepper on the nose, and a herbal note that is distracting at times, but not enough punch and power to play in the major leagues. I mean, the complexity is decent, but it feels like faded. (Nov. 14, 2014)

349 NIS. A high price considering not only the quality and the alternatives, but the fact that hardly anyone buys Delas in Israel any more.

Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

Excellent, one of the best Fevre GC's I've had. I could list the various marine descriptors, but that's grown very old already. So I'll just note that they interplay with complex and deep citrus fruit in a manner that is funky and slightly dirty, yet clear and focused at the same time. Which elevates the wine and the experience even beyond the breed displayed by the long, saline finish. (Nov. 15, 2014)

Wine Route, I suppose it's in the mid 300 NIS range, although I probably - hopefully! - managed to pay less.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

An unflashy, straightforward. lithe and light rendition of old school Nebbiolo. Floral, dusty and mouth cleaning, perfumed with a enough details and nuances to keep me on my feet. A style I really appreciate. (Nov. 21, 2014)

Wine Route, 120 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cote du Py, 2011

I saved the best of my recent Beaujolais splurge for last (of course, I've had this before, and will again). This has the perfumed, invigorating minerals cum sous bois that always suckers me with similarly lithe Bourgognes. This is precise, concise and tasty, with understated complexity and charming fruity vinosity. Bitchin'! (Nov. 22, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2010

Assaf Paz did an excellent job here! The nose is varietally typical, ie. ripe and spicy, but aptly tamed, with a hint of garrigue; while the fruit has juicy acidity producing a salivating and velvety effect. This shows what I think of as languid warmth, exactly what I look for in Mediterranean wines. (Nov. 23, 2014)

Domaine Huet, Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu, Demi-Sec, 2009

Yowsah, once again! A complex, smoky nose, with apricots, orange peels and roasted cashews. The palate echoes these aromas and serves up a balanced cocktail of sweet and bitter flavors. There's a density of fruit that's only obvious by deduction, once you realize something is totally obscuring the 14% ABV. That probably also explains why the acidity is only obvious as a quite pleasing sourness on the finish. This is not sublime or great, simply an excellent source of pleasure. (Nov. 29, 2014)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanksgiving (Nov. 27, 2014)

Perhaps my wine year should end at Thanksgiving, the better to enumerate the wonders and discoveries of the passing year. And thank the people who made the wines I savored, the people who imported them and the people sold them.

And, war and all, 2014 was fun! I suffered through work, only to dance through my wines.

Blaufrankisch, the red grape of Austria and the next king of the world. At the hands of Moric, the funnest wine ever!

Michel Redde, fantastic Pouilly-Fume artist, long may he prosper and remain under the radar.

2014 was the year that Daniel Lifshitz' portfolio really exploded. While I had already gotten acquainted with the bigger names in 2013, in 2014 I discovered Guyot, Bizot and, most unlikely of all, Domaine Ballorin, the lovechild of a young couple who bought up parcels in the backwaters of the Cote d'Or's, in villages I'd bet my last Cuvee Rubis you've never even heard of. Their Cote de Nuits Villages, from a vineyard in Comblanchien, was perhaps the best surprise of the year.

The perfect Scheurebe, drunk in the most beautiful guesthouse ever: Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauerlain, Scheurebe Spatlese, Erste Lages, 2013.

Tzora, Shoresh, which was likely the best local white wine sold in Israel. Coming in second on my annual list, careening wildly with the most idiosyncratic style produced locally, the Askar, Iqrit, Sauvignon Blanc.

Lallament was the star in the firmament of what turned out to be the year my love for Champagne fully erupted. And when I can't afford the real thing, my favorite 'expatriat'e sparkler has become the Tissot, Blanc de Blanc Cleve en Fue.

Halutzim 3, my favorite place to drink all of the above. And many more. Naama and Eitan, you rock!

And, of course, as another year passes, more and more wines in my collection mature. To wit. Hmmmm, how should I put it? The best GG experience of the year?

Schäfer-Fröhlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felseneck, Großes Gewächs, Riesling , 2008 

A crystalline expression of the purity of Riesling. As complex as this is (and it is - in time it's beguilingly, movingly, complex), its trump card is terroir laser-focused through depth of fruit, with smoky aromas of red apples, pink grapefruit and decisive sweet/saline flavors, backed by acidity that whispers "hello, I'm ginger". This is regal and aloof in the classic Old World sense, yet shows the vigor of a young adult out to conquer the universe.

Giaconda,  320 NIS.