Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The In Crowd (Dec. 3, 2015)

Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy. (Frank Sinatra)
Just another night at Halutzim 3.

Emidio Pepe, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, 2010

Having barely survived Emidio Pepe's iconic, brett-laden red, we upped the ante and went for the white. Well, one of us did, the rest of us were simply a captive audience. Actually, this is quite an interesting wine, its color and subtle hints of oxidation on the nose suggesting an orange wine, an impression belied by the freshness, flint and vital acidity of the palate.

Giaconda, 300 NIS.

Kir-Yianni, Diaporos, 2011

This is the first time I've tasted a Greek wine, and even detractors of the country's efforts called this a very worthy, fascinating wine. Comprised of 92% of the indigenous Xinomavro grape and 8% Syrah, it's dusty and peppery, lean and confident, coming off as a Syrah fornicating with a Nebbiolo after a hard session in the gym.

Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot, Vosne Romanee, 2011

I don't know whether its place in the lineup, immediately after the Diaporos, but the attack of black pepper was just too much and too atypical for me. Vosne should be more exotic, but this is too green and mean and was better earlier in the year.

At this point, we moved on to three safe bets,

Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Saint Julien 4m3 Cru Classe, 2008

This is still austere but starting to open up. Showing iron and minerals, it reminds me more of Pauillac than Saint Julien and will need five more years (which means my 2005 will need ten more).

Chateau Leoville-Barton, Saint Julien 2me Cru Classe, 2008

This is an even safer bet, and, before prices spiraled out of control, was one of the best buys in Bordeaux, given its quality and consistency. The fruit here is blacker and lusher, but well within the classic claret mold, with ample minerals. It needs even more time than the Branaire, but even now will convince you to vote French.

In various deal and configurations, I used to be able to buy these 2008's at 250-300 NIS a piece.

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabaja, Riserva, 2006

Spices and tar embellished by tea leaves. Deep, complex, multi layered.  A moving impact.

Dani Galil sells other vintages for 350-370 NIS.

Castel, Grand Vin, 2008

Like Margalit, this is a venerable local name I haven't tried in years. it shows languid ripeness and a pleasant dusty/green claret character.

Gitot Diem, Petit Syrah, 2013

Now this, if I open this, Efrat will take a a sip and go to bed, leaving me with the entire bottle in front of the TV. I won't watch Fargo because the show is too complicated for me to figure out with a nasty headbanger like this, so I'd stick with Seinfeld re-runs. But this is really an academic dilemma as I won't ever drink it again.

And now, the hipsterest wine in the world:

Sami Odi, MCMXII, 2010

This old vine Barossa Syrah (yes, Syrah, not Shiraz) - packaged in Brandy shaped bottles with handmade labels that change with every vintage (and labeled with roman numerals to boot) - is a funky, freaky tapenade, tasting like sun-baked Hermitage without any loss of freshness. It's totally outre, like a virgin putting on garters to try to lure a sailor into popping her cherry. You can't really pin it down, yet you can't look away.

Mersch, 1117 NIS.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Barolo Chez Eldad (Nov. 17, 2015)

Eldad Levy.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

Of course, he's making a living off us wine geeks. But still, we're indebted to him for bringing us grower Champagnes, vibrant Austrian whites, suave Loire reds, as well as assorted classics from all over the place (Tondonia, Allemende, Redde). And just to complete the picture, he's also teamed up with Bourgogne Crown. Most of the goods are at reasonable prices, in local terms.

Now he's testing the Piedmont waters, with two producers that have eluded the hype of American critics to the extent that the prices are still fairly decent. Of the two, Silvio Grasso comes off as a very good producer but it's Giacomo Fenocchio that is the great one. I'm especially looking forward to making the Fenocchio Barolo a house wine and stocking up on the Villero for long term cellaring.

Silvio Grasso, Dolcetto, 2013

This offers dusty black cherries and is a little more serious than I'd expect from a Dolcetto, but still with an element of fun. A good bistro wine.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Roero Arneis, 2014

A lively fresh white wine for early drinking, with a spicy, mineral laden bite.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Freisa, 2013

The first special wine of the evening. Cherries with the spicy/dusty/tarry signature of the area. A good alternative to Langhe Nebbiolo.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo, 2011

A bedrock of spices, very impressive and simply alluring, savory with good acidity.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, 2011

A more modern wine, but not too much so, and not in any annoying way, and it shows enough typicality to please. And although the barrel is obvious, it is well placed.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Bricco Manzoni,  2011

Greater purity, nuances  and refinement. Lovely red fruit.  Both this and the regular show typical Nebbiolo spiciness that still requires time to meld and absorb the remaining traces of oak.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Bricco Luciano, 2011

Terroir. This is blacker, arguably more modern, with hints of leather. I think it's at the price point where I'd either go for the regular or for the Manzoni, but it's a worthy wine on its own right, albeit  marred right now by oak and sweetness to a degree that the other two aren't.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Turne, 2011

Old school, mineral laden. The best of the Grasso lot, that magically manages to hide its 15% ABV.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo, Villero, 2011

Complex and nuanced, with detailed layers of minerals and leather. The embryo of a great wine.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo Riserva, Bussia, 2011

Still vaguely formed compared to the Villero, and even though on paper it's the higher ranked wine, I think it will develop only to the point where it will hover at slightly below the level of Villero.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bourgogne Binge (Nov. 11, 2015)


When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love, L-U-V!

This one night - there was no unifying stylistic theme to the wines. One was a dud, another was outright weird, a wine that made no sense at all in the context of Bourgogne as I know it. It wasn't really a great tasting, but I came away thinking, "I just love this stuff" and "I'm such a lucky guy".

Domaine Prieuré Roch, Ladoix, Cloud, 2013

I never knew, never suspected, that somewhere in the Cote de Beaune, there lurked such repugnant evil, infiltrating the heart of a venerable producer, and  in the dark abyss of human hubris, bringing forth so foul a beast:  an orange wine from Ladoix. Supremely interesting, in an arch way, flicking its demonic scents like a Pinot with stink.

Faiveley, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Marechale, 1996

This hails from the Mugnier monopole, predating the domaine's taking back control of the family plot. Based on Faiveley's (mis-)treatment, this doesn't  deserve a premier Cru designation. It's ripe, extracted, odd, with dry tannins, recognizable as Pinot, but just barely.

Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Saint George, 2008

This, however, is a true Premier Cru, right up my alley, too, with leather, earth, languid fruit, and tasty acidity. More feminine than I expected, given my past experience with Gouge's Premier Crus. Excellent.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 350 NIS at the time, it's almost twice the price these days.

Mommessin, Clos De Tart Grand Cru, 1999

Complex, animalistic, with a touch of rotting leaves. Deep, yet still undeveloped. When will the great 99's peak?

Domaine Prieuré  Roch, Ladoix, Le Clous, 2011

I'm willing to forget the curious incident of the orange wine in order to mark this as my first encounter with Prieuré Roch. A certain type of ripe Pinot can be great if it's also languid and juicy enough, with enough sublime purity. It's called magic. This is such a wine and while it's only a village and shows it, it's pure magic all the way.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 320 NIS.

Domaine Rapet, Pernand-Verglesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2012

About three or four years ago, I was running into so many oxidized white Bourgognes, that I was ready to forego any further purchases. Which would have broken my heart, as the genre ranges from salivating on the lower end to deeply moving at the top. But it seemed a risky prospect, until Daniel Lifshitz and the Bourgogne Crown came along. Daniel can sure pick 'em, and as he picks them lean and mineral, I loved them young, and their aging curve so far has renewed my faith. This is a lovely example, indeed, of a young B white, offering freshness and minerality, with a trace of the Corton fat. A steal at 270 NIS.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2015)

I've been noticing my ambivalence towards Piedmont is starting to wear down
but before we get into that, take a look at the first note this month...
Golan Heights Winery, Blanc de Blancs, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me. That a winery that regularly picks in mid October, weeks after the rest of Israel (and most of Europe for that matter), whose red wines weight in at 14-15% ABV that deflates the grapes of much of their typicality and vitality, whose flagship Chardonnay is a throwback to the fat, buttery style of the 90's. That that winery could actually come up with this, a delicious, saline, lean and ripped sparkling wine that showcases many of the characteristic and nuances of the homeland of the sparkling wine. Nuances. Gee, I really thought GHW retired that word when they switched to Californian bottles for the 1996 vintage. (Nov. 2, 2015)

110-120 NIS. Totally worth it!

We now return you to the 2GrandCru blog.

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Ptremier Cru, Vaillons, 2013

Another excellent work from this recent addition to the local supply of Chablis, it comes off as the conservative cousin of Côte de Léchet. Since we lovers of Chablis are so prone to maritime images, I'd say this is a mercantile captain while the Côte de Léchet is a pirate. In other words, this is just as classical - with lime, green apples, chalk and salt - just less colorful. (Nov. 3, 2015)

Wine Route, 200 NIS (2 for 300 on discount).

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, 2013

This Bordeaux++ blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah) hit a peak in 2013. This is really the best version yet - the piercing mineral aromas are especially memorable. The bitter tannins need to soften, though, but this will be really excellent when they do. (Nov. 6, 2015)

130 NIS.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2006

I've been noticing my ambivalence towards Piedmont is starting to wear down. A classic showing, with tarry/spicy/dusty red fruit and gum staining tannisn. (Nov. 7, 2016)

Wine Route, 249 NIS.

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Science can't disprove it. I believe the Mosel is where life began. And Prüm would be a living emblem of that faith, crafting ethereal, regal wines with skill, patience and, for a lack of a better word, magic. Take this. The nose is to die for, with full of smoke and rocks, the green apples showing a shade of dill, all with a mystique and wonder that are more than the sum of the parts. The palate marries the acidity and sugar of a fresh apple with just a touch of plumpness. (Nov. 10, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Domaine Ballorin, Côte de Nuits Villages, Le Village, 2011

This was one of the great surprises in Daniel Lifshitz' 2014 catalog, an unknown couple making wines from obscure sites, which was all they could get their hands on, basically. This is from the hamlet of Comblanchien, which doesn't even have its own AOC. I bought a few and this is my third and last. It's lost some of the floral freshness I loved last year, but it's gained some herbal complexity and weight. (Nov. 12, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 150 NIS.

Carmel Winey, Kayoumi Riesling, 2013

It used to be called the best Israeli Riesling, back when there were only two contenders to the title. Well, I think it was mainly Carmel that called it that and today there are probably four contenders. It is nice, though, with green apples, but also peaches, spicy, petrol. (Nov. 13, 2015)

Should cost about 100 NIS, your mileage may vary.

At Yaffo-Tel Aviv.

Benoit Ente, Bourgogne, 2013

Classic lime and minerals. Intense acidity. Big like. (Nov. 14, 2015)

La Maison Romane, Macon, 2012

Suave red fruit, just a touch of brett to show what happens when it works. (Nov. 14, 2015)

Sphera, Chardonnay, 2014

While this shows as much grace and delightful salinity as the previous bottle, it's starting to also show a vaguely tropical side as well. Not enough to be off-putting, just enough to make the bottle variation and evolution interesting, (Nov. 15, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Moulin-à-Vent, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

At first, this is just totally closed, but it opens up to show a demure expressiveness and a dusty black cherry character that vaguely evokes a rustic Pinot. (Nov. 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Hirsch, Kammerner Lamm, Erste Lage, Gruner Veltliner, 2011

Melon, lime and minerals combine for an elegant, bracing effect and a singular aromatic profile - halfway between chalk and slate - that's pungent and smoky, yet cool. The palate has a saline texture, cocooning bitter-sweet pears. Quite a piece of work. (Nov. 19, 2015)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Pape, Rouge, 2012

Very fresh red fruit, enveloped and tempered by layers of smoke and minerals. Excellent. (Nov. 20, 2015)

150 NIS.

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

This wine is about ecstasy, delivering pure unadulterated pleasure, and did it hail from any other region than the Mosel, it might actually have been too much of a good thing. But because it's a Mosel, it delivers the sexy, sweet fruit of an Auslese with the purity and racy, electric acidity of a Spätlese, tempering the visceral core of green apples with a subtly expressive layer of minerals. And then all that pleasure is fed to your nerve endings with such focus and mean intention that it transforms the ecstasy into a haunting, spiritual essence. (Nov. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, 150 NIS.

A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2008

Joy in a bottle. One of my favorite Champagne growers, in a great vintage, crafted a classic with deep complexity and effortless power. All the attributes are in place, the signature brioche and sauteed mushrooms, but also chalk and iodine. (Nov. 21, 2015)

Fat Guy, 345 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne Blanc de Blancs d'Aÿ, Grand Cru, n.v. (2009 vintage)

This BdB from the Pinot Noir village of Aÿ impresses with explosive aromas of baked apples, layered with chalk and brioche. What's even more impressive is the moreish freshness of the fruit, which strikes a precise balance between pear-ish ripeness and saline acidity. (Nov. 28, 2015)

Fat Guy, 249 NIS,

Karthäuserhof, Moel-Saar-Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg, Riesling Auslese, 2002

Tasty and elegant as this is, typical of Mosel for its granny apples and icy slate, it's not overly expressive. Although, coaxed by air, it is very charming in its demure, discreet way - finally complex and mystifying even if one has to grope for the lovely creature's secrets in its mineral strata. (Nov. 29, 2015)

About 40 GBP.

Margalit, Enigma, 2012

When I started out, Margalit was the boutique winery to beat, and it used to impress my untrained palate, both young and mature (a friend inherited a stock from the nineties so I tasted a couple of back vintages), I hadn't drunk it in a decade, though, and decided to broach it again, with the Engima Bordeaux blend, which I'd hoped would be approachable young (especially since I'd read that Yair Margalit had been swayed, by Bourgognes he'd tasted, towards a more elegant wine-making style). This, however, turns out to be very oaky/spicy, and the oak is too obtrusive for my patience - I can see where it's going, but when it asks me do I want to come along with the ride, I stop to think about it for a long time. Anyway, while I might not be bothered to follow it, if you were to ask me, five years would be a good gestation period for it. (Nov. 30, 2015)

About 210 NIS.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Oct. 29, 2015)

Another night at Halutzim 3. What made it different was the almost overwhelming number of bottles, as many alumni brought in multiples. For many reasons, all justified.

It's OK, I'm a wine maker
Recanati, Marawi, 2014

This is the wine that has had the local wine scene a-buzzing for several weeks. It's the first wine made of a single indigenous grape (there has been a blend or two before, but this is the first made of a single grape) and because it is a table grape and not a wine grape, the wine has somehow gotten criticized for its actual existence before it was ever tasted. But it's a pioneer wine and it wasn't easy to get a hold of a bottle, so I can understand why people wanted to get in on the conversation. Anyway, we finally got a chance to taste it! Because its creators were present.

It's different. It's a little wine, by design, it was never crafted for greatness or for cellaring. The idea was to see what could be done with a grape that grows nowhere else in the world. You could call it a gimmick, but isn't that just the kind of gimmick that makes the world of wine so special? Remember how it felt to discover Aligote or Muscadet for the first time? That pleasant, light, moreish impact on the palate, the salty flavors that go so well with seafood, the sheer excitement of discovering something new? So, that.

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Preuses, 2008

Onwards. Moving from such a light wine to the Grand Cru of Preuses is not a kind gesture towards the palate. But taking that into account, this was not a good showing. Fevre is not today my favorite producer of Chablis, but for my palate, the Preuses is the best wine the house makes and, while it shows a waxy, minerally character, this bottle displays too much oak at the expense of Chablis typicality. Even though this may have been an off bottle, it is one more notch in my on-going tally of underwhelming Chablis Grand Cru. Barring Raveneau and Dauvissat, I've tasted Grand Crus from just about all the obvious producers, and they're batting less than .500, which is disturbing.

Domaine Jean Charton, Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Benoites, 2008

This is just a shame, over the hill, sweet and oxidized. I'd think 2008 from a good producer should still be thriving.

Kumeu River, Coddington, Chardonnay, 2007

At this point, Eran Pick made a bold move and unscrewed this. The Old World took  a shameful exit and left the stage for this lovely New Zealand white. This has fresh, lively, beautiful fruit with trappings of flint, great acidity, decent complexity and an exorbitantly indecent sense of fun.

Avidan, Cabernet Franc, 2013

People are still dead sure I never drink Israeli wines, which isn't true, of course. But since I do focus my attention elsewhere, I mostly limit my local forays to the produce of friends, and it's a good thing I have talented friends. Yotam Sharon made it, and despite winning a Decanter bronze medal, it seems to have flown right under the local radar. The fruit is so fresh, it's a surprise to find out it has 14.5% alcohol. It really reminds me of some excellent entry level Cabernets from fine Loire producers. 

Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

Yotam also brought this, for comparison's sake. I'm glad he did, because the first bottle I tasted of the 2011 Guillot cast doubts, which this dispelled, with its smoky, meaty personality, and no sign of overoaking.

Dry River, Martinborough, Pinot Noir, 2013

Eran brought this, too, and it's good, very good. But, to be politically correct, it's not really Pinot in an immediately recognizable form, more like an excellent Syrah in a Saint Joseph vein. Still, a style of wine I enjoy in its own right.

Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, 2007

This is the wine that I brought. The North Rhone lovers in the group (all of us, basically), looked for black pepper, which was present when I opened the bottle at home, but was replaced by the time we actually got to it by pork and olive tapenade. The excellent balance of fruit and acidity should ensure enough longevity for it to achieve greater complexity.

Chateau Haut Batailly, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2007

The kind of brett tempered claret where you wring out your hair trying to decide if the charm you sense in the wine is simply brett adding complexity to mundane fruit. And then, when you finally run out of hair, you decide this much brett is a nuisance and you can't decide how good the underlying fruit is anyway. 2007 for you. Or Haut Batailly, the sterner critics might say.

The last two wines were more wine makers in the group pitching fastballs.

Mia Luce, 2014

This is a garage winery run by Recanati's Kobi Arviv's. The vintage I tasted in the past was varietal Carignan, but this is mainly Syrah this time. If the Carginan based wine was funky, this is clean, tasty with an understated structure. Very good.

Segal, Unfiltered, 2008

And this is Cowboy Avi Feldstein's masterpiece from way back when he was on Barkan's payroll. Full and peppery, New World in weight and ripeness, but without being over the top, a powerful but sleek heavyweight (I'm not going to label Muhammad Ali on him yet, not until I taste a sample at transcendent maturity, but I'm willing to call this a Larry Holmes).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

One Champion, No Contenders (Oct. 27, 2015)

It's true, you know: you don't need great wines to have a great wine night, you just need good friends. Sometimes, the lineup just doesn't work out, sometimes great wines don't come up to scratch, and sometimes, someone (me!) brings the wrong bottle.

It's all about the company and the friends, but it doesn't hurt if someone brings in a good German Riesling from an unknown producer - or if someone brings a great vintage Champagne,

A great Champagne
The great friend who brought it
J. B. Becker, Rheingau, Wallufer Walkenberg, Riesling Trocken, 2013

A producer I've never heard before. A crisp presence with clean, pungent, green apples and skins, chalk - just about all you could expect from a young dry Riesling.

Pierre Peters, Grand Cru Le Mesnil, Les Chetillons, 2007

Expressive and powerful, full and broad, with brioche, mushrooms, baked apples - the necessities of life, in other words. Despite its power, the nose has a delicate subtlety to it, while the palate balances dry cut with ripe breadth. If you don't love Champagne, you don't love life, and while that doesn't mean you need to love every Champagne, you definitely need this one on your life list.

R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia,  Rioja Gran Reserva, 1976

This is a still vigorous, but aging Don, with typical mature Rioja nuances: red fruit, tobacco leaves, balsami. You could argue that it's past it best - I don't agree, and although I've had better Riojas, I salute its aging grace.

Andre Ziltener, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, 1989

This, however, is definitely over the hill, although the nose still thrives, with its sweet fruit, underbrush and flowers. Naty, who brought it (along with the Peters), said he bought a few at 100 something euros a piece and that others bottles were very good. I've never heard of this producer, and Google tells me the domaine also has a hotel on the premises. I looked up the domaine's site, and I dunno, it reeks heavily of hype and tourism.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ya'acov Oryah, Psagot

Psagot Winery is the third (by my count) station in the journey of one of the most unusual winemakers on the local scene, Ya'acov Oryah, whom I followed with great attention when he worked his craft at Midbar Winery. I'm not going to get into a political debate because the winery is in a West Bank settlement, I'll just say it clashes with my personal opinions, but I have great respect for Yaa'cov, personally and professionally, so here goes,

Rose, 2014

This is an "everything but the kitchen sink" blend of red grapes, mostly Bordeaux varieties, but that's not the real story here. The story is the aromas of fresh red fruit with a touch of rocks and the easy-going mix of sweet/sour and salty flavors. The finish isn't very long, and neither is this note, because this wine is meant to be drunk with gusto rather than discussed.

The nature of rose is, you're not supposed to remember the wine, you're supposed to remember the girl you drunk it with. The girl might win here, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't buy the wine again.

65 NIS.

Viognier, 2014

I'm hardly a big fan of Viognier, and I usually avoid it, but Ya'acov made a nice one back in his days at Midbar, even if it didn't convince me to purchase a bottle. I didn't purchase this one, either, but let's face it, I don't even buy Condrieu, the benchmark for the variety. Viognier has a distinctive bouquet, honeyed melons and other tropical fruit, with none of the nuances I look for, such as nuts, minerals, mushrooms. Then there's the palate -  the fatty, heady palate -  typically with high alcohol creating a hot, bitter finish. All of which are present here. This is a good wine that I think is an apt choice for those wanting to expand beyond the usual suspects available locally, but all in all, Ya'acov might perhaps consider using Viognier in a blend, even if it makes for less sexy marketing.

I hate Viognier. Well, actually, I don't. I don't hate any grape. But Viognier consistently wearies me. I wish Ya'acov would direct his talents elsewhere. For example, the next wine.

65 NIS.

Moav, 2014

The Semillon based wines were the obvious teacher's pets during Ya'acov's Midbar tenure, and he seems to have picked up the plot right where he'd left off. This has the same signature of yellow summer fruit and chalk, that harks to the Bordeaux archetype that was the inspiration for these wines, with nice acidity and a quinine bitter finish. I never tasted the Midbar antecedents quite this young, so it's hard to make comparisons, but this will need a year or two to really get its act together, which is not to say you wouldn't enjoy it now.

110 NIS.

For reference, I went back to the wines Yaa'cov made at Midbar and opened my last bottle of Midbar Winery, Semillon, 2009, which I've always considered Ya'acov's signature wine. Ya'acov had meant for it to be drunk at more or less this age. I think it was more intense last year, when it hit its peak, but it still has very pretty personality of rainwater, flint and peaches. I don't necessarily think intensity is a prerequisite for judging a wine to be at its peak, but it this case, at this age, I think it lacks a little oomph. (Aug. 28, 2015)

The 2010 is livelier, but close enough in character to suggest that any differences have more to do with the wine's age than vintage variations. In both cases, this is a wine that insinuates rather than flashes, which isn't a common approach around here. My problem with it these days, which I didn't see when I was so captivated with it in the past, is that I think you can actually combine that demure shyness with a little more force and presence - but that doesn't really happen with the 2009 and 2010 at this stage. And I think it takes time to get that balance just right, and Yaa'cov only had a few vintages to work with.

The 2012 makes me think maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe, despite Ya'acov's expectations and hopes, and mine as well, his Semillon isn't meant to be aged. The young version, which plays out as melons and salt, is so effortlessly charming that I just want to gulp down a carafe or two.. That might not have been Ya'acov's intention, but to paraphrase the Joker, why be serious all the time? This is so lovely that even though I bought quite a few bottles in a group purchase, I reneged and kept them all for myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

All Over The World (Oct. 10, 2015)

A winemaker,
A wine blogger or two.
A wine importer.
Irit Kozak.

An Israeli white.
A Spanish red.
A Sicilian.
A Lebanese.
A French for dessert.

Lots of cheese.

A hangover.

Lahat, White, 2013

This is... different. Not great, but different. Leesy, funky and lightly minerally. I could have tried to write down the various fruit descriptors, but they were hardly the main story here: the story is that here is kinda weird wine that so escapes the usual mold it might we well have come from outer space.

About 120 NIS.

Chateau Musar, Baka'a, 2005

It's been years since I last had this signature Lebanese wine. Last time I had it, it was a Caberent Sauvignon/Cinsault blend and now it seems there's also Carignan in the blend. There's elegant fruit here, embroidered with mildew, which, along with the savory acidity, reminds me of Rioja. Or something Spanish, anyway. Probably the best Musar at I've had - at the very least, the most palatable.

Tenuta Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, Guardiola, 2012

Terre Nere rocks, always, even this three year old from a hot vintage. A soft yet prominent tannic structure gains form and body with air. The fruit is savory, elegant and poised, red at first, turning a wee blacker in glass, and as always with Terre Nere, the acidity is terrific.

Eldad Levy, 239 NIS.

Alion, Ribera del Duero, 2004

It took me several tries over almost a decade  and across multiple decades to like this modern Ribera. Sometimes. It seems it just needs a decade to mature and become funky, multi layered and for the ripe, modern fruit to tempered by juicy acidity and a mature, Old World charm.

Huet, Vouvray, Clos de Bourg, Premier Trie, Mouelleux, 2009

For me, botrytis works better in the Loire than in Sauternes, and here it's played with finesse, merging sweet and spicy notes. Huet comes with a almost a century's worth of reputation, and with a price tag to match, but this is a terrific value that could trounce almost any dessert wine on the local market.

Giaconda, 300 NIS.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Oct. 2015)

Lewinsohn, Garage du Papa, Blanc, 2014

I probably should have waited a bit, or opened an older vintage, but my curiosity got the better of me. There's good substance of Chardonnay fruit here, with the mineral trappings people like me crave , which will come even more to the fore once it escapes the clutches of the oak - which are actually very soft clutches, Ido Lewinsohn has a light touch here. Anyway, I'll shut up now. There's only so many ways to say "a very good wine in need of time". (Oct. 2, 2015)

140 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage du Papa, Blanc, 2011

This shows what that time might bring out, as it displays the type of flint and dried grass that Burgundy styled Chardonnay can offer. Aromatically, it's just about Macon, with a piercing sharpness. On the palate, though, it's a bit dilute, so I should probably have gotten to it last year. (Oct. 7, 2015)

Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2008

After the debacle with the 2011 last month, I was eager to see whether the brett is limited to specific bottles, or specific vintages, or even specific provenances for that matter, and indeed, the initial pour seems promising, at least to the extent that the brett is almost bearable. Alas, in time it grows beyond my level of enjoyment while the aggressive acidity makes it unpalatable. (Oct. 3, 2015)

Giaconda, 200 NIS.

Emilio Lustau, Palo Cortado, Almacenista Vides 1/50, n.v.

After the Pepe went down the drain, I felt I needed the most abrupt change of pace possible and opened a bottle of Sherry my daughter brought back from Barcelona for me (I'm training her, you see). I used to drink Sherry quite a lot ten years ago and Lustau was one of my favorites, and Palo Cortado was just about my favorite style. Glad to see the magic still works for me, with this hardcore, bone dry rendition, with its typical rancio (carmelized and oxidized) notes, full of iodine and nuts on the nose, lemon, nuts and salt on the palate. Almacenista is the term for private soleras that families in Xerez have inherited and maintained for generations that are marketed by Lustau as a premium label and they're usually very distinct and unique due to the small size of the solera (50 barrels in the case of the Vides Palo Cortado). I'm necessarily skipping over a lot of Sherry terms, so let me just point you here for a good glossary. (Oct. 3, 2015)

About 20 euros for a half bottle.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, Rouge, 2010

I think this used to be labelled a Cote de Rousillon Village, but the domaine have left Syrah out of the blend, making it incompatible with the AOC regulations and thus downgraded to Vin de Pays. That subtle point may be of interest to someone. This is vaguely rustic, most definitely peppery, with the broad, ripe fruit typical of both the Grenache and Caringan in the blend, with grainy and rusty, yet savory, tannins. And a little of touch of brett to show that it can work in small quantities.

That's France for you, even their rustic wines are more fun than most. (Oct. 4, 2015)

Domaine Henry Pellé, Sancerre, La Croix au Garde, 2012

Like the other Domaine Pellé wines that Giaconda imports, this is a delightful everyday wine. Gets the job done, with a ripe melons, a fair amount of pungent minerals and decent focus. (Oct. 5, 2015)

130 NIS.

There's been a bit of local buzz about Bar-Maor over the last couple of years, but it took me a while to follow up.

Bar-Maor Winery, Cabernet Franc, 2013

Cabernet Franc. While just about every local winery either tries its hand at the classic Lennon/McCartney of the Bordeaux  (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) or the so called Mediterranean varieties (Syrah, Petit Syrah, Carignan), few willingly attempt a varietal Cabernet Franc. Even though this weighs in at 14% ABV, there is a harshness, a greenness, to it, not only on the palate, but on the nose as well, where notes of ripe currants combine with a herbal note of pine needles. Even three hours does little to soften or sweeten this, maybe a few years? (Oct. 9, 2015)

115 NIS.

The Bar-Maor, Red Moon, 2012, the flagship wine, on the other hand, is 85% Merlot, complemented by Cabernet Franc, and combines the same herbal/pine needles/eucalyptus thing with Old World minerality. Old World - that's the keyword to understanding this winery. This is tough, but not muscular tough, rather slick and lean tough. And it holds its shit together within the same greenness that many Israeli reds avoid like the plague. I'm more optimistic about its future than the CF's, though - I think the Merlot will add a little plushness in two-three years and make for an overall unique impact. (Oct. 22, 2015)

Graci, Etna Rosso, 2012

Like the Terre Nere wines, the only other Etna wines I'm familiar with, the aromatics resemble Nebbiolo, with a similar tarry/dusty character and fresh black cherries. I feel, though, that it reverses the old cliche and comes off as a velvet fist in an iron glove, with its core of languid fruit guarded by a rocky facade. An interesting wine. (Oct. 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Sphera, Riesling, 2014

Many of Doron Rav-On's wines show his fingerprint more than the grape's. On the other hand, his signature is pure wines with a veneer of rainwater, flint and chalk, so I wouldn't complain, really, if this was his excellent Sauvignon Blanc and or even the more excellent Charodnnay. This being Riesling, however, I would have liked to get a better sense of the grape. But I'm quibbling and I'll just have to buy more and follow up, as the bottles of the Riesling I've had seem to be thorough a clarification process, where each bottle is purer than the previous one. This is a great winery. (Oct. 17, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, Bernkasteler Lay, Riesling Kabinett, 2013

You might prefer the weight of a Spatlese or an Auslese, but even at raw youth, few wines are as outright drinkable and tasty as a Mosel Kabinett. This is as electrifying as biting into a freshly picked granny apple, with slate and grapefruit adding to the complexity and hinting at the future. (Oct. 23, 2015)

Wine Route, about 100 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Rose, 2009

This is the perfect sparkling wine for our brunch, as the red fruit accents made for a great match with tomato shakshuka, as well as the saviche. Terrific price, too. (Oct. 24, 2015)

130 NIS.

Domaine Fourrey, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2014

This is a new addition to the Wine Route portfolio, and it's probably way too young for a judgement call. It's too round and sweetish right now, but it does have the requisite sea weed, sea shell, iodine notes. And at 130 NIS, it should be a worthy gamble on a few years in the cellar to temper the sweetness and get rid of the baby fat. (Oct. 24, 2015)

Domaine Faury, St. Joseph, Vieilles Vignes, 2012

I know it's a well rated house, and I know Kermit Lynch imports it to the US, but somehow I have never quite quite taken to it. I think they take a long time to open up in childhood - with this one, it took me three hours to tentatively decide I'd like it in five years. (Oct. 28, 2015)

35 USD.

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

This was such a welcome surprise when I drank it a couple of months ago that I just had to go back and confirm the first impression. So yes, it is typical Chablis, lean and crisp and recalling the seaside and romancing the heart; yes, it is surely Premier Cru in character and quality; yes, it will age for several years; and no, you can't buy it, it's already sold out. (Oct. 30, 2015)

Wine Route, 200 NIS (2 for 300 on discount).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Swallow, Don't Spit - La Maison Romane Tasting (Oct. 8, 2015)

Man, Oronce, you worked your ass off and didn't even score Premier Cru grapes?
I've been a fan of the Maison, love child of Oronce de Beler, for a couple of years. Even so, I was worried that what I perceive to be a personal signature works better one wine at a time, as opposed to a comparative tasting, where it might muddle the imprint of the vineyard, at the very least. Oronce's business model is based on a barter system wherein he and his horses tend various vineyards at the Cote d'Or in return for grapes - and it was a bit of a letdown to find out that, in the low quantity 2012 and 2013 vintages, his end of the trade consisted of solely of grapes sourced from Village crus. So I steeled myself to an idiosyncratic but limited palate.

So, OK, village wines: always fun but I expected your weekday, missionary sex anyway, not weekend acrobatics, and I did get that, but high quality stuff, and of a distinctly sweaty and fulfilling sort. And it turns out that Oronce's touch and whole cluster ideology expresses both the vintage and village. Which was definitively expressed in the way the Marsannay flight didn't segue into the Gevrey flight via the Fixin, but rather the wines bitch-slapped each other out of the way, the Marsannays floral as opposed to the typical sauvage of the Gevreys, with the Fixin separating the two distinct facets with its vivid, feminine fruitiness and rotting rose petals.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2013

This is Gamay, of course, this being Macon, the lesser known Gamay habitat, and it shows fresh yet brooding berries, a hint of spices, savory yet prominent tannins, and on point acidity. 205 NIS.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2012

This is a very joyful, more harmonious wine, fleshier and more detailed, with a very peppery strain. You can see, with this pair, how 2012 has fleshy fruit a la 2009, while 2013's acidity resembles 2008. 200 NIS.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2011

At peak, tannins very tame, overshadowed by 2012, even 2013 to a lesser extent, and very similar to them at any rate. 2011 is the  most drinkable vintage of the three anyway, likely the most friendliest and earliest drinking since 2000, and, in some ways, it is arguably the shallowest - this being Macon, it is probably at its peak, with this bottle a little past it.

Marsannay, Longeroies, 2013

Marsannay is the most northern village in the Cote d'Or, and Longeroies is a very high vineyard, so that makes for a very floral, elegant wine, with pure, fresh fruit, complicated by a touch of earth, a touch of earth, soft tannins. 285 NIS.

Marsannay, Longeroies, 2012

As with the Macon, 2012 is fleshier, much more concentrated and spicier on the palate and, especially, the nose. The vineyard expresses its signature with a telltale languid freshness that the 2013 also exhibited. 280 NIS.

Fixin, Le Clos, 2013

You could chalk up the differences between the Macon and the Marsannays to the variation in grapes, but here you just have to own it up to terroir. This is the fruitier wine of the evening, but since this is Burgundy, all that means is that there is a languid, delicate sweetness born of fresh fruit, without any harmonic and/or dissonant notes of earth, fur, spices and the like, although there is a pleasant sensation I would term rotting flower leaves - although I wouldn't argue if you wanted to term it tea infusion, we'd sound like pretentious pansies anyway, wouldn't we? 305 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2013

Gevrey. The "blind tasting" village, the one you're supposed to always spot, because it's got that leathery character the French call sauvage, which isn't easy to translate, so just think horse hide, leather, sweat, the things that make conjure game and hunt. This tasting, of course, wasn't blind, but I think the characteristics I described qare uite self-evident here, in this concentrated, primal, almost liquorish wine. 430 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2012

This is even more of Gevrey, which is expected, as age usually underlines the characteristics of the terroir. It's stinkier and more concentrated, at the same time the tannins are finer. 420 NIS.

Vosne Romanee, Aux Reas, 2013

"There are (should be) no common wines in Vosne" said no less an authority than Hugh Johnson. And this is no common wine, with a lofty price to boot, opulent and loaded with exotic spices, flavorful and multi-layered on an almost airy frame. 590 NIS.

What's the bottom line? If you want to pursue Gamay, Oronce's version can easily rival, and arguably best, the highest level of quality Beaujolais Cru. If you want the best specimen of Gevrey or Vosne - well, I'm not going to argue that Maison Romane should be your first choice. But if you want to get it on with an artisanal expression of Bourgogne and want to experiment with a personal idiom of overlooked villages such as Marsannay or Fixin, then you've come to the right place (conversely, if you want to focus on the big name villages, I'm not going to argue that either)! And when he can get a hold of the grapes, the man makes a Corton Grand Cru that'll make you loop the loop.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dudes At Tzuk (Oct. 1, 2015)

So there's this deli/wine bar/bistro in my neighborhood, called Tzuk Farm, named after the organic farm where much of the produce comes from, especially the cattle-based products, which are especially savory and spoiling.

I joined three wine buddies for an informal tasting. Here's one of the crowd, and doesn't he look happy?

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur, 2007

This is typical Chablis, even typical Chablis Grand Cru (marine aromas, breadth and depth on the palate), but actually backwards at first compared to the last bottle. Although it develops nicely and pungently, I prefer it at home when we can devote full attention to each other.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo Riserva, 1976

Judging by the color (which was the same as, well, a bourgogne), we thought it was unraveling, but this is actually decently robust, even tannic, if on the mellow side, with iron fillings and spices. It dies after an hour but who needs more - it's the kind of wine made by people who only wanted to make good good wines that aged well, just like their parents made them, a love letter from another age.

Price unknown.

Domaine Les Pallieres, Gigondas, Terasse du Diable, 2008

Leave me alone, Southern Rhone.

Domaine Rapet, Corton-Charlemagne, 2012

You have to know Charlemagne to be able to recognize the quality in this clench-fisted, tight-assed, virgin-pussied wine. But it's there, in that compact frame with its honeyed accouterments.

Bourgogne Crown, 590 NIS.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bertie, Brett, Keller, Schaefer, etc. (Sept. 24, 2015)

Wine-making: it's all about choices. In the case of Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2011 the wine-maker's choices are apparently conductive to brettanomyces . At least, that's how I interpret the end result here, which is reminiscent of cured meats braised in bretty Amarone. To be honest, I don't understand why some consider brett an expression of terroir; it grows on the grape skins, I get it, but so do various strains of fungi, not to mention ignoble rot - and reasonable winemakers avoid those. But even if you do allow for brett, there is too much here for the bottle to contain.

With the Golan Heights Winery, Rom, 2006 the choice is pick late, pick ripe, work hygienically and age in new barrels. The wine-making is almost passionately precise, but that's the only expression of passion in this lifeless, oaky beverage.

I have just described one of the most "challenging" pair of wines I have ever tasted. Ironically, they were the centerpiece of a very fun evening with great friends at Bertie, one of my favorite food havens. As for the wines, well, it could have been worse. For example, if we hadn't brought any Rieslings.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Dalsheimer Hubacker, Riesling Grosses Gewaches, 2007

Mellow dryness, complex on both nose and palate, where it shows (surprise, surprise) minerals,red apples and red cherries . The kind of finish that is a 90+ pointer in its own right; as for the nose, only a philistine would attempt to reduce that to points.

But before the Keller, we were presented with the kind of wine that would stump many blind tasters.

Salomon, Kremstal DAC Reserve, Lindberg, Gruner Veltliner, , 2006

This starts off cider-ish and cumbersome before it starts to show minerals, green herbs, apricots and red apples, with a herbal finish and off-dry.

For dessert, we had Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2013, which was fresh, floral, honeyed, and brimming with potential.

But before we could bask in post-coital bliss with the Schaefer, we had to contend with two clarets, which demonstrated that basing your purchases on the Bordeaux classification is only good if you know the properties to begin with - which really defeats the whole point of using the classification as a quick and dirty consumer's guide.

The Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg, 2006 isn't classified and it's rustic and muscualr, yet tasty. It's not very obscure, as it's owned by François Mitjavile, owner of Château Le Tetre-Rôtebouef in St-Emilion, but it's still off most people's maps. Uri Kaftori used to import it, but I didn't pay attention, so I don't know what the price was, but I'd guess 200-300 NIS. Which is what Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000 used to cost, but by the 2006 vintage it probably cost at least twice as much and these days close to three times. We have all heard of the improvements in the Chateau over the last decade, and the explosion of Parker scores, both of which led to the price increases (some of us may have even tasted the wine) but my limited experiences with the old regime, which is basically comprised of 1996 and 2000, is that it was a boring, one dimensional wine,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2015)

Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigners, 2011

This is a great value, being a declassified village wine. It smells like someone sauteed pears and apples  in Atlantic salt and sprinkled them with roasted almonds, and actually tastes fairly similar, with a delicate salinity. This is loads of joy. (Sept. 3, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Cote de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches, 2012

Five months since my last bottle and now it feels denser and is, as always, highly suggestive of minerals: specifically, I think, dry mud. Soft, juicy fruit, excellent acidity, decent complexity and weight. (Sept. 5, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2011

This is a blend of second wines from this Pinot master's Grand Cru holdings and comes across as fine Volnay Premier Cru, an almost intoxicating nose of red cherries, flowers, exotic spices. Very feminine, with languid mid palate that goes hand in hand with that gorgeous, complex nose, and actually almost tastes floral. Just about the best German Pinot I've had so far, and I'd say it needs a couple of years to peak and will hold for 3-5 years more - because it not only thrives on acidity, like most fine Pinot, but is relatively tannic, with fine balance, and seems to say "I'm not there yet". (Sept. 9, 2015)

32 GBP.

Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Brut Reserve, 2004

I guess this is just what I'd expect from a non-premium vintage bottling: it has depth and complexity, but is not as impressive as the big boys, or as special as the growers' stuff, a Champagne to drink rather than to impress. But it's got all the bready/buiscuity nuances you'd want from a Champagne that has aged well, so let's just call it a luncheon Champagne. (Sept. 10, 2015)

About GBP at the Heathrow Duty Free.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, Clos des Hospices, 2007

Clos des Hospices is a monopole parcel in what is arguably the best Chablis Grand Cru of them all. But, this is at best only good right now, with apple peels and a tasty, salty finish. At worst, it is something of a middle-aged dullard, which I'm willing to overlook, based on part experience with the domaine, and chalk it up to an off or dumb bottle. (Sept. 11, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 360 NIS.

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, 2010

This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah blend. 2010 was a hot vintage (even for Israel), but the Shoresh manages to balance the sweetness with good acidity on the finish that creates a salty effect. Loaded with mineral inflections as well as hints of black pepper, it offers Old World restraint, despite the ripeness - since Europe has its share of hot vintages, ripeness isn't in itself a New World characteristic, but rather extraction and ripeness at all cost are, which this wine avoids. Very complete - the heat of the vintage worried me into opening it now, but this is ideally a wine to open at seven years old or more, not five. (Sept. 12, 2015)

Tzora Vineyards, 130 NIS.

Tzora, or, 2013

I used to have so many jokes about Gewurztraminer, I still do, but I've told them all. Fortunately, this is one Gewurtz that doesn't deserve to be mocked. Mainly because it's a young dessert wine so its sweetness counterpoints the extracted spiciness that can overwhelm the mid-palate in dry versions without becoming cloying. So that's a winning, strategic decision right there. The nose, of course, is never a problem with the grape. In fact, one of the reasons I think it's a slut of a grape is because it seems so easy to coax those complex, deep aromas of honey, cinnamon and rose petals. But the end result is so winning, I'm going to give Eran Pick full points for getting the slut to stop putting out. (Sept. 14, 2015)

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

I love this wine, but this bottle seems to lack the verve of previous bottles, which, if I were the score it, would bar it from crossing the 90 point line. Although the acidity is great as always. (Sept., 15, 20150

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Sphera, Chardonnay, 2014

I loved Doron Rav-On's debut 2012 vintage, but somehow skipped the 2013 Chardonnay. What I liked about the 2012 was how Bourgogne-ish it was, specifically, it reminded me of the Macon. This is more of the same, better, in many ways, because it offers the same dose of minerals but without the tropical notes that the 2012 showed. In fact, it is so much more of the same, and shows such lithe, focused grace, such appropriately measured acidity and salinity, that it might be the best Israeli Chardonnay I've ever drunk. (Sept. 18, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Miles, Gewurztraminer, 2014

A decent, cutely rustric, dry Gewurtz, that leans towards grapefruit rather than lychee, with the typical spices very tamed aromatically, and no hint of rose petals. But every now and then it flashes daggers. (Sept. 19, 2014)

About 90 NIS.

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabajà, 2005

I'm not always up to the tannic and alcoholic crunch of Big Time Nebbiolo, but Barbaresco is usually mellower and this, at 13.5% ABV, manages to find a sweet spot between fragrant delicacy and flavorsome intensity, showing typical perfumed red fruit and dusty/tarry spices, with lingering salinity. (Sept. 22, 2015)

220 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru, 2007

Another winner from Matrot. This is as dense, rocky, marine and acid driven as a Chablis Grand Cru! So what makes it a Meursault? A hint of creamy, pear-laden fruit? (Sept. 23, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 390 NIS.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Riesling Sekt Brut, 2008

The purity, depth and minerality of Riesling fruit chez Dönnhoff combined with the mushroom notes of a Champagne. What sours it is the lack of persistence in the mousse.(Sept. 25, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Domaine Henry Pellé, Menetou-Salon, les Bornés, 2013

I've been meaning to delve into Pellé, because the Loire is one region I'm always eager to explore. This has a remarkable interplay of ripe apples and peaches and pungent freshness. There's a modicum of minerals, but little of the greenness you find in New Zealand sauvignons. (Sept. 27, 2015)

Giaconda, 110 NIS.

Domaine Henry Pellé, Menetou-Salon Morogues, Vignes de Ratier, 2012

For 20 NIS more, and one more year further from harvest time, you get a deeper, more complex, more interesting wine, with a mineral funk for the afficiandos. Oddly, after a while, it became too ripe for my tastes. It might need more time, but right now, I prefer the cheaper bottling. Whatever, these are very good everyday whites, solid and efficient. (Sept. 29, 2015)

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

I had the feinherb last year. This being 10.5%, I suspect this is the same wine with a different label. The Karthäuserhof's site only seems to have only one Schieferkristall bottling. Whatever, this is steely and bracing, very pure and linear. And within that focus is a decent amount of complexity and texture, (Sept. 28, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Foradori, Teroldego IGT, 2011

This hails from Trentino and is labelled  Teroldego  IGT instead of Teroldego Rottaliano DOC because the local authorities thought it too atypical to be awarded the more illustrious designation. Whatever. This is soft and friendly - rocky, yet succulent, with soft tannic complemented by savory acidity. Also, the kind of black pepper that would usually make you think of the North Rhone, if it weren't paired with chives that make you think of, well, Italy. The kind of warm, interesting wine that Wine Spectator often (deservedly) turns into a best-seller. (Sept. 30, 20150

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Angerville Management (Aug. 11, 2015)

Daniel Lifshitz' tasting always manage to inspire me to horrible puns, which is at odds with the beautiful Bourgognes he selects for the portfolio he shares with Eldad Levy.

Case in point: the great, infinitely refined Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, a domaine that seems to live and thrive in idyllic Burgundian paradise.

But first, because Daniel's erstwhile partner in crime does bring his own dowry, we must start with a Champagne.

Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier d'Or, 2009

A wide, deep wine, full and ripe, yet with green apple acidity, just starting  to show its complex colors and display of minerals and mushrooms. Fantastic. 449 NIS.


Not all of the following wines are for sale, only the younger wines, which had been opened the previous evening, by the way.

Volnay 1er Cru, 2012

A blend of the Pitures Dessus and Mitans vineyards. It's very closed, I get just primal red fruit and maybe a hint of flowers at first. There's a tannic backbone, yet despite that there's a silky delicacy to this.  460 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Angles, 2011

This is 2011, so it's not just a year older, it's a much more forward and drinkable vintage to begin with, so this is obviously a more expressive wine, moreso with time in glass, showing flowers and even garrigue. There's a firm backbone again, promising cellaring potential yet its quite silky for all that. 500 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Fremiets, 2012

This is more floral than the 2012 Premier Cru blend, and more expressive as well. It's as though the there's a greater depth of material that shines through. A gorgeous wine yet a firm one in the Volnay context. 490 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Champans, 2011

If the Fremiets was expressive and gorgeous, this is almost ridiculously expressive and gorgeous. There's flowers and spices and iron fillings and a backbone with a core of languid fruit. 570 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Champans, 1985

Definitely a mature wine, all about mushrooms and forest floor, with a really savory finish that only fine material, well aged, can provide. Having said that, as much as I enjoyed it, the overall response around the table, including mine, wasn't the wow you'd expect people drinking a 30 year old wine to have and anyway, the next wine knocked it out.

Volnay Premier Cru, Taillpieds, 2002

There's always a kind of hush when you realize you've reached the wine of the night. This is the real deal, as crystalline as a red wine can be, expressive, fresh, complete. There's that floral Volnay character again, that complements the iron filings with pulsating silkiness.

Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Ducs, 1999

It's too easy to slip into anthropomorphism with Bourgognes, especially with a village that is the epitome of feminine Burgundy. I'm not going to try and avoid that misdemeanor. If the Taillpieds was the typical marquise, this is, if not masculine, then surely not a little butch. It's dense, ripe, chewy, with almost black fruit and such a deep stratum of minerals, you can just sense the vine roots digging into the hill. 

Meursault 1er Cru, Santenots, 2011

This is certainly not what the public views as the mainstream version of Meursault, that is nutty, fat and wide. Rather, there's cool fruit, a cross of apples and oranges, with minty chalk. The nose is better than the palate right now, even though there's a nice balance of acidity and sweet fruit. 570 NIS.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Warm Wines, No Women (Aug. 18, 2015)

What's worse than warm beer and cold women?

Warm wines and no women.

We had a logistics issue. We love Brut, for the food and atmosphere, but it's very small, see, and the small private room isn't that well aired and cooled. And August 2015 was very, very hot. So we tried to cram six bottles into three small ice buckets.We tried.

And Irit Kozak didn't come. That's the "no women" bit.

Other than that, a fantastic evening, great company and an eclectic (in Israeli terms) collection of Loire whites.

Chateau Breze, Saumur, Clos David, 2012

This was a whim buy for me. This wine comes from an old, rediscovered hill in Saumur (although the more famous version is made by Clos Rougeard). This has an interesting nose: apricots, herbs, river bed, with slightly oxidized notes reminiscent of apple cider. Very good acidity, but the oxidized notes and the sweetish finish are off-putting and I'm not sure whether we caught it a bad time or if this is the style of the wine.

Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fume, Buisson Renard, 2005

One version of the Pouilly-Fume story has it that Didier Dagueneau put it on the map. I don't think the town needed him to put it on the map, but he's certainly priced as though he did. Well, he used to price his wines very dearly. He's dead. But his family carries on that particular tradition. To be fair, Didier and his heirs were and are quite meticulous and the wines age very well. For example, this ten year old Sauvingon Blanc, which is dry and herbal on the nose, more tropical on the palate, with depth and complexity that unfolds. It didn't wow me, but I've noticed I tend to like my Dagueneaus on the young side  -they're complex enough when young with a thrilling tension that I prefer.

Giaconda, 390 NIS.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fume, Majorum, 2012

One reason Pouilly-Fume didn't need Dagueneau to put it on the map is producers like Redde. This is the flagship wine and there is so much fossil-like aromas and flavors that it's like sucking on Atlantis. I like Redde anyway but this is amazing, awesome in its depth and potential complexity.

Domaine Pelle, Menetou-Salon, Morogues, Vignes de Ratier, 2012

This is a more humble estate, also carried by Giaconda, and I'd like to explore it more, properly cooled down! It's funky and marine, the fruit yellow and ripe, but not over-done. There's an initial lack of focus, but it improves as it opens and grows colder.

130 NIS.

Francois Cotat, Sancerre, La Grande Cote, 2010

This smells and tastes like a Sauternes (I understand it's intentionally picked with botrytis) but it's leaner, more focused, with a mineral edge. I was told it matures into an amazing, dry wine, but I like it now, too, even though I'm sure quite a few won't know what to make of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Twenty Years Later (Aug. 10, 2015)

Few marriages are all smooth sailing, and ours is no exception. Let's face it, I'm not exactly prime time programming. But we made it through the first twenty years, and before we embark on the next, better decades, I got to do what every wine geek lives for: open anniversary wines.

But, before that, we indulged in a gift.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Rose, 2009

I've always said GHW's top sparkling wines are their best wines, and this is no exception.  Quite honestly, this is almost as good as the prototype, from that backwater of France, Champagne. Its only drawback is, perhaps, that the only pink thing about it is its color. Blind, I'd have called a blanc de noirs. It's all about mushrooms and toast, maybe a hint of strawberries as well.

130 NIS.

La Rioja Alta, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1995

Rioja is perhaps the classic Spanish wine (all you Vega Sicila lovers can sit down now, I've noted your objections, but seriously, how many can afford to drink it, and how often?) and the "890' is one of the benchmarks. Supposedly. The 1989 was a delight, but then again, I was new at this game when I had it, but other than that, I've always preferred the Ygay (which is why that bottle of 1995 will wait for the 30th anniversary). This has very fine composure, with the same elegant breed that mature Bordeaux from the same period can have, smooth and silky with mellow red and black fruit, balsam,black pepper, celery - lacking in length, for me, though.

600 NIS.

Dr. Hermann, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurztgarten, Beerenauslese, 1995

I brought a dessert, too. This is a typical example of how the sugar in these mature, sweet Rieslings is integrated with the acidity after a couple of decades. The vibrancy of youth is gone, and you get a deep wine, with obvious botrytis, apple cider, mint tea. I do feel, however, that too much liveliness of fruit is gone, by now.

195 NIS for a half bottle.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2015)

Let's start off this monthly potpourri with a trio of wines accompanying a family dinner at Tel Aviv's Herbert Samuel (Aug. 8, 2015)

I planned the meal so that we could do with just a white, and chose the Salomon, Kremstal DAC Reserve, Lindberg, Gruner Veltliner, 2012 as I felt I'd been deprived of Austrian whites for the last couple of months. This should be accompanied by a short user's guide: Wait for the reductive stink to settle and you'll get lime, melons, chalk, ensconced in a leafy, mentholated envelope. Since the bottle didn't last the whole dinner, and since my sister wanted a red with her pork chops, I ordered her and myself a glass of Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti, l'Orme, 2011 each. This is full of friendly, leathery black fruit - musky, dusty and spicy like Nebbiolo without as much tannic palate pressure. And it somehow managed to pair decently with my coquilles saint jacques on black risotto. As an appertif, I had a glass of Williams and Humbert, Pedro Ximinez, 12 años. I hadn't had this ages. This was always fun, and it still is, dark chocolate with that typical grease oil and chili you either hate or love.

Château du Hureau, Saumur Blanc, Argile, 2013

My favorite red Loire producer also makes a white wine, as I found out last year when Eldad Levy treated us to a sample. This is a Chenin Blanc, of course, and it's a fun concoction of melon and flint, nothing too complex or too deep, just a tasty summer wine. (Aug. 12, 2015)

Fat Guy, 118 NIS.

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

Buisson's Aligote always, always, shows as fine as any Chardonnay from a good village. In fact, if there was an Aligote Premier Cru, this would be it. It smells and tastes of lime, flint, Atlantic salt and truffles and, true to the character of the grape, is lithe and racy. Unique is the word that immediately springs to mind. (Aug. 13, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS. This is just as good as the Leroy Aligote, which costs twice as much. Different, but just as good.

Schaefer-Frolich, Nahe, Blanc de Noir, trocken, 2013

This is described on the Giaconda site as a Provence-like rose, but the color in the bottle we had was nothing like the online image. It rather came off as a non-aromatic white and had I tasted it blind, I'd have guessed a Chenin or one of the weird Italian grapes. It's just slightly off dry, earthy, savory, with hints of strawberries and mandarin oranges. (Aug. 14, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Moric, Blaufrankisch, 2013

An excellent, floral lightweight now, fresh cherries, white pepper, chalk. Very good acidity and balance. (Aug. 15, 2015)

Fat Guy, about 120 NIS.

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

This is a new producer carried by Wine Route, and I was concerned it might be modern and not very typical, but this is actually classic and outstanding, even if it does have a rough and almost outrageous personality. It's made of fifty year old vines, sees only stainless steel, is lean and vigorous with a marked bouquet of lime, shells and sea sand. It's already drinking very well but with that generous, intense acidity, I have no doubt it will thrive and develop for three to five years at least. (Aug. 16, 2015)

Wine Route, 200 NIS (2 for 300 on discount).

Domaine Matrot, Meursault, 2011

An awkward start, lemon with a metal streak, which I mention only in case you try this at home without proper airing. It works out the kinks into something quite special, roasted sesame and scorched bread, along with more typical pears. Its nuances are dirty and unusual enough that it still might challenge the casual drinker, but I never drink Bourgognes casually, so I'm totally fine with that. (Aug. 20, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

Larmandier-Bernier, Latitude, n.v.

I could smell the brioche even as the I popped the cork, and further scrutiny revealed baked apples and chalk. In short, typical for what is actually a blanc de blancs - 100% from Vertus, with relatively mature years in the blend - and I find nearly the focus and elegance of vintage Champagne, at a lighter weight, with a dollop of salty nuts at the end. For some reason, I hadn't followed Larmandier-Bernier as deeply as other producers in the catalog, and I need to rectify that. (Aug. 21, 2015)

Fat Guy, 309 NIS.

Louis Roederer, Reims, Brut Premier, n.v.

The nose has a green apples/dried grass/flint/toast personality going that reminds of an elegant Chassagne or Saint-Aubin. In short, one of my favorite expressions of Chardonnay, despite the 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Meunier. The mousse isn't that persistent, which I think is more about this being an off bottle, since the cork popped open as soon as I undid the muselet. A solid non-vintage, maybe too solid and dignified. Except when, by the last last third of the bottle, it shows Pinot spices and presence that burst the bubble of refinement. Then it goes downhill, with weird flavors on the finish. Bad bottle, like I thought. (Aug. 26, 2015)

Wine Route, 370 NIS (250 on discount).

Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

It was a great thrill, for me, when Wine Route started carrying Baudry with the 2010 vintage. Baudry is a fine producer with a stellar reputation, but this might prove to be more challenging than the 2010, at least based on this bottle, which starts out just as fun, only to eventually sink into a sulk in a dumb phase that the 2010 never went through. There's black fruit and black pepper with a hint of barnyard and leather on the nose, tart fruit and savory tannins in the mouth. So it needs time at the very least - it's at the quite annoying stage where a few hours of air bring out the oak rather than the fruit; which is good and pure, by the way, once you get to it. (Aug 27, 2015)

Wine Route, 120 NIS.

Argiolas, Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT, Is Solinas, 2010

Intense, ripe black fruit, olives, dusty and spicy a la Nebbiolo. Rusty tannins. Saline finish. Good value at store prices (about 220 at Pronto). (Aug. 29, 2015)

Wine Route.

Jean Lallament, Verzenay Grand Cru, Réserve Rosé, n.v.

A gift to modern lovers from the Old World. This plays a sleight of hand where the Pinot fruit seems distilled through a veil of roasted nuts and chalk, and Lallement's trademark chicken broth, all laid out in a very complex, yet subtle, texture. (Aug. 30, 2015)

Fat Guy, 319 NIS.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Enter Ente (July 13, 2015)

If Bourgogne was the whore of the world, Daniel Lifshitz would be her Madame. Here, he 'pimps' Domaine Benoit Ente, a tiny producer, tending about three and a half hectares in, mostly, Puligny. And out of these three and a half hectares, he ekes rich, yet ascetic, expressions of terroir and purity.

Bourgogne Rouge, 2012

451 bottles. This is the domaine's only red wine, and it's a throwaway in a sense, as it would be a fine bistro wine if the quantities did not make it a scarce cult item. But if you do find it, you will get soft, comely red fruit, floral, lightly earthy, clean and tasty. 100 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet, 2012

438 bottles. A blend of Les Tremblots and Les Houlleres, which are top village plots. A detailed and complex nose, beyond my expectations from a village wine. I've been trying to avoid using mineral as a generic descriptor, but I can't pin down a specific rock -  maybe that's chalk in there? A touch of flowers too. Balances salty and sour/sweet flavors. Elegant acidity. 320 NIS.

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013

1188 bottles. A more obviously minerally wine, with lime fruit. For me, at least at this stage, it's less expressive than the Puligny, by a hair. But, it's much more elegant than I'd have expected Chassagne to be. This and the Puligny are lovely and pure village wines, stunning in how well they present the towns. 320 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Sous Le Puits "Terre de Blagny", 2012

387 bottles. The relevant comparison is to the village Puligny, of course, and what we get here is not necessarily more complexity as much as greater breadth and depth. And more mysterioso. On the palate there is not so much more body, but greater grip, I think, even though the structure is hardly oppressive.  Like all the Ente wines, it is very pure with no sign of over-oaking. 470 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champ Gain, 2012

491 bottles. Expressive, yet restrained. Even when it opens to show more details and depth - flint, chalk, lime and apple skin - it retains that same restraint. An endless finish. Simply too delicious and interesting for its own good, or rather mine. 510 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champ Gain, 2013

672 bottles. Closed, very floral and tropical. In a way, it's the mirror image of the 2012, which hinted at these same floral and tropical notes beneath its shroud of minerals. Here, beneath the heady and ripe fruit are just hints, for now, of flint and the chalk. Takes a long time to show elegance. 510 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Folatieres En La Richarde, 2013

772 bottles. If the 2013 Champs Gain crouched behind a wall of tropical fruit, this wine is veiled by a canopy of minerals. There's a richness here even if the acidity knifes, salts and tests the palate. 700 NIS.