Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In Berlin, By The Wall, You Were Five Foot Ten Inches Tall (May 8-11, 2015)

If you're looking for an huge slew of German wine tasting notes, just move along. It wasn't that sort of trip. Basically, my better half and I used the Big 25 Berlin race (which is the major 25K race, although we only signed up for the half marathon and wound up down scaling to 10K) as an excuse for a romantic getaway. Wine drinking was ancillary. The gourmand highlight was dinner at Bandol Sur Mer, a restaurant whose theme could best be described as "deconstruction/reconstruction of classic French cuisine" - and where the wine list is virtually all French wine. Leading up to that were random German wines I drank at various bars and bistros, so let's start with them.

Von Winning, Pfalz, Rose Sekt Brut, 2012

Strawberries, red apples, light minerals. Well made, lightweight and friendly, a round, appealing restaurant wine. A part of me looks for reasons to be a snob about it, but it wins me over by bringing out the Pinot so clearly.

4.50 euros for a glass.

Wegeler, Rheingau, QBA, Riesling trocken, 2012

Trocken at its best in a crisp form. Sharp green apples with just a modicum of minerals in the nose but a sharp jab full of lime and sea shells on the finish. Very good value.

5 euros

Leitz, Rheingau, Riesling Trocken, 2013

I haven't had one of these in ages, but the 2004 was one of my first Germans so I was sentimental enough to try it and it's still good. Green apples with hints of pineapple and minerals, some apple pie like sweetness as well, on the nose.

7.50 euros for a glass at the hotel bar. Ridiculously high.

Palates suitably warmed up, the race over, we partook a five course degustation dinner at Bandol Sur Mer, with wines (and cidre) by the glass, paired by the sommelier (who did a great job, kudos).

Guillet Frères, Cidre, Kerisac, Brut,

A really serious cider, very deep, the apple flavors morphed by earthy notes, yet retaining their purity. I don't know how to say it without sounding like a snob, but this is just as serious as any Bourgogne Premier Cru or a good n.v. Champagne.

Marc Kreydenweiss, Pinot Blanc, Kritt, 2013

Limpid yet spicy, seemingly neutral at first but not so, quite characterful in fact, with quince fruit. Very Alsatian yet mellower than a Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer and very delicious.

Clos Floridene, Graves, 2011

A funky, almost reductive character. Air brings out melons, with a mineral streak. It really needs the air to allow the minerals assert themselves . At that point, it's very appealing and the nose in its own right is a knockout.

Le Galantin, Bandol, 2011

Smoky, meaty and young. Very good fruit and wine-making that doesn't rely on any mirrors and smoke. I understand where it's coming from and where it's going and enjoy glimpses of its early past, its present and the hints of its future.

Domaine de Magord, Vincent, Clairette de Die, Tradition, 2012

Interesting, a DOC that is totally new to me. Not that I've tried every single French appellation, but I've at least heard of a large majority and I didn't even recognize the name, despite the many times I've read the France chapter in Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocketbook from start to end. This is a dessert bubbly, very pretty and intriguing, with herbal/floral accents, limes, guayavas, almost like a sparkling Scheurebe.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Luis Pato

Rebel, rebel, how could they know?
Luis Pato, Bairrada, Rebel, 2010

I went to the Eyal Maron's Portugese Wine Festival and what I learned can be summed up in two words; Luis Pato. Three words, actually, if you also want to toss in Baga, the Beiras signature grape, The Rebel is one of the Pato's basic wines, with 9% Touriga Nacional and 1% Bical softening the very tannic Baga grape, which, judging by the wines I tasted, is Pato's life calling. This is an Old World wine, with a leathery, sweaty personality, juicy acidity making for a very tasty mid-tier bistro wine. Think of Crozes, think of Anjou, think of a moreish, small-scale wine from a supposedly fringe appellation, made by a conscientious artisan. And then just drink up. (May 3, 2015)

Gin Proof. Sorry, but that's the name of Eyal's import on the back label, and I'm not especially enamored of it. Don't let it put you off, though - if you ever step into his shop, and, if you're a real wine geek, you'll walk out with a smile. And this will cost you 100 NIS.

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Baga Natural, 2012

This as purely natural a wine as can be: no sulfur, acid, sugar or yeasts were added and it's bottled under a screw cap to preserve freshness - which it does, in spades! What really gets me is the same limpid vividness I find in a Moric Blaufrankish or a Graillot Crozes. (May 4, 2015)

116 NIS.

I also tasted Vinha Barrosa, 2011, a single vineyard, costing a little over 200 NIS, which seems like a lithe cruiserweight version of the above, an ageworthy wine, at that.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2015)

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru, Aux Guettes, 2011

My strategy is to age the 2010's and enjoy the 2011's early for their thrill of their succulent fruit. So enjoy this I did, but I suspect I wouldn't mind a few years' seasoning. But it is an earthy, tasty wine, with joyous red fruit already, and it's precocious in the way it flaunts its potential. (Apr, 1, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 260 NIS.

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve  Zobinger Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2009

Summer of Riesling starts early. Actually, it never ends. Like the Gobelsburg Gaisberg, this has a crystalline, mentholated character on the nose underlining apples, slate, dill and hints of petrol. Very much a refined, elegant wine - an impression that carries on to the palate. Every aspect is complex and reserved, but not so reserved that it doesn't keep revealing more and more facets as it opens up. Awesome. (Apr. 2, 2015)

Fat Guy, 225 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Syrah, 2010

This is lovely and starting to win over the Carignan in my heart. With a judicious balance of tannins and just ripe fruit, this is maybe the most European of Assaf's red: complex, deep and reserved, with hints of iodine and leather. A second bottle opened for Independence Day only strengthened the impression, showing a similar pungent meatiness and good acidity. (Apr. 4, 2015)

110 NIS.

Marie et Paul Jacqueson, Mercurey Premier Cru, Les Naugues, 2011

This is more developed than the Pavelot or the Jacqueson Rully of the same vintage, which I find a little odd. It has a meaty personality, like a lighter version of Nuits-St.-Georges, with a herbal streak. However, returning to the maturity theme, I find here a dry, tannic vein, not unlike the 2006's in their stingy stages. (Apr. 5, 2015)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Yves Cuilleron, St. Joseph, l'Amarybelle, 2011

I love this style - cruncy red fruit, pepper, flowers - but Cuilleron is expensive. although so are a lot of Northern Rhones in Israel lately, those that actually make their way here. So, I'm thinking, can it age? Definitely, there's good balance in there in need of time and it will definitely pick up more of the nuances mature Syrah can provide. Mostly though, while right now even an hour is enough to bring out hints of bacon -  the fruit is fat enough to work against, instead of with, the savory tannins. (Apr. 7, 2015)

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Chateau Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan, 2006

Latter-day Haut-Bergey is usually viewed as fairly modern, but this has decent proportions of classicism - crushed currants, cedar, graphite - albeit in oaky trappings, with a grainy feel. The two minds are still in battle. (Apr. 8, 2015)

The 2006 is imported by Israco and I bought it at the Scottish Company for 180 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Pape, Rouge, 2011

As always, a peppery, herbal wine that, while certainly ripe and viscous, does not fatigue the palate. It's actually as refreshing as any 14% ABV wine can ever rightfully strive to be. (Apr. 9, 2015)

140 NIS.

Domaine Leroy, Bourgogne Aligote, 2008

Pretty woman, walking down the street. (Apr. 12, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 200 NIS.

Elia Da Ros, Côtes du Marmandais, Le Vin est une Fête, 2012

Every now and then, a small importer will bring in a tasty, drinkable wine that begs to be gulped as though you were loafing at a bistro, while offering enough interest, character and low key complexity to tantalize the mind. Eldad Levy's entry level Loire and Etna offerings pull that trick off regularly, as does Eyal Maron's Portugese catalog. Uri Caftori often brings wines of similar bent and his latest offering is from a cult producer from a largely undistinguished district. The le Vin est une Fête is comprised of 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Abouriou (the local grape), aged in old foudres and barriques, and it's all fresh fruit with a mineral, lightly meaty edge. It's light, without a great deal of persistence, but really, all it's meant to do is refresh the palate and accompany brunch. (Apr. 20, 2015)

Is Pro Vinum, 85 NIS,

Elia Da Ros, Côtes du Marmandais, Le Vignoble d'Elian, 2011

This is the next step up, with a similar character and great focus and length. It's just as drinkable as the Vine est une Fête, but my reservation about both is, that while they both smell great and go down very easily, they're not as delectably delicious as the other wallet predators at their price niche (specifically the wines imported by Eldad and Eyal that I mentioned above), (Apr. 23, 2015)

115 NIS.

Vitkin, Grenache Blanc, 2013

Rhone white grapes are way out of my interest zone or liking, usually, so it speaks of Assaf Paz's wine-making skills and innovation that I bought three bottles, The nose is captivating, with flint and roasted nuts over a bedrock of yellow fruit. The palate, though, is a bigger challenge for me, more of a brain teaser than outright pleasure, with a herbal, bitter backbone that is vaguely quinine, but I do enjoy the laid back complexity and it becomes more user-friendly with air, and also the acidity becomes more prominent, which is a plus. (Apr. 25, 2015)

The winery lists it at 125 NIS and I understand it's sold out. They didn't make a large amount and the hardcore geeks bought it all up.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, L'Homme Mort, 2013

Durup was the first Chalis of any significance I've ever drank, but it's been over eight years, I think, since I last had one, and you know what, that's a shame, because this is quite good. While detractors make an issue of Durup's use of mechanical harvesting, on the positive side, there is no use of barrels at the estate, which endows the wine with fine purity. So you get chalk, sea weed, apples and oranges, and salivating acidity/salinity, and a wine that's ready to drink and that cane age at least three-four years. (Apr. 26, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 170 NIS,

Michel Arnould & Fils, Verzenay Grand Cru, Grande Cuvée, n.v.

Since I love Lallement so much, this just called out to me when I spotted it on the K&L Wines site, as Arnould, form what I'd read, is the other master of Verzenay. This bottle is exclusively made of 2009 grapes (two thirds Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay). Like the Lallement Champagnes, it shows a funky mushroom broth, and sweetness and breadth that seems to come from the fruit and not from a great amount of dosage. I think it is rather more elegant than the wines of his peer, but not so elegant that its muscular tone would go unnoticed, nor its long, complex finish. (Apr. 27, 2015)

40 USD.

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

I know what this wine can show and tell, and this is definitely not the best bottle, with sharp, spicy aromas and an awkward juggling of acidity and sweetness. It's an interesting concoction, and I'm oddly drawn to it, but I know how great this should play... (Apr. 28, 2015)

Giaconda, 170 NIS, a great value. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Power of Pinot (Apr. 18, 2015)

Friends of hours returned from a trip to Paris with tons of cheese and cured meat and a couple of Bourgognes from producers I was not familiar with. I brought a Rose Champagne from a master of Pinot Noir to set a theme.

A couple of hours later, all that was left was de brie.

Vilmart, Cuvée Rubis, n.v.

The Cuvée Rubis, as always, is a gentle distillation of Pinot-ness with an aristocratic display of rotting leaves, exotic spices, cherries. The great harmony with which it massages the palate almost manages to overshadow the complex way it excites the taste buds.Tthis was my last bottle and it was hard letting go.

Domaine Gaston et Pierre Ravault, Aloxe-Corton, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

Ah, the thrill discovering an exciting wine from an unknown producer from one of the lesser spots in the Cote d'or... I was excited to note how the old vines character is apparent in the way the black fruit feels intense but not ripe, with notes of exotic spices and leather. The build is smooth and elegant build, despite the origin, despite intensity I noted. Bill Nanson rightfully calls this the small family domaine's insider wine. Lovely.

Domaine Regis Rossignol-Changarnier, Volnay, 2010

My friend told me over the phone he had bought a Rossignol Volnay, which excited me. It turns out Rossignol is another vigneron clan from the Cote, like, say, the Gros and Gagnard clan, and my friend had not scored the more renowned Nicolas but a less illustrious kinsman. The Parisian salesman had told him the Ravault was the better wine, which, given the quality differences across the vintages and the villages, was an ominous clue. This wine left me baffled, with sweet fruit on the nose, almost akin to a dessert wine, yet showing a discreet presence on the palate. On the one hand, we have sweetness and ripeness, and mediocre complexity and personality - on the other, breadth, purity and restraint on the palate.