Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shorashim 2010 Launch (July 17, 2015)

In July, Vitkin Winery* launched their flagship wine, the Shorashim ("roots" in Hebrew) 2010, in a series of sit-down tastings showcasing the Shorashim, other current releases and surprises from the library. I attended the final gig at their brand new winery/visitor center, which started with a short video tribute to Nahum Ben Gal, Doron Belogolovsky's uncle, to whom the wine was dedicated (each vintage of the Shorashim is dedicated to someone important to the family). Following that, Assaf talked about the winery's philosophy and history. If I may say so myself, I did a good job transcribing those after my visit this winter, so you can read the full spiel here, but if you want a recap, Assaf wants to make interesting, fruity wines, that pair well with food, don't necessarily require a lot of bottle age and that are imbued with local character. Which is what you'll hear from many winemakers, but Assaf was just about the first to try attempt that with varieties that the industry viewed as scourge: Carignan, Colombard, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Franc.

Vitkin has been a favorite of mine for so many years that when Assaf Paz recalled how tough it was in the early years to sell their concepts, not to mention the wines, I was almost shocked to realize I was probably one of the nay-sayers who were reluctant at first to try wines like the Carignan.

* Vitkin is a family owned winery. Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky runs the show, her brother Assaf Paz and husband Doron Belogolovsky make the wines.

Riesling, 2014

Assaf might well admit that growing and vinifying Riesling in Israel isn't a very convincing way to make a wine imbued with local character. What the hell has the Mosel's favorite son to do with the hot, humid Israeli summers? The answer is he really loves Riesling and was offered good grapes years ago, and with a little foresight and a lot of talent and luck, not to mention good fruit, he wound up making a good dry Riesling. I buy it haphazardly; it's not my first choice in Vitkin whites, my first choice is the next wine, but it's a good drink and my wife likes it (although at the tasting, she too preferred the Grenache Blanc). The 2014 is a little more intense of flavor than previous vintages, rounder as well, while showing good structure and complexity. Right now, it's all about fruit, although not necessarily apples, more yellow summer fruit, such as apricots. Deserves a couple of years. 90 NIS.

Grenache Blanc, 2014

I am very wary of white Rhone grapes, especially Grenache Blanc, due to its association with white Chateauneufs, arguably the one white wine most people never manage to open at the right stage in its evolution. But Assaf made a very intriguing white Grenache in 2013 and this is just as fascinating, with tobacco, ash, summer fruit again, and acidity that brightens the fruit and imbibes it with structure and a saline finish. I don't know if this or future vintages will ever turn to be profound wines, but they will always be a welcome companion to fish and salad dishes. 125 NIS.

Petit Syrah, 2008

For me, this is the real star - of both the winery and the tasting. This is exactly what I want to get from local wines: character and the rough, muscular rusticity that comes from grapes acclimated to Mediterranean weather. It's very impressive, without being a trophy wine, but rather a still untamed, leathery, Old World wine for the discerning middle class, with acidity and savory tannins well matches with a good prime rib. This was made from the fruit of thirty year old vines, but the vineyard was torn down and later vintages came from a plot with even older vines, from the same general area (Ella valley in the Judean hills). It didn't seem to make a big difference in the quality and personality of the wines. 115 NIS for the recent release, 300 NIS for a magnum of the 2008.

Shorashim, 2010

At this point, the groom was hoisted in. My first thought was, this is too much in the mold of ripe Israeli reds, with blue, almost liquorish fruit. But, even if it is that kind of wine, a sensitive hand made it, tempered it with good acidity and hints of violets and I think it will turn out very good - it's already starting show the same leathery feel as the Petit Syrah.

Shorashim, 2006

Assaf says this 2006 was a  vintage of similar characteristics as 2010 and that year's Shorashim was a similar blend of grapes, and thus this wine, with four more years of cellaring under its belt, should be a good indication of where thes 2010 is going. Which is probably true, despite the 2006 still having sweet, baby fat to shed - but you can tell the leather and floral notes are more prominent now.  The 2010 is selling for about 300 NIS, so I think it's more expensive than many peer flagship wines. On the other hand, if the 2006 still needs more time nine years post-vintage, then these might be contending with Katzrin level aging specifications. I think these would be a fair deal if futures prices bring them down to about 200 NIS. At any rate, you'd be getting a lot of character in the bottle.

Pinot Noir, 2011

I struggled with the Vitkin Pinot 2006, finding it too full and sweet for my tastes, but the 2011 charms me with crushed berries and leather aromas. I know I shouldn't make comparisons with Burgundy (I'm such a Bourgogne-head that it's hard to avoid them, especially once my nose and palate start to register Pinot-ness), so let's just say this is a good New World Pinot Noir at a decent price. 85 NIS.

Late Harvest, 2011

Made from ripe, botrytis infected Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this is a terrific Sauternes styled dessert wine without the heaviness of a big Sauternes vintage. 125 NIS for a half bottle, a solid price.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dear Lamy (Jun. 24, 2015)

Dear Olivier Lamy,

We tasted some of your wines, with your local importers, Daniel Lifshitz and Eldad Levy, a.k.a. Bourgogne Crown. I understand you're hard at work at the domaine, so you might want to hear how it turned out. We started out with a Champagne, because it's a given that Eldad will open something from his Boutique de Champagnes portfolio.

Larmandier-Bernier, Brut, L'Attitude, n.v.

Brioche and mushrooms on the nose. This is a broad shouldered Champagne and seemed a little too ripe at first, so I was ready to dismiss it, but a few minutes showed it has enough acidity for balance and it ended up winning me over. Very good. About 300 NIS.

Bourgogne, Les Chataigners, 2013

This is a declassified Village Cru, as you know, showing lime with a streak of minerals. Very pure and saline, the acidity lends great tension. One of the best white "Bourgognes" I've tasted. 180 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2013

Do you agree with Daniel's assessment that Clos de Meix is the most archetypal cru in Saint Aubin? I ask because I don't have a clear notion of what a typical Saint Aubin is, but from my experience, this seems to be a wine people warm up to quite quickly. Whatever, it's showing citrus fruit and greater depth than the Chataigners, as well as marine aromas and flavors that just grow and grow. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Blanc, 2013

This is a cooler wine, with notes of pears that coolness showing in the aromatic profile as well as in the more prominent acidity that drives through to the saline finish creating great length. There's a mineral-laden character that is similar to the Meix with an added overlay of rainwater. 290 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Rouge, 2013

Apparently you are as good with reds as you are with whites, which is a pure delight. I understand this comes from fifty year old plus vines and I'll pat myself on the back because I spotted the old-vines intensity and length. Pungent minerals, sweat and a hint of flowers, a firm acidic backbone and persistent tannins. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de la Chateniere, 2013

How can I quantify the fine differences between these wines, all great, all equally mineral laden? The mineral sensations here are more intense and focused. The finish is the longest so far, the fruit the most concentrated. I find the Clos de la Chateniere to be a highlight in many tastings. The last time Daniel held a tasting of your wines, the Clos de la Chateniere was my favorite for its subtlety, here it's my favorite due to the way it slyly hints at what's in store. 365 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet, Les Tremblots , Haute Densite, 2013

An over, overachiever: a village cru planted with a very high density of low yielding vines, the result displaying detailed nuances of flowers and, again, minerals. It's way more intense than any of the Premier Crus - likely one of the most intense village wines I've ever tasted - although it's not as expressive as, even, the Les Chataigners. Not in stock.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Jun. 2015)

Shvo, Chenin Blanc, 2012

Hey, I try to avoid white wines weighting in at 14% ABV, but this is fascinating, in the rough, grainy ways that Gaby Sadan's wines sometimes present because he lets the vintages speak. It's a fat, round wine, but the roundness is thrillingly rough, the kind of wine where you find yourself drinking rocks rather than drinking fruit,  There are oranges and their lightly bitter peels, flint , and finally, a 'color' reminiscent of rye, which I sometimes get in Loire Chenins. (Jun. 4, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Gerard Betrand, Picpoul-de-Pinet, 2013

A very refreshing bistro white. Lime, minerals and oysters and that's just about it. Pair it with salads and fish.

Wine Route, 75 NIS. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Tua Rita, Toscana IGT, Rosso Dei Notri, 2013

The winery's entry level red shows typical Tuscan character filtered through a modern prism, so it's black fruited, ripe and smooth - with a Tuscan personality that is all about herbal/dusty aromas that are the Italian version of garrigue and evoke a working kitchen. I recall previous vintages of the Guistri di Notri (the affordable of the upper echelon of the winery's lineup) needed a few years to show their best, so possibly even this could use a year or two to shed its more modern aspects.  (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 97 NIS.

G. D. Vajra, Nebbiolo, 2013

This offers complexity of Barolo with a light flair: roses, tea leaves and iron on the nose, the latter reflected in the rusty, yet tasty, tannins. This is an excellent value, and wins over the Rosso dei Notri for its purity and general interest level. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 90 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

I was intrigued by the bottle I drank at Halutzim a few months ago, so when bottles finally reached the stores, I immediately grabbed one. This is terrific right now, one of the best local whites, with juicy acidity and a bouquet of flint and dry grass straight out of the Cote de Beaune. I still fret over apparent traces of oak, but I think it will be fine in a year. And I can't believe I just wrote that about a four year old Israeli Sauvignon Blanc! (Jun. 9, 2015)

130 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

Like Rene Engel and Oronce de Beler, Jean Foillard crafts wines that combine iron fillings and earth with a fresh, yet funky, fruitiness. This, especially, is close to the Platonic ideal of Beaujolais, and offers aromas of exotic spices and a very juicy core that leads to a long, saline finish. (Jun. 10, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2008

An enjoyable, albeit primary bubbly: apples and chalk abound, with little of the accouterments of maturity that make Champagnes so enjoyable, such as brioche and mushrooms, But the fruit is so vibrant that this wine affirms my belief that the BdB is Golan Height's best wine. (Jun. 13, 2015)

Domaine de l'Arlot, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Clos de l'Arlot, 2009

I wasn't really sure how much I'd really like Arlot, since I never tried the high end plots, so I thought I'd just indulge and check a big name from their portfolio. Actually, what happened was I had moved the Clos de l'Arlot from long term storage to short term, changed my mind and was then too lazy to put it back - so it wound up on the "to drink" queue. Anyway, this is excellent, with smoky earth on the nose, very savory fruit and crunchy tannins, and a piercing complexity. It's so forward and drinkable now, the acidity so relatively low keyed for Burgundy, that it's easy to miss the need for slow fine tuning the balance of sweet fruit and the tannic bitterness. I have a bottle of the Clos des Forêts-St-Georges 2009 that I will definitely wait a decade on.(Jun. 13, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 350 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Brut, n.v.

There's a moment within this wine that is indescribable. Mind you, Champagne has greater wines, but this Champagne captures the saltiness of Leroy's Aligote and blends it with the weight of a Chablis Grand Cru and tops it off with Pinot funk. All of which I can describe and just did, but at the core is a backbone, much less readily encapsulated, of truffle oil and chicken broth, which twists and turns like a roller coaster. Rave on. (Jun. 16, 2015)

Fat Guy, 269 NIS.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Cornets, 2011 

I love Redde, we all love Redde. Based on this, if Sauvignon Blanc were grown in Chablis, it could easily rise to the level of a Grand Cru. Les Cornets has a similar profile of rain waters and salty minerals, with subtle, yet distinctive, complexity and power and is one of the best values you can find in Israel. Which is true of Redde at all price levels. (Jun. 18, 2015)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Ecker-Eckhof, Wagram, Zweigelt, Brillant, 2013

Fun and friendly, interesting aromatic fingerprint, dusty and minty. If you know where to look, Austria makes terribly moreish lunch wines. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, I don't see it in the price list on the site, I assume it's about 100 NIS.

Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Scheurebe, trocken, 2012

I once called Scheurebe the Dusty Springfield of grapes and I'm sticking by that moniker. This shows a spicy side of this lustful grape, with a modicum of flowers rather the full blown effect I usually find, complemented and abetted by guayavas. Lovely, really, and you all should be doing drinking more Scheurebe. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Giaconda, 80 NIS.

Domaine du Rochouard, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Argiles a Silex Vieilles Vignes, 2009

A typical, tasty Loire Cab, with a saline, juicy finish, Even though it's not one of the big names in my fridge, I was disappointed by the lackluster aromatics: it checks off the typical herbal greenness but doesn't go much beyond that. (Jun. 20, 2015)

20 USD.

Moric, Burgenland, Blaufränkisch, 2013

A year and a half ago, I tasted a seven year old version of this same wine. The savory, crunchy, peppery reminded me of a Saint Joseph and I vowed to score a bottle. Two trips to Austria proved fruitless but I was so enthralled by the magic of this red wine that most of my purchases were of various red wines (in lieu of the more obvious choices, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner), but most were overdone, overextracted or overoaked, without the simple charms of this basic bottling. Only a very simple Brundlmayer Zweigelt rose up to my expectations. And now, Eldad Levy has once again saved the day by importing Moric to Israel. You could say I've earned my dues waiting for Moric to arrive at my home. This youthful version is just as charming as I'd remembered, with clay and black pepper complementing the red fruit, the soft, dusty tannins and the ripe acidity that props the plump fruit without being too prominent. Drinkable by the gallon with more than a modicum of interest. (Jun. 23, 2015)

About 120 NIS.

Ahat, 2014

Ahat ("One") Winery is the lovechild/boutique of Nitzan Swersky. Eldad Levy recommended her debut wine on Facebook, and even though I usually keep away from Rhone whites, I have faith in Eldad's palate, so I bought a bottle of this Viognier/Rousanne blend.

Turns out a little faith can go a long away. It's fresh and fruity, but the fruit (grapefruit and pears) concedes center stage to a light earthiness and even more subtle nuttiness. There is none of the opulence that Viognier gives in Condrieu, which I never liked, and, thank God, the alcohol is down to a very reasonable 12.8%. What else? Oh, the fat, round body you'd expect from Viognier and Rousanne is there, but it's tempered by very good acidity, so the wine is very fresh - and I already wrote that. If I needed to tweet a note, I'd say that Nitzan captured the Dr. Jekyll face of the Rhone whites. (Jun. 25, 2015)

120 NIS.

Faustino, Rioja, Edicion Especial, 2001

I love Riojas when they're good, but there's a point in their adolescence that I'm indifferent to, where the impact of the American barrels is still obvious and rough (coffee and drying tannins in this case). And that's where this wine is at, and not only that, being a special edition produced for the winery's fiftieth anniversary, it feels as though it's trying to make the best of all worlds: make an impressive first impression as well as insinuate that it needs to be cellared for a long time. I hope for the best, because even though I worry the tannins will outlast the fruit, I have great faith in Tempranillo and this does already hint at Rioja character, showing earth, sweat, crushed raspberries and tobacco leaves.  (Jun. 28, 2015)

Imported by WineRoute, I bought it for about 230 NIS at Bin 281.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who Let The Burgs Out? (Jun. 11, 2015)

Our monthly service at Halutzim 3
Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, En Remilly, 2011

This is pure and nuances, deep and electric, with racy minerals, juicy acidity, with not a trace of oak. I know 2011 is meant for relatively early drinking, but this has a lot of growth potential over five plus years. If one is into petty comparisons, I think it could well go toe to toe with an excellent Puligny Premier Cru, but I believe it merits attention and praise in absolute terms; drop dead gorgeous, with such juicy acidity that I'm sure it wouldn't easily succumb to premox.

Bourgogne Crown, 360 NIS.

Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

Fresh Pinot fruit, silky and juicy, with a hint of sweat and a saline finish. It has a very complimentary impact on the palate - that is, it's very moreish - but it lacks complexity at this stage. Taking into account the domaine's track record, I'm willing to blame the wine's age, despite the vintage's reputation for early drinking.

Wine Route, I believe,

Domaine Georges  Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny, 2000

Arguably beyond its peak, at least to the point where it doesn't show any obvious Chambolle character (although Daniel Lifshitz says the wine in older vintages was sourced from vineyards on the Morey border and was usually atypical at any age) , but it's tasty. More of a cross of Nuits and Gevrey, with a light veneer of exotic spices. I was very surprised it was as lively as it was, it really is quite a coup for Roumier to produce such a village wine in 2000.

Price unknown,

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Saint-Joseph, 2012

This takes time to hint at Northern Rhone pepper, but it's off to a good start with its languid fruit, which is in need of time to show nuances, such as a lovely, meaty stink.

Wine Route, 300 NIS. Dubious return in investment, as I feel Graillot, at two thirds the price, would trash and thrash it.

Kalleske, Barossa, Clarry's GSM, 2013

Once again, Avi Feldstein brings a wine that beats most Chateuaneufs at their own Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre game. A bros wine.

Mersch, 169 NIS.