Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bourgogne Sightings and Ramblings

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2013

I know what I was looking for in white Burgundies when I started out. I read what the wine the books had to say about the classic idiom and the notion appealed to me: savory, focused whites, carrying hints of nuts and minerals and offering saline, rather than sweet, flavors. Most of the wines I tried at the time (say, seven to ten years ago) were fairly young, so they only insinuated at their potential to evolve into the ideal I was looking for. Many were at least a little oaky and fat and they remained that way when we returned to them years later. At best. At worst they didn't keep well at all, as Burgundy whites have been cursed by premox for the last two decades, meaning there are premature signs of oxidation in wines that used to carry their age much better in the past.

Eventually, I learned how to find what I was looking for. Some winemakers offer wines whose body fat and immediate pleasures make good first impressions, i.e. they were ripe and oaky - and let's face it, ripeness and oak sell wines to newbies. Many buyers remain newbies forever, so there's obviously a market share out there for wines whose lack of focus and depth is obscured by oak.

On the other hand, there are wines that start out fat and oaky, yet I'd sense they have enough substance to carry them long enough through the cellar to shed the fat and oak. Or would, if not for premox.

So I'm on the lookout for a third option, wines where the fruit is clenched in a compact, relatively lean frame in youth and where you can easily get a sense of purity and clarity. I'm not saying everything about the wine needs to be obvious, but I want to be able to easily see past the oak and baby fat.  And I do prefer to err on the side of leanness and acidity. And I don't like oak. If it's there, I want the fruit and acidity to be dominant enough that I don't have to fret about needing to age the wine for so long that premox might be an issue, even though I do believe that wines dominated by acidity and fruit are less likely to be cursed by premox to begin with.

But I was going to write about a wine, and the reason I'm boring you with this spiel is that the En Caradeux easily typifies my ideal in Bourgone whites. It really ticks off every checkbox I need: clarity, purity, that compact, focused leanness that belies substance. And it comes from an excellent terroir, a Premier Cru close to the Corton-Charlemagne hill. Which means importers will hype this as a mini-Corton - and they'd be right. Except that with its green apple peels, flint, Atlantic salt, great length and focus, you could just as easily mistake it for a cooler climat Puligny Premier Cru. (Dec. 1, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

I knew what I'd written for the Rapet went beyond a mere tasting note. I seem to be full of thoughts, simple and intricate, about Burgundy lately. So I just let my muse go rambling though the woods this month.

Domaine des Miles (Domaine Fourrey), Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2015

Chablis was relatively free of the issues that bothered me with the Cote d'Or whites, the steely leanness of the style too easily identifiable and marketable for producers to be tempted to go for too much oak (except for some top crus). This is an excellent example of getting Chablis right, aromas of apples and chalk echoed on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity to a saline finish. The internet says Miles is owned by Domaine Fourrey, and I have to say I wasn't very excited with the Côte de Léchet 2014 from Fourrey proper earlier this year. I assume the two domaines are run by one team, but who knows, and anyway, the media (as well as my limited experience) doesn't seem to make them out to be earth shakers, no Raveneau, Duavissat, Henri or Droin. However, this - this would be a good house wine, especially if Wine Route sell them at a discount, as they are wont to do with wines in this price niche. For now, the selling price of 169 is just okay. (Dec. 3, 2016)

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

I wouldn't go as far as saying the Dampt team are better winemakers than Miles/Fourrey, but someone in the domaine is more sensitive to the Chablis ideal and has a finer artistic flair. Certainly if what you're looking for are the maritime aromas and salty crunch on the finish, you could lose yourself in a bottle all evening long. I know I would, if I had been more conservative with my small stash. This is almost my last bottle and my pleasures have been consistently bountiful. (Dec. 4, 2016)

This was bought at a 2 for 300 NIS discount at Wine Route and I've always been pleased with the purchase.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Clos Beru, 2012

This is the flagship wine of the Château de Beru, unique for being a sort of cult house with no Grand Cru holdings, just a Premier Cru Vaucoupin, a few Chablis cuvées and this, a monople, walled single vineyard in the basic Chablis AOC that costs more than most Premier Crus. It's worth it, though, if you buy a wine for what it's inside the bottle and not what's on the label; I agree that some houses abuse that notion, but in this case, the price is reasonable. Having said that, it's a rather idiosyncratic version of Chablis, somehow managing to be both ripe and racy at the same time, coming on almost like a Champagne, offering baked apples and mushrooms as well as more typical chalk and salt. The acidity is excellent, a perfect counterpoint to the fruit, which is as deep as a Grand Cru's - almost fat in a vaguely Meursault vein, in fact. (Dec. 17, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, 2010

I'd been aging this for three years, fretting about opening my 2010's too early (and I opened the Bize Perrières 2010, a mere Bourgogne, too early and never enjoyed it). But this is in a remarkably enjoyable phase, the nose somehow mixing iron, clay and spices with cool black fruit to make for an intriguing complexity, the tannins persistent enough to support the acidity and lend structure without blockading the fruit, asserting themselves as the wine airs to make a point: this village wine will keep and develop for some years to come. Really savory and delicious, the first Bize I've had that lived up to the house's reputation. (Dec. 7, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 240 NIS - still available.

A. et P. de Villaine, Côte Chalonnaise, La Fortune, 2011

Aubert de Villaine has been leading Domaine Romanee-Conti for the last three or four decades. His residence is at Bouzeron where he grows and vinefies Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote. Villaine is said to be the driving force behind the promotion of the Aligote-only Bouzeron AOC. I like his Bouzeron, but to be quite honest, I'm more enamored of other Aligotes (Ente, Bouisson). Following the Bouzeron promotion, Pinot and Chardonnay wines from the village are bottled as Côte Chalonnaise, so this is actually a village wine. I was a fan of Villaine for years and bought La Fortune and La Digoine regularly. Both are Côte Chalonnaise reds from Bouzeron vineyards, the La Fortune sourced from relatively young vines. I wouldn't have thought of drinking a La Fortune at five years of age, especially from a vintage like 2011, which by all accounts is one to drink on the younger side - but a stash at a local restaurant had really tempted me. And it really is drinking remarkably well, stinging me with the Burgundian Cupid arrow of autumnal, mellow strawberries and underbrush. If I set aside this romantic enthusiasm, I have to admit that, while the attack and middle palate are fresh enough, the fruit is just starting to dry out on the finish. Despite my reservation, for me, this is a very good wine (Dec. 10, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Beaune Premier Cru, Perrières, 2010

A simple Montille Bourgogne 2002 was what hooked me on to Burgundy, some twelve years ago. Etienne de Montille turned père Hubert's domaine into a mini-empire, that by now has extended beyond the family's original Volnay and Pommard holdings, into significant Vosne and Nuits vineyards. The Perrières bottling is located relatively low in the hierarchy, but it's a very good Beaune Premier Cru, and a good value in Burgundian terms, year in and year out. Off course, in a great vintage like 2010 it's an especially good buy. Typically for Beaune, we have here aromas of black fruit and minerals - Mediterranean market spices adding a touch of exotic splendor - and vividly fresh fruit and acidity on the palate (more so than the Bize, just to give a frame of reference). It's a good example of Etienne's style: friendly, sexy fruit, with a subtle, yet persistent, tannic structure. A very attractive wine. (Dec. 15, 2016).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 290 NIS for recent vintages. Starting with the 'classic' Montille Crus in Volnay and Pommard, the prices become a little too dear for comfort, but this is, like I wrote, a recommended buy.

The go-to names for Burgundy in Israel are Burgundy Wine Collection and Bourgogne Crown. Both specialize in the region and carry a mix of classic names and up and coming stars. What about the Wine Route empire, though? My problem with Wine Route's Burgundy portfolio has always been lack of commitment. Producers come, producers go. I never get a sense that someone is trying to build up a following or a true partnership. Just look at how they handle Chablis. Dampt one year, Fourrey/Miles the next, only the obvious crus from ubiquitous Fevre hanging in there year to year (Vaillons, Valmur, Clos - a rather short list for a producer with holdings in just about every Chablis vineyard). Burgundy proper has always been even more slapdash, only Jadot maintaining a consistent presence. I sometimes wish they'd just hand over their Burgundy contacts to someone who actually gives a fuck. But, sometimes, they do surprise me.

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

This is an interesting offering from from Wine Route, perhaps hinting at a potentially attractive addition to their sporadically interesting Burgundy portfolio. Van Canneyt is the winemaker at famed Domaine Hudelot-Noellat (owned by his grandparents), who started a micro-négociant business in 2012. Demand for Hudelot-Noellat was higher than the supply, and Charles wanted his own business, so there was a personal, as well as a business, justification for the moonlighting gig. His intent is to to produce “classic styles” from vineyards not produced at Hudelot-Noellat (I can't find out if he buys grapes or must, but I hope it's the former if he's capitalizing on the Hudelot-Noellat name). Since the range was initially restricted to top AOCs - only Grand Crus in 2012 -  the assumption is that this 'basic' Bourgogne is made of declassified grapes of pedigree origins. And, indeed, I believe this is no lowly Bourgogne, as this is very elegant and focused, offering a great deal of flavor on a silky texture, with smooth tannins and poised balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is long and vibrant enough to justify the suspicions that it is a declassified village - the internet says Chambolle, and it's true that the floral scents typical of the village become very visceral, nearly intoxicating, in fact. Lovely, (Dec. 16, 2016)

169 NIS. It would be very sweet indeed if this is a trailer for future offerings from Van Canneyt, or even Hudelot-Noellat.

Post Script

My friends and I went through a flight of Premier Crus, that represented all the joys, intellectual and sensual, that the Cote d'Or can provide.

Josepgh Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

We tend to overlook Drouhin around here, but this is arguably the best of the big houses, and looking over my notes, their wines always shows well whenever someone bothers to bring any to a tasting. Which doesn't happen a lot, because we overlook Drouhin, like I said. Also, the imports are in a weird state of limbo in Israel. Drouhin was never well marketed while the Scottish Company carried them, and then the company folded and Tiv Ta'am inherited the stocks, and now nobody knows what's on offer. Take this for example, Zacki found it just last week in a Tiv Ta'am branch, where it's been lurking for god knows how long. It's drinking really great (and should continue to do so for five more years, at least, although I doubt it will get better), very complex and full of iron and rust accents, an elegant version of the Nuits muscle bound rusticity, that I found easy to spot blind. What makes this bottle even more special is how rare a bird the Proces vineyard is. I looked it up, it's one of the 4-5 smallest of the forty or so Premier Crus in NSG.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 2001

My friends and I also tend to overlook 2001, probably because it was overshadowed by 2002, the current 'great' Burgundy vintage when we started out. Later, when we started buying back vintages, I suppose many of us opted for for 2002's, 1999's and 1996's, the other 'great' vintages easily available. This is another example of what a lovely vintage 2001 was, and it also shows what a great producer d'Angerville is, a perfect example of his elegant muscular style. It also shows the quality of the Clos des Ducs monople vineyard, or its longevity anyway: you get the feeling it still hasn't released every nuance of flavor it has to offer. If a tag is needed, let's call it a reserved wine. I loved it.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2007

If 2001 is overlooked because we just missed it when we jumped on the Burgundy train, then 2007 is ignored because it wasn't, in most cases, a vintage for long cellaring, or for showing off at tastings. The Pezerolles, though, is a wonderful specimen, and, like the 2010 Perrières, typical of the house style. Also, with notes of iron threading through the aromas and flavors, it is quite typical of Pommard. The reasons why 2007 is a vintage that pleases but doesn't thrill is that it lacks inches to a yard in every dimension: its not quite deep enough, not quite broad enough, not quite bright or sexy enough.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gourmandy (Dec. 8, 2016)

Not pictured: Lucien le Moine
Out of sight, its dreariness sadly not out of mind
Habasta may not boast the kind of high tech cuisine or the elegant backdrop that garner awards, but the sheer lust for life that Maoz Alonim's kitchen staff puts in every dish makes the place the most hedonistic eatery in town, my favorite, hands down. Every notion I've ever had about friendship bonded by a gourmand feast comes true whenever I eat there, Maoz' Gargantuan presence always booming in the background, the picture postcard image of the genial host.

The wines were the usual eclectic lineup.

Kumeu River, Mate's Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2013

Back when the New World was first trying to emulate the white wines of Burgundy, the winemakers would prop the fruit with a heavy dose of wood, because that's how they interpreted the style. Today, pure, precise fruit flavors are (or should be) the vanguard, the oak refining the structure of the wine during the elevage in barrel without defining the flavors. This vibrant little wine - which we've had before - is an example of this idiom, the flavors on its lithe figure echoing the aromas of apples, peaches, chalk and matchstick.

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Chambolle-Musigny, 2012

Bourgogne Crown carries the domaine, but not this wine. I was very much captivated by what I'd tasted from Taupenot-Merme, mostly different vintages of Mazoyeres-Chambertin. The house style is very floral, mercurial and vibrant; made for Chambolle, I thought when I bought this at London, and the wine was exactly what I expected, easily the star of the evening.  Demure initially due to its youth, the vivid freshness stands as a testament to the pedigree and attentive winemaking, its vibrancy and length giving it the punch, if not the complexity and depth, of a Premier Cru.

Rhys, San  Mateo Country, Family Farm Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2009

The other Pinots we had were a mess. Rhys is a winery I'd been curious to try for a while, a new hipster cult fave stateside. There is brett here, not a lot, but it does make the result a sort of a cross between Beaujolais and Rhone, the lack of structure denying it the charm of either of the two.

Lucien Le Moine, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru, 2009

If I had a tumor, I'd name it Lucien Le Moine. Despite the aspirations to purity and the "old way" that the domaine's site boasts, winemaker/partner Mounir Saouma just doesn't get Burgundy, the elegant beauty and lightness of being that should be its ideal (unless he interprets old ways as being the tannic soup that used to be sold as, say, Pommard). If Burgundy is ever buried, Mounir will be there to put stones on her grave. He's certainly earned the right, with wines that obscure the loveliness and nuances of Pinot Noir, recalling, as here, a Chateauneuf, with horse saddle, garrigue and sweet fruit.

Chateau Moulinet, Pomerol, 2009

I read this is considered a "value" Pomerol (23 euros in Bordeaux), and this certainly fits the bill, a tasty drop that combines lush fruit with adolescent tannins.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2016)

The ongoing tale of the man who was heavily into Bourgogne
Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Mes Favorites, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

2011 is considered a user-friendly vintage, with little aspirations of longevity. So, despite the age of the vines, and the quality of the domaine in general, this is already very enjoyable. There's a herbal, earthy pungency on the nose and a focused, palate-cleansing, tannic finish, that are so gastronomical and French. What I love in the domaine's wines is the floral freshness, which only signs in after the slight initial murkiness clears and the red fruit is highlighted. At which point you also get iron and animal musk. This is the kind of wine that convinces you early on it has breed past Village Cru level, but it takes almost three hours for me to figure out that pedigree carries it, in 2011, as far as a footstep or two away from Premier Cru tier, but no closer. (Nov. 4, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 310 NIS.

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2009

As dense as a latter day Bordeaux, hints of lead pencil giving away its origins, this broadcasts the use of oak, but I definitely get the feeling that it will integrate nicely. Opened a decade too early, although a few hours are enough to signal its potential. (Oct. 8, 2016)

32 USD.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon-Uchizy, Maranches, 2008

Ordered by the glass at Habasta, this surprised me for its youthful vibrancy. It's been so long since I drank an eight year old Burgundy white this vital, and this is but a village wine from the Macon. It's flinty with decent complexity, green apples seguing into peaches. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 198 for a bottle at the restaurant, 140 NIS for a latterday vintage.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

Maoz, owner of Habsta, treated me to a tasting glassful from the remains of a bottle opened for 6 days. The oxygen apparently did it negligible harm, and my glass showed the same floral character I remembered from a tasting in May (a common feature for many of the domaine's wines), backed by elegant, yet persistent tannins. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Crown, list price, 205 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne, Dizy, Brut Rosé, n.v.

Refreshing, while packing a lot of saline-delineated flavors into a lithe frame, with autumnal red fruit and nuts on the nose. A good rosé Champagne should capture the essence of both Champagne and Pinot, and this one does with style. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1er Lage, Riesling, 2011

Riesling often wears a spicy veil in Austria. Here for instance, where it also adorns a rocky corset, which is also quite typical. Beyond that, there are variations on that theme. For one thing, the body wearing the veil and corset is lithe and fluid, the fruit savorily dry, ranging from green apples to red apples and beyond, flirtingly evoking redcurrants. (Nov. 10, 2016)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, des Hospices, 2008

Wine poses no real aesthetic value to me without romance, and no wine is more romantic than Chablis, because Chablis evokes the sea - and the sea is the essence of romance. Chablis should offer a breath of marine breezes, sea weeds washed ashore, rainwater, shells and fossils, but sometimes the purest and most complex expressions of Chablis are found in the Premier Crus, and not necessarily the Grand Crus. It's almost as though the producers try too hard to impress, are too generous with the oak. And some Grand Crus are just too... grand, their character and breadth more akin to Chassagne and Puligny than to their Premier Cru neighbors. Especially Le Clos, which usually appeals to me less than, say, Valmur. I always hope a mature Grand Cru will combine the best of all worlds, but the premox curse seems to have hit Chablis has hard as it has the Cote d'Or. At eight years of age, this bottle, a monopole within the Le Clos vineyard, nails a sweet spot where the Chablis character is coming to terms with the size of Le Clos and all signs of oak are gone or so deeply submerged within the chalky, limey acidity that they might as well be gone, allowing for great length and a truly wonderful complexity of flavors. (Nov. 12, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 390 for recent vintages (the straight Le CLos and the other Grand Crus are 290 NIS).

Feldstein, Syrah Rose, 2014

I didn't write about this wine in my write-up of the launch, because Avi never released it, concerned that three roses was too much for the local market. I say, releasing two roses was not enough. Releasing three would have been a momentous, historical statement and Avi will regret his decision. Especially since this seems like the most interesting of the lot, with a hint of meat on the nose and a long finish that evokes salted cashews. There's even a hint of black pepper eventually - Syrah, you know. (Nov. 13, 2016)

By the way, this inspired a revisit to Avi's Carignan Rose, where I now notice a similar meaty salinity, as well as, surprisingly, a hint of apricots.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Petite Cave, 2010

The 2006 taught me that this wine is slow to mature, but with the 2010, I figured I'd drink it over the course of a long evening and aerate it ahead of time. At first, I get dirt and graphite, and not a whole lot of depth or complexity. But that is a deceptive impression, just as the seeming softness is misleading. These is depth here, with a core of juicy fruit still dormant. (Nov. 17, 2016)

Fat Guy, 189 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2008

Further proof that this is a signature Israeli grape (never mind its actual origin), this has matured wonderfully, showing black fruit, even blue, that is succulent and fresh, the fruit not overripe but balanced with juicy acidity. Maturity has rendered the graphite notes, that are always the telltale stamp of this wine, with greater nuances and depth. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Femelottes, 2014

From the fringes of Puligny proper, this is a precise, classic rendering of the village style, infused with green apples and flint. I don't know whether this needs the same keeping time as a bona fide village wine, but there's a cool aggressiveness about it that I think needs a year or two to soften up. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 105 NIS - to grab!

Abaya, Red, 2011

The lithe freshness of the fruit managed to surprise me, even though I didn't approach the wine expecting a ripe, muscle-bound Cabernet. Quite the contrary, having read of Yossi Yodfat's philosophy and goals. This is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon-Petite Sirah blend, that has been discontinued. I think many wine lovers don't appreciate the magic in a light wine such this, that drinks like fermented juice, a wine you can drink to quench your thirst, which is what wine was originally made for. It's short and simple, thriving on the interplay of black pepper and berries. (Nov. 27, 2016)

Margalit, Enigma, 2013

On the other hand, we have this Bordeaux blend from the former leader of the pack. I say 'former' because Margalit seems to be hanging on to the style of the previous decade, with grainy, dusty tannins and sweet oak not quite counteracted by minerals. The fight turns the next day, as the nose blossoms into a charming lattice of earth and olives. The grainy tannins, and the oak, are still too distracting for me, but then, it's really not a style I favor in the first place. (Nov. 29, 2016)

About 200 NIS.

Domaine de Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) , Côtes du Roussillon Villages,  L'Esquerda, 2013

A bit unusual for the region, this is a Syrah dominated blend, with some Grenache and Cairgnan. It's softly tannic, red fruit and white pepper, becoming more complex and structured with air. (Nov. 30, 2016)

Hakerem, 100 NIS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pick Your Poison - Garrigue, Tel Aviv, Nov. 5, 2016

Eventually, modern medicine was able to find a cure for our addiction, but until then, we partied with precise and alarming regularity.

Moet et Chandon, Cuvee Dom Perignon, 1978

This was a totally dysfunctional bottle, but I feel duty bound to report. An ullage the size of the Grand Canyon, the color of a dead rat and aromas and flavors of a savory manzanilla.

Domaine Vincent Bouzereau, Meursault, Les Narvaux, 2012

Did the denizens of Meursault come up with the concept of the village lieux-dits because the lack of a Meursault Grand Cru necessitated a new marketing approach? I'm just wondering. Anyway, Narvaux is a fairly well known vineyard. This is only my second or third sample and if I were to generalize from such a small sample, the wines are rather limey and flinty/marine in a Puligny style, with an nervy edge. That would be my tasting note here, although I'll add that this does end up somewhat fat and generic on the finish.

La Maison Romane, Corton Grand Cru, Les Perrieres, 2008

This is a Grand Cru that floats by on its complexity, long and rusty, with exotic spices and iron. It's very true to the style of 2008 from my experience, with the acidity upfront, and will need more time to fill up its lithe frame.

Chateau Meyney, Saint Estephe, 1982

Black fruit, barnyard, decent length and complexity, but not much more. Nice, but seriously, it's amazing that you can actually find any of these: anyone that bought this and aged it for this long was a fool, there was absolutely no upside in cellaring this past the late 90's.

Dunn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sayvignon, 1998

This displays a less common manifestation of Brett, according to Ido. Interesting to learn the foulness has multiple aspects and that winemakers can actually tell the difference. Thankfully, it's less prominent here than in the Meyney, and overall, this is tasty, just not a star.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Petite Cave, 2006

Finally, a brett free claret, which is appropriate, as Amirault makes the cleanest Loire reds I've tasted. I'm sure some will find fault with that and label him a modernist, but here's what I think: start off with clean flavors and a balanced wine and then let time in the cellar do the rest. That's what his forbears would have done if they could have afforded cleaner facilities. This is way too young, even at ten years of age, but the vivid fruit makes this a great little gem, with a hint of spices providing interest even now. This is costs much less than 200 NIS and will age as long as a Bordeaux costing twice the price, say twenty years - in fact, it will need those decades in order to provide significant enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How To Taste A Spätburgunder

Pinot Noir - it takes a lifetime to understand the simple truths it expresses with its clarity of acidity driven fruit. And that's assuming you limit yourself to its homeland in Burgundy. So what happens when your broach its Teutonic counterpart, which the Germans call Spätburgunder, inflicting pain and confusion on spell checkers everywhere?

The late Bernhard Huber was a pioneer and master of the Bourgogne varieties in Baden, which, along with Nahe, is the classic Spätburgunder region (even though producers like Laible make wonderful Rieslings and Scheurebes there). As any lover of Burgundy knows, mastering Pinot Noir means finding ways to let it clearly, subtly, voice the nuances of the vineyard, vintage, even the winemaker's temperament, without forcing the issue or losing sight of the grapes lightness of voice and form. As any lovers of Burgundy will tell you, it's never an easy task.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2011

After following this over three bottles, I have finally concluded that Huber was very much interested in capturing the lithe, acidity driven structure of a fine Burgundy red, but much less interested in replicating the specific aromas and flavors of the homeland of Pinot Noir. Which means he treated Spätburgunder with great respect, because, above all, the Pinot family reflects land and climate. So, let's play a game. Pretend this was served at a being Bourgogne tasting. Where is it from? Something about the weight and darkness of the fruit would point you to the Cote de Nuits, only you'd be hard pressed to settle on a village. There's nothing exotic or floral about it, so that rules out Vosne or Chambolle. There's a bit of sauvage about it, but also some iron, so you oscillate towards Nuits-St.-Georges rather than Gevrey and realize it's complex and persistent enough to be a Premier Cru. But you still can't really place it - there's a scent of coffee grains impregnating the autumn leaves and a rather serious aspect, so studious, struggling to hide a smirk. Nothing you ever found in Burgundy, really. (Oct. 25, 2016)

35 GBP.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Oct. 2016)

Perhaps it's the holidays season, but this month's lineup was heavily dominated by local wines.

Yatir, Syrah, 2010

Tightly reined in fruit, black pepper and smoke, balancing red and black fruit. The drying tannins make for an unbalanced, disappointing effect, I must say.  (Oct. 2, 2016)

Kishor, Savant Red, 2014

A food friendly wine that marries restraint to the Bordeaux blends that so readily lead to jammy ripeness in Israel. (Oct. 2, 2016)

Kishor, Syrah, 2014

Much less expensive than the Yatir, its succulent fruit, complemented by hints of black pepper, make for a more enjoyable wine. Despite being under the radar, Kishor has a distinct style: restrained and food friendly. (Oct. 6, 2016)

Kishor, GSM, 2014

I think I like it best of all the Kishor reds that I've tasted. Again, the key here is restraint. I've encountered few local wineries that avoid flash and artifice like Kishor. This has just a touch of the candied fruit Grenache provides, along with herbal/dusty notes. Like the other Kishor wines, this will give you plenty of change from 100 NIS. (Oct. 13, 2016)

Kishor, Savant Red, 2013

A wine I liked just as much as the GSM, and more complete at this point, the restraint mellowing just enough to provide even greater accessibility and highlight a lead pencil vibe I didn't quite get with the 2013. While the wines don't seem built to last a long cellaring period, I would say a year or two does bring out some nuances. (Oct. 31, 2016)

Luis Pato, Beiras, Vinhas Velhas, 2011

One of the reasons that Pato has so many different labels is that he often makes multiple harvests of the same vineyard, in order to make different wines. Thus, this is the second pass through the 45 year old Baga vines that are also the source of one of his many sparkling wines. This is a fleet footed version of his 'bigger' single vineyard wines, coming off as a more pungent brother to the Baga Natural. That pungency is evidenced on the tannic finish, Other than that, it shows the same meaty personality that Carignan also pulls off without the aid (or damage) of brett. Very nice. (Oct. 4, 2016)

Tshernichovsky Porto Wine Bar, 110 NIS.

Cave de Tain l'Hermitage, St. Joseph, Grand Classique, 2014

And now, to the homeland of Syrah. I knew Cave de Tain is a good, solid co-op, but I didn't really know how good and solid. Wine Route started importing them this year, but, since in recent years Wine Route have been selecting conservative, albeit solid, choices, I wasn't expecting a Graillot, exactly. But this is nice, not very complex, a rustic, primal North Rhone Syrah. Smokey and peppery with a hint of bacon, saline and savory on a lithe frame, with sour cherry acidity.  On the minus side, it doesn't have the well crafted clarity of Graillot. Or even the stolid finish of Chapoutier. (Oct. 7, 2016)

Wine Route, 160 NIS (the discount deal was 2 for 200, though).

Rene Rostaing, Coteaux du Languedoc, Vassal de Puech Noble, 2014

Syrah seems to be a secondary theme this month. Rostaing is a cult producer from Cote Rotie, and Puech Noble is his foray to the Languedoc. Despite Rostaing's fame, I haven't been able to get the particulars of this wine in this vintage on the web, but the Vassal is the second wine and is predominately Syrah, with about a third Grenache, thus turning the Chateauneuf (ironically closer to Puech Noble than Cote Rotie) formula on its head. You get the succulent freshness and black pepper of Syrah, a touch of candied fruit and garrigue from the Grenache. A lovely example of what the Languedoc earth can bring forth. (Oct. 8, 2016)

Wine Route, about 150 NIS. WineRoute are still a dependable, smart importer, with great business acumen, but it's been a while since I've tasted any of their ware that seemed to think outside the box like this does.

Sphera, White Signature, 2013

I know what the fuss is all about, because the flint-laced nose will make any lover of Bourgogne smile. However, it doesn't strike that balance of flavorsome spiciness and lean mellowness that the winery's lesser wines show - and I would hurry to add "yet", because the barrel influence is obvious here texturally (but, thankfully, without any flavor additives), lending the fruit a constricted, almost tannic, edge that hasn't really opened up. (Oct. 10, 2016)

160 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2013

The structure seems to be unraveling. As much as I loved this wine in the past, maybe it wasn't a vintage to keep, after all. (Oct. 11, 2016)

149 NIS.

Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, Heritage, 2012

I finally got around to this "flagship" wine - since the domaine doesn't have any Grand Cru holdings, the Fourchaume fits that bill, since it's one of the most venerable Premier Crus, and the Heritage bottling is sourced from extremely old vines, planted in 1937. Like the regular cuvee, it it a very pure expression of one of the Chablis signatures: moss and wet rock. I can't tell if it's necessarily more complex, since I didn't taste them side by side, but I am certain that it has more much stage presence, and it is much more visceral, feeling as though that Chablis essence is shoved straight at my senses, at the same time without any loss of elegance. There's greater ripeness, that comes across as succulent sweetness of fruit without any loss of nervy, edgy, mineral cut. (Oct. 12, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Mia Luce, Syrah and Stems, 2015

First, the name: the name acknowledges that the wine was fermented with 2/3 of its stems. In modern winemaking, grapes are almost always de-stemmed, but there's a recent trend to leave the stems in, all or partially. I won't delve into the technical aspects (what it does to the wine,  what are the drawbacks) - because I really don't know enough about the subject, but I understand it's usually deemed an appropriate approach to Pinot Noir and Syrah, which is why it's common in Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Rhone. What I can and want to tell you is how this wine turned out. I've drunk my share of local Syrahs, and this is the one that best captures how young Syrah smells and tastes in Crozes-Hermitage and, especially, St. Joseph. Forget what you heard about black pepper, violets and bacon. It's here, alright, but the point is the succulent, fresh, floral fruit etched so vibrantly on the palate. (Oct. 14, 2016)

160 NIS.

Mia Luce, CSM, 2015

This Carignan-Syrah-Marselan blend is not only a clever word play on the GSM name and formula. The interaction between the meaty rusticity of the first, the black pepper of the second and slight candiness of the third make for a very tasty sum of the parts, with good complexity and depth and a hint of minty herbs. There's obviously an on-going stylistic and philosophical trend in the country. People call it Mediterranean wines, which is over-simplifying things, but as shorthand, it's at least better than talking about Mediterranean grape varieties - as my friend Avi Feldstein sarcastically put it, if you plan any decent grape within sight of the Mediterranean sea, it will wish it was a hundred miles away, away from the heat and humidity. What we really mean - and want to drink - is wines made of grapes that have it in them to reach phenolic ripeness in the Levant climate without turning jammy. You still have to adjust the acidity, but you will get plenty of flavors without the burden and the heat of alcohol. This is a showcase of that style, with enough tannins to frame the warm sweetness of the fruit, to create a forceful impact of flavors while still allowing the tannins to cleanse the palate. The hipster sommeliers will have a good story to sell with this one and we'll have yet another local wine that tells the story of the land without tiring the palate. (Oct. 16, 2016)

150 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Rouge, 2013

Ido's a friend and I always loved the Rouge, but fuck it, I still didn't expect it to be this good! It's really succulent and vibrant in the same North Rhone style that his colleague Koby Arviv conjured in the Mia Luce Syrah, It's about half Petit Sirah, the rest split between Syrah and Carignan. Where it breaks away from other local variations on these three grapes is its carefully tended cleanliness. There's a note of raw meat that almost convinces you the wine is going to be rustic, until that clean fruit hits the palate. Clean fruit - not sterile. (Oct. 18, 2016)

150 NIS.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2013

The lighter side of Nebbiolo, perhaps the place where texturally, at least, it does resemble Pinot Noir. Aromatically, well, nothing ever really does smell like Nebbiolo, and here, the tar and dust are so prominent, it's like sipping from a jug on the back of a pickup truck going down a desert road. Notwithstanding the quaint image, which serves as shorthand rather than an indication of any emotional attachment on my part, this is not especially memorable. (Oct. 21, 2016)

Wine Route, 130 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, 2011

Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with, I believe, 17% Syrah and a little Merlot as well, this is impressive for how balanced it is. The fruit has the typical sweetness that you can't avoid in Israeli Cabernet, but there's nothing overripe about it and the dusty tannins complement the sweetness without being intrusive, a touch of cedar and minerals adding nuances. Even without knowing Eran Pick, I think you'd get the notion that this is the work of a man who loves Bordeaux, is careful about his craftsmanship and, finally, knows that Israel can't be Bordeaux. So, you get a claret that approaches the paradigm in the same way California Cabernets did in the seventies and eighties and that respects both the terroir and the drinker's palate. (Oct. 22, 2016)

100 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Lebanon Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011

I recall the 2010 as warm climate claret from three years ago, and the 2011, with more bottle age, is more of the same, with a mineral edge and hints of eucalyptus. Until the acidity started asserting itself - whether natural or tweaked, good job with that - I thought this was tame and correct. But it allows itself to get rowdy before it calls it a night. (Oct. 29, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rosh Hashana chez Zacki (Oct. 1, 2016)

Potluck tasting are a pain to write about. The lack of thematic unity offends my artistic sensibilities and I'm running out of witty introductions or generic comments on camaraderie. Luckily, this time we wound with an unplanned Barolo flight that was a beauty as well as teaching us all not to follow a Barolo with a nubile claret. So there's a theme for me.

Barkan, Superieur, Shiraz, 2006

A good effort made under friendly fire from corporate management at Barkan. A charming nose, with spices and tar reminiscent of Nebbiolo, as well as black pepper; all the while, the palate has seen better days. Damn, it's sad to reflect that there will be no truly exciting wines coming from Barkan in the foreseeable future. Even in the past, it sometimes seemed as though the winery did all it could to obscure the talents of the winemakers who worked there.

Montes Claros, Alentejo, Garrafeira, 2008

This Portuguese from an obscure appellation reminds me of a kinky New World boutique, with a peppery, almost reductive bouquet and a silky body. Interesting and, despite the new world hygiene, very characterful.

Oddero, Barolo, Rocche dI Castigliano, 2001

What you have here right now is as good as this will ever get, but what you get is very fine indeed, a classic profile defined by tea leaves, spices and rusty tannins. This is a traditional producer that doesn't get a lot of accolades - I suspect there's a ceiling to the quality of the house and this wine hits it, but within that ceiling is a lot of old world charm.

Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Asili, 2009

You can't make any judgement calls about Barolos in the first thirty minutes. At first, this is disappointing, candied, alcoholic with band aid aromas, unformed on the palate.  But, with time, it shows a lot of classic elegance as the nose resolves to tar and rose petals, and even though the palate is still encased in that iron glove of tannins and acidity, it does manage to show its breed with regal gusto.

Brezza, Barolo, Castellero, 2011

This lovely, floral Barolo was my wine of the night, and just about everyone else's, too. It has a languid yet assured structure, where beneath the deceptively calm surface I find persistently focused power, as evidenced by the silky red fruit, juicy acidity and savory tannins. This is the only Barolo of the flight that is not only an expression of Nebbiolo, but also an expression of terroir, in the Burgundian sense.

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

Even though the oak is certainly too prominent right now, this hints at the classic Saint Julien sexiness and finesse. So you get a savory, tannic finish, but the suave black fruit and hints of cedar are smothered. We opened this a decade too early, now didn't we?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2016)

Gilles Gaudron, Vouvray, Les Pierres Rousses, 2014

A new producer in town. A simple wine, that gets you with refreshing, straightforward allure, all peaches and quince carried on very lively acidity. (Sept. 2, 2016)

Wine Route, 110 NIS.

Domaine Vincent Paris, Cornas, Granit 30, 2014

The beauty of this plump, young Syrah is how the vivid freshness of the raspberry fruit is adorned by violets, black pepper, charcoal, bacon and lightly tannic, saline finish. (Sept. 3, 2016)

Fat Guy, 199 NIS.

Vitkin, White Journey, 2015

This is probably the wine where Assaf Paz lets loose all the blending skills he picked up at his former day jobs at the big, commercial wineries, his only commitment being to craft a gastronomic wine that expresses his vision of the kind of wine that should be drunk around the Mediterranean basin. This year, it's a blend of Grenache Blanc, old vine French Colombard (which in local terms means what, thirty year old vines? It would be a respectable age around here, anyway), Viognier and some Gewurztraminer. The result is a crisp and fruity wine, with a mineral streak and a faintly exotic florality, which the more insular boutiques would sell at twice the price. (Sept. 6, 2016)

About 70 NIS, your mileage may vary.

A flock of sheep visiting the Orangerie vineyard
Château de Beru, Chablis, Orangerie, 2014

Barring Ravenau and Dauvissat, Beru might offer the best straight Chablis, or at least, the best value. However, there's so many of them, three Chablis AOC's besides the flagship Clos Beru - and the variation in quality as I climb up the price list is not enough to easily make out without a horizontal tasting. This single-vineyard (from a bio-dynamic plot) seems deeper and fatter than the two less expensive wines and offers the same ripe, lightly exotic version of the Chablis paradigm. Takes longer to open up, but, when it does, it proves to be more electric than the two others. (Sept. 9, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown/Fat Guy, 180 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, Pinot Noir Alte Haide, 2011

This caught my eye at Fortum and Mason, and the low pound after Brexit provided further incentive. This is on par with the good German Pinots I've had over the last few years, with typical Pinot aromas of red fruit and that green autumnal musk of underbrush. On the palate, it's shows the same stern bitterness of its Teutonic peers and I could use the sensual allure that good Burgundies provide. Possibly it's meant for earlier drinking - it's not really a wine you can easily find opinions on online. But honestly? I don't really like it - the nose is good, but overall, it plays out like someone tried to clone Bourgogne without a proper blueprint.  (Sept. 10, 2016)

38 GBP.

Château de Targe, Saumur-Champigny, 2014

Another Wine Route import from the Loire, all fresh raspberries and end pencil shavings. Despite, or perhaps because of, the austere, earthy finish, this is much tastier and more intriguing than I'd hoped. (Sept. 11, 2016).

130 NIS.

Domaine Thevenot Le Bruin, Aligote, Perle d'Or, 2014

Totally lacking any form of mannerism, this is the kind of simple Aligote that pleases for the best virtues of all: purity, freshness and charm. There's just enough rocks and rainwater atop the lime fruit to also provide a modicum of intellectual interest. After years of (and still on-going) abuse, Aligote is still underappreciated - but when Burgundy was making its latter day reputation in the 20th century, few Chardonnays in Bourgundy, anywhere for that matter, were this lithe and tasty. That's probably still the case. (Sept. 22, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown/Fat Guy, 95 NIS.

Quinta do Portal, Dao, Grand Reserva, 2007

A big letdown, compared to the 2009, which I thought a lovely alternative to old school claret. This is hot and jammy and lacks charm and freshness. (Sept. 23, 2016)

240 NIS.

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese, 2006

Like the Sonnenuhr of the same year, this has deep fruit and complex aromatics marked by obvious noble rot influences and less obvious petrol. Likewise, it is also a fleshy wine with lower acidity than you'd expect from a great Riesling. It serves well as a dessert wine, although I think a great Auslese - which is what I expect from Prüm, no less - should have enough vibrancy to serve along the main meal. Having said that, the richness of the fruit offers sheer hedonistic pleasure I can't and won't want to deny. (Sept. 24, 2016)

Giaconda, 250 NIS?

Vitkin, Carignan, 2011

The character is defined by meaty aromas and flavors, as well as notes of flowers and iodine. At this point, it's a rustic, earthy phase, where the tannins make for a dusty effect. (Sept. 26, 2016)

90 NIS.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Man And His Horse - The Wines Of Olivier Guyot

How can you not love a domain that salutes the retirement of their beloved horse Indigo?

Bourgogne, 2014

This is a hidden gem in the Bourgogne Crown catalog - the wines are humble in the way they favor nuanced finesse and subtle complexity over power and oomph. Actually, they do have understated power, which they exhibit after starting out delicately dumb and then slowly gaining definition and intensity with air. This is what I look for in Burgundy, and the wines never fail to charm me, even this declassified Marsannay, its cool, black tinted fruit and pungent, saline earthiness lingering surprisingly long, due to the tasteful, tasty, tart finish. (Aug. 1, 2016)

110 NIS.

Marsannay, La Montagne, 2013

As much as I do love Guyot, but I shied away from this white for a while, even though the 2013 wasn't the first vintage offered in the catalog. The reason being I've never been too impressed with the few Cote de Nuits whites I've tried. But, this turned out to be tasty and forceful, albeit not too complex or deep. What it does provide is very pungent aromas of apple peel and chalk and electric acidity that push the fruit to great length. It could be the first CdN white to thrill me, now for that electric vibe - later, who knows? With that acidity, it will age a few years. (Sept. 13, 2016)

160 NIS.

Marsannay Rose, 2014

And this is the rose and it's sour and saline on the palate, with typical Pinot aromatics on the nose. Surprisingly powerful, yet focuses that power into an appropriately lean frame. (Sept. 16, 2016)

95 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Champeaux, 2011

The list price is 390 NIS, but because Lifshitz and Eldad offered it at amazing discount, I only paid 260, which is ridiculous. This is not the stereotypically muscular and sauvage Gevrey. Instead, this shows the floral and elegant side of the appellation, starting out deceptively light, slowly evolving a lithe, yet powerful, tannic structure which persists, but never overwhelms. It always remains true to the initial impression of elegance, as well as to its Gevrey origins and Premier Cru pedigree. Very complete, long and savory. Despite 2011's reputation for early drinking, despite the obvious joys it already provides, the way this builds up to a rusty crescendo bodes well for the cellar. (Sept. 18, 2016)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Feldstein Reloaded, Feldstein Unleashed, Feldstein Unfiltered

The Alchemist
Avi Feldstein is a friend, so I can't promise full objectivity. But then, if you know Avi, or have spoken to him at any length, you know objectivity is not the point of anything one might write about him. I will elaborate.

Few winemakers think as deeply about their craft as does this creative, youthful veteran; then express their thoughts with such elaborate clarity and honesty; and finally make such painstaking efforts to realize those lifelong notions in their wines. I don't mean to denigrate other winemakers. Obviously, you don't get into this gig without an abiding love for wine. There are other winemakers that work as hard, bring as much intensity, strive as ardently to express their visions - and quite often succeed, as well. I personally know at least a dozen in Israel. It's just that Avi has been around forever, seemingly forging his thoughts and crafting his works while most of us were barely graduating from beer to whiskey and vodka. It's as though he was into William S. Burroughs while we were still reading Edgar Rice.

Avi is a stakeholder at the Mersch import boutique, specializing in Australian wines. He brought a few wines to our wine group's tastings. Because I'm a pinhead, I didn't even know of his affiliation - I just thought, okay, that's what he wants to bring, I'll go along with it, Feldstein's cool. So I wound up inadvertently writing a note about one of those wines that sums the man's modus operandi, in my opinion (and I know Avi will agree it's a very apt description):

New World hygiene, Old World charm.

A blend of pragmatism and lyricism.

The following notes were taken at a post launch tasting where Avi waxed poetic with typically laser-sharp accuracy.

Rousanne, 2014

Rhone white grapes. They're so trendy these days that I don't allow myself the luxury of hating them outright, someone might suspect a calculated move against fashion. The 14% ABV is obvious on the nose, and so are rather intense spices. Both nose and palate show an interesting marriage of prickling spiciness and restraint. It's the kind of spicy, (relatively) low acid wine that I like to partake once in a while, even though it's not my go-to style. When it's this restrained, it works. But, Jesus, Avi - Rousanne? 172 NIS.

Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2014

A quieter wine, with subtle nuances of flint. Gorgeous. I like this classic Bordeaux blend. The only reason I don't buy white Bordeaux is that they compete with both Red Bordeaux and white Bourgogne. Challenging. Anyway, this fits the mold and is decently priced for the quality, and not just in boutique winery terms - it would be a flagship wine elsewhere, and a damn outstanding one. For my tastes, it's destined to become one of the top five local whites.  172 NIS.

Dabuki, 2014

Dabuki is an indigenous grape and it's a rather large-sized grape, which would make for a very limpid wine, had Avi not aged it on its lees to provide more body. As it is, it is a light hitter, but, personality does go a long way. It has a funky nose - slightly overripe melons embellished by light hints of minerals and rainwater. The palate is lean and fresh, bolstered with tasty spices. In contrast to the previous wine, this is a unique expression of the country, without a direct parallel in other regions.  172 NIS.

Shalem, 2014

Named after an ancient Canaanite god, this features 60% Viognier in cahoots with Sauvignon Blanc, Rousanne and Dabuki, which are meant to stretch the Viognier up and down and sideways, lend is more vivid complexity and thus cure it of its monolithism. The end result is a good measure of flint married to the lush tropical fruit and spicy sting of Viognier, which in the end is either subdued of its own volition or forced into submission by its partners in the blend. 172 NIS.

Grenache Rose, 2015
Carignan Rose, 2015

The Grenache has the purer fruit, the Carignan is somewhat wider and more obviously spicy and sauvage. Both are remarkably fun, yet full of presence, with the fruit sort of bubbling beneath and above a layer of bitter peels and minerals. I'd drink both, but I guess I prefer the Carignan. Recommending a rose that costs 125 NIS is troubling, but I think that in the case of the Carignan, at least, the price is justified, if only as a statement that roses can be viewed on par with reds. 125 NIS each.

Grenache, 2014

The first impression is medicinal and alcoholic, which resolves into herbs and dust over clean and pure red fruit. The palate is very balanced with a long spicy finish. Look, Grenache is maybe the worst world class grape in the world. It can be candied and alcoholic at its worst, and, even at its best - and this is a good example of the grape at its best - it forces the palate to sprint just to keep up. So I like it, it intrigues me and I want to return to it. But I don't love it. Do you love your gym trainer? 260 NIS.

Anu, 2014

I originally assumed that the wines named after Canaanite gods were the the Feldstein flagship wines, which would make this the top red; after hearing Avi speak, I'm not so sure that was his intent. At least as far as the reds are concerned, the Grenache seems to be the teacher's pet. But I took this one to heart. A typical Carignan: spicy, meaty and dusty. Israel now has quite a few quality producers working this potential signature grape and this would comfortably make the shortlist of the top five. 260 NIS.

Cabernet Franc-Merlot, 2014  (barrel sample)

This is a primal Right Bank blend, where I think the Merlot dominates. This is the only wine served that harks back to Feldstein's Unfiltered in the halcyon Barkan days. Not just because of the Bordeaux grapes, but because of a certain build, although back in the day, I think Avi's wines were more muscular, whereas this is sinewy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2016)

Henri and Madeleine Laroche of Domaine d'Henri
Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, 2012

The other Chablis in the Bourgogne Crown portfolio, this is the family estate Michel Laroche started after selling off his negociant business. This has the typical intense delivery of sea shell aromas and the Fourchaume elegance and the racy finish is all apples, chalk and plankton. A keeper. (Aug. 3, 2016)

165 NIS.

Chapoutier, Hermitage, La Sizeranne, 2005

I think La Sizeranne is probably the easiest Hermitage to find. The Hermitage hill is small, and I believe Chapoutier is the biggest producer, with the Sizeranne the house's largest Hermitage cuvee. It's usually overpriced in Israel, at 400 NIS, but if you search long enough, you should be able to find it at a decent 200 NIS. It might not knock you out, but it's quite typical, and let's face it, even a typical, just-good Hermitage is a treat. There's iron and black pepper on the nose, broad hints of bacon, with plenty of tannic brawn in this eleven year old, that is well balanced by the plump fruit. It's in a good place, complex and flavorsome, arguably the best Sizeranne I've ever had, with a decade's worth of life at least. (Aug. 4, 2016)

Domaine Gerard Julien, Côte de Nuits Villages, 2013

This is more elegant and smoother than the Guyot Bourgogne I had recently, although less complex - no real reason to compare them except they are almost within the same price bracket and I had them a few days apart. Quite floral and, like the Guyot, surprisingly long. (Aug. 5, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 170 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne, Dizy, Brut Rosé, n.v.

There are Rosé Champagnes where the Pinot only adds color, but Eldad doesn't really import Rosés like that. This is lovely, very precise in the way it carries the autumnal spices of Pinot Noir and hints of strawberries, even more precise in how effortlessly it carries its weight. (Aug. 10, 2016)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Quinta da Pellada, Dao, Primus, 2014

Tropical fruits and minerals, a veil of oak. Good balance behind that veil and very promising. (Aug. 12, 2016)

Tshernichovsky Porto Wine Bar, about 200 NIS.

Álvaro Castro, Quinta da Pellada, Dão Tounot, 2011

I don't have enough experience with Touriga Nacional to pigeonhole it into masculine/feminine stereotypes, but, despite a brambly wildness that recalls forest fruit and flowers, there's elegant softness and an exotic lushness a la Chambolle (probably because there's Pinot Noir in the blend, as odd as that might sound). It's a young wine, only starting to shed off the barrel regime (the wine-making apparently sensitive enough so that the oak, while obvious, is integrated enough to make the wine approachable even now), this is probably the best wine I've had from Castro so far. It may not exactly flirt with greatness, but it certainly acknowledges it in the way it offers constantly changing and conflicting impressions and vantage points. (Aug. 13, 2016)

Tshernichovsky Porto Wine Bar, about 300 NIS.

Lahat, White, 2014

A typical Rhone blend (Rousanne and Marsanne). A herbal, rock dry white, showcasing white fruits and nuts and a taste of honey. (Aug. 14, 2016)

140 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Côte de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches Blanc, 2013

Much more integrated, in better form, than the last bottle. A lovely wine, compactly putting together pears, citrus fruit, dried grass and flint on the nose - salivating acidity and a saline finish on the palate. (Aug. 15, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Chéreau-Carré, Comte Leloup de Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires,  2010

It's impossible to reconcile the notion of aging a wine with a shelf price of 90 NIS, especially when it's already six years old when you buy it. Even more so when there is already so much pleasure in its mineral cut and a palate defined by salivating acidity, lime juice and sea weed. (Aug. 20, 2016)

Wine Route, 90 NIS.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Cotes Aux Pretes, 2014

For a domain deep in the heartland of the appellation system, Beru does a good job of breaking the lines and rules of the system. Most of the Château's holdings are, on paper, lowly, basic Chablis, yet their purity and breed shine above their class. Like the somewhat less expensive and leaner Terroirs De Béru, this is also a textbook Chablis, albeit purer than many textbook samples, its marine bouquet adorned with both sweet and leafy notes. And finally, here's a challenge for you all: try to figure out how the acidity wraps itself around your palate like the first day of spring. (Aug. 21, 2016).

Bourgogne Crown, 155 NIS.

Michel and Stéphane Ogier, Côte-Rôtie Reserve, 2012

The 2001, at ten years of age, was lovely, complex and deceptively soft, rife with black pepper and bacon fat nuances. This is cut from the same cloth, but at least at this stage, it's just not coming together quite as well. The nose does recall the elder sibling, but the palate is not yet managing that juggling trick of balancing a firm backbone with languid, succulent fruit. What is there, for the time being, is soft fruit with an excellent acidic backbone, yet without enough density or length. I hope the fruit is dormant and in need of time, because I really loved that ten year old 2001. And, also, this would be a terrible value if it doesn't come around. (Aug. 26, 2016)

Wine Route, about 400 NIS. (I kinda suspect it will improve but never live up to the price)

Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella, 2003

This is no simple Valpolicella. This would be an Amarone under any other label but the near-mythical Quintarelli - not a style I like, but I can appreciate the quality here. It comes off as very porty and sweet on the nose, while the palate is much more savory, masking quite well its 15% ABV. In all, a warm maturity in a wine much more suited to a cold winter night than to a summer brunch, where it was served. (Aug. 27, 2016)

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2011

Redde was one of Uri Kaftori's master coups, but I haven't refilled my stocks in some time, so this is the last bottle of my purchases of 2-3 years ago. This has always been of Chablis Grand Cru depth and complexity, with a similar saline/marine quality, but this specific bottle comes off as mute and lightly oxidized. So, even though it gains presence and definition, and while the finish is focused and persistent - the overall impression is not up to the standard raised by previous bottles. (Aug. 27, 2016)

259 NIS.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Langhe Freisa, 2014

A Beaujolais Cru born out of Piedmont. On the one hand, it has a meaty, leathery aspect- on the other, a warm, tarry/dusty vibe a la big brother Nebbiolo. The acidity carries the fruit and I'd say it's tangier than what you get in Nebbiolo. (Aug. 30, 2016)

Fat Guy, 95 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Gewurztraminer, Cuvée Théo, 2013

I don't understand the internal hierarchy of the domaine's wines, and the fact that its site is in French doesn't help. I think that the entry level wines are the Reserve series, then the Cuvée Théo. After that, you have the Cuvées Laurence, Sainte Catherine and Colette, the Altenbourg single vineyard varietal wines, then the Grand Crus. And, of course, the various Vendage Tardive and Selection Grains Nobles wines and some labelled Quintessence  and l'Inedit.

Are you all still hanging in there?

I haven't tried any Weinbach in years. They were always pricey, especially under the former importer, but what I distinctly recall is that the higher Cuvées were too high octane for my tastes. That's why I bought the Théo, at 13.5% ABV and not the Altenbourg at 14. This is actually a very good example of why I keep coming back to Geuwrtz a couple of times a year. The bouquet is lovely, with that exotic, gingery spiciness and rose petals. The residual sugar on the palate is just enough to temper that zany spiciness in mid-palate and quinine on the finish, keeping me alert and interested without undue fatigue. (Aug. 31, 2016)

190 NIS. I'm willing to accede the price.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Yotam, Birthday, Friends, Yaffo Tel-Aviv (Sept. 15, 2016)

Going to a restaurant is one of my keenest pleasures. Meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life.

Adam Gopnik

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. 

Fran Lebowitz

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 2006

There's substantial, botrytis inflected fruit, tasty and deep, and a complex nose highlighting all the gifts of mature Riesling: a hint of petrol and that ephemeral juggling act of fruit and minerals. For all that, though, this is not the great wine you'd expect from Prüm and the vineyard - whether this is an off bottle or the vintage, this lacks acidity and vibrancy.

Gulfi, Rosso de Etna, Reseca, 2007

This Sicilian producer was unknown to all, except for Ido who brought the bottle. Even with the recent emergence of new star Etna producers, such as Terre Nere, Benanti et al, you still can't accept as a given that the initial vintages were as well made as the more recent ones that directed the spotlight towards the region - nor that they matured finely. With that in mind, this is very good, concentrated yet with fine balance, the spicy red fruit reminiscent of Pessac with that sense of burnt rock, but sweeter, with a thicker body.

Auguste Clape, Cornas, 2007

I don't have a great deal of experience with Clape, really, I know he's one of the Rhone greats, but the few bottles I've had have moved me less than newcomer Paris or even Crozes stalwart Graillot. Not for lack of quality - you can't argue this is a well made, delicious bottle of Syrah, full with black fruit and pepper, a touch of olives and a slight band aid funk adding interest and nuances. But there's a roundness, a seamlessness, that's too flattering and middle of the road for my tastes. Even the light brett can't counteract that excessive politesse.

Cordero di Montezemolo, Barolo, Vigna Bricco Gattera, 1997

I'm not familiar with the producer, but this is excellent with the typical tar and spices. Despite the warm vintage, this is still fresh and the tannins savory rather than sweet. Very complex and long.

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, Carrocel, 2008

I'm a fan of Castro, but I have to admit I sometimes find the top flight wines less charming than the mid-tier (although I loved the Tounot), but I have chalked it up to youth and figures this flagship wine would show better after eight years. There is good fruit underneath the oak and the overall effect is very monolithic and big, as though designed to impress rather than highlight the personality of Touriga Nacional.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Goldtropfchen, Riesling Auslese, 2012

Haart is in no way the household name that Prüm is, yet this does shine much brighter. It's likely even sweeter, yet shows fresher with better acidity and purity of fruit. Whatever edge the Prüm might have aromatically is just a matter of age, not inherent quality, and the Haart will surely catch up in a few years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer Of Riesling? Hell, Year Of Riesling

Leo Alzinger,  Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

An outstanding wine, at the start of its maturity, that lives up to all my expectations. Long, dry without in any way being overwhelming, crisp and saline. Simply awesome minerality on the nose, and then spicy yellow apples, grapefruit and lemon zest. (Apr. 18, 2016)

Fat Guy, 239 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2014

I've told you about this before, so just go ahead and buy some. Nothing in Israel even came this close to the German mold. The acidity is low compared to the Teutonic prototype, even if it is excellent in local terms, but the nose - the nose has that steely character of green apples, with salty nuances that make their way to the palate as well. (May 4, 2016)

About 90 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

While still in the flush of youth, this already shows confident complexity within its gossamer structure, its aromas and flavors of granny apples and pastries coming across pastel like, with a hint of mint and an even vaguer hint of tropical fruit. If real apples were this exquisite, we'd all be vegetarians. (May 5, 2015)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2012

More of the same, with, naturally, more pronounced sweetness, a deeper veneer of slate, and so sexy it hurts. (May 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS for a half bottle.

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

This is at the point where the intense sweetness and fruit are starting to recede, their memory being replaced by nuanced aromas of minerals and petrol (that gain presence and power with air), only to have the fruit reappear on the finish as red apples and sweet grapefruit. This is great, although not in the way the Sistine Chapel is great, more in the way sunsets are great. (Jun. 4, 2016)

Giaconda, 180 NIS when I bought it long ago, 200 NIS now (presumably a storage charge while the importer was looking for buyers?)

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

I've been drinking this for over four years, and in the flush of youth it was perched exquisitely mid-way between a crystalline expression of green apples and icy slate and the quintessential spicy baked apples so typical of Austrian Rieslings. Now the balance has shifted towards the baked apples. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the earlier incarnation. It was just as deep and complex four years ago so cellaring my six pack didn't really so much for it, except prolonging the drinking experience, which in itself was a good thing. (Jun. 11, 2016)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

I'm lucky in that I enjoy German Rieslings almost equally in all stages of their development. Surely the complexity and depth are there from the start, and so are the flowers and.or minerals (depending on the terroir) and age merely provides additional complexity, breadth and the taint of maturity. But there's a sweet spot, about 8-9 years after the harvest for spätleses, where the intensity of youth is balanced by a certain sauteed herbaceousness, and where the real magic begins, right there where Riesling starts speaking in tongues. That's what we have here, a nose evoking cool, aloof elegance, which I think is the due to minty aromas. There's a bit of dill and parsley in the background. As for form - an almost feathery body belies the tense backbone. A great estate that single-handedly put Mozing on the map. (Jun. 23, 2016)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor, Riesling Spätlese, 2011

Sensationally drinkable, so much so I almost didn't have enough time for a proper note. Enough time, though, to note the typical Model delicacy and slate defined complexity. (July 9, 2016)

36 Euros at the Berlin duty free.

Sphera, Riesling, 2015

I wish we were a Riesling country. Then, besides the obvious advantage of have more Rieslings to drink, wine writers could stop prefacing their reviews of the local Riesling stuff with a spiel about the wonder of winemakers actually rising up to the challenge. But we're not a Riesling country, and it is a wonder and a challenge. And, to be quite honest, not a challenge always successfully met. This is a good wine, one that meets the challenge even if it's no GG (Doron Rav-On is the obvious suspect you'd place your bets on to make a good Riesling). It's a dry Riesling, one that leaves a salty impression on the finish and a decently complex array of minerals on the nose. (Jul. 11, 2016)

Peter Lauer, Saar, Ayler Kupp, Fass 7, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I was not familiar with this producer when I bought this two years ago, and online opinions have been split, but this is fantastic! I've drunk many great Rieslings and I have to say the acidity here is arguably the best I've ever tasted, framing and melding perfectly with the sweet, succulent fruit. The aromatics are embryonic but hint at complexity. (Jul. 13, 2016)

40 USD.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Riesling Brut, 2013

This sekt is more about Riesling and Mosel than the autolytic character of méthode champenoise, the Mosel green apples set to bubbles, mint and minerals, dominating the traces of brioche. What the secondary fermentation does provide, I find, is a more somber aspect to the mineral edge, even though the fruit itself retains the playful Mosel character. (Jul. 22, 2016)

Fat Guy, 145 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Kabinett, 2015

Saar is colder than the Mosel, which cool climate to begin with, so this is so very racy that the sweetness is even more integrated. It doesn't really have the gossamer sparkle of Slebach's single vineyard Mosel stuff, but it's not meant to, so just enjoy the pungent green apples and specks of salt. (Aug. 8, 2016)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is the second bottle I've drunk without writing down any notes. Could be because it was drowned too quickly for contemplative thought, or because there's no way I could ever match my notes for the lovely 2012. As usual, though, it's remarkably pure, you don't need to expend undue thought processes to get that. (Aug. 27, 2016)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Cuvée Théo, 2014

Well, what do you know - an Alsatian I find I wholeheartedly love. It's sharp and focused, yet packed with flavors. It reeks and tastes of minerals and somehow packs a hefty punch in a very lithe, crystalline succulent frame. (Sept. 1, 2016)

180 NIS.

And what's a Summer Of Riesling without Donnhoff?

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser, Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

The nose riffs with petrol, minerals and herbs, the fruit way in the background - so layered and complex it could reward a couple of hours of contemplation. Likewise, the palate is sheer power and grunge, albeit focused with single-minded perseverance, with enough acidity to lend vibrancy and enough sweetness on the finish to temper what would otherwise have been a quinine-like bitterness - even more so with air. I sometimes struggle with the GGs, both drinking them and then writing about them (and I think this note reflects that struggle), but with a wine like this, what eventually crosses over is the sense of place - both the vineyard and the winemaker's respect of the vineyard, vintage and fruit.(Sept. 17, 2016)

Giaconda, 350 NIS.