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.