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.

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