Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Claret-y: Milgo and Milbar (Feb. 15, 2018)


On a claret-themed evening, we wound up matching pairs of Saint Emilions and Margaux against a Super-Tuscan and a pair of Californian clarets. Another easy win for France. A bottle of Godello, a novelty for all of us and a tasty undercard, kicked off a very fun night.

Veronica Ortega, Bierzo, Godello Calcareo, VO CAL, Anfora and Barrica, 2015

This white wine is made in small, limited quantities, as Bierzo is really red wine territory. I'm not sure it's a wine that would replace any of my go to wines, but it's the kind of change of pace that is the reason the wine world in 2018 is such a lovely place.There's a very light note of oxidation, just some nuts, really, that recedes to dusty chalk that I can’t really place. Then restrained, flavorsome acidity that is easy to like and yet is not overtly flattering.

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000

Lovely. An absolutely classical nose, with cedar and iron and a restrained opulence of spices, and an elegant and soft palate. A little young, though, for me, even now.

Chateau Clos Fourtet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2007

2007 was a Bordeaux vintage I never dwelt on. It was never well regarded, then or now, and I just didn't know at the time enough about Bordeaux to find the good picks. I still don't. Oddly enough, the nose is very similar to the Giscours, but eventually, a wine needs drinking and the palate is a bit fatter and flatter, coarser, with drying tannins beneath the fat fruit. If the palate catches up with the nose, it will be a sweet pleasure.

Chateau Canon-la-Gafliere, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2000

This is the last of three or four bottles I have drunk of this, and even this bottle is still not fully ready. The nose is packed with earth and minerals, while the palate starts out though as nails, then softens enough to show very good complexity and elegant muscularity.

Château Malescot St. Exupéry, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000

The best Bordeaux of the night, I thought, for its precision is nought else. Like the Giscours, this also shows opulent spices and elegant restraint.

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Ornellaia , 2006

The nose: the perfect hybrid of Bordeaux and Tuscany, capped by lead pencil and chives. The palate disappoints me at first, the low acidity making for a dull impression. The second impression a while later is much better, a rusty bite slicing through what I first took for a slightly hollow mid palate to a focused, spicy finish. In the end, it almost convinces me that it's worthy of its prestige and price, even though the low acidity remains a bummer.

Enfield, Sonoma County, Cabernet Suavignon, 2012

This plays out like a petit chateaux, maybe a touch riper than you’d get in Bordeaux, with a nice mineral veneer. 

St. Eden, Napa Valley, 2012

With an overwhelming attack of bitter sweet oak, this really doesn't take any prisoners. Having said that, it has good complexity and extract, but it's the first wine I've had that felt like a skank. A high maintenance, four hundred dollar skank.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Willi Schaefer 2016 Tasting


My first memorable experience with Willi Schaefer was three years ago. A wine buddy was hosting a big house party and we wine geeks were having a party within the party with a BYOB corner set up. My contribution was a bottle of Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese #14, 2006, which I hadn't tried before. It was a great bottle and I was trying to be surreptitious about the whole thing - pouring it under the counter, so only the innermost circle of my wine friends would enjoy a taste - when along comes a hipster party crasher and says he's heard there was a bottle of "great German Riesling with petrol" and could he have a glass. Sure my friend, I said, and quickly poured him a glass of Koehler-Ruprecht that was standing on the table. I hope the party crasher enjoyed his glass of diluted fruit and harsh kerosene.

Many things have happened since but one thing sure hasn't changed. I'd still do the exact same thing.

Another thing hasn't changed: Willi Schaefer still sculpts immortal, ethereal Rieslings.

Importer Eldad Levy says 2016 was botrytis free vintage, so the Riesling fruit remained pure across the entire range and even the Ausleses don't have any hints of the spices botrytis may impart. Contact Eldad for prices but be prepared to learn everything has been sold out.

Graacher Trocken

This is pure, not very complex, but decent plus for the level, with green apple skin and a touch of minerals. Tasted alongside the 2015, it comes off as more complex and better focused. Analysis aside, it’s a better, more interesting, wine overall.

Graacher Feinherb 

This is the sweet version of the village wine. It smells as dry as the trocken, but it is, of course, sweeter on the palate. The fruit shines more overall, grapefruit with a dash of sugar, with the minerals in the background

Graacher Himmelreich, Kabinnet 

This is honeyed and fruity, almost luscious within the Kabinnet frame, and while I prefer leaner Rieslings, it’s so enticing and attractive, so well formed, that it wins me over. 

Graacher Domprobst, Kabinnet 

This is the kind of lean Riesling I look for, although I love both it and the Himmelreich this year - I'm a little flippant here, I loved them both last year as well. This is the more mineral laden of the two, a picture perfect rendition of the Mosel, a nuanced balance of apples and slate, sugar and acidity.

Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #10

This is where the wines truly started speaking the language of minerals - not an easy language to abstract at first - because the minerals pull every which way.

Graacher Himmelreich, Spatlese

At the Spatlese level, the Himmelreich again shows as a more honeyed, luscious wine, but the differences are less pronounced than they were in the Kabinnet flight. Still, it’s such a sexy, attractive wine, although more straightforward than the Domprobst.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spatlese 

Sheer elegance, airy, ethereal, with a lightness that is pure magic and laser sharp focus. 

Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #5

On the one hand, it’s more concentrated than the #10, on the other, it’s more mineral and complex, with the coolness of the Sonnenuhr, yet with more weight and presence. In every sense, it’s the complete Spatlese of the flight.  .

Graacher Himmelreich, Auslese #4

I guess the Ausleses are really backward because this is the first Himmelreich that doesn’t immediately put out. It’s so reticent that it actually feels lighter and more understated than the Spatlese. The true measure of Schaefer's genius craft is how he manages to retain so much acidity in an Auslese.

Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #11

This displays what I expect from a young Auslese to an even greater extent. A mass of fruit that can’t yet pull the trigger. Concentrated, yet balanced, it will need decades to unravel the mysteries of all those minerals. Here, too, the acidity is a marvel.

Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #14

This is the Schaefer masterpiece of a flagship wine and everything in the tasting led to a single glass that is a seamless marriage of the gift of nature and man's handiwork.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Taking Care Of Business (Jan. 2018)

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vina Formal, Parcel Candido, Cercial, 2015

This is pure Cercial - another of those weird Portugese grapes grown nowhere else, and honestly, it doesn't taste a lot like anything else. It's unique without being too weird, not a hipster wine which makes too much effort to be a challenge. It's very mineral laden, but I couldn't tell you which minerals exactly without breaking into a geology exhibit and licking every rock. The balance of fruit and acidity is such that I wouldn't wager on long aging, but it's really perfect right now, a savory treat whose flavors would perfectly complement a spicy sea food dish. (Jan. 1, 2018)

Eyal Mermelstein (Tchernichovsky)

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Crau, 2005

I can never really go back to loving Châteauneuf, but I have to admit this was so stony and stern I actually liked it. I can appreciate the richness and it's much more structured that I'd hoped. Still, it's a bit one-dimensional. (Jan. 2, 2018)

Wine Route, 250 NIS, back in the day - y'know, the day when I was actually buying the stuff.

I'm here to once again clue you in on a winery very likely to have slipped under your radar

Kishor, GSM, 2015

Dusty and peppery, with a lithe tenderness and cool, vibrant, blue fruit you wouldn't usually expect to get from a wine with 14% ABV. (Jan. 4, 2018)

70-80 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2016

Just because a Riesling is off dry and lean doesn't make it a Mosel Kabinett ripoff. I think the style isn't an artistic choice but dictated by the how balanced the wine is at this level of sweetness. It's too languid and salty to be a copycat, anyway. As always, the modesty of the Kishor wines is quite fetching. (Jan. 7, 2018)

About 100 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Red, 2014

Modesty - and restraint - are also the keywords with the Kishor flagship red, which is a Bordeaux blend that ignores the fashionable "Mediterranean grapes" trend. Modesty and restraint also make it a hard sell and hard to write up. Because if you don't want to waste space and time on aromas and tastes, then all I can really say about it is that it's a compact claret, ready from the start to put out currants and iron and finesse your palate with a rusty, old school finish. It doesn't try to be flashy, it will just get you because it's so user and food friendly - and it gets me, because I buy it every year. I think the Kishor philosophy is that the star wine doesn't have to get as many points as it can, it just has to be the most complete wine. (Jan. 12, 2018)

About 100-120 NIS.

Bourgogne on through to the other side

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2013

Oronce de Beler understands Gevrey. I didn't drink this blind, but I don't imagine it would be hard to nail Gevrey in a blind tasting. It has the typical thumbprint of animal hide and iron. The body has ample weight, yet with a silky texture, and a very tasty tart/sour finish, almost like pomegranate juice. (Jan. 5, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown - recent vintages are close to 400, due to the house's cult status.

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Bourgogne, 2014 

This is another product of Burgundian in-breeding. There are at least three Rossignol domaines as well as a Trapet. Think that's confusing? The domaine has holdings in Gevrey, Beaune and Savigny, so where does this come from? Turns out it comes from the Pressonier and La Grand Champs lieux-dits around Gevrey. La Grand Champs is just outside the village AOC, with no visible geographical reason for it to be a plain Bourgogne. In fact, it's bordered by three village crus. Pressonier is an even more mysterious story. There are three adjoining Pressonier plots, two of which are village Crus. I have no idea what was used here and the Rossignol-Trapet site is just about as useless as parochial France ever gets. As for the wine, it's very tasty, not very weighty, long or complex, with a dash of iron - and it's just what I expect from an entry level wine from a family domaine: a wine that shows a bit of terroir and a bit of the house style and won't make you feel like you got suckered into buying a wine designed to create a little cash flow, which is what you might get from a bigger house.  (Jan. 16, 2018)

30 GBP.


Chateau Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol, 2011

A Bordeaux for variety's sake. This is more or less what I expected, oak-spiced fruitcake, modern, yet restrained -  a touch hollow, which I did not expect, or anyway had hoped not to get.
 At 200 NIS - at a discount! - this is a great example of how overpriced Bordeaux - which was never cheap in the first place - has become. (Jan. 19, 2018)

Wine Route.

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils, Saint-Aubin Premuer Cru, Derrière la Tour, 2014 

Here's why I love Burgundy. You think you got a lot of it down and then you discover a little corner that's a totally new experience. The little I know of Saint-Aubin reds is the Lamy Derrière chez Edouard, Vieilles Vignes,. This is not on that order of intensity or quality, but it shows a specific aspect of Bourgogne terroir I haven't tasted yet. A lot of earthy forest floor,  but the earth is packed and dense, and it shows a vein of flint that you'll find the village's white wines. Finally there's even a touch of black pepper. It's only medium bodied, but it's lithely robust, and fills out, deepens and lengthens as the fruit gains black shadings and floral notes. It's an everyday house wine, but one I'd love to drink, well, every day. (Jan. 22, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 155 NIS.


Well, then, I did mention Lamy...
Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Vieilles Vignes, Rouge, 2013

It's no surprise that this is the better wine, even though it expresses its quality in rather reserved terms. Lamy is a killer winemaker and the vines here are half a century old. Derrière chez Edouard is earthy and floral and you notice the vibrancy, depth, length and silky filigree of the red and blue fruit from the first sip. The complexity comes later. If you must score a wine, you might as well score for how good it tastes - this would be a 95 pointer. (Jan. 25, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

A few wines from a short trip to Budapest


Lenkey Human, Tokay-Hegyalja, Feher, Furmint, 2011

A terrific hipster house wine with a funky/mineral /reduction thing going. And what a name for a winery!

Kreinbacher Birtok, Prestige, Brut, n.v.

A Hungarian sparkler with the traits that speak to me - mushrooms, baked apples - and, in addition, really nails the Champagne core value of placing the mushrooms and minerals upfront, albeit with less finesse than Champagne. Plenty of character, though. My first impression was a Pinot Meunier heavy Chanpagne.

Gilvesy Pinceszet, Badacsony, Taranyi Rajnai Rizling, 2016

A complex and interesting wine and I’d return to it for sure. Honeyed and spicy with residual sweetness. I can’t really find a parallel to contextualize it. Maybe old school Austria?

Gunzer Zoltan, Villany, Kekfrankos Selection, 2012

I’m lost. A spicy/dusty red, I would have guessed something much closer to the Mediterranean basin. On reflection, I can also find parallels with a Merlot based petit Bordeaux. Not bad, quite good actually, clean, modern, yet not made by someone out for points,but I have no way of understanding what voice it’s trying to find. I