Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Rani at 50 (July 19, 2018)

Age is not important unless you're a bottle of wine
The half century mark deserves a celebration with with great friends and great wines. We got all that. And I finally got to drink a birth year wine.

Bollinger, R. D., Extra Brut, 2002

The R.D. (Recently Disgorged) is the marquee version of the Bollinger marquee label, the Grande Annee. I thought it was a Blanc de Blancs, as the character was very much dominated by chalk, but Chardonnay makes up for only a third of the blend (quite appropriate, Bollinger being an Ay house). My take on it is that this is more about complexity than power and, indeed, there's more depth and elegance than a single glass could have conveyed. There's a reason I prefer to drink my Champagnes alone at home.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Auslese ***, 2002

It's probably the specific bottle and not the wine or vintage, but I miss acidity here. There's a complex canvas of aromas and flavors, dominated by kerosene and dill, and it's fun to drink, but without enough acidity to propel it along, I don't find the vibrancy I expect from a three star.

Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Aux Brulees, 2002

This a handsome wine, at its peak, combining autumnal forest floor and iron/blood, starting out as a very linear wine before it fills out. I don't get a lot of Vosnee character out of it, though (I guessed Morey or Gevrey), and enjoyable as it is, it only just scratches the complexity level of a Premier Cru.

Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol, 1999

After a Vosnee that played like a Morey, we have a Pomerol that most of us pegged as a Left Bank. I thought Pauillac, in fact. I got iron and smoke and blackcurrants out of it, and the combined for a Pauillac-like impression. A tad too smooth, with terrific acidity, it's a small scale version of the opulent hedonism that people think of when they think of Pomerol.

Chateau Latour, Pauillac Premier Cru, 1966

The greatness of Latour is in full evidence here, the greatness of the wine less so - a wine that got a perfect score from Clive Coates, yes? It's nuanced and mature, yet still robust. The nose, especially, is magical and captivating, the combination of fruit, iron and coffee grain aromas making for an effect that is beyond mere descriptors. The palate is still in such great balance that you have the final evidence, should you ever need it, of the validity of the 1855 classification, at least at the top end. What detracts from the greatness of the wine is lack of true first growth depth and power. It's not over the hill, but I feel like its profundity is either in its past or in another bottle.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling, Auslese #14, 2006

What I consistently get from various encounters of top tier Schaefer wines is that the fruit is so multi-layered and deep that you can find profound nuances and depth at every stage of the wines' evolution. This is almost at the top of the Schaefer hierarchy (save for auction wines) and that boundless depth and complexity make it hard to nail the year. The apricots, underpinned by honey and minerals, seduce effortlessly. It's very likely that this wine will survive me, never mind more recent vintages.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Birthday LII, No A/C (July 5, 2018)

I’ll be totally honest with you. The wines sucked. Not because they were flawed or corked or old or cheap. On paper it was a very good lineup. It’s just that almost every single one failed to excite. Except for two wines. Two wines that brought the combination of complexity and vibrancy that make those elusive moments, when our senses just take us elsewhere, worth the never-ending chase.

Unsurprisingly, one was a Champagne, Gaston Chiquet, Dizy, Special Club, 2009. You know, writing about wine, in a blog, for free, is not a very obvious choice for a hobby. Sometimes I think this obsession is rather silly. And then I drink a Champagne and feel my life is really blessed, and since I have this need to express myself, why not write about the pearls of the world? For me, a great champagne is as much a balance of textures as flavors, in this case the fat and salinity of the nutty, mushroomy flavors against the slightly grainy, chalky finish, which is only possible because the fruit itself has such great, healthy depth. 2009 is considered an excellent, near-great vintage, although not as great as its classic predecessor. I guess this could easily coast to its 20th birthday and we caught it midway: vibrant, yet financed.

Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre, En Grands Champs, 2015

Mellot is a revered name in Sancerre. I don't buy nearly enough Sancerres (or Pouilly-Fumes) - not a lot is imported here and I always have different priorities when purchasing abroad - and until I tasted Vacheron, it had never crossed my mind to buy a red Sancerre. And now this, a single vineyard, old vines Pinot Noir, every bit as good a Premier Cru from Bourgogne, top class, deep, complex. I think the nearest Burgundian parallel is Gevrey, although this is lusher and would break the bank in any Burgundian blind tasting, as a joker.

Domaine d’Ardhuy, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2006

A bona fide Gevrey, this is more austere than the Sancerre, although the aromatics are decent, if not very exciting. I blame the vintage, not that I would expect an unknown producer to come up with a village wine that lasts 12 years. Although, to be honest, 2006 is such a charmless bricks and mortar vintage that I wouldn’t be surprised if the wines turn out too plain to die, a bunch of aged spinsters. 

Alona, Elegant Reserve, Kedem, Carignan-Shiraz, 1016

This really didn't give much during the evening, but it was actually one of the better wine, with a Saint-Estephe-ish character (stones and iron) despite the idiosyncratic blend. The leftovers the next day were really singing, with meatiness that could be the Carignan just as much as it could be brett, and fits seamlessly inside the black fruit. A good job.

Catherine et Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, Les Perrières, 1996

A wine for the ages, because that’s how long it will take it to open. I heard good things about the vintage, and a 1995 we drank six years ago to the day was wonderful, but this is disappointing.

Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo Riserva, 1996

Robust and kicking in a grinding, foursquare way. Not flawed or obviously bad, but a previous bottle was better.

Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint Julien 4me Cru, 1996

At this point, we were waiting for the Bordeaux cavalry to storm in and save the day. On paper, this should have offered great pleasure, but it was a mildly fun wine (black fruit, cedar, a touch of mildew), but hardly as captivating as the Sancerre, which won the red wine bracket. 

Chateau Roc de Combes, Cotes de Bourg, 2009

This is not the Bordeaux we were looking for.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Cna'aanite God Walks Into A Bar... (June, 2018)

Feldstein, Gilgamesh, 2014

There's an inky, graphite character I find here that I sometimes spot in the best Israeli reds. I could talk about that, but I think if that you're looking for a wine that has an inky and graphite character, I've pointed you in the right direction. I do want to touch on things that define quality. Complexity and finesse are not a matter of how many flavors and aromas a wine sports, they're about interplay and texture and weight and the way the weight is balanced. Avi makes better, or at least more challenging, wines than this, but even so, the Gilgamesh would make a run past many flagship wines. (June 22, 2018)

Something made me reach for Nebbiolo more than than would usually be appropriate on the cusp of an Israeli summer.

Icardi, Barbaresco, Montubert, 2013

Piedmont is in a tie for third place on my shopping list, which doesn't sound too bad, until you realize the race for first place is tied between three contenders and second place between three or four. And that I never buy Barberas (I actually prefer Dolcetto if I can't get a good Barolo or Barbaresco). What can I say, I'm hard to please. One of the nice things about the stuff available in Israel is that most of it is old school, like this one. TIt's a little one dimensional on the nose, red fruit and dried herbs, but the acidity leads to a rusty/spicy/saline finish that I look for in Nebbiolos. A nice wine, a little over-priced for what it is. (June 9, 2018)

Wine Route, about 200 NIS.

Rizzi, Barbaresco, Nervo, 2013

A bargain Barbaresco imported by Yaffo Tel Aviv, even at a mere five years of age, this is at a good spot between rusty tannins and soft fruit, its an initially intense core fanning out to echo the aromas of tar and spices. The top of all the Nebbiolos I had in June. (June 4, 2018)

Prunotto, Barolo, 2011

The unexpected lightness is a boon. The rust, dust, tar and spices are just what I expected. The complexity is on par. (June 20, 2018)

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2014

This non-cru usually sells for about 200 NIS and is better than anything similarly priced carried by the big importers. This is friendly and approachable enough to drink. Initially too mute to fully appreciate, it develops complexity and texture.(June 29, 2018)

The rest of June was split between Israelis and Burgundies. But there was also a sherry.

Williams and Humbert, Dry Sack Jerez, Oloroso, Solera Especial Aged 15 Years, Oloroso

I was an avid Sherry fan about thirteen years ago. Read all the articles and books, drank every major name, hunted down the rare stuff. Basically mortgaged my luggage space for sherries on every business trip over a period of two years. Williams and Humbert was  the just about the only sherry I could find in Israel, mostly this Oloroso and the drier Amontillado. I don't recall being too bowled over, but this is better than I remember. For me, quality in sherry was always about a balance between savory, tangy, sweet and salty - truly, the only wine you can find at the crossroads of these families of flavors - and while I do have fond memories of the Oloroso's "roasted nuts, iodine and old wood furniture" personality, this bottle has balance and intensity that surprise me. Very good. (June, 2018)

140 NIS.

Serafin, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2010

A classic Gevrey nose - flowers and forest floor melting into leather - and a very refined palate, almost silky. Good complexity for a village Gevrey in general, only satisfactory for Serafin. That's the price you pay for being a big name. (June 6, 2018)

Bourgogn Crown, 280 NIS.

Goisot, Côtes d'Auxerre, Les Blaumonts, 2015

For me, this bottle is proof positive that this is of Chablis Premier Cru grade. The taut structure, even in a ripe vintage like 2015, the refined pungency, the length. (June 7, 2018)

IPVinum, 165 NIS - yes, you can get bona fide Chablis Premier Cru for the same price or cheaper, but given the relative rarity, I would still endorse the price.

Arnaud Baillot, Bourgogne, 2016 

This is a boutique negociant that Wine Route has started importing. I googled them. A link on the second page of the search results told me this is a negociant and not a grower. Other than that, I drew a blank. I can understand why people become boutique negociants in Burgundy. They want to make wines in Burgundy and can't afford or find vineyard land. What I can't figure out how much quality juice is up for sale each year for these negociants to grab a hold of. This is good, fairly fine for a regional Bourgogne, but not special enough for me to get excited about. (June 14, 2018)

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2016

This lithe, savory, flinty wine reminds me that the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement of the early 2000's really should have been named ABOC - Anything But Oaky Chardonnay. Don't count out Chardonnay. (June 15, 2018)

Tzora, Shoresh, 2014

I said just about everything I ever wanted to say about Shoresh in general when I wrote about the 2016 last month. Then came the most mineral-laden, Old World, Israeli red I ever drank and  showed me something new about how the local fruit can be tamed and personalized without any blatant effort. There's a lesson here I recommend you learn for yourself, if you have a bottle around. (June 17, 2018)