December's Children

Michel Arnould et Fils, Verzenay Grand Cru, Mémoire de Vignes, 2011

What an absolutely romantic name, Mémoire de Vignes, for a Blanc de Noirs that showcases what this Verzenay master can craft out of Pinot Noir vines. A nutty, autumnal broth of lemon rind, mushrooms and salt, the very characterful nose is echoed by powerful, yet focused, flavors and a form that is broad, deep, detailed and gripping, its force tempered by elegance. This is a wine that unfolds new nuances as it and the evening unfolds: chalk, citrus fruit, white flowers. In short, a Champagne that delivers everything I look for in a grower Champagne, all this from a north facing Grand Cru and an erratic, cool, early vintage! (Dec. 12, 2018)

About 60 USD. Worth every cent and every effort required to find a bottle.

Gvaot, Pinot Noir, 2012

Sphera, Riesling, 2016

An impromptu theme tasting: the two grapes least likely to succeed in the Middle East. Both wines were wonderful, although arguably not quite typical. The Gvaot is firm and muscular for a Pinot Noir, all black cherries and pine needles, not so much forest floor and spices. Now, if I set aside my expectations and preconceptions of Pinot and just take this at face value as a local red, then its poise and structure are a treat. 

As much as I want to like Israeli Rieslings more, I've found that I've stopped reaching for my wallet when I see them on the shelves. Even my local favorites (Vitkin and Kishor) leave me wanting more. The Sphera surprises me by taking things to another level. I do need to actively search for the Riesling traits, yet they are there in the way the green apples cross over to white peaches and I trust they will become more pronounced with age. The big payback is the purity and form of the palate. Excellent. (Dec. 21, 2018) 

Castel, Petit Castel, 2016

I have very vivid memories of my first encounters with the Castel lineup. I drank the Grand Vin, 1999 at a tasting of Israeli boutique wineries in late 2002 and it was the obvious star by a distance. Which is saying something, as even in 2002, its peers were Flam, Tzora, Margalit and Amphora (with Gil Shatzberg at the helm, long before the winery had more reboots than Spider-Man). The Petit Castel, 1999 was the first Castel we drank at home and it was a revelation, even to my then very untrained senses, in how it went from an initially opulent fruitiness to a more reserved and earthy character. It was the first time I'd experienced such a transformation firsthand and it left an everlasting impression, an epiphany if you will. Before I went off Israeli wines for the better part of a decade, I drank through a good number of bottles of Grand Vin and Petit Castel, from 1999 to 2002. What can I tell you, Castel had rightfully earned the right to be the first Israel boutique to be recognized internationally. 

My initial thought when I drank the latest Petit Castel, was that Castel is still exercising the same level of quality control. This is still a very good Bordeaux blend, showing the ripeness typical of our local reds without succumbing to it. What it does succumb to is oak. I do wish I could tell you that it just needs time, but I just can't shake off off a gloomy feeling that it's started out in life with an unbalanced first step. (Dec. 22, 2018)

Chapoutier, Crozes-Hermitage, Les Meysonniers, 2016

The longest time between vintages: this is a wine I know for sure I haven't drunk since my 36th birthday, all the way back in 2002, when it was a sort of house wine at Yoezer Wine Bar. It must have been the 1998 or 99. I was too much of a newbie to write notes but I sort of remember it as being too serious and tannic for my barely formed tastes. It probably wasn't serious so much as austere. This, however, shows the softer, more effusive, side of Syrah, a lovely portrait that offsets floral fruit with black pepper and a lightly tannic finish. (Dec. 23, 2018)

Hakerem, about 100 NIS. Yowsah!

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett, 2017

There is a light that never goes out. But sometimes it can be almost inscrutable. Despite the lightness of the frame (this is filigree kabinett, not a slimmed down spatlese), this is a very deep kabinett, so deep and with so much substance, belying its ethereal frame, that it feels as though it can express so much more than it's showing now. It's full of green apples and cool, mintly slate, yet their interplay only scratches the surface of their potential complexity. Impressive. (Dec. 24, 2018)

Fat Guy 145 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese, 2009

There's a stretch between the 2008 and 2014 vintages where I stopped reading up on Mosel and Germany in general. I read now that 2009 is considered a great vintage. This is certainly a captivating, hedonistic auslese that exemplifies the Mosel ausleses reputation as liquid gold: a sweet, creamy confection reduced to nectar, with a strata of rock and parsley in the background, intense and complex, yet luscious and moreish. Too immediate and obvious for greatness, but a joy nonetheless. (Dec. 25, 2018)

Argyros, Assyrtiko, 2016

I consider Argyros one of the better surprises in the Wine Route catalog, both as an "off the beaten track" choice and as a world class white in its own right. I have no idea how it will age, but right now it's pure and crisp, balancing fresh fruit with saline flavors, its poise and focus very impressive. (Dec. 2, 2018)

Wine Route, 140 NIS.

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

I'm burnt out on writing tasting notes for Chablis. There are only so many permutations of "sea shells, sea weed, sea breeze" I can conjure. It's a good thing the d'Henri style is so crystalline, steely and clear that you might reach for Puligny or St. Aubin in a blind tasting. The fruit profile, though, is all Chablis, green apples, crisp fresh apple skins. (Dec. 3, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2012

Another chapter in the on-going success story that is the Vitkin Petit Sirah.  A full, fleshy, yet lithe, wine, black and blue fruit ornamented by black pepper, roasted meat, iron, graphite and hints of violets. All that, combined with rusty, grainy tannins make this a redneck Saint Joseph with Cote Rotie aspirations. (Dec. 12, 2018)

CARM (Casa Agrícola Roboredo Madeira), Douro, Maria de Lourdes, 2011

A big, monolithic wine, still primary, whose tannins and acidity are non-obtrusive enough to leave the taste buds comfortable and happy. The interest factor isn't prominent enough to draw me back right now, but the blue fruit is tasting enough and there's a hint of budding earth-laced complexity. (Dec. 5, 2018)

Eyal Mermelstein (Tchernichovsky)

Domaine Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Reserve, 2004

This is truly the last time, the last CdP in my collection. So it's a good thing I saved the best for last, as it really shows all - and only - the best about the appellation: savory red fruit with, clad with iron and garrigue, with no hint of over-extraction or immense levels of alcohol. (Dec. 8, 2018)

Ormanni, Chianti Classico, Gran Selezione Etichetta Storica, 2010

I gave it more than a shot. I waited a few hours the first day, put aside a third of the bottle for the second day. Beyond the heavy veil of oak are pleasant herbal and balsamic notes, but no way is this the world class wine it claims to be - or priced at. (Dec. 9, 2018)

Chateau Golan, Syrah, 2016

Typical Syrah nose, charred meat, dust, black pepper. The heat of the alcohol is still obvious on the plate. Brawny but not sweet, this needs time or air. (Dec. 16, 2018)

C.V.N.E., Rioja, Monopole Blanco, 2015

Hardly the oxidative, old school Rioja style, it almost comes off as an Albariño, with fresh summer fruits, crisp body and salty finish. (Dec. 2, 2018)

Wine Route, 80 NIS.

Domaine de Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) , Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Occultum Lapidem, 2014

A solid, small-scale Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend - which is my preferred scale for GSM. (Dec. 30, 2018)

Hakerem, about 100 NIS.