Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Twelve Years a Blogger

And what better way to mark the occasion than with a Champagne tasting note. And not just any Champagne...

The annual post-race Champagne

Pierre Peters, Champagne Grand Cru, l'Esprit, 2010

Sourced from the best of the family's holdings in Le Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant , this showcases the character of the Cote de Blancs without getting into the specifics of any village. I'm not enough of an expert to discourse on the contribution of each village, but I can say the wine has a very fluid and complex interplay between the different facets of Champagne: apples (both fresh and baked), flowers, chalk, mushrooms. The Peters Champagnes can be yeasty in their youth, but this has developed beyond that and is a delight to drink now. It has depth, grip, structure and length, but not the additional dimension of delineation that is the trademark of great Champagnes. For that you need to splurge for the house's Chetillons. (Feb. 22, 2019)

If Eldad Levy has anything in stock, it will cost 350-400 NIS. If you're lucky, he still has the 2012.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Wine Route used to import Tardieu-Laurent about fifteen years ago and then stopped, for undisclosed business reasons. Tardieu-Laurent are not a house that on the face of it would appeal to the likes of me, to be honest. They are negociants who buy finished wine from small producers across the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc and then age them, in barrels selected by Michel Tardieu, in the firm's cellars. They do engage a consultant to oversee the work at the vignerons they partner with, but basically, their business is finding good partners and establishing long term relationships with them. And choosing the barrels. 

Having said that, I used to like them quite a lot, despite all these reservations. So I was really curious when supply was re-established by the good folks at Wine Route this winter. The prices are decent. Wine Route are pushing them in various discount configurations, so they should cost around 150 NIS.

I don't have straightforward conclusions about the wines I tasted. They didn't turn out to be easy wines for me to taste or enjoy. They're well made, the oak is unobtrusive, they're not too modern and they reflect a sense of place. I liked the, but... They're much too young, even (especially) the Crozes, and I don't feel they've particularly enriched or enlivened my life.

Rasteau* , Vieilles Vignes, 2016

Like almost every red from the Southern Rhone, this is a Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah blend. I tuned out on the Southern Rhone about seven years ago, not so much because of an anti-GSM bias so much as what was done with the blend in the marquee appellations like Châteauneuf-du-Pape Basically, everything just got bigger: more alcohol; broader, sweeter tannins; more fruit extract without exactly a greater sensation of fruitiness (I think that if the wines had gotten fruitier, I might have liked them more). The only thing that didn't get bigger was the acidity. Robert Parker appreciated the sweeping increase in scale and his scores that the market also also got bigger.

The Rasteau plays out like a mini-Châteauneuf, especially the 15% ABV, with black fruit, graphite and herbs. It's redeemed by rusty tannins and a finish comprised of iron, espresso and earth. It's big, alright, but it's serious enough to require some concentration. And the oak is in no way over-done or blatant. (Jan. 11, 2019)

* A brief history of South Rhone appellations: first there were only Châteauneuf, Cotes-du-Rhone and Cotes-du-Rhone Villages; then Lirac emerged from the Cotes-du-Rhone Villages cocoon and got their own AOC, followed by Gigondas and Vacqueyras; the pace then accelerated with Vinsobres and then Rasteau and Cairanne. I guess more will follow.

Vacqueyras, Vieilles Vignes, 2016

I had a thing for Vacqueyras, back in the day, mostly because I feel hard for the 2001 version of this wine in a South Rhone tasting in 2004. And, as my original love for the South Rhone petered out, it seems to me that somewhere in the back of my mind, I was sort of hoping for the right Vacqueyras to come along. I'm not sure this, with it's 15% ABV, is the right Vacqueyras for me, but it does go a way towards explaining why I liked the 2001 so much in the first place. Like the Rasteau, this is a showcase for espresso and mineral nuances. Both nose and palate are more detailed and refined than the Rasteau, evidence the garrigue stamp of the South and reward introspection. (Feb. 8, 2019)

Crozes-Hermitage, Vieilles Vignes, 2016

For me, the Northern Rhone is where the game is actually played. This is a wine of breadth rather than depth, showing the plump, chewy side of the Syrah grape. It starts out attractively, with unobtrusive oak and enough facets of blackberry fruit, violets, bacon and a strand of earth to make for decent complexity. After an hour, it shuts down and the finish, which is not very refined to begin with, becomes more tannic and green, attenuating the fruit. Days after the bottle was gone, I still couldn't make up my mind how much I liked it. (Jan. 13, 2019)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

En Voge (Feb. 8, 2019)

A night where no wine was technically faulty, a couple were great, a few were underwhelming, and overall the selection and drinking order did not always make sense. On par for this group.

Seavey, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

A relic from the start of the century when ripeness was king. The winery's site states that "Seavey is known for handcrafting wines of exceptional depth, elegance and restraint". Because of that restraint, the alcohol weighs in at a lowly 15.3% ABV. At best, a Cali Cab as ironic performance art.

Leo Alzinger, Wachau, Steinertal, Gruner Veltliner, 2012

Tropical fruit with an overlay of white pepper, an awkward, almost flat, structure, awkward interplay of flavors. A disappointing bottle from a great producer's flagship vineyard.

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanee, 2011

My first bottle from this famous producer. The nose is excellent with decent complexity (Vosne always smells great, at virtually any vintage and quality level):spices, black pepper, forest leaves, black toned fruit. Long and rustic with a gap in the mid palate. Just about what I’d expect from this vintage, an approachable, pretty wine without any profundity.

Domaine Blain-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Clos St Jean, 2013

This is a Chassagne red I always enjoy drinking. Fresh, young and floral, with a playful, almost ethereal elegance (especially for a Chassagne red). Needs air to show complexity.

Alain Voge, Cornas, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

2011 was consistently unprofound throughout France, it seems, yet this is a tremendous overachiever, still on the young side, a Cornas just about to transition from youth to the early stages of somber maturity.  Complete and very tasty, it shows the judiciously ripe black fruit, molten rock, violets and black pepper typical of the North Rhône. Very full and ripe with lithe tannins buried in the  depths. I don’t really regret opening it now but it obviously has years of aging potential.

Oddero, Barolo, Rocche di Castiglioni, 2012

Oddero usually shows the rugged rust of old school Nebbiolo, but not in 2012, apparently, at least now now. The tar and smoke on the nose are lovely, but the sweet fruit, while in no way overripe, is too fat for classic Piedmont. Not a wine I'd refuse to drink, and I wouldn't suggest that aging won't strip the fat away to show a more classic build, but if you open it now, you might not recognize the house style.

Shvo, Syrah, 2014

One of the new wave of varietal reds that Gaby Sadan has released recently, this is a ripe style of Syrah, without being luscious enough to enjoy the ripeness on its own terms. The ripe fruit pulls the wine one way, the bitter tannins in another. And that's a problem.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

January- Third Most Common Month for Madness

Matsu Toro project imported by IBBL
Vintae, Proyecto Garnachas de España,  Ribera del Queiles, La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo, 2016

The background story for this wine is a bit long winded. Vintae is a relatively small firm (50 employees), founded in Rioja in 1999, with vineyard holdings and winemaking teams across fifteen different Spanish DOs (Denominación de Origen) and over ten different sub-brands. The wine here is part of the "Proyecto Garnachas de España", which is a set of 6 varietal Grenache wines from different DOs, in this case Ribera del Queiles in Navarra. Well, technically, Ribera del Queiles is just a Vino de la Tierra, a step below Denominación de Origen (Mocayo is a mountain in the DO, salvaje is a Catalan words that translates as "forest). The wine itself, aged for only 5 months in French oak, shows a very youthful and fresh aspect of the grape, red fruit with very soft tannins and appealing nuances of herbs and spices. Moreish, if not complex. I'm very delighted that things like this are imported. (Jan. 19, 2019)

IBBL, about 75 NIS.

Vintae, Matsu, Toro, El Picaro, 2016

The "Matsu" (Japanese for "wait") label specializes in old vines from the Toro DO, one of those regions where the vineyards are very old simply because the wines were never profitable enough for replanting to be economical. Even this, the least expensive wine in the portfolio, comes from 90 year old vines. Matured for a few months in concrete tanks, the fruit is fresh with a mineral tang and surprising length, complexity and aromatic intensity. Clean without being anonymous, it shows the charm of the Old World and of the Tempranillo grape (known locally as Tinto de Toro). Seriously good value. (Jan. 20, 2019)

IBBL, also about 75 NIS.

Louis Jadot (Château des Jacques), Morgon, 2014

Jadot bought Château des Jacques, a property dating back to the 17th century, in 1996 and it's an independent operation, run by a farily young winemaker, Cyril Chirouze. The Chateau makes various configurations of single vineyards and village AOCs from prime vineyards across the Beaujolais Crus. This is a blend of various vineyards in Morgon, including the esteemed sub-appellation, Côte du Py. This is in a fatter and smoother style than Foillard, Lapierre or Thevenet (or God knows who the current Gods of Beaujolais are) and there's plenty of juicy character and forest floor seasoning. (Jan. 14, 2019)

Wine Route, about 120 NIS.

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Formal, Branco, 2016

The companion piece to the Vinha Formal Parcel Candido, a varietal Cercial, this is dominated by Bical (100% in some vintages according to the Luis Pato site). Like the Cercial, it displays an array of exotic spices, tropical fruit and alien rocks. Although it, too, is a hedonistic white, it is more reserved and focused. Despite the relative reserve, I recall I once called the 2013 "Chassagne dressed up for Mardi Gras" and that still fits. (Jan. 15, 2019)

Quinta do Crasto, Douro, Reserva Old Vines, 2015

Painfully primary, at first, showing the ripe, untempered fruitiness of young Iberian reds, this is a blend of dozens of varieties indigenous to the Duoro valley (like most of us, the only one I know is Touriga Nacional). It hints of minerals, iron and spices but, thankfully, not of oak, and picks up enough nuances over the course of the evening to make me very optimistic about its future. Because of the rustic tannins enfolding its soft core of fruit, this is a good wine to be revisited around its tenth birthday. (Jan. 5, 2019)

Hakerem, 170 NIS.

Chateau Golan, Geshem White, 2017

I've been waiting to try a bottle for a long time. For a long time, the only bottle I was able to spot was a 2015 from questionable storage. And now this. Rhone white grapes are almost de rigueur in Israel these day, but I believe this Grenache Blanc/Rousanne blend was among the very first. Typically for these blends, there's an interesting interplay of nutty/earthy aromas and tropical flavors, but the palate has a somber, reserved backbone that keeps the tropical flavors in check. Possessing aromatic complexity, texture and presence without undue weight, needs a couple of years to evolve and settle down, at which time  the mineral streak that shines after a couple of hours of air will become more prominent. (Jan. 17, 2019)

About 170 NIS.

Chateau Golan, Geshem Red, 2014

Opaque and inscrutable, on all senses, it doesn't present the overblown front of the Southern Rhone GSM blends it purports to model itself on. Rather, it has aromas and flavors of cherries, rust and minerals that recall a good Barolo, but with a fatter shape on the palate. An expansive step ahead of the 2015 and worth the fridge space the fat bottle it comes in requires. (Jan. 6, 2019)

About 220 NIS.

Produttori di Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2014

Coming into focus as the months slowly pass, this is a true Barbaresco, with a soft center belying the 14% ABV, red flowers tinted by dried rose petals and a hint of tar and rare steak, and, finally, a rusty finish. (Jan. 8, 2019)

Wine Route, about 200 NIS.

Domaine Langlois-Château, Crémant de Loire, L'extra Langlois, Brut, n.v.

Just a tasty, everyday sparkling wine, nothing deep or fancy, just summer fruits with a touch of chalk and bread. (Jan. 9, 2019)

Hakerem, about 90 NIS.

Vinhos Sogrape, Vinho Verde, Moncao e Melgaco, Alvarinho,  Morgadio da Torre , 2014

Never had a 4 year old green wine and what can I tell you, it's not green anymore! If anything, it has the gritty, mineral bite of a Duoro or Dao white, with apricots and a dollop of honey. Nice and interesting both. (Jan. 22, 2019)

About 80 NIS.

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

Even this young, the complexity of the aromas is stirring, a concoction of green apples, mint and those pungent scents that suggest minerals. The fresh, harmonic lightness of the fruit and its bracing acidity bely the substance underneath. One of the best kabinnets I've ever had, the finish, especially, is a delight. (Jan. 26, 2019)

Fat Guy, 145 NIS.

Domaine Robert Arnoux, Bourgogne Fin, 2014

There are basically three reasons for choosing a mid week wine: because it's ready, because you need to clear some fridge space and because it's a Bourgogne. I admit I opened this because of the second and third reasons, but I was surprised by how much focused richness it has to offer right now. Punching above its weight, the exotic spices on the nose recall Vosne, the sappy mouthfeel - Chambolle.(Jan. 28, 2019)