Larmandier-Bernier, Vieille Vigne du Levant, 2008
Just about everyone I know who's into grower Champagne says Larmandier is their favorite house. It sure is mine. The wines are always gloriously ripe and deep without the slightest excess of sweetness, low dosage without a hint of evisceration. This is the flagship wine, all Cramant Grand Cru fruit, a masterpiece that knocks me out every time I'm lucky enough to drink it. If Larmandier had ever joined the Club de Viticultures Champenois, this would have been their Special Club. With a year like 2008, the glass and a half I had was barely enough to scratch the surface. Eleven years into its journey, the fruit just barely unfolds a cloak of toast and mushrooms.
Grosset, Clare Valley, Polish Hill, Riesling, 2010
It's been years. I had a couple of bottles of the 2008, which I'd drunk up by 2012. I don't think time can ever actually touch the steely heart of this ice queen. The nose is a knockout, what with its petrol, rock, lemon, frozen apples, but the sting of the acidic backbone never lets up. There's greatness in it, and that full-throttle dryness works better here in any other Riesling I can remember, but in many ways its more fascinating than it is appetizing.
Arnot-Roberts, Santa Cruz Vineyards, Peter Martin Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2013
Admittedly, this is only the second single vineyard I've had from Arnot-Roberts, but both have been disappointing. Like the 2007 Alder Springs Vineyard, Syrah I drank a couple of years ago, this isn't going anywhere. Floral, simple and short, it tastes more like an minor league Beaujolais than a class act Syrah.
Segal, Rehasim, Dovev, Merlot, 2006
A 13 year old Merlot - not really a signature grape here in Israel, from a year when growers in Northern Israel, where the Dovev vineyard is located, could barely tend the vines in summer due to the second Lebanese war - this has held up remarkably well. I wouldn't have cellared it for this long, but only because it feels as though it had reached this maturity plateau about five years ago and I never gamble against time. I'm guessing few bottles remain, so acting as history's scribe, this displays fruit pie and dried fruit served with a sprinkling of black pepper, held together with rusty tannins. The fruit might have suffered in the war, but Avi Feldstein should be proud of what he did with it.
Ata Rangi, Martinborough, Celebre, 2014
My bottle. I thought I was buying a Pinot when I ordered it online and only found out this was a Bordeaux blend (and heavy on Merlot), when I entered the wine into CellarTracker. Any wine geek knows the feeling: you want everyone to love the wine you brought, even though you weren't the one who made. So I noted the majority of the party liked it, but not all. Still, it's a savory, well made claret, not very complex or intense, but fun. And most importantly, fresh.
Betz, Washington, Walla Walla, Yakima Valley, La Sernne, Syrah, 2016
Washington (and Oregon, too, for that matter), are states I should explore more. Even though my knowledge of California is perfunctory at best, it seems encyclopedic in comparison. Anyway, this is an interesting warm climate Syrah, smoky, ripe fruit, arguably too far along its aging curve.
Wolf-Blass, Grey Label, Robe Mount Benson, Shiraz-Cabernet, 2008
Glaymond, Barossa Valley, Distinction, Shiraz, 2005
I didn't take detailed notes at this point, but I believe sometimes first impressions tell the story. The Glaymond, despite an appealing layer of minerals, is a big, New World red from the period when Australian reds became too big and New for their own good and anyone else's. How big? 16+% ABV big. The Wolf-Blass, on the other hand, seemed to have benefited either from a shift to saner proportions in Australia or from some inherent, unexplained complacence, if not outright resistance, towards bloated proportions in the first place.