Summer Lovin'

Tzora, Irini, Cabernet-Merlot, 1996

A hidden gem from our past. I actually drank this, almost twenty years ago, when I was starting out on this love of mine. The sales guy at the Ra'anana branch of Wine Route sold me a bottle in 2003 or 2004 and told me to be patient with it and give it time. At that point, I had little experience with wines with any age on them. I had drunk a Rioja Grand Reserva or two, but I knew those were meant to be aged; a relatively unknown, 7-8 year old Israeli red was a mystery. The Irina was so short and flat when I opened it that I would have given up with the sales guy's advice. So I waited and two hours later, it blossomed and showed a complex nose and a medium body with surprising depth. I had no expectations that it would go on for almost twenty more years. Andre Suidan, owner of the Special Reserve in Haifa shared a bottle with me. The nose was one of the best I'd ever sniffed in Israel, with the spices of a mature Bordeaux and hints of truffles. The palate was mute and a little ripe and although I didn't have enough time to spend with it, I got the depth and I could sense the tannins were not sweet and were starting to come on and assert themselves. I personally would never have gambled on such long aging, but the Irini felt to me like it has been drinking well since 2003 and has a good chance to celebrate its 30th birthday.

Sphera, White Signature, 2019

Two years ago, Doron Rav-Hon told me that when he gets this kind of reduction in a barrel, he wants to hug it and make sure it doesn't go away. He's damn right. It brings out a shimmering cobweb of minerals and dry grass, like an elegant Chassagne. Yes, despite the large dominance of Semillon - 90% vs 10% Chardonnay - the nose offers everything the Cote de Beaune gifted the world of wine. And the Semillon? A handsome bulge in mid-palate, melons, salt and cinnamon on the finish. And here's the best part. I didn't enter the right quantity into Cellar Tracker, so this is basically an extra bottle I wasn't expecting. A great pre-birthday gift!

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett, 2015

Definitely a Kabinett, never exceeding the pradikat's weight and frame. I took my sweet time aging this and, as a result, I finally get to drink a Kabinett older than 3-4 years. Age has endowed a touch of peaches to the nose, a kiss of lemon pie to the finish and, overall, mineral texture and aromatic flourishes that are a joy. I think Dombropst sometimes starts life on the heavy side, but age has given it a very light pair of feet.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Sp├Ątlese, 2015

A pure, perfectly balanced Sp├Ątlese in the flush of early adolescence. Racy, crystalline, with peaches, mint and delicate touches of salt and minerals. It's not as distinctive as the Schaefer, although the mint uplifts it (I'm partial to minty notes in wine in general).

Marchese D’Azeglio, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2019

The grapes come from Serralunga d'Alba and ages for 8 months in French 20 hectoliter foudres. I'm tempted to call it a mini-Barolo because it captures the aromas and flavors of Piedmont (cherries, black tea, tarry earth, mint, balsamic vinegar) but on a much lighter frame. Even the tannins feel like mini-Barolo tannins. They have the same texture, without the weight. The reason I'm not happy calling it a mini-Barolo is because it seems to imply that only Barolos capture the magic of the land. I think Barolos and the crus capture more of the essence, naturally, otherwise, what's the point of terroir and mature vines? But a well made Langhe such as this is like trailer for a great movie.