Tzur is an ex-patriate wine lover. His visits have recently become an institutional raison d'etre for a wine fest. This time, Aviv and five of us gathered at he brought a pair of Californian wines that bookended a Burgundy flight, then we made a detour to Piedmont before winding up in Bordeaux.
Realm, Napa Valley, Fidelio, Sauvignon Blanc, 2019
Realm is a winery known for their reds. This is their first sauvignon Blanc, first produced in 2009, which the winery says is modelled after white Bordeaux. I've never tasted a Bordeaux white quite like this. Nor a Loire or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. What I picked up on the nose were the herbal aspects of Sauvignon, but more extreme, almost like sticking your nose is a bush of mint. On the palate, the wine is ripe, almost sweet, with a salty finish. It's very tasty, but still primary.
Domaine Hubert Lignier, Morey-St-Denis Premier Cru, Clos Baulet, 2012
The nose is decently complex: iron, earth, black fruit. Austere at the start, the palate starts to fan out just a little at the fringes. I honestly can't say whether it will improve, but it's very true to its origin, as I usually find Morey to have the least frills of the major Cote de Nuits villages.
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot, Grands Échezeaux, 1998
This, too, is true to its pedigree, as well as its origin: top Burgundy as the sexiest of all red wines. The nose, especially, lives up to that title, complex enough so that everyone will be drawn towards whatever aspects speak loudest in their glass. I was attracted to the red fruit and eastern spices. The palate displays the birthright of Burgundy's top vineyards at their best, the balance between lush fruit and rusty tannins.
Domaine de La Cote, Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Noir, 2019
When I think of great Pinot Noir, my default is Burgundy and that makes me think of something like the Millot Grands Échezeaux. Ask me about the run-of-the-mill good Burgundies, then Clos Baulet is a good example. New World Pinot, well, that’s an unknown frontier for me. The stuff I've tasted and loved were Old World in character, in anything but origin; medium bodied and nuanced. But that's because the style I always look for and the New World offers a wide variety of styles. If someone asked me to describe my expectations of a super star California Pinot, I’d probably think of something big, sweet and oaky. But this structured, complex aristocrat cuts a swath across all my preconceptions and sets a very high bar for all New World Pinots. The spicy, herbal, extroverted nose did not immediately say "Pinot" to me, admittedly. I guessed Grenache. The palate was ripe, maybe a bit too polished for me, but that might be due to its (very extreme) youth, but more structured than my first impression. I will say that it felt like the winemaker was not aiming at high extraction, but rather to get the level of ripeness that would allow the most expression. Maybe that's the secret of managing Pinot Noir: get just enough out of it to express its terroir. Judging by the results, Sta. Rita is great terroir.
Gaja, Barbaresco, 2005
The nose is typical, expressive, with the level of complexity you expect from a top Barbaresco: a touch of earth, herbs (mostly mint), red cherries, of course. The palate is very good, with fine acidity and tannins, but less complex than the nose. A couple of shopping tips. Stylistically, while I get here the polish typical of Gaja's wines in general, this has traditionally been the most classically and traditionally crafted of the Gaja Barbarescos. Gaja is always expensive but I think that in anything less than a stellar vintage, it's overpriced. It was extremely high end when I bought it twelve years ago and I think it's downright outrageous now.
Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1995
Clerc Milon is always a fine wine, although it would be fair to assume that it's the kind of wine whose greatest fans are its owners. This has aged well, although it's not nearly as good and balanced as their 1989. The graphite on the nose and the rusty tannins are typical, but the palate is a little too ripe and not especially exciting.
Château Beychevelle, Saint-Julien 4me Cru, 2000
For some reason, I've rarely drunk Beychevelle in the past, and with the state of my senses by the end of the evening, I can't say I really have this time. I've been told it gave a good showing, but I could only get a very superficial sense of the fruit.