Saturday, April 28, 2007

Marc Bredif, Vouvray, 2003

Recommended by Anat Sela of Giaconda, who claims it can age for decades. I'd thought it was the sweet Chenin Blancs of the Loire who are the marathon runners and I was suspicious of a commercial version by a co-op, but a few checks on Google hint she may be right and this dry version can age too. Imported by Hakerem, it should sell for 110 NIS (25 USD) in Israel. Buy two at that price or stock up if you find a discount.

Misleadingly delicate and fruity at first: lime and citrus on the nose, with hints of minerals and sweet spices, which echo on the palate, with a smooth, honeyed texture and lively acidity. As it warms and opens, the wine picks up greater complexity and intensity, highlighted by a green apple overlay, taking the lead from the lime and citrus, and a light pungency complemented by honey. Very harmonious and enjoyable. A great little wine.

I'm not going to hazard a guess at a drinking window. Really, I've found reports this specific wine can age for a couple of decades. I assume age transforms it into something else but since I haven't tasted aged Chenins, that's only hearsay for me. I have read 2003 was a very good dry Chenin vintage, so let's put it this way: a year or two would fine-tune this wine's current incarnation and it should last a few years afterwards. What happens after that is anyone's guess but no one thought the Stones would last 40 years either.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dauvissat and Raveneau - A Bigger Bang

This week, a minor dream was fulfilled when I hosted a Chablis tasting at my home. Organized by my friend Nir Abramovitz, it was presented by local importer Tomer Gal, who's been importing Chablis producer Durup for years but apparently was able to kill a few key people recently in order to get a small chunk of the Dauvissat and Raveneau portfolio. Because the stocks were rather low (the Dauvissat and Raveneau 1er and Grand Crus were sold out virtually overnight), he threw in a Bouzeron and a Cote de Beaune white, which worked out as an interesting comparison with the Durup, Dauvissat and Raveneau wines. Food was supplied by the participants, so thanks, people.

Will Chablis always live in the shadow of the big boys down south? Dunno, but I wouldn't complain about obscurity if it helps keep the prices down (though the Dauvissat Grand Crus cost as much as a negociant Corton-Charlemagne, they're still the least expensive Grand Crus in Tomer's catalog). It's a totally different style, though, and you should not expect a Chablis to be a Cote de Beaune. Like all good things, it deserves to be accepted on its own terms.

I've had the hots for Chablis for a couple of years now but I must confess it was ignited by less stellar lights than Dauvissat and Raveneau, who are the big names in Chablis. So, sadly, I'm hooked even harder now and prospects look dim as, like I said, Tomer's stocks are gone. I did manage to get my hands on a few bottles when the new catalog came out so I'm slapping myself on the back congratulating myself now that I've tasted some samples.

A few facts. Durup is one of the biggest producers in volume in Chablis and his wines see absolutely no wood. Nada. Because of the size of his domaine, he machine harvests but at least with Durup, this practice came after a few years of trials, bottling both machine and hand harvested wines and comparing the bottlings. Dauvissat and Raveneau believe very strictly in hand harvesting which their smaller size allows them to do. Their wines are aged in old barrels and judging from this tasting, you can pick up no oak aromas and flavors. Isn't that wonderful?

On to the wines.

De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2005

I already have a note for this one. This time, it was still green and veggie, so closed the impression of alcohol is heightened, but this bottle was somehow friendlier, opening to reveal more complexity than previously. I like a challenge so I liked this wine.

Durup, Chablis Vieilles Vignes, 2005

I've always liked Durup and while his wines were outclassed by Dauvissat and Raveneau, they're still a good choice for weekday drinking, especially the Vieilles Vignes, austere, sharp and crispy. It went very well with the sea food risotto going around the table at that moment and more than the other Chablis that evening, it had the sea water signature that is usually ascribed to Chablis. The only drawback is I'm usually inclined to pay more and get the 1er Cru, but I did have fun with the 2004 last year.

Durup, Chablis 1er Cru, Vau de Vey, 2005

A step up in quality, that is more than worth more the 30% increase in price, compared to the Vieilles Vignes. More body and concentration, without compromising the crispiness. An elegant nose followed by a surprisingly powerful palate, with a less pronounced sea water character. Having followed Durup's 1er Crus for several vintages now, I can vouch that this is no fluke: this is one of the best value whites around.

Durup, Chablis 1er Cru, Vau de Vey, 1995

Ten years older, the same vineyard shows very light oxidation and mildew on the nose, over honey notes with the fruit deep in the background, minding its own business. Very full and long. It's a challenging wine, for me. It's maturity is fascinating but I'm still not sure whether it's enough of an improvement over its younger version to warrant long aging.

And then came the jets...

Dauvissat, Chablis 2000

The first Dauvissat of the evening introduced a whole new set of aromas and flavors over the classic Chablis signature that I'm already familiar with, as well as added complexity. Mildew, cheese, nut oil, minerals, with the fruit playing second fiddle. The nose somehow feels oily but it's not a fat wine. It's very fresh and long, still austere, with a misleading delicacy. It felt dainty but got along well with the sharp cheeses on my plate. I think this seven year old village still has some three to five years left but will I be able to keep away?

Dauvissat, Chablis 1er Cru, Forest, 2001

A wonderful, vibrant nose, with powerful aromas. All the pungent cheese and mildew aromas and flavors I found in the 2000 village are magnified here without overcoming the fruit, which is rather more pronounced here. Very long, rich and nuanced. A "busy" wine, with a lot going on, yet very precise about what it's doing.

Raveneau, Chablis 1er Cru, Butteaux, 2004

Raveneau on the other hand, seems to subscribe to the "less is more school". Very flowery, which Tomer says is due to the high altitude of the vineyard; sharp and powerful, though soft and feminine for all that. Harmonic and elegant. While I'm not sure if the Durup Vau de Vey is worth aging for ten years post vintage, the Butteaux will surely last at least that long, with fresh, mouthwatering acidity.

It's a fascinating comparison between these two producers and metaphors were plentiful. Dauvissat is Meursault and Raveneau is Puligny. Dauvissat is Pfalz and Raveneau is Rheingau. Raveneau is all treble as compared to the bass notes of the Dauvissat. It's a hell of a fun life when you can spend it immersed in deep thoughts like these.

Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, 2004

Meanwhile, back in the South... Meursault is nuts, right? I picked up cashews and toasted bread with delicate fruitiness that is more noticeable than in any of the Chablis but still not upfront. A very pretty wine that possibly supports Tomer's nomination of Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet as the star of the vintage.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lucien Le Moine, Bourgogne Blanc, 2003

Continuing my foray into simple Bourgogones, I look into a wine made by a Lebanese and an Israeli in Burgundy. This supposedly generic Chardonnay, imported to Israel by Private Wine Collection, actually comes from 1er Cru vineyards across the Cote de Beaune and declassified to generic Bourgogne, which sounds amazing unless you pay attention to the finer points of Burgundy AOC rules. Grapes from different vineyards are classified by their highest common AOC. Grapes from different villages have only the Bourgogne AOC in common, even if they come from 1er Cru vineyards. If the grapes from different 1er Cru vineyards within the same village, the wine can be sold as 1er Cru of their village with no vineyard name, i.e., Volnay 1er Cru.

On a side note, if anyone had cared to blend grapes from different Grand Crus of the same village, it could only be sold as 1er Cru because in the the Cote d'Or, there is no 'blanket' Grand Cru AOC (as there is in Chablis), each Grand Cru is a named AOC in its own right. So, the common denominator for different Grand Crus of the same village would be 1er Cru. Worse, if you blended a La Tache with a Le Corton, you'd have to sell it as a Bourgogne because these two Grand Crus are from different villages. The French Beaurocrats are second only to their soldiers, I'm sure.

But back to the wine.

I wouldn't call this the oakiest wine in the world, at least not in the New World style, but oak plays an important role. Starts out oaky on the nose, then within minutes the oak is replaced by minerals and barbecue spices and the wine is at its most captivating. But this is where the story ends, as the nose grows sweeter and picks up a toffee character I find disagreeable. The oak is even more evident on the palate, which is relatively low on acidity, hence on the flabby side as you'd expect from 2003 but at least the fruit isn't too tropical and the full body hides the baby fat. I agree this isn't your garden variety generic Bourgogne but I'm not sure if it can really soak up the oak. To revisit in a couple of years.

Now that the votes are in, I think the Jobard Bourgogne 2004 (again, look here) is going to be my "go to guy" this year.

Another side note. I have to wonder at the price of this wine (25-30 USD). Lucien le Moine is a neogicant and if this is indeed sourced from 1er Cru vineyards, then he must have paid 1er Cru prices for the grape must. Since the winemaking process cost is roughly the same as for all his wines, you have to wonder why it costs one half to a third of the price of the wines he actually sells as 1er Cru. Brings home the hard truth how much people charge - and pay - for the label.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Where Have All The Good Times Gone - An Israeli Wine Tasting

Eventually it had to happen. My wine group decided to have an Israeli wine night.

The lineup included several wines we have all loved in the past (albeit different vintages in some cases). As our tastes have developed, we had left some of these wines behind, so to speak. Coming back to them now, I can't say we were thrilled by them anymore. Some would probably not have excited all of us to begin with. Others simply showed too many technical faults and were imbalanced at a very young age. And a couple were old friends about to depart for greener pastures.

We started with the Vitkin, Riesling 2005. A very sharp and focused palate but the nose felt distant and vague. We came back to it a couple of hours later and it had really cleaned up its act. Would stand up to a QBA level wine from a decent German maker and I do mean that as a compliment. In retorospect, the wine of the night.

Next up was a joker. Obviously a Chardonnay, the nose was buttery and nutty in a Meursault style, with obvious oak fenced in by the other elements. The palate was significantly less interesting - very flabby and imbalanced. I thought it was the Castel "C" but it was an oaked village Chablis from 2003 by a producer I'd never heard of, Lamblin.

Next was one of my personal disappointments, Sea Horse, Elul, 2003. Not that I was expecting a lot. Ze'ev Dunie's wines had appealed to me two or three years ago and ever since, not only have I been outgrowing them, but I've been sensing a lot of bottle variations or perhaps simply the wines coming apart in bottle. So right now I have quite a few bottles of his left and I'm singularly unexcited at the prospect of drinking them. The Elul 2003 I find very over-ripe, perfumed like a harlot, with the palate relatively balanced compared to the nose, but not very interesting. And it's rough, almost like chewing gravel, without even the notion of good fruit lurking in the background. We returned to the wine at the end of the evening yet all that time breathing the air in the bottle had left no positive mark on the sorry juice. I think I understand what Dunie is aiming for but the execution is lacking.

On to the Flam, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000. Flam is the brett lover's favorite Israeli winery, though I suspect recent vintages depend too much on the brett to carry them. Surprisingly, this was still alive, though not in good shape. The nose was a charmer, with bretty notes, chocolate, some mushrooms. The palate still had good acidity and grip yet the flavors were muted and faded. I really liked it once and I'm glad it's dying gracefully. And it's still got quite a nose!

I don't think anyone expected a lot from the Barkan, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997, which was just as well, as it was too simple and ripe and probably was never intended to be drunk in 2007. The Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997 is a wine that we would have expected to be drinking well with adequate storage. It did have a lovely nose, surprisingly bretty though in a well measured way. But the palate probably deserves a saying in Yiddish, something about a favorite child not living up to expectations. It was hot and hollow, with indiscernible flavors.

The Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2003 was in the same cheap floozy style of the Sea Horse, without putting out as much, and time in glass only harmed it, with the barrel influences growing stronger. The palate was hardly balanced and enjoyable. Maybe it's just age but I remember tasting it a couple of years ago and not liking it even back then.

The final disappointment was my own second contribution after the Sea Horse: Pelter, Shiraz-Grenache, 2004, a wine I had loved only a year ago at the winery. It's actually the most I'd ever paid for an Israeli wine and I was willing to pay it because it highlighted a mixture of Old and New World styles that I thought should be a direction for Israeli reds. As it was then, a wine I would have brought to any blind tasting. A year later: very indistinct fruit; flat, simple and bitter, with not a single redeeming feature.

The Flam's demise was no surprise. Ditto for the Barkan and The Vitkin Cab Franc. The Yarden's state was somehow within the bounds of reason and I really hope the Pelter was an off-bottle. But the Elul was a failure in a class of its own. I can understand why I liked Dunie's wines once but that understanding does not relieve my frustration.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Few Simple Bourgognes

Shopping for Burgundies is like bobbing for apples in a tub full of piranhas. You pick your shots carefully and aim for the biggest fish your wallet can afford. And every now and then you buy a wine to drink now rather later.

The rule of thumb is supposedly to buy generic and village wines from growers dedicated to quality across the line. Rather than bargain basement premier and grand crus from less illustrious origins. Here then is a short look at the lower rungs of the Burgundy food chain.

I bought the Chateau du Meursault, Clos du Chateau, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004 in Toulouse based on a recommendation in Tom Stevenson's Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia. The idea is the wine is sourced from a vineyard in the Chateau's garden deep in the Meursault country that was woodland until some 40 years ago hence it was simply not in existence as a vineyard when the village AOC was delimited. Otherwise it would be sold as a village wine and, according to Stevenson, a damned good wine that should be drunk 4 to 12 years post-harvest. Curiousity got the best of me and I opened it somewhat earlier. I thought it had a a wonderful nose, citrus fruit propped up by toasted bread and roasted nuts. The comes the palate, however, a bit foursquare and simple, solid fruit that shows well until the bitter sweet finish. So, some oak that needs to be assimilated with a further year in bottle but an enjoyable Bourgogne nonetheless. I sound a bit less ecstatic than Stevenson and I am. It cost me some 20 euros which I'd pay again if it were available in Israel and then wait for the oak to integrate further. But as it's not available, I'd use up my luggage space on other wines.

This wine's parallel in Puligny-Montrachet is Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Clos du Chateau, 2004. I think the situation vis a vis the vineyards is similar but I'm not sure. Costs roughly the same at any rate. The winemaker here is somewhat illustrious, being Etienne de Montille, of the famous Volnay estate, Domaine de Montille. Neither domaine has a site, but here's a nice article about Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet in the Burgundy Report.

Anyway, to get back to the wine, it's really nothing at all like its Meursault counterpart. You can blame it equally on terroir as on different winemaking philosophies. The Meursault is like a jazz musician cramming in a couple extra notes at the end of the bar while Etienne's work is much more reserved, a study in the art of simplicity. Minerals, granny apples and citrus fruits, with a happy acidity that leaves no possible room for any oak. Not very complex or one to cellar, as it loses its mineral cut after an hour of being opened and it's disappointing in that respect. Just drink it now while you wait for the more expensive crus to come around.

The Puligny is imported to Israel by Tomer Gal, as is the Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004. Which is a giant step for mankind in the context of this discussion (and more expensive as well, 140 NIS, about 33 USD). Better balanced and much more hip than the Chateau du Meursault; more complex, vibrant and longer- lasting than the Chatau du Puligny Montrachet.

Pale gold. A nutty, oily nose, with ripe fruit, that starts out with a slight disonance, almost tropical on one hand and pear-y on the other. Then it it tightens up and all the elements meld and it shows smoke and honey notes as well. Fat, with an almost meaty texture, yet light and crispy, surprisingly long. As good as a village, with the palate not quite as complex as the nose but with excelllent grip nonetheless. Tomer told me he considers the Chateau du Puligny Montrachet a star of the 2004 vintage, in which case Jobard must have been a super-star.

And finally, the cheapest red produced by Domaine de la Vougeraie. I've enjoyed the previous two vintages of the Terres de Famille, a Bourgogne Rouge, one third of which is sourced from a village cru in Beaune and two thirds from the wrong side of the road across Vougeot. Even in a hot vintage like 2003 - or perhaps because of it - it showed high quality for its origins and both Pinot and Bourgogne typicity. The 2004 proves how consistent this wine is in quality, style and character. It posseses a delicate, elegant Bourgogne nose, with sweet red fruit, forest floor and cocoa. I wish the palate was as good , though it is finer and more stylish than a generic Bourgogne, and opens faster on the palate than previous vintages. It’s also somewhat softer (but more elegant on the other hand) than previous vintages but fleshes out after opening in much the same way. Also imported by Tomer Gal, it costs about 100 NIS, meaning it's good value for Burgundy and expensive elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nero Wolfe And I

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe is one of my great literary heroes. I'll summarize the information you can find in Wikipedia and elsewhere. Wolfe is an obese, neuorotic detective, who almost never leaves his Manhatten brownstone, where he has installed a world class Swiss chef and a rooftop orchid greenhouse - food, orchids and books being his big interests in life. He is usually too lazy to work and has to be goaded by his assistant, Archie Goodwin. And this is where the series wone my heart, not the mysteries or the plots, but the edgy affection between the two men, always with a healthy dose of argumentative banter (for example, the eternal debate over Wolfe's contention that "contact" is not a verb). That, and the great attention lavished by Wolfe on the finer details of dining: Preparing good food is an exact sciense and an ongoing task, never to be taken too lightly. Business is never to be discussed at the table. Guests should never go hungry. Drinks are always supplied during conferences and the wines served are often on the order of Corton and Montrachet. To make scrambled eggs properly requires forty minutes, perhaps thirty when in a rush.

All of that is just intelligent wit and good writing. But there is a philosophical notion behind the series that is very important to me and mirrors my own interests in food and wine. Archie is a tough, street-smart operator from Ohio. Nothing in his previous experience had prepared him to live with a gourmand but by the time the series commences he already has a good, understated understanding of high dining. A line like "remembering the Montrachet was being served and knowing the effect it would have on my taste buds, I opted for the white wine" (quoting from memory) is typical. So for me, the important theme is this: intelligence, loyalty, bravery and hard work may be rewarded by initiation into a magical world, where good friends and good cheer, the right sauce for your goose, a well made sausage or a rare brandy are bright stars on the tapestry of heaven.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Louis Jadot, Chateaux des Jacques, Moulin-A-Vent, 2003

Chateaux des Jacques is a venerable name in Beaujolais which Jadot bought in 2000. The Chateaux produces five "Clos" wines from single vineyard sites as well as straight Moulin-A-Vent. I've tasted and drunk the 2000 Clos du grand Cafquelin four times, noteably as a joker at Jadot blind tastings, where it usually fooled the attendees into thinking it was a 1er Cru from the Cote d'Or. It is Jadot's best value wine and arguably one of their greatest, period. It ages well; I drank the 1997 Clos des Thorins in 2005 and it needed time to flesh out in mid-palate and was so fresh and ripe I'm sure it could last until the end of the decade.

I was concerned about the 2003 for the obvious reason, the heatwave that turned so much of France into the New World, but then again a venerable classicist like Clive Coates called the 2003 Beaujolais Crus magnificent. Ironically, Chateaux des Jacques had to suffer through hail storms which ruined three of their five Clos. Then came the heatwave but the Chateaux gambled on rain and dew to bring the water levels up and harvested later than the other growers.

Oooo-kay, but am it art?

A very ripe, alcoholic New World nose, the jammy fruit covering the red, black and blue spectrum, with vague hints of spices only just saving it for me at first. Fleshes out with somewhat meaty notes as the fruit makes up its mind to be blueberry and kick out the jam. The palate manages to balance out the ripe fruit with tannins, but it’s low on acid, not blatantly so, but noticeable. I can appreciate the technical work though it’s not really my style.

Louis Jadot is of course imported by Wine Route, at a decent price, 110-120 NIS (~25 USD). I'm sorry I didn't buy more from the cooler vintages but I'll stay with my sole bottle this time.

Domaine Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Selection de Grains Nobles, 2001

I bought this wine in the US because of the high Wine Spectator score (98) and because a Loire dessert wine labelled "Selection de Grains Nobles" seemed like an interesting curiousity at the time and I thought it would make an interesting challenge at blind tastings, though as it turned out I served it non-blind to friends.

I'm not sure whether Delesvaux is considered a traditional Loire winemaker. I've read that he belongs to a group of winemakers christened by Robert Parker Sugar Hunters, which worried me that the wine would be over-the-top.

But it wasn't, though I don't think it's as amazing as the WS score indicates. I think I'm not yet attuned enough to sweet wines to appreciate a really great one but I suspect that doesn't account for all of the difference in opinion. Whatever, it was very refreshing at the end of a long barbecue lunch and well received by the wine geeks round the table.

Deep bronze colored, much deeper than I’d expected. Tea, dried fruits, orange peel and spices on the nose. The palate is even better, a bit heavy on the attack then growing lighter at the finish, balanced and very long, with good grip. It’s not very complex and I’m not sure where the high scores come from but it is indeed an excellent wine.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

For some reason, I only started following this site a few weeks ago. Very well designed and informative. There, I just popped in there and learned the Tabor, Mescha, 2003 has 15% Shiraz. And I really like the way they organize the reviews.

Make sure to look up reviews by Meir Ido. I can vouch for his good taste as well as for his rather austere compliments. That is, any wine he actually recommends is quite good.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Regarding Comments About Wines Tasted

I have received a few comments about not always mentioning where I bought the wines I write about. I'll go back and edit the relevant posts. Thanks for catching it.

In the future I'll try to mention where the imported wines I taste are available. I assume there is no reason to do the same for Israeli wines but should the need arise, I'll mention their origin.

My Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

This isn't the best picture but it's what I have of an interview for a Hobbies section in a local weekly supplement.

As a supplement to the interview, the paper listed some recommened venues for wine tastings and some wine sites. Since I only suggested some of these to writer Vered Kelner I'd like to expand on the tastings I can recommend first hand:

  • WineRoute's beginner course was the one that actually got me into this hobby. If you attend their more advanced tastings regularly, you will eventually have a good idea what the major wine regions have to offer. They're very professionaly executed and reasonably priced most of the time. Decent food on the side.
  • Giaconda offer exceptional, highly educational German wine tastings as well as various other tastings. I have attended only the German tastings and a New Zealand tasting (interesting, moderately priced, not a knockout like their better German tastings can be) and so have no opinion on their other offerings. They're on the expensive side and I think they should factor in the marketing value of these tastings and cut the prices a bit but I'm a sucker nonetheless. Interesting and tasty finger-foods.
  • I've attended a couple of Burgundy tastings presented by Tomer Gal. They're not held regularly as far as I know; the ones I attended were held at private homes and the price was tailored to the audience's budget, at more or less the shelf price of the wines. Thus, not cheap but you can't beat Burgundy when it's on.
  • For a certain type of Tuscan wines, that is to say modern wines with Old World notes, I'd send you to the Anavim store in Ben Yehuda. I don't like all their Tuscan wines but they deserve my eternal thanks for introducing me to Brundlmayer plus I adored the Paternoster Don Anslemo 1997 which they carry. They serve amazing cheeses at their tastings and Amir and Hagit are very friendly and knowledgeable. The tastings are decently priced and, since Tuscany is not a region I will personally buy 'blind', very useful.

Of course almost every wine store holds tastings and special events. I've heard only good things from people I trust about Andre Suidan's tasting at Special Reserve at Haifa but that's only hearsay. Just FYI, his special sales, when he holds them, can offer some amazing deals.

I'd also like to mention wine sites not mentioned in the paper. Besides the wine anorak, I'd like to mention his British peer, the Winedoctor, which is damned terrific. Make up your own mind about the rest of it, but the guy likes and understands sherry! I wish I could recommend Neal Martin's Wine-Journal but the guy not only sold out to Parker - which I can understand - but he also crapped out and removed all the old contents, even the musical reviews. Idjit!

Not to everyone's tastes but sure to mine is the Gang Of Pour site, which I'd recommend if only for the terrific word play on an old punk fave of mine (Gang Of Four, just in case).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Golan Heights Winery Pinot

All my friends know I really hate the Yarden series' Pinot Noir. Fair chance the folks at GHW know it too; I've posted enough times about it on local boards I know they read. I have to make an exception for the debut from the 1999 vintage, which I liked around 2003 or so and though I've changed a lot in the 3-4 years since, I liked it for the same reasons I like the wines I like these days: grace, elegance, personality and the kind of modest complexity you can find in good wines on the lower rungs of the wine world.

But the 2000 was awful, totally lacking in structure and poured down the drain. I don't think it was an off-bottle; it was the same way at a tasting at the winery in May 2006 and I've heard similar opinions from friends whose taste I trust.

That same tasting at GHW showed my pal, the 1999, to have gone to Pinot heaven. I'll just quote my impressions from the tasting:

1999 - I liked it 3 years ago and I don't think I've changed. This wine simply didn't age well. It's got an interesting Pinot nose. I wrote down "not very clean but interesting" and it was; but it died in glass. The palate was never very healthy to begin with: heavy, sweet, unfocused.

2000 - Alcoholic, lots of ripe black fruit and oak. Flat and uninteresting. Someone next to me said it was concentrated. Fine, imagine concentrated and flat.

2001 - Same as the above but more drinkable.

2002 - Getting better, nice smoky notes. Better balance.

2003 - Even better.

2004 and 2005 barrel samples - Too young for me to talk about.

In all, I would characterize the Yarden Pinot Noir as a very dark-colored, sweetish wine and I'll be optimistic and say the 2003 showed promise.

Looking back, the 2002 and the 2003 are close to being well-made Pinot in a sort of international style. Certainly not Burgundy, but I'm not looking for that; I've tasted a couple of German Pinot Noirs that I liked and appreciated and they were even further from the Bourgogne model than thw Yarden PN was. But then again, what I liked about those German Pinots was their angularity, their otherness, their personality. And personality was something I never found in the Yarden Pinot, the 1999 nowithstanding. Almost as though that first vintage was a fluke, rays of character seeping through the cracks in the GHW machine.

Don't get me wrong, that machine makes some of the best reds in the country, applying all the technology at their disposal towards bringing out the best in Israel's most balanced raw material. But for whatever reason, the application of those same skills kills the Pinot fruit so I can't really tell if the Golan Heights are suitable Pinot country or not.

Somehow I'd never drunk or tasted the Gamla Pinot Noir until the 2004 vintage. Gamla, as is well known, is GHW's second series (third, actually, if you count the Katzrin series) and receives second-tier fruit - arguably as good as other Israeli vineyards' best - which then get less oak and pizazz. Which, surprisingly or not, is just what the GHW Pinot seems to need. What you get is a fun, unpretentious wine, that drinks nicely and speaks silently in favor of simple harmony over contrived complexity. It has pleasant red fruit with a touch of orange peel and smoke and some earthiness and meat in the background, with decent complexity and a slightly bitter finish.

Maybe the wrong wine has been hyped all these years?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A. Et P. De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2005

This domaine is as close as most of us will get to Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Aubert Villaine being co-owner of that legendary domaine. De Villaine is Aubert's project in the Cote Chalonnaise and as you read through his site, it is apparent that the variety held in greatest esteem in the Domaine is Aligote, a variety not highly touted elsewhere in Burgundy. Most textbooks I've read give Villaine great credit for helping elevate Bouzeron into the only AOC dedicated to Aligote and the domaine's best terroirs in Bouzeron are planted with Aligote. Furthernore, the Domaine claims Aligote has an aging potential of up to 10 years.

But what's in the bottle? Well, not the easiest wine in the world to write a note for.

Drunk over three hours. Closed and unimpressive at first, vague and distant fruit and spices on the nose, steely and thin on the palate. Then there are notes of citrus and melons and a minerality that is hard to pin down, I'd perhaps call it perfumed talc. It's got a Chablis steeliness, though with a somewhat different texture. Fills up aromatically, with hints of toast, and grows easier and fatter on the palate as well, after an early, uncomfortably lean greeness that never quite evolves away. Very raw and incomplete but you have to think a wine that takes so long to open has some potential and there's certainly enough acidity for some cellaring potential, despite the fruit being so dormant right now. I'd open my second bottle in 2-3 years but I'm tempted to buy a third to test the Domaine's claims for mid term cellarbility.

Other Aligotes in Israel

There's somewhat of a surge in Aligote imports into Israel. Tomer Gal and Hadas Ezer's Burgundy Wine Collection is importing the de Villaine as well as Aligote from Domaines d'Auvenay (which sold out within days for the second straight year), Ramonet and Ponsot (whose Aligote comes from a Morey-St-Denis 1er cru vineyard). In addition, Wine Route is importing Jadot's version, which I don't think claims to come from vineyards as good as BWC's imports.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Red Wine Funk

I'm not keeping an exact score but white wines have really been ringing my bell much more than the reds. I know I've said as much before, but this week was a nadir for red wines.

It was a pretty solid wine week and I drank a Rheingau Riesling QBA, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner, a Pfalz Scheurebe, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Chateauneuf du Pape, a Priorat, a Hermitage and a Barbera d'Asti. A solid lineup representing some of my favorite regions and prominent producers across the board. And very good vintages, too.

None of the red wines came even close to thrilling me as much as the leastest of the whites. And the white bottles thrived better once opened, never losing an ounce of vibrancy.

I think it's a question of scale. A red wine will always feel 'bigger' than a similarly bodied white, without necessarily possessing a concentration of fruit and flavor to match its size. And that lack of concentration will let the alcohol and sugar hog the spotlight. So in the end, all other things being equal, the white wine will feel better balanced and more flavorsome.

Little by little, I feel my expectations and tastes are exceeding my financial limits, where red wines are concerned.


So it's official. As of this week, the 2GrandCru blog is no longer an equal opportunity wine blog. It will be, I hope, a highly reactionary, bigoted blog, positively discriminating for white wines. It's only fitting, however, as for the last 3 months or so, 80% of my purchases have been white wines. So, while I will be be writing about red wines, even positively, you now know exactly where my heart is.