Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bordeaux 2004 Tasting At WineRoute (Nov. 29, 2007)

WineRoute's Shaked family can - and often do - produce excellent tasting events. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of them.

Maybe it's the vintage. From the samples I tasted, 2004 seems to me like a relatively hot vintage but without the luscious sex appeal of 2003. I didn't read up too much on the vintage beforehand and the tasting didn't really make me want to run out and catch up.

Or maybe it's the logistics. The Tel Aviv event was a stand up tasting. Ran Shapira attended the sit down tasting in Raanana and said many of the wines needed some twenty minutes in glass, even though the bottles had been opened previously. In Tel Aviv, new bottles were opened on the spot and the pourers admitted they were not at their best. And that's annoying. Come on, Shakeds, you've been doing this for years, you knew how many people were going to show up and you knew the wines needed air and time. Was it so hard to come up with some sort of plan so that there was always a bottle ready and already aired?

I think in the end it's a mixture of the two. This is not an easy vintage and at least some of the wines required time to present themselves and the discourteous hosts decided to ignore that need. I assume RP, WS and DR - as listed on the score sheet we were handed, whoever they are, wink - had a better setting for their tasting. Though I ahould stress that time was not a factor for all the wines; with some, say Gazin and Rauzan-Segla, I felt this is as good as they get.

Here, then, are what pass for my notes on this year's Bordeaux tasting, the crown jewel of the Shaked empire. I admit I was so fed up I almost didn't bother to post them at all. Some I almost couldn't be bothered to write down, as will be quite apparent. Prices in NIS (1 USD is about 3.9 NIS as of this writing) before tasting discount and refund.

Gazin, Pomerol

A generous, expansive, jammy nose. The ripe fruit is not echoed on the palate, which is tight and lacking depth and length. Mediocre. Will anyone really pay 349 NIS for this?

Magdelaine, St. Emilion

At first there is an illusion of improvement over the Gazin but I found the wine less appealing as it opened in my glass and the oak took over. Still, a better nose for what it's worth, not as obviously ripe and arguably more nuanced. 349 NIS again and by this time I'd never suffered so much for so much money.

Lafleur-Petrus, Pomerol

An actual improvement this time, especially on the nose, albeit still displaying the same drawbacks - ripe nose (though more reined in than the previous two) and a certain lack of depth on the palate. Though the palate has a better tannic structure, it is strcture without any depth or interest discernible at the tasting. 449 NIS (gulp).

Rauzan-Segla, Margaux

Starts off well, until the ripe fruit and oak take over. The nose calms down in time and this went well with the bread and spicy spreads served. Elegant though still not inspired nor inspiring. 349 NIS.

Pavillon Rouge du Chateaux Margaux, Margaux

The evening finally started to resemble a tasting with Chateau Margaux' second wine. A tempting, smoky nose that nods to the New World in an offhand way. I could bury myself alive in the nose and the structure is pretty neat too, very classy. Still, I ask myself whether I would want to pay 379 NIS for it. Like most Bordeaux, it used to be cheaper and I can't concile myself to the rise in prices.

Leoville-Poyferre, St. Julien

An elegant, almost austere nose. And an elegant palate as well, deep, long, light on its feet despite the depth, very focused. Actually worth the 349 NIS.

Lynch-Bages, Pauillac

The 2003 was a very tempting, sexy wine and the 2004 shares the same qualities but on a lower level. And the price has gone up to 549 NIS. Give my regards to the oligarchs.

Pontet Canet, Pauillac

A cross between the elegance of the Leoville-Poyferre and the sexiness of the Lynch-Bages, this is an excellent wine - in the context of the tasting, that is. I've tasted the 2000 through 2002 and they were better and cheaper. 399 NIS.

Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac

A nice wine, well made, but uninspiring. 599 NIS and I'm tired of joking about the prices.

Pape Clement, Pessac Leognan

I think this was the only wine I actually caught improving in glass. On the dull side at first and too similar to the worse wines of the tasting, it went on to surpass that bad start and to reveal greater appeal and, even now, complexity. Appealing smoke on the nose and a minerally bite on the finish. 579 NIS.

Calon-Segur, St. Estephe

One of the best of the evening, and made an impression even on my fatigued palate. 319 NIS is an increase in price over previous vintages but still relatively sane.

Rieussec, Sauternes

Has everything you'd want in a Sauternes only less of it. Glaring lack of concentration. 249 NIS (half bottle). The 2003, I'm told, is better and still available for 199 NIS - a no-brainer.

The Shakeds must have lost their marketing touch. The way some of these wines tasted last evening, pouring them at the tasting was a foolproof way to ensure that no one would buy them. Or maybe it was a setup to push the Leoville Poyfere and the Pontet Canet by making them look even better than they were.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Baked Onions

This is probably one of the weirdest taste descriptors I ever thought of but it really fits a certain brand of ripe Rieslings, much better than say, white fruits. The smaller onions are half sweet when baked and have a gentle spiciness that I often find in this kind of Rieslings.

Case in point:

Peter Jakob Kuhn, Oesterich Lenchen, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

I tasted this wine last December and what a difference a year makes! It had been so closed it was hard to decrypt but this time, though still very young and embryonic, it had opened enough for me to finally make an informed opinion and I found it to be very round and fleshy and ripe enough to be a de-classified Auslese, with a Sauternes-like nose and notes of baked onion. Very sexy, reminding me more of the 2005's I've tasted than of any German Riesling from 2004. (Nov. 23, 2007)

Imported by Giaconda (listed at 206 NIS for club members)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leroy Bourgogne Blanc, 1997 (Nov. 21, 2007)

Naturally, Leroy is a big name in Burgundy and I'd read positive online musings about this wine on various forums. Yet the actual encounter with this simple Bourgogne that had lasted and thrived for ten years post-vintage still managed to defy my expectations.

The nose did, anyway: overtly, charmingly minerally, with the fruit lighgtly baked and seared with age. Everything I'd look for in a mature, white Burgundy. The palate is nice enough, flavorsome and long, but lacks density in mid-palate. Still, it was only a generic to begin with...

Off Topic

Because I haven't posted in almost two weeks, some non-vinuous plugs are over-due.

If you haven't heard Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II, yeah, the squeeky voiced guy's back. Might have never been gone 'cept I wouldn't know since I gave up on him in 1995.

Go out and buy the Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime or Three Way Tie For Last. Wny now? No special reason except I was telling a friend about them and I got an ache in my heart thinking about "History Lesson Part 2" and "Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing" and "Courage" and "Tour Siege" and how they bridged pompous 70's studio rock with the ideals of left-wing punk when they covered Steely Dan's "Dr. Wu". Mike Watt once wrote a succint epitaph to his friend, partner and fellow bandmate that went "I love you d. boon. Forever." Minutement fans everywhere carry that pledge for them because d. meant that much to anyone who ever heard him sing or play.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Domenico Clerico, Barbera d'Alba, Trevigne, 2004

I've had this screwball twice in the past, when I found it overextracted. I thought I'd wait a year and opened it some four months ahead of schedule, out of boredom.

It's not overextracted now so much as out of sorts. The nose has settled down and though cloaked by oak, there's nice spicy red fruit that's should have been given center stage. Instead it has to struggle and I don't think the Barbera grape appreciates that kind of hardship. It starts out relatively soft on the palate - in a skewed way, the palate feels limp and under-concentrated after the attack on the nose - but then finishes with hard tannins that weren't really softened by food.

Steroid wine, not my cup... of anything.

Imported by WineRoute, sold for around 120 NIS if my memory serves me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Age, Youth and Beauty - Two German Rieslings (Nov. 3, 2007)

I come to prostelyze German Rieslings again.

Gunderloch, Rheinessen, Rothenberg Nackenheim, Spatlese, 2005

A very round wine, with great length and a solid grip, exhibiting yet again the sexiness of 2005 in Germany. Off dry, with ripe, green apple acidity and minerals to balance. Oddly enough, the nose already hints at mature petrol notes that back up a melange of comely fruit and honey. The sexiness is what I love about 2005, it's not an opulent sexiness, more of an assured caresse on the palate. A lovely gem.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Trepchen, Auslese **, 1992

Obviously mature, with lots of petrol as well as mildew. The palate feels more mature, the flavor profile not as obviously fruity though it has retained a great deal of fruit. More austere and more drying on a comparitively shorter finish, it too boasts fine acidity and minerals, though they're made of a more delicate cloth. This is what I admire in mature Rieslings, the way the fruit takes on a different facet while retaining its vigor as the petrol doesn't simply add shades, it reveals the depths that were there to begin with. Very fine, though not great.

Imported by Giaconda, sold for 207 NIS.

The Gunderloch would win by a point, but it's more a matter of taste and mood.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Williams And Humbert, Dry Sack Solera Especial 15 Years Old (Oct. 27, 2007)

Sherries can be broadly divided into 2 categories, sweet and dry, and so far I prefer Williams and Humbert's sweet sherries over their dry ones. This is one of the best, similar in style and quality to the more famous Old East India from the Lustau house. Though the Dry Sack Especial is labelled an Olorso and the Old East India a Cream Sherry (probably a catch-all phrase as the Old East India is supposedly made in a technique designed to simulate the aging effect of a long sea voyage), they both reek of an old wodden Pirate chest full of dry raisins and dark chocolate. Oh yes, these wines always bring out the romantic side of my notes writing.

The label indicates a non-vintage sherry whose solera components' average age is fifteen years. Olorosos are made from sherry barrels where flor did not thrive so it's an oxiditive style because flor based sherries are protected by the flor layer from the effects of oxygen. Despite the lack of flor in the Oloroso soleras, I usually find the telltale iodine signature in them anyway. Must be something in air in the bodeags. Naturally dry, Olorosos may be sweetened by the addition of Pedro Ximinez, as is the case here. Olorosos - and sweet sherries in general - are exceptional in the sherry world because they can be cellared, or so I've read. I'm guessing aging would reduce the sweetness while endowing them with a welcome, brine-y, meaty overlay, because that's the effect I get the same effect after a few days of airing. If you do cellar them, it's best to store the bottle upright so the glue used in the sherry cork won't affect the wine.

Having said all that, this Oloroso struck out this time.

On the first evening, the wine seemed lackluster and a bit dillute. The nose was was as pungently aromatic as I'd expected but like the palate, lacked focus and vitality. I've had this wine twice in the past and it always showed better a couple of days after opening so I remained hopeful. Second day, the cured meat and olive brine aromas are in full throttle. Really, every thing I love about sherry is in that nose, but the palate is in a middle age crisis. It was the same thing all over on the third and fourth days. Shit happens.

As always, Wikipedia is a good place to look up the terms I didn't bother to explain and even the ones I did.