Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Misc. Notes (Dec. 2008)

Chateau de la Guimoniere, Anjou Blanc, 2005

I came here looking for a quaffer, I found... I don't know what I found. The nose is very intriguing. As in "I can't figure out what this is". There is an undecipherable mineral note that I decided was that of a dusty road on a summer morning, the air dead calm. Somewhere in the background is an apricot farm and someone is making tea. The palate would serve the definition of a quaffer if not for a saline note on the finish. Weird. (Dec. 11, 2008)

Sold by Giaconda for 90 NIS.

Albert Mann, Grand Cru Furstentum, Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes, 2007

One of the wines I missed at the Albert Mann tasting, I caught up with it a couple of days later. A fantastic nose even a dead man would recognize as a Gewurtz. Lychee? Check. Rose petals? Check. Spices? Yup. And there's a specific mineral note that recalls the Furstentum Pinot Gris from said tasting, as well as a hint of white meat. Now on to the palate and my usual complaint with the variety. I discussed it with Anat Sella as we were tasting it and my problem is that even when Gewurztraminer has structure and acidity - and this one does, living up to its Grand Cru status - the heady, fullblown spiciness of the grape overwhelms the acidity and the overall effect is disjointed, as if the acidity was on rim of the palate while all the fruit extract and alcohol is right in the middle. Anat claims this is typical of a young Gewurtz and that maturity will mellow it. Whatever the future holds for this wine, though, it is one of the best Gewurztraminers I have ever tasted and, even after such a short acquaintance, looks to become my personal favorite. 202 NIS. (Dec. 12, 2008)

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Kabinett, Trocken, 2004

One of the wonders of wine is how some samples change so much across a span of a few months. Previously, this wine was all about flint. Now, it presents somewhat mellower facade, as peaches and grapefruits strut before an aromatic screen of chalk, sweet dough, mint and a hint of kerosene, while the palate crouches in a defensive stance, offhandedly echoing the nose over a crisp, minerally frame and a surprising, sweet note on the finish. As the wine opens, the palate offers an increasingly broader specture of flavors while its structure shows no sign of erosion, thus I think the palate is finally living up to its potential and this should drink well over four-five years. Maybe even more, as this wine offers terrific acidity. (Dec. 13, 2008)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2005

Aromatically, it's the same old song for this wine: a gust of sea air as always (shells, sea weed) over citrus fruit and apple skin. The palate is steely and saline. Mouthwatering. Textbook stuff. (Dec. 14, 2008)

Imported by Tomer Gal, sold at Hinawi for 120-130 NIS if you're a 'regular'.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Bourdonnerie Demi Sec, 2003

Poached pears, chalk and flint on the nose. You can feel the residual sugar on the palate yet there is something bitter, almost dour about it at first. This is not really a wine I'd recommend for everyone and I've encountered a bit of bottle variation with it (which I think is due to this wine being on the cusp of a dumb period and some bottles may have entered it sooner than others). Even after the initial glass, I thought I'd stick with my previous hunch, i.e., that it needs more time, and as it opened, it repaid my faith. The aromatics picked up intensity and nuances (cut grass, sweet spices) and the acidity reaffirmed itself and helped the palate find a better balance; while not quite subduing the bitter notes, it seemed to promise to preserve the wine for future growth. (Dec. 20, 2008)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Albert Mann Tasting At Giaconda (Dec. 11, 2008)

I love my kids, I really do, but with my wife away on vacation, my two older girls couldn't handle my four year old son's consternation at my being away for the evening and I had to leave the tasting in the middle. Many thanks for Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen of Giaconda for letting me have a quick go at one of the latter bottles of the tasting as well as a doggie bag. The tasting was enlightening and rewarding and finessed one personal change of opinion, as can be seen below.

Albert Mann is a small, artisan winery from Alsace and you can read about them here. I will focus on the wines, as usual. Those I managed to taste, that is.

Grand Cru Schlossberg, Riesling, 2007

The nose was somehow reminiscent of Champagne, what with the more conventional Riesling aromas of apples being laced with orange blossom. The palate was dry, crisp and minerally, with a spicy finish, and while it didn't show any great complexity in its present incarnation, it packed a lot of flavors on a frame that felt deceptively light. In short, an elegant creature and I greatly enjoyed it. 189 NIS.

Rosenberg, Riesling, 2007

This wine contained more residual sugar, perhaps to make up for a relative lack of breed of this non-GC vineyard. It continued the stylistic direction of the Schlossberg, albeit in a sweeter vein and a touch of funk on the nose. It was more straightforward and more obviously impressive but didn't show the Schollssberg's class. Nor it's acidity. 166.5 NIS

Rosenberg, Riesling, 2001

This wine went through two distinct phases. At first, it gushed forth with petrol aromas that overwhelmed all other nuances. It was nice, because petrol is always nice, but it felt too obvious and at any rate, it greatly overshadowed the palate. In the wine's latter stage, the nose revealed some minerals, parsley and dill. The palate fleshed out as well but at the end of the day, it still left me wanting more. Not for sale.

Alright, so the Rosenberg 2001 proved to be only an intellectual interest. The next flight, however, was a different matter. As I've said before, I'm not a Pinot Gris fan. I liked the variety a few years ago, especially for the saline notes it can sometimes have but I lost interest after a few disappointments. The Pinot Gris flight of the tasting was the first time in a long time I've enjoyed Pinot Gris.

Grand Cru Hengst, Pinot Gris, 2005

Alsatian Pinot Gris is not caressing wine. It can have an overbearing personality, but this wine avoided it. It still left me sitting on the fence, mind you, because a certain bitterness on the finish was too much for me. But I enjoyed its heady mix of quince, beeswax and sea air. 193 NIS.

Grand Cru Furstentum, Pinot Gris, 2005

This made me a convert, if only for that one specific wine. In fact, I liked it so much, I even developed a greater appreciation for the Hengst by way of transferance. An utterly fascinating nose, with a unique aromatic signature none 'round the table could pinpoint. I thought it recalled hot springs, though the salinity nods at Xerez as well. An intellectual delight until the fruit asserted itself and then it became a sensual one as well. A structured wine that is already enjoyable, as is obvious from my note, although I'd guess it still has at least 5 years of development. 193 NIS.

Alas, at this point, my little angels at home tolled the midnight bell a couple of hours early.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling, Gueberschwihr, 2004 (Dec. 6, 2008)

Far freakin' out!

If a good German Riesling purrs like a finely tuned engine, an Alsace hums and sputters along the expressway like a bat out of hell. And from my limited experience, none roar louder than a Zind. Here, the nose seduces with aromas of baked pear and and apples, flint, dill and slate. And, oh boy, an appealing substratum of smoke. The palate has the lush roundness of an off-dry Riesling coming into its prime along with a certain quinine bitterness I find, and don't always like, in Alsace. Though here it is balanced by the sweetness of the finish. There is a fiery acidity as well and an oilyiness that together form a hardfisted - as opposed to crisp - structure and mouthfeel that could stand three-five more years of softening up in the cellar.

Imported by WineRoute. I remember three years ago, someone told me, "Alsace rocks. Now, all we have to do is convince the Shaked family to give a good discount on Zind-Humbrecht." They got the message because, for the last 2-3 years, they've been selling the non-Grand Crus for 135 NIS. And more power to them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Recession? Depression?

To paraphrase an old joke, a recession is when this here wine geek cuts back on his cru classe budget.

A depression is when he can't even afford a cru bourgeois.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Misc Notes (Nov. 2008)

Lilian Ladouys, Saint Estephe, 2000

Jammy cranberry fruit on the nose with notes of smoke and spices. Spicier on the palate than I first expected, long but not obviously Bordeaux, quite new World. Medium-bodied, not quite as balanced as I'd like and not quite up to expectations for such a vintage. Time does work its wonders as the nose gains greater details and nuances, those cranberries turning into currants and strawberries, the palate also growing more elegant. But even then it's not a very convincing wine. (Nov. 4, 2009)

Imported by WineRoute, sold for about 120 NIS four years ago.

Domaine le Couroulu, Vacqueyras, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, 2003

Dark, young purple hue and very young as well on both nose and palate. With ripe, almost jammy aromas, this is just about as ripe as a nose can get and retain any red fruit characteristics. It is tempered by initially subtle mineral and pepper notes that gain complexity and presence with airing. The palate is (considering the nose and the hot vintage) surprisingly structured with good acidity, soft yet delineating tannins and a saline, savoury finish. Parker says drink until 2009 but I beg to differ. Though I know what it means because it is a very compelling wine right now, despite a certain lack of stuffing on the mid-palate, but I think it has about four years left. (Nov. 12, 2008)

Imported by Giaconda for 135 NIS.

Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005

Comes flying out of the gate with sigh-inducing pear and flint aromatics with a touch of oak that is also present on the palate. However, it is well balanced by the saline finish. How saline? My five year old son said "it's a salty wine, abba". Exactly. I could pick out other faults besides the oak, like a certain greenness and lack of concentration, but this is just a Bourgogne and as such packs a lot of quality, almost village level and if I were to be too harsh on it, I'd have nothing to drink while I wait for Jobard's bigger wines to mature. (Nov. 20, 2008)

Sold by Tomer Gal for about 150 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Kalstadter Steinacker, Gewurztraminer Spatlese, 2005

Saumgen is Koehler-Ruprecht's great vineyard, but as it is devoted solely to Riesling, if you want to see how the magic plays out with other varieties, you need to go to Steinacker. A worthwhile pursuit in this case, as you get the classic Gewurztraminer traits - lychee, spices, a certain headiness no matter what the alcohol level is, the feeling that your palate is heavily coated with spices - with a certain German restraint. And there are a a couple of contradictions in place to beguile the innocent. Although the acidity feels as low keyed as its Alsatian counterparts - it's not, really, just concentrate and you'll find it but its obscured by all those spices - the wine as a whole feels cooler. Although the label does not say "trocken", it feels very dry except for a burst of sweetness on the end. It's almost at the start of its drinking window, with the fruit somewhat submerged in mid-palate, and I would give it five more years of life (Nov. 22, 2008).

Imported by Giaconda, sold for 106 NIS.

Domaine de la Mordoree, Lirac, La Reine Des Bois, 2005

Arguably one of the benchmark Liracs, this very young wine as deep a colored a wine as I've ever seen and it's quite monolithic at this point, with black fruit and licorice melding with hints of pepper on both nose and palate. The ripe fruit starts out sweetish before being clobbered by the persistent, yet smooth, tannins and throughout the evening, the wine displays a juggling act between sweetness, size and structure. I'd like to say it finesses this juggling act but I have to admit it's not very consistent and loses grasp of the structure more often than not towards the end. Needs air right now or, better yet, more cellar time, as patience is rewarded by lovely aromatics that recall an Oriental bazaar. My other bottle will wait some four years. (Nov. 29, 2008)

Imported by WineRoute. Old age is catching up with me so I don't remember exactly how much it cost, but I think it was about 130 NIS on discount.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

J. L. Chave, Saint Joseph, Offerus, 2003 (Nov. 27, 2008)

Sex sex sex!

Did I get your attention? Because I want to tell you about a really sexy wine, religious image on label (which is not easily noticeable) nowithstanding.

Recently, I've been sticking the wines I open at home in the monthly "Misc Notes" post but this lovely creature really deserves a post of its own. Costing about 130 NIS on discount at WineRoute, these days, as the world hovers on the brink of financial ruin, I still open wines at this price point at home for my own private pleasure and it's probably the best red wine I could find for that price. How good is it? I've never tasted Chave's big Hermitages but I imagine it's a better introduction to his magic than his negociant Hermitage, sold by WineRoute for about 20 shekels more.

This is a wine that belies the warmth of the 2003 vintage by being both fresh and structured. The nose is classic, elegant France. I mean, it has that class about it that is common to Bordeaux, Burgundy and, at times, Rhone. The nose is ripe, yet restrained, with meaty, earthy notes that are so well counterpointed by the suave fruit that they never become rustic and there is also a light hint of bottle stink that is very precocious in its fashion. The palate is just as gorgeous, round fruit complemented by savoury tannins and that rusty persona that gives mid-tier wines that extra gallon of gas. I can imagine it going for a decade more but in the spirit of this post's introduction, let's be blunt and go for a direct, sexist metaphor: if this was a woman, I'd want her right here, right now, not later, no matter how well she might mature.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Night Tasting Chez Ido Meir (Nov. 15, 2008)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese, 2005

This wine reminded Ran Shapira of the Jos. Christoffel 1994 Spatlese we all love dearly and we all walked into the same trapdoor with him, agreeing with him. At least we got Mosel right, but how did three responsible adults who drink German Rieslings regularly screw up the vintage so badly? Excuses, excuses: I'm not saying it's aged prematurely but the fruit isn't upfront anymore and while there's no petrol aromas, there's enough dill notes to suggest age. In hindsight, I found some apple pie and dough to suggest youthful yeasts, but hindsight is worthless. I would say it's delicate enough and the alcohol low enough that its utter drinkability fooled us all.

Price unknown.

Gaja, Barolo, Gromis, 2000

We serve the wines at our tastings blind and the sport is to try to identify them and you don't really want your wine to be identified too quickly. This was my wine and when, two sentences into his anlysis of the wine, Amir Sheinman said it reminded him of the Gromis, I blanched. A wine of two minds in that its nose is very modern and barrique-infested while the palate has length, depth, terrific acidity and an Old World personality. Actually, I'm a bit harsh in my short depiction of the nose: it's not as outstandingly oak-ish as my mini-rant may read, it's just that when you taste the excellent fruit, you realize a more introverted winemaking style would have produced more complex aromatics. Drinking well, albeit needing time in glass. And food.

Imported by WineRoute, sold for 250 NIS-ish about three years ago.

Chateau Canon, Saint Emilion, 1990

I thought it was a super-Tuscan and when Amir wanted to know why, my logic was very convoluted. The thing is, I really know shit about Bordeaux but Ran Shapira can usually spot the village and I can often reverse-engineer his logic and spot the specifics that led to his deduction. But this wine seemed lack a certain specificity at first, despite its obvious quality, and I had a hunch Ran wouldn't be able to place it. Not the clearest of thought processes, I admit, so I was relieved when Ran confirmed that, had he not known what the wine was, he probably wouldn't have been able to make a successful guess. It's very elegant with few Cabernet Franc green notes and keeps unfolding and undressing, showing chocolate and leather. A winner.

Price unknown.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Italian Tasting Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked with a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture, Don Anselmo, 1997

A fascinating Old World wine. Browning yet solid color. The nose has a signature of cherries at first, then black fruits, but as this wine isn’t really about fruit, the prominent notes from the first are of an intriguing herbal mix and some earth. The palate shows good acidity, the kind that backs up a solid core of fruit and doesn’t make a lot of noise; a spicy, lingering finish; bitter tannins that are very well integrated; and it’s so well balanced you don’t feel how full the body is. Took some 2+ hours to open. (Nov. 29, 2006)

Imported by Anavim, this must have been badly stored somewhere and others bottles I'd had were not up to notch. I bought it mostly at discount for 150 NIS. Who knows what went wrong? A shame as when this wine is in good condition, it is unique.

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture, Rotondo, 1998 ?

The first impression is that of a closed, tannic, serious wine. A color of ink black with browning at the rims, with good legs. On the nose, the fruits are masked by something slightly unclean I couldn’t quite place. As the wine opens, the nose shows in turn sour cherries, black fruits, oak and leather, freshly turned earth, flowers and finally a big bang of chocolate. Full bodied, intense with good length. Grows sweeter and fruitier winding up as sweet as it was tannic at first, a good food match (don’t think steak, think cow!) that took over 2.5 hours to open. Should hold for a couple of years more at least. (Jun. 5, 2005)

This was Wine Of The Month at VinoCigar and so it cost me 120 NIS. I don't remember what its shelf price was. I think within a year, this style would become too modern for me.

Francesco Rinaldi, Barbera d'Alba, 2003

The cork was very damp. A bright ruby-red color and a nose that was initially very reticient, but opened up quickly to show red fruits, plums and vanilla with a nice overlay of spices. A spicy plate, with soft tannins and a pleaasantly bitter, reasonable length of a finish. A very good food wine of no great complexity. (Sep.19, 2005)

Cascina Orsolina, Barbera d'Asti, Bricco dei Cappuccini, 2000 ?

A heavily oaked wine, anyone’s call whether this is appropiate for a Barbera. Me, I don’t have enough experience to be biased, but I did feel the oak overwhelmed the fruit, and if the fruit ever regains its footing, it would be a much better wine. Very enjoyable within it’s own style, with heavy aromas and flavors of vanilla, coffee and chocolate hiding the fruits at first, but after 90 minutes or so, it’s more like cigar box harmonized with crushed currants and wild berries. (Sep. 25, 2005)

Cascina Orsolina, Grignolino d'Asti, 2004

Almost rose in color. Nose of strawberries - that later turn to cherries - and spices, with maybe a hint of leather. Medium bodied, with balanced acidity giving it a nice sort of tartness. Opens nicely in glass even showing some coffee. (Aug. 28, 2005)

Bianchi, Ghemme, 1999

Starts out rather promising, with a nose of red fruit and dried cherries, and a hint of toasted bread. Then the nose turns towards black fruits and vanilla and other barrel-derived spices. The palate is fairly balanced with nice acidity but somehow doesn’t feel special enough, just another little Old World appelation with a New Wave tweak. I assume it will soften in time but not improve. (Dec. 4, 2006)

The last four wines were imported by the Doosh. Doosh offers an alternative in Piedmont to the well traversed path offered by WineRoute. Sometimes it works.

Planeta, Chardonnay, 1999 ?

Complex nose that took hours to decipher: tropical fruits, candy, honey, maple, some spices perhaps and through it all, lots of vanilla and oak. At first, the abundant oak made me think the bottle was off, but in time, the oak became the framework and not the picture. Full-bodied with a long aftertaste. (Apr. 12, 2004)

Subsequent tastings and personal growth lead me to believe I would no longer find the oak here merely "the framework". Imported by France-Israel Group and overpriced, as is their wont.

Planeta, Merlot, 2000 ?

Initially a plummy, chocolate-y, modern - even internationalized - modern version of Merlot, this one develops notes of roasted coffee and herbs in glass to show distinct Mediterranean character. Full-bodied, long, tannic and austere on the palate, it looks to be 2-3 years before its peak. (Oct. 26, 2005)

Umani Ronchi, Rosso Conero, Cumaro, 2000 ?

Deep purple color. It has a nice nose: mature red fruits turning into black, with funky sweat and later cofee and herbs. The palate startes succulent but turns heavy and a bit over-oaky, with a grainy feel and a drying, bitter finish. (Feb. 12, 2006)

Give HaKerem credit for importing a wine made entirely from Montepulciano grapes. Then fine them 200 dollars for pricing it at over 100 NIS and send them directly to jail...

Avignonesi, Vendemmia Tardive, 1993

Gold colored, with butter, honey, dried fruits, spices and hints of petrol on the nose. Balanced sweetness on the palate with honey and melons with a mildly pungent streak thoughout. Still refreshing despite its age and I’d guess it’s drink now and for a couple years more. (Aug. 6, 2005)

Bought in Table and Vine for about 30 USD for a half bottle. I still don't know what this wine was and I was never able to find a review anywhere. An alternative to Vin Santo.

Castello di Gabbiano, Tuscany, Alleanza, 1997 ?

A New World wine that manages to masquerade as an Old World wine for some time after opening, showing red and black fruits, with some olives and oak and a good dose of acidity. Then the oak takes over, allowing for a very grainy texture on the palate, while numbing the rest, mostly the acidity. A full-bodied, tannic, long wine, that was probably opened at least 2 years too early. Not my cup of tea, but well-made, though not in the Super-Tuscan major league. (Nov. 7, 2005)

I've since recognized that this sort of wine deceives you into thinking it just needs more time. Bought in Atlanta for 40-50 USD.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Tuscany, Mormoreto, 1996

An elegant wine. A complex nose with red and black fruits, spices and characoal, though I must admit the latter overpower the fruit at times. Very structured on the palate, fine, ripe acidity and enough tannins for a few more years. Very smooth and quite long and though packed with flavors, it still feels like the palate should develop more nuance to live up to the label’s reputation. (Oct. 26, 2006)

Bought on sale at Anavim for 150 NIS.

Terrabianca, Tuscany, Campaccio, 1997

A deep nose to kill for: mature black fruits frames by spices and roasted meats. A whole dinner, in short. The palate is broad and long, complex, powerful yet harmonious; and it goes downhill after an hour or so. But its really a wine to share with friends, anyway. Approaches greatness. (Jan. 9, 2006)

Carpineto, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, 1998

A nose of sweet red fruits, sweet spices and herbs, a hint of sweat and leather. The palate shows less spices but is succulent and has a slightly salty and minerally on the finish. Medium-full bodied and elegant with silky, integrated tannins. Seems like on a peak stretch of a few years. (Jul. 4, 2005)

Bought in VinoCigar for abour 160 NIS. I should start buying these again.

Falesco, Umbria, Montiano, 2000

Fantastic nose of ripe red and black fruits, saddle leather, chocolate. The palate echoes the nose yet remains austere and tough and not entirely together for a couple of hours. A mix of old and new that lack some complexity right now but I suspect that will come in time. I like this wine without quite being able to explain why. (Apr. 16, 2006)

Falesco's 100% Merlot has had fluctuating prices due to overlapping importers over the years. The shelf price at Anavim was close to 300 NIS while 2004's were listed at about 180 NIS by WineRoute and finally offered on sale at two for 300.

Allegrini, Valpolicella, La Poja, 1995

A modern wine that displays the Allegrini elegance. Black cherries, spices and lots of chocolate on the nose. The palate is deep and broad, full-bodied and still damn tannic. In fact, something about this wine is still young and closed, at least in the first 30-60 minutes. To sum it up, it’s like dark bitter chocolate with a dash of chilli. Drink in the next 3-4 years at least. (Aug. 10, 2005)

Bought at Sam's in Chicago for 50 USD.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Night Tasting (Nov. 8, 2008)

Sometimes I think my wife considers these Saturday night do's to be an Upper Class Twit Club...

Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Combe Aux Moines, 2002

This was at first very discrete aromatically, even though the bottle had been open for an hour after letting down the shoulders a bit. Quality Pinot fruit was clearly present but it lacked detail. The palate too was unassuming, soft and elegant yet lacking the presence you'd expect from a Cote de Nuits 1er Cru and the power you'd associate with Gevrey. Twenty minutes later I was at the end of my glass after a small refill and finally the nose became a more fully fleshed Bourgogne nose of of a somewhat glossy disposition while the palate became more muscular while retaining that elegance. Quite good.

Imported by WineRoute, this was sold, as far as I recall, for something in the mid 200's (NIS).

Tardieu-Laurent, Cornas Vieilles Vignes, 2000

This is Tardieu-Laurent's premier Cornas cuvee and while the next wine beat it easily, it was arguably an uneven match. In its own right, this was a fine wine, though a bit too round and sweetish for my taste (like the other 2000 Cornas I'd tasted) though most of the sweetness was well counterpointed by juicy acidity. The nose will get you anyway, with Provencal herbs (never really smelled the real thing but this isn't the first time I've whiffed this aroma in wines described in reviews as showing Provencal herbs so I think I've finally earned the right to use the term), flowers and cocoa floating over a black-dominated fruit profile.

I bought this bottle in D.C. for about 50 USD but back in the days when WineRoute imported the 2001 version, it was sold in the mid 200's.

Tardieu-Laurent, Cote Rotie, 1997

This was the real deal, holy shit (quite literally, in a way). The nose made me shiver. It was just what Rhone freaks adore: Cherries topping black fruits, herbs again but best of all that gutter stink that quickly blew off to reveal gorgeous smoked meat aromas. The palate might have been even better because this bottle offered zero palate fatigue, so savoury and saline with a structure that carried a lot of flavors without letting them get out of hand.

Price unknown but other vintages were imported by WineRoute and sold for 350-400.

Alion, Ribera del Duero, 2000

This wine, to me, shows the fallacy of scoring wines, because it was objectively as good as the Cote Rotie was, arguably technically better, but it just didn't move me as much. So what would be the point of acknowledging that it's a 92 pointer? It would mean something if I were a professional critic but inasmuch as I'm not attempting to write a Consumer's Guide here, I'll just ignore the score. However, if you like classy, very, very well made wines that don't ignore their origins, this is a wine for you, with its round black fruit complemented by hints of spices and earth and excellent length. I look forward to tasting a well-matured Alion from a better vintage and learning to love it and not just appreciate it.

Imported by HaKerem and its price ranges from 250 to 350 NIS, depnding on where you buy it and who you know. And if you don't like that, write a letter to your Congressman.

Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes, 2000

This was just a nice wine and interesting in that its faults somehow offered intellectual interest. It was not very long - okay, it was short - but complex enough for all that. And despite its low acidity, it had enough spicy apricot flavors to balance its sweetness so it came off as structured if not racy.

Imported by WineRoute. It's a Bordeaux so its price varies from year to year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giaconda Friday Noon Tasting (Nov. 7, 2008)

This was one of the periodic tastings that Giaconda hold on Friday late mornings/noons.

First off was a German Riesling, the first wine imported by Giaconda to reach it's third consecutive appearance in Israel: Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Schieferterrassen, 2006. As usual, it is an off-dry, yet crisp, wine, with a sweet nose dominated by apples and notes of peaches and mild spices. It breaks from the 2004 and 2005 by possessing a more subdued acidity and some bitterness on the finish; while it is almost as slick as they were, it hints at more bulk and its structure doesn't flow as naturally, the sweetness and acidity not yet integrated. It's still a good wine and a very good value. 107 NIS.

Following that were two reds from Ribera del Duero. Val Sotillo, Crianza, 2004 is famed winery Bodegas Ishmael Arroyo's entry level wine. Arroyo is one of the clasic names in Ribera, and, allowing for the fact that like most Israeli wine collectors I've only had encounters with four-five other names from the area, I'd say it's very typical. Forward fruit tempered with an animalisic essance on the nose and a mineral streak on the palate. Back in the days when a wine like Condado de Haza was the pinacle of my wine drinking aspirations, I'd have bought a case of these but these days I just see it as a nice enough wine though I'd rather pay more for the Reservas or Gran Reservas and get more stuffing and structure. I might buy a couple for entertaining laymen friends and I'm sure it should go great in restaurants. 108 NIS.

Montecastro, 2005 is a much more modern winery but while it is made in a different style then the Val Sotillo Crianza, I don't see the differences in terms of Old vs. New World. It has the sweeter fruit but a finer structure and is much less forward. It should obviously be compared to the Val Sotillo's Reservas and upwards, but since it was presented side by side with the Crianza, it's hard to avoid comparisons and in that context, the Montecastro comes off as a much more interesting and idiosyncratic wine.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Spanish Tasting Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked with a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Vina Alarba, Calatayud, Pago San Miguel, 2001

An oddball I enjoyed as a visit but I’m not sure I’d want a steady diet. Deep dark black-red, with a nose that initially smelled like those vicious cherry-liquor filled chocolates my aunts would force on me in childhood. Thankfully, the palate wasn’t like that at all, more like succulent cherries with a hint of moccha and at any rate, after an hour or so, the chocolate blew off and revealed sweet black cherries, some olives and a hint of boiled cabbage. The tannins are soft, the length is okay, not amazing, and there’s a good acidity that at first seemed to be at odds with all that chocolate on the nose. (May 9, 2005)

I bought this 100% Grenache at Atlanta for around 20 USD in 2005.

Borsao, Campo de Borja, Tres Pico, 2003

A different facet of Grenache than I had encountered before. Very pure red fruit on the nose and on the palate, initially with very little other nuances. Opened up after an about an hour to show some spiciness but that was more or less it. Very modern and utterly unlike the other Borsao wines I’d experienced before. (May 13, 2005)

Borsao used to be imported by WineRoute and they used to quote the Parker score for this wine, which is the one they did not carry. However, the labels WineRoute sold were much more Old World and thus more to my liking, especially the 1996 Reserva. Bought in Atlanta for about 18 USD.

Artazuri, Navarra, Santa Cruz de Artazuri, 2001

A vibrant dark ruby color with no sign of browning. Shows aromas of red and black fruits, camp fire, leather, spices. The palate is disjointed and austere at first and needs 2 hours to open but then is long, rich, minerally and savoury. Still on the young side for my taste and should keep well for 4-5 years. (Apr. 23, 2006)

This 100% Grenache was sold by WineRoute for 150 NIS.

Condado de Haza, Ribera del Duero, 1996

A bottle bought from a very warm store in Madrid. High filled neck, very very damp cork that was starting to push out. A very opaque purple-brown color. The nose is very meaty, with currants and cherries, sweet herbs, cocoa and coffee. Very full-bodied and still tannic at nine years of age, with balanced acidity and a minerally and almost cheese-like finish. After half an hour, the fruit recedes and the nose becomes spicier then the components fall into harmony again. It’s a very thick wine, almost grainy in texture and while similar to the 1999 and 2000 vintages which I’m familiar with, it seems like a monster-truck version of those two vintages and upon pouring a glass, it feels like it’s unceremoniously flexing its muscles before calming down. Has quite a few years left ahead of it. (Aug. 18, 2005)

Sierra Cantabria, Rioja, Coleccion Privada, 1999

Sweet-ish nose:mainly black fruits with some reds, leather, coffee, roasted herbs, maybe chocolate. Balanced ripeness, albeit low acidity, good length. Very modern and seems like a premium-wine-by-the-numbers sort of wine that would have been more impressive had it come from somewhere else; but this being Rioja, you might expect more romance and mystery out of it. But a well-made wine nonetheless. (Nov. 4, 2006)

Sold by WineRoute for about 190 NIS.

Conde de Valdemar, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1996

A mature color with no signs of fading. A mature nose of cherries, earth and leather. The palate is less complex than the nose, despite a spicy kick on the aftertaste when matched with a good food match. Medium-full bodied with soft tannins, smooth and with good acidity yet lacking some vibrancy. Depending on the food pairing and time after opening, could last anywhere from a year to three. Bottom line: the pedigree is evident yet you feel it is somehow betrayed. (May 8, 2005)

Muga, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1991

The nose is a complex mixture of ripe red fruits with a thick overlay of herbs and vegetable stew and some leather, that at first has a faint whiff of balsamic vinegar. The body is medium-sized and elegant, complex and not especially powerful, but very smooth, with the tannins very present yet integrated. (Oct. 10, 2005)

Muga, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Prado Enea, 1994

Mature and complex Old World aromas of black and red fruit, sweet spices, earth, cured meat. The palate is at first all about secondary and tertiary flavors, with the fruit safely in the background; but time brings out the fruit, which strikes a lovely balance with the initial savoury, meaty flavors and hints at citrus fruits. Very smooth texture, the tannins and acidity well integrated in a medium-bodied frame. A better bottle than last time, that focuses on complexity and harmony in favor of power. (Oct. 7, 2006)

God, I enjoyed Muga so much over the years. This last bottle was sold for 60 or 80 NIS by Haifa's Special Reserve during the aftermath of the Second Lebanese War (don't ask).

Castillo Ygay, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1989

Let’s start off with what’s it’s not: it’s not a blockbuster, it’s not a wine for kings, ministers, brokers or movers. It’s a wine for quiet monks or mediating artists. It has a lovely nose of sweet red fruits, tobacco and a bit of smoke, that gains meaty and mushroomy overtones in the glass. The palate starts of very acidic, not exactly imbalanced but enough to make its appreciation a matter of personal taste. It has good grip and length but doesn’t bombard you with flavors, rather makes you dig in for them. (Aug. 15, 2005)

I know the name of the winery is Bodegas Marques de Murrieta but everyon knows it as Ygay. I bought it in a non air-conditioned wine store in Madrid for about 40 euros. These old style Riojas are so durable...

Bodegas Riojanas, Rioja, Gran Reserva, 1994

Only a second tier Gran Reserva but a very good one. The two years since I opened my own bottle plus the storage conditions at my host’s apartment may have pushed it past its peak but its pedigree is still obvious. The nose has enough mature, albeit somewhat muted, Rioja aromas to tantalyze and only thirty-some minutes after opening does its softening and fraying structure on the palate reveal its age. Its maturity is a matter of taste and Rioja fans will adore it. I did. (July 24, 2005)

About 30 euros at the Madrid duty free.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - French Historical Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Domaine Brana, Irouleguy, Rouge, 1999

First sign of maturity is the browning color. The nose is fleshed out right from the start: earthy, leathery, tobacco, a hint of chocolate at first, cassis, red and black cherries, pepper, a pinch of brett. The palate is hollow at first but fills out nicely and follows the nose with flavors of sour cherries and tangy tobacco-ish bite. It is mellow with fresh acidity, medium-bodied, fairly long, with soft, sweet tannins that manage to sustain a firm backbone. A cross between France and Spain (no wonder if you look at a map), it is elegant enough for high class with above average complexity. At it’s peak and should last at least 2 more years. My cup of tea. (Nov. 9, 2005)

Wow, I can't believe HaKerem used to import this stuff. It was a bold choice for the time. It wasn't quite cheap enough to be an alternative for Bordeaux and they were still trying to unload it three years after they imported this vintage to Israel in 2002. I bought about three bottles, never at the same price. It was listed for 170 NIS, though.

Domaine du Mas Clanc, Banyuls, Rimage, 2003 ?

On the nose, ripe black forest fruits and chocolate with a hint of spices, nothing to suggest the generous sweetness on the palate, that is almost like chocolate liquer, albeit balanced by acidity and the liveliness of the fruit. What tannins are present are hardly noticeable. (Jul. 5, 2005)

Another Table and Vine purchase. This cost 17 USD for a half bottle. A good price if you like Banyuls.

Chateau du Cedre, Cahors, Heritage, 2001

A black-colored, warm weather Old World wine. Aromas and flavors of red fruits that turn black, some earth and brett, spices and herbs, roasted meats. Full-bodied, tannic. Goes through an oaky phase and pulls out of it. Needs food. Should be held for 2 years. (Mar. 12, 2006)

Another New Hampshire purchase? I don't recall. Don't remember the price, either.

Hugues de Beauvignac, Picpoul de Pinet, 2005

Easy drinking can be a virtue when a wine is crunchy and supple enough that you don’t notice yourself pouring one glass after another, while in the back of your mind you are able to note a few nice touches. Like the great acidity and the way the minerals and mild spcies complement the melons to leave a limpid yet precise impression. A cross between a Chablis and a Sauvignon Blanc? (Jul 16, 2006)

A Shimon Lasry import. He used to sell it for about 40 NIS. Damn good value. I haven't had this for a couple of years but I'm sure I'd still love it.

Louis Bernard, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rouge, 1999

Hebral notes floating over lovely red fruit. Complex nose that fades in time but the palate sustains. Balanced and with very good length but it lacks elegance and maybe power to be outstanding. At its peak and certainly has enough acidity and tannins on the finish to suggest it has 3-5 years of life left at least. (Oct. 15, 2006)

A good also-ran CdP by an also-ran importer. If I had another bottle, I could tell you who imported it but it never really registered on my brain cells. Cost about 170 NIS as I recall.

Chapoutier, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Bernardine, 1998 ?

An elegant and fairly complex nose of cherries, spices and maybe a hint of grilled meat, and perhaps some damp earth. The palate took some time to open. Medium bodied with a fairly long finish. Needed a few hours to open and then seemed only a few years before its peak - or past it? Hard to tell and maybe it was just another off bottle. (Oct. 17, 2004)

At the time, I wasn't a good enough taster to tell the difference between a dumb bottle needing air and an over-the-hill bottle. Anyway, I have always suspected the Scottish Company didn't store these wines right. At least one other bottle seemed just as tired. I think they sold it for about 180 NIS but I coould be wrong.

Domaine de Monpertuis, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Blanc, 2001

Starts off all tropical fruits, grapefruit and lime and fresh as spring air, with a hint of earthiness and minerals on the finish. Develops complexity in glass and the balance between fruits and minerals shifts. Long and just spicy enough. (Mar. 24, 2005)

Weird. Is it dumb or what? It’s got a nose of roasted peanuts and pea-soup and the plate is mildly spicy. And that’s it. It’s kind of like the Hermitage Blanc Tomer brought to my Rhone tasting. (May 12, 2006)

Bought at Table and Vine for about 30 USD. I love the first bottle so much I went and bought another one the next time I was in the neighborhood. Lotta good that done me.

Vieux Telegraph, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Crau, Blanc, 2001

First impression: sightly oxidized, with herbs and cooked vegetables on the nose, but without the peanuts that were prominent on last white CdP of the same age I had (Monpertuis). Even more shut-down on the palate. After a short decanting, I can pick up melons and those hints of oxidation morph into a buttery-nutty sensation. The palate still takes over an hour to open after decanting. A very interesting if somewhat frustrating experience. (Aug. 10, 2006)

Sold by WineRoute for 220 NIS or so.

Guigal, Condrieu, La Doriane, 2001

Somewhat of an expectations-defying experience. Full of minerals and spices at first, crispy almost like a Chablis. Even when the tropical fruits come to fore, mostly pineapple, it still never quite lives up to the hedonistic style I expected. Bone dry, a wine to think about and delicious throughout. (Apr. 20, 2005)

Perrin et Fils, Cotes du Rhone Village Rasteau, l'Andeol, 2001

A rustic wine (pun intended). An initial blast of smoky red fruit and pepper followed by a good measure of brett and a hint of cedar. A fairly long tannic finish. A bit more complex than previous tastings though power and not complexity is its trump card (while elegance was never in the running). At its peak and should hold for a year or so. (Aug. 29, 2005)

Sold by WineRoute for about 70 NIS. Man, those were the days.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2002 ?

Pleasant nose with candied red fruits, pepper and hints of forest floor. The palate is less satisfying. Medium bodied, prickling tannins, lacking balance and managing to be both tart and somewhat too sweet. And short. The nose improves some in glass and the palate also, though the latter not by a great deal. So, it’s an interesting wine that reflects a harvest damned by all. (Oct. 22, 2006)

The nose was much better this time, truly fleshed out with great depth and complexity. But the palate is very short, almost giving a whiplash when it ends. (Dec. 9, 2006)

A terrible vintage WineRoute struggle to get rid off at 90 NIS (after a 20% discount). After that experiece they stopped importing Graillot for a couple of years.

Domaine du Joncier, Lirac, 2001

At first, an oddly muted nose of black cherries and some chocolate and liquor. The palate is tight too, with a short dry finish, soft tannins and a medium-full body. After an hour, the nose reveals red fruits and spices and the palate becomes spicier and earthier. The overall effect is rustic, even coarse and somewhat unfocused... Then, after 2.5 hours, the fruits just burst out on the nose and palate as the wine finds its focus and makes a spectacular leap into a rustic sort of ellegance and near excellence. Not a great wine, not a complex wine, but simply a charming wine that needs some time. (May 17, 2005)

Now where did I buy this?

Alain Graillot, Saint Joseph, 2000

The nose is fairly deep and complex: ripe wild berries, pepper, smoke and herbs. At first it was all very ripe fruit punch aromas and needed an hour to blow that off. The palate shows a lot of acidity almost jammy fruitiness with more than a hint of lemon on the finish and ruins the good impression made by the nose. This might be too much for some but I like it. (Apr. 30, 2006)

Sold byWineRoute for 150 NIS.

Tardieu-Laurent, Costieres de Nimes, 2001

A classy, elegant and modern wine. At four years of age, the color is still opaquely youthful. The nose starts out with a prominent note of orange peel, then shows flowery overtones and ripe yet vibrant fruits (that shift from red to black) as it develops some roast meat, wet forest floor and a biscuity/herbal layer.The palate, while less complex, displays the same shiny vibrancy, propped up by balanced acidity, good grip, solid length, elgant if plummy-ripe fruit and silky tannins. I have no doubt it should keep a while, but it seems to have reached a finely-tuned peak. (Dec. 15, 2005)

An interesting import decision by WineRoute (unless T-D forced it upon them in some packaging deal). It cost about 140-150 NIS and I'd buy it again. I'd buy anything from T-D the mighty powers that be in the Shaked family decided to import again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Misc Notes (Oct. 2008)

Leitz, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz, Riesling Spatlese, 2006

My wife's tasting note was a succint yelp, "what a delicious wine!" which sums it up very well. My somewhat longer note follows. The nose is lovely, very fruity with mineral accents: white fruits and apple pie, chalk morphing into slate, flowers on the verge of rotting. The palate is very harmonic now, the sweetness of the fruit so well balanced by the citrus-like acidty, they wrap around each other like acrobatic lovers. Very straightforward, it doesn't deal in great complexity and offers an intense attack before stopping somwhat short. Delicious, like the missus said, and I'd drink it over the next five-seven years. Maybe more. It's so complete right now it's hard to tell but it seems to me it won't go into any dumb phase in the future. (Oct. 1, 2008)

Sold for about 100 NIS by Giaconda. Excellent value.

Rebholz, Pfalz, "R" Chardonnay Spatlese Trocken, 2005

Tasting this mystery wine blind, I guessed was a Pinot Blanc from Alsace. There was a sort of spicy-honeyed sensation on both nose and palate that seemed Alsatian yet the wine was too round, despite being obviously dry, to be a Pinot Gris. There was something vaguely Burgundian about it, though, but I have to admit that was more obvious once the bottle was unveiled. I just can't ignore the fact that my senses will pick up certain things once I'm fully aware of the wine's origin. So label me a mediocre taster if you will, but if you have a chance, listen to this wine instead. The nose is very much Bourgogne-like, no matter what caused me to pick up those characteristics. It wiggles and changes and runs through a whole gamut of Burgundy signatures: nuts and honey, then white meat and flint. And all throughout, it displays a certain spiciness that does recall Alsace and not really Germany. Am I saying it's an internationally-styled Chardonnay? Well, it doesn't go for the usual tactics of such wines (I'm thinking Planeta or Katzrin, for instance). It feels oak-aged without any overt signs of oak and boasts a certain saline minerality, as well as a different mouthfeel than other Chardonnay I've drunk, a different shape of roundess, never tasting sweet or cloying. So even if I couldn't pick out its locale, it feels as though it belonged to a specific point of origin. And it tastes real good.

Listed by Giaconda for 185 NIS, it is just about sold out.

Chateau du Seuil, Graves Blanc, 2005

Though this is a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Gris (50%, 40% and 10% respectively), it smells and tastes an awful lot like a Chablis on the initial pour: lemon and lime laced with chalk and flint. Johnson and Robinson's Atlas Of Wine refers to their wines as "understated, oak-aged dry whites" which is right on the button at first, as, three years post-vintage, the oak is noticeable but not too offensive and the wine is restrained and elegant. Then, after an hour or so, the oak becomes too prominent and a trace of rusticity flares up, though overall it's still a good drop. I think the elegance will reassert itself in a couple of years but currently, the overall package yearns for a rest. (Oct. 4, 2008)

Sold by Giaconda for 117 NIS (seemingly a magical number for them as a lot of their "value" wines are listed for the exact same price).

Marc Tempe, Alsace, Zellenberg, Pinot Gris, 2004

A classic nose that you immediatley recognise as Alsace even if you don't immediately pick the variety: a melange of ripe pears and apricots over alot of pepper and hints of smoke. The palate is lush with a spike of bitterness on the finish, which I sometimes like and sometimes don't; here I like it as it balances the ripe, sweet notes. Lately, I haven't personally found Pinor Gris very balanced on the palate yet this one is, even if at times it seems it struggles. But the struggle lends it character. (Oct. 14, 2008).

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

Robert Weil, Rheingau, Riesling Spatlese, 2007
Very tight, the nose showing ripe apples and pears with sweet dough and spices and hints of flint underneath. A very interesting nose though I would expect more elegance from a Rheingau even at this early stage, I think. The palate is considerably drier, showing some faint sweetness on the palate only after a lot of coaxing. A good wine but not especially striking right now and only somewhat weightier than a kabinett. The terroirist in me is inclined to blame its indifferent character on the lack of site specifity but it might be just its extreme youth. Either way, I was underwhelmed, I must admit. (Oct. 15, 2008)
Not imported to Israel. Our host bought it in Hamburg for about 30 euros. For my part, I contributed the following and probably got the longer end of the stick:
Tommasi, Amarone, 2000
Probably the last Amarone I will ever own. Leather, spices and chocolate overshadowing the fruit on the nose. Raisney sweetness counterpointed by bitter notes. In short, very typical and for my taste, as good as Amarone can get, for higher-level stuff would be too much for me. Impresive, though probably somewhat meek for Amarone afficiandos. (Oct. 15, 2008)
I bought this from WineRoute for 220 NIS about four years ago.
Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau, "Quartzit", Riesling QBA, Trocken, 2005
This is supposedly a de-classified higher predikat. Judging by the 13% alcohol, I would guess a Spatlese. It does show a refined and complex nose although there something harsh about it on the palate. The aromatic profile is predominately grapefruit-y at first, then opens to show herbal notes, chalk and flint, and the grapefruit is overtaken by peaches and apple pie. Very crisp and structured, quite long and dry without inhibiting the fruit on the attack and mid-palate, although the finish is austere and not very elegant, despite its length. The fruit holds up to the alcohol but acidity is submerged, which explains the de-classification, I guess. (Oct. 19, 2008)
Purchased two years ago from Giaconda for 189 NIS.
Muga, Rioja, Reserva, 2001
Tasted blind with friends almost a year ago, we all thought it was a modern Spanish and indeed, even now at home, there something about it that at first points at Ribera del Duero, something in its fruity forwardness and sweetish overtones. The nose is quite lovely - though not as distinctive or complex as a mature, old school Gran Reserva and the oak is too obvious on it to boot - with sweet red fruit enshrouded by scorched earth and herbs. The palate if anything is even better, balancing power and elegance, sweet fruit counterpointed by rusty tannins and a long, saline finish. I opened it because a man's gotta drink and this is surely ready, but this could easily have been cellared for five more years. And it would be a great idea because right now it's still struggling to contain the oak. (Oct. 21, 2008)
Imported by IWS, I've seen recent vintages selling for about 120 NIS

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Misc. Historical Notes, Mostly French

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Rosemont Estate, Balmoral Syrah, 1998

The color is dark black-red with hints of browning and shows aromas and flavors of ripe and very fresh plums and blackberries, sweet cedar, leather and hints of coffee. Abundant super-fine tannins, long and full-bodied yet elegant despite the size, probably due to a proportioned measure of acidity. The glaring fault is that it becomes one-dimensionally fruity after a few hours. It’s a very impressive wine that leans towards the Old World, probably a solid 92 as is and might improve (so the experts say anyway). (Jul 6, 2005)

Bought in Atlanta, GA for about 40-50 USD.

Brundlmayer, Kamptal, Langenlois, Gruner Veltliner, Alte Reben, 2000

A wonderful aromatic and flavor profile I can’t place. I get the apples and spices but there’s a specific overlay of minerals that disorients me. Something about it is Burgundian; though the fruit is obviously not Chardonnay, it’s just too vivid and nervy from the green apple acidity to the mildy spicy finish. Obviously a wine meriting discussion, especially as it keeps opening, revealing nuts and tropical fruits. (Jul. 30, 2006)

Bought from Anavim for about 160 NIS. They could never get rid of these beauties and I think they've stopped importing them.

Trimbach, Cuvee Fredrich Emile, Riesling, 1998

Needs time to open, as at first it only showed petrol on the nose and a tight palate. As the evening wore on, it started to show more fruit and minerality, developing complexity and grip on the palate. It’s a subtle wine but I can appreciate where it got its reputation. (Mar. 8, 2006)

New Hampshire doesn't have sales taxes and it has a state monopoly which cuts down on one level of middlemen. But I bought this wine the week after New years when the main branch had a 15% discount across the board and it only cost me 27 USD!

Pfaffenheim, Grand Cru Goldert, Gewurztraminer, 2001

Leechee, grapefruit, minerals, spices, some toast. Good balance. Medium bodied, maybe even full. At first I thought it was a bit too alcoholic and acidic, but at the proper temperature and some time to work out its kinks, it shows very good balance. (Feb. 2, 2006)

HaKerem sold this three years ago for about 135 NIS.

Chateau Coutet, Barsac, 1996

Passion fruit, spices, a hint of pastry. Long, refreshing and complex with excellent structure. (Dec. 8, 2005)

One of my first purchases in the US, from Sam's in Chicago. Can't recall the price, though.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2002

Pale gold color. Nice thick legs. A minerally/toasty nose, with spices and roasted nuts. The palate is wet rock with pears and apples and good grip. I do see it as improving a bit within a year or so. (Aug. 4, 2005)

Imported by Tomer Gal, recent vintages cost about 150 NIS.

Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Cras, 1997

Dark ruby color starting to thin. An enchanting, highly sniffable nose of good complexity showing cherries, berries, coffee (cake?), light hints of chocolate and sweat. Medium bodied with good acidity, tannins are soft but more prominent on fairly long finish. Elegant, austere yet concentrated. A couple years before its peak, I guess, though I think it’s a matter of fine-tuning rather than major leaps. I do wish I had a few more of these or anything else by Barthod. (Sep. 29, 2005)

The Les Cras deserves honorable mention for making me click with Burgundy. Purchased at the discount shelf in Table and Vine for 40 USD. Lucky me.

Domaine De La Vougeraie, Bourgogne, Terres de Famille, 2002

Good color extraction. The nose is red fruits, mostly strawberries, brett, developing spices laster on, with almost an oriental touch. Medium-bodied, balanced, with a sort of country-elegance. It’s a little green at first but almost ripens in glass. The tannins are smooth but with a rustic character. Seems to grow longer in glass as well as picking up some complexity in the finish. (Jan. 5, 2006)

Tomer Gal imports. usually sold for about 110 NIS.

Domaine Gaec Cluny et Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1989

A revelatory experience to make you believe all wines could be this elegant, just when I’d stopped believing I’d ever run into a wine this elegant anytime soon. A very clear red color, not browning so much as fading a bit. The basic personality is sour red cherries and that’s all it had to begin with. Then little by little, in the course of a couple of hours, more and more elements showed up: light hints of sweat, light hints of spices and leather, light hints of coffee, beefing up both nose and palate, all with almost perfect poise. And through it all, that warm cherry personality running like a thread. (May 5, 2005)

Shimon Lasry imported this directly from the winery where it had been stored since bottling. Which explains the terrific state of the bottle. Many of my friends bought multiples. I wasn't that much into Bourgogne at the time and only bought one bottle.

Armand Rousseau, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1996 ?

A mature, semi-transparent, browning color. An airy nose which picks up more presence after an hour or so: strawberries, herbs and spices on an earthy background. A pretty, quiet nose. The palate also needs some time to flesh out and follows the nose, with sour cherries on the finish. Good, somewhat shrill acidity, not fully integrated with the fruit which lacks some freshness. Fully integrated tannins. Drink now. (Feb. 26, 2006)

Another find from the Table and Vine discount shelf. This cost about 30 USD as I recall and it was obviously not as good a buy as the Barthod.

Domaine Brintet, Mercurey, Vielles Vignes, 2002

Dark for a Pinot. I think the nose is typical Bourgogne, and pretty damn good at that, with red fruits and some chocolate and eastern spices, with a touch of lemon taking it in another direction. Soft tannins and good length but the high acidity and the buried fruits make it seem thin. I think, though, it just needs age that might raise the score by a point. Drink 2008-12. (Dec. 16, 2006)

Bought in New Hamphire for about 30 USD.

Deux Montilles, Saint Roman, Les Jarrons, 2004

Buttery and pure Chardonnay fruit, with some mildly sweet spices, minerals, some smoke on the nose but it’s main appeal is in the mouth-watering acidity on the palate, with a zippy, almost pungent finish. I would have guessed Chablis in a blind tasting except for that happy, hyper acidity, which will either win you over or put you off. (Sep. 10, 2006)

A Tomer Gal import which cost about 170 NIS, making it inexpensive in the context of Burgundy. I am still, two years on, undecided on whether it's a good price for what the wine gives. But it's a charming wine.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Is A Job For 2GrandCru - Giaconda at Katit

Last Thursday night, I attended a tasting at Katit restaurant in Tel Aviv. This joint production, hosted by Katit and Giaconda, who supplied the all-white wine list from Alsace and the Loire, cost 450 NIS, including the wines and tips. Considering that the cost of dining out in Israel in the kind of high quality restaurant that I can afford is between is between 250 and 350 NIS, with corkage and tips, and that I usually bring a wine costing at least 200 NIS to such outings, this is was an excellent offer. And further considering the fact that Giaconda's Anat Sella and Rafaella Ronen and Katit's Meir Adoni matched the food to the wine (thus avoiding the usual pairing quandaries) and that Katit is usually priced out of my reach, I'd have to have been an idiot to ignore the offer.

Katit's dishes turned out to be as creative as I'd heard, with the seemingly unavoidable little pretensions of 21st century haut cuisine. But I won't describe the dishes because, one, I hate writing restaurant crits and I suck at them, and two, I'd have to translate the menu from Hebrew into English. So, I'll just say three dishes out of the seven were terrifc, one was great but really small and the others were either just okay or tried too hard to be creative. I think there was one dish where I had my doubts about the wine pairing but everything else worked.

So on to the wines.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Brut, nv.

This sparkling wine is made in methode champenoise and shows sweet yellow fruit and minerals on the nose, as well as a musk that recalled female sweat: tangy and acidic, yet not overbearingly funky. The palate is dry, certainly drier than the nose would lead you to expect, crispy yet softening up in time to reveal a fruity-flowery personality. Not very complex but fun and decent value for a sparkler. 117 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Grand Cru Schlossberg, Riesling, Cuvee Saint Catherine L'inedit, 2004

I have a problem tasting young, dry (!) Rieslings. I find Riesling of most levels of quality, but especially the high end ones, realize their aromatic potential almost from the start (you might get more nuances and then petrol as they age but they start out well endowed to begin with) but the dry ones are too tight and unrelenting for me for me to taste in their youth. This is a good example. A lovely, minerally nose on the one hand and taut palate laced with grapefruit peels and a somewhat alcoholic finish. It's a very good wine but I can't tell right now if it has the extra something to make it an excellent wine that can justify the 369 NIS price tag.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Clos du Papillon, 2003

Well, this another Closel I like more on a second encounter, although it behaves strangely, in that it's hard to grasp where it's going exactly. A very ripe nose, alcoholic, ripe fruits leading into apple cider. The palate is powerful, semi-sweet and somewhat alcoholic before it finds its footing and the fruit finally stands up to the alcohol. Powerful if not very complex right now, yet fascinating. (157 NIS)

Marc Tempe, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

I have to say I find the Burgreben disappointing. The nose is appealing though not as detailed as the other Rieslings, but the palate is bitter and alcoholic and not as long as the L'inedit. I would like to be more generous because I wanted to like it more and I gave it plenty of time in glass it never really took off. 162 NIS.

Marcel Deiss, Engelgarten, 2005

A good runner up to the L'inedit and I find it gives more right now, if you're patient with it. The nose is arguably better than the L'inedit, with minerals, honey and even a hint of petrol. So tight and puckering it almost hurts to drink it at first, but after a while, the nose shows more and more flint as the minerals balance the bitterness on the finish and it steps up a notch or two. Alas, by that time, it was a bit too warm. I'd give it five more years and try again. 225 NIS.

Albert Mann, Grand Cru Hengst, Pinot Gris, 2005

I am finding Alsace Pinot Gris very difficult for me lately and this is no exception, though I must say, it is a very interesting wine. Very. A fascinating nose with tropical fruit and a mineral overlay I can't pinpoint. You know, chalk, flint, slate - those are easy to get, yet the Hengst smelled like it came from an uncharted geological source. It is an off-dry wine, yet with the lush roundness of an outright sweet desert wine, just without the sugar. However, I find the integration of sweetness and bitterness challenging, to be diplomatic. That is, it's well made and offers a unique experience, but it doesn't feel complete. Again, this could be a matter of youth, I just don't have the experience to tell, but I worry that, even when it matures, this won't be the Pinot Gris to make a convert out of me. 193 NIS. Any cheaper and I might try it, but it's too borderline for my personal taste.

Chateau Belle-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Quintessence, 2003

And back to the Loire for a lesson in patience. It starts out slightly oxidized on the nose and lacking vibrancy on the palate and honestly, in most cases I'd be tempted to give up, but then somehow it comes alive, showing a personality distinct from its Sauternes and Toakji brethren. Right now, it only shows moderate compelxity but a tantalizingly saline finish is very promising. 256 NIS (for a 500 cc bottle).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If You Open A Few Bottles, They Will Come (Oct. 16, 2008)

One thing led to another. Ran Shapira wanted to drop by Giaconda for a chat and bring along a bottle. He asked me to tag along and soon other friends heard about it through the grapevine (an apt term if there ever was one) which eventually led to an impromptu tasting, nine wines split among five wine junkies and their two dealers. Due to, ahem, short term memory loss, some of the following notes are really off the cuff this time.

Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v. had a promising nose of nuts and yeasts that is becoming habit-forming, though it lacked a lot of nuances it displayed when I tasted it in the spring (mushrooms, leather). The palate also underperformed, showing a bit too much sweetness. Chalking it up to warm serving temperature, we put it back in the fridge to cool down and moved on (but forgot to come back to it later). Imported by Eldad Levi, 229 NIS.

Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004 managed to obscure its oak for a while, while displaying unexpected elegance. Gorgeously flinty and tasty, albeit in the stage where you wait for it to open and by the time it does, the oak is also fully awake. Imported by Wine Route, about 250 NIS before discount.

Interspersed among the wines were four Chenin Blancs from the Loire, which for comparison's sake, I will describe and discuss as a group. All are imported by Giaconda.

While I'm not ready to make a total overhaul of my criticism of the Closel style, I must admit the performance of the Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Caillardieres, 2003 (135 NIS) gave me room for thought. The nose was very reticient at first but the mouth was very long and powerful with barely a hint of the alcoholic style that so bothered me last month. Then the nose opened to show multi-tiered aromas of minerals, peaches and honey to close off a very attractive package. Slightly disappointing, though, was the Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Trie Speciale, 2003 (189 NIS) since it lacked the smokey-spicy signature I loved so much last time. Still, the first-timers around the table were quite taken with it and anyway, it's still a lovely wine that I want to get back to in a few years. Let's just call it bottle variation.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Art Monia, Moelleux, 2003 (126 NIS) is an outstanding value that strikes a balance between acidity and sweetness that is similar to what a good Spatlese or even an Auslese does in Germany. Taking into account the different feel and shape of the Chenin grape, of course. One thing this tasting showed me is how hard it is to guess when to open a Chenin. With this wine, I'd say you could drink it this year with a spicy Asian dish or put it away for another five. With the Chateau Bell-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Cuvee Traditionalle, 2002, I think the best food pairing strategy is to treat it just like a Sauternes. At 216 NIS per 500 cc bottle, the price point is of the same order. And so is the quality.

Aiming to stump Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen on their home turf, Ran and Meir Ido brought the Weingart, Mittlerhein, Schloss Furstenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2006 which was like a muscular version of Mosel. While lacking the elegance of wines from the more prestigious areas (Ach, only in Germany would a wine like this be criticised for a lack of elegance) you have to bear in mind one fact: this cost a single digit figure (in euros) at the winery door.

Jamet, Cote-Rotie, Cuvee Harys, 1997 was the first wine served with the cured meats and cheeses, quite appropiately as its nose matched them almost perfectly, with similar aromatics over what to me come across as red fruit (at least, the nose doesn't have the ripe notes I associate with black fruit). On the palate, it was a smoother, more elegant wine than the funky nose had led us to expect. While Ran Shapira complained of a certain lack of complexity, I found the 90 points scored by Robert Parker to be justified. Bought in Washington DC for 80 USD.

The second red wine was a Barolo and not just any Barolo, but an eighteen year old Barolo. Ceretto, Bricco Rocce, Barolo, Prapo, 1990 finally struck home the fact that my neglect of Piedmont is criminal (even if the only person harmed is me). This conviction is based on its length, elegance (coupled with just a touch of rustiness) and most of all, freshness. Ran and Meir Ido, who brought this one as well, did not disclose the price.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - Jean Durup Historical Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaumes, 2001

A golden-yellow colored, fairly complex, pure and austere wine that starts out very taut and closed and opens very nicely over 1-2 hours. Starts off very shut with some pears and hints of honey then reveals some lemon and smoke then the lemon becomes candy-ish, like lemon drops. Then it goes through a nutty-oily phase and then that too is replaced by a grapefruit-like sourness. Eventually, it winds up encompassing all these aromas and flavors, showing a minerally facet that keeps growing more prominent. Despite putting up a terrific show, it feels like it’s still keeping some secrets in reserve for, say, 2 years time. (Aug. 21, 2005)

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaumes, 2002

A golden yellow wine that evolved for hours in glass, while keeping within a well-delineated frame. I would say that while the 2001 seemed in control all the time, the 2002 seems to be both shyer and more unpredictable. The nose starts out as vaguely citrus-like and buttery, then the fruits become easier to pick out and more fragnant in glass and build up a delicate interplay of apple and various citrus fruits and hints of flowers; then shifts towards pears and apples with a vague whiff of metal. The palate is very packed with flavors, though all are kept in rein with a harp acidity. Riper but less impressive than the 2001 right now but in what should be as good if not a better vintage, I expect to see it develop further. (Sep. 24, 2005)

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2002

Pale gold color. The nose starts off with distinct notes of sea air, guayavas and oranges, then grows richer and more buttery and the aromas melt into each other. The palate displays similar sensations and is lean, steely, very fresh and balanced, with a minerally-salty finish. Seems readier than the Fourchaumes and more minerally if less nervy. Drink until 2008-9. (Feb. 27, 2006)

Tomer Gal usually imports Durup's Vau De Vey for his Burgundy Wine Collection but from the 2001/2 vintages, he brought the Fourchaumes. I bought my bottle of the Vau De Vey in Table and Vine in Northamption, MA (the other bottles I bought from Tomer). Tomer was only arguably right, for me it's a matter of apples and oranges. At any rate, whatever Durup Premier Cru he brings, it is usually sold for about 125 NIS which is comparable to prices abroad and a bargain.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We Came, We Drank, We Ate - At Marie Antoinette (Oct. 11, 2008)

Marie Antionette was one of the pioneers of Israeli haut cuisine late in the previous century. It was located in southern Tel Aviv, near Jaffo and closed down as far as I can remember in 2000. My memories of it are hazy and probably sweetened by nostalgia. The recently opened reincarnation is located in a radically different setting, Ramat HaHayal's hi-tech ambience replacing southern Tel Aviv's vaguely Soho-ish charms. I will not dwell on restaurant critiques but will just say that Marie Antionette's past is not exactly betrayed nor it is not reverantly upheld. I am, in all, in no great hurry to return.

Bollinger, Brut n.v.

A lovely nose of citrus skins and yeast. Tense, vibrant and long on the palate without any great complexity or weight but an appealing wine for what it is.

Price unknown.

Georg Bruer, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Bischofsberg, Riesling Auslese, 1995

The nose was just what you'd expect from a classic, mature German Riesling, if you don't assume that obvious whiffs of petrol are a pre-requisite: icy slate and dills over peaches sauteed by slow aging. There was, with this particular bottle, a certain lack of vitality and length. Whether this was actual or perceived is hard to tell as Ran Shapira had pronounced that the cork was in very bad shape: it had not only crumbled but had slipped a few millimeters down the neck when he pressed on the capsule. How blind can a tasting be when someone tells you the bottle may be off? Well, it certainly didn't lack acidity and time in glass rather revitalized it so the question remains unanswered.

Price unknown.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassage-Montrachet, Premier Cru, Clos St. Jean, 2002

A lovely, nuanced nose full of minerals and mushrooms. Note that I do not mention any fruits in my listing of the aromas. If anything, that absence was even more marked on the palate where the oak was obvious (managebale but obvious). It would take almost two hours for the fruit to assert itself on the finish. Let's say it's a tasty wine that didn't really deliver any special class, complexity or originality that I would expect in a Premier Cru. I enjoyed a previous bottle rather more.

Sold by WineRoute for over 300 NIS. (It was my bottle but the reason I don't remember the price is that the wine I bought was the 2002 Boudriottes but the Clos St. Jean is what eventually wound up in my locker).

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, 1995

Just two months ago, my own bottle was as great a bomb as any untainted bottle has a right to be. This bottle was inarguably better though not at a stage to bring any great sensual pleasure. This is forgivable as the reason for its poor showing seemed like a case of Grenache and Mourvedre being locked in adolscent battle. Although the donor had opened the bottle four hours prior to our engagement, it came across as a muscular, over-extracted youngster that only exposed any nuances after an hour of coaxing at the table. This bottle would need about five years of cellaring.

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, St. Julien, 2me Cru, 1996

I still find the experience of drinking fine Bordeaux intimidating. I love them when they're good but I'm always the least knowledgable about Bordeaux around the table and I feel it skews my perceptions. I certainly never started out in Bordeaux with the same immediate, intuitive sense of affinity that in the case of Burgundy and Germany helped me overcome my inexperience. So again I find myself delivering a general accolade without feeling that I can place the wine within its proper context (as opposed to scoring it, which is a different matter and one I feel confident about: it's a 92 by me). Thus, we have here slight smoky red fruit on both palate and nose, a balanced, long elegant wine that manages to be both lush and structured at the same time.

Imported by WineRoute and may be found at the Ben Guriyon duty-free for 155 USD.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Walking Down Memory Lane - d'Arenberg Historical Notes

This is a collection of notes pre-dating the 2GrandCru blog that I never got around to uploading. As far as I can tell, I've changed so much over the past couple of years that some of these notes might no longer reflect my personal taste or even my writing style but it sure was fun reading them over. I've marked with a question mark wines I doubt I could stand to drink these days.
Since I am going over my database alphbetically, this will start with d'Arenberg.

d'Arenberg, Dead Arm Shiraz, 2001

(Dead Arm Vertical) Very deep, dark color. The nose starts a bit jammy and alcoholic, though less alcoholic (and less oaky) than the 2000 that preceded it; spices, mostly black pepper. Develops very nicely, uncovering many layers, including a biscuit-y, cooked vegetable-y thing, which I personally find appealing. Very full-bodied and long, yet balanced and, judging by the 1998 which is said to be a similar vintage, with a potential for elegance. The palate is till very closed. (Nov. 24, 2005)

d'Arenberg, Dead Arm Shiraz, 2002

(Dead Arm Vertical) Dark color. On the nose, ripe fruits, a bit of leather. Not as alcoholic as the 2001, but just as closed. On the palate, very forward fruits, full-bodied, lower acidity than the 2001, a long bitter finish. (Nov. 24, 2005)

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz, 2002 ?

Polished brawn. Less elegant than the 2000 (which is said to be the better vintage overall), muscular but lacking structure. Cherries, candy, smoky wood, spices, cocoa. Low acidity and high alcohol, full bodied with integrating tannins. Near sweet, alcoholic finish. One dimensional and disappointing. (Jan. 1, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Custodian Grenache, 2001 ?

Alcoholic nose. Ripe, candied fruits with spices and hints of roasted meats. Full bodied, almost sweet, but it withdraw within itself a little after a while. I’m moving away from this style but it’s well made. (August 28, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, 2001

A nice nose of sweet fruit, pepper, some leather at first,
then grilled meat. Elegant with dry, crisp tannins and the high alcohol % seems carried well, with its sweetness balanced by a lemon drop sensation on the finish from the Viognier, presumably. Very well made, long and deep, a hybrid of old and new world that is drinking well now and should drink well for 5+ years more. (Sep. 19, 2006)

Hmmm, the next bottle I had of this wine rather put me off but I really think it was just bottle variation so I'm not marking this wine, just for the benefit of the doubt.

d'Arenberg, Coppermine Road, 1999

Still a youthful wine, showing very Cabernet aromas and flavors of elegant currants as well as herbs, characoal and a hint of mushrooms. Very polished and focused and to its detriment, very straightforward, offering complexity and depth without any mystery. A balanced New World Cab that won’t offend Old World fans that is at the start of its plateau peak. (Sep. 30, 2006)

d'Arenberg, Galvo Garage, 2002

A great surprise. Initially very reticient on the nose, it bursts and complexifies with red berries and cherries and minerals. The palate is very savoury to start with but is initially somewhat soft; however, the tannins firm up over time and the fruit grows purer. After drinking 5 ass-licking Aussie Shirazes this week, it’s soooo nice to drink a wine that doesn’t put out quite that much. I’d buy again. (Feb. 1, 2007)

d'Arenberg, Ironstone Pressings, 1999 ?

Hmmmm... very aggressive. Solicited the same reaction from everyone ’round the table: “did we really like this style once?” Fair enough, it’s a well made wine that’s sure to please newbies but the aggressive attack is not backed up by any sophistication and although it might prove to be hiding some pleasure in the future, right now all I can say it’s no longer my cup of tea. (Feb. 10, 2007)

This was one of the first wines I did not score. I guess in this case, the tasting note spoke for itself.

d'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, 2002 ?

Black fruit over charry oak, at first, but then the fruit turns a bit candied before the telltale black pepper kicks in to even the score. Potent with little trace of the Viognier, except for some candied fruit at the end. Bigger and less elegant than the 2001 as well, with the alcohol in the fore, exaggerating the sweetness and tiring the palate. Overall, I prefer the 2001. (Sep. 1, 2007)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Domaine Les Pallieres, Gigondas, 2001 (Oct. 7, 2008)

I tasted this wine four years ago at a Southern Rhone tasting at WineRoute. In the company of its outstanding 2001 peers (Beaucastel, Tardieu-Laurent, Pegau and Vieux Telegraph CdP's as well as Tardieu-Laurent's Gigondas and Vacqueyras), this stuck out like a sore thumb with its stingy fruit and medicinal overtones. But for some reason it piqued my curiousity and as its reviews were favorable and the price very very nice indeed, I bought a bottle to see where it would go.

My curiosity pays off as I am greeted by aromas of ripe red and black fruit that never stray over the top, short blasts of cranberries slicing through black cherries over a hint of herbs. The mouth has an Old World rusty feel to it, which I like, and, initially, an austerity which is at odds with the ripeness the nose displays. Slow to open, the nose starts to show coffee and pepper over those herbs as the palate begins to flesh out. Despite the warmth of the vintage and 14% alcohol, and because of the crisp tannins, this feels like a cool climate wine. And a food wine. I think this will really peak in two-three years but it's a very good drink now if you're patient, as that patience will reward you with an exquisite intellectual pleasure as you watch the wine unfold. Confession time: I wish I'd bought another bottle.

In certain respects, this may be one of the brainiest wines WineRoute have ever sold.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Misc. Notes (Aug. 2008)

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, La Jalousie, 2006

Mid-tier wines are harder to write notes for than for obvious masterpieces or obvious bombs.

This dry Chenin Blanc from one of the major Loire AOC's initially has a nose of ripe, slightly baked bears and some green apples in the background. It's a bit disjointed at first, crisp and minerally overall yet with a soft attack that flares into a somewhat harsh, acidic finish. The elements do coalesce in time, retaining the softness of the attack while toning down the shriller notes of the acidity, as the length of the earthy, spicy finish becomes more obvious and brainy at the same time. The aromas turn minerally and a bit citrus-y and reminescent of Chablis. A very adolescent behavior does suggest the keeping power associated with Chenin, thus a very personable, if not quite elegant, wine with potential. (Aug. 25, 2008)

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Urziger Wurzgarten, Riesling Auslese ***, 1990

The familiar pungent nose of petrol and dill, intricate and minerally. The palate is more reserved than I remembered. These mature Chrtistoffels have been a familair backdrop in my life these past two years and it's a bittersweet feeling to say goodbye to the last one. (Sep. 10, 2008)

Tulip, Reserve Syrah, 2005

This is a very well made wine, within its own style but I have no patience for styles I find offputting. Thus, though my tasting note echoes the winemaker's description on the back label, my own personal reservations speak loud.

Dark purple well, it's 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet, whaddaya expect, ruby-orange? Aromas and flavors of black fruits read: prune juice, vanilla read: oak and caramel read: too thick, too sweet. Aged for 14 months in French and American barrels. Match with veal, chicken or pasta if you must pair anything with it at all until all that oak melts. It's smooth and, like I said, well made but if it's holding anything in reserve for a few years down the road, I'm not as good a taster as, say, Mark Squires, to pick it up. (Sep. 10, 2008)

I'm not sure about the price, but the friend who brought it thinks he bought it for 150 NIS at a discount.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000

A disappointing bottle. The first glass is worrying, with stewed fruits on the nose with soft tannins enshrouded with somwhat sweet fruit on the palate. The second glass is better and shows some dust and light hints of spices. Overall, this specific bottle seems a bit past its best. The nose is a good sample of a hot climate red but it's a little distant while the sweetness on the palate is too much for me and overwhelms what complexity and structure might hide within. (Sep. 28, 2008)

100 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

Uh, I don't much care for this vintage either. The nose is typical Israeli cab, sweet currants and some cranberries, a hint of chocolate. The palate is long but sweet and structurally ambient despite tightening up after three hours. It's tasty and there's a salinity I enjoy that opens up on the finish but it just doesn't have the multilayering of flavors I'd expect from this wine's stature as an Israeli classic, despite being GHW's third wine after the Katzrin and Elrom. Maybe the 2000 bottle wasn't off, maybe the Yarden cab and I are no longer suitable for each. In which case, I'm not sure which Israeli red is. (Sep. 30, 2008)

100 NIS, is it?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Loire Tasting At Giaconda: Domaine des Baumard vs. Domaine du Closel (Sep. 24, 2008)

An interesting tasting at Giaconda - one of the best I've attended this year - featuring two exemplary Chenin Blanc producers from the Loire, of a marked contrast in styles, traversing one dry appellation and two sweet ones. The order of the wines was cleverly designed and once again the finger foods that accompanied the wines were a delight.

I have to say I found out I do not really care for the Domaine du Closel style. It is too over the top for me and despite Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen's earnest promises that I'll have to retract my objections once these wines have matured, I have to say I can only go by my own personal experience and observations. Closel makes Chenins rich in alcohol, and their present stage of development, the alcohol overwhelms the fruit. Will the wines find their balance as the fruit emerges? Maybe, but it seems to me the amount of fruit required to pull that off will still make the wines too big for my tastes. Remember, however, that I'm just one voice there and certainly Closel gets good reviews elsewhere although I understand they're viewed as tough wines to approach in their youth (cf. David Schildknecht: "they have never been easy wines to approach – much less cuddle up to – in their youth.")

Domaine des Baumard is a different story: New Love Time. Their wines are smaller scaled with more homely charms and fit in more with my attraction towards wines I can live with as opposed to wines to put on parade. Full of nuanced minerals and smoke, they are the kind of wines that have a fatal Pavolovian effect on me. I would recommend just about all the Baumard wines in the Giaconda catalog.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, La Jalousie, 2006

At 14% alcohol, this wine comes across as an agressive lout trying to prove to his girlfriend's mom that he's a nice fellow. Slow to open, the nose shows peaches and honey with only hints of minerals at first. Then it goes athrough a phase where the minerals take over the fruit and then the two find an equilibrium at which point the minerals come into focus as flint. The palate is also very tight, the acidity checks in but the fruit is somewhat comatose, the overall effect underlining the impression of the alcohol, especially on the finish. I did like it better at home, when it had aired over the course of the evening.

117 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, 2005

Same vineyard, another world. A very complex nose, showing honey, beeswax, apples and minerals. Did I say minerals? This wine is a mineral tour-de-force, packing a geology class on both nose and palate, mostly flint by the time I was done with my glass. It's amazing how such a flavor packed wine can be so elegant, even austere, but there is an interesting struggle going on between structure and flavors. Despite all that, it is a friendly wine, certainly friendlier than any of the Closels (the relatively low 13% alcohol helps, you know). The best dry wine of the evening for my money and I would wait with it 2-3 more years.

171 NIS. Good value.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, 2005

Back to Closel's bodybuilders. The nose is so liquory, it almost smells like a red wine, with quasi-medicinal overtones. The overall effect is very agressive and it's certainly less attractive right now than the Baumard, even less than the cheaper La Jalousie.

207 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Clos Saint Yves, 1999

The nose is reminiscent of a dessert wine, somewhat cocktaily, with mineral overtones, albeit less so than the Clos du Papillon 2005. Very crisp on the palate (those minerals again!) though less flavorsome and less intense in comparison to the Clos du Papillon, whether due to vintage or vineyard differences. A long finish with a lingering, soothing aftertaste. 13% alcohol.

Not for sale.

Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Trie Speciale, 2003

Another charming nose. Ripe fruits with a fascinating, smoky seasoning that is hard to label. At this point, that specific mixture of smoke, spices and minerals is starting to register to me as a Baumard trademark, at least with the Savannieres. Very crisp and minerally on the palate. The higher residual sugar in comparison to the previous Savannieres (Anat Sela was diligent in giving us the numbers and while I think it is very important to take note of the RS as it impacts the style and is thus an important tidbit for the conscientious consumer, I just didn't keep track) lends the wine a certain roundness rather than sweetness.

189 NIS. Personally, I prefer the Clos du Papillon 2005 but at this price point, and taking into account the uniqueness of the grape and what it has to offer compared to similarly priced Chardonnays, I think I will re-visit this wine.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Caillardieres, 2003

Another Closel wine that seems to have eluded and confounded me. This has charm but, despite the two extra years post-vintage, it just seems like a less attractive and lesser endowed wine that Closel's Clos du Papillon 2005. Another alcoholic wine weighing in at around 14%.

NIS 157.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, Cuvee Speciale, 2003

The nose is somewhat funky and smoky, with notes of mildew. The first Closel wine of the evening I enjoyed sniffing. The greater RS combined with the lower alcohol (13.5%) makes for a friendlier wine, a more balanced wine on my palate, with the spicy flavors at last standing up to the alcohol. If the other Closel wines show a similar balance once they're past puberty, I will have to reconsider my initial impression. But for now, this is the best Closel wine of the evening. Decent price, too, at 135 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Clos de Ste Catherine, 2006

Finally, a chance to close our schoolbooks and just sit back and enjoy. This wine is just plain delicious. The botrytis is obvious on the nose but there are also cooler notes of white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Despite the hedonistic first impression, it has an aromatic complexity that is intellectually appealing. And again, those smoky mineral notes. An excellent package weighing in at 12.5%.

220 NIS for a regular bottle, which is the same price, more or less, as a half bottle of Sauterne. However, a half-bottle format might have been more useful.

Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Carte d'Or, 2005

Obviously a lesser wine than the Ste Catherine but very attractive nonetheless. A ripe nose, more straightforward than the Ste Catherine but also showing the botrytis seasoning. There was some controversy, as I recall, about the fruit profile on the palate. What I got were tropical fruits, predominately pineapple, with an oily texture and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Good value at 135 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume, 2006

Back to Elegantsville. The same botrytis funk, same smoky spices. I can't really place this and the Ste Catherine too far apart quality-wise, although the Quarts de Chaume is more reticient on the nose. Palate-wise, this is is deep and complex, with a finely wrought structure.

337 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume, 2003

Some vintage variation! This is an oxidized style that is marked contrast with the 2006 version and which overshadows the botrytis on the nose. The oxidation effect is in full force on the nose while the palate is surprisingly fresh. An interesting wine, though I usually don't go for the style outside of Jerez (a superficial reference point but it's the closest I can find).

Not for sale.

Domaine des Baumard, Vin de Pays, Le Vert De l'Or, 2002

A "bonus" wine after I'd mentally closed my notebook, thus a short note. Stylistically closer to the 2003 Quarts de Chaume than to any of the other dessert wines, with slight oxidation and nuttiness on the nose and fresh acidity on the palate.

Not for sale.