Thursday, December 24, 2009

House Wines Of 2009

Every critic and wine rag, as well as many bloggers, make lists of their favorite wines of the year and publish them within a few days of the new year. I have no intention of competing with lists like that because I don't have access to many of the stellar wines that star in such lists. Besides, if I were to simply list the best wines that I have personally drunk in 2009, I would just wind up posting about Ran Shapira's birthday party again.

Instead, because I believe wine was meant to be consumed on a daily basis, at home, accompanying food (no matter how much I might enjoy the "Special Occasion" wines), I present here the wines I returned to most often supping at home, majestically offering the missus and the son a sip or two. These are weekday wines I'd consume as much as I could, were I richer and in less need of quality time in the gym during the week.

  1. A. Et P. De Villaine (Cote Chalonnaise, Bouzeron, Mercurey, Rully) - delicious wines that speak of their terroir. Some might be in need of cellar time and some might be overwhelmed by their bigger brethren from up north in comparative tastings, but drink them at home alone as wine is meant to be drunk, and you'll be very thrilled and intellectually sated as well. Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection. Prices range from about 70 NIS for the Bouzeron to about 160 NIS for the Mercurey.
  2. Marcel Lapierre (Morgon) - I really don't have enough experience with the Beaujolais villages to be able to place this wine in the local pecking order, but I do know a succulent wine when I taste it. And I know what it means when I finish off a bottle within an hour. Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection. About 100 NIS.
  3. Domaine de la Vougeraie (Terres de Famille) - This was my house Bourgogne until Villaine and Lapierre came along, but it's still a very useful and consistent wine. Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection. About 100 NIS.
  4. Leitz, Dragonstone and Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz (Rheingau) - German Riesling is my favorite grape and these are the Rieslings I drink the most at home. Both are Spatleses (or should be, the Dragonstone is chaptalized and is QBA under German law) and both are racy, laced with minerals. At 8% ABV, you can serve them to your children and they will get a head start in enjoying the finer points of life. Imported by Giaconda, sold for about 100 NIS.
  5. Koehler-Ruprecht (Scheurbe) - I'm drifting away somewhat from my first German love, but the the Koehler-Ruprecht Scheurbe is such a curious creature that its unique personality keeps drawing me back anyway. Giaconda, 117 NIS.
  6. Bourillon d'Orleans (Vouvray) - A recent showing reminded me how delicious and versatile these Vouvrays can be. Generally speaking, I'd drink much more Chenin Blanc from the Loire if I wasn't trying so hard to age the stuff, especially the Savennieres, but Bourillon d'Orleans seem to be very accessible at a relatively young age. Imported by Giaconda. Except for the Moelleux (which I haven't tasted and really hate spelling), prices range from 117 to 135 NIS.
  7. Domaine du Colombier (Crozes-Hermitage Rouge) - Apparently, I have a weak spot for aromas of raw meat in my Syrah, which is why the 2006 Colombiers hold a fatal attraction for me. They are also are tinged with minerals and succulent. Imported by Giaconda, the Cuvee Gaby (not tasted yet) is expensive but the two lower end wines are good QPR at 117 and 126 NIS.
  8. Alain Graillot (Crozes-Hermitage Rouge) - A somewhat riper style than the Colombier and in need of more time, this was my first introduction to the Rhone, seven years ago. It was off the shelves after WineRoute couldn't move the 2002 vintage but now it's back with the 2006 vintage and I'm grateful. Imported by WineRoute, this cost, what, 130-150? A bit expensive for what it is but I love it anyway.
  9. J.L. Chave (St. Joseph Offerus) - Another savoury red, with more black pepper right now than the two Crozes. WineRoute, 135 NIS.
  10. Perrin et Fils (Vacqueyras) - I'm actually not quite sure about this, as I'm shifting away from South Rhone and the 2007 was too raw and monolithic when I tasted it a few months ago, but at 90 NIS, this is a prime candidate for this list so I'm giving it the benefit of a doubt. Imported by WineRoute.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deux Montilles, Saint Roman, 2006 (Dec. 16, 2009)

About four years ago, a bottle of the 2004 vintage from this minor village was my first encounter with the wine-making skills of Alix de Montille. Greater experience allows me to better place the 2006 version in the Burgundy hierarchy and spot its faults, but luckily enough I can still enjoy it for what it is. Basically, what we have here is good juice from a limited terroir subjected to careful craft. Applied to a better climat, these same hands produce wines I would term inspired, so I guess there's only so much you can do, unless you're willing to torture your vines a la Madame Lalou Bize.

Whatever, let's talk about the wine. When God was designing white Burgundy, he probably started out with an initial draft, an alpha pilot in software terms. This pilot version had green apples and an overlay of sulphurous minerality on the nose. Likely, the Lord Of Hosts also tossed a few flowery notes in shorthand. The palate was not too fruity, God was more into secondary flavors, but he made sure it had a mineral cut and a saline finish. Like many such first attempts, it was half-baked. Thus, the fruit was on the lean side, and a little bitterness remained, yet the wine remained refreshing.

A blind man would see where I'm going with this. Yes, in my opinion, this Saint Roman could well have been God's little offhand sketch of Bourgogne. It's a fine introduction, and it's a pleasant and pleasing wine even after you've gone through your Premier Crus, your Les Clos, your Corton-Charlemagnes and your Montrachets.

Another Burgundy Wine Collection import, this costs 170 NIS. Which is expensive for what it is, especially as the Villaine whites are a little better and cheaper. Also, the Deux Montilles Rully, which seems to get better scores, is also cheaper, and Rully is not an intrinsically finer AOC. Having said all that, I would buy a bottle of this every vintage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blind Burgundy Tasting (Dec. 14, 2009)

Hosted by Tomer Gal and Burgundy Wine Collection, this was a break from the usual thematic unity of these tastings by presenting wines from multiple regions and vintages.

Francois Jobard, Meursault Premier Cru, Poruzots, 2003

This bottle was problematic, to be charitable, with an oxidized, nutty nose somewhat akin to Champagne and a palate to match. I would actually find a weird fascination with this, were this a twenty year old wine. But this is a seven year old Premier Cru and even in a hot vintage, I'd expect more from a producer of Jobard's caliber. My guess is, it's the bottle, not the wine. About 350 NIS, as I recall.

Christian Moreau, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

And this is just what I expect from, and love in, Bourgogne: citrus fruit and ocean air on the nose, a superficially lean palate that packs a lot of flavors unto its austere framework, gorgeous acidity and a gentle, mineral finish that lets the fruit speak. Lovely. 230 NIS.

Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2006

Assuming Bonneau du Martray's reputation is warranted (and this is my first encounter with this famous producer so I don't have enough experience to make a judgement call here), then this wine is in an awkward stage. I find the nose to have the Corton-Charlemagne fingerprint, yet the palate is hot and disjointed, powerful yet too alcoholic. 590 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Fixin Premier Cru, Clos de Chapitre, 2006

The nose is dense, almost liquor-ish at first, needing time to show its Bourgogne character and smoky personality. The palate is rustic, without any obvious power or complexity. A pleasurable wine, I think it shows the Meo-Camuzet style but there's nothing very special about it. 210 NIS.

Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, 2006

To be quite honest, this is more than I'd be willing to spend on Premier Cru and it's not even a single vineyard but rather a blend of four sites. It's obviously a better wine than the previous, possessing richer aromatics without loss of elegance, longer, silkier and more focused on the palate. As many in the tasting rightly commented, this doesn't have a lot of Gevrey character. But it's very good, if expensive at 580 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuis-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Aux Murgers, 2006

A step up. First of all, this has an aromatic profile that is easier to pigeon-hole, a with cured meat musk that is right upfront without being too obvious. The palate is great, elegant yet powerful, with silky tannins and a mineral finish. I don't buy a lot of wines at 500 NIS, but Meo-Camuzet always manages to tempt me.

Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Les Suchots, 2006

I love the edgy, smoky nose, with an intensity that easily avoids becoming a block-buster. The palate is closed, but already enjoyable, as finely-wrought with minerals as the nose. There is a certain wildness about it that is surprisingly elegant as well. At 710 NIS, this is not a wine I'd ever buy, but it sure was fun to relish the smoky nose and the long, complex finish that made it a memorable experience.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2005

This probably has the most complex nose of all the lineup, with a lovely salinity that has a mouthwatering effect even before the first sip is broached. The palate is not quite as good, with some small holes in the middle that need some time and air to fill, but it is a captivating wine despite its adolescent quirks. Will improve for sure. 450 NIS.

Jean Grivot, Nuis-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Roncierres, 2002

I want to like this wine more, as I have enjoyed Grivot in the past (and what's more, I actually have a bottle of this I bought some five years ago). It's very animalistic, which is always a welcome thing in my book, but it starts off somewhat dilute and round and even though it greatly improves in glass, developing a mineral cut that belies the initial impression, it still left me concerned. About 500 NIS at current prices, my bottle was purchased on sale for about 50 USD.

Comte Georges de Vogue, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, 2003

As you would expect from a Grand Cru, this is very young and primal, on both nose and palate, and even though it does develop some aromatic nuances, a small glassful is not enough to base an extensive tasting note on. Which is a shame, as, at 1000 NIS a bottle for the Bonnes Mares (and even more for the Musigny), I will likely not have many chances to taste de Vogue again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sushi Night At Sakura (Dec. 5, 2009)

It was time to go back to the sushi well at our favorite source in Tel Aviv. As always, Riesling dominated the evening.

Leitz, Rheingau, Dragonstone, QBA Riesling, 2005

I'm a fan of this juice, which is harvested at enough brix to qualify for Spatlese, but is chaptalized and thus labelled as QBA by German law. The chaptalization might make it a tad too sweet for some palates, but the nose is classic German Riesling with its green apples and chalk and it tastes great. We were almost through the bottle before the first sushi tray arrived.

Giaconda, 98 NIS.

Langweth Von Simmern, Rheingau, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Kabinett Riesling, 2007

This was very young, I suppose, and felt much drier than it ought to have been, but then it was hard to drink it after the Dragonstone. I made a valiant effort at cleansing my palate with sushi, but it was too austere for me. The nose was complex and interesting and I have no complaints there. I will have to try it again in a different setting.

Giaconda, 110 NIS

Bott-Geyl, Kronenbourg de Zellenberg, Riesling, 2005

IPV is a new local importer, specializing in Languedoc-Roussillon (I am in the process of compiling notes from recent tasting of their red wines). After the Marcobrunn, my palate had re-adjusted to lower levels of sugar but I still found this Alsatian white too austere. The nose is, again, complex and interesting (the lack of descriptors doesn't imply that this wine - or any other - lacked specific aromas, I simply was not taking formal notes) but whereas my usual complaint about Alsace Riesings is a certain bitterness, here instead was a wine that seemed to take austere minerality to an extreme. So, interesting? Yes. Tasty? I'd like to be charitable. Suited for sushi? Not really.

IPV, 155 NIS.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, La Bourdonnerie, Demi Sec, 2007

This was an interesting pairing with sushi, as I wasn't really sure Chenin would not overwhelm the sushi. But there balance of acidity and sweetness really worked here and the specific hue of minerals made it an intellectually captivating wine.

Giaconda, 117 NIS. I had a few bottles of the 2003 and this looks just as worthy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Saturday Night (Nov. 28, 2009)

A. Et P. De Villaine, Rully, Les-St.Jacques, 2006

I am a fan of this winery and was glad to see this wine so well received by my friends. Initially, there is a note of tropical fruit on both nose and palate that adds a misleading touch of sweetness that made it hard for those tasting blind to pinpoint its origin. However, time and some warmth bring out its mineral nature and Bourgogne character. There are still some remnants of oak, but overall, it is lighter than its northern brethren.

Imported by Burgundy Wine Collection, sold for about 120 NIS. Excelllent value.

Chateau Destieux, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2000

The initial sniffs and sips worried me that this would be somewhat over-extracted but it turnedout quite balanced after all. It has tasty red fruit with an earthy, rustic appeal and a light veneer of minerals on the nose.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000

It's quite a treat to have two Bordeaux 2000's on a 'regular' Saturday night. This bottle had been double-decanted a few hours before drinking. It has more subtle aromatics, compared to the Destieux, yet very currant-y. It has a nice mouth-feel, grainy and velvety at the same time, yet less impressive than I'd have thought. I certainly preferred the Destieux on this occasion.

Imported to Israel by WineRoute. I believe the price these days is in the mid 300's.

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1999

I love Beaucastel but I wouldn't have expected a relatively young one to show more elegance than a Bordeaux, as this one did. The nose is complex enough to make me want to chalk that up to its famous blend of thirteen varieties and the palate has more vibrant acidity than I'd have expected. Showing very well.

Imported by WineRoute. Before fame went to Beaucastel's heads, this used to be sold for about 210 NIS. Now the price is closer to 400 NIS.

Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac 2me Cru, 2001

Unctuous and flattering, yet it works. This was perhaps opened a couple of years too early, but it is very appealing already. I wish I had more, if only because I was too tired to make a more detailed note.

Purchased in the US for about 30 USD, some six years ago, but I think it's one of those smaller Sauternes that never quite get the spotlight and thus its prices have remained stable. Not imported to Israel, however.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Misc Notes (Nov. 2009)

Gunderloch, Rheinessen, Riesling QBA, 2007

Citrus and lots and lots of chalk on the nose. The palate is similar as far as flavors go, while structure-wise it is lean and crispy. This is a good QBA, with perceivable personality. (Nov. 5, 2009)

A second bottle a few weeks later shows greater focus and more breadth of flavor and is perhaps the best 'straight' QBA I've had yet.

Giaconda, 80 NIS.

Gunderloch's Jean Baptiste Kabinett of the same year is a step up. Although my enthusiasm for Kabinetts has been curbed lately, this is one of the best I've had. As with the QBA, the nose shows chalk and citrus, specifically lime, but there is a thread of baked apples, adding character, and overall the aromatics have a greater scope, a wider array of colors. The palate is also better defined, and, although still on the lean side, offers a vibrant acidic backbone that should allow for five-seven more years of development. (Nov. 18, 2009)

Giaconda, 90 NIS, great value.

Chateau d'Aqueria, Lirac, l'Heritage, 2005

Red fruit on the nose, slightly veering towards black, with plenty of leather and minerals, and a ripe core hinting at a high level of extraction. The palate is reasonably elegant and delicious, a little hollow in the middle, but captivating in its own context, with good acidity levels. (Nov. 5, 2009)

Giaconda, 162 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Bourgogne, Terres de Famille, 2005

The nose hits you with all the goodies even entry level Burgundy (from a good producer like Vougeriae) has to offer: smoky raspberry fruit; that finely wrought earthiness that is often a balm to the soul; finally a hint of exotic spices that belie the calm austerity of a good Bourgogne, even from a more opulent vintage like 2005. Typically for this level of quality - and I must qualify this statement with a reminder that the Terres de Famille is often at Villages level quality and 2005 was no exception - the palate cannot match all that, so I just focus on the homely charms it does possess: lively acidity, savory fruit and a mineral finish that coats the palate even as it fades away before you're ready to let it go. It's also quite yummy. (Nov. 6, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS. Always a good value.

Leitz, Rheingau, Dragonstone, 2008

The usual great value, drier and lighter than the 2005. Flavors and aromas of red and green apples with a hint of strawberries and a wonderfully chalky texture. It's actually kind of lean now but with enough extract to flesh out in time. (Nov. 11, 2009)

Not imported to Israel, yet.

Smith Haut Lafite, Pessac-Leognan, 1996

Old style wininess. Light barnyard, tobacco and mineral infused aromatics over classically subtle fruit, the whole package asserting that there's no place like Bordeaux. On the palate, savory tannins and excellent acidity complement sweet, calmly vibrant red fruit, winding up in a wonderfully saline finish. This is so patently drinkable, so typical of what the phrase 'classic claret' should conjure for Bordeaux lovers everywhere, that is pointless to give it a score, so let me just say this: sniff, drink and sleep smiling. (Nov. 13, 2009)

WineRoute import Smith Haut Lafite regularly to Israel. This was purchased from MacArthur Wines in Washington DC for about 50 USD. MacArthur is a great store and the source 90% of my purchases in the US.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling QBA, 2007

The nose is very pungent, and nicely so, along the line of orange peel and sea shells. The palate is dry and angular, crisp and a touch under-ripe. A good QBA (at near Kabinett level I'd say, if not higher) and I enjoyed it... but there are better values at this level of quality and this style of wine. On the other hand, the style and quality of the nose make a good argument to follow up on this producer - and FWIW, I have a nigh-erotic memory of this producer's Grand Cru. (Nov. 15, 2009)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

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

Koehler-Ruprecht, in general, is not for the faint of heart. The nose here is borderline sociopathic, with pungent, slightly off-putting notes of kerosene alternating with friendlier notes of chalk and oyster shells over dry apricots and baked apples, perhaps a hint of rose petals as well. The palate is well defined but more interesting than it is tasty, building up to an intellectual, mineral peak, with an acidity that only shows up in the finish while remaining dormant in mid-palate. I do wish I liked it as much as I did two years ago; I'm not sure whether I've changed or whether the wine has faded before fulfilling the promise I saw in it in the past. A little of both, I guess. (Nov. 20, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007

Another goodbye to another good friend. I wish I could have kept away from this wine or bought more of it. It's not great but it's a delightful quaffer in the best sense of the word. Pure raspberry fruit with a touch of minerals, and that blend of forest floor and meatiness that easily conjures comparisons with its cousins up north in Pinot land. Now, it's on the tart side, but in my book that's better than being on the ripe side. (Nov. 23, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 100 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

In keeping with my very strong recollections of Colombier's cheaper Primavera, the nose has a distinct note of raw meat, although its effect is more subtle here, as it is buffeted by violets, minerals and black pepper. There are enough soft tannins to establish a round, yet firm, structure; succulent acidity beneath the vibrant red fruit; and, finally, a tasty, saline finish. Though air is a boon for the wine, at three years of age it is just about ready to drink, and, while it will age and keep, its youthful exuberance makes it so tempting now that I doubt I will age it for more than two-three years (just enough for the little tyke to pick up some manners). Which makes it a very useful wine and very good value. (Nov. 26, 2009)

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pflaz, Kalstadter Saumagen, “R” Riesling Auslese, 1998 (Nov. 11, 2009)

Koehler-Ruprecht was my first encounter with major league German Rieslings and I can still remember sniffing the 2004 Kalstadter Saumagen Auslese and thinking to myself, "this has it all!". My friends' experience was similar. I know because it is a shared experience that we've discussed it several times since.

Something else we've discussed is a certain feeling of disillusionment for Koehler-Ruprecht that has edged into our collective consciousness over the past three years. For one thing, virtually all my wine friends - myself included - prefer delicate Mosel or elegant, lithe Nahe, thus Pfalz always comes off somewhat clumsy in comparison (admittedly, our base of comparison is limited to Koehler-Ruprecht themselves and Muller-Catoir, but while I'm not sure how typical they are, they are widely recognized as regional benchmarks) . And then, winemaker Bernd Philippi's style is not for novices; nor, judging from what I've tasted and what I've read, does it show very well in its youth. Especially its Ausleses, it seems. And none of us had never had any of his wines in their maturity.

Until now.

I drank this wine all by my lonesome in Cambridge. My suitcases were already filled to the brim with vinological loot and thus when I ran into this wine at BLM Wine and Spirits, I knew exactly what I wanted to drink with my takeaway Sushi.

This particular bottle was not about kind karma. My first attempt at opening it broke the cheap plastic corkscrew the saleslady at BLM gave me and when I went out to buy a new one the next morning, I found a parking ticket on my rental's windshield, silent witness of my carelessness at parking near a water hydrant.

Was it worth it? Let's talk points for a change. An Auslese should be worth at least 90 points in order to be worthy of the label, and this one makes the grade with a couple of points to spare and its sense of place and unique personality would be worth another point.

The nose is very memorable yet makes me feel edgy at the same time, as it dances perilously close to the edge of kink, pulling back with a shade of a wink. It shows chalk, black tea, petrol and burned rubber, combining for an almost bretty impression, while gently shoving the sugar coated apples to stage right. The palate is fresh, light and elegant, yet packed with flavors, and although the wine is an Auslese sans any mention of trocken, its balance is such that it doesn't register as more than off-dry, despite measuring in at 10% ABV and showing plenty of ripe fruit. It's not as silently domineering as K-H's wine can be in their youth, instead etching well-measured phrases across the palate, only wobbling at the finish, where a lightly alcoholic strand flares up.

Koehler importers Giaconda have not imported the "R" series to Israel. I paid 60 USD for it. If I throw in the 100 dollar fine I might eventually be coerced to pay, this is the most expensive Riesling I've bought to date.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Misc Notes (Oct. 2009)

All Giaconda imports this month.

Domaine de Font-Sane, Gigondas, Tradition, 2005

This is surely not a great wine, nor within its drinking window, but recently, Gigondas has become my personal favorite amongst the Southern Rhone villages, so I like it beyond its current or even potential worth. Tight on both nose and, especially, palate, it still offers enough intellectual puzzles to wade through to be an interesting experience even now. The nose is dusty in a way that suggests influences of both barrel and terroir, with hints of flint, then it picks up that Provencal herb essence we all love, while sweet black fruit lies dormant underneath. Dormant is the operative word on the palate as well, which is so tannic it doesn't only pucker, it floods the palate with bitter flavors. There is good acidity, too, and, with some effort, the fruit can be discerned, but every element floats apart from its compatriots, in what I would like to call a tempting manner, but which right now is simply annoying. The nose, on the other hand, eventually blossoms in full and gets good marks and I believe in time the palate will as well.

PS. The back label makes a claim for 15% alcohol which is very well contained, not an easy trick. (Oct. 8, 2009)

126 NIS.

F.X. Pichler, Wachau, Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz, Gruner Veltliner, 2007

The book on Gruner Veltliner says peas and lentils, and I can see that notion reflected in the sweet and fragrant, yet pungent, aromatics, that frame a core of lemon drops, apples and minerals. The palate is intense yet somehow limpid at the same time, drilling through the palate as though it carried more than the 13% ABV listed on the label, winding up in a rough, spicy finish that mellows right before it would have broken my tolerance for kink. Overall, an interesting wine but one I have to try too hard to like. Maybe time will mellow it. (Oct. 11, 2009)

91 NIS.

I'd been neglecting German Rieslings at home for a while, so time to correct that lapse.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Riesling Kabinett, Trocken, 2005

This is one of those wines where the nose and palate are almost totally in synch. Both show fresh apples, sweet herbs and chalk, with a touch of sweet dough. The acidity is very racy, lending it great verve. A lovely Kabinett, typical Pfalz, which I'll probably drink sooner than later - it's not going to fade soon but I like to drink a fresh, young Riesling and I'd prefer to use a Kabinett for that pleasure, while laying down the bigger girls. (Oct. 23, 2009)

117 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Blanc, 2006

I haven't tasted a white Crozes since a Rhone tasting at WineRoute, December 2002 (and I was so new to wine at the time of that tasting that I wouldn't trust my recollections - even if I could actually remember anything). Since then, I've been disappointed in a few Condrieus and white CdP's, so white Rhone is not a style I am eager to investigate further and thus I approached this wine out of intellectual curiosity more than anything else. Whatever, the wine itself has apricots and honey on the nose, tempered by a welcome earthiness, and is bitter and a little alcoholic on the palate. Although it is aromatically complex and intriguing and simple tastes unique (unoxidized Fino Sherry is the closest description I can conjure)- it's hard for me to actually sit down and enjoy it outright. So I guess I'm not convinced yet, although I will reserve my final judgment until I taste Colombier's white Cuvee Gaby(Oct. 24, 2009)

126 NIS.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Riesling QBA, Mineral, 2007

I love Schonleber and while this unassuming QBA has no pretense at greatness, it at least lives up to its moniker, with notes of flint framing the peaches and flowers on the nose and flecks of minerals subtly touching up the rough spots on the quinine finish. I don't want to leave this as a one sentence tasting note, so I'll add that it's exactly what most people have in mind when they call a wine 'crisp'. (Oct. 28, 2009)

120 NIS, which I have to say is expensive for a QBA, especially as I preferred the Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett, the 2004 version of which was sold for a few shekels less.

Leitz, Rheingau, Dragonstone, 2005

This is always a very yummy wine but four years post-vintage, it is subtly less fruity and more minerally than I remembered, sizzingly green apples complemented by chalk on both nose and palate. Easy to drink while offering its share of intellectual pleasures as well, with enough vitality and balance to cellar for the better part of a decade. Yet it's so irresistible now... which is what I always seem to say about it. (Oct 30, 2009)

98 NIS. The label is an Americanized version of the German Rudesheimer Drachenstein and is picked at 90 degrees Oechsle, enough to make it an Auslese, then chaptalized to 95, the chaptalizatiion robbing it of its legal right to be anything but a QBA.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ran Shapira's 40th Birthday (Oct. 22, 2009)

Ran Shapira is your typical manifestation of a Mephistolian wine geek as host, heaping temptations upon his unwary friends even on mundane occasions. So a fortieth birthday celebration naturally upped the stakes, making me tremble in expectation when the invitation arrived and I read the proposed menu and wine list. Later, in a half-drunk mood, I rewrote John Lennon's lyrics as "imagine all the people drinking Montrachet" and it seemed like an appropriate epitaph. Although perhaps the perfect epitaph would be a simple "wow!".

Ran supplied some of the wines, we guests brought a few. The creative catering was provided by the "personal chef services" of Scarlet and finally, to heap insult upon injury, Ran came up with a cheese platter with enough penicillin to inoculate the entire United States Army.

And now on to the hard work of transcribing the notes.

Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame, 1990

The nose is so intense it is almost liquerish, yet it manages to preserve an air of elegance while showing lightly oxidized notes as well as brioche and sauteed mushrooms. The palate manages to show its maturity while retaining a youthful vigor. The acidity is still obvious but well integrated and, with or without bubbles, this wine has a lovely cut. And a flavorsome chalk finish. I could have sniffed it all evening and I could have finished the bottle alone. It's that kind of wine.

Zind-Humbrecht, Brand Grand Cru, Riesling, 2001

It might be youth, it might be the serving temperature, or both, but this grand Grand Cru, on this particular occasion - joyous though it might be - has nowhere near the Grand Dame's complexity or vibrancy. The class of the nose, however, is quite obvious, with its faint notes of petrol complementing lightly sauteed apples and a touch of minerality. And enough of the aromatics are carried over to the flavor packed palate to prove its mettle, just not enough for its inherent qualities to be very overt, or, indeed, enjoyable today.

Vincent Girardin, Clos del la Roche Grand Cru, 1998

Terrific Burgundy aromatics.: typical red fruit, with an earthy-meaty complexity. On the palate I find healthy tannins that are still somewhat harsh, although the overall effect is quite tasty and powerful. If a Grand Cru can be identified by diligent Bourgogne-spotters by dint of greater power or greater finesse (or, ideally, both) then this wine's entry to that exalted circle is by way of its length and size. Sadly, it lacks the elegance or the magical, electric thrill of better Grand Crus. Such as the next wine.

Rene Engel, Clos de Vougeout Grand Cru, 1996

There are hints of barnyard on the nose, which I love, but sometimes their presence can cost a wine a measure of elegance. Not here, though, as the poo only serves to add more complexity to the delicate Bourgogne spices and the deep and pure strawberry fruit. The palate suffers from following the more muscular Girardin, so I took a break and when I returned, I found the Engel's freshness very captivating. The only caveat, which I feel obligated to mention, is that a previous bottle was more complex.

Olivier Leflaive, Montrachet Grand Cru, 1995

We screwed up here. We had an initial whiff and sip and decided to go on to the Barolo flight and come back to the Montrachet later. Bad idea. The body temperature of twelve adults round the table and too little liquid in each glass was too much even for the product of the world's greatest vineyard. The nose was all butterscotch, too sweet and simple. The palate, on the other hand, was very minerally and powerful but too crude for me.

The wines weren't served in flights per se, but I used my Burgundy glass to enable me to enjoy the following two Barolos side by side.

Ellio Grasso, Barolo, Gavarini Vigna Chiniera, 1990

Barolos can present the most difficult aromatics to decipher. This is taut at first, almost cryptic, the nose showing red fruit and iron, and dusty like your grandma's old carpet. The palate is classy yet austere and I was going to pronounce the Conterno Fantino the better wine, until time endowed the Ellio Grasso with an extra dimension, further complexities and greater cerebrity.

Conterno Fantino, Barolo, Sori Ginestra, 1990

This is a riper wine and the nose has a touch of kink to it, like someone had sex on your Grandma's old Carpet. And quite recently. The aromatics are surely more pungent, gamier too. The palate is full without trying unduly to flatter and I thought it had the Ellio Grasso beat until, well, you've already read my verdict.

Enjoying the ride so far? The big guns are still ahead...

Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie, Cote Blonde, 1999

The nose is a stunning blend of red and black fruit served on a platter of sewer stink that is lovely to behold, especially as it is complemented by black pepper and minerals. What would the world be like with the great Rhone Syrahs? Big yet elegant. Tannic but at this level, tannins such as these can be delicious in their own right, even if they're not what Robert Parker calls sweet tannins (and thankfully so, I might add). Despite the current great performance, the Cote Blonde still has much more to give, although it is already complex and, despite the tannic crunch, elegant.

Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan 1er Cru, 1990

Alright, I really loved the Cote Blonde's nose but the Haut-Brion offers even greater finesse and tantalizes in ways that are difficult to verbalize. It has sweet red fruit, saddle leather, minerals, a touch of sewer yet again. The palate is claret with a capital C! Very elegant, with laser sharp tannins, a tobacco twang on the finish and a never-ending aftertaste. Bliss.

Chateau Lafite, Pauillac 1er Cru, 1990

The nose is another fine trophy, with black fruits, lead pencil and a touch of barnyard. The palate is not so much austere as it is discreet. It is smooth and muscular, meting out is power like Joe Louis setting up Max Schelling for the knockout. But it's still too early to drink. Proof positive of the 1855 Classification.

Vega Sicilia, Unico, 1986

The nose is so fresh it feels like the smile of a pretty woman. I must admit I was growing tired but the palate has such length and such incredible vibrancy and finesse that it woke my palate up with its succulent, juicy acidity. This is at its peak and easily proves the Unico's claim to be Spain's greatest wine.

Alfred Bonnet, Rheinpfalz, Friedelsheimer Schlobgarten, Beerenauslese Riesling, 1976

The nose is charming if not too complex - orange marmalade, spices even a hint of cigarette smoke, oddly enough - but I must admit I found the palate tired and somewhat flat and kept looking for more complexity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 1996 (Oct. 17, 2009)

I opened this wine with a relative newcomer to wine, as way of introduction to Burgundy. But we had a warm-up wine first:

Perrin et Fils, Vacqueyras, Les Christins, 2007

Very primary upon opening. Nice aromatics, the fruit veering towards wild berries and complemented by broad hints of Provencal herbs. Although ripe and a little jammy, the nose remains harmonic and has a nuance of crushed fruit that I'm very fond of. The palate, however is very backward, tannic and grainy and when I opened it a couple of hours before our guests arrived, I was frankly worried it would not open in time. Glad to report that it opened nicely, even though it was too round and simple for my tastes. Hopefully, in two-three years the palate will hold up better against the nose.

Sold at WineRoute for about 90 NIS.

And on to the to the main event:

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 1996

Whatever I love about the unique aromatics of Burgundy can be found in this wine: red cherries, forest floor with rotting leaves, game meat, pungent spiciness. The palate is tasty but on the lean side and angular and is disappointing for showing less power than I'd expect from a 96, even if I do enjoy the way its personality carries through in a whisper and not a bang. The fruit is good but in recession compared to the acidity so some people might object to it. A very good wine but the bottom line is that despite my affinity for the style, I would require more from this wine in order to place it in the top tier of Premier Crus.

Purchased in London for about 40 pounds.

For dessert, we had, once again, Krebs-Grode, Rheinhessen, Eimsheimer Sonnenhang, Riesling, Eiswein, 2002. As usual, the peaches on the nose are echoed on the palate, which is a bit bottom heavy but is nonetheless powered by a juicy acidity that never rests and carries it to the point where none of its drawbacks are very obvious.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Volnay and Pommard Tasting (Oct. 13, 2009)

Tomer Gal and Burgundy Wines Ltd. have a new tasting room in Yaffo, on the ruins of the late, great Keren restaurant and it's a beautiful setting. I wish them all the luck in the world and I'm happy to report they christened the place with an interesting and quite yummy tasting.

In any tasting pitting these two famous bastions of Cote de Beaune red wine, two questions come up almost invariably:

Were the monks and the INAO correct in denying Volnay and Pommard any Grand Cru vineyards?

Can the two be cleanly categorized as feminine Volnay versus masculine Pommard?

The tasting left these questions rather unanswered but it sure was fun helping Tomer with the research.

Comte Armand, Volnay, 2006

The nose is a promising start to the evening, with quintessential Pinot red fruit, game meat and lightly pungent earthiness. Inviting yet subtle at the same time. The palate is medium-bodied, leaning towards light, with raspy tannins, delicious but typically Villages in the way the nose overshadows the palate. Tomer said this wasn't a very feminine wine but I have to disagree. This is definitely a woman, but she sure has a sharp set of nails! 190 NIS.

Chateau duPuligny-Montrachet, Pommard, 2006

This is really not that widely different from the Volnay. Sure, the red fruit is more upfront, the earthiness less pronounced on both nose and palate and there is more fruit on the mid-palate, making the wine rounder and better balanced. But personality wise, this too is a woman. In fact, she even trimmed her nails. This is a better wine right now, but I find greater intellectual pleasures in the Comte Armand Volnay. 200 NIS.

Dugat-Py, Pommard, Levrieres, 2006

A very impressive nose, and very concentrated for a Pinot, spicy and meaty, with, surprisingly, black pepper as well. My neighbor muttered "Gevrey" and I'll have to take his word for it. Moving on, I wouldn't go as far as to call the palate oaky, yet the oak is definitely felt, although overall it is a very balanced wine and maybe the only truly masculine Pommard of the evening. Final verdict: great nose and fine tannins. 530 NIS.

Domaine Leroy, Pommard, Vignots, 2005

Tomer's tasting are never over until the old lady sings and this time we got to taste Madame Leroy's wares twice. This is from the domaine, meaning that at this stage (pardon me while I circle a few sacred bovines), it's more about Leroy than about Pommard. Slow to open, the nose shows ripe fruit and dusty ground and in time the earthy essence becomes deeper and bolder. Taut palate, with great length and fine tannins. The Madame sure makes great wines, but here, as usual, the pleasure costs at least twice as much as I'd be willing to pay. 1300 NIS.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Brouillards, 2006

Another chick. And a fickle one at that. The nose opens and shuts down and then opens and shuts down again. While it is open, I get ripe cherries and that candied feel of a young Bourgogne. Then it develops mineral notes that overshadow the fruit and then shuts down. The palate is fruity with unsatisfying length. It's an interesting one but it's also a tease, and the thing about teases you can never decide whether you like them or not. 310 NIS.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans 2006

I had my reservations about De Montille when I tasted the 2004's, and now the nose on the Champans itself was enough to finally dispel any remaining qualms. A few steps up from the Brouillards (well, probably an entire story), the nose is simply gorgeous, with enticing red fruit, game meat and a smoky minerality. The palate is deftly balanced and if it still pales besides the nose, one would have to be a very dour taster not to feel optimistic about the future that the fine tannins and the mineral finish only hint at. Lovely. 360 NIS and worth it.

De Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Grands Epenots 2006

There is a family resemblance to the Champans, as the nose has the same signature of ripe cherries, although they are rather more candied. It's a sweeter wine, which is where the resemblance starts to break down, although that sweetness is tempered by a mineral streak (more pronounced on the nose than on the palate). It is rounder than the Champans, more of a flirt, but much less of an intellectual treat, challenge, what-have-you. 360 NIS and no way I'd pay that if I can get the Champans at the same price.

Comte Armand, Pommard Premier Cru, Clos des Epeneaux 2006

If you know your Burgundy then you know this is one of the most famous red wines of the Cote de Beaune. In fact, Epeneaux and Rugiens are regarded as potential Grand Cru material, although this wine doesn't feel like a Grand Cru to me. Whatever, this is is probably what people think of when they say Pommard is a masculine wine, although I offer the opinion that the Dugat-Py would win any pissing contest even though this is the most tannic and dense wine of the tasting (and yes, I know there is a paradox in there, but who says women are the mysterious sex?). The nose is oaky and modern at first, but becomes more Bourgogne in time, with meaty notes and sweet spices. The palate is angular and rusty but tight. 440 NIS.

De Montille, Pommard Premier Cru Rugiens, 2006

For my money, the Clos des Epeneaux wasn't a Grand Cru candidate but this one is. Definitely. Not because it is a more powerful wine (it's not) but because it has enough class to display its power almost off-handedly and there is an elegance here that is hard to put a finger on. The nose is the best of the night, but its quality is ephemeral and I can't quite explain why it's better than the rest, just that it strikes great balance between fruit and clay notes. At the end of the day, I'll just quote Terrentino: "personality goes a long way". 480 NIS and if you can afford it, it's worth it.

Maison Leroy, Volnay Premier Cru Santenots, 1978

This comes from the Maison, not the Domaine, which means the Madame bought the wine from growers she respects (yet who forever remain anonymous, that's real respect for ya) and released it when she thought the wine had peaked - last year in this case. The nose pays tribute to Leroy's patience, with rotting earth, iodine and spices over a background of fruit that has long since lost any affinity with specific color. The palate, alas, feels slightly past its best, with a backbone of acidity that will never fade away, while the fruit has rather receded, leaving traces of balsamic vinegar on the finish, which I'm never a fan of. It's not falling apart, simply begging the question whether Madame could not have released this in the previous century. I think fifteen, twenty years in her vaults would have sufficed. But she took her sweet time and now the oligarchs of the world will have to pay 2500 NIS (or their equivalent) for the pleasure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rokah 73 (Oct. 3, 2009)

I don't know quite how to express my feelings about Rokah 73. Unlike his peers, chef Eyal Lavie does not broadcast his creativity too blatantly, going for a superficially subdued French bistro style, which, more often than not, is quite tasty, and I always enjoy the cosy feelings it evokes in me . I should probably visit Rokah 73 more often, and I would, except the prices are on par with those of Lavie's more pretentious colleagues.

But I really do love his style.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenhur, Riesling Auslese, 2005

Although the nose is quite fruity, it is so speckled with dill and minerals that it seems more mature than it really is. The palate is deceptively monolithic, but with a little patience shows a mineral framework that is quite complex. With its juicy acidity, this is one delicious wine.

Imported by WineRoute, it was on sale quite a few times, on some occasions selling for as low as 190 NIS.

Jos. Christoffel, Jr, Mosel-Saaw-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Riesling Auslese ***, 1990

This bottle is radically different than any I've tasted in the past, and I've had quite a few. The nose is simply one of a kind, reeking blatantly with spearmint. The palate is drier than the nose had led me to think (or, in retrospect, the label) and is a bit taut - the acidity, while very fine on its own, masks the fruit to some extent. Still, a unique experience.

I don't think this particular bottle was bought in Israel, but Giaconda used to carry it for about 220 NIS. They probably still do.

Mas De Daumas Gassac, Languedoc, 2001

The nose (and, let's be honest, the shape of the bottle as well) fooled us all into thinking North Rhone. It certainly has a peppery feel to it, as well as a certain barnyard veneer over its smoky currant fruit. The palate is elegant, medium-bodied, almost light, certainly elegant, feminine in a Cote Rotie style. Fell apart within 20-30 minutes, though.

I used to know who imported this wine and for how much, but I've aged and forgotten.

Felsina, Fontalloro, 2003

This would be a Chianti, if it wasn't pure Sangiovese and if the vineyard didn't straddle two different Chianti appellations. Whatever, the nose is pure Tuscan, with typical Tuscan spices and typical Super-Tuscan smokiness. The acidity is pure Tuscan as well. Any way you choose to call, it is an excellent wine and worthy of attention.

Anavim, about 200 NIS on discount.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Misc Notes (Sept. 2009)

Chateau du Seuil, Graves Blanc, 2005

The nose, with its pungent citrus skins and flint, is a ringer for a basic Chablis. The palate, to my taste, is dominated by the Sauvignon (40% Blanc and 10% Gris), which has a nice angularity, like a fat-free Chardonnay. After a while, something (the 50% Semillon I suppose) adds a touch of butter. This is a very savoury wine that has shed the oak that bothered me last year. (Sept. 2, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pflaz, Kalstadter Steinacker, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

By now, it seems I've tasted the various permutations of Koehler-Ruprecht's Steinacker offerings more times than I've listened to the Beatles. This particular specimen, however, is in an uncomfortable place. Starting off with a piercing, sulphurous minerality that seems to overwhelm the fruit at first, it regains aromatic balance with notes of baked apples and very light hints of dough, while the minerality turns mellower and earthier. Tasting virtually bone-dry, except for a faint sweetness on the finish, it is almost Alsatian except for a typically fresh, Germanic acidity. It's tasty, it's interesting, and it's becoming more and more intellectual as it matures, but I get this impression, that I can't shake off, that for all its charms, it feigns and winks and bluffs to hide a few cracks in its facade. (Sept. 15, 2009)

Giaconda again, 117 NIS.

Val d’Orbieu, Languedoc, Cuvee Mythique, 2001

Smells and tastes like a roughly hewn Vacqueyras or Lirac, which is a nice notion for a 50 NIS wine. Having said that, it is, for my money, somewhat beyond its peak, as its red-cherry inclined fruit is too lean and rusty even for my tastes, in an Old World style that is probably what gave the Old World a bad reputation in the 60's and 70's. Still, it's nice that it's lasted this long. (Sept. 19, 2009)

Imported by HaKerem, I was surprised to find the Hinawi meat chain selling it for 50 NIS, as I remembered it used to cost 70-80.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2005

As always, this wine has sweet, round, juicy fruit that seems to sustain the ripe Israeli paradigm with smooth tannins and no excess flab. The aromatics are lovely as well, with a hint of leather and minerals over cherries and currants. (Sept. 20, 2009)

At about 80 NIS, this is still my favorite local wine.

Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva, 2004

This is a young Rioja where, on both nose and palate, the fruit leans towards black, with bass, iron notes. It's got enough funk and earth to be recognizably Spanish, though, while the telltale Tempranillo acidity shows up on the finish and time only brings out more and more Rioja traits - such as hints of meat and tobacco leaves on the nose and a crisp, mineral finish. It sure is nice that the classic Rioja houses still makes classically modeled wines ready for drinking upon release (although I would guess it has some three-five years left at least). (Sept. 26, 2009)

WineRoute, about 100 NIS on sale. Very good value.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Rouge, La Fortune, 2007

The nose still has sappy, young Pinot fruit, but also light spicy and earthy overtones. The palate has all the silky, ethereal fruit you'd expect from a well made, lower-end Bourgogne. With only medium stuffing and length, it makes an impression on pure charm. One of my notions of a house wine. (Sept. 28, 2009)

Tomer Gal, about 100 NIS. Like all the Villaine lineup, very good value.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sitting In A Tel Aviv Garden - Informal Dinner at Catit (Sept. 23, 2009)

Eight of us gathered in the bastion of local haut cuisine to partake of Catit's garden menu. Let's face it, as creative as Meir Adoni can be, Catit is hardly free of pretension that comes with a high price tag, and thus the garden menu is a chance to experience Catit without administrating an electrical shock to the bank account.

It wasn't an easy menu to match with wines, especially not red wines.

I had a really witty line about the perils of matching white fish with Alion, but I forgot to write it down with my notes and now it's lost forever. Anyway, it wasn't my faux pas anyway; I went for the sinta.

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004

Recently, even villages from the 2004 vintage are too young for my tastes and here the scented oak is overwhelming on both nose and palate. But its mineral cut and saline finish are very nice indeed and it should be a very decent wine in two-three years.

Imported by WineRoute, the price I think is around 200 NIS.

Domaine Arlaud, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2004

Starts out very fruity and flowery and then in time adds a dash of typical Bourgogne spices to the mix. As you would expect from a Grand Cru, the palate is better than the nose but despite its punch, it comes off stylistically more like a Chambolle or a Volnay than a Chambertin.

Imported by WineRoute, price unknown but I'd guess 600-700 NIS.

Chateau Lascombes, Margaux 2me Cru, 2001

I love how a well-made claret balances black fruits with red and this is a solid example. The nose is not complex but is a very pretty creature that will soothe you even if it won't make you tingle and is handsomely lacquered with notes of ash. The palate is rather rougher and shows its youth. Purchased for 50 Euros at the Anatalya duty-free and as I am wary of aging wines purchased at such places, I erred on the side of caution when I brought it on this occasion, some three years earlier than I should have. It's drinking nicely, though.

Ceretto, Bricco Rocce, Barolo, Prapo, 1989

It's hard for me to place or label the nose but the palate is long, balanced, with juicy acidity, and is subtly spicy and earthy on the finish where the lively fruit flares up. Know what? I will try to describe the nose, after all: orange peels and wet coals. And wonderfully idiosyncratic.

Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Cicala, 2001

The nose is more forward and complex than the Prapo but the palate lacks acidity and is over-sweet for me. There is a note of chocolate on the nose that is overbearing but it is tempered by a whiff of tobacco leaves.

Alion, Ribera Del Duero, 2001

This was the only wine not served blind and as Danny Galil (of Mersch) poured it, I told him I was waiting for an Alion that I would actually love. This is it. The nose starts off with a ravishing bottle stink, but adds more elegant embellishments. The palate is modern, yes, but in a tastefully fruity way, with a smoky minerality on the finish.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sushi And Riesling At Sakura (Sept. 12, 2009)

Sakura is one of my favorite Sushi places. In Israel anyway. And while Riesling and Sushi should be a great match, the wines we brought were a little too dry for a perfect match. Still, it was a fun evening. I mean, my friends and I really don't buy any crappy Riesling. It's the 2GrandCru 3rd Amendment.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese, Trocken, 2005

A pungent nose that obscures the fruit but is terrrific anyway for its chalk cum vegetable soup nuances. The palate is not just young and tight, it's so disjointed it's almost paraplegic. There is obvious acidity present but it floats in a universe parallel to the bitter quinine finish and the wine is so closed I couldn't spot enough body in it for an Auslese. Still, I do like this wine for its somberly rugged personality so while I'm not opening any of my bottles in the next five years, I remain hopeful about its future.

Giaconda, about 160 NIS.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Von der Fels, Riesling QBA, Trocken, 2005

Here is another lovely nose with an almost Burgundian overlay of flint and dry grass over citrus fruit, while a kinky note of burnt rubber points the compass elsewhere. Unlike the Samaugen, the Von der Fels opens to show a very flavorsome profile and lovely acidity, yet never quite advances beyond a somewhat churlish adolescence. Very good and will improve.

Giaconda again, about 200 NIS (this is declassified juice from various Keller Grand Crus).

Marc Tempe, Alsace, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

Honeyed apples on the nose with something akin to light botrytis. The palate starts off dry and finishes on a sweet note that is laced with minerals. We all liked this wine in the past and, thankfully, little has changed. I think this wine is well entrenched in a peak plateau that will last some three-five years, thus no rush to drink but no reason to wait.

Giaconda make their third and last appearance of the evening. About 160 NIS.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Evening With Neophytes (Sept. 11, 2009)

Our host supplied beef carpacio and assorted cheeses, I brought the wines, which, for better or for worse, are not the kind of wines I'd normally open with the wine geeks.

Hmmmm. When I think about it, this weird behavorial pattern (that is, excluding certain wines from tasting with my more snobbish friends) calls for some discussion, but seeing as my bosses totally pissed me off this week and I'm still recovering from that, I will stick to my literary comfort zone and just doll out the tasting notes.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Primavera, 2006

I have never smelled a wine more redolent of raw meat than this one did on first pour, which for my tastes is a terrific thing, even though I am aware that some might see it as a fault. This aroma never quite faded but in time mellowed a bit and was joined by black cherries, violets and damp earth. The palate is very fruity but let me clearly state that I'm talking about a very pure and pretty sort of fruitiness, not the blockbuster variety. The fruits are complemented by soft yet lightly bitter tannins that make the wine eminently drinkable right now, although I suspect some short-term cellalring might fine-tune this wine. As pretentious as I usually find the phrase, this is quintessentially "a good wine for what it is".

Giaconda, 110 NIS.

d'Arenberg, The 28 Road, Mourvedre, 2001

Sweet and monolithic at first and perhaps not much more than that even at the end. Whatever fruit profile this Bandol ripoff might offer is buried beneath notes of sweet, old wood and caramel. Less refreshing, much less refreshing than the Primavera, I find the tannins somewhat pungent, which is a descriptor I never though I'd ever use for tannins. A weird, rough beast of a drink. But interesting, I'll give it that, no regrets here.

WineRoute, about 130 NIS.

Krebs-Grode, Rheinhessen, Eimsheimer Sonnenhang, Riesling, Eiswein, 2002

Admittedly, this bottle was not as fine as the previous one I had drunk, but it was still as a fresh as daisies. Right now, German wines are firmly on top of my dessert wines hit list, with the Loire, Tokaji and Sauternes slugging it out for second place.

Not imported to Israel, available in Frankfurt for about 20 euros.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2GrandCru At Assif (Sept. 1, 2009)

"Where Have All The Good Times Gone?" pondered the dilligent wine-blogger left shipwrecked on the vineological desert island called Family Vacation In Turkey. Oh, how he awaited to return to the fold as his skin peeled off in the sun-bleached pool-side while his friends feasted on first growths and Montrachets.

Thus, 2GrandCru did make his jolly way to Assif in southern Tel Aviv to reclaim the wine lover's ground that he had squandered away in order to please his children and womenfolk. He had heard good things about Assif, but, in reality, the chef's reach did indeed exceed the grasp of his creative juices.

And what was heaven for? The wines...

Pierre Gimonnet, Cote des Blancs, Oenophile Extra Brut, 2000

This Champagne sparked some controversy. I admit the dryness and and acidity could be perceived as brutal but I loved it for its meditative reserve and its saline finish (and while I do believe the acidity would easily be tempered by food, sadly we had it as an appertif). Everyone did, however, enjoy the nose, with its fascinating, fossil-like minerality.

Markus Molitor, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

This is so typical of the Mosel, the nose has peaches and dill along with ample signs of petrol even now, while the palate has that delicate coupling of fruit, sugar and acidity that no other region can match. It also has typical 2004 minerality. I almost caused a food fight when I claimed I found a certain coarsness on the end, where the fruit dwindles down. Which will probably fade away in, say, five years.

Not imported to Israel. Too bad.

La Rioja Alta, Gran Reserve, 904, 1995

This has one damn, fine nose. It is animalistic and dusty, with tobacco leaves and chocolate over red fruit with a currant-y kick. The palate has the kind of crisp tannins I associate with minerally reds and typical, savoury Temperanillo fruit. A lovely wine that grows more and more Rioja as it opens up.

Imported by Hakerem, about 30 Euros in Spain, 250 in Israel.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, La Guiraude, 1999

A gorgeous nose that is at first too extracted for my tastes then shows black fruit (sometimes I think only the Rhone makes black fruit this good), olives and pepper. The palate is tasty yet has this languid structure that works because of the peppery kick of the Syrah. This is my Wine Of The Night and is right in the middle of its drinking window (but has plenty of life left).

WineRoute still imports Graillot but has dropped this single-vineyard Crozes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Misc Notes (Aug. 2009)

Chateau d'Arcins, Haut-Medoc, 2005

A few years ago, I believe, Al-Hashulchan (local gourmet and wine magazine) gave the 2001 a very favorable review. Thus, when I saw this selling for about 100 NIS, I thought it'd be an interesting wine to try, because we all know how useful a bargain Bordeaux can be, especially with a vintage like 2005.

The nose has a typical Bordeaux feel to it, with a Graves mineral tint as well as a very pleasing touch of leather. The oak is still obvious on the nose as well as on the palate, which is surprisingly smooth and has a warm sense of fruitiness backed by good acidity. And thank God the winery doesn't seem to have the money to make it a muscular fruit bomb. It's Minor League stuff but rather nice for that level (almost AAA, hahaha, baseball joke) and a few years will mellow it out.

Imported by Tiv-Taam, for about 100 NIS. Tiv-Taam, a food chain which started out specializing in non-kosher food, initially distributed the Shaked family (WineRoute) wines, along the "regular suspects" Israeli major wineries, some local boutiques, a few odds and ends from other small importers as well as some Eastern European stuff. For the last few years, it's been trying to market itself as less of a niche player and now the selection of wines is rather uninspiring (not to mention over-priced). Chateau d'Arcins is one of the few wines I've seen on their shelves recently of any interest.

Condesa de Leganza, La Mancha, Reserva, 1998

Another case of the palate not living up to the promise of the nose. The nose is very Spanish, full of smoky red fruit complemented by tobacco leaves and hints of caramel. The palate is not quite balanced, somewhat stewed and sweet in mid-palate and burns on the bitter finish. Not bad for an eleven year old at this price level, but not much more.

WineRoute, 90 NIS.

A. Et P. Villaine, Bouzeron, 2006

Lime and mineral notes on the nose, which develops tropical nuances. As with the 2005, this has a very pleasant sailnity on the finish and is longer and better defined than was the 2005. The acidity is well integrated and offers very vivid freshness. Drinking well now and I actually feel it will even improve in a year or two.

Tomer Gal, about 70 NIS.

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

A terribly charming nose, and a hedonistic one as well, that combines a melange of fruit (apples, apricots, melons and pineapples) with a hint of white chocolate, while a dash of flint keeps things in check. The palate might lack some acidity and complexity but is lush, sexy, multi-layered and yummy. It could be a dessert wine but I think it could accompany light, dairy sandwiches. This is at the start of a four or five year drinking window. (Aug. 25, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS. This is the wine I drank the night Haifa (which Haifa? There is only one team in Haifa) advanced to the Champions League for the second time. The love you take is equal to the love you make.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007

I tried to avoid returning to this wine so soon after the previous encounter but I found myself longing for a delicate Bourgogne and every time I opened a wine at home, I wound up staring at the Lapierre through the glass of the wine fridge door. Got what I wanted, at the end. Those fresh and fragnant red fruits over a backdrop of light funk and earthiness. A crisp, medium-bodied palate that lets the fruit roll unto the saline finish.

Tomer Gal sells it for about 100 NIS.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006 (Aug. 22, 2009)

I was a jejune taster when WineRoute imported the 2000 Crozes seven years ago. The next vintage was the 2002, which, despite the acclaim bestowed on it by one demented reviewer, was a mediocre wine that just barely managed to escape the very worst of that vintage's abysmal faults. So this is my first real encounter with a good Graillot Crozes, which I bought at WineRoute for about 130 NIS, if I'm not mistaken.

Right off the bat, before the wine has a chance to truly open up, I am enchanted by the nose. Very Syrah, very Rhone, with rich black fruit and spicy/peppery notes. Not a blockbuster, folks, although it hits the ground running and takes off as it airs. The palate is still primal and tannic but has a suave, saline finish. This wine is truly all I expect from a young middle-weight Syrah though it will have to integrate its tannins - not to mention its acidity, which at its core is very graceful only right now it is very adolescent and loud - and then I think it will show as decently elegant wine. It should be an interesting voyage.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nuits-St.-Georges Tasting (Aug. 12, 2009)

I've been to quite a few of Tomer Gal's tastings and this one, rather unexpectedly I must say, was one of the best. Forget any preconceptions you might have of Nuits-St.-Georges, some excellent wines are made there and the wines tasted showed both typicity and individuality. None took sturdiness to any extreme, except for the Leroy Aux Allots perhaps, and all highlighted Pinot fruit with decent elegance and often more. All were easy to write notes for, which means they displayed a certain transparency, this without in any way detracting from their quality or mystique.

Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2006

From vineyards in central Nuits. The nose has a certain candied tingle which I find in many young Burgundies and gets it just right, being fruity and subtly spicy. The attack is quite soft and silky, but there is an acid backbone which delivers a big kick on the finish. Quite long for a village, although the tannins are not very finessed. I am quite intrigued by its character, and, as I was to find out later, I seem to have an affinity for the Gouges style. Excellent value at 190 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2006

Sourced from the Bas de Combe vineyard in north Nuits, bordering Vosne. Everything about the wine is darker, from the color to the palate. Which is true for all three Meo-Camuzet wines tasted, although to my taste they are still very much Pinot and very much Bourgogne. The nose is riper and more forward than the Gouges, although I find the Gouges aromatics are more captivating from a stylistic point of view. Even though the wine had been open for several hours, it kept improving in the glass. At first, I found it shorter than the Gouges, and heavier, but it kept growing more harmonic and elegant. Although, at 280 NIS, it costs more than what I'd like you to pay for a Villages, it is certainly right at the top of its classification.

Jean Grivot, Nuits-St.-Georges Charmois, 2005

From central Nuits again. This is even better. What a lovely nose, utterly Bourgogne, with a sultry smokiness I also found in the Gouges, as well as hints of chocolate and loads of style. The palate is also reminiscent of the Gouges, what with its brainy angularity, but it's much more monolithic. It's another case of an iron fist in a velvet glove, still kicking within its elegant envelope, with terrific acidity complemented with precise ripeness. Between the Meo-Camuzet and the Grivot Villages, this is the one I'd actually pay 280 NIS for.

Domaine Leroy, Nuits-St.-Georges, Aux Allots, 2005

North Nuit. I'm not quite sure how to swallow a 1300 NIS Villages, especially one as closed as this one is. Sorry, maybe I shouldn't joke about wines as expensive as this one... At first, the fruit is so shut down, all I can get on the nose is barrel-induced spices and only tannins on the palate, albeit very fine tannins. This is obviously more about Leroy than about Nuits.

Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos des Porrets St. Georges, 2006

Central Nuits. This is a very pretty wine and although it is no less closed than the Leroy, it is more about fruit and is in a very good place, even now. It is aromatically cut from the same cloth as the Gouges Villages, although the fruit is subtler and it adds some chocolate notes as well as light, welcome hints of sweat and barnyard. At first, the tannins seem to choke the fruit, but even then, you can sense the power and focus the wine holds. Then the wine opens a bit and lets out more hints of its quality, complexity and, again, focus. This delicious wine seems a bargain at 280 NIS for a Premier Cru.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2006

From a vineyard located just over Clos des Porrets. My written notes repeat the phrase "what a lovely nose" so I guess I must have liked it. Yes, the nose is so alluring and sensual that the word "whore" was bandied around the table, although I think "geisha" nails it better, as the wine presents an intellectual facet as well as a sensual one. The nose, then, is earthy and smokey over all that sexy fruit while the palate has a brainy mineral/tannic finish. Over my budget at 490 NIS but I can still dream, can't I?

De Montille, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Thorey, 2006

North Nuits. I think this wine's place in the tasting was problematic. I think wines age by one of two routes. They either mellow out with age or build up in bottle. And the ones that build up and gain weight with maturity, as this wine seems to be, just don't show well against the other type. Having said that, this is lightly colored and has a highly perfumed nose, very delicate and feminine. The palate is more of the same, with the sensuality of a woman who doesn't put anything out to hang but rather saves it all for the bedroom. And a lightly minerally finish caps off a very charming package. Good value at 300 NIS.

Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos des Grandes Vignes, 2006

From south Nuits and the same winemaker, Etienne Montille, as the Thorey. The nose is very de Montille, with gunsmoke, earth and a light meatiness draping over a very solid background of red fruit. The palate has good length and is drinking well, but as a total experience, offers less than the other wines of the evening.

290 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Murgers, 2005

North Nuits. The nose starts out very closed but develops radically, offering earth and hints of coffee. This kind of nose could spoil me rotten, but, even at its most hedonistic, there is a captivating sense of it elegantly holding back. It has the finest tannins of all the wines of the tasting, offering a light bitterness without pinching the fruit. Elegant and silky, it has a great future as well as a terrific present. Wine of the night.

Okay, I guess I like Meo-Camuzet a lot, too, even if he doesn't exactly fit my budget. 580 NIS.

Jean Grivot, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Roncieres, 2000

Central Nuits. What I like about mature Burgundies is how that candied fruit of their youth becomes a mellow sweetness that comes totally from the fruit and not the alcohol or residual sugar. Thus, this is a very good drop with its well-evolved purity. However, most of its breed is in its nose - which is much better than the palate - where the red fruit is just the background for the Old World lovers' favorite players: sweat, saddle leather and the sewers of Paris.

490 NIS.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rauzan-Segla Tasting At WineRoute (July 28, 2009)

The winery claims that Thomas Jefferson regarded this Margaux Second Growth very highly. Me, I've always been an Aaron Burr fan.

Name dropping heckling aside, while the tasting was a highly educational experience, and while I enjoyed the wine's elegance and classicism, I didn't exactly depart with an itch I just had to scratch. Although I wouldn't kick the 1996 out of my fridge, you know. But overall, I think the Rauzlan-Segla is a very good wine, just not a must-have.

Aromatically, most of the vintages are of a kind: the fruit profile strikes a nice balance betwen red and black fruit, overlaid with tobacco and coffee, while the older vintages have a slightly nutty quality to them. The difference is in the palate, and, while the style is more or less consistent, the quality is not immune to vintage variations.

(I have not yet received the prices from WineRoute. I will update this post once I have them)


A very pretty nose that starts out somewhat modernish and then unfolds and displays more classic nuances and a touch of spices. Alas, while the nose is first-class, the palate doesn't even have a boarding pass. Just about medium bodied, you can feel how the palate just doesn't have the substance or balance to contain the oak and it winds down on an astringent finish that doesn't seem to have a lot to do with the wine's youth (the comparison to the 2005 is riveting) but rather with the style of the vintage.


As I said at the top, Rauzan-Segla showed great aromatic consistency during the tasting and nowhere was this more evident than with the pair that kicked off the tasting. The 2005 was the better wine aromatically, showing great vibrancy and ever growing presence and definition, but it really showed its true breed on the palate. The fruit is more concentrated, longer and with enough ripeness to totally avoid any astringency. A real winner.


Although very forward, the nose is surprisingly elegant for the vintage. However, its typicity is very hazy, so much so that there was a general concensus that it was much more Pauillac in character than Margaux. The palate also surprises by being rather more reminiscent of the 2004 than the 2005, with a slight bitterness on the finish. A better wine than the 2004, it actually has less personality than the 2002.


A terrific, unique nose that manages to tweak all the aromatic components of Rauzan-Segla and spin them off in another direction altogether. I'm tempted to call it funky, but it would be a rather elegant style of funk. The palate is ripe, not especially long, but very balanced and methinks it will be one of those useful wines that will drink relatively early while retaining its vitality for over a decade.


The nose is even funkier than the 2002, broader too, with slightly blacker fruit, and it really hit home with me. A continuous, side-by-side comparison of the 2002 versus the 2001 showed that the 2002 was a more interesting wine, longer, with the tannins supporting the fruit with greater finesse. This was a surprising breach of the book on these two vintages and thus a second bottle was opened, which showed a better structure, with an interesting play of astrigency and ripeness on the finish. The second bottle beat the 2002 on points.


This is a good wine, but there is something bland about it. The nose adds nothing new and the palate is very fruity and accessible. While it gains focus in glass, overall it remains a very indifferent product.


Although the nose is tighter than any preceeding or suceeding wine, it retains the family signature. The palate has terrific balance and power, without ever breaching the elegant facade of the house style. This is the most Old World wine of the tasting and if my note is rather skimpy, it is only because it is in a very monolithic stage right now.


The nose simply roars and the more it opens up, the more I'm amazed by it. it just has this meaty, animalistic feel to it yet somehow it remains silky and elegant. The palate is fuller and bigger than the 1995, yet somehow it is just as balanced and elegant. For my money, this is the wine of the tasting. Excellent.


The 1989 boasts a captivating nose that is even more animalistic than the 1996, with nutty overtones. It starts out very yummy, unfurling incredible freshness for a twenty year old as well as integrated and supprortive tannins - but it loses steam in glass, as opposed to the 1983, which just showed no signs of quitting.


Starting out a sluggish step and a half behind the 1989, the 1983 quickly makes up the distance, never showing any fraying on the palate, while the nose develops a real 'stink' of a bouquet. The most captivating wine of the night, Ran Shapira called it classic Margaux and I'll have to take his word for it. Maybe all mature wines are this much fun, if they survive this far - which this one sure did, and more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Porterhouse (Aug. 8, 2009)

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Brut, n.v.

A very Chablis-like nose of flint, sea shells and oranges. There is a crisp, chalky mouthfeel but there is also an underlying sensation of sweetness that doesn't really thrive on its own but begs for food to subsume it. A nice bubbly, good value, not very memorable but quite charming for what it is and what it costs.

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Delas, Hermitage, Marquise de la Tourette, 1999

The nose is all about pepper and earth, and, while there are also plenty of black fruit - and some red too - it's a fairly hardcore Old World wine, meaning the fruit is not at center stage. The aromas follow through on the palate, which is balanced and has good acidity and a rusty finish.

A rusty finish can only get you so far, to be truly high class, a wine has to show elegance as well; having said that, this is, to my tastes, a very good sample of a heartwarming second-tier wine, worth about 92 points.

Improrted by Anavim, years ago, purchased for about 250 NIS. I'd drink it within the next three years, even though the critics make it a twenty year wine, because I was never overwhelmed by the climate conditions of the Anavim stores.

Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac, 5me Cru, 2000

The fruit profile is riper and friendlier than the Delas, leaning towards black cherries but with a touch of red fruit as well. The nose has a smoky-minerally personality, which I think is terribly appealing. Bordeaux, folks, remember that name!

Imported by WineRoute, costing less than 200 NIS when the 2000's hit the shelves.

Ishmael Arroyo, Vol Sotillo, Riber Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1995

There is a currant-y kick on the nose which might be misleading in a blind tasting, but other than that, no complaints at all. Good concentration and ripe acidity on the deftly balanced, nicely knitted palate and a complex overlay of spices on the nose.

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Misc Notes (July 2009)

Golan Heights Wineries, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

With this kind of wine, geared as it is for upper-middle class neophytes looking for wines to flatter their newly-found perceptions of what fermented grape juice should taste like, it is actually easier for me to imagine the winery's press release than it is to formulate an interesting tasting note. Thank God I'm not a professional, but anyway, here 'tis: Sweet fruit with a spicy, minerally aftertaste. A good wine in the typical Israeli mold, ripe, alcoholic with green streaks. These traits are in enough of a balance to make this a successful wine but I just can't conjure the energy to write anything more about it. (July 4, 2009)

The next wine I had that same day is, thankfully, much easier for me to write about.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Haardter Herrenletten, Riesling Spatlese, 2006

Unlike other wines I've had this year from the Pfalz, this is an off-dry wine and the roundness of the fruit in this mold is so easily accessible and tasty that I might have a problem returning to drier wines from the region. The nose is lush, almost tropical, with a hint of botrytis funk, creating an impression of the dessert wine but that's not the way it functions on the palate, as it is more of an appertif or a food wine. Whatever, on the palate the dominant red apple notes are enveloped by more tropical fruits on the fringes and the whole package finishes with a long tasty blast that is all juicy, fruity acidity. This excellent wine should develop for over a decade. (July 4, 2009)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

A. Et P. Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2006

I am obviously incapable of keeping away from this Chardonnay, even though I knew it was not quite ready. Still, I remembered how lovely the nose was and I needed to clear some fridge space. Plus, it really helps that I've got a few more bottles stashed away. Because, with this particular bottle, although the eloquent flint and spicy pears on nose just make me want cuddle up in bed with a smile, the solid fruit on the palate is overwhlemed by the oak and the overall effect is a choppy, blocky and ungainly. Damn. (July 7, 2009)

Imported by Tomer Gal, I was lucky enough to find it for about 120 NIS.

Albert Mann, Muscat, 2007

Since Albert Mann makes my favorite Alsatian renditions of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, it's only fitting that this is one of the few Muscats to arouse my interest. I dont think I'd buy an entire bottle but it seems like a good wine to buy by the glass, as its blend of white fruit, quinine and minerals seems like a good match for light summer fare.

Mann's importer, Giaconda, doesn't carry the Muscat, although it does import the more expensive Weinbach rendition, which, at slightly less than 200 NIS, simple doesn't fit into any ecological niche in my culinary life. There must be a strand of irony in there somewhere.

Albert Boxler, Pinot Blanc, 2005

Apricots with flint overtones on the nose. The palate is round and there is no lack of acidity, thankfully. There is, however, a bit of an alcoholic sting in mid-palate which carries through to a bitter finish. Overall, there's a rough feel to it that doesn't really appeals to me. (July 18, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v. (2004 based)

A sharp wine until the sweetness of the citrus fruit asserts itself, with a yeasty nose that bespeaks of chalk and baked apples. This is one of the best non-vintages that Eldad Levi imports and I'd be tempted to age it further if I had the room for it. Time to move on to the Special Club. (July 19, 2009)

About 230 NIS, Boutique des Champagnes.

Schafer-Frolich, Nahe, QBA, Riesling Trocken, 2007

The nose initially reminds me of Champagne, with its green apples laced with hints of oranges and yeast, but then the various elements blend together to produce a more typical apple-pie character. And then the minerals and baked apples start roaring and there you go, that German shit just smells so good, even when it's just QBA stuff. The palate is balanced and tasty, if not especially complex, with an elegant backbone of juicy acidity and a welcome salinity on the finish. (July 25, 2009)

Giaconda, 80 NIS. Decent value.

J.L. Chave, Cotes du Rhone, Mon Coeur, 2007

This initially has very 'southern' aromatics, with ripe plums and herbal/meaty notes. Then it develops a more peppery, Syrah personality, so I'm not sure whether it comes from the North or South Rhone (Chave, of course, hails from the North). Maybe it's just a Syrah-based CDR from the South. The palate has a heady, sweet, ripe feel to it, balanced by solid tannins and ends in a peppery, dusty finish. (July 30, 2009)

WineRoute, about 100 NIS, expensive for a Cotes du Rhone, but reasonable considering the overall quality. Personally, I prefer the Chave St. Joseph, and I'm sated with mid-priced Southern Rhones for now, anyway.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekday Fare (July 22, 2009)

Domaines Schlumberger, Alsace, Grand Cru Kitterle, Riesling, 2000

The nose is one variant of the quality I've grown to expect from a good Riesling: honey, apples that start out fresh but morph into carmelized and candied specimens, all draped over a backbone of mineral. Just what the doctor ordered. The palate is lean and slick, Alsatian dry, but offers less flavors than the nose hints at, mainly because, while the acidity is definitely there, it doesn't possess enough pizzazz to liven up the fruit. Thus, a good wine that remains a step behind the heights it attempts to reach.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Domaine Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Reserve, 2001

Oddly enough, The Pegau tastes more or less as I remember the 2001 and 2004 Vieux Telegraphe tasting at three years post-vintage. That is, it's crisp, elegant and minerally, and its spicy nose offers expressive red fruit that keeps you coming back for more. The more I drink Pegau, the more I realize what a terrific estate it is.

Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2001

While this hints at potential, I have to say that compared to the Pegau, it seems very bulky and ripe. In fact, at first the ripeness turns me off but behind the liquor and dried fruits lurks a mineral vein that and certainly that bulk and ripeness engenders much less palate fatigue that I'd have thought.

Both wines were, and are, imported to Israel by WineRoute. The Vieux Telegraphe sells for about 250 NIS, the Pegau for about 350 NIS.

Krebs-Grode, Rheinhessen, Eimsheimer Sonnenhang, Riesling, Eiswein, 2002

A classic dessert wine that conjures more than its substance actually provides, and therein lies the magic. The nose is a simple one-two combination of sweet pears and brown sugar while the palate finely balances the pure fruit, sugar and lip-smacking acidity. It's not a great dessert wine - it would need greater complexity or a sense of electric vibrancy to be that - but it perfectly fulfills any need you might have for a very, very good one. And it's a real bargain, too.

Not imported to Israel, about 20 Euros for a half-bottle.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two Not-Quite-So-Serious Bourgognes

Both of the following red Burgundies are imported by Tomer Gal and sell for 110 NIS (although La Fortune is sold out) and both are drinking well now and should hold for about four years.

Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007

This young Beaujolais Cru displays wild strawberry aromas, pure and unfettered, with light hints of sour candy drops, which come across on the palate as juicy acidity that doesn't overwhelm the rather light body. In time, it shows a dash of spices that are reminiscent of Pinot Noir; in fact, I'm not sure I'd find it easy to distinguish between it and a young Bourgogne. There are also faint traces cocoa and a crisp, mineral finish to round out this fun wine. And, like any good Bourgogne, it picks up weight and definition in the glass, the finish growing more and more saline. (July 12, 2009)

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Rouge, La Fortune, 2007

This is every bit as youthful as the Lapierre Morgon yet does not yield to any temptations to sow its wild oats. The nose is taut and elegant, offering raspberry and cherry aromas with earthy and spicy nuances and is intense enough to offer a liquorish overtone. The palate is angular and light, but picks up weight and softens with air, and winds up with a savoury, mineral finish. The flavors dance lightly across the palate so it will suffer in a tasting alongside bigger wines from up north, but it's incredible value for a weekday wine as it offers the usual Villaine class. (July 16, 2009)