Friday, December 27, 2013

There's A Place (Nov. 25, 2013)

The Secret Place Restaurant is a project by chef Uri Levy, inspired by 'underground' Manhattan jazz shows, whose location is revealed to the audience by SMS a few hours before curtain time. Similarly, the Secret Place is a wandering restaurant with an ever changing locale. I actually didn't even know I was going there. A Gevrey tasting put together by Daniel Lifshitz fell through and he suggested we hang out at Tshernichovsky 6, a small Tel Aviv bistro, without mentioning it was taken over for the evening by the Secret Place.

It was a fun evening, meeting Uri, catching up with friends, meeting a couple of Facebook friends I'd never met in person, in addition to enjoying the dinner (I would donate a kidney for some the sea fare, arguably even my own!) and the wines below - since it was a night out with Daniel, we stuck to Bourgogne.

Expect the unexpected in Burgundy. The first time I ever tasted a white Boillot, I was sure it was one of the lesser lights of Burgundy. It created such a bad impression that it ruined Boillot for me for life, even though the second encounter knocked me out. Louis Carillon, on the other hand, is such a revered name that, looking at the labels, I was sure I knew who my favorite would be.

Well, the underdog won.

Domaine Henri Boillot, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Embrazees, 2009

What a lovely nose, a little honeyed, with flint and dry grass and dem apples. Elegant without the four-squareness we usually find in Chassagne, and oak is only obvious, not intrusive. Tasty stuff.

Domaine Louis Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet  Premier Cru, Les Champs Canet, 2007

An elegant wave of minerals promise a salinity the palate doesn't deliver. I know Carillon is the classic name, but this wine, at this stage, just doesn't work for me. In all fairness, I think it spent too much time in the cooler - or else not enough time resting after a very recent flight.

De Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Les Taillpieds, 2002

This is very complete and strikes a balance between power and finesse, such that it manages to show enough intensity to push the envelope of elegance without rupturing it. A complex nose, very deep, red fruit and minerals with a generous helping of garrigue. The palate is arguably even better and it is a true pleasure to drink such a classic wine at this point in its plateau of maturity.

Domaine de Courcel, Pommard Premier Cru, Grand Clos des Epenots, 1999

A classic name, this requires more time to approach the younger Montille's state of drinkability. Darker than the Volnay, although not necessarily blacker, with a touch of flower, it is also more monolithic and backward. The potential is there, as this is meaty without being coarse, framed by fine tannins.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pinot Noir 101 With Romana Echensperger (Nov. 22, 2013)

Who wants to learn about Pinot with Romana Echensperger?

All we had to do was make our way through three blind flights of German, Bourgogne and New World Pinot Noir - and the only test was trying to guess which was which.

A sparkler to break the ice.

Jean-Louis Denois, Limoux, Extra Brut Classique, nv

Good nose, citrus, green apples, earthy/spicy notes. Light frame, not very deep, but nice and tasty. This is Eldad Levy's latest magic trick, a sparkler from the Languedoc made by a sixth generation Champenois.

Fat-Guy, 90 NIS.

 The tasting itself was comprised of three flights, each of which included a German Spatburgunder, a Bourgogne of fine pedigree and a New World Pinot.

Flight 1

Ata Rangi, Martinborough, 2011

Rudolf Furst, Franken, Hunsruck GG, 2009

Jacques Fredric Mugnier, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Marchelle, 2008

The New Zealander an attractive nose, with an intriguing pungency, a friendly attack on the palate and a rough finish. Frankly, not that interesting. Upon first tasting the Furst, my impression was that it's very Burgundian in style, but sniffing and tasting it side by side with the Clos de la Marchelle, the stylistic differences become more pronounced. The Furst has different aromatic hues, with an herbal aspect that is totally new to me and that take time to wrap my senses and brain around. The palate is shaped differently. While both are more or less equally complex and multi-layered, the Marchelle is more fluid and sexy.

Flight 2

Candidate for wine of the night
 Rippon, Central Otago, Lake Wanaka, 2010

Jean Stodden, Ahr, Recher Herrenberg, GG, 2008

Jacques Fredric Mugnier, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Marchelle, 2010

The Kiwi of this flight also fails to make the cut; while the nose tries very hard to flatter and almost succeeds, the palate is too modern and too sweet to serve the variety and for my money, applying the same wine making to any grape variety would make for the same dull effect.

Now, the Burgudnian fan-boy in me would love to say that the Spatburgender only won the flight because of the Marchelle was too young to compete, but it basically won the night as well, and was surely the most interesting and impressive wine we tasted, with a very deep and complex nose with a lemon tint to the red fruit and herbal tinged complexity. Mind you, the Marchelle is young and what a shame it is to drink such a young 2010, as it shows such nubile, monolithic fruit, with a primary nose barely hinting at complexity, but no matter how much allowance I make, it is just so shallow compared to the German.

Flight 3

Au Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley, 2005

Bernhard Huber, Baden, 2002

Jean Grivot, Clos de Vogeout, 2001

The Californian manages to set the score at zero out of three for the New World: thick, sweet, disgusting to drink. The Huber (I think we were drinking his entry cuvee from young vines) has an interesting nose, sweet on the palate, but that sweetness recedes in glass as the wine gains body and complexity. The Grivot is puzzling. Grivot makes a terrific Clos de Vogeout, but while this is interesting and slightly funky and bretty, the brett kind of overwhelms the Pinot.

We went on for a few dishes at the Officers Club, accompanied by the following:

J. J. Prum, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

A delicate, airy, balanced, refreshing wine, with the typical Mosel signature of apples and slate.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Coudraye, 2012

Another fun wrinkle that Eldad Levy's portfolio is making in the fabric of the local scene - the entry wine from Loire specialist Yannick Amirault sports is a young, simple, fun wine that sports pure red fruit. At about 90 NIS a bottle, I bought enough for a less haphazard encounter.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2013)

Recanati, Reserve, Petit Syrah - Zinfandel, 2011

This is the wine (yes, not the Special Reserve) that put Recanati on the map, about nine years ago. Because it was the first time the winery made a unique statement, going outside the Bordeaux mold, making it the forerunner of the contemporary trend of using so-called Mediterranean varieties. Nowadays, it pales besides the Carignan and Syrah/Viognier, seemingly a throwback to Lewis Pasco days, when the reds were rather riper and sweeter than they are today. That is to say, this is rather a local crowd pleaser due to its jamminess. But it's fine in its way, and the ripeness of the cranberry inflected fruit is nicely complemented by a peppery overlay. All of which is probably representative of the grapes involved rather than the winemakers' stylistic choices, and it's a tasty wine anyways. (Nov. 1, 2013)

About 110 NIS.

Hugel, Jubilee Riesling, 2001

Hugel is more or less my favorite producer in Alsace, these days. Case in point is this complex, purebred Grand Cru, which marries clarity and depth with mature complexity and still-youthful vigor. At this point, the fruit plays barely second fiddle. Petrol dominates the nose at first, then makes way to dill, sea air and quartz. The palate is long and spicy, and the typical Alsatian quinine backbone leaves enough room for the complexity of the fruit to assert itself on the light, airy frame. (Nov. 2, 2013)

Wine Route, about 200 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Malbec, 2010

Nice nose, showing charred meat and black fruit; it's almost Old World in a way, and makes me wish the palate was as intriguing. However, the palate is ripe and thick, like most GWH wines, but saline, unlike most of them; and even though it contains its high alcohol content decently well, as the GHW wines usually do, it lacks breed and freshness. Having said all that, despite the constraints of the house style, this is an interesting expansion of the lineup and might repay further experiments, should the ABV ever go down to a more manageable and palatable level. (Nov. 8, 2013)

Probably about 100 NIS.

For my love's birthday:

J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 1999

Mature and elegant, with deep aromas of chalk and slate, apples morphing into peaches, mint, a hint of Atlantic salt. The aromas are echoed on the palate, which is finely and harmonically wrought. Perhaps it lacks some intensity, but it's very pure and true to its origin, and time only brings out its breed and class. (Nov. 9, 2013)

Giaconda, about 300 NIS.

Chateau Ormes de Pez, St. Estephe, Cru Bourgeois, 2007

2007 was a mediocre vintage, while Ormes de Pez hasn't been a household name since it was Hugh Johnson's father's household wine, so likely this is now as good as it will ever get, offering a typical St. Estephe experience. It's earthy, slightly bretty, and all grunge. While the nose is perfumed, detailed and decently complex, and the palate has a balanced mix of fair acidity, crunchy fruit and dusty tannins, there isn't a whole lot of high pedigree in it. Having said all that, Lynch-Bages owner Jean Michel Cazes' dollars show - in Hugh Johnson's father's time, it wouldn't have gotten even this far in a vintage of comparable climate. (Nov. 10, 2013)

Wine Route, three for 400 NIS, three years ago.

Carmel, Mediterranean, 2008

This blend of Syrah, Petit Syrah and Carignan is warm and friendly, the kind of mellow wines the wineries I follow aim for these days. Although I'd say it doesn't achieve the kind of balance between fruit and tannins my faves tend to reach, I still enjoyed having it on my table and drinking a couple of glasses. (Nov. 12, 2013)

About 260 NIS at Elba.

Vitkin, Riesling, 2011 

A crisp, slightly saline, bone-dry Riesling, with just a hint of sweetness on the finish, leaning towards the grapefruit end of the fruit spectrum, with an overlay of petrol. This won't ever cause me to break out in cold sweat, but it's just as good as any imported regional Riesling at a comparable price. (Nov. 29, 2013)

85 NIS.

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, 2010

Earth, leather. Sweet fruit, but elegant. The Syrah seems to lurk behind the Cabernet and the Merlot. I'm still going to wait a couple more years until I start digging into my own cache. (Nov. 30, 2013)

Chateau Golan, Syrah, Royal Reserve, 2011

Ripe and friendly, with a rather surprising tannic/saline bite. Delicate blue fruit, which I don't run into a lot. Not my style of Syrah, but an impressive expression of fruity, flowery Syrah. (Nov. 30, 2013)

A. et P. De Villaine, Mercurey, Les Montots, 2006

Ready at last, with excellent length and complexity, combining an earthy intensity with delicacy. A classic Bourgogne, the kind I really love, with a depth of fruit that belies the medium frame. Very tasty, especially the saline, palate-cleansing finish. (Nov. 30, 2013)

140 NIS.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Guy Fawkes Day, 2013

Another fun evening at Halutzim 3, Tel Aviv.

Rene Engel, Vosne-Romanee, 2004

A taut nose at first, showing red fruit and only hints of forest floor for decor. The red fruit is good, albeit limpid, fruit, but not really integrated with the acidity and tannins at first. It does develop nicely in glass, gaining languid complexity and a definition that scratches at the underbelly of the senses. I nailed the vintage, village and guessed the producer as well - because few Bourgognes were ever as non-conformist as the wines Engel had made.

Burgundy Wine Collection. Should I again lament the fact that, with Rene Engel's passing, at best I can buy the latest vintage from Domaine Eugenie for 350 NIS and fervently hope that Tomer Gal wasn't being polite when he wrote in the catalog that the new regime's wines are only 'somewhat' different in style than the wines Rene Engel made?

Hubert Lignier, Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Seuvrees, 2008

This has better definition and greater length than the Engel on the one hand, more obvious presence on the other. There's sweet red fruit with a touch of black, that for me really cried out "2008", with decent complexity defined by a mineral/animalistic character.

Wine Route. I will have to look this up. At 200-250 NIS, I'd buy.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, St. Aubin Premier Cru,  Derrière chez Edouard, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

Lots of depth, spices, earth, very complex and complete, even at this patently young age, with a saline finish. I like the whole package, even the obvious oak that is showing signs that it will integrate nicely a few years down the road.

Bourgogne Crown. About 200 NIS (but sold out).

Bouchard, Corton-Charlemagne, 2004

Honey, minerals and an intensity of fruit I find typical for Corton, as well as a touch of oak on the nose as well that is decently balanced. A wine that delivers mass at a loss of elegance, and which was better two years ago. At least it made it to its ninth birthday, which I'm not sure a lot of white Burgundies do these days, not even Grand Crus.

Wine Route, about 500 NIS in 2007, about 600 for recent vintages.

Domaine Alain Chavy, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Folatieres, 2010

Fruit redolent of lime, fresh and cheeky. An alternative lifestyle Puligny that is as lively as a Nahe Riesling.

Bourgogne Crown, 360 NIS.