Thursday, September 24, 2015

Warm Wines, No Women (Aug. 18, 2015)

What's worse than warm beer and cold women?

Warm wines and no women.

We had a logistics issue. We love Brut, for the food and atmosphere, but it's very small, see, and the small private room isn't that well aired and cooled. And August 2015 was very, very hot. So we tried to cram six bottles into three small ice buckets.We tried.

And Irit Kozak didn't come. That's the "no women" bit.

Other than that, a fantastic evening, great company and an eclectic (in Israeli terms) collection of Loire whites.

Chateau Breze, Saumur, Clos David, 2012

This was a whim buy for me. This wine comes from an old, rediscovered hill in Saumur (although the more famous version is made by Clos Rougeard). This has an interesting nose: apricots, herbs, river bed, with slightly oxidized notes reminiscent of apple cider. Very good acidity, but the oxidized notes and the sweetish finish are off-putting and I'm not sure whether we caught it a bad time or if this is the style of the wine.

Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fume, Buisson Renard, 2005

One version of the Pouilly-Fume story has it that Didier Dagueneau put it on the map. I don't think the town needed him to put it on the map, but he's certainly priced as though he did. Well, he used to price his wines very dearly. He's dead. But his family carries on that particular tradition. To be fair, Didier and his heirs were and are quite meticulous and the wines age very well. For example, this ten year old Sauvingon Blanc, which is dry and herbal on the nose, more tropical on the palate, with depth and complexity that unfolds. It didn't wow me, but I've noticed I tend to like my Dagueneaus on the young side  -they're complex enough when young with a thrilling tension that I prefer.

Giaconda, 390 NIS.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fume, Majorum, 2012

One reason Pouilly-Fume didn't need Dagueneau to put it on the map is producers like Redde. This is the flagship wine and there is so much fossil-like aromas and flavors that it's like sucking on Atlantis. I like Redde anyway but this is amazing, awesome in its depth and potential complexity.

Domaine Pelle, Menetou-Salon, Morogues, Vignes de Ratier, 2012

This is a more humble estate, also carried by Giaconda, and I'd like to explore it more, properly cooled down! It's funky and marine, the fruit yellow and ripe, but not over-done. There's an initial lack of focus, but it improves as it opens and grows colder.

130 NIS.

Francois Cotat, Sancerre, La Grande Cote, 2010

This smells and tastes like a Sauternes (I understand it's intentionally picked with botrytis) but it's leaner, more focused, with a mineral edge. I was told it matures into an amazing, dry wine, but I like it now, too, even though I'm sure quite a few won't know what to make of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Twenty Years Later (Aug. 10, 2015)

Few marriages are all smooth sailing, and ours is no exception. Let's face it, I'm not exactly prime time programming. But we made it through the first twenty years, and before we embark on the next, better decades, I got to do what every wine geek lives for: open anniversary wines.

But, before that, we indulged in a gift.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Rose, 2009

I've always said GHW's top sparkling wines are their best wines, and this is no exception.  Quite honestly, this is almost as good as the prototype, from that backwater of France, Champagne. Its only drawback is, perhaps, that the only pink thing about it is its color. Blind, I'd have called a blanc de noirs. It's all about mushrooms and toast, maybe a hint of strawberries as well.

130 NIS.

La Rioja Alta, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1995

Rioja is perhaps the classic Spanish wine (all you Vega Sicila lovers can sit down now, I've noted your objections, but seriously, how many can afford to drink it, and how often?) and the "890' is one of the benchmarks. Supposedly. The 1989 was a delight, but then again, I was new at this game when I had it, but other than that, I've always preferred the Ygay (which is why that bottle of 1995 will wait for the 30th anniversary). This has very fine composure, with the same elegant breed that mature Bordeaux from the same period can have, smooth and silky with mellow red and black fruit, balsam,black pepper, celery - lacking in length, for me, though.

600 NIS.

Dr. Hermann, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurztgarten, Beerenauslese, 1995

I brought a dessert, too. This is a typical example of how the sugar in these mature, sweet Rieslings is integrated with the acidity after a couple of decades. The vibrancy of youth is gone, and you get a deep wine, with obvious botrytis, apple cider, mint tea. I do feel, however, that too much liveliness of fruit is gone, by now.

195 NIS for a half bottle.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2015)

Let's start off this monthly potpourri with a trio of wines accompanying a family dinner at Tel Aviv's Herbert Samuel (Aug. 8, 2015)

I planned the meal so that we could do with just a white, and chose the Salomon, Kremstal DAC Reserve, Lindberg, Gruner Veltliner, 2012 as I felt I'd been deprived of Austrian whites for the last couple of months. This should be accompanied by a short user's guide: Wait for the reductive stink to settle and you'll get lime, melons, chalk, ensconced in a leafy, mentholated envelope. Since the bottle didn't last the whole dinner, and since my sister wanted a red with her pork chops, I ordered her and myself a glass of Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti, l'Orme, 2011 each. This is full of friendly, leathery black fruit - musky, dusty and spicy like Nebbiolo without as much tannic palate pressure. And it somehow managed to pair decently with my coquilles saint jacques on black risotto. As an appertif, I had a glass of Williams and Humbert, Pedro Ximinez, 12 años. I hadn't had this ages. This was always fun, and it still is, dark chocolate with that typical grease oil and chili you either hate or love.

Château du Hureau, Saumur Blanc, Argile, 2013

My favorite red Loire producer also makes a white wine, as I found out last year when Eldad Levy treated us to a sample. This is a Chenin Blanc, of course, and it's a fun concoction of melon and flint, nothing too complex or too deep, just a tasty summer wine. (Aug. 12, 2015)

Fat Guy, 118 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligote, Sous Le Chemin, 2011

Buisson's Aligote always, always, shows as fine as any Chardonnay from a good village. In fact, if there was an Aligote Premier Cru, this would be it. It smells and tastes of lime, flint, Atlantic salt and truffles and, true to the character of the grape, is lithe and racy. Unique is the word that immediately springs to mind. (Aug. 13, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS. This is just as good as the Leroy Aligote, which costs twice as much. Different, but just as good.

Schaefer-Frolich, Nahe, Blanc de Noir, trocken, 2013

This is described on the Giaconda site as a Provence-like rose, but the color in the bottle we had was nothing like the online image. It rather came off as a non-aromatic white and had I tasted it blind, I'd have guessed a Chenin or one of the weird Italian grapes. It's just slightly off dry, earthy, savory, with hints of strawberries and mandarin oranges. (Aug. 14, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Moric, Blaufrankisch, 2013

An excellent, floral lightweight now, fresh cherries, white pepper, chalk. Very good acidity and balance. (Aug. 15, 2015)

Fat Guy, about 120 NIS.

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

This is a new producer carried by Wine Route, and I was concerned it might be modern and not very typical, but this is actually classic and outstanding, even if it does have a rough and almost outrageous personality. It's made of fifty year old vines, sees only stainless steel, is lean and vigorous with a marked bouquet of lime, shells and sea sand. It's already drinking very well but with that generous, intense acidity, I have no doubt it will thrive and develop for three to five years at least. (Aug. 16, 2015)

Wine Route, 200 NIS (2 for 300 on discount).

Domaine Matrot, Meursault, 2011

An awkward start, lemon with a metal streak, which I mention only in case you try this at home without proper airing. It works out the kinks into something quite special, roasted sesame and scorched bread, along with more typical pears. Its nuances are dirty and unusual enough that it still might challenge the casual drinker, but I never drink Bourgognes casually, so I'm totally fine with that. (Aug. 20, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

Larmandier-Bernier, Latitude, n.v.

I could smell the brioche even as the I popped the cork, and further scrutiny revealed baked apples and chalk. In short, typical for what is actually a blanc de blancs - 100% from Vertus, with relatively mature years in the blend - and I find nearly the focus and elegance of vintage Champagne, at a lighter weight, with a dollop of salty nuts at the end. For some reason, I hadn't followed Larmandier-Bernier as deeply as other producers in the catalog, and I need to rectify that. (Aug. 21, 2015)

Fat Guy, 309 NIS.

Louis Roederer, Reims, Brut Premier, n.v.

The nose has a green apples/dried grass/flint/toast personality going that reminds of an elegant Chassagne or Saint-Aubin. In short, one of my favorite expressions of Chardonnay, despite the 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Meunier. The mousse isn't that persistent, which I think is more about this being an off bottle, since the cork popped open as soon as I undid the muselet. A solid non-vintage, maybe too solid and dignified. Except when, by the last last third of the bottle, it shows Pinot spices and presence that burst the bubble of refinement. Then it goes downhill, with weird flavors on the finish. Bad bottle, like I thought. (Aug. 26, 2015)

Wine Route, 370 NIS (250 on discount).

Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

It was a great thrill, for me, when Wine Route started carrying Baudry with the 2010 vintage. Baudry is a fine producer with a stellar reputation, but this might prove to be more challenging than the 2010, at least based on this bottle, which starts out just as fun, only to eventually sink into a sulk in a dumb phase that the 2010 never went through. There's black fruit and black pepper with a hint of barnyard and leather on the nose, tart fruit and savory tannins in the mouth. So it needs time at the very least - it's at the quite annoying stage where a few hours of air bring out the oak rather than the fruit; which is good and pure, by the way, once you get to it. (Aug 27, 2015)

Wine Route, 120 NIS.

Argiolas, Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT, Is Solinas, 2010

Intense, ripe black fruit, olives, dusty and spicy a la Nebbiolo. Rusty tannins. Saline finish. Good value at store prices (about 220 at Pronto). (Aug. 29, 2015)

Wine Route.

Jean Lallament, Verzenay Grand Cru, Réserve Rosé, n.v.

A gift to modern lovers from the Old World. This plays a sleight of hand where the Pinot fruit seems distilled through a veil of roasted nuts and chalk, and Lallement's trademark chicken broth, all laid out in a very complex, yet subtle, texture. (Aug. 30, 2015)

Fat Guy, 319 NIS.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Enter Ente (July 13, 2015)

If Bourgogne was the whore of the world, Daniel Lifshitz would be her Madame. Here, he 'pimps' Domaine Benoit Ente, a tiny producer, tending about three and a half hectares in, mostly, Puligny. And out of these three and a half hectares, he ekes rich, yet ascetic, expressions of terroir and purity.

Bourgogne Rouge, 2012

451 bottles. This is the domaine's only red wine, and it's a throwaway in a sense, as it would be a fine bistro wine if the quantities did not make it a scarce cult item. But if you do find it, you will get soft, comely red fruit, floral, lightly earthy, clean and tasty. 100 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet, 2012

438 bottles. A blend of Les Tremblots and Les Houlleres, which are top village plots. A detailed and complex nose, beyond my expectations from a village wine. I've been trying to avoid using mineral as a generic descriptor, but I can't pin down a specific rock -  maybe that's chalk in there? A touch of flowers too. Balances salty and sour/sweet flavors. Elegant acidity. 320 NIS.

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013

1188 bottles. A more obviously minerally wine, with lime fruit. For me, at least at this stage, it's less expressive than the Puligny, by a hair. But, it's much more elegant than I'd have expected Chassagne to be. This and the Puligny are lovely and pure village wines, stunning in how well they present the towns. 320 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Sous Le Puits "Terre de Blagny", 2012

387 bottles. The relevant comparison is to the village Puligny, of course, and what we get here is not necessarily more complexity as much as greater breadth and depth. And more mysterioso. On the palate there is not so much more body, but greater grip, I think, even though the structure is hardly oppressive.  Like all the Ente wines, it is very pure with no sign of over-oaking. 470 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champ Gain, 2012

491 bottles. Expressive, yet restrained. Even when it opens to show more details and depth - flint, chalk, lime and apple skin - it retains that same restraint. An endless finish. Simply too delicious and interesting for its own good, or rather mine. 510 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champ Gain, 2013

672 bottles. Closed, very floral and tropical. In a way, it's the mirror image of the 2012, which hinted at these same floral and tropical notes beneath its shroud of minerals. Here, beneath the heady and ripe fruit are just hints, for now, of flint and the chalk. Takes a long time to show elegance. 510 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Folatieres En La Richarde, 2013

772 bottles. If the 2013 Champs Gain crouched behind a wall of tropical fruit, this wine is veiled by a canopy of minerals. There's a richness here even if the acidity knifes, salts and tests the palate. 700 NIS.