Thursday, October 29, 2015

Swallow, Don't Spit - La Maison Romane Tasting (Oct. 8, 2015)

Man, Oronce, you worked your ass off and didn't even score Premier Cru grapes?
I've been a fan of the Maison, love child of Oronce de Beler, for a couple of years. Even so, I was worried that what I perceive to be a personal signature works better one wine at a time, as opposed to a comparative tasting, where it might muddle the imprint of the vineyard, at the very least. Oronce's business model is based on a barter system wherein he and his horses tend various vineyards at the Cote d'Or in return for grapes - and it was a bit of a letdown to find out that, in the low quantity 2012 and 2013 vintages, his end of the trade consisted of solely of grapes sourced from Village crus. So I steeled myself to an idiosyncratic but limited palate.

So, OK, village wines: always fun but I expected your weekday, missionary sex anyway, not weekend acrobatics, and I did get that, but high quality stuff, and of a distinctly sweaty and fulfilling sort. And it turns out that Oronce's touch and whole cluster ideology expresses both the vintage and village. Which was definitively expressed in the way the Marsannay flight didn't segue into the Gevrey flight via the Fixin, but rather the wines bitch-slapped each other out of the way, the Marsannays floral as opposed to the typical sauvage of the Gevreys, with the Fixin separating the two distinct facets with its vivid, feminine fruitiness and rotting rose petals.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2013

This is Gamay, of course, this being Macon, the lesser known Gamay habitat, and it shows fresh yet brooding berries, a hint of spices, savory yet prominent tannins, and on point acidity. 205 NIS.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2012

This is a very joyful, more harmonious wine, fleshier and more detailed, with a very peppery strain. You can see, with this pair, how 2012 has fleshy fruit a la 2009, while 2013's acidity resembles 2008. 200 NIS.

Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2011

At peak, tannins very tame, overshadowed by 2012, even 2013 to a lesser extent, and very similar to them at any rate. 2011 is the  most drinkable vintage of the three anyway, likely the most friendliest and earliest drinking since 2000, and, in some ways, it is arguably the shallowest - this being Macon, it is probably at its peak, with this bottle a little past it.

Marsannay, Longeroies, 2013

Marsannay is the most northern village in the Cote d'Or, and Longeroies is a very high vineyard, so that makes for a very floral, elegant wine, with pure, fresh fruit, complicated by a touch of earth, a touch of earth, soft tannins. 285 NIS.

Marsannay, Longeroies, 2012

As with the Macon, 2012 is fleshier, much more concentrated and spicier on the palate and, especially, the nose. The vineyard expresses its signature with a telltale languid freshness that the 2013 also exhibited. 280 NIS.

Fixin, Le Clos, 2013

You could chalk up the differences between the Macon and the Marsannays to the variation in grapes, but here you just have to own it up to terroir. This is the fruitier wine of the evening, but since this is Burgundy, all that means is that there is a languid, delicate sweetness born of fresh fruit, without any harmonic and/or dissonant notes of earth, fur, spices and the like, although there is a pleasant sensation I would term rotting flower leaves - although I wouldn't argue if you wanted to term it tea infusion, we'd sound like pretentious pansies anyway, wouldn't we? 305 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2013

Gevrey. The "blind tasting" village, the one you're supposed to always spot, because it's got that leathery character the French call sauvage, which isn't easy to translate, so just think horse hide, leather, sweat, the things that make conjure game and hunt. This tasting, of course, wasn't blind, but I think the characteristics I described qare uite self-evident here, in this concentrated, primal, almost liquorish wine. 430 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2012

This is even more of Gevrey, which is expected, as age usually underlines the characteristics of the terroir. It's stinkier and more concentrated, at the same time the tannins are finer. 420 NIS.

Vosne Romanee, Aux Reas, 2013

"There are (should be) no common wines in Vosne" said no less an authority than Hugh Johnson. And this is no common wine, with a lofty price to boot, opulent and loaded with exotic spices, flavorful and multi-layered on an almost airy frame. 590 NIS.

What's the bottom line? If you want to pursue Gamay, Oronce's version can easily rival, and arguably best, the highest level of quality Beaujolais Cru. If you want the best specimen of Gevrey or Vosne - well, I'm not going to argue that Maison Romane should be your first choice. But if you want to get it on with an artisanal expression of Bourgogne and want to experiment with a personal idiom of overlooked villages such as Marsannay or Fixin, then you've come to the right place (conversely, if you want to focus on the big name villages, I'm not going to argue that either)! And when he can get a hold of the grapes, the man makes a Corton Grand Cru that'll make you loop the loop.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dudes At Tzuk (Oct. 1, 2015)

So there's this deli/wine bar/bistro in my neighborhood, called Tzuk Farm, named after the organic farm where much of the produce comes from, especially the cattle-based products, which are especially savory and spoiling.

I joined three wine buddies for an informal tasting. Here's one of the crowd, and doesn't he look happy?

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur, 2007

This is typical Chablis, even typical Chablis Grand Cru (marine aromas, breadth and depth on the palate), but actually backwards at first compared to the last bottle. Although it develops nicely and pungently, I prefer it at home when we can devote full attention to each other.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo Riserva, 1976

Judging by the color (which was the same as, well, a bourgogne), we thought it was unraveling, but this is actually decently robust, even tannic, if on the mellow side, with iron fillings and spices. It dies after an hour but who needs more - it's the kind of wine made by people who only wanted to make good good wines that aged well, just like their parents made them, a love letter from another age.

Price unknown.

Domaine Les Pallieres, Gigondas, Terasse du Diable, 2008

Leave me alone, Southern Rhone.

Domaine Rapet, Corton-Charlemagne, 2012

You have to know Charlemagne to be able to recognize the quality in this clench-fisted, tight-assed, virgin-pussied wine. But it's there, in that compact frame with its honeyed accouterments.

Bourgogne Crown, 590 NIS.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bertie, Brett, Keller, Schaefer, etc. (Sept. 24, 2015)

Wine-making: it's all about choices. In the case of Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2011 the wine-maker's choices are apparently conductive to brettanomyces . At least, that's how I interpret the end result here, which is reminiscent of cured meats braised in bretty Amarone. To be honest, I don't understand why some consider brett an expression of terroir; it grows on the grape skins, I get it, but so do various strains of fungi, not to mention ignoble rot - and reasonable winemakers avoid those. But even if you do allow for brett, there is too much here for the bottle to contain.

With the Golan Heights Winery, Rom, 2006 the choice is pick late, pick ripe, work hygienically and age in new barrels. The wine-making is almost passionately precise, but that's the only expression of passion in this lifeless, oaky beverage.

I have just described one of the most "challenging" pair of wines I have ever tasted. Ironically, they were the centerpiece of a very fun evening with great friends at Bertie, one of my favorite food havens. As for the wines, well, it could have been worse. For example, if we hadn't brought any Rieslings.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Dalsheimer Hubacker, Riesling Grosses Gewaches, 2007

Mellow dryness, complex on both nose and palate, where it shows (surprise, surprise) minerals,red apples and red cherries . The kind of finish that is a 90+ pointer in its own right; as for the nose, only a philistine would attempt to reduce that to points.

But before the Keller, we were presented with the kind of wine that would stump many blind tasters.

Salomon, Kremstal DAC Reserve, Lindberg, Gruner Veltliner, , 2006

This starts off cider-ish and cumbersome before it starts to show minerals, green herbs, apricots and red apples, with a herbal finish and off-dry.

For dessert, we had Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2013, which was fresh, floral, honeyed, and brimming with potential.

But before we could bask in post-coital bliss with the Schaefer, we had to contend with two clarets, which demonstrated that basing your purchases on the Bordeaux classification is only good if you know the properties to begin with - which really defeats the whole point of using the classification as a quick and dirty consumer's guide.

The Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg, 2006 isn't classified and it's rustic and muscualr, yet tasty. It's not very obscure, as it's owned by François Mitjavile, owner of Château Le Tetre-Rôtebouef in St-Emilion, but it's still off most people's maps. Uri Kaftori used to import it, but I didn't pay attention, so I don't know what the price was, but I'd guess 200-300 NIS. Which is what Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000 used to cost, but by the 2006 vintage it probably cost at least twice as much and these days close to three times. We have all heard of the improvements in the Chateau over the last decade, and the explosion of Parker scores, both of which led to the price increases (some of us may have even tasted the wine) but my limited experiences with the old regime, which is basically comprised of 1996 and 2000, is that it was a boring, one dimensional wine,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2015)

Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigners, 2011

This is a great value, being a declassified village wine. It smells like someone sauteed pears and apples  in Atlantic salt and sprinkled them with roasted almonds, and actually tastes fairly similar, with a delicate salinity. This is loads of joy. (Sept. 3, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Cote de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches, 2012

Five months since my last bottle and now it feels denser and is, as always, highly suggestive of minerals: specifically, I think, dry mud. Soft, juicy fruit, excellent acidity, decent complexity and weight. (Sept. 5, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2011

This is a blend of second wines from this Pinot master's Grand Cru holdings and comes across as fine Volnay Premier Cru, an almost intoxicating nose of red cherries, flowers, exotic spices. Very feminine, with languid mid palate that goes hand in hand with that gorgeous, complex nose, and actually almost tastes floral. Just about the best German Pinot I've had so far, and I'd say it needs a couple of years to peak and will hold for 3-5 years more - because it not only thrives on acidity, like most fine Pinot, but is relatively tannic, with fine balance, and seems to say "I'm not there yet". (Sept. 9, 2015)

32 GBP.

Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Brut Reserve, 2004

I guess this is just what I'd expect from a non-premium vintage bottling: it has depth and complexity, but is not as impressive as the big boys, or as special as the growers' stuff, a Champagne to drink rather than to impress. But it's got all the bready/buiscuity nuances you'd want from a Champagne that has aged well, so let's just call it a luncheon Champagne. (Sept. 10, 2015)

About GBP at the Heathrow Duty Free.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, Clos des Hospices, 2007

Clos des Hospices is a monopole parcel in what is arguably the best Chablis Grand Cru of them all. But, this is at best only good right now, with apple peels and a tasty, salty finish. At worst, it is something of a middle-aged dullard, which I'm willing to overlook, based on part experience with the domaine, and chalk it up to an off or dumb bottle. (Sept. 11, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 360 NIS.

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, 2010

This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah blend. 2010 was a hot vintage (even for Israel), but the Shoresh manages to balance the sweetness with good acidity on the finish that creates a salty effect. Loaded with mineral inflections as well as hints of black pepper, it offers Old World restraint, despite the ripeness - since Europe has its share of hot vintages, ripeness isn't in itself a New World characteristic, but rather extraction and ripeness at all cost are, which this wine avoids. Very complete - the heat of the vintage worried me into opening it now, but this is ideally a wine to open at seven years old or more, not five. (Sept. 12, 2015)

Tzora Vineyards, 130 NIS.

Tzora, or, 2013

I used to have so many jokes about Gewurztraminer, I still do, but I've told them all. Fortunately, this is one Gewurtz that doesn't deserve to be mocked. Mainly because it's a young dessert wine so its sweetness counterpoints the extracted spiciness that can overwhelm the mid-palate in dry versions without becoming cloying. So that's a winning, strategic decision right there. The nose, of course, is never a problem with the grape. In fact, one of the reasons I think it's a slut of a grape is because it seems so easy to coax those complex, deep aromas of honey, cinnamon and rose petals. But the end result is so winning, I'm going to give Eran Pick full points for getting the slut to stop putting out. (Sept. 14, 2015)

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

I love this wine, but this bottle seems to lack the verve of previous bottles, which, if I were the score it, would bar it from crossing the 90 point line. Although the acidity is great as always. (Sept., 15, 20150

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Sphera, Chardonnay, 2014

I loved Doron Rav-On's debut 2012 vintage, but somehow skipped the 2013 Chardonnay. What I liked about the 2012 was how Bourgogne-ish it was, specifically, it reminded me of the Macon. This is more of the same, better, in many ways, because it offers the same dose of minerals but without the tropical notes that the 2012 showed. In fact, it is so much more of the same, and shows such lithe, focused grace, such appropriately measured acidity and salinity, that it might be the best Israeli Chardonnay I've ever drunk. (Sept. 18, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Miles, Gewurztraminer, 2014

A decent, cutely rustric, dry Gewurtz, that leans towards grapefruit rather than lychee, with the typical spices very tamed aromatically, and no hint of rose petals. But every now and then it flashes daggers. (Sept. 19, 2014)

About 90 NIS.

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabajà, 2005

I'm not always up to the tannic and alcoholic crunch of Big Time Nebbiolo, but Barbaresco is usually mellower and this, at 13.5% ABV, manages to find a sweet spot between fragrant delicacy and flavorsome intensity, showing typical perfumed red fruit and dusty/tarry spices, with lingering salinity. (Sept. 22, 2015)

220 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru, 2007

Another winner from Matrot. This is as dense, rocky, marine and acid driven as a Chablis Grand Cru! So what makes it a Meursault? A hint of creamy, pear-laden fruit? (Sept. 23, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 390 NIS.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Riesling Sekt Brut, 2008

The purity, depth and minerality of Riesling fruit chez Dönnhoff combined with the mushroom notes of a Champagne. What sours it is the lack of persistence in the mousse.(Sept. 25, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Domaine Henry Pellé, Menetou-Salon, les Bornés, 2013

I've been meaning to delve into Pellé, because the Loire is one region I'm always eager to explore. This has a remarkable interplay of ripe apples and peaches and pungent freshness. There's a modicum of minerals, but little of the greenness you find in New Zealand sauvignons. (Sept. 27, 2015)

Giaconda, 110 NIS.

Domaine Henry Pellé, Menetou-Salon Morogues, Vignes de Ratier, 2012

For 20 NIS more, and one more year further from harvest time, you get a deeper, more complex, more interesting wine, with a mineral funk for the afficiandos. Oddly, after a while, it became too ripe for my tastes. It might need more time, but right now, I prefer the cheaper bottling. Whatever, these are very good everyday whites, solid and efficient. (Sept. 29, 2015)

Karthäuserhof, Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Schieferkristall, Riesling trocken, 2012

I had the feinherb last year. This being 10.5%, I suspect this is the same wine with a different label. The Karthäuserhof's site only seems to have only one Schieferkristall bottling. Whatever, this is steely and bracing, very pure and linear. And within that focus is a decent amount of complexity and texture, (Sept. 28, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Foradori, Teroldego IGT, 2011

This hails from Trentino and is labelled  Teroldego  IGT instead of Teroldego Rottaliano DOC because the local authorities thought it too atypical to be awarded the more illustrious designation. Whatever. This is soft and friendly - rocky, yet succulent, with soft tannic complemented by savory acidity. Also, the kind of black pepper that would usually make you think of the North Rhone, if it weren't paired with chives that make you think of, well, Italy. The kind of warm, interesting wine that Wine Spectator often (deservedly) turns into a best-seller. (Sept. 30, 20150

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Angerville Management (Aug. 11, 2015)

Daniel Lifshitz' tasting always manage to inspire me to horrible puns, which is at odds with the beautiful Bourgognes he selects for the portfolio he shares with Eldad Levy.

Case in point: the great, infinitely refined Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, a domaine that seems to live and thrive in idyllic Burgundian paradise.

But first, because Daniel's erstwhile partner in crime does bring his own dowry, we must start with a Champagne.

Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier d'Or, 2009

A wide, deep wine, full and ripe, yet with green apple acidity, just starting  to show its complex colors and display of minerals and mushrooms. Fantastic. 449 NIS.


Not all of the following wines are for sale, only the younger wines, which had been opened the previous evening, by the way.

Volnay 1er Cru, 2012

A blend of the Pitures Dessus and Mitans vineyards. It's very closed, I get just primal red fruit and maybe a hint of flowers at first. There's a tannic backbone, yet despite that there's a silky delicacy to this.  460 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Angles, 2011

This is 2011, so it's not just a year older, it's a much more forward and drinkable vintage to begin with, so this is obviously a more expressive wine, moreso with time in glass, showing flowers and even garrigue. There's a firm backbone again, promising cellaring potential yet its quite silky for all that. 500 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Fremiets, 2012

This is more floral than the 2012 Premier Cru blend, and more expressive as well. It's as though the there's a greater depth of material that shines through. A gorgeous wine yet a firm one in the Volnay context. 490 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Champans, 2011

If the Fremiets was expressive and gorgeous, this is almost ridiculously expressive and gorgeous. There's flowers and spices and iron fillings and a backbone with a core of languid fruit. 570 NIS.

Volnay 1er Cru, Champans, 1985

Definitely a mature wine, all about mushrooms and forest floor, with a really savory finish that only fine material, well aged, can provide. Having said that, as much as I enjoyed it, the overall response around the table, including mine, wasn't the wow you'd expect people drinking a 30 year old wine to have and anyway, the next wine knocked it out.

Volnay Premier Cru, Taillpieds, 2002

There's always a kind of hush when you realize you've reached the wine of the night. This is the real deal, as crystalline as a red wine can be, expressive, fresh, complete. There's that floral Volnay character again, that complements the iron filings with pulsating silkiness.

Volnay 1er Cru, Clos des Ducs, 1999

It's too easy to slip into anthropomorphism with Bourgognes, especially with a village that is the epitome of feminine Burgundy. I'm not going to try and avoid that misdemeanor. If the Taillpieds was the typical marquise, this is, if not masculine, then surely not a little butch. It's dense, ripe, chewy, with almost black fruit and such a deep stratum of minerals, you can just sense the vine roots digging into the hill. 

Meursault 1er Cru, Santenots, 2011

This is certainly not what the public views as the mainstream version of Meursault, that is nutty, fat and wide. Rather, there's cool fruit, a cross of apples and oranges, with minty chalk. The nose is better than the palate right now, even though there's a nice balance of acidity and sweet fruit. 570 NIS.