Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The In Crowd (Dec. 3, 2015)

Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy. (Frank Sinatra)
Just another night at Halutzim 3.

Emidio Pepe, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, 2010

Having barely survived Emidio Pepe's iconic, brett-laden red, we upped the ante and went for the white. Well, one of us did, the rest of us were simply a captive audience. Actually, this is quite an interesting wine, its color and subtle hints of oxidation on the nose suggesting an orange wine, an impression belied by the freshness, flint and vital acidity of the palate.

Giaconda, 300 NIS.

Kir-Yianni, Diaporos, 2011

This is the first time I've tasted a Greek wine, and even detractors of the country's efforts called this a very worthy, fascinating wine. Comprised of 92% of the indigenous Xinomavro grape and 8% Syrah, it's dusty and peppery, lean and confident, coming off as a Syrah fornicating with a Nebbiolo after a hard session in the gym.

Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot, Vosne Romanee, 2011

I don't know whether its place in the lineup, immediately after the Diaporos, but the attack of black pepper was just too much and too atypical for me. Vosne should be more exotic, but this is too green and mean and was better earlier in the year.

At this point, we moved on to three safe bets,

Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Saint Julien 4m3 Cru Classe, 2008

This is still austere but starting to open up. Showing iron and minerals, it reminds me more of Pauillac than Saint Julien and will need five more years (which means my 2005 will need ten more).

Chateau Leoville-Barton, Saint Julien 2me Cru Classe, 2008

This is an even safer bet, and, before prices spiraled out of control, was one of the best buys in Bordeaux, given its quality and consistency. The fruit here is blacker and lusher, but well within the classic claret mold, with ample minerals. It needs even more time than the Branaire, but even now will convince you to vote French.

In various deal and configurations, I used to be able to buy these 2008's at 250-300 NIS a piece.

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabaja, Riserva, 2006

Spices and tar embellished by tea leaves. Deep, complex, multi layered.  A moving impact.

Dani Galil sells other vintages for 350-370 NIS.

Castel, Grand Vin, 2008

Like Margalit, this is a venerable local name I haven't tried in years. it shows languid ripeness and a pleasant dusty/green claret character.

Gitot Diem, Petit Syrah, 2013

Now this, if I open this, Efrat will take a a sip and go to bed, leaving me with the entire bottle in front of the TV. I won't watch Fargo because the show is too complicated for me to figure out with a nasty headbanger like this, so I'd stick with Seinfeld re-runs. But this is really an academic dilemma as I won't ever drink it again.

And now, the hipsterest wine in the world:

Sami Odi, MCMXII, 2010

This old vine Barossa Syrah (yes, Syrah, not Shiraz) - packaged in Brandy shaped bottles with handmade labels that change with every vintage (and labeled with roman numerals to boot) - is a funky, freaky tapenade, tasting like sun-baked Hermitage without any loss of freshness. It's totally outre, like a virgin putting on garters to try to lure a sailor into popping her cherry. You can't really pin it down, yet you can't look away.

Mersch, 1117 NIS.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Barolo Chez Eldad (Nov. 17, 2015)

Eldad Levy.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

Of course, he's making a living off us wine geeks. But still, we're indebted to him for bringing us grower Champagnes, vibrant Austrian whites, suave Loire reds, as well as assorted classics from all over the place (Tondonia, Allemende, Redde). And just to complete the picture, he's also teamed up with Bourgogne Crown. Most of the goods are at reasonable prices, in local terms.

Now he's testing the Piedmont waters, with two producers that have eluded the hype of American critics to the extent that the prices are still fairly decent. Of the two, Silvio Grasso comes off as a very good producer but it's Giacomo Fenocchio that is the great one. I'm especially looking forward to making the Fenocchio Barolo a house wine and stocking up on the Villero for long term cellaring.

Silvio Grasso, Dolcetto, 2013

This offers dusty black cherries and is a little more serious than I'd expect from a Dolcetto, but still with an element of fun. A good bistro wine.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Roero Arneis, 2014

A lively fresh white wine for early drinking, with a spicy, mineral laden bite.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Freisa, 2013

The first special wine of the evening. Cherries with the spicy/dusty/tarry signature of the area. A good alternative to Langhe Nebbiolo.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo, 2011

A bedrock of spices, very impressive and simply alluring, savory with good acidity.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, 2011

A more modern wine, but not too much so, and not in any annoying way, and it shows enough typicality to please. And although the barrel is obvious, it is well placed.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Bricco Manzoni,  2011

Greater purity, nuances  and refinement. Lovely red fruit.  Both this and the regular show typical Nebbiolo spiciness that still requires time to meld and absorb the remaining traces of oak.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Bricco Luciano, 2011

Terroir. This is blacker, arguably more modern, with hints of leather. I think it's at the price point where I'd either go for the regular or for the Manzoni, but it's a worthy wine on its own right, albeit  marred right now by oak and sweetness to a degree that the other two aren't.

Silvio Grasso, Barolo, Turne, 2011

Old school, mineral laden. The best of the Grasso lot, that magically manages to hide its 15% ABV.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo, Villero, 2011

Complex and nuanced, with detailed layers of minerals and leather. The embryo of a great wine.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo Riserva, Bussia, 2011

Still vaguely formed compared to the Villero, and even though on paper it's the higher ranked wine, I think it will develop only to the point where it will hover at slightly below the level of Villero.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bourgogne Binge (Nov. 11, 2015)


When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love, L-U-V!

This one night - there was no unifying stylistic theme to the wines. One was a dud, another was outright weird, a wine that made no sense at all in the context of Bourgogne as I know it. It wasn't really a great tasting, but I came away thinking, "I just love this stuff" and "I'm such a lucky guy".

Domaine Prieuré Roch, Ladoix, Cloud, 2013

I never knew, never suspected, that somewhere in the Cote de Beaune, there lurked such repugnant evil, infiltrating the heart of a venerable producer, and  in the dark abyss of human hubris, bringing forth so foul a beast:  an orange wine from Ladoix. Supremely interesting, in an arch way, flicking its demonic scents like a Pinot with stink.

Faiveley, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Marechale, 1996

This hails from the Mugnier monopole, predating the domaine's taking back control of the family plot. Based on Faiveley's (mis-)treatment, this doesn't  deserve a premier Cru designation. It's ripe, extracted, odd, with dry tannins, recognizable as Pinot, but just barely.

Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Saint George, 2008

This, however, is a true Premier Cru, right up my alley, too, with leather, earth, languid fruit, and tasty acidity. More feminine than I expected, given my past experience with Gouge's Premier Crus. Excellent.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 350 NIS at the time, it's almost twice the price these days.

Mommessin, Clos De Tart Grand Cru, 1999

Complex, animalistic, with a touch of rotting leaves. Deep, yet still undeveloped. When will the great 99's peak?

Domaine Prieuré  Roch, Ladoix, Le Clous, 2011

I'm willing to forget the curious incident of the orange wine in order to mark this as my first encounter with Prieuré Roch. A certain type of ripe Pinot can be great if it's also languid and juicy enough, with enough sublime purity. It's called magic. This is such a wine and while it's only a village and shows it, it's pure magic all the way.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 320 NIS.

Domaine Rapet, Pernand-Verglesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2012

About three or four years ago, I was running into so many oxidized white Bourgognes, that I was ready to forego any further purchases. Which would have broken my heart, as the genre ranges from salivating on the lower end to deeply moving at the top. But it seemed a risky prospect, until Daniel Lifshitz and the Bourgogne Crown came along. Daniel can sure pick 'em, and as he picks them lean and mineral, I loved them young, and their aging curve so far has renewed my faith. This is a lovely example, indeed, of a young B white, offering freshness and minerality, with a trace of the Corton fat. A steal at 270 NIS.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2015)

I've been noticing my ambivalence towards Piedmont is starting to wear down
but before we get into that, take a look at the first note this month...
Golan Heights Winery, Blanc de Blancs, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me. That a winery that regularly picks in mid October, weeks after the rest of Israel (and most of Europe for that matter), whose red wines weight in at 14-15% ABV that deflates the grapes of much of their typicality and vitality, whose flagship Chardonnay is a throwback to the fat, buttery style of the 90's. That that winery could actually come up with this, a delicious, saline, lean and ripped sparkling wine that showcases many of the characteristic and nuances of the homeland of the sparkling wine. Nuances. Gee, I really thought GHW retired that word when they switched to Californian bottles for the 1996 vintage. (Nov. 2, 2015)

110-120 NIS. Totally worth it!

We now return you to the 2GrandCru blog.

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Ptremier Cru, Vaillons, 2013

Another excellent work from this recent addition to the local supply of Chablis, it comes off as the conservative cousin of Côte de Léchet. Since we lovers of Chablis are so prone to maritime images, I'd say this is a mercantile captain while the Côte de Léchet is a pirate. In other words, this is just as classical - with lime, green apples, chalk and salt - just less colorful. (Nov. 3, 2015)

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

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, 2013

This Bordeaux++ blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah) hit a peak in 2013. This is really the best version yet - the piercing mineral aromas are especially memorable. The bitter tannins need to soften, though, but this will be really excellent when they do. (Nov. 6, 2015)

130 NIS.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2006

I've been noticing my ambivalence towards Piedmont is starting to wear down. A classic showing, with tarry/spicy/dusty red fruit and gum staining tannisn. (Nov. 7, 2016)

Wine Route, 249 NIS.

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Science can't disprove it. I believe the Mosel is where life began. And Prüm would be a living emblem of that faith, crafting ethereal, regal wines with skill, patience and, for a lack of a better word, magic. Take this. The nose is to die for, with full of smoke and rocks, the green apples showing a shade of dill, all with a mystique and wonder that are more than the sum of the parts. The palate marries the acidity and sugar of a fresh apple with just a touch of plumpness. (Nov. 10, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Domaine Ballorin, Côte de Nuits Villages, Le Village, 2011

This was one of the great surprises in Daniel Lifshitz' 2014 catalog, an unknown couple making wines from obscure sites, which was all they could get their hands on, basically. This is from the hamlet of Comblanchien, which doesn't even have its own AOC. I bought a few and this is my third and last. It's lost some of the floral freshness I loved last year, but it's gained some herbal complexity and weight. (Nov. 12, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 150 NIS.

Carmel Winey, Kayoumi Riesling, 2013

It used to be called the best Israeli Riesling, back when there were only two contenders to the title. Well, I think it was mainly Carmel that called it that and today there are probably four contenders. It is nice, though, with green apples, but also peaches, spicy, petrol. (Nov. 13, 2015)

Should cost about 100 NIS, your mileage may vary.

At Yaffo-Tel Aviv.

Benoit Ente, Bourgogne, 2013

Classic lime and minerals. Intense acidity. Big like. (Nov. 14, 2015)

La Maison Romane, Macon, 2012

Suave red fruit, just a touch of brett to show what happens when it works. (Nov. 14, 2015)

Sphera, Chardonnay, 2014

While this shows as much grace and delightful salinity as the previous bottle, it's starting to also show a vaguely tropical side as well. Not enough to be off-putting, just enough to make the bottle variation and evolution interesting, (Nov. 15, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Moulin-à-Vent, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

At first, this is just totally closed, but it opens up to show a demure expressiveness and a dusty black cherry character that vaguely evokes a rustic Pinot. (Nov. 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Hirsch, Kammerner Lamm, Erste Lage, Gruner Veltliner, 2011

Melon, lime and minerals combine for an elegant, bracing effect and a singular aromatic profile - halfway between chalk and slate - that's pungent and smoky, yet cool. The palate has a saline texture, cocooning bitter-sweet pears. Quite a piece of work. (Nov. 19, 2015)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Pape, Rouge, 2012

Very fresh red fruit, enveloped and tempered by layers of smoke and minerals. Excellent. (Nov. 20, 2015)

150 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

This wine is about ecstasy, delivering pure unadulterated pleasure, and did it hail from any other region than the Mosel, it might actually have been too much of a good thing. But because it's a Mosel, it delivers the sexy, sweet fruit of an Auslese with the purity and racy, electric acidity of a Spätlese, tempering the visceral core of green apples with a subtly expressive layer of minerals. And then all that pleasure is fed to your nerve endings with such focus and mean intention that it transforms the ecstasy into a haunting, spiritual essence. (Nov. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, 150 NIS.

A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2008

Joy in a bottle. One of my favorite Champagne growers, in a great vintage, crafted a classic with deep complexity and effortless power. All the attributes are in place, the signature brioche and sauteed mushrooms, but also chalk and iodine. (Nov. 21, 2015)

Fat Guy, 345 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne Blanc de Blancs d'Aÿ, Grand Cru, n.v. (2009 vintage)

This BdB from the Pinot Noir village of Aÿ impresses with explosive aromas of baked apples, layered with chalk and brioche. What's even more impressive is the moreish freshness of the fruit, which strikes a precise balance between pear-ish ripeness and saline acidity. (Nov. 28, 2015)

Fat Guy, 249 NIS,

Karthäuserhof, Moel-Saar-Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg, Riesling Auslese, 2002

Tasty and elegant as this is, typical of Mosel for its granny apples and icy slate, it's not overly expressive. Although, coaxed by air, it is very charming in its demure, discreet way - finally complex and mystifying even if one has to grope for the lovely creature's secrets in its mineral strata. (Nov. 29, 2015)

About 40 GBP.

Margalit, Enigma, 2012

When I started out, Margalit was the boutique winery to beat, and it used to impress my untrained palate, both young and mature (a friend inherited a stock from the nineties so I tasted a couple of back vintages), I hadn't drunk it in a decade, though, and decided to broach it again, with the Engima Bordeaux blend, which I'd hoped would be approachable young (especially since I'd read that Yair Margalit had been swayed, by Bourgognes he'd tasted, towards a more elegant wine-making style). This, however, turns out to be very oaky/spicy, and the oak is too obtrusive for my patience - I can see where it's going, but when it asks me do I want to come along with the ride, I stop to think about it for a long time. Anyway, while I might not be bothered to follow it, if you were to ask me, five years would be a good gestation period for it. (Nov. 30, 2015)

About 210 NIS.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Oct. 29, 2015)

Another night at Halutzim 3. What made it different was the almost overwhelming number of bottles, as many alumni brought in multiples. For many reasons, all justified.

It's OK, I'm a wine maker
Recanati, Marawi, 2014

This is the wine that has had the local wine scene a-buzzing for several weeks. It's the first wine made of a single indigenous grape (there has been a blend or two before, but this is the first made of a single grape) and because it is a table grape and not a wine grape, the wine has somehow gotten criticized for its actual existence before it was ever tasted. But it's a pioneer wine and it wasn't easy to get a hold of a bottle, so I can understand why people wanted to get in on the conversation. Anyway, we finally got a chance to taste it! Because its creators were present.

It's different. It's a little wine, by design, it was never crafted for greatness or for cellaring. The idea was to see what could be done with a grape that grows nowhere else in the world. You could call it a gimmick, but isn't that just the kind of gimmick that makes the world of wine so special? Remember how it felt to discover Aligote or Muscadet for the first time? That pleasant, light, moreish impact on the palate, the salty flavors that go so well with seafood, the sheer excitement of discovering something new? So, that.

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Preuses, 2008

Onwards. Moving from such a light wine to the Grand Cru of Preuses is not a kind gesture towards the palate. But taking that into account, this was not a good showing. Fevre is not today my favorite producer of Chablis, but for my palate, the Preuses is the best wine the house makes and, while it shows a waxy, minerally character, this bottle displays too much oak at the expense of Chablis typicality. Even though this may have been an off bottle, it is one more notch in my on-going tally of underwhelming Chablis Grand Cru. Barring Raveneau and Dauvissat, I've tasted Grand Crus from just about all the obvious producers, and they're batting less than .500, which is disturbing.

Domaine Jean Charton, Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Benoites, 2008

This is just a shame, over the hill, sweet and oxidized. I'd think 2008 from a good producer should still be thriving.

Kumeu River, Coddington, Chardonnay, 2007

At this point, Eran Pick made a bold move and unscrewed this. The Old World took  a shameful exit and left the stage for this lovely New Zealand white. This has fresh, lively, beautiful fruit with trappings of flint, great acidity, decent complexity and an exorbitantly indecent sense of fun.

Avidan, Cabernet Franc, 2013

People are still dead sure I never drink Israeli wines, which isn't true, of course. But since I do focus my attention elsewhere, I mostly limit my local forays to the produce of friends, and it's a good thing I have talented friends. Yotam Sharon made it, and despite winning a Decanter bronze medal, it seems to have flown right under the local radar. The fruit is so fresh, it's a surprise to find out it has 14.5% alcohol. It really reminds me of some excellent entry level Cabernets from fine Loire producers. 

Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

Yotam also brought this, for comparison's sake. I'm glad he did, because the first bottle I tasted of the 2011 Guillot cast doubts, which this dispelled, with its smoky, meaty personality, and no sign of overoaking.

Dry River, Martinborough, Pinot Noir, 2013

Eran brought this, too, and it's good, very good. But, to be politically correct, it's not really Pinot in an immediately recognizable form, more like an excellent Syrah in a Saint Joseph vein. Still, a style of wine I enjoy in its own right.

Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, 2007

This is the wine that I brought. The North Rhone lovers in the group (all of us, basically), looked for black pepper, which was present when I opened the bottle at home, but was replaced by the time we actually got to it by pork and olive tapenade. The excellent balance of fruit and acidity should ensure enough longevity for it to achieve greater complexity.

Chateau Haut Batailly, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2007

The kind of brett tempered claret where you wring out your hair trying to decide if the charm you sense in the wine is simply brett adding complexity to mundane fruit. And then, when you finally run out of hair, you decide this much brett is a nuisance and you can't decide how good the underlying fruit is anyway. 2007 for you. Or Haut Batailly, the sterner critics might say.

The last two wines were more wine makers in the group pitching fastballs.

Mia Luce, 2014

This is a garage winery run by Recanati's Kobi Arviv's. The vintage I tasted in the past was varietal Carignan, but this is mainly Syrah this time. If the Carginan based wine was funky, this is clean, tasty with an understated structure. Very good.

Segal, Unfiltered, 2008

And this is Cowboy Avi Feldstein's masterpiece from way back when he was on Barkan's payroll. Full and peppery, New World in weight and ripeness, but without being over the top, a powerful but sleek heavyweight (I'm not going to label Muhammad Ali on him yet, not until I taste a sample at transcendent maturity, but I'm willing to call this a Larry Holmes).