Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2017)


Shvo, Chenin Blanc, 2015

What does this remind me of? More Savenieres than Vouvray, I reckon. Not really a wine for a casual drinker, so it's a good thing I take even my casual drinks seriously. On the face of it, the grocery list includes just a few ingredients - cantaloupe and brimstone - but the wine gets a lot of mileage out of them. 

Vitkin, Gewurztraminer, 2016

I'm not sure how this would fare in a comparative tasting (oh god, a comparative Gewurztraminer tasting!) but it really is a lovely wine on its own and by its own merits. The nose is roses and white pepper and that impression is echoed on the palate with its spicy finish.

Both drunk Nov. 4, 2017. I had the Shvo a month later and if anything, it only improved, the nose and plate more intense and focused.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Rouge, 2015

The Garage de Papa started out as a Bordeaux blend or maybe a varietal Merlot, I forget, but over the years, Ido shifted to other grapes: Carignan, Syrah, Petite Sirah, you know, what writers term Mediterranean grapes. It's a good thing we don't call them Third World grapes or Afro grapes. This year, on the wake of last year's limited edition Petit Sirah - which was fully or mostly fermented with its stems -  the Rouge is 80% Petit Sirah, only partially de-stemmed, the rest Marsellan. The result is the lithest, most floral version yet, the farthest you can get from the cumbersome, oaky reds that ruled the marketplace only a few years ago.(Nov. 6, 2017)

The white is of the same caliber. Although I usually prefer the red, the Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2016 , also just released, is the first time I've personally loved the white just as much. It's always a varietal Chardonnay, always one of the best we have, but this year it expresses the character of the grape just as well as its Burgundian peers. Now, I'm not saying we should aspire to copy Burgundy - although you'd be a damn fool to not admire the quality of the wines produced in the Cote - but I am saying that the core, the idea, of Chardonnay is something pretty terrific that the Burgundians really nail: the apples and pears, the flint, the dry grass, the savory dryness. There's a reason everyone aims for that ideal, and if you get good enough grapes and handle them just right, you've got a shot at it. And, along the way, you can express local character, because Chardonnay is very generous at giving up that sort of expressiveness. With the 2016, Ido got there.

160 NIS.

Vitkin, Riesling, 2014

It's interesting to compare this to the Garage de Papa Blanc, which we shared with friends at the same brunch. If you scored them, they'd both be pretty much at the same place, both technically and, for the lack of a more apt term, artistically. I preferred the Garage, Efrat and friends preferred the Riesling - but I think it's simply because RIESLING ALWAYS WINS. I have some thoughts to share about Israeli Rieslings - of course I do - but first, a few words about the wine. It's got apples and spices, which is to be expected - that's the basic expression of Riesling after all - but also quince, I think. Good acidity, too. That's the tasting note. Now for my spiel.

The thing about Israeli Rieslings is there aren't many of them, but the wineries making the good ones get the grape, they express the grape and they surprise many outsiders as to how well they manage to express it. What even the good ones lack is that extra step that the Garage takes - maybe because Chardonnay is easier to grown in Israel or more giving in general - in letting the grape express the scenery as well. Don't get me wrong, the local Rieslings are not anonymous. They offer something local. Vitkin does, Kishor does, Sphera does. Just not enough yet for me to say they're as special as the best of our other whites. Vitkin takes the grape in a tight, structured direction and does it very well, indeed, and it has the best track record so far. Even today, if you taste the Riesling alongside the Gewurztraminer and the Grenache Blanc, you'll recognize the winemaker's style and touch and how unforced they are.  (Nov. 11, 2017)

Tzora, Shoresh, 2012

Eran Pick has never succumbed to peer pressure enough to blindly follow the "Mediterranean" fad. Despite the Syrah in the blends, the Tzora reds have always used a healthy proportion of Bordeaux grapes without cloning the Bordeaux flavors. The Tzora teams have been working the same vineyards for over a couple of decades and I guess they know what works best there. And what works produces, in the case of the Shoresh red, a warm wine with balanced flavors that favors currants and complex layers of minerals. (Nov. 10, 2017)

The first non-Israeli to make the monthly post is a Bourgogne we had in Rome, of all places.

Domaine Matrot, Bourgogne Blanc, 2014

It may be the vintage, it may be the house, it’s likely a combination of both, but this is one of this ‘generic’ Bourgognes that can trounce quite a few villages. I don’t always like that I make these comparisons but they can be useful. This is as complex and as delineated as a village wine, albeit lighter. Aromatically, at least, it’s so mineral laden you might think it hails from Pugliny. And, it’s one of those young, cold weather Chardonnays so pungent and racy in youth that it’s simply electric. (Nov. 16, 2017)

Feldstein, Dabuki, 2015

Amazingly, the local press managed to write and argue the life out of the new wave of indigenous grapes, mostly abetted by the Recanati promo machine. All in the course of about a year. I don't want to talk about it. I don't know if our local grapes can be superstars. I don't care if they make the drinkers think of Abraham and Jesus and King David. I'd settle for a local Aligote. Which I think this is, actually, with its lithe frame and notes of gunpowder and bread. (Nov. 18, 2017)

Feldstein, Rousanne, 2014

This is an entirely different beast. And beast it is. There's breadth of fruit in there, but the show is about minerals, wax and a savoriness that recalls mushrooms and harmonizes with the fruit. The texture is raspy and grainy without being aggressive. Avi makes me enjoy and muse about a grape I used to not give a fuck about. (Nov. 19, 2017)

Cantina Terlan, Suditrol, Alto Adige, Pinot Bianco, 2016 

I didn't really have a lot of expectations, but I wanted to try an Alto Adige Pinot Blanc since it seems to be their pride and joy. The price point was nice. It's not very complex and it could use more interesting mineralish aromas, but its friendly, floral, almost tropical, character is very winning, especially when its roundness is tempered by a spicy finish. (Nov. 21, 2017)

13 euro.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2015 

This might not have the pedigree of the Selbach crus, but time in bottle can coax complexity and focused intensity even out of a simple German Riesling, and I'm not sure this was a very simple German Riesling to begin with. (Nov. 23, 2017)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Drappier, Champagne, Carte d'Or Brut, n.v.

Drappier has the relatively unique distinction among the Champagne houses of being located in the Cote de Bar region. The Carte d'Or is the basic cuvee and it's predominantly Pinot Noir based (80-90% in most disgorgements). The brut dosage makes for a fat, round impression, while the reserve wines from the back vintages in the blend already provide biscuity aromas. All in all, a fruity, full, straightforward Champagne. (Nov. 25, 2017)

Wine Route, 229 NIS. An okay price for a decent n.v.

Barbeito, Madeira, Verdelho 10 Years Old, n.v.

More or less my first Madeira ever, its relative lightness and nutty pungency reminds me of an Amontillado, except for two things.One, the lack of the flor induced iodine bite and, two, few sherries show the kind of edgy acidity displayed here. (Nov. 26, 2017)

Luis Pato, Beiras, Vinhas Velhas, 2013

This is comprised of Baga vines half a century old. Pato uses Baga for every conceivable style, from sparkling wines to big, meaty, muscular reds. The Vinhas Velhas, on the other hand, is a lithe red, almost a rusty Gamay. This is a little better than the 2011, a little cleaner and bit more floral, the black fruit culminating in a dusty finish, whereas Baga's trademark tannins usually stain the teeth.(Nov. 30, 2017)

Both wines sold at Tchernichovsky.

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