Monday, October 29, 2018

The Master and Milgo

This lineup from a birthday dinner covered the full emotional range known to wine geeks: disappointment through heartfelt enjoyment to the sublime and immortal and back to disappointment, with a detour through a weird back-road or two. 

We started out with a disappointment.

Drappier, Grand Sendree, 2008

If this is the best Drappier could come up with for their premium cuvee in a great vintage like 2008, then someone needs to take a long, hard look at the house's decision making process. Despite a fine nose with decent complexity, the total package is underwhelming because the palate is sweet and under-dimensional (there was nothing we could perceive that would suggest a bottle-specific fault).

Domaine André et Mireille Tissot, Arbois, Les Bruyères, 2015

All the Tissot Chardonnays that I've tasted were weird in a good way and this is no exception, a Chardonnay that marries the intensity of Corton-Charlemagne with the peaty accents of Islay Whiskey, while letting enough fruit to shine through to make the package very palatable.

Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2004

And, speaking of Corton-Charlemagne...Shining after a few minutes of air, this shows the Corton-Charlemagne signature of high octane minerals married to fruit that is exotic and reserved at the same time. My batting average with Bonneau goes up to .300+ at long last with this great, reserved filigree

Anthill Farms, Sonoma Coast, Peters Vineyard, Syrah, 2015

There are things I look for in a Syrah: pepper, flowers, bacon. I don't suppose I really need them all in one wine. What I get here is bacon and a touch of exoticism. It's a ripe wine, not excessively so, and underneath the ripeness is a tannic backbone. Merits an extended session and another look in a few years. I'm adding Anthill to my wish list.

Pierre Gaillard, Cote Rotie, 2013

No useful notes here. It feels typical, yet mute and uninspiring at the same time. I really hope it's just a question of youth and that in better surroundings, and that with longer and more rapt attention, I'd have been able to perceive its potential.

Domaine Rapet, Corton Grand Cru, 2012

A winsome nose, spices, mint, autumnal forest floor shit. Sadly, the palate is coarse with its drying finish, and lives up to Corton's reputation for being an underpeforming Grand Cru. 

Dujac, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2011

There are producers and vineyards you can always bank on. Dujac, I think, is on that list, and Echezeaux, while not in the short list of the great Grand Crus, is certainly consistent. I think this is a very top tier Echezeaux, even in a vintage not destined for the history books. It has great depth, finesse, poise and the aromas of rotting leaves are so evocative that I can imagine the Cisterians had no recruitment problems.

Egon Müller, Mosel, Scharzhofberger, Spätlese Riesling, 2011

Icy slate blazed by sulfur tinged minerals. The balance is so exquisitely focused that the sweetness flows like liquid crystal across the palate until it culminates in a salty finish. A great wine with effortless composure that will probably outlive me.

Domaine l'Aiguelière, Coteaux du Languedoc, Montpeyroux, Côte Rousse, 1995

This cuppa full of brett is going to sway a lot of hipster hearts. Not mine, though.

Kracher, Burgenland, Welschriesling, TBA, Nummer 3, 2009

This makes me question Kracher's reputation, but then again, I also tend to question Sauternes' reputation. In both cases, a spicy, hedonistic nose is followed by a palate constructed favoring low acidity. I think more wines are ruined by low acidity than any other single fault.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

September Songs (Sept. 2018)

Mostly Burgundy and top flight Israelis this month. And a white Portuguese - the whites of Portugal need to be on your shopping lists!

Niepoort, Duoro, Dialogo Branco, 2017

We had spent a week in Portugal and drank a Duoro white almost every day. Usually 10 euro stuff, which translates to sub 100 NIS wines in Israel (which is more or less what this should cost). Without exception, they were very balanced and tautly shaped, ripe without excess and all ingrained with a fine mineral character, salty a la Chablis. I'm just going to recommend you try whatever is available until you find your house white. The Diaologo is a good starting point. (Sept. 30, 2018)

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2015

This is a wine I've adored through three vintages, 2011 through 2013. I'm keeping the 2014 because it's such a sharp, focused vintage - a marathon lady - but 2015, well, it looks like the kind of vintage that flatters the reds and turns the whites into hussies. (Sept. 10, 2018)

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, St. Joseph, 2014

This is my first encounter with the Chave estate St. Joseph, and, off year or not, it's a beautiful wine. One of the things I love most about North Rhone Syrah is the combination of black/blue fruit, flowers, pepper and bacon that evoke an almost feral wildness, even in the most elegant wines. I find all that here, especially the bacon. What I like less is how the acidity and plump fruit don't mesh very well on the palate, obscuring the savoriness that only emerges after three hours, but the density, structure and depth remind so much of a good Cote Rotie that I would wager on cellar time to resolve this issue. (Sept. 14, 2018)

Wine Route, 200 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, 2013

In addition to the usual substantial substratum of minerals (and the Shoresh is always a very mineral-laden wine), there's an echo of flowers in deep center field. (Sept. 2, 2018)

Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2015

Not only do I buy this wine almost every year from Bourgogne Crown, it's the wine I look forward to the most. It doesn't have the body or depth of a Premier Cru, but it does have the flair and excitement of one. What you look for in great white Burgundies is a certain kind of nose where the fruit aromas set the stage for something else, usually minerals. The point is, the fruit is never supposed to be too forward. Actually, nothing should be too forward - the charm of the filigree whites is always in their reserve. The magic here is in the interplay of dry grass and minerals. As far as the palate is concerned, it has an electrifying presence, with a lithe body and terrific, juicy acidity that lends great length to the snaky, salty finish. 

Aligote is a racier grape than Chardonnay, which is, presumably, why the wine feels as though it came from a cooler year than 2015. The quality is a testament to Benoit's winemaking skills, as well as the source of the juice: plots planted in 1949, 1953 and 2002 in Puligny proper. It actually impresses as a wine that could develop for at least five more years. I promise myself to hold on to my next bottle, but I know I won't.

(Sept. 4, 2018)

100 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigners, 2015

Like the Ente Aligote, this is an overachiever, a declassified village plot, with solid weight and girth. 2015 is a warm vintage, yet this doesn't come off as ripe or fat, just a little bulky.  The vintage is obviously less rewarding for Chardonnay than for a grape like Aligote, which seems to eat up the sun like a performance enhancing drug. Nonetheless, this is in no way ripe, sweet or tropical. If, like me, you enjoy a savory finish to your white Burgundy, you're going to get it here - it's just not going to be very focused. (Sept. 5, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 140 NIS.

Feldstein, Argaman, Appassimento, 2016

Argaman is an Israeli wine grape. It is a crossing of Souzão and Carignan. The intention was to produce a variety of wine grape with good rich color, which had been a problem in Israeli wine. (Wikipedia)

Appassimento: Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavors. (Wine Spectator)

Avi Feldstein has long been the proponent of Argaman in Israel, extolling its virtues and potential and producing the first varietal Argaman wines in his days at Barkan. This latest version from his eponymous winery begs the question: if you love the grape so much, why do you think you needed to dry it? Well, he only dried half the grapes that went into this wine and he did it to avoid a longer hang time in the vineyard (meaning, he could have gotten the same concentration in the field, but with some cons he wanted to avoid). The end result is interesting and appealing, achieving a plump, earthy character similar to Israeli Carignan or Marsellan, but with a different texture and set of aromas. (Sept. 8, 2018)

160 NIS.

Feldstein, Rose Carignan, 2017

Feldstein’s roses are another of my annual highlights. They are worthy of anticipation because they show varietal character, intensity and focus without losing the basic character of a good rose: a light body with a smattering of pungency providing structure, winding up in a savory finish. I can’t say they’re the best roses in the world (mainly because I haven't tasted a wide enough range of roses), but they're surely the Platonic ideal of rose. Anyway, the Carignan has an earthy, spicy character with a nose as complex as, say, a good Cote de Nuits village red. Seriously, this is as close to Burgundy as I've ever had in Israel. (Sept. 9, 2017)

The Feldstein, Rose Grenache, 2017 is a lighter wine, and less intense. I prefer the Carignan because it's so winey it exists on a level beyond rose, yet remains a rose. I have less to say about the Grenache rose, alas, but it's always a step more pure and focused than an average good rose, with shadings of flowers and clay. (Sept. 13, 2018)

Rizzi, Barbaresco, Pajoré, 2013

Yaffo Tel Aviv and Eldad Levy imported this bargain house a few years ago at a really low price (that I forgot to write down in Cellar Tracker). This is very pungent, on both palate and nose (but especially on the nose), a blast of red fruit and tar - wild and unruly, yet with a soft, friendly center. A very complete, small scale classic. (Sept. 25, 2018)

Imported by Eyal Mermelstein.

Sphera, White Signature, 2017

This flagship is dominated by Semillon, as I recall, and it's glorious this year, coming off almost like a New Zealand Sauvignon with its fresh gooseberries. The spanner in the works is a fine, pronounced strain of chalk and salt. (Sept. 29, 2018)

About 150 NIS and worth every shekel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Terrible Truth About Riesling

Settle down for a haul. The annual Riesling post is always wordy.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 'Rotlay', Riesling Auslese, 2006

Although Germany can be just as vineyard oriented as Burgundy, some would argue that the variety of ripeness levels and style across the different pradikats obscures the character of the cru system. I'm not supporting that argument, I'm just stating it. I don't really agree with that argument because I've been able to find common themes in kabinetts, spatleses and auslese from the same vineyard. 

I'm not the one who has to set winery policy and make wines. At Selbach-Oster, Johannes Selbach does and a long time ago he decided to showcase his terroirs by harvesting select plots of his top vineyards in a single trie, in addition to his usual lineup of pradikats. Rotlay from Sonnenuhr was the first product of this experiment and the Himmelreich Anrecht and Schlossberg Schmitt followed a few vintages later. 

I forgot that the only time I drank the three side by side (the 2015 vintage), I concluded the Rotlay needed 3-4 decades to shed its sweetness. I'm not sorry I opened the 2006 so early, because the cork was wet to the point of crumbling, so I doubt this specific bottle was very fit for the long haul. Like the 2015, this is ripe and sweet, hinting at botrytis, initially without any obvious structure to provide focus and direction. But I think the structure - the acidity, basically - is all in there. You just need to spend a couple of hours with a bottle to watch the nuances unfold and gauge how the seeming lack of structure is just mass and depth of fruit. When I did that, I got notes of slate beneath the fruit. 

A great wine in need of great time. (June 8, 2018)

About 40 GBP.

Margalit, Riesling, 2016

With less than ten serious Rieslings in Israel, everyone who makes a Riesling can lay claim to being one of the top ten Israeli Riesling producers. I'm quite satisfied with having four or five good ones, and they don't even have to be great, or be a toe to toe match with the Mosel or Austria, to satisfy me, as long as they express something a little different. I'd say Margalit is a decent addition to the ranks. It's herbal and minty, with a very light touch of kerosene. The palate is quite tasty and dry for its 11% ABV. This is what I find most surprising about it. I wasn't expecting this fine a balance between extract and finesse. Final verdict: well made, but lacks a distinct character. (June 19, 2018)

About 110 NIS.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Auslese ***, 2002

It's probably the specific bottle and not the wine or vintage, but I miss acidity here. There's a complex canvas of aromas and flavors, dominated by kerosene and dill, and it's fun to drink, but without enough acidity to propel it along, I don't find the vibrancy I expect from a three star. (July 19, 2018)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett, 2016

There's apricots here as well, although I think that, as is often the case with young Mosels, the predominant character is green apples There is also dust and earth, on top of the more typical slate. What I really like is the shape it forms in the mouth, light and ethereal, almost water-like, its grip tightening and become more tactile and cooler at the same time, with air. (July 26, 2018)

Fat Guy, 130 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling, Auslese #14, 2006

What I consistently get from various encounters of top tier Schaefer wines is that the fruit is so multi-layered and deep that you can find profound nuances and depth at every stage of the wines' evolution. This is almost at the top of the Schaefer hierarchy (save for auction wines) and that boundless depth and complexity made it hard to nail the wine's age. The apricots, underpinned by honey and minerals, seduce effortlessly. It's very likely that this wine will survive me, never mind more recent vintages. (July 19, 2018)

It's worth remembering why we love this stuff. Not for a sense of place so much as for a sense of being. That combination of place, grape, year, winemaker. And all too rarely, a divine spark coursing through one or more of the four. The Domprobst is blessed with that spark, which I experienced on more than one occasion. Hundreds of miles away, the Nahe has a vineyard and winemaker of equally high repute. 

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

Always laced, when not packed, with minerals, at ten years of age, this is complex, detailed and subtle, the apricot and apple fruit speckled with spices that verge on the exotic. (Aug. 1, 2018)

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I've been drinking E-S for over a decade. I remember drinking the 2004 Frühlingsplätzchen Kabinett with Anat Sela when Giaconda's first batch came in. Anat later told me I was Giaconda's first private sector customer. It's a close call, but sometime I prefer Emrich to Donnhoff. The terroirs are different, but usually the Emrich-Schönleber's are clearer and more crystalline (on the other, Donnhoff's at their best have more depth). I'm down to my last bottle in the foreseeable future.

This is a great wine, with an exquisite, ethereal balance of sweetness and minerals, already showing finesse and complexity. If ever a wine carried bottomless depth on a gossamer frame, this is the one. (Aug. 23, 2018)

Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2007

Ausleses are always delicious. Sweetness can be such a hedonistic pleasure. But if I stop and analyze this, it really is too unctuous, without enough acidity to uplift it. Whether you examine the aromas or the palate, it is just huge gobs of baked, caramelized apples, slightly tempered by hints of petrol and botrytis-fed spices. Fans of Sauternes will love it. I like it, too, but purely as guilty pleasure. (Aug. 10, 2018)

Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett feinherb, 2015

The racy side of Mosel: lively, freshly picked granny apples, the juicy fruit propped by a vivid backdrop of acidity, the mineral veneer stretched over the surface like a taut drum skin. Still primary. (Aug. 25, 2018)

A terrific value in the US at 20 USD.