Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last Rites For Bertie (Apr. 30, 2016)


I really thought the last time was the last time, but I wound up coming to the last service.

So, until Bertie is reborn in a new form in a few weeks, thanks for the memories and the seafood.

Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauelrain, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2012

You might say this is a cult winery. A small, family operation whose wines you can barely find anywhere, growing all their grapes from the steep Plauelrain vineyard right next door. This is the last of three different wines that  I bought on a visit two years ago, and I wish I'd bought more or that there was a local importer (or that I could find the wines anywhere at all). All were  lovely and complex. The GG is their flagship wine and it is one of the most elegant dry Rieslings I've ever had. The nose is deep and complex, with red apples, sour apple peels, minerals and a dollop of red fruit and flowers as well. The palate is full in Riesling terms, yet with very focused finesse and a structure steeled in minerals.

Domaine Romaneaux-Deatezet, Vin de Pays de l'Ardeche, Syrah, 2014

The domaine is the love child of Herve Souhaut, who owns or otherwise works old-to-ancient vines in and around the North Rhone AOC's. This wine is partially made of grapes bought from growers, but the average age is decent enough: 30 years. I'm not sure whether the VdP designation is due to the origins of the grapes declassification, but it comes off as a lighter version of Cornas or Côte Rotie, with moderate, friendly tannins and traces of bacon funk.

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

I have no idea where this old school producer sources this, but it drinks (and, from what I can tell, costs) almost like an entry level Barolo. But, as it's designed for a softer impression, in its own right this is a lovely, fetching, wine, with dusty floral soft red fruit, a firm but not overpowering structure. Very high complex quality for the level.

Domaine Hubert Lignier, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Baudes, 2006

I usually swoon for this producer, but something here just doesn't work for me. It's funky, almost reductive, and although that, taken on its own, is charming in it way, it obscures the Cote de Nuits spices and forest floor. Others liked more.

Clos du Mont-Olivet, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Cuvée de Papet, 2005

Super ripe and alcoholic. If you drink this, you won't pass a breath analyzer test for a month.

Clos Marie, Pic-St.-Loup, l'Olivette, 2014

I should buy more of this. I bought the first couple of vintages, than I stopped, for no better reason than it got too tedious to look for it. But it was always a personable wine, a model representative of the best of the Languedoc. This is actually a finer rendition than the prior vintages that I loved. They were funky and bretty, this, on the other hand, is meaty and briny, tasty and full of character.

Orlando Abrigo, Valmaggiore, Nebbiolo d'Alba, 2010

Extracted, but expressive, peppery and spicy, a fascinating contrast to the Rinaldi. It's relatively tame, but you can get an idea of how intense, for good or bad, the higher wines would be. This hovers back and forth across the red line of over-extraction.

Tua Rita, Guisto di Notri, 2006

A Bordeaux blend that, as always, conveys the notion that, under a sensitive hand, the essence of Tuscany goes beyond the indigenous grapes.

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 2005

A fitting closer to this farewell night. Fresh, lively, vibrant green apples and sautéed mushrooms with brioche nuances delineate a captivating structure. Everything you might ever want in a Champagne, larger than life, all the while imbued with breed, breed, breed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New Vitkin Releases


Vitkin have never bothered with very obvious wine grapes. Their claim to fame has always been their Carignan and Petit Sirah. Over the the last couple of years, they've added a few more varieties, which are also off the beaten path in Israel and which expand on the Vitkin house style of characterful wines that eschew excessive polish and go for a funky punch.

Gewurztraminer , 2015

Considering that Gewurztraminer is very popular in Israel - easily recognizable, extroverted and, when off dry or sweeter, lush and friendly - it's quite surprising there are not a lot more varietal wines made locally. Equally surprising, considering Assaf Paz' track record at Binymina, is that Vitkin has never released a Gewurtz as far as I recall. Well, now they have, and it's perhaps the first dry one designed to be a top tier wine. This is arguably even drier than its Alsatian peers, with rose petals, minerals and salt rather than litchi and white pepper. It's so dry it's even a little aggressive right now, but lurking behind, and around, that aggression is a lot of personality. A good first effort, that right now is bones and sinews and needs to put on weight and muscle. In that sense, it continues the stylistic direction of the other Vitkin whites, specifically the Grenache Blanc. 85 NIS. (Apr. 21, 2016)

Grenache Noir, 2014

Candied and closed, with hints of tobacco leaves and back and white pepper, which become more pronounced overnight. That day's worth of air also brings out a floral element and fleshes out the palate, so that the finish leaves a wonderfully saline impression. There's plenty of promise and I applaud the introduction of a new varietal wine to Israel*, especially when the implementation is so much lither than the obvious benchmark, the Southern Rhone. 140 NIS. (Apr. 22, 2016)

* Galil Mountains also makes a Grenache, which I haven't tasted, but it's not designed to be or marketed as a premium wine, as far as I know.

Tempranillo, 2012

This isn't the first appearance of Tempranillo in Israel (I recall Binyamina, Assaf's former employer, has or had one) and it really captures one aspect of the grape, with a pungent nose laden with iron and iodine, as well as a dose of brett and a sweet musk reminiscent of old wood. It's full of personality, albeit it does not seem to be a wine that is built to age (as opposed to Vitkin's Carignan, Petite Sirah - or the Grenache, for that matter) and a lack of structure detracts from its interest quotient. 140 NIS. (Apr. 25, 2016)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2016)

Luis Pato, Vinho Regional Beiras, Baga Natural, 2012

A fresh red, that is at once vivid and languid, with earthy cum spicy aromas and flavors, that morph into sub scorched minerality and black pepper. Very taut and, for a relatively inexpensive import, backwards and in need of time. (Apr. 4, 2016)

Gin Proof, 116 NIS.

Comte Armand, Auxey-Duresses, 2012

Comte Armand's Clos des Epeneaux is, I'm proud to say, a wine I can and have identified blind. It's a one of a kind, but, alas, very expensive and too long to mature (I'll probably open my bottle of 2010 in my 70's). So I make do with the Auxey, which marries the domaine's stern, muscular style with the village's soft fruit, without the two clashing. It's an easy going wine, a boxer relaxing after a fight in a game of golf, not especially complex or deep - but I like how the forest floor and lithe black fruit are speckled with iron. (Apr. 6, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2010

2010 was a great vintage, so I'm still approaching many of my stash with trepidation. But this seems to be starting to open up. The nose has a lot of fresh red fruit, with shades of black, and exotic spices that are almost Vosne-like, except they're just earthier and a little blunter. The palate has that edgy focus that is the trademark of the vintage, from all I've heard and tasted, and is already showing a mellow drinkability on the finish, as well as an almost Chambolle languid softness. (Apr. 8, 2016)

Scottish Company, about 300 NIS. Drouhin is arguably the best of the old guard, big houses. And in 2010, anyway, this specific wine is above the average NSG village wine, even if not up to the level of a Premier Cru,

Domaine de la Vougeraie, Côte de Beaune, Les Pierres Blanches Blanc, 2013

It's almost a Chablis knockoff, with all the seashells on the nose, except there's a hint of flint and more mid-palate fat than you'd get up north, I think. There's some oak that needs more time to complete the already ongoing the process of being integrated, though. (Apr. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Mullineux, Swartland, Syrah, 2012

Eran Pick let me sample a half bottle's worth of leftovers. It's nice and sleek, floral and lightly peppery, and poised on the proper side of over-ripeness. Even a couple of days after opening, it improves with air, showing more even pepper, laced with minerals, as well as a very clean, subtly spicy aftertaste. (Apr. 13, 2016)

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, Pape, 2011

A field blend (Baga and Touriga Nacional). The expressive nose has a lot going on, while remaining focused and concise: red fruit with that tang I always mentally label as tobacco leaves, forest floor. The palate has richness but doesn't meander, remaining focused as well, with the richness balanced by integrated tannins and savory acidity. There's a modern polish to it that I don't find in the lower prices Reserva red, which is a shame, but I think I tend to try the top Castro wines too early, so I'll try again. (Apr. 19, 2016)

Gin Proof, 220 NIS.

Leo Alzinger,  Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

An outstanding wine, at the start of its maturity, that lives up to all my expectations. Long, dry without in any way being overwhelming, crisp and saline. Simply awesome minerality on the nose, and then spicy yellow apples, grapefruit and lemon zest. (Apr. 18, 2016)

Fat Guy, 239 NIS.


Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Grandi Annate, 2004

This wine deserves to be scored: 75. And I'm being generous, because I'm giving it some points for being made of good fruit - artistically, this is a disaster: ripe, unbearably sweet and extracted, impossible to drink. Yet impossible to put down, sniffing and sipping it is like stopping to photograph a car wreck. (Apr. 18, 2016)

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Rouge, 2014

Continues and refines the style of the previous vintages. Lithe, floral and peppery. (Apr. 22, 2016)

150 NIS.

Dalton, 20th Anniversary, White Wine, 2014

Dalton is the smallest of the large Israeli wineries - or the largest of the medium-sized ones - and they celebrated their birthday with two limited editions, a red and a white. The white is a throwback to the days when the New World was aping Burgundy, before they went overboard with the oak. Which means you get obvious minerality with obvious oak eyeliner and rouge, but at least the oak isn't suffocating the fruit. A good wine, it's just that I can think of at least four local wineries that make better wines every year, not just when they're setting out to accolade themselves. (Apr. 23, 2016)

90 NIS. A decent price, I'll give them that.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Brilliant Mistake - Domaine Vincent Paris, Cornas, Granit 60, 2014 (Apr. 10, 2016)


The mistake was mine. I meant to open the entry level Granit 30. Then I noticed the label read vieilles vignes, and I thought, "wait, if the Granit 30 is old vines, how old are the vines for the Granit 60?"

And then I noticed I opened the wrong bottle.

I'll just have to buy another bottle, then. Because this is great. And it's not even Paris' top wine - that honor goes to the single vineyard Geynale, which I'm not going to open just yet.

Vincent Paris is Eldad Levy's latest Rhone import. He's been making wine for just a little less than twenty years, but he's the nephew of Cornas legend Robert Michel, and has inherited both his uncle's touch and some of his plots (the Geynale I mentioned above). The Granit 60 is typical north Rhone Syrah, with aromas of black pepper, iron and olives, and it should have been painfully young to drink, back in the old days of Cornas (I wasn't around in those old days, but if you've read anything about Cornas, then the first paragraph always goes on about how Cornas used to be as hard, and as rusty, as nails). Except that, young and tannic as this is, the fruit is still so succulent, supple and balanced, that great pleasure, if not complexity just yet, is to be found therein.

280 NIS.

For contrast, here are some of the less costly wines. They do prove, with almost ridiculous ease, what a fine producer this is.

Saint Joseph, Les Cotes, 2014

This is a gorgeous, young Syrah, unencumbered by overt oak or over extraction, capturing the floral, joyous aspect of the grape, as well as the black pepper and savory tannins that lovers of the northern Rhone always look for. At the same time, there is a vaguely serious mood at play here, as though it is being served at a picnic under a cloudy sky. (Apr. 3, 2016)

135 NIS.

Cornas, Granit 30, 2014

Right - so this is the wine I meant to open in the first place and it comes from younger vines, of course, with "only" a 30 degree incline (all things are relative, of course, the Granit 60 hails from vines planted on a 60 degree incline - believe me, 30 degrees in itself is a killer). The fruit here is more upfront, plumper, yet it, too, is adorned by black pepper and rust, and perhaps a hint of bacon. Very approachable at this point, and movingly pure. (Apr. 16, 2016)

199 NIS.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Kutch and Pott (Apr. 2, 2016)

California Dreaming
Writing straight tasting notes can be a chore, unless you can find some sort of unifying theme. Which is hard with pot-luck tastings such as this one. So I had to take creative liberties and rearrange the order of the wines in order to paint a more coherent picture. Or any picture at all.

I'll start off with a classic, Champagne:

Jacques Lassaigne, Le Cotet, n.v.

This is a single-vineyard from a small Aube producer. Although there is plenty of fruit, the character and personality - and there are just tons of these - are dominated by brioche and mushrooms. A lovely example of the merits of grower Champagne. 

Now let's look at some New World Pinots. The first is lovely, the other, well...less.

Kutch, Sonoma Coast, Falstaff Vineyards, Pinot Noir, 2014

Red fruit, with floral trimmings and white pepper. Very pure, a little sweet, its structure driven by acidity. Finessed and lithe, with soft tannins on the finish. 

Domaine Serene, Oregon, Williamette Valley, Mark Bradford  Vineyards, 2004

Extracted and a little sweet, mint adding some complexity. Plodding. Or maybe just stumbling. Either way, I'll pass.

On to two that really express all that I loathe about ripe, extracted wines.

Tor, Napa Valley, Yountville, Mast Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Starts as black prunes. Stays that way. I'm searching to find something nice to say about it, and the only thing I can think of is that Tor Books published Philip K. Dick. I don't think the two enterprises are related, but Dick was great and lived in California.

Pott, Napa Valley, Kaliholmanok, 2013

Obnoxiously ripe. Maybe it will improve, as Amit had opened a a different wine from the same producer four years ago I did like. The good thing about my dislike of it is I'll never have to order it off a wine list in a restaurant. Spell checkers all over the world hate that name,

I don't like Chateauneufs much. Or Brunellos. But this pair could send me back to the fold, if I could be assured they represent a trend.

Pegau, Chateaneuf du Pape, Cuvée Laurence, 2004

Tar and spices that I had me guessing Barolo at first, but no, it's a Chateauneuf, and one I liked when I was still drinking the stuff every now and then. This is very good, without the brett I remembered from previous vintages. I like. 

Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, 2004

Very tasty and savory, showing a rusty, not rustic, side. with black fruit decorated by iron and hide, and focused, savory tannins. Too bad Wine Route stopped importing these - I'd bite.

Then two Old World gems. One a faded beauty, yet still showing the greatness of a legendary property. The other an exotic, graceful ballerina.

Chateau Margaux, Margaux 1er Cru, 1976

This shows a fascinating nose, with something that is wholesomely dirty (not brett, more like clean horse hide), but without the exotic sexiness of the AOC, never mind the Chateau. The palate is clean and savory, and very straightforward. 1976 was not a great vintage in Bordeaux, but despite its lackluster softness, this is still a good drop.

David Duband, Grand Cru Echezeaux, 2004

This is a great wine, the star of the night, that our host pulled out of the cellar as a bonus. It has the languid ripeness I love in Bourgognes, with fresh red fruit and exotic spices. It is the kind of Grand Cru that impresses by elegance and off the cuff ease and not power and one of the best 2004's I've ever had.

Next, an oddity, but one I'd welcome to my home.

Peyre Rose, Coteaux-du-Languedoc, Oro, 1996

How much of an oddity is this? When I googled it, I couldn't find any English site selling the damn thing. So it's salty and biting and comes off like an unfortified sherry, but I can't for the life of me figure out if that was the intent.  

Finally, the two whites that did cap off the great evening in actuality and not just in the post.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Petrol, slate, peaches, sauteed herbs - these are the descriptors I can pick out, but the overall aromatic effect goes even beyond that. Despite that wonderful nose, there is a sense that like many a Spätlese these days, it is more of an Auslese. Thus, it is maybe too fat to be great, but lovely nonetheless.

Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberger, Riesling Kabinett 2007

Muller picks Kabinett at ripeness levels that I'm guessing would have been a Spätlese elsewhere and elsewhen. He might not be unique in that regard, but anyway, this continues a theme of wines playing above their pradikat. It is tauter, drier, than the Brücke, full of potent energy. It doesn't really have the typical Mosel nose, but it doesn't matter, it is simply an expression of the vineyard and the winemaker rather than a representative of the region. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Goodbye to Bertie (Mar. 28, 2016)

You know that feeling when you land in a new country
at the start of a week of vacation and even the very air
seems fresh and full of promise?
So, that.
One birthday celebration a week with Eldad Levy wasn't enough, so what was supposed to be an impromptu meeting quickly turned into a sequel exulting the virtues of Burgundy and Champagne: freshness of fruit and clarity of terroir captured in bottle (at least in the case of five of the eight bottles). Sadly, though, this turned out to be my last dinner at Bertie in its current incarnation.

Ah, Bertie. You've been my second or third home for almost four years. And it's been true love right from the beginning.

"I started out with Burgundy and soon hit the harder stuff".

And, it seems I ended up with Burgundy. The circle is closed.

Vilmart, Grand Cellier Cuvée Rubis, Brut Premier Cru, 2009

This is a very appropriate Champagne to bring to a Burgundy themed evening, as it is as close as you will ever get to a Grand Cru with bubbles. The nose is very sexy, slowly changing with the passing minutes, showing red apples, minerals and forest floor. The palate is very complex and long, with flavors and acidity of a fresh grapefruit acidity. The fruit is so ripe, it almost feels sweet, but that fantastic acidity...

Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos, 2006

Lately, I've often been disappointed with Fevre Grand Cru bottlings (I haven't been buying Fevre in recent years, so the Premier Crus might actually still be good buys, I've simply drunk them all years ago and haven't bought new ones so I wouldn't know). This is no exception. There're some minerals and hints of tropical fruit, and low acidity, and in all, it feels like an indifferent Chassagne.

Domaine de l'Arlot, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos des Forets St. Georges, 2004

This is just okay. Smooth, with mediocre acidity, making for a one dimensional palate. The nose is better, though, with exotic spices providing interest, but that's as god as it gets, for such an expensive wine.

Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de Porets St. Georges, 2007

Same vineyard, an arguably better year - for my money, a much a better producer. This has a delightful nose, more exotic than I'd expect from an NSG, although it is earthbound by iron and animalistic aromas (not dirty, barnyard smells, but rather healthy, clean animal smells). The palate is reserved and short at first, but expands well, showing great, acidity driven complexity.

Arnaud Ente, Meursault, 2008

This is the first of the surprises that Daniel Lifshitz brought. Arnaud Ente is the younger brother of Benoit, who makes fantastic Pulignies of a similar bent. This is only a village wine, but it is really awesome, perhaps the best village Meursault I've ever tasted, certainly the best not to come from a single lieu-dit. The nose shows tropical fruit balanced by a very complex lattice of minerals. The palate is full of saline acidity - vibrant, complex, fresh, like chancing upon the slab of marble that Michelangelo carved the David out of.

Domaine Ponsot, Morey-St.-Denis Premier Cru, "Allouettes", 2005

When I first started drinking Burgundies, the book on the Allouettes called it one of the best value Premier Crus. Sadly, I've never drunk a great bottle. Most were actually off, but now that I've finally found a decent bottle, it turns out to be just that: decent. It has a lot of what I love in red wines, i.e. understated power, but lacks what I love in Burgundy: that same power married to subtle complexity.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru Champans, 2011

Very young, but sexy and fresh the way only fine Bourgognes can be, floral with earthy spices, and it picks up complexity and body. The very epitome of what we mean when we call Volnays "feminine". A great wine by a great producer, and it's not even a great year.

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Beaune Premier Cru, Les Teurons, 2010

Daniel's second offering of the evening is an even bigger surprise. The Rossignols are yet another Cote d'Or clan, although not as well known as, say, the Gros or the Gagnards. It has even greater length than the Champans, arguably sharper focus, with nubile complexity. An under-rated wine that managed to get to the top of the evening's lineup by dint of purity and indefatigable freshness:


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lookalike Lineup @Coffee Bar (Mar. 26, 2016)


So Eldad Levy had a birthday, Roi had twins, I got a new car and Eran and Avi had a few good jokes between them. There's always something to celebrate.

We started with leftovers of a wine Eldad Levy has started importing that we were all eager to taste.

Vincent Paris, Cornas, Granit 30, 2014

Peppery and lean. Even though this is Paris' "entry level" Cornas, this - as well as the 2009 and 2010 I've had in the past - seems to need more time than I'd expected.

Eldad is, of course, renowned locally for his portfolio of grower Champagne. Since we were celebrating his birthday, he brought a vintage Champagne, a Grand Cru vintage Champagne.

Larmandier-Bernier, Cramant Grand Cru, 2005

An amazing classic, laden with chalk, and a touch of brioche. The key to the best of Larmandier (or even his baser efforts) is that they are full, fruity and powerful without loss of grace and that sense of clean saline dryness that both excites and soothes the taste buds. We're so used to dealing offhandedly with younger aged vintages that's it's easy to overlook the fact that this is an eleven year old vintage champagne drinking like a baby.

At this point, we passed through the looking glass and had a Bordeaux from California, an old time Chateauneuf from Gigondas, a Nuits-St.-Georges from Germany and a Hermitage from Australia.

Dunn Vineyards, Napa Valley, CS, 2006

Very much a classic claret, with cedar and tobacco and currants on the nose. The palate is slightly riper and fuller than a mid-tier Bordeaux Cru would be, but in all, this is really a reserved, elegant creature and very, very lovely.

Perrin et Fils, Gigondas, VV, 2007

Closed and needs to be drunk in a Burgundy glass, where it shows white pepper and a hint of garrigue. Full and sweet, yet - for all the derision the grape usually gets - balanced, with exquisite freshness.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spatburgender, Alde Reben, 2011

Classic Pinot, forest floor - albeit the forest where Hansel and Gretel got lost. Although at first I thought my previous bottle was better structured, that did not turn out to be the case. With its well judged acidity and focused tannins, this should age for five years or so.  

Unique, the Haley's Comet of Australian Syrah

Sami Odi, 2014

A focused wine that delivers ripeness with such precision it does not in any way overwhelm - rather, it is opaque, big, broadcasting fresh fruitiness, while at the same time burying it in cryptic, tannic structures. This is the only wine I can think of that would equally appeal to Parker as well as hardcore, Old World acolytes. Don't be frightened by the packaging - Brandy shaped bottles and hand-made labels that change with every vintage - the fact that it is the most hipster looking wine in the world belies the honest, idiosyncratic content.