Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Of Riesling 2015

Make no mistake about, Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes and produces some of the friendliest food matches. The fact that we so often put the best examples on a pedestal doesn't mean we can't take the wines off that pedestal and put them to every day use.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

Emrich-Schönleber and Halenberg is a match made in heaven, just like Bird and the alto sax (or Bird playing forward in the Boston Garden, if you will). The result, be it dry or off-dry, Spatlese or Großes Gewächs, is always focused and regal and, at its best, stunning. This shows a cerebral, visceral and caustic character that I often find in the GG style - challenging, but worth the challenge. The nose is deep and complex, displaying grapefruit and green apples in harmony with minerals and hops. The palate is mostly an echo and a complement of the nose, tempering the grapefruit and hops with a salty note on the attack, a lingering sweetness on the finish and a juicy, pitch-perfect acidity in between. (May 1, 2015)

Giaconda, 400 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2008

This, on the other hand, is lighter, showing racy, focused, pungent green apples with crushed rocks and chalk, brioche where the Großes Gewächs was hops and salt. It's less complex and less showy, more subtle. (July 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Prälat, Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2009

Delicately balanced liquid candy with notes of tropical fruit and lemon pie and a faint - yet distinct - layer of minerals and mint. So harmonious and joyfully delicious and complex that it's hard to break it down by components. Sure it can age, but its youthful veneer at present is almost incandescent. (May 2, 2015)

Wine Route. I lost track of the price, but I think this half bottle was 150-200 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels, Spatlese, Riesling Alte Reben, 2006

The Alte Reben is at the sweet spot where a classic German Riesling makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. The green apples have started to melt into peaches, while the minerals notes flirt at petrol and a mellow, elegant, honeyed complexity. This is labelled a Spatlese, but I find echoes of the Grosses Gewachs style. Meanwhile, the old vines don't endow it with intensity so much as rocky depth, combined with light sweetness. (May 17, 2015)

Sphera, White Concepts, Riesling, 2014

I've been chasing Sphera's Riesling for months, and now that I've found a bottle, I think that, at this stage in its life, this carries Doron Rav-Hon's signature more than it does the the variety's.  Like many of his wines, it is floral with traces of rainwater, herbs and minerals on the nose. If you presented it to me blind, I'd never be able to contextualize it, and would probably never guess the grape. The acidity is relatively low for a Riesling, and there's no major presence of apples.* With that light bitterness, I might go for north Italy, while the floral notes would make me think of a blend with some Viognier in it. I like it a lot, though, and I think that, in the end, it does bring a lovely and elusive sense of identity beyond the grape or the wine maker. (May 18, 2015)

* Hold that thought. A bottle a month later (Jun. 26, 2014) had a definite abundance of apples, so much so that, after a couple of hours, the nose reminded me of a Normandy cidre.

About 100 NIS.

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

Great crystalline purity, with accouterments that express the Mosel perfectly: green apples that marry sweetness with racy acidity, hints of slate, smoke and petrol, a touch of tropical fruit in mid palate and finish to make things even more interesting. Germany, the Mosel specifically, has many producers who can make Rieslings as delicious as this, but few with this light a touch, one that conveys depth and complexity with such ethereal ease. (May. 24, 2015)

Giaconda, I lost track of the price, probably around 180 NIS.

Y'all were waiting for Dönnhoff to show up, admit it!

Dönnhoff, Nahe,  Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Dönnhoff might well be Prüm's counterpart in the Nahe, and the Felsentürmchen is a very interesting contrast to the Sonnenuhr. It's not quite as light, but the acidity is even more thrilling, and there is not a sign of petrol (which, as I recall reading, Dönnhoff sees as a fault), but rather a veneer of smoke and clay. As I write this, I realize I usually have a hard time to string together descriptors for Donnhoff's wines, as, at their best, they impress on a level oblique to the usual discussion of aromas, flavors and structure. However, they always offer a share of mystic greatness, and the share this time is very generous. (May 28, 2015)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal Reserve, Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2010

If there's a thread common to Austrian Rieslings (at least those I've drunk and tasted), it is the mineral and spices on the nose and palate - sure, you've got a similar fingerprint in Alsace too, but Alsatians often have a bitter quinine flavor, as well, which I find less palatable. Anyway, here, with this perennial favorite of mine, the effect is complex and refined and sealed by a long, lightly salty finish. And, what I always love about the Gobelsburg Gaisberg is present here too: an icy, crystalline expression of green apples surrounding the spices, expressed both on the nose and in the scintillating acidity.(Jun. 12, 2015)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Dorsheimer Goldloch, Riesling Spätlese, 2010

You've gotten this far through the post because you love Riesling. There's a good chance you love the Nahe. And if you live in Israel, that love is likely based on the (almost) holy trinity of Emrich-Schonleber, Schafer-Frohlich and, foremost, Donnhoff. Anyway, that's how things stand with me, so I was very happy to expand my experience and pick up a bottle of a Nahe producer I haven't tried yet in Berlin. This is on the rich side for a Spätlese, although its youth might be contributing to that impression. The depth and complexity take time to show, and then I get chalk, red apples, cherries, hints of petrol, all driven by, and thriving on, extremely fresh and appetizing acidity. Very delicious, and it begs cellaring. (Jun 18, 2015)

About 30 euros.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling trocken, 2007

The label says trocken, but the neck boasts the Großes Gewächs imprint, and what's inside the bottle certainly shows the Großes Gewächs personality: "cerebral, visceral and caustic", as I described the Emrich-Schönleber. Then I find the kind of complex aromatics that make Terry Theise muse about peasants plowing wheat fields as the sun sets or something equally idyllic, and if you wanted to be less colorful you could just say apples, lime, minerals and dry grass - but it certainly offers a very deep and reflective sniffing experience, the equal of any serious Cote the Beaune Premier Cru. The palate can caress but at times it grips and makes you pause for thought. As much as I love Donnhoff, the Emrich-Schönleber is the better GG (but the Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese trumps them both). (Jun. 22, 2015)

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Riesling trocken, 2012

A very friendly, very moreish, dry Pfalz, almost surprisingly salty, with pungent apple skin. (July 18, 2015)

Giaconda, 100 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

Hans Selbach makes this out of bought grapes from the Saar and it's going to be a hit. You might be fooled into thinking it's just a simple wine, because it's so tasty you can't possibly get past the electrifying mint laced lemon fruit to notice the structure and breadth. (July 23, 2015)

Fat Guy, about 110 NIS.

Mosel Saar Face-off
St. Urbans-Hof, Saar, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is brought to you by the Flam winery's import arm and has a classic, kabinett body, lean and lithe; granny apples and slate, at first, followed by apricot confit. Throughout its evolution in the glass, there's a yeasty strain, like due to its youth. Very nice, if idiosyncratic. (July 24, 2015)

About 110-120 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese, 2011

This, too, is a venerable name, especially the vineyard. The relative warmth of Mosel compared to Saar, combined with the addition ripeness of Spätlese, make this a fuller, fruitier wine, even before taking into account vintage variances. The additional bottle age is evident in the complexity and the greater expression of the trademark slate and dill, as well as in the hints of petrol and smoke. This has a couple of decades ahead of it, but if you drink it now, I guarantee you won't be able to put it down. Sensational.(July 24, 2015)

Bought at the Berlin duty free, 36 Euros and this is yours.

Somewhere, over the rainbow - Durbach
Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauelrain, Riesling Trocken Achat, 2013

There's that terroir thing again. This has the same floral purity as Laible's Scheurebe (which like all the domaine's wines comes from the heart of the Plauelrain vineyard), with a surprisingly large helping of fresh red fruit (not just red apples, but red cherries, even currants), as well as green apples and just a touch of guayavas. It's delicate and crystalline and so beautiful that it's breathtaking. Honestly. In a summer so full of beautiful Rieslings, this might just be the winner, at least in the dry Riesling category. It's all subjective, of course, and I may be swayed by its scarcity  (I bought this on a family trip to Baden, when I visited the family VDP producer, and I have yet to locate any of their wines in any urban center in Europe or the US that I've visited), but I think that, after all these years, I know a great Riesling when I drink it. And this is not even the Grosses Gewaches, which was the better wine when I tasted both at the winery. (Aug. 2, 2015)

17 euros at the winery - I want to rip my balls off for not buying more.

A Major League Newcomer

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling Trocken, 2014

Eldad Levy has started to import a cult producer so small that not even Terry Theise carries the entire portfolio. This says trocken on the label, but the balance of sugar, fruit and acidity is such that it highlights a character of a freshly picked green apple and ends up tasting sweeter than it probably is, yet a touch salty at the same time. If you ever wanted to make an energy drink out of Riesling, this vibrant wine would probably be the result. (Aug. 6, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling feinherb, 2014

Feinherb is a loosely defined, flexible alternative term for halbtrocken. In practical terms, this means ther isn't a big stylistic or qualitative difference  between it and the troken, except this has somewhat more weight and definition, and that same vibrant acidity. And, of course, it is sweeter and would better satisfy most people's expectations of a classic Mosel. (Aug. 8, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is where things gets interesting. Or, at the very least, promising, because this kabinett is still very primal and reticent, but you can tell it's going to be very archetypal because of its balance and composure. (Aug. 9, 2015)

This should cost 135 NIS, he other two about 100 each.

A Perennial Favorite

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2012 

I think this is actually going into something of a shell. It was more vibrant last year, and now, while it's still a beautiful piece of work, typical Mosel green apples and cold slate, the youthful spark is muted, in the process of being replaced by deft savoriness. (Aug. 17, 2015)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (July, 2015)

Orence de Beler - a legend in the making
Domaine Gerard Julien, Côte de Nuits Villages, 2012

The best buying strategy in Burgundy is to find an up and coming, hard working, new kid in the block - and this is true whether you're buying retail or importing. Daniel Lifshitz has a good nose for producers like that, and this is a case in point, because even though this is a venerable old estate, over a hundred years old, it was hardly on anyone's map and 2012 is the first vintage by Etienne, the founder's great-grandson. He did a good job. This wine comes from plots around the hamlet of Comblanchien. You've probably never heard of it, but the Côte de Nuits Villages that Daniel had in last year's catalog, the Domaine Ballorin, also came from the same village, and both have similar languid red fruit with floral trappings and hints of sweat. This is earthier, though, with somewhat more scrappy tannins. (July 8, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 165 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Macon Rouge, Chateau de Berze, 2012

I could be coy and write that I'd forgotten how good this is, but the truth is, I could never forget how good Orence de Beler's wines are. The nose is very detailed and hypnotically sniffable, leaves rotting on the forest floor with a touch of exotic spices, while the palate has fine grip and length, with a core of supple fruit. Even if you placed it in the company of the finest Beaujolais Crus, this Gamay would easily lead the pack. (July 9, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 200 NIS. The price has gone up, but it's still worth it.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligote, Sous Le Chemin, 2011

We don't get that many classy Aligotes in Israel, but the few we do have, such as this one, along with the Benoit Ente and Domaine Leroy versions, are top-notch whites that highlight Bourgogne as much as they do the grape. This, and the Ente as well, won't dent the wallet. There's flint, dry grass and savory/sour/salty citrus fruit. (July 11, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 115 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Morgon, Côte du Py, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

A fine, elegant Beaujolais Cru, with a fair degree of rusticity, a floral nose reminiscent of a claret, fresh, earthy red fruit, and fine-grained, savory tannins building to a long, focused finish. Gains weight and intensity in glass, until it becomes overbearing, actually, but it still manages to keep the Burgundy streak going. (July 12, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, St. Romain Blanc, 2009

This is one of the most useful whites in Daniel's catalog, just a simple white from arguably the most unpretentious village in the cote. It gets the job done, it's tasty, and it's a great introduction to all that Bourgogne whites should aspire to - clean pure fruit with a touch of minerals and dried grass, very good acidity, savory saltiness on the finish - that repays return visits for any lover of Burgundy. And as a bonus, Daniel always brings in these Saint Romains at a sweet spot in their drinking plateau. (July 14, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 180 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, Blanc, 2014

This has been one of the best Israeli whites since it was introduced a couple of years back. It starts off with a lot of tropical fruits before settling down and showing chalk. The slew of sweet/sour flavors can't obscure the cut and acidity-driven structure. (July 15, 2015)

129 NIS.

Villa Russiz, Collio, Sauvignon de La Tour, 2012

Now this is a Sauvignon Blanc from the Collio DOC in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The DOC borders on Slovenia and I picked this up on an excursion to Trieste when I was in Slovenia a few weeks ago. The wine shop was a very decent one, with a wide selection of Italian wines from all over the country, but I decided that if I'm in northeast Italy, I'm going to buy wines from the region and consulted my latest edition of Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocketbook for a shortlist. This appeared to be a classic from a venerable house and I didn't notice the 14.5% ABC, which would have put me off. But the alcohol is actually quite unobtrusive, no sense of overbearing  heat or sweetness, it simply seems to lend more weight to the tropical fruit that lurks under a bedrock of chalk and herbs. I won't say it's half way between the Loire and New Zealand, which is a tempting cliche when discussing SB's and rarely accurate - I'd rather say it's different enough from these two paradigms which tend to define the range of the grape and dominate the discussions of it. (July 22, 2015)

32 euros.

G. D. Vajra, Nebbiolo, 2013

(Really lovely wine that highlights the best of Nebbiolo without the tannic heaviness of Barolo that takes years to tame. Red fruit, iron and spices, soft body backed by good acidity and great drinkability. (July 25, 2015)

Dani Galil, 90 NIS.

One more Italian this month.

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli, illivio, 2012

This is another of the Trieste purchases and I think it's typical of Italy when try to model themselves after an oaky Chassagne/Meursault style. The grapes fit that style - Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and local variety Picolit - and while I would have preferred less obvious oak, the fruit (mandarin oranges and apples, with a veil of roasted nuts) carries it well. So technically, nice enough, but there are thousands like it out there and what idiosyncratic quirks it has (and it does have an interesting finish that you would only notice when it warms up) are given an anonymous face lift. (July 26, 2015)

28 euros.

Vitkin, Petit Sirah, 2010

The recent tasting at Vitkin prompted this revisit of what I think will turn out to be a local classic. As always, I adore the way it juggles the red fruit against the leather/iodine/clay bouquet and the rusty tannins. Maybe I'll even manage to curb my enthusiasm enough to age it. (July 29, 2015)

110 NIS.

Delamotte, Le Mensil-Sur-Oger, Blanc de Blancs, 2002

This is very fresh and young, still reserved, almost backward, just green apples and mushrooms. This is thirteen years already and could easily coast to its thirtieth birthday. (July 30, 2015)

About 50 GBP.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Birthday Wines, 2015

Stage I: with the family

Foradori, Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, 2012

Nuts and minerals, pears, ripe apples bordering on cider without going over the top, honey, underbush.  Manzoni is a cross of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, but because this is actually an orange wine, the effect is that of a light Pinot Noir - just try it blindfolded. Very unique, fascinatingly unique -  I wouldn't have called it my cup of tea but now that I've tried it, I want a second shot at the mother. (July 18, 2015)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Cuvée Réserve, n.v.

This is one non-vintage that will want time in the wine fridge. It's very like the regular cuvée -with that same funky chicken broth turned up a few notches - with the fruit is so deep, that despite the minimal dosage, it feels sweet aching to shed some baby fat. Which becomes evident as it becomes lean and focused with time. (July 19, 2015)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Stage II - with friends, at Halutzim 3

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

Hans Selbach makes this out of bought grapes from the Saar and it's going to be a hit. You might be fooled into thinking it's just a simple wine, because it's so tasty you can't possibly get past the electrifying mint laced lemon fruit to notice the structure and breadth.

Larmandier-Bernier, Longtitude, n.v.

What a fantastic nose: brioche, baked apples, mushrooms, chalk, the whole gamut, just jumps out and grabs you without being over the top. And that's just the nose, mates, the palate is classy and tasty as hell, the balance of fruit and acidity nailed perfectly.

Vilmart, Coeur de Cuvée, 2006

The first impression is a bigger blast than the Larmandier, almost monolithic within its facade of green apples, until it starts to calm down and show nuances of sauteed mushrooms. It's sweet and ripe with convincing balance and great purity, freshness and depth. You can sense the tense potential, but it's not ready yet, still far from its peak.

Produttori dei Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Pora, 1996

Hey hey hey! This is a very good specimen of mature Nebbiolo, with red, dusty, spicy fruit. The varietal tannic backbone is there, but the fruit is soft, warm and inviting, just what you'd expect from old school Barbaresco, and strays far from the muscular showcase Barolos.

Couly-Dutheil, Chinon, Clos de l'Echo, 2002

A little mute at first, but then shows subtle depth. There's a greenness here expressed as tobacco leaves, a touch of earth, saline, savory. A charming wine that has aged well and can keep going for years. Gets even redder and purer with air.

Alas, there were two TCA victims in the lineup. In the case of the Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1995, the TCA took time to show, so for a couple of hours after opening, you could still get the classic claret bouquet of currants and earth, although the TCA eventually killed the fruit, leaving just drying, bitter tannins. The Serafin, Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Millandes, 2002 was even worse, although it must have been a better wine to begin with, since you could get a much better sense of the great fruit.

Coldstream Hills, Yarra Valley, The Esplanade, Pinot Noir, 2012

The nose is a nice riff off the Bourgogne mold, fresh Pinot fruit, a touch candied, although the palate is sweeter and the whole package is much cleaner and more, well, obvious, than Burgundy. It's a nice discovery, although I'm not sure how much it would command my interest beyond a glass.

Drinking this is like meeting your future wife
Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac Premier Cru, 1998

Great Bordeaux wear their greatness with ridiculously effortless ease, and this is not only great, it's so delicious the palate remains in post coital bliss when you're done with the contents of your glass. And what's in the glass, you ask? Black fruit, graphite, full bodied yet light and insinuating. Very finely tuned, complex and detailed. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Come to the Serafin Safari With Me (Jun. 29, 2015)

The latest installment in Daniel Lifshitz and Eldad Levy's on-going tastings, rambling through the Bourgogne Crown's portfolio producer by producer, brings us to venerable Christian Serafin, a perfectionist Gevrey producer who's been growing vines and crafting wines for over half a century.

While all the wines we tasted were obviously crafted by the same meticulous hand, always true to the classic French wine aesthetic (which is my shorthand for nuanced, balanced and elegant), there were obvious vintage and vineyard variations.

Bourgogne, 2011

There is high quality juice in here, beyond that of a mere Bourgogne, because this is a declassified Gevrey, and what it gives most of all is that tingling sensation that says minerals to me. What it lacks in weight it makes up in finesse and pleasure. 225 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, 2011

The 'real' Gevrey is made of slightly older vines and there is more weight, grip and depth now. The fruit in both cases is pure and balanced well with the acidity and tannins. It hints at the classic Gevrey sauvage, which I think has a great deal to do with minerals anyway, with a perfumed, yet reserved, touch of flowers. 345 NIS,

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Cazetiers, 2007

Very expressive and teasing aromas of flowers with a touch of meat, which carries to the palate, with its deep red fruit and saline finish. Already complex yet promises more to come, despite the reputation of 2007 for being early drinking. 790 NIS.

Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin, 2007

I think the Cazetiers could challenge many a Grand Cru for finesse and mystery, but this Charmes has greater power and obvious expression and presence, with an intensity that borders at liqueur without really going there. Very long and the most animalistic. 1000 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Corbeaux, 2001

This is less wildly expressive, yet very classic and presents Gevrey sauvage in an elegant frame. It's ready, showing mature complexity and gastronomic finesse. The most complete wine of the evening. 695 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Corbeaux, 2005

This makes for a striking contrast with the 2001, although the family resemblance is obvious. It's less complex, less approachable, but with greater power. The least evolved and least expressive wine of the evening. 785 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Fonteny, 1993

This is less complete than the Corbeaux 2001 and less expressive than the Charmes, the night's obvious stars, but there is wonderful freshness in here and the swath of sauvage cuts deeper. There's sweetness of fruit, too, but one tempered and sautéed by age. It's not a great wine, just a very good one that has aged well and which shows interesting complexity on the finish. 1100 NIS.

Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin, 1988

There's a joker in every pack. This is hardcore and rustic with an expressive stink you either love or hate: balsamic vinegar, salami, mushrooms, epoisses. The palate is a long, expressive composition that scowls and smiles at the same time. 1500 NIS.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shorashim 2010 Launch (July 17, 2015)

In July, Vitkin Winery* launched their flagship wine, the Shorashim ("roots" in Hebrew) 2010, in a series of sit-down tastings showcasing the Shorashim, other current releases and surprises from the library. I attended the final gig at their brand new winery/visitor center, which started with a short video tribute to Nahum Ben Gal, Doron Belogolovsky's uncle, to whom the wine was dedicated (each vintage of the Shorashim is dedicated to someone important to the family). Following that, Assaf talked about the winery's philosophy and history. If I may say so myself, I did a good job transcribing those after my visit this winter, so you can read the full spiel here, but if you want a recap, Assaf wants to make interesting, fruity wines, that pair well with food, don't necessarily require a lot of bottle age and that are imbued with local character. Which is what you'll hear from many winemakers, but Assaf was just about the first to try attempt that with varieties that the industry viewed as scourge: Carignan, Colombard, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Franc.

Vitkin has been a favorite of mine for so many years that when Assaf Paz recalled how tough it was in the early years to sell their concepts, not to mention the wines, I was almost shocked to realize I was probably one of the nay-sayers who were reluctant at first to try wines like the Carignan.

* Vitkin is a family owned winery. Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky runs the show, her brother Assaf Paz and husband Doron Belogolovsky make the wines.

Riesling, 2014

Assaf might well admit that growing and vinifying Riesling in Israel isn't a very convincing way to make a wine imbued with local character. What the hell has the Mosel's favorite son to do with the hot, humid Israeli summers? The answer is he really loves Riesling and was offered good grapes years ago, and with a little foresight and a lot of talent and luck, not to mention good fruit, he wound up making a good dry Riesling. I buy it haphazardly; it's not my first choice in Vitkin whites, my first choice is the next wine, but it's a good drink and my wife likes it (although at the tasting, she too preferred the Grenache Blanc). The 2014 is a little more intense of flavor than previous vintages, rounder as well, while showing good structure and complexity. Right now, it's all about fruit, although not necessarily apples, more yellow summer fruit, such as apricots. Deserves a couple of years. 90 NIS.

Grenache Blanc, 2014

I am very wary of white Rhone grapes, especially Grenache Blanc, due to its association with white Chateauneufs, arguably the one white wine most people never manage to open at the right stage in its evolution. But Assaf made a very intriguing white Grenache in 2013 and this is just as fascinating, with tobacco, ash, summer fruit again, and acidity that brightens the fruit and imbibes it with structure and a saline finish. I don't know if this or future vintages will ever turn to be profound wines, but they will always be a welcome companion to fish and salad dishes. 125 NIS.

Petit Syrah, 2008

For me, this is the real star - of both the winery and the tasting. This is exactly what I want to get from local wines: character and the rough, muscular rusticity that comes from grapes acclimated to Mediterranean weather. It's very impressive, without being a trophy wine, but rather a still untamed, leathery, Old World wine for the discerning middle class, with acidity and savory tannins well matches with a good prime rib. This was made from the fruit of thirty year old vines, but the vineyard was torn down and later vintages came from a plot with even older vines, from the same general area (Ella valley in the Judean hills). It didn't seem to make a big difference in the quality and personality of the wines. 115 NIS for the recent release, 300 NIS for a magnum of the 2008.

Shorashim, 2010

At this point, the groom was hoisted in. My first thought was, this is too much in the mold of ripe Israeli reds, with blue, almost liquorish fruit. But, even if it is that kind of wine, a sensitive hand made it, tempered it with good acidity and hints of violets and I think it will turn out very good - it's already starting show the same leathery feel as the Petit Syrah.

Shorashim, 2006

Assaf says this 2006 was a  vintage of similar characteristics as 2010 and that year's Shorashim was a similar blend of grapes, and thus this wine, with four more years of cellaring under its belt, should be a good indication of where thes 2010 is going. Which is probably true, despite the 2006 still having sweet, baby fat to shed - but you can tell the leather and floral notes are more prominent now.  The 2010 is selling for about 300 NIS, so I think it's more expensive than many peer flagship wines. On the other hand, if the 2006 still needs more time nine years post-vintage, then these might be contending with Katzrin level aging specifications. I think these would be a fair deal if futures prices bring them down to about 200 NIS. At any rate, you'd be getting a lot of character in the bottle.

Pinot Noir, 2011

I struggled with the Vitkin Pinot 2006, finding it too full and sweet for my tastes, but the 2011 charms me with crushed berries and leather aromas. I know I shouldn't make comparisons with Burgundy (I'm such a Bourgogne-head that it's hard to avoid them, especially once my nose and palate start to register Pinot-ness), so let's just say this is a good New World Pinot Noir at a decent price. 85 NIS.

Late Harvest, 2011

Made from ripe, botrytis infected Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this is a terrific Sauternes styled dessert wine without the heaviness of a big Sauternes vintage. 125 NIS for a half bottle, a solid price.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dear Lamy (Jun. 24, 2015)

Dear Olivier Lamy,

We tasted some of your wines, with your local importers, Daniel Lifshitz and Eldad Levy, a.k.a. Bourgogne Crown. I understand you're hard at work at the domaine, so you might want to hear how it turned out. We started out with a Champagne, because it's a given that Eldad will open something from his Boutique de Champagnes portfolio.

Larmandier-Bernier, Brut, L'Attitude, n.v.

Brioche and mushrooms on the nose. This is a broad shouldered Champagne and seemed a little too ripe at first, so I was ready to dismiss it, but a few minutes showed it has enough acidity for balance and it ended up winning me over. Very good. About 300 NIS.

Bourgogne, Les Chataigners, 2013

This is a declassified Village Cru, as you know, showing lime with a streak of minerals. Very pure and saline, the acidity lends great tension. One of the best white "Bourgognes" I've tasted. 180 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2013

Do you agree with Daniel's assessment that Clos de Meix is the most archetypal cru in Saint Aubin? I ask because I don't have a clear notion of what a typical Saint Aubin is, but from my experience, this seems to be a wine people warm up to quite quickly. Whatever, it's showing citrus fruit and greater depth than the Chataigners, as well as marine aromas and flavors that just grow and grow. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Blanc, 2013

This is a cooler wine, with notes of pears that coolness showing in the aromatic profile as well as in the more prominent acidity that drives through to the saline finish creating great length. There's a mineral-laden character that is similar to the Meix with an added overlay of rainwater. 290 NIS.

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Rouge, 2013

Apparently you are as good with reds as you are with whites, which is a pure delight. I understand this comes from fifty year old plus vines and I'll pat myself on the back because I spotted the old-vines intensity and length. Pungent minerals, sweat and a hint of flowers, a firm acidic backbone and persistent tannins. 290 NIS,

Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de la Chateniere, 2013

How can I quantify the fine differences between these wines, all great, all equally mineral laden? The mineral sensations here are more intense and focused. The finish is the longest so far, the fruit the most concentrated. I find the Clos de la Chateniere to be a highlight in many tastings. The last time Daniel held a tasting of your wines, the Clos de la Chateniere was my favorite for its subtlety, here it's my favorite due to the way it slyly hints at what's in store. 365 NIS.

Puligny-Montrachet, Les Tremblots , Haute Densite, 2013

An over, overachiever: a village cru planted with a very high density of low yielding vines, the result displaying detailed nuances of flowers and, again, minerals. It's way more intense than any of the Premier Crus - likely one of the most intense village wines I've ever tasted - although it's not as expressive as, even, the Les Chataigners. Not in stock.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Jun. 2015)

Shvo, Chenin Blanc, 2012

Hey, I try to avoid white wines weighting in at 14% ABV, but this is fascinating, in the rough, grainy ways that Gaby Sadan's wines sometimes present because he lets the vintages speak. It's a fat, round wine, but the roundness is thrillingly rough, the kind of wine where you find yourself drinking rocks rather than drinking fruit,  There are oranges and their lightly bitter peels, flint , and finally, a 'color' reminiscent of rye, which I sometimes get in Loire Chenins. (Jun. 4, 2015)

About 100 NIS.

Gerard Betrand, Picpoul-de-Pinet, 2013

A very refreshing bistro white. Lime, minerals and oysters and that's just about it. Pair it with salads and fish.

Wine Route, 75 NIS. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Tua Rita, Toscana IGT, Rosso Dei Notri, 2013

The winery's entry level red shows typical Tuscan character filtered through a modern prism, so it's black fruited, ripe and smooth - with a Tuscan personality that is all about herbal/dusty aromas that are the Italian version of garrigue and evoke a working kitchen. I recall previous vintages of the Guistri di Notri (the affordable of the upper echelon of the winery's lineup) needed a few years to show their best, so possibly even this could use a year or two to shed its more modern aspects.  (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 97 NIS.

G. D. Vajra, Nebbiolo, 2013

This offers complexity of Barolo with a light flair: roses, tea leaves and iron on the nose, the latter reflected in the rusty, yet tasty, tannins. This is an excellent value, and wins over the Rosso dei Notri for its purity and general interest level. (Jun. 6, 2015)

Dani Galil, 90 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

I was intrigued by the bottle I drank at Halutzim a few months ago, so when bottles finally reached the stores, I immediately grabbed one. This is terrific right now, one of the best local whites, with juicy acidity and a bouquet of flint and dry grass straight out of the Cote de Beaune. I still fret over apparent traces of oak, but I think it will be fine in a year. And I can't believe I just wrote that about a four year old Israeli Sauvignon Blanc! (Jun. 9, 2015)

130 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

Like Rene Engel and Oronce de Beler, Jean Foillard crafts wines that combine iron fillings and earth with a fresh, yet funky, fruitiness. This, especially, is close to the Platonic ideal of Beaujolais, and offers aromas of exotic spices and a very juicy core that leads to a long, saline finish. (Jun. 10, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, 2008

An enjoyable, albeit primary bubbly: apples and chalk abound, with little of the accouterments of maturity that make Champagnes so enjoyable, such as brioche and mushrooms, But the fruit is so vibrant that this wine affirms my belief that the BdB is Golan Height's best wine. (Jun. 13, 2015)

Domaine de l'Arlot, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Clos de l'Arlot, 2009

I wasn't really sure how much I'd really like Arlot, since I never tried the high end plots, so I thought I'd just indulge and check a big name from their portfolio. Actually, what happened was I had moved the Clos de l'Arlot from long term storage to short term, changed my mind and was then too lazy to put it back - so it wound up on the "to drink" queue. Anyway, this is excellent, with smoky earth on the nose, very savory fruit and crunchy tannins, and a piercing complexity. It's so forward and drinkable now, the acidity so relatively low keyed for Burgundy, that it's easy to miss the need for slow fine tuning the balance of sweet fruit and the tannic bitterness. I have a bottle of the Clos des Forêts-St-Georges 2009 that I will definitely wait a decade on.(Jun. 13, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 350 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Brut, n.v.

There's a moment within this wine that is indescribable. Mind you, Champagne has greater wines, but this Champagne captures the saltiness of Leroy's Aligote and blends it with the weight of a Chablis Grand Cru and tops it off with Pinot funk. All of which I can describe and just did, but at the core is a backbone, much less readily encapsulated, of truffle oil and chicken broth, which twists and turns like a roller coaster. Rave on. (Jun. 16, 2015)

Fat Guy, 269 NIS.

Michel Redde et Fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Cornets, 2011 

I love Redde, we all love Redde. Based on this, if Sauvignon Blanc were grown in Chablis, it could easily rise to the level of a Grand Cru. Les Cornets has a similar profile of rain waters and salty minerals, with subtle, yet distinctive, complexity and power and is one of the best values you can find in Israel. Which is true of Redde at all price levels. (Jun. 18, 2015)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Ecker-Eckhof, Wagram, Zweigelt, Brillant, 2013

Fun and friendly, interesting aromatic fingerprint, dusty and minty. If you know where to look, Austria makes terribly moreish lunch wines. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, I don't see it in the price list on the site, I assume it's about 100 NIS.

Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Scheurebe, trocken, 2012

I once called Scheurebe the Dusty Springfield of grapes and I'm sticking by that moniker. This shows a spicy side of this lustful grape, with a modicum of flowers rather the full blown effect I usually find, complemented and abetted by guayavas. Lovely, really, and you all should be doing drinking more Scheurebe. (Jun. 20, 2015)

Giaconda, 80 NIS.

Domaine du Rochouard, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Argiles a Silex Vieilles Vignes, 2009

A typical, tasty Loire Cab, with a saline, juicy finish, Even though it's not one of the big names in my fridge, I was disappointed by the lackluster aromatics: it checks off the typical herbal greenness but doesn't go much beyond that. (Jun. 20, 2015)

20 USD.

Moric, Burgenland, Blaufränkisch, 2013

A year and a half ago, I tasted a seven year old version of this same wine. The savory, crunchy, peppery reminded me of a Saint Joseph and I vowed to score a bottle. Two trips to Austria proved fruitless but I was so enthralled by the magic of this red wine that most of my purchases were of various red wines (in lieu of the more obvious choices, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner), but most were overdone, overextracted or overoaked, without the simple charms of this basic bottling. Only a very simple Brundlmayer Zweigelt rose up to my expectations. And now, Eldad Levy has once again saved the day by importing Moric to Israel. You could say I've earned my dues waiting for Moric to arrive at my home. This youthful version is just as charming as I'd remembered, with clay and black pepper complementing the red fruit, the soft, dusty tannins and the ripe acidity that props the plump fruit without being too prominent. Drinkable by the gallon with more than a modicum of interest. (Jun. 23, 2015)

About 120 NIS.

Ahat, 2014

Ahat ("One") Winery is the lovechild/boutique of Nitzan Swersky. Eldad Levy recommended her debut wine on Facebook, and even though I usually keep away from Rhone whites, I have faith in Eldad's palate, so I bought a bottle of this Viognier/Rousanne blend.

Turns out a little faith can go a long away. It's fresh and fruity, but the fruit (grapefruit and pears) concedes center stage to a light earthiness and even more subtle nuttiness. There is none of the opulence that Viognier gives in Condrieu, which I never liked, and, thank God, the alcohol is down to a very reasonable 12.8%. What else? Oh, the fat, round body you'd expect from Viognier and Rousanne is there, but it's tempered by very good acidity, so the wine is very fresh - and I already wrote that. If I needed to tweet a note, I'd say that Nitzan captured the Dr. Jekyll face of the Rhone whites. (Jun. 25, 2015)

120 NIS.

Faustino, Rioja, Edicion Especial, 2001

I love Riojas when they're good, but there's a point in their adolescence that I'm indifferent to, where the impact of the American barrels is still obvious and rough (coffee and drying tannins in this case). And that's where this wine is at, and not only that, being a special edition produced for the winery's fiftieth anniversary, it feels as though it's trying to make the best of all worlds: make an impressive first impression as well as insinuate that it needs to be cellared for a long time. I hope for the best, because even though I worry the tannins will outlast the fruit, I have great faith in Tempranillo and this does already hint at Rioja character, showing earth, sweat, crushed raspberries and tobacco leaves.  (Jun. 28, 2015)

Imported by WineRoute, I bought it for about 230 NIS at Bin 281.