Monday, April 16, 2018

Taking Care Of Business (Mar. 2018)

Quinta de Saes  (Alvaro Castro), Dão, Reserva, Estagio Prologando, 2011

A sort of limited edition, with a long elevage, of the 'regular' field blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Alfro-Cheiro and other grapes. Just about the best Portugese red wine I've had so far, this hearty wine shows a very good balance of blue fruit, iron, acidity and tannins. (Mar. 2, 2018)

Dalton, Sémillon, Single Vineyard Elkosh, 2013

This is the oldest israeli white I've had in a long time and seems to be past its best. The nose is simple but interesting - sweet spices, ripe apricots, an almost sur-ripe character tempered by a hint of minerals - but the palate is short and bitter. I'm disappointed and that's a shame, as I'd heard good things about it and was looking forward. (Mar. 4, 2018)

Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2014 

I'd like to turn DNA on its head and claim Cabernet Franc is what happens when you cross Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc: a green, spicy wine that needs years to show how the unholy marriage has added red shadings to the black fruit. Right now, you can drink the bottle over a couple of nights to allow the spiciness and the tannins to recede and let the red fruit shine. (Mar. 6, 2018)

Yaacov Oryah, Old Musketeer, n.v.

This is really a fine, unique wine, playing out like sherry sans flor, nutty and oxidized without sherry's cured meat paste and iodine.  (Mar. 6, 2018)

Mia Luce, Syrah and Stems, 2015

I think this has lost some the initial, early charm and freshness. It's not exactly fat now, but it's not sprightly, either. On the plus side, it's deeper now than it used to be. It's tasty and balances sweet and salty flavors for a complex effect. (Mar. 6, 2018)

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2012

What I love about Produttori is this: mellow Old World - as opposed to hard Old World - clean, but not spotless, wines. They never fail to delight me, even when young and tongue-struck. This is tarry/dusty with salty/sour-cherry flavors and it carries across the flavors of the grape and the town without resorting to any extravagant gestures,. (Mar. 13, 2018)

About 200 NIS.

Domaines Ott, Bandol, Château Romassan, 2013 

At the very least, this is interesting aromatically -  I suppose Mourvedre always is - back fruit with meaty notes, as well as the mineral and herb suffused inflections that I tag as garrigue. The palate is a different matter. I hate having to contend with low acidity, and metallic tannins are even worse. This might be the price to pay for opening a Bandol so young. I've never had a mature one, actually, but my candidate for cellaring sure isn't going to be the arseheaded idea for a bottle the Romassan came in, that's for sure. The low acidity is the real deal breaker, but that bottle shape is as tacky as the old Chianti straw covers. (Mar. 23, 2019)

WineRoute, 210 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru, Aux Vergelesses, 2008

I like Bize, but I can't say he always knocks me out. This, though, is a beauty, the nose elegant and pure of fruit - and roughed up just right by the autumnal trappings typical of Pinot. Like many of the 2008's I've had, it thrives on lithe, well formed fruit, not very intense but not thin or unbalanced either, delineated by acidity and by rasping tannins. (Mar. 242019)

320 NIS.

Wind Gap Wines, Sonoma Coast, Syrah Armagh Vineyard, 2008

I drank the 2014 as an infant and it was very backward and brooding. This mature brother expresses the best of California - my expectations of it, anyway: clean black/blue fruit, a plump body buoyed by judicious acidity - and nods at the Rhone with hints of bacon and olives, all draped with black pepper. Lovely and classic. (Mar. 272019)

K&L Wines, 50 USD.

Sphera, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

All the varietal wines made by this white wine specialist are among the best local wines I drink and would fare well in a comparative tasting with international peers. This is no exception, with its restrained, Old World values and profile, favoring minerals and green herbs over overt fruitiness, with a warm ripeness that doesn't collapse or veer off to the tropical. (Mar. 292019)

Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol, 2009 

That Petrus and Lafleur are unranked is an annoyance that is not that hard to explain, given how the history of Bordeaux progressed, and for the most part it hasn't really bothered anyone in the last half century. But not every property is a Petrus, or even a Hosanna, and Bourgneuf would probably not rank higher than a Cru Bourgeois, although Hugh Johnson says the wines are savory and have improved since 2009. I think I got the "savory" part when I bought this wine about six years ago. Other than that, it's a rough wine that is almost tempered by the ripeness of the 2009 fruit - tempering by acidity would have worked out better and maybe brought out some complexity. As it is, this is rather pedestrian, almost - but not quite - redeemed by a suggestion of Pomerol lush. (Mar. 312019)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Domaine d'Henri Tasting (Mar. 26, 2018

I consider Domaine d'Henri, owned and managed by the Laroche family, one of the top three or five houses in Chablis. It's certainly near the top of my Chablis shopping list and at the very top of my Chablis enjoyment list. And all that  on the basis of one premier cru; I have added the Troesmes and the basic village wine to my list after this tasting. 

Why do I love the domaine's wines so much? Well, Chablis is a gilded cage. Five years ago I wouldn't have imagined that I might become a bit bored with that oyster shell and sea weed thing. I may not have quite reached a plateau of ennui, but it's certainly growing harder to find something new to write about Chablis.

The Laroche family, however, seems to mine great purity and focus beyond the norm, bringing nuances of origin into crystal clear relief.

Petit Chablis, 2016

This carries a surprising dash of quality Chablis character and finesse. Although maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, since, as I said, this is one of my favorite domaines. QPR. 70 NIS.

Chablis, 2014

At 80 NIS, this is an even better value. More body and character, more of that classic marine character, viewed through a very clear and focused lens. As though the sun has come out over the sea after the rain had cleared the air the night before.

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaune, 2013

The first Premier Cru tasted is less forward than the straight Chablis, the fruit more subtle, seamlessly embellished by wet pebbles and moss. While it is not quite electrifying, it is very detailed and gratifying, complex enough to sate the heart and mind of anyone of meaningful artistic bent. 130 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaune, 2015

Round and inviting, not yet very complex at first, this needs air and/or time. I'm pretty sure of that seeing how it develops a piercing minerality. It will never be a very tense wine, but I think it will show a complex array of minerals befitting a Fourchaume. 

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaune, 2012

Caught mid-step between 2013 and 2015, showing the purity and focus of 2015 with the ready complexity of 2013.

The 2014 is sold for 130 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Troesmes, 2015

I find a different aromatic and flavor profile here, greener, perhaps, mintier. Clearer as well, and I prefer it for that. As though someone dropped Puligny into the vat. A pittance at 120 NIS.

Old vines Fourchaume

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume Heritage, 2015

I usually expect to find great concentration in old vines, but this is more about purity and steely tension. Like someone beat your palate with a steel whip. 

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume Heritage, 2014

Decanted. I admit to bias; I expected, if not greatness, then at least the highest pedigree. Not disappointed. Generous, yet focused, aromas with a hint of sweetness. Not overt sweetness, but rather the sweetness borne of concentration of fruit that people used to swoon over decades ago, because it was rare. It’s not that rare today, but it’s still special and appealing in this context, when it cuts across the steely tension and breaks the marine mold, without diluting the mineral framework.  It’s close to Grand Cru breadth, without having been subjected to the barrel regime some producers put their Grand Crus through. And the price is to drool over: 200 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume Heritage, 2012

This has lost some of the initial vigorous punch of youth and the sheen of its steely frame, and has not gained the inviting complexity the regular Fourchaume 2012 already shows - but it does show that thread of sweetness I noted in the 2014. If you missed its initial flowering a couple of years ago, you'll just have to wait a few more years for its second bloom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lynching (Mar. 8, 2018)

5me Cru Classe Pauilliac Lynch-Bages is the quintessential overachiever chateau, illustrating the basic flaw of the 1855 classification: that it is a snapshot of the pecking order of the Bordeau chateaux at the time that it was codified and not a hierarchy of terroir -  and over the years the properties have grown and merged, and the people running them and the land they own, they, too, have changed. After various cycles of change and improvement, Lynch-Bages has reached the point where, for the last few decades, it has been commanding the respect, and often the prices, lavished on the so called Super Seconds.

For me, this  very generous vertical tasting wasn’t about comparing the character and quality of different vintages, so much as it was about getting a picture of Lynch-Bages the wine and how it develops. Recently, it’s been less and less important to me to judge which vintage is “the best” out of a group of obviously stellar years, say, in this case, 1982/1986/1990/2000. Especially with a tasting like this, where the "entry level" is vintages like 2008 or 1996. 

So what's Lynch-Bages like, then? For me, Pauillac at its sexiest, the fruit fine and generous without being lavish, intermingled with minerals and meatiness to varying degrees. Great clarets have this sense of effortless ease, which ups the bar and makes other wines mundane. Lynch-Bages is in that class, courting with an abundance of silky finesse.

We started with 2009 and 2010, excellent-to-great vintages, which have already collected praises and high scores. Going on a decade post vintage, both are very closed and barely show their potential elegance. Kudos to the writers who were able to make sense of them during barrel and en premieur tastings. 2010 shows gunpowder/minerals/earth and the 2009 is more fruity and modern. But I wonder whether calling it modern is meaningful information to anyone who aims to drink it in a decade or two when it matures, by which time I expect it to be more like the 2000 (which I recall presented a similar facade at age seven to eight).

We tasted the 2008 in a blind flight with two peers from the vintage. Mouton-Rothschild, which is famous for being the only chateaux moved up to 1me Cru Classe, had a complex nose and a sweetish palate confidently backed by fine tannins. On the one hand, it really tries to impress and live up to its reputation, on the other hand, it succeeds. I reckon less than 30% of the people who care about these things (or have the experience to gauge) think Mouton is consistently of 1er Cru level, but in 2008 it certainly was. Lynch-Bages had a very similar palate, which was apt, given that it's sometimes nicknamed the poor man's Mouton, and I sensed notes of earth and gunpowder, which were not as obvious in the Mouton. The other peer was Pontet-Canet, which felt manipulated, and even though it improved, it never grasped a balance between its ripe fruit and tannins. Like Lynch-Bages, it's a 5me Cru Classe held in high regard, but the few bottles I've drunk, including this one, makes me think that high regard is misplaced.

Back to Lynch. The 2000 is a great vintage, oozing minerals, leather and red fruit. Obviously, blatantly great, with sexy substance that is reined in and reserved at the same time. 1996 was a little funkier, less complex, with a hint of cowhide. It will last for a long time, but it feels to be on the start of its plateau, whereas the 2000 is still climbing towards it.

The next flight nails why we age Bordeaux. Both 1982 and 1986 were great vintages at an time when great vintages were harder to come by, and even then you couldn't necessarily bank on the quality being consistent across the board. The 1982 was complex with subtle meatiness born of mellow maturity. 1986 is just about the same but it forces you to work and approach it on its own terms. 

The final flight was the last piece in the evening's theme of Lynch-Bages greatness. 1989 is more languid and funkier while the 1990 is earthier. Both are caught in transit between 2000/1996 and the mid-eighties flight, the fruit receding while the tannins have not integrated yet, and they thus come off as rawer than the either of the other flights.

Before the festivities began, we were served, as is usually the case chez Eldad Levy, with a starter champagne, a fine Blanc de Blancs vintage, as befitted the occasion. 

Pierre Péters, Blanc de Blanc, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Grand Cru, Esprit de 2009

It was a good call matching such an elegant Bordeaux with a Blanc de Blancs, as I find the clarity and finesse an apt counterpoint. The acidity is excellent, the body full and light at the same time (always a paradoxical trademark of great Champagnes), the aromatic profile pairing mushrooms and orange blossoms.     

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Taking Care Of Business (Feb. 2018)

Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre, 2016 

While there is no way you would not be able to tell that this is a French wine, a Loire white, finally a Sancerre, this arguably serves even better as a blueprint for Sauvignon Blanc. It's leafy and saline and laced with minerals - the things that make it Sancerre - but it encompasses so many aspects of the grape you feel that a few twists of the dial would transform it  into any of the various identities of the grape. Up the minerals and add a touch smoke - Pouilly Fume. Zoom in on the fruit and crush the leaves - New Zealand. (Feb. 2, 2018)

Wine Route, about 150 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin, Le Clos, 2015 

Pierre Duroché, bless his soul, bottles a generic Bourgogne, a basic Gevrey and three Gevrey village lieux-dits. So you have plenty of variety to play around with before venturing into the Premier and Grand Crus of this rising star. I learned tasting through his lineup a couple of years ago that the Le Clos shines young, so I turned to it when I needed my monthly Burgundy fix. Pierre's precision is the reason the Bourgogne fanatics have made the domaine a cult, and, indeed, this is very pure and precise, with notes of flowers, forest floor and minerals. (Feb. 3, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 185 NIS.

Agur, Karka, 2014

Eran Pick is a very Catholic Bordeaux lover. His consultant at Tzora is Jean-Claude Berrouet of Chateau Petrus fame. But he somehow wound up planting Oseleta, an almost extinct grape from Veneto, which is kind of like Hendrix picking up a banjo at a jam. Go figure. At least he remained true to form and sold the grapes off to Shuki Yashuv from Agur before ripping up the vines. There's a passing resemblance to the tale of the turtle and the scorpion at play here. Never mind. This comes off as a very rustic wine that nods and leers at Italy. I wouldn't say Veneto, necessarily. Actually, definitely not. The tannins are a little too full of iron and rust for that. With those sour cherries on the finish, you could easily go west to Piedmonte. My neighborhood bistro has a small stock and it's a very good choice. (Feb. 8, 2018)

Château de Beru, Chablis, Terroirs de Beru, 2015

This is typical of the house style, always juggling ripe and racy and walking away from that act with the Chablis character not just intact, but also quite aptly represented.  (Feb. 9, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 155 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2015

Lewinsohn reminds me of Beru. Seriously. Always among the top five-ten local whites, this is the best local spin on all the things that make white Burgundy a gourmand pleasure. A very decently complex display of flint, citrus fruit, sea shells, dry grass. (Feb. 10, 2018)

Bar-Maor Winery, Tammuz, Rendzina, 2014

The romantic in me loves the notion of terroir and anyone who's read enough of this blog knows I expect more of wine than to be just a beverage. But there's the analytical side of me - I did wind up in hi tech instead of art school, after all - and that side of me has a problem with the message the back label is trying to get across: "With no irrigation, the vineyards reveal a true and unique expression of the place and year of harvest". In the first place, why would irrigation interfere with the "true and unique expression..." - god, I can't even bear writing it out in full again, it's really just too pretentious - and in the second place, how can you possibly tell? Nobody's been making high quality wine in Israel long enough to be that sure about anything. Besides, how the hell do you go about proving that lack of irrigation expresses the terroir better than any other agricultural ploy. And, does any terroir in Israel have enough of a track record for anyone to know what it's supposed to express? 

I wish people wouldn't force their new age philosophy down my throat (unless we share the same new age philosophy, and then it's fine) because it can really ruin a good thing. I like this wine and it really is quite expressive, in its gruff, macho way. I'm just not willing to be so easily convinced it's driven by terroir. It's got this old school, old world, dusty thing going. It almost crosses over to rancio territory and that is something that would bother me, works here. Even the drying tannins work. And if you put it in a blind tasting with local and foreign peers - I'd say Duoro and Languedoc would be good parallels - it would get noticed and remarked upon. And not because it's flashy wine, quite the opposite. But it's probably less complex than Rami reckons it to be. (Feb. 12, 2018)

Denis Race, Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains Vieilles Vignes, 2015

Denis Race is yet another Chablis producer that Wine Route is indulging us with recently. It's not very intense, complex,or original - just a textbook landlocked Chablis, apples peels and chalk rather than seashells. The market has come very far if Chablis has started to evoke ennui. (Feb. 18, 2018)

2 for 300 NIS.

Martín Códax, Rías Baixas, Albariño, Marieta, 2016 

Even though today its portfolio is not really the Bacchanalian Wonderland it used to be, Wine Route still comes up with curveball offerings to the hipster crowd. They may turn out to be tax writeoffs for the huge cash inflow generated by their Blue Nun holdings, or marketing ploys to bolster the chain's credibility after the same mega-brand marred it - but they can be quite pleasurable. For instance, this graceful, saline white which should successfully court  the wily sommelier looking for a BTG offering for light lunches. (Feb. 19, 2018)

70 NIS or so.

The more classically labelled Albariño Rías Baixas of the same year, similarly priced, is the one to go for. It's steelier, purer and you can feel the pedigree. Both are everyday wines, but this will put more sparkle into your everyday.

And check out the Martín Códax site if you care for a tour through Google Translate gone bad. For example, this. No one and nothing will ever quite trump "RAISING: It hasn't".

Argyros, Santorini, Assyrtiko Estate, 2016 

Greece has also become trendy, although just about all I know about it as wine country is that the names are as hard to pronounce as they are to spell. Actually, Argyros and Assyrtiko, the local indigenous grape, are not that hard to spell. This is a leap beyond  the Albarino, a really lovely, special wine, firm and delicate at once, all mineral nuances with a bit of wax thrown in. The acidity is simply delectable, playing against the fruit to produce a finely focused sour and salty finish. (Feb. 20, 2018)

Wine Route, again, about 120 NIS.

Twenty shekels more will buy you the Argyros, Santorini, Assyrtiko, 2016, which is made of old vines and plays almost like a Grand Cru version. I love it and it's very delicious, yet you can just sense all that potential all clenched inside it. It's a back up the truck kind of wine. Get a case and drink a bottle a year. 

Margalit, Paradigm, 2015

Thirty years after it was one of the heralds of the re-discovery of the Bordeaux grapes in Israel, Margalit has gotten around to making a, ahem, Mediterranean wine. If that's really what you want to call the classic formula of Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre. I have taken this wine to my heart. Margalit hasn't gone for a blockbuster. GSM doesn't have to be that. What Margalit got out of it is very elegant black fruit with trimmings of black and white pepper, clarity and character, a lithe frame with fine focus. (Feb. 23, 2018)

140 NIS.

Les Jamelles, Vin de Pays d'Oc, GSM Sélection Spéciale, 2016

This GSM is from  Languedoc Roussillon, so it fairly close to the appellations that pioneered the blend, for what it's worth. Other than that, it's of interest solely for its fruity drinkability. (Feb. 24, 2018)

Wine Route, about 75 NIS.

Larmandier-Bernier, Champagne, Rosé de Saignée, Premier Cru, n.v.

This is the kind of champagne rosé that really captures that autumnal character of Pinot Noir, strawberries flanked by rotting leaves. This comes from the premier cru village of Vertus and, like, its Burgundian counterparts, it gains both weight and definition from airing, as well as an intoxicating floral facet. Lovely and needs more bottle age. (Feb. 26, 2018)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Claret-y: Milgo and Milbar (Feb. 15, 2018)

On a claret-themed evening, we wound up matching pairs of Saint Emilions and Margaux against a Super-Tuscan and a pair of Californian clarets. Another easy win for France. A bottle of Godello, a novelty for all of us and a tasty undercard, kicked off a very fun night.

Veronica Ortega, Bierzo, Godello Calcareo, VO CAL, Anfora and Barrica, 2015

This white wine is made in small, limited quantities, as Bierzo is really red wine territory. I'm not sure it's a wine that would replace any of my go to wines, but it's the kind of change of pace that is the reason the wine world in 2018 is such a lovely place.There's a very light note of oxidation, just some nuts, really, that recedes to dusty chalk that I can’t really place. Then restrained, flavorsome acidity that is easy to like and yet is not overtly flattering.

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000

Lovely. An absolutely classical nose, with cedar and iron and a restrained opulence of spices, and an elegant and soft palate. A little young, though, for me, even now.

Chateau Clos Fourtet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2007

2007 was a Bordeaux vintage I never dwelt on. It was never well regarded, then or now, and I just didn't know at the time enough about Bordeaux to find the good picks. I still don't. Oddly enough, the nose is very similar to the Giscours, but eventually, a wine needs drinking and the palate is a bit fatter and flatter, coarser, with drying tannins beneath the fat fruit. If the palate catches up with the nose, it will be a sweet pleasure.

Chateau Canon-la-Gafliere, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2000

This is the last of three or four bottles I have drunk of this, and even this bottle is still not fully ready. The nose is packed with earth and minerals, while the palate starts out though as nails, then softens enough to show very good complexity and elegant muscularity.

Château Malescot St. Exupéry, Margaux 3me Cru, 2000

The best Bordeaux of the night, I thought, for its precision is nought else. Like the Giscours, this also shows opulent spices and elegant restraint.

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Ornellaia , 2006

The nose: the perfect hybrid of Bordeaux and Tuscany, capped by lead pencil and chives. The palate disappoints me at first, the low acidity making for a dull impression. The second impression a while later is much better, a rusty bite slicing through what I first took for a slightly hollow mid palate to a focused, spicy finish. In the end, it almost convinces me that it's worthy of its prestige and price, even though the low acidity remains a bummer.

Enfield, Sonoma County, Cabernet Suavignon, 2012

This plays out like a petit chateaux, maybe a touch riper than you’d get in Bordeaux, with a nice mineral veneer. 

St. Eden, Napa Valley, 2012

With an overwhelming attack of bitter sweet oak, this really doesn't take any prisoners. Having said that, it has good complexity and extract, but it's the first wine I've had that felt like a skank. A high maintenance, four hundred dollar skank.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Willi Schaefer 2016 Tasting

My first memorable experience with Willi Schaefer was three years ago. A wine buddy was hosting a big house party and we wine geeks were having a party within the party with a BYOB corner set up. My contribution was a bottle of Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese #14, 2006, which I hadn't tried before. It was a great bottle and I was trying to be surreptitious about the whole thing - pouring it under the counter, so only the innermost circle of my wine friends would enjoy a taste - when along comes a hipster party crasher and says he's heard there was a bottle of "great German Riesling with petrol" and could he have a glass. Sure my friend, I said, and quickly poured him a glass of Koehler-Ruprecht that was standing on the table. I hope the party crasher enjoyed his glass of diluted fruit and harsh kerosene.

Many things have happened since but one thing sure hasn't changed. I'd still do the exact same thing.

Another thing hasn't changed: Willi Schaefer still sculpts immortal, ethereal Rieslings.

Importer Eldad Levy says 2016 was botrytis free vintage, so the Riesling fruit remained pure across the entire range and even the Ausleses don't have any hints of the spices botrytis may impart. Contact Eldad for prices but be prepared to learn everything has been sold out.

Graacher Trocken

This is pure, not very complex, but decent plus for the level, with green apple skin and a touch of minerals. Tasted alongside the 2015, it comes off as more complex and better focused. Analysis aside, it’s a better, more interesting, wine overall.

Graacher Feinherb 

This is the sweet version of the village wine. It smells as dry as the trocken, but it is, of course, sweeter on the palate. The fruit shines more overall, grapefruit with a dash of sugar, with the minerals in the background

Graacher Himmelreich, Kabinnet 

This is honeyed and fruity, almost luscious within the Kabinnet frame, and while I prefer leaner Rieslings, it’s so enticing and attractive, so well formed, that it wins me over. 

Graacher Domprobst, Kabinnet 

This is the kind of lean Riesling I look for, although I love both it and the Himmelreich this year - I'm a little flippant here, I loved them both last year as well. This is the more mineral laden of the two, a picture perfect rendition of the Mosel, a nuanced balance of apples and slate, sugar and acidity.

Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #10

This is where the wines truly started speaking the language of minerals - not an easy language to abstract at first - because the minerals pull every which way.

Graacher Himmelreich, Spatlese

At the Spatlese level, the Himmelreich again shows as a more honeyed, luscious wine, but the differences are less pronounced than they were in the Kabinnet flight. Still, it’s such a sexy, attractive wine, although more straightforward than the Domprobst.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Spatlese 

Sheer elegance, airy, ethereal, with a lightness that is pure magic and laser sharp focus. 

Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese #5

On the one hand, it’s more concentrated than the #10, on the other, it’s more mineral and complex, with the coolness of the Sonnenuhr, yet with more weight and presence. In every sense, it’s the complete Spatlese of the flight.  .

Graacher Himmelreich, Auslese #4

I guess the Ausleses are really backward because this is the first Himmelreich that doesn’t immediately put out. It’s so reticent that it actually feels lighter and more understated than the Spatlese. The true measure of Schaefer's genius craft is how he manages to retain so much acidity in an Auslese.

Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #11

This displays what I expect from a young Auslese to an even greater extent. A mass of fruit that can’t yet pull the trigger. Concentrated, yet balanced, it will need decades to unravel the mysteries of all those minerals. Here, too, the acidity is a marvel.

Graacher Domprobst, Auslese #14

This is the Schaefer masterpiece of a flagship wine and everything in the tasting led to a single glass that is a seamless marriage of the gift of nature and man's handiwork.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Taking Care Of Business (Jan. 2018)

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vina Formal, Parcel Candido, Cercial, 2015

This is pure Cercial - another of those weird Portugese grapes grown nowhere else, and honestly, it doesn't taste a lot like anything else. It's unique without being too weird, not a hipster wine which makes too much effort to be a challenge. It's very mineral laden, but I couldn't tell you which minerals exactly without breaking into a geology exhibit and licking every rock. The balance of fruit and acidity is such that I wouldn't wager on long aging, but it's really perfect right now, a savory treat whose flavors would perfectly complement a spicy sea food dish. (Jan. 1, 2018)

Eyal Mermelstein (Tchernichovsky)

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Crau, 2005

I can never really go back to loving Châteauneuf, but I have to admit this was so stony and stern I actually liked it. I can appreciate the richness and it's much more structured that I'd hoped. Still, it's a bit one-dimensional. (Jan. 2, 2018)

Wine Route, 250 NIS, back in the day - y'know, the day when I was actually buying the stuff.

I'm here to once again clue you in on a winery very likely to have slipped under your radar

Kishor, GSM, 2015

Dusty and peppery, with a lithe tenderness and cool, vibrant, blue fruit you wouldn't usually expect to get from a wine with 14% ABV. (Jan. 4, 2018)

70-80 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2016

Just because a Riesling is off dry and lean doesn't make it a Mosel Kabinett ripoff. I think the style isn't an artistic choice but dictated by the how balanced the wine is at this level of sweetness. It's too languid and salty to be a copycat, anyway. As always, the modesty of the Kishor wines is quite fetching. (Jan. 7, 2018)

About 100 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Red, 2014

Modesty - and restraint - are also the keywords with the Kishor flagship red, which is a Bordeaux blend that ignores the fashionable "Mediterranean grapes" trend. Modesty and restraint also make it a hard sell and hard to write up. Because if you don't want to waste space and time on aromas and tastes, then all I can really say about it is that it's a compact claret, ready from the start to put out currants and iron and finesse your palate with a rusty, old school finish. It doesn't try to be flashy, it will just get you because it's so user and food friendly - and it gets me, because I buy it every year. I think the Kishor philosophy is that the star wine doesn't have to get as many points as it can, it just has to be the most complete wine. (Jan. 12, 2018)

About 100-120 NIS.

Bourgogne on through to the other side

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2013

Oronce de Beler understands Gevrey. I didn't drink this blind, but I don't imagine it would be hard to nail Gevrey in a blind tasting. It has the typical thumbprint of animal hide and iron. The body has ample weight, yet with a silky texture, and a very tasty tart/sour finish, almost like pomegranate juice. (Jan. 5, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown - recent vintages are close to 400, due to the house's cult status.

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Bourgogne, 2014 

This is another product of Burgundian in-breeding. There are at least three Rossignol domaines as well as a Trapet. Think that's confusing? The domaine has holdings in Gevrey, Beaune and Savigny, so where does this come from? Turns out it comes from the Pressonier and La Grand Champs lieux-dits around Gevrey. La Grand Champs is just outside the village AOC, with no visible geographical reason for it to be a plain Bourgogne. In fact, it's bordered by three village crus. Pressonier is an even more mysterious story. There are three adjoining Pressonier plots, two of which are village Crus. I have no idea what was used here and the Rossignol-Trapet site is just about as useless as parochial France ever gets. As for the wine, it's very tasty, not very weighty, long or complex, with a dash of iron - and it's just what I expect from an entry level wine from a family domaine: a wine that shows a bit of terroir and a bit of the house style and won't make you feel like you got suckered into buying a wine designed to create a little cash flow, which is what you might get from a bigger house.  (Jan. 16, 2018)

30 GBP.

Chateau Lafleur-Gazin, Pomerol, 2011

A Bordeaux for variety's sake. This is more or less what I expected, oak-spiced fruitcake, modern, yet restrained -  a touch hollow, which I did not expect, or anyway had hoped not to get.
 At 200 NIS - at a discount! - this is a great example of how overpriced Bordeaux - which was never cheap in the first place - has become. (Jan. 19, 2018)

Wine Route.

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils, Saint-Aubin Premuer Cru, Derrière la Tour, 2014 

Here's why I love Burgundy. You think you got a lot of it down and then you discover a little corner that's a totally new experience. The little I know of Saint-Aubin reds is the Lamy Derrière chez Edouard, Vieilles Vignes,. This is not on that order of intensity or quality, but it shows a specific aspect of Bourgogne terroir I haven't tasted yet. A lot of earthy forest floor,  but the earth is packed and dense, and it shows a vein of flint that you'll find the village's white wines. Finally there's even a touch of black pepper. It's only medium bodied, but it's lithely robust, and fills out, deepens and lengthens as the fruit gains black shadings and floral notes. It's an everyday house wine, but one I'd love to drink, well, every day. (Jan. 22, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 155 NIS.

Well, then, I did mention Lamy...
Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard, Vieilles Vignes, Rouge, 2013

It's no surprise that this is the better wine, even though it expresses its quality in rather reserved terms. Lamy is a killer winemaker and the vines here are half a century old. Derrière chez Edouard is earthy and floral and you notice the vibrancy, depth, length and silky filigree of the red and blue fruit from the first sip. The complexity comes later. If you must score a wine, you might as well score for how good it tastes - this would be a 95 pointer. (Jan. 25, 2018)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

A few wines from a short trip to Budapest

Lenkey Human, Tokay-Hegyalja, Feher, Furmint, 2011

A terrific hipster house wine with a funky/mineral /reduction thing going. And what a name for a winery!

Kreinbacher Birtok, Prestige, Brut, n.v.

A Hungarian sparkler with the traits that speak to me - mushrooms, baked apples - and, in addition, really nails the Champagne core value of placing the mushrooms and minerals upfront, albeit with less finesse than Champagne. Plenty of character, though. My first impression was a Pinot Meunier heavy Chanpagne.

Gilvesy Pinceszet, Badacsony, Taranyi Rajnai Rizling, 2016

A complex and interesting wine and I’d return to it for sure. Honeyed and spicy with residual sweetness. I can’t really find a parallel to contextualize it. Maybe old school Austria?

Gunzer Zoltan, Villany, Kekfrankos Selection, 2012

I’m lost. A spicy/dusty red, I would have guessed something much closer to the Mediterranean basin. On reflection, I can also find parallels with a Merlot based petit Bordeaux. Not bad, quite good actually, clean, modern, yet not made by someone out for points,but I have no way of understanding what voice it’s trying to find. I