Friday, March 27, 2015

Another Branch In The Recanati Family Tree



Mia Luce, Rosso, 2012

Kobi Arviv is the third musketeer in Recanati's trio of winemakers, the other two being Gil Shatzberg and Ido Lewinsohn. And with his Rosso, comprised of 97% Carignan and 3% Syrah, he extends the mother winery's philosophy of using "Mediterranean" varieties (that is, grapes suited to the Mediterranean basin's climate) to his own boutique operation. The Carignan is sourced from the same vineyard as Recanati's Wild Carignan and shows a different aspect: somewhat softer, friendlier fruit, even if the tannic finish reminds you that old vines Carignan doesn't play around. The 2800 bottles are mostly sold to restaurants, which is apt, as this has tasty, juicy acidity and an Old World leathery charm that should pair well with pastas. The name "Rosso" is also an apt choice; if you drank it in a Tuscan restaurant, you'd post about it on Facebook right away, then run off to find the winery and buy a bottle to take back home. As good as anything in the Recanati Reserve series or Ido's Garage de Papa Rouge. (Mar. 7, 2015)

And speaking of Recanati...

Recanati, Gris de Marselan, 2014

Here's where Recanati makes two pioneering steps for the price of one: the first Israeli winery to make two roses and the first to make two Marselan-based wines! This is one of those mineral led roses that are so spot on in the interplay of light, crisp fruit and acidity that you could probably drink it while working out in the gym. And yet it sneaks in a saline finish that scratches a mild, intellectual itch. (Mar. 8, 2015)

92 NIS.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Purim at Halutzim (Mar. 5, 2015)

The Wild, the Innocent and the Lifshitz Shuffle
My wife and I joined another couple at Halutzim for a Purim feast. I picked the wines, even calling for the Gimonnet, which I didn't bring.

But before we got to the wines we paid due corkage for, my friend Yossi at the table next to us sent over a glass of Maison Leroy, Bourgogne, 2009. As always, Madame Lalou knows how to choose wines for the Maison label, even if I do object to not knowing more about who grew the grapes and made the wine. This is a good Village level white of, to me, undecipherable origins, but the Domaine's Aligote of similar age would give it a good whipping. A good drop, an intellectual annoyance.

240 NIS at Burgundy Wine Collection.

Pierre Gimonnet, Special Club, 2002

This always elegant Champagne show its intense side, while remaining complex and multidimensional, full of baked apples, mushrooms and brioche, almost a mini Krug. I'm lost for words to express my wonder at how great this is, and I'm a man who thrives on expressing how great wines like this are.

Fat Guy, 400 NIS.

Jean Paul and Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

Funky and reeking of sea weeds and granny apples. It's really hard to follow in the footsteps of the imminently classy and outré  Gimmonet, so subjectively this felt undernourished - but this is really fine, complex and full of presence in its own right. A hint of cheese in the finish adds a a dozen seconds.

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Jean Chauvenet, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Perrieres, 2008

Intensely spicy black fruit at first, an Nuits-St.-Georges for Barolo lovers? Even now, a joy to drink, but tannic and perhaps the youngest drinking and most intense 2008 I've had in ages. True to the Nuits mold if not the vintage's. This is tasty, long, complex with deep fruit, but  I did not, definitely did not, expect that level of backward intensity in a 2008 Premier Cru.

I'm so in love with this wine - definitely a wine to make me chase down another bottle so I can witness firsthand what it finally reveals.

Bourgogne Crown, 350 NIS.

And then another friend offered a glass of Jaboulet, Hermitage, La Chapelle, 1982, which was an elegant village elder, black pepper highlighting the Syrah, and, at thirty three years of age, just as mellow a mature Bourgogne Grand Cru. An unexpected gift and a tasty pleasure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (Feb. 2015)

Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Morstein, Riesling Auslese, 2007

A good dessert wine should be a hedonistic treat, without fatiguing the palate. An excellent one should convey depth and complexity, while a great one should achieve all of that with the most ethereal of touches. This is just excellent. It's also quite young, so the immense, incredibly layered mass of fruit and sugar, while refreshed by terrific acidity, still has some years to shed a lot of fat before we can consider greatness. What it offers now is an incredibly intoxicating confection of tropical fruit and peaches, delicate minerality and botrytis. (Feb. 6, 2015)

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume, 2006

This is another example of an excellent dessert wine, complexly balancing summer fruit with wet wool and minerals, as well as a hint of nuts; incredibly long and multi-layered, the sweetness tempered by grapefruit peel and candied ginger. (Feb. 7, 2015)

Giaconda, 335 NIS.

Domaine Leroy, Bourgogne Aligote, 2008

I loved the bottle I drank last month so much that, going against my usual practice of pacing myself, I rushed off to open another one, just to see if the magic was still there. And it sure was, lovely flint and light toast on the nose, subtle lime fruit on the palate, acidity that carried the finish out of the ball park. (Feb. 10, 2015)


Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2011

I've always liked this, and the bottle tonight has reinforced my affection. The nose is an extrovert, with iodine, and herbs, black fruit and burnt earth, and my mind's eye can just see the hills of Judea browning in summer, The body, on the other hand, is elegantly chiseled, with lovely acidity, and is simply a delicious drink. (Feb. 11, 2015)

149 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

Gaby Sadan makes a very miniscule quantity of this special cuvee from a small parcel and just a few bottles make their way to selected restaurants in Tel Aviv, where they sell for 200 shekels plus. I drank a bottle at Halutzim 3 and my verdict is it smells like a good Pouilly-Fume or Cote de Beaune Premier Cru, smoky and flinty. There's oak, too, and at times it seems overdone, or least too much for the fruit to handle, especially on the palate. But the fruit is tasty, long and deep, 'with good acidity, and I believe will outgrow the oak, and if not, future vintages will. Because I believe Gaby is not only that good a winemaker, I want his wine-making approach and philosophy to win. And also because Gershon is the name of my dog. (Feb. 12, 2015)

And what do we drink on Valentine's Day, kids?

Jean Lallament, Verzenay Grand Cru, Reserve Rose, n.v.

This isn't just a Champagne tinted pink-  this truly captures the essence of Pinot. Which is apt, since Jean Lallement is one of the masters of Verzenay, a village at the heart of Pinot country. So you get fresh strawberries and you get forest floor and you get minerals, but, because this is a Champagne, you also get oranges, roasted nuts and brioche. All this, in a complex, tightly sculpted structure that restrains, but can't completely hide, a simmering, feral streak. (Feb. 14, 2015)

Fat Guy, 319 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Marsannay, Longeroies, 2011

The Maison's wines are always full of Bourgogne jism! This has lovely red fruit and forest floor, a touch of spices, wrapped in rusty tannins that build to a savory finish. It's always tempting to try and find a hint of Premier Cru in a Village wine, so let me say right off that this is just a Village (albeit one with almost scathing aromatics). Yet Oronce's wines have so much personality that there is always an added interest factor beyond the formal AOC demarcation. (Feb. 15, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 220 NIS.

Vitkin, Grenache Blanc, 2013

Another first for Vitkin, this is quite mineral driven, with mellow yellow fruit and hints of rainwater nuts, with a long, spicy, lightly pungent finish. Yes, it speaks of Southern France, but it also alludes to Italy. (Feb. 18, 2015)

90 NIS.

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2000

It's Family Day, and I've just gone through a 50 hour work week. Definitely a job for Bordeaux! This is classic claret, with dense black fruit with notes of cedar and earth. This is still young and monolithic, but the tannins are soft, yet dusty enough to provide grip. There's something rough about it and even though it's a 2000, I expected a Saint Emilion to be readier, given my past experience with this wine, but this seems like it will need another five years. But it's tasty and quite wonderful to follow as it opens up and unfolds (revealing, for example, definite signs of bacon) - and best of all, it's so savory, even after the aftertaste fades, every swallow conjures up its tannic finish. (Feb. 19, 2015)

About 120 USD.

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

This is just my cup of tea, a lean austere white, with trappings of smoky minerals, a lightweight that punches hard to the guts. I draw parallels here with, say, a Chablis Grand Cru, Hubert Lamy, Donnhoff even. This a wine that goes beyond varietal characteristics, in that it talks of minerals and a sense of place, and not about Sauvignon, but if I had to refer to the grape, then I'd say the Redde family make the best Sauvignon Blanc I've ever drunk. A great catch for Uri Kaftori and Eldad Levi. (Feb. 20, 2015)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Vitkin, Riesling, 2013

This is technically the flagship white at Vitkin, but I think the Grenache Blanc kicks its ass these days. It's a floral, spicy white with subtle earth notes, and while the nose is complex, interesting and inviting, the palate today is not as inspiring. or, for that, matter, aspiring. Although, after tasting an aged version lately, I'm all for giving it a chance in the fridge. (Feb. 22, 2015)

110 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

There should be no reason why any sane person would write a tasting note about the same wine less than two months apart. But this is just so fresh, so drinkable, yet at the same time so full of the complexities and nuances that go beyond delicious fruit and make wine an art form. (Feb. 26, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2008

Maybe 2007 was a better vintage for Moreau's Les Clos, or maybe 2008 needs more time, but while this is a very fine, elegant and complex wine, with typical Chablis marine scents and flavors, it feels as though it hasn't quite emerged from its youthful shell. And like many such adolescents, every time it seems to open up, it clamps down and grows even number, (Feb. 27, 2015)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 270 NIS.

Marcel Guigal can keep his barrels
Domaine Jasmin, Côte-Rôtie, 2006

I love all of the Northern Rhone AOC's, but my favorite is probably Côte-Rôtie, because it not only expresses Syrah as brilliantly and as typically as the best (black pepper, bacon, flowers), it is likeliest to display mellow, almost feminine fruit, languid yet structured, that writers like to term "Burgundian". The Jasmin is a wonderful example - liquid magic that, at 40 GBP, goes easy on the wallet. Like other producers that aim at a similar "Burgundian" model (I'm thinking of Graillot, Cuilleron, Gaillard), this is wrought of succulent black fruit and sour cherry acidity that are made for haut cuisine rather than the showroom. (Feb. 28, 2015)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nono Take II (Feb. 2, 2015)

And there I was, thinking life couldn't get any better after staying up all night to witness Tom Brady win his fourth Superbowl ring, thirteen years after incredulously watching him drive the Patriots towards an upset over the St. Louis Rams.

Well, it didn't. But an evening with friends at Nono, enjoying, among other things, a Grosses Gewaches and a Barton mini-flight, was a good way to come down to earth.

Rebholz, Pfalz, Chardonnay, "S" Trocken, 2010

While I recalling enjoying a previous vintage in the past, this won't replace Puligny or Chassagne, maybe Meursault. It's vaguely Pinot Gris or Semillon-like in the way it sports floral trappings alongside pears and apples, and somewhat sweet, yet high in acidity for a Chardonnay. Baffling.

Schafer-Frohlich, Nahe, Schlossbuckelheimer Felsenberg, Grosses Gewaches, 2007

The Other Germany. Apples and chalk and assorted minerals combine for a regal explosion. Very complex and continually expanding in glass. This is in a very good spot.

Pierre Marey, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2011

Oaky and spicy. Interesting nose, annoying palate. I think few things are as deeply annoying as a mediocre white Burgundy. And this is actually downright bad.

G. D. Vajra, Barolo,Luigi Baudana, 2006

Typical tarry/spicy nose, with red fruit on both nose and palate. Still young and dourly brazen but I take to it. Very good.

Two siblings, separated by the usual French history of trading chateaus
Château Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 2001

Oh, what a lovely stink. Brett in spots, mellow black fruit and light cedar all over the place. If the Barolo was like being a Catholic - suffer now but enjoy the afterlife - here the party has already started and will continue for a long time.

Château Leoville-Barton, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 2001

The Poyferre sans brett. I like them both, but for me the Barton might be arguably better, even if less approachable.

Ferrer Bobet, Priorat, Vinyes Velles, 2010

Black yet grapey fruit. Not too modern, kinky enough personality-wise to make up for the ripe fruit. I enjoyed my glass without a great urge for seconds.

Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes, 2003

Like a lot of 2003 Sauternes, this is a heavy loaf of cheesecake. Tasty but plodding

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Love - Another Set Of Beaujolais

Drink me
Tomer Gal almost managed to sneak in some more Beaujolais without informing me, but I caught on and made a quick purchase.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cuvée Corcelette, 2012

This cuvée is sourced from 90 year old vines and is seamlessly seductive, with a soft, juicy core so delicious that it's hard to put down the glass. Along with that, though, is an Old World grunge and mysterioso that appeals to the mind as well, with aromas and flavors of leather, sweat and the sort. This can definitely age, assuming I can keep my hands off it. At any rate, one I need to stock on. (Jan. 15, 2015)

150 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cote du Py, 2012

I loved the 2011, and Tomer said the 2012 was a knockout. And yep, it is. There's an earthy, spicy nose, with a peppery, stemmy feel as well - that reminds me of Pavelot, for some reason - and a round fleshiness on the palate that, combined with herbal tannins, is all Gamay. Like a great Burgundy, this balances texture and presence with a light, refreshing saline touch. (Feb. 9, 2015)

150 NIS.

George Descombes, Chiroubles, 2012

Chiroubles is said to be the lightest of the Beaujolais Cru, so I took that to mean it would be the most Pinot-ish, which isn't really the case here. It's more floral and, yes, lighter, than just about all the others I've been drinking, but it's just as round and earthy as the rest, just as Gamay. It's simple compared to its stablemates in Tomer's catalog, but develops nicely with air and the lightly tannic finish is quite savory. (Jan. 19, 2014)

140 NIS.

George Descombes, Brouilly, 2012

This is a darker, deeper, meatier wine. It has the same 'dirty', earthy, leathery feel as the Corcellete, although to a lesser extent. And very juicy acidity. I actually think this could use a year or two to fill out that savory finish. (Jan. 21, 2015)

140 NIS.

After three years of drinking the major names in Beaujolais, I've narrowed my short list to Foillard, Thevenet and Potel-Avion.

Friday, February 20, 2015

With Lifshitz and Friends @Popina (Jan. 5, 2015)


Dominique Laurent, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Bousselots, 1999

Dominique Laurent is a proponent of intensive barrel use and it shows. Over fourteen years post harvest, the forest floor aromas on the nose are accompanied by notes of oak aromas, and I think the barrel regime also contributes to the drying tannins on the finish.

Domaine Bizot, Bourgogne, Chapitre, 2011

Here the balance between red fruit and forest floor on the nose is much better gauged. Much better. The tannins are present, yet refined in the soft rasping way fine Burgundies bring to the table. Placed in the decanter for an hour after the initial sips, it emerges with flowers and exotic spices. Very tasty and savory. Almost intoxicating and always changing. As always, this is way better than any Bourgogne has a right to be, Premier Cru level in fact.

Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, Clos de Vogeot, 1998

Lightly liquorish nose, with refined, yet warm fruit and spices. Very, very tasty and complex with savory acidity. Lovely, lovely, lovely - obviously mature but at the same time still quite fresh. Oh so much better than a bottle three years ago.

Jean Grivot, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Aux Boudots, 2006

Raw meat at first, which for me is strange in a Bourgogne. But initially it works, with a hint of flowers and minerals, and settles into a very complex portrait, with more weight than the Clos de Vogeot shows. Then it abruptly closes and throws up oaky aromas. Thumbs down at this stage of its evolution.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru, 2011

Starts out with aromas of Atlantic salt and pears, with flint coming out later. Despite  it's youth, already complex and mellow, especially after a short detour in the decanter, with baby fat counter-pointed by welcome salinity.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Morning At Vitkin Winery (Jan. 15, 2015)

A morning well spent!
I spent a very fun and educational morning with winemaker Assaf Paz at his family's winery, Vitkin, which for the last few years has been one of my favorite local wineries. We tasted some work in progress specimens, some back vintages and some recent releases. The only wine we didn't sample was the flagship Carignan, because, as I'd told Assaf, I've had it so many times it'd be a waste of our mutual time to go through it. I told him that as far as I could recall recall I hadn't a lot of much experience with the Petit Sirah, so he opened a back vintage of that - which was a very, very good idea, as I'd learned that we with enough (read: long) bottle age, the Petit Sirah gives the Carignan a very decent fight.

Assaf's philosophy is 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. At the same time, he also wants to make wines that will intrigue the illumenti. And turn a profit while keeping his professional integrity. Which is probably a blanket statement you'd get from a lot of wineries. You have to taste through the range and listen to Assaf's rationale for winemaking decisions he made for specific wines to see how well the unofficial mission statement works out in practice.

We started out with a tank sample of a mystery grape that will probably go into future White Journey blends. Whatever it is, the sample was spicy/herbal with good acidity and a touch of anise. We then moved on to a sample of Grenache Blanc that had spent a relatively short time in barrel. Here, the oak was obvious, but not blatant - rather it served as a signature, a spicy wisp. It was fatter than the mystery sample, with lower acidity, but in both cases, as I told Assaf, I'd be happy if was served in a carafe in some bistro around the Mediterranean basin, which was probably his intent in the first place.

At this point, we tasted some finished wines. The White Journey, 2014 was open for business on the nose, with the Gewürztraminer in the blend showing rose water and lychee. The palate was more sullen, though. The 2013, a blend of said Gewürztraminer, French Colombard and Viognier (the 2014 presumably contains the mystery grape, which, by process of elimination, I think is Sylvaner or Muller-Thurgau) is nuttier and fatter. Both have very good acidity.The combination in each vintage works quite well, and really seems to project the occidental character Assaf aims for.


We then moved on to the Grenache Blanc, 2013. If there is one wine I really longed to taste (and buy, by the way), a wine worth the drive to Vitkin, this was it. Although I have to say I'm usually not very fond of Rhone white grapes and wines, this avoids the oaky, oxidized character I often encounter there, instead showing a unique signature of peanuts, minerals, ash and tobacco leaves. This is intellectually stimulating, existing in the same niche for me as Savennieres, a wine that challenges first and pleases later.

Grenache Rose, 2014

Complemented by a side dish of Carignan and Tempranillo, this is fruity yet restrained, with a touch of minerals. Quite nice.

Pinot Noir 2011

A good Mediterranean Pinot. Meaning I get both the Pinot and 'local' aspects. It's rich and complex with earthy and leathery notes, more tannic and foursquare than any Bourgogne I'd buy.

Red Journey 2013

The Red Journeys have been very good lately, and the only reason I don't buy any for my fridge is that I wind up ordering them quite a lot off of restaurant wine lists. This particular vintage is charming ,floral and fruity, and it should eventually show a tasty, mineral tint, if it is anything like the 2012 version.

Cabernet Franc, 2010

This has a lovely, piercing  nose, with typical lead pencil. The fruit is sweet yet balanced.

And finally, proof that Assaf makes wines that can age!

Riesling, 2007

This has a spicy, mature appeal (petrol and herbs), with a unique signature not of  Pfalz or Alsace, that I find holistically captivating despite a few off notes that make their way in and out of my attention span.

Petit Sirah, 2005

Once more, a very captivating nose, with black fruit, bacon and leather. It is still tannic and drying, so I think it could go a few more years, probably always remaining tannic. This was clearly my favorite wine of the visit, and I have to admit it preyed on my mind on the drive home.

Post-script: Assaf planned to taste the Late Harvest, 2011 with me, but we didn't get around to that, so he gave me a bottle to try at home. This is a dessert wine comprised fully of Sauvignon Blanc, which goes some way to explaining the similarity to Sauternes. I'm no longer a big fan of Sauternes, so for me, the relative lightness is definitely a boon. An enjoyable wine.