Friday, September 26, 2014

Yotam Sharon's 40th Birthday (Sept. 11, 2014)

Wine creates a special kind of bond, which is formed when you recognize you and a wine friend both love a wine because of stylistic preferences that reflect your personality and aesthetic philosophy. It's not just a paraphrase of the old Seinfeld routine: "You like Chambolle? I like Chambolle! Let's be friends!"

It is actually about sharing a love for something that moves you.

The first time I met Yotam, he brought a Pegau 2001 to a tasting. Good call. If you do bring a Chateaneuf to a tasting, better make it Pegau, a sane man's CdP. I don't mean that to be a back handed compliment. It really made perfect sense that night, and it was a lovely bottle. It was a good omen, a precursor for a bunch of fun evenings. I really enjoyed Yotam's humor, observations and insights then, and I've enjoyed them ever since.

Anyway, thanks for company, man, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to share good wines with you over the years.


Col d'Orcia, Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva, 1980

Very mature, yet still fresh, the fruit still lively and the acidity perfectly juicy, a touch of mildew, cedar and mushrooms adding complexity, chives adding Tuscan character. It's not a great bottle at first, but quite tasty and improving to such a degree we were actually considering this might be a case of yet another wine fraud  - I mean, a 34 year old Sangiovese?

I need to get some Col d'Orcia - I rarely drink Brunello, yet I see that I had a Poggo al Vento 1995 three years ago that I thought was the best Brunello I ever had.

Serragilli, Barbaresco Riserva, 2007

Typical nebbiolo nose, with rose petals, spices and red fruit. It's quite tannic, yet also ripe, so while I think  that the balance works, I have to agree with comments that the wine-making shows signs of imprecision.

Luccarelli, Bianco Salento, Chardonnay Malvasia, 2011

Lime and spices. Enlightening, in a way, but doesn't really convey, to me, any special character or sense of locale.

Vilmart & Cie, Cuvée Rubis, n.v.

So Pinot, so Champagne! Or should I put it, Champagne laced with the exotic magic of Pinot that lights up the taste buds. I could die happy drowning in this earthy, brothy and complex concotion.

Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1999

The best CdP I've had in the last five years. A very spicy, animalistic,  furry nose  and very complex. The palate is reasonably lively, and I think this works better than a more vaunted vintage would.

Petit Figeac, Saint Emilion, 2009

The second wine of Chateau Figeac is an excellent young claret, with red and black fruit, tasty tannins, and an obvious Merlot character. To my tastes, it plays a meaner guitar than the Beaucastel at half the price.

Domaine Garon, Cote-Rotie, 1999

Black pepper and blood define the rules of engagement. A lovely luncheon wine, fresh and vivid, soft and comforting, the fruit mellow, the tannins resolved.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Becomes A Legend Most: Redde and Allemand in Tel Aviv (Sept. 9, 2014)

Thierry Allemand - or is that Avi Feldstein moonlighting in Cornas?

 Elad Levy and Uri Kaftori put together a joint presentation of their two latest gems, Michel Redde and Thierry Allemand. I'd already tasted through 80% of their Redde offerings quite recently, so basically I came along to taste the Champs des Billon, which I had laid away as the domaine recommends to age it  further - and of course, to taste the legendary, rare, expensive Cornas legend, Allemand.

It was nice to drink the first four wines without any compulsion to take down tasting notes. I will, however, say that the differences between the Pouilly bottlings and the Sancerre are very obvious in the context of a tasting, the Sancerre  showing very clean and fruity, the various permutations of Pouilly very funky and minerally. Uri says the domaine Pouilly and the single vineyards see oak to give them a smokier character, although from my experience, the Sancerre also shows a somewhat similar mineral laden attitude given time and air.

And as for the bottle I hadn't tasted:

Micehl Redde, Pouilly-Fumé , Les Champs des Billon, 2011

Monolithic, yet more elegant than the Cornets (the other single vineyard, similarly priced), showing lime and minerals. The Cornets is really more likeable right now but damn, they're both great - so buy them both. Hell, buy 'em all, even if it means cutting down on your Chablis! (259 NIS)

But I really came for Allemand, didn't I? And his wines performed as advertised.

Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Les Chailliots, 2011

The nose shows manure at first, then aged meat over black fruit. I'm struck by how the terrifically juicy fruit shows such great focus and depth. And what length! This has the weight of Hermitage with the clean purity of a juicy Saint Joseph, and, although outrageously young, is already very complex and elegant due to its fine tannins.

Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Les Reynards, 2011

This cuvee is sourced from old vines, up to 90 years old, whereas the Les Chaiiliots comes from younger vines, 5 to 40 years old (still fairly mature at the extreme of the range), and as is usually the case, the older vines offer more of everything. Thus, this is more reserved, more tanninc, longer by at least a leg length, and overall feels more 'serious' and moody. As well, it's more refined and the meat aromas are tempered by black pepper. In both cases, I am struck by the purity. These are classics that will likely carve in a niche in your heart.

The pair costs 950 NIS and are not sold separately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Jul. - Aug. 2014)

I suppose I could just have called this the Summer of Champagne

Marc Hebrart, Champagne, Mareuil-Sur-Ay, Premier Cru Brut, Rose, n.v.

This is a grower from Terry Theise's portfolio that Eldad Levy doesn't carry (yet ?) and it's very, very good.  Interestingly, it's comprised of 47% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir, including 7% still wine, so there's citrus and apples in there along with the more expected strawberries. It has very decent complexity for a non-vintage, with brioche, salted nuts, even a hint of flint and flowers, and it's very saline and dry, in a reserved, ladylike manner. Like the the other grower Champagnes I've tasted, this feels as though someone had managed to merge the freshness of fruit with the salivating, brothy warmth of crisp, freshly baked crust of bread dipped in bouillabaisse.

56 USD.

Simon Bize, Bourgogne, Les Perrières, 2010

Even though I thought this wouldn't reward drinking before 2015/6, I gave optimism a chance (mostly because it'd been a few weeks since I had a red Burgundy), but this is still nubile and oaky. Beneath the oak I can spot red fruit and flowers. I don't know if it's the vintage or the winemaker, but this just isn't tasty right now, and while time might absolve its sins, there are too many contenders I can opt to drink instead. (Jul. 20, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Ashkar, Iqrit, Sauvignon Blanc, 2012

This is more delicate than I remembered, very pale colored, all lime and grapefruit with a racy, chalky streak and terrific acidity. It's one dimensional, but packs a lot of charm into that one dimension. As much a pleasure the second time around. (Jul. 24, 2014)

Not that easy to find, I scored it at Goodies in Tel Aviv for 70 NIS.

Pierre Péters, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Brut Rosé, For Albane, n.v.

Right. I've waited for a long time for Eldad to reel Peters in. This is quite dry and austere, with oranges almost crowding out the red fruit, the Pinot Meunier in the cuvee (it's the sole red grape) lending a very earthy character. No brioche or nuts here, and I wind up liking it less than the less expensive Herbrat, even though it feels more refined if I limit my inspection solely to its structure. (Jul. 29, 2014)

Fat Guy, 399 NIS.

Delamotte, Champagne, Cote de Blancs, Brut, n.v.

Another very nice non-vintage, from the only producer in Eldad Levy's catalog that's an actual Champagne house (albeit a small one) and not a grower. Chalk, nut and citrus comprise a very mellow Champagne for an evening by the fire - 'cept we had it in the midst of yet another heat wave. Efrat says, and I agree with her, that this, too, gives more pleasure than the Péters Rosé. (Aug. 1, 2014)

Fat Guy, about 270 NIS.

L. Aubry Fils, Jouy-Les-Reims, Brut Premier Cru, n.v.

The blend is heavily into black grapes, 45% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and the remaining 5% are ancient varieties that few besides the Aubry twins grow: Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Fromenteau. Unlike most non-vintage blends, the reserve wine (40%) comes from not from a back vintage or two, but from something akin to a sherry solera system, with the juice dating back to 1998. My bottle was disgorged in January 2013, which means the non-reserve juice (60%) is 2010, and it also means it has had a year on the shelves to settle and age. The final result is lovely, with the nutty/brothy/bready nuances that have already wreaked havoc on my heart when I 'discovered' Lallament earlier this year. It's in a similar funky style, although a less intense rendition. (Aug. 17, 2014).

About 50 USD.

Jean-Louis Denois, Limoux, Brut Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, n.v.


Disgorged Dec. 2012. I've been craving Champagne so much lately that I was content with a ringer, but this faced the handicap of being drunk while the memory of the charming and funky Aubry was still fresh in my mind. But it's still a tasty sparkler, with nuts and mushrooms and fresh Chardonnay citrus fruit underneath. (Aug. 18, 2014)

Fat Guy, 105 NIS.

Pierre Gimonnet, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, 1er Cru, Cuvee Gastronome, 2008

And here we go again. This is the low-rung vintage wine, a step up from the Gimonnet n.v., right before the "big gun" vintage wines, but still a treat (even if, as some on Cellar Tracker have written, it is a tad too sweet): a cloud of roasted nuts and mushrooms floating over bright apples and citrus fruit, with a structured laced with chalk. (Aug. 21, 2014)

Fat Guy, 279 NIS.

Prager, Niederosterrich, Hinter Der Burg, Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, 2013

Typical GruVe: melon, apples, green peas, white pepper, mint. Decently complex, long and very pure and moreish. Really a wonderful little wine, whose finish lingers like a Grand Cru. (Aug. 22, 2014)

18 euros.

Pierre Péters, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, Cuvée de Réserve, .n.v

As in the case of the Gimonnet Gastronome, the floral Chardonnay fruit is very obvious, lending the wine  clean purity, with brioche lending nuances initially, followed quickly by a layer of chalk and nuts. Since the Peters non-vintage is sourced from a perpetual 'solera' (Terry Theise: "in principle this is half of the current-prevailing year and half a cuvée of all the preceding years"), I expected a more mature character, but this is amazingly fresh, with a finish that complements citric sweetness with a dash of salt. Good breed. (Aug. 23, 2014)

Fat Guy, 289 NIS.

Weninger, Mittelburgenland, Blaufränkisch, Saybritz, 2012

I bought this at the wine store in Egg, Germany, at the recommendation of the owner, after he noticed I didn't like the oakier wines he let me taste. He said the 2012 version saw less oak than the earlier vintage I was looking at. Well, there is oak in here, at first complementing the peppery aspects of the grape nicely, then subduing it, and it's not as light and lithe as the Moric, Schloss Gobbleburg and Brundlmayer reds I've tasted (which I'd drink by the gallons, if I could get any). I guess the wine store guy got it right, or I was too optimistic. (Aug. 28, 2014)

16 Euros, but what does the price mean anyway? I bought it in a town way out in the hinterlands, it would probably be 10-12 Euros in a major Austrian city, but anyone importing it to Israel would probably have to charge the equivalent of 20-25 Euros.

Ashkar Winery, Iqrit, Shiraz, 2012

The label might say Shiraz, but it smells and tastes like a warm vintage, Old World, Syrah, yet at the same time very Israeli as well. Lots of black pepper and spices, sweat, red and black fruit, maybe even a hint of bacon. Ripe, yet reined in at the same time - sweet, with a touch of sanguine. Smells great, tastes yummy, albeit rustic and grizzled. (Aug. 31, 2014)

90 NIS.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer Of Riesling, 2014

I can't explain - I think it's love

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, 2012

I think this is the first bottle I've opened that's labelled Mosel instead of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, and I'm grateful for having less to type in going forward. Anyway, we have here apples, melons and guyavas, a combination that makes for a vaguely tropical effect, except it's tightly reined in by a minty leafiness and slate. Hmmm... that's one long, spicy complex finish over the deceptively light, crystalline frame. (Jun. 27, 2014)

Fat guy, 115 NIS.

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

Of course, if I had my way, all Mosels Kabinetts would be like this more traditional rendering (unless you subscribe to the view that classic German Riesling is dry, and I'm not getting into that argument -  I simply know too little on the subject): light, lithe and ethereal, all succulent apples and slate and thrilling acidity, as refreshing as jumping into a cold lake on a hot August afternoon. Quite honestly, this puts just about every Kabinett I've had to shame, except benchmark Egon Muller. Especially when an hour of air releases some chalk into the mix. (Jun. 30, 2014)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett, 2012

This is always a dependable Mosel Kabinett, apples and slate and all, fantastic acidity, and even if it doesn't have the electric, refreshing thrill of the Selbach-Oster Schlossberg, there's very little to find fault with in a dependable Mosel Kabinett. I mean, it's so yummy that it's not boring even in repetition.(Jul. 4, 2014)

Wine Route, about 130 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Riesling Spätlese, 2014

It's been a fun ride, but I'm finally down to my last bottle. This is showing ripe red apples and lime with delicate trimmings of stone and petrol, as well as zippy acidity, very good grip, length and depth. This is just as fresh and tasty as it was six or seven years ago when I first tasted it, but age has turned it into a complex statement of place and character. (Jul. 8, 2014)

Giaconda, 150 NIS back when I bought it years ago, remaining stock is now being sold for 180 NIS.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

The nose is complex and ever morphing, almost Sauvignon Blanc like with its grassy and tropical (guayavas) notes and minerals, while the palate is pure Riesling: sweet, yet racy, with fine grip and structure, and excellent length driven by green apple acidity. A memorable, lightly funky character. (Jul. 9, 2014)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

This is even better formed than the Roseneck 2004, formulating a clearer, more complex, more crystalline statement. The fruit is purer, even tastier, with a smoky veneer of minerals, lingering on forever. A better vineyard and a better year, I guess. (Jul. 11, 2014)

Giaconda,  180 NIS.

Karthäuserhof, Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Schieferkristall, Riesling feinherb, 2012

The back label calls this a kabinett, and it certainly has the lithe body of one, with intense green apple acidity. The nose shows the same green apples, as well as lime, pungent minerals and a hint of coffee. Tasty and fun, with good complexity, a unique aromatic signature and a very persistent finish. (Jul. 16, 2014)

31.49 USD.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Grosses Gewaches, Riesling, 2008

At this point, I was certain my distrust of aging trockens or grosses gewaches was a healthy one, but this six year old really begs for more time. An intense, highly detailed and complex nose of apples, lemons, and slate. The palate is intense as well, long and vital, driven by incredible acidity. One of the most focused wines I've ever drunk, in the way it marries grand cru concentration with clarity and purity of fruit, as well as an elegant, light touch. (Jul. 19, 2014)

Giaconda, 330 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Spätlese * trocken , 2012

A lot to like here: from the complex nose that leads with green apples and slightly oxidative notes, before it opens up to showcase a bedrock of minerals; to the fine acidity that makes for a very long finish, with a hint of honey. An excellent dry Riesling (a Grosses Gewaches for all practical purposes) and, for my money, ready to drink. (Jul. 26, 2014)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Model, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

A fantastic marriage of sweet fruit and electric acidity that makes every sip feel as though one is biting deep into the core of a perfectly ripe, freshly plucked apple. Already complex, with notes of slate and mint, but it has enough balance to cellar and develop for a decade. (Jul. 27, 2014)

Fat Guy, 155 NIS.

Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, -R-, 2007

As focused and pure as a diamond, with lithe green apples that perfectly marry acidity and sweetness. A complex nose, showing green apples, granite, iron, kerosene - intense and funky, yet light and elegant, the same wonderful paradox resides on the palate as well. There's a whole lot of sides to this wine, but at the end of the day, as is my usual experience with the Emrich-Schonleber Halenbergs of all pradikats, what I take away is the aloof purity. (Aug. 3, 2014)

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Weingut Wittman, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Kirchspiel, Riesling Großes Gewächs , 2007

The intensity here is so focused that the final effect is that of elegance. The aromas and flavors, are of apples and peaches, grapefruit pits, spices and minerals, with depth and complexity beyond what the mere list can convey, and the finish is long, saline and complex. As I was drinking it, I thought: "mein gott, I really haven't had a dud this summer!" (Aug. 27, 2014)

Giaconda, about 300 NIS.

Of course, excellent Rieslings are also produced outside of Germany.

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

I've been following this for about three years, almost always getting off the crystalline veneer of the icy slate, here complemented by green apples, sweet grapefruit and a note of spice inflected tropical fruit reminiscent of botrytis. A thoroughbred, that marries the spiciness of the Austrian idiom with a sweet Spatlese-like veneer. (Aug. 2, 2014)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Weingut Markus Huber, Traisental DAC Reserve, Berg 1er Lage, Riesling , 2012 

An appetizing, complex nose: green apples, lime, iron and a slender, yet intense, aromatic spike that is equally of minty green leafiness and spices as of pungent minerals. And is that a shy flower lurking in the cracks of thawing slate? As good as this summer's batch was to begin with, this was of the finest filigree and arguably the most distinct, almost ready to go, except the finish needs time to soften. (Aug. 25, 2014)

30 Euros.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Redde, Steady, Go!


So this is the new guy that Uri Kaftori and Eldad Levi are bringing in. While the domaine is not enough of a household name for Cellar Tracker to hold an entry for every wine and vintage, it seems to be an under the radar gem and the producer site is very well designed and elegant.

And how were the wines?

Well, fresh, saline, honest and classic are words that come to mind. The Petit Fume might strike you as a simple table wine if you drink a glass or so, but if you delve into a bottle over a couple of hours, it's going to offer more than a mild surprise. The Les Tuilieres and La Moynerie have noses McNamara and Troy couldn't build for a million bucks. And the Les Cornets is easily the equal of a Chablis Grand Cru. What a voyage these wines took me through!

Pouilly-Fumé , Petit Fume, 2013

This serves very, very well as an entry level wine, fresh and tasty, showing an austere, chalk laden version of the Sauvignon Blanc fruit, very nicely built: i.e., with no glaring faults, while, on the other hand not a technical wine, with the saline finish riding some tasty acidity raising my interest level. In short, fully complies with what I look for in Sauvignon these days. (Jul. 25, 2014)

109 NIS.

Sancerre, Les Tuiliéres, 2012

I don't have enough experience to tell  Pouilly-Fume' and Sancerre apart, but I somehow always expect a Pouilly-Fume' producer to perform worse in the Sancerre climat - and vice versa, of course. Well, I'm drinking through my purchases days apart, so I can't really make a valid comparison, but this hints, just hints, at the New Zealand style, cat piss and gooseberry, but classically formed, not tropical, with a solid backbone of minerals that sparks a salty finish. These minerals, in fact, capture the aromatic spotlight as center stage - in fact, you might not believe Sauvignon Blanc could be this mineral-laden. It may be softer than the Pouilly-Fume's, but doesn't feel like a step down.(Jul. 30, 2014)

149 NIS.

Pouilly-Fumé, La Moynerie, 2011

The nose here offers dried grass in addition to fossils and gunpowder, the fruit leaning towards green apples and fuller than the Les Tuiliéres. Differences in descriptors apart, this is just much more of the same, quality and style wise, of all the Les Tuiliéres have to offer. It's inscrutably better, at the very least more impressive - easily as good as an excellent Chablis Premier Cru. (Jul. 31, 2014)

149 NIS. Jesus, what great value!

Pouilly-Fumé, Les Cornets, 2011

Like I said above, a Chablis Grand Cru, except it wouldn't necessarily need 7-10 years in the cellar, but it would fool you in a blind tasting (however, Chardonnay has a dollop of baby fat even in lean years that this doesn't). The similarity is quite fitting, as this is the one wine in the Redde portfolio sourced from strictly Kimmeridgian soil, like the best of Chablis. The nose is more elegant and suggestive than the La Moynerie, the fruit leans towards lime this time, but here, too, the mineral essence has an almost three dimensional, sculptured feel. (Aug. 24, 2014)

259 NIS.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Great Escape - A Family Vacation In The Black Forest (Aug. 2014)

Just an FYI: I didn't expect to taste and drink so many wines on a family vacation, but it's so easy to find tasty, interesting, relatively inexpensive wines in Europe, I could probably have lived off the super market selections alone for the entire two weeks.
 
August 4: Egg, Austria

There was this weird wine shop right next to the zimmer where we were staying, with a small selection of wines, actually smaller than the collection at the supermarket next door. They were formally closed when I stepped in, but the owner was sampling some new arrivals with friends and they let me join. I liked the white and rose but was underwhelmed by the reds.

Kress, Muller-Thurgau, 2013

I think this is my first Muller-Thurgau. Fruity and lightly tinted with minerals, like a simple Sauvignon Blanc. Charming and fun. I didn't write down any details from the label, and Google only comes up with a Seegut Kress in Baden, which I doubt is the wine we tasted as all the wines in the store were Austrian.

Ploder Rosenberg, Sudoststeiermark, Rosa Rot, 2013

Strawberry and dry, a hint of sweetness. Oddly, it's only 10.5 ABV, but it doesn't feel too light, limpid or sweet.  I like it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it.

Weingut Wallner, Sudburgenland, Eisenberg DAC, Blaufrankisch, 2011

Starts out nicely with black fruit and black pepper before what, to me, is heavy handed oak ruins the good start. Incredibly, Terry Theise is the US importer, so either he doesn't understand reds as well as he does whites, or this needs years and years to overcome the oak. I don't know quite what to make of it.

Markus Iro, Burgenland, Special Blend, 2013

A Pinot Noir, Merlot, St. Laurent blend. Oaky again, and I object to blending Pinot with anything in the first place.

The following wines accompanied our dinners at the zimmer:

Weingut Pockl Monchhof, Burgenland, Solo Rosso, 2010

This is pure Zweigelt and it's also oaky, but here there's enough earthy/spicy fruit, enough black pepper, and enough time that has passed to counteract the oak. Yet the tannins remain dry and bitter. So it's a pleasing effort although, not that much more. Kinda like a dependable Crozes-Hermitage; and for the same price Brundlemayer's Zweigelt (see below) is much more fun. 15 Euros. (Aug. 5, 2014)

Weingut Josef Jamek, Wachau, Jochinger Berg, Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, 2009

I'm not sure how highly Jamek ranks in the Austrian scheme of things (Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book gives him one star whereas most of the producers in Eldad Levy's catalog, for example, have at least three and Giaconda's Pichler has four) and I'm not sure where the vineyard and bottling fit into the Jamek hierarchy - but this is a very good wine caught right beyond the initial throes of youth. It's a deceptively simple style of Gruner, but very harmonious on both nose and palate: green apples, a hint of flint and melon, white pepper, and beneath that the typical greenness of the grape. In short, a classic rendition. 10 Euros. (Aug. 6, 2014)

Wili Brundlmayer, Langenlois, Zweigelt, 2012

This is the tastiest red wine I had on the Austria leg of the tour, just fresh berry fruit with a substantial backdrop of minerals. Simple, but crafted with great care and honesty. Austria has such lovely red grapes, but some producers are still in the stage where they'll throw the entire Black Forest into their juice. 10 Euros (Aug. 7, 2014)

Aug. 8: Ammerschwihr, Alsace

Alsace never came as readily to me as Bougogne, Bordeaux and the Loire, so I wasn't as excited as you might expect to sleep right next to, and to jog inside, the famed Grand Crus. But with an unknown (to me) winery at every street corner, many of which are never seen outside of France, I would have had a great time exploring the place if I didn't have a family to chauffeur.

Driving into Riquewihr, I spotted a name that rang a bell and my family conceded me a short winery visit where I picked up a few bottles, one of which was consumed at our crappy one star motel in abysmal glasses.

Dopff au Moulin, Vourbourg Grand Cru, Gewürztraminer, 2009

An elegant Gewürztraminer with all the varietal accruments: lychee, rose petals, white pepper, ginger. There's enough residual sugar to overcome the spice attack in mid palate. Surprisingly zesty, for a Gewurtztraminer. (Aug. 8, 2014)

We also tasted the Schoenberg Grand Cru Riesling and Pinot Gris 2011 at the winery. Both were intense, the Riesling still austere but the Pinot Gris already open for business. The regular Riesling bottle, on the other hand, was solid, a little thin, not something I'd expend luggage space on. The winery's style appears to be elegant and understated. As well, we tasted the Bartholdi, a non vintage Cremant, which is very fruity while devoid of any nutty/minerally complexity. Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book calls Dopff Au Moulin pioneers of Cremant, but I found nothing compelling about the Bartholdi or the other cuvée we tried. This was my first Cremant, so I don't know - is this representative of the style?

Aug. 10: Oberkirch, Baden, Germany.

We didn't have time to buy any local wines when we arrived in Baden, so on our wedding anniversary, we opened another of the Alsace purchases: Dopff au Moulin,  Schoenberg Grand Cru, 2011. For me, a better wine, or at least a more enjoyable wine, than the Gewurtz, perhaps because I prefer Pinot Gris to Gewürztraminer. I consider it the quintessential Alsatian grape. Gewürztraminer is a slut and Riesling not only has to compete with its German kin, but with Austria, which can produce more balanced versions of the same spicy, dry style. But what do I know anyway? I just found out there's dozens, if not hundreds, of producers in Alsace that I and my friends have never heard of, so there's good odds I could find a few Rieslings to my tastes. But even if I underestimate the other two varieties, I do know that no other grape but Pinot Gris manages to blend luscious, oily fruit with decent-plus acidity. In many ways it is the white version of red Bourgogne, when it works, providing hedonistic and cerebral pleasures, the same image of a sage priest strolling through an Eastern bazaar. And any grape that manages to make me re-examine my notions of what it's capable of each time I open a bottle deserves an entry in my wine biography.

Anyway, back to the Schoenberg PG. It's in a likable, feminine, fruity/floral style, and at first only that. I prefer minerals in my wines, and my man in Alsace, Albert Mann, has delivered that with high intensity in his Pinot Gris Grand Crus the past, but I can appreciate and enjoy this. It shows honey and quince and little by little displays the minerals I look for. It certainly has the complexity and depth I expect from a Grand Cru. In short, a very satisfactory discovery that has whet my appetite.

The PG and Gewurtz, together with the 2010 Schoenberg, cost 48 Euros at a special discount at the winery store.

Aug. 12: Weingut Andreas Laible, Durbach, Baden.

I did my homework. Orentau is one of  the outstanding wine regions in Baden and Durbach is the important wine town. And Laible, a VDP producer, is one of the big names in Durbach, working a single vineyard, Plauerlain, which is exceedingly steep. Except for the Scheurebe Spatlese, these are backward wines right now, in need of time, yet already showing elegant intensity. They are honest without extravagant flash. The whites, anyway.

(Prices quoted are at the winery door)

Riesling, Plauerlain, Grosses Gewaches, 2012

Mineral laden and quite good. Very detailed. In need of time. 19 Euros.

Riesling, Plauerlain, Achat, 2013

More of the same, slightly more tropical, also in need of time. 17 Euros.

Scheurebe, trocken, 2013

Exotic with a lot minerals. Great fun to drink, but in need of food.

The Spatlese was friendlier and even better, floral with sexy sweetness. Both 11 Euros.

Spatburgender trocken, 2012

Very earthy but not for anyone looking for a Bourgogne lookalike as it is of a curt, Teutonic character. Which I might enjoy exploring at home but decided against carrying on the plane. 14 Euros.

Spatburgender, Plauerlain, Grosses Gewaches, 2011

This will need much more time. Oaky, but impressive in a points winning style. After later tasting the Trautwein, I think the Laible reds were trying too hard to impress and I was trying too hard to like them. 27 Euros.

Aug. 14: Stuhlingen, Germany



Still in the Black Forest, another fabulous zimmer in a different town. I decided to open a bottle of the Laible Scheurebe, and it's even better than at the winery, so let me give you the wine's full demarcation:

Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauerlain, Scheurebe Spatlese, Erste Lages, 2013

A technical aside: Erste Lages is equivalent to Premier Cru in Burgundy. Most of the better wines are listed on the winery's site as Erste Lages, except for a trio of Grosses Gewaches. A GG must be dry according to current VDP regulations. So I'm not sure if the label here reflects that this a Spatlese and not a dry wine, as opposed to originating from a lesser parcel in Plauerlain, but this is fabulous stuff, floral and sexy, with detailed aromas and flavors that are full of life and joy and reverberate with red grapefruit and minerals. This is very complete and speaks of the essence of fruit, which is, at the core, all about the perfect marriage of fruit, sugar and riveting acidity. Even if I wasn't already a Scheurebe fanatic, this would make a lifelong convert out of me.



The next day, at the Gasthaus Schwanen restaurant at Stuhlingen, accompanying a dinner comprised of, for me, mainly wild boar.

Weingut Ralf Trautwein, Baden Kaiserstuhl, Spatburgender Kabinett Trocken, 2011

I like this rendition of Pinot a lot, with its earthy red cherries and cranberries and a hint of coriander. If Burgundy is Charlie Parker, joyfully expounding on his brand new approach to improvisation, then this is John Coltrane succumbing to the mathematical implications of applying his dark psyche to the same structures. Actually, Burgundy encompasses both aspects, so just imagine someone applying a Lutheran character to a lightly oaked Marsannay. I think it's good for me that this is 'only' a Kabinett - anything higher would be too ripe for me, as this was very balanced for me at 13% ABV.

25 Euros at the restaurant, which is about the price it would be sold for in Israel were it imported, so it's at the same price niche as a good generic Bourgogne.

And on the 16th, a couple of glasses on our last evening before returning to Israel.

Weingut Hug Pfaffenweiler, Oberthein, Muller Thurgau, 2013

A well made quaffer with no outstanding nuances.

5.50 Euros per glass at the Gasthaus Schwanen restaurant.

Weingut Ralf Trautwein, Baden Kaiserstuhl, Sauvignon Blanc, Qualitatswein trocken, 2013

Lightly exotic fruit (kiwi, grapefruit) with an excellent backbone of minerals. At first I thought that, as excellent as it is, it doesn't have that much to give it an edge in the global SB market, but its mineral fingerprint grew to create quite a blazing impression. No one in Israel (and arguably anywhere) is going to bother to carry a German Sauvignon, which is a shame - albeit an understandable one - because this SB shows the same clarity as a good Riesling. This Trautwein dude is good!

6.59 Euros per glass at the restaurant.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Double Feature (Jul. 28, 2014)

Pavelot - The Man!

Lamy - Also the Man!

Yet another Bourgogne Crown tasting, after a short hiatus. I can understand why Daniel Lifshitz paired Pavelot and Lamy for a tasting: two producers from undervalued villages who don't go for excessive and untoward flash. Tasty wines with a quiet, chiseled beauty.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny Les Beaune, 2011

Classic, savory and tasty. Red fruit, spices, a hint of leather, fairly complex for what it is. Rustic tannins, comparatively speaking, for Beaune: for my tastes, rusty but not coarse. 165 NIS.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru, Aux Guettes, 2011

A step up in intensity, if not necessarily in complexity, with a hint of flowers and minerals thrown in for good effect. The nose is certainly quite pretty and charming even now, while the tannins suggest a need for a short term rest. 260 NIS.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru, La Dominode, 2010

Corked.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru, La Dominode, 2011

Deep and too tannic for true pleasure at this time. But the minerals and rust on the nose are a pleasure to sniff even now. And the pleasure grows greater when the nose expands to show some flowers. A welterweight Pommard, perhaps? 290 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard Rouge, 2011

If the Dominode is a wine considered by many to require time, than what can I say about this? It even smells closed, and, although the palate is more inviting than the Dominode's, I can almost sense the jism it seems to be keeping back, as even a short time glass reveals very expressive minerality and fantastic acidity. Great potential. 275 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2011

Citrus, minerals, almost masquerading as a Chablis Grand Cru, great acidity, a hint of minerals. 295 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2010

More developed than the 2011, more about lime than about minerals at first, more elegant and finessed, cleaner. The 2011 is flashier right now, but the 2010 is the date that makes your knees quiver when you realize at the end of the evening how truly, deeply lovely she is. So I guess I'm saying that 2010 is the better vintage, but then we all knew that, right? 280 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrière chez Edouard Blanc, 2011

Minerals again, more finesse than the Clos de Meix 2011 displays, with a quiet depth akin to the Clos de Meix 2010. A certain sweetness of fruit is deftly counterpointed by the acidity. 300 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de la Chateniere, 2011

I think the balance of fruit and minerals is really spot on, here. So, while the impact of the minerals in the previous wines was quite impressive, it is more complete and complex here, because it's not as obvious. I always prefer subtlety. 360 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, En Remilly, 2011

We drank this last and my conclusion is that Lamy shines in each of his terroirs. He takes a handful of pure fruit and mixes it with a thimbleful of minerals. The exact quantities may vary, but the end result is a great balm for the mind and soul. 360 NIS.