Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Man And His Horse - The Wines Of Olivier Guyot

How can you not love a domain that salutes the retirement of their beloved horse Indigo?

Bourgogne, 2014

This is a hidden gem in the Bourgogne Crown catalog - the wines are humble in the way they favor nuanced finesse and subtle complexity over power and oomph. Actually, they do have understated power, which they exhibit after starting out delicately dumb and then slowly gaining definition and intensity with air. This is what I look for in Burgundy, and the wines never fail to charm me, even this declassified Marsannay, its cool, black tinted fruit and pungent, saline earthiness lingering surprisingly long, due to the tasteful, tasty, tart finish. (Aug. 1, 2016)

110 NIS.

Marsannay, La Montagne, 2013

As much as I do love Guyot, but I shied away from this white for a while, even though the 2013 wasn't the first vintage offered in the catalog. The reason being I've never been too impressed with the few Cote de Nuits whites I've tried. But, this turned out to be tasty and forceful, albeit not too complex or deep. What it does provide is very pungent aromas of apple peel and chalk and electric acidity that push the fruit to great length. It could be the first CdN white to thrill me, now for that electric vibe - later, who knows? With that acidity, it will age a few years. (Sept. 13, 2016)

160 NIS.

Marsannay Rose, 2014

And this is the rose and it's sour and saline on the palate, with typical Pinot aromatics on the nose. Surprisingly powerful, yet focuses that power into an appropriately lean frame. (Sept. 16, 2016)

95 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Champeaux, 2011

The list price is 390 NIS, but because Lifshitz and Eldad offered it at amazing discount, I only paid 260, which is ridiculous. This is not the stereotypically muscular and sauvage Gevrey. Instead, this shows the floral and elegant side of the appellation, starting out deceptively light, slowly evolving a lithe, yet powerful, tannic structure which persists, but never overwhelms. It always remains true to the initial impression of elegance, as well as to its Gevrey origins and Premier Cru pedigree. Very complete, long and savory. Despite 2011's reputation for early drinking, despite the obvious joys it already provides, the way this builds up to a rusty crescendo bodes well for the cellar. (Sept. 18, 2016)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Feldstein Reloaded, Feldstein Unleashed, Feldstein Unfiltered

The Alchemist
Avi Feldstein is a friend, so I can't promise full objectivity. But then, if you know Avi, or have spoken to him at any length, you know objectivity is not the point of anything one might write about him. I will elaborate.

Few winemakers think as deeply about their craft as does this creative, youthful veteran; then express their thoughts with such elaborate clarity and honesty; and finally make such painstaking efforts to realize those lifelong notions in their wines. I don't mean to denigrate other winemakers. Obviously, you don't get into this gig without an abiding love for wine. There are other winemakers that work as hard, bring as much intensity, strive as ardently to express their visions - and quite often succeed, as well. I personally know at least a dozen in Israel. It's just that Avi has been around forever, seemingly forging his thoughts and crafting his works while most of us were barely graduating from beer to whiskey and vodka. It's as though he was into William S. Burroughs while we were still reading Edgar Rice.

Avi is a stakeholder at the Mersch import boutique, specializing in Australian wines. He brought a few wines to our wine group's tastings. Because I'm a pinhead, I didn't even know of his affiliation - I just thought, okay, that's what he wants to bring, I'll go along with it, Feldstein's cool. So I wound up inadvertently writing a note about one of those wines that sums the man's modus operandi, in my opinion (and I know Avi will agree it's a very apt description):

New World hygiene, Old World charm.

A blend of pragmatism and lyricism.

The following notes were taken at a post launch tasting where Avi waxed poetic with typically laser-sharp accuracy.

Rousanne, 2014

Rhone white grapes. They're so trendy these days that I don't allow myself the luxury of hating them outright, someone might suspect a calculated move against fashion. The 14% ABV is obvious on the nose, and so are rather intense spices. Both nose and palate show an interesting marriage of prickling spiciness and restraint. It's the kind of spicy, (relatively) low acid wine that I like to partake once in a while, even though it's not my go-to style. When it's this restrained, it works. But, Jesus, Avi - Rousanne? 172 NIS.

Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2014

A quieter wine, with subtle nuances of flint. Gorgeous. I like this classic Bordeaux blend. The only reason I don't buy white Bordeaux is that they compete with both Red Bordeaux and white Bourgogne. Challenging. Anyway, this fits the mold and is decently priced for the quality, and not just in boutique winery terms - it would be a flagship wine elsewhere, and a damn outstanding one. For my tastes, it's destined to become one of the top five local whites.  172 NIS.

Dabuki, 2014

Dabuki is an indigenous grape and it's a rather large-sized grape, which would make for a very limpid wine, had Avi not aged it on its lees to provide more body. As it is, it is a light hitter, but, personality does go a long way. It has a funky nose - slightly overripe melons embellished by light hints of minerals and rainwater. The palate is lean and fresh, bolstered with tasty spices. In contrast to the previous wine, this is a unique expression of the country, without a direct parallel in other regions.  172 NIS.

Shalem, 2014

Named after an ancient Canaanite god, this features 60% Viognier in cahoots with Sauvignon Blanc, Rousanne and Dabuki, which are meant to stretch the Viognier up and down and sideways, lend is more vivid complexity and thus cure it of its monolithism. The end result is a good measure of flint married to the lush tropical fruit and spicy sting of Viognier, which in the end is either subdued of its own volition or forced into submission by its partners in the blend. 172 NIS.

Grenache Rose, 2015
Carignan Rose, 2015

The Grenache has the purer fruit, the Carignan is somewhat wider and more obviously spicy and sauvage. Both are remarkably fun, yet full of presence, with the fruit sort of bubbling beneath and above a layer of bitter peels and minerals. I'd drink both, but I guess I prefer the Carignan. Recommending a rose that costs 125 NIS is troubling, but I think that in the case of the Carignan, at least, the price is justified, if only as a statement that roses can be viewed on par with reds. 125 NIS each.

Grenache, 2014

The first impression is medicinal and alcoholic, which resolves into herbs and dust over clean and pure red fruit. The palate is very balanced with a long spicy finish. Look, Grenache is maybe the worst world class grape in the world. It can be candied and alcoholic at its worst, and, even at its best - and this is a good example of the grape at its best - it forces the palate to sprint just to keep up. So I like it, it intrigues me and I want to return to it. But I don't love it. Do you love your gym trainer? 260 NIS.

Anu, 2014

I originally assumed that the wines named after Canaanite gods were the the Feldstein flagship wines, which would make this the top red; after hearing Avi speak, I'm not so sure that was his intent. At least as far as the reds are concerned, the Grenache seems to be the teacher's pet. But I took this one to heart. A typical Carignan: spicy, meaty and dusty. Israel now has quite a few quality producers working this potential signature grape and this would comfortably make the shortlist of the top five. 260 NIS.

Cabernet Franc-Merlot, 2014  (barrel sample)

This is a primal Right Bank blend, where I think the Merlot dominates. This is the only wine served that harks back to Feldstein's Unfiltered in the halcyon Barkan days. Not just because of the Bordeaux grapes, but because of a certain build, although back in the day, I think Avi's wines were more muscular, whereas this is sinewy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2016)

Henri and Madeleine Laroche of Domaine d'Henri
Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, 2012

The other Chablis in the Bourgogne Crown portfolio, this is the family estate Michel Laroche started after selling off his negociant business. This has the typical intense delivery of sea shell aromas and the Fourchaume elegance and the racy finish is all apples, chalk and plankton. A keeper. (Aug. 3, 2016)

165 NIS.

Chapoutier, Hermitage, La Sizeranne, 2005

I think La Sizeranne is probably the easiest Hermitage to find. The Hermitage hill is small, and I believe Chapoutier is the biggest producer, with the Sizeranne the house's largest Hermitage cuvee. It's usually overpriced in Israel, at 400 NIS, but if you search long enough, you should be able to find it at a decent 200 NIS. It might not knock you out, but it's quite typical, and let's face it, even a typical, just-good Hermitage is a treat. There's iron and black pepper on the nose, broad hints of bacon, with plenty of tannic brawn in this eleven year old, that is well balanced by the plump fruit. It's in a good place, complex and flavorsome, arguably the best Sizeranne I've ever had, with a decade's worth of life at least. (Aug. 4, 2016)

Domaine Gerard Julien, Côte de Nuits Villages, 2013

This is more elegant and smoother than the Guyot Bourgogne I had recently, although less complex - no real reason to compare them except they are almost within the same price bracket and I had them a few days apart. Quite floral and, like the Guyot, surprisingly long. (Aug. 5, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 170 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne, Dizy, Brut Rosé, n.v.

There are Rosé Champagnes where the Pinot only adds color, but Eldad doesn't really import Rosés like that. This is lovely, very precise in the way it carries the autumnal spices of Pinot Noir and hints of strawberries, even more precise in how effortlessly it carries its weight. (Aug. 10, 2016)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Quinta da Pellada, Dao, Primus, 2014

Tropical fruits and minerals, a veil of oak. Good balance behind that veil and very promising. (Aug. 12, 2016)

Tshernichovsky Porto Wine Bar, about 200 NIS.

Álvaro Castro, Quinta da Pellada, Dão Tounot, 2011

I don't have enough experience with Touriga Nacional to pigeonhole it into masculine/feminine stereotypes, but, despite a brambly wildness that recalls forest fruit and flowers, there's elegant softness and an exotic lushness a la Chambolle (probably because there's Pinot Noir in the blend, as odd as that might sound). It's a young wine, only starting to shed off the barrel regime (the wine-making apparently sensitive enough so that the oak, while obvious, is integrated enough to make the wine approachable even now), this is probably the best wine I've had from Castro so far. It may not exactly flirt with greatness, but it certainly acknowledges it in the way it offers constantly changing and conflicting impressions and vantage points. (Aug. 13, 2016)

Tshernichovsky Porto Wine Bar, about 300 NIS.

Lahat, White, 2014

A typical Rhone blend (Rousanne and Marsanne). A herbal, rock dry white, showcasing white fruits and nuts and a taste of honey. (Aug. 14, 2016)

140 NIS.

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

Much more integrated, in better form, than the last bottle. A lovely wine, compactly putting together pears, citrus fruit, dried grass and flint on the nose - salivating acidity and a saline finish on the palate. (Aug. 15, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 180 NIS.

Chéreau-Carré, Comte Leloup de Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires,  2010

It's impossible to reconcile the notion of aging a wine with a shelf price of 90 NIS, especially when it's already six years old when you buy it. Even more so when there is already so much pleasure in its mineral cut and a palate defined by salivating acidity, lime juice and sea weed. (Aug. 20, 2016)

Wine Route, 90 NIS.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Cotes Aux Pretes, 2014

For a domain deep in the heartland of the appellation system, Beru does a good job of breaking the lines and rules of the system. Most of the Château's holdings are, on paper, lowly, basic Chablis, yet their purity and breed shine above their class. Like the somewhat less expensive and leaner Terroirs De Béru, this is also a textbook Chablis, albeit purer than many textbook samples, its marine bouquet adorned with both sweet and leafy notes. And finally, here's a challenge for you all: try to figure out how the acidity wraps itself around your palate like the first day of spring. (Aug. 21, 2016).

Bourgogne Crown, 155 NIS.

Michel and Stéphane Ogier, Côte-Rôtie Reserve, 2012

The 2001, at ten years of age, was lovely, complex and deceptively soft, rife with black pepper and bacon fat nuances. This is cut from the same cloth, but at least at this stage, it's just not coming together quite as well. The nose does recall the elder sibling, but the palate is not yet managing that juggling trick of balancing a firm backbone with languid, succulent fruit. What is there, for the time being, is soft fruit with an excellent acidic backbone, yet without enough density or length. I hope the fruit is dormant and in need of time, because I really loved that ten year old 2001. And, also, this would be a terrible value if it doesn't come around. (Aug. 26, 2016)

Wine Route, about 400 NIS. (I kinda suspect it will improve but never live up to the price)

Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella, 2003

This is no simple Valpolicella. This would be an Amarone under any other label but the near-mythical Quintarelli - not a style I like, but I can appreciate the quality here. It comes off as very porty and sweet on the nose, while the palate is much more savory, masking quite well its 15% ABV. In all, a warm maturity in a wine much more suited to a cold winter night than to a summer brunch, where it was served. (Aug. 27, 2016)

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2011

Redde was one of Uri Kaftori's master coups, but I haven't refilled my stocks in some time, so this is the last bottle of my purchases of 2-3 years ago. This has always been of Chablis Grand Cru depth and complexity, with a similar saline/marine quality, but this specific bottle comes off as mute and lightly oxidized. So, even though it gains presence and definition, and while the finish is focused and persistent - the overall impression is not up to the standard raised by previous bottles. (Aug. 27, 2016)

259 NIS.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Langhe Freisa, 2014

A Beaujolais Cru born out of Piedmont. On the one hand, it has a meaty, leathery aspect- on the other, a warm, tarry/dusty vibe a la big brother Nebbiolo. The acidity carries the fruit and I'd say it's tangier than what you get in Nebbiolo. (Aug. 30, 2016)

Fat Guy, 95 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Gewurztraminer, Cuvée Théo, 2013

I don't understand the internal hierarchy of the domaine's wines, and the fact that its site is in French doesn't help. I think that the entry level wines are the Reserve series, then the Cuvée Théo. After that, you have the Cuvées Laurence, Sainte Catherine and Colette, the Altenbourg single vineyard varietal wines, then the Grand Crus. And, of course, the various Vendage Tardive and Selection Grains Nobles wines and some labelled Quintessence  and l'Inedit.

Are you all still hanging in there?

I haven't tried any Weinbach in years. They were always pricey, especially under the former importer, but what I distinctly recall is that the higher Cuvées were too high octane for my tastes. That's why I bought the Théo, at 13.5% ABV and not the Altenbourg at 14. This is actually a very good example of why I keep coming back to Geuwrtz a couple of times a year. The bouquet is lovely, with that exotic, gingery spiciness and rose petals. The residual sugar on the palate is just enough to temper that zany spiciness in mid-palate and quinine on the finish, keeping me alert and interested without undue fatigue. (Aug. 31, 2016)

190 NIS. I'm willing to accede the price.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Yotam, Birthday, Friends, Yaffo Tel-Aviv (Sept. 15, 2016)

Going to a restaurant is one of my keenest pleasures. Meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life.

Adam Gopnik

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. 

Fran Lebowitz

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 2006

There's substantial, botrytis inflected fruit, tasty and deep, and a complex nose highlighting all the gifts of mature Riesling: a hint of petrol and that ephemeral juggling act of fruit and minerals. For all that, though, this is not the great wine you'd expect from Prüm and the vineyard - whether this is an off bottle or the vintage, this lacks acidity and vibrancy.

Gulfi, Rosso de Etna, Reseca, 2007

This Sicilian producer was unknown to all, except for Ido who brought the bottle. Even with the recent emergence of new star Etna producers, such as Terre Nere, Benanti et al, you still can't accept as a given that the initial vintages were as well made as the more recent ones that directed the spotlight towards the region - nor that they matured finely. With that in mind, this is very good, concentrated yet with fine balance, the spicy red fruit reminiscent of Pessac with that sense of burnt rock, but sweeter, with a thicker body.

Auguste Clape, Cornas, 2007

I don't have a great deal of experience with Clape, really, I know he's one of the Rhone greats, but the few bottles I've had have moved me less than newcomer Paris or even Crozes stalwart Graillot. Not for lack of quality - you can't argue this is a well made, delicious bottle of Syrah, full with black fruit and pepper, a touch of olives and a slight band aid funk adding interest and nuances. But there's a roundness, a seamlessness, that's too flattering and middle of the road for my tastes. Even the light brett can't counteract that excessive politesse.

Cordero di Montezemolo, Barolo, Vigna Bricco Gattera, 1997

I'm not familiar with the producer, but this is excellent with the typical tar and spices. Despite the warm vintage, this is still fresh and the tannins savory rather than sweet. Very complex and long.

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, Carrocel, 2008

I'm a fan of Castro, but I have to admit I sometimes find the top flight wines less charming than the mid-tier (although I loved the Tounot), but I have chalked it up to youth and figures this flagship wine would show better after eight years. There is good fruit underneath the oak and the overall effect is very monolithic and big, as though designed to impress rather than highlight the personality of Touriga Nacional.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Goldtropfchen, Riesling Auslese, 2012

Haart is in no way the household name that Prüm is, yet this does shine much brighter. It's likely even sweeter, yet shows fresher with better acidity and purity of fruit. Whatever edge the Prüm might have aromatically is just a matter of age, not inherent quality, and the Haart will surely catch up in a few years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer Of Riesling? Hell, Year Of Riesling

Leo Alzinger,  Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

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

Fat Guy, 239 NIS.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2014

I've told you about this before, so just go ahead and buy some. Nothing in Israel even came this close to the German mold. The acidity is low compared to the Teutonic prototype, even if it is excellent in local terms, but the nose - the nose has that steely character of green apples, with salty nuances that make their way to the palate as well. (May 4, 2016)

About 90 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

While still in the flush of youth, this already shows confident complexity within its gossamer structure, its aromas and flavors of granny apples and pastries coming across pastel like, with a hint of mint and an even vaguer hint of tropical fruit. If real apples were this exquisite, we'd all be vegetarians. (May 5, 2015)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2012

More of the same, with, naturally, more pronounced sweetness, a deeper veneer of slate, and so sexy it hurts. (May 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS for a half bottle.

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

This is at the point where the intense sweetness and fruit are starting to recede, their memory being replaced by nuanced aromas of minerals and petrol (that gain presence and power with air), only to have the fruit reappear on the finish as red apples and sweet grapefruit. This is great, although not in the way the Sistine Chapel is great, more in the way sunsets are great. (Jun. 4, 2016)

Giaconda, 180 NIS when I bought it long ago, 200 NIS now (presumably a storage charge while the importer was looking for buyers?)

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

I've been drinking this for over four years, and in the flush of youth it was perched exquisitely mid-way between a crystalline expression of green apples and icy slate and the quintessential spicy baked apples so typical of Austrian Rieslings. Now the balance has shifted towards the baked apples. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the earlier incarnation. It was just as deep and complex four years ago so cellaring my six pack didn't really so much for it, except prolonging the drinking experience, which in itself was a good thing. (Jun. 11, 2016)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

I'm lucky in that I enjoy German Rieslings almost equally in all stages of their development. Surely the complexity and depth are there from the start, and so are the flowers and.or minerals (depending on the terroir) and age merely provides additional complexity, breadth and the taint of maturity. But there's a sweet spot, about 8-9 years after the harvest for spätleses, where the intensity of youth is balanced by a certain sauteed herbaceousness, and where the real magic begins, right there where Riesling starts speaking in tongues. That's what we have here, a nose evoking cool, aloof elegance, which I think is the due to minty aromas. There's a bit of dill and parsley in the background. As for form - an almost feathery body belies the tense backbone. A great estate that single-handedly put Mozing on the map. (Jun. 23, 2016)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor, Riesling Spätlese, 2011

Sensationally drinkable, so much so I almost didn't have enough time for a proper note. Enough time, though, to note the typical Model delicacy and slate defined complexity. (July 9, 2016)

36 Euros at the Berlin duty free.

Sphera, Riesling, 2015

I wish we were a Riesling country. Then, besides the obvious advantage of have more Rieslings to drink, wine writers could stop prefacing their reviews of the local Riesling stuff with a spiel about the wonder of winemakers actually rising up to the challenge. But we're not a Riesling country, and it is a wonder and a challenge. And, to be quite honest, not a challenge always successfully met. This is a good wine, one that meets the challenge even if it's no GG (Doron Rav-On is the obvious suspect you'd place your bets on to make a good Riesling). It's a dry Riesling, one that leaves a salty impression on the finish and a decently complex array of minerals on the nose. (Jul. 11, 2016)

Peter Lauer, Saar, Ayler Kupp, Fass 7, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I was not familiar with this producer when I bought this two years ago, and online opinions have been split, but this is fantastic! I've drunk many great Rieslings and I have to say the acidity here is arguably the best I've ever tasted, framing and melding perfectly with the sweet, succulent fruit. The aromatics are embryonic but hint at complexity. (Jul. 13, 2016)

40 USD.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Riesling Brut, 2013

This sekt is more about Riesling and Mosel than the autolytic character of méthode champenoise, the Mosel green apples set to bubbles, mint and minerals, dominating the traces of brioche. What the secondary fermentation does provide, I find, is a more somber aspect to the mineral edge, even though the fruit itself retains the playful Mosel character. (Jul. 22, 2016)

Fat Guy, 145 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Kabinett, 2015

Saar is colder than the Mosel, which cool climate to begin with, so this is so very racy that the sweetness is even more integrated. It doesn't really have the gossamer sparkle of Slebach's single vineyard Mosel stuff, but it's not meant to, so just enjoy the pungent green apples and specks of salt. (Aug. 8, 2016)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is the second bottle I've drunk without writing down any notes. Could be because it was drowned too quickly for contemplative thought, or because there's no way I could ever match my notes for the lovely 2012. As usual, though, it's remarkably pure, you don't need to expend undue thought processes to get that. (Aug. 27, 2016)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Cuvée Théo, 2014

Well, what do you know - an Alsatian I find I wholeheartedly love. It's sharp and focused, yet packed with flavors. It reeks and tastes of minerals and somehow packs a hefty punch in a very lithe, crystalline succulent frame. (Sept. 1, 2016)

180 NIS.

And what's a Summer Of Riesling without Donnhoff?

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser, Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

The nose riffs with petrol, minerals and herbs, the fruit way in the background - so layered and complex it could reward a couple of hours of contemplation. Likewise, the palate is sheer power and grunge, albeit focused with single-minded perseverance, with enough acidity to lend vibrancy and enough sweetness on the finish to temper what would otherwise have been a quinine-like bitterness - even more so with air. I sometimes struggle with the GGs, both drinking them and then writing about them (and I think this note reflects that struggle), but with a wine like this, what eventually crosses over is the sense of place - both the vineyard and the winemaker's respect of the vineyard, vintage and fruit.(Sept. 17, 2016)

Giaconda, 350 NIS.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spain, France - and Feldstein! (Sept. 8, 2016)

This wasn't supposed to be an especially memorable night out, just a few guys hanging out, drinking wine. But there was a thirty-four year old Rioja Zacki and I wanted to check out, a dark horse if there ever was one: a little known bodega none of us had ever tasted and the label was only a Reserva (so not only was the provenance questionable, but you can rest assured there were few online reports on the wine available). And then Zacki brought a Grenache from a small boutique in a Spanish D.O. none of us had ever heard of, and that worried him enough to open his backup bottle, a Chablis from a producer who is arguably the best Chablis you can actually buy in Israel. We had an Ente, a producer of such minuscule quantities that any bottle shared is a rare treat indeed, then a wine from the twilight days of Avi Feldstein's association with Barkan (the operations has since collapsed under the weight of managerial dictates and the sheer tonnage of grapes and sluice into a sort of Dark Age). Finally, we capped the night with another rare treat, a vintage Sherry, after which the four of us somehow managed to totter home.

Bodegas Olarra, Rioja Reserva, Añares, 1982

In the immortal words of Nero Wolfe: "quite satisfactory". Complex, old world aromas of tea, spices, the fruit red, shifting subtly to black. The palate still kicks and thrives and improves and grows with time. We had enough to liquid to re-visit over three hours and the wine showed no signs of weakening. This is what you get when the tannins have integrated so well that resultant nectar is unadulterated mellow sweetness of the fruit and warm, confident savoriness of age.

This cost 107 USD at K and L Wines. Add shipping and having had to wait over a year until it was delivered to my sister-in-law and finally couriered to Israel - and it's still worth the money and time.

Daniel Gomez Jimenez Landi, D.O. Mentrida, Las Uvas de la Ira, 2014

Jancis Robinson seems to like Landi more than I do, but I realize it was too alcoholic for the setting and up against fiercely elegant competition. This is pure Grenache, but it has an autumnal, leafy character not unlike a Côte de Beaune, with a hint of licorice as well. It also has this funky aspect to it, but in a clean way, like the sweat of a healthy horse, as opposed to the droppings of a sick one (in other words, the non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae often colloquially referred to as "Brett").

Price unknown.

Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, 2013

This is in a tight embryonic stage, where what you get is lime and rocks and not that marine, fossil Chablis thing, so I'd wait a year for it to come out of its shell (pun half-intended). It's lean, yet dense with fruit, a combination only great Burgundy producers can conjure. You can get lean or you can get dense, you can get a halfway point - most of the time, most of the rest of the world, you just can't get both.

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS. Amazing quality for the price.

Arka, 2009

Avi was going to run a mini-boutique secreted away within Barkan-Segal and Arka was one of the wines he was crafting. This has Cab, Syrah, Avi's pet Argaman and maybe some others I missed when Yotam was reading out the label. It's just on the edge of over ripeness, but there is very good acidity that balances that, and it shows Avi's trademark mix of muscle and elegance.

Price irrelevant. It was never sold commercially and Barkan, in an absurd fit of corporate lunacy, shut down the operation.

Domaine Benoit Ente, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Champs-Gain, 2012

Ente is such a fantastic producer that I'm tempted to write a tasting note punctuated only exclamation points. The fresh, lime acidity is almost startlingly vibrant and highlights that Bourgogne sparkle of apples, flint and dry grass. Ente is a great one, indeed, and it's hard to believe the domaine is only seven years old.

Emilio Lustau, Oloroso, Rich Abocado, Anada 1997

I used to drink a lot of sherry, 10-12 years ago. I moved on, but every now and then a bottle of Lustau tempts me at Fortum and Mason. This tempted me for two reasons. One - the pound was very low following Brexit, and, two - I've never had a vintage sherry, which is a very rare creature. This is typically fragrant with a combination of olives, cured meat and toasted nuts, layered with dusty/briny notes, with the pungent/sweet finish that is a taste I'm glad to have acquired, even if I only indulge it once every couple of years.

30 GBP.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Jul. 2016)

Exciting new import
Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2007

I had a sudden Nebbiolo craving, Italy was playing Germany in the Euro quarter-finals, the air conditioning was going full blast - suddenly, drinking Barbaresco in July made sense. This is a solid effort, with Old World charm, decently complex if not especially expressive or deep. The fresh - if stoic - black fruit, the rusty tannins and the aromas of black tea grains and rotting rose petals nail the idiom. This is the kind of wine where the fruit dries up before the tannins, yet the tannins are so savory and saline that they can sustain the show in their own right for a few years.(Jul. 1, 2016)

Wine Route, about 250 NIS.

Sphera, White Concepts, Chardonnay, 2015

This has just about every fruit you might find in Chardonnay - green apples, citrus fruit, even guayava - but it's far from being a cacophony of flavors of aromas. It's very tightly reined in, so much so that it's on the limpid, austere side, with the flavors markedly saturated with chalk. (Jul. 3, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Frederic Mabileau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Eclipse No. 9, 2009

The Loire is full of producers most of us have never heard of. While it's full of excellent, fair valued wines, shopping is hard. Most of my purchases are made online, the result of copious amount of Googling. This seemed like a good buy at K and L Wines, but what my searches missed was that, in the 2009 vintage, Mabileau's barrel supplier, Vicard, sold him overly toasted barrels for this, his flagship wine, and the laws of the jungle dictated that this small producer was stuck with them. I was worried about a possible charred character, but further research indicated that  the barrels are 600 liters and that only the juice that survived the ordeal was bottled as Eclipse. Without any framework for comparison, as I have no experience with other vintages, I can say that I get oaky notes on the nose and a drying finish, but nothing that seems, to me, to be specifically charred. With air, the oak transforms into an interesting, spiciness. Maybe this is an example of good wine-making somehow making a decent, if not overly exciting, wine under the circumstances? (Jul. 6, 2016)

K and L Wines, 35 USD.

Château du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Fours à Chaux, 2010

This just so much better, a great example of Cabernet Franc, at a ridiculous price. Hureau can be bretty, but the fruit here is remarkably pure, lithe and peppery. The aromatic complexity and beauty of it need time to show, while the fruit is as succulent as a roasted pig and supported by its acidity rather than tannins. (Jul. 7, 2016)

Fat Guy, 115 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Petite Sirah, 2014

I always overlook this. It's the cheapest wine in the Mediterranean Reserve series, and the Carignan and the Marsellan seem to get all the press. It seems like a holdover from the Lewis Pasco days, even though the Zinfandel is gone from the blend for good. Yet, when I do open a bottle, it comes off as further proof that Petite Sirah is a candidate for a local signature grape, along with Recanati winemaker Ido Lewinsohn's use of it in his boutique winery and its de facto stature as Vitkin's flagship wine. This is certainly ripe, but not overripe or extracted, and the black fruit and black pepper on the nose is a very pretty combination, at times reminiscent of a good beef and vegetable stew. And if the finish is still constricted, tannic and bitter, that seems to me to be a promise for cellaring potential rather than a permanent fault. (Jul. 15, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Domaine Huet, Vouvray, Clos du Bourg, Moelleux Premiere Trie, 2002

In pristine shape, this should be one of the best dessert wines in the world. The color was way too burnt, though, the nose and palate reticent. So I was worried. But the nose blooms slowly, showing wet wool and brown sugar. The palate lacks the liveliness that would spark it towards greatness, but it's still an interesting, worthy wine that captures a moment. (Jul. 19, 2016)

About 50 USD.

Domaine Denis Berthaut, Bourgogne, Les Prielles, 2014

Berthaut is one of the recent additions to the Bourgogne Crown catalog, and one I was very curious to taste, having read about the domaine in Bill Nanson's guide. This is a very fresh, refreshing Bourgogne, with delicate minerality. A lovely house wine that epitomizes the style of the portfolio - wines that win over your heart and aesthetic sensibilities by their silken finesse, even though you would be tempted to gulp down a bottle without pause. (Jul. 20, 2016)

110 NIS.

The village wine, the Fixin, 2014 is, as you'd expect, better formed, longer and more precise, the greater aromatic detail showcasing a distinct floral aspect. The dense, dark-red fruit is buffeted by more persistent, grainy tannins and a tart acidity that I find lovely. Still a little raw, yet very pretty for all that. Now I'm tempted to try the lieux-dits that the Crown imports (the les Crais and the les Clos), but I should probably hold off on them for a few years.(Jul. 25, 2016).

155 NIS.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligoté Sous Le Chemin, 2013

This is a regular buy for me, year in, year out. The 2013 is relatively reticent and takes an hour to open up and show a pungent mix of lime and minerals on the nose and a flavorsome finish. Very typical, for its lean body and pungency. (Jul. 21, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 100 NIS.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Terroirs De Béru, 2014

This is the classic Burgundian tale of the prodigal son returning to the family domain revitalize it - only in this case, it's the prodigal daughter, Athénaïs. She's got a good hand and the Château's site claims the family's vineyards are located in the slopes of the Grand Cru foothills. it took me a while to find it on the maps - it looks like a good 5 miles away, but anyway, this is really good, a textbook Chablis, very clear and sea-shell saline, tense and limpid at the same time. It doesn't have the breadth and depth of a Premier Cru, but rather feels like a very pure distillation of the basic appellation. (Jul. 24, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2004

This was lean and tight years ago but now is a perfect mix of apples, orange blossom, salty rock and mushrooms, complex, deep, endless, with an almost mentholated lift. Many Chablis Grand Crus I've tasted were not this good. (Jul. 26, 2016)

Fat Guy, 329 NIS back in the day.

Lahat, Red, 2014

Itay Lahat, former Barkan winemaker, is a very busy consultant for various wineries around the country, also heading the Tel Hay College wine program. He has released a couple of vintages of whites under his boutique label. This is the first, much anticipated red. This a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, dominated by Syrah, I think, at least aromatically (black pepper). It is well made and fault free, which is not damning with praise, in Israel - there is very good balance here, no excessive heat, sweetness or tannins to wear out the palate, giving the fruit ample stage. (Jul. 27, 2016)

About 150 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2009

A funky, sweaty, local rendition of Crozes or Cornas, with blue fruit, black pepper, fruitcake and iodine, capped by a tannic crunch. (Jul. 28, 2016)

Château de Pibarnon, Bandol, Rosé, 2015

Explorative curiosity, that's why I bought this. It starts out nothing much more than a pink-hued Sauvignon Blanc, and while it grows beyond that to display minerals and herbs, nothing about it is distinctive enough to teach me what makes Bandol rosés special. (Jul. 29, 2016)

Wine Route, 150 NIS.

Domaine Ferret, Pouilly-Fuissé, 2014

Me being curious again. I read in the Wine Route newsletter about this new import, thought I'd give it a try. The funny thing is, the salesman was trying to talk me into buying a Jadot Bourgogne - I told him I wasn't into Jadot and he didn't bother to tell me this domaine is owned by Jadot. I'll try to be objective. The fruit here is very decent, very clean, with nuances of flint and dry grass and good acidity. The oak is a little obvious, though, and I think it's too pricey, but the saline personality is promising. (Jul. 30, 2016)

Wine Route, 220 NIS.