Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Jul. 2017)

Niepoort, Duoro, Redoma, Reserva, 2014

The winery site says this is made of "Rabigato, Códega, Viosinho, Arinto and others". I greatly enjoyed the phrase "and others". The vines are 80 years old and the winery says it aims "to express the character of the Douro old vineyards". I don't know what that means, it's really generic marketing speak, but the end result wouldn't be out of place in a Chassagne blind tasting. It's about the level of a decent Chassgane Premier Cru, a little foursquare, yet complex and broad, with minerals and dried grass backed by decently applied oak, a fruit profile that hints at flowers and pears, and lots of flint and Atlantic salt. I don't know what the flavor and aromatic profile of these grapes is supposed to be. There is nothing about the wine that pointedly speaks of Duroo, or even Portugal (the way the wines made by Pato or Castro do), but I liked it enough to buy a bottle to age a couple of years. It's very good now and I sense potential for a more unique character down the road. (Jul. 10, 2017)

Not formally imported, but would be priced around 200+ NIS if it were, most likely.  Anyway, Niepoort is imported by Eyal Mermelstein from Tchernichovsky 6.

Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2015

The smart thing would have been to wait a bit with this, but the basic village wine is usually approachable, and more, early on. Generally speaking, the domaine's wines always show a floral element and it is the case here as well, although it was more prominent with previous vintages I've drunk. In addition, it also hints at forest floor, and there is, as well, a warm, vague suggestion of village's trademark feral, animalistic notes. It's a very lithe, balanced wine - one where you never have to pause and wish for more time to tame oak or tannin - and the finish, while not exceptionally long, is very precise. (Jul. 1, 2017)

Bourgone Crown, 170 NIS.

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils, Puligny-Montrachet, Les Aubues, 2014

I wish I had more Puligny. A while back, I stopped buying white Burgundies (reasons: oak, premox et al) until the new wave of producers came along, with their edgier wines, their vigor almost combustive, certainly contagious. Wines you could enjoy young, yet left you optimistic about their future. Bachelet is a new producer, for me. I tasted an okay Chassagne Premier Cru last year, but this seems more promising, a little tight now, intuiting at elegance, framed by oak but not blocked by it. If you wait a couple of hours, you will be rewarded by a hint of a glint of flint, otherwise, it's mostly apples, pears and dry grass. (Jul. 2, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 270 NIS.

Luis Pato, Vinha Formal, 2009

Last year, this pale sparkling wine (mostly Touriga Nacional and about one third Bical, a white grape) showed an overt mineral aspect, almost that of scorched earth. A year later, it is shows an offhanded exotic side, with a touch of peppermint and apple cider. It still both invited and then defies comparisons with Champagne or even Cava. (Jul. 10, 2017)

About 100 NIS. Imported by Eyal Mermelstein from Tchernichovsky 6.

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

If Chablis brings an oceanic essence, then Fourchaume, a vineyard of elegant wines, is the calm after a stormy night. However, as much as I love the domaine, this cuvee is too calm, not lively enough, its flavors one dimensional. The nose, however, is very congenial. (Jul. 11, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

Domaine Denis Berthault, Fixin, Les Crais, 2014

This is green, but the greenness here is not that of under ripe fruit, but rather the leafy greenness of a forest. It's not very lush or sexy. Right now it's in the tough, harsh state the colder, rustic appellations can go through. It softens up but still needs time. (Jul. 12, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 145 NIS.

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2014

For all its reserve - seemingly all bunched up, every erg of potential complexity and jism still in check - this is the epitome of the Pouilly-Fumé style: smoke and minerals, saline, straight-laced fruit. (Jul. 20, 2017)

IProVinum, 220 NIS.

Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre Rouge, Belle Dame, 2014

Wow, this is just as good as a Burgundy village red, and actually, the elegance and focus would even lend credibility to a comparison with a Premier Cru. It certainly unfolds to show enough complexity and depth. The red fruits have the same soothing autumnal fragrance as the progenitor of Pinot Noir, the same singular clarity, the same sensual freshness. (Jul. 22, 2017)

Wine Route, about 300 NIS.

Then again, here's a bone fide premier cru that trounces the Belle Dame. And it's not even a really great premier cru .

Gerard Julien, Nuits St. Georges, Premier Cru, Les Bousselots, 2013

Expressive enough to enjoy young, showing typical Nuits with a sort of rustic elegance - feral with the greenness of wild flora and fresh red fruit - and a rich complexity of aromas and flavors that belies its lithe frame. (Jul. 24, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 285 NIS.

Olivier Guyot, Marsannay, La Montagne, 2012

A good village wine, but at this point not a whole lot of complexity or length, even for the village level, just black, earthy fruit, with a hint of spices. (Jul. 28, 2017)

This particular wine is not imported to Israel. I bought it for 40 euros in Amsterdam.

Kishor, Savant Red, 2014, as usual, is a reserved wine, with soft, persistent tannins, and a savoury, succulent tang. The GSM, 2015 is more interesting, even better than the 2014 version, with a meaty nose and sweet, but not overtly ripe, fruit. Both, as usual, display the winery's friendly, unpretentious house style. I would not claim this is one of the country's top wineries, but if I were to compile a list of elegant, food friendly reds for summer, these two would be right up there in the top ten, and both hover around the 100 NIS price point. (Jul. 30, 2017)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Wiili Schaefer 2015 Tasting (Aug. 1, 2017)

I'm working on the annual Summer Of Riesling post. Something I wrote there could well serve as an introduction here.

Even if all the Mosel produced was kabinetts, it would still be one of the greatest wine regions of the world. Here is some corroborative evidence.

Exhibit A are ten wines from the great 2015 vintage, grown and crafted by a domain and winemaking team which are universally recognized as one of the greatest on the short stretch of the river that is the home to Germany's most renowned vineyards.

Mosel, Graacher, Trocken, 2015

This shows how much you can make of the simplest things, in this case, the apples and minerals that the quintessence of Mosel. And it's actually not quite that simple, as its balance of sweetness and saltiness is very sophisticated. 

Mosel, Graacher, Feinherb, 2014 and 2015

Even taking into account the preconceptions of the vintages I came with, it's hard to deny 2015's greater class.The 2014 is naturally more advanced, with even a slight touch of petrol. The 2015 is fruitier, cooler, racier, more precise and, ultimately, better tasting. Both are sweeter than the trocken, without loss of racy edge. 

Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Kabinett, 2015
Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Kabinett, 2015

You could call the feinherb and the trocken the village wines. If you're looking for more parallels to Burgundy, that would make the kabinetts village lieux-dits, perhaps, the spatleses Premier Crus and the ausleses Grand Crus. I don't like that parallel very much, because the different pradikats should serve as guidelines for sugar levels and ripeness, and not necessarily quality. In other words, a matter of style. However, the comparison is handy in a way, because ausleses taste grander, due to the bigger body. Having said all that, the kabinetts are a step up in quality, compared to the feinherbs, and that is more obvious with the Himmelreich, which is more open than the Domprobst. It is a touch more tropical and fuller, with a ripeness that is almost hedonistic, although it is, of course, well balanced by the acidity. Minerals come out in time, mostly on the nose. The Domprobst is racier, very mineral laden. It's more interesting than the Himmelreichbecause the sweetness is better balanced by the minerals right from the start. 

Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Spatlese, 2015
Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Spatlese, 2015

Both very closed and mute, although the Domprobst's minerality makes it more expressive now.  Having said that, the difference between the two are less pronounced than on the kabinett level. But even here the Domprobst wins.

Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Auslese, no. 16, 2015

Another reason the Burgundy parallel is useful is that as you go up the pradikat hierarchy, the wines need more time to come around. This, for example, is a glacier years from thawing. Yet even now, it manages to walk a precipitous tightrope between great, ripe concentration and thrilling, mineral-laden focus.  

Moving on to a trio tasted from half bottles.

Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Auslese, no. 14, 2015
Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Auslese, no. 4, 2015
Mosel, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Auslese, no. 17, 2015

Schaefer produces two-three different auslese batches from the Domprobst vineyard alone. Number 14 is the richer, more concentrated and backward version. It's also more expensive. You'll notice I'm not going into very specific details and listings of aromas and flavors. The specifics are not that important. If you drink any of these three now, or wait a few years and drink them, you're going to experience a canopy of aromas and flavors - age will just add nuances - and really, all you need to know is you will get remarkable concentration along with great complexity. The Domprobst is likely going to be serene and mineral laden, whereas the Himmelreich has the same tropical exoticism I found in the kabinett, with a hint of pungent minerals and spices. It's lighter than the Domprobst, and then so is the Sonnenuhr, which I think is the raciest and most elegant of all three and sports a touch of lemons. Despite the differences, all are cloaked with fruit and honey. Due to terroir and craft, all are almost equally balanced and fine tuned.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

All This And Avi Feldstein Two

Avi Feldstein's has recently held a weekend long launch party for his boutique winery's sophomore release. Avi makes too many wines to easily grasp in a single sitting, especially at a launch party, where the senses are bombarded by too many friends, too much noise and cheer. Despite that, it's obvious that Avi covers a lot of ground without loss of clarity of purpose and expression. The myriad wines are of a piece, yet each is a separate individual, each one plays out a role, marks out a coordinate in Avi's personal wine map.

I can't promise you that my reading of that map is the correct one. And despite friendship and, frankly, admiration, I can't even commit that I'll visit every beach and river on that map. What I can promise is that you're going to have loads of fun visiting any of the places he's marked out. I will, anyway.

First, the whites. Avi seems to have three themes here. Rhone whites in various configurations. White Bordeaux grapes in various configurations. And Dabuki, an ancient indigenous variety.

Dabuki, 2015

The 2014 was one of the standouts last year and so is the 2015 this year. This the funkiest and most unique of the whites, and not just because the grape is such an underdog oddball. Here's my take on what happened here. Avi recognized potential in the grape. Maybe Dabuki doesb't have Hall of Fame level potential, but it might just be as good as, say, Aligote. Because of his fine skills, Feldstein coaxed that quality that others would have missed. So I don't know if the funky complexity of minerals is a Dabuki trademark, but it's surely the stamp of a Feldstein Dabuki.

Shalem, 2015

Similarly crafted to show a mineral veneer, albeit one encasing a less bitter, more friendly wine. Avi strikes me as someone who just can't settle on a single modus operandi, so if the other white wines attempt to depict his rendition of a grape or classic blend, here it strikes me that he starts out with an idea of a style and feel and assembles a wine around around that notion. Often, such blends can turn into trophy wines marketed as "the best of what we can do at winery XXX", but for Avi, making a blend is just a different way of doing things and so the Shalem is not necessarily (and probably not) a flagship white. I don't think he'll ever actually have one per se. Anyway, if you're concerned about such details, this year it's a blend of Vioginer, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (which has taken over the role played by Rousanne in the 2014 blend).

Rousanne, 2014

I was eager to come back to this, because the bottle Avi opened recently was so charming that it forced me to reconsider my reservations about the grape and the wine. However, the launch was not a good place for a re-examination, although I will say it performed well under the circumstances, presenting itself as commanding, full and spicy - ripe and healthily sweet, yet structured. The grapes come from the Judean Hills and the Gallilee. Picked at different ripeness levels, the outcome is what Feldstein wittily calls a blend of Rousanne and Rousanne.

Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

Tasting this was an utter torture for me. This is exactly the kind of wine that's totally killed at parties. It's too young and feels like you'd need an hour with it, thus even a regular tasting would probably not do it justice. I'm going to say the fruit is gooseberry, even though I've never tasted any gooseberry, because that's what they always say about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, which is what this reminds me of, at least on a superficial level. The thing about young wines like this is you have to grasp at vague clues to get an idea where they're going. The gooseberry is so dominant it's hard to get beyond it, although I do get herbs, mostly mint. I'm guessing the fruit will eventually be complemented by an interplay of herbs and minerals.

Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

For me, the most complete white of the lot. Not necessarily more complex or better than the Sauvignon Blanc, but more complete. The 2014 was a classic from day one, and, if I factor out the background noise and crappy air conditioning that impacted my concentration, I think the 2015 is a worthy follow up.

Semillon, 2015

I tasted this a couple of weeks after the launch, from a bottle that had been opened for a few hours. Perhaps the setting and the air gave it an edge in comparison to the other whites, but what I find here is classic rendering of a grape that, despite its long, esteemed history, has remained rather obscure, seemingly denied the cult fame that arguably less worthy grapes have garnered - Viognier was on the verge of extinction forty years ago and is now much more of a household word. From my (limited) experience, Semillon seems deceptively limpid at first, yet has a firm backbone and depth, and Avi's version creates that same impression, a perfect marriage of languid, ripe fruit and and a spicy, almost umami finish. As far as aromatics, melons with spicy nuances that I can't place, yet I also get spicy pears and hints of Champagne. This might be Avi's most age-worthy wine.

So what are these three wines all about?

I think i know what Avi is saying here: 
Semillon does this alone and Sauvignon does this alone.
Together they do that.
And I think it's worth my time and yours to give you all three options.
The only problem with that is you wind up having to buy three wines and the average budget doesn't translate to enough bottles to provide reasonable aging possibilities to play with. I'm fairly sure that, as they mature, they'll all show mineral aspects to one degree or another. But few will us will ever know for sure, as I doubt many buyers walked off with enough bottles of each to track their aging on a regular basis. 

Avi now makes three roses, that being a statement in its own right. They are my personal favorites. Not necessarily the best wines he makes, but the truest embodiment of what Avi is all about. I mean, three roses, each with a unique character and flavor profile - how many wineries in the world have ever tried to pull that off? Just make sure not to over-cool them.

Rose Grenache, 2015

Light and fragrant, with a finish whose light bitterness is just enough to cleanse the palate between bites. If Grenache at full throttle is candied and alcoholic, then making a rose out of it is a good way to limit the wine to scraps of red fruit and herbs off the fringes of the beast. Lovely. 

Rose Carignan, 2015

This is more interesting and complex, meatier. without much loss of lightness - and a touch of rotting leaves and apricots. 

Rose Syrah, 2015

Lats year, the rose that really won my heart was the Syrah (which Avi never released commercially), due to the fact that it showcased what I love about Syrah in a rose body and format. In other words, suggestions of flowers and the perennial black pepper. These are less pronounced this year, and so my heart has found a new master. For me, a rose lives and dies on personality - which is true of any wine, but with roses, it often strikes me there's little going on besides personality - and this year the Carignan is Mr. Charisma. 

Ishtar, 2014

This is mostly Cabernet Franc, with some Merlot. Very powerful, its chewy ripeness reined in and in check, seriously nubile and monolithic, you get a hint of herbs and and a distinct sense of pedigree. I have great hope that as it matures and uncoils, its innate power will find an elegant mode of expression.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014

Avi returns to his old hunting ground, in a sort of hommage to the Unfiltered Cabernet that made his reputation in the 90's. This is the refined distillation of all he's learned in the intervening years, wherein he rethinks his depiction of the Galillee Cab in less muscular terms, without loss of the fullness of presence that were the UC's trademark.

Gilgamesh, 2014

A blend of six grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Argaman and Viognier. If the Ishtar is the serious contender in the red group, this is the friendliest. I think that's because Feldstein can mix and match here to suit his vision, same as his did in the Shalem. Personally, I prefer the Ishtar's surly vision, but this is a very charming wine.

Grenache, 2014

This was launched last year, but even now it comes off as way too young, very pure and fresh, red fruit over a bed of raw geranium. Teeming with potential and grace, this is a wine Avi is justifiably proud of.

Seifa, 2014

Port expresses a very specific cultural heritage, which is why it bothers anyone with an iota of respect to see the name on the front label of any wine made outside of the Duoro. Naturally, Avi avoided that. He even came up with a cool alternative designation, Seifa, an Aramic term which loosely translates to epilogue or appendix - an apt term for a digestif. He does refer to Port in the wine notes, because it's hard to ignore that this is a wine made in the vintage Port idiom. I don't have enough experience with the style to make significant comments on such a youthful specimen, especially one tasted in a warm, noisy room. I did gleam enough to recommend it, though, all the while wondering when Avi's breadth will finally tax even his very restless spirit.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Theme-less BYO Night Out. - Garrigue, Jun. 27, 201

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2011

This is further proof of my pet doctrine, that Sauvignon Blanc is the signature Israeli white grape. The Gershon is a special edition that Gaby Sadan makes from a special sub-plot of his vineyard and has matured surprisingly well, with decent complexity, very good acidity driven length and a detailed nose redolent with mineral funk.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling trocken, 2007

To some extent, this came under criticism, due to, in equal parts, the relatively warm serving temperature and the fact that Donnhoff, being Donnhoff, is always placed under great scrutiny. I like it and find it intriguing, for the sherbet taste/feel that is deftly counterpointed by piercing, surreal minerality that blends with the sweetness of the fruit. I admit the palate is challenging in spots, in a way that the classic, off dry style probably would not be. The nose is lovely, with smoke, sweet white fruit and cold rock. 

Joseph Drouhin,  Pommard Premier Cru, Rugiens, 2010

I tend to consider Drouhin one of the 'good' negociants (yes, there's a grower bias here), but this is underwhelming, mostly because I find it too ripe for the vintage. The nose is of Premier Cru breed, intense with iron and spices, easily identifiable as Pommard, it's only the palate that disappoints. 

Dominique Laurent, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2002

This is an excellent, classic Charmes with red cherries, forest floor, exotic spices. Laurent is usually derided for his excessive barrel regime. Looking back at my notes, it looks like I'm not a particularly ardent follower, but this wine survived the oak with age and grew way beyond it. It doesn't hurt that 2002 was such a great vintage, either.

Marqués de Murrieta, Castillo Ygay, Rioja Gran Reserva Especial, 1994

There is a reason I like my Riojas very mature and this twenty-three year old shows that even two decades is not enough to shed enough baby fat to suit me (Ygay used to be placed on the market in the past after decades in barrel and bottle). Even the nose is not completely in harmony, although it does already show a funky, vegetative aspect of old Rioja. 

Oddero, Barolo, Vigna Rionda, 1998

What a visceral disappointment... I tried to be charitable, because I brought it and it wasn't cheap, but at best I would say this is not a good bottle, a more objective taster might even say a bad one. The nose barely shows some dust and iron. The palate is looser, but still mean and grungy. You look at the label and consider the producer, the vineyard and vintage and you just think, aw shit. The lesson here is be very careful where you shop.

Clos du Marquis, Saint Julien, 1996

As usual, a good claret, but hardly very exciting, even with bottle age. At that period, Clos du Marquis was truly a second wine and not the independent property it later became.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Jun. 2017)

Niepoort, Duoro, Vertente, 2014

The major portion of the wine is sourced from sixty year old vines, the rest thirty years old (mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca). This is an everyday wine and to begin with, it's closed without being harshly or overtly tannic. It needs time to unveil its medium body and length, and then I like it for its pungent earth and tobacco aromas, for the floral notes it develops slowly and charmingly and for the freshness and refinement of the fruit.(Jun. 3, 2017)

Porto, 109 NIS.

I also tasted a glass of the more expensive (180 NIS) Redoma, 2014, which is round, with sweetness of fruit. It's claret like and needs age to develop complexity. Of course, Niepoort's reputation was won by its ports, before they ever ventured into table wines. Colheita, 2005 is a vintage tawny port. It's subtly tertiary, combining and contrasting savory and sweet aromas and flavors: chocolate, cherries, nuts and cured meat. It's an excellent value at 160 NIS even if you're not a huge Port fan. At this point, I admit Pato and Alvaro won me over much more quickly, but I recognize that the Redoma needs at least five years while the Vertente is not meant to be profound in the first place. In other words, I need to taste more, and buy more Colheita for winter. 

Eyal Mermelstein, who imports Neipoort as well as the other Portugese producers I mentioned aboive, has also started bringing in another Duro estate, owned by the romantically named Roboredo Madeira. I tasted a white, Carm, Duoro, Reserva, 2015, which consists of yet more odd indigenous grapes: larinho, rabigato and viozinho. It's a reserved wine at present, showing yellow fruit with a herbal edge, and only hints at the exotic aromatic profile that the Portugese varieties show at their best.

A celebratory Champagne

Pierre Gimonnet, Cuis Premier Cru, Special Club, 2004

Here's why I don't score wines. A good Champgne doesn't need a score and a bad one doesn't deserve one. When a great Champagne such as this hits its peak, it delivers such a perfectly balanced blend of apples and citrus fruit, brioche and sauteed mushrooms that even a self-dubbed cognoscenti stumbles trying to compare it to others of its breed. In Burgundian terms, it has the intensity, complexity and length of a Grand Cru. I don't think I would be able to recognize the Cuis terroir blind, but I think can comprehend by now the character of a pure chardonnay Champagne (pinot noir would add a touch of strawberries and forest floor). In the end, you wind up remembering the little things, like the way the sweetness of the fruit morphs into a savory, salty finish. (Jun. 10, 2017)

Far Guy, 350-380 NIS.

Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2004

Bemoaning how I used to love Châteauneufs and now I don't enjoy the style - that's tedious and I've really worn that song out. But this is really rich with useless beauty. There're some points of aromatic interest: the dried fruit, the lead pencil - they're not very complex, but they do evoke decadent abandon. Much later on, the nose starts to show Châteauneuf's signature garrigue - as much as I try to avoid grocery lists of flavors and aromas, you do need to know if and when garrigue notes show up in your Châteauneuf. As for the palate, well, oddly enough, despite the mushy sweetness, there's a convincing, tannic tension on the finish, yet the attack and mid-palate are very obvious and pulsate with rich warmth as though I was coping with a huge bite of rare fillet. (Jun. 13, 2017)

Wine Route. I stopped buying the stuff so long ago that I have no idea what it sells for these days, but I probably bought it for 250-300 NIS ten years ago and I assume it now sells for 400-450 NIS. Good luck to them.

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Saint Romain, 2013

I've been waiting to this for three or four years. Not this specific vintage, of course, but any vintage at all. The producer's sensual style had captivated me in the past and the little village's underdog status piqued my curiosity. It's one of those villages without even a Premier Cru to boast of. I'd tried a couple of Saint Romain whites - found them honest and appealing, capturing the classic Burgundian style with no frill but no overblown pretensions, either - but never a red. I have no idea why this particular wine was always out of stock. Maybe the price point appealed to the restaurants (I can just picture cartons stashed away in the back of HaBasta). Anyway, when the Bourgogne Crown 2017 catalog came out, this was the first wine I ordered.

I've milked the build up for all it's worth. Like I said, Taupenot Merme, sensual style; Saint Romain, unpretentious town. This is what you get. A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest the freshest red fruit, adorned by young flowers. There's a mildly rustic grit, but mostly you just get soft, mouthfilling fruit and the thrill of its visceral vividness. But you know something? That's just its first phase. An hour of air, and it picks up a darker, earthier, more profound aspect, all the while maintaining the same forthright personality.

Beaucastel, looks like you've been outplayed! (June. 15, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 165 NIS. Merits multiple purchases.

Domaine Rapet Père et Fils, Chorey-les-Beaune, Vieilles Vignes, 2014

Chorey is another Beaune town with no Premier Crus to its name. Rapet is a domaine I adore for its white wines- they seem to have many Premier Crus in Aloxe And Pernand; I'm only familiar with their Control-Charlemagne and Pernand-Vergelesses, but I've developed a crush on them. Compared to the Saint Romain, this has more forward sweetness,with darker, fuller fruit, yet with a slightly more astringent finish. Despite the Vieilles Vignes designation, it's not especially long, and, slow to open, looks to need some medium term bottle age, despite its lowly origins. (Jun. 16, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown again, 155 NIS.

Benoit Ente, Bourgogne Blanc, Golden Jubilee, 2014

This is only a regional wine, the lowliest Burgundian AOC, but it's made by a man who's already proven himself to be a masterful winemaker, and he's based in Puligny, so I assume the grapes come from either declassified village vineyards or close by. Look, it's not meant to be very complex or broad, and it's even on the lean side (which I like, because that's where my tastes usually take me). but Benoit brings a lot of purity and clarity, as well as Puligny character - meaning a filigree balance of fruit and minerals, a touch of dry grass, as well as the clarify I spoke of - without being especially special. (Jun. 17, 2017)

Bourgogn Crown, 175 NIS. 

Tzora, Judean Hills, Red, 2015

I used to optimize my Tzora buying budget by ignoring the Judean Hills and heading straight for the Shoresh and Misty Hills, but this year, it just didn't make sense. The red and white were just too good. If there's one thing I learned from Eran Pick over the years is that talking about balance may sound pretentious, but balance makes for tasty wines. This grounds its earthy red fruit in abundant acidity, so it's neither overripe nor astringent. It's not especially tannic, but its tannins are savory and meaty. (Jun. 18, 2017)

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Renner Erste Lage, 2012

This is the least renowned/exceptional of the house's Gruner crus, and thus priced accordingly. It's a fine wine in its own right - and the price makes it very attractive. It strikes me as lighter than the Lamm and the Grub, the domaine's great Gruner Veltliner crus, but the nose is quite stirring, even though it evokes with rather broad strokes. (Jun. 24, 2017)

Fat Guy, 185 NIS.

Catherine et Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, Trinch!, 2015

Breton was one of the first red Loire producers I encountered. I have very fine memories of a mature Les Perrieres, 1995 I drank with the embryonic version of my current tasting group. This is a Bourgueil meant to be enjoyed young and I certainly did that very thing. I would compare it to a Beaujolais. It certainly has the same succulent, fresh fruit. It doesn't have the greenness usually associated with Cabernet Franc, but the fruit is joyfully red, before it turns a little darker and conjoins with the lead pencil typical of the grape when it's at its most comfortable in its homeland. To me, it even has a scent of apple cider, before it starts to show raw meat and, finally, iron. The tannins are soft, not astringent, even though they do make a rasping impression on the finish. I don't want to carry on with the descriptors for too long - it feels like that would ruin the immediacy and intimacy of it. But the thing is, it does get surprisingly complex as it opens up. (Jun. 25, 2017)

Bought in Amsterdam for 20 euros.

Pintia, Toro, 2010

15% ABV, 95 Parker points, this is really far out from my sweet spot. Aromatically complex, evoking dry herbs, it does belong to the same stylistic school as Chateauneuf, that is, big, meaty fruit lanced by bitter tannins. The main point of interest, for me, is that Parker reference to "plump, rounded tannins". The tasting note is from 2013. His judgement was always suspect, but was his palate also gone at that point? (Jun. 26, 2017)

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Man And A Bottle Of Rousanne Walk Into A Bar. (Jun. 1, 2017)

The evening played out like a bull fight. The picadors played around with Californian wines of varying pedigree. The pace picked up with classic French wines. Finally, matador Avi Feldstein waltzed in to deliver the coup de grace.

Feldstein , Rousanne, 2014

I wrote about this wine in the past. I liked it, I truly did (I don't think Avi could make a bad wine even if he really tried), but it's a white Rhone grape and I approached the wine with prejudice and trepidation. In fact, I actually went as far as to write:

"Jesus, Avi - Rousanne?"

But what an amazing wine it turned out to be.

Fresh and funky, sweet white fruit on the nose, a dry, flavorsome wine that proved much better than what previous bottles had led me to expect of it. Respect, Avi has conjured an all-star wine out of what I would normally consider a journeyman grape, especially in Israel.

Halutzim - not only is the food great, but it's the best place to photograph wines
Wind Gap Winery, Sonoma Coast, Nellessen Vineyard, Syrah,  2015

There is a surprising lack of consistency, as this bottle was not as good as the glass I drank at the winery a couple of months ago, which I thought excellent at the time. This bottle was simple and short and none of us thought greatly of it. So, this is either a case of bottle variation or too little air and cellar time, we'll never know.

Or just me, caught up in the atmosphere of the hipster winery.

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Clos de la Dioterie, 2011

I'm going to avoid drinking Loire reds from serious producers before they turn ten. That's the only tasting note you need here. Seriously. If you want to buy a bottle, I'd recommend it with suitable cellar time - because the structure and the producer's track record make this a good gamble - but a description of the current state of the wine is just not going to be very useful.

Wind Gap Winery, Alexander Valley, Sceales Vineyard, Grenache, 2015

I brought this because I thought it would be of professional interest to Avi Feldstein, who turned out to be the taster who enjoyed it the most. It's low keyed, fruity, candied with a layer of white pepper. Deceptively short and simple, I think it's a suggestion of what Grenache can be when it's not over-extracted. 

Rhys, Santa Cruz Mountains, Skyline Vineyard, 2008

This purports to be a stellar wine, but I find its monolithic stage presence quite boring and, despite its ripeness, it's a little hollow. 

Alain Voge, Cornas, VV, 2013

Unlike the Rhys, this is the real deal, dense and expressive, laced with black pepper and minerals. The palate is painfully, illegally young. 

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 3me Cru, 1996

I had an initial impression here, which ended up embarrassing me within ten minutes. I thought it was ripe for the vintage and on the simple side. Then it suddenly reveals a much more complex nose, mixing red and black fruit with espresso, as well as savory tannins. Turns out it's just what you'd expect of a twenty year old Margaux, that is, good balance and a lithe body.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (May 2017 and some leftovers from April)

Israeli Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz for brunch -
bet you didn't see THAT one coming
Venus La Universal, Montsant, Dido, 2015

Venus La Universal is a winery started by Rene Barbier the fourth, son of Rene the third of Clos Mogador in Priorat. The site is a little heavy on romantic PR, but does convince me that the Barbier and Perez team are hard workers. As for the wine itself. I sometimes like to group together wines that have roughly the same style and personality, and this Grenache dominated blend falls into the Grenache Fanboy Family: wines made by people who understand what the grape can provide, if you don't allow to succumb to its own alcoholic, candied tendencies (which is what has been ruining Chateaneuf for years). What we have here is an intense nose that combines red fruit and dust and meaty broth and a palate that, despite 14.5% ABV, never gets out of hand. Look, it's not very complex; I can't tell if that is due to its youth or the wine's own glass ceiling but I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be able to lay it down for three-five years and find out. At any rate, definitely worth a look. (Apr. 28)

Wine Route. I bought at a mixed box discount, so I don't recall the original price, but it was probably about 150 NIS.

Olivier Guyot, Marsannay Blanc, La Montagne, 2013

A wine not just driven by acidity, but plowing through the palate on almost unbearably racy liveliness. There's an edge to the finish that only a cold terroir can conjure - it feels like La Montagne might actually be colder than your average Chablis vineyard. Aromatically, it's a lot tamer, chalk and roasted nuts, nothing as extreme as the palate. A very charming package, but in surprising need of time. (Apr. 29, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 160 NIS.

Domaine Jean Chauvenet, Nuits St. Georges, 2010

I don't know if the poor showing is because the 2010's are going through a tough period or because Chauvenet is a particularly demanding producer. Maybe I just opened it on Root Day. Whatever, this has potential, even the herbaceousness, meanness and stinginess can't hide the inherent breed and complexity. But I was really looking forward to some Bourgogne sexiness. (May 2, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 210 NIS.

Elian Da Ros, Côtes du Marmandais, Clos Baquey, 2011

I think there are fewer small local importers these days (actually, I think the big ones have narrowed the breadth and depth of their offerings as well) but while the market was, at least superficially, healthier, the smaller players had to carve out a niche by travelling the side roads of the wine world. Which is how Uri Caftory wound up carrying Elian Da Ros from the Marmande commune, whose AOC's are just outside the Bordeaux border. At least on one level, this flagship wine is a rustic version of claret, which is a way of saying there is light brett in it. It's a personal judgement call whether that would be a sign of personality or of a lack of hygiene and I'm still on the fence here. That's not all there is to it, thankfully. There's also a backdrop of earth and olives, with enough richness and complexity to relegate the brett to the background, while the good balance of fruit, tannins and acidity makes the wine very moreish. (May 6, 2017)

IProVinum, 220 NIS.

Marquis d'Angerville, Bourgogne, 2013

You would rightly expect a great producer to make a generic Bourgogne that punches above its weight and the Marquis, in my experience, makes one of the best. This is even better than what I'd tasted before. If the roughness of its structure reveals its lowly origins, its weight and length are certainly out of the ordinary. (May 12, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 190 NIS.

Dujac, Vonse-Romanee Premier Cru, Aux Malconsorts, 2014

This is the famous vineyard bordering and jutting out of the La Tache. At this young age, this has the length, focus and balanced structure of a Premier Cru, even a Grand Cru, with the fruit dormant. Tasted blind, it was easy to note the quality, less easy to pick the level or village -  I thought it was a Chambolle or Gevrey Premier Cru, which I think is a legit guess, even if wrong. A treat, one I can't afford every day, and I have to thank the generous friends who offered me a glass.(May 12, 2017)

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2016

I've been meaning to revisit this, but I usually wind up going for the white Shoresh, which is a more obviously special wine - and also a Sauvignon Blanc, which I prefer as a local white, all other things being equal*. But, this is a very good wine. I don't remember if it's a varietal Chardonnay in 2016 or a Chardonnay dominated blend, but it just about hits the glass ceiling of what the grape can do in Israel. It's concentrated without being heavy handed, ripe or tropical - a blend of spicy pears and minerals making it a marriage of Macon and Meursault of sorts, if that helps give an idea of the style. It's very moreish, but if you slow down to contemplate it as you drink, you will find a good amount of interest in its flavors and structure. (May 13, 2017)

About 110 NIS, your mileage may vary.

Standish, Barossa, The Relic, 2004

I'd call this hedonism under a tight leash, which, when you think about it, is what you want in a great wine. I admit this is a great wine, New World and all. It's ripe and liquorish, but in no way over the top, with nuances of roasted meats and truffle, as well as excellent acidity. And, a decade of maturity in bottle is a great boon. (May 13, 2017)

Mersch, the price for recent vintages average at 700 NIS . This wasn't my bottle. It would never have crossed my mind to spend so much on an Aussie Shiraz but I'm glad somebody did.

* Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

This and the Shoresh show what I meant by Sauvignon Blanc being my go-to white grape in Israel. Actually, it could well be declared the national white grape, but then it would be too obvious a choice for me and I'd snub it. For example, the Shvo SB is actually so ubiquitous that I probably do wind up snubbing it. I haven't had it in over two years - well, I had the Gershon two years ago and it's so hard to find that I can't afford to snub it. Anyway, I should buy more of it, Efrat would love me to buy more, and, at about 80 NIS a bottle, it would ease the strain on my wine budget. It leans towards the green, grassy side of Sauvignon rather than the tropical, with an elegant stamp of smoky minerals. (May 14, 2017)

Tzora, Shoresh, Blanc, 2016

Once Israel manages to create an appellation system and gets around to demarcation of individual vineyards, Shoresh is a good candidate for a premier cru, for the excellence and consistency of both the red and white wines Eran Pick coaxes out of it. Of course, you have to give him credit for his meticulous skills as well. Then again, skills are what I think gave us the white Judean Hills. The vineyard and skills gave us this, truly a benchmark Israeli Sauvignon. The nose is more extravagant than either the Judean Hills or the Shvo, while the structure is more detailed and sustained, making for a wine whose texture is as memorable as its aromatics. (May 15, 2017)

130 NIS? 

Domaine de Clovallon, Vin de Pays Haute Vallee de l’Orb, Pinot Noir, 2014

This is another niche wine imported by Caftory and that niche is "the best Pinot you can buy in Israel that isn't from Burgundy". It might not be much of a niche, but it's a lovely wine, on the same level as, say, a Cote Chalonnaise , with an autumnal nose that is much about rotting earth and leaves and mushrooms as it is about fresh red fruit. The palate is totally driven by acidity that gives the fruit a tinge of oranges and pomegranate. (May 17, 2017)

IProVinum, 109 NIS

Domaine du Coulet (Matthieu Barret), Cornas Brise, Cailloux, 2013

This is much less of a niche wine, inasmuch as the North Rhone sells well in general, and I guess fairly decently in Israel. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, it's not the oddity that a Languedoc Pinot is. Although I'll qualify that statement with the observation that many still think Cornas is all rusty nails and that might make it a hard sell. But this is an eminently drinkable, fruit forward wine, lithe fruit supported by almost citrusy acidity that makes room for fine tannins on the finish. The floral, peppery aromas, so typical of Syrah and the North Rhone, make it very attractive on that front as well. (May 19, 2017)

IProVinum, 250 NIS. This is more or less what I'd expect a good Cornas to cost, my only complaint is that for that price, I'd expect a wine with more cellaring potential than I can spot here. By the way, Caftori also sells the domaine's Cote de Rhone for 105 NIS, which is apparently a Syrah based CdR, which is kind of a rarity.

Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre Rouge, 2015

This is a new producer brought in by Wine Route, and they actually specialize in red Sancerre, rather than white. Sancerre reds are pure Pinot Noirs. This one is, I guess, a sort of village bottling - there are also a few single vineyard wines (Wine Route carry the Belle Dame) - and it would be considered pale and light even in Burgundy. The nose is timid and while it eventually opens up, it never fully blooms and emerges. It shows fresh red fruit, dust and earth, even a hint of flowers, but hardly any of the forest floor you'd find in Burgundy. However, there's a strand of baking spices whose personality has no parallel in Burgundy, so the aromatics have subtlety and distinction to commend them. The palate packs decent amount of flavors unto its light body and the long, rusty finish is surprising. What's more, that light body puts on considerable weight and punch after 2-3 hours, and I'm very partial to Pinots that react that way to oxygen. (May 20, 2017)

200 NIS - I would say this price is determined by the rarity of a Sancerre red and the domaine's reputation.

The domaine's Sancerre Blanc, 2016 is, of course, a Sauvignon Blanc. It's very good and does an excellent juggling act of acidity and tropical fruit. The latter is my main objection as I find it New Zealand-ish in style, despite an overlay of chalk. Just a little too straight forward and maybe a little over-priced. (May 27, 2017)

150 NIS.

And there's the single vineyard Sauvignon, the Sancerre, Les Romains, 2015. Oddly, it feels fuller and yet, at the same time, more nuanced, even subtle. The style, all smoke and stones, is what I love about Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume and I highly recommend this. It's sold out, but there's always next year - Wine Route is not always very consistent with what they carry year to year, but I think I detect an earnest effort here. Plus they sold out, with I hope will motivate them.

250 NIS.

Alain Hudelot-Noellat, Bourgogne, 2014

A while back, Wine Route imported the Van Canneyt 2013 Bourgogne which I really liked and now both they and Bourgogne Crown have brought in this sibling (Van Canneyt is both the Hudelot-Noellat winemaker and the owner of his own mini-negociant). The Van Canneyt reminded me of a Chambolle, whereas this, with its rusty tannins, sauvage and sous bois aromas seems sourced from the Gevrey area. This isn't very complex but the length is impressive for the generic AOC. (May 23, 2017)

I don't want to get into prices here, since there is a worrying disparity between the two importers.

Tscharke, The Potter, Grenacha, 2011

There's a complex interplay of white pepper and black fruit. I can't really put my finger about what the fruit is all about. There's the candied trademark of Grenache, but there's also a savory, almost meaty face on it. And a great deal of purity, as though its maker, Damien Tscharke, knew that cleanliness doesn't need to come at the expense of expression. 

Mersch, 130 NIS - one of the best values you can find in Israel.

Tscharke, Matching Socks, Touriga, 2012

It's obvious the same man made these two wines - with the initial tastes, the style and sensibilities almost overshadow the differences in the grapes. The Touriga, though, is darker and more saline, no less meaty and savory. I think Touriga and Tempranillo have a similar character, one rooted in a pungent herbaceousness, often termed tobacco leaves in tasting notes. Having tasted my fair share, my mind often labels the expression of that character "Iberian", albeit with some producers, actual Iberian producers, that character is often accompanied by brett. The Tscharke sensibility I mentioned, being what it is, is firmly opposed to the concept and presence pf brett.

Mersch again, of course, At 90 NIS, this is another great value. (May 31, 2017)

A Mini-Spotlight On Teperberg

Teperberg, Legacy, Cabernet Franc, 2014

Let me start off with the praises. This is very well and precisely made, with care and attention in both vineyard and cellar. It's clean without being sterile and I think it would stand up well against most of its varietal peers outside of France, especially the Cabernet Franc mentioned here. Within France, its peer group would be the Loire and that would be an interesting engagement, one that would underline my personal leanings. But, in order to explain how that would work out, I need to address typicality. The common complaint against Cabernet Franc is "lean and green". Having tasted a few dozen Francs over the years, I prefer to think of the good examples as "austere and herbal". The Legacy is certainly herbal, but far from austere. In fact, it is rather lush. Not ripe, and actually the tannins even leave a brittle, mineral after effect, but the overall impression is nigh-flattering richness, especially the hints of mocha on the nose. How well would it do against competition from the Loire? Putting aside stylistic preferences, I'd rank it against the upper mid-tier.

Teperberg, Legacy, Petit Sirah, 2014

If I'd guessed before tasting the two which would be the better wine, I'd have put my money on the Petit Sirah. Having tasted them, I give the Cabernet the nod for sure. The Petit Sirah shows a very sweet aspect - indeed, even after a few hours, the ripeness of the fruit is persistent, but it's not a jammy, blockbuster sweetness, more of a fullness of fruit that hinders the more savory aspects of the grape that I find in the Vitkin and Lewinsohn versions.I get some graphite and pepper notes, but they're encumbered by the same mocha aromas - the barrels, I guess. The Cabernet Franc fruit stands up to, perhaps even thrives in, the oak. The Petit Sirah just struggles with it, and that's a shame, because the fruit itself is very good and interesting.

Google tells me both sell for about 160 NIS.