Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kracher Berenauslese 2006

We had this wine on December 1st, just a few days before the very early and sad end of Elois Kracher's life. We have always enjoyed his wonderful wines. It's a loss to the wine world and a great loss to Austria's wine scene. We all hope that his son will step us to his father's giant shoes.

Kracher Berenauslese 2006
Light straw color, Passion fruit, lime and honey. This medium bodied wine is amazingly round and harmonic for this young age. Excellent finish. 91

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Recanati Winery Tasting

Recanati winery was founded in 2000 and since then has consistently released some of the best QPRs and the most interesting wines made in Isreal. This tasting had a clear sign: Lewis Pasco (the winemaker) is making a clear shift in the upper series towards more complex and Mediterranean wines. Emphasizing the uniqueness of local wines and complementing the local food is a direction that will create brand for Israeli wines. So, instead of trying to produce yet another California-like wine, Lewis makes local, interesting and unique wines. I got the opportunity to taste a couple of 06 & 07 samples - this was extermly interesting. To the wines:

Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Pineapple, grass, tropical fruit all very nicely integrated with the right amount of acidity. Very good wine. 88
Sauvignon Blanc 2007
This is a baby, but so good that you hope it will not loose anything along the process. Guava, passion fruit, grassy aromas. Bites you a bit at the finish, but overall a wonderful wine. 90-92

Chardonnay 2007
Light straw color, Apple, pear, Medium bodied with a nice finish. 87-88
Chardonnay Reserve 2007
Round and already harmonious wine, just enough oak too show the fruit: pears, apples. Has an excellent potential. 88-90
Chardonnay Reserve 2006
Very elegant wine, with apple, butter, lingers in your mouth. Has a good structure and an excellent finish. 90

Shiraz 2005
Earth, blackberries, cassis, led pencil. Light to Medium bodied with integrated tannins. Providing a very harmonic drinking experience. A wine that goes very well with food. This is a very good QPR. 89

A small vertical of Special Reserves:
Special Reserve 04
Very round and fruity wine which is really ready to drink now. Medium bodied, red fruit and an impressive long finish. 92 (Drink while listening to Diana Krall)
Special Reserve 05
Blueberries, green herbs, elegant but powerful. Very Cabernet Sauvignon in nature. Looong finish and an excellent potential. 92-94 (Drink while listening to Chick Corea)
Special Reserve 06
Almost opaque black color, full bodied with ample amount of tannins. Red fruits, green pepper and blackberries. Has a potential to be the best RSR to date. 93-95 (This goes well with Miles Davis!)
Special Reserve 07
This wine is so young that it needs a more experienced taster... Very tanninc, pencil led, red & black fruit and a green component. Excellent potential, but not scoreable right now.

Petit Syrah - Zin 2005
Olives, herbs, blackberries and earthy notes. Very balanced and with a good finish. 90
Petit Syrah - Zin 2006
Very similar to the 05, but has a more extrovert nature - the young thug in the neighborhood. 90
Petit Syrah - Zin 2007
Red fruits, very perfumy and with some earthy notes. This has the potential to be much better than his older "brothers" 90-92

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bordeaux 2004 Tasting

Sampling nine Bordeaux 2004 red wines and one Sauternes 2003 does not provide a complete picture of 2004 vintage quality. Trying to generalize from what I've tasted, there are some excellent wines from this vintage, the wines are very closed and (probably due to low ripeness) will need time in the cellar to come around. The wines were all tasted blind.

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac Leognan
Deep color, earth, blueberries and green pepper. Very tannic wine with slight bitterness on the finish. Medium to light bodied, not very well integrated, this is not an extremely good wine. 87

Lascombes, Margaux
Ripe fruit - blackberries and red cherries, cinnamon and muscat and slight must that went away with some air time. Very well structured and tannic. Interesting finish which revealed extra layers. This will get better with time. 90

Lafleur Gazin, Pomerol
Mute on the nose, which some strange (almost rotten) fruit and a bit chocolate. Full bodied but nothing more than a simple wine. 83

Latour A Pomerol
Medium red/brownish color, raspberries, smoke and pretty harmonic wine. However it feels a bit diluted and there is a musty finish. At the end, its another simple wine. 85

Troplong Mondot, St. Emillion
Very deep color, cherries, blackberries, green herbs. Has a feeling of unripe fruit, some smoky element. Very tannic with a long good finish. Well structured. Good aging potential. 89

Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien
Deep color, almost non penetratable. Blueberries, chocolate, blackberries and a bit muscat and green herbs. Very well structured and harmonic. This wine sings! 93

Calon Segur, St. Estephe
Very closed, a bit rotten fruit (probably an off/corked bottle).After some time in the glass it gets better with raspberries and green herbs. Disappointment after revealing the wine. 87

Lynch Bages, Pauillac
Deep dark red color. Blackberries, kirsch liqueur, coffee and chocolate. Harmonic, very elegant and well structured. Medium to full bodied, but a slight disappointing finish. 90

Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Very dark red color, Black fruit, green herbs, already some leather and a very complex and elegant wine. very good finish. 92

Rieussec 2003
Honey, melon, oranges and some honeysuckle. harmonic and wonderful overall feeling in the moth. Very Enjoyable now, but will definitely hold for many years. 95

In Haim's blog you will find reviews of some of the wines tasted here plus additional wines.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sde Boker Winery

The Sde Boker Winery is located in Kibbutz Sde Boker, in the southern part of Israel: the Negev Desert. The specific sub climat here is interesting: elevation of 490 meters provides for very cool nights. Irrigation is mandatory. The winery was founded by Zvi Remak, an ex-Californian. Working in the old common Kibbutz showers, its a real start-up winery. The wines are very good to excellent, so the potential is clear. Hopefully, someone will make a bigger investment in this unique winery.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Blackberries, crushed ripe black cherries along with a nice green component with some Mediterranean spices. Integrated tannins and nice finish. 89

Carignan 2005
Food loving wine. Went wonderful with a juicy hamburger. Raspberries, a bit plums, slight peppery spiciness along with some vanilla. The jammy mouth feel provides vividness to the wine. Still tannic but drinkable already now. Medium finish. 87

Friday, October 19, 2007

A small glance at Bordeaux 2003

The second of three vintages that the Bordelais promptly declared the "Vintage of the Century," nobody questions that 2003 was an exceptional year, if perhaps one destined to generate controversy (as shown by Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson's dispute over Pavie). But how does this hot vintage stack up? In September I arranged a wine tasting for some friends, and it just so happened that 2003 Bordeaux worked well for the event. All three major styles of Bordeaux were represented, as well as a good spectrum of composition in the reds. So what do I think? Based on this small sample, the character of the vintage is remarkably evident. But, first the notes, then my reflections.

Chateau Graville-Lacoste, Graves Blanc 2003
Pale but clean straw in color. Nice nose. The wine has a pretty typical but quite nice Bordeaux Blanc personality of lime, honey, hints of melon, and perhaps a bit of pear, with herbal notes. Not much acidity, but very fresh, and quite pleasent. Very Good (85 - 87)
70% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscadelle.

Chateau Etoiles de Mondorion, St.-Emilion 2003
Cherry and cassis. Not a great deal of fruit in this one, but has nice tannins and structure, while still managing to be somewhat mellow and easy drinking. Somewhat light. Enjoyable, but could be more concentrated. Very Good (85 - 87)
Second wine of Chateau Mondorion, St.-Emilion Grand Cru. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Callac, Cuvee Prestige, Graves Rouge 2003
Cherry, cassis, some black raspberry, perhaps a touch of plum, and nice tannins. Good balance, with very nice fruit and structure. Very Good (85 - 87)
60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau La Tour de Mons, Margaux (Cru Bourgeois Superieur) 2003
Good color. Lovely but structured black cherry and black raspberry. Sweet, aromatic, and a bit spicy. The first Margaux I've tasted, but with the textbook perfumey quality. A very nice wine, with a long, persistent finish. Should probably drink very nicely for another 3 - 5 years. Excellent (87 - 89)
48% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc.

Chateau Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 2003
Good color. Intense black cherry and raspberry, with the classic pencil lead notes toward the finish. Big, structured; quintessential Pauillac. At this stage more impressive than pleasent, but give it another 3 - 5 years or so and it should show elegance. Exceptional (90 - 93)
Second wine of Chateau Pontet-Canet, Medoc Grand Cru Classe. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot.

Chateau de Myrat, Sauternes (Grand Cru Classe) 2003

Bright golden color. Gorgeous, gorgeous nose of apricot, tropical fruits, honey, and flowers. On the palate, apricots, tropical fruits, nice orange notes, pear, honey, flowers, and a huge, wondeful finish of honey and nutmeg. So much honey and boytritus! So complex, so full, so gorgeously rich! Although I had doubted it could be true, it is in fact better than the sensual 2001. My God, what a wine! Has perhaps another 20 - 25 years ahead of it. Outstanding (95 - 97)
90% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc.

Now, my reflections.
The warmth of the vintage is quite obvious even in this small sample: the Graville-Lacoste is rich in fruit, but would benefit from the greater acidity that would have developed with cooler nights; the reds all had an attractive warmth to their fruit, especially the La Tour de Mons, although the Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet isn't expressing it as much at this stage - and they are not with good structure; finally, the Myrat is every bit as flamboyantly rich as the vintage has been praised for.
Suprises: the Etoiles de Mondorion isn't as rich as I would have expected from St.-Emilion in a hot vintage; the Myrat has loads of boytritus, contrary to the general description of the vintage as not having much boytritus.
Comparisons: the dry whites are nice but nowhere near the increadibly consistent, vibrant, and rich 2005's; the reds aren't as classical and structured as 2000, although they are more attractive upfront. Based on my limited experience, I would agree with the general critical evaluation that they won't age as long. The Sauternes are almost as good as, although in a completely different style than, the classy, elegant 2001's, and it seems, as more skilled folks than I have suggested, that they will be equally long-lived. Although it should be said that the Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2003 (which I tasted in December) has both the richness of the 2003's and the impressive class of the 2001's - it is ultimate the better, and certainly the more 'impressive' wine, but the Myrat does give it a run for its money in outright flamboyance. On a different note, the La Tour de Mons and Les-Haut de Pontet-Canet are the perfect pair for contrasting and exemplifying the feminine character of Margaux and the masculine character of Pauillac.

Overall, I think Sauternes is better in 2003 than the reds, and will certainly be longer-lived. I like the attractive warmth of the reds, but love the Sauternes much more. I highly recommend the La Tour de Mons and Pontet-Canet, which are both great values, and much more strongly recommend the Myrat and Lafaurie-Peyraguey, which are just damned good wines, and at reasonable prices.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Galil Mountain Chard

Galil Mountain Chardonnay 2006 - 86
Light straw color. Aromas of green apple, unripe melon & lime along with butter. Smooth mouth feel with butter and minerals. Overall a very balanced wine with just a little oak. It is a fruit driven wine that provides a good easy early autumn drink.

American Wine That Aged Beautifully

Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - 93
Deep garnet color with Blueberries, Blackberries, Mocha, green peppers all leading to an amazingly long finish. The wine declares very clearly: I'm here! But says that with a lot of style and refinement. The tannins are there, currently very well integrated, but clearly enough to allow this wine to age for a couple more years.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Margalit Winery

The Margalit winery is my favorite Israeli winery since I started seriously drinking and storing wine - almost 10 years ago.
Unlike many medium to large Israeli wineries it has a very focused portfolio, solely of red wines. They own their vineyards which have been "trained" to rely only on mother nature - no irrigation at all. The small size and full control of the process allows a lot of effort dedicated to smallest details and ensures the highest quality. The results are consistently excellent.

Lately, I've spent a full working day helping with the manual labor at the winery during harvest. Throughly satisfying and interesting experience. This led to open one of their Cabernet Sauvignon bottles:

Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - 92
Deep, dark color. Layers of aromas develop as the wine is opened: earth, tar, leather, black berries and rip, dark cherries along with a spicy background, mostly pepper. The tannins are still there but integrate very well with the wine. Long and tasty finish.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hirsch Riesling Heiligenstein 2003

Hirsch is an Austrian producer from the Kamptal region. This wine is a single vineyard Riesling from the heiligenstein (Holy stone) hill just above Kammern village, where the winery is located. This winery is one of my favorite Austrian producers due to its non interventionistic approach. The wines usually display very good balance between fruit, acidity & light mineralic backbone. They go very well with food.

Hirsch Riesling Heiligenstein 2003 - 92
Light golden colored, this wine has a very broad set of aromas: starting with peaches, tropical fruit and delicate lime this goes on to show flower blossom, minerals. This is balanced by the right amount of acidity and crispiness. Very nice finish.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Heidi Schrock - winery visit

Heidi Schrock produces some of the best Austrian sweet wines, which means she produces world class, excellent sweet wines. In addition she produces very good and interesting dry and sparkling wines. Her winery shop is located in the central square of Rust - a charming city. We were hosted by Lisa - her new assistant which was very knowledgeable and helpful. Lucky Heidi, by the time we got to the winery they were almost out of Ausbruch wines! As we have tasted those wines last year at VieVinum it was actually great to focus in the sparkling, white and Beerenauslese (sweet) wines.

Vogelsang 2006
This is usually a blend of Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, Muskateller, and Sauvignon Blanc which produces semi-sweet wine. It has lime, grass, honeysuckle and tropical fruit. It feels very refreshing and will be excellent with food in a summer day. Very nice finish. 87

Beerenauslese 2006
Light golden color, very young with honey and apricot accompanied by good acidity. Very balanced and not too sweet. Medium finish. 89

Rosec 2000
This wine is not produced on a regular basis, but is worthwhile to search for. Nice consistent bubbles. Strawberries, nuts and other red berries compose a very lively wine. Long and gratifying finish. It's at the same quality level as a good Champagne but for less then half the price... 90

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dinner at Kutschker 44 - Vienna, Austria

Kutschker 44 is our favorite restaurant in Vienna, Austria. The couple that runs the show is an excellent example of the young Viennese generation. They were raised on Viennese tradition and respect it but use it in a creative way to make something exciting and new. Viennese dishes are the core of some of the dishes in this cool restaurant but they are taken to new directions. One of the best example is the goulash, which is done with the best ingredients and is the best you can get in Vienna - presented with an edible decoration. Other dishes include: marinated raw octopus - an Italian influence, fillet steak with BBQ sauce (yes, in Vienna!) and the slightly spicy corn raised hen. Every dish is presented in very unique way. The service is impeccable and the wine list is very fairly priced.
Overall, this is one of Austria's great chefs in the making. Run and eat there before he becomes a mega star.

Werner Achs, XUR 2004 - Burgenland
Layers of blackberries, cherries, plums along with tobacco and smoky note compose a very complex wine. It's color is medium dark purple. Smooth and harmonious wine with smooth tannins. Still ageable, but drinks very nicely now. Medium finish. 91

Wieninger Beerenauslese Nussdorf 2005 - Vienna

One of the many nice things in Vienna is being able to drink wines produced in the city. This sweet wine is very syrupy with honey, tropical fruit with nice acidity and a long finish. 89

Friday, June 1, 2007

Romano Dal Forno

Romano Dal Forno is a charming person who produces amazing wines. His views of the wine world are conveyed without too much political correctness. A couple of nice ones were:
- Even women in California are made of plastic
- Wine is not a medicine, it should taste good and not be precise like a medicine
The winery is impressive and although it has been there for only 16 years it feels like a very respectable establishment. The winery tour and tasting were done with a lot of patience and dedication. We got to taste unbottled samples from 2004 vintage. For each wine, there are 1-2 barrels for tasting, each of those is filed with nitrogen to preserve the wine. It's a good oportunity to taste a wine in the making process.
The wines were excellent. With their pricing, they better be! 180 Euros for the Amarone and 60 for the Valpolicella...
Dal Forno Amarone 2004
Thick red color, almost non pentratable. Very very concentrated and tannic currently. Although it's in a dumb pahse one still feels the amazing aromas of plum, violets and jam along with some oak. The finish just doesn't fade - and you will not regret it. 96-100
Dal Forno Valpolicella 2004
Less pronounced than his "big Amarone brother" this wine is still a thick big wine. It has plums, jam, cedar and violet. It's nose is sweet and the tannins are pronounced but sweet. Very impressive wine. 92-94

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bordeaux 2003

This blind tasting was done as homework for the Bordeaux course by Wine Spectator School. The idea is to see the differences between generic Bordeaux, Cru Bourgeois and a classified growth from the same vintage. The differences between the levels were easily noticeable. Besides that, my take was to continue and avoid buying generic Bordeaux wines, as there are much better wines
to buy for 8 Euro.

Selection J. P. Moueix Bordeaux, 2003
Pale ruby red, very thin nose with some cherries and slight mocha. Way too simple. 70

Rollan de By Medoc 2003
Medium purple, blackberries, cassis, earth and chocolate along with a medium body and good amounts of tannins it is a balanced and good wine. Medium finish. 86

Malescot St. Exupery Margaux, 2003
Dark purple. A deep wine with layers of raspberries, current , blackberries and black cherry. This is complemented by bell peppers, tobacco, chocolate and some oak. Full bodied, balanced wine with a long finish and tannins that clearly announces: "5-6 years before the next bottle".
This is the wine we drank after unveiling the bottles. 93

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ristorante Vecchia Fontana

Vecchia Fontana was our best dinning experience around Verona. It is located in a small village, about 20 minutes drive from Verona and serves local dishes with slight "International" touches. With the exception of one dish - scallops in Veronese sauce - everything was very good to excellent. The wine menu has a wide Italian selection, all wines are priced very reasonably.

Inama Vignete Di Foscarino Soave Classico 2004
Nice slightly smoked aroma is accompanied by summer fruits, mainly peaches, along with lemon & mango. Pleasantly acidic it's a refreshing but not simple wine. The finish is excellent. 89

Gaja Barbaresco 1997
A classical wine from a great year. Deep ruby red color, showing a very rich set of aromas and favors, where every glass reveals some new ones: earth, tobacco, leather, truffles, cherries, ripe plums and slight eucalyptus. Very balanced with smooth tannins. Long and satisfying finish. 95

Ristorante Vecchia Fontana Via Mezzavilla, 29/A - 37030 Marcellise (Verona) 045 8740444 email:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Primitivo A Mano

This simple red is a long time favorite. With the exception of the 2003 vintage all vintages that I've tried were excellent table wines. Not meant for long term storage, but very enjoyable 1-2 years from release. The 2005 vintage is one of the best releases.

Primitivo A Mano, Puglia, 2005
Deep velvet color, Cherries, Blackberries slightly smoky and black pepper. Very nice and pleasant, medium bodied with mostly smooth tannins. nice finish. Perfect fit for a great pizza. Not very complex but very enjoyable. 88

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gaja winery

On the gate of the Gaja winery it is clearly written: we don't sell wines, don't accept walk-ins and will only accept wine professionals for scheduled visits. The process of scheduling a visit involves filling an online questionnaire that ensures you are not there just for a free sip. From the moment you are in, the hospitality is very friendly and professional. We spent more than an hour with Sonia Franco, learning about the winery's history and wine making process and finally tasting the wines. The hospitality was impeccable.
The winery is very impressive. The wine barrels are stored in the combination of an old cellar - the original Gaja house with additions that were made along the years. This is connected by a tunnel that goes under the main street in Barbaresco to the Barbaresco castle cellar which is owned by Gaja. The tunnel is a modern addition that connects the two old parts by a new and interesting piece of modern architecture and art. When one understands that Angelo Gaja's great grandfather started the winery with probably 1/100 the size of cellar you appreciate the winery even more.
The main motto is: "total dedication to uncompromising quality". This motto was set by Clotilde Rey - Angelo Gaja's grandmother.

Due to our short time, we tasted only two wines:

Barbaresco 2003
Wonderful fresh medium color. Layers of casis, coffee, plums, red berries, earth and a tiny bit cranberries. Very good finish. The tannins are still a bit biting, but they will calm down with bottle age. It's an excellent example of what this tough vintage can achieve - production was less than half of the usual level. 93

Langhe Spress 2001
Very dark wine, with earth, plums and some truffles. Overall this wine seems to be in a dump phase right now, as it shows very little fruit. Its very tannic and has a long good finish. Right now I would not give it a score above 88, but it definitely feels that it's a wine that should be tasted again in 5-6 years and re-scored.

Even I preferred to catch the flight and see my kids in favor of more wine. After a great long weekend with my wife, eating the excellent piedmotese food and drinking their fabulous wines. We will be back again!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Roberto Voerzio winery

Roberto Voerzio's winery is located in La Morra with a wonderful view to Italian Alps. We were hosted by Robert's new assistant: Cesare Bussolo. Cesare started the winery tour in the vineyards, where we saw the meticulous attention to details that creates the foundation for Voerzio's excellent wines. One of the best examples, which might sound very technical, is how the new Barolo vines plantings are done every 50 cm instead of the previous 100 cm. So, this might sound a boring detail, but: with the smaller distance the vines have to fight for resources, which makes them yields more interesting wine. This, along with the almost fully Bio agriculture and other examples, give a view into how much effort is done in the vineyards. It's a clear message: the wine is made in the vineyard. The main work at the winery is to express the vineyard. Terroir is the word, and it shows in the wine.
Cesare has been working at the winery only for three and a half months, but has seven years of wine making experience. His enthusiasm about making wines and following Roberto's way is amazing.

All the wines were tasted directly from tank. This was a very impressive set of wines that show the ability of this producer. A real treat!

Dolcetto D'Alba Privano 2006
Medium deep color, concentrated fruit with blueberries and strawberries. Nice acidity and surprising tannins for a dolcetto. Finishes very nicely. One that will hold for 5-6 years from release. The best Dolcetto I've had. 88-90
Barbera d'Alba Cerreto 2005
Deep color and very nice fruit. Typical Barbera acidity. Lovely wine. 88-90.
Barolo Cerequio, 2005
Medium/light color. Subtle but excellent nose of blueberries, cherries and earth. It is a very rich wine and tannic at this stage. Sweet finish. All is combined in a terrific wine. Its a wine full of finesse. 93-95
Barolo La Serra, 2005
Medium/deep color, red berries, truffles, more expressive than the cerequio, very tannic with long and excellent finish. 93-95
Nebbiolo San Francesco, 2005
Lighter and more brown colored than the previous Barolos. Nice fruit along with nuts and a bit truffles. 88-90
Barolo Fossati Case Nere, 2004
This is a wine that will be released in 2014! After 10 years in the cellar... A new and interesting concept - the winery will age the wine for the customer. I like the Idea and even more the deep and most concentrated wine in this tasting: Blackberries, red berries leading to a very long finish with a good amount of tannins that will surely calm down in 10 years. I pronounced the word "California" and the sky didn't fall... 96-100

This was a wonderful way to end the tasting and as we had to rush to our next meeting we only looked at the wonderfully designed new tasting room.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Giuseppe Cortese winery

The Cortese winery is built on topc of one of the hills in Barbaresco and the picture shows what one can see from the tasting room's balcony. These are vineyards that belong to the winery.
The evening before visiting this winery we had dinner at Antine restaurant in Barbaresco. Excellent restaurant, serving very good piedmontese dishes and with a very reasonably priced yet deep wine menu. We had the Giuseppe Cortese Rabaja Riserva 1996. It was excellent and a perfect match to the local food. This has built high expectations for our next day visit, which were fully fulfilled. The visit started with an overview of the winery, where the most important point is the use of traditional large Slovenian barrels along with the more modern small barrels.
We were then given the opportunity to taste the Barbaresco Rabaja 2000-2004 and the Riserva 1999.

Barbaresco Rabaja 2003
Pretty deep color for the vintage, not very fruity, good earth on the nose but overall seems to be a bit shy there. However it is very balanced, the tannins announce their presence but don't bite. Very good finish. 88
Barbaresco Rabaja 2001
Blackberries, smoke, truffels all interweave to a very balanced wine with a very long and excellent finish. It still needs significant time as its too tannic, the structure is great. Overall a very fine wine. 94
Barbaresco Rabaja 2000
Dried plums, ripe red berries, leather. A very nice finish and good structure. 89
Barbaresco Rabaja 2004
Beautiful deep color, very fruity with mainly red berries. The tannins are right now biting, but this is typical for this young wine. A bit hard to judge but seems a wine with an excellent potential. 90
Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva 1999
The vines that are used for this wine are 55 years old and the production is only 6000 bottles. The results are great: Dried plums, blackberries, Mediterranean herbs, leather and tobbaco - very layered wine. The tannins are a bit too harsh to allow current drinking, but its still very enjoyable now. Build to last. 95

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Conterno Fantino winery

The navigation system decided to lead us to Monforte d'Alba through a dirt road. Chiara Giachino from the winery told us that this is the historical road leading to the winery, which is somehow used by most navigation systems. From the moment we entered the winery, the story was completely different. First thing that caught my attention was the shirt and picture of the local soccer team the "Barolo Boys" I would improve my soccer just to be in this team!
The wine estate and especially the tasting room are very nicely designed. They even have a nice collection of Romano Levy Grappa bottles above the bar. The winery was founded in 1982 by Claudio Conterno and Guido Fantino and is still managed by them. It focuses on high quality and has a firm believe in putting a lot of attention to the vineyards.
Chiara's warm and knowledgeable personality has put us in the right mood to start with the wines.
Langhe Chardonnay "Bastia" 2005
Very good and balanced chardonnay, honeysuckle, slight oak, ripe melon and some tropical fruit, not too buttery and a nice finish. 87
Docetto d'Alba 2006
Fruity with dominant blackberries and some jamy aroma , nice earthy flavor. Very fresh and nice. 85
MonPra 2004
Attractive blend of 45% Barbera, 45% nebbiolo and 10% C.S. It has a very deep almost dark color, with surprising dominance of the C.S. Raspberries and blackberries with tannins that show a good aging potential. The finish is medium but very pleasant. 90
Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2003
Light color, Leather, tobacco, cassis liqueur - overall the fruits are a bit shy right now due to the alcoholic nature of the wine. Still a very good wine that might significantly improve. 88
Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2004
Deep colored, very well structured wine with pleasant tannins. Truffles, raspberries and mineral. With a long and yummy finish. Much better than the 2003. 92

Barolo Sori Ginestra 2004
Deep colored, blackberries, leather, tobacco and minerals. The tannins and structure give a hint that this would be a wine to cellar for a long time. Excellent finish. 94
Barolo Mosconi 2004
This is a new single vineyard. Deep colored, blackcurrant, blackberries, tobacco and minerals. Surprisingly round and balanced for such a young Barolo. Amazing finish. 95

We were very sorry to learn that Conterno-Fantino are out of stock for all 2003 Barolo... We are sure going to search for the 2004!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Paolo Scavino winery

Our visit to Piedmont started in the most charming way while we were looking for Paolo Scavino in Castiglione Falletto. The navigation system got us to the right place, but there 3-4 people were working in construction - adding a room to the house and no sign of the winery. Asking the man that supervised the work where is the winery we got a big smile and the answer "this is me". Enrico Scavino - the legendary wine maker worked with the construction people. He greeted us warmly and accompanied us into the winery/house where he introduced us to his two daughters: Elisa (winemaker) and Enrica (Marketing). All were dressed causally - they were in the middle of their working day. This is one of Piedmont's characteristics: casual, down to earth yet very sophisticated, beautiful and above all full of charm. Both the land and the people.

Founded in 1921, Paolo Scavino winery consistently produces outstanding and great Barolo wine as well as excellent Langhe blend and Barbera. 2003 was a tough vintage due to the very hot summer. Barolo and Barbaresco producers that did a good job in the vineyards and the winery got very good even excellent wines - which is the case here. 2004 is a different story - a much more typical vintage, but here again those that didn't play it right with mother nature got caught with wet vineyards. Scavino played the dice right!
The charming Enrica led us through the history of the winery and the wine tasting.

The wines

Barbera d'Alba Affinato in Carati 2004
Carati stands for barriques, this wine spent 8 months in barriques and 8 months in large oak barrels. The result is an excellent, deep Barbera. Deep colored wine. Ripe blackberries, meat along with a notes pf slight smoke and licorice. round tannins but enough to let the wine age for 4-5 years. Medium but very pleasing finish. 89-90

Corale 2004
60% Nebiolo, 20% Barbera, 10% Merlot and 10% C.S. This is a wine that is desired to cater to young people that are not used to drink the sophisticated Barolo wines. Still this internationally styled wine is a success: Very fruity, raspberry, cassis with a good structure and a sweet pleasant finish. 90-91

Barolo Bric Del Fiasc 2003
Light to medium color, Very fruity: cassis, red berries. Even though the high alcohol percentage the wine is very pleasant with a pretty long and very good finish. The tannins are less rough than a usual Barolo of this age, but still provide a good reason to believe that this will cellar nicely. 92-93

Barolo Bric Del Fiasc 2004
We got a barrel sample of what seems to be an excellent vintage. Deep and intense color. Blackberries, vanilla, mediterranean herbs with a sweet liqueur note. It feels powerful and great with surprisingly sweet tannins (this seems to be one of the vintage characteristics in Piedmont). The ending has a orange hint to it. Can't wait to buy it. 96-98

Rocche del'Annunziata Riserva 2001
This is THE real thing! Enrico Scavino bought a vineyard there after his mother, that read every letter in the newspaper, saw an ad. The vines are 60-70 years old and produce small quantities but very concentrated wine. The Riserva is produced only in great vintages. The color is deep, the wine is big and elegant with sweet red berries, blackberries vanilla and truffles. The tannins are elegant still provide an excellent structure for aging. The finish is long and great. 99-100.

In addition we tasted Barolo Bricco Ambrogio 2003 - I don't have the notes, but clearly remember that this is an excellent Barolo, although less than "Bric Del Fiasc" above.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Sampler

My wife and I visited The Sampler last week and found the concept very compelling, the service awesome and everything well tuned. We came out of the store with a big smiles on our faces (well, we didn't spit anything...) into a sunny London day.

This store brings a new concept: where besides being a regular wine store, it offers 80 wines for tasting, of which you can taste between 25, 50 or 75 cl samples. I found the 25 cl sample good enough for tasting. The wines are kept in the right drinking temperature, and freshness is achieved by filling the bottles with nitrogen gas (read more about it here). This gives the opportunity to taste some great wines like Palmer 1989, Pavie 2003 without having to go to a very expansive tasting or buy these wines. With the current crazy wine prices I would not be surprised to see more stores that offer this service.

The purchase prices are pretty good and there are a lot of very good but not expansive wines to taste besides the great/expansive names. The good thing about tasting like this is the ability to make 30 Euro decisions for a fraction before discovering that you don't like the wine at home, even though it got raving reviews.

The key component in any business is the people that run it, Jamie and Dawn (I think) know their way in wine and business (well, I might be a bit subjective here as Jamie was a VC in his previous career and to my total surprise had a good understanding of my business - software). Most importantly they are very welcoming. We found one sample slightly corked and although it wasn't a clear cut we were refunded for that sample.

Sample of our samples:

Aldo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Conca Tre Pile 2003
Violets, red berries and blueberries all accompanied by excellent acidity which gives the wine the right punch - all plays in good harmony. Good finish. High end Barbera which is worth its price tag. 90-91
Gaillard Cote Rotie 2004 (not sure which cuvee)
Mostly earth, tar hides the fruit. Not good at this point, doesn't look like its ever going to be. 75-76
Masi Passo Doble 2005
Nice wine, some fruits but very rough right now. I would give it a second chance in 6 months. 82-83
Malescot St. Expurey 1996
Herbal, earth, tobacco and cherry fruit all come together very nicely. It's an outstanding wine. 90-91
Pavie 2003
Ripe red berries, very fruity and tannic with good acidity. We found the wine pretty balanced. Excellent wine - we liked it very much. 94-95
Palmer 1989
Maybe the best wine I ever had, definitely the best Bordeaux I've had. Leather, earth, tobacco, Cherry liquor, licorice and herbal. Medium bodied with a long long finish. Great! 100
Franz Haas, Pinot Grigio 2005
Summer fruits, mainly melon. Crispy and refreshing. Great value. 88-89


Friday, March 30, 2007

Rhone 2005 TNs (Janasse, Sang des Cailloux, others)

The charming frensh/austrian wine store La Cave is located in the 5th district of Vienna, Austria. The store imports their wines directly from France and is family run/owned. The personal touch and their direct connection with the wineries makes this store unique. They have developed a good amount of followers for the wines offered at the store and offer 6-7 tastings a year.

Wine store tasting can be sometimes compared to junkyard sales: you pay a fee and for exchange you get to taste mostly wines that didn't sell well. However, this wasn't the case with tasting the wines of what seems to be an excellent Rhone vintage: 2005. Rhone valley is one of their expertise and they are the sole importers of some of the most interesting domains from the Rhone: Janasse, Sang des Cailloux & Fondreche. These wineries and others were presented in very impressive line of Rhone wines from 2005 and a couple of 2006.

The tasting notes:

Domaine de la Janasse 2006 Rose Peach, summer fruits with a note of sweet aroma. Feels crisp and fresh, but falls a bit short on the finish. At 5.5 Euros (en primer) its a real bargin. Score: 87-88
Domaine de la Janasse 2006 Blanc Mellon, butter and feels very balanced. However it leaves a slightly bitter aftertast. Score 82-83
Domaine de la Janasse VdP Terre de Bussière 2005 This wine was the first really interesting in this tasting. Dried plums, red berries, earth and tar. It has a good structure and ample acidity. Medium finish. Excellent wine which is made of an unusual (for Rhone) blend of Merlot, Syrah, Grenache & Cabernet. Score: 89-90.
Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux Nadal 2005 Cherry, blackberries, very fruity. A bit light on the mid palate but has a nice backbone. Overall a very nice wine which has the structure to hold for a couple of year. A bit too light for me. Score: 87-88
Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux Persia 2005 Dark red berries, earth, very nice aromas. Just tastes bad - not recommended, i wasn't a corked bottle, just didn't deliver on the great aroma promise. Score: 75
Domaine de La Roubine Gigondas 2005 Rubber and flat aromas. Not so bad on the mouth, actually even a nice drink - but why bother? Score: 70 - or, I wouldn't take home even for free.
Domaine du Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras 2005 Very fruity and has a great sense of garden roses, its a very balanced and structured wine. Its great now, but promises to be even better. Score: 90-91. For 16.5 Euro its a real bargain.
Domaine de la Janasse CdP 2005 This wine is sexy yet powerful, I loved it. Kirsch, Mediterranean herbs smoked wood and just a mouthful of smooth balanced taste that continues with the long finish. It has a great structure and its current fruit needs some time to settle down. I would give it 2-3 years and then enjoy this beauty. Score: 93-94
Domaine de la Janasse CdP Chaupin 2005 Serious stuff! Concentrated Red berries, Cherry syrup - all feels very concentrated yet not jammy. It has hints of smoke and feels balanced. Looong finish that just doesn't get away. The best wine of the evening Score: 96-98

Besides the wines, the atmosphere during the evening was very friendly and welcoming. Not a formal tasting, but most of the participants took notes. It felt like a friendly gathering rather than a commercial event. Which made it easier to spend the money on buying some 05-s en primer.