Monday, December 8, 2008

Pinot Noir Around the World

I organized a Pinot Noir tasting at my place, which took place on Nov 21 (two weeks ago today). I had always wanted to do something like this, and for me the main interest was to put some New World PNs head-to-head with red Burgs, so as to answer the eternal questions: (1) are red Burgs any better than New World PNs, and (2) do New World PNs actually taste like PN? I also had always wanted to put Nuits against Beaune, Oregon against California, and hot climate against cool climate. In short, the overall quality was high, we all learned a lot, and there were a number of [mostly pleasant] surprises. All wines were served immediately after opening.

First the notes, then some reflections.

Flight 1. The Classics: Europe

Joseph Drouhin, Chorey-Les-Beaune 2006
Light ruby. Lovely, aromatic nose that practically fills the room. Cherry and a touch of dark raspberry on the palate, the fruit having the lovely, vibrant, accentuated style that is typically associated with the Cote-de-Beaune. Nice finish and body. Should last another 5 years or so. At around $20, the best value in red Burgundy I've had. Excellent (87 - 90).

Nicolas Potel, Cote de Nuits-Villages, Vieilles Vignes 2006
A somewhat darker ruby (compared to the Chorey-Les-Beaune tasted before it), but still clear. Nice nose of leather. On the palate, cherry, blackberry, leather, and spice. Does have a touch of the meatiness that is associated with the Cote-de-Nuits. Not all that impressive at first but gets better and better as it opens. Too young, I think - needs another 5 years, and should last for 10, but when it hits its prime it should be something special, and I imagine it will justify its almost $40 price tag as well. Decanting or breathing for an hour might do the trick as well. Excellent (87 - 90), and potentially Exceptional (90 - 93) with time.

August Ziegler, Pinot Noir Spatlese (trocken), Cuvee August, Pfalz 2005
Dark ruby, with a touch of purple. Nice nose. Cherry and mixed berries on the palate. Nice acidity, and the high alcohol (14%) gives it richness without making it unbalanced. Tastes like its seen a moderate amount of oak, which doesn't seem necessary. A ripe, attractive style that is very pleasing initially, but doesn't have any underpinnings to contrast, and so may just have a bit too much fruit for its own good. Still, an excellent and well-made wine, but not quite my style. Should last another 5 years. About $20, which is a fair price. Excellent (87 - 90).

Flight 2. The Challengers: United States

Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, "Whole Cluster Fermented," Willamette Valley 2007
Ruby / purple. Sweet strawberry, cherry, and a touch of blueberry. Attractive, accentuated fruit, and in some ways very similar to the Chorey-Les-Beaune tasted earlier in the evening. Classic Oregon PN. Very nice. Drink in the next 3 - 5 years, I think. Around $15, and a good value. Excellent (87 - 90).

Angeline, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2006
Ruby / purple. Cherry, and rich blackberry. Wonderful, pure fruit. Californian in style but still has the finesse and grace that PN should have. Very, very nice. The best California PN I've had, and at a mere $15 a bottle, the best value in Pinot Noir I've encountered. Drink in the 4 - 6 years. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91).

Crescendo, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley 2005
Deep garnet. Nice nose. Black cherry, liqueur-like blackberry, and a touch of blueberry, with nice vegetal/wood/tea undertones. Great body. For me, a big surprise, as I didn't expect a PN from such a hot climate to taste like PN, or even work as a wine - yet this is a reasonably faithful PN in style, and yet also very distinctly Napa. Should last another 5 - 7 years. I'm not completely certain, but I think this is around $15, which makes it a great value (although the comparable Russian River Valley PN tasted before it is just a touch better). Wonderful stuff. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91).

Flight 3. The Up-and-Coming: Southern Hemisphere

Kim Crawford, Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2007
Dark ruby / purple. Lovely nose of red berries (with a note cranberry in particular) and earth (although the nose is a little unusual, perhaps even a bit funky, initially). On the palate, cranberry, cherry, strawberry, and a touch of darker fruits, with nice touch of black tea and vegetal tones. Cool, pure, juicy fruit - practically screams Marlborough. Just a bit earthy (in the most pleasant of ways), and with great body. The best Pinot Noir I've had (a mild but most pleasant surprise). Should last another 4 - 6 years. Just under $20, and a tremendous value. Exceptional (90 - 93).

Matetic, Equilibrio, Pinot Noir, San Antonio 2005 (Chile)
My first Chilean PN. Light, reddish purple. Nice but a bit funky nose that reminds one, oddly enough, of buttered popcorn. On the palate, cranberry, cherry, and dark fruits, with great warmth and spice. Very ripe. Nice, but a blockbuster sort of wine, and a bit too much for me. Has a touch of the soft red fruits of PN, but otherwise behaves like a lighter-bodied Cabernet. As a friend put it "Everything this does, a Chilean Cab does better." Drink in the next 3 - 5 years. A very excellent wine, but to my palate, not a very good PN. Not unreasonably priced at around $25. Exceptional (90 - 93), but not my style.

Now my reflections: 1. It is nice (or perhaps I just got lucky) to have a pair a red Burgs that demonstrate the differences between Cote de Beaune and Cotes de Nuits. I must confess, although I was still very pleased, that perhaps I was expecting the Burgs to be a bit more impressive - on the whole they were blown out of the water by the New Worlds, although stylistically I preferred them to most of the New Worlds. 2. Although I haven't had very many, I'm beginning to think that maybe I don't care for German Pinot (aka Spatburgunder) - they have an attractive style, but no real underpinnings (no earth, vegetal tones, spice, etc), to lend them contrast and interest. 3. I've been in the habit of saying that Oregon tastes more like Burgundy, but it's nice to have that confirmed in a head-to-head (although, once again, maybe I got lucky on the selection). Based on this and the other Oregons I've had, it seems maybe that they lean specifically toward the Beaun-ish side. 4. I was impressed and surprised by the Calis - I've been complaining for years that Cali Pinot often doesn't taste like Pinot, but these two overturned that conception, and more or less killed the Burgs for quality. As I noted above, the Napa Pinot was a big surprise. 5. As much as I love Marlborough, the fact that it has produced the best PN I've tasted was a unlooked-for but delightful surprise. And, as I've noted in the past, you can sense in Marlborough PN the same, cool, juicy, pure fruit as in the Sauv Blancs. 6. I had heard very promising things about Chilean PN, but now I question that, because if this was a typical example, then I'm not all that interested in tasting any others. One would think that high-altitude and thus cooler conditions would produce more balanced, more graceful PN.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rosenblum Tasting

I gather from some people I've talked to that Rosenblum has a "love it or hate it" style. The wines are certainly archtypically Californian - ripe, extracted fruit and high alcohol. But, to my Old World tuned palate, they offer something more. Most of their reds have great character, with lots of nice undertones - earth, spice, minerals - that throw the ripe fruit into relief, and make for a complex and satisfying package. I tasting the following wines at the local wine shop last month. I should also add that their Black Muscat, a fortified dessert-style wine, is excellent as well, and a great value at around $10 per half bottle. Some notes for other Rosenblum wines I've tasted in the past are also posted after this recent batch.

, Viognier, Appellation Series, Kathy's Cuvee, California 2006

Citrus and wonderful, ripe, sweet peach and tropical fruits, with creamy vanilla. Lots of character. Wow. This is the best Viognier I've had to date. This can be had for under $15, and at that price a tremendous value. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91). [9/6/08]

Rosenblum, Mourvedre, Appelation Series, San Francisco Bay 2004
Nice, interesting nose. On the palate, cherry, plum, violets, smoke, and spice. Frim finish. Very fruity and aromatic for Mourvedre. Lots of character. Great wine. Around $15, and a good value. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91). [9/6/08]

Rosenblum, Syrah, Rominger Vineyard, Yolo County 2006
Dark berries, earthy herbs, spice, and a touch of mineral. Very nice, but not nearly as interesting as the Mourvedre. If you can find this for $15, it's worth trying, but the price online seems to be around $20, and at that price I'd pass. Excellent (87 - 90). [9/6/08]

Rosenblum, Zinfandel, Appellation Series, Paso Robles 2006
Softish cherry with a touch of raspberry upfront, then blackberry, and a spicy finish. Quite good, but more or less 'just another' California Zin, and for around $15, not all that exciting (although it's not an unfair price). Excellent (87 - 90), but only merely. [9/6/08]

And now a round up of my older notes for their wines:

Rosenblum Cellars, Black Muscat, Gallagher Reserve, Central Valley 2005
A sweet, fortified red. Cherry/stawberry upfront, followed by dark berries, with almost tarry notes, and chocolate. Great stuff. Exceptional (90 - 93) [9/30/07].

Rosenblum Cellars, Petite Sirah, Appelation Series, Heritage Clones, San Fransisco Bay 2005
Dark purple. Blueberry, blackberry, mint, and juniper. Very rich. Textbook Petite Sirah, but has some pretty distinct character. Big finish. Could have a hair better balance. Worth trying, although perhaps a bit pricey at $20. Excellent (87 - 90) [7/28/07]

Rosenblum, Syrah, Vintners Cuvee, California 2004
Sweet cherry and plum, with minty herbs, mild earthiness and spice, and a hint of wildberries toward the finish. Suprisingly good. Very Good / Excellent (86 - 88) [2/17/07]

Rosenblum, Mourvedre, Appellation Series, San Francisco Bay 2004
Sweet cherry, with mineral/smoke, violet, and spice. Driven more by its undertones than its fruit. A formidible, even brooding wine that fills the senses from pour to finish. Parker would love this one. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91) [7/17/07]

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wieninger - A Chardonnay made in Vienna

Vienna is a city with many charms. Wine is one of the unique things about it. Wine is an integral part of its tradition, wine will be served even in kids birthdays (for the parents...). Vienna is one of the only cities in the world with significant wine production - around 700 hectares of vineyards. One of the well known and best wineries in Vienna is Wieninger, which produces a pretty diverse set of wines. I've always loved their Chardonnay Select (mid range chard.) and the 2006 stood up to the expectations.

Wieninger Chardonnay Select 2006
Light straw color with a medium body. Summer flower blossom, Mellon, green pears along with Vanilla. The mouth feel is very smooth and just slightly buttery. The affect of using large casks and just some barrel creates a lighter wine which works great in the local heat. Nice finish. Excellent 89

A nice promotional video about the winery is available on youtube.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A taste of the Midwest: Butler Winery

Winemaking in the American Midwest, although appreciated and respected by those 'in the know,' has a supprisingly low profile given its historical significance. Missouri was the most significant wine producing state before Prohibition. Happily, Missouri has slowly been rebuilding its reputation, and it's star grape, Norton, has an international following. However, the home of the first commercial wine industry in the US has remained relatively obscure: Indiana.

Since I currently live in Indiana, I've had the chance to taste wine from the more significant wineries on many occasions. In fact, in my current home of Bloomington, we have not one but two wineries. Oliver Winery is the oldest and largest winery in Indiana. They grow mostly hybrids, plus Concord, Niagara, and Catawba, and even produce a few locally grown vinifera wines. They also purchase west coast fruit, and it is those wines that to some extent dominate their tasting room. Oliver is a more polished operation, producing wines in an international style. It should be noted that the winery grounds have beautifully gardens, and they sell cheeses, meats, breads, crackers, etc. for picnics. Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal listed Oliver as one of 12 wineries to visit in the US. It is certainly worth a visit.

The second and smaller of the Bloomington wineries is Butler Winery. They grow almost exclusively hybrids. Their in-town tasting room in Bloomington might be better known for its wine and beer making supplies. But anybody who ventures out to the winery is in for an unexpected treat. The grounds are very charming, and rather than simply a cooler with sandwhiches and such, they have made to order sandwhiches, appetizers, and such, served in cafe style. And the food is rather good too! Butler is more charmingly and authentically Midwestern than Oliver, and although I was not at first impressed, My appreciation and enjoyment of their wines and winery has grown considerably over time. And although some people might not find it as 'impressive' as Oliver, I actually recommend it with equal enthusiasm, although for entirely different reasons. This past weekend I went to their in-town tasting room to buy wine-making supplies, and took the opportunity to taste a few of their wines.

Before the notes, a special focus on a particular grape. Most of Butler's red wines focus on the hybrid Chambourcin. Chambourcin is among my favorite grapes, no allowance for its hybrid status necesary. In fact, although it is a 'hybrid,' about 60% of its paretage is actually vinifera, although which vinifera has been a matter of debate - the once common misconception is that it was none other than Pinot Noir, but it turns out to be a rather obscure vinifera called Black Hambourg. But who cares? Unique among hybrids, it truly does have the refinement of true vinifera, without a trace of 'hybrid funk.' It is among the most charming of grape varieties, fruity, aromatic, and the best examples are not unlike a decent Cru Beaujolais. For the record, my standard for Chambourcin is made by Pirtle Winery, in Weston, Missouri (another winery I recommend visiting).

Butler Winery, Chardonel, Indiana 2005
Lemon, perhaps a bit of coconut, a touch of tropical fruits, and a bit of oak. A reasonably succesful Chardonel, and while I must admit that Chardonel has grown on me, I'm still not a big fan. Pleasant / Good (82 - 84). [8/9/08]
(Chardonel is a hybrid of Chardonnay and the hybrid Seyval Blanc.)

Butler Winery, Chambourcin, Indiana 2004
Nice nose of berries, blueberry in particular. On the palate, cherry and raspberry, but with generous
blueberry. Fruity and aromatic. Quite nice! Drinking very nicely now, but should keep it charms for
another year or so. Very Good (85 - 87). [8/9/08]

Butler Winery, Chambourcin, Indiana 2005

Not as forward as the 2004, but with the same character and components (fruity, aromatic red berries and blueberries), and more structure. Needs another year for that delightful fruit to express itself, but
should still retain its more impressive structure. Drink in the next year after that. Very Good (85 - 87). [8/9/08]

Butler Winery, Indiana White, Indiana NV
Almost every Midwestern winery produces a semi-sweet, non-vintage white, and an accompanying red. Made from Vignoles, which is actually a nice little grape, producing wines that can have a passing resemblance to late-harvest Riesling. Semi-sweet, with fresh peach and nectarine. Nice. Very Good (85 - 87). [8/9/08]
(Vignoles is hybrid of one of the many Seibel hybrids with "Pinot de Corton," which might or might not be related to Pinot Noir.)

Butler Winery, Chambourcin Rose, Indiana 2007
Semi-sweet. Fruity berries, with a touch of nectarine. Nice. Good (83 - 85). [8/9/08]

Butler Winery, Late Harvest Vignoles, Indiana 2007
Sweet but not extremely sweet. Simple but nice character of pear and peach. Worth noting that the 2004
(which I had in December 2007) could have passed for a decent Riesling Spatlese. Very Good (85 - 87). [8/9/08]

Butler Winery, Ruby Port, Indiana 2005
Made from Chambourcin. Fruity red berry and blueberry, with the fortification providing additional
structure. Very Good (85 - 87). [8/9/08]

Friday, August 1, 2008

A new Hotel, a trendy restaurant and a great wine

The stage for a great wine must be the right thing. Well, what can go wrong when you go to Tel Aviv's trendiest restaurant - Montefiore - to celebrate 13 years with my wife? Nothing went wrong. The company was great, the food was very good and the service was excellent. This is a fusion restaurant, which means a selection of Korean, Vietnamese and French dishes - all are very good to excellent. The ambiance is informal colonial decor and the service is upscale Israeli. Our first dishes were were leaning towards the far eastern side and didn't go to well with the wine (not a surprise). The main dishes were selected to match the wine: White grouper on Okra & tomato sauce for my wife and sirloin steak with mushroom sauce for me. Both were excellent, I like fusion restaurants that don't try to be too creative. We will get to the wine in a second. The evening ended by "climbing" to floors to our room in the Hotel just above the restaurant. The Hotel shares the same design as the restaurant and provides a very comfortable place to sleep. One major disadvantage is the noise: both from the restaurant and the street.

Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages C.S. 1997 is the best Californian wine I've had and a great wine by any standard.
This is a very rich and elegant wine. Deep purple/brick color, full bodied wine, showing a very distinct blueberries and black fruit aromas. This is accompanied by tobacco, a bit caramel, chocolate and a touch of smoky and herbal flavors. Very balanced and smooth. Very long finish. Extraordinary 95

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First experience with a lovely southern Italian grape

Of all the world's wines, Italians are nearest and dearest to my heart. I could hardly imagine life without Bordeaux and the Rhone, and it may very well be the case that France produces the world's greatest wines. But Italians are my favorite - somehow, they suit me better than all others - their robustness, grace, and the same vitality you find in the food, the people, and the very land of Italy itself. And they are just a joy and a pleasure to drink. One of the world's great undiscovered wine treasure-troves is southern Italy: there is simply no other place on earth with such a diversity of delightful, unique grapes. And some of them are beginning to get their due praise. I stumbled upon one of these almost unheardof gems recently - I had never heard of Nero di Troia before I saw a bottle on the shelf, and for $5 I could hardly resist trying it. I actually had to look it up: more commonly called Uva di Troia, it is very popular in its native Puglia. And after tasting it, I am suprised it is not better known - this could be the southern Italian answer to Chianti.

Vini Coppa d'Oro, Nero di Troia, Puglia IGT NV
A clear but deep ruby in color. Heady nose of black cherry, but with perfumey floral notes. On the palate, deep black cherry upfront, with perhaps a touch of blueberry/blackberry, and overtones of plum, followed by nectarine, orange rind and floral notes, before a generous finish of spice. Medium-full in body. Lovely stuff. Unique - almost like a cross of Syrah and Montepulciano (the grape) - it has some of Syrah's concentration, headiness, and structure, but overlayed with Montepulciano's gracefull, delightful, and high-toned fruit. This is just the sort of delightful little wine you might find at a cafe in Italy - very fruit friendly, with a softness to it but also a rich depth. In fact, this is a fair challenger for Chianti. [Oddly enough, I have had one other grape in some ways quite similar to this: a hybrid called St. Vincent, which is grown in the Midwest of the US.] Fantastic little table wine for everyday drinking with Italian food. And it's even good chilled. I got it on sale for $5 - what it goes for elsewhere I do not know, but by far the best wine I've ever had for the price. Excellent (87 - 90). [6/21/08]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Beaucastel tasting

Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the best wineries in Chateauneuf du Pape. Pierre Perrin, Beaucastel's wine maker and 5th generation owner of the winery hosted an excellent tasting this Wednesday. It was a pleasure to see how passionate Pierre is about his wines and wine making tradition of his family. Chateau de Beaucastel have been producing organic wines since 1956, but don't brand their wines as such. They try to create wines with a unique signature "I want to sign the wine like Picasso" - is the exact quote. In each year they try to make the best wines for that vintage and not replicate last year's taste. From what we have tasted - it's a complete success. The wines all share a common theme: balanced, food friendly, complex and interesting.

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2006
Light to straw color, medium bodied and refreshing wine. Opens with Muscat nuts, smoke, honey, apricots and melon balanced with very good acidity. Good finish. Exceptional 90.

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Roussanne Vieilles Vignes 2006
Almost Yellow straw color, full bodied and balanced. This is one of the best whites I've had in the last year (including the excellent 2006 vintage in Austria). Smooth, round and creamy (positively) wine. With Caramel, ripe peaches, minerals all going to a Loooong finish. Outstanding 96

Perrin & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Le Sinards 2006
This wine gets its grapes from the young vines of Beaucastel. Not destined for long term cellaring, but still a good wine. Medium bodied and medium to light color. Raspberries, minerals, unripe plums. Nice finish. Still too tannic - keep it for 1-2 years. Very Good 86

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2005
This wine showed what older vines and more traditional wine making (old oak, huge - 4000 Lt. barrels) can create. Medium bodied with a red garnet color. Balanced, elegant and very drinkable right now, but will surly be even greater and more complex in years from now. Mostly delicate aromas of cassis, plums, lavender. A bit meaty aroma on the edges. Just the right amount of acidity. A very long and wonderful finish. Extraordinary 95

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2001
Needs more time to balance - but what a wine! Medium bodied with a brick/garnet color. Meaty, leather, plums, blackberries, cherries and a balancing acidity. After some time in the glass it gets really smooth. Nice, long finish. Extraordinary 93

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 1998
This is a love or hate wine - I've heard both opinions around. I loved it! The color shows some age with dominating brick color. The aroma opens with a sweet caramel component along with cherries and leather. very good, long sweet finish. Exceptional 92

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 1994
This is on the spot for current drinking. Ripe plums, a bit truffles, green herbal component along with delicate leather and meaty aromas. Still has some tannins for the next couple of years. Very good finish. Exceptional 91

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 1989
Decanted for 3 hours. Light brick color. A complex and interesting wine which made me hate myself for not purchasing it when it was possible. Opens with meaty flavors, plums, olives, minerals, perfume and Provencal herbs. Amazing long finish.
Incredible 97

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2005
Almost impenetrable red garnet. Full, almost chewy body. An almost never ending array of aromas: red plums, blackberries, nuts, olives & herbs. Right now its very tannic and alcoholic - give it at least 15 years to soften (Pierre claims that the 1989 is not really ready yet...). Complex, long finish.
Incredible 98

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some excellent Israeli wines

A collection of tasting notes of Israeli wines that were tasted during the last 1-2 weeks with friends over food. These are all wines that show a good value, being sold locally between 18$ - 28$.

Carmel Kayumi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Interesting wine, an excellent complex aroma of blackberries, tobacco, blueberries, violet and a slight but interesting green component: olives and herbs. Medium Finish along with a tannins that still need to settle down. Excellent 89

Tulip White 2007
Summer wine, a combination of Gewürztraminer(70%) and Sauvignon Blanc (30%). The wine was launched in the Herzelia Marine Yacht club about a month ago in a perfect timing - as the summer is already here. Nice clear and bright color. Nice fruit: guava, peaches, apricot along with red grapefruit and nice grassy hints. A round and pleasant wine whit a medium long finish. Excellent 88

Recanati Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2007
Last time I tasted this wine it was an infant. Now it looks like it has fulfilled the high expectations. Nice straw color, flower blossom along with grass open up. Then the fruity components show: Guava, passion fruit and lime. Wonderful acidity leads to an excellent finish. Probably the best local SB. Exceptional 90

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The greatest wine experience of my life

I am only recently come down from the clouds - Friday night (5/23/08) I held the most perfect tasting of my life (thus far). A lineup of eight wines - some more ordinary than others, but each in its way a delight - each enjoyed by everyone in a delightful company of friends, and with a nice assortment of very good cheeses. A situation where the whole was infinitely more than the sum of its parts - I can hardly imagine a more perfect evening of wine tasting. This may very well be the standard by which I judge all other tastings for the rest of my life - not simply the wines, but the experience. And the featured wine of the evening - from my grandmother's birthyear, a wine I know, beyond a doubt, will stand among the very most memorable of my life.

The evening consisted of three 'mini-tastings,' which, although apparently only loosely connected, providing a perfect progression.

Sauvignon Blanc: one wine from each of my three favorite regions for the grape, providing an excellent illustration of the differences between them.

Delaille, Domaine du Salvard, Cheverny 2007
Grapefruit, ripe peach, kiwi, and gooseberry, with touches of mineral and vegetal notes. Exactly what I look for in Loire Sauvignon: focused, elegant, and light-on-its-feet, yet with depth. Under $15, and a good value. Excellent (87 - 90).

Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, Regional Collection, Marlborough 2007 (New Zealand)
Nice nose of high-quality fruit cocktail. Grapefruit, fresh peach, tropical fruits, and gooseberry, with bell pepper. Generous acidity. Archtypical Marlborough, with oodles of fresh, ripe, exuberant fruit. Completely consistent with previous tasting. Around $10, and a great value. Excellent (87 - 90).

Cono Sur, Sauvignon Blanc, 20 Barrels Limited Edition, Casablanca Valley 2006 (Chile)
Sea air, pear, green melon, citrus, and black pepper. Subtle and complex. Somewhat atypical for Chilean Sauvignon, but in a most interesting way. Excellent / Exceptional (89 - 91)

White Bordeaux: first a nice dry example, with 50% Sauvignon providing a nice transition from the previous flight, while at the same time setting up for the the remarkable pair of Sauternes to follow.

Chateau Bonnet, Entre-Deux-Mers 2006
Citrus, apple, honey, and fig. Nice acidity, and with enough depth to avoid being 'just another white.' Bonnet's whites seem to be quite reliable. Around $10, and a very good value. 50% Sauvignon, 40% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle. Very Good / Excellent (86 - 88).

Chateau Coutet, Barsac 1928
Labeled 'Haut-Barsac.' Mid-shoulder fill. Distinguished, warm, dark bronze / mahogany color. Top 1/3 of the cork blackened with age. On first try, only 2/3 of the cork came out. Then using a metal skewer and piercing through the bottom of the cork, a slight hiss of air rushing into a vacuum - after 80 years, the seal was still perfect! Served moderately chilled. In the glass, perhaps the most remarkable nose I have ever encountered: intense, rich, warm nose of fruitcake, apricot, and red raspberry. On the palate, more layers of complexity than one can fully describe in words. Pruney apricot, hints of still fresh pear and even tropical fruits, with red raspberry, and orange. Warm, richly honeyed and still luscious, with loads of intense (but not unpleasant) botrytis nutmeg/mace/brown spice on the finish. Open and wonderful from the first sip, but got even better as it warmed and opened further. Some qualities similar to a fine sherry, but much more fresh - after 80 years, still proudly and unmistakably a Sauternes. Still showing everything I love in Sauternes, but with previously unimagined layers of depth and complexity added (the only other wine I've had with this level of complexity is the Krug NV). Far exceeding expectations, not just a privilege but a once-in-a-lifetime pleasure to drink, with no allowances for age necessary, and making every other wine I've had seem ordinary. With still intense structure but remarkable balance, this is a wine that should make its centennial with pleasures to spare. I wouldn't push it beyond that, but even now it's longevity is far, far beyond complaint. It saddens me greatly that I am not likely ever to encounter this wine again. It will forever command an exalted place in my memory. Exceptional / Extraordinary (92 - 94) for the wine itself, with no allowance for age necessary; for the experience, Perfection (99 - 100)

Chateau Coutet, Barsac 1997
Perfect fill. Lightly-bronzed gold in color. Surprisingly similar to the 1928 (tasted just before) in character. Apricots, pear/tropicals, orange, and even a touch of red raspberry, with minerals notes as well. Honeyed and with nice botrytis spice (but neither nearly as much as in the 1928). But make no mistakes, this is an exceptionally good wine, in some respects even exceeding the 1928, but in others nowhere near it. Still a bit too young, needing at least 5 more years, and I expect it to last another 10 - 20 years total. Exceptional (90 - 93), almost Extraordinary (93 - 95) and will improve.

Port: a hugely surprising white Port providing a perfect transition from the Sauternes before it, before finish the night with an outstanding single-quinta.

Ramos Pinto, Lagrima, Porto NV
Lemon, honey, apricots, and even a touch of pear, with a distinct note of brandy. Fresh and very sweet. Remarkably similar in profile to the 1997 Coutet tasted before it. The biggest surprise of evening, and laughing heartily in the face of the mostly disparaging opinion of white Port that seems to prevail. And given that it can be found for under $15, and absolutely no more than $20, the most amazing value I have ever encountered. Best while young and fresh, I suspect. Extraordinary (93 - 95)

Ramos Pinto, Quita de Ervamoira, Porto 2004
Openned for breathing 14 hours before serving, and decanted 5 hours before serving. Consistent with my previous tasting, with dark, rich chocolate, loads of dark berries and prunes, and on this tasting, even showing some touches of red fruit. Powerful yet perfectly balanced. Surprisingly, especially given the amount of time it had to breath, not as open or opulent as previously. All the same, will benefit tremendously from 10 more years, and should last 10 - 20 years after that. Still outstanding, and may yet merit my original, highly enthusiastic rating with time. Outstanding (95 - 97), but may very well be Incredible (97 - 99) with time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Elegance from the Languedoc

I happen to be very fond of wines from southern France - there are quite a few under-appreciated gems to be found there (if you haven't had Madiran, that is an experience worth seeking out). One of the regions that delights me the most is the Languedoc. The wines use the same set of grapes as in the Rhone, but with a higher percentage of Carignan (as much as 50%). I tend to think of the Rhone as being more refined, and of all the wine of southern France Chateauneuf-du-Pape is by far my favorite. The Languedoc, on the other hand, offers a more country-style, barnyard, and in my mind 'impolite' expression. I affectionately refer to many of these wines as 'monsters.' In fact, the first time a friend and neighbor of mine tasted one, he called me up and asked if I could come taste it, because he was worried that there was something wrong with it. So I went and tasted it, and my first reaction was a huge smile - that rich, earthy, barnyard of a wine was delightful!

This past weekend the same neighbor had another bottle from the Languedoc open (I seem to have converted him!), and this one surprised me, for though it had all of the rich, earthy character I love in these wines, it actually managed to be elegant - something I definitely hadn't encountered before. The wine was made by Hegarty-Chamans (, who are located in Minervois (my favorite appelation in the region). Although they produce Minervois AC wines, this particular one was a humble Vin de Table, their 'Cuvee No. 3,' a blend of 50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 10% Grenache. Why that didn't qualify for the AC I don't know - but it's the wine in the glass that matters!

Hegarty Chamans Cuvee No. 3 Vin de Table 2003
This is made and bottled in Minervois, although it doesn't carry the AC designation. A nice, deep purple color, with a very nice, rich, sweet, and floral (suprise!) nose. On the palate, red fruits upfront, with a touch of minerals providing an almost 'cherry-cola' character, and then sweet nectarine before an earthy finish. Perhaps some herbal notes as well, along with those surprising, floral (dare I say lilac) aromatics. An elegant wine, with 'gentle' aspects to its character - a huge surprise from the Languedoc - and yet still distinctly of its place. 50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 10% Grenache. Tasted twice with consistent notes. Excellent (87 - 90) (5/3/08).

Languedoc appelations to look for: Coteaux du Languedoc (more burly, country-style wines), Minervois (more refined), Costieres de Nimes (sometimes considered part of the Rhone, and it depends on the producer which style they go for)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kinarty Winery

The Sea Of Galilee is a beautiful and historically important place. On this lake's shore, almost one hundred years ago, Jewish pioneers built their first cooperative farming village "Kvutzat Kinneret". This is the cradle of the Kibbutz. The most successful form of a socialist farming community. It was nice to sample a bottle of wine from the newly founded Kinarty Winery from Kvutzat Kinneret. The 100 years old vision of Israeli agriculture is taking a new and interesting direction in the form of growing high end grapes and producing excellent wine.

Kinarty Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Nice red/purple color, both body and color are medium. Plums, blueberries, chocolate merge nicely into this round and friendly wine. The wine is a bit too sweet, lacking acidity. Nice, medium finish. Very Good (86)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chateau Hallet Sauternes 2005

I've had a number of absolutely delightful dry whites from the 2005 Bordeaux vintage, and have very much enjoyed the remarkable combination of freshness and depth they have. In February I got my first chance to try a 2005 Sauternes, and in this wine at least, I dare say you see at least some of that same delightful character - I'll definitely be looking foward to tasting other Sauternes of the vintage. And at $15 per half bottle, this one is a great value.

Chateau Hallet Sauternes 2005
My first taste of a Sauternes from this heralded vintage. Apricot, tropical fruits, then loads of candied fruit and honey. Medium bodied, with nice balance. Definitely reminds one of the delightful freshness and depth that the dry whites of the vintage have. Should drink very nicely for the next 5 years or so. (2/16/08) Excellent/Exceptional (89 - 91).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spain & Portugal Tasting

I've been quite ignorant when it came to Spain & Portugal, with Rijoa (Spain) and Port (Portugal) as the only exceptions. However, this tasting has shown that there is a lot more than these regions. The tasting was held last month in a local branch of the wine store chain wineroute. The tasting was from various regions and price ranges, but has clearly shown that at almost all price ranges there are excellent to classical wine. This tasting has clearly shown that one needs to pay a lot more attension to these wine growing countries.

Marques de Riscal, Rueda 2005
Maybe two years ago this was a nice wine. Over the top with yellowish color and some musty aroma. The good stuff was grapefruit and flower scents. 70
Ramos Pinto, Duas Quintas 2005
Very dark color, medium to light bodied wine. Pomagrants, red berries and light tannins. very balanced and fruity wine with a nice finish. 87
Ramos Pinto, Duas Quintas Reserva 2003
very dark color, medium bodied. Blackberries, plums, red cherries with delicate tannins and balanced acidity. This is a complex and interesting wine which one can either love or hate. I loved it. The finish was pretty good but not really tasty. 89
Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez, Pesquera Crianza 2003
Full bodied and dark color. Plums, blackberries, light spicy and olives as well as light smokey aroma. A long and very pleasent finish. 90
Artadi, Vinas de Gain 2005
Strawberries, rassberries, violets, flower scents, a bit vanilla and light green spices. Balanced with a good, medium length, finish. 89
Roda I 2001
Rich and complex wine. Leather, plums, blackberries, rich and a bit hot spices, cinamon and a clear nutty aroma. Excellent finish. 92
El Seque 2005
Blueberries, red berries, blackberries are accompanied by light and balanced acidity. Not a very deep and serious drink, but still offers a nice drink. 86
Santa Cruz de Artazu 2003
Cherries, red berries, pepper and spices. Coffee and a bit leather appeared later on. A good amount of tannins and an excellent finish. Excellent. 92
Mas Martinet, Martinet Bru 2005
Round and smooth wine. Black pepper, blackberries, black olives, coffee and an excellent spiciness. Very well balanced with good acidity and medium finish. 90
Clos Mogador 2003
Round, flavorable and excellent wine. The best wine in this tasting and one of the best wines I've had lately. Blueberries, blackberries, violets and black cherries. A second layer of nut, cassis and cola all compose this deep and concentrated wine. Excellent finish - dry plums. Wow. 96

Friday, February 29, 2008

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2002

Nipozzano is one of our long standing favorite wines. One of those wines that has never let us down: I can't remember a single bottle of this wines during the last 8 vintages that was not at least good and enjoyable. It's reasonably priced (16-17 Euros) and widely available. Although 2002 was not a great vintage, Frescobaldi's team was successful in creating this excellent wine.

Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2002
Medium dark and deep color. This opened with red fruit but quickly changed to blackberries, black cherries and tobacco. It's full bodied and has enough tannins to carry the wine for another 3-4 years. Very balanced, with good acidity and excellent finish. 91

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who says Louis M Martini isn't what it used to be?

The Louis M Martini winery was founded in 1933, although its roots go back to 1899. Martini is considered to be one of the patriarchs of California winemaking, and the legacy of Martini has always commanded respect. This winery makes my favorite California Cabernet - very much in the old world claret style, with some influence from their Italian immigrant heritage, but not lacking in Californian richness. The hallmark and legacy of these wines is that although they are very drinkable on release, they have such superb balance that Martini's basic Cabernets from the 1970's still drink well today; I also recently saw reports that their best Pinot Noirs from the 1960's are still in nice shape as well. And yet, for reasons I don't understand, there is a general feeling that Martini's wines are not what they used to be. There is no doubt that when Gallo purchased Martini in 2002 (although the Martini family still runs the winery and makes the wines), the financial investment was much needed, and has helped to restore their image. But even so, they have always had big fans amoung consumers and critics. To paraphrase one professional reviewer, 'Martini's wines always taste more expensive than they are.' And that is one of things I love about them - they offer tremendous class and elegance for the price. Maybe class and elegance are considered outdated by the fruit bomb generation, but it is worth noting that Robert Parker's Wine Advocate is one of the fans.

The first Martini Cabernet I tasted was the 1981 La Loma Vineyard Selection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted in 2004. At 23 years, it was a classic example of Martini's hallmark grace and balance, and not without the vitallity to age a few more years. Some people have suggested that this wine was made at the very end of Martini's glory days. And yet, when I first tasted their 2001 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon later in 2004, I daresay I found all of the hallmark grace, balance, and potential longevity still very much alive. Even the 2002 Sonoma Cabernet, which was less succesful in overall quality still had the class of a more expensive wine, and very nearly the same aging potential as the truly excellent 2001.

I happened to have the opportunity to try a glass of the 2004 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at a restaurant a few weeks ago, and having tasted that, could not resist trying a bottle of the 2003 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet the next week. As far as I'm concerned, these two wines should prove once and for all that the Martini legacy is alive and well!

Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2004
Backwards and only suggesting the dark cherry and cassis that will emerge with time, with a touch of slightly savory herbs toward the finish, and an almost leathery earthiness. The herbs even suggest a bit of Italian influence, but still it proudly asserts its Napa provenance. Backwards and very old world in style, but even at this stage showing the promise of tremendous elegance to come. In short. a classic Martini Cabernet. This should age well for 15 more years, and very possibly longer (might be interesting to see what it's like in 20 years), but needs 5 or maybe even 10 years to resolve all its elements - but then it will sing! Excellent (87 - 90), but will be Exceptional (90 - 93) with time.

Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2003
Nice, rich nose of tobacco and cassis. Glides onto the palate with dark, firm raspberry, perhaps with a touch of blackberry, then goes to cassis, then a finish of tobacco with minty and slighty savory herbs and minerals. Deceptively rich but not overstated, with seemless balance, and exceptional elegance. Every sip of this wine is completely satisfying - this is one to savor. Once again a classic, old world Martini Cabernet, perhaps calling to mind a good Graves. Much farther along than the 2004, despite only a one year difference. This is just barely approachable, and would benefit from another 5 years, and will easily last 5 years, perhaps more, after that. Excellent (87 - 90)

Between the two, the 2003 is much more enjoyable now, but the 2004 has much greater potential. I have a mind to get four bottles of the 2004 and open one every five years. Also, snap up any remaining bottles of the 2001 Sonoma Cab if you can! As suggested above Martini wines are very good values - the Sonoma Cab runs about $12, and the Napa Reserve about $20. Their flagship wine is their Monte Rosso Cabernet (they were the first winery to buy land in Monte Rosso), which goes for about $50. Wine Spectator (who had given very poor reviews to some previous Martini wines) gave the 2003 a nice review. They also just released a single lot Napa Cab that goes for $80. Too pricey for me, but Parker liked it quite a bit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois 2005 - Disappointment

Having read all the rave reviews on the quality of Bordeaux 2005 vintage (most recently rated as 99 by the wine spectator) I had high expectations for this tasting. Cru Bourgeois wines in such vintages should be a good source of some excellent wines. The tasting was held at wine route Tel Aviv store with 16 wines tasted non blind, of which 12 were from the 2005 vintage. The tasting guest was Eric Holsteins, Chateau Cissac owner.
From the 12 wines, only three were wines I would consider buying. I expected these wines to be tannic and somewhat closed. However, most of them didn't show anything interesting in flavor while showing a very nice and ripe nose.
Only one of the tasted wines is rated above 89. With prices ranging between 129 NIS(24 Euro) to 399 NIS(75 Euros) purchasing simply doesn't make sense. At these prices one can get an excellent Barolo, CdP (look at these notes for example) or Super Tuscan wine, not to mention numerous examples of new world wines or Israeli wines. Even when one looks at the prices for Bordeaux 2005 in Europe (about 30-40% cheaper than in Israel) or the US it doesn't make sense to buy these wines. My recommendation - pass.

Chateau Arnauld - Haut Medoc 2005
Light to medium color, raspberries, some spices. Pretty round and not too tannic, even a bit sweet. The finish is not very pronounced. 85
Chateau Citran - Haut medoc 2005
Pretty dark color, blackberries, plums, cherries and smoky aromas, lacking significant mid palate, but pretty good finish. 86
Chateau Charmail - Haut Medoc 2005
Medium dark color, blueberries, very tannic and closed, lacking mid palate and an almost bitter finish. 78
Chateau d'Escurac - Medoc 2005
Blackberries, red fruit with some slight olive in the background. Pretty nice in the mouth. Full bodied and very tannic with a long and nice finish. 88
Chateau Maucaillou - Moulis en Medoc 2005
Raspberries, chocolate, nice mouth feel with a medium finish. Not very interesting. 81
Chateau Cissac - Haut Medoc 2005
Medium to dark color. Blackberries, ripe fruit with a nice smokey background. Round and nicely balanced for its "age", still enough tannins to carry it in the cellar. Medium bodied. Very nice wine. 89
Chateau Potensac - Medoc 2005
very nice and deep color. Blueberries, blackberries coffee and cocoa with a good body that ends long with some nice sweetness. The best wine of this tasting. 91
Chateau d'Agassac - Haut Medoc 2005
very closed, with some truffels (?) very mineralic and some greenness. Strange for this vintage. Medium bodied and nice finish. 79
Chateau Senejac - Haut Medoc 2005
Almost no aromas - very closed. Red berries flavors, with a good finish. Nice body, pretty balanced. 83
Chateau Chasse Spleen - Moulis en Medoc 2005
Very closed, only a bit black fruit and extremely tannic. Nice dark color. 79
Chateau Siran - Margaux 2005
Nice dark color, full bodied. Earth, minerals, blackberries. Lacks mid palate. mediocre finish. 80
Chateau Labegorce Zede - Margaux 2005
Nice aromas of raspberries, spices. Again, almost no mid palate and mediocre finish. 79

In addition, a couple of pretty nice 2004 & 2003 were served.

Chateau Sociando Mallet - Haut Medoc 2004
Dark color, full bodied, very tannic now, but has the right fruit and structure to develop nicely: plums, blackberries, earth and a nice green component. Long and tasty finish. 89
Chateau Phelan Segur - St. Estephe 2004
Wild and fruity, a bit green but with excellent finish. A wine to store for a while. 86
Chateau Poujeaux - Moulies en Medoc 2004
Medium color, Spicey and green with light to medium body, a very nice finish. 81
Chateau de Pez St. Estephe 2003
Medium color. Earth, minerals, spices and red fruit. Medium bodied. The tannins allow to enjoy the wine. Good finish. 88

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tulip Winery

Tulip winery is both a very good winery and an important human effort. The winery is located in "Kefar Tikva" - which means village of hope - a community of disabled people which provides its member the infrastructure to run their life as close as possible to non disabled people. Tulip winery provides employment possibilities for Kefar Tikva members and a focal point where visitors and members of the village meet. Interactions with people from outside of the village are very important for disabled people - said my wife the psychologist.

Their wines have received very good reviews from the Wine Advocate for the Israeli Syrah based wines. I've been too late in trying to get a hold of these wines. High (88 & 90) scores have ensured that within 3 weeks from getting the scores the winery will be out of stock. Great for them.
The Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Australian Shiraz were available and proved to be good to excellent wines. In addition to the red wines, we have tasted a, unreleased yet, new white wine, Grapa and Arak (the later is not available commercially).
The picture on the right shows the winery's founder along with the four of wines we've tasted. This is a family owned and run business, who seems to work very well.
As Yitzhak told us: "I was looking for something to do after retierment. Combining Family, wine and contribution to the community looked like the best combination". I believe many people would agree with him.

The wines:

Just Merlot 2006
Light to medium red color. Nice red fruit and some lead pencil, light bodied. A bit too alcoholic and unbalanced. Nice finish. 83

Just Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Pretty deep red color. Blackberries, blueberries with medium body and nice medium finish. The wine lacked acidity and felt a bit too sweet. 86

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005
Deep red color. Excellent nose: Blackberries, blueberries with a green component. Elegant and pleasing but with a bit too much greenness. Good sweet finish. 89

Shiraz Australian 2004
This is a very elegant and balanced wine. The deep red color gives you a first hint into this wine, then the nose has an excellent combination of cassis, Chocolate as well as herbs and blossom. good finish and medium-full bodied. This wine was produced from Australian grapes by Doron Yitzhaki - who studied wine making in Australia. 91

Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc blend 2007
This is the first vintage of this wine and if the bottling process will maintain the current quality, it should be on of the 2008 summer hits. A wonderful combination of the typical aromas of the two grapes: Tropical fruits and apricot are followed by grassy and lime notes. The mouthfeel is a combination of light sweetness and good acidity. 88-90

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vienna Restaurants

Vienna offers excellent food. Eat Wiener schnitzel almost anywhere and you will be surprised of how good this simple yet satisfying dish can be. How many zoos offer excellent schnitzel in their restaurants?
The same applies to pastry, supermarket bread is superior to what you can get in gourmet bakeries in almost anywhere besides France. Someone said Strudel?

But Vienna offers much more that that, it's a place where traditional dishes are transformed by the young generation of local chefs to modern and interesting dishes. Not too internationalized, these restaurants are redefining Viennese and Austrian food. As wine is part of the Austrian culture, wine lists are comprehensive and wine service is excellent. Following is the list of our favorite restaurants:

Kutschker44: The best restaurant in town - QPR wise. This place is run by a young Austrian couple, and combines traditional Austrian cuisine with modern creative cooking and uses local fresh ingredients. Don't miss the "Zwei Mal Schokolade" desert. The wine menu is very good, and fairly priced. We go there very frequently, and every dish that we had there was at least very good. Service is superb (which is not typical of Vienna...) 01-4702047

Hansen: A charming restaurant, inside the prettiest flower shop I have ever seen. The food is Italian with touches from France and Japan. The menu changes every week, just to find new exciting dishes. To the Israeli forum members, this restaurant reminds me of Lilith restaurant in Tel Aviv in its best days. Wine menu has both Austrian and International wines, with a good selection of wines by the glass.

The same company runs another restaurant: Vestibul, next to the Burg Theater. This is another Excellent place.

Both restaurants are under:

Steirereck is one of the most expansive and excellent places in Vienna. Its located in the Stadtpark - a green park in the center of Vienna. The food is distinctively creative Austrian, but the presentation is very modern with French influences. I have never eaten here anything less then excellent. The service is great, but expect a very formal restaurant: most men around you to wear suites - although no one will even say a word if you will come with jeans. The wine list is very rich on the Austrian side, with old vintages of Hirtzberger, FX Pichler, Knoll and others. Along with Meinl Am Graben, its one of the two best restaurants in Vienna.

Meierei: On the first floor of the same building, you will find Meierei, which hints the whole building was once a Dairy (Meierei = Dairy in German). This is a superb cheese place, with a huge selection of Austrian & French cheese and light dishes that come out of the same kitchen of the restaurant above. Wonderful place for breakfast/brunch. They offer many wines by the glass. One of my favorites is a Kracher Cheese and wine combination - heavenly!

Meinl Am Graben: is located in the same space of the gourmet store with the same name. It has a wonderful view on the graben street. The food here is a bit less creative than Steirereck, but is as good (creativity is not everything...). Old world kitchen (Austrian/French) with modern touches. The dishes are usually more towards nouvelle cuisine - light, delicate and interesting. The wine list is very good, but falls when going to old vintages - they don't have enough of those. This is a place to see and be seen: Chancellor Gussenbauer was spotted here twice. This is one of the two leading restaurants in Vienna. It provides a world class culinary experience.

Restaurant Coburg at Palais Coburg: The Palais Coburgis a luxury hotel in the recently renovated palace. This used to be the best restaurant in Vienna but showed a slight decline lately. Still its an excellent place, serving unique, creative dishes. Its a showcase of how far and modern one can take the Austrian Cuisine, while the result is still clearly unique to Austria. The wine list is stunning, presenting both an impressive international and local wines at a wide range.

01 518 18 - 800

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chateau Souverain Merlot 99

This is a good example of a wine that was bought for less then 20$, was excellent a couple of years after release and reached its peak almost 9 years later.

Chateau Souverain Merlot Alexander Vally 1999
This wine is extremely elegant and harmonic, a feminine wine with class.
Medium deep garnet color. Ripe plum and blackberries along with violet and jasmine perfumes. Coffee, leather and a slight smoked aroma which is balanced well into the wine. The mouth feel is very smooth and round. Excellent long finish. 92

I haven't tasted any current releases of this wine. Some reviews claim they have not repeated this success in current vintages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two Excellent 1999 Italian Wines

If I had to limit my wine consumption to a single country, the choice would be easy: Italy. It has many different and diverse wine producing areas, centuries of wine producing tradition and no fear from modernizing itself where needed. Some people believe that Italian wine means Tuscany and Piedmont. During the last couple of years, we've traveled quite frequently to Italy (5 hours drive from Vienna) and sampled the less known regions such as Valpolicella, Alto Adige and Friuli. This was a lesson about Italy's power in wine: there are plenty of excellent wines coming from those less known areas and mostly at reasonable prices. Still, the best bet for a food friendly wine which will age for 20-30 years is BBB: Brunello, Barbaresco & Barolo. We are lucky to have sampled two such treasures recently. Both bottles were opened a bit too young as these wines will gain from more time in the bottle.

Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 1999
Deep red, slight garnet color. An array of aromas greets you: Black cherries, licorice, tobacco and black pepper. Round but very well structured, this wine still has enough tannins for aging. It has a wonderful typical light a acidity that makes this wine perfectly balanced. Lovely finish. 95
We had this wine in the Catit restaurant in Tel Aviv - excellent food, very good service, excellent and dependable sommelier in a wonderfully restored old building in Tel Aviv.

Barolo Pio Cesare 1999
Blackberries, cherries with smoked aromas and mushrooms. Great structure and full bodied, this wine has a long life in front of him. I'll not open the next bottle for at least 5-6 years. It is very balanced and provides an excellent drinking experience today, but more bottle maturation will get even more complexity here. 93

As the picture shows, the cork was soaked. Some initial fear went easily away after one sip of the wine, which was in excellent condition.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Eve. Dinner

New Year's eve. for us has its own tradition: a feast, where every participant tries to bring his best dish. This usually means a tough choice at matching the wines, as the participants are very creative. This year, the theme was Nigella Lawson's recipes for parties. Being Israelis, most of the participants adhered to one part of the theme: recipes. Desperately trying to follow the unorganized menu, I went for an eclectic mix of Israeli, Australian & French wines, with mixed results. Some were excellent and a great companion to food, some were good and didn't work too well with food and some were just bad. The best wines of the evening were the Champagne Drappier Carte d'Or NV and Margalit C.S. 2002.

The evening started with Vitkin Riesling 2006, no notes for this wine - very good wine which went very well with the spicy Ceviche starters.

D'arenberg Laughing Magpie 2004
This is a well structured wine, with Blackberries, Licorice, smoky and spicy (pepper) flavors. It has a very clear vinous aroma, but overall it has a good balance due to good acidity and overall great fruit. The finish is medium, but very tasty. 89

Margalit Cabernet Franc 2002
Nice red to garnet color, Full bodied and excellent structured. However, it has a very mute nose showing almost no flavors. The mouth showed some nice green spicy components and the wine was pleasant even with its aromatic flaw. Medium finish. Big disappointment. 77

Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Excellent red/garnet color, full bodied and very well structured. Excellent aromas: Blueberries, raspberries and very perfumy. This is an elegant, round and very balanced wine which has at leas another 3-4 years to age. The finish was of medium length, but great taste. 92
Food pairing: Surprisingly, the C.S. worked very well with a medium spicy chili con carne with Polenta.

Sea Horse, Lennon Tete de Cuvee 2005
This seems to have been a corked bottle: wet cardboard was the most significant aroma. The mouth was reasonable with good acidity. 65

Drappier Carte d'Or NV
Light straw color. Excellent tropical fruit aromas: pineapple, mango balanced but nutty and lime
aromas. Very well balanced, round and harmonic. An excellent way to open 2008! 90

Domenico Clerico Barbera

Domenico Clerico is undoubtedly one of the leading winemakers in Piedmont. His Per Cristina and Pajana Barolos are consistently among the best. This time, the focus is on a more affordable wine:

Domenico Clerico, Barbera d'Alba Trevigne 2004
Blackberries, green peppers, good acidity and very alcoholic. Strawberries in the mouth feel add to this focused and food friendly wine.Very nice finish and reasonable amount of tannins that will allow this wine to age another 3-4 years. 90