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