This was a very special & unique night. Not only were we celebrating the new month (late and I guess not so new anymore) but Simon Jacob’s birthday – and for that, we went all out and broke a few of our rules . We opened the evening up to as many participants as we could handle – we had well over 20 diners I believe. Within the obscene wine list, we had an almost complete vertical of the Carmel Limited Edition ’03-’11 (we were missing the ’05 and opted to not open the far from ready ’12 & ’13). We also were privileged to have for dessert perhaps the best kosher Sauternes ever produced, the 2014 La Tour Blanche – a wine far from peak, but showing beautifully.
This crazy event was far too massive to hold in someone’s home so we opted to host it at an alternate venue – Spoons in Yaffo, run by Chef Hila Solomon – which meant another first for us, hosting an RCC Israel outside of Jerusalem. Having this many drinkers and this many wines provided more than a few logistical hurdles:
- Splitting a single bottle over that many people means approximately 35ml per person (or about 1/6 of a cup for those in the US) – which we thought might be too little, but in the end, every single guest fel t it was enought o get a nice taste.
- Having this many wines to pour over the course of an evening – and in such an exacting matter made me very nervous. In the end for a few of the rounds I asked one of the guests to help and for the most part, we were able to get everything done reasonably efficiently, quickly and with decent precision. Thanks Ari!
There were a few casualties as a result of all of this –
- I barely got to eat or even notice the food that was going around hence there are no pictures or descriptions of the food – though I hear that Hila’s food was fantastic.
- My notes were shorter and less descriptive than usual – and for this dear reader, I truly apologize, because the wines were epic and they deserve their due.
The way this worked was each diner had 2 glasses and wines were poured in pairs. For the most part, I tried to arrange parings that made sense (as most people would naturally compare one to the other), though sometimes, that didn’t always work out. Here are my notes:
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2004 – This was my first and likely only opportunity to try this wine. I have nothing to compare it too. It is by far the oldest still white I have tasted at 13 years past vintage. For me this wine was still alive with a decent amount of acidity. And not only alive – but really awesome with fresh cut grass on the nose and in the mouth with some roasted almonds added in to the mix on the finish. Really excellent. Again – is it on the decline – I would guess by the age, yes – but WOW!
Asif, White Blend, 2008 – This is the last year that Asif winery was still called Asif before switching over to Midbar – and the last year under full control of Yaacov Oryah. While not DOA, this wine was WAY past peak – as opposed to the next wine we tasted….
Yaacov Oryah, Hunters Valley, Semillon, 2009 – No change here from previous tastings – still awesomeness in a bottle. Truth is, this is likely not at peak – and may very well be a better wine at 13 than the SHL Blanc ’04!
Gvaot, Masada, Merlot, 2005 – A late addition that did not make it on to the menu before printing. Sadly, also over the hill. Not much there. Some said that it improved in the glass over time – this was a luxury that I did not have during this event…
Domaine Gachot-Monot, Côte de Nuits Villages, Burgundy, 2009 – So I understand this is an entry level Burgundy – but ya know, I really liked it. Could be that it followed the disappointing wine above, but here in Israel, it is so rare to get to drink varietally true PN. Super complex? No. But nice and pleasant.
Falesco, Montiano, Lazio, Umbria, 2008 -Reportedly this wine suffers from bottle variation. I guess we missed out…
ElviWines, Clos Mesorah, 2009 – No real change from last time we had it (last month) – awesome with layers of fruit, smoked meat and earth. Really it’s hard not to compare consecutive wines – I liked this A LOT more than the Falesco.
Flam, Reserve, Merlot, 2010 – This is one of my favorite Israeli Merlots (I think the ’14 beats it – but that one is far from ready). This guy is at peak now where it should stay for a bit. Fruity nose, less so in the mouth where you also get that chocolatey-earthy profile. Really nice!
Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2011 – Showing nicely and at peak now – though really paled in comparison to the Merlot above that it was served with.
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2003 – This was one of the more controversial wines of the night. Some people thought it was tired. Some people thought it was one of the best of the night. It was neither. It was in the middle of the pack as far as the LE vertical goes – but it was FAR from the best of the night – LE ’07, ’08 ’10 were better – lets not even talk about the SHL, HC, Noble etc…. But still, for a 14 year old Israeli red, it was holding up very nicely indeed, though past peak.
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2007 – The outlier of the LE series as this one does have that faint Bret nose and mouth, but I still love it (that profile is a love it or hate it kind of thing) – I still prefer the ’08, but really, really nice. It’s not getting any better, but this tastes remarkably consistent now over the last 3 years without deteriorating. So drink ’em if you got ’em.
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2008 – For me the King of the LE’s and one of the best Israeli reds. We have this often at RCC’s – I never turn it down when someone offers. I can’t – I don’t have anymore and I am always craving it…
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2009 – What can I say, I’m not a fan. This is the most muted version of LE that was released. The basics are all there – but it’s like you are tasting it fater it has been open too long – though not oxidized. Just muted.
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2010 – Probably my 3rd favorite LE of the night – will likely become my second favorite overall in the long-term. It is the most like the ’08 in terms of profile and structure. It just needs a few more years to totally get there . The ’08 itself is only now really at peak. I doubt it’ll ever be as good as it’s older brother, but still if you can’t be Payton Manning, being Eli is not the worst thing in the world.
Carmel, Limited Edition, 2011 – My second least favorite LE for now, I’m hoping that it really is just too young. (I had secretly brought with me bottles of the ’12 & ’13 but seeing where the ’11 was holding – and being that we had already missed the ’05 I decided to skip).
Just a quick note here. As we tasted through all of the LE’s what comes through is an overall consistency in profile – even the ’07 which is the most different. That is no easy feat. It is something that one looks for in the top wines of Bordeaux – and part of the reason as to why they garner the highest prices – even in weaker vintages, there is a reliable baseline that you can be sure you are always getting – not just in quality, but in profile. Overall, Carmel does NOT get the credit it deserves. With the exception of the supermarket level Private Collection, they produce quality wines. Their LE and SV’s are almost surefire winners, and even in the Appelation, Vineyards newer “Vats” series, they consistently put out good to excellent wine that give SUPERB value. They are almost all QPR stars! That’s not say there aren’t misses (I’m looking at you LE ’09 and you Admon Malbec ’13) , but overall I think they are great and the best of the large scale wineries. I know that recently there is some management turmoil with the winery having changed hands a couple of years back, and many people in the back office exiting of late, but until now, that has not affected the wine – let’s hope that stays true.
Four Gates, Cabernet Franc, Santa Cruz, 2011 – Layers of fruits and herbs – really too much to take in in the sort time I had with it. Also a lack of decanters meant that whiel we pushed this last, it really didn’t open up enough (dropping the shoulders with som many drinkers was impossible).
Flam, Noble, 2010 – What a delicious wine. Everything comes together in harmony to present a beautifully balanced wine full of rich fruit and nice spice. This was likely in the top 5 for sure, and was my second favorite Israeli wine of the night.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, 2000 – HOLY CRAP! This wine was GREAT. Clear winner of the night for me.
Château Haut-Condissas, Médoc, 2005 – This was a dvisive wine. A few people around the tabel were sort of “meh”. I am reaosnably sure this has to do with the fac that it followed the ’00 SHL – which of COURSE is a better wine. Another thing might have been palate fatigue – there were a LOT of wines to taste, and many people around the table had not ever done 20+ bottles at a sitting (not something I recommend anyhow). I any event, I liked this wine very much – perhaps atie for # 5in the top 5 of the night (1. being a tie between the SHL and the La Tour Blanche coming up, number 3 being the ’08 LE and # 4 being the ’10 Noble and tied for 5th with the ’09 Clos Mesorah).
Château Fontenil, Fronsac, 2015 – Here was another rule we broke – allowing a wine so young on the menu, but the birthday boy wanted it there…. What is really cool about this wine – and why it’s such a winner – is how approachable it is on release. Is it going to ever be as good as any of the big boys of ’15? Not likely. But those guys are literally undrinkable right now. This one you can enjoy now – and likely will develop further (and hopefully not sweeten) in the future. It is slightly atypical for a ’15 and for a Michel Rolland wine. It is very fruity with a ton of red berries and a hint of chocolate. Over very enjoyable now and will likely get better int he future. For me, that’s a win!
Château La Tour Blanche , Sauternes, 2014 – Believe it or not, this might have been my favorite wine of the night – thought it’s likely a tie with the SHL. Could be that it was just a break after all of those reds. In any event, talk about layers of flavor. They unflold as you sip. Honey apricot, nuts, oranges, vanilla. Nice acid to balance. Just incredible. And it was just released. Imagine what this guy will be like in 5-10 years. If you can afford it, it’s a wine to buy and lay down. As worthy as ANY red IMHO.
If you have read this through, congrats – and thanks for staying with me. While I am thanking people, my thanks to Simon Jacob for helping to arrange this event -even though he was the man of honor – and for being just an awesome guy! Simon is the perfect example of the reason we do this each month. Once in a while, you get to meet someone who you truly treasure. I have been blessed to meet quite a few – but Simon is at the top of the list. Happy Birthday Simon!