RCC Israel # 35 – Shevat 5780

This month we had the opportunity to work with a chef whom I have been wanting to try for a long time – Amrom Pitterman. Each time I would try, he was busy or abroad, and so other arrangements were always made. But the stars aligned this month, and we were beneficiaries of five excellent and super-inventive courses. After last month’s slight wrong turn foodwise, we came back with a vengeance this month, and this meal is up there with the very best RCC’s I have been to. There were no misses, and really each course deserves to be on the highlight reel. Little touches here and there that really elevated each dish. The salmon ceviche had the most excellent thin and crispy salmon skin chips, which gave it a wonderful texture. The lamb dish with homemade laffa and dehydrated techina that burst with flavor when all of the components came together in your mouth. The wonderfully delicate oxtail ravioli with a mound of shaved truffle that just brought the flavor to new heights. The flatiron steaks cooked two ways for a contrast in texture and cooking style. And the desert – ten components all adding complexity while working harmoniously to bring depth to the whole that was completely unexpected. Simply a tour de force. Amram can be reached by email at amrompitterman@gmail.com. As you can guess – he is highly recommended!

I also had the pleasure of hosting David Cohen Aleta of Elvi – who is here for KFWE-Tel Aviv – as my guest for this RCC, and he brought with him two higher end current Elvi releases in addition to his RCC bottle (a 2010 Rioja Reserva) for us to enjoy. Here are the notes on the wines:

Golan Heights Winery, Gamla Hashmura, Brut, N.V. – No change here from previous tastings. This wine is still holding nicely. It probably has another six months to a year on it. The only real sign that it is starting to show its age is in how quickly the mousse dissipates. Hopefully we will get the next batch of this excellent QPR superstar in that time as this is basically sold out in most places.

Ya’acov Oryah, Valley of the Hunter, Sémillon, 2009 – This was the absolute best showing we have had of this bottle in the last year. Firing on all cylinders. No change in terms of notes from where it was at peak. The thing is these are now hit or miss depending on storage, etc. So as far as I’m concerned, drink up.

Shiran, Shirat Hamakhela, Merlot, 2013 – This wine is a single vineyard limited release. The vineyard in question in Kfar Tapuach was only available to Eli for the one year and so this was a one-off. While the rest of the 2013 releases from Shiran drink hot, this wine does not and is actually nicely balanced. For me though, the style is not one that I necessarily connect with. Very typical run of the mill Israeli with overly ripe fruit and lots of oak. For fans of the style it is an absolute hit. I take solace in the fact that Eli shifted his style from the 2016 vintage – and each vintage since has seen improvements.

Flam, Reserve, Merlot, 2010 – This was the first of two wines that we had last month as well. Unfortunately this bottle was stored improperly and was a bit of a mess. I can’t stress enough – investing time and money in wine is absolutely worthless if you don’t store the wine properly!!!!

Hagafen, Cabernet Franc, 2012After last month’s relatively nice showing of the 2011, I was really excited to see how the 2012 was doing. Unfortunately here was another wine that was absolutely dead due to storage. Uch! Two in a row.

Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Riserva, 2010 – After two storage related misses, I was starting to get nervous. Then I opened this bottle and saw that the inward facing side of the cork looked off colored – and perhaps and mold on it and I got really nervous. But after we tasted this wine I was pleasantly surprised. There was beautiful moist earth and mushroom on the nose. In the mouth, light to medium bodied with beautiful green herbs, cherries, and mushrooms. Tannin here is very well integrated, but the acid keeps it bright. A really beautiful wine. I would say this is at peak now and will hold for another year or two depending on storage.

ElviWines, Herenza, Rioja Reserva, 2010 – For the first time this wine really came into its own and showed spectacularly. The notes haven’t changed. Same spectacular nose. Crazy acid. Wonderful mouth with incredible tart cranberry and raspberry with leather, earth and mushroom, and a finish that goes on and on. But it just SANG. Hands down my favorite of the night.

Gvaot, Masada, 2012 – This is the second of two wines to make back- to-back appearances at RCC. While I think the bottle was fine and did not show badly, it had the unfortunate luck of following the Reserva and it felt a little washed out. Still, that’s an issue of progression and is more my fault for listening to a crowd request for doing a Riserva to Reserva back to back comparison. I should have known better than to have said yes and saved the Reserva until the end.

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 – This wine did not show well. I don’t know if it was storage (nothing seemed off per se…) but the wine was really generic tasting at best.

Hagafen, Prix Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, 2010 – After two strikes on Hagafen wines this evening, the Prix finally came through. While it wasn’t a knockout, it was head and shoulders above the other two. So weird because last month the Hagafens showed really well. In any event this bottle was nice enough with nice tannic structure and typical flavors of dark red fruit, a hint of lead, and some chocolate. I don’t see this as getting much better. Drink now.

Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 – Wow – FINALLY – a CS win for the night. This is what you are looking for in a Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, crazy dark red fruit with nice toasted herb in the background. In the mouth, you have awesome rich ripe but controlled red fruit with a thin streak of graphite and a touch of licorice and some excellent spice. This wine has plenty of time ahead of it – the tannin is only just beginning to integrate – though it is really enjoyable now too. The finish on this intense wine is long with chocolate, tobacco, graphite, more red fruit, cedar, and some nice leather. Big winner here.

ElviWines, Clos Mesorah, 2015 – While the El 26 came first and is officially “at the same level” – Clos Mesorah is THE flagship wine for Elvi. It is just delicious. This wine was decanted for about three hours or so, and the nose showed beautifully with dark fruit, toasted herbs, and rich earth. In the mouth, this wine unfolds with loads of dark blue and black fruit, smoked meat, tons of herbs and tobacco, and a nice graphite streak.. The tannin here is still really aggressive – it’s really young. A powerhouse – but I would say don’t bother opening for another 5 years at least.

ElviWines, El 26, 2015 – Is it the Clos Mesorah? No – but its excellent. It actually presents far more new world and fruit forward than its brother. This was also decanted for three hours. Both on the nose and in the mouth you have really ripe near black fruit – but it is absolutely controlled and is not at all pushed, with sweet cedar, chocolate, and some excellent mineral that shines on the mid palate and carries through to the finish, where it is joined by some tobacco. This wine is also a baby with mouth searing tannin and ample acidity that needs time to settle down. I would give this 3-4 more years before opening.

ElviWines, El 26, 2010 – This is the one Elvi bottle that David did not contribute. I was SOOO looking forward to this. as I have never had this vintage – but here we go again. STORAGE. This wine seemed disjointed and sweet. Clearly cooked in the bottle! Why take a great wine and kill it like this? In this case the wine was bought recently from a wine store in the shuk. As I understand it the store looked like it had decent storage – but it only opened recently. So how do they have a bottle that was released 5-7 years ago? The answer is they bought someone else’s stock. This is why you have to really have trust in your local wine merchant for any back vintage purchase. I don’t even think that the store was trying to pull something over on anyone – they simply don’t know any better. But now dear reader, you do. Don’t buy wines unless you know that the wine has been stored properly from release!

Carmel, Vintage, Port-Style, 2004 – While some around the table thought this was fine, this seemed super flat and uni-dimensional. Might have been nice once upon a time, but this one is pretty much a ghost now.

All in all, it was a wonderful night and a nice start to the intense wine event month that is now upon us. Chodesh tov and happy drinking!

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