My next post on France is basically written – just editing now – but before I post that, I figured I would quickly write up this month’s RCC. I don’t like to postpone those as I take shorthand notes during those tastings, and if I wait too long I have a hard time reconstructing what I meant! This month we were hosted by a Chef Josh Weisberg in his home. Josh has a very interesting background – but in this context he has cooked at the famous T’mol Shilshom restaurant in Jerusalem and hosts parties of 12-25 at his home in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. You can learn all about him here . He was willing to change the menu to our requirements as well as provide vegan options rather late in the game and was an all-around pleasure to work with. On top of that, he made some of the best pastrami I’ve ever had, and (to borrow from the Godfather) I’ve had pastrami all over the world! He cures it and smokes it himself (he uses a Traeger pellet smoker – pretty much guaranteeing a nice juicy result) It was really good. Another highlight was the lamb soup. Really excellent stuff. The only downside (for an RCC) is that obviously this makes sense to him financially only in quantity – so that means a larger number of people than we usually like to have at an RCC. We were 15 people and we had a total of 18 wines to taste through over dinner. As I have said before, that is too many – gives less time to enjoy each wine – and because it is being divided among 15 instead of the optimal 10, less wine per person to potentially taste. To counter that, at least in my own small way, I brought a magnum – but that is not something that everyone can do. So that was the only downside in our situation – logistics. The food though was great. The host was gracious. And – as always – the guests were a great group of people and a fun time was had by all. We even had a siyum on Masechet Moed Katan to start us off right, by our guest, Jerome Parness, who joined us with his wonderful wife Smadar, who are here visiting from the US.
But of course, this is a wine blog – so here we go. I have to say this was a mixed bag this month. There were an equal number of misses to hits. We actually tasted through a number of early aughts Barkan Superiur bottles – a Pinotage, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot was dead, the Pinotage well past its prime, and Cabernet Sauvignon was in surprisingly good shape. Having said that – as is the case with many, many Israeli wines – even the best – there is VERY little development of tertiary flavors or aromas on these bottles – even in the best of circumstances. Israeli wines often seem to be in a state of arrested development. It’s not that they feel over the hill – but it’s not like they really went anywhere or developed either. The highlights of the night for me were the 2014 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 D’Arduhuy Cotes de Beaune, and the 2015 TdS Riserva. As I mentioned – there were a lot of wines and this was a bit sub-optimal for note taking, so my notes are somewhat abbreviated (especially with the earlier wines) this time around.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, 2009 – It’s been a good 3-4 years since we had this vintage at an RCC. I have to say it shows BEAUTIFULLY – and proves time and time again – that there is no beating GHW in the sparkling wine game. The wine is at peak and has everything you want, a mix of mellow toasted brioche with some tart lemon and nice green apple in the background, with a hint of lemon curd as well. Really, really beautiful and the most enjoyable sparkling I have had in months – and I have tasted through a ton recently (In France we tasted through a number of Champagnes and then in December I attended a tasting of 20 or so sparklings from Israel and around the world).
Ya’acov Oryah, Alpha Omega, 2014 – It is no secret that I have not been a fan of the 2014 vintage of the Alpha Omega. I was interested in seeing if it had improved though with age. Unfortunately for me, only slightly. The tannin was more integrated – but all of the luscious flavor that you get on the 2016 or 2017 Machitzedek is missing.
Covenant, Lavan, Chardonnay, 2015 – Developing as you would expect. Rich and creamy. More on the apple side of things – and a touch sweet – but nice profile overall. The acid doesn’t seem to be particularly prevalent here – so I would drink up.
Hajdu, Nebbiolo, 2014 – There aren’t very many kosher Nebbiolos, and back in 2014 there were even fewer. This has the acid that is expected of Nebbiolo – let’s get that straight. The rest of the profile is nice red tart fruit. It isn’t particularly complex though. I have had this a couple of times before, and my hope was that with some age it would develop into something a bit more interesting – but the tannin here has softened to the point that I don’t think that will happen. Still, nice enough, but drink up.
Barkan, Reserve, Pinotage, 2001 – (Bonus Bottle) – Was dead within five minutes of pouring.
Barkan, Superieur, Pinotage, 2002 – This bottle was actually in relatively decent shape, though over the hill. Still, it had not fallen apart, just had started to develop some stewed fruit flavors around the edges. Nothing too complex here – just the basics – but again, nice enough. This might have been slightly more interesting even three years ago.
Barkan, Superieur, Merlot, 2000 – (Note: the menu mistakenly stated Cabernet Sauvignon) – Dead.
Barkan, Superieur, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 – Of the three bottles of this series, and of this era, this wine showed the best by far. It seems to have been preserved perfectly. Very nice black plum and dark red fruit, chocolate, and a hint of oak. In fact, the only sign of its age was that the tannin was barely there compared to what it once was. And that’s the rub – after 19 years, and the wine holding up well – I would have expected some tertiary development. That didn’t happen. But really, other than that, this wine was super impressive, if not the most complex bottle of the evening.
Barkan, Superieur, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 – (Bonus Bottle) – As opposed to its older brother, this wine was NOT surprising. It was a big old hot mess – as expected. I am not going to go into any more detail – it was just a big pass for me.
Latour Netofa, 2013 – (Bonus Bottle) – Over the last year, I have had a number of these and the last two seemed slightly over the hill. This bottle was in much better shape and showed beautifully with nice blue and near black fruit, rich earth, mineral, and some smoked meat. When this wine is on, it ROCKS. Having said that, my advice would still be to drink up and not chance it. Enjoy!
Domaine d’Ardhuy, Côte de Beaune Villages, 2014 – I had this last about 1.5 years ago, and it felt like a good time to check in again. The wine was decanted for about 2.5 hours. The nose here is super expressive – full of mushrooms and earth, cherry and raspberry. Really wonderful. The mouth here was still VERY closed. With a ton of aeration you could coax it out a little – but really this wine needs to sleep for another 2-3 years before it hits its stride. Tons of potential – just not ready for an RCC just yet.
Carmel, Kayoumi, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (Magnum) – This wine showed really well (it was my contribution) considering its age. On the nose – beautiful dark red and black fruit – blackberry, raspberry, some earth, and some lead. In the mouth, this full-bodied wine was in full form with blackberry, cherry, raspberry, dark chocolate, and some sweet oak. The acid was still holding nicely to balance out all of that richness. The tannin is well integrated at this point – and I would guess that in a regular format bottle might be near non-existent. The finish was nice with dark chocolate, sweet oak, graphite, earth, and tobacco. Again, this was a magnum and is drink up – so interpret that how you will for regular format bottles.
Tabor, Malkiya, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 – On the nose, mostly red and black fruit and sweet oak. In the mouth, we have ripe raspberry and blackberry, some sweet tobacco and oak. The acid was medium plus and the tannin has moved further back into the wine. The finish was the best piece here and was earthier with some nice tobacco and herb. I think this wine is at peak now and should hold there for another year or so.
Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Riserva, 2015 – In terms of which wine was my favorite to drink of the night – this is likely it. It is firing on all cylinders. The nose here is pretty much perfect with tons of rich dense earth, mushrooms, and loads of herbs, followed by very dark fruit. In the mouth, the wine unfolds in reverse – first ripe blackberry and dark red raspberry, followed by tons of toasted herbs, then excellent mushrooms, all enveloped in a wonderful earthiness. The acid here perfectly balanced everything out. The wine was decanted for about two hours – and that was perfect at this stage. The finish was long and most herbal with some tobacco. I really loved drinking this.
Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, 2013 – Very similar notes on the Riserva above, though a bit muted. Not sure if this is a travel issue or just the wine at this stage. The wine showed nicely despite that, but it was hard not to notice when drinking the 2 TdS wines back to back.
Four Gates, Merlot, 2012 – I have tasted this wine twice before and this wine did NOT show well. Many aspects were muted and the oak seemed intensified to a degree. That’s not to say it showed poorly overall – but definitely was not showing the way it should. This is the second time in three months that we have had a Four Gates wine present like this. The last time was the 2011 Merlot and now the 2012. Both bottles had traveled from the US less than a week before we opened them – and I would have to assume that therein lies the issue…..
Four Gates, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 – Now this Four Gates on the other hand was sourced locally and suffered none of the aforementioned issues. Wow! This wine is a blockbuster and was likely technically the best wine of the night – though it is very young. Incredible classic nose of blackberry, black plum, lead, herb, and earth. Again, this wine is SUPER young – it decanted for over three hours and was still super closed. With patience and a lot of vigorous aeration, the wine starts to come out with layers of ripe juicy black plum, blackberry, earth, chocolate, herb, and sweet oak. You can tell that there is a ton more to come – but this was simply not the setting for this. I nursed my glass as long as I could though. Wonderful stuff and I’m looking forward to tasting again.
Tischler & Halpern Reserve, Tokaji Aszú, 5 Puttonyos, 2015 – Has not changed at all since my last note. Excellent wine.
My thanks to Chef Josh Weisberg for a wonderful evening. Chodesh Tov!
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