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Posts Tagged ‘Wine tasting’

A Vogne-Romanee over my notes.

I’m thinking of changing the name to “Wine Wednesday.” The W’s go so well with the day I happen to write these posts.  Opinions?  I’m also not sure anyone is reading — my more quirky culture posts seem more popular — so give me a shout out in any case to let me know your thoughts.

What I Tasted:

I was invited by my employer to attend a private wine tasting hosted by a major import company, featuring the wines of M. Chapoutier.  It was held at the Institut Francais on Rothschild Blv in Tel Aviv.  I’m a big fan of Rhone Valley wines, Syrahs can drive me nuts, I swear.  But, they’ve got to be good, and it’s a region that exports a lot of mediocre stuff.  Apart from the exceptional blini being served along with excessive amounts of French cheeses, a knowledgeable representative of Chapoutier presented a long array of his wines.  The only ones of note to me were the “Ermitage” wines.  Ermitage (without the more common “H” – Hermitage – is commonly used to denote the better single vineyard wines) wines that were best included their “Le Pavillion” and  “L’Ermite.” At the time I didn’t know that they were priced at 147 and 176 Euro per bottle, but it makes sense.  These single vineyards are ancient, the Pavillion on the slope side of the larger pf the two Hermitage hills, and the L’Ermite at the top, where the soil is very poor, the ancient vines really needing to fight to survive, and producing a terribly small yield.  The Hermitage region is one I will be keeping an eye on.  These wines are bold and full of fruit, that gorgeous cassis I adore so much, that rich magenta color – so different from the Bourgognes we drink often at the wine shop. Interesting facts: Hermitage wines were the favorite of the Czars of Russia, and in fact, in the 19th century Bordeaux wines were “hermitaged” (mixed with Hermitage) in order to fetch a higher price.  Cool beans.

I also had the pleasure of drinking the above pictured wine this week, and it was wonderful.  The “La Forge de Tart” is the second wine, one of two, that this domain makes, and it doesn’t come out every year.  As a “second” wine, it’s laughable, as it’s as good as most grand cru Bourgognes out there.  This producer’s got a crazy awesome story, so here’s a little about the “Clos de Tart:”

A rare gem, Clos de Tart has been owned by the Mommessin family since 1932 — only the third proprietor of this historic domaine founded in 1141 by Cistercian nuns, the Bernardines de Tart. Located on the very best slopes of Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits, Clos de Tart, only 7.53 hectares (18.6 acres) in size, is the largest grand cru monopole in Burgundy, with a picturesque, 15th-century, stone wall surrounding the grand cru vineyard. Clos de Tart carries the distinction of being one of the few grand cru monopoles in Burgundy that comprises an appellation in its entirety. Clos de Tart makes just two wines. Low-yield, old-vine vineyards are harvested by hand and vinified in six separate lots, and the best lots achieve the bottled status of Clos de Tart Grand Cru. In some vintages, the domaine also produces a second wine called La Forge de Tart Premier Cru, which is typically made from the younger vines (25 years and under).

That’s it for me this week, I’m afraid.  I’m exhausted and expected at the wine shop in under an hour.  Night before last was an all-nighter, spent writing a short story I should have been developing for over a month.  Oh well.  I’m still very proud of what I produced.  Perhaps I’ll post it here…after a couple revisions.  Human milk has been in the news a good amount these days… Cheers to you all!  Always remember to drink good wines…life is far too short.

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Welcome to weekly fun stories, facts,and resources about wine – usually gleaned during the past week by me.

News

Hubert de Montille

 

Hubert and Etienne de Montille, granddaddy of Domaine De Montille and his son, are in Israel this week.  The wine store where I work carries a large and exceptional array of their family’s wines.  It’s a bizarre honor for us to have him here.  There is an exclusive wine tasting with them on Monday, March 14, at Delal Restaurant (in Neve Tsedek).  Information in Hebrew (google translation into English).  It costs 600 shekels, but if you have the dough, go!

LA MAISON LADURÉE macarons, Paris, brought by the de Montilles. Best I’ve ever had.

Domaine De Montille: Located in Volnay, just south of Beaune, this winery boasts some of the most prized red wine producing vineyards of the Côte de Beaune.  From their holdings in Volnay and Pommard, Hubert and Etienne de Montille (father & son) craft some of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of Burgundy.  Their wines can be found on the lists of virtually every three star restraurant in France.

Visit to the Golan Heights Winery

I spent all day yesterday up in Katzrin – through torrents of rain, hail, and the thickest fog I have ever seen.  All this for work, but it was more than worth it.  A long tour, a comparison wine tasting with one of winery’s senior vintners, Tali Sandovsky, viewing the bottling of Golan Cabernet Sauvignon, finished with a lunch at what could only be described as an Israeli-Cowboy-Chalet of a restaurant – it was fantastic.  I managed to pick up an elusive rare bottle of Gamla Nebbiolo.  Here are some snapshots:

Wine tasting in the winery's private tasting room.

Final L'Chaim before bracing the elements once again.

Links

A handy guide to wine-tasting terms.  Fantastic little resource.

There’s a new Israeli website on Bourgogne wines!  And it’s the mecca on this region’s wines, in the Hebrew language that is.  Actually, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Those of you who struggle with or don’t have any Hebrew, use Google Translate.  A clear, detailed map, concise information on many domaines, descriptions of every vintage in recent memory, and much more.

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Hit “play” and keep reading.  Just do it.  I’m aiming for some atmosphere here.

Another Friday, another wine tasting.  The wine shop had a decent soundtrack. Sade always takes me back to the summer of 1997.  I had just graduated from high school, I was about to start my first year at the University of Chicago, and life was just buzzing.  I found a great summer job at the Rand McNally store at the mall.  A combination travel bookstore, map store, travel accessories and luggage store, and fancy travel-related gift store (expensive globes, paperweights, penknives with compasses, etc), it was kind of a perfect place for me to work.  My parents were gone half the summer, I had my own car, MTV still played awesome music videos, grunge still clung, nobody had heard of Britney, summer festivals and parades were on the agenda, and the weather was fine fine fine. Not a care in the world.

And Sade.

So much of retail is the same.  You end up standing around a lot.  Today’s wine tasting, included.  I remember three states of being while I was at work: 1) bored; 2) frustrated and ready to go home, and; 3) so busy I couldn’t keep up with the customers and demands.  The time was broken up evenly between the three.  The store’s CD player (a boom box on the floor in the back) alternated between the Best of the Police and Sade.  Perhaps we had some Enya, too.  I was thankful.  The summer before I had to deal with fitting lingerie on fat old ladies while listening to “smooth jazz” (Kenny G and his contemporaries).  I can safely say this is perhaps the one genre of music I really loathe.  But when I hear Sade, I’m transported to that store, the awesome collection books I got to devour, the globes to play with, the funky trinkets like airplane ear plugs and bizarre “hidden” money belts, the word and number and geometry games I would invent for myself when it was slow.  No – it transports me further.  I hear Sade and I can even feel the clothing I wore on me (khaki trousers and bright polo shirts – oh yes it was rather ugly and rather butch), the first diary I ever kept with the cover of Monet’s painting of the woman with a parasol on the hill with the blue skies behind her (I would write dozens and dozens of pages every day, at home, on coffee breaks and lunch, it felt so important somehow), my first NC-17 film (The Pillow Book), and the pennies, yes, probably the hundred or so pennies I tossed up with wishes, one every day, into a large pseudo-rococo fountain in the mall near the store.

My journal cover

And Sade.

And today.  And then.  What a difference.  What little has changed.  I remember my general state that summer being one of sheer excitement.  My “whole life was ahead of me.”  I knew that I would be going away to four years of incredible adventures in universityland.  And four years was an eternity.  As scared as teenagers can be.  As anxious as teenagers can be (and boy was I anxious – those were the days before I knew what panic attacks actually were).  Anything was possible.  And everything was certain.  Now, nothing is certain.  Four years of knowing where you’ll be as opposed to not knowing what each day will bring.  Not knowing what work I will have.  Not knowing where I’ll up and move to.  Not knowing.  And lots of worries about practical things – money, transportation, bills, chores, money, veterinarian appointments, dentist, money, parents, work, work, work, money. Jeez. Is this life?

The funny thing is, I’m still OK.  I’m very OK.  I’m calmer.  I’m dealing.  I am a healthier person.  But boy do I wish I had that certainty again.  Four years.  Sure, there was anxiety up the wazoo, big time.  Mood swings.  Depression.  Self-confidence in the toilet.  But the rapture! College, books, writing, art, travel, the future.  Absolutely certain of the fact that things were about to get better and better.  I’m healthy now.  But I want that optimism back.  The energy.  The certainty.  With my deeper understanding of and perspective on reality, is it possible?  Is this perception even real?

It was a good tasting.  Sold about 10 bottles, 5 of which were really gorgeous, expensive single vineyards.  I haven’t lost it.  If I love something, really love something, I can sell it.  But only if people want to buy it, that is.  Boy was it amazing when I discovered that.  I could sell guidebooks, suitcases, globes, almost anything in that store, because I loved almost everything in that store.  I gave restaurant tips for people going to Paris, for goodness sake.  At 18.

And Sade.

This is no ordinary love.  How ethereal.  How evocative of… a time and place that you feel you remember intimately, but only vaguely, like a dream, like a Mr Holland’s Opus Bill Clinton is Sexy Manhattan Project Priscilla Queen of the Desert  Blade Runner The Real World Milan Kundera Pearl Jam Wimbledon and Chocolate Carmina  Burana Silver Cigarette Case Sunrise on Lake Michigan Womyn’s Bookstore Rocky Horror Endless Cup of Coffee Tori Peppermint Tea Rainbow Melissa Atom Bomb 1984 Washington DC Shakespeare Picasso Posters The Tempest Names Project Angel Hair Pasta Kate Winslet Borders Books Volkswagen Indigo Camp Visit Words Words Words and Heat, kind of place.

No ordinary love. God. What is that?

But.

What love is ordinary?

Retail is limbo.

Christ in Limbo, after Hieronymus Bosch (16th century)

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“Uh…no thanks…haven’t eaten lunch yet, and I don’t like red wine anyway.”  Typical.  Wine tasting yesterday at a really nice shop I frequently work at.  The humorous, sad, and frustrating parts of my work.

Galil Mountain Winery's Shiraz Cabernet

It never ceases to amaze me what excuses people come up with for refusing a wine tasting.  Now, I have no problem with people simply saying, “no thanks.”  Whatever.  There just seems to be so much guilt attached to such an encounter.  You never get something for nothing in this world.  But with responses such as, “I don’t drink alcohol at all,” or “I just had lunch, I can’t,” people sound ridiculous.  They might as well say, “No thanks, the sky is just too blue today,” or “Sorry, I don’t consume liquids at all, I’m on an intravenous drip for all my nutrients.”

Then there are those who avert their eyes so much so, preparing themselves from a block away, it looks like they’re going to have a brain hemorrhage for the effort.  People pretend to have a phone call right as they reach me.  People hurry past so quickly, on a slow-going Friday afternoon.  Ridiculous.

And you know what?  I really don’t care if they buy.  I like to give people free wine.  I had Galil Mountain Winery’s Shiraz Cabernet on offer, a very very reasonable wine, 49 shekels ($12-ish) and an excellent one at that.  I drink it, enjoy it, and believe the price point is too low.  It’s such a crowd pleaser.  Then I had a chilled Gamla Chardonnay, perfect for the ridiculously hot day.  Sure, it’s always good when people buy.  It strengthens my relationship with the store I’m working at, more so than with the winery.  Makes them want to have me back.  I’m good at what I do, and I’m a genuine article.  I don’t sell people things they don’t want to buy.  I get no commission, and if they want another winery’s wine, I make recommendations from personal experience.  Happy to do so.  Which makes it all the more frustrating when people walk buy, not without stopping, but believing I’m some puppet marketing vulture.  Which in a way we in your face hired hands are.  Still.  Makes my day kind of suck.

You know what?  I love wine.  The industry kind of rocks.  But I get it.  I don’t feel like drinking wine too much these days.  I just don’t.  If I were walking down the street there’s a big chance I would taste wine either.  What a world.

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A ripe, runny Camembert. At iGourmet.com.

I discovered the best place in Israel to buy cheese.  Shockingly enough, it’s in the wine shop I’ve worked at a half-dozen times — I simply never explored the other rooms containing the super-expensive butcher and deli, as by the end of a 5-hour shift talking, pouring, flirting, selling wine on your feet, you just want to get the hell out of there.  Yesterday after I finished polishing my wine glasses I was still feeling rather spry and curious (very good day for sales), and to tell the truth, I fancied buying some handmade un-kosher sausages for dinner (the shop is owned by Christian Arabs, so I thought I might snag some real pork bangers).  No luck.  I didn’t like what I saw at the butcher’s counter, so I made my way past the cheeses.  And stopped for a half hour.

Wine and More” – the Hinnawi family’s branch on Carlebach (Carlebach 25, Tel Aviv), is pretty awesome.  Cheeses so overpriced, I wanted to cry, but awesome.   The wines are reasonable, but I suppose when you’re the only one in Israel selling Epoisse and Brunost and Extra-Oud Goudsa Kaas, you can pick your price.  And boy did they.

Hinnawi Carlebach - the cheese section in the back

I came out with three cheeses I haven’t eaten in years and years — but paid close to 100 shekels (30 USD) after a 20% discount (b/c the cheesemonger was a nice guy who used to be a ballet dancer in NYC for 18 years before he came back to Israel to run a restaurant for twelve years that went out of business two years ago) for an amount of cheese that would have cost me maybe $15 at a Whole Foods or less than $10 at a regular grocery store (not that they would have these cheeses).  Seriously folks.  Three slices of cheese.  With a discount.  But I had to have ’em.  They were the best.

Bleu des Basques

A little bit about why I adore cheese — apart from the fact that cheese is delicious, and that I have yet to meet one I didn’t like (including Norwegian “rotten cheese” that smells like the worst 10-day-old socks and causes most people to vomit)  — for pennies, for the change beneath your sofa cushions, you can have the best.  The very best.  Because even though I paid through the roof for a few hundred grams of three cheeses — I could never have bought the finest bottle of Champagne for that amount.  I couldn’t have snagged any fois gras.  No truffles.  No Michelin-starred filet mignon.  Because folks, this is what this cheese is — the very best in the world.  My $30 bought me 2-3 days worth (if I’m lucky) of a ride in a Porsche.  I truly believe that.  Each and every one of these cheeses is handmade, by real people, with recipes that are hundreds of years old, are aged in locations specific to the type of cheese, and many many have been awarded AOC (regional and production approval – like for wines), or similar, and are true products of their terroir.

The incomperable Epoisse

Many of us may never get to drink a bottle of Cristal while wolfing down Iranian Caviar on a yacht off the French Riviera.  But with $5-10 in your pocket, your local cheese shop will send you home with the world’s best cheese.  Maybe not a lot of it.  But it’s the genuine article, and an incredible pleasure to behold. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the Mona Lisa in their home for an evening?  AND get to eat it?

Norway's sweet & creamy "Brown Cheese"

I urge all of you to go to your local cheese shop, or even a Whole Foods, and taste (if they don’t let you taste, it’s not a good cheese shop — you should be able to sample almost everything before buying — with the exception of the soft cheeses that would fall apart and need their rinds unbroken to keep aging) — and buy cheese.  If you don’t know where to buy good cheese, go online, open the yellow pages, ask a friend.  There is no excuse for waxy grocery store Swiss and mild neon orange cheddar.

I can’t tell you what an awesome thing  it was to arrive at home with those cheeses after that long long day on my feet.  I put together a plate with small slices of Norwegian brown cheese, Bleu des Basques, and a super-white hard aged goat’s cheese, a few buttery crackers, a handful of organic dates (I live in Israel, after all), and a couple tiny clementines.  If that isn’t a feast fit for a king, I don’t know what is.  Add a glass of cheap Scotch, the last couple episodes of Firefly, and I achieved an hour’s worth of bliss.  Believe me, that kind of peace is worth its weight in gold.  Not that that sentence makes any sense.

Sent to me by a facebook friend – if you haven’t seen this video, you must:

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On January 1, 2010, after less than 4 (and in some cases less than 3 or 2) hours of sleep, my father, mother, sister, her best friend, and I hopped in a rented compact car at 7 am and proceeded to drive from Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights Winery…in the Golan Heights.

This is our story.

(cue Gilligan’s Island theme song)

A few bitchy fights, cramped snoozing, radio station surfing (we never did find one the entire drive), and a generally cranky 2.5 foggy hours later, we reached the region of our final destination — a full hour and a half early.

After I took the blame (and the beating) from everyone for depriving them of an extra hour’s sleep, we had a nice breakfast at a roadside cafe in the old town of Rosh Pina – a picturesque place (so I’m told – it really was super-foggy) just next to the historic, kabbalistically-famous city of Tzfat (aka Safed).  It was really far north.  We really did make amazing time.

At a bit after ten we proceeded to drive the remaining twenty minutes from Rosh Pina (just about directly north of the Sea of Galilee – what we call the Kineret –  a place that generally marks a border between the Galil region and the Golan region) to Katzrin, the tiny town (the largest town in the region) that is the home of the Golan Heights Winery.

Collectively owned by 4 kibbutzim (collective farms) and 4 moshavim (cooperative farms), the Golan Heights Winery began the Israeli wine revolution in 1983. Quite frankly, they make the best wine in Israel, consistently winning international awards and accolades.  They introduced many of the modern grape varieties to Israel, and produce more than 30 labels under three series (Yarden, Gamla, and Golan).

Aside: I work for them leading wine tastings, albeit on a very part-time basis. I love working for them.  I am more than a bit biased. But being a wine lover first and foremost, every trip I take to Katzrin to visit GHW is an exceptional treat.  You’re treated like family — and this is a state-of-the-art facility.

The main visitors’ center is closed for renovation the next 6 months, so a makeshift (if you can even call it that) center was rigged in the main administration building.  Despite Fridays being quite popular visitation days, it was quite empty there.  I’m used to seeing throngs of tourists, both domestic and otherwise.  Perhaps it was the winter, or the fact that many were probably nursing hangovers in their warm beds (which is where we half-halfheartedly wished to be).  Because of this fact, we had an almost private tour (with one quiet young couple tagging along).

After a brief history of wine, winemaking in the region, and the Golan Heights Winery itself, the tour guide (lovely woman named Ela) took us to the “wine cellar” — really the largest barrel storage building in the country, housing more than 7,000 gorgeous French oak vessels.

The tour ended with a wine tasting.  Perhaps because the visitors’ center was closed, or perhaps because there were so few people – we were shown to the private tasting room besides the vaults (or maybe a better word for it is ‘archive’) of wines that are kept just for the winemakers (and I expect, VIPs).  It was really fun, and the wines we were given really showed off the vast range they produce – starting with a very young Chardonnay (Golan 2008) – leading to a very hefty Syrah (Yarden 2005) – ending with such a treat, the Heightswine (Yarden 2007; play on words – made in the same fashion as Ice Wine).

My parents being my lovely parents bought me another bottle of the Single Vineyard Yarden Syrah (2004 – Ortal Vineyard) – my absolute favorite – at the gift shop, and we stocked up on a few other gems (Dad’s taking home another Syrah Ortal, a Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard El-Rom 2004, and a Noble Semillion Botrytis, amongst other things).

The Hodes family being the Hodes family, the ride home was just as memorable, one squabble inevitably leading to another more colorful and more complex than the one before.  We stopped at an artists’ village, took a quick (15 minute) hike in a nature preserve to see a local waterfall, and then hit the road, unfortunately choosing the scenic route, back to city-dom.  We took a wrong turn twice, my father progressively became more and more ill (stuffed up sinuses from lack of sleep), and we took a very, very long detour in order to visit a Druze village (Dalyiat El-Carmel) to drink a quick coffee and stock up on hummus, tahini, salads, and pita — because the very wise Hodes clan had extended an invitation for dinner at our place to the rest of the family for that very evening — and there was no way we had the time, nor were we in the condition to cook.

We returned to Tel Aviv ten hours to the minute after we left.  The adventure wouldn’t end for several hours more.  And it would take the rest of the weekend to recover. A three hour tour, indeed.  Talk about almost 7 hours in a car for a 1 hour tour. That takes passion.  Or madness.  Or both.

I say, well worth the visit to Israel’s greatest winery.

Great businessweek article on the revolution in Israeli wine production

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