Tzora, Goose Bay, and Rothberg Cellars – Oh my Oh my!

This past week some friends from out of town came by, as did some from around town.  It was a really nice time.  Dinner started with a dense black bean soup – from the classic Moosewood Cookbook from Mollie Katzen.  It has been modified to protect the innocent, but the core recipe stands strong.  Dinner was sweet roasted summer vegetables, succulent hot pepper lemon roasted chicken, and a mushroom and onion Quinoa side dish.

To keep the dinner within reach we stayed with some robust yet tasteful wines.  The first was a 2007 Goose Bay Viognier, followed by the 2004 Rothberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and finally the 2004 Tzora Single Vineyard Shoresh (100% Merlot).  In case people are not so up on Viognier – I thought I would add would re-post a description and contrast of Viognier and other white wines:

Viognier is a white grape that it is closer in style to a Chardonnay than to a Sauvignon Blanc.   All wines can be operated on – but classically these are the styles that the white wines have:

1) The Sauvignon Blanc – can be as clean lined and crisp as a Sancerre and become fat and a bit ugly like in California, and everything in between. Still the classic lines of a Sauvignon Blanc are crisp clean lines, with intense fruit and floral flavors. If picked early there is more green, if picked too late there is more of a fruit bomb which winemakers turn into a fat wine because of all the sugars – or manipulate it by decreasing the alcohol. It is commonly high in acid and is not meant for a long shelf life – though many a Sancerre have lived long lives – mostly because of the crazy acid and mineral characteristics that come from the Terroir.

2) The Chardonnay is the wine that we all know and can have many different lines. It is a grape which by its nature is screaming to be modified. The grape loses its crispness early on as it ripeness but in its place comes the weight, fruit, and body. The more oak that is applied the more toast, espresso, smoke, and spice flavors get introduced. The grape has less acid as it ripeness but gains more fruit. This is the real quandary with Chardonnay – when do you pick it? When it sits on the vine for too long you get a ton of fruit, little or no acid and high alcohol. To counter act that wineries will dealcoholize the wine and add pH as well. Again – Chardonnay is a grape that is screaming to be managed. However, when done correct you can either get nice green and floral wine with less acidity than Sauv Blanc, but still enough to hold the wine up and enough fruit to carry the day. Or you can make it California style and lose the acid but gain nice weight and body (from the fruit, alcohol, and oak) – but pH added still tastes fake to me.

3) The Viognier grape/wine is a different beast. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes and acidity, but it is a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise, it does not give the classic perfume that we get from the Muscat and Riesling grapes. Depending on if the wine maker puts the wine through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness. In the end, the wine is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines and the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner.

Now back to the wines…

The unfortunate part is that my friends are not white wine drinkers – and this kills me!  As I am trying to grow my knowledge of wines and trying to be more open minded about white versus red wines – my friends are not following along for the ride!  So when I want to pop a white bottle to see what a Sancerre, Chardonnay, Chablis or a Viognier tastes like – I feel like a party pooper on my own table.  This is an issue that I hope to find a remedy to soon.

The thing is that to me the Viognier stole the show.  At first open it was nice – but the heady perfume that would soon be gracing our olfactory receptors was still closed up in the wines cold embrace.  However, as the wine opened up so did the oohs and ahs around the room.  They still did not appreciate the white wine, but they were able to discern that this was not just another white.  The Rotherberg Cellar was the red winner around the room.  It was heady with its own enveloping sensations.  The nose was just over the top.  The second we opened the bottle till some hours later the nose was still pumping and quite nicely as well.  Beyond the nose, the mouth was smooth, full, and round – like a California Cabernet.  The oak was NOT over the top, it accented the wine – it did not define it.  The ripe fruit was obvious and maybe too obvious – but still a very nice showing.  The Shoresh was raw, young and quite tannic.  It was a stark contrast to the smooth Viognier and Cabernet.  It was not a hit on the table and again – I disagree.  The wine is more like a tiger ready to pounce and one that I think has not yet hit its peak.  The Rothberg Cellar and Goose Bay are awesome specimens – but are in my eyes – at their peak.  When Shoresh reaches its peak – in a year or so, it will have its day in the sun.  Finally, I has tasted the Shoresh in Israel at the winery and the wine has made a clear shift from then.  It is still as tannic – but I swear I had a double take when I realized that it tasted a lot like a cab – except for the clear and present licorice in the mid palate.  The score is a bit lower, but one I am sure will return when it reaches its peak.

Tzora Single Vineyard Shoresh 2004 – Score A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine (100% Merlot) is laden with red berries, mineral aromas, cherry, and wood.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts with tight tannins – though integrating and  a strong and slightly complex attack of black cherry, and  blackberry.  The middle is filled with green, earth, and licorice.  The finish is long and woodsy.  This has changed since I last tasted it.  If tasting blindly – I would have thought this to be a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The licorice was a giveaway that it was not a cab – but still the earth, dense fruit, and cab like fruit – makes made do a double take.

Rothberg Cellars Winemakers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this muddied reddish purple wine is crazy and may well be the wine’s best feature.  It is an enveloping nose and one that lasts all night.  The nose is filled with strong ripe fruit fragrance along with cranberry, pomegranate, and fig aromas.  The mouth on this very smooth and full bodied wine is fruit forward with ripe fruit, blackberry and black plum notes.  The mid palate is acidic in its core along with soft tannins and a hint of chocolate and tobacco.  The finish is long lasting with fig and cranberry.
Beyond the technical details the things that stand out to me when thinking about this wine are:

  • its acidic core
  • its smooth nature
  • its soft and integrated tannins
  • the lack of overpowering oak – this wine is assisted to by the oak, it does not define it
  • the muddied color and over ripe fruit flavors throw me a bit and lower the score
  • the wine is at or just over its peak – drink up and really enjoy.  This is not one to lay down for even a few more months.
  • The wine felt like it was aged in French oak – no smoke or toasted spice just a nice and round fullness

Goose Bay Viognier 2007 – Score: B+ to A-
This is an awesome and fun white.  When we first opened it I was hoping for the perfume to overpower me and take control of my senses.  However, the nose did not open up right away, instead the mouth was full of the perfumed fruit while the nose was hiding behind the mask of fruit and oak.  The  nose would open and so I will say that the notes here are from an hour or two in – with the difference being the deep and almost striking perfumed nose that showed itself later.
The nose of this light yet bright straw colored wine was filled with classic Viognier perfume, grapefruit, apricot and citrus aromas.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine is strikingly fruity while also being infused with the perfume quality.  The mid palate is strongly acidic and laced with grapefruit, lemon, and green flavors.  The finish is acidic in an almost puckering way.  This in contrast to a previous post, where the acid was overpowering and not well integrated with the wine.

Beyond the technical details – this wine too has some nice take aways for me:

  • The wine has oak but again in a supporting role – like it should be
  • The wine is acidic to its core and here the acid truly integrates and lends a large assist to the wine
  • The wine is perfumed in a way that also balances well with the oak and acid
  • Finally, this too is a wine to enjoy now and for a few more months.

Posted on August 8, 2008, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher White Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Agreed!!! Just had a bottle of Goose Bay Viognier 2007 last week and it was simply delicious. I’m actually preferring whites these days, go figure 🙂

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