A lovely set of kosher white, rose, and sweet wines

2012 Makom Grenache Blanc - back labelWith the polls going into action next week, I thought I would take a very unofficial poll of favorite wine types among my friends and wine posts in general. The outcome, ignoring a few people, myself in that smaller group, most kosher wine drinkers do not care for white wines! Why? Simple enough, they want to be beaten over the head, AKA overripe wines are easier to appreciate. Yes yes, I know I just posted about this in my Dear John letter post, but really – give it a try! Ask your friends what they prefer and then ask them why???

What you will find is a sad fact that even in warm climates, red wine rules. This post is not meant to take the place of my previous white, rose, and bubble posts of the past, but it is meant to augment the list with a few more current ones.

I truly feel that people have yet to appreciate whites, for the most part, because they do not see the genius and layers in white wines, like they do in red wines. To me this dichotomy is very much akin to the French versus the Bold in your face DJL wines.

If I had one wish this year it would be – please try some really good white wines! Please! Why? Because they are very good? Kosher white and rose wines are really improving, IMHO, far faster than their red alternatives. In Israel, this revolution is improving by leaps and bounds! California continues to be king for me when it comes to easy to find and unique white and rose wines. Look at the success by Covenant Winery, Hajdu Winery, Shirah Winery, and Four Gates Winery! Where else will you find a kosher white grenache? Covenant continues to hit homeruns with their Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay wines. Shirah’s whites and roses wines continue to impress. Hajdu’s blanc is awesome! Four gates Chardonnay is some of the best out there in the kosher wine world.

With all that aid, Israel is really doing itself proud in the world of white and rose wines! Truly impressive! From Ella Valley’s FANTASTIC 2013 wines to Tabor Winery’s impressive whites.

One of the safest bets out there right now is a white wine from the 2012 or 2013 vintages from Israel. WOW! That statement alone is a shocking fact! A few years ago I would not drink much white wine from Israel, other then a few sparing Chardonnays. Now? Flam, Ella Valley, Yatir, Tabor, Teperberg, Dalton, Netofa, and on and on goes the list! The wineries are just coming out with home run, double, triple, home run after home run! Sure, there are a few bad apples in the bunch, but a safe bet is a safe bet – and that is an awesome thing to know!

To be fair, the best rose and the best white wines (other than Chard), I have had this year come from Shirah Winery and Hajdu Winery. Why? The 2012 Shirah Rose and the 2013 Hajdu Gris Rose are the best of the best. Sure, the Ella Valley, Netofa, Lueria, Flam Roses are nice, but those two are on a separate level. Same goes with the 2012 Grenache Blanc. The 2013 is nice, but not on the same playing field. There are so many home run whites from Israel though, including Tzora, Flam, Ella Valley, Teperberg, Tabor, Yarden, Dalton and others. Still, the 2012 Makom is one of those wines that will stay with me for a long time BRAVO Jon!!!

A shout out must be made to a wonderful sweet Hungarian wine I picked up in NY – 1998 Langer Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos! The wine is sweet but has still balancing acid and wonderful enveloping lush and full mouthfeel and funk – BRAVO!!! Read the rest of this entry

My Dear John letter to overripe wines and a few winners

cc licensed flickr photo from irishdragongreen

With the Jewish Holidays at their end, I must say that I really did enjoy them, but spiritually and wine wise! I have been slowly but surely changing over my collection from wines that I thought I liked to wines I actually do like. Sure, I have a few duds here and there, but for the most part, I think I have thinned the ranks of the unwanted.

Years ago – I blindly bought whatever red reserve Yarden wines the late Daniel Rogov scored a 92 or higher, and to his credit it was a grand time for a bit. But sadly before he passed, his  golden touch, in terms of picking the perfect Yarden Reserve red was losing its aura. To be fair it is not a detriment to the man I truly respected. It is simply that my palate and interest have moved so starkly from the overripe notes of old, that I have finally broken down and written my Dear John letter to many Israeli wines.

As I stated 9 months ago in my year in review and ahead, I stated that I would start to track wines that I find overly ripe in style, whether it comes from Israel or anywhere else. I have been doing that in my wine notes, but I and finding less and less of them, simply because I am turning over my library in the direction of wines like Tzora, Yatir, and so on.

To be fair, wineries are making wines like this because that is what the public wishes, or so they say. I understand that a palate is a hard thing to come by, and that it may well be an evolutionary road for many. Still, there is a thing called nuance and then there is a thing called a 2×4. To create wines that are so obtusely in your face – one has to stop and wonder if the winemaker is actually unwilling to trust his wines to you. Maybe it his/her way of saying – here I dare you not to taste something in this wine! Mocking you as the winery takes your money and you are left with that aching feeling that is more akin to a used car lot than a culinary experience.

So, I thought it was time to publicly publish my Dear John letter to wines from Israel or elsewhere that continue to cater to the LCD (least common denominator) – and make wines that only a dead person could miss notes in.

Dear overly ripe wines,

I have to be honest, for the longest time you were a wonderful accompaniment to my weekend dinners. However, in these past 5 years, I cannot help but think that we have drifted apart. Oh come on, do not flutter those sweet and cloying tannins at me, you know how I hate that so. I wish I could say it is me and not you, but I would be lying. This is all on you!

This is not about you or about me “winning or losing”, you know I have lost so much over the years when I happily gave away bottles of the 2004 Ortal Merlot and so much more. There is no denying that we have changed so much, you continue to be so sweet, of course, but what I finally realized is that you are also so empty. Sure you have those wonderful structural qualities, that we all look for in a companion, but the rest is hollow, no stuffing, no meaning, just a flat and empty being.

I tried so hard to make it work, to ignore my wine friends, telling them that it was just a bad night or a really bad weekend, like that bender in December. Sadly, it always turns out the same way when I wake from another night of debauchery, I am thankfully a bit lighter of you and you are always the same – big, bold, loud, and empty!

So, I am happy to say I think I am rid of you from my cellar. I have worked hard to empty it of your kind and thankfully, I can now say that you are in my past. I waited too long to write this letter, for that I am sorry to you and my guests. However, going forward I know that I have made the correct decision and wish you and those wineries all the best. I even have a lovely new moniker for you DJL – if you see that on a note I write, you will know that you have found a wine you will truly come to love. For me, it will be a badge of shame.

Thanks for all the great times, and I am also happy to say good riddance and bon voyage! Read the rest of this entry

An evening of Kosher Pinot Noir and Grenache

2012 Hajdu GrenacheOn a shabbos, a few weeks ago, we enjoyed a lovely evening of Pinot Noir and grenache wines. It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel is one of those countries that is starting to really come into its own with Pinot Noir. Israel may still trail France in the number of kosher Pinot Noir wines produced, but in sheer quality it may have it beat.

Say to many that Israel can create Pinot Noir and you will get many people, including wine makers in Israel itself, that rankle at the thought. The temperature is so darn hot there, that in one day the Pinot can go from a lovely grape with a bit more time needed, to a raisin. There is so little leeway with Pinot Noir, that making it in Israel is a nightmare. Still, many have succeeded, and maybe no one more than the INCREDIBLE 2008 Yarden PN! I was shocked! Just shocked. I would NEVER have said it was an Israeli PN.

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not heaven forbid on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

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A shabbos spent at Four Gates with friends

A few weeks ago, I spent Shabbos with some friends, GG and Mendel from Israel and New York respectively, at Benyo’s house, home of the Four Gates Winery, in the hills of Santa Cruz, CA. It was, as always, one of those nights that are hard to forget, but took me time to get down on “paper”. We enjoyed so many great wines and food that I laugh at it now. We brought over the meat and a few bottles, and Benyo took acre of the rest, including accommodations, awesome food, and a non stop supply of crazy wine!

Friday night started off with a blast where we enjoyed many dishes, in classic Benyo style. It consisted of Pisces, followed by salad after salad, after awesome salad, and some crazy meat made by the chef – Mendel.

Much of what occurred happened in a daze, and to be honest the notes are shorter, because my memory of them were shorter. That said, I guess I can sum it up this way – what happened at Benyo’s stays at benyos! So, other than the meats, cholent, awesome food and wine – the rest is all a haze, so here is what I remember best of those wines! I hope u enjoy!

Wine Notes follow below:

Domaine de la Perdrix Cotes du Roussillon ­ – Score: B
The wine is a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Macabeu. The wine was oxidized and honeyed with quince and peach and not much else. Interesting for such an old mevushal wine.

2007 Four Gates Chardonnay – ­ Score: A-
The nose on this gold colored wine is rich with smokey notes, bright fruit, and pineapple. The mouth is rich and layered with sweet notes, oriental spices, cedar sweet, white peach, and apple cobbler. The finish is long and spicy with green notes, white flowers, and quince.

1997 Four Gates Chardonnay – ­ Score: A­ and more
The nose is lovely and citrusy, with sweet oak and oriental spice. The mouth is more polished and elegant, with lovely fruit strcuture, almost oily with a very creamy texture, all balanced impeccably with great acid, guava, pineapple, white apples, great sweet fruit and fig. The finish is long with lovely fruit, hints of butterscotch, tart grapefruit, citrus, rich summer fruit, all nicely layered with spice. This was a lovely wine, one of the best 1996/1997 Chardonnay from Benyo that I have ever had. Clearly it is at its peak and drink now – BRAVO! Read the rest of this entry

KWS Presents the 6th Annual “New Wines for the New Year” Tasting Sept. 9th in NYC!

Kosher Wine Society logoThis is the 6th annual wine event for the Jewish New Year being put on by the Kosher Wine Society (KWS)! The KWS is run and managed by Aron Ritter, and as always he has many tricks up his sleeve!

The Kosher Wine Society (KWS for those in the know) was started in 2005 when Aron Ritter could not find real events to attend that centered on one of his true passions, kosher wine! Remember, this was a point in time, when Lance Armstrong could still wear a yellow jersey! Further, the only kosher wine event, at that time, in the United States, was the Gotham Wine Extravaganza! So, the KWS was born, and slowly but surely it has grown into a membership that spans a large cross-section of the New York social scene.

The wine event will be a cross-section of many kosher wine providers much like the Gotham Wine Extravaganza! The KFWE is always awesome, like it was this past year, but you get only Royal’s wines. At the KWS event you get some Royal wines and other wines as well.

Two year’s ago event was wonderful and shall I say interesting as it occurred on “Fashion Week”, in NY, and the hotel where the event took place was hosting a party for the models – nuff said! This year the views will be far more beautiful (more on that in a bit).

As always, the wine list evolves over time, check this web page to follow the wines that will be available for tasting. For now the wines to taste are the Recanati wines (Single Varietal wines for sure), the Dalton wines, and the Teperberg wines as well! So many options and the list is barely 1/5 to 1/6th the way there! As the wine list grows – I am sure many more cannot miss wines will be added!!!

Also, last year the cheese guy was there and he was craving some mad cheese – thankfully, he is on the agenda again, along with delicious kosher food (besides the mad cheese), chocolates, and of course the great wines.

The event’s location this year is atop a building on the Avenue of the Americas, giving you unobstructed views of the city and Central Park from the 41st floor! The date for the event is September 9th 6:30 to 9:30 PM. The address is: Bernstein Global Wealth 1345 Avenue of the Americas 41st Floor (54th and 55th Street). Because of tight security around the building, tickets will not be sold at the venue. However, we have a great discount for all readers of the blog – so get your tickets here now!! Tickets are already going fast, so get them while you can!!

Finally, go with a game plan! Once you sign up, keep watching the page, as Aaron is very good at updating the wines that will be presented at the event. Then look at the list and see which wines you have not yet tasted and which you will be interested in. Attend early, taste them and be sure to buy the wines you like for the Jewish New Year and especially for the Sukkot celebrations that follow!

I am sure the event will be a smash like it was last year – so, get your tickets early before the prices go up and get there early, as last year, some of the best wines got poured out quickly (think 2009 Gvaot Pinot – SICK!!!!!)

Another Epic Bites/Bernstein dinner – under control and close to home

Mad scientist in thought and hostA few weeks ago, we had dinner with friends and it centered around an epic bites, AKA Isaac Bernstein test rollout of some new and great oldies. Any excuse to try new Bernstein fare is going to be an epic experience, so I was in. With dusk slowly on its way, the cool evening air slowly coming across the valley, and the sun slowly falling into its nightly bliss, we agreed the best bet was to eat outside, Fresco style.

If anyone has yet to read my previous two postings on all things Epic from Bernstein and group – please read my first dinner with him, and my own dinner that was held in my house.

The funny thing about Bernstein and his crew is that they are becoming super professional and precise and I am still living in the world of 27 courses! So, when I hear 12 courses, I kind of always have a letdown. Sure, the courses are crazy complex and layered and wonderful and I have no idea how long it takes to create or source any of these dishes, but hey I am still a caveman at heart! Still, Bernstein and Epic Bites is slowly moving me away from the awe of the multiple dish madness to the awe of the depth of fewer dishes. The more time I spend with and eat Bernstein’s creations, the more I come to appreciate the effort and the time it takes to get a dish to the point where it blows me away. The sad fact is, that I am getting so spoiled that I may never be able to enjoy another dish! Maybe, Epic Bites should start the “aggressive drug dealer” (totally dinner! Where they gives away free samples of all of their dishes. Then the customers will come to see what I am now suffering from, after they have them hook line and sinker, they will never go back to another dinner anywhere else! There is an idea for the next big event!!!


Course #1 and #2

Course #1 and course #2 Big Eye Tuna, with Heirloom Tomatoes, compacted watermelon, balsamic reduction, shiso dehydrated pine nut - black olive and onion dust, EVO and Tomato:Avacado SorbetThe first two courses were really two at once – a nice and controlled manner to get through the dinner without making it last 4 hours! The first duality were Cubes of Big Eye Tuna and compacted watermelon, with Heirloom Tomatoes, balsamic reduction, and shiso dehydrated pine nut/black olive/onion dust. But the Marilyn Monroe of this couple was served in a shot glass! In it was a Tomato base/Avocado Sorbet covered in EVO and sprinkled with black salt. The seductress stole the spotlight for sure, but it was more than just body and soul, this vixen was creamy, sweet, salty, and acidic, all at the same time. The acid from the tomatoes, balanced to sheer perfection with the green and dreamy dressed avocado sorbet, all covered in a chiffon dress of EVO and accented with black jewels of salt. BRAVO!!

The Big Eye tuna and compacted watermelon was nice, it did not hit it for me, but the black dirt made up of; dehydrated pine nut, black olive, and onion was a classic tour de force for Bernstein and his gastronomical diabolic ways!

I paired the course with a bottle of the 2013 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, which continues to impress even the most cynical of kosher wine drinkers – BRAVO!!!!

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Israel and its wineries continue to impress even during a state of war

Old City from rooftopSo last week saw me flying out to Israel last minute to show my support for my Rabbi who lost his mother and to show my support for a country that is under fire. Having just returned, I wanted to reflect back on my feelings and state of mind (as a person who loves Israel), and to help others understand the state of mind of the people living in a country so deeply rooted in its history.

Let me start by saying that I do not normally speak politics on this blog and I am not trying to project anything here. This posting is like all my posts – my personal diary on what I tasted, felt, and heard during my week in a country at war. Please understand the settings. First this trip happened during the three weeks and nine days, two sets of the saddest days in our history, which culminates on Tisha B’Av (the day of the destruction of our holy temple) – which is in a few days.

Jewish history is not a linear timeline, it is rather a spiral staircase where each day reappears a year later. The days starting in the three weeks are not days of joy, because those very days are littered with historical fact after historical fact proving the days are bad for Jews and Gentiles alike. I do not like to travel in the three weeks, it always turns out badly, broken cameras, cars breaking down, insane traffic out of nowhere. Essentially, it is like living with Murph on steroids!

But, family and friends are not just a convenience for when things are going well, they are a part of your life no matter when and where you are. So, when I heard my Rabbi’s mother passed, I decided it was time to visit the Holy Land – no matter the circumstances. I will not bore you with the last minute planning and miles tickets that popped open out of nowhere, because of the war – essentially it was Murphy’s Law tempered with good luck – an interesting combination to say the least.

Before, I made it to Israel, I heard the news and I heard the stories and friends told me it is dangerous, it is not a good time to go – my response was – THIS IS THE EXACT TIME TO GO! This is the time to show our support for a land that is littered with history of our forefathers and their fore-parents! This is a place that is imbued with our physical lives and memories – to a point that one cannot turn away when sorrow is near.

Max Funeral 2The trip was uneventful, thankfully Murph was a no show! I arrived into Israel a few minutes early – thanks to good winds and tidings, and I got my car and drove to the shiva house, where my Rabbi was “sitting” for 7 days. It was here where I started to take in the atmosphere that is Israel, to be around people who were there for the correct reasons – in this case – to console a family that was part of the larger Bnai Brak area for more than 50 years! My Rabbi told me stories of when he was young and he could open his windows and see the ocean, that is not the case any longer. Bnai Brak has grown and expanded to fill the entire area around Ramat Gan and its surroundings and no matter where you go in Bnai Brak, The Chazon Ish is almost everywhere. He passed away before my Rabbi was born, but he told me stories of how he had classes in the Chazon Ish’s house, and played in his backyard.

The environment may have been one of sorrow, but the mood was one of hope and transition. Clearly, there were times where the people coming to console the mourners had to run to shelter when the sirens went off, a warning of potentially impending attacks. Thankfully, though Bnai Brak and Tel Aviv have been attacked countless times by missiles, the Iron Dome has done its job in protecting its inhabitants.

After spending many hours, I made my way to Jerusalem, where I was staying and meet some friends and went to sleep. The next day, was truly one of my more sad days in a long time. I was not in the mood of going to wineries, I wanted to visit my Rabbi again, but things did not work out – as it turned out that Israel had started its offensive into the Gaza Strip, and in the fray, a fellow American citizen, Max Steinberg, had sadly fallen. He would be one of many more, that bravely gave of their soul for a country yearning for life – a truly sad twist of fate.

Max FuneralHe was being buried a few miles from where I was staying so I and some 30,000 other people, from many different walks of life, made their way to Herzl Memorial Cemetery to pay our last respects to a fellow Country man – who paid the highest cost for a country he felt deserved his time and immense talents. The ceremony was moving in both English and Hebrew, no dry eyes were present that day, all the people I saw, were deeply moved and were there till the last minute to pay tribute to a person who loved the country as much as they all did, and did so till his last dying breath.

Sadly, another soldier passed as well, Dmitri Levitas, and he was also buried in Mount Herzl a few hours later. Going to two funerals in a day, reminded of my last trip to Israel, where right before I left, hours before my plane trip home, I sadly went to two funerals, less than 24 hours apart, of friends and family, both buried in the Bet Shemesh cemetery. I was not expecting my last visit’s sorrows to engulf me again, but that is the three weeks, that is the cycle of time which we cannot control, and that is what living is all about. I was truly down at that point to say the least, but again, it was the people in this country, hard nosed people, people who live in a land filled with grief and hope, that saw me through it all. One never really is alone in Israel, you may think no one knows you or no one sees you, but that could not be farther from the truth. Read the rest of this entry

Catching up on some wines from past weeks

I am that the blog has been quiet for a bit of time here and there, but hopefully I will be back into the swing of things soon. I wanted to post three wines that I loved and had recently and ones that are still available here and there – even given two of their ages. The 2005 Hagafen Zin can still be purchased from Hagafen Winery’s library collection. The Galil Yiron 2007 is available at some shops here and there – this one requires effort to still find. The 2012 Petita is available everywhere that good kosher wine is sold.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of licorice, spice, tar aromas, and animal fats. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with now integrated mouth coating tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, ripe blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry, followed by tart fruit, sweet oak, softening tannin, sweet herb, and nice acid. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with green notes, eucalyptus, graphite, dirt, tobacco, and oriental spices – BRAVO! Start drinking up – this wine has is at peak or very close, and after that who cares – the fun starts to abate, get it while the going is fun!

2012 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Mad QPR wine)
This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 15% Merlot. This is a wine that continues to excel at being a QPR superstar, and this vintage is no different. The nose on this wine is rich and black with loamy dirt, oriental spices, intense graphite, crushed herb, green notes, along with freshly paved asphalt, and earthy goodness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is crazy with mouth gripping tannins, leather, along with layers of blackberry, black cherry, and inky notes, all coming together with oak and green notes. The finish is long and mineral based with still gripping tannin, tar, and sweet herbs that linger long. This is a wine that really needs another year to come around.

2005 Hagafen Zinfandel – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this lightly browning wine is filled with rich fruit, ripe strawberry, along with sweet cedar, brown sugar, and great spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and concentrated with layers of ripe blackberry, black plum, red fruit, ripe jammy boysenberry, all wrapped in a cocoon of sweet cedar and mouth coating tannins. The finish is long and rich with great acid, control, and a bounty of fruit, all leading to a chocolate, vanilla, and spice crescendo, with cinnamon, cracked pepper, and nutmeg. DRINK NOW and do not hold on to these a second longer. When opening it, give it 30 minutes and then finish there and then!

This wine sure is fun, the brown sugar, cedar, chocolate, and dark ripe black fruit all mingle with crazy vanilla and brown sugar on a long and sweet finish – BRAVO!!!

A wonderful horizontal tasting of older kosher Cabernet Franc wines

This past weekend saw us enjoying a lovely round of Cabernet Franc wines and our patented Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, which was followed by sausage stew. What can I say, I have a true soft spot for GREAT Cabernet Franc, and thankfully there are a few VERY good options. When I think of Cabernet Franc, top on my list is Four Gates Winery followed by Ella Valley Winery. After that, there is Hagafen Winery, Carmel Winery, Psagot Winery, and the new comer is Teperberg Winery’s 2011 Cabernet Franc – that is off the charts!

Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways.  While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc.  In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”.  “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety.  What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape.  Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted.  Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel.  Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines.  Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins.  However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.

Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, on the other hand, do get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.

That said, Hagafen works hard to get the green out of the Cabernet Franc, saying the green is seen as a flaw and they work hard to make sure it does not appear in the wine. Sure, many wineries feel the same way, but Franc is green – it is the definition of the grape – but this is the new century and I guess it is time to evolve the Franc ideal, but in my books it is wrong.

The interesting fact is that Ella Valley is really the hot bed for all things kosher and Franc and I was happy to showcase two very different styles of the wine from the same winery. The 2006 Vintage is all fruit and green, while the 2009 vintage is all about the tannin and spice and fruit, with the fruit taking a back stage presence. That will change as the wine evolves and the tannin and mineral recede to show the fruit, but for now the two wines could not be more different – which is why it is so IMPORTANT to age Franc!

If you are interested in getting into the Franc scene, the best options now are:

  1. The 2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc (or the 2009 as well)
  2. The 2010 or 2009 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc
  3. The 2009 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc
  4. The Teperberg 2011 Cabernet Franc (2010 with its new age label is good enough as well)

Well, here are the wines we had, the crowd was meant to be larger, and I was supposed to get to a Psagot and a Gush, but such is life. The Four gates Francs were not meant to be on the menu – we had them last year, at our previous Franc horizontal. The wine notes follow below:

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The 2014 Private International Food and Wine Festival is coming back again to Herzog Cellars in August!

2014-Private-IFWFOnce again the Herzog Winery is showing off their beautiful facility with a once a year private wine and food event – the Oxnard Private IFWF! Last year the IFWF in Oxnard was a massive success!!! The wines were awesome, but even better was the food – from the world renowned kosher Tierra Sur – attached to the Herzog Winery!

For all the images, wine notes, and revelry from my previous visit, check out my post here. Well, once again, the private and intimate affair returns to the Herzog Winery, echoing the past IFWF that used to be hosted in the beautiful and intimate Oxnard winery (2008, 2009, 2010 part 1 and 2010 part 2, and the 2011 and final Oxnard IFWF)! Once again, the rooms at the Herzog Winery will be opened and you will have room to roam and peruse the many wine tasting options that will be on display for your discriminating palate! Those will include an amazing lineup of wines from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Israel, Argentina and beyond!

IFWF Images 1Truly this is an event not to miss whether you are a wine lover, foodie – or hopefully BOTH! The Tierra Sur Restaurant will be pulling out all the stops and serving up many of their favorite treats!

Save the date! The event will take place at the Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, CA on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PDT).

As an added bonus, I was able to procure a 15% coupon for all the attendees. Use the coupon code: MUSINGS or just click on this link. Buy the tickets and mark your calendar – I am sure it will be a lovely soirée filled with food and wine in an all so familiar, comfortable and intimate setting.

IFWF Images 4I am sure you are as excited as I am, so here is the information, I was able to get from the winery…

We are bringing the Private International Food & Wine Festival back to Oxnard for an intimate, one day engagement August 20th at Herzog Wine Cellars. The event will feature more than 200 different wines gathered from nearly every wine producing region of the world. In addition to an amazing lineup of wines from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Israel, Argentina and beyond – a wide array of gourmet delicacies will be prepared and served by the chefs of Tierra Sur throughout the entire three hour event! This is an exclusive opportunity to choose from literally hundreds of wines, while enjoying exquisite cuisine from one of Southern California’s highest rated restaurants.

IFWF Images 8Tickets are limited, as we would like this event to focus on enjoying incredible wines from across the globe together with our close fans. Only the first 200 ticket buyers will be allowed into the event, and Herzog Wine Cellars will be closed to the public for the evening. This event will have all of the rare selections and unbelievable flavor that our Los Angeles event has, only in a completely private setting.

 

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