When I think of Covenant Winery, what leaps to mind for me, is Jeff and Jodie Morgan, Jonathan Hajdu – Covenant’s top-notch associate winemaker, and their world-class kosher Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavan Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sure, they also make a lovely and unique Red C wine, rose, and Landsman series of wines, but that is what comes first to mind.
When I first met Jeff and Jodie, it was at Herzog Winery, in 2006 where Jonathan Hajdu and they were pouring their wines at the first ever Herzog IFWF on the west coast. Since then I have made it my business to go to the winery at least once a year and meet with the Morgans and to taste their wines. I state that very specifically, as I have found that wines do follow their creators, and the open and accessible Covenant wines that also age to perfection, intrigued me and I wondered what their creators were like.
If you have had the opportunity to meet with Jeff and Jodie Morgan you will find two people who are passionate about their Jewish roots, though more traditional in nature than Orthodox, but still two people on a spiritual journey with their wines as their guides. From the start they decided that their wines would be kosher, and that they would be creating wines that were mimeographs of themselves, whether they realized that – or not.
To be honest, this article is a long time coming, a post that I think is more about my relationship with the Morgan’s, Mr. Hajdu, and their wines, and less about their story. The now famous story about Lessie Rudd and his grapes, his apprehension to letting the Morgan’s use his grapes, as he feared that they and their kosher process would ruin them, has been written about over and over. Humorously, the fact that the story is in every post about Covenant wines, and that the story is so well-known and repeated, is once again a representation of the wine and Jeff – both are wonderfully gregarious while also being quiet but confidently capable of spinning a tale of what they both have to offer.
Sure, when you meet the Morgans, and trust if you come to the KWFE in NYC – you will meet them, you will find two lovely, affable, and equally impressive humans that have honed their skills, with care and effort. However, it takes a bit more to see beyond the initial blustery interface, and to get deeper into what they see in the future. Yes, they are always looking forward to what the winery can become, but it is far more interesting to get to the story behind the tales, the story of a couple who are equally passionate about their tradition and history as they are about their impressive with their skills and craft.
As always, I am as straightforward as they come, there is really little left to read between the lines on my blog, though some think there is always another story. To me, Covenant Winery is a world-class winery, one that has the best track record, in my opinion across all California wineries (other than maybe Four Gates Merlot) of hitting a home run with every vintage of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Were they all A- to A, not always, but they never were less than a classic 91 score and I am hardly the only person with that opinion. Look at Wine Advocate and you will know where this winery stands in the mind of Robert Parker and his minions. Read the rest of this entry
As you all can see I hope, I have been trying to place some focus on the kosher wines from around the world, Israel, France, and my most recent post of the top whites, rose, and bubblies. But to a certain extent, I have been leaving my roots behind, California kosher wines. So this week, I thought I would just work on the notes that I have for all the kosher wines that I have tasted this past year that have been in California, both north, central, and south.
Of course, the list is well known, staring in Napa, that would be Hagafen Winery, and Covenant Winery (though not officially in Napa any longer, it sources the majority of its fruit from Napa) and Hajdu Winery (both are made now in Berkeley, CA). Next is Four Gates Winery, followed by Shirah Winery and La Fenetre, and then finally Herzog Winery, and the 2010 wines from Agua Dolce (AKA Craig Winchell).
To be honest some of these wines are all sold out already, as I slept on the job, but hey I will post them anyway, also it is good to keep track of the wines you have in the cellar.
California kosher Wines
Before I go to the notes, I wanted to talk about California wines for a bit. California wines, for the most part, are sweet wines. Please note the term “sweet” but not date! They are controlled and ripe, but round and full powered. Sadly, there were one or two occasions where the wine had a mind of its own, one Shirah wine and one Agua Dolce wines, that come to immediate memory. But otherwise, they are on the whole very round, ripe, and in your face. There are also, non sweet wines from California, almost old world in nature, like the Covenant wines – for the most part, along with the higher end Herzog wines that are not quite old world – but are indeed mineral or dry fruit based. Four Gates wines are starting to get a bit more ripe, but for the most part continue to show old world style wines, based on the intense acid and lovely mineral notes.
So, how does this compare to Israel and other locals? Well, Spain continues to make great wines for reasonable prices; except for a few Capcanes wines whose prices have went higher after Royal took over distribution. Still, Spanish kosher wines continue to be one of the best places for consistently good, unique, and balanced wines. California to me is the dark horse, sure some of the prices are higher, especially Four Gates, which has been raising prices over the past few years, but California kosher wines continue to be a great place to find wines that are balanced and not overly fruit forward.
As stated, of the list of previously described kosher wines in Cali, and listed below as well, I must say that Covenant, Four Gates, and Herzog are producing new world wines with a clear old world bent. The rest are creating lovely and extremely good new world wines – while showing control with only a couple of exceptions.
In comparison to Israel, I must say that Cali and Spain have Israel beat, for someone like myself. The proof to my statement is in my cellar, over the past year I have moved away from Israel and over to Spain and Cali, with the obvious exception to the wonderful whites/rose/bubbly coming from Israel, and the few red producers that are making great wines. The hope, as I continue to say, is that more wineries follow them and create better wines in Israel, till then I will be shifting hard to France, Spain, Cali, and only the very top Israeli wineries.
So, what makes Cali wines better to me than Israeli wines? Simple, control and balance. California wines, kosher or not, are ripe, the heat demands it, still, it is how those grapes are managed afterwards. I have been able to be part of the wine making at some wineries, and it is a real education to watch wines evolve, simply because the juice is not where the work ends. Once the red grapes are crushed there are two more stages in the wine’s development that define the wine; Fermentation(s) and barrel/tank aging. I am skipping bottle aging, not because it is not important, but because few wineries really do that here in California. The exceptions are Four Gates Winery (that keeps its Merlot some 3-5 years in bottle before releasing), and some of Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines as well.
Issues that occur in the fermentation(s) stage are not unique to Cali, in any manner, but California has been seeing a fair amount of stuck fermentations in both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations recently. More importantly though is that once the first fermentation is complete the red wines enter the next stage of wine management; barrel aging (unless there is a prolonged cold soak – like Shirah and a few other Wineries do).
It is in the barrel aging where Cali is unique, in its usage of American Oak – which gives wines here those green basil and dill notes, along with coconut/extreme vanilla notes. When people think of Zinfandel, they think Cali and the classic sweet notes that American oak gives those wines. Again, this is really only prominent in the lower level wines of most wineries, kosher or not, but the sweet noted American Oak nuances can be found in more wines – than just those baseline wines. I always ask what barrels were used to make the wine, sometimes I am told a mix or pure American, but when I am told the oak used was all French or Hungarian, I listen but verify! Read the rest of this entry
Well as you can tell from my previous post about this last shabbos, this past week or so was all about California wines in my household. Friends from New York came in for a visit, very much akin to the EY visit in 2012. They came in last week and it was all Cali all the time!
So, these are the wines I took out for the two evenings we were at the house. One of these was my last bottle and it is still showing well, the 2008 Shirah 1-2 punch – beautiful! The 2004 Hagafen melange was the most famous Kosher wine for some time, till the 2006 Yarden Rom was released. I never cared for the Rom, but the 2004 Melange was lovely! Elegant and refined. The rest are also doing well, thank goodness, no duds!
The wine notes follow below:
2004 Hagafen Prix Melange Reserve – Napa Valley – Score: A- to A
What can I say, this wine is mesmerizing, it is soft and intense at the same time with structure and finesse, with power and elegance. WOW! The nose on this wine is sick with layers of black and red fruit, what a crazy perfume of sweet notes, chocolate covered cherry, sweet dill, and sweet plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you in layers of sweet concentrated fruit, plum, sweet cedar, chocolate, intense tannin, layers of fruit, and oak all working in perfect harmony with balancing acid and sheer perfection in a glass. The finish is long and sweet and perfectly balanced with chocolate, cinnamon, roasted herb, spice. Crazy! What a wine!!! Double Bravo!!!
2011 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
The 2010 blend was dominated by the Touriga, while in this blend it plays more of a mop up roll, with the Zinfandel taking center stage. The zinfandel adds more insane spice that is the hallmark of the Coalition blend, but also adds more heft. The wine loses the blue fruit (from the lack of Syrah), but the white fruits show up from the small but still important role that the Touriga plays! The wine is more ripe and richer than the 2010, making for a fuller body and a more extracted madness.
This wine is a blend of 60% Zinfandel, 12% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Touriga Nacional. The wine is a unique blend, just like its older 2010 vintage. The nose explodes with crazy wine aromas – the kind of attack that only the Weiss brothers can bring you, heavy notes of blackberry, burnt raspberry, watermelon, and spice. The mouth on this crazy full bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, extracted, and layered with control and style, with mad acid, insane zinberry, black cherry, and cranberry, (no more showing any note of date) that almost creates a platform upon which the other fruits stand, ripe zesty raspberry, apricot, white peach, mounds of tannin, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, black pepper, insane mouth coating tannins that linger long, nice coffee, zesty strawberry, candied currant, fig, tobacco, and mineral. This is a wine that is ripe and full bodied, but balanced with crazy tart fruit, great acid, balance, and citrus fruit!! The last time I had this wine, I seemed to have sensed date, there is NONE of that here now. BRAVO GUYS!!!
2014 Covenant Mensch White – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
This is a mevushal wine that is closed and not fun to start, but with time shows nice tropical and stone fruit. This wine is 85% Roussanne and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is tropical with guava, citrus, wet grass, straw, hay, and nectarine, and citrus. The mouth on this lovely wine is ripping with good acid, pith, grapefruit, orange blossom, floral notes, with sweet oak, and mineral, with sweet herb, and spice. The finish is long with slate and spice and mad pith.
2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is still killing it!!!! WOW!! What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, strawberry, black currant, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, tart blackcurrant, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!! This wine has not lost a step!
2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
This was my last bottle, and it started off funky in the nose, but that blew off quickly and now the blue nose is perfume – AHH how I adore you! This wine is so unique in its nose and wine notes – that it is heresy to write them down! LOL! I am not sure if this will last for days like the previous bottle two years ago, but we will see.
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Where before the wine was not consistent in its style and notes, this wine is now showing consistent perfume and redolence that is not normal. The wine starts off with lovely sweet cherry, blueberry, juicy raspberry perfume, lovely floral notes, candied fruit, INSANE milk chocolate, and bramble. The mouth on this medium bodied wine forced me to write this acronym down for a second time in days – AYFKM (Are You Freaking Kidding Me)!! OMG and silence. The mouth is now not tart anymore, it is more round and ripe, and rich, crazy watermelon, with CRAZY ripping acid, mango, tropical fruit, followed by massive spice, ripe plum, coffee machine innards and grinds, sweet cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, other baker spices, and rich mouth coating tannin that linger long. The finish is long and luscious with sweet cedar, tobacco, crazy blue fruit that appears after sometime, and jam that lingers long. BRAVO!!
2011 Makom Carignan – Score: A-
This is a Hajdu wine – Makom is one of his labels, that he started in conjunction with Yitzchok Bernstein. The nose on the Carignan wine is rich with toast notes and bushels of red fruit, ripe fruit, hints of blue fruit, roasted herb, and nice baking spices. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is screaming with lovely acid, ripe fruit, blackcurrant, cranberry, and sweet boysenberry, all wrapped up with lovely mouth coating tannin and sweet oak. This wine is not slowing down at all, the tannins are searing, the acid is pumping, and the wine structure continues to impress! The finish is long and tart with ripe blackberry, watermelon, and lovely layers of spice, white pepper, sweet vanilla, lingering tart red and black fruit, and sweet tannin – lovely!
2012 Shirah Bro.Deux – Score: A- (and then some)
This is a lovely wine and one that is a bit better than the epic NV (AKA 2010) Bro.Duex. The wine starts off with a nice mineral nose with black fruit. The wine shows a nice medium body with fleshy fruit and layers of green and red fruit and black berry and currant. With sweet cedar and spice. The finish is long and acidic with graphite and slate and crazy mouth coating tannin with nice sweet notes and spice, tobacco and chocolate. Over time, the nose opens to lovely ripe and fleshy strawberry, sweet spices, and blue notes. On the mouth the tannins come out and the fruit does as well, with blackberry, blackcurrant, concentrated fruit, lovely extraction and good fruit structure. The acid is true and good. Bravo!
This thing is starting to be a habit! Last year we did it with the boys, but that trip we got totally shnockered, and I never did get good notes, but man did we move though a lot of wine! This trip, was a bit more shabbos like, we sang, actually spoke about things relating to the weekend, and yes we drank a fair amount of wine. However, the wines for this trip were purposely dedicated to the west coast, no wines at all from Israel or France of the like. Of course the vast majority of them were Four Gates wines, but we also had a Shirah wine in there, the new Aglianico, and a very nice Covenant Sauvignon Blanc from 2011 that was screaming!!
I will skip the pleasantries and the such, as we all know who Four Gates Winery is and that he is a friend of mine, which is why we have our “yearly” Guys outing there! This year the shabbos was not just friends of mine from out of town but also some friends from here in San Jose! Of course none of this would have or could have happened without Binyamin Cantz, winemaker, owner, cask washer, cellar rat, vineyard manager, and all around dude of Four gates Winery – you get the point!
I was happy that I may have only gotten him angry at me once over the shabbos, maybe twice, which for me is a record!
Anyway, the notes and the pics of the wines follow – have a great week all!
1997 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A- (and more)
lovely and screaming! The nose is lovely and citrusy, with sweet oak and oriental spice. The mouth is more polished and elegant with great acid, guava, pineapple and great acid with great sweet fruit and fig. The finish is long work lovely fruit, hints of butterscotch and rich summer fruit.
2002 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
What a joyous wine the nose is rich with a classic Meyrieux nose of pineapple, sweet fruit and lovely spice. The mouth is lovely and medium bodied with great apple pie, kiwi, pineapple, along with crazt tart fruit, with lovely rich acid and intense layers of brioche and fruit. The finish is long and sweet with nutmeg and candied pineapple, with sweet cedar bringing it all together. The acid is what rocks this wine along with the tart and sweet wine notes. Bravo!!! Read the rest of this entry
Well last week I posted about the kosher white and rose wines for 2015. Sadly, I had yet to retaste the 2013 Kishor Viognier, let me tell you get some! The wine is lovely, and it is currently available in the USA because of the nice folks at Israel Wine Direct.
Kishor Winery is one of those up and coming wineries that are based in a moshav (settlement) that was built for handicapped individuals, much alike the Tulip Winery. The name of the community is called Kishorit (hence the Kishor Winery moniker). Kishorit was founded in 1997.
Kishorit is situated in the Western Galilee, where Kishorit planted their vines in 2007. Their first vintage was in 2010 and the wienry produces some 35,000 bottles a year. When I was at the Sommelier this year, I had a chance to taste two fabulous reds and some nice whites, including a lovely old Riesling. But the 14 did not get my attention nearly as much as the 2013 vintage. So, I went looking for their wines and when I heard it was available here, I was set.
The winemaker; Richard David, is the hearty man, with a broad smile and a fantastic South African accent. He came to the settlement, worked the vines and eventually became the winemaker. The last two times I had the chance to meet with Richard it was always fun and a wonderful learning experience for me. When Richard is in need, he has the ever present and competent Itay Lahat, on speed dial.
Well, I hope you enjoy this wine as I did, and I hope more of Richard’s wines are brought here to the US, Bravo!
The wine note follows below, and I have updated the kosher wine post with the new wine!
2013 Kishor Viognier, Savant – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely light gold colored Viognier, smells more like a Gewurtz because of the soap than a Viognier, but with time the honeyed notes of peach, honeysuckle, and honey come out, along with sweet apricot and lovely floral notes. The mouth on this wine is actually quite lovely, and improves greatly with time, showing candied nectarine, lemon, grapefruit, and lovely tart acid, wrapped in a textured and velvety mouthfeel, that brings both sweet and tart notes along with good complexity, lovely acid, melon notes, and crazy pith. The finish is long and tart/acidic, with honey covered fig, quinine, and sweet spices. Bravo!
I have recently returned from another trip to Israel, and my main interest was tasting as many white and Rose 2013 and 2014 wines as I could possibly do do, in my short time in the Holy land. So, to meet that need I went to some 16 wineries and had two blind tasting of 26 wines each. The first tasting consisted of JUST white, rose, and bubbly and some sweet as well. The second was a bit more lenient and including some reds, which I will talk about on another posting.
I want to take a moment to talk about the state of reds in Israel. I was hoping that with the release of some 2013 vintages things would be improving, sadly they have not! As you know, I have posted often about the issues that Israel faces in the kosher wine world. The red wines continue to be the same old stuff, unbalanced, fruit bombs with ripe fruit and no real unique characteristics at all. Even the super star wineries are slowing following the lead Yarden and making wines that cater to the single minded public – over the top, in your face, and lacking in balance and unique. Really, the true sad aspect of red wines in Israel today is more than just the lack of unique terroir, it is that they almost all taste the same. Cabernet wines are all the same, as are Merlot, and the famous Israeli blends.
Even the great wineries are slowly moving towards the mean, with wines that are more fruit bombs then they are varietally true. The 2009 Yatir Petite Verdot was a shocker, I had it a few months ago and now it is showing true fruit bomb characteristics. Same can be said for some of the new 2012 Teperberg wines.
Still, the 2011 wines from Teperberg are rocking as are many of the Yatir wines, though I picked on the PV. My point is that wineries are moving in the direction that meets the need for larger quantities. There are still star wines at Teperberg, including the lovely new Malbec and Chardonnay wines. Same for Yatir which continues to be in the top wineries of Israel, in my opinion. Still, when one sees the stars moving in that direction, I can only hope that it stops before it spreads.
The saving grace of Israel wine overall, at this time, is the white, rose, and bubbly wines that they are producing! Think about what I just said, 6 years ago, Yarden was creating superstar wines, having just released, at that time, the 2008 wines and the reds were killing it. The whites were sad, and only a few rose were even in production. That all changed with a sudden shift in the production of far more rose and whites to the point where no matter how hard I tried, I could not taste all the whites and rose that Israel produced this year – good or bad. That would have been a very easy task in years past, but this year, even after making a concerted effort, I hope I covered the majority. I missed Psagot’s great new whites and Rose, produced under the caring hands/eyes of Yaacov Oryah, from acclaimed Midbar fame.
To me, the stars of Israel are the whites and rose. They are everywhere. Every winery feels forced now to create wines for the hot Israeli climate, and it makes perfect sense. The wines for the most part are crisp and light and refreshing, some with more complexity than others. The varieties are growing, including some fascinating blends from the likes of Mia Luce and Tzuba Winery.
Sure, there are lovely to superstar reds, from wineries like Matar, Netofa, Yatir, Flam, Castel, Tzora, Gvaot, Recanati, Dalton, Teperberg, Tura, Carmel Winery (Israeli labels), Ella Valley (for the Franc), and some others. Read the rest of this entry
As many of you know, I have been a very vocal advocate for the need of Israeli wineries to stop making wines for the sweet-toothed, wine chugging kosher public. The wineries and their fans crave uncontrolled tannin, date, prune, and enough oak on the wine, for splinters to be protruding from it!
Well, I am so excited to say that there is now a winery that combines the best of both worlds! Yes, they make fantastic date juice and old-world wines at the same time! This magical winery is the Matar Winery, which is the kosher arm of the famous Pelter Winery in Israel’s Golan Heights! Pelter Winery is not kosher, but in 2012 they decided to create a new arm of their winery- called Matar Winery. A say arm, because it is an extension to Pelter Winery, it is NOT Pelter Winery itself. Tal Pelter, the winemaker and half owner of the family run winery, decided that he still wanted to interact with his wines, on a very hands on and intimate level, and so he kept Pelter winery non-kosher. However, he also wanted to make his wines available to the charadei (frum/orthodox) Jewish community, and so he created a new winery, that uses his grapes and that he makes, with the aid of religious workers.
This is a very different approach that say Flam, Castel, and others wineries that went kosher. In the latter wineries, the entire production went from non-kosher to kosher inside of a year. For Tal, who is a passionate and hands-on winemaker, who happens to not religious, it would have meant losing access to what he craves – his wines. This is a subject I discussed in my top wine post of all time; kosher wine 101. For brevity, I will simply state that kosher wine is defined by many things, but the toughest one for winemakers like Tal, is the requirement that the wine be made and handled by religious Jews.
This past weekend I enjoyed having some family over at the house, and we enjoyed a few new kosher wine options that were quite enjoyable. First off, thanks DB and NB for swinging by – it was a real joy to see u guys again!!!
Now on to the new options out there. The first is the 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir and the new 2013 La Fenetre wine blend and Cab. I only tasted the new 2013 Pinot, and it needed a day of air to lose its ripe flavors. We had the 2011 La Fenetre wines before and the 2012 over Passover, so I am happy to see the kosher selection growing and improving! From the get go, the wine had a massive mouth and attack. However, it also displayed far too much sweet and ripe notes for me. With time the tannins stayed and the sweet notes receded to show a wine ripe with fruit but balanced with mad coffee, tannin, and sweet spices – lovely!
Sadly, the Alsace Pinot Gris was not fun at all, it tasted like a somewhat complex Bartenura Blue Bottle, which I am sorry to say is not much of a compliment! The 2014 Dalton Pinot Gris is a very different story – this wine may still be in travel shock, so let it rest for a bit. I popped mine open and it was dull for a day, until it popped open and had ripping acid and saline and lovely coating minerals. The 2009 Reacanati Carignan is still very old world and rich, but it is coming to its end soon, so drink up!
Sadly, the 2009 Yatir Syrah, a wine I brought from Israel is showing its age already – which blows my mind, but it too was showing over ripe fruit, so start drinking up as well.
The 2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is still insane in its complexity and its structure. Finally, 2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, may be a tiny step behind the 2013 but who cares – it is a lovely and awesome SB for Israel! The 2010 Fourcas Dupre continues to impress and crush with its sick body and mineral and its very impressive price.
So to recap, the wines I loved over Shabbos, are on the top wines for Passover post, and they are:
- 2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre
- 2014 Dalton Pinot Gris
- 2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc
- 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir (needs time!)
The wine notes follow below:
2012 Cave de Ribeauvillé Giersberger Pinot Gris – Score: B
This is an ok Pinot Gris but lacks the crazy acid and is a bit too “sweet” for me. There is residual sugar, and the sweet fruit annoys me. The nose is ripe with honey. honeysuckle, almond, dirty earth, loam, and ripe white fruit. Too sweet for me, with ripe summer fruit, and rich fig. Nice enough, but stick with the 14 or 13 Dalton PG. The mineral is its saving grace. Read the rest of this entry
I have previously posted about our tasting and dinner last year with Pierre Miodownick and the Netofa Winery. They are two entities that are deeply intertwined with each other essentially Netofa is Pierre. The humorous aspect is that when I think of Pierre, I think of France, Bordeaux, Champagne, maybe Burgundy, but I do not think about Rhone! According to GG, Pierre did make a Rhone wine in the past, a Crozes-Hermitage, but I never tasted it. In a special way, Netofa is Pierre’s entry, on a large scale, into the Rhone and Iberian wine regions of the world, and like most things he makes, they are fantastic!
Once again, it was GG and I making our way to Pierre’s house for a tasting of all the new Netofa wines and to see his beautiful new tasting room that was recently constructed. The wines are still being made at Or Haganuz, all done by Pierre himself. The tasting room however, is located in the same area as he lives, and it was an easy drive from the tasting room to his house for dinner and a chance to drink the wines at our leisure.
We made our way to the new tasting room in Netofa and after parking, we walked up the long set of semi-circles stairs to the tasting room. The door to the room is a massive sliding door of vertical planks, very akin to a barn, but in a lovely and tasteful manner. The room is beautifully appointed and upholstered with wine bottles all over the two walls. The other walls are the sliding door entrance and the glass wall with a door to the storage room.
The middle of the room is dominated by this massive squared- off horseshoe shaped table, with a lovely leather appointed chair in the middle. Pierre was very kind to have setup the tasting of all the new and some older wines with glasses all setup for us for the 4 types of wine we were going to be tasting; rose, white, red, and port. Really he had 6 glasses setup for us, but I use 1 glass for all my tastings unless it was the side-by-side tastings we had of the new and previous vintages.
When you look at Netofa’s wines, you have to wonder – why is a French Bordeaux expert making Rhone wines? So, being myself, I asked him. Mr. Miodownick explained quite simply that what he felt grew best near Mount Tabor, where his vineyards are, was Rhone varietals. Now, to be honest the winery has more than just Rhone varietals, it has Chenin Blanc and Iberian grapes as well. Still, the red wines are all Rhone varietals, ignoring the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional that go into the Tinto and the ports. So, I guess my naming Pierre a Rhone Ranger is a bit off-kilter, given the diversity of his varietals. Maybe, Mediterranean Terroir would have been better, but that did not sound as good as Rhone Ranger!
Now, I did not come up with Rhone Ranger of course, that was done by the founding members of the association in 1980. The most famous of them may be Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Still, the kosher wine world is finding that Rhone varietals work well in warm climates. Look at Elvi Wines and Capcanes – they both grow a fair amount of Rhine varietals, with different names. Grenache becomes Grenacha and so on. In California, you do not need to look further than Hajdu and Shirah wineries, where their wine portfolios are predominately made up of Rhone varietals. Still, Mr. Miodownick does grow grapes that originated from the Loire Valley and from Portugal, so the Rhone Ranger moniker may be a bit stretched, but I do love those SM wines! The white wines are all Chenin Blanc – a very unique wine for Israel, as the wine’s character is less about tart and refreshing fruit; but rather a younger brother of the Chardonnay grape, meaning it has elegance, power, and yet it also has that Rhone style straw and earth and dirt that we all crave.
The red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo (an Iberian varietal), Touriga Nacional (native to Portugal), and there are hints of Grenache lurking!!! The whites are the afore mentioned Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. I would love to taste Grenache Blanc or Viognier from Pierre – but so far that is not in the books. But you cannot blame a Viognier lover for trying! The Roussanne and Grenache are two newly planted vines, so they will not become available till 2017.
As we looked at the glasses in front of us, on the squared-off table, I could not help but stare at the bottles standing on the mirrored walls, and the glass that surrounded us. Yes, each bottle is standing up and resting on a curved platform that is mounted to the wall. It is quite a sight; behind the mounts and the bottles is a wall of moire mirrors that were custom built for the winery. The mirrors affect is to not really reflect as much as give make the room feel bigger and cozier, which they clearly got correct! The mirrored walls add an immense amount of class to the already classically elegant room. The wall of standing wines are also in a squared off horseshoe shape, and in the center is a wine dispensing machine that filled the bottles with innate gas as the wine is dispensed. This allows the wines in the machine to essentially never oxidize while they continue to dispense wine, until of course the bottle is empty or the innate gas empties out – the latter is not recommended! Behind the table is a wall of bottles in cubbyholes, very akin to a wine cellar, stretching the entire length of the tasting room. The wine wall makes the room feel like you are in a cellar and again, like the mirrored walls, really looks cool!! Read the rest of this entry
Well, Passover has come and gone and while I will not bore you with the details, I did get to cook my brisket and drink some very lovely wines. I have to say, I was away for this Passover from our home, and I brought some wines with me, many of which were great. However, I also visited Hungarian Kosher in Skokie, IL, the original home of kosherwine.com before they sold out to JWines.
When I was there I was happy to see that they were still selling lots of wine from all of the main distributors. The entire story of what happened to kosherwine.com and why it moved over to JWines, is not a mystery and much as it is politics and stuff I do not get into. This blog again, to remind many, is really for me to keep track of my notes and my wines, something I also do on Cellar Tracker. Still, when massive chances like this happen to the kosher wine industry some think I need to talk about it. Well, I do not agree. I like to converse about the overall wine industry, and the things I find issue with, such as the high cost of kosher wine, French Wines, and the date juice coming out of Israel.
The story of kosherwine.com is really not my business; it is between Dan and JWines and other people who I am friendly with, and something that is better left for table fodder.
Now, on to the wines. I was very happy to see a bottle of the 2002 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. WOW what a bottle! Another blockbuster wine that I enjoyed was the 2013 Harkham Shiraz, Aziza. We have spoken about the Harkham Winery and Richie Harkham here and here. The funny thing about this Aziza bottle is that the KA kosher supervision is not actually printed on the label! Mr. Harkham told me it was because of some glitch, and he sent me a letter from the KA, which stated clearly that the wine is officially kosher.
The next blockbuster was the 2009 Four Gates Merlot and the 2011 Four Gates Chardonnay. Both of them were insane and rich and really opened some few days after they were opened. Finally, the rose and whites from Hajdu and Shirah are still rocking and rolling and so are their new ones! Bravo guys!
After the blockbuster wines – I was lucky to spend some time with friends and family and we each shared wines with each other. My uncle shared a lovely bottle of the 2012 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Kosher Grinalda! I have never had this wine before, it is a white blend of some crazy grapes, I never heard of that was made in Portugal. I was skeptical to start – but WOW what a great wine and it is DIRT cheap. Sadly, it is only sold in Illinois. So, go to Binny’s or Vineyard’s in Lincolnwood and buy some.
My other friends, GM and RM shared two bottles of wines that they were aging for some time, maybe a bit too long (wink). They were a 1994 Yarden Merlot and a 1999 Hagafen Pinot Noir! Wow, sadly, they were both over the hill for sometime, but what a joy, honor, and experience to enjoy then with my friends. I shared with them a bottle of the 2013 Goose Bay Fume Blanc. The trade was nowhere near fair, but they were just being kind and I was happy to share more, but they seemed happy with that option. Shockingly, the star was yet another wine – a 2003 Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet Sauvignon! That puppy was insane, rich, layered, black and mouth coating – LOVELY! That was a wine that was opened at its peak and we all GREATLY enjoyed!
The other visit was to BC and CG, CG made some two wicked cool brisket and other tasty side dishes. I shared the left overs of the 2002 Leoville Poyferre, the 2013 Aziza and they shared with me a lovely bottle of the 2008 Ella Valley Vineyards Vineyard’s Choice Personal and the 2012 La Fenetre Red Blend. Many thanks guys and feel better soon CG!!!!
Please post what you had for Passover, or at least your favorites ones from Passover!!
The wine notes follow below:
2003 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select – Score: A- (and more)
WOW! Bravo guys, this is a wine, that is stored well will pay you back in deep dividends! The nose on this wine is redolent with dark brooding fruit, with hints of green notes and lovely cedar. The mouth is full and rich with layers of black and red berry, along with lovely and very elegant mouth coating tannin – lovely! The finish is long with roasted herb, vanilla, tobacco, sweet dill, and chocolate galore! Read the rest of this entry