Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2016

2012 Four Gates Cabernet SauvignonIn case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 5 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was an OK year for Four Gates Wine, but this year – may well be his best of all time. Now, I have got way too many emails and posts on FB asking me about the wines and the prices, that have gone up a bit. So, I thought I would post this article earlier than I would have to get people the information they have asked for.

The prices are a bit higher, but to be honest that is none of my business. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for it. That said, the Pinot is one of the best out there – with exception to maybe the 2012 Masada Pinot Noir – which is more expensive. Same goes for the new Cabernet Franc. The 2013 Cabernet Franc that Benyo is selling on his website is NOT from his vineyard, but rather from a vineyard on the Bello Ridge area, close to the vineyard from where he sources his Cabernet Sauvignon that he is selling as well.

Prices are not what I get involved in, I am very adamant that wineries work to lower their prices – to make good kosher wine more accessible to the kosher consumer, but in Four Gates case – I guess it is up to you to decide what you want to buy.

Now to the wines, the Petite Verdot is the last one that will be made from that vineyard, so if you liked the 2010 PV – which was OFF the charts, the 2013 is almost as good, but with time it may be better. Also, being it is the last – get some while it is available. The same goes for the Pinot Noir, which is going to be the last one for at least three years or more, as 2014 was a tiny crop of PN, but very unique none the less, that will be released next year I think, but think REALLY TINY, like 10 cases I think. The 2015 PN was non-existent, so the hope is that the 2016 vintage will be good, but that is three years out. So, if you want PN, get it now.

Finally, as I said before, the Cabernet Franc is a new wine for Four Gates – as this is a new vineyard and while he did get some in 2015 (none in 2014), it was so small that it was blended into the Cabernet from ridge. The 2015 vintage overall is really small all around California, so do not expect too much from any of the vendors – though I think Covenant did well. So, in my opinion those would be the three MUST buys of the list.

After that, in terms of the rest of the wines, the Chard is very oaked – like crazy! But I had it twice and each time I let it sit for a day and after that it was one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long time. Rich, fruity, but supple, with great butter and butterscotch, and so viscous that it really made me take notice.

The two Merlot are very nice as is the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Fraire Robre is crazy as always – the blend of Cab. Merlot, and CF really does make for an epic Bordeaux-like wine. Finally, the Syrah is very unique and the last for a few years, hopefully benyo can get more this year. The wine is very dirty, mushroom, and almost barnyard – very unique. It will make for a Syrah that is different than many have had in the past.

So, there you have it – the wine notes follow below:

2012 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- (and much more)
This is yet another lovely classic Four Gates Merlot nose with raspberry and plum, with lovely briery, garrigue, and juicy fruit berry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely with sweet cedar, crazy sweet dill, with layers of concentrated black fruit, blackberry, dark plum, all balanced with searing acid, sweet fruit notes, hints of coconut, and sweet herb. The finish is long and inky with rich black fruit, chocolate, leather, intense sweet tobacco, black fig, and black and red jam. BRAVO!!

2012 Four Gates Merlot, MSC – Score: A- (and much more)
Another lovely classic Four Gates wine nose with rich black fruit, with elegance and restraint. The mouth on this med to full bodied wine is another example of sheer elegance, with layer of concentrated juicy blackberry jam, mouth coating tannin, currant, green herb, bell pepper, with hints of sweet cedar, sweet basil, and dill, with sweet milk chocolate, and cocoa. The finish is long and black, with rich layers of licorice, more sweet herb, and lovely green notes backed by black plum, and sweet spices. LOVELY!

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- to A
The nose on this lovely wine is ripping with rich tart and black fruit, along with mounds of dry dirt, loam, and earth, followed by incredible mineral, graphite and #2 pencil. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and complex, and comes at you first with rich roasted herb along with lovely blackberry, tart raspberry, dark plum, with green notes, bell pepper, and lovely foliage, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, mad acid, garrigue, and black currant. The finish is long and refreshing, with a huge backbone, along with tart, full, and rich fruit, followed with leather, leafy tobacco, sweet dill, more green notes, licorice, along with saline and salt lick, and lovely pith. A very unique and special wine worth finding!

2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- (and much more)
This is a far more restrained wine than the Merlot wines – less fruit on the nose with jammy red fruit, raspberry jam, vegetal notes, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is inky perfect the perfect balance between the Merlot wines, plush and rich, nicely extracted but controlled, with a bit less dill, with lovely sweet tannin, balanced nicely with searing acid, black plum, sweet herb, mounds of ripe cassis, blackberry, sweet fruit jam, mouth coating and drying tannin, and blackcurrant, with great finesse and control. The finish is long with great balance, sweet chocolate, sweet basil, lovely earth, mineral, graphite, and sweet tobacco. BRAVO!!

2012 Frere Robaire, Bordeaux Blend – Score: A- (and much more)
This is another wine with a far more red nose profile, showing redder fruit, with plum and raspberry, ripe candied cherry, and cassis in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and perfect with layers of dark fruit, sweet herb, and insane tart and ripe fruit, all balanced with layers of concentration and control. The mouth is layered and rich with an inky fruit structure that gives way to sweet oak, blackberry, and sweet herb. The finish is long and tart with nice tannin and dirt, showing well with dark chocolate, and sweet herb. Very Nice!

2013 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is earthy, dirty, toasty, and mushroom, with tart red fruit lurking, and with time shows floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with intense sweet dill, sweet plum, and toasty and smokey notes, with roasted animal, and heavy rich sweet tannin, that gives way to more dirt and sweet spices and intense and crazy acid. The finish is long and mineral with a rich fruit structure showing blackberry, crazy tobacco, and vegetal notes, with dark chocolate, and roasted toasty notes.

2013 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A- (and much more)
The nose on this lovely wine starts with a hit of alcohol, but that blows off quickly to show the classic Benyo Chica cherry cola, followed by rich tilled earth, nice crunchy herb, and rich sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and bold and it needs time to come together, with classic cherry, raspberry, dark currant, along with intense acid, and lovely garrigue with impressive fruit structure that is packed with toasty oak, rich tannin, along with layers of fruit, graphite, mineral, and more dirt. The finish is long and vanilla, with great structure and tobacco, with sweet slices, cinnamon, and crushed herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and much more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!!

2012 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

A nice cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and QPR Merlot wines

2011 Chateau RoyaumontThis past weekend we had many guests over and we enjoyed a lovely cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Most of them were from Cali – but we had a nice Israeli wine in there as well. The real winner of the blind tasting was the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, but I liked the 2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc more because of the acid. It was clear that certain wines were better appreciated for the depth and power they had, more in your face and full bodied wines.

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, however, does 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.

Wines from Shabbat

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My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine events for 2016

kfwelaAs I posted in my year in review, we all need to educate ourselves in what makes you happy in the kosher wine world. The best way to do that is to attend RCC tastings (that happen monthly), or one of the many kosher wine events that happen in and around the Passover wine buying season.

This year is no different as in the past, thankfully I have the dates for almost all the events – the only one missing, for now, is the Jewish Week wine event that happens every year at the City Winery in NYC. I hope they do something about it though, as last year was a disaster. It was so overcrowded – it made the KFWE NYC look like a playground during class hours!

Anyway, the KFWE NYC listened – thank God, and they are returning to Chelsea Piers, but we will get to that in a bit.

The first and IMHO, the best KFWE in the books is the Tzur tasting in Tel Aviv. The Miami event was actually quite nice, but it happens in December of the previous year and in this case it happened already on December 15th at the Turnberry Isle Hotel, in Aventura Fl.

Though to be 100% truthful the first event (after the Miami one), is the KFWE in Paris which will happen on February 16th. After that wake up the next morning and hop on the Eurostar and you will be whisked to London where you can still get tickets to the VIP session at the KFWE Europe, which will be taking place at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London, W1.

A new theme throughout the KFWE family is the classic approach of steal what works best! The KFWE system is basically a brotherly rivalry between the cities – with London/NYC/LA being the three official ones, and Miami/Israel/Paris being less so. Still, when one idea works for one of the siblings – you can be sure it will be copied with each others personal tastes. In this case I am talking about the VIP session. I exalted the idea in my post about the KFWE in LA, and while I was in awe of the VIP room, the other area in LA needed more space. So, they too will be moving, but the VIP room/experience is 100% On like Donkey Kong!

Another fascinating aspect of this year’s official KFWE tastings is that there is no love lost between the siblings. By that I mean, there is no cross promotion of any kind between the London, NYC, or LA events! I wonder why that is the case? It is not like these are zero-sum options! People who live in NYC will go there, though many go to the LA event as it has been far more hospitable in previous years than the over crowded NYC event. Still, why not cross promote? It is free advertising!

So, the London event is on the 16th and then you hop on a plane and fly to Israel for the Tzur (not so much called KFWE) tasting on Monday February 22nd in the evening. Then hop on a plane and fly to the Granddaddy of them all – the original KFWE NYC and use the promo code CORKBOARD18.

Sadly, the VIP session has already been sold-out, and the older coupon code has expired. The non-VIP session is available and hopefully its return the Chelsea Piers will make for a far more enjoyable and manageable experience than last year.

Then hop on another plane and make your way to warm Los Angeles! The KWFE LA last year was the hands down winner for its epic VIP session, and the VIP session is back and I would make advise all to jump on them before they sell out! Order tickets here NOW and use my coupon code of MUSINGS to get a 15% discount off the rack rate! This year they moved the event from the hotel to a much larger and more swanky LA experience location! It is being held at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It is a lovely location and one that will have space to expand the VIP session to have even more madness – so look for that!

After that – you would think you should be exhausted and ready for a break and I am sure you will need it and it will be well deserved. However, soon afterwards it is time to go to The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting on March 6th at 5:30 PM to 8:30PM at The Grapevine Wines & Spirits, in Wesley Hills, New York! When your there say hello to Yehoshua Werth, he is the wine man at the Grapevine!

UPDATE: The Jewish Week’s Grand Wine Tasting at the City Winery is on March 28, from 5:30 to 8:30.

Well there you have it! I will post again once I have purchase links for the Jewish Week event. The event I am hoping will come back is the Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza! It took off a year again last year and I hope it will be back for good this year!

If I were you – I would recommend you buy the tickets of the KFWE that apply to you ASAP and then go to the events with the mind of enjoying yourself, but also with the mind of learning! These events are the best opportunity to see what wines you like, love, crave, and most importantly hate!

Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village – kosher wines

As I have been lamenting recently, there really is no way to get kosher wines from small producers that are imported by anyone other than Royal Wines, on the West Coast. One of the best examples of that is the brand new Jacques Capsouto wines that appeared in 2015 on the east coast – imported to the USA from Israel by: Road House Wine – a small but respected wine importer out of New York, of course!

People who read this blog have a few choice words for it, the most common complaint – that it is too long. Well this post will be far shorter – I promise you that. I had the opportunity to taste the two wines and the notes will be found below. However, I did not have the chance to talk or interview the man for this post – Jacques Capsouto, but the story is wonderful, and I could never do it honor as the esteemed and true Israeli Wine promoter could – Adam Montefiore. So please read his article on Jacques Capsouto – it is beautiful, as they all are, and very compelling indeed!

My personal take on Mr. Capsouto is that he is DEAD on with what will work in Israel and what may get by in Israel, grape wise. The Rhone Valley, Spain, and Portugal varietals should be the template for most wineries going forward. Fo this man to create a winery based solely on Rhone varietals is genius and one that I am sure will continue to reap rewards for him going forward.

I hope to meet with the man and visit the winery the next time I am in Israel, till then I hope you work as hard as I did to find these wines and enjoy them for what they are – first-rate product from a new wine producer, who is deeply passionate about his love for Israel and his love for Israeli wine! Also any person who can say these words and put his money behind it – IS MY KIND of man!!! Capsouto is convinced that Israel is a Mediterranean country and as such should plant Mediterranean grape varieties. He also believes Israel should make blends in the Southern Rhone style, “less fruit forward and less like California”. All I can say is AMEN!!!!!

Sadly, I never tasted the 2014 rose till it sold out in NYC. The next rose will be from 2015 Shmitta, which I do not drink. Also, the reserve wine is not yet released – look for it in the spring of this year. As I hope you read Adam’s article, Eva is used in honor of Jacques’ mother, Samuel is used in honor of his grandfather and brother, while Marco is for his father (the unreleased reserve red wine), and Albert is named after his younger brother who passed away for the other unreleased white reserve wine.

Another side note – that I think many will see and one that I will surely ask him when I meet him in the future, is that this direction follows another winery we all love – Netofa Winery. The varietals are all Rhone in style, the unoaked whites and rose are released early, followed by the unoaked reds 6 months later. Then the reserve white and red, both oaked, are released a year later. This is not particular in any way to Pierre and Netofa Winery, this is the classic release cycle of almost all wineries in the Rhone. Just interesting to see two men building an entire wineries off Rhone varietals and whose styles are very close in nature – but we will have to taste the reserve wines in the future to see how close they hew to each other’s styles.

In closing – I was really impressed by what he has created in his first year, the white wine is insanely good, both quality and cost wise. The red wine is nice, but a bit too floral for me. Still, the ability to take a fair amount of capital and plant it into the ground in the Galilee – with varietals that he believes will work, while almost none of it exists there – is very gutsy! I am not sure of this – but I wonder if he was the first to ever plant Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Counoise in the Galilee!! There is not much Grenache up there either, with Roussanne and Marsanne having been planted already. Bravo to Mr. Capsouto, may you have more successes in the coming years!

My wine notes follow below for the white and red:

2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Blanc – Score: A- (and more) (MAD QPR)
This is the second kosher wine that I know of that is made mostly to all with Grenache Blanc, the other one being the epic Hajdu Grenache Blanc, but double or more the price!

That said, this is one of the best whites coming out of Israel, and that is a VERY long list, given the new trends there. This blend is very unique and clearly the only one that I know of with Clairette, the other grapes have been part of Recanati wines, along with Shirah, Hajdu, and others. Still, by itself – it is one of the most unique and complex blends in the kosher world – hands down!

The blend is 60% Grenache Blanc, 19% Roussanne, 14% Clairette and 7% Marsanne. These are all grapes that have been taken up by the Rhone Rangers, as they are all Rhone varietals (though some of those grapes grow elsewhere in France as well).

This wine needs air, please do not pop it and drink it, you will regret it. It does not need to be decanted, that is absurd, but please open it two hours in advance and you will enjoy it far more, IMHO. The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with straw, floral notes, orange blossom, citrus, and earth. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is fresh, spirited, and live, with nice acid, great mineral, slate, along with green apple, peach, apricot, pear, nectarine, all very restrained if I must, really shocking for an Israeli wine, along with spice, herb, and lovely nutty qualities. The finish is long and salty, with lovely saline, olives, great orange pith, and more refreshing aspects. This is a shocking wine for Israel a crazy QPR and a very unique blend! BRAVO!!!

2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Samuel Rouge – Score: B to B+
After tasting the very nice (solid QPR) Capsouto Blanc, I had hopes for this next wine, another unique blend for Israel. This wine is unoaked and a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 31% Grenache, 31% Counoise, and 3% Syrah. Wait what??? Yep there are clearly Grenache and Counoise vines in Israel! Like WHAT!!! I had never heard of Counoise until I tasted this wine, and that alone is a sure-fire buy for most people who see this wine because most have never had a wine with that varietal in it, if you drink kosher or NOT! The first two varietals are classically termed GM (Grenache Mourvedre blend), the Syrah three-some is called a GMS. But the GMCS is a new one for me in the kosher wine world!

That said, the other varietals are almost common to us Cali lovers, but still other than Syrah – the other varietals are not exactly commonplace like an internet Kardashian-sighting! So, I had high hopes times two. At first this wine opens to floral mouth that is overpowering, but with time that relaxes and becomes a very nice wine indeed.

The nose on this wine is lovely and one of its clear winners with rich blueberry, boysenberry, rich floral notes, root beer, dirt, and nice roasted animal that I love and commonly associate with Cali GM and classic Australian Shiraz. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is very nice with ripping acid, nice raspberry, plum, blue fruit, floral notes, followed by very nice mouth coating tannin, coffee, and good sweet herb. The finish is long and blue with more floral notes, boysenberry, rose hips, rose water, and tannin, tobacco, and sweet herbs. Very impressive first release and while I would take the Netofa Red side by side with this lovely wine, this is still an impressive wine – VERY NICE!

The Chosen Barrel – an interesting approach for KosherWine.com

Well, as I have said many times, I used to work with Dan Kirshe at kosherwine.com, I was one of the writers for his wine club newsletter and I bought most of my wine from them. Since then – the inventory and the website were sold to JWines. The name brand alone for such a coveted domain must have been worth the effort that Dan and his team put into that company for many years, I hope, though I have no idea about that aspect at all.

After a while Dan went a different direction and while I always liked kosherwine.com, my orders went elsewhere, towards the east coast merchants. Over time, the costs for shipping has gone up, as fewer and fewer of the east coast kosher wine merchants – gave free shipping as an option.

In the game of driving down prices as your lone differentiator – it clearly become a zero sum game that no one could win and therefore they have almost all pulled the free shipping sales during the holidays. Where that leaves folks like me, who live on the west coast, is hoping to find the best deal and then eating the shipping, which does not work unless you are buying very high end wines.

Kosherwine.com is one of the very few wine shops online that offer free shipping, but to balance that their prices are higher than other shops. So, if you are looking for wines in the 20 to 30 dollar range – the free shipping on a case becomes of real value, even with their slightly higher prices. As I look through their inventory more, especially in the French and Spanish regions, I find they have a nice selection, though some of them are out of stock and I wish they would stock wines from the smaller importers like Red Garden or Israel Wine Direct.

In the end, KW has a lot going for it, they have a very good selection, albeit without some distributors, they also have free case shipping, and they have sale prices that are often inline with some of the larger merchants. Toss in no sales tax for most of the country as well, and it is a great option for wines that exist in the price range that most of us buy wines at.

With that said, JCommerce (the parent company for JWines and Kosherwine.com) is attempting to move itself past the inevitable drive to the bottom – that many wine stores will face when their only differentiator is price alone. One of their approaches is their set of Library wines, which we tasted at last year’s Jewish Week wine tasting, personally it was the best part of that tasting outside of a few other wines there. The wine tasting itself was a disaster, as it was far too crowded and most of the good wines were not brought by the distributors. The best part, IMHO, of the Jewish Week tasting last year were KosherWine.com’s incredible old wines that they were pouring – it was a real treat!

Another manner in which KW is trying to innovate is with the production of their own wines. Now let me say, that while making your own wine for fun may be hard but rewarding – creating labels and getting import rights are an insane pain in the neck. Now, you can get away with much of the pain if you are not reselling the wines, that is 100% legal by law. However, once you start selling wine – no matter where that wine was produced – it needs to have a label that has been approved by the TTB. Throw in the wine importing and this new project by JCommerce is one that is unique and may well end up as a very good long term play for them.

I was sent four wines to taste, two of them are not involved with this post – so I will skip over them. The other two wines were The Chosen Barrel wines. Of the two of them, I liked one of them and the other was not for my taste buds. With that said, both of them will be liked by the kosher wine consumers that drink riper and new-world Israeli wines. They both showed very good structure, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The Acacia was a bit too new world for me, with clear date leanings, while the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, while being clearly new-world in style, was controlled with nice classic Cab fruit and spice.

I wanted to touch on a quick but not overly discussed fact on the two wines I received. The Cabernet Sauvignon is NOT mevushal while the Acacia blend is mevushal and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The blend is also called Australian Blend – as they were one of the first countries to create this ripe wine blend. With that said, Israel was next to make use of this blend, with Yatir being one of the first to create this blend in the kosher wine world (aside from the kosher Australian wines that were out at that time).

The wines marketing does not revolve around who made the wines or from winery they come from! These wines are kosher of course, as is visibly clear from the bottles. The wine’s web pages describes the process for how these white label wines came to be. In their words: The Chosen Barrel is an innovation in the US Wine Industry. We sampled countless barrels from more than 20 Israeli wineries and when we found The Chosen Barrel, we knew we had to have it all. So we could bring it to you.

When we first approached this project we knew our customers want unparalleled access to the very best of kosher wine. As we toured Israel’s wineries and tasted more than 50 barrels of wine, we found this small batch production of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and barbera grapes. Instantly, we knew. We had found what we had come for. No one else has access to The Chosen Barrel. We purchased it all so we could bring it to you. This exclusive production is yours, and we’re confident you’ll be as excited about it as we are.

The labels talk more about the wines themselves. In the case of the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the back label informs that the wine was aged for 20 months in barrels. The wine was harvested by hand and at night, and when bottles the wine was unfiltered. The same goes for the Acacia blend, excepting for the aging time – which was 15 months in oak barrels.

My many thanks to JCommerce for sending me the wines and the wine notes follow below:

2012 The Chosen Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B++ (NOT Mevushal)
What can I say, this is a very new world wine, very fruit forward and in your face, this is not a wine for tasting – this is a wine to be enjoyed with food and meat. The nose on this wine is classically Israeli, with mounds of tobacco, sweet cedar, mounds of mocha, rich milk chocolate, coconut, and black fruit in the background with herbs. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still young, with searing tannins, along with enough acid to balance out the wine, but very new world and leaning towards dates with lots of oak, blackberry, dark plum, raspberry, nice mineral, dirt, and green notes, bell pepper, and sweet herb. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, all coming together with leather, and sweet fruit.

2012 The Chosen Barrel Acacia – Score: B to B+ (mevushal)
This is another new world wine that is another classic Israeli bent wine. This wine is less balanced than the Cabernet reserve, but with 25% of Syrah it has something to add. The nose on this wine is closed, but with time it shows earth, mushroom, date, cooked fruit, with chocolate, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is sweet with dark plum, sweet blueberry, anise, pepper, with a plush mouth and searing tannin, all wrapped in a fruit forward body structure. The finish is spicy with hints of saline, creme de cocoa, earth, mineral, and nice sweet spices, cinnamon, and sweet herb. The mevushal process feels like it hurt this wine, but many will find this a nice wine with the bold body and bold fruit.

My kosher wine 2015 year in review

Well, it is another Gregorian year and though there has been many new things going on in the world of the kosher wine world, they are all small in comparison to the larger fact that not much has changed.

Sadly, my issues from 2014 have not changed and in some ways they are getting worse. But lets start at the beginning and get to my issues next. So here is what I thought about 2015, in terms of kosher wine overall.

Economics

The economics of kosher wine continues to be a serious issue. When I get excited by a SINGLE very good kosher wine that exists below the 10 dollar range (other than maybe Baron Herzog Cabernet and Chardonnay which retail for more) – you know we have issues. Here is a list of non-kosher wines from Wine Spectator and from Wine Enthusiast. They show hundreds of options while we have THREE max, why? I have heard all the answers – and trust me the kosher supervision is not the reason!

I do not need to harp over the number of horrible and undrinkable – let alone unspeakable wines that exist in the kosher wine aisles that are not worthy of the glass they reside in. They all cost more than 10 dollars. In the end, the issue cannot be denied and it needs to be fixed. Quality exists (more below) at higher prices, but what is needed is lower prices and higher quality. You can always create great wines at 100 dollars – that is really not a hard thing to do, even if it looks that way sometimes. Great grapes from Napa, Montsant, or even places like Ben Zimra and others locations in the Upper Galilee, can be had for less than 6K a ton. Napa is the highest cost, with Montsant and Galilee costing less. Still, even at that cost – you get 50 cases at 100 bucks a pop = which comes out to 60K. Sure there are costs, including humans, and space, and the such. My point being the cost of making great wine is not hard. The real head knocker is making very good wine at lower costs.

That is where Terrenal has made a living at making very good wines, not great, not A rated, but very good wines at low cost. The sad fact is that unless there are great sales or just really cheap wine stores, the list of kosher wines under 20 dollars are even still limited, and that is what is really hurting the kosher wine world in my opinion.

Quality

Which takes us to the next subject – QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). I scream when there is a new good wine that is worthy of the QPR moniker. Elvi Wines is a perfect example of a winery made to build QPR wines. Same goes for Netofa Winery, Yarden/Gilgal Whites, Tabor white and rose, Capcanes, Terrenal, Volcanus, Goose Bay whites, Tura, some French wines here and there, and a few others. In terms of pure quality, ignoring price, then the list grows to most of Cali, most of Israel’s whites and rose, and for a few red from Israel’s superstars; including wineries like Matar, YatirFlam, Castel, Tzora, GvaotRecanati, Dalton, Teperberg, Tura, Carmel Winery (Israeli labels), Ella Valley (for the Franc), Adir, and some others.

Yes, my list of top wines for Passover continues to expand, but so do the number of wines available – and there is the rub. While the list continues to expand from 100 to 120, the number of wines available are in thousands – and there lies the issue. The percentages are not in the favor of the average guy on the street. I listed lots of wineries above, but in Israel alone, there are some 200+ kosher wineries, with more popping up weekly! Read the rest of this entry

Trader Joe’s Kosher 2014 Terrenal Seleccionado wine

2014 Terrenal SeleccionadoWell last week I posted about the new kosher Terrenal wines available at Trader Joe’s and that there is a newer wine; the 2014 Terrenal Seleccionado. Well until a week ago – the wine was not order-able on the west coast. But magically, this week the wine is not only order-able – the wine was in all the shops that I called.

I must be honest when I heard about this wine I had my doubts. First the name may be Spanish in ways (meaning Selected), but it is not a name that makes sense to any American wine buyer, and it is an absolute bear to spell or tell the Trader Joe’s person as he/she attempts to help you find it on the computer or shelf. The only saving grace there, is that if the wine is available at your shop, it will almost always be right to the left or right of the existing Spanish Terrenal wines. Second, whenever I hear about reserve wines I always have doubts. Reserve means something different to people, does it have more oak, better fruit, different varietals, more care – why charge more? This wine is a blend, it comes in a nicer and more expensive bottle, and it has a very nice cork, OH and it costs three more dollars (almost double the existing Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon).

Finally, why add in this Monastrell grape? Well, it turns out that Monastrell is just Spain’s name for a very beloved grape in the Rhone region – Mourvedre. A grape that the Rhone Rangers have taken upon themselves to make a reality here in California. Well, when I finally got a chance to taste the wine I can say that the wine is worth the extra three dollars, but from a purely subjective point of view, it is not almost 2x better than the basic Terrenal Cabernet. That said, the Cabernet at 3.99 is an absolute STEAL, so charging 6.99 for a slightly better wine, is still a great deal for the wine being sold.

This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell (AKA Mourvedre). It turns out that Monastrell is quite a successful grape in Spain, actually Monastrell is the 5th most popular varietal in Spain in terms of acreage planted. As we have stated in other places here on the blog, Monastrell is a grape that shows a VERY weird blend of feminine and masculine characteristics. It has very lovely floral notes and it also can show very meaty, dark, and earthy notes that are more masculine in nature.

The wine is higher in alcohol by 1.5% and it shows in the wine. The entry level 13.5% Cabernet is well-balanced and enjoyable. The 15% alcohol Seleccionado – is higher in alcohol because they used Monastrell grapes that they were picked later to maximize their potential, but it also has to do with the fact that Monastrell is a higher alcohol grape in the first place, as it needs to be riper to really shine. Put those two facts together and you get a wine that packs a significant punch in the heat factor and turns the wine into a more fruit forward wine that I did not think I would like. With that said, the wine is well-tempered and controlled and shows more like a controlled Cali wine than an out of control Israeli wine.

The wine shows no signs of date or raisin, instead it shows as a more supple, plush, and rich wine that is a bit more complex than the plain Cabernet and one that also has a bit of a feminine side to it from the added Monastrell, with hints of more roasted notes than its more entry-level brother.

Overall, I can say that while the name and the bottle were overkill from the Marketing department – the part that matters was a solid double and continues to show that impressive wines can be made at the 10 dollar and under wine segment!

The wine note follows below:

2014 Terrenal Seleccionado – Score: B++ to A- (MAD QPR) (NOT mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell (AKA Mourvedre). It turns out that Monastrell is quite a successful grape in Spain, actually Monastrell is the 5th most popular varietal in Spain in terms of acreage planted.

The nose on this lovely wine shows a bit hot to start but with time that balances out to show lovely floral notes, rich and dense earth, along with loam, followed by blackcurrant, roasted herb, and red forest berry. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is plush and rich, with nice mouth coating tannin, toasty notes, lovely acid, blackberry, more rich earth, lovely graphite, mineral, and green notes. The finish is long and dark, with nice rich chocolate, dark cherry, cassis, meaty notes, and black plum. BRAVO!!

Four Gates Cabernet Franc and Kos Yeshuos Vin Gris – strut Cali style

Kos Yeshuos Vin GrisThis past Shabbat was a quiet one and a very enjoyable one given the wines I had to taste. The meal was a simple and quiet one; with black bean soup, and for the main course – my meatballs recipe, quinoa, roasted veges, and green salad.

For the wines I enjoyed two wines that are not publicly available yet, though one will be soon. The Cabernet Franc was the soon-to-be released CF from Four Gates Winery, though this one was sourced from another location than his usually vaunted vineyards. The wine is very unique and very mineral based and a true joy, but I will wait for Benyo to talk about it before I say more.

The other wine was from a young man who I watched grow up in my midst – here in San Jose, CA. His name is Joshua A. Rynderman and his story is a unique one at that.

When we first moved into this community more than 20 years ago, the Rynderman family was already here and they were, and are still, a pillar of the community. Young Joshua at that time was far too young for me to gauge where or how his interests would take him. Sadly, the 2000s came around and with it the horrific decimation of human and real capital in Silicon Valley. Many companies shuttered their doors, and sadly the Ryndermans, and others, moved east for a myriad of reasons.

Fast forward to some few years ago, and the pull of the Silicon Valley has once again reached into the far crevices of America and the Rynderman family has once again gone west – and the San Jose community is once again blessed by their presence.

In their return to the Bay Area, we were once again reunited with their family, who was not a bunch of young children any longer, but rather a group of young men and a lady each showing strengths with their interests. Unbeknownst to us, during their departure – Michel had inculcated the love for all good things to his family, including art (his wife is a world-renowned artist), food, and wine. While Michel was part of this community he was affected by the many wine makers that were and are still part of this community; including the then owner of Gan Eden WineryCraig Winchell, the afore-mentioned Four Gates Winery owner and winemaker – Benyamin Cantz, and Ernie Weir’s Hagafen Wines.

So, when we invited them to a Shabbos dinner some 6 months ago, Josh was already becoming quite the wine aficionado – and I never knew it! I have to say, living in San Jose and finding another person who really gets wine – is like finding a gold coin while walking down the street! Of course there are folks like JR (AKA Jim Bob) and others who love and make a mean glass of wine, but a wine freak is an entire other matter! Of course I say that with great affection. Anyway, it turns out that he had been helping Benyo for a bit already and that he was talking about making wines. JR had already made a wine two years ago and again last year – so I hope to taste his new creation sometime soon as well, the last one – Quail Hill – was quite nice! Read the rest of this entry

The new 2014 Trader Joe’s Kosher Terrenal Wines

Well it has been a few months and it is time to post about the new wines from Terrenal – which can be found at Trader Joe’s markets. I have been writing about these wines for sometime now, and some are hits and some are misses, but for the most part they are solid wines at a very reasonable price.

I wrote about the very impressive 2014 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon already earlier this year, and now the Banero Prosecco is back on the shelves again along with a new 2014 Terrenal Chardonnay, that may well be their best ever. Sadly, the 2014 Terrenal Tempranillo is not as good as past vintages, like the 2012. But with the very impressive Chard, Cab, and Banero, the Tempranillo is not such a loss. The Malbec is better than in past vintages but not the homerun that the 2012 was at initial release.

My previous post about the 2014 Cabernet was a side rant about the prices of kosher wines and why they continue to go up instead of coming down. I am happy to say that the prices of the Terrenal wines have stayed the same – even as the value goes up in this past vintage.

Sadly, there is a new wine – a reserve wine that is only available in the NY and NJ area called: Terrenal Seleccionado it goes for 6.99 (the same price as the Banero Prosecco). Can you guys please try it out and post here – I would really love to hear what people are saying about it. Also, is it mevushal? Thanks!

So, here are my notes about the new Trader Joe Kosher Terrenal wines and enjoy!

2014 Terrenal Chardonnay, Curico Valley – Score: A- (QPR WINNER) (mevushal)
Another crazy hit for Terrenal and yes, it is the 5 buck kosher Chard from Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. The nose on this lovely Chilian Chard is crazy tropical, with screaming pineapple, goose berry, grapefruit, and fresh tart summer fruit and herb. The mouth in this medium bodied wine is very ripe and round with an almost plush feeling to it, followed by tart white cherry, peach, dried apple, and almond. The finish is long and sweet with nutty notes, a nice ribbon of pith, and green tea. Bravo!

2014 Terrenal Malbec, I.P. Mendoza – Score: B+ (mevushal)
For the past two years this wine has let me down, it had turned far too floral for my tastes and lacked the blue and black punch it had early on in 12 and 11. Well, so far it is back! The nose is redolent with dark fruit, fresh black and blue berries, with hints of roasted meat and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with soft mouth coating tannin, but it shows it is showing it mevushal process , with hints of cooked fruit, but overall the core blackberry, blueberry, and cranberry carry the day. Still, the floral notes are starting to show, which is great, I just hope it stays there, rather than taking over the entire mouth like it did in past vintages. Very nice.

2014 Terrenal Tempranillo Yecla – Score: B to B+ (NOT mevushal)
After the very good 2014 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon, a crazy QPR winner, I had high hopes for the 2014 Terrenal Tempranillo, sadly it is nice – but not the Cab.

The nose on this wine is vibrant with black cherry, strawberry, raspberry, earthy aromas, herb, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a nice quaffer, but lacks any attention grabbing notes, with spicy fruit, blackberry, nice round and searing tannin, earth, and an overall mouth feel that spicy and enjoyable. The finish is round with nice spice, great balancing acid, along with a dollop of herb and vanilla on the long finish. This is a fine wine, but I wish it had more to show.

2014 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla – Score: B+ to A-  (QPR) (NOT mevushal)
Bravo!! Very impressive wine. Insane QPR and very lovely mouth feel, plush and tannic with good structure and fruit. Again BRAVO!

The nose on this purple robed wine is redolent with crazy blackcurrant, followed by lovely roasted herb, licorice, red fruit, and bramble. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is impressive with good concentration of blackberry, ripe and juicy raspberry, followed by cocoa, searing tannin, mouth coating plush fruit, and lovely tobacco. The finish is long with chocolate, vanilla, spice, and green notes, all wrapped in blue and black fruit, with garrigue, menthol, and graphite lingering long – IMPRESSIVE for 5 bucks to say the least.

NV Banero Prosecco, Veneto IGT – Score: B++ (mevushal) (QPR)
Well, I am happy to say I am wrong! The wine I had in the past must have been a poor bottle, as this wine is now really enjoyable. Sadly, I cannot track vintages or bottlings, that I can see, but this bottle and the other one I opened recently were both much better.
The nose on this wine is ripping with sweet kiwi, honey, along with a orange blossom perfume, orange rind, toast, rose water, and guava. The mouth on this rich medium bodied wine starts off with a hit of bitterness, but is then dominated by the sweet notes of candied fig, honeysuckle, sweet melon, dried apple, prolonged medium mousse bubbles, and toast. The finish is long with more bubbles, acidity that balance the wine very nicely, along with orange peel, tangerine, and dried pear. I would love it to be even more dry, but this is a lovely wine, and even better knowing that the wine is mevushal and only 8 dollars. Very Nice!!

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