It always starts the same way, a blank page, you can look at it as a blank slate/canvas, or you can look at it as yet another post that feels at time like you are bearing your soul and feelings for all to ponder. Still, when it comes to writing about stuff you love, the fear of a blank page turns into a flowing river of text, the hard part is cutting it down to something manageable!
When it comes to Elvi Winery – I can only let my fingers do the talking, much like Moises Cohen’s wines do for themselves. It was our first day in Barcelona, and it saw my wife and I making our way to Clos Mesorah, a lovely vineyard 2 hours out of Barcelona, by train. Of course, things do not always go as planned, Moises the epitome of a host sent us detailed instructions for how we are to get from BCN to his lovely home. Sadly, time and luck were not on our side, two times on our travels to the lush vineyards of Montsant, we ran into Murph. First the train from BCN to the main train station of Barcelona was just pulling out as we walked from the ticket handler, a minute faster and we were on that one. Well, then the next domino fell, the next train would get us to the train station after the first of two trains to Clos Mesorah was pulling out, of course! So, a minute delay cost us two plus hours, such is life when traveling in a country that is foreign and complex like Spain.
But I am digressing, if anyone has read this blog before, you will know my appreciation for all things Spanish, when it comes to wine. To me they are the best kept secret in the world of kosher wine. Sure, Royal Wines has jacked the prices up on Capcanes – ever since taking over the distribution in the US from Solomon Wines. The prices are almost double for the Peraj Habib and Flor du Flor, and they almost double the Clos Mesorah prices in the US, as well. Still, if you go for the lower priced wines, there is nothing close in terms of QPR, and that is what makes kosher Spanish wines so special.
The best part of Spanish wines is that over ripe and unbalanced flavors do not find their way into the kosher Spanish offerings. Do not get me wrong, they are new-world wines of course, but they are balanced and controlled, something I think Israel could emulate, if they wanted to move to the next level. Read the rest of this entry
Well, it has been too long, I admit – mea culpa. We have just come back from a crazy long vacation, leaving right after the Jewish Holidays. All of this required time and setup, and well, I never found the time.
The trip consisted of a week in Greece, then on to Spain (more on that in a minute), then to Gibraltar for Shabbos, then to Glasgow for the 2015 World gymnastic championships. While the trip was epic, by far Santorini and Barcelona were beyond compare. The wine options in these locations are really very poor. Please beware that this post is more about the trip than wine and food, but there is also useful information about that as well.
Greece has ZERO good kosher wine options. Humorously, one of the most expensive hotels in Santorini (Mystique) has a crazy wine cellar, and it has some old Yarden wines there!! Sadly, I did not stay there, but I stayed at another epic hotel that overlooked the Caldera, the Katakies. We used points for this entire trip, otherwise, I would never spend that kind of money per night!
Well this past week was a quiet one, and one that was really well enjoyed being back home from Alaska! To keep it simple, we made a lovely paella that I love to make right before Shabbos starts, but we skipped all the toppings. It stays warm in the oven and does not over cook, which is great. In some ways, it is better than risotto, because getting the correct consistency for risotto after being in the oven for an hour to two hours after making it – is really hard!
For the protein (we skipped the Paella toppings) we went with sausages and my wife’s patented honey roasted lemon chicken – AWESOME!
For wine, we paired it with two wines that were better than I thought they would be. One was one of the new 2012 Four Gates Ayala wines, one that I did not post about here. In hindsight I should have, the 2012 Four Gates Ayala Pinot Noir is very nice. Soft and plush but robust enough to catch your attention. I also tasted a bottle of the 2013 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, that I wrote about on my kosher French wines post.
I will warn you that the Chablis starts off a bit sweet, showing its residual sugar, but with time the crazy acid and tart fruit emerges. This is an unoaked Chardonnay, and though oak is lovely in Chardonnay, this wine is nice and viscous with enough weight to handle pasta sauces and roasted chicken.
The wine notes follow below:
2013 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique – Score: A- (mevushal)
I actually like this wine now more than when I had it at KFWE. Please beware – this wine starts off with a very clear and distinct residual sugar attack, that calms down with time. So when you open this wine, give it air and decant it. It will grace you with a lovely bite and attack of lemon that was missing before doing so.
The nose on this unoaked Chardonnay – after decanting, shows lovely pear, apricot, English lavender, funk, and lovely herb. The mouth on this wine medium bodied wine is free of oak, with a weight to it that belies its lack of wood, also it is without the hollow I sensed earlier at the KFWE, showing nicely with tart fruit, lemon, citrus joy, along with with nectarine, orange, tangerine, peach, and summer fruit. The finish is long and refreshing with lovely pith, tart fruit, intense spice, mineral, and cloves. Bravo! and this wine is mevu!!!
2012 Four Gates Pinot Noir, Ayala – Score: B+
The nose on this wine is filled with cherry, raspberry, coffee, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is spicy and green with strawberry, cloves, mint, eucalyptus, along with still searing tannin, mad acid, and red fruit. The finish on this wine is mineral based and core with awesome acid, spice, sweet dill, and lovely searing tannin with spicy oak and hints of barnyard. This is not a complex wine as much as it is a solid wine with good fruit structure and acid.
This is the 7th annual wine event for the Jewish New Year being put on by the Kosher Wine Society (KWS)! The KWS is run and managed by Aron Ritter, and as always he has many tricks up his sleeve!
The Kosher Wine Society (KWS for those in the know) was started in 2005 when Aron Ritter could not find real events to attend that centered on one of his true passions, kosher wine! Remember, this was a point in time, when Lance Armstrong could still wear a yellow jersey! Further, the only kosher wine event, at that time, in the United States, was the Gotham Wine Extravaganza! So, the KWS was born, and slowly but surely it has grown into a membership that spans a large cross-section of the New York social scene.
The wine event will be a cross-section of many kosher wine providers much like the Gotham Wine Extravaganza! The KFWE is always awesome, like it was this past year, but you get only Royal’s wines. At the KWS event you get some Royal wines and other wines as well.
Three year’s ago event was wonderful and shall I say interesting as it occurred on “Fashion Week”, in NY, and the hotel where the event took place was hosting a party for the models – nuff said! This year the views will be far more beautiful (more on that in a bit).
As always, the wine list evolves over time, check this web page to follow the wines that will be available for tasting. For now the wines to taste are the Recanati wines (Single Varietal wines for sure), Gvaot, the Dalton wines, and the Teperberg wines as well! So many options and the list is barely 1/5 to 1/6th the way there! As the wine list grows – I am sure many more cannot miss wines will be added!!! Also, there will be a few winemakers this year, more than in the past, so look out for them as well!
There will be new Wines from Israel, California, France Italy Spain and much more. Enjoy amazing New wines and Great Kosher Food.
The event’s location this year again, is atop a building on the Avenue of the Americas, giving you unobstructed views of the city and Central Park from the 41st floor! The date for the event is September 8th 6:30 to 9:30 PM. The address is: Bernstein Global Wealth 1345 Avenue of the Americas 41st Floor (54th and 55th Street). Because of tight security around the building, tickets will not be sold at the venue. However, we have a great discount for all readers of the blog – so get your tickets here now!! Tickets are already going fast, so get them while you can!!
Finally, go with a game plan! Once you sign up, keep watching the page, as Aaron is very good at updating the wines that will be presented at the event. Then look at the list and see which wines you have not yet tasted and which you will be interested in. Attend early, taste them and be sure to buy the wines you like for the Jewish New Year and especially for the Sukkot celebrations that follow!
I am sure the event will be a smash like it was last year – so, get your tickets early before the prices go up and get there early, as last year, some of the best wines got poured out quickly (think Gvaot Pinot)
What can I say, Terrenal has been doing exceptionally well with their Spanish wines. In case you have been sleeping under a rock, we have been posting here whenever a new Terrenal makes it to our neck of the woods, here in Cali. Well, the new 2014 Terrenal Cab and Tempranillo are here. Sadly, the Tempranillo is not in my immediate area, and I will keep searching! Till then, PLEASE run to your local Trader Joe’s and get a bottle of the wonderful 2014 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon, Yecla, Spain. It is almost at a level of complexity, but for 5 bucks a B+ to A- wine is seriously impossible to find in the kosher world – IMPOSSIBLE!
Now, I know I have spoken about QPR over and over again, but seriously, why is it so hard to get this right? The kosher answer needs to stop, kosher is NOT the reason, the entire kosher budget for a normal sized winery or wine production run, is not more than 10 to 20 cents to a bottle. I have heard this so many times – from folks in the game that I am getting sick of it. Why is kosher expensive? Kosher costs – BS! Sorry to be so crude, but I have asked the folks who make it – and not sell it – and the answer is what I have stated above, 10 to 20 cents to the bottle.
Look at Wine Spectator, look at Wine Enthusiast, they routinely have 89 to 90 scored wines fro under 10 dollars, trust me, that is close to unheard of in the kosher world. We are talking the same vines, overhead, winery costs, u name it. So why are the costs of kosher wines so high? The simple answer is cash flow. In my humble opinion, and I have heard this over and over again, the reason why baseline wines are expensive is cash flow. Now, we are not even talking about good baseline wines, forget those! Seriously! Except for the Herzog 2012 Cab, there is no wine under 10 bucks that makes my top wines of the year – NADA!
Cash flow, solid business plans, you name it, basic cash flow will cripple a company and jack up prices – even when they do not need to be high. I was recently asked by a leading member of the wine community, “should we raise our prices because low-cost kosher wine looks cheap”? My answer is NO! The very definition of QPR is just that, great wines for a great price. Kosher or not!
Now, I have heard lots of other answers to why kosher wine must be priced so high, land, rabbis, cost of living, etc. Those are all reasonable answers, but none of them, other than Rabbis – apply to the kosher world. Furthermore, Rabbis are not that expensive, as I stated above. The rest of those costs, exist in every zipcode of this world, and yet the non-kosher world is pumping those wines out just fine!
Anyway, my point is – if we could have more wines like this star – the kosher wine world would be in a far better place! Far be it from me to begrudge a man his day’s wage! What I am discussing here is not base wage, but rather lack of focus to how one will get the wine to market and under what economic pressures will it work?
I am not a business man, but when I hear how many are getting wines to the market – at low cost and high quality, I wonder – why can the kosher wine world not emulate those ideas more?
The wine note for this lovely new wine follows below – BRAVO my man!
2014 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon, Yecla Spain – Score: B+ to A- (crazy 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)
In the past I have been a big fan, but now the Banero has taken a sweet toothed turn. It is far more Asti than Prosecco for me. With that said, it is fine for the sweet toothed crowd, looking for a fun and reasonably priced summer spritz.
The nose on this ripping with sweet kiwi, honey, along with a classic muscat nose, 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 does balance the wine, along with orange peel, tangerine, and dried pear. There are no flaws with this wine, but too much residual sugar makes we wish for a true Brut. That said, with time the wine lost a bit of the sweet notes and showed deeper mineral, a nice quaffer indeed.
I will try to keep this short and sweet. I have already posted on the state of Mia Luce here. Kobi is killing it as the 3rd winemaker at Recanati Wienry – but he is also doing exceptional things as the winemaker of his own winery; Mia Luce Winery. Kobi started making wines in 2009, and made both a Carignan and a Merlot, we had both of those along with a 2012 white blend. The 2011 white blend that we tasted when I was in Israel, was fantastic and also a lightening rod for disagreement. Some loved it like us, but the rest of the blind tasting panel hated it deeply, saying it was wet socks and god knows what else.
Well, before I went on my Alaska trip, we tried his 2009 wines along with the 2009 Recanati Carignan, side by side, and Kobi won hands down. Sure the wines showed bret from
Mia Luce, but I do not mind it – when in control. The Recanati wines were clearly more polished – but they were riper and when faced with that comparison, I tended towards the Mia Luca and so did the rest of the table.
The 2009 Merlot was Out of this world, as was the 2005 Chateau royaumont – just lovely! I also wanted to taste two other wines that were on my radar, the 2012 Trio Winery Special Cuvee and the 2012 Lewis Pasco Project #1. We have tasted the Pasco before here, but this was a re-taste to see where it was at this point. The 2012 Pasco is showing sweet now, which was a shock to me. The 2012 Trio was magnificent and truly needs time to come together. The 2012 Trio Special Cuvee was the winner of the 2014 Decanter World Wine Regional Trophy. I normally could care less about these wine events, but Decanter is a well respected award show and to me the wine was truly lovely.
The dinner was meatballs and rice with fresh green salad and a lovely herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf to start. The wine notes follow below:
2012 Mia Luce Bianco Manara – Score: A- (and more)
OK, I must say this is a wine that will create divergent opinions. It has funk and wet notes that many think are socks but are really just dried notes of the semillon. The wine is a blend of 93% French Colombard and 7% Roussanne. The nose is sour with funky sock smell, lovely flint, mineral, smoke, floral notes, intense English lavender, and earth. This nose is truly old world with earth, dirt, mineral, and funk. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is unique to say the least with crazy quince, pink grapefruit, apricot, sweeter notes than the 2011, with riper tangerine, sweet apple peel, all wrapped in a rich, viscous, textured mouth feel, that is combined with crazy acid, and orange pith. Many will have issues with this one, so serve carefully but enjoy!!!
2012 LEWIS PASCO Pasco Project #1 – Score: B+
A Bordeaux blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% merlot, along with 3% of Petite Sirah, for rounding and depth. The wine was aged for 9 months in new French barrels. The nose on this purple colored wine starts with Merlot barnyard funk, black fruit, spice, clear sweet notes that were not there 6 months ago, and herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with concentrated fruit, lovely extraction, showing spicy oak, mouth coating spicy and drying tannin, mounds of oriental spice, blackberry, swet notes bordering on date, and dark cherry. The finish is long and balanced with still searing tannin, lovely leather, lovely vanilla, nice balancing acid, dark chocolate, with nutmeg, cinnamon, but the date is overpowering – drink UP!!
2013 Shirah Syrah Santa Barbara County – Score: A-
What can I say, this is what I dream of when you say Syrah. No, this is not big, aggressive, full bodied (though this is mostly), sweet and in your face. This is old school! The wine has fruit and body, but what shines is the mineral, saline, acid, earth, dirt. All the stuff that says Rhone while being in Cali!
The nose on this wine is epic, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, hints of zinberry, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and all spice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!
2013 Covenant Pinot Noir Landsman – Score: A- (and more)
Lovely nose with crazy strawberry perfume, sweet cherry and sweet wood. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with spice and coffee, followed by layers of fruit and nutmeg, candied kirshe cherry, blackberry, and really nice tannin. The finish is long and spicy with cherry and blackcurrant, rich dirt, and mineral. With time the nose opens further with a perfume of earth, dirt, intense mineral, saline, and hints of barnyard. The mouth is still layered and concentrated with sweet white chocolate and sweet spices – BRAVO!!
2012 Celler de Capçanes Peraj Petita – Score: A-
This wine continues to impress and is now in the drinkable stage. This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 15% Merlot. This is a wine that continues to excel at being a QPR superstar, and this vintage is no different. The nose on this wine is rich and black with loamy dirt, oriental spices, intense graphite, crushed herb, green notes, along with freshly paved asphalt, and earthy goodness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is crazy with mouth gripping tannins, leather, along with layers of blackberry, black cherry, and inky notes, all coming together with oak and green notes. The finish is long and mineral based with still gripping tannin, tar, and sweet herbs that linger long. This is a wine is now ready to go.
2005 Chateau Royaumont – Score: A- (and much more)
What a lovely wine and this just shows the power of the French kosher wine, elegance and finesse in a bottle. The nose on this lovely wine starts off with rich barnyard notes, along with green fruit notes, herb, and lovely raspberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripping with acid, followed by rich mouth scarping tannin that have yet to fully soften, along with pure elegance, rich loamy dirt, layer of concentrated plum, blackberry, and cherry, along with green notes and more herb. The finish is long with dark chocolate, graphite, mineral, eucalyptus, and smoky notes. BRAVO!!!
2009 Mia Luce Carignan La Speciale – Score: A- (and much more)
Wow what a great wine! This wine is Kobi Arbiv’s first wines and it mad good! It is the same Carignan vineyard that is used by Recanati’s Wild Carignan, the Baal vineyard. that we tasted side by side and was not as good. Kobi is the 3rd winemaker at Recanati and he is a lovely man with a golden touch!
The nose is clearly showing brett, and not that I mind it at all, but some may have issues with it. The nose on this wine is filled with mushroom, barnyard, beautiful blueberry, with hints of cherry, intense smoke, roasted meat, and mad spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripping with crazy acid, elegance and power, with layers and concentration of mouth draping and almost drying tannin, with rich black olives, saline, mad mineral, followed by raspberry, blackberry, and plum. The finish is impressive with tar, loamy dirt, mad coffee grinds, chocolate, tobacco,a nd more smoke that lingers long with hints of licorice and spice. BRAVO!!!!
2009 Mia Luce Rosso, Judean Hills – Score: A- (and much more)
What a CRAZY and lovely wine, this would be a sure fire French wine if anyone asked me blind – no questions asked! There is lovely brett here, get over it! Again, this is the first wine that Wow what a great wine! This wine is Kobi Arbiv’s first wines and it mad good! Kobi is the 3rd winemaker at Recanati and he is a lovely man with a golden touch! This was his first and ONLY Merlot wine, this is 96% Merlot and 4% Carignan.
The nose on this stunning wine is rich and perfumed with barnyard notes, along with lovely green notes, smokey and gamey notes from the carignan, along with raspberry and lovely red fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and rich and pure elegance in a glass, with crazy acid and ripping mineral, followed by deep rooted earth, green notes, bell pepper, asparagus, along with plum, and smoking tobacco. The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, acid, green notes, mint, and herb. This is a once in a lifetime wine to get your hands on and it is still going strong – BRAVO!
2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: A- (and much more)
Bravo what a lovely wine! This wine shows what a PV can be, with floral notes, wrapped in chocolate, and black and blue fruit – LOVELY!!!
The nose on this wine screams with blueberry, lovely floral notes, rose, along with ripe black and blue fruit, along with smokey game, and roasted meat. The mouth on this full bodied is ripe and balanced with lovely acid, sweet herb, black pepper, along with layers of concentrated blackberry, strawberry, and boysenberry all wrapped in earth, and toasted oak. The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco, and sweet herb. LOVELY!!!
2009 Recanati Wild Carignan, Reserve, Judean Hills – Score: A-
This was the first year for this wonderful wine, a great example of what Israel can do when the wine is handled correctly! This wine comes from wild vines that are old and gnarly and dry farmed.
The nose explodes with nice blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, roasted meat, tar, and plum. The mouth is rich and layered, with concentrated but accessible fruit, along with a crazy inky structure, mounds of earth, and a mouth that is massive and rich with mouth coating tannin, and nice cedar, but showing hints of date now as well. The finish is long and ripe with heavy spice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, tobacco, vanilla, and a salty finish. As the wine opened it turned closer to date than I would like. DRINK UP!!!
This is clearly a new-world style wine with crazy fruit forward and heavy use of oak, but one that is quite lovely all the same. There will be some that do not like the heavy smoke or the super ripe fruit, and that is fine, just know what you are getting into with this wine.
2011 Psagot Edom – Score: B+
This is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. The wine starts off very closed and needs a few hours to fully open up, but throughout the date notes copme through, which is an issue, personally. The nose on this wine is elegant with lovely mushroom and dirt, but the date comes through along with herb and green notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is well ripe, with good fruit structure, showing clear date, blackberry, dark ripe plum, and sweet cedar, followed by sweet spices, cloves, and green notes. The finish is long and spicy with sweet tobacco, and chocolate.
2012 Trio Winery Special Cuvee, Israel – Score: A-
I must admit I was concerned to start with this wine, solely because it looked like one of those classic israeli blends, the ones that commonly make me gag. However, the fact that it won the best wine of decanter and it scored a 95 from them, reassured me that it has some hope.
The wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet from the Judean Hills and 37% Syrah from the Galilee. The nose on this wine starts off very closed but with time it opens to black fruit, rich spice, made oak, sweet vanilla, and chocolate notes. The mouth on the medium bodied wine is ripe and balanced with good acidity, nice fruit structure, but lacking in complexity with nice blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and anise. The finish is long with nice spicy tannin, black pepper, and Oriental spices. With more time the wine opens to a nose of blueberry (from the Syrah), sweet spices, heat, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mad smoke. The mouth on the wine opens more to show black and blue fruit, roasted animal notes, and lovely sweet spices that meld into peppercorn and leathery notes. Quite nice! This wine needs time, but I fear it may lose balance in 4 years, so drink rom 2015/6 to 2019.
Back In March I had the opportunity to spend some time in NYC and hang with some friends. It was three days of wine tasting in foodie heaven and I wanted to post about the wines and the food, because some of it was just spectacular! It all started on a Monday night after the very average City Winery event, I made my way to SB and DF’s home and continued the wine tasting there. Sadly, I seemed to have misplaced my notes for two of the wines; namely the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and the 2004 Ella Valley RR, Vineyard’s Choice. The RR, if I remember correctly was all over the place and on the other side already in puppy heaven. The 2007 VC Cab was rocking, with rich layers and lovely barnyard, but for some reason I do not have the notes, no idea why! Of what I do remember the 2007 Cab VC was very old world in style with barnyard and lovely dirt and mushroom notes, with blackberry and plum, lovely! The 2007 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz started off OK, but went all over the place quickly and went into blackcurrant madness and lost all balance, sadly. The 2004 Castel C was DOA, not fun at all. In the end, the first night was ruled by the epic 2007 Hagafen Late disgorged Brut and the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice.
After that, it was off to bed, as we had a long day ahead. I woke up pretty much on time the next day, and we were off to see a wine store in the area, where I picked up a few bottles for the next few nights festivities and then it was back to the house to enjoy bubbly and some insane meat along with two wicked red wines; the 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan. Both were insane, but the Malartic is an entirely different world wine, with filthy layers of fruit, tannin, and barnyard – madness!!! Still, the 2005 Yatir Cabernet (their first varietal cab) was really impressive and had no flaws.
The next day I jumped on a bus and made my way to Brooklyn where I hung out with friends of ours, and for dinner I made my way to YC’s house, where a crazy dinner was being setup. By the time I arrived, YC and YB were going mano-a-mano, side by side, with varying types beef tartare, and rib roasts, while YB handled the burgers exclusively. Humorously, looking back at the dinner it really turned out to be an entire night of uncooked fish and beef tartare – really! When I arrived I was famished so we ordered in a LOT of Sushi for the guests who were already arriving, while the two cavemen “prepared” the meat, there really was no cooking going on here! Once we had inhaled the sushi (or most of it) and were accepting of a time-out, I ripped through a few of the white and bubbly wines described below, for note purposes only (they were not that enjoyable) and then we were ready for the serious food, cooked or not! On a total aside, the sushi came from an establishment called Five day sushi! Now, I am not into marketing, seriously, but who the heck came up with that name?? Do you think anyone who looks at that name, would care that fish were created on the fifth day of creation?? NOT ME!! All people looking at that name, for the most part, will think they sell sushi that is five days old, how safe or appetizing do they think that sounds?? With that said, the sushi was great, albeit the horrific name.
The meat evening started with two courses – one made each by YC and YB – of beef tartare, YC’s was more Dijon mustardy and spice, while YB’s had smoked tongue rilletes, oil, and lots of herb – if I remember correctly. From there they went to rib eye two ways, which was essentially raw meat with a slight sear – LOL!!! Actually, YB brought this sick looking chunk of meat and that went on the girl for about 30 seconds, maybe a drop more! The inside was still moving and blue while the outside was well seared, as I said raw meat night! Next, there were burgers, of which I cannot remember, but again it was well seared raw beef patties, really beef tartare but in a ufo shape! Finally, YC brought out a huge chunk of rib eye meat (AKA roast) and I grabbed the bone, and finally there was actual cooked meat! However, to be honest, by then I was cooked, I was not spitting much and the raw meat was fermenting in my stomach and I was out for the count.
While the food was lovely, and equally beautiful to look at, the true stars of the evening were the wines. I started with a bottle of Rambam Prosecco, which was drinkable, I spat that one! The next was another white wine, a bottle of 2012 Giersberger Riesling, and it was nice enough, clearly the best of the lineup they bring to the US, but a B+ at best. Next we moved to the 2007 Yarden Pinot Noir, and while it is nice, it is nowhere near the epic 2008 PN. The 2007 was a solid B+ wine that is in drink up mode. Next was the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc, which is a lovely wine, but it is starting to show a bit more ripe than I remember last, and while it is not flawed it did not show well that night. That was followed by two wines that are clearly lightning rods for me. I posted before about the two new Lewis Pasco wines, and while they are clearly ripe, some do not think they are over the top. To me, they have power but they are unbalanced and not wines I would stock up on. The 2012 – project #1 is going sweet, so watch out. The Liquidity 2012 is sadly over the top, and when I had it in 2013, from barrel, at sommelier it was beautiful. When I had it in 2014, from bottle, at sommelier – I posted that I thought they were over the top. I wanted to get a bottle here in the USA and get a chance to sit down with them and taste them over a dinner or more, and sadly after doing so, my opinion of them is worse than it was in Israel. Yes, I am in the minority, and I have no issue with that. I find them rich and extracted and unctuous, but also too ripe, unbalanced, and date like. I understand this will not be accepted well by many, but these are my notes, for my tracking, and do with them as you see fit. Read the rest of this entry
Yes I have been off-line for too long. Work and travel have been killing me. This past two weeks were travel and Alaska was the destination. To say it is beautiful would be an understatement! Sadly, wine wise there is little to no options. I got a bottle of 2013 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond label for 20 dollars and that was the best option they had. It was OK, but like two years ago in China, the beer saved the day.
The animal life in Alaska is amazing! There are 800 pound grizzly bears that eat fish out of streams, not 50 feet away from folks fishing for the same stuff! How? Because there is so much fish in the streams, salmon to be exact, that the bears could care less about the humans. Insane!
There are beautiful moose, caribou (reindeer), birds galore, wolves, fox, you name it. We saw Orca in the water, along with whales and dolphins. But the thing that most epitomizes Alaska to me are the glaciers. They are massive and when a chunk falls off into the water – the sound is amazing! They can look like a frozen moon landscape or just massive ice. But the craziest part about it, is the blue hue they give off!
So, I attached some pics to enjoy and my note on the 2013 Recanati Cab.
2013 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Series – Score: B+
It is a nice enough wine, nothing special, but nice. The nose shows rich menthol, blackcurrant, crushed herb, and lovely dark cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows more eucalyptus, searing tannin, nice acid, and good fruit structure with blackberry, plum, and green notes. The finish is long with mad dill, coconut, tobacco, and spice. Nice.
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