Netofa Winery – the Rhone Ranger of Israel

I have previously posted about our tasting and dinner last year with Pierre Miodownick and the Netofa Winery. They are two entities that are deeply intertwined with each other essentially Netofa is Pierre. The humorous aspect is that when I think of Pierre, I think of France, Bordeaux, Champagne, maybe Burgundy, but I do not think about Rhone! According to GG, Pierre did make a Rhone wine in the past, a Crozes-Hermitage, but I never tasted it. In a special way, Netofa is Pierre’s entry, on a large scale, into the Rhone and Iberian wine regions of the world, and like most things he makes, they are fantastic!

Once again, it was GG and I making our way to Pierre’s house for a tasting of all the new Netofa wines and to see his beautiful new tasting room that was recently constructed. The wines are still being made at Or Haganuz, all done by Pierre himself. The tasting room however, is located in the same area as he lives, and it was an easy drive from the tasting room to his house for dinner and a chance to drink the wines at our leisure.

We made our way to the new tasting room in Netofa and after parking, we walked up the long set of semi-circles stairs to the tasting room. The door to the room is a massive sliding door of vertical planks, very akin to a barn, but in a lovely and tasteful manner. The room is beautifully appointed and upholstered with wine bottles all over the two walls. The other walls are the sliding door entrance and the glass wall with a door to the storage room.

The middle of the room is dominated by this massive squared- off horseshoe shaped table, with a lovely leather appointed chair in the middle. Pierre was very kind to have setup the tasting of all the new and some older wines with glasses all setup for us for the 4 types of wine we were going to be tasting; rose, white, red, and port. Really he had 6 glasses setup for us, but I use 1 glass for all my tastings unless it was the side-by-side tastings we had of the new and previous vintages.

When you look at Netofa’s wines, you have to wonder – why is a French Bordeaux expert making Rhone wines? So, being myself, I asked him. Mr. Miodownick explained quite simply that what he felt grew best near Mount Tabor, where his vineyards are, was Rhone varietals. Now, to be honest the winery has more than just Rhone varietals, it has Chenin Blanc and Iberian grapes as well. Still, the red wines are all Rhone varietals, ignoring the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional that go into the Tinto and the ports. So, I guess my naming Pierre a Rhone Ranger is a bit off-kilter, given the diversity of his varietals. Maybe, Mediterranean Terroir would have been better, but that did not sound as good as Rhone Ranger!

Now, I did not come up with Rhone Ranger of course, that was done by the founding members of the association in 1980. The most famous of them may be Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Still, the kosher wine world is finding that Rhone varietals work well in warm climates. Look at Elvi Wines and Capcanes – they both grow a fair amount of Rhine varietals, with different names. Grenache becomes Grenacha and so on. In California, you do not need to look further than Hajdu and Shirah wineries, where their wine portfolios are predominately made up of Rhone varietals. Still, Mr. Miodownick does grow grapes that originated from the Loire Valley and from Portugal, so the Rhone Ranger moniker may be a bit stretched, but I do love those SM wines! The white wines are all Chenin Blanc – a very unique wine for Israel, as the wine’s character is less about tart and refreshing fruit; but rather a younger brother of the Chardonnay grape, meaning it has elegance, power, and yet it also has that Rhone style straw and earth and dirt that we all crave.

The red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo (an Iberian varietal), Touriga Nacional (native to Portugal), and there are hints of Grenache lurking!!! The whites are the afore mentioned Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. I would love to taste Grenache Blanc or Viognier from Pierre – but so far that is not in the books. But you cannot blame a Viognier lover for trying! The Roussanne and Grenache are two newly planted vines, so they will not become available till 2017.

As we looked at the glasses in front of us, on the squared-off table, I could not help but stare at the bottles standing on the mirrored walls, and the glass that surrounded us. Yes, each bottle is standing up and resting on a curved platform that is mounted to the wall. It is quite a sight; behind the mounts and the bottles is a wall of moire mirrors that were custom built for the winery. The mirrors affect is to not really reflect as much as give make the room feel bigger and cozier, which they clearly got correct! The mirrored walls add an immense amount of class to the already classically elegant room. The wall of standing wines are also in a squared off horseshoe shape, and in the center is a wine dispensing machine that filled the bottles with innate gas as the wine is dispensed.  This allows the wines in the machine to essentially never oxidize while they continue to dispense wine, until of course the bottle is empty or the innate gas empties out – the latter is not recommended! Behind the table is a wall of bottles in cubbyholes, very akin to a wine cellar, stretching the entire length of the tasting room. The wine wall makes the room feel like you are in a cellar and again, like the mirrored walls, really looks cool!! Read the rest of this entry

The kosher wines I enjoyed this past Passover

Well, Passover has come and gone and while I will not bore you with the details, I did get to cook my brisket and drink some very lovely wines. I have to say, I was away for this Passover from our home, and I brought some wines with me, many of which were great. However, I also visited Hungarian Kosher in Skokie, IL, the original home of kosherwine.com before they sold out to JWines.

When I was there I was happy to see that they were still selling lots of wine from all of the main distributors. The entire story of what happened to kosherwine.com and why it moved over to JWines, is not a mystery and much as it is politics and stuff I do not get into. This blog again, to remind many, is really for me to keep track of my notes and my wines, something I also do on Cellar Tracker. Still, when massive chances like this happen to the kosher wine industry some think I need to talk about it. Well, I do not agree. I like to converse about the overall wine industry, and the things I find issue with, such as the high cost of kosher wine, French Wines, and the date juice coming out of Israel.

The story of kosherwine.com is really not my business; it is between Dan and JWines and other people who I am friendly with, and something that is better left for table fodder.

Now, on to the wines. I was very happy to see a bottle of the 2002 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. WOW what a bottle! Another blockbuster wine that I enjoyed was the 2013 Harkham Shiraz, Aziza. We have spoken about the Harkham Winery and Richie Harkham here and here. The funny thing about this Aziza bottle is that the KA kosher supervision is not actually printed on the label! Mr. Harkham told me it was because of some glitch, and  he sent me a letter from the KA, which stated clearly that the wine is officially kosher.

The next blockbuster was the 2009 Four Gates Merlot and the 2011 Four Gates Chardonnay. Both of them were insane and rich and really opened some few days after they were opened. Finally, the rose and whites from Hajdu and Shirah are still rocking and rolling and so are their new ones! Bravo guys!

After the blockbuster wines – I was lucky to spend some time with friends and family and we each shared wines with each other. My uncle shared a lovely bottle of the 2012 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Kosher Grinalda! I have never had this wine before, it is a white blend of some crazy grapes, I never heard of that was made in Portugal. I was skeptical to start – but WOW what a great wine and it is DIRT cheap. Sadly, it is only sold in Illinois. So, go to Binny’s or Vineyard’s in Lincolnwood and buy some.

My other friends, GM and RM shared two bottles of wines that they were aging for some time, maybe a bit too long (wink). They were a 1994 Yarden Merlot and a 1999 Hagafen Pinot Noir! Wow, sadly, they were both over the hill for sometime, but what a joy, honor, and experience to enjoy then with my friends. I shared with them a bottle of the 2013 Goose Bay Fume Blanc. The trade was nowhere near fair, but they were just being kind and I was happy to share more, but they seemed happy with that option. Shockingly, the star was yet another wine – a 2003 Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet Sauvignon! That puppy was insane, rich, layered, black and mouth coating – LOVELY! That was a wine that was opened at its peak and we all GREATLY enjoyed!

The other visit was to BC and CG, CG made some two wicked cool brisket and other tasty side dishes. I shared the left overs of the 2002 Leoville Poyferre, the 2013 Aziza and they shared with me a lovely bottle of the 2008 Ella Valley Vineyards Vineyard’s Choice Personal and the 2012 La Fenetre Red Blend. Many thanks guys and feel better soon CG!!!!

Please post what you had for Passover, or at least your favorites ones from Passover!!

The wine notes follow below:

2003 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select – Score: A- (and more)
WOW! Bravo guys, this is a wine, that is stored well will pay you back in deep dividends! The nose on this wine is redolent with dark brooding fruit, with hints of green notes and lovely cedar. The mouth is full and rich with layers of black and red berry, along with lovely and very elegant mouth coating tannin – lovely! The finish is long with roasted herb, vanilla, tobacco, sweet dill, and chocolate galore! Read the rest of this entry

Back to the Future – the kosher French wines available today

Well, I hope all of you enjoyed the Passover respite (some see it as a stressful time, I see it purely as a joyous time, and yes I do a lot of cleaning as well). This post I wanted to talk about the kosher French wines that I have tasted recently.

Now I must stress that these are the wines that I have tasted, not ALL the wines that are available. There are hundreds of kosher French wines, and the vast majority of them never make it to the USA. With that said, I really LOVE the new crop of 2011 and 2012 wines that have made their way to the US and around the world. But before we jump into the nitty gritty and the tastings we need to take a step back and talk about French wines for a second.

Let us start with some very basic concepts around France and its wines. To start it is one of the oldest wine making locations in the world. Sure, Israel, may well be the oldest, but it stopped making wine for a very long time – till around the 1870s or so. Even then, they did not start making real world class wines till the 1980s (ignoring the 1901 and 1970 successes of Carmel).

France is once again the largest wine producer in the world, as of 2014, and most of it is quality wine. It is hard to find another country that makes so many good wines, so many vastly different wines – each from their own terroir – with such a long and storied history. The wines I will be talking about today are mostly from Bordeaux, the home of the “noble grapes of the world” – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc (not on the official noble list), and Sauvignon Blanc. To be fair there are other noble grapes not in Bordeaux, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy. Riesling – mostly from Alsace and Sauvignon Blanc again from Upper Loire. Toss in Syrah and Grenache from the Rhone and that comprises the wines that I am noting today.

I did not write Pinot Noir notes – I did that recently here and you can read my French wine notes there.

I have written often about the wines of the Rhone – because many of my favorite wines from California (Shirah and Hajdu) make most of their wines that comprise the region called Rhone. Those would be Syrah (as noted previously), Grenache, and Petite Sirah (not really Rhone at all, but the Rhone Rangers love it). With some Grenache Blanc and Viognier thrown in.

In case you have not yet realized it, but I have pretty much listed many of my own favorite varietals, and they all come from France. Truly France is the cradle of the wine world. Sadly, there was little to no kosher options in the 1980s, even though France itself was producing 10s of millions of cases of wine at that time.

Of course of all the varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to grab all the headlines. Rightfully so to some, but to many the wines of the Rhone and Burgundy are of more interest. So, how does all of this work? France long ago decided to control what varietals would be planted and within the regions of its country that would produce the best wines possible. It is a foreign thought to many still, even here in the USA. Terroir defines France. Essentially the 300 or so appellations d’origine contrôlee (AOC) within the country are so designed and controlled to allow for creating the best wines possible. Planting Syrah in Bordeaux can be done – but why? Syrah requires far more heat and sun that Bordeaux can dish out – so Syrah was defined as a southern grape location – AKA Rhone, where it can flourish in all of its glory. Read the rest of this entry

Tura Winery – a hidden gem tucked into the Shomron Mountains

Sunset outside of Tura WineryThe last time we met the folks at Tura Winery, I was taking my Nephew around the country and I was freaking out about the roads and the such. This time, it was just me and GG and GG was driving, so I was far more relaxed, to say the least. Also, this was the third time I have visited the winery. The first meeting and the wines tasted there can be here, the second I did not, but my notes on those wines are listed below as well. I thought a third time would be a charm, and boy was I right.

Things have changed since I first visited Tura in 2012. The winery has grown from  10k bottles in 2000, to 25K in 2013, and then 56K in 2014. They will not be releasing wines in 2015, as that is shmitta. Beyond the growth of the winery, the real change is the quality of the wines being produced. Sure in 2012 the Merlot was wonderful, but now with the help of Itay Lahat, things are really looking up. It has been four years in a row, of some of the worst wine vintages in recent Israeli history, 09/10/11/12 and the wines have been improving year after year. Many think 2012 was a great year, but actually it was far hotter in some regions and out of control as in 2010. The best vintage in sometime (since 08 anyway), in Israel, was the 2013 vintage – most call it perfect. We did not taste the red wines from 2013, but the whites from 2014 are showing beautifully.

My last post on the Shomron wineries; Tura and Har Bracha, showed my respect for the passion that the Shomron wineries show for their land. This post is all about the impressive growth in wineries like Gvaot and Tura, and hopefully in Psagot with the Yaacov Oryah joining the ranks.

Still, this post is about Tura Winery. The winery is the brain child and life of Vered Ben Saadon and her husband, Erez, the winemaker and viticulturist, who are also both deeply religious and deeply passionate about the very land they planted their vines upon. This is not a discussion of Zionism or rights, this is a simple statement that the people I met have a deep religious, personal, and deeply passionate relationship with the land of the Shomron. For Vered and Erez, their deep relationship with the land started in 1995, befitting soon after they got married and started their own relationship together. It started with a few acres of organic apple fields, from there they bought some 20 dunam of land on the top of Har Bracha (yes the same place where Har Bracha Winery planted their grapes, though Erez was there first by a year or so). In hindsight, you can say it was luck, kismet, or maybe destiny, but the very land they planted and nurtured became some of the most sought after vineyards in all of Israel, and in the Shomron for sure. Why? Simple, as I have stated a few times now, Merlot from Har Bracha is a real “bracha” blessing, and one of Israel’s no-brainers when faced with a wall of kosher Israeli wine.

Read the rest of this entry

The best kosher wines for Passover 2015 at all price ranges

wall of wineAs many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone – with one last one happening in NY, at the City Winery event held in agreement with the Jewish Week and their kosher wine list for Passover (the link is discounted by Yossie’s corkboard). Not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but the list of wines that were chosen for winners this year, are fine and many that I really like, but I hope you all love the wines I have listed here too. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier – I was asked again for a,list of my top wines, so here it goes! This is a of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered over ripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list you can find a 2014 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, another smash dirt cheap Sauvignon Blanc wine, that happens to be one of the best kosher white wines I tasted at sommelier. At the same time the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines, are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview, Gotham, and all the other wine stores I have listed on the right hand side (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 24 dollar Lewis Pasco Project #2 wine – a very nice wine, and though not as insane as the #1 it is a great wine that is easily enjoyable now and sells for a great price. The same goes for the Vignobles David Reserve or the Capcanes Peraj petita, and many others.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollar and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines, but you can be always look at the blog and if a wine you want is not on the list, by my omission, but scored an A- or higher, it was probably a good bet to have been on this list.

Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far to hard for me. I rather decide to drink simple wines like the Tabor Via bubbly red, non mevushal wine. It is simple to chug, tasty, and perfectly fulfills the custom. For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace.

A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is far longer, for a few reasons. One, I was far more careful and I tried to include all wines I tasted that were A- or maybe a drop below, AKA 90 point wines. Also, I have gotten to taste more wines as every year passes. Still, I am sure I missed a few. When I taste them – I will post them! Finally, there are more better wines this year. Many from Israel but France has finally stepped up with new vintages, along with Spain killing it as always, whites from Israel, and Cali really showing strong this year as well.

In the end, these are my picks, they are easy to find and in my opinion, really good. There is also the Jewish Week’s list and Yossie Horwitz (of Yossie’s Corkboard) also comes out with a list.

So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!

Wines below 20 dollars:

2012/2013/2014 Domaine Netofa White
2014 Domaine Netofa Rose (QPR) (the 2013 is dying)
2012/2013 Domaine Netofa Red
2012 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Vineyard
2011/2012 Weinstock Petite Sirah, cellar select (mad QPR) (mevushal)
2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select (mad QPR) (mevushal)
2012/2013 Capcanes peraj petita (mevushal & non mevushal) (QPR)
2013/2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Adama
2014 Tabor Rose (QPR) EPIC!
2013 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2013 Goose Bay Fume Blanc (QPR) (mevushal)
2012 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR)  (mevushal)
2011/12 Dalton Alma, Cabernet and Merlot
2011/12 Dalton Petite Sirah (QPR)
2011/2012 Le Mourre De Lisle Cotes du Rhone(mevushal) (QPR)
2010 Chateau d’Arveyres (QPR) (mevushal)
2013 Beit El Cabernet Sauvignon
2013/14 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2014 Hagafen beret rose (mevushal)
2011 Elvi Rioja Mati (AKA Herenza Rioja)
NV Elvi Adar Brut (mevushal) (QPR)
2014 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Gush Etzion Spring River (five white grapes)
2013 Twin Suns Cabernet Sauvignon (mevushal)
2009 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico
2012 Alfasi Malbec/Syrah, reserve (mevushal) – do NOT laugh solid!
2013 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2011/12 Teperberg Malbec, Terra

Read the rest of this entry

Wines enjoyed over purim

Well, the OTBN of last week flowed right into Purim this year and that meant there as a lot of wine consumed over a short period of time. That is all fine with me, but it took some time to get this down is all. Though I will be very short this time, I did want to highlight a few wines that surprised me on the good and the bad. The 2011 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon opened nicely, but then turned on me very hard – not quite dates, but far too sweet and unbalanced for my liking. The 2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc, while showing nicely in Israel, and lush here was fine for the first few hours, but then went straight to date juice. This was the Israeli label I hand carried back home, so I do not think this wine is long for cellaring – but nice out of the bottle.

Finally, the 2013 Dalton Viognier is ready to go. Last year the wine was tight and closed, and needed a real decanting to bring it to life. That is not needed any longer! It is delightful from the bottle and I think has three or so years left in the tank, but it is clearly ready and very close to peak, if not there already.

The wine notes follow below:

2013 Dalton Viognier Reserve – Score: A- (and more)
All I can say – IT IS BACK!!! Thank goodness for that! It has been too long without a GREAT kosher Viognier option. The 2012 was a nice wine, but it paled in comparison to the 2007-9 vintages. The 2013 is CRUSHING in comparison and is the best kosher Viognier I have ever tasted, so BRAVO!
The last time we had this wine it needed air galore, that is not the case anymore. Beyond that, there is not much that has changed about this wine!
The wine continues it heritage of wild yeast fermentation and was aged in French oak for four months. The nose on this wine shows beautiful notes of ripe melon, pear, peach, along with crazy floral notes of violet and rose. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily and textured with layers of honeyed notes of peach and apricot, spiced melon, mango, crazy acid and intense concentration of ripe summer fruits, all balanced with bracing acidity, bitter notes, and sweet oak. The finish is long and intensely spicy with saline, mineral, slate, white pepper and hints of vanilla and lovely bakers spices. BRAVO on many levels!!!!!

2009 Shiloh Legend – Score: A-
The nose on this mevushal purple colored wine explodes with ripe blueberry, dark cherry, ripe raspberry, licorice, and lovely spice, with a hint of roasted meat and smokiness which leaves soon enough for more crazy spices and ripe fruit. The mouth on this full bodied, ripe, round wine is expressive with sweet fruit, blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, more blue fruit, along with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that lingers and makes the mouth feel ripe, sweet, and round. The finish is long and spicy with nice vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate mocha, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mint.

This wine is slowing down – so DRINK UP!!!

2013 Don Ernesto Vin Gris – Score: A-
WHAT a nose fresh squeezed strawberry, rose hips, raspberry, and peach. The mouth on this Syrah rose, is viscous, medium weight, and lovely, with great acid, lovely mineral, and awesome fruit. The strawberry explodes with kiwi, guava, currant, quince, cranberry, and orange marmalade. The finish is long and spicy and bitter with hints of herb, orange pith, saline, mineral, and slate – BRAVO!!!!

2005 Hagafen Zinfandel, Reserve, Estate Bottled, Moskowite Ranch Block 61 – Score: B+
Sadly I kept this too long. This bottle felt thin and dying, still had great acid and spice, with OK fruit. Drink up!!!

2011 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is rich with prefume of blackberry, lovely black fruit, hints of blueberry, nice anise, and dirt. The medium body is tinged with mad acid and mineral, along with a lovely mouth coating tannin that gives the wine body, along with great acid and mad graphite, cassis, CRAZY kirsch black cherry, and green foliage. The finish is long and green with bright fruit, leather, chocolate, vanilla, and lovely sweet dill and tobacco leaves. Very nice.

With time, an hour or two, this wine breaks down very quickly. I would be careful.

2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc, Vineyards – Score: B+
Vineyards is essentially the Appellations label and a lovely CF it is. This is the Israeli label, the US label continues with the appellations label and animals.
This wine is blend of 85% Cab Franc, 10% Cabernet, and 5% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is rich and lovely with raspberry, dark cherry, plum, sweet cedar green herb, and foliage. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and unctuous with mad green bell pepper, tart juicy raspberry, mad tobacco, and lovely mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and green, with sweet herb, firm tannin and more tobacco.
I did like this wine from the start, but after an hour or two it went straight to dates, this is not a wine for long cellaring – and this was the Israeli label.

OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) 2015 – wine galore and kosher Beef Bourguignon, what a party it was!

Recanati-Special-Reserve-2006This past weekend was the 16th anniversary of OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), and what a party we had. I originally posted that we would get to the nine bottles of wine, well we did but not those nine! Benyo brought over a bottle of the famous 2003 Syrah and a friend brought over a bottle of his own concoction, and so the Ella Valley and Katrzin will have to wait for another week.

Kiddish was made over my friend’s Quail Lodge Cabernet Franc, which was super smooth and fruity. After that we had some awesome whole wheat Challah, that my wife makes, and then on to some very nice olive and bean soup. The soup never ceases to amaze me, I love how the kalamata olives dominate the flavor profile, while the beans add the heft and body to the dish, really fun.

Wine wise, things started off with a bang! The 2006 RSR was my last bottle – but this wine has another two to three years left in the tank easily! WOW! What a great wine that is. The layers are rich, dense, almost fleshy with rich mineral and earth – truly extraordinary! The 07 Yatir Shiraz was nice, but it really showed its colors the next day. The Netofa Latour red, was insane, a lovely black and blue wine – so old world in style that it was shocking that it was made in Israel.

At this point we brought out the Beef Bourguignon, which if you follow the official recipe is not very kosher at all :-) Now, to be fair, the original video of the recipe did not call for bacon at all, instead she browned the meat in olive oil, in the video above. Still, the book has the bacon and so it has become the “law”. Since, our Jewish law does not allow for either bacon or the butter (no milk and meat), I was stuck with modifying the recipe to my liking. Instead of bacon I used Meal-mart Beef Fry and instead of butter and flour to thicken, I used chicken fat and flour. In the end, it was definitely not the fat free or healthy diet food of the 20th century, but we did serve a lot of wine with it – so if the 60 minutes episode about the French Paradox has any truth, we will all be alive to write about it! Read the rest of this entry

Open That Bottle Night 16 (OTBN 2015) – what will you drink??

Well, it is that time of year again for OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), a night conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, in February 2000, then with the WSJ. Well, officially it is the last Saturday night in February, which this year is Feb 28. However, us Jews like Friday/Sabbath to be our special wine moment, so we will be enjoying OTBN this Friday Night, hopefully!

According to the WSJ site: On OTBN, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life.

We have had many great OTBN tastings but this year, it is about tasting my oldest and best Yarden Winery wines. Yarden Winery has moved to the sweet side on their new wines, for the most part, but the older El Rom wines have never been sweet till the most recent – 2011 vintage. Yarden has always been on the sweeter side, in terms of ripe fruit, but these past few years, the winery has decided it wants to make even riper wines. The 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been nice wines, but too sweet for my tastes. Of course, the whites and sparkling wines continue to excel. Until recently, the El Rom and red Katzrin wine have always been controlled and beautiful. They are Yarden’s flagship wines and they keep a very tight lid on the fruit in these wines. The 2006 and 2007 ROM wine is another story, it was always sweet and somewhat controlled, and yes, very expensive. It all started when the late Daniel Rogov gave the 2006 ROM, a very unique Israeli blend wine, a massive 96 score!  That score sent the futures of that wines to the moon, along with the expectations of greatness. In reality, it is a nice wine, but nowhere where Rogov placed it.

Ever since they left the WSJ, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher can be found on their Facebook page. This year, Fortune Magazine picked up the story and you can find that here. It is a solid rundown of the OTBN story and of John and Dottie!

So this year I will be opening a few Yarden wines, as I want to see where they are holding. I also have added in a few PS (Petite Sirah) wines based upon my fear that I discussed in an earlier post. Finally, I wanted a few Syrah wines (NO Syrah and PS are not related), and a few blends. The wines can be found below:

OTBN 16 Wine List

So, for my version of the OTBN 2015 (the 16th year of OTBN), I will be opening these wines (from right to left):

  1. 2009 Ella Valley PS
  2. 2007 Yarden Katzrin (red)
  3. 2010 Netofa Latour (red)
  4. 2006 Yarden Merlot, Odem Vineyard
  5. 2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom
  6. 2006 Recanati Special Reserve
  7. 2009 Shirah Power to the People
  8. 2010 Brobdingnagian (Hajdu) Petite Sirah
  9. 2007 Yatir Shiraz

If you will be having your own OTBN, please follow these steps on the guide. Also, please comment on what wines you will be having and use the @FortuneMagazine with hashtag #FortuneOTBN. Enjoy!

Ella Valley Syrah and Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon- oldies but goodies

2006 and 2007 Ella Valley SyrahThis past week we were enjoying some steak for shabbos, so I reached for for two wines that I thought would go well with a hunk of meat. I have been talking a bit about the state of israeli wines and their over ripe wine drunken stupor. Yes, I have clearly moved from the sweet, bold, 2×4 wines of old, but the good news is that there are wines from before 2009 that continue to age well and show well.

So, it was time to see how the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was showing. I also wanted to see where the 2010 Herzog Petite Sirah, Prince Vineyard. Last week, the Herzog PS2 was DOA. I stated there that PS is one of those finicky wines, they can be big, burly, and in your face one day and DEAD the next. We have spoken about Durif before, yes the official name of Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is a moniker/marketing scheme name that was used in the US, as Durif made no sense, and also because some thought it was related to the Syrah grape, at least until UC Davis disproved that. We have had two vertical tastings of PS, here and here, and each time we find it not an overly complex wine, but one that is very enjoyable. With the release of Recanati’s PS and Hajdu’s PS, along with Ella Valley as well, I have found that you can find complex in the world of PS.

The grape was always a blending grape adding mad tannin, color, and mineral (in some cases) to a blend. However, it is a soft and accessible wine if created for the mass market, like Dalton and other do. Still, I would not hold on to these wines for too long, even the complex one, because you are just asking for trouble. They tend to fall off the cliff very quickly, depending on the grape quality, vintage, and length of time held. That said, after 5 to 6 years for the top line wines, at least the kosher ones, I would drink them up.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Yarden was sweet, that is undeniable, but its complexity, structure, and overall balance made for a wine that was truly enjoyable. The Ella Valley Syrah were beyond enjoyable! Not a sense of sweet notes at all, the 2007 even had barnyard on it. Sure, it was breaking down, but it was luscious and rich, while the 2006 was beautiful, extracted, blue and black and crazy earth. If you have either – drink NOW! Enjoy! The wines this week were all winners – I hope you enjoyed great wines as well.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A-
This wine is at peak so drink NOW! The nose on this dark purple colored wine has ZERO bricking – but has brown halos, with rich tar, licorice, spice, sweet wood, and roasted herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is massive, rich, concentrated, and richly extracted, showing lovely blackberry, plum, dark tart cherry, along with crazy roasted herb, sweet cedar, and lovely tannin that are well integrated. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, hints of barnyard, black pepper, citrus pith, and tart black fruit on the long linger. This wine was ready to go out of the bottle and what a joy! Bravo to Doron!

2006 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this garnet colored wine is rich with crazy roasted animal, tar, mad charcoal, blueberry, and lovely just smoked dark chocolate. The full bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted with lovely mouth coating tannins that are still gripping, along with anise, blackberry, mint, and with crazy earth, literally like eating a fist full of dirt, and dark cherry that carries the mouth, with layers of Mediterranean herbs and sweet spices. The finish is long and charcoal and chocolate, with mounds of dirt, great acid, licorice, and mad spice. What a joy! This wine is at peak and has at least another year or two in its tank – BRAVO DORON!!!!!

2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is not going to sneak up on you – it is more like a combination of a sledge hammer and a two-by-four hitting you right between your eyes. The nose on this massive, complex styled wine explodes with super ripe blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, herbs, rich oak, licorice, plum, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is now showing softly integrating tannins that give the wine a super lovely mouth feel, along with clear sweet fruit, ripe sweet black plum, but tart fruit as well that balances out the date notes. The dates give way to sweet cedar and good acid. The finish is super long and spicy, with nice spice, cassis, date, oak, chocolate, tobacco, and still gripping tannins.

2010 Herzog Petite Sirah Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
The wine is at its peak and is really ready to drink. It still needs a bit of air, but I do not see this wine lasting for another year in this state. The nose started off nicely with good floral and violet notes, along with blueberry ribbons, smoky aromas, mint, green notes of bell pepper. The mouth is medium in body with layers of concentrated strawberry notes, dark cherry, and spiced plum, all wrapped up in a cedar box with lovely mouth coating tannin and anise. The finish is long with smokey notes, vanilla, white pepper, oriental spice, licorice, and mineral. The wine was in slumber before, but now it is ready to go. Air it for an hour an enjoy.

KFWE LA – a star is born in Hollywood

W_entranceIt was early on a beautiful winter day in LA when I made my way to the hall at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA – where the IFWF was being held this year. OOPS! I meant KFWE LA! Yes, the IFWF changed its name to the KFWE and it turned really Hollywood hip as it made its way down the sunset strip to the W Hotel, home to stars and socialites alike, and now I hope home to the newest kosher wine event star – the KFWELA!

If it seems like I have unbridled praise for this event, you would be correct. Recently, someone told me that my style of writing did not work for them; as they state it – your combination of unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm, surety of mind, and lapidary form of expression can be grating to me. Though he says it is on him – who knows.

If this or other posts are grating, I totally understand and thankfully no one is forced to read my articles – as I have said in the past, I write them mostly for myself – kind of like my own wine diary.

Anyway, this post will be filled with “unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm and surety of mind“. By the way, if one is not sure of what they think – why write it? I write the way I speak – with assurance and knowledge, if I do not know an answer – I am happy to say I have no idea.

Anyway, this event will be engraved in my mind with lapidary precision because it was epic. Still, I am getting ahead of myself – so let us rewind here for a second.

This “year” there were 6 shows in the KFWE portfolio. It all started last year late 2014 in Miami where Royal in combination with WIZO, kicked off the KFWE season with a great warmup event! I say that because while the event went off without a hitch, and there were MANY great wines at the event, the food was a bit underwhelming to say the least. Still, it was here where we first tasted all the new French wines;

  • the new 2012 Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré, a second label for the famous winery, which uses its youngest vines to make this wine.The wine is lovely and well worth the cost, but not at the same level as the epic 11 Moulin Riche
  • the new 2012 Château Le Crock, which was OK.
  • the epic 2011 Chateau Haut Condissas Medoc, a truly lovely wine.
  • the new 2012 Chateau Giscours, the best NEW kosher wine at the tasting.
  • the new 2012 Domaine l’Or de Line Chateauneuf Du Pape, a very nice wine.
  • finally, the second best new wine of the tasting – the 2012 Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It too is a second label wine, but was quite a winner in my book.

The food not withstanding, the event was solid and the wines showed very well under the warm Miami day/evening.

Pierre and Olivier CuvelierThe next event was in Israel, and if I had to say it was probably the best run event from beginning to end, of the ones I attended. I am talking about the 2015 Zur tasting in Tel Aviv. The event was not crowded at all, the food was very good, and the wines were only the best of what they wanted to show. So, to some extent it was kind of like the all-star show – in the beginning of the season. They did have a limited supply of wines, but of the wines they poured, they were all top performers (excluding a table or two). On top of that, Mr. Olivier Cuvelier – the man that runs the family owned Chateau Léoville Poyferré, was there and talking about his wines. He is a delightful man, one who is passionate about his wines but also mindful of the man who brought him fame in the kosher wine world – Pierre Miodownick. Of course, he has received world wide acclaim for his non kosher wines, which is well deserved, but Pierre was working with him in the 90s – before Léoville Poyferré was all over the wine mags. Read the rest of this entry

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