This past weekend saw us winding down from a lovely and hectic Passover and running into another busy week. So, with little time to prepare and get ready we enjoyed some beef leftovers from the last days of Passover (do not worry it was in the freezer most of the time).
To pair with this meaty fare, we enjoying a simple wine that was nice but not as captivating as I was hoping for. The wine started off very hot and spicy and overly sweet. Over time, the wine opened a bit and rounded out, but it also lost a bit of its spice and started showing some animal notes along with good ripe and tart fruit – really liked how ripe and tart the strawberry was, but the fact that it was so hot and sweet out of the gate, really limited its enjoyment.
The wine note follows below:
2009 Dalton Zinfandel – Score: B+
The wine starts off very much in classic Israeli fashion, hot, sweet, and not interesting. However, with time and air the wine opens up and becomes a lovely wine. With air the wine opens with a nose of roasted meat, floral hints, deep earthy tones, green notes, blackberry, and ripe raspberry. The mouth becomes sweet, ripe, and tart, with nice concentration of dark cherry, tart zesty strawberry, blackcurrant, plum, hints of bell pepper, all steeped in sweet date notes, crazy upfront spice, and sweet cedar along with nice softening tannin. The finish is long and spicy with zesty red fruit, good acid, lovely leafy tobacco, chocolate, and cloves. A nice, yet not complex Zinfandel, with OK control and good zesty and spicy structure.
This past Passover was such a real kick, we shared food and wine and time with friends and family throughout the entire Passover and it was such a real treat. For the evening of seventh day of Passover, we were alone and I made some braised shoulder roast and my wife had some brisket leftovers from the Shabbos meal.
To enjoy the meal, I opened a bottle of the 2005 Galil Mountain Yiron, a wine that has let me down twice recently, but not on that day! WOW! That wine is insane! Rich, layered, and full of tannin that coats and dusts your mouth – really nice, but please beware – this wine is throwing TONS of sediment, hand painting sediment!
The next day was a real treat! We had friends come over and one of them shared a bottle of 2006 Adir Cabernet Sauvignon, that he received from another wine aficionado – thank you so much Rafi for sharing!!! We paired that with a bottle of the 2009 Adir A, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, a bottle I bought in Jerusalem from my guys: Gabriel Geller and Chalom – partners of the Wine Windmill.
To be fair, we started off with a bottle of 2007 Yarden Chardonnay and while it was not flawed, or a dud, it was way too far oak driven and lacking in fruit and oak reaction. After we moved that off the table, we opened the two Adir wines and then we opened a bottle of the 2008 Covenant Red C – a wine that was so apropos for the whole splitting of the Red Sea thing that happened on the same day, some 3000 years ago!
Food wise, we started with the herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and side dishes that we made and bought. For the main course we had some great vegetable kugel, and a hunk of rib roast that we cooked slowly and simply using Alton Brown’s Rib Roast recipe.
We had some simple dessert and paired it with some lovely Adir Winery Port Blush. I have friends who call it Port Bluff as it is really only made from late harvest chardonnay grapes and some sugar, but who cares! Tons of French wines use Chaptalization, and in this case the wine is actually quite enjoyable. The added sugar or late harvest fruit is clearly apparent, but the sherry like flavors or almond and nuts either turn you off or captivate you. To me Sherry wine is awesome and unique and that makes it interesting to me, but sure many find it offensive – their loss.
I wrote a bit of the history of Adir Winery in my posting on my trip to the north of Israel. The trip was a kick and I had a wonderful time at Adir Winery, even though it was absolutely pouring cats and dogs outside. When I was there I tasted the 2010 Adir A and the Blush Port, and though this was the 2009 Adir A, both wines were really nice. Read the rest of this entry
Truly Passover Shabbos was a two fold event, the chance to taste through my Shirah wines that I had been yearning to get to and the chance to taste a barrel sample of wine sent to me by Andrew Breskin of Liquid Kosher (a high-end kosher wine merchant). Andrew warned me that I needed to air the puppy out so indeed, I opened it Friday morning and it was still kicking Saturday night.
As, I already documented here, about all things Shirah, I was talking with Gabriel before Passover and we agreed that we would both open Shirah wines over Passover. To me, it was time to see if the Coalition, which I thought was severely lacking in the finish and mouth, had come around. Humorously, there are some that think my article on Shirah wines was a cheerleader post – but such is life, I really did feel passionately about the Weiss Brothers and I really do like their wines. We tasted through four of the Shirah wines that I had around, the two coalitions, from 2010 and 2011 and the 2008 10-2 punch and the 2010 Counterpunch. All four of the wines were truly unique, but the winner of the four was the 1-2 punch and the 2010 Coalition – the very wines, I though was truly lacking – how funny life can be sometimes.
Benyo came over for the Shabbos and brought over two oldie but goodies – 1996 Four Gates Merlot and 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay. Now, as you all know Four Gates Winery was “officially” founded in 1997, but that dos not mean he did not make wine in 1996 – actually he made a fair amount of wine in 1996, and all of his friends and family were the beneficiary of his abundant kindness! To me, the wines rival the 1997, 2003, and 2006 vintages. Though his best wines so far are still the 2012 releases (year wise – not vintage). Anyway, the 1996 Chardonnay was so good and clean and ripe, the real shocker was the color – pure light gold color, like a 2006 or a 2012 Chardonnay! Quite impressive as always – his older 1996 Chardonnay wines are truly unique. I did not take notes – sorry, but this one was not the soft, honeyed, caramelized Chardonnay that I come to expect from his stash of 1996 Chardonnays. This was bright and expressive – really like its color! Blind, I would have thought it was a 2000 or 2010 wine!
After that we enjoyed a march of red wines, one after the other, each one unique in their own right, with really no duds or holes, it was a really fun night. Friends brought over some wines, but none of them made the table, as I really wanted to taste through the Shirah wines, the Frenchie, and one Israeli wine. They brought over a Peeraj Habib – nothing to slouch over AT ALL, but I was single minded on my plan, and I did ask forgiveness afterwards. Read the rest of this entry
After having a quiet set of days at my friend’s homes and at our house, without any guests, it was time to open the wine spigots and see what we could get going. It has been too long since we enjoyed some Shirah Wines - wines from the now famous Weiss Brothers. The winery is in Southern California, but the wines are now very easy to buy, as they are being sold in NY and Chicago, (distributed by River Wines – thanks Ami!!) The wines are also online at Kosherwine.com (where you can get some of the now sold-out 2010 Coalition), Gotham Wines, and SkyViewWine.com.
It almost seemed like Shirah Wine became famous after my original post about the Weiss brothers (all I did was give them their due and rightful respect – their wine did the rest!). They are two wine hell bent (in the right way) brothers who went out on a ledge, and almost went over it, to make great kosher wine and spirits! Throughout all the crazy tribulations they continued and believed in themselves, a truly rare and awesome trait – if I say so myself. You have to have a very strong internal compass and self-belief to build a wine when all seems to be going against you. I really do have great respect for the two of them, but that does not bias my feelings about their wines – they just happen to make damn good wines!
The first time we tasted their wines, was indeed at the now famous Benyamin Cantz (Benyo of Four Gates Winery) and Rabbi Naftali Citron Shabbaton, where they shared with us the just bottled 1-2 punch and Syraph. Since then we re-tasted the 2008 Syraph again along with the 2009 Power to the People and it was truly a joy tasting them side by side the much heralded and hot Israeli Ortal Syrah from Yarden, which to me felt underwhelming in comparison!
The Weiss brothers, is not just a saying or moniker, they are actually brothers! They consist of Shimon Weiss (the hands and crazy good palate of the pair) and Gabriel Weiss (newly married with a family) is the winemaker. However, they really are the “brothers”, nothing gets done without the two of them. I recently visited the Agua Dolce Winery, where the Shirah Winery is currently stationed, on the way home from the 2013 IFWF, and Shimon was going to Israel in the next few days. To get ready for his departure, they had to get everything bottled and ready to go for the Passover sales. Why? Because the bottling line, labeling, and the entire complex minutia that goes into bottling a wine after the wine is made, was being handled by Shimon at that time. That included bottling the new 2011 Coalition and the new 2010 Single V. Thompson, Syrah/Mourvedre, both of which I tasted and blogged about at the 2013 Jewish Week City Winery tasting.
It all started in 2004 when Gabriel moved from the east coast to the other side of the country to work for Herzog Winery. He worked as a cellar rat (person who moves around wine, cleans out barrels and tanks, etc.) there for almost a year before the opportunity to make wine almost literally fell into his lap! The 2005 season was a bumper crop and in November, the vineyard, from where they sourced the grapes, still had grapes on the vines! The vineyard owner told Gabe to come on by and harvest all the Syrah grapes he wanted – free of charge! So, in 2005 Gabe made the first ever Shirah wine, a wine label that would go dormant for three years, but not forgotten! The wine was made with a bunch of friends in a garage! Now that is what I call Garagiste wine! Read the rest of this entry
Well, to say I was busy in the past two weeks would be a minor understatement! I had people calling me, emailing me, and god knows what other forms of communication, including the time-sink of them all – Facebook!!
So, while getting ready for Passover I also posted some four articles on my trip to Israel, this past December 2012. I have tons more to write up, but for now I need a break – LOL!!! Still, as I have said many times, this blog is more about my journal than a real peek into my insane life of wine.
So, this Passover was the usual madness of hurray up and then wait and then hurray up and wait! Clean one part, boil water and wait. Clean something else, than wait for it to try, and then pour water – man these laws!! Anyway, in between all the madness I was posting about my Israel trip and never got to post about the wines I wanted to enjoy this Passover or even the past Shabbos wine! By the way, the Barbera was awesome from Ramat Naftaly, but man that bottle was crazy! The bottle had cracks going down both sides of the bottle. The cracks were actually done at the time the glass was blown, they need to do a better job of checking their bottles!
The title may seem extreme but there is a clear and present passion and almost zeal to the wine makers and vineyard managers of the Shomron. In no way is that a slight to other wine regions, or to denote that others are not as passionate. The real point is that when I met with 30+ wineries on my past trip to Israel, every winery spoke about their wines and their processes and technology, but none spoke as passionately about their land as the winemakers in the Shomron. I need to stress, that many speak about their vineyards, the terroir, like Tzora and others, but the passion about the land versus the correct vines to grow – the sheer desire to own and plant trees or vines – it was truly an uplifting experience.
However, before we get into all of that, this post is about day two of week three during my trip to Israel last year December (2012). This posting is an account of my visit to both the Har Bracha and Tura wineries, in that order. Since we left off, I had completed week one all by myself, and week two partly with my nephew, who yes slowed me down, but truly added so much color and life to the proceedings, that it was a fair trade The day started off like any day in Israel, we were set to see as many wineries as possible within a single day! The day started off with Doron and I picking up Gabriel Geller, yes the dastardly mastermind of the previous week’s Monday adventure to Ella Valley, Teperberg, Flam, and Herzberg Winery. It was a grand day trip and one that Geller was ready to try again! Talk about committed or is it that he needs to be committed, I am really not sure! Anyway, we pick him up and off we go to another wine adventure on Route 60! There were many stories that occurred to us on route 60 on this storied day, but being that they were part of the tapestry of the day, we will weave the tails into this wild and ruckus wine trail adventure.
The Shomron day started off with a visit to Shiloh, and then to Gvaot, described here. From there we were pointing our car towards Har Bracha and that is when we should have listened to the darn phone – both of our phones! The madness started with Doron’s phone which texted him with a very important message. You see he has an AT&T phone, a very nice phone actually, that did not easily support popping in a new SIM (the modus apprendre of international cell phone travelers when they visit Israel), so he went with an international plan from the US with certain countries on it. Simple enough plan, that is until you enter route 60, or more specifically, the Shomron area of route 60. AT&T was texting Doron to notify him that his data plan did not work in the new country he had just entered! Well, if that was not enough of a hint, at about that same time, my phone starts to chirp. Now, I must be specific here, we were interested in getting to Har Bracha which is north of Shiloh and we actually have to pass Tura to get there, but that was because Tura was not available at that time, so Har Bracha was where we were pointed towards.
To quickly remind you, Yossie’s wine map is an awesome resource for finding kosher wineries in Israel, and for getting a sense of what and where the kosher wineries are in Israel. The map gave us a great layout of our day, and it also gave us a closer understanding of what was driving waze so crazy! Waze is the only real navigation tool in Israel and one that I explained saved my life at least two times in the north. Well, my girlfriend (waze’s voice is a female’s voice and it tells me where to go at all times – so all my friends think it fits) started to notify me that I needed to get ready for a left turn coming up. Now, driving in Israel is an already tense and terrifying enough of a job, looking at a navigation device is too much. So, Doron and Gabe (back seat driver) were thrust into the navigator role. Doron had the girlfriend and Gabe knows most of the roads by heart, and he also had his own phone-based girlfriend as well. All the phones were telling me to turn left, while Gabe was coaxing me forward – with soothing words of, do not worry we need to keep driving – no warning! Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we were guests at a friend’s home, so I brought over a bottle of 2007 Gush Eztion Blessed Valley Red, which I really liked. They also served the 2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir, which continues to impress, and a bottle of the 2006 Yarden Cabernet. The Israeli date/raisin/new world issue was clearly evident in the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle that was purchased from a wine store the day before the dinner. The Yarden was still quite nice but infuriating, as it refused to open for hours and when it did, it was powerful and aggressive and full of date and raisin, a shame. The Blessed Valley red was nice and rich and controlled, but when you drink it after a Four Gates Pinot you again see quickly what acid does to a wine and what the lack of bracing acid feels like.
This was the second time, in recent memory, where had a Four Gates wine next to an Israeli red wine and each time – no matter how nice the Israeli wine is, it pales in comparison to the acid laden Four Gates wine.
Were the wines bad? No! The wines were just outmatched by a more complete wine – but not a wine that I would enjoy over them. It is a complex problem. The Four Gates Pinot is nice, but it is no 2009 Pinot and it is no 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, and nor should it be. Still, the acid in it makes all other nice wines feel lacking. The 2007 Blessed Valley is a fine wine, but it lacks the acid and that shows when considered next to a wine like a estate bottled Four Gates wine. Still, if you bought the 2007 Blessed Valley in America – drink now, it is smooth and rich and ready and going to the other side. Again, this was a bottle that I did not sore in my house – but a bottle I got from the distributor here in California. It should last another year or so, so start drinking now.
The 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was a beast to get open, but once open, as I stated before, raisins kept plopping out of my glass. The wine is crazy big, aggressive, and layered and mad good, but the real issue is the lack of control of baseline Yarden Cabernet wines. For lunch I opened a bottle of the 2008 Galil Barbera, which was quite nice. It opened a bit hot, but calmed down, smoothed out, while still being nice and acidic and capable of handling a bowl of cholent or a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
The wine notes are a bit lighter today as I did not have my wine note bending contraptions at my host’s home
2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: B++
The wine does not taste very different than a few months ago, when I last tasted it and wrote my notes. The menthol, bramble, dusty redwood aromas and flavors are ever evident. The red and black fruit are now really popping with a bracing acidity that could use another year to calm down, but for folks like me – the more acid the better.
2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley Red – Score: B+ to A
The wine is a blend of 77% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. The wine is showing a bit worse for the wear in the US than in Israel. In Israel the wine was rich and popping and highly aggressive. Here, it has smoothed and is in drink now mode. The wine is clearly redolent with tobacco and green notes, along with big black and red fruit. The sweet cedar and smooth integrating tannin is a real joy and one that can handle quite an array of foods. We enjoyed it with brisket and corned beef. The wine is full in body, with blackberry, black cherry fruit and so much more. The finish is long and spicy with mineral and graphite and mouth coating tannin that rise. Not quite the killer it was in Israel, but still quite a lovely wine indeed.
2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is a killer with a killer’s instinct. The wine is rich and layered but needs a few hours to open up. The wine clearly has sweet/Israeli raisin notes, but they are also surrounded by crazy ripe fruit, blackberry, cassis, and searing tannin that almost make your mouth hurt. The wine is popping with good balance of fruit and acid, assaulting layers of concentrated and extracted fruit, and spicy cedar that starts to take over the palate. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, and leather that lingers long with tannin, spice, and roasted herb.
2008 Galil Barbera – Score: B+
The wine starts off hot but after time calms to an almost herbal balm with crazy roasted herb, a rich perfume of dark cherry, light hint of date and raisin, good spice, and toast. The mouth is lovely and rich but controlled with sweet notes, toasty sweet cedar, wrapped up in softening sweet tannin, and plum delight. The finish is long and balanced with good acid, menthol, vanilla, and coffee.
Much of this post was already posted here, where I described my second week in Israel. Many if not all the pictures here (except for the bottle pictures) are all courtesy of Herzberg winery, as Gabriel Geller and I arrived so late that it was pitch dark by the time I meandered my way to the winery. Herzberg Winery is a winery that is owned, run, and operated by a single man – Max Herzberg. It was pouring rain as we made our way to his lovely home – which doubles as his winery and vineyard. Yes, he reminds me of my good friend Benaymin Cantz (from four gates winery), another of those home bound Vigneron who live, breath, and eat winemaking in and around their very abode! I must say that many of my writings are more sentimental to me that rote and that is why it may seem that I do not write often, but I need the emotion and passion to be there before I can pick up my virtual pen and write these postings. It is not an excuse but more a reality and my apologies for having not written more about my Israel trip yet – more will be on the way soon, after passover.
Max Herzberg is a world-famous biotechnologist who has single-handedly created and sold more companies than many of us even know or can keep track of. Max immigrated to Israel from France and quickly became a world-class biotechnologist and a leader in his field and in the corporate world!
However, after getting his fill of running biotechnology departments at universities and running and starting companies, Max decided he would plant a vineyard. One day Max approached his clearly intelligent wife (who happens to be a Tunisian – so that helps a lot of course) and asked if she minded if he planted a few vines? His wife replied, you mean you want to plant the entire field – right? Sure enough, in 2005, by the time Max was done, the entire 3 acre field, right next to his home in Moshav Sitrya was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. It is not clear if this particular location within the Judean Hills is well situated for Malbec, but as Max puts it – time will tell. Max also makes use of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a neighboring vineyard. The first true year for the winery was in 2008, though there was some 300 bottles from the 2007 vintage. The 2012 vintage produced some 4500 bottles – nice realistic and manageable growth. Max does it all; he prunes his vineyard and sulfurs it with a machine, and of course makes the wine. The only thing he does not do is pick the grapes – by himself, he has folks to help with that!
As usual, Geller knows everyone and him and Max hit it off really well. It helps that Geller speaks a perfect French (so jealous), the native tongue of the French born Max Herzberg. It was with this knowledge that we arrived at his home and he showed us around the winery – though by this time it was pitch dark and we were walking around very carefully. We soon made our way to the well-lit tasting room, that is adjacent to the winery and that is where we tasted through the winery’s entire line. A few weeks after we visited, Max had a winery tasting at his winery to show off the new 2009/2010 red wines and from what I can see on his Facebook page – it was a smash! Max is one of those honest, down to earth, humble and talented wine makers that enjoy what he is doing and it shows in his wine and in his passion for his craft. Read the rest of this entry
So, after taking a slight break from writing about my trip to Israel, and concentrating on all the wine events that occurred here in the states, it is time to return to where I left off. The last time we spoke, I was blogging about my last trip to the Shomron and Judean Hills wine regions. Week two was clearly a more Judean Hills focused week than a Shomron focus, but it gave me a chance to introduce you to the wine region.
Talk about Israel wine regions and most will start off with the Galilee/Golan wine regions, which started the entire wine revolution in Israel. The wine region became famous in 1972, during a visit to Israel, Professor Cornelius Ough of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the U.C. Davis suggested that the soil and climate of the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in the Six-Day War) would prove ideal for raising grapes. They planted vines in 1976 and released wine in 1983, all kosher from the start.
However, since than more and more wineries have been sourcing their grapes from the Judean Hills, an idea that was started by Flam Winery, Tzuba Winery, and the Doamine du Castel Winery. Since then the wine region has been heating up and going crazy – with wineries from all over Israel buying land and planting vineyards – to the tune of many millions of dollars! The funny thing is that, if you read my last article on the Shomron wine region, you would realize that the best Merlot wines come from the Shomron wine region, especially the sub-wine region; Har Bracha! Anyone desiring an Israeli Merlot – please do look for one from the Shomron/Har Bracha sub region. Note that there are wineries that sell Shomron wines even though they are not situated in the Shomron wine region, like the Teperberg Winery, Carmel Winery, and Tishbi Winery.
The Shomron wine region may be very good for certain varietals, but when you talk about wineries, there really are only a few that pop to mind; Psagot Winery, the Shiloh Winery, and the Gvaot Winery. The Tanya Winery has also released some nice wines, though recently the wines have not been up to Yoram’s standard, in my opinion. Gat Shomron has released a couple of nice wines, like the crazy good Ice wine and the Shomron Merlot reserve. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend I wanted a slab of meat and my wife acquiesced, so rib steaks it was! As I have posted here a few times, the steak and potatoes recipe worked great for our Sabbath dinner! The steaks were good, but still not as good as the first time, because well – who knows! Anyway, the potatoes were also not full-on crunchy, but in the end, who cares – meat and potatoes, enough said! The meat was great and the fresh green salad was the cherry on top.
The wine we enjoyed for dinner was the 2009 Dalton Petite Sirah, which showed much better than last time. It is once again showing blue notes, but the wine is rich, layered, and round with sweet notes.
Wine note follows below:
2009 Dalton Petite Sirah – Score: B+ to A-
This bottle was better than the last one – but it is still a wine that I do not think is getting better and has clearly entered the drink now to drink up mode.
The nose explodes with boysenberry, blackberry, licorice, roasted animal, smoky notes, and very good spice. The mouth is medium+ in body, with clear influence from being in American oak for 12 months, good smooth and integrated tannins that meld well with the sweet cedar and floral notes, along with ripe and sweet cassis, black plum, raspberry, and red fruit. The finish is long and spicy with leather, chocolate, vanilla, cloves, black pepper, and a lingering sensation of dirt.