Author Archives: winemusings

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

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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

2013 Landsman Zinfandel and 2012 Shirah Rose

2013 Landsman Zinfandel, 2012 Shirah Rose, and 2009 Herzog PS2This past weekend I was recuperating from flying around the world to almost every kosher wine event that I could get to. It started in Israel for the 2015 Sommelier, and then a few days later, the 2015 Tzur wine tasting, essentially the Israeli KFWE. Then I went home for two days before flying back to NYC for KFWE NYC and then to LA for the KFWE LA.

So, by the time I was home for good, I was exhausted, and what I needed was some good wine and food. It turns out that I chose a bunch of Cali wines, which may have been an internal reaction to tasting so many date wines from Israel and around the world at Somm and the KFWE. In the end, one of the three I chose was also date juice – Karma is a bitter mistress!

The Friday night dinner was roasted sausages and chicken, paired with a bottle of the 2012 Shirah Rose. The rose is still showing beautifully with ripe fruit and crazy mineral and pith. The other wine we enjoyed was the 2013 Landsman Zinfandel, a nice enough zinfandel with great spice and earth, but with a lithe body, holes in the mouth, and a wine that needs a day to truly open up.

It is a nice enough wine but one that I was really hoping would finally bring me a California Zinfandel that rocked my world. Sadly, since Hagafen Winery stopped producing Zinfandel wines, we have been missing some great wines.

The good news is that there is a 2013 Dalton Zinfandel, that is blended with some Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. It has a nice body, great acid, crazy spices, and good fruit. I cannot wait to buy some soon.

Sadly, the third wine we had that was DOA was the 2009 Herzog PS2. The wine was not corked and the cork was fine, it is simply a case of the early death of Petite Sirah. The body on that wine was crazy rich, with layers and mad tannins, but it was dead. Sad. It reaffirms to me that PS can indeed be a beast of a wine, but its own life is short on its own, making it a far better blending grape than a pure varietal. Now, I love PS, and I think it – like Malbec – can be really nice, but it requires you to not wait long on them. Drink them quickly, when they are ready or even earlier, because they have the annoying habit of just dropping dead and leaving you holding the bag!!!

The wine notes follow below:

2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah PS2, Second Edition – DOA
This wine died a horrible death – sadly. It was oak and date juice when I opened it and it went to port in an hour – drink what u have!!!

2012 Shirah Rose – Score: A- to A
WOW What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, strawberry, black currant, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, tart blackcurrant, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!!

2013 Covenant Zinfandel Landsman – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine starts off with lovely rich mineral, loamy dirt, roasted animal notes, and more dirt. The mouth is well spiced, and light to medium bodied with sweet fruit that blows off, to show cherry, strawberry, nice zinberry, blue fruit, good tannin, acid, and nutmeg. The finish is long and spicy with watermelon and black pepper. Sadly, this wine lacks the presence to cut through most food, though the rich acid and mineral is nice.

After the wine was open for a day – it really did open and become more complex and less sweet. The blue notes receded and the spices and complexity rose – with more earth, acid, mineral, and spice, nice.

Sommelier 2015 results – White wines ruled along with a few reds

Sommelier 2015Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1.    Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2.    Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3.    Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4.    Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5.    Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6.    Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7.    Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8.    Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9.    Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10.   Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).

A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1.    Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2.    Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3.    Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)

Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry

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