Author Archives: winemusings

2013 Kosher Wine in Review and my thoughts on what is ahead

2013 Year in ReviewWell it is 2014 (and a month) and it is time for me to close the loop and give my take on the state of the kosher wine world. Clearly, the vast majority of the kosher wine is coming from Israel and that is not about to change anytime soon (excluding the mad love for all things Bartenura Blue Bottle (BBB) from Italy).

As I stated last year here and here – things are changing and evolving in Israel, for both the good and the bad. In many ways things are improving, but the issues from last year have persisted and in some cases are being further accentuated – more on that below.

My travels around the world, along with articles from the mainstream press, and trade rags continue to highlight the main issues that face the kosher wine world today – and yes I am not afraid to say them out loud:

  • We have far too much poor kosher wine out there
    • There was a post this past year that created quite a stir, in a not positive manner, within the blogosphere and twitterdom, about how kosher wine is not worthy of a place in the upper echelon of the wine world (with or without the kosher moniker). Please read the comments, especially those by Craig Winchell, Rob Meltzer (the author), and Adam Montefiore.
    • In my opinion, Meltzer’s overall approach and content is very far off base. The wines from Yatir, some from Yarden, Flam, Clos Mesorah, Capcanes, some from Herzog stand up well in the trade rags, this blog, and other places – in regards to the “wine world” as a whole.
    • Further, his mishmash of facts is so far off base with regards to mevushal and other such things – it is sad. To make things worse, his selection of wines were a very poor cross section of the kosher wine world.
    • Now with all that said – his main premise – the ECONOMICS of the kosher wine world is spot on! Now before I get hate comments – yes there have been vast improvements in the kosher wine world over the past few years. Especially, with the names listed above and others, but the vast majority of kosher wines out there would never find their way to my table – and that is the problem. This is not a discussion of snobbery, truly it is not, this is a discussion around what is good and what is not. Sure there is a fair amount of subjectivity in this area, but sadly, the vast majority of wines in the kosher wine market exist – because we let them be there. If they were not purchased – they would cease to exist, which would be good for all of us. The hope being, that in their place one would find wines of higher quality for the same price, like those that exist in the non-kosher world.
    • When I stand in a Supermarket in Israel or a kosher wine stand in the average wine store in New York or in Chicago, or Los Angeles – the clear majority of the wines there, are wines I would never drink or cook with! This needs to change – the quality must improve and we the consumers are the only ones empowered to make that change a reality. Vote with your dollars and feet and walk away from the poor quality wines and buy the better wines. Read the rest of this entry

We enjoyed three lovely kosher wines this weekend

This past weekend we enjoyed a few great wines, including another wine from the Herzog Winery! The set of wines included another tasting of the 2010 Vignobles David Reserve, which is tasting lovely – but starting to show signs that it is coming around. The tannins are still very mouth drying and draping, and really need a fair amount of time to integrate. The next wine was the newly released 2011 Herzog Chardonnay Prince Vineyard, a new single vineyard Chardonnay from their newly acquired Prince Vineyard, the first vineyard that the Herzog winery bought.

Finally, we had a hand carried bottle from Israel that shocked me in a good way. When I recently tasted the newly released 2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Sumaka Vineyard at the KFWE in Miami this past month, I was far from impressed. However, I had just come back from Israel and I was carrying with me a bottle of the very same wine. When I came home I opened the bottle, that I bought in Jerusalem, and was shocked by how VASTLY different the two wines were. Taste them blind side by side and you too would be really shocked. The US version is really not that great, B to B+ wine at the best. The very same wine, with an Israeli label, was rich and layered, but controlled, and lacked the over the top cooked and ripe fruit.

This is not a one time thing, when I returned to Israel and I tasted the 2009 wines from Carmel, I was once again shocked to find that I loved them. A very vast difference from when I tasted them with an US label. Whatever the issue is, it really needs to be fixed.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Reserve – Score: A- (and more)
This wine blend is composed of 40% Syrah, and 60% Grenache, also known by the folks in the know, as GS, an acronym stemming from the first letter of the 2 varietals used in this blend.

When I opened this lately, the wine needed a few hours of air to truly open and show its potential. Please open and have patience to allow it to show its true joy.

This bright purple colored wine steps up and slaps you across the head with a crazy rich and heady nose of blackcurrant, bramble, rich oak, roasted meat, freshly brewed espresso, spice, raspberry, blackberry, and tar. This wine shows a super rich, full-bodied, yet bright mouth with an insane mouth draping and coating tannin, rich extraction, along with focused concentration of fruit, all coming together into a truly earthy, fruity, meaty mouth. The finish is richly spiced with layers of more coating tannin, soft leather, tar, black fruit, rich minerality, espresso and oak, with a hint of date on the background. Quite a lovely wine that is not another big and black Syrah, rather this is a lovely balanced GS that shows its richly spiced and terroir driven roots in more ways than one.

2011 Herzog Chardonnay, Prince Vineyard – Score: B+
This is a mevushal Chardonnay from the newly acquired Prince Vineyard in California Clarksburg ACA. The noise on this light gold colored wine is rich and ripe with honeyed notes, toasty oak, spice, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is viscous and lovely with good sweet fruit, apricot, guava, baked apple pie, along with layers of butterscotch, creme brulee, and hints of oak tannin. The finish is medium long and missing a bit of an acid bite, spicy with good bakers spices, white tea, and good mineral background, slate and lemon peel.

2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Sumaka Vineyard (Israeli Label ONLY) – Score: A-
I must be very clear here – this is the 2010 Carmel Cabernet, Sumaka Vineyard, from Israel, not what is sold here in the US. I make that clear, as the wine sold here, with the US label, is not very good, overly ripe and clearly changed by the transport process from Israel to the US. I shipped/transported this bottle by hand from Israel to my home and then enjoyed it.

This wine is a single vineyard wine, just like the 2009 Kayoumi Cabernet was a single vineyard wine. This wine replaces that wine while the Kayoumi vineyard single vineyard wine. The nose on this black colored wine starts off with a lovely and deeply mineral rooted nose, with blackberry, cassis, plum, earthy notes, and blackcurrant. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered with good fruit concentration, that is a bit uniform, with good extraction, along with good sweet tannin, and lovely spicy oak. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, chocolate, leafy tobacco, and more great graphite/charcoal lingering long with cloves, spice, and a nice sweet note background.

This goes to prove that there is a serious issue at play here. I tasted some 4 wines in Israel that I have had a few times here in the states. The wines in Israel tasted some 4 years younger and more enjoyable than their US counterparts – keep an eye out, and I will be documenting which label/locale the wine came from going forward.

Ella Valley Merlot and a not so good kosher Malbec

This past week we enjoyed some lovely wine from the Ella Valley Winery, which is going through some changes right now. This wine dates back to 2005 when Doron Rav Hon was the head winemaker and the this wine shows his classic Burgundian styling. Of course Merlot is not made in Burgundy, but the restraint and depth of fruit shows the style that he became famous for when he was making wine there.

The other wine was another kosher, baseline Malbec, and I guess you get what you pay for. The 2012 Don Mendoza Malbec is a wine that does little to stem the tide of public opinion around kosher wine. The wine is boring, bland, and within minutes just falls apart in your mouth. You get what you pay for, I recommend you not even try this wine and look elsewhere.

Truly it is sad, because when you type Malbec into Google, you quickly find that it was Argentina that turned the world onto single varietal Malbec. The 2009 Flechas Malbec from Rothschild in Argentina is a nice enough wine, but it can be a bit extreme. If you must buy an Argentinian Malbec, that is your best option by far, even if the 2011 vintage is not as good as the 2009. But this wine, is not even in that league.

Like I posted here about the Kosher Malbec options out there, stick with either the Yarden Malbec, the Tishbi Malbec, or the BEST option, in my opinion the Teperberg Malbec.

The wine notes follow below:

2005 Ella Valley Merlot – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this wine, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, is old and mature but not over the hill at all! The nose is rich with dark fruit, candied raspberry, cherry, with insane barnyard funk coming out, along with rich loamy dirt, earthy notes, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with lovely funk and mushroom, with good blackberry, forest floor, all wrapped up in a cocoon of green leafy notes, sweet cedar, and mouth drenching tannin. The finish is long and spicy with lovely leafy tobacco, salty notes, rich mineral, graphite, chocolate, and rich dark fruit and leathery notes – BRAVO! The wine is drink up mode and it is throwing sediment – but enjoy!

2012 Don Mendoza Malbec Reserve – Score: C
This wine is mevushal and it shows. The wine shows a simple, not complex, or even very good wine with basic fruit, but a wine that is all over the place. The wine starts off nice, with spicy notes and fruit, but that falls apart very quickly and falls flat to the floor, with stinky socks. Sad, as I was hoping for a better showing from a Argentinian Malbec!

Kosher Wine events for 2014 are set and the KFWE is selling fast

I will keep this short and sweet – the 2014 kosher wine events are all in and will start selling out VERY soon.

The first one you MUST jump on is the 2014 Kosher Food and Wine Festival (KFWE) at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers, in New York City on February 24, 2014. It literally sells out each and every year, and all the procrastinators complain to me bitterly, about how they cannot get in – well BUY YOUR DARN TICKETS and they are 20 dollars off still. I did not get a coupon this year, but you can use the Kosher Wine Society’s coupon (KWS20).

The next one to get on is the International Food and Wine Festival in Los Angeles, CA IFWF on February 26, 2014 – check my blog posting for more on that.

The next wine event is the Grapevine Wines Grand Tasting for Sunday March 2nd, 2014 at the Grapevine Wines shop in Monsey, NY. The tasting is from 5:30 – 8:30 PM, it is the 15th Year anniversary of the Kosher Wine store. The wine event will take place at 455 Route 306 Wesley Hills, NY 10952, 845-364-9463. Ask for Yehoshua Werth.

The next one is the return of the Gotham Wine Extravaganza, that took a year off last year – but is back and ready to go! The date is set, for Sunday March 23rd. As I have reported for the past many years, Gotham throws a crazy wine tasting with an array of wines unmatched by any other kosher wine tasting event, as there are wines from  all of the kosher wine importers. I hope that anyone in the New York City can make it.

The next wine kosher event is the City Winery event, that is another kosher wine event that includes many wine importers and is on Monday March 31st. Last year the event was quite impressive, and I am sure it will be equally impressive this year.

2014 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival (IFWF) returns to Los Angeles

logoOnce again Herzog is putting on its massive food and wine festival on February 26th, 2014 starting at 6PM. The festival is a great place to get to taste some of those wines that are either beyond your price budget, or hard to find wines, or ones that you pass by on the shelves because you just have no idea how good they are. They will be pouring more than 200 bottles of wines, so be sure to get there early, before the crowds show up. There will be a few new faces this year, with a couple of new wine makers showing up, and a few surprises (think new kosher wineries), from what I hear. Of course, there is also the food TO DIE for, from Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant, Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a 40 mile radius, and his staff of insanely competent chefs! So please be sure to BUY your tickets here (coupon code is on the link). The wineries pouring will include; Flam Winery (newly Kosher), Tulip (also newly kosher), many wonderful French brands, Alfasi, Barkan, Baron Rothschild, Bartenura, Binyamina, Bokobsa, Capçanes, Carmel, Casa de Corça, Chateau Leoville Poyferré, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Malartic La Graviere, Elvi Wines, Domaine du Castel, Domaine Netofa, Drappier, Flechas de los Andes, Gamla, Goose Bay, Harkham, Herzog Selection, Herzog Wine Cellars, Louis Royer, Morad, Pacifica, Psagot, Shiloh, Tomintoul, Walders, Weinstock Cellars & MORE! OVER 200+ WINES WILL BE POURED!

Tickets are going fast so grab one or more while you can. Like last year they will be pouring wine and spirits – from around the world. Last year they poured cognac and scotch, and the display/table was “well attended”.

Please note that the event is returning to Los Angeles again! The event this year will returning to Los Angeles for its third year!! You can once again drink and eat to your heart’s content, and then crash at one of the many rooms in the lovely Hyatt Regency Century Plaza! Herzog is working out a deal with the Hyatt and will hopefully have great deals for staying there on the website soon.

Last year the event was a smash in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The massive permanent tent is well-appointed, warm, and lovely to behold. Last year the event was a hit because the space was great and the smoke aromas from the chef’s smoker was outside of the event hall. In the end the event went off quite well and I look forward to seeing you all there again this year! Again, do not worry about missing out of the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant fare! Chef Garcia will be there with the rest of the crew and they will be serving up much of what they make and serve at the restaurant.

Yes, Yes I left the best for last. Herzog is giving out a coupon out for 25 dollars off the ticket price – use the coupon MUSINGS.

Every year we go and every year we are so excited because it gives us a chance to taste the wines and to see what to buy for the upcoming holidays. So grab you mouse and start clicking and we look forward to seeing you all the 2014 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival.

Teperberg Winery Tasting – just outside of snowed in Jerusalem

Teperberg Tasting with all the wines and Fricassee a person can dream for!As I have stated before, these postings are from my previous trip to Israel, where Jerusalem and mush of the north was snowed in with many feet of snow. Picking up from where we left off, the Sabbath was snowed in and cold, but at least we had power. The next day, my brother drove the car to the hotel and from there – the careful but madman driver – known as Mendel made his way to both GG and me and using Waze we were off to highway 1. The road itself was open, as was clear by the crowd sourcing cars driving up and down the road on the Waze map. However, there were parts of the road that were packed to the gills, because these were car drivers – driving to har menuchot (Jerusalem’s cemetery which has a massive parking lot) to pick up their abandoned cars! Yup, on Friday, these folks could not make it into Jerusalem, as their car was stuck, and they could not get back to where they came from, so they left their cars and were bussed out by the Army using mechanized solider transport vehicles, that can drive through snow or up a hill, for that matter.

Well, as we drove by that horde of cars, our minds were all single focused on getting to Teperberg Winery, one of the best unheralded wineries in Israel. As I wrote about in previous posts, here and here, ever since the U.C. Davis trained senior winemaker Shiki Rauchberger joined the winery, they have been producing wines destined to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. With the addition of Olivier Fratty and tons of new high-end equipment, the winery is poised to make the next leap into the upper echelon of Israeli kosher wine producers.

When we arrived after driving through the snow covered mountains, the roads cleared as we dropped in elevations, and the mountains became hills, and their color turned from white to green. Not too far down the highway, we turned off for the road leading to Bet Shemesh, and from there another turn and we quickly found out way to Kibbutz Tzora (where the Tzora Winery can be found), which is across the street from the Teperberg Winery, and down the street from Mony Winery.

We arrived almost on time, and Shiki and Olivier were there to greet us and lead us to a room where we would be having the tasting. Shiki told us that they are drawing up plans for a visitor’s center where they can have official tastings, and exhibits where the winemakers and the guests can interact in a more intimate environment. The exact date for this building to be completed is still unknown, as it has yet to even start, but it is on the books to be started soon. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Roses Camille Wine Tasting in Snowy Jerusalem

Wine Tasting panel for the DRC DinnerPicking up from where we left off – Jerusalem was a snow covered wonderland and we had just come back from visiting Teperberg Winery, and it was now time to find our way back to the Scala Restaurant, the David Citadel’s upper scale restaurant. We were there to meet with Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau, the co-owner and the winemaker of Domaine Roses Camille in Pomerol, Bordeaux (who is a co-owner as well). To be very honest, this posting is very late, like much of the posts I need to get up, but hey, better late than not at all.

I must also ask forgiveness for having never worked out the time to talk over the phone and post my notes in a more complete posting as this on Christophe and the winery. There were many attempts and for one reason or another, we kept getting our lines crossed. Blessedly, the time finally arrived when we could all sit around a table and enjoy some wine and talk about the winery and the wine they make.

In case you have all been sleeping in a cave or under a rock, for the past 5 years, DRC (Domaine Roses Camille), as it is known in the kosher world, exploded onto the scene, when out of nowhere, the Late Daniel Rogov, scored the 2005 Domaine Roses Camille a 95, and called it the best kosher Bordeaux wine ever. This was then followed by a tasting of the 2006 vintage, which received a score of 93, and DRC was on the map, in the minds of each and every serious kosher wine buyer.

So, you may ask who and what is DRC and how did we all miss them for so many years, well that is simple – they are the textbook story of a garagiste winery. In Israel, the term used is boutique winery, in France they call it a garagiste, because many of these tiny wineries start in a garage – much like Silicon Valley started. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Shirah Vintage Whites, 2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, and 2007 Yarden Yonatan Syrah

This past week we enjoyed a few wines and the wine I was most curious about was the wine I liked the least. The 2007 Yarden Yonatan Syrah was a wine that the late Daniel Rogov, wrote was one of the best Syrah to ever be made in Israel. We made kiddush on it and it was structurally a fantastic wine, but so swet and over the top ripe that I could not come to love it as much. Again, Yarden created a wonderful wine that was stylistically true to their core, a ripe and new world wine that has the structure and makeup to make many a wine and winemaker jealous,  but not a wine that would make me happy fruit wise. With a bit more restraint, IMHO, this wine may have well been a killer wine.

I worried that the wine may be a bit over the top, so we had a backup of the 2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, a wine I loved before and still do! The wine has a medium body but with an hour of air, the wine fills out nicely with mouth coating tannin and richly tart and bright red and black fruit.

Finally, I got the chance to taste the new 2012 Shirah Winery Vintage Whites and it rocked. The nose was the true seductress, while the mouth was rich and layered, the flaw, to some extent for me, was the biting citrus pith that lingered long. Not sure if that was from the Viognier or more a straw/earthy bitterness from the Roussanne. Still, it is a unique blend that is rocking and a great QPR for 25 dollars.

The wine notes follow below:

2012 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (and a bit)
OK, to start this wine is unique, not so much that it is a Viognier/Roussane blend, there are a few folks doing that in the kosher world now (Reccanati and others). The real unique aspect is that the Weiss brothers decided to let the bitter and earthy notes of the Roussane take a center stage for this wine, at least for part of the time. That is not a flaw to me as much as it is a shocking aspect that needs time for some to get used to. Once you are past this issue – this wine rocks my world, and at 25 bucks a pop, many could really appreciate this wine for almost any meal, other than a steak!
The nose on this straw to light gold colored wine is the clear and utter winner of the wine perfume competition! Are you kidding me, this nose is 100% certifiable, with rich and honeyed notes of dripping honeysuckle, lovely jasmine, impressive floral notes, all backed by very impressive earthy mineral components, and ripe melon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is where some will be shocked and some will love, quite a polarizing context that is well worth enjoying, with lovely layers of honey, spice, guava, ripe Asian pear, along with an intense salty quality, that backs the mineral structure of this wine that exhibits a lovely oily texture, and good sweet apple sauce. The finish is where the shocker starts, crazy bitter citrus pith takes center stage with good almond notes, all finished above a bed of lovely slate/rock and richly mineral focus.
This is a wine that will vex you, sometimes the wine is sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes minerally focused, but always enjoyable, IMHO.

2008 Elvi Wines Rioja Herenza, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich and oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, and rich loamy dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich, expressive, mouth coating, and lightly extracted with good concentration of dark plum, raspberry, and cranberry, with good mouth coating tannin to bring the whole thing together. The finish is long and balanced with good acidity, rich espresso coffee, and earthy goodness. The wine is rich with a mouth of espresso coffee, dark cherry, and red fruit linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!

2007 Yarden Syrah, Yonatan Vineyard – Score: B+ (Sweet / New World wine)
This wine was rated as the best Syrah from Israel by the late Daniel Rogov, and I must sadly disagree. Structurally, this wine starts off so hot and sweet that I really could not enjoy it. Even after many hours the wine starts to calm down on the sweetness and becomes somewhat accessible, but it is an overall disappointment for me.
The nose on this black colored wines is super ripe and rich with kirsch cherry liquor, crazy date expressionism, lovely oriental spices, and rich layers of dark black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is nicely extracted and layered, but the fruit concentration is solely focused on ripe and overripe berry, dark ripe plum compote, lovely integrating tannin, along with great smokey and roasted meat, and spicy oak. The finish is long, spicy and ripe with rich layers of chocolate, leather, good earth and dirt tones, and more spice. This is a wine that some will like, but for me a wine that is far too ripe to appreciate, even though it is well made.

2008 Yarden Rose Brut, 2011 Teperberg Malbec, and 2010 Yarden Malbec

This past week, I was once again in Israel and it gave me the chance to taste the recently released 2008 Yarden Rose Bubbly, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I also finally had the chance to sit with and enjoy a bottle of the 2011 Teperberg Malbec, that I tasted at the winery, and it lived up to my hype. Finally, I tasted the recently released Yarden Malbec, and though it is a well constructed wine, it was too sweet for my palate.

Please be clear – the Yarden Rose will not be making its way to the United States, for reasons I do not know, but it is a wine that is well worth finding in Israel. The wine notes follow below:

Read the rest of this entry

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 48,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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