Category Archives: Kosher Dessert Wine
A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
As I have spoken about before – the Shomron Wine Region, is an up and coming region for things like Merlot, Pinot Noir, and some nice white wines as well. My good friend Elchonon is a passionate man with a passionate soul, is a true Shomron believer; the people, the land, and oh yes – the wine! The good news is that the wines he loves from the region that has found a way into his heart – happen to be very good wineries. The Gush Etzion Winery – is one I have written about a few times now. Along with the Gvaot Winery, Har Bracha Winery, Psagot Winery, Tura Winery, and the Shiloh Winery. All these wineries are so deeply connected to their roots and they almost all source their grapes from the Shomron wine region.
These are wineries that I have written about because much of their wines are very nice to great. So, if you have the chance to be in the Miami area on May 22, 2013 – make sure to NOT miss this unique and informative wine tasting. The wines you will enjoy are not the usual Herzog wines, Weinstock Wines, or other baseline options. Instead you will have a unique opportunity to taste some 30+ wines that you will be truly hard pressed to find at another wine tasting like it!
The tasting is part of a bigger Chinese Auction event for a very worthy cause in the Miami area – so check out the auction page and bid on some items, and come to enjoy the wines and meet Elchonon – he alone is worth the price of admission (just 36 dollars which includes a raffle tocket as well). The admission cost covers, the fantastic wine event, a gourmet buffet dinner, and the chance to enjoy the comedic antics of Mendy Pellin. So come to the event on May 22nd, at the Best Torah Ballroom in North Miami Beach and tell them that Elchonon’s friend sent you – I am sure you will have a blast!
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 week I once again stayed over with friends and family and I had a much better assortment of wines to enjoy, including some real blockbusters and a TRUE and REAL shocker, a wine that is said to be fantastic, but one that did not hold up well at all! Once again, thanks to all for allowing me to hang with you and letting me bring my wines over, the wines follow below:
2007 Bustan Syrah – Score: B+ (at best)
This was a true and scary shocker! This is a wine that all my friends and Daniel Rogov have said is the man! Well we tried it and it was far from it. The wine opened nicely, but was bland and then went into the tank! Rumor has it that days later it was a bit better, but still far from what folks have said about this wine, so if you have these, look to start drinking them up SOON and do not look for a real winner here!
The nose is rich with lovely blueberry, along with a dead animal doing a backstroke in my glass, along with huge black and blue notes, nice black pepper, licorice, and a hit of lemongrass and citrus. The medium bodied wine is nice with soft tannin, blackberry, black plum, and cherry, with a hint of raspberry, nice earth and green notes, with cedar and tannin. The finish is cliff-like with little to no finish with leather, tobacco, nice cinnamon, spice, and insane eucalyptus, menthol and smoke. The wine died with 30 minutes and had absolutely ZERO body, basically liquid fruit juice. – drink up!
2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs – Score: A- to A
The Yarden Blanc de Blancs is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in the northern Golan Heights, Israel’s coolest viticultural area. The wine is made strictly according to the traditional method (méthode champenoise) including hand harvesting, pressing of whole clusters to increase acidity and fruit flavors, and secondary fermentation in the bottle. Disgorging took place after five years of bottle aging on the tirage yeast.
Are u kidding me! A filthy wine with a nose of intense fruit, lemon curd, peach and apple cobbler, brioche, and nice toast that gives way to ripe green and yellow apple, and crazy insane ripe lemon curd. The medium mouth is wow in a single word. Thanks to Gabriel Geller for selling me the bottle, and sharing it all around. The mouth is insanely ripe and intense and ripe with ripe baked anjou pear, freakish assault vehicle of acidity and small mousse bubbles, with lovely yeast and brace for it – mouth coating tannin!! The finish is long and tart with insane grapefruit, bitter and rich grapefruit pith, and lemon zest. Bravo!!! Read the rest of this entry
On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!
When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.
The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.
With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.
The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (email@example.com), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry
Once again Israeli wines are getting more good attention – a large divergence from its almost invisible past. This time, the Wine Enthusiast did rather large wine tasting, covering many importers, and most importantly – not JUST for their once-year obligatory Passover article! So first off – Kudos and Bravo for giving Israel, Greece, and Cyprus coverage and showing the world their potential.
I can already hear the ubiquitous first question – was this tasting just wines from Royal Wine’s portfolio and their new IWPA? The answer, a resounding no! For this tasting, there were double the number of Israeli wine importers involved, in dramatic contrast to the Wine Enthusiast Passover article in April, 2012 where all 49 or so wines reviewed were Royal or Yarden wines. This month, there were 32 wines, imported by the ubiquitous Royal Wines and Yarden Wines, but it also included Recanati wines that are imported by Palm Bay and a few wines from the highly underrated Happy Hearts Wine Importers! My only complaint – why did Happy Hearts not include the wines from the wonderful Bravdo Karmei Yosef Winery?
The wines included many that we have written about in the past, from the Royal wine tasting (IFWF) in Los Angeles, and the Gotham wine event. The most prominently showcased winery was the Recanati Winery, which had four whites, one rose, and six red wines. The highest scoring Recanati wine was the famous 2009 Recanati Wild Carignan, Reserve, which we liked as well. However, in classic Recanati style, and as we discussed in the post, Recanati is famous more for its wines that score 86 or higher and are priced at 12 to 15 bucks. Those are Recanati’s bread and butter wines, and the product that is starting to get some good attention.
Some of the lower scoring wines that were interesting, was the 2010 Psagot Shiraz, that scored an 85, the Recanati White RSR which was scored an 88, and the Psagot Cabernet Franc which was scored an 86. There were no other real low scoring shockers and there was not a plethora of 91+ scores either. Rather, the review was chock full of 88, 89, 90, and a few 91 scored wines – which is highly respectable. Once again proving that Israeli wines are getting there. They are improving the quality, with solid grape and vineyard management, along with better wine production extraction and processes.
Bazelet HaGolan continues to impress in the wine press, though it is a winery that for reasons beyond my comprehension, produce wines that I cannot get my head around. I was really happy to see Carmel continuing to receive great wine scores and notes. The Carmel Appellation wines all scored 90 points, received great wine notes, and all of them were Editor’s Choice to boot! The winner, if you must call it that, would probably be Domaine du Castel – being that both of their wines were given a score of 91 – nicely done!
Also, all the wines are new vintages for the United States, except for maybe a few and that bodes well for Israel, as 2010 and 2011 were really bad growing years, and still the scores are more than respectable.
So, congratulations to the continued solid work and wine production by so many of the wineries in Israel and our appreciation to the Wine Enthusiast for adding Israeli Wines to the September edition! Once again, the scores are listed below in the order that the Wine Enthusiast scored them:
- 2010 Domaine du Castel ‘C’ Chardonnay – 91
- 2010 Recanati Chardonnay – 88
- 2010 Recanati Special Reserve (RSR) White – 88
- 2011 Recanati Yasmin White – 85
- 2010 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – 85
- 2011 Odem Mountain Rose, Volcanic Dry – 86
- 2010 Recanati Rose – 86
Cabernet and Blends
- 2009 Bazelet HaGolan, Reserve – 91
- 2009 Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin – 91
- 2009 Carmel Cabernet Franc, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) - 90
- 2009 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) – 90
- 2009 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz Blend, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) – 90
- 2009 Or Haganuz Winery, Namura Select – 90
- 2010 Psagot Edom – 90
- 2009 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 90
- 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 89
- 2009 Or Haganuz Winery, Merlot-Cabernet-Petit Verdot, Amuka – 89
- 2010 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon – 88
- 2009 Mony Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 87
- 2010 Or Haganuz Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Har Sinai – 86
- 2010 Psagot Cabernet Franc – 86
- 2011 Dovev Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) – 85
- 2010 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – 85
- 2011 Recanati Yasmin, Red – 85
- 2010 Bazelet HaGolan Merlot – 87
- 2010 Recanati Merlot – 86
- 2009 Odem Mountain Merlot, Volcanic – 85
Other Red Wines
- 2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Wild – 90
- 2010 Recanati Shiraz (Best Buy) – 90
- 2010 Binyamina Carignan, Reserve – 86
- 2007 Hevron Heights Judean Heights Tempranillo – 85
- 2010 Psagot Shiraz – 85
These past two weeks have been what the Jews call the 9 days that are rather famous for the infamous events that have occurred in this specific span of time. Thankfully, once they were passed Herzog Cellars and Royal Wines put on an encore event of the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), this time in the Herzog Winery itself, to celebrate the winery’s 25th year in the industry! What an event and celebration it was! It brought back memories of the old IFWF events that were held in Oxnard, since the inaugural IFWF event in 2008.
Sure there were some 200 or so in attendance, but with the fully expanded setup, including an enclosure in the back that housed the French wine table, dessert table, and room to hunker down, it felt spacious and very comfortable.
In many ways, this event felt like an almost exact replay of the first International Food and Wine Festival. The crowd size was perfect, there was room for you to hunker down and taste wines and there was room for you to huddle up and talk with friends or people of like or dislike opinions.
Besides the layout and crowds, the food was absolutely fantastic, just like in previous events here. Once again, Todd Aarons and Gabe Garcia created wondrous delights that were so wrong in all the right ways! Of course, I came to the food area too late to partake of all of the goodies, but I still got to taste many fantastic culinary treats, including the absolutely stunning puffed chicken nuggets topped with incredibly tasty barbecue sauce.
Unfortunately, I came a bit late to this event because of what I came to call parking lot A and B (405 and 101 respectively). Whenever, I watch the Dodgers or the Angels, I can now understand why the crowds are so empty for the first three innings, because everyone is parked on one or more highways! My guess to why they all leave by the 7th inning is that after the folks get so aggravated waiting in the traffic, they get tired and want to go home. Quite clearly getting to and from any event in LA adds a few hours to the overall time and that is aggravating and tiring. However, like I, once the guests arrived they had to almost physically throw us out. The place did start to peter out in the last hour, but the place was still humming and drinking until the last second. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we had friends and family around the table to enjoy some great food and some pretty good wines. This week there was no wine theme, actually to be more precise, the theme was that there was no theme. The theme was Drink up or let die. I say this as I have far too much history and track record in this area, and it has been my sworn duty going forward that I would embrace and channel the work of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher and attempt to always open that bottle in its time. To meet this need I attempt to create wine themes when there is no pressing wine to get to, otherwise, I drink the wines that are up next.
I use drink by dates of the late Daniel Rogov, Cellar Tracker, and of course, my own personal notes. This week it was time to get to some bottles that I have been worried about. I got to a couple of them, but missed out on the 2005 Ella Valley Pinot Noir, which we last tasted on some 3 years ago. We did get to enjoy some wine that we have not tasted in a couple of years, the 2001 Yarden Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, one of the finest Merlot that Yarden has ever produced, along with the 2006 Recanati Cabernet Franc, both of which have a year or maybe more left on them. Both are drinking lovely now, but if you too wish to live the motto “no good wine will be left to die“, drink it now and you will not be sorry.
I often laugh when people ask me when they should drink a particular bottle. In the kosher wine world more and more wines are being created that are built for cellaring. All that means is that the bottle you buy is not quite ready to drink, and the wine maker and winery have decided to diversify their risk and have you cellar the wine rather than them. For the most part, most wine (kosher or not) is made to be drunk within the year or two. There are reserve wines that are built to age a few years maybe 4 years at most. Then there are the a fore mentioned high-end wines that are truly not enjoyable at all from release, and need time to come into their own/peak.
The Recanati Cabernet Franc is at its true peak and can be left for another year or so, but why? Unless you have more pressing wine to enjoy – drink it now! There is only one sure thing, other than taxes, and that is – that the wine will eventually die. Why not enjoy it now. There is rarely a perfect time to drink a wine. There is just the acceptable and peak time to enjoy the wine and the rest is what you make of it! Read the rest of this entry
This is the tenth article I am writing on wineries from the Judean Hills wine region of Israel. No matter where you look around the landscape of Israeli wines and wineries you will find story after story of rebirth, renewal, and a fair amount of plain old new! Carmel, Binyamina, Barkan, were all producing mass consumption/bulk wine up until 1o to 15 years ago. Since then, they have seen serious rebirth, still selling almost undrinkable swill for the masses, and also selling high-end, and very respectable wines for us wine aficionados.
Personally, I think it is the correct business structure to have for a growing winery. You need simple bulk wines that have high margins and can be sold anywhere and everywhere. Wines that people buy in the millions, literally. Then you need wines that bolster the lineup, entry-level wine-drinker wines, that can be the bridge to take you from swill to paradise. Think white zinfandel from Herzog Wine Cellars, they sell those bottles by the millions and they are the perfect gateway drug to get you to Chenin Blanc and then maybe to Chardonnay or Black Muscat, and finally to some real dry red wines.
Today the winery we are looking at is the Teperberg winery which was founded in 1870 by the Teperberg family (from where the name of the winery is derived) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, to be accurate it was located in an alleyway of the old city of Jerusalem, and may well have been the first winery in the modern era of Israel. Later in 1964, the winery moved outside of Jerusalem, to the then quiet suburb of Motza (now a thriving community), and took on the name Efrat. The winery, ignoring its many name changes, continues to mostly produce sacramental sweet wines, as that is what its main clientele are looking for. However, in the 1990s Efrat started to create dry red wines, and to be honest they were a disaster. I remember always passing up on them, even when in school, and buying Carmel dry or semi-sweet wines instead. Read the rest of this entry
I have posted often about why we love going to the Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sure, Royal Wine’s International Food and Wine Festival is quite lovely, but in the end the wines are just from the Royal’s vast Portfolio. At the Gotham Wine Extravaganza, you get to taste Royal’s wines (though we skipped most of them this year as they were repeats of the IFWF) and wine from 7 other importers. To me this was the best one yet, hands down. We have been coming to this event for four years now, and it was where we first met many in the NY wine scene, as well. The evening was absolutely fantastic. Last year’s event was complicated by the difficulty of finding a place for the event. This year’s event was planned out beautifully in advance and it was once again hosted in the same location as it was last year – the West Side Institutional.
As stated many times already, the event is driven by the master in arms, Costas Mouzouras, General Manager of Gotham Wines of Manhattan, NY, and his merry band of helpers. Just like last year, the tables were setup by wine importer rather than by region, because at this event there was more than just one importer. The event is one of those truly rare opportunities where a person is able to taste wines from all around the world, from any importer, and almost any top line kosher wine that exists out there. Of course, there was a very large table of wines imported by Royal Wines. However, there was another 14 tables of wines and food from all around the world! Every year I feel like a kid in a candy shop!