Category Archives: Kosher Semi Sweet Wine
A recent discussion over Twitter with a few people left me wondering why I had not already covered this topic in some sort of detail; namely – the best kosher white and sparkling wines out there. To be honest, the list of good to very good kosher red wines would be a very long one, which in and of itself is GREAT news. The list of A- to A or better red wines is rather short, and that should indeed be the next article to compose (but I am so very behind on other topics). However, the kosher market for top-line white wines is a market that was deeply intertwined in a catch-22. There were few really top-line kosher white wines while at the same time there were few takers for a really great or very good kosher white wine. Why? I have no idea! Why would you not want a great white wine for the hot summers in Israel, Europe, and the US?
For the longest time, Israelis were happy drinking beer on a hot summer day and the idea of a wine was very foreign indeed. Americans like white wine, but the kosher wine market does not! The kosher wine market for the longest time was dominated by big bold red wines and about not much else. If you were starting a winery, you were required to have the French Noble reds and not much else. A Cabernet, a Merlot, a blend of the two, and maybe a Syrah/Shiraz. Thank goodness with time that has changed. Israeli wine consumers are drastically changing their tastes, and producers are getting the message that the US kosher wine consumer has become more sophisticated as well. They are both craving both sweet and dry, with varying opinions of what dry is, white/rose/sparkling wines for the summer and even all times of the year! This desire is pushing producers to start creating truly very good white kosher wines and it is a godsend – in my humble opinion.
The next clear change has been the realization that Chardonnay is NOT the only white grape out there! There are now many white kosher wines that are not of original descent from Burgundy (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) or even Bordeaux (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc), and yet doing wonderfully in the market. Viognier, Roussanne, White Riesling (AKA Johannisberg Riesling), Gewürztraminer (both “dry” and sweet/late harvest), Greanache Blanc, Chenin Blanc, maybe a Grigio (on a very good day), and of course the a fore mentioned Noble French white grapes as well.
Ten years ago, five years ago – these ideas were beyond foreign. To be fair, Ernie Weir and the Hagafen Winery have been on the forefront of this push along with the Herzog Winery, Royal Wines (the largest importer of Israeli wines), and others. Weir, to his credit has been producing white wines (beyond the Noble whites) for many years now, and blessedly he never gave up on us! Yarden was creating Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in 1986, and thankfully helped push the desire to add in Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and other white varietals. Indeed, many companies, winemakers, and of course consumers have all been part of this new revolution in kosher white wines.
Now, there are many great white kosher wines out there, but unfortunately, many have stayed in Israel, and are not being shipped out here. Why? Because as the Israeli public has awoken to their desire for good sweet and dry white wines, for their Mediterranean climate, they are screaming for the wines, and that leaves nothing to export. The sad thing is that winemaking is a very slow process in many ways. By the time a wine fad or trend has been realized, it takes at least two years to meet that need from a winery perspective. First you need to figure out where to get these grapes or worse, you need to plant the vines – which in that case it is a five-year process, taking into account Orlah (not picking fruit for the first four years) and the year of production. Let alone convincing the owners and partners that it is a good idea. Then powering up the marketing and distribution – making and selling wine is not an easy task! It is for this reason, that I am amazed at the speed of which wineries added a fair amount of good white wines to their portfolios. Sure, white wine, for the most part, can be released quickly, but as explained it is getting to that point that takes the most work.
Now, You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy! The kosher market still likes its sweet wine and a large portion of the white wines are “sweet” to varying degrees. Still, the size of the overall white wine market for the kosher consumer is growing and moving in the right direction, which is great to me!
Unfortunately, the Israel climate for 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages were poor in many ways. However, white wines were not as adversely affected as the reds. White wines do not mind cooler temperatures. Another obvious point will be that I really liked Hagafen white wines. They have consistency, ripeness, control, and overall complexity that make for a wonderful wine. The only Hagafen wine that has never worked for me, is the Chardonnay, but there are many who like it all the same.
Finally, this list is a list of wines that I have personally tasted. There may well be many more wins that I have yet to taste, like the 2012 Castel Rose or the 2012 Carmel Riesling, both of which I hear are very good. That said, other than one or two below, the notes and recommendations are the wines that I liked. There are other whites that are not listed here for a reason, and there is the rub. Is the wine not listed because I did not care for it, or because I did not taste it. To that concern, if it exists at all, all I can say I am sorry and life has a way of getting away from me. I stress this, as these are the top white, rose, and sparkling wines that I have tasted, but there may well be better wines out there that have so far eluded me.
Also, the wines listed here are mostly 2011 or older, as that is what is available here in the United States. Most of the 2012 Israeli white releases have yet to make it here, so I have not noted them. From what I hear overall, 2012 is a really great vintage and will be a great equalizer for even average brands and labels. As the saying goes; High tide lifts all boats! So, please keep that in mind when you see an Israeli 2012 white wine, it may well surprise you given the vintage’s stellar success so far.
So, I thought I would group where the best kosher options exist for each varietal:
- Sparkling wines – right now stick with Hagafen, Yarden, and some French options
- Miscellaneous Varietals and Blends: Greanache Blanc and others varietals – stick with Israel and California
- Chardonnay – right now I would stick with California Chardonnay and a few Israeli options
- Sauvignon Blanc – 2012 Israeli and California
- Semillon – really only exists in Israel, stick with the 2012 vintage or anything from Midbar
- Viognier – really only exists in Israel, stick with the 2012 vintage
- Roussanne – California and 2012 Israel are working great!
- Rose – Spain and Israel are your best options here
- White Riesling – This is the rare exception! 2010, 2011, and 2012 in Israel and doing well in California as well
- Gewürztraminer – Really only exists in Israel and does well through most vintages, but 2012 is best since 2007
- Chenin Blanc – Israel is doing really well – especially for 2011 and 2012, California has a few, but none really excite me
- Pinot Grigio – If you MUST, New Zealand (AKA Goose Bay) and maybe Italy (but that is forced to say the least)
- Dessert wines – Israel has a few, but the best are the French Sauternes, even though they are much more expensive
So, without further ado, I will list many of the white and bubbly wines that I have found to be very good to excellent, or in my parlance, B++ to A- and up. Finally, this is my list of white favorites, I would really love to hear your favorite white wines, so please post comments below. The wine notes follow below:
NV Drappier Champagne Carte Blanche Brut – Score: A–
The nose light gold colored wine is explosive with rich toast, fluffy white chocolate, herb, grapefruit, bright green apple, malting yeast, and minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super rich with an energizer bunny small bubble mousse, more toast and brioche, nice yeast, rich herb, super bright and tart green apple that mellows down to a creamy apple sauce, and grapefruit. The mid palate has super bright acid, herb, grapefruit, white chocolate, and mineral. The finish is long and rich with more small bubble mousse, white chocolate, tart green apples, herb, more yeast, and mineral. This is a lovely and balanced wine that does like more time in the glass. Even better leave a few glasses of wine in the bottle, cap it with a normal cork and try it the next day – quite lovely!
NV Drappier Carte d’Or – Score: A-
This is the second of two Drappier wines that Royal is releasing. We tasted the other one – Carte Blance and liked that one very much. The wine is a blend of the traditional Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The nose on the light gold and salmon colored wine is starts off with yeast, nice mineral, bright lemon, apple, and toast. The mouth on the medium bodied wine starts off with white peach, cherry, brioche, and a lovely mousse of small bubbles. The finish is long and tart with toast lingering.
Laurent Perrier Champagne – Score: A- (and a bit more)
I have had this wine a few times and this time the wine showed so very well, that I almost anted to buy a few, but in the end, bought a bunch of Drappier and Yarden Blanc de Blanc, both of which have been far more dependable and far less money.
The nose starts off with lovely toast, followed by green apple, peach, and classic yeast. The mouth is rich and with a medium body, but backed with waves of small bubbled mousse, all wrapped in dense mineral notes, good tart fruit, peach, solid balanced acid from tart lemon, and grapefruit. The finish is long and yeasty with more mineral, slate, and rich herb that lingers long.
Laurent Perrier Champagne, Cuvee Rose – Score: B+
I listed this wine more about the fact that I did NOT care for it that much than how I liked it. This is not a bad wine, but it is a wine that is so not in the same league as the Drappier that it is not fair.
The wine gets is salmon rose color from macerating Pinot Noir grapes, the nose starts off with nice cherry, rose petals, ripe candied strawberry, and tart lemon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine lacked in its mousse attack, but had great tart candied red fruit, along with lemon pie, and fig. The finish is medium in length with walnut, apple and grapefruit.
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!!!
2005 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Brut – Score: A-
We enjoyed the 2007 and 2005 at a tasting recently, the 2007 shows insane potential, and while 6 months ago the 2007 was awesome, right now it is more closed than ready. That said, the 2005 vintage was tasting lovely, not as sharp and focused as the 2007 was and will be again, but a very nice sparkler all the same.
The nose shows rich notes of toast, floral notes, and tropical fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely with small mousse bubbles, followed by bright acid, lovely yeast notes, rich fruit, lovely baked apple, along with white toasted brioche, and bracing acid that makes for a lovely dry, generous and elegant sparkling wine.
2007 Hagafen Brut Cuvée, Late Disgorged – Score: A-
The 2007 Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine is a blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay. The beautiful light salmon color really comes out in the glass, which is expressive with nice white chocolate, rich toast, apricot, peach, nice mineral, candied raspberry, and grapefruit. The full bodied mouth hits you with an attack of lovely small mouse bubbles that do not let up, along with brioche, strawberry, yeast, apple, citrus, and summer fruit. The finish is long and tantalizing, with good complexity, nice structure, great spice, rich toast, great slate, mineral, bracing acidity, light citrus pith, and herb that helps to keep the whole experience rich and bubbly!
2007 Hagafen Brut Cuvée – Score: A-
The 2007 Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine is a blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay. The beautiful light salmon color really comes out in the glass, which is expressive with nice white chocolate, bright citrus, fig, cherry, and melon. The mouth hits you with an attack of lovely small mouse bubbles, along with brioche, apple, citrus, quince, and yeast. The finish is long and tantalizing, with good complexity, nice structure, and bracing acidity to keep the whole experience rich and bubbly!
N.V Pommery Brut Champagne – Score: B+ to A-
The nose is beautiful with clean lemony lines, green apple, nice toast, light yeast, and floral notes. The mouth is medium to full with clean and bright acidity, followed by peach, and a lovely mousse of small bubbles that seem to go on forever. The finish is crazy long and spicy with baked apple, lemon fraiche.
Miscellaneous Varietals and blends:
2012 Makom Grenache Blanc – Score: A-
This bottle is back!!! The last bottle we had was right after bottling, and it was not showing beautifully. This week, it was showing a lot more like what it did before bottling. The nose explodes with rich slate, followed by lovely floral aromas, ripe lime, lemon, grapefruit, jasmine, lovely cut grass, and herbal notes. The mouth is ripe and medium bodied, with nice lemon friache, good strong and balancing acid, and ripe peach. The finish is long and spicy, with hints of banana, ripe fig, and nice mineral. I am so happy this wine is back -be sure to enjoy!!!!
2011 Flam Blanc – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 58% Sauvignon Blanc from the Shoresh vineyard and 42% Chardonnay from the Mata vineyard, both of which are in the Judean Hills wine region. The wine is minerally driven with good acid, fruit, and freshness.
The nose starts with bright kiwi, lemon, peach, apricot, along with cut grass, and fresh melon. The mouth of this medium bodied wine shows both cold summer fruit and warm summer fruit, a balance of quince, green apple, along with fresh warm summer fruit, all balanced with crazy acid, all wrapped in a cocoon of fresh ripe fruit, quite an enjoyable conundrum! The finish is long and spicy with clean grass, slate, mineral, fig, and lemon curd.
2011 Elvi Wines In Vita – Score: B+
The wine is a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 60% Pansa Blanca – which is the grape used in making of Cava wines.
The nose starts off with a lovely floral attack, fresh cut grass, guava, followed by honey notes, Asian pear, lychee, bright citrus, honeysuckle, and white flowers. The mouth is nice, round, and ripe, with bracing acid, a fantastic dichotomy that plays out with bracing acid, citrus zest, honeyed background, along with green apple, baked apple, and quince. The finish is long and zesty with lemon/lime fraiche, tart fruit lingering, with slate, mineral, and grassy/straw notes.
2011 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley White – Score: B++ to A-
The nose starts off with a lovely garden of violets and jasmine, surrounded by a lush garden of honeysuckle and ripe melon, pear, and yellow apple, all enveloped with an impressive and intoxicating perfume. The mouth on this medium bodied mouth shows the 10 months that this wine sat in French oak, with brioche, baked apple pie, quince, and fresh compote. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, toast, butterscotch, and slate that all linger long.
2011 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna - Score: B++
This is a wine that does not grab me as maybe it should, but it has a very cult like following, though I am not one of them. The wine is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, giving the wine its more pink/salmon color than a pure yellow or gold colored Chardonnay, though the extra grape does not detract from the Chardonnay as much as it adds discontent to the blend. The nose is filled with rich butterscotch, caramel, caramelized banana topped with roasted almonds, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with fruit, tart lemon, melon, guava, tart and crazy kiwi, grapefruit, more butter and oak, and lovely creme brulee. The finish is long and spicy with good fruit, cloves, and nice mineral.
2010 Midbar White 44, Midbar Collection – Score: A- to A
The next wine was the 2010 Midbar White 44, a blend of Gewurztraminer 25%, Sauvignon Blanc 20%, Chardonnay 20%, Viognier 20%, Semillon 15%. Yeah, five grapes yet called the 44, who cares – the wine concentrate on the wine!!! This one blew me away, the aromas literally are in a cage match to the death, fighting each other tooth and nail until one becomes victorious. I did not stand around long enough to find out whom the winner would be, but in the end with a wine like this – we who enjoy it are the lucky winners indeed! Yaacov explained that Gewurztraminer is one of his hardest grapes to control, it has soapy or unwanted flavors and he does things with it to minimize the bad and accentuate the good. He does cold whole bunch press, and he blends it with all of these grapes to get the most out of all of them. The nose is redolent with super ripe summer fruit, crazy ripe orange, grapefruit, violet, rose, honeysuckle, and litchi. The mouth is rich, round, honeyed, and insane, with layers of complexity and flavors, starting with ripe nectarine, guava, green and yellow apple, all coming at you in waves. The oily texture and the summer fruit combine for a mouth captivating wine. The finish is long and spicy with nuts, almonds, marzipan, tart fruit, and earthy mineral notes – WOW and get some!!
2010 Midbar Orange, Midbar Collection - Score: A- to A
The final wine was the first kosher Orange wine I had ever tasted, the 2010 Midbar Orange 44. It is a blend of three grapes (yeah – get over it) 52% Chenin Blanc, 24% Chardonnay, and 24%, Viognier. This was unique and different to me, but to many it is becoming a lightening rod – why? I am not sure, but many are finding orange wines to be too much of a fad in the non-kosher world. For me, there is only one of them – so one a fad does not make. The wine is different – it is not a white wine and while it is not a red wine the long skin maceration, 14 days in this case, causes the wine to take on an orange hue. The idea here is that the grape skins gives the wine tannin and it gives the wine more body. The nose starts off with almond paste, oaked honeysuckle, ripe floral notes, and passion fruit. The mouth is ripe and medium in weight with nice mouth coating tannin, cherry, orange fruit, lemon, apple sauce, creme brulee, lovely sweet cedar, all melding together with brioche, yeast, and a creamy and balanced mouth feel. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, allspice, butterscotch, kiwi, apple, marzipan, tart fruit, and cinnamon, along with biter notes and tangerine. A unique wine and one that may not be for everybody – but it sure works for me!
I will break this list into two parts – oaked wines where oak is a predominant attribute, and Chardonnays (oaked and unoaked) where that oak is more subtle or non existent:
Chardonnay with controlled usage of oak or no oak at all:
2009 Four Gates Chardonnay - Score: B++ to A
The nose on this dark straw wine is unique. If I had been told it was a viognier, I would have believed them. The nose is rich with bright quince, fig, petrol, green apple, forest floor, slight honey, bright citrus, and floral aromas. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is rich and mouth filling with ripe melon, fruit from the nose, and oak that melds into a lovely mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with nice petrol, butterscotch, balancing honey, spice, summer fruit, citrus, and toasty oak. The wine is can power through most spicy foods, and roasted fowl. It is a unique wine that I hope to try again and watch evolve. Drink by 2015.
2011 Shiloh Chardonnay – Score: A-
This is the perfect Chardonnay for those oak haters, the ones who fly the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) flag loud and proud. What these people hate is boring and insipid and lifeless white wines that ruled the roost for far too long, only to be over oaked to “add complexity” with no extra work. This is one of those wines that is the antithesis to that mentality and could well be the go to Chardonnay for those that abhor all things oak. This Chardonnay clearly is oaked, but it is truly used for one thing only – to round and spice the wine – not define it!
The nose on this wine is not oak, but rather apple, lemon, grapefruit, and rich roasted herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is unique in so many ways with almost orange like flavors, nectarine, ripe orange notes, along with nice toast, peach, apricot, bright and ripe summer fruit, fig, and brioche. The finish is long and spicy with butterscotch, spice, cloves, and oregano – BRAVO!
2011 Adir Chardonnay – Score: A-
This Chardonnay is a great example of balancing oak and fruit. The wine used a fast moving trend of whole fruit press, which helps to limit the green notes and improve overall structure. The nose on this wine is perfumed with nice peach, apricot, pear, nectarine, melon, ripe fruit, and floral hints. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is lovely and ripe, showing its 10 months of oak aging with good restraint, showing nice butter notes, brioche, creamy structure, along with tart summer fruit. The finish is long with lovely mineral, slate, butterscotch, all coming together with clean but ripe and spicy lines. Impressive Chardonnay that is well balanced, clearly showing oak and its influence, but also a wine that is balanced and rich – BRAVO!
2010 Tzora Neve Ilan Chardonnay – Score: A-
A lovely controlled nose of green and yellow apple, ripe peach, and sweet notes. The mouth on the medium bodied wine shows great balance and controlled creaminess with concentrated fruit, ripe pear, melon, lemon curd, along with nice spicy oak and fresh baked brioche. The finish is long and spicy with nutmeg, cloves, toast, lovely brightness, and a nice dollop of lemon zest lingers on the rise.
2013 Terrenal Chardonnay, Chile (QPR) – Score: B++ (Mevushal)
The nose on this straw-colored wine is ripe with fresh tropical and stone fruit, peach, apricot, straw, and pineapple. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is round and ripe with good bracing acidity, quince, guava, and classic pink grapefruit. The finish is long with more good acid, citrus, mineral, orange pith, and slate. Quite a lovely wine, though with less complexity than previous years, but with better acid and ripe fruit. This is a wine that will pair well with fish and fowl, along with maybe even white pasta sauces, given its very good acidity.
2010 Midbar Chardonnay, Unoaked, Midbar Collection – Score: A-
The next wine blew me away, because I rarely like unoaked chardonnay – but this one was different. The nose and mouth are redolent with violet, orange, lemon, rich yeast and honeysuckle (see I told you). The mouth is viscous, ripe, round with kiwi, quince, red and green apple, lively mineral, and green notes. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, spice, honeysuckle, while living long on palate with tart lemony acid, and nice peach and apricot.
2011 Binyamina Chardonnay, Unoaked – Score: B++ to A-
Lovely lithe and bright nose with green apple, white peach, apricot, and lemon. This is a nice return for the wine, after a very disappointing 2010 showing. The mouth is ripe, bright, and medium plus bodied, with fresh ripe fruit that coats the mouth and makes for a fuller experience, showing fresh pink grapefruit and kiwi. The finish is long and fresh with a nice splash of bitters, along with quince, and orange pith.
Chardonnays that wear a thick oak cloak (AKA a Chardonnay with lots of oak)
2010 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan – Score: A-
2010 marks the third vintage for Covenant Chardonnay Lavan. The 2008 was the best Lavan to me so far, but the 2010 is right behind it in quality. The wine is made from grapes grown in a small vineyard in the Russian River Valley. It was barrel-fermented with native yeasts, stirred on its lees for 1 year and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The Lavan showed off lovely ripe fruit, lightly charred toast, ripe melon, grapefruit, green apple, brioche, and tart lemon. The mouth was nicely structured with rich toast, baked apple, caramel, oak, pear, and lovely tart fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with butterscotch, fig, summer fruit, pear, brioche, cloves, spices, mineral, and quince lingering long.
2011 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan – Score: A-
While the 2010 vintage used grapes sourced from the Russian River area, the 2011 used grapes from the soon to be famous Scopus Vineyard, which is on the Sonoma Mountains. The nose is redolent with nice roasted toffee, vanilla, lemon fraiche, grapefruit, and kiwi. The mouth on this full bodied wine is a lovely wine for the very difficult 2011 vintage. The mouth is rich, round, and a bit more oak influenced than previous vintages, but still controlled with mounds of butterscotch, sweet peach, yellow apple, along with baked apple, and candied fruit. The finish is long and rich with more butterscotch, rich vanilla, oak, along with lovely spices, nutmeg, allspice, flint, and mineral. It will be very interesting to see how these new wines will age. The 2011 clearly shows the potential of this vineyard, but the 2012 (which we tasted from barrel is mind blowing), is indeed the wine to hold up as what this vineyard can create.
2011 Bazelet Hagolan Chardonnay – Score: A-
This is another of those Chardonnays that wears its 8 to 10 months of oak aging on its sleeve, but it is a wine that I was pleasantly surprised by. The wine is clearly oaky but it still has good control. The nose on this light golden colored wine is perfumed with rich oak, ripe butterscotch, peach, green apple, spice, and mineral. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is opulent and shows its oak upbringing with spicy oak, brioche, along with ripe apricot, grapefruit, and lemon. The finish is long and spicy, with rich toasty notes, brioche, yeast, marzipan, and almonds.
2011 Herzog Chardonnay, Special Reserve (Tasting Room Wine) – Score: A-
The 2011 vintage was really poor, yet this wine is really enjoyable and expressive wine. This is not the normal Russian River Special Reserve wine, this is instead a wine that was made uniquely for the Herzog Tasting Room. The nose on this straw colored wine shows ripen pineapple, melon, green and red apple, along with a lovely floral perfume, pear, and white peach. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is round and rich, layered and concentrated with waves of peach, kiwi, guava, along with brioche, butter notes, baked apple, and toasty oak and nice balancing acid that brings the wine together. The finish is long and spicy with white chocolate, cedar, cinnamon, cloves, and sweet butterscotch. This is one of those Chardonnays that is less about oak and butter and more about fruit and balance – BRAVO!
2009 Herzog Chardonnay, Special Reserve, Russian River – Score: A-
The nose starts off with a lovely floral perfume, followed by quince, rich funk, oak, all over layered with guava and green apple. The mouth is lovely for the first 4 or so hours, with a crazy viscous almost oily texture, coating the mouth with rich oak that is controlled along with baked apple, peach cobbler, and sweet herb. The finish is long and oaky with white chocolate, sweet cedar, more baked goods, fresh fruit, and lovely orange pith. This is a wine with great structure and body – but the body gives way with time, so drink this now and do not leave the wine open too long.
2012 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, Red C (QPR) – Score: A-
What a lovely Sauvignon Blanc and one that is reasonably priced to boot! This is a lovely Sauvignon Blanc that is truly varietal in nature, but ripe and round as well, with bracing acid. A truly all around lovely Sauvignon Blanc.
The nose on this lovely wine is perfumed and intoxicating with ripe grapefruit, lovely cut grass, kiwi, lemon curd, cat pee, passion fruit, along with vibrant fruit! The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round with ripe and bright fruit, perfectly balanced, melon, citrus, and lemon. The finish is long and ripe with lingering sweet notes, fig, and mineral.
2011 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this straw colored wine is a mix of soft creamy and bright aromas, with ripe soft lemon, peach, and lime. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with tropical and summer fruit, showing great control and finesse, followed by kiwi, fresh cut grass, ripe fruit, and lovely balancing acid. The finish is long and sweet, with tart fruit, along with fresh lime zest, more nice acid, and tart lemon. The wine is a nice because it balances fresh ripe fruit with clean lines, no green notes, and all with nice acidity.
2011 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+ to A-
I loved this Sauvignon Blanc – it may not be as rich and layered as the 2011 Teperberg Sauvignon Blanc or as balanced as the Covenant Sauvignon Blanc – but this wine is so insanely intense and so over the top acidic that it almost reminded me of the crazy 2012 Teperberg Sauvignon Blanc – that is lemon juice in a wine bottle. The nose explodes with crazy gooseberry, piss, kiwi, and crazy acidity, combined with ABSOLUTELY insane cut grass notes. The wine is medium in body with good tart and acidic attack of rich fruit, grapefruit, melon, bright acidity, and stone fruit that screams. The finish is long with green grass, slate, and hints of bitter notes. Quite a nice wine indeed.
2012 Teperberg 1870 Sauvignon Blanc, Terra (QPR) – Score: A-
When I tasted this with the winemaker some 9 months ago, this wine had screaming and bracing acid. Since bottling, the wine has lost some of its zing, but the lovely balance of sweet fruit, acid, straw and cut grass really makes for a nice wine.
The nose on this wine starts with grapefruit, orange, crazy citrus, lemon, fresh tropical fruit salad, cut grass and pineapple. The medium plus bodied wine is vibrant with fresh fruit, kiwi, guava, and mango, that captures your attention, along with nice acid that brings the mouth together. The finish is long and spicy, with what tastes like white chocolate, spice, more tropical fruit, a hint of honey, nectar, and a drop of pith on the long finish.
2011 Teperberg Sauvignon Blanc, Terra – Score: B+ to A- (QPR)
The nose screams with stone fruit, peach, mineral, kiwi, and ripe fruit. The mouth is rich and ripe with big bright fruit, no herbaceous notes, no bitterness, nice crazy grapefruit, ripe gooseberry, and ripe Meyer lemon, all wrapped in a big lush and rich mouth. The finish is long and lingering and lovely with crazy acid, nice mineral, ripe fig, lovely tropical fruit, and pineapple. This is a great bottle for a crazy good price – BRAVO! This is not the crazy acid bomb of the 2012 – but it is a ripe and lovely wine that is nicely balanced and well worth getting it.
2012 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++
Another great bracing acidic Sauvignon Blanc from Goose Bay – drink this within a year. The nose on this almost water colored wine is screaming with classic New Zealand notes, gooseberry, piss, fresh cut grass, herbal notes, insane vanilla, and lovely lemon curd. The mouth is rich and bright and sweet, with not perceived residual sugar, tons of bracing acid, great citrus notes, grapefruit, melon, kiwi, litchi, and stone fruit. The finish is long and grassy, with nice sweet herb, oregano, all wrapped up with great mineral and slate.
2012 Goose Bay Fume Blanc Reserve – Score: A-
This is a wine that was aged with oak and then left on its lees for eight months before being bottled. It is a classic fume blanc, but one that has not lost its tart fruit or acidity to hand of oak. There is clear oak influence, but controlled with good fruit showing.
The nose on this wine starts with nice oak notes, along with toasty notes, kiwi, and lovely gooseberry. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine shows lovely texture and structure with great acid, nice richness, along with mineral, slate, lemon curd, tart bright green apple, yellow pear, and grapefruit. The finish is long and spicy with herb, lemon, crazy tart fruit, fig and tons more acid. This is a wine that would make even the most ardent acid lovers happy!
2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix, Reserve, Moskowite Ranch block 53 – Score: B++ to A-
This is a classic Fumé Blanc, with the rich oak and oily texture that makes for a lovely wine. The oak clearly damps down the bracing acid that is on the 2012 and previous vintages of the un-oaked Sauvignon Blanc, but the oak adds in complexity, richness, and still does a very good job of keeping most of the acid and fruit around.
The wine continues to impress with its unique nose of butterscotch, peach, green apple, and rich toasty oak. The mouth on this nice medium plus bodied wine continues it tradition of oily petrol notes and round body that adds to the body, along with nice tropical fruit, good acidity, and brioche. The finish is long and acidic with nice toasty notes, guava, and apple.
2010 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix, Reserve, Moskowite Ranch block 53 – Score: A-
This is a classic Fumé Blanc, with the rich oak and oily texture that makes for a lovely wine. The oak clearly damps down the bracing acid that is on the 2012 and previous vintages of the un-oaked Sauvignon Blanc, but the oak adds in complexity, richness, and still does a very good job of keeping most of the acid and fruit around.
The nose on this wine is filled with nice creme brulee, citrus, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered with nice acid, rich citrus notes, lovely fruit, green notes, with fresh fruit, butterscotch, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and sweet with nice fruit that comes out from under the oak canopy, litchi, kiwi, peach, lovely acid, white chocolate, and spice! Bravo!
2010 Midbar Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+ to A-
The first wine we tasted was the 2010 Midbar Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc wine, it is a blend of 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 70% Semillon, co-fermented. The nose starts off with green grass, lemon curd, peach, light honey, gooseberry, white violet, and floral notes. The mouth is medium in body with nice acidity, kiwi, nectarine, and more tropical fruit. The finish is long and smooth with a hint of butter, along with a rounded mouth and a nice hint of toast.
2009 Midbar Semillon, Midbar Collection – Score: A–
The wine is unique to say the least. According to Yaacov these are wines that are picked early, like in the Hunter Valley of Australia, and it is a wine that need tons of time to fill out and become the creamy and rich monsters that will captivate your imagination. Until then, I will have to go by what I tasted and it is lovely now, but it will not be released until Yaacov feels it will be more fully appreciated for where it is, maybe 2014 or 2015. The nose on this wine is filled with spice, cloves, honeysuckle, violet, and floral notes (a common theme through the wines of Midbar) along with hints of cheese (that blow off over time) and gunpowder. The body is medium in weight with great acidity, nice peach, rich lime curd, lemon, and a crazy citrus garden. The finish is long and clean lined with great mineral, flint, green notes, and tart fruit that linger long.
2012 Dalton Semillon, Reserve (did not taste) - from what I hear it is good
2011 Teperberg Viognier, Terra – Score: A- (QPR in Israel, not available here in the US)
I say often that the best Viognier out there are the Midbar Viognier (for when Yaacov was the wine maker like 2010), Dalton Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, and Yatir Viognier, in that order. For the price the wine is a steal, though it is not available here in the US, this wine was schlepped back from Israel.
Like most Viognier and Chardonnay out there, the wine likes a bit of time in Oak, to round out the sweet notes and give it a heft and body. This wine was 50% oaked for 6 months, without malo lactic fermentation, keeping the butter flavors away from the wine’s fragile floral notes. The nose on this yellow colored wine starts off with rich honeysuckle, ripe grapefruit, candied lemon, fantastic floral notes, jasmine, rose, and ripe apple curd. The mouth is highly tropical with layers of Asian pear, pineapple, tangerine, honeysuckle, and red apple. The finish was long and mildly sweet, but well balanced with bracing acid that gives you a tart and sweet finish that is lovely with seafood, chicken, and tuna tartar (which is how we enjoyed this wine) – BRAVO!
2011 Yarden Viognier – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold colored wine explodes with rich honey, along with wonderful floral notes that expand the perfumed state of the wine, along with nice quince, and sweet guava. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice sweet notes, along with a richly oiled texture that makes for a wonderful structure that works well with a wide assortment of dishes. The finish is long and sweet with spicy notes, and nice pith. This is a very different Viognier than the Teperberg or the new or old Dalton. Still, the wine is not an oak bomb like I am used to from Yarden, it shows great control and one that is really fun.
2011 Tishbi Viognier Blanc – Score: B++
This is a lovely and semi-sweet wine consisting of 50% Viognier and 50% Riesling. The nose on this steel aged wine is clean and without oak impediments, allowing the bright and sweet fruit to have their time in the spotlight. The nose starts off with nice floral notes, along with great honey, guava, and petrol notes from the Riesling, along with green notes, violets, litchi, and tropical fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled out by the sweet fruit, but also far more by the residual sugar, and also by the oily texture that is so typical with Riesling, and sometimes with Viognier as well. The mouth shows nice sweet notes, bright and clean lemon, lime, crazy and almost uncontrolled bracing acid, nice kiwi, melon, and an overall very nice structure. The finish is long and floral with more sweet notes, lemon zest, orange and tangerine take control of the long and zesty finish – quite enjoyable.
2012 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
This is a wine that continues it fantastic tradition, and for sometime, as I was tasting this wine, it had seemed to hit a bump in the road this year. Out of the bottle the wine tastes more oak driven than previous vintages, and in some ways, initially, lacks the complexity and richness that previous vintages showed. Still, this is a wine with a storied tradition that demanded patience and with more air – it paid off in spades! The wine, over time, opened to its old oily-self, rich with mineral, spice, now nice char, and solid fruit!
The wine starts off like it was just taken out of a smoke house, with almost kiln like notes of toast, char, smoky aromas, and honey. With time the wine opens to a lovely and sensual white flower perfume, honeysuckle, peach, apricot, along with oily notes, and cut grass, and mineral. The mouth is medium in weight and shows more oak, along with lovely bracing acidity, along with a lovely oily texture, along with toasted hay, kiwi, quince, and white pepper. The finish is long and spicy with more black pepper, cloves, slate, and lovely orange pith – BRAVO!!
2010 Yatir Viognier – Score: A-
As I have stated a few times now, this is definitely one of the top Viognier in Israel, but none touch the Midbar Viognier. Still, a wonderful Viognier from grapes sourced from their vineyards in the Yatir Forest. The nose starts off with classical Viognier green notes, peach, a huge and lovely perfume of honey joy, honeydew, along with crushed flower petals, and dried apricot. The mouth on this medium to full bodied Viognier wine explodes with rich layers of fruit, honey, mango, guava, green and yellow apple, all wrapped inside an oily and rich textured wine that is layered and rich, with good balancing acidity. The finish is long and mineral based, with bushels of summer fruit, awesome lemon/lime curd, with a touch of bitterness and herb on the long rise.
2010 Midbar Viognier, Midbar Collection – Score: A- to A
The next wine was the 2010 Midbar Viognier and this is where I lost it – it was at this point that I realized that Yaacov knew his way around white wines! Holy mackerel! The nose explodes with varietal true aromas of jasmine, rose, violet, pear, guava, honeysuckle, and green notes. The mouth is viscous like oil and textured with it as well, with ripe nectarine, peach, green and yellow apple, a body that goes forever and honey on top. The finish is long and spicy with great mineral, lemon/lime curd and tart notes on the long and green finish – BRAVO and WOW!
2012 Shirah Viognier is a wine to keep on your radar for when it becomes available! It tasted good from tank and is worth finding when it is released.
2012 Don Ernesto Collage (Roussanne/Marssanne) (QPR) – Score: A-
The 2012 vintage of this wine changed with the Roussanne moving to the Don Ernesto label, but beyond that the 2012 vintage brings more controlled ripeness to the varietal and one that makes for a REAL winner! The blend is 85% Roussane and 15% Marssanne.
The nose on this wine is rich with sweet fruit, kiwi, light hay and straw, and apple. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is filled with fullness from ripe fruit, but balanced well with brightness and freshness, all showing rich tropical fruit, along with peach and fresh cut grass. The finish is long and spicy with nice dirt, more grass, and fresh fig. This is a wine that is bracing, fresh, and yet so green and fruity – with great spice – BRAVO!
2012 Tabor Roussanne Adama – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine starts off very much like a Sauvignon Blanc with lemon, fresh cut grass, and dirt. With time, the wine opens to display honeyed edges, petrol like aromas, and vanilla. The mouth is bracing and acidic with lovely grapefruit, kiwi, litchi, lemon curd, nice spice, green notes, lime sorbet, and cloves. The finish is long and herbal, more grass, orange citrus, and spice. The wine’s bracing acid and weight will make this work with many a dish. The herbal characteristics make it accessible to heavier richer dishes, while still keeping up with medium cheeses and not overpowering them as well.
2012 Flam Rose – Score: A-
WOW! What a lovely rose from the M. The wine is made with 100% Cabernet Franc grapes that were sourced from the Mata Vineyard in the Judean Hills of Israel. The nose is deeply floral, with strawberry, raspberry, nice peach, apricot, and kiwi, and lemon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is round and ripe, with red and white fruit, tropical fruit, pink grapefruit, along with green notes, all of which pops from the bracing acid. The finish is long and lovely with acid, light notes of bitter herb, good spice, cloves, and bay leaf.
2012 Capcanes Rosat (Rose) – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this dirty cherry colored wine is filled with lovely dirt, cherry, rose hips, and strawberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with good acid, nice red fruit, along with peach, apple, tart cherry, and great spice that together coats the mouth nicely. The finish is long and lovely with Kirsch cherry, floral notes, passion fruit, and more good spice.
2011 Ella Valley Everred – Score: B+ to A-
This is a wine that was created solely under the control of the new head winemaker at Ella Valley, Lin Gold. Her Australian roots make a clear presence here with her desire to create a more fruity and sweet mouth, while still controlling it with good acid. It is a clear shift from the ways of Doron Ben Rav which craved acid and more controlled bright and maybe even bitter notes. Interesting, as this is the second wine I have tasted from Lin (the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was the first), and both show a more sweet tooth, with enough acid to keep your interest. It will be interesting to see what her reds look like in the coming years as they are released from their oak control.
The nose on this lovely salmon colored wine starts off with rich notes of passion fruit, ripe almost sweet strawberry, lovely bracing and acidic pineapple, crazy kiwi, and lovely floral notes of jasmine and rose. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a bit richer than the average rose out there, with nice heft but control, though lacking the complexity that would grab and shake you to the core. There is nice grapefruit, peach and lemon curd that does make the mouth pop. The finish is long and tart with nice mineral, slate, and good zesty fruit that lingers with hints of lemon and lime zest that lingers. This is one of the new breed Rose wines coming out of Israel that is controlled sweet without the harsh bitter after tones that sometimes add to the wine, but most of the time take away from the wine with its harshness. Time will tell where these rose blends are going, but for now enjoy this wine now, it has only a bit of time left before its acid core leaves it and takes away what makes this wine a bit special.
2012 Agur Rosa – Score: B+ to A-
This rose is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Mourvedre. The wine was fermented in oak that gives the wine its medium bodied weight, deep salmon color, and viscous mouthfeel. The nose on this bright salmon colored wine is perfumed with classic rose fruit; ripe strawberry, raspberry, kiwi, guava, passion fruit, pineapple, and floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and viscous with an oily texture, hints of tannin, good backbone, nice acid, lemon, peach, cherry, and deep mineral notes. The finish is crazy long and mineral based with nice slate, rock, on a shelf of green olives, slight fruit pith, cinnamon, cloves, and lime/grapefruit notes. Truly a unique rose.
2011 Elvi Wines Ness Rosado (Rose) – Score: B++
This is clearly a wine that will elicit strong feelings one way or another. The wine is a rose made from 100% Syrah grapes, and the color is more pomegranate than rose. The nose is where things get interesting with clear red syrah leanings mixed together with Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc leanings. The nose is rich with roasted meat, many on the table picked that up, along with gooseberry, stone fruit, quince, kumquat, and cat pee. The mouth is all rose style with medium body, great acidity, and reduction notes, along with nice spice, peach, and great citrus pith. The finish is long and mineral laden with bitterness, and more good stone fruit.
2012 Gvaot Rose, Gofna – Score: B++
This is a truly unique rose, made of Merlot grapes that rested on their skins for 8 hours, and was not produced using the saignee process. The wine’s bubble gum color is quite shocking and the nose is filled with candied raspberry, strawberry jam, gunmetal mineral, and nice herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows nice balance with good but not bracing acidity, along with dark cherry, bitter herb, and orange zest. The finish is long and zesty with solid minerality, hints of floral notes, and zesty ripe red fruit that lingers long.
2012 Recanati Rose – Score: B+ (QPR)
This is one of the nice rose wines out there that is really fun made of Barbera and merlot grapes. The nose starts off with nice white stone fruit, raspberry, bright notes, strawberry, and cranberry. The mouth on this wine shows a nice body of cherry, more acid, good white fruit, yellow apple, kiwi, and great acid that with grapefruit and lemon. The finish is long and tangy and tart with nice spice, good control, with good dirt and earth, slate, and mineral. A nice balanced wine that shows off no bitterness, good body, nice fruit, and nice mineral – good QPR.
2012 Vignobles David Tavel, Le Mourre de l’Isle, Rosé – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, and 10% Clairette Blance. The nose is filled with lovely strawberry, ripe raspberry, lemon, peach, flint, and mineral. The mouth is light to medium with OK acidity, but lacking bracing acidity, along with nice tart lemon fraiche, grapefruit, and lemon pith. The finish is long and herbal with a pique of bitterness and long lasting tartness.
2012 Shirah Rose is a wine to keep on your radar for when it becomes available! It tasted unbelievable from tank and is worth finding when it is released.
2012 Hagafen Riesling, Devoto Vineyards (2% RS) – Score: A-
This wine continues to impress me and it is one that I never get tired of. It is a step beyond simple quaffer, with great balance of 2% residual sugar and great acidity, controlled with lovely tropical fruits. The nose starts off with sweet notes or tropical fruit, clear honeysuckle commands the nose, with pineapple, and candied grapefruit taking the side stage. The mouth is rich and layered and truly captivating with an almost oily texture from the sugar, along with banana, peach, more tropical fruits, along with tart white cherry. The finish is long and sweet with a great balance of tart to sweet fruit, sour red apple, and guava. Bravo!
2012 Hagafen Dry White Riesling, Rancho Wieruszowski (QPR)- Score: A-
Until now, Hagafen has been making 2%, 4%, and 6% residual sugar White Riesling wines for 30 years!! This is the first dry (with a hint of sweetness) Riesling and what a refreshing joy it is! The nose explodes with litchi, pink grapefruit, sweet white fruit, guava, and peach. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is rich, ripe, round, and layered, making you think sweetness – but that would be incorrect, along with more citrus, along with bracing acidity, kiwi, and melon. The finish is long and mouth drying with sweet notes, nice lime and meyer lemon curd.
2011 Hagafen White Riesling, Rancho Wieruszowski (4%) (QPR)- Score: A-
This is the 4% White Riesling that Hagafen sells, and clearly is more aperitif than it is dinner wine, but it is a wine that can be enjoyed with truly spicy Thai dishes. The nose explodes with honey sweet notes, guava, litchi, pineapple notes, spice, and floral aromas. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is enhanced by the extra residual sugar, but controlled nicely with citrus, grapefruit, great acid, along with tropical fruit, banana, all showing in a round, ripe, yet balanced rich mouth. The finish is long and spicy, with good acid, more tropical fruit, nutmeg, and cloves.
2009 Hagafen White Riesling, Prix, Rancho Wieruszowski Vineyard – Score: A-
I need to be honest I loved this wine! This is a classic example of where oak is not overpowering, well controlled, and yet adds so much richness that it comes at you in layers and balance that really impresses me. The wine’s nose hits you with awesome notes of petrol, oily notes, along with redolent honey, grapefruit, and spice. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is concentrated with layers of good petrol that adds so much lift to the mouth, along with a lovely ripe and round mouth that is deeply complex with soft edges but deep citrus, guava, lemon/lime shaved ices, and mineral. The finish is long and acidic with more great spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lovely banana on a long and impressive finish. Bravo!
2011 Carmel Riesling, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi Vineyard – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine screams with rich and vibrant floral notes, wild mineral, ripe peach, kiwi, vanilla, and grapefruit, and more citrus. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is drier than the 2010 yet crazy rich and gives you a sweet perception from the very ripe fruit, the floral notes flow well through and mingle beautifully with the bracing acidity, along with more sweet fruit, herbal notes, and good spice. The finish is long and spicy, with nice melon, great slate, and lemon fraiche.
2012 Katamon Riesling – Score: Barrel tasting but look for it at the winery
The wine is a classic Riesling with crazy aromatics of oil, petrol, rich floral notes, jasmine, sweet peach, mineral, slate, and lovely honey notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine has a lovely texture of oily goodness, along with a plethora of roasted nuts, more honey, but balanced nicely with citrus, lemon, crazy bracing acid, along with guava, and oak tannin. The finish is long and spicy with more tannin, sweet kiwi, spicy nutmeg, butterscotch, vanilla, candied banana, and zesty tart fruit that lingers long! BRAVO!
2012 Lueria Gewurztraminer – Score: A-
The nose on this off-dry wine is so nice with lovely candied grapefruit, richly aromatic floral notes, ripe kiwi, and peach. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is unique and lovely with good residual sugar, along with hints of tannin, orange flesh, and nice citrus pith. The finish is long and pithy with tart green apple, white cherry, and Asian pear – BRAVO!
2011 Gush Etzion Gewurztraminer – Score: B++
The nose on this semi-sweet wine is lovely and intoxicating with honey notes, papaya, jasmine, kiwi, ripe lemon, and herb. The mouth on this medium plus body is viscous and oily with great petrol notes, along with nice residual sugar, followed by quince, apple, fig, and clementine. The finish is long and mineral laced, with grab slate, good acidity to balance al the sweet notes, and orange rind that lingers long. Another one of those semi sweet wines that balance sweet notes with mineral and acid, but the star is the nose and the petrol/oily texture.
2012 Gvaot Gewurztraminer, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine explodes with classic petrol notes, jasmine, violet, litchi, pear, and green/yellow apple. The mouth is dry with a medium body, along with ripe notes of lemon curd, kiwi, grapefruit, cut grass, slate, mineral, nice green notes, but so well balanced with great bracing acid, and lovely attention getting complexity. The finish is long and mineraly, with nice sweet notes, tart lemon notes, and lovely floral notes and fig lingers long.
2011 Domaine Netofa White – Score: B++ to A-
This is one of the few kosher Chenin Blanc wines out there with complexity and depth. The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with quince, ripe peach, nectarine, light honey, along with insane floral notes, jasmine, all wrapped in earthy and mineral aromas. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fresh and alive that is not a fruit bomb or an oak bomb, rather it is tart and ripe at the same time with green apple, fig, summer fruit, and bracing acid. The finish is long and spicy with fresh roasted herb, charcoal, slate, pear, and fig. A lovely wine that is far more “french” than Israeli, which is just what its creator, Pierre, is looking for.
2010 Domaine Netofa Latour White – Score: A-
This is also a wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes, but this was aged in Oak instead of steel. The controlled usage of oak shows in nuanced manners, but this is still an oaky wine that to me really shows the aging potential of Chenin Blanc. The nose on this wine is redolent with floral notes, perfumed with ripe pear, jasmine, and quince. The mouth on this medium bodied wine, follows much along the lines of its younger brother, but is more creamy and richly oiled, with peach and nectarine interplaying well together along with oak, honey, lemon creme fraiche, and saline. The finish is long and bright with balancing mineral, tart acid, along with cloves, all spice, white pepper, fig, and lovely slate. Honey, toast, fig, and fruit linger long – BRAVO!
2011 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio – Score: B+
I listed this here, as the only kosher PG that I would list as “good”. There are others, but they are wines that would qualify as a wine that one could quaff at the best!
The nose on this wine is tart with nice kiwi, gooseberry, and lemon. The mouth is light to medium with lemon fraiche, bright tart fig, white peach, and apple. The finish is long and tart with good acid, light sweetness, along with lime and flint/mineral.
2001 Chateau Piada Sauterne – Score: A-
The nose on this rich and candied funk wine is filled with lovely Botrytis (noble rot), along with oily richness, peach, guava, and sheer joy, with honeysuckle, baked apple, and lovely creme brulee. The mouth on this full bodied wine is filled with oily texture that coats and mesmerizes you, with more honeyed sweetness, along with concentrated orange juice, along with a controlled sweet sugared mouth that lingers long with white chocolate. The finish is long with crazy brightness that balances the sweet mouth, with more sweetness, honeydew melon, and mind blowing guava and peach pie – BRAVO!!!
2001 Chateau Guiraud Sauterne – Score: A- and more
This wine may not be as good as the world famous kosher 1999 vintage, which may well be one of the best kosher wines I ever tasted, but this is no slouch in any way! This was enjoyed side by side with the 2001 Piada and though the Piada is lovely, this crushed it.
The nose on this golden and honeyed colored wine is ripe and sweet with quince, date, along with a round nose of perfumed funk inside a mushroom patch, along with honeydew melon, tangerino drink, and mad mango! The mouth on this insanely full bodied wine is filled with rich dried ripe apricot, peach, along with layers of concentrated, ripe, and dried fruit that hits you like waves of fruit, including candied pineapple, candied orange, lovely orange blossom, and vanilla! Mega Bravo!!!
2011 Gat Shomron Ice Viognier – Score: A- and a bit more
The nose on this golden colored wine with orange reflections, is insane and intoxicating with its perfume of sweet insane floral notes of jasmine, violets, along with grapefruit, melon, clear ripeness, and hints of green notes, yellow apples, and tangerine. The mouth on this full bodied sweet dessert wine, is oily and glycerol in texture, making for an insanely rich mouthfeel, filled with orange blossom, dripping candied honeycomb, all balanced with lovely acidity, and sweetness. The finish is long, oily, and mouth coating with white and yellow summer fruit, kiwi, honeydew melon, that lingers long with orange, and rose water! BRAVO!!
2008 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest - Score: A- (and a bit more)
The nose on this wine is filled with rich funk, lovely Botrytis (noble rot), along with oily richness, all wrapped up in a lovely bees nest filled with sweet dripping honey and tropical fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and concentrated with oak tannin and sweet fruit mingling together to make for a great experience, more honey, guava, bracing acid that helps cut through rich desserts, along with pineapple, mango, and rich sweet candied peach. The finish is long, sweet, and funky, with more candied fruit and sweetness that adds to the wines weight and joy. BRAVO!!!
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
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
Israel wineries I visited in the Judean Hills and the Shomron during my second week and the The Wine Mill wine shop
The Wine Mill wine shop
Last week I posted that I was in Israel for three weeks over the month of December, and in that first post I wrote about the wineries I saw in the Galilee wine region (the north of Israel). What I failed to talk about was Gabriel Geller and his wine shop in the middle of Jerusalem. I spoke about the Wine Mill wine shop in a previous post, it is located smack dab in the middle of Jerusalem, close to the city center, and to many hotels and restaurants. The address for the Wine Mill wine shop is 8, Ramban Street, 92422 Jerusalem, Israel, it is a shop that I can say is stocked with wines that I would be happy to enjoy and is the main wine shop that I use when in Israel. Why? Because Geller knows his wines, sells only wines he or his customers like, and knows the wines he sells. His shop is filled with wines that are often only sold at the winery itself, like Midbar Winery wines (see below) or Herzberg Winery wines (see below). His shop is also filled with small winery wines, like Weitzman Petite Verdot, or Gat Shomron Winery, and many others. Please do not think that this is a paid advertisement or something – LOL! I do not take money from people. I bring up Gabriel Geller and the Wine Mill, because during my three week stay in Israel, I was either in Geller’s store, with Geller himself, or calling Geller everyday, including Friday day and Saturdays (Saturday night of course)!
As I ended the previous posting – I wrote about my take on the Israeli wine scene, and I would like to add some more thoughts to the thread:
- If I had to give a color or fruit that best describes the 2010 vintage in Israel – it would blueberry! YES blueberry! No, I am not talking about malbec or Syrah or Petite Verdot. What I am talking about is all of those and more shockingly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot! Try it out and see for yourself. When I asked the wine makers about it, they said that the growing conditions of 2010, hot and then cool led to the blue flavors.
- 2010 and on can well be the year of the small wine maker. Wineries are coming and going – that is for sure, but it is also a fact that small production wineries, like Herzberg Winery and Gat Shomron winery are popping up and staying afloat – because they do not have that much wine to move. Time will tell.
- Finally, more and more high level and high quality mevushal is occurring in Israel. Shiloh winery has been doing it for a few years now, as is Binyamina on its reserve series and cave, and others. It is not widespread or low quality. The process is being done at great cost and at great effort – bringing forth quality wine that happens to be mevushal, much like Herzog and Hagafen. While this is true of the few that I have listed above, Recanati has started doing it to some of their diamond label wines and the outcome is not that great. The 2010 Shiraz tasted cooked while the non-mevushal bottle in Israel did not have that taint – time will tell how these experiments will turn out.
- If you must pick a single varietal that shines in the Shomron – it would be Merlot. All the Merlot wines we tasted from the Shomron (whether made from a winery in the Shomron or wineries that source their grapes from the Shomron – like Teperberg) – the winners were always the Merlot! If it is the cooler weather the higher acidity – who cares – it is great wine!
- Wineries are getting the message – making more old-world wines with Israeli fruit. What that means to me is to make ripe and sweet wines that are controlled without the overripe date and raisin bombs that were so very prevalent some 5 years ago. In its place I find that Israeli wineries are producing wine with sweet and ripe fruit, while all the while showing clear control of both the sweetness of the fruit and the amount of oak used.
- Israel residents are finally starting to understand that they live in a Mediterranean country (with one of their borders on the Med) with blazing hot summers and therefore need to start appreciating white wines! I know, Jews like to drink red wines, something to do with the whole kiddush and shabbos thing. Still, white wine is lovely and is a wine that can be done well in Israel. Take the Midbar winery as an example. A winery that was built on the premise of making GREAT white wines in Israel! It took a long time for the perfect storm to occur, the nexus point of Israeli residents wanting white wines and for wineries to excel at the production of good white wines. Maybe it was a chicken-egg thing between the wineries and the residents, or maybe it was the whole culture thing – but Israeli wineries are figuring it now. More and more every winery is making a Rose, a Chardonnay, and many are doing Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling wines, and many others. So keep a look out for very solid Israeli white wines – they may actually remove them from Israel’s endangered species list!
- The main high end red wines being poured at wineries in Israel are shmitta wines, wines from the 2008 vintage. I say this simply as a warning and no more than that. If you care, than skip the wines. If you do not worry about it – than do what you wish. I simply state it here as an informational notice. Read the rest of this entry
I just returned from a long and wonderful trip to Israel where I visited a total of 36 wineries in less than three weeks. To be fair, I was set to visit more, but let us just say that a family member, who will go nameless, slowed me down just a wee bit – LOL!!! All the same, it was great visiting the wineries, meeting the wine makers and owners, and getting a far deeper feel for all things wine in the land of Israel!
Yes, I brought back many bottles, and I had friends and family who helped me schlep in even more bottles. In all some 30+ bottles or so made it back to the diaspora, and I will be enjoying them in due time. Many of them are NOT available here in America and some were just too good to pass up on.
So, let us start with the facts – there are five wine regions in the land of Israel, and I visited wineries in all of them. According to Yossie’s Israel winery page that is a mash up of Google maps and his winery data, there are some 70+ kosher wineries. The kosher wineries are bunched up in the Judean Hills, Shomron, Samson, and the Galilee. There are wineries in the other wine region; the Negev, but other than Yatir, which is really the southern tip of the Judean Hills, there is no winery that I wanted to visit in the Negev (dessert – southern wine region of Israel).
I started my wine adventure in the north and went to every kosher winery that would let me visit. One of the first things I realized about wineries in Israel is that it is a business. To me, wine and wineries are like candy and big candy store. To top it off – they are kosher and in a land I love. So, when I visit a winery, I want to know everything about it and why it exists. Others see me as a pain or as a lack of dollars and cents and as such, are not so receptive to my interests. That is fair, and as such, if I was received well I will state it and if not, or I got to taste a single wine or less, I will simply state what I tasted and move on.
The first day, I dropped my stuff off at friends in the north and drove up to Tabor Winery. Tabor Winery ha recently been bought up by the Coca-Cola company of Israel, and as such has seen a fair amount of investment in both vineyards and winery facilities. They have some of the coolest high-tech gear out there, though a few others do rival them, including Yarden (which I did not visit this time), Yatir Winery (visited and loved it!), Shiloh Winery, and of course Carmel and Binyamina (because their size allows for more toys). I was really shocked there and then by the cold blue fruit that exists if you look for it. By cold blue fruit I mean that wines (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet – YES CAB, Petite Verdot, and Petite Sirah) exhibit blueberry, boysenberry, and other blue colored fruit when controlled in a cold enough climate. They had some lovely wines there, though no WOW wines (wines that get an A- to A or higher score). Still, a very nice and wonderful winery well worth the visit, if you can handle the drive all the way up there.
Now before you laugh at one winery in a day, driving north from Jerusalem, even with highway 6, is a large haul and in the pouring rain, I rest my case. While driving my way up there – I noticed another aspect that I have not spoken about in the past – Israeli drivers. I think it was my nephew who brought this to my attention; they drive cars like they have no tomorrow, without hesitation, and without fear – almost like war. Drivers in Israel are more than happy to pass you going uphill, on a curve, in the pouring rain! In no way was this a singular or rare occurrence! If you drive in Israel and you blink or hesitate, you may well find yourself forced onto the other side of oncoming traffic by a public transit bus! I am not kidding – and in a not so hospitable location to boot! My point is, if you wish to drive in Israel, and to get to all the wineries in and about Israel, a car is required (or a tour guide), my best advice is pray a lot, and be very careful. Also, get full coverage on your rental car. 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
When you think of Garagiste wineries, I would suppose that many would think of small wineries like Four Gates Winery, or the Weiss Brothers, and/or Jonathan Hajdu. Actually, the smallest winery I have visited recently, is the Katamon Winery. The winery gets its name from the fact that the winery is actually IN Katamon - an historic neighborhood in south-central Jerusalem. The wine maker Avital Goldner, started his winery in 2002 with some 300 or so bottles. Since then, he has grown the garagiste winery to some 1,800 or so bottles a year.
This is my 11th article on the wineries in the Judean Hills, and the Katamon winery may well be in the heart of the Judean Hills. The winery can be found in Jerusalem city proper, and may well be the only winery in the city limits proper. The Jerusalem Winery (newly opened), does exist, but it is on the outskirts of the Jerusalem in the industrial zone.
I called Avital and he was very kind to allow me to come and visit his winery. I got off the bus that took me to a park across the street from his home. I walked through/by the park and knocked on his garage door. Avital was there varnishing something for his daughter’s wedding – if I remember correctly. He grabbed some glasses and I followed him down into his machsan (storeroom/basement) which he has turned into his barrel and wine storage room.
This entire setup reminds me of another garagiste, in the Upper Galilee, called Nahul Amud, which is also a very small kosher wine producer. We visited them some 7 years ago, and the winemaker also had his entire winery is his home’s machsan
As we walked down to the storeroom, Avital showed us the steel tanks, in which he does his wine fermentation. As he opened his machsan, you could see the barrels and bottled wine aging in a humidified bliss. He laid out the machsan in a very ingenious manner to maximize every available square inch of the room. The barrels are stacked upon each other (using a barrel stand) and on top of that and to the left are bottles neatly stacked upon each other aging away until it is their time to meet their buyer. Read the rest of this entry
Before I left for Israel, I had a bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. Normally this wine is killer. The 2009 vintage is lovely, the 2007 vintage was closed the last time I enjoyed it, but opened quickly enough and was lovely. Unfortunately, this bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay was clearly in a deep sleep, and one that would not open no matter what I tried. Humorously, when I came back from Israel, some three weeks later, the leftovers of the wine that I stored in the refrigerator, tasted quite nice!
In Israel, we enjoyed many wines for Passover and for other meals. Some of the wines were quite nice while some were just OK. The best two wines we enjoyed were the 2010 Dalton Zinfandel and the 2010 Saslove April. The other wines were fine but none of those were really note worthy. The 2010 Dalton Zinfandel showed far better than when I had it at the Gotham Wine Event. The Tulip White Franc was really nice, though a bit less Cabernet Franc-ish than the 2010 vintage. This is the second time I had the chance to taste April, when I enjoyed it at Sommelier last year, and it continues to impress with its light oak influence (they used staves) and interesting blend.
The only real downer for me was 2011 Galil Rose; it was OK, but nothing to write home about. I was not a huge fan of the Dalton Roses either, but hey I keep trying! I do love the Flam and Catsel Roses. The Tulip Just Cab and Merlot were lovely and continue to improve and show good varietal characteristics. I had the 2010 Galil Wines and they were average at best, which is OK, but again not wines to write home about. My father-in-law and I both enjoyed the bubbly Cabernet. Yes, I said I liked a semi-sweet bubbly Cabernet, because it was actually enjoyable. Sorry, to all the wine snobs out there, but the 2011 Tabor Pnimim (Pearls) sparkler, was enjoyable, unpretentious, and though semi-sweet, not cloyingly so in any way. No, I would not normally, bestow any praise upon a semi sweet Cabernet nor even write about it in a positive manner, as normally Cabernet and sweet do not logically go hand in hand, but Tabor did a good job, so Kudos!
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit any wineries, but I did get a chance to see Gabriel Geller, a man I can happily call an acquaintance, and hopefully one day a friend, that now own a wine store in the heart of Jerusalem, called the Wine Mill. The wine store is located in the Wind Mill right next to the Prima Kings Hotel Jerusalem, and essentially at the corner of King George and Ramban streets. The store is laid out in a quite enjoyable and clutter free manner, with more than enough room for informal gatherings of his clients and customers. When I was there, I picked up some wines that I took home and I also had a chance to talk with both Gabriel and David Rhodes, a wine critic/writer who I have not yet had the chance to write about here in the blog, but a person who has solid wine abilities and who I have had the pleasure to talk with a few times now. The conversation inevitably came around to kosher wine, Israeli Wine, and Daniel Rogov (man I cannot believe it has been 6 months already since his passing), but hey what happens in the Wind Mill stays in the Wind Mill. I did have the chance to taste a lovely bottle of Domaine Ventura Cabernet Franc, but I did not write notes on the wine – sorry. From what I remember, it was very characteristic of Cabernet Franc, with good green notes, lovely ripe red fruit, without the raisin or date flavors, that are so characteristic of Israeli wines. The oak did not overpower though was felt and clearly present, and there was some nice extraction along with tobacco and light leather. An unofficial score would be B+ to A-. Read the rest of this entry
It has been a year since we last posted about the kosher wines at Trader Joe’s. The Banero is now only available on the east coast, but at least it is back in stock. The Sara Bee is also back in stock and doing really well. The prices have risen a bit, but I guess that is par for the course, with Moscato going crazy in the wine world.
Still, the Sara Bee tastes as wonderful as always, but I cannot get the Banero Prosecco here on the west coast There are also two new Terrenal wines from Spain that are still not mevushal. I say this because the rest of the wines are mevushal, excepting for these two. The two reds continue the tradition of good kosher wine, for a reasonable price.
I am posting the Sara Bee and Banero notes as a reference, so that you do not need to go back to the older posting:
2010 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon (Yecla, Spain) (not-mevushal) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is rich and vibrant with black cherry, an almost perfumed nose of blackberry, and raspberry, along with black currant, rich earth, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a nice quaffer with enough complexity to grab your attention, with spicy fruit, almost mouth coating tannin, rich earth, and an overall mouth feel that is nothing short of quite nice. The wine’s core acidity really elevates it and the richness and spice of the finish goes a long way to making you rethink entry-level wines. I could care less what this wine costs, this is a fine wine that is tasted blind would make you do a double take, and in the end, it is quite enjoyable.
2010 Terrenal Tempranillo (Yecla, Spain) (not-mevushal) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is rich and vibrant with black cherry, strawberry, an almost perfumed nose of blackcurrant, and raspberry, earthy aromas, herb, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a nice quaffer with enough complexity to grab your attention, with spicy fruit, nice round tannin, rich earth, and an overall mouth feel that spicy and enjoyable. The wine’s core acidity really elevates it and the round mouthed tannin, along with nice spice add to the cherry focused wine that adds a dollop of herb and vanilla on the long finish. I could care less what this wine costs, this is a fine wine that is tasted blind would make you do a double take, and in the end, it is quite enjoyable.
N.V. Sara Bee Moscato ((Italy, Puglia) – Score: B++
The nose on this effervescent light gold colored wine starts off with a powerful hit of honey and a touch of yeast. After a small bit of time, the wine explodes with summer and tropical fruits, peach, apricot, mango, pear, lychee, and papaya. This wine has a wonderful effervescence and fruity nose. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is lovely with nice effervescence, sweet honey, papaya, lychee, and pear. The mid palate is balanced nicely with acid and light toast, and effervescence. The finish is long and tasty with papaya, honey, and caramel, with the honey and caramel lingering long on the palate.
This is a more balanced, fuller, effervescent wine than the usual kosher blue-bottle Bartenura Moscato. Nothing against the Bartenura Moscato, but it does not compare and it is at least double to triple the price of this wonderful wine. Get a bottle or two and try it out. The Sara Bee Moscato is available at Trader Joe. Finally, as usual my score NEVER includes the price. This wine is scored what it is scored solely on its merit – irrelevant to its price, availability, or its kosher status.
N.V. Banero Prosecco – Score B+
The nose on this straw-colored Prosecco is screaming with a lovely bubble fest, along with a nice muscat nose, perfume, orange rind, yeast, toast, and honey. The mouth on this rich medium bodied wine starts off with a hit of bitterness, apple, honey, prolonged small mousse bubbles, and toast. The mid palate is core with acidity, toast, and drop of yeast, and orange peel. The finish is long and mousse-y with honey, slight bitterness, and toast. This is a wine that has a bit of beer bitterness at the start, which fades a bit, but lingers with a nice balance of perceived sweetness from the honey notes. The mouth is rich with small mousse bubbles that lie on your palate for a very long time, long after the wine is gone.
Well 2011 has come and gone and I am finally getting the chance to write up the 2011 International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) that was held at the Herzog winery in Oxnard. In some ways it was the best ever and in some ways it was not. To start, 2011 was the fourth incarnation of this event and each time it has been well worth the trip. This past year’s event, in many ways, was the best. The food, as usual, was fantastic! The food is catered by Chef Todd Aarons, the head chef of the Tierra Sur, the world-class restaurant that is in the Herzog Winery. As usual, the food that Mr. Aarons and his staff prepare the event is bite size or a bit larger format, food that easily fits on a small plate. Essentially, think of them as normal or slightly large tapas, depending upon the food in question. As usual, the tapas were just divine, and as usual I always get the scarps. I say that because, I want to finish tasting the wines before I eat the awesome food, which would seriously inhibit my ability to write coherent wine notes. Of course, there is never a lack of good wines to taste, so essentially, I always eat whatever is left over as they are winding up the food and wine service. It is a mad rush to get some pictures and eat some food – truly sad, and totally my fault!
This past year’s event was even larger than its predecessors. As usual, the Herzog winery was fully decked out and expanded in the back by adding on a few heated tents. Normally, the French and Israeli wines were poured from the back room and the tent, behind the back room, which itself abuts to the parking lot behind it. This past year, they expanded further by pouring only Israeli wines from the entire back areas, moving Capcanes to the Spanish and Italian section, and moving all the French wines to its own room – the Herzog Situation or Conference room, which is off to the right from the entrance, essentially on the other side of the building. Some may look at that and say they relegated the French wines to the “basement”, but the way I see it, Royal has SO MANY wines to show off from its portfolio, and only so much room in the winery that they chose the best holistic group they could that would not look too small or take up too much room, in the conference room, and that fell to the French wines.
This was the first of the, not so good points, and that was the lack of communication around this change of venue for the French wines! I totally understand the complexity of it, and there was signage. However, given the drastic change that was in affect, a bit more information for some would have been good. I found myself telling many people about the new location for French wines, that they thought were AWOL for 2011. That said, I think this will not be an issue in 2012, as the event will be moving from Oxnard and the Herzog Winery to LA at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Century Plaza!
Of course, with all the room taken up by wines and wonderful food, there still needs to be place for the humans and this was issue number two, which again will be fixed in 2012. That being, there was very little room to move about as the evening moved on. I found myself having to find a corner to just write notes, let alone not to feel claustrophobic, which is a problem I do not normally exhibit. That said, I hope that the new venue will allow the event to stretch its wings and soar to higher heights with more space and more opportunities to showcase its wonderful food and wines.
I truly believe that 2011, was the first year where the wines totally out shone the food, excepting for 2008, when the French wines were truly off the hizzy. This is not in anyway a slight to Aaron’s food, rather it is a compliment to Royal wine portfolio, that has now reached world class, and something I am sure they are extremely proud of. I do not need to repeat the story of Herzog, which can be found in the middle of last year’s post, as that would be just repeating myself. I just hope you read this and it grabs you enough to buy some tickets that are going really fast for the 2012 version of the International Food and Wine Festival which will be happening in LA this year – enjoy the notes. I need to add my personal thank you to the entire Royal and Herzog staff for putting together such a great show, and much luck on your new 2012 event!
The wine notes follow below, in the order they were tasted:
2007 Domaine l’OrDeLine Chateauneuf du Pape – Score: B+ to A-
Would love to know how Herzog pulled this one off, and who is the negotiant for this wine. I found a lovely write-up about the winery and the name, anyway, on to the note.
The nose on this light gold colored wine is hopping with kiwi, grapefruit, lemon, gooseberry, mineral, apple, and white peach. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with white fruit, tropical fruit, and mineral. The mid palate is round and balanced, with nice spice and mineral. The finish is long with clean yet round flavors of of fruit, spice, mineral, and bramble. The wine is so classic in its minerality and clean lines yet ripe and luscious. Read the rest of this entry