Category Archives: Israeli Wine
This past weekend we enjoyed a few great wines, including another wine from the Herzog Winery! The set of wines included another tasting of the 2010 Vignobles David Reserve, which is tasting lovely – but starting to show signs that it is coming around. The tannins are still very mouth drying and draping, and really need a fair amount of time to integrate. The next wine was the newly released 2011 Herzog Chardonnay Prince Vineyard, a new single vineyard Chardonnay from their newly acquired Prince Vineyard, the first vineyard that the Herzog winery bought.
Finally, we had a hand carried bottle from Israel that shocked me in a good way. When I recently tasted the newly released 2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Sumaka Vineyard at the KFWE in Miami this past month, I was far from impressed. However, I had just come back from Israel and I was carrying with me a bottle of the very same wine. When I came home I opened the bottle, that I bought in Jerusalem, and was shocked by how VASTLY different the two wines were. Taste them blind side by side and you too would be really shocked. The US version is really not that great, B to B+ wine at the best. The very same wine, with an Israeli label, was rich and layered, but controlled, and lacked the over the top cooked and ripe fruit.
This is not a one time thing, when I returned to Israel and I tasted the 2009 wines from Carmel, I was once again shocked to find that I loved them. A very vast difference from when I tasted them with an US label. Whatever the issue is, it really needs to be fixed.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Reserve – Score: A- (and more)
This wine blend is composed of 40% Syrah, and 60% Grenache, also known by the folks in the know, as GS, an acronym stemming from the first letter of the 2 varietals used in this blend.
When I opened this lately, the wine needed a few hours of air to truly open and show its potential. Please open and have patience to allow it to show its true joy.
This bright purple colored wine steps up and slaps you across the head with a crazy rich and heady nose of blackcurrant, bramble, rich oak, roasted meat, freshly brewed espresso, spice, raspberry, blackberry, and tar. This wine shows a super rich, full-bodied, yet bright mouth with an insane mouth draping and coating tannin, rich extraction, along with focused concentration of fruit, all coming together into a truly earthy, fruity, meaty mouth. The finish is richly spiced with layers of more coating tannin, soft leather, tar, black fruit, rich minerality, espresso and oak, with a hint of date on the background. Quite a lovely wine that is not another big and black Syrah, rather this is a lovely balanced GS that shows its richly spiced and terroir driven roots in more ways than one.
2011 Herzog Chardonnay, Prince Vineyard – Score: B+
This is a mevushal Chardonnay from the newly acquired Prince Vineyard in California Clarksburg ACA. The noise on this light gold colored wine is rich and ripe with honeyed notes, toasty oak, spice, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is viscous and lovely with good sweet fruit, apricot, guava, baked apple pie, along with layers of butterscotch, creme brulee, and hints of oak tannin. The finish is medium long and missing a bit of an acid bite, spicy with good bakers spices, white tea, and good mineral background, slate and lemon peel.
2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Sumaka Vineyard (Israeli Label ONLY) – Score: A-
I must be very clear here – this is the 2010 Carmel Cabernet, Sumaka Vineyard, from Israel, not what is sold here in the US. I make that clear, as the wine sold here, with the US label, is not very good, overly ripe and clearly changed by the transport process from Israel to the US. I shipped/transported this bottle by hand from Israel to my home and then enjoyed it.
This wine is a single vineyard wine, just like the 2009 Kayoumi Cabernet was a single vineyard wine. This wine replaces that wine while the Kayoumi vineyard single vineyard wine. The nose on this black colored wine starts off with a lovely and deeply mineral rooted nose, with blackberry, cassis, plum, earthy notes, and blackcurrant. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered with good fruit concentration, that is a bit uniform, with good extraction, along with good sweet tannin, and lovely spicy oak. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, chocolate, leafy tobacco, and more great graphite/charcoal lingering long with cloves, spice, and a nice sweet note background.
This goes to prove that there is a serious issue at play here. I tasted some 4 wines in Israel that I have had a few times here in the states. The wines in Israel tasted some 4 years younger and more enjoyable than their US counterparts – keep an eye out, and I will be documenting which label/locale the wine came from going forward.
This past week we enjoyed some lovely wine from the Ella Valley Winery, which is going through some changes right now. This wine dates back to 2005 when Doron Rav Hon was the head winemaker and the this wine shows his classic Burgundian styling. Of course Merlot is not made in Burgundy, but the restraint and depth of fruit shows the style that he became famous for when he was making wine there.
The other wine was another kosher, baseline Malbec, and I guess you get what you pay for. The 2012 Don Mendoza Malbec is a wine that does little to stem the tide of public opinion around kosher wine. The wine is boring, bland, and within minutes just falls apart in your mouth. You get what you pay for, I recommend you not even try this wine and look elsewhere.
Truly it is sad, because when you type Malbec into Google, you quickly find that it was Argentina that turned the world onto single varietal Malbec. The 2009 Flechas Malbec from Rothschild in Argentina is a nice enough wine, but it can be a bit extreme. If you must buy an Argentinian Malbec, that is your best option by far, even if the 2011 vintage is not as good as the 2009. But this wine, is not even in that league.
The wine notes follow below:
2005 Ella Valley Merlot – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this wine, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, is old and mature but not over the hill at all! The nose is rich with dark fruit, candied raspberry, cherry, with insane barnyard funk coming out, along with rich loamy dirt, earthy notes, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with lovely funk and mushroom, with good blackberry, forest floor, all wrapped up in a cocoon of green leafy notes, sweet cedar, and mouth drenching tannin. The finish is long and spicy with lovely leafy tobacco, salty notes, rich mineral, graphite, chocolate, and rich dark fruit and leathery notes – BRAVO! The wine is drink up mode and it is throwing sediment – but enjoy!
2012 Don Mendoza Malbec Reserve – Score: C
This wine is mevushal and it shows. The wine shows a simple, not complex, or even very good wine with basic fruit, but a wine that is all over the place. The wine starts off nice, with spicy notes and fruit, but that falls apart very quickly and falls flat to the floor, with stinky socks. Sad, as I was hoping for a better showing from a Argentinian Malbec!
As I have stated before, these postings are from my previous trip to Israel, where Jerusalem and mush of the north was snowed in with many feet of snow. Picking up from where we left off, the Sabbath was snowed in and cold, but at least we had power. The next day, my brother drove the car to the hotel and from there – the careful but madman driver – known as Mendel made his way to both GG and me and using Waze we were off to highway 1. The road itself was open, as was clear by the crowd sourcing cars driving up and down the road on the Waze map. However, there were parts of the road that were packed to the gills, because these were car drivers – driving to har menuchot (Jerusalem’s cemetery which has a massive parking lot) to pick up their abandoned cars! Yup, on Friday, these folks could not make it into Jerusalem, as their car was stuck, and they could not get back to where they came from, so they left their cars and were bussed out by the Army using mechanized solider transport vehicles, that can drive through snow or up a hill, for that matter.
Well, as we drove by that horde of cars, our minds were all single focused on getting to Teperberg Winery, one of the best unheralded wineries in Israel. As I wrote about in previous posts, here and here, ever since the U.C. Davis trained senior winemaker Shiki Rauchberger joined the winery, they have been producing wines destined to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. With the addition of Olivier Fratty and tons of new high-end equipment, the winery is poised to make the next leap into the upper echelon of Israeli kosher wine producers.
When we arrived after driving through the snow covered mountains, the roads cleared as we dropped in elevations, and the mountains became hills, and their color turned from white to green. Not too far down the highway, we turned off for the road leading to Bet Shemesh, and from there another turn and we quickly found out way to Kibbutz Tzora (where the Tzora Winery can be found), which is across the street from the Teperberg Winery, and down the street from Mony Winery.
We arrived almost on time, and Shiki and Olivier were there to greet us and lead us to a room where we would be having the tasting. Shiki told us that they are drawing up plans for a visitor’s center where they can have official tastings, and exhibits where the winemakers and the guests can interact in a more intimate environment. The exact date for this building to be completed is still unknown, as it has yet to even start, but it is on the books to be started soon. Read the rest of this entry
This past week we enjoyed a few wines and the wine I was most curious about was the wine I liked the least. The 2007 Yarden Yonatan Syrah was a wine that the late Daniel Rogov, wrote was one of the best Syrah to ever be made in Israel. We made kiddush on it and it was structurally a fantastic wine, but so swet and over the top ripe that I could not come to love it as much. Again, Yarden created a wonderful wine that was stylistically true to their core, a ripe and new world wine that has the structure and makeup to make many a wine and winemaker jealous, but not a wine that would make me happy fruit wise. With a bit more restraint, IMHO, this wine may have well been a killer wine.
I worried that the wine may be a bit over the top, so we had a backup of the 2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, a wine I loved before and still do! The wine has a medium body but with an hour of air, the wine fills out nicely with mouth coating tannin and richly tart and bright red and black fruit.
Finally, I got the chance to taste the new 2012 Shirah Winery Vintage Whites and it rocked. The nose was the true seductress, while the mouth was rich and layered, the flaw, to some extent for me, was the biting citrus pith that lingered long. Not sure if that was from the Viognier or more a straw/earthy bitterness from the Roussanne. Still, it is a unique blend that is rocking and a great QPR for 25 dollars.
The wine notes follow below:
2012 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (and a bit)
OK, to start this wine is unique, not so much that it is a Viognier/Roussane blend, there are a few folks doing that in the kosher world now (Reccanati and others). The real unique aspect is that the Weiss brothers decided to let the bitter and earthy notes of the Roussane take a center stage for this wine, at least for part of the time. That is not a flaw to me as much as it is a shocking aspect that needs time for some to get used to. Once you are past this issue – this wine rocks my world, and at 25 bucks a pop, many could really appreciate this wine for almost any meal, other than a steak!
The nose on this straw to light gold colored wine is the clear and utter winner of the wine perfume competition! Are you kidding me, this nose is 100% certifiable, with rich and honeyed notes of dripping honeysuckle, lovely jasmine, impressive floral notes, all backed by very impressive earthy mineral components, and ripe melon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is where some will be shocked and some will love, quite a polarizing context that is well worth enjoying, with lovely layers of honey, spice, guava, ripe Asian pear, along with an intense salty quality, that backs the mineral structure of this wine that exhibits a lovely oily texture, and good sweet apple sauce. The finish is where the shocker starts, crazy bitter citrus pith takes center stage with good almond notes, all finished above a bed of lovely slate/rock and richly mineral focus.
This is a wine that will vex you, sometimes the wine is sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes minerally focused, but always enjoyable, IMHO.
2008 Elvi Wines Rioja Herenza, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich and oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, and rich loamy dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich, expressive, mouth coating, and lightly extracted with good concentration of dark plum, raspberry, and cranberry, with good mouth coating tannin to bring the whole thing together. The finish is long and balanced with good acidity, rich espresso coffee, and earthy goodness. The wine is rich with a mouth of espresso coffee, dark cherry, and red fruit linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!
2007 Yarden Syrah, Yonatan Vineyard – Score: B+ (Sweet / New World wine)
This wine was rated as the best Syrah from Israel by the late Daniel Rogov, and I must sadly disagree. Structurally, this wine starts off so hot and sweet that I really could not enjoy it. Even after many hours the wine starts to calm down on the sweetness and becomes somewhat accessible, but it is an overall disappointment for me.
The nose on this black colored wines is super ripe and rich with kirsch cherry liquor, crazy date expressionism, lovely oriental spices, and rich layers of dark black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is nicely extracted and layered, but the fruit concentration is solely focused on ripe and overripe berry, dark ripe plum compote, lovely integrating tannin, along with great smokey and roasted meat, and spicy oak. The finish is long, spicy and ripe with rich layers of chocolate, leather, good earth and dirt tones, and more spice. This is a wine that some will like, but for me a wine that is far too ripe to appreciate, even though it is well made.
This past week, I was once again in Israel and it gave me the chance to taste the recently released 2008 Yarden Rose Bubbly, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I also finally had the chance to sit with and enjoy a bottle of the 2011 Teperberg Malbec, that I tasted at the winery, and it lived up to my hype. Finally, I tasted the recently released Yarden Malbec, and though it is a well constructed wine, it was too sweet for my palate.
Please be clear – the Yarden Rose will not be making its way to the United States, for reasons I do not know, but it is a wine that is well worth finding in Israel. The wine notes follow below:
Two weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!
So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!
From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card was charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.
The next day, I WhatApp Mendy and sure enough he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded to drive and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydro-planing. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!
Domaine du Castel
Before I left for China and India I had the chance to hang with friends and go through many of the best kosher Malbec wines on the market. Since then a few new ones have popped up, which I have yet to taste, so I will add those to my next tasting run of Malbec wines hopefully.
As you know if you read my blog, I like wines that are blue in nature and I have no problem saying that out loud! The blueberry and boysenberry fruit are so rare and unique in wine that I am always overjoyed to taste them. That said, in a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon they taste downright weird. So what about Malbec? Is Malbec a blue fruit wine or a black fruit wine? Well that depends, in the very same vein that can be asked about Syrah, is it a blue or black fruit wine? While were at it what about Zinfandel or Petite Sirah?
To the Petite Sirah question, until Israel, I had not tasted a PS without blue fruit, but I think the extreme heat in Israel kills the blue fruit, much like it does to the Syrah fruit (this is not a scientific statement – just my experience). Case in point, the Ellla Valley PS is black and earthy, but no blue fruit to be found. Same goes for the 2010 Yarden Malbec, black and earthy, just like in France. What can I say, it is interesting that these four varietals have the possibility of displaying blue fruit, but when grown in Israel there is less of an option. Now to be fair, the Dalton PS is full of blue fruit, as is the Teperberg Malbec.
There is a reason why Petite Sirah and Zinfandel go so well together, like in the Recanati Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend, or the Hajdu NV Besomim wine. Either way, the fruit compliment each other, as does the spicy notes, the earthy components and the bramble. Same can be said for some of the insane blends that Tzora, Ella Valley, and others are perfecting in Israel. The Ella Valley 35/25 wine, a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot (in 2008) is such a wine that is full of blue and black fruit (from what I hear I have not personally tasted it). Same goes for the wonderful Misty Hills or Shoresh wies from Tzora which take the Australian blends to the max, mixing Cabernet or Merlot with Syrah. Read the rest of this entry
WOW! That is what I can say, when I last blogged, I was just about to leave for India, and then I went to China and then Israel and now I am back. In a single sentence – there is very little to no good kosher wine in Asia, which is a shame! I was thinking of shlepping my own wine, but truly it would not have been worth it. In the end, I suffered a bit, drank beer and some absolutely undrinkable wine (which was all I needed for a blessing), while in India, the Rabbi made Kiddish on grape juice (which I refused to drink!). What can I say, it was a truly bad string of wine weeks, that culminated in a great wine weekend with a BUNCH of great Malbec wines and then a trip to Israel (yeah a snowed in Jerusalem – coming next).
To be honest, I was truly shaken by my experience in India, the people are really nice in Bangalore India, but the infrastructure – the very basic things we take for granted in the developed nations of this world, are so deeply lacking there. On the Shabbat I was terrified to walk the streets because there were no sidewalks, sewage ran under what was defined as a sidewalk – raw and honest – no pipes and no hiding the smell. Worse the roads are underdeveloped, made for a few cars and a few cows, not millions of cars. A road that can accommodate two cars, is traversed by three cars, two auto-rickshaw, and god only knows how many “Tasmanian devil” moped drivers shifting in and out of the melee called a street in India. Sure, many would find this invigorating, but I guess I have lost that mad-insane-loving gene, and now I do not mind a dollop of calmness in my life. If you are like me – pass on India, enough said. Read the rest of this entry
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. Read the rest of this entry
Without any attempt on my side we enjoyed a Syrah weekend, along with a unique Cabernet Sauvignon from Herzog. This past weekend we were invited to the home of some very good friends of ours, ER and HK, ER of the baking culinary fame! Well this meal was culinary all the way, roast beef, perfectly cooked chicken and great side dishes to boot! OH! I cannot forget that split pea soup, which was quite lovely as well.
We brought two Syrah like wines and another guest brought a Syrah wine, while yet another guest brought the new and limited 2007 Herzog Napa Cab 7. Sorry, I have no pictures, though most of the wines are well-known wines, other than the special Herzog Cabernet. The wine is called: 2007 Herzog One Over XII Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Vivino has an image of it, which is displayed to the left. The wine has a great story, a bunch of barrels from the 2007 Herzog Napa Cab, which we tasted, was left in a barrel for 55 or so months. So, one would think it would be an oak bomb, but it is not overpowering, though friends of mine disagree. The thing that is really lovely about the wine is its caressing and insane tannins and the mineral that jumps up and slaps you across the face! Like I say in the notes – this wine is polarizing and to me that is what good wine is all about! This bottle is limited and available only at the Herzog Winery’s wine bar.
Thanks so MUCH to ER and HK for hosting us and putting up with me! We love hanging with you guys! The wine notes follow below:
2010 Tabor Shiraz, Adama, Terra Rosa – Score: B+
The nose explodes with awesome blueberry, plum, currant, cherry, with loads of dirt and licorice. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is nice and spicy with good concentration of date, sweet blue and red fruit, nice candied raspberry, sweet cedar, with good integrated tannin, and good extraction. The finish is long and spicy with garrigue, bramble, fig, date, chocolate, light leather, and animal notes. This is a wine that is a hair under the QPR line, though if pressed it could well join the ranks. A great Israeli “supermarket” option for sure. Read the rest of this entry