Category Archives: Israeli Wine

2014 Passover kosher wine recommendations for all price points

wall of wineAs many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone – with one last one happening today in NY, the City Winery event held in agreement with the Jewish Week and their kosher wine list for Passover. Not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but the list of wines that were chosen for winners this year, are fine and many that I really like, but I hope you all love the wines I have listed here too. As I walked around KFWE this year, and IFWF, and Gotham’s Kosher Wine Extravaganza, I was asked over and over for a simple list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with two weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered over ripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list you can find a 2013 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, one of the best kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines I have ever tested. At the same time the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines, are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview, Gotham, and all the other wine stores I have listed on the right hand side (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 24 dollar Lewis Pasco Project #1 wine – a stunning wine that needs time or needs serious decanting, an insane wine that kills it for the price. Same goes for the Vignobles David Reserve or the Capcanes Peraj petita, and many others.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollar and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines, but you can be always look at the blog and if a wine you want is not on the list, by my omission, but scored an A- or higher, it was probably a good bet to have been on this list.

Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far to hard for me. I rather decide to drink simple wines like the Tabor Via bubbly red, non mevushal wine. It is simple to chug, tasty, and perfectly fulfills the custom. For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace.

In the end, these are my picks, they are easy to find and in my opinion, really good. There is also the Jewish Week’s list and Yossie Horowitz (of Yossie’s Corkboard) also comes out with a list.

So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!

Wines below 20 dollars:

2012/2013 Domaine Netofa White
2013 Domaine Netofa Rose (QPR)
2012 Domaine Netofa Red
2010 Barkan Pinotage, Special Reserve
2011 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker’s Reserve
2012 Galil Viognier (un-oaked) – the one with not as nice
2012 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Vineyard
2012 Recanati Chardonnay, reserve
2013 Recanati Yasmin Cab/Merlot (mevushal)
2013 Recanati Yasmin White (NOT mevushal)
2011 Weinstock Petite Sirah, cellar select (mad QPR)
2010 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select (mad QPR)
2010 Weinstock Zinfandel, Cellar Select
2012 Capcanes peraj petita (mevushal) (QPR)
2012 Capcanes peraj petita (non mevushal) (QPR)
2012 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Adama
2011 Tabor Shiraz, Adama
2009 Carmel Appellation Cabernet Franc
2012 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Goose Bay Fume Blanc (QPR)
2012 Goose Bay Chardonnay
2012 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR) (do not laugh 2012 is lovely!)
2011 Dalton Alma, Caberent and Merlot
2011 Dalton Petite Sirah (QPR)
2011/2012 Le Mourre De Lisle Cotes du Rhone(mevushal) (QPR)
2010 Chateau d’Arveyres (QPR)
2012 Beit El Carignan
2012 Tulip White Tulip
2013 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Don Ernesto Collage
Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wines from Purim and previous weekends and a new Terrenal Malbec

It has been a few weeks since I posted my wine notes. I have been posting other ideas, but this was a long time coming. The biggest take away for me was that the 2013 Terrenal Malbec was out, a new Terrenal kosher wine that can be bought at Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. Sadly, I was not a fan. It is OK, but for me, I will look elsewhere. It is a shame as the non mevushal Terrenal wines from Spain continue to impress!

The other take away from these wines was that the new NV Freixenet Cava Excelencia Kosher Brut was no fun either. The final notes revolve around the return of Lewis Pasco and his wines! Mr. Pasco was the head wine maker at Recanati until 2006. After that he did wine in the US and other places and in 2012 he returned to Israel to work with Hillel Manne of Beit El Winery, and to make his own wines as well! The wines we tasted in early 2012 were nice, but the Pasco wine has really come around with oak and time. The insane Carignan wine of 2012, is not as good as we remembered it from the barrel in the winery, but it is still very nice a clear QPR.

Finally, as I stated when I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills is lovely and is a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

So, I hope you enjoy the notes and have a great Shabbos! The notes follow below:

 

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

2012 Tzora Judean Hills – Score: A- (and more) (crazy good QPR)
When I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills was showing lovely and was a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

This is a wine that is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, Syrah that was fermented and aged in oak, and named for the terroir and vineyard that the wine was sourced from. This was a barrel/tank sample but such a wonderful wine and one very close to bottling that I had to write about it. The nose on this deeply black colored wine is rich with crazy black fruit, along with ripe blueberry, blackberry, along with deep mineral notes, roasted animal, and nice floral notes with slate. The mouth on this lovely full bodied and elegant wine shows far more control than the 2011 vintage, with great control and style, with layers of concentrated black and blue fruit, rich graphite, bracing acid, coming together with mouth coating tannin, and spicy oak. The finish is long and mineral with lovely chocolate, bright fruit, and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!

2013 Terrenal Malbec Kosher – Score: B
The 2012 vintage of this wine was a favorite of mine last year, till it turned into a flower bomb. This vintage is starting that way out of the chute. The noise on this purple colored wine starts off with nice blue and black notes, followed by floral notes that feels disjointed, along with plum, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows blackberry fruit, blackcurrant that spikes, along with nice tannin and blueberry/green notes. The finish is long and all over the place with green blue notes that cover over the nice root beer notes. Read the rest of this entry

A dinner with Pierre Miodownick of Netofa Winery, the most prolific of the kosher winemaker’s Noble Family

1987 Chateau Les Forges Meuersault and PierreOn a warm Sunday night in January, GG and I were driving towards the home of Pierre Miodownick, to taste through the new Netofa wines and to enjoy an exciting dinner with Pierre, his lovely wife, and Yair Teboulle Netofa’s CEO. The evening started by setting our stuff in one of Pierre’s bedrooms, as we were staying overnight in their lovely home. After that, we joined Pierre and Yair for a tasting of each and every new wine that is available from Netofa, along with some that are not yet available and a few oldies as well. On top of that, as we got closer to dinner we enjoyed two wines that Pierre made from France, but ones that were created some 24 years apart from each! But we are jumping ahead of the story, so lets start at the tasting.

photo 1When you enter the home of Mr. Miodownick, you cannot help but be in awe of the achievements that this man has single handily created in the last 32 years. He started his life’s work, in 1982, he along with a man named Lionel Gallula (hence the M&G on his older vins negociants bottles) by going to wineries and making kosher wines inside of non-kosher wineries, mostly in the Languedoc region to start. Then in 1986, they approached Rothschild, and a few other French wineries mostly in the area of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Fast forward two years, in 1988, Royal realized they needed to expand their wine portfolio to include things other than their syrup based wines, and their then fledgling Herzog Winery. So, they reached out to Pierre and they soon joined forces. In my opinion, this was the single most important action Royal has taken in the past 20 years, a genius move that has allowed Royal to become the powerhouse that it is today. Pierre was the visionary, he was the one that realized that if he wanted to expand his kosher winery reach to more European wine regions than just Bordeaux and Burgundy, he would have been hard pressed to do it all on his own. But with the strength, long arm, and pocketbook of Royal behind him, Pierre would be able to expand the wine regions where kosher wine exists today – like Italy, Portugal, Spain, and other regions in France.

IMG_0612From the outside, being a flying winemaker may look glorious and impressive, but it is a seriously hard job. Pierre is more often on the road than he is at home, but he tries to be home for most weekends. In the end, to me he is part of the noble family of kosher winemakers, those that have been there from the start, the forefathers, if you may. They are; Pierre, Israel Flam, Shimshon Welner, and Peter Stern, who have all left an indelible impression on the kosher wine world for 25 or more years. Israel Flam was the first UC Davis trained wine maker in Israel and the wine maker of Carmel’s famous 1976 and 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, and is now involved in his children’s eponymous winery. Shimshon Welner is a man we have spoken about a few times in the past, here. Peter Stern was the winemaking genius, early on, behind Yarden Winery and Herzog Winery, before Victor Schoenfeld and Joe Hurliman took over respectively, and is again being used by Royal and Carmel.

Pierre and his Netofa winesStill, of the four, Pierre may not have been the first, but he has been the most prolific of the group by a long stretch, over these past 32 years. To me, he is the head of the noble kosher winemaker family, and he is the Godfather of the noble family of all things kosher wine! It is his unique ability to happily build quietly without fanfare or accolades, though he deserves them. Rather he is a quiet, honest, hard working man that has worked to get to where he is today. He has made more wine than almost any other kosher winemaker in the world! That is no small feat. Did he do each and every wine by his old hands, in the old days of 1982 – yes! Now, he has teams that help him, but so do other head winemakers. So, in the end, to me he has the largest reach in the kosher wine world than any other person that I know of, which makes it so very impressive.

Read the rest of this entry

Last two major kosher wine events before Passover

Gotham Wines Costas Mouzouras at VIP tastingIn case you were asleep for the KFWE and the IFWF, in New york and California, respectively. You still have two more chances, if you live on the east coast!

The KFWE was a huge success for 2014, and was probably the best year so far with the massive Horn Blower Yacht that helped keep the balance of humans to wine and food consumption in check. The event in California was a blast, and the IFWF continued to prove that Royal was going to put itself out for both coasts of this great country.

So, you were asleep at the wheel, or you had family over, or worse, you had to work! My friends you are saved! Because the Gotham Wine Extravaganza, that took a year off last year – is back and ready to go! The date is set, for Sunday March 23rd. As I have reported for the past many years, Gotham throws a crazy wine tasting with an array of wines unmatched by any other kosher wine tasting event, as there are wines from  all of the kosher wine importers. I hope that anyone in the New York City can make it. Please I beg of you GET TICKETS!!! You can get them here, and if I were you, please splurge another 30 bucks and go for the VIP event, Costas always has a few hard to find and enjoying wines that he shares with his crazy wine loving fans! The event this year will return to its old stomping grounds, at the Lincoln Square Synagogue, (AKA Wink and stare) 180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023. The VIP session will start at 12:30, and general entry is at 3:00 PM till 6:00 PM.

VIP Tasting: 12:30pm – 2:00pm

Tickets available on line only! $70.00 per

(VIP tickets entitles attendees to the entire event)

Early Admittance: 2:00pm – 3:00pm

Tickets available on line only! $40.00 per

Regular Tickets: 3:00pm – 6:00pm

Tickets available on line $30.00 per ($35.00 at the Door)

To pass up on the Gotham wine event is pure insanity! This is your chance to enjoy, the best of Royal’s wines, along with Dalton Winery, Teperberg Winery, Adir Winery, Hevron Heights Winery, Bravdo Winery, Vignobles David Winery, Yarden, and so many others my head hurts! In the essence, this is an event with all kosher wineries and distributors being represented!

The VIP Session has been released for this Sunday’s event:

First Session: Discover the Rhone Valley
With Frederic David, owner of Vignobles David Winery
Le Mourre De Lisle Cotes Du Rhone
Cotes Du Rhone Village Reserve
Les Masques Chateauneuf Du Pape

Second Session: Israel Then and Now
With Alex Heruni, owner of Dalton Winery
Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Barrel Samples of El Kosh Single Vineyard Merlot 2012
Barrel Samples of Alma GSM 2012

Third Session: Discovering Italy
With Costas Mouzouras, Wine Director of Gotham Wines
Masso De Vrei Valpolicella
Florenza Barbera D’Alba
Bartenura Ovadia Estates Docletto D’Alba
Borgo Reale Barolo
Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva
Bartenura Ovadia Estates Vino Nobile de Montepulciano
Bartenura Ovadia Estates Morellino Di Scansano
Borgo Reale Signi Brunello Di Montalcino

Finally, if you cannot make the Gotham event, the last chance to taste through kosher wines from all around the world will be at the City Winery event, This is another kosher wine event that includes many kosher wine importers. Last year the event was quite impressive, and I am sure it will be equally impressive this year. The event is at the City Winery (155 Varick Stree, between Spring and Vandam Streets, New York, New York 10013), on Monday March 31st from 5:00 till 8:30 PM. Yes, it is a school night, but for the LOVE OF GOD, get out and get a babysitter, believe it or not TV is not a substitute! You can get tickets here and you can use a coupon from my buddy – Yossie’s Corkboard “fjwmg” to get $11 off the regular ticket price.

In the end, these are the last two vestiges of kosher wine tastings – and when you are done, please buy our wines from either the purveyors listed to the right, or a local store you buy from often. NO, I do not make money from any merchant of kosher wine, but they are very good purveyors of kosher wine, and if your local kosher wank is better – go with him or her!

Finally, PLEASE drink responsibly this Purim and remember to enjoy wine with friends and family!!!

A lovely wine evening with new and old friends in NY last year

Table
Well, as I posted here, those of us lucky enough to have “special” or older bottles are really responsible for their well being, besides just owning them! What is the use of having many great bottles and watching them all die?? So, in that light, a friend of mine decided to start a monthly tasting evening, where your entry fee is a good bottle of wine and he would take care of the rest.

It was with this in mind, I entered with a 2006 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, which was not in tune with the evening’s theme, but was entry fee enough to let me partake of the festivities. The wines and food enjoyed that night were:

Wines and Food Enjoyed

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2005

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2007

Appetizers

Home Cured Bresaola

Panko Crusted Chicken Strips

80-hour Sous Vide, Dry Aged Prime Short Ribs

Rustic Cornbread, Beer Braised “Bacon” Baked Beans, and Red Cabbage Slaw

Wine List

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2001

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2003

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2005

Carmel, Limited Edition, 2003

Galil Mountain, Yiron, Syrah, 2004

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2000

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2003

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2004

Hagafen, Prix Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, 2002 Magnum

Hagafen, Prix Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, 2005

Wine Cellaring and what it means

All the bottles Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Winery continues to shine as one of the very best wineries in Israel

Tzora Winery 4If one says terroir and Israel at the same time, many would snicker and laugh, but when it comes to Tzora Winery they continue to impress. I have written a few times about the Tzora Winery, it is a winery that proves that even in Israel, and even in 2010 and 2011 GREAT and controlled wines can be created.

This winery tasting was not a tasting like the previous ones on the trip, you see, we were not “officially” invited to this one. We arrived for the tail end of Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau (from Domaine Roses Camille Winery) wine tasting day. Previously to Tzora, they had gone to Flam Winery and Castel Winery, two wineries we had been to a few days earlier.

So, when we heard they were going to Tzora as well, we asked them both at the DRC tasting if we could piggy back on the tasting, and they agreed. Of course, in hindsight, in all of the enthusiasm and excitement of the DRC tasting, we forgot to ask Eran and the Tzora Winery if they were OK with it! You see, if you have been keeping up with the blog, we had braved the snow and all, and made our way to the Scala Restaurant, in the David Citadel hotel. We enjoyed the DRC wines with Messrs.’ Ranson and Bardeau. However, at the end of the tasting they were discussing where they were going the next day. We had Ella Valley on the books, but nothing else after that. Since Tzora Winery is a stone throw away Ella Valley Winery, we asked if we could piggyback and they said sure. Well, what we forgot to do was follow-up with Tzora Winery the next day. We deeply apologized for being so unprofessional, but Eran Pick, the head winemaker at Tzora Winery, and consummate professional, was so kind and was easy-going about the whole affair, and so we joined the tasting in mid run.

Four Tzora wines we tasted at the wineryIf you want the true history and write-up on the Tzora Winery – please go here and read it all the way through – what a winery. To me the Tzora winery is one of the five best wineries in Israel, and Mr. Pick is one of Israel’s best winemakers.

We arrived and they were working their way through the white wines, and what wines they were. The wines showed richness, layers, and ripeness all in perfect control of both fruit and oak. Sure there is oak on the wines, but the oak does not dominate and nor does the fruit feel overripe. Instead, the wines show a harmony of fruit, oak, extraction, and expression – quite unique for Israel. The 2011 and 2010 vintages have been hit and miss in the Judean Hills, where most of the wines are sourced for all of Tzora’s wines. However, these wines were neither overly sweet, uncontrolled, or just unbalanced, like many of the 2010 and 2011 wines from the Judean Hills, with a few exceptions (Flam, Tzuba, Castel, Teperberg, and Yatir).

Eran Pick, Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau tasting at Tzora WineryThis is not the first visit we have made to Tzora Winery, we have had a few, and most recently a few months before this visit. However, at that visit, the wines, or me, were having a bad day, and I did not think it would be correct to write about them. Even then, the wines were not out of kilter or uncontrolled, but rather they were showing lighter and with less expression.

This time, the wines, or I, or both were in the zone! The 2012 Tzora Neve Ilan was showing like a classic Burgundian Chardonnay and was killing it. Bardeau was raving about it but the one he loved the most of the two whites was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh White, a 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine which was aged in oak for 7 months and was tasting rich, layered, but tart and ripe all at the same time – wonderful. Read the rest of this entry

Yarden El Rom shined along with a Tabor Adama II and a 25 year old sparkling wine

As I stated here, I was going to open a few wines that I was really looking forward to enjoying for too long. The list included a perennial winner, the 2001 El Rom Cabernet Sauvignon and a pair of Yarden wines, including a very hyped wine; the 2007 ROM. In the end, the ROM was OK at best, the 2004 El Rom was super overripe and so sad, as the structure of the wine was so impressive that it felt like a true loss. The dark horse that ran away from the rest of the pack was the 2008 Tabor Adama II, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

That said, the most exciting wine we had Friday night was the Four Gates Sparkling wine from some 20+ years ago! The wine bottle “label” had disintegrated, and the beer cap top was mostly rusted off. The awesome thing about it was that the sparkling wine was insanely sparkly! The bubbles were hopping, the fruit was rich, and the acid was insane!

My wine notes follow – looking forward to this week’s wines!

Four Gates Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine – Score: A- (A for pure excitement and hedonism)
The wine was some 20+ years old and was rich in acid, bubbles, and pure hedonistic joy. The nose on this light gold colored wine was hopping with rich dried quince, straw, dried grass, green apple, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine hits you in layers of rich small bubble mousse, followed by dried fruits, brioche, and yeast. The finish is long and lively with insane acid, citrus, and more yeast lingering long – BRAVO MY MAN!!!!!

2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom – Score: A
What a wine, what a lovely wine this is! The nose starts off a bit funky and with time shows barnyard and some reduction, but blessedly that blows off to show a nose of rich and expressive mineral, spice, black and red fruit, green notes, and lovely leafy tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, expressive, with insane fruit structure, silky rich tannin that linger insanely long, along with rich earthy notes, graphite, and layers of concentrated blackberry, cassis, and currant all coming together into a symphony of fruit, tannin, and mineral. The finish is long and earthy, with rich mineral, spice, oak, and tobacco that lingers long with leather, chocolate, and earth finishing the long rise. BRAVO!!!!

2008 Tabor Adama II – Score: A- (and more)
This is a lovely wine and one worth seeking out! The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot. The wine is rich and layered but like blends, comes at you in different ways as it opens and shows itself to you in the glass.

The nose on this wine starts with classic Cabernet style notes, graphite, black fruit, and earth to start, with time it opens to show blue fruit and root beer. The mouth on this full bodied wine needs time, a long time, like a few hours to really open and show its true potential. The mouth on this medium to bodied wine is truly rich and layered with lovely and rich tannin that lingers, with extracted fruit and boysenberry, blackberry, plum , and spicy oak that mingle in a way that is truly intoxicating. The finish is long with sweet licorice, great balancing acid, nutmeg, sweet spices, watermelon, and tannin that coats with hints of leather. BRAVO!!!

2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom – Score: B+ to A-
When I first opened the bottle it was so sweet and over the top that I thought it was oxidized. However, as the wine opened, it started to come together and show rich structure and layers of fruit that are truly impressive.
The nose on this sweet wine shows rich expression of extracted fruit, blackberry, dried and candied fruit, rich dirt, and graphite. The mouth on this full bodied wine is so over the top that it is humorous, with layers of concentrated sweet fruit, mouth coating and richly integrated tannins, along with sweet cassis, plum, and dark cherry, all wrapped within sweet sandalwood and spice. The finish is long and spicy with richly upholstered leather, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet tannins that ride the long and luxurious finish.

2007 Yarden ROM – Score: B+
This was a very tough call. Cellar Tracker asks if I liked the wine, yes I did, but not for anywhere near the price. The score is the score, irrelevant of the price, but man – this was a hyped wine for no reason, IMO.
The nose on this classic Israeli blend wine, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, is lovely in the nose with rich motes of blueberry, black cherry, cassis, graphite, dirt, and crushed herb. The mouth is where things let you down, with nice fruit, but no oomph, not enough acid or graphite or mineral to hold up the show, with good fruit structure, sweet sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin. The mouth is rich and layered, but not complex which is what is really missing. The finish is long and rich with more sweet and candied fruit, spice, leather, chocolate, and tobacco.

Open That Bottle Night 15 and a few missed wine posts

2007 Hevron Height PardessWell, it is that time of year again for OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), a night conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, in February 2000, then with the WSJ. Well, officially it is the last Saturday night in February, which this year is Feb 22. However, us Jews like Friday/Sabbath to be our special wine moment, so we will be enjoying OTBN this Friday Night, hopefully!

According to the WSJ site: On OTBN, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life.

We have had many great OTBN tastings but this year, it is about tasting my oldest and best Yarden Winery wines. Yarden Winery has moved to the sweet side on their new wines, for the most part, but the El Rom wines have never been sweet. Yarden has always been on the sweeter side, in terms of ripe fruit, but these past few years, the weather has really hurt them badly. The 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been nice wines, but too sweet for my tastes. The 2012 and 2013 look like they will be better, from what we have tasted of the white wines. Still, the El Rom and red Katzrin wine have always been controlled and beautiful. They are Yarden’s flagship wines and they keep a very tight lid on the fruit in these wines. The 2006 and 2007 ROM wine is another story, it was always sweet and somewhat controlled, and yes, very expensive. It all started when the late Daniel Rogov gave the 2006 ROM, a very unique Israeli blend wine, a massive 96 score!  That score sent the futures of that wines to the moon, along with the expectations of greatness. In reality, it is a nice wine, but nowhere where Rogov placed it.

Well, I have been sitting on too many of these wines, and so this week, for my version of the OTBN 15 (the 15th year of OTBN), I will be opening the 2001 Yarden El Rom (Shmita year), the 2004 Yarden El Rom, and the 2007 Yarden ROM. I have many backups in the ready! Read the rest of this entry

Ella Valley Winery – final day of my snowbound Jerusalem Trip

Well if you have been following the saga of my snowbound trip to Israel, you would know that this was closing out quickly at this point as the snow has stopped by Sunday, and the roads were open. So, on the Monday after the fateful snowstorm, Mendel and I made our way to Ella Valley Winery.

Other than the obvious lack of snow down in the Ella Valley, or the roads leading to it, the most obvious telltale sign of the tectonic shift that the Ella Valley Winery is going through was the lack of noise, as we entered the winery grounds. Now, I do not mean visitors, as David Perlmutter and a slightly rambunctious crowd that he was ferrying around were in the house. No, I mean the birds; in many ways recently Ella Valley has gone to the birds, metaphorically and in some ways – physically (but with lots of hope for its quick and successful return).

As I have stated the many times that I have visited the winery, I loved this winery for its makeup, its people, and its wine styling, all of which seemed to flow in a common theme, clean lined with respect to the product and people. As I stated here, Danny Valero, the winery’s original general manager, had a deep love for wine, technology, and birds, yes real multi-colored feathered friends that quacked and made a racket, but inevitably added to the ambiance and uniqueness that was Ella Valley Winery.

IMG_0109Sadly, one by one, they all fell off. No, not the birds (though they are also gone), rather the people that originally made the winery so special. The winery was started in the 1990s, and released its first vintage in 2002. Within the time following its founding, the winery grew to great prominence, because of the principles upon which it was built, build great wines that happen to be kosher, showcasing the qualities of Israeli fruit. Of all the wineries in Israel, in recent memory, Ella Valley came out of the shoot with all guns blazing. They never had a ramp up time, they came out as a four star winery, in the late Daniel Rogov’s books from the start almost, and never relinquished that status.

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

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

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

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

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