Category Archives: Wine Industry
As you all can see I hope, I have been trying to place some focus on the kosher wines from around the world, Israel, France, and my most recent post of the top whites, rose, and bubblies. But to a certain extent, I have been leaving my roots behind, California kosher wines. So this week, I thought I would just work on the notes that I have for all the kosher wines that I have tasted this past year that have been in California, both north, central, and south.
Of course, the list is well known, staring in Napa, that would be Hagafen Winery, and Covenant Winery (though not officially in Napa any longer, it sources the majority of its fruit from Napa) and Hajdu Winery (both are made now in Berkeley, CA). Next is Four Gates Winery, followed by Shirah Winery and La Fenetre, and then finally Herzog Winery, and the 2010 wines from Agua Dolce (AKA Craig Winchell).
To be honest some of these wines are all sold out already, as I slept on the job, but hey I will post them anyway, also it is good to keep track of the wines you have in the cellar.
California kosher Wines
Before I go to the notes, I wanted to talk about California wines for a bit. California wines, for the most part, are sweet wines. Please note the term “sweet” but not date! They are controlled and ripe, but round and full powered. Sadly, there were one or two occasions where the wine had a mind of its own, one Shirah wine and one Agua Dolce wines, that come to immediate memory. But otherwise, they are on the whole very round, ripe, and in your face. There are also, non sweet wines from California, almost old world in nature, like the Covenant wines – for the most part, along with the higher end Herzog wines that are not quite old world – but are indeed mineral or dry fruit based. Four Gates wines are starting to get a bit more ripe, but for the most part continue to show old world style wines, based on the intense acid and lovely mineral notes.
So, how does this compare to Israel and other locals? Well, Spain continues to make great wines for reasonable prices; except for a few Capcanes wines whose prices have went higher after Royal took over distribution. Still, Spanish kosher wines continue to be one of the best places for consistently good, unique, and balanced wines. California to me is the dark horse, sure some of the prices are higher, especially Four Gates, which has been raising prices over the past few years, but California kosher wines continue to be a great place to find wines that are balanced and not overly fruit forward.
As stated, of the list of previously described kosher wines in Cali, and listed below as well, I must say that Covenant, Four Gates, and Herzog are producing new world wines with a clear old world bent. The rest are creating lovely and extremely good new world wines – while showing control with only a couple of exceptions.
In comparison to Israel, I must say that Cali and Spain have Israel beat, for someone like myself. The proof to my statement is in my cellar, over the past year I have moved away from Israel and over to Spain and Cali, with the obvious exception to the wonderful whites/rose/bubbly coming from Israel, and the few red producers that are making great wines. The hope, as I continue to say, is that more wineries follow them and create better wines in Israel, till then I will be shifting hard to France, Spain, Cali, and only the very top Israeli wineries.
So, what makes Cali wines better to me than Israeli wines? Simple, control and balance. California wines, kosher or not, are ripe, the heat demands it, still, it is how those grapes are managed afterwards. I have been able to be part of the wine making at some wineries, and it is a real education to watch wines evolve, simply because the juice is not where the work ends. Once the red grapes are crushed there are two more stages in the wine’s development that define the wine; Fermentation(s) and barrel/tank aging. I am skipping bottle aging, not because it is not important, but because few wineries really do that here in California. The exceptions are Four Gates Winery (that keeps its Merlot some 3-5 years in bottle before releasing), and some of Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines as well.
Issues that occur in the fermentation(s) stage are not unique to Cali, in any manner, but California has been seeing a fair amount of stuck fermentations in both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations recently. More importantly though is that once the first fermentation is complete the red wines enter the next stage of wine management; barrel aging (unless there is a prolonged cold soak – like Shirah and a few other Wineries do).
It is in the barrel aging where Cali is unique, in its usage of American Oak – which gives wines here those green basil and dill notes, along with coconut/extreme vanilla notes. When people think of Zinfandel, they think Cali and the classic sweet notes that American oak gives those wines. Again, this is really only prominent in the lower level wines of most wineries, kosher or not, but the sweet noted American Oak nuances can be found in more wines – than just those baseline wines. I always ask what barrels were used to make the wine, sometimes I am told a mix or pure American, but when I am told the oak used was all French or Hungarian, I listen but verify! Read the rest of this entry
It was early on a beautiful winter day in LA when I made my way to the hall at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA – where the IFWF was being held this year. OOPS! I meant KFWE LA! Yes, the IFWF changed its name to the KFWE and it turned really Hollywood hip as it made its way down the sunset strip to the W Hotel, home to stars and socialites alike, and now I hope home to the newest kosher wine event star – the KFWELA!
If it seems like I have unbridled praise for this event, you would be correct. Recently, someone told me that my style of writing did not work for them; as they state it – your combination of unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm, surety of mind, and lapidary form of expression can be grating to me. Though he says it is on him – who knows.
If this or other posts are grating, I totally understand and thankfully no one is forced to read my articles – as I have said in the past, I write them mostly for myself – kind of like my own wine diary.
Anyway, this post will be filled with “unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm and surety of mind“. By the way, if one is not sure of what they think – why write it? I write the way I speak – with assurance and knowledge, if I do not know an answer – I am happy to say I have no idea.
Anyway, this event will be engraved in my mind with lapidary precision because it was epic. Still, I am getting ahead of myself – so let us rewind here for a second.
This “year” there were 6 shows in the KFWE portfolio. It all started last year late 2014 in Miami where Royal in combination with WIZO, kicked off the KFWE season with a great warmup event! I say that because while the event went off without a hitch, and there were MANY great wines at the event, the food was a bit underwhelming to say the least. Still, it was here where we first tasted all the new French wines;
- the new 2012 Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré, a second label for the famous winery, which uses its youngest vines to make this wine.The wine is lovely and well worth the cost, but not at the same level as the epic 11 Moulin Riche
- the new 2012 Château Le Crock, which was OK.
- the epic 2011 Chateau Haut Condissas Medoc, a truly lovely wine.
- the new 2012 Chateau Giscours, the best NEW kosher wine at the tasting.
- the new 2012 Domaine l’Or de Line Chateauneuf Du Pape, a very nice wine.
- finally, the second best new wine of the tasting – the 2012 Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It too is a second label wine, but was quite a winner in my book.
The food not withstanding, the event was solid and the wines showed very well under the warm Miami day/evening.
The next event was in Israel, and if I had to say it was probably the best run event from beginning to end, of the ones I attended. I am talking about the 2015 Zur tasting in Tel Aviv. The event was not crowded at all, the food was very good, and the wines were only the best of what they wanted to show. So, to some extent it was kind of like the all-star show – in the beginning of the season. They did have a limited supply of wines, but of the wines they poured, they were all top performers (excluding a table or two). On top of that, Mr. Olivier Cuvelier – the man that runs the family owned Chateau Léoville Poyferré, was there and talking about his wines. He is a delightful man, one who is passionate about his wines but also mindful of the man who brought him fame in the kosher wine world – Pierre Miodownick. Of course, he has received world wide acclaim for his non kosher wines, which is well deserved, but Pierre was working with him in the 90s – before Léoville Poyferré was all over the wine mags. Read the rest of this entry
Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1. Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2. Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3. Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4. Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5. Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6. Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7. Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8. Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9. Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10. Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).
A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1. Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2. Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3. Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)
Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry
So, the story has not changed much in the past few weeks, since I last posted on the 2015 wine events. The KFWE LA VIP has sold out as has the KFWE NYC. The KFWE LA, non VIP is still open and my discount coupon still works on that.
We still have no official word on the Gotham wine event. However, the The Jewish Week’s Grand Wine Tasting is set, as always at the City Winery. It is on Monday March 16th and it starts at 5:00 PM and ends at 8:30 PM. Tickets are available here.
Until now, the KFWE from Royal has been relegated to New York city, and the last one I attended was really lovely indeed. Sure we have had the IFWF on the other coast, but other than Los Angeles, New York, and London, KFWE has been essentially contained to the mid coast cities. Well that is about to change given the efforts of a non-profit organization, Women’s International Zionist Organization of Florida (WIZO) in partnership with Israeli Wine Producers Association (IWPA). That changed last year with the debut of the KFWE to Miami and it is coming back again this year to the same location.
The wine and food event will be held on December 10th, 2014 from 7PM to 10:30 PM at the Gulfstream Park’s Sport of Kings Theater (901 South Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, FL). This open-to-the-public event is ticketed at $150 per person (excluding tax) and includes full access to the event. Guests looking to enhance their experience can purchase VIP tickets at $200 per person (excluding tax) and will include early access to the event as they enjoy a VIP reception from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online by clicking on this link! All proceeds will benefit WIZO.
There is a limited time 20 dollar off coupon for you! Use the KMIAMI promo code to get 20 dollars off either the VIP or General admission prices. The code is good ONLY till November 22 – so PLEASE BOOK NOW!!!
The event will offer guests the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines paired with delicious gourmet foods presented by top kosher restaurants and caterers in South Florida. The event will feature chef Moshe Segev
Last year the event was lovely with lots of food and drinks to enjoy. Please support this wonderful cause and buy your discounted tickets today!
Keep checking back as I update the post with more information as it becomes available.
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.
Sadly, 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.
Well 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
Until now, the KFWE from Royal has been relegated to New York city, and the last one I attended was really lovely indeed. Sure we have had the IFWF on the other coast, but other than Los Angeles, New York, and London, KFWE has been essentially contained to the mid coast cities. Well that is about to change given the efforts of a non-profit organization, Women’s International Zionist Organization of Florida (WIZO) in partnership with Israeli Wine Producers Association (IWPA).
The wine and food event will be held on December 18th from 7PM to 10:30 PM at the Gulfstream Park’s Sport of Kings Theater (901 South Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, FL). This open-to-the-public event is ticketed at $150 per person (excluding tax) and includes full access to the event. Guests looking to enhance their experience can purchase VIP tickets at $200 per person (excluding tax) and will include early access to the event as they enjoy a VIP reception from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tickets will be on sale beginning October 15 and can be purchased online by clicking on this link! All proceeds will benefit WIZO.
For all of my KosherWineMusings blog readers, we have a 20 dollar off coupon for you! Use the KWM promo code to get 20 dollars off either the VIP or General admission prices. The code can not be entered on the first page of the checkout flow, but once you choose the number of tickets and the ticket types, and press checkout, then you will have a place to enter the KWM code.
The event will offer guests the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines paired with delicious gourmet foods presented by top kosher restaurants and caterers in South Florida. Some of the select establishments sampling their signature favorites include:
- Europa Restaurant & Grill
- Praline Pastries
- Schakolad Chocolatier
- Carol Franco Catering
- Aroma Kosher Caterers
- Events by Premier
- Greenseid Caterers
- Ktering Desserts
- 17 Sushi
- Bourekas, Etc.
- Paola’s Cake Atelier
- Annie’s Bread
So far, some 30 wineries will be presenting their wines at the event, along with their wine makers, names that are familiar to all. Including: Psagot, Herzog Wine Cellars, Tulip, Castel, Tabor, Capcanes, Morad and Flam.
So far I know that Jeff Morgan of Covenant Winery will be there and Jurgen Wajner of Capcanes will also be there!
Keep checking back as I update the post with more information as it becomes available.
As many who read my blog know – I am a huge fan of the Herzog Winery IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), and have been attending that since its inception some 5 years ago, in 2008. Well, the New York version, the Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) has been around since 2007 and has in some ways upstaged its younger sibling, simply because it seems to have more wines and more winemakers than the west coast affair. To be fair, the west coast affair has the wonderful food of Tierra Sur and some special wines from the Herzog Winery – essentially showcasing the strengths of what the Herzog Winery has to offer. The East coast event is more about the wines of Royal Wines and all the wines they import from France, Italy, Spain, and especially Israel. To be fair again, a large percentage of the wine imported by Royal from Israel and Europe is sold on the East Coast, and predominantly in the New York area. Therefore, the wine makers and wineries that Royal imports, though truly interested in the west coast buyers, who are clearly the second largest buyers, are motivated to come and pour for the New York crowd.
So while Herzog has the world-class food and wine from around the world and from the Herzog Winery, Royal wine’s east coast event is about the wines from around the world, which allows them to focus on the top wines from Israel, Spain, and France. For food the event gathers the top kosher chefs and restaurateurs from around New York and gives them place to showcase their product and skills in equal and impressive fashion.
So, the 7th annual KFWE event is being held on February 4th at 6:30 PM at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers, New York. Tickets are GOING FAST and like every year – the event sells out. No matter what – make it your job to buy a ticket and show up for the event. I have a 20 dollar discount for the event if you use my code: KWM20 (the code is entered on the second page before checkout). I have word that this coupon may not be active for long as they are close to selling out – so get in now and do not waste your money!
While it would be great if all the wine makers made it west like Flam, Tulip, Castel, and others do, some like Alexander Winery and Elvi Winery simply cannot make it for a myriad of reasons. So, if you wish to get the best of both worlds, I would advise attending both events. Clearly, those who are on the east coast – MUST attend this event, on the 4th, as it is one of the best kosher wine events in the country. Those on the west coast should of course attend the event on the 6th in LA.
Either way, stay safe, enjoy the food and wine, and post back here about how much you enjoyed the event!
Once again Herzog is putting on its massive food and wine festival on February 6th, 2013 starting at 6PM. The festival is a great place to get to taste some of those wines that are either beyond your price budget, or hard to find wines, or ones that you pass by on the shelves because you just have no idea how good they are. They will be pouring more than 200 bottles of wines, so be sure to get there early, before the crowds show up. There will be a few new faces this year, with a couple of new wine makers showing up, and a few surprises (think new kosher wineries), from what I hear. Of course, there is also the food TO DIE for, from Mr. Aarons and his staff of insanely competent chefs! So please be sure to BUY your tickets here (coupon code below). The wineries pouring will include; Flam Winery (newly Kosher), Tulip (also newly kosher), many wonderful French brands, Alfasi, Barkan, Baron Rothschild, Bartenura, Binyamina, Bokobsa, Capçanes, Carmel, Casa de Corça, Chateau Leoville Poyferré, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Malartic La Graviere, Elvi Wines, Domaine du Castel, Domaine Netofa, Drappier, Flechas de los Andes, Gamla, Goose Bay, Harkham, Herzog Selection, Herzog Wine Cellars, Louis Royer, Morad, Pacifica, Psagot, Shiloh, Tomintoul, Walders, Weinstock Cellars & MORE! OVER 200+ WINES WILL BE POURED!
Tickets are going fast so grab one or more while you can. Like last year they will be pouring wine and spirits – from around the world. Last year they poured cognac and scotch, and the display/table was “well attended”.
Please note that the event is returning to Los Angeles again! The event this year will returning to Los Angeles for its second year!! You can once again drink and eat to your heart’s content, and then crash at one of the many rooms in the lovely Hyatt Regency Century Plaza! Herzog is working out a deal with the Hyatt and will hopefully have great deals for staying there on the website soon.
Last year the event was a smash in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The massive permanent tent is well-appointed, warm, and lovely to behold. Last year the event was a hit because the space was great and the smoke aromas from Todd’s smoker was outside of the event hall. In the end the event went off quite well and I look forward to seeing you all there again this year! Again, do not worry about missing out of the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant fare! Todd will be there with the rest of the crew and they will be serving up much of what they make and serve at the restaurant.
Yes, Yes I left the best for last. Herzog is giving out a coupon out for 25 dollars off the ticket price – use the coupon WINEMUSINGS.
Every year we go and every year we are so excited because it gives us a chance to taste the wines and to see what to buy for the upcoming holidays. So grab you mouse and start clicking and we look forward to seeing you all the 2013 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival.
This is a copy of the blog posting from Herzog’s web site:
You are invited to join Herzog Wine Cellars in celebrating the latest imported wines and nationally recognized cuisine at the 2013 International Food & Wine Festival! This is THE EVENT for experiencing a massive selection of imported wines and unbelievable cuisine prepared on site by the chefs of Tierra Sur.
Last year, the IFWF event featured more than 225 different wines from nearly every major wine producing country around the world. This year we are bringing even more wines to Los Angeles from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and the United States:
Alfasi – Barkan – Baron Rothschild – Bartenura – Binyamina – Bokobsa – Capçanes – Carmel – Casa de Corça – Chateau Leoville Poyferré – Chateau Pontet Canet – Chateau Malartic La Graviere – Elvi – Domaine du Castel – Domaine Netofa – Drappier – Flechas de los Andes – Gamla – Goose Bay – Harkham – Herzog Selection – Herzog Wine Cellars – Louis Royer – Morad – Pacifica – Psagot – Shiloh – Tomintoul – Walders – Weinstock Cellars & MORE!
Taste the very latest bottling from these producers and meet the winemakers behind them – all in one place, for one day only!
In addition to the impressive line up of wines and spirits, attendees will be treated to a mouth-watering selection of gourmet delicacies prepared by Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant, Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a 40 mile radius! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to sample flavors from around the world and satisfy your taste for elegance!