Category Archives: Wine Industry

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 No, not the birds (though they are also gone), rather the people that originally made the winery so special.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.

Read the rest of this entry

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

KFWE (Kosher Food and Wine Experience) is coming early to Miami in December!

KosherFoodandWine _EmailFlyer_PromoKWM_v1 (2)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.

2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience on February 4th in New York City

2013 Kosher Food & Wine Experience

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!

2013 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival returns to Los Angeles

2013 International Food and Wine FestivalOnce 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”.

Here are my notes from lat year’s event!

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.

Herzog International Food and Wine FestivalLast 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.

IFWF - Picture_1This 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!

One Year Anniversary/Commemoration of Daniel Rogov’s Passing

It has been a year since the passing of Daniel Rogov, and much has happened in that time. In many ways his passing still holds a pall over the Israeli wine world, as it now lacks a true wine tasting ambassador. Adam Montefiore, in many ways has taken over as the wine ambassador for Israel, but there still lacks a wine taster with no business affiliations and one whose notes have driven droves and flocks of people to taste and enjoy the world of Israeli wines.

If forced, I would say the single most horrific loss from Rogov’s passing is the lack of continuity. We all leaned on him so heavily for his wine knowledge and passion, that in his passing there is an even greater and more vast emptiness that we are forced to bear.

In a bittersweet irony, the Israeli wine industry as a whole has finally begun to achieve the status of which Rogov was so tirelessly working to achieve. The fact that both of the main wine journals (Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast) have now twice listed Israel in their wine notes, in a span of less than a year, speaks volumes for how far Israel and its wine industry, as a whole has come

Clearly, the work of Montefiore, Royal, and many of the other Israeli wine importers has been instrumental in the acceptance of the Israeli wine industry. However, credit the wineries as well, their tireless efforts in producing wines that are more acceptable to the world palate, and moving away from the new world style – has clearly been a driver for their new-found successes. Couple that with better marketing and improved handling of their vineyards and fruit, helps to understand the appreciation that the industry as a whole has recently garnered.

Still, the lack of a clear wine critic for the English-speaking world that has the time and passion to drive the new generation of wine lovers, is what I fear could be is ultimate undoing. Time will tell, and I hope I am truly wrong, with all my heart. There is so much potential in the passionate artists that drive the Israeli wineries, that give me hope, that maybe  the industry can find its way to the new wine loving generations on its own

With a heavy heart I say, I personally miss you Daniel Rogov, and your work continues to inspire so many, and I hope that it can continue to inspire generations of wine lovers to come.

International Wine Review covers Israeli Wines in Depth!

Given this blog’s long and lengthy style – this may well be the shortest one ever! The Israeli wine industry has for the longest time has been in need of attention, in all the right ways. It has been producing fine wine, but with the passing of Daniel Rogov (his day of remembrance is coming up fast), positive wine information of the region and industry has been a bit lacking. Of course, Adam Montefiore has taken the Ambassador role on with gumption, and is helping the Israeli industry daily.

However, as I have been talking about recently, and there is even more to come, the Israeli Wine industry is getting its due. However, I think some of the best focus so far has been delivered by the recent publication from the International Wine Review, most recent report – ALL on Israel and its burgeoning wine regions and winemakers! The article is fantastic and I will now leave it to the accomplished abilities of the Israeli Wine Blog!

Great work by the International Wine Review!

Wine Spectator scores a few more Israeli Wines

Two months ago, I wrote an article about some scores and notes that the Wine Spectator released in the June 30th edition. The wines were scored by Kim Marcus where he reviewed some 21 wines from Israel and many scored above 85 point.

Well, the beat goes on and Mr. Marcus scored another 8 wines from Israel and all of them scored 85 or higher. These are the wines and the scores:

  1. 2009 Domaine du Castel ‘C’ Chardonnay – 90
  2. 2009 Clos de Gat Syrah, Har’el (NOT KOSHER) – 90
  3. 2009 Clos de Gat Syrah, Sycra (NOT KOSHER) – 90
  4. 2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Wild – 90
  5. 2008 Yarden Merlot – 89
  6. 2010 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – 87
  7. 2010 Recanati Merlot – 87
  8. 2011 Recanati Yasmin, Red – 85

So, like last time I have a few comments here. First and foremost – BRAVO! Seriously, this is great! Israel is finally getting the scores that match the quality and wines. In NO way am I saying that the scores before did not fit the facts, I am NOWHERE in the same solar system as Mr. Marcus – so please let me set that straight before we go on here. What I am saying is that Israeli wines are improving – PERIOD! Whether it is the fact that wineries are starting to gain control over their hot climate fruit, or they are improving their processes to keep the fruit and the wine under control and thereby improving quality. Scores from all around the wine world are going up and the wine world is truly starting to take notice of Israel and their wine potential – so again BRAVO to all!

To set things straight, though on a sad note, Daniel Rogov who died on September 6th 2011, passed before he could truly see what seems to be the turning of the tide, in terms of worldwide appreciation for Israel’s wines. It will almost be a year since his passing and there is not a day that goes by, that I do not think about him and the positive impact that he had on, both the kosher and the Israeli, wine world. I am sure he is looking down on this state of affairs and laughing like he always did, and taking it all in with a glass of Cognac in hand.

Secondly, like I stated last times – please do not wonder why these scores may be high or low in comparison to the rest of the world. These wine scores are perfectly in line with what others scored these wines, and there are a few honest surprises for me again.

To start, I posted the Clos de Gat wines – even though they are not kosher, because this was about Israeli wines, and in the words of Richard Shaffer, from Israel Wine Direct, Kosher is NOT a Country – LOVE that line!

Also, I am so happy that Mr. Marcus appreciated the Recanati wines as much as we all do. Like I posted in an earlier piece, Recanati Winery was built on the premise that they could and will create great kosher wines for a reasonable price! In other words solid kosher QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines! The lowest three scoring wines go for less than 12 dollars at most wine stores. Further, the Yarden Merlot goes for 16 dollars, on a bad day, which makes it another solid QPR wine. The top four wines do run in the 40 to 60 dollar range, and two of them are not kosher, but the real surprise of the bunch is the 2009 Domaine du Castel Chardonnay!

The 2009 Domaine du Castel Chardonnay has quite a swirl of controversy around it, given its clear reduction, the last few times I tasted it. Now, I did enjoy it once when I went to Castel Winery itself, but many in the community feel it is not a great wine, and clearly not a wine that shows the best for Castel Chardonnays. Still, it is great to see that the world is happy to ignore the Israel-centric views and score the wine for what they perceive it to be.

My wines notes follow below for the wines that I have tasted:

2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Kerem Ba’al (Wild) – Score: A-
The nose explodes with almost overripe blackberry, dates, prune, raspberry, nice floral notes, roasted meat, and plum. The mouth is rich and layered, with concentrated but accessible fruit, along with a crazy inky structure, and a mouth that is massive and rich with mouth coating tannin, and nice cedar. The finish is long and ripe with nice chocolate, butterscotch notes, heavy spice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and a salty finish. This is clearly a new-world style wine with crazy fruit forward and heavy use of oak, but one that is quite lovely all the same. There will be some that do not like the heavy smoke or the overripe fruit, and that is fine, just know what you are getting into with this wine. Many have given this wine huge scores while I see this one for what it is, which is a crazy unique and lovely wine that is a bit too overdone and overripe for my taste. Drink till 2016.

2010 Recanati Merlot, Diamond Series – Score: B++
The nose starts off floral with nice black cherry, green notes, and black currant. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is softening up with rounding tannin, black plum, green bell pepper, and nice cedar notes. The finish is long and spicy with good spice, black pepper, tobacco, vanilla, and bitter notes on the long finish.

Wine Enthusiast nominates Golan Heights Winery (Yarden) for New World Winery of the Year Award

2011 and 2012 may not be the best of years for fruit in Israel, but it may well be the time when Israel finally starts to get some serious wine press attention! Israel has been receiving accolades and awards from all over the wine press world.

In a string of accolades dating back to 2011, Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery) received the Gran Vinitaly Special Award as the best wine producer out of 1,000 competitors from 30 countries at the 19th International Vinitaly 2011 Wine Competition earlier this spring in Verona, Italy.

The award is given to the wine producer achieving the best overall results. The Golan Heights Winery earned two of Vinitaly’s 16 coveted Grand Gold Medals, for its 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard and its 2008 Yarden Heights Wine. A panel of 105 leading winemakers and wine journalists selected the winners in blind tastings.

“We are extremely proud of being the first Israeli winery to be named the best wine producer at Vinitaly – the top award at one of the world’s most prominent wine competitions,” said Anat Levi, CEO of Golan Heights Winery.

Levi singled out Victor Schoenfeld, Golan Heights head winemaker, for “implementing our vision of quality and excellence for two decades.”

“Israel has been getting more and more recognition internationally as a quality wine producer,” Schoenfeld tells ISRAEL21c. “This award is another stage is this development. I think it is an important accomplishment for Israel.”

Carmel got into the game a year before that, when it won a 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards trophy and the Psagot Winery took gold and silver medals home from the March 2011 Vinalies competition in Paris.

Well now 2012 continues the streak of awards and nominations with a nod to Golan Heights Winery being nominated for the 2012 New World Winery of the Year! Congratulations to the continued successes of Israel Wineries and the Golan Heights Winery – best of luck!

Barkan Winery – a Pheonix Rising quickly in Hulda

The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.

Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.

In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.

By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.

Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery. Read the rest of this entry

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