For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
I hope you all are enjoying your Hanukkah holidays. This past weekend I enjoyed meals with my family and friends that were lovely and quite Sefardic in nature. The flavors were deep and filling and the tones were rounded with good herb and spice. These are flavors I try to hit in my dishes from time to time, but have been missing for sometime, partially because I do not have all the spices and partially because I do not still know all the recipes – I am working on that.
Sorry about the short notes again, but since I did not cook, I really have nothing more to say about the dishes other than they were lovely and rich and ones I hope to enjoy with my family again soon. If the list of wines sound like wines you should avoid, please remember that I had to taste some of these – SAD!!! In the end, there are some nice ones in the list, but no clear and run away winners. They all have flaws, like we all do, and as such, no real winner.
Many thanks to my family and friends for hosting me and here are the wines enjoyed through the weekend and at sporadic other moments through the week:
2011 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc - Score: B+ to A-
This wine is one made totally by the new winemaker at Ella Valley Winery, Lin Gold. She studied her craft at the University of Adelaide, and cut her teeth in her (professionally speaking) at both Tabor Winery and Chateau Golan. This is her first real vintage and it was exciting to see where the winery will be going. The Sauvignon Blanc was oak free as was in the past, and it was also green or herbal free, though that may have been more of a seasonal factor than a winemaker’s factor – time will tell.
The nose on this wine is ripe and bright with nice litchi, cut grass, kiwi, melon, lemon, and nice peach. The medium bodied wine has a nice clean mouth, very New Zealand-ish, cut dry with good clean lines, nice balancing acid, and lime juice infused. The finish is long and bright, almost bracing, with good acidity, lemon curd, and a hint of zest at the finish. A nice wine with bright and ripe fruit and no bitterness, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Read the rest of this entry
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
Truly the simplest way to describe the Mamilla Hotel Winery is to call it for what it is; the only kosher wine bar in Israel! As sad as that sounds, at least there is one. There are many wonderful wine bars in Israel, with many wonderful kosher wines, but they are not exclusively kosher, unlike the Mamilla Hotel Winery.
I arrived early on my first trip to the wine bar. I like to do that so that I have the chance to take in the ambiance and since there were few patrons initially, it gave me the chance to talk with Hadas, the wine bartender. It turns out after talking with Hadas for sometime that she and her father are good friends or acquaintances of Alice Feiring, the Joan of Arc of all things natural and wine.
The wine bar has been open for some three years now, and the last two times I tried to go and enjoy some wine there the bar was closed. To be honest they do keep strange hours at this wine bar. The hours are:
|Sunday Through Thursday||15:00 – 20:00|
|Friday||12:00 – 18:00|
The wine bar has some twenty or so seats and is just outside the famous mirror bar and a few steps from the elevator to the rooftop restaurant in the Mamilla hotel, on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. As you look around and take in the ultra modern, minimalist, and sleek style of the wine bar, you can feel yourself starting to relax and as you start to settle into the atmosphere, you find yourself instinctively yearning for a fine glass of wine. Well, mission accomplished Mamilla Winery! Read the rest of this entry
Purim came and went and with it we had the opportunity to taste many a wine. Some of the wines were mevushal and some were not. On the whole, the mevushal wines did the worst, but hey that is not an iron clad rule, as described on my blog of what is kosher wine.
Also a slight disclaimer, it was Purim after all, and I did drink these wines – so the notes many be a bit light or off, but I would not print it if I did not believe it.
Some of these were mine and some were wines that others brought. In the end, we tasted three Pinot Noir, and the other two could not even hold the Four Gate Pinot Noir’s jockstrap. Instead, the Eagle’s Landing and Barkan Classic just stood around and were not even finished – we are talking about purim! With many people coming over to our table for wine – none could finish those bottles.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Barkan Pinor Noir – (mevushal) Score: N/A
This tasting was even worse than the previous one – sorry, this is not a wine I could possible serve to my guests. It has a basic nose, but the mouth tastes of stewed fruit – no hope to be enjoyed. Mevushal wine at times really does bite! Not a single person, drunk or even tipsy could like this wine. I started with it and it failed on all accounts. Read the rest of this entry
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
This past week everything we tried was a semi disaster. We were interested in trying a vegan meatball recipe that we saw on a newsletter from Whole Foods. My attempt of implementing the recipe was a semi disaster, with the meatballs not being able to keep structural integrity. I baked half of them, they could not even keep whole, when you touched them. The ones I braised in the tomato sauce essentially fell apart. To be fair, I added too many onions to the mix, so I take full blame.
We tried to also make some risotto and even that was a semi mess. The risotto looked perfect Thursday night, but it died in the oven on Friday night. They all taste fine, it’s just that the integrity of the vegeballs and the risotto were messed up.
To make matters worse the wine I chose was DAFM (Dead After Five Minutes). To be fair the wine is old and according to Daniel Rogov‘s book, it was to be drunk by 2010. The wine smelled and tasted lovely for five minutes, and after that is smelled like dark cherry and sweet dates, then a few minutes later there was nothing.
I guess it was just one of those weekends!
The wine note follows below:
2005 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Altitude 412+ Reserve – Score: N/A as it is now undrinkable
This wine is over, dead, it starts off great, but after 20+ minutes the wine dies. This wine is old and dead, but is alive for 20+ minutes out of the bottle, and then it ends quickly. The wine turns into sweet dates and dark cherry. The wine starts off in the following manner. The nose on this purple to black colored wine starts off with chocolate, tobacco, sweet cedar, blackberry, cassis, and herbs. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with cassis, blackberry, raspberry, spice, and tobacco. The mid palate is weak with sweet cedar, black pepper, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is medium long and spicy with sweet dates, tobacco, chocolate, sweet cedar, cassis, and vanilla. When the wine poops out, it tastes like dark cherry, tobacco, cedar, and dates.
2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, Chicken Soup, Lemon Roasted Chicken, and Cholent
The weekend of February 18th, was the first one home in some time, so it was all about easy food and blessed relaxation. My wife whipped up her lovely lemon roasted chicken and I pulled out some chicken soup, that I had whipped up before I left, from the freezer. Chicken soup freezes really well, but be wary about which vegetables you choose to freeze with the broth. Some vegetables do not mind freezing, like carrots and sweet potato, however turnips and zucchini do not fare nearly as well. Also, while chicken soup does well in the freezer, it is all about what technology you use to freeze the soup. In one word – air – is your enemy. So, the simplest and least expensive method I have found for freezing is to use freezer bags, from your favorite brand, and fill them up with the soup, making sure to get out every drop of air, while being mindful to not make a massive mess. This method has worked great for us, and we put the bag in a tupperware and such, to give the bag extra support, and protection from protruding metal and other hard surfaces, that would like to puncture the bag’s outer shell.
To pair with soup and chicken I went looking for some nice wine and took out a bottle of the 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, which I bought last year during the Passover sales. Let me just say two words – DRINK UP!!! The bottle I opened was DOA (Dead on Arrival), which was a real shame. Clearly oxidized, without a nick or flaw to be found on the cork, so clearly a bad bottle, and down the drain it went. I then moved on to another Israeli 2007 bottle, and found a 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, also acquired last year during the Passover sales. This one was a bit more alive, but clearly on its way down. At least this bottle has an excuse of having been mevushal before bottling.
In the end, no real winners were found in liquid form this weekend, other than the wonderful chicken soup, which was really all I needed!
2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Blend – Score: DOA
2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah – Score: B- to B
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry, black cherry, kirshe cherry, and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a now soft mouth feel. The wine is also starting to exhibit some cooked fruit flavors so drink up!!!
This past Purim my friends and I enjoyed a wonderful meal at the synagogue, along with a few wines that I brought along, and a couple of wines that were brought by some other congregants. Some of the wines I tasted have notes, while others have just feelings or memories, sorry, this was Purim after all. My friends still give me a hard time for the one time that I actually took notes on Purim. To me, tasting wine is about friends, memories, along with a bit of a job. To others, especially on Purim, it is about friends, memories, and a bit of a buzz.
Anyway, the wine notes follow below in the order that they were tasted:
Tzuba Port Style Wine - Score: A-
This is a wine that I brought back from my last trip to Israel, one that I bought during my visit to the Tzuba Winery. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine shows rich loamy dirt, bright oxidation, rich spicy oak, ripe fig, blackberry, and spice. The mouth on this full-bodied and mouth filling wine, starts with a concentrated attack of spicy oak, rich sweet and ripe blackberry, and fig. The wine is layered and concentrated with ripe fruit and spicy oak, yes I repeated that because it is so nice. The mid palate is filled with nice acidity, integrated yet still gripping tannins, and spice that flows into a lush loam and oak forest. The finish is crazy long with rich chocolate, oak, mounds of spice, rich and ripe black fruit, and a lingering palate of oak extraction, spice, and more black fruit. A nice bottle that can handle just about any sweet desert you throw at it.
2004 Four Gates Rishona (375 ml) – Score: A-
Well, we tasted the larger format of this bottle last week and this week we opened the 375 ml size, which was the originally released format. We still loved it and it is still drinking really well, though the color throws you and the flavor is a bit dingy, the rest of the wines notes are exactly as the previous tasting, and listed here. The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry. The mouth on this intense and full-bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak. The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak. The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors. This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.
2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, Napa Valley – Score: B/B+
The wine was OK, but it had a huge hole in the middle with almost no acidity to be found. It was OK, but uni-dimensional with almost no fruit and a bit of oak. Not fun.
2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah Special Reserve – Score: B++
Yummy, fruity, acidic, rich, with black fruit showing well from the Cabernet, while standing tall with enough oak and tannins from the Syrah. Nice and one that is probably at or close to its peak.
2006 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley – Score: A-
I remember loving it that night for its classic Hagafen soft yet layered mouth feel, along with rich and ripe black fruit and chocolate.
2007 Barkan Classic Petite Sirah – Score: B/B+
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a firm and structured mouth feel that allows the wine to stand up to meat and rich sauces. A nice and simple wine that is enjoyable by all.
2007 Backsberg Pinotage – Score: B++
The nose on this bright purple colored wine is packed with loamy dirt, mineral, rich black cherry, mulberry fruit, spice, vanilla, oak, and pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and spicy though not complex in nature, along with mulberry, Kirsch cherry, and a hint of strawberry. The mid palate is bracing and almost tart with code acidity, nice soft yielding tannins, spice, and dirt. The finish is long with layers of smoke and spice, along with red fruit, and a nice dollop of vanilla. A nice wine for the price, quality, and its mevushal status.
2006 Rashi Select Barbera d’Alba - Score: B/B+
The nose on this wine moved from being bright and red to rich and chocolate. Not a bad wine, but one that did not live up to my hopes for it. The tannins were nice and helped to highlight the soft mouth, bright acidity, and red fruit. With air the fruit disappeared, the mouth was still bright but turning fast, and the finish was packed with chocolate and vanilla. I guess it is an OK wine, but drink up fast, and not a wine worth its cost.
Dinner out with friends, Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Barkan Altitude 624 Cabernet Sauvignon, Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
This past weekend saw us enjoying a dinner with our friends. Dinner started with a lovely homemade whole wheat challah. Kiddush was made on N.V. Four gates Cabernet Franc (2000 & 2001 vintages). The wine was a bit musty out of the bottle, but that blessedly blew off quickly, before Kiddush started. The challah was followed by a bowl of lovely vegetable barley soup. After a bit of singing, the soup was followed by a plethora of sides, along with some lovely roasted chicken. The sides consisted of Israeli Couscous salad, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh green salad, roasted pineapple noodle kugel, along with roasted eggplant salad, and two tomato salads. The dinner was paired with two Israeli wines, one a bit over its peak, and one that is still young.
I would like to thank to our hosts, for their warm hospitality, atmosphere, guests, and wonderful dinner. The wine notes follow below:
N.V. Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine has vanilla, cherry, raspberry, and a hint of floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft with cherry and raspberry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, dirt, integrated tannins, and oak. The finish is long with bright acidity, red fruit, and vanilla.
2005 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Altitude 624 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with rich sweet oak, blackberry, cassis, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine, is mouth filling and coating, but not complex, with trailing blackberry, oak, and a hint of raspberry. The mid palate is balanced with oak, fully integrated and softened tannins. The finish starts off short, but lengthens a bit with air, with black fruit, roasted herbs, and sweet oak. This wine is a bit over the hill. Drink up!!
2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine is ripe and electric with fresh blackberry, cassis, plum, and spicy oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine was super concentrated and packed with layers of blackberry, cassis, and spicy oak. The mid palate is a bit tight and balanced, with acid, oak, and nice tannins. The finish is long and bright, with spicy oak, black fruit, and tobacco. This is a really nice wine that is ready now, and will come together even more as it ages.