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
Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Yellow Tail Sushi, Yarden Viognier, and some assorted Purim Wines
This past weekend we had a lovely and enjoyable double whammy! A Shabbos on Saturday and the Purim holiday on Sunday. The festivities started with a lovely bowl of Kalamata olive and white bean soup, followed by a bunch of Yellow tail, avocado, cucumber Sushi rolls. The funny thing about sushi rolls is that even if you eat a bunch of them, you end of being hungry. To meet that concern, we eat a bunch of fresh green salad topped with some Italian Vinaigrette. The fish did taste a bit metallic and that was unfortunate, almost to the point where I was not enjoying it that much. We bought the fish at 5 or so PM and ate it at 7:30 PM, so it was really not cool, that the fish was not perfect. Personally, the next time we make sushi rolls and go to the store to buy the fish, I will ask to taste the fish before I buy it. The soup was a killer hit again and one I really think it is a recipe that you MUST find and make a batch.
To pair with these dishes I chose a fun and vibrant white wine; the 2006 Yarden Viognier. It is a lovely wine that is showing more honey notes than earlier and clearly a wine that needs to be drunk up very soon. It is not actually showing age or faults; rather it is showing weaker fruit, more honey, oak, and butterscotch.
On Sunday Purim arrived and with it some chances to taste more wines that were quite nice and some that were OK. I did not take serious notes after a while, but at least some heads up are in order.
2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Kosher (Israel, Golan) - Score: B to B+
This is an OK wine but not one that really grabs you. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine has dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with integrated tannin, blackberry, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, soft tannin, and light hints of oak. The finish is long and spicy with more black fruit, vanilla, and some crushed herbs.
2006 Casa Da Corca Douro Reserva (Portugal, Douro) – Score B+
I drank this wine again recently and the notes are holding well. The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.
N.V. Elvi Wines Adar Brut Cava (Spain) – Score: B+
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2006 Yarden Viognier (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
This wine has lost a step or two and is now on its way down. It does not taste like a lost puppy, but clearly one that is looking for its owner. The nose on this dark gold colored wine is filled with floral notes, along with petrol/gasoline flavors, toast, honey, butterscotch, melon, pear, peach, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily in nature with almost glycerol viscosity, showing rich honey, melon, pear, and peach flavors. The mid palate is nicely balanced with acid, oak, and floral notes. The finish is long and tenacious with more floral characteristics, oak, a hint of butterscotch, and a heavy dose of honeyed mead like flavors and pear.
2006 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (Mevushal) – Score B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is packed with black fruit, blackberry, raspberry, currant, oak, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft, rich, and mouth coating from lovely integrated tannin, along with blackberry, currant, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, rich oak, lovely tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, raspberry, oak, and tobacco. Drink up.
I have a couple of these and will taste them again soon. For now, the wine tasted OK with clear and strong upfront black currant fruit along with cherry, crushed herbs, and raspberry. I hope to taste this again and give more data.
This past weekend saw us hosting a meal for my Nephew and friend who had just completed his qualifications to start his PHD at Berkley University. The meal started with a nice Chicken Soup (recipe here) and my wife’s awesome whole wheat challah. It was followed by two stews that were consumed heartily. Benyamin Cantz joined us for the meal, along with some of our dear friends, and as I was preparing the stews, I could hear Benyo saying “never use the same ingredients in two dishes that are served during the same meal”. So as I reused Yukon potatoes and carrots in the two stews, I knew I would hear it from him. That said, the flavors of the two dishes were so very different that it worked out. The tajine recipe starts off with browning both ends of sliced Merguez, cut into one inch tubes. Once both sides are browned, I remove them from my Dutch Oven and brown the onions. I always throw in the salt and pepper at this point to help soften the onions and make them release their water and increase their sweetness. Once the onions are browned nicely, throw in all the spices, and make sure the spices coat the onions. Once the spices are evenly distributed, throw in the other vegetables and let them get some of the spices coated on them as well, and cook them for 10 or so minutes to help them release their liquid. At this point throw in the sun-dried tomatoes, the wine, water, browned Merguez, cinnamon stick, and vegetable stock. Throw this in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour. Then add in the chickpeas and fruit and let cook for another 30 or so minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.
Moroccan Merguez Tajine (recipe)
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 pounds of Merguez sliced into one inch tubes
6 cloves garlic
3 large onions cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron threads
4 Yukon potatoes cut into chunks
6 carrots cut into chunks
1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup of white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 can cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried dates
The kielbasa recipe can be found here on another blog posting. It came out OK, but not as glorious as my previous attempt. The stews were paired with brown basmati rice, and a nice fresh green salad. To pair with these foods, we went to a collection of wines that were brought by Benyo from his personal stash and from my stash as well. A side note, some of the wines were well past their prime, and some were a bit past their prime. Please do not look down at the work, rather look down on us for holding on to these puppies for too long.
The wines are listed in the order that they were consumed:
2004 Four Gates Rishona (750ml) – Score: A-
I need to start by stating that this was a bottle that Benyo made for us, as it was a 750 ml bottle, rather than the released 375 ml sized bottle. 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.
Elvi Wines Adar Cava Brut N.V. – Score: B+
The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive, they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2009 Terra Vega Shiraz – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with dirt, mineral, raspberry, plum, violet notes, and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off with cherry, raspberry, and plum that flow into a lovely acidic mid palate, with spicy wood, tannins, and coffee. The finish is long with spicy wood, cherry, plum, coffee, and pepper that all linger on the palate after the wine is gone.
1989 Gan Eden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: N/A
I still remember this wine in its youth. It was fantastic and some of the best Cabernet I have ever tasted. That said, this was kept too long, which is no affront to Craig (wine maker at Gan Eden). The nose on this mahogany was relegated to oak and some dark fruit. The mouth is still tannic and oaky with bright acidity, but the fruit was all gone and a bit off. What more can be said, this was a glorious warrior in its past, but if you still have some, it should be left to lie in the bottle for sentimental value.
2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins. The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.
1998 Four Gates Merlot – Score: B
This is another one of those wines that was held too long. It was still there, but not at the Four Gates level. In the evening it still had a bit of a nose, but was off. By day the wine was less off, but the nose was all gone.
Galil Mountain Meron (77% Syrah, 11% each of Cab and Petit Verdot) – Score: A
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine starts off with a quick hit of blueberry, and then continues to show rich and ripe plum, cassis, blackberry (almost bursting with juice), tobacco, ripe black cherry, sweet oak, fig, smoke, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and concentrated with rich ripe fruit at the attack on a bed of lush and integrated tannins. The mouth follows with layer after layer of more ripe blackberry, cassis, plum, and black cherry in a concentrated and concerted attack. The mid palate flows perfectly with oak, soft integrated tannins, crazy spicy and smoky nuances, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black cherry, ripe and nicely extracted black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and oak. Quite a nice wine, and one of the winners of the evening.
2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A
The nose on this inky black wine is screaming with bright and ripe blackberry, cassis, cherry, and gobs of rich and spicy oak. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is layered with blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mouth is balanced with spicy oak, still gripping tannins, and nice acidity. The finish is long with ripe black fruit, spicy oak, and chocolate. Quite a nice wine, and one that still has a bit of time in it, but may be close to its peak.