A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
The Tishbi winery has a history that spans more than 120 years in Israel; one that intersects with many of the famous names of modern Israel’s short history. The story begins in 1882, when Malka and Michael Chemelitsky immigrated to the city of Shefeya at the foothills of Zichron Yaakov. There they worked for the Carmel Wine Co-op that was founded by Baron Edmund de Rothschild in the late 1800s. They worked the land, planting vineyards, clearing rubble and stones, with nothing more than the barest of tools and technology. The work was backbreaking and endless, and unfortunately more work, was the only reward for many of the early immigrants, that came to settle the barren land. However, for the few farmers that were lucky to work with Edmund, they saw salvation from his deep pockets, huge heart, and massive resources that he brought to bear, to teach, bolster, and, ultimately, build the, then fledgling, wine industry into the forebear of where it is today.
Soon after the Chemelitskys came to Israel and started working the land, they were advised to change their name to Tishbi, which is actually an acronym in Hebrew that stands for “resident of Shefeya in Israel”. The world-renowned poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet extraordinaire, gave the name to them. In the early days of Israel’s wine industry, the cooperative farmers would work the vines, planting them, pruning them, caring for them, and then sell their grapes to the Carmel Winery. However, after many decades of work and toil, it became clear to many of the cooperative farmers that life was changing, and that they would either need to break out of the cooperative or be left behind.
So, in 1984, the great-grandson of our story’s Protagonist, Jonathan Tishbi, stepped out of the shadows of the Carmel Winery and into the shadows of the Carmel Mountain range. Initially, he called his new winery Baron Winery, in honor of Baron Edmond, but later changed it to his namesake – Tishbi Winery. At that time there were few wineries in Israel, and even fewer successful ones that were not just making sacramental (sweet) wine. Jonathan went to Italy to see how generations of family-owned wineries had succeeded, and from where we stand, he seems to have emulated them quite impressively. The family tradition continues to the 5th generation, with Jonathan’s son – Golan Tishbi, acting head winemaker. The winery’s tradition is impressive, but it feels like it will always be overshadowed by the massive mountains under which it lays, and the equally massive foundation upon which it is built. Read the rest of this entry
This past Passover was such a real kick, we shared food and wine and time with friends and family throughout the entire Passover and it was such a real treat. For the evening of seventh day of Passover, we were alone and I made some braised shoulder roast and my wife had some brisket leftovers from the Shabbos meal.
To enjoy the meal, I opened a bottle of the 2005 Galil Mountain Yiron, a wine that has let me down twice recently, but not on that day! WOW! That wine is insane! Rich, layered, and full of tannin that coats and dusts your mouth – really nice, but please beware – this wine is throwing TONS of sediment, hand painting sediment!
The next day was a real treat! We had friends come over and one of them shared a bottle of 2006 Adir Cabernet Sauvignon, that he received from another wine aficionado – thank you so much Rafi for sharing!!! We paired that with a bottle of the 2009 Adir A, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, a bottle I bought in Jerusalem from my guys: Gabriel Geller and Chalom – partners of the Wine Windmill.
To be fair, we started off with a bottle of 2007 Yarden Chardonnay and while it was not flawed, or a dud, it was way too far oak driven and lacking in fruit and oak reaction. After we moved that off the table, we opened the two Adir wines and then we opened a bottle of the 2008 Covenant Red C – a wine that was so apropos for the whole splitting of the Red Sea thing that happened on the same day, some 3000 years ago!
Food wise, we started with the herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and side dishes that we made and bought. For the main course we had some great vegetable kugel, and a hunk of rib roast that we cooked slowly and simply using Alton Brown’s Rib Roast recipe.
We had some simple dessert and paired it with some lovely Adir Winery Port Blush. I have friends who call it Port Bluff as it is really only made from late harvest chardonnay grapes and some sugar, but who cares! Tons of French wines use Chaptalization, and in this case the wine is actually quite enjoyable. The added sugar or late harvest fruit is clearly apparent, but the sherry like flavors or almond and nuts either turn you off or captivate you. To me Sherry wine is awesome and unique and that makes it interesting to me, but sure many find it offensive – their loss.
I wrote a bit of the history of Adir Winery in my posting on my trip to the north of Israel. The trip was a kick and I had a wonderful time at Adir Winery, even though it was absolutely pouring cats and dogs outside. When I was there I tasted the 2010 Adir A and the Blush Port, and though this was the 2009 Adir A, both wines were really nice. Read the rest of this entry
Well, to say I was busy in the past two weeks would be a minor understatement! I had people calling me, emailing me, and god knows what other forms of communication, including the time-sink of them all – Facebook!!
So, while getting ready for Passover I also posted some four articles on my trip to Israel, this past December 2012. I have tons more to write up, but for now I need a break – LOL!!! Still, as I have said many times, this blog is more about my journal than a real peek into my insane life of wine.
So, this Passover was the usual madness of hurray up and then wait and then hurray up and wait! Clean one part, boil water and wait. Clean something else, than wait for it to try, and then pour water – man these laws!! Anyway, in between all the madness I was posting about my Israel trip and never got to post about the wines I wanted to enjoy this Passover or even the past Shabbos wine! By the way, the Barbera was awesome from Ramat Naftaly, but man that bottle was crazy! The bottle had cracks going down both sides of the bottle. The cracks were actually done at the time the glass was blown, they need to do a better job of checking their bottles!
So, after taking a slight break from writing about my trip to Israel, and concentrating on all the wine events that occurred here in the states, it is time to return to where I left off. The last time we spoke, I was blogging about my last trip to the Shomron and Judean Hills wine regions. Week two was clearly a more Judean Hills focused week than a Shomron focus, but it gave me a chance to introduce you to the wine region.
Talk about Israel wine regions and most will start off with the Galilee/Golan wine regions, which started the entire wine revolution in Israel. The wine region became famous in 1972, during a visit to Israel, Professor Cornelius Ough of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the U.C. Davis suggested that the soil and climate of the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in the Six-Day War) would prove ideal for raising grapes. They planted vines in 1976 and released wine in 1983, all kosher from the start.
However, since than more and more wineries have been sourcing their grapes from the Judean Hills, an idea that was started by Flam Winery, Tzuba Winery, and the Doamine du Castel Winery. Since then the wine region has been heating up and going crazy – with wineries from all over Israel buying land and planting vineyards – to the tune of many millions of dollars! The funny thing is that, if you read my last article on the Shomron wine region, you would realize that the best Merlot wines come from the Shomron wine region, especially the sub-wine region; Har Bracha! Anyone desiring an Israeli Merlot – please do look for one from the Shomron/Har Bracha sub region. Note that there are wineries that sell Shomron wines even though they are not situated in the Shomron wine region, like the Teperberg Winery, Carmel Winery, and Tishbi Winery.
The Shomron wine region may be very good for certain varietals, but when you talk about wineries, there really are only a few that pop to mind; Psagot Winery, the Shiloh Winery, and the Gvaot Winery. The Tanya Winery has also released some nice wines, though recently the wines have not been up to Yoram’s standard, in my opinion. Gat Shomron has released a couple of nice wines, like the crazy good Ice wine and the Shomron Merlot reserve. Read the rest of this entry
As I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.
I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!
I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!
Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry
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
This past week I came back from the IFWF and the KFWE, and I was so tired I was not up to writing anything. Thankfully, we had some chicken and some olive and white bean soup in the freezer, so I had little to no work to do before the Shabbos weekend. The chicken was the lemon rosemary roasted chicken of course, and the soup was the Olive white bean soup.
So, to pair with this meal, we went for a lovely Chardonnay that I had the joy of tasting last year in NY, and based on that bought a bottle sometime ago. The wine is ripe, rich, and yet controlled with good acidity and great body. The fruit is far more tropical than summer and the body and acidity and creaminess, makes for a rich and fun white wine.
Hevron Height winery is one of those highly polarizing wineries, mostly because the late Daniel Rogov was never a fan. Actually, he hated the winery and its wines. To be fair, he did like a few bottles, here and there, but for the most part – he was very down on them. That made me not interested in tasting these wines for years. I then tasted wines from Hevron Heights, here and there in the past few years, and most of the time, the wines were a complete disaster.
Well all of that has changed in the past few years, with the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Hevron Heights wines being imported by Happy Hearts imports. The wines were quite nice, not winner winner chicken dinner kind of wines, or WOW wines, but clearly far better than the earlier wines I had endured. That said, the word on the street is that wine maker helping Michel P. Murciano, the founding owner and wine maker at Hevron Heights Winery has left the coop. Still, there is yet another rumor that the new wine maker helper, is a man that I highly respect and if he can get his hands on the overall process and make it hum, we could be seeing some killer wines from this winery in the future.
The wine note follows below:
2010 Hevron Heights Chardonnay Elone Mamre – Score: A-
This is a lovely and unique Chardonnay with great aromatics all wrapped up in clear effects from the 6 months in oak. The gold colored wine’s nose screams of pineapple, bright citrus, toast, great caramel, nice mineral, fig, and guava. The mouth is rich, medium to full body, creamy, fruity, with tropical concentrated fruit, mango, peach, melon, and tart green apple that lingers. The finish is long, spicy, and rich with butterscotch, smoky notes, grapefruit, lemon, and toast.
Two weeks ago, before I left for all of the Royal wine events, I went searching through my cellar for more Petite Sirah wines to make up for the sleeping beauties (at least they were beautiful before) I had to endure two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I posted about my failed attempt to find great Petite Sirah wines. Why? I do not know, these wines used to be great and I doubt they are dead, but rather in deep sleep. So, I tried to open all the Herzog Petite Sirah wines I had to see if they were any better. We did have a Herzog petite Sirah two weeks ago – the newest Herzog Petite Sirah that has been released, the 2010 Princeville PS, and it too was so-so, again I think something was wrong with my bottle or I and the rest of the table had an off day.
So, I tried a different table of people (mostly) and a different set of wines, and these came out better, but not awesome, other than the 2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah P.S. Limited Edition! That was a beast of a wine and lovely. The clear take away here is that these wines need a lot of time in a decanter and only then are they ready to play. Along with PS wines we also enjoyed three older wines from the Four Gates Winery, and a bottle of the 2005 Galil Yiron.
There was talk that the 2005 Yiron was going down hill, and I can say that the wine is fine and going nowhere but it was shocking when tasted side by side the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. The Merlot was bracing with black fruit and acidity, while the Yiron was full of black fruit but flat in terms of acidity, and I think that is what people are concerned about the Yiron. The Yiron is much like many of the older Yarden or Galil wines, they are flabby, oaky/cedar, and black ripe/sweet wines.
It is a continued theme in Israeli wines, the sweet notes and ripe fruit that overpowers the palate and takes away from the other attributes of wines. Having tasted many Israeli wines during my trip to Israel, I have found many wineries who have found a way to calm the sweet or new world notes and show more bright and ripe flavors without overpowering sweetness or fruitiness. The Yiron wines are not one of those, they normally show sweeter notes, and planks of cedar, but they continue to be bold and enjoyable. This one was no different, very enjoyable but the wine’s clear lack of acidity was truly shocking. Read the rest of this entry
To say Midbar Winery is unique – would be an understatement of the world. However, to say it might be the most unique kosher winery in Israel, may well NOT be an understatement at all. Midbar Winery is a newly minted winery from the recently closed Asif winery and a new influx of cash from investors. Yeah – yeah, I am getting to it – hold your horses. Asif Winery is a winery that was established in 2006 to do what no one in Israel could do well – create great kosher white wines. According to Yaacov and the winery’s website: Midbar Winery in Arad, was established to develop, promote and celebrate winemaking in the Negev desert. Midbar is the Hebrew word for desert – and our vineyards, typically over 800 meters above sea level, benefit from the Negev’s unique terroir. Another great quote from Yaacov – White is the New Red.
Now, before I get ahead of myself too far, I must state that this winery is not kosher – as in the customary manner. The wine carries no supervision stamp, or hecsher, for a variety of reasons. However, having heard the story of Ya’acov Oryah, I had to visit the winery to find out more. Yaacov Oryah started the winery in 2006 and though he lacked a kosher wine symbol many people like me happily drink his wine. Why? Simple enough – I trust the man, and being that Yaacov Oryah is a religious man – that is all that I need. However, my nonchalant attitude in this area may well concern others, and it is for this reason that I may keep the wines I schlepped back from Israel for myself – or with the folks that are trusting as I am.
For a deeper understanding of why and how this came to be – I advise a wonderful trip to the south of Israel where a lovely, honest, hard working, humble, and successful winemaker will explain the situation to you and if you like what you hear – like I did, I highly recommend his wines. I can openly say that he is not against having supervision, but as your parents used to say to you when you were young – “it is complicated”! The good news is that falling in love with his wines is the farthest thing from complicated!
In retrospect I think that Yaacov should hang two signs above his winery’s door. The first one stating; He who enters should be brave of heart, open of mind, desiring of all things ripe, honeyed, fruity, and floral in so many ways. The second one should read: He who wishes to enter these hallowed halls should be in love with wine of a white persuasion and not the Moscato kind or other overly sweet enchantments. If you lack the interest in grand and lovely white wines than please do not waste the time of the master who works beyond these gates. He is a man who makes white wine a priority rather than a nice-to-have item. Please leave him alone and bother him not so that he can make us all more great white elixirs! Read the rest of this entry