On a warm winter day in January, I had the opportunity to sit down with the head winemaker and owner of Vignobles David, and Shai Ghermezian, executive vice president of Allied Importers, who imports the wine into the country. The winery’s 114 acres of vineyards are located on the southern side of the Rhone Valley, in front of the famous Pont du Gard, within the triangle-shaped area of Avignon, Nîmes and Uzès.
The name of the winery is given for the name of its owner, Fred David, who can been seen partially obscured behind his wine, in the picture to the right. However, it is also very apropos to the work that the David does full time, that being a vigneron for his Vignoble, or in English a wine maker manicuring his vineyard. A vigneron in its purest sense, means a person who not only makes wine, but one who also tends to his vineyards. There really are very few true vigneron left out there, simply because of the sheer effort and time required to do it. Of course, Fred has people who help him, but he runs an independent family owned winery whose vines are all tended to in an organic manner.
Most people know this winery by the name of the kosher wine it sells here in the US: Le Mourre de l’Isle. Actually, the name of the winery, as we said above, is Vignobles David. Please keep the real winery’s name in mind, so you can be on the lookout for the other kosher wines that Allied will be importing from them in the near future.
As larger conglomerates are buying up more and more wineries, wineries like Vignobles David are standing their ground and producing wonderful wines in an ecologically friendly manner to boot. The winery has been around since 1991 and has been producing kosher wines since 2005. The winery also produces a kosher Rose but that is sold exclusively in Europe. This year, David has added a reserve wine to both his kosher and non-kosher lineup that he is going to release here in the US sometime in February.
As we were sitting around Ghermezian’s table, the conversation moved in many different directions. I could not help but ask questions about the wine business from two people whose very life depends on it. As I listened to the conversation I was fascinated by the way that Mr. David reminds me of another true vigneron, who is also a very good friend, Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. They both create kosher wines with rich intensity; they both mind their vines and care deeply about their craft. Obviously, David’s operation is many times larger than Four Gates, and one is in the US and the other in France, but I could not help but take notice of the common threads in their lives and the wines that they produce from their vines.
Discussing terroir with a Frenchman is truly enjoyable, but doing it in French is even more fun. I dabble in the romantic language and it was a joy talking with David in his native tongue, even if I did mangle a few of the words. As the discussion moved to his wines, I asked why he does not sell his Rose here in the US? Mr. Ghermezian showed interest and yet, Mr. Davis explained that while the US market enjoys his wines, he is able to sell his entire stock in Europe, whether kosher or not. Actually, the majority of his wine is not kosher and it sells out in Europe, with his customers asking for more. Yet, he creates kosher wine because of his religious beliefs. The cost of the kosher wine is slightly higher than the non-kosher variation, simply because of the extra costs that the kosher wine production entails, and yet I could not help but sense his pride in its production as we were talking.
The complexity of creating a kosher blend comes down to a tradeoff between cost or quality. The reason comes down to the rate of ripening of different grape varietals, Grenache does not ripen at the same time as Syrah or Mourvedre. So if one wants a kosher blend, he must have kosher supervisors there for three pickings to maximize the blend’s potential, or pick once and hope for the best. With great pride and precision, Mr. David explained that he had kosher supervisors at his winery for some thirty or more days! From the first picking all the way to the last picking, then through the fermentation, and finally culminating with the wine’s internment into concrete or oak. Each step requires the supervision and it also requires his constant focus, which is not his only task or distraction, as he must still create his other non-kosher wines that are all coming ripe at the same time.
This past shabbos saw us back on home soil, and we could not be happier. Hey, nothing against Australia, but two to three weeks away is more than enough for me in one stretch. So, with little time to prepare, we arrived home dead on Thursday, we went with a simple standby, our Puttanesca recipe, along with whole wheat spaghetti.
With Tisha B’Av coming up, we had to stay away from meat, as we do not eat meat on the week that Tisha B’Av falls. So a non-meat dish was in order, and we had a hunkering for a warm cooked meal, so puttanesca it was. We threw in some whole wheat spaghetti and fresh green salad and that was all.
To pair with this tangy and acidic dish, I went with a lovely Côtes du Rhône that was selling for a steal during the Passover sale at KosherWine.com. Keeping it simple on this post, wine notes follow below:
2007 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Le Mourre de l’Isle - Score: B+ to B++
The nose on this purple colored wine starts off hot initially, after it settles down it shows black plum, cranberry, cloves, coffee, oak, and stone/mineral notes. After it has enough air, about 1 to two hours, the nose cleans up, and a bit of oak is noticeable, along with black cherry and more cloves. The mouth on this dense and interesting, yet not so complex wine, starts with layers of black cherry, black plum, and spice. This wine is a spicy with sleek race horse lines that have enough concentration to make you look up from your glass. The dense flavors roll into a soft, acidic, and mineral mid palate. The finish is long with a trail of oak, nice tannins, black cherry, plum, pepper and coffee. The wine is spicy and sultry and lingers long on the palate with coffee, spice, and black cherry.
This past week we had a table full of friends and family that went late into the night. It was a grand time for sure, and the table was graced by a few bottles of yet unreleased wines, along with some enjoyable wines that are readily available as well. The evening started with my now signature olive soup, that I modified from Mollie Katzen original vegetarian cookbook, which is getting harder and harder to find. The soup is so nice because of the Kalamata olives that are used in the recipe. We tried to cook this soup once without Kalamata olives – and in the end, you could have just eaten the olives, it would have been a better use of them. The soup loses all reasons to exist, without the Kalamata olives. The lima beans that are in there as well complete the flavor and texture profile of the soup.
We followed the Olive soup with a meat only version of Lasagna. We have made the meat lasagna many times, and its only real fault is that it is not as gooey as cheese lasagna. The cheese adds the glue that is needed to keep the whole package together. In its place the meat only lasagna, has no real glue, but the texture is still nice and the flavors are really well accentuated. The recipe comes from a cookbook I have, but its main idea is browned ground meat, sautéed onion, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and mostly herbs – with a few spices. Place the andante lasagna noodles on a layer of sauce at the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then place meat sauce on top of the bottom layer, followed by another layer of lasagna noodles, and then another layer of meat sauce, and then the final layer of lasagna noodles, followed by a light layer of meat sauce, to keep the top moist.
The 2007 Le Mourre de L’Isle Côtes du Rhône excites me because of its A.O.C., more than its score. There are not that many Côtes du Rhône kosher wines around, and it gives us a chance to taste this interesting wine. It is made with 60% Black Grenache – 40% Mourvedre, which are not very common kosher wine varietals.
We paired the lasagna with bold red wines and I think they paired well. The wines notes follow below:
Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is another nice Israeli Cabernet. It is packed with chocolate, raspberry, blackberry, and serious amount of oak. The nose is not hot and is enveloping with heavy oak and chocolate. The mouth of this full bodied wine is soft and almost mouth coating. This wine required a long time to open up, and the patient wine connoisseur will be rewarded. The soft mouth melds well with raspberry, blackberry, and cassis. The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity, large amounts of oak, integrated tannins, and chocolate. The finish is long with more chocolate, leather, and a final dollop of oak. Another nice Israeli Cabernet that shows like a California Cabernet.
Segal Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard Kosher Kerem Dishon 2005 – Score: A-
The nose on this red garnet wine is screaming with oak, cassis, blackberry, raspberry, and tons of dark chocolate. This nose on this wine is really quite special, and in many ways its nicest feature. This full bodied wine coats your mouth with oak first and foremost, almost reminiscent of a California Cabernet. The mouth follows with blackberry and cassis. The mid palate is packed with acidity, more oak and softening tannins. The medium long finish is flush with oak, coffee, and chocolate. This is a fun wine and one well worth the cost.
Le Mourre de L’Isle Côtes du Rhône 2007 – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with blackberry, cranberry, cloves, coffee, and initially hot. After it has enough air, about 1 to two hours, the nose cleans up, and a bit of oak is noticeable, along with black cherry and more cloves. The mouth on this dense and interesting, yet not so complex wine starts with layers of black cherry, followed by hints of blackberry and a sensation that can only be described as chicken cherry cola. The dense flavors roll into a soft and oaky mid palate. The finish is medium long with a trail of oak, pepper and coffee.