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Notes from kosher wines tasted in and around Israel

Before I left for Israel, I had a bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. Normally this wine is killer. The 2009 vintage is lovely, the 2007 vintage was closed the last time I enjoyed it, but opened quickly enough and was lovely. Unfortunately, this bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay was clearly in a deep sleep, and one that would not open no matter what I tried. Humorously, when I came back from Israel, some three weeks later, the leftovers of the wine that I stored in the refrigerator, tasted quite nice!

In Israel, we enjoyed many wines for Passover and for other meals. Some of the wines were quite nice while some were just OK. The best two wines we enjoyed were the 2010 Dalton Zinfandel and the 2010 Saslove April. The other wines were fine but none of those were really note worthy. The 2010 Dalton Zinfandel showed far better than when I had it at the Gotham Wine Event. The Tulip White Franc was really nice, though a bit less Cabernet Franc-ish than the 2010 vintage. This is the second time I had the chance to taste April, when I enjoyed it at Sommelier last year, and it continues to impress with its light oak influence (they used staves) and interesting blend.

The only real downer for me was 2011 Galil Rose; it was OK, but nothing to write home about. I was not a huge fan of the Dalton Roses either, but hey I keep trying! I do love the Flam and Catsel Roses. The Tulip Just Cab and Merlot were lovely and continue to improve and show good varietal characteristics. I had the 2010 Galil Wines and they were average at best, which is OK, but again not wines to write home about. My father-in-law and I both enjoyed the bubbly Cabernet. Yes, I said I liked a semi-sweet bubbly Cabernet, because it was actually enjoyable. Sorry, to all the wine snobs out there, but the 2011 Tabor Pnimim (Pearls) sparkler, was enjoyable, unpretentious, and though semi-sweet, not cloyingly so in any way. No, I would not normally, bestow any praise upon a semi sweet Cabernet nor even write about it in a positive manner, as normally Cabernet and sweet do not logically go hand in hand, but Tabor did a good job, so Kudos!

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit any wineries, but I did get a chance to see Gabriel Geller, a man I can happily call an acquaintance, and hopefully one day a friend, that now own a wine store in the heart of Jerusalem, called the Wine Mill. The wine store is located in the Wind Mill right next to the Prima Kings Hotel Jerusalem, and essentially at the corner of King George and Ramban streets. The store is laid out in a quite enjoyable and clutter free manner, with more than enough room for informal gatherings of his clients and customers. When I was there, I picked up some wines that I took home and I also had a chance to talk with both Gabriel and David Rhodes, a wine critic/writer who I have not yet had the chance to write about here in the blog, but a person who has solid wine abilities and who I have had the pleasure to talk with a few times now. The conversation inevitably came around to kosher wine, Israeli Wine, and Daniel Rogov (man I cannot believe it has been 6 months already since his passing), but hey what happens in the Wind Mill stays in the Wind Mill. I did have the chance to taste a lovely bottle of Domaine Ventura Cabernet Franc, but I did not write notes on the wine – sorry. From what I remember, it was very characteristic of Cabernet Franc, with good green notes, lovely ripe red fruit, without the raisin or date flavors, that are so characteristic of Israeli wines. The oak did not overpower though was felt and clearly present, and there was some nice extraction along with tobacco and light leather. An unofficial score would be B+ to A-. Read the rest of this entry

Purim Wines – a mix of the good and the ugly

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

Rosemary and Lemon Roasted Chicken, Brown Basmati Rice, Chicken Soup, and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron

On the weekend of October 28th, 2011 we were not feeling so well, a common ailment that happens to me after the Simchat Torah festivities. So we made a lovely chicken soup that was killer and one that really hit home. My wife whipped up a batch of Rosemary Lemon chicken that was great, and I ate some, but I was totally fixated on the chicken soup! We also had some lovely Brown Basmati rice and fresh green salad as usual. To pair with this meal we opened a lovely bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron. Like the Recanati wine from last week, Galil is another of Israel’s leading kosher wineries with a very high QPR.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron Kosher (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of minted chocolate, licorice, spice, black pepper, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, crushed herbs, and oak. The nose is alcoholic at first but it calms down over time. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with still not integrated tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry. The mouth gives way to a balanced mid palate of ripe plum, oak, tannin, vanilla, and chocolate. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with minted chocolate, mounds of vanilla, loamy dirt, black cherry, plum, blackberry, oak, and crushed herbs. This is a wine that is fine now, but is really not ready to settle down with for a long evening. If drinking now, open this wine a few hours before enjoying it and watch it evolve in the glass.


Sukkot 2011 – first days…

This past Sukkot we hung out with family and enjoyed a bunch of great wine and food. It was a potluck of sorts, each one of us bringing some food, and it was a grand ball. Sukkot is one of those truly happy times of the year, all the heavy and deep inner inspection is over and now you get a chance to let loose of all of your pent up concern and angst. In its place you find joy and contentment from your efforts over the past 6 weeks, a time truly made to be shared with friends and family.

For our part, we brought the second chunk of meat that we cooked for Rosh Hashanah (and froze immediately after the holiday) and some lovely brisket. We also brought a BUNCH of wine! Hey it is a let loose holiday – right? I was in such a rush to get the wines that I went to my local wine shop and all they had were Galil and Yarden wines – so we brought Galil and Yarden wines. Many turned out really nice, and others were OK, but they were all enjoyable. In case it is not obvious, Yarden and Galil Wines source their grapes from the Galilee. This tasting was a true Israel Galilee tasting. We also went through some 6 bottles of Sara Bee Muscat. Galil is one of the top QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wineries in the kosher market. Yarden is an OK QPR winery, especially in their basic line, but some of their upper echelon wines are so out of reach that they lose a bit of the QPR luster.

So, here are all my wine notes – enjoy and remember, wine is not just about the flavors, it is also about the happiness and memories you get to keep when you enjoy them with friends and family.

The wine notes follow below:

2005 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
This is a seriously lovely and opulent and redolent wine that is initially hot out of the bottle, but quickly shakes off the alcohol coat and shows super rich and ripe black plum, toasty cedar, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, and herbs. The mouth on this rich and concentrated black colored wine is screaming with what initially feels like searing tannins, but then quickly your mind gives way to the true source – toasty cedar, blackberry, black cherry, and super ripe plum, all wrapped up is a velvety package that cuts through almost anything you throw at it. The mid palate is packed with black cherry, cedar, chocolate, tobacco, and nice integrated tannin. The finish is super long and very spicy with rich plum, toasty cedar, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, black cherry, and a nice dollop of vanilla. The black cherry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, blackberry, and herbs linger.

2006 Yarden Syrah – (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is not a classic syrah, excepting for the roasted meat, along with blackberry, ripe cassis, chocolate, plum, raspberry, cherry, and oak. This wine starts off super hot and need a good hour to open up and blow off its coat of alcohol. I must admit that I enjoyed this with friends in a house that was being used as a barbeque pit, as the outside was too wet, still, the nose showed well with the black and red fruit, along with the oak and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and muscular black wine was opulent and powerful with more blackberry, inky black, ripe and rich cassis, and plum, and tannins that are still finding their way around the house, but are slowly learning the premises. The sinews rippling on this bad boy easily handled the char broiled meats that were superb! The mid palate was balanced with acid, chocolate, nice oak, still tight tannins, and more inky black. The finish is super long and crazy spicy with a hint of leather, chocolate, blackberry, ripe plum, and more inky black density. Read the rest of this entry

Rosh Hashanah lunch, Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, Rosemary and Sage Infused Encrusted Rib Roast, vegetable kugel, and many wines

Rosh Hashanah day was a bit more wine focused than the previous evening. We invited a bunch of friends over and they brought some wonderful wines for us to enjoy. The first one being the 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine from Jonathan Hajdu, the associate wine maker at Covenant Wines. The other wine was the 2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs, which I had been craving and was a wonderful surprise and delight to enjoy! We also opened a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet, which is another bottle that I truly enjoyed. The wines were all killer and really enjoyable. Now on to the menu and my normal format, we will get back to the wines later.

The meal started with the same starter course as we had the previous night, our reliable Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and green and black olives, and hummus. The reason I really like this recipe is because while normal gefilte fish recipes tastes like bland boiled white fish, this recipe tastes like herb-encrusted fish that is lightly charred with the herb and spice flavors permeated through and through the fleshy texture – quite a treat. The main course consisted of one of my favorite cuts of meat – rib roast. This was not a standing rib roast, as it was already deboned. The only way to cook this meat is covered slow and low and then blast it with a 400 degree oven to char the outside. This is the recipe of the generation X master of cooking science; Alton Brown, who I believe took much of what he learned in culinary school and Harold McGee and made it simple and palatable to generation X. The roast came out really nicely; it was NOT over or under cooked. However, the issue was that we served it lukewarm instead of piping hot. It is difficult on Yom Tov to both warm up a chunk of meat and not over cook it while trying to serve it piping hot. At least the rest of the meal was warm, including the Sage and Rosemary Jus. Along with the rib roast we had a repeat performance of brown rice, vegetable kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. The guests did serious damage to the rib roast, so I think it worked out well. We bought two chunks of rib roast, one 7+ pounds and the other one being 5+ pounds. The 7+ beast was consumed on Rosh Hashanah lunch, while the other chunk was served to family, when we all gathered for Succot (more on that is a subsequent post).

To pair with the lovely side of cow, we opened two bottles of wine, the two a fore mentioned; 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. The Brobdingnagian Besomim is a field blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Carignan. The grapes are sourced from the Chabad Rabbi’s small vineyard that he planted on his property in the Napa/Sonoma area. Jonathan then made the wine and it is truly a wine for drinking with food, this is no sipping wine. The wine is crazy rich with spice, which is the obvious derivative for its name (Besomim means spice in Hebrew). The wine easily handled the richly fat and herbed rib roast and the side dishes. We also enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. Originally, Daniel Rogov had given the wine a poor score, and I wanted to try it anyway, and I am happy I did. In a later tasting, before his untimely passing, he tasted the wine again, and scored it much in line with my notes and score.

The wine notes follow below in the order enjoyed:

2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely burnt peach colored wine was lively with effervescent small bubbles, along with pear, orange, brioche, light toast, yeast, mango, apricot, peach, strawberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine attacks first with a lovely mousse of small bubbles, followed by strawberry, peach, apple, orange, and pear. The mid palate is lovely and balanced with lively acidity, brioche, yeast, oak, and mango. The finish is super long, concentrated, and spicy with strawberry, lovely mousse, brioche, more chocolate, yeast, mango, peach, light oak, orange, and tea. This is a lovely sparkling wine that really needs time in the fridge and one that is a lovely now and will continue to be lovely for at least a few more years to come. 

2008 Brobdingnagian Wines Besomim – USA, California, Sonoma County – Score: A-
This is a wine that truly lives up to its name. Besomim is Hebrew for a potent spice mix that is used as part of a post Sabbath havdalah (or separation) ceremony. The grapes used in this blend come from a field blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is screaming with spices, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, along with mint, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, high alcohol to start, cedar, raspberry, plum, black fruit, herbs, and vanilla. The nose is assaulted by all of these aromas in quick succession, so I am sure I missed some. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is hopping and super concentrated with dark cherry, plum, blackberry, nutmeg, cloves, spices, mint, and chocolate. The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, chocolate, mint, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is super long and spicy, with rich spices, toasty almost spicy cedar, tobacco, chocolate, tar, black pepper, cloves, blackberry, herbs, and vanilla. This is a wine that is best enjoyed with heavy foods, this wine is far to spice infused to be enjoyed as a sipping wine.

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet kosher – Israel, Galilee – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is an alchemy of the two fruits used, tobacco, rich chocolate, tar, strong alcohol to start, black pepper, dirt, sweet cedar, smoky notes, raspberry, blackberry, plum, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off very hot, but over time cools off to show both sides of this blend, the syrah shows first with a strong presence of black pepper, coffee, blackberry, and tar, over time the syrah gives way to the Cabernet with rich blackberry, plum, sweet cedar and chocolate. The Cabernet side of this wine almost 100% reminded me of the Alexander Winery Cabernet with its sweet cedar, plum, and blackberry combination. The mid palate is balanced with rich acid, sweet cedar, black pepper, tar, chocolate, tobacco, licorice, dirt, plum, raspberry, and a nice dollop of vanilla on top. This wine pack a punch with its heat, but once that dies down, the wine has two sides that are both lovely apart or combined, and linger nicely with rich ripe plum tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla.

Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast and a plethora of Syrah wines

Well after a long hiatus I have finally been able to grab some time for myself and this blog. I have of course been writing wine notes (at cellartracker), just have had no time to get them placed here. So, I rewind us to July 29th, when we had the true joy of many of our friends sharing a meal around our table. The meal started with a lovely bottle of Four Gates Pinot, which was filled with classic CCC (Chicka Cherry Cola) and lovely bramble. The wine was lovely for the first course, which consisted of smoked salmon, spicy hummus and dips.

For the main course we made Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast. I must say that this was the first time we used chuck eye roast, a more expensive cut of the chuck, but it was well worth it. The meat was well marbled, which allowed the meat to stay moist after being cooked for so many hours. I used this recipe, from Daniel Rogov’s culinary site.

Unfortunately, the recipe calls for some fatty goose to be the fat flavor booster (as pork is not kosher), but we had none of that. So, we went with some cubed sausages instead. The main trick is really to allow this dish to happen very slowly. The more time you give the ingredients to marinate, cook, and or cool the better the flavors will come together. The meat was awesome as was the dish, as we had almost no leftovers. The only thing we messed up, was not to remove more of the fat, which we will do next time.

The amount of time it takes to brown 4 pounds of cubed beef is crazy long, and that is why this is one of the easier yet long preparation dishes that we make. We paired the Beef Bourguignon with brown basmati rice, a lovely fresh green salad and some roasted green beans.

The wines we poured that matched this dish were three syrahs that I have been dying to try. The first was the 2008 Syraph One | Two Punch, which we tasted twice back in 2010. This wine did not disappoint us in any way. The wine is still kicking just fine and still has the insanely unique flavor of chocolate mocha covered espresso beans is quite fun and went very well with this hearty dish. That was followed by the 2007 Tishbi Organic Shiraz which was not tasting nearly as well as it did some 5 months ago when we tasted it in the winery. I brought this bottle back myself, and it was a slight disappointment. The nose was crazy good but the mouth was weak and not there. Finally, we had a bottle of the 2004 Yiron Syrah, which is going nowhere anytime soon. This wine is still a massive powerhouse and has at least a few more tannic years under its belt.

The meal was a hit as were most of the wines served. There were a few experimental and barrel wines served, but those notes are not listed here. The wine notes follow below:

2007 Tishbi Organic Sirah: (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is clearly its strongest suite, it is clean, rich cedar, exploding with plum, strawberry, raspberry, black berries, roasted meat, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla. The nose is rich and full, and sadly its best feature. The mouth on this medium bodied wine does follow the nose, but has a blatant flaw,; that being is clear lack of balance. The mouth is mouth coating with nicely integrated tannin, raspberry, black plum, black berries, chocolate, and fig. The mid palate is unbalanced with what can only be called strawberry zest, black pepper, dirt, tar, and tobacco. The finish is nice and long with integrated tannin, dirt, black pepper, black plum, chocolate, rich cedar, tobacco, roasted meat, and vanilla. Cedar, tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and plum linger long. This wine is DRINK NOW mode, please do not wait any longer.

2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – (USA, San Luis Obispo Counties) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, blueberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. This wine has calmed a bit since last year, but the tannins are still not fully integrated.

2004 Galil Mountain Winery Syrah Yiron Kosher – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A- to A
To start I opened this bottle because I was told it was drink now time, personally, this beast is going nowhere fast in my opinion. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is exploding with rich and concentrated aromas, rich cedar, baking chocolate, leafy tobacco, hints of tar, heaps of black pepper, smoky notes, coffee, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, crushed herbs, and eucalyptus. The mouth on this super rich and concentrated wine hits you in layers upon layers of still not integrated tannin, licorice, black pepper, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and cedar. The mid palate is balanced with sweet cedar, nice acidity, more nice tannin, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long and spicy with crazy rich cedar, blackberry, crushed herbs, plum, tobacco, chocolate, figs, a hint of tar, with a dollop of vanilla. Black pepper, crushed herbs, chocolate, tobacco, plum, and vanilla linger super long. This wine is in no hurray to be drunk, but is lovely now.

Passover Seder, Four Cups of wine, Matzoh, meatballs, Qinuoa, and kugel

This past week was Passover, which started on Monday night. We always enjoy Passover with a few of our friends, with each of us trading off for who hosts the Seder, this year we did the hosting and it was a lovely party! We opened some wines, some nice, some OK, and some close to being duds. In the end it was a true joy and was enjoyed by all who attended, at least that is what they told me :-) We started the Seder off with some nice wines, listed below, and then moved on to whole-wheat hand shmurah Matzoh! This was the first year that we were lucky to get our hands on whole-wheat hand shmurah matzoh. It is very easy to get whole-wheat, spelt, or other cool versions of the five grains matzoh. However, this is the first year that I could easily get our hands on whole-wheat hand shmurah matzoh. The matzoh was thin and lovely but a bit stale, so we had to reheat the matzoh for 10 or so minutes in the oven to revive them and get them nice and crispy.

After that we had some lovely herb encrusted Gefilte fish loaf along with eggplant, onion, and mushroom salad. For the main course we had some lovely meatballs, kugel, quinoa, and a fresh green salad.

Now before you call me a heretic, yes I eat Quinoa on Passover, as does the CRC and the Star-K, while the OU has backed away from this whole mess and let people decide for themselves. We have been eating Quinoa for sometime on Passover and though others have an issue, we feel fine about it, though it is best to contact your own local area Rabbi. The New York Times heard about the tumult and wrote an article all about it.

Kosher for Passover Meatball Recipe (modified from the Early Show recipe):
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
2 coarsely chopped Onions
8 ounces of tomato sauce
4 tablespoons of  Parsley
3 broken up square Matzohs
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 eggs

Tomato Sauce for Braising the meatballs:
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 finely chopped Onions
1 28 oz can of Tomato Puree or Tomato Sauce
2 cups of red wine

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and sauté over a high flame stirring constantly until soft. Add the tomato sauce and parsley and continue to cook for three minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and set aside and cool. Once cool, add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly by hand and roll the meatballs into golf ball sized meatballs.

Now we need to create the braising sauce. Chop the two onions and saute them in the olive oil. Once browned nicely throw in the tomato sauce and wait for the sauce to thicken by a quarter. Then add in the wine and mix thoroughly. Then add in the meatballs one at a time into the hot braising sauce and cook the meatballs for 20 to 30 minutes.

The funny thing about the Early Show recipe was that it had liver in it, which is not for me. Also, they were roasting the meatballs and that is a no-no for the first two nights, as one cannot eat any type of roasted meat for the first two nights of passover, as it may look like the Passover Sacrifice which we do not have today. Yes, meatballs do NOT look like a sacrifice! Still, the law is: any meat braised is fine, any meat roasted (cooked without a sauce) is NOT. You can eat roasted vegetables.

For the four cups (arba kosos) and beyond we enjoyed the wines listed here in the order they were served:

2004 Golan Heights Winery Pinot Noir Yarden Kosher – Score: B++ to A-
This wine is really hitting its stride and may well be time to drink up! The nose on this dark garnet colored wine opened with black fruit that lays deep within this wine’s veins, but hidden initially under a blanket of oak. This wine opens with sweet oak, blackberry, raspberry, plum, and classic Pinot cherries along with coffee, dirt, and a hint of herbaceous mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine was velvety and mouth coating. The tannins are now well integrated and not mouth puckering and give a richness to the wine. The mouth starts with blackberry, raspberry, plum, and cherry, and flows into a mid palate of more oak, coffee, dirt, and some middling acidity. The finish is long with rich fruit, oak, chocolate, vanilla, and a bit of chocolate that rounds out the wine. This is a nice wine that is showing well but is time to drink up!!!

Read the rest of this entry

Sausage Stew, Spinach Kugel, and a lovely assortment of kosher wines

Well we finally got back into the saddle and had ourselves a gaggle of friends and family for a lovely Friday night dinner. The menu was fun to create as we needed a recipe that could be eaten by both carnivores and vegans :-) After going through our recipes, we fell upon a decent idea, making two of the same dish, one with meat and one with a suitable substitute. The best option for that direction was our Sausage Stew recipe, the carnivore version was made with Neshama’s sausages; Breakfast Delight and Country Apple, and the vegan version with Tofurky’s Italian Sausage. The cool aspect of making the same recipe for both types of diets are that the dish stays the same, as does the recipe and ingredients (other than protein), along with same timing for the vegetables, and same completion time. In other words; cooking made fun and easy.

We started with a course of smoked salmon, green and black olives, hummus, and my wife’s killer whole wheat challah. We followed that with the main course of the two stews, while my wife made some spinach kugel (parve souffle), along with some nice fresh green salad. The wines were paired well, I think. Some were clear winners, while some were not perceived by all as winners during the meal, and then there were the filthy, sick, and wild wines that were winners at the dinner and after. The winners were the 2001 Capcanes Peraj H’Abib, which is in the DRINK up state, enjoy it before you regret it! SUPER kudos go out to the Covenant Winery, who also had an entry in the winner’s circle, their 2003 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, which was from their maiden voyage. I am so happy that I held on to it to be enjoying it now. Finally, to be honest I whiffed on two wines; the 2009 Herzog Petite Sirah Second Edition and the 1996 Four Gates unoaked Chardonnay! Talk about messing up! I did not like either when we opened them, but WOW did that change fast. The two of them were drinking lovely a few hours later, while the Petite Sirah was better the next day.

Finally a friend of ours brought a surprise, a Kosher Akhasheni Georgian wine! The grapes used in this wine are called: Saperavi from the Akhasheni vineyards of the Gurdzhaani district in Kakheti, a province of Georgia.

The wine notes follow listed in the order they were drunk:

2006 Galil Mountain Winery Pinot Noir – Score: B (DRINK UP or Cook!!!)
Truly a shadow of its former self. It is dead and dying quickly, all at the same time. Some liked the wine, but not me. The nose on this dark ruby with serious brown halos colored wine has notes of dark cherry, aging raspberry, barn yard notes, vanilla, and stony rocks. The mouth on this medium bodied wine died off quickly with deep minerality, dark cherry, raspberry, and vanilla. The wine tasted old and dying, its structure was spicy and brambly with minerality with dark red fruit and still nice acid.

1996 Four Gates Unoaked Chardonnay – Score: B++ to A-
Wow this wine was clearly not on my radar, and was a really nice surprise from Benyo; I did not know it existed. We have posted in the past about its bigger oaked siblings (sulfur and non-sulfur), but I had no idea this one was lying around in the Four Gates cellar. The nose on this wine did not start nicely out of the bottle, but heck, how do you think you would smell if you were lying around in a dusty cellar for 15 years! Two or three hours later this light gold colored wine was hitting its stride, with clear and lovely notes of pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, citrus, white peach, and lychee. The mouth on this full bodied wine was channeling it inner nose, with pronounced pineapple, grapefruit, citrus, and peach. The mid palate was packed with core acid and lovely fruit. The finish was long and luscious with more summer fruit, pineapple, and a hint of grass and/or minerality.

2009 Herzog Petite Sirah - Score: B++
The nose on this black colored wine starts off closed and very unapproachable. However with time, the nose explodes with black cherry, blackberry, plum, hints of blueberry, black currant, light mocha, tar, tobacco, mounds of black pepper, roasted meats, oak, and floral notes of rose or violet. The mouth on this full bodied wine becomes rich and mouth coating with lovely tannins that are soft but still integrating. Along with pepper, tar, blackcurrant blackberry, and a hint of blueberry. The mid palate is packed with acid, tar, tobacco, oak, and lovely floral notes. The finish starts off stunted and short – DO NOT fret, it will open! The finish is long and sensuous with mocha, floral notes, blackcurrant, tobacco, and black pepper. Floral notes, blackcurrant, tobacco, blackberry, and oak linger long after the wine is gone.

2004 Chateau Labegorce Lede Margaux – Score: B to B+ (DRINK UP!!)
I know Daniel Rogov believes this wine is still alive and active, but the bottle I had was not over its peak, but clearly not as enjoyable as the one he tasted. It was nice but lacked so much body that it felt dead. The tannins and acid on this wine are clearly still kicking but I do not believe this wine is getting any better – drink up and open one hour in advance.

The nose on this dark garnet to mahogany colored wine is filled with tobacco, chocolate, cedar, raspberry, blackberry, herbs, and lovely dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was nice and round with lovely tannin, blackberry, raspberry, and a touch of currant. The mid palate is bracing with acid, tannin, chocolate, herbs, and smoky characteristics. The finish is long, nice, and smoky with oak, blackberry, raspberry, dirt, chocolate, and herbs. Drink UP!!!

2001 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Peraj Ha’abib Flor de Primavera – Score: A- to A (DRINK UP!!)
Drink up – this wine is lovely but is really at its peak or a drop past it!! The score from previous tasting is a bit lower then the first score we gave this wine, and the same as my second tasting, but not because of tannins. Rather the score is a bit lower this time because of the color and age on the bottle. The notes are very much in line with my previous tasting except for color and tannin, but the structure is the same. I recommend opening the bottle 1 hour ahead of time, and NO more than that and enjoying it then. This bottle will not last four hours after opening, so drink now and enjoy.

The nose on this deep black colored wine, with a bit of a brown halo, is popping with blackberry, plum, cassis, sweet cedar, herbs, raspberry, licorice, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied and mouth coating wine is now smooth and layered with blackberry, plum, black currant, and cassis. The mid palate is packed with lovely tannins, bright acidity, and concentrated black fruit that comes at you in layers. The finish is super long, spicy, and concentrated with cloves, herbs, blackberry, plum, raspberry, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The wine lingers long with cedar, plum, tobacco, vanilla, and chocolate.

2003 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A- closer to A
Are you kidding me! This wine is as close to “filthy” as it gets without being covered in dirt and muck! This puppy is downright crazy, lovely, and insane! This wine was the clear winner of the evening, even against my clear, biased wines that I have a love affair with, the 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay and the 2001 Capcanes. Both were really nice, but in the end, fell a bit short, each for different reasons. This wine was the clear winner, and for bloody good reason! One other crazy thought, when this wine finally calmed down and lost some of its special characteristics, it was VERY close to the Capcanes. To the point where they were almost brothers, excepting for the color, where the Capcanes was clearly going brown and the Covenant being black as day.

The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is packed with rich ripe blackberry, tobacco, chocolate/mocha, crushed herbs, black currant, vanilla, raspberry, plum, and sweet oak. The mouth on this blockbuster medium to full bodied wine is concentrated, layered and mouth coating with lovely and almost integrated tannins, blackberry, black currant, raspberry, and ripe plum. The mid palate flows off the mouth with balancing acid, sweet oak, mocha, tobacco, and more nice tannins. The finish is long, spicy, and continuous and, while maybe being the best part of this wine, which is saying a lot, with sweet cedar in the fire box, a long puff from a fat stogie, a warm cup of mocha in your hand, while munching on blackberry, black currant, and vanilla. Tobacco, plum, blackberry, and sweet cedar linger long on the palate.

2004 Yarden Merlot – Score: A-
This is a clear and powerful wine and one that when compared side by side with the other wines we enjoyed in the evening came across as over the top. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was screaming with extra ripe and sweet plum, blackberry, and cassis, along with spicy oak, crushed herbs, and tobacco. The mouth on this intense and full bodied wine hits you up front with super ripe fruit, spicy and still active tannin, and cassis, blackberry, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, sweet cedar, lovely tannin, and sweet cedar. The finish is super long and extracted with tobacco, oak, black fruit and herbs. A nice wine that is fine for a couple more years but one I always have trouble with given its intensely ripe black fruit and mounds of oak.

2006 Alaverdi Akhasheni – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is hopping with dark cherry, candied fruit, perfumed nose, floral notes of violet, lovely chocolate, dates, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is velvety, mouth coating, and enriched by the residual sugar of this semi-sweet wine, along with dark cherry, date, nice tannin, a bit too much residual sweetness, and candied fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, chocolate, and spice. The finish is super long and rich with candied fruit, sweetness, cherry, and oak. The wine linger long with chocolate, date, and spice.

Relaxing weekend away from the house with great food and some nice wines

This past weekend saw us out of the house and enjoying a wonderful shabbos with friends, a home away from home. As usual, our hosts pulled out all the stops and made mounds of wonderful food. The least we could do is bring some wine to pair with the bountiful spread. On a side note, the last time we had one of the bottles listed below; the 2003 Kiddush Hashem Syrah, it was DOA, this time it was alive and enjoyable. Once again, the lore and history that backs these wines is quite crazy, though in the end, they are ready to drink and the winery is out of business, at least for now.

Many thanks to our hosts for letting us crash for a few days and for making us feel so welcome and at home. The wines listed here were tasted in the order that they appear:

2009 Hameshubach Midbar Silver Label (Israel, Negev) – Score: B to B+
When we tasted this wine we could have sworn it was a Pinot with little to no Cabernet presence. The nose on this dark ruby to light garnet colored wine was filled with kirsch cherry, bramble, black currant, light oak, raspberry, and floral hints as it opens in your glass. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is soft and somewhat plush with nice tannin, kirsch cherry, raspberry, black currant, and rose notes, as it opens in the glass. The mid palate is somewhat out of balance with bracing acid, oak, and soft tannin. The finish is long and floral with cherry, black currant, and spice lingering after the wine is gone.

2003 Kiddush Hashem Syrah Great Oaks Ranch – Score: B++ to A-
This wine has been a hit or miss for me, some of the bottles are either DOA or worse. This bottle was actually a success, so that was nice. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with tobacco, oak, raspberry, currant, blackberry, plum, dirt, graphite, and mint. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine displays a lovely full mouth feel from the integrated tannin, blackberry, raspberry, inky structure, and tar. The mid palate is balanced with acid, tobacco, oak, and dirt. The finish is long with oak, blackberry, tobacco, dirt, roasted meats, black pepper, and tar.

2006 Galil Mountain Winery Viognier (Israel, Galilee) – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine is filled with peach, pear, fig, apple, floral notes, citrus, cut grass, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with peach, apple, pear, and citrus. The mid palate is balanced with core acid, citrus, cloves, butter, caramel, and a hint of oak. The finish is long and spicy, with oak, butter, peach, and a lingering finish of cut grass and butter.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, and many wines

This past shabbos saw us hosting friends and family for a Chol HaMoed Shabbos dinner.  We had Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, whose recipes can be found here.  We changed the brisket recipe only slightly, by NOT using ketchup, and using tomato sauce and brown sugar instead, which is really, well, ketchup, minus the vinegar.  Anyway, to pair with this feast we had a list of wines, some that people brought over, and some that I took out of the cellar.

The list of wines can be found here, in the order they were enjoyed:

2006 Casa Da Corca Douro – Score: B++
The nose on this garnet colored wine is screaming with tobacco, rich black cherry, dirt, raspberry, appealing black fruit, coffee, vanilla, and oak.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine was a bit effervescent and was a bit confusing to start, but I got past that soon enough.  The mouth is concentrated and filled with black fruit, black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla.  The mid palate is busy with oak, integrated tannin, effervescence, coffee, and oak.  The finish is long with black fruit, black pepper, tobacco, coffee, vanilla, oak, and fruit.  Nice bottle of wine, and fun to enjoy.

2006 Yarden Chardonnay - Score: B+
The nose on this golden colored wine is hopping with ripe and fresh honey, butter, toasty oak, straw, flowers, lemon, peach, and apple.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with peach, lemon, melon, and apple.  The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity, rich toasty oak, and butterscotch.  The finish is long with bright and crisp acidity, butterscotch, and toasty oak.  Drink up, but a lot of fun.

2006 Galil Mountain Barbera - Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with fig, rich super ripe black plum, cherry, raspberry, black fruit, black pepper, and oak.  The palate on this medium to full bodied wine is lush and ripe with black plum, cherry, and raspberry.  The mid palate is nicely balanced with acidity, oak, and coffee.  The finish is long and fat with more coffee, black fruit, acid, and spice.  A nice wine that is a bit on the other side, drink UP!!

2005 Binyamina Merlot Special Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine was screaming with tobacco, chocolate, licorice, blackberry, plum, cassis, and spicy oak.  The mouth on this full bodied Merlot was heavy with still not yet integrated tannin, blackberry, raspberry, and plum.  The mid palate is balanced and layered with chocolate, oak, acid, licorice, and smoked meat.  The finish carries on with smoked meat, chocolate, spicy oak, black fruit, and licorice.  A real nice wine, and this one is NOT Mevushal, so be careful, the 2005 Binyamina Reserve line seems to be Mevushal here in the US, but not the 05 line.

2005 Recanati Shiraz - Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with bright and herb encrusted raspberry, plum, loamy dirt, and oak. The mouth on this semi concentrated / focused medium to full bodied wine, is full of plum, raspberry, and nice integrated tannin. The mid palate is balanced nicely with bracing acidity, oak, integrated tannin, and white pepper. The finish is long and elegant with pepper, oak, red fruit, leather, and spice. This wine turned a bit darker with air and added a lovely chocolate component that was just delicious, along with a more full mouth feel and integrated tannins.

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