I first wrote about the California Classic Cellars wines, back during Passover, in this post. What I know of the story (if there is one) has not changed, if anything it is now further shrouded in mystery. I wrote about them because I got two bottles of the very good 2005 California Classic Cellars Cab/Syrah blend. However, it was not until I went down to LA and went to Glatt Mart on Pico that I realized there is a MUCH larger story here.
I visited the store with Gabriel Geller, as I was traveling around California with him, more on that coming soon, and we went in to the store to meet the famous Noah – the wine man of Pico Glatt Mart. Noah is a man that knows all the wine out there and then some, and I started talking to him about California Classic Cellars – because he had three more bottles from them! Yep! He had the 2004 California Classic Cellars Syrah Reserve, the 2005 California Classic Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2005 California Classic Cellars Chardonnay! When I asked him more about the man, Samuel Perez and this winery that seemed to come and go with almost no one talking about them, he kept what he knew close to his hip and was not open on the situation. To him, he has a great deal going. He is selling drinkable to Ok wine for 10 dollars or less! Wine that is fine to serve to guests or at least cook with, and to be honest – why not? The 2005 California Classic Cellars Cab goes for 6 bucks, which is less than that horrible cooking wine goes for, per ratio, and they are mostly salt!
So, I left it where I found it – nowhere. These wines are creations of Sammy Perez, or as he writes on the bottle, Samuel Perez. Samuel also made the Kiddush Hashem Syrah back in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. I emailed him asking to get more about his story, but so far no reply. If anyone knows how to get hold of him – please tell me, I really liked the wine and would love to hear more about the entire story of Kiddush Hashem Winery and California Classic Cellars. The wine had the same stylistic approach to wine making as the 2003 and 2004 Kiddush Hashem, almost a fingerprint if would – quite interesting. Lots of toast, chewy yet finessed, along with great blue and black fruit, fighting back and forth – between the Cabernet and Syrah fruit, for who can take over full autonomy. In the end, the blue fruit won, but not before integrating a large basket of black fruit with it – quite impressive.
Another fascinating aspect of this story – is that he seemed to have two “wineries” going in 2004. He had the 2004 Kiddush Hashem Syrah and the 2004 California Classic Cellars Syrah, Reserve, and maybe others wine from 2004. Why have tow of the same wine with different labels? The 2004 Kiddush Hashem wine was made from grapes in the Santa Barbara wine region, and the 2004 CCC Syrah Reserve was made from Santa Ynez grapes, which is a sub-appellation of the Santa Barbara wine region. So, why a new label and why a new story – more mystery.
According to VOS Selection, it started in 2001. Dozen of years in kosher wine production and consulting led Rabbi Samuel Perez to create Kiddush Hashem Cellars in 2001. He has surpassed his own goal of creating a fine wine that is not only kosher and unpasteurized but is also a leading contender among ultra premium wines from the Central Coast. Using biodynamically farmed Syrah grapes from the Shiraz clone in the Santa Ynez Valley appellation, Kiddush Hashem wines are made in a traditional and minimal manner, unfiltered and unfined. The quality of the product, the classic Rhone style and pure expression of the fruit have made an impression on many in the California market. Wolfgang Puck of Spago said, “This is the best Kosher Syrah I have ever tasted.” Whether you seek a wine that is kosher or not, the Kiddush Hashem Syrah is truly impressive, opulent and sophisticated.
Why he left Kiddush Hashem and moved to CCC – I do not know. A few years ago the 2003 and 2004 Kiddush Hashem Syrah went on sale for 10 bucks a bottle – 2 case minimum. At that time, the wine was OK, but again, as I have said previously – they were hit and miss. Some bottles rocked and some were a total miss. Obviously, if the story of Spago is true, he tasted a good bottle.
To be fair, when the Kiddush Hashem wines were released, in 2005, there were few good kosher Syrah out there. There was the REALLY good Herzog Syrah, Reserve in 2004 and 2005, but the came out in 2006. There was Hagafen‘s Syrah – pre Prix, and yes there were Yarden Syrah and others from Israel, but not many were well known in those days – some 8 to 10 years ago! We take Israel for granted now, but 8 years ago – that was not the case, unless you lived in New York. Even then, most people were stocking up on French, Herzog, and Hagafen – unless you were a real Israeli wine groupie.
All my friends laugh at me – with my serious infatuation with all things CCC and Kiddush Hashem. I know there is a clear story here, I just cannot find the person that is free of biases, to help me close out the story. I know many people who seem to know about him, but they are all keeping coy, because of reasons that I cannot and will not discuss on this medium. So, I leave it to all of you – if you have a way to close this story please do contact me.
Before I left Glatt Mart, I bought the Cab and Syrah and they turned out cookable to OK. The clear winner of the CCC, is the 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
So, without any further delay – the next two wine notes from the CCC and my best wishes to you all. These wines were enjoyed last weekend:
2005 California Classic Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B (or less)
This wine is way too hot and way too overripe, but I had to taste it. The nose does show notes of overripe blackberry, raspberry, and plum, along with some mineral. The mouth is packed with still searing tannin and good acidity, but really not much else, other than alcohol and herb. The finish is long and spicy with too much heat to really take in anything of substance. It is selling now for 6 bucks, which is not bad for good cooking wine.
2004 California Classic Cellars Syrah, Reserve – Score: B++
The nose on this near black colored wine is throwing crazy sediment – so be careful. The nose starts off with lovely blackberry, and controlled forest berry fruit, with clear floral notes, along with sweet herb with Oregano. The mouth on this full bodied wine is missing bright black fruit, what is there instead, is crazy mouth coating tannin, solid structure, very nice spice, along with a hint of blue fruit, and nice cedar. The finish is long with more spice, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, allspice, lavender, and tar.
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.
Last week I was invited by my friend to his house to taste a wine I do not have access to, as it is only available to Herzog Wine Club members. The wine is the 2008 Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc. Please DO NOT confuse Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines with the Iowan Eagle’s Landing Winery – that is NOT kosher!
Disclaimer – I do NOT work for Herzog, but this question keeps coming up on Daniel Rogov’s forum.
So start of tangent.
What are the Eagles Landing and Waterford Lismore Reserve wines that are popping up here and there? They are wines crafted by Herzog and Joe Hurliman to showcase the winery and give the wine club an air of exclusiveness, as these wines are not available in any other way, other than through the wine club. The wines are made in limited supply, and according to Jay Buchsbaum of Royal Wines/Herzog:
“Eagles landing is similar to Herzog reserve and Weinstocks cellar select (reserve) wines. Meaning same winemaking (and attention to grape selection) care with perhaps a slight difference and oak treatments etc than the Herzog reserve, without the ‘kosher’ recognizable brand labels. It was created as a direct request of one of our largest distributors, who recognized the, ‘Herzog reserve quality but wanted something that was not recognized as kosher, for non kosher restaurants’ (paraphrasing their words not ours). Voila, Eagles landing was born”.
In full disclosure, the Sauvignon Blanc bottle I tasted had a clear and present OU certification on the back label. I admit this is a bit different from all other Herzog bottles, which have the OU on the front and back. However, the Chardonnay bottle that my friend also received from the wine club, had ZERO kosher certification on the labels, but one was added to the bottle after the labeling was complete. A friend that I respect told me that the most recent Eagles Landing Cabernet Sauvignon was less than exciting, while the Chardonnay was nice. I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and that was OK, but a bit funky. It is an interesting marketing idea and one that I hope gains some sea legs, as it is about time for Kosher to lose its stigma. The Waterford Lismore Reserve wines were received with a far more warm reception from my friends. I hope to taste these wines one day. Till then I will rely on my friends to keep you all up to date.
End of tangent
We were invited for Friday night to a different friend’s house, so no recipes or other designs. That said, we brought a fun bottle of ELVI Wines Classico from Spain to our friends and they shared an interesting bottle with us as well. Finally (one more), some friends of mine swung by the house and I cracked open a wonderful bottle of the 2004 Yatir Blend. We had this bottle for a fleeting moment at the Carlebach Shabbaton. This time I had more time with the wine. There is no change to report about the initial blush of this wine, but some more data about how it acts after a few more hours. So, it was a nice wine filled weekend and one that I am happy to share with you all.
The wine notes follow below in order they were tasted:
2008 Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++
The nose on this straw colored wine starts off with a nasty damp and almost petrol smelling “aroma” that dominates the nose and takes forever to blow off. Once the nose clears up, it has displays kiwi, tart lemon, slight oak, nice butterscotch (from the oak), and a balancing orange peel. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off tart and acidic but rounds out over time. This is not a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and is not a bottle that will ever travel there. The mouth starts with lemon and kiwi. The mid palate flows into a round-like acidic core with orange peel peeking out from under the acid haze. The finish is long, spicy, and tart with orange peel and slight custard notes. As this wine opens, it shows far more oak extraction. The wine fleshes out with a nice bright, round, spicy, and butterscotch persona. This is not your classic Sauvignon Blanc, but then, this is not a wine that everyone gets to taste, so why not shake it up a bit. Cool.
2007 Elvi Wines Classico, Ribera del Jucar – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine, which is a blended wine of 87% Tempranillo and 13% Merlot, is ripe with plum, cherry, raspberry, and spice. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is soft with raspberry, cherry, and plum. The mid palate is bright with core acidity and a hint of coffee. The finish is medium long and spicy with more acid, soft tannins, coffee, and pepper/spice. This winery keeps delivering.
PLEASE NOTE – This is the ONLY Mevushal wine from the Elvi Wines group. All other wines from them are not Mevushal.
2003 Kiddush Hashem Syrah – Score: B to B+
This wine has a fair amount of lore, much of it not true. That said, it was a lovely wine some time ago. It is also a wine that the wine maker was still selling on his web site a few months ago. Recently he starting liquidating his stock, and it was a good idea. The bottles are hit and miss. I tasted this wine years ago and it was OK. Three weeks ago I tasted it again, while visiting a friend of mine, and it was felshy, black with ripe blackberry, nice tar, pepper, and licorice. This past week, it was not as good, though the fruit, tar and licorice were present. Still, the wine was unbalanced, off kilter, and trying too hard to make me like it.
2004 Yatir Blend (40% Cabernet, 40% Merlot, 20% Shiraz) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is hopping with coffee to start, mint, dates, crushed herbs, rich oak, blackberry, ripe black plums, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, ripe black plum, rich oak, along with nicely integrated tannins. The mid palate flows off the mouth with bracing acid, oak, tannin, rich tobacco, and licorice. The finish is long and spicy with ripe plum, oak, and a cloud of tobacco. This is a nice full bodied wine.