This past Jewish Holiday press left me away from home for much of the time – whether at friends or family and that enabled me to enjoy many a wine, some that I bought, some that I enjoyed at other people’s homes, and some that I enjoyed or did not enjoy at synagogue.
The Jewish holidays following the high holidays – are meant to be ones filled with joy, food, and wine, yet I happen to always be separated from the very people who really understand my madness. Do not get me wrong I love my family – but they really are not oenophiles – and that leaves me at a major disadvantage – when my main objective is to drink and enjoy as much wine as possible in a very short period of time! Sure, they sip at the glass and are happy to drink it – but the joyous side of the High Holidays to Sukkot religious gauntlet is meant to be a relief valve, a way to thank the lord for all the good and for another year to do his bidding. So, how do Jews celebrate? Why with prayer, food, and wine of course. I know I am a bit over the top when it comes to wine and food – but I crave the interactions with others around the table, a table filled with joy and food, and also some wine chatter.
So I was faced with the classic dilemma of a lone wine fanatic attempting to enjoy wine amongst those who find wine to be a tool rather than a purpose. Do I buy and enjoy by myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink half at night and the other half the next day – and continue this through the meals – or should I dial it back a touch because, it is just myself and the expensive wine does not always taste as good the next day?
Like all things – I decided the best rule of thumb in these situations is to do both! I bought some good wine and some nicer wine, but no crazy wines, which in hindsight was a great idea, as I really got sick and could not enjoy them anyway. The first night we drank a bottle of 2010 Galil Mountain Winery Barbera, which I wrote up about on a previous post about QPR, and it was OK, but not a QPR winner. We also tried a bottle of 2010 Joseph Mellot Sancerre. Sancerre white is the archetype Sauvignon Blanc for many. Many believe that Sancerre best defines the truest form of Sauvignon Blanc. However, some are now pointing to New Zealand and California for what they have done with the grape. Unfortunately, while the classic Sancerre is meant to be bone dry, with intense fruit expressions and mineral to boot, this bottle was so-so at best. It lacked the bone gnawing dry palate that I crave in a Sancerre, balanced perfectly with nice bright fruit and good acidity. Instead, this Sancerre was green, tart, and without fresh fruit, making it for a very passable wine to quaff, but not much more.
On an aside, there is a growing demand out there for truly bone gnawing dry wine with fresh fruit and bright acidity. The closest I have found to that is another kosher Sancerre from Bokobsa, but the 2007 vintage is slowly dying. The need exists, but the answer unfortunately is lacking for now. Please do not get me wrong there are MANY lovely kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines on the market – but they all have varying degrees of residual sugar, making them feel flabby, which to many is as annoying as nails against a chalkboard. Read the rest of this entry
This past week my wife had a hunkering for risotto and the recipe is so simple that after gathering the required ingredients, I was more than happy to oblige. The risotto recipe that I used was from my blog posting in March of last year, however, in this case I roasted both the sweet potatoes and the mushrooms in the oven.
The roasted sweet potatoes really does change the flavor profile of the risotto and the roasted mushrooms bring out a further meaty and earthy flavor than just the risotto alone. That comes from the famous umami savory taste which is backed by the Glutamates. The combination of roasted flavors and the Glutamate packed mushrooms – adds a totally different dimension in flavor to plain risotto. Normally, the way to fill out the boring and plain flavored risotto rice (arborio rice) – is to finish the dish with cream, cheese, and/or pesto, along with some nice condiment or flavor addition like mushrooms or asparagus. However, because we do not eat milk and meat together and I want to enjoy my risotto with chicken, we cannot finish the dish with cheese or cream. So that leaves us with finding other ways to pump up the flavor volume with non-dairy ingredients.
Of course when it comes to chicken, I love my wife’s lemon rosemary roasted chicken, because the recipe calls for slow and low cooking which makes for tangy and “fall off the bone” moist perfect chicken. Normally I use the chicken sauce on rice and quinoa, but with risotto, I leave the sauce for another time.
To pair with this chicken I continued my Pinot Noir adventure and opened a lovely bottle of the 2009 Galil Mountain Winery Pinot Noir – which I liked a lot and wrote up in the previous posting on QPR.
We also were invited to the Rabbi’s house and I brought a bottle of the 2009 Dalton Alma Bordeaux blend. Dalton now releases three different Alma blends. One is the white blend, which does not excite me that much, along with two red blends. One is the one I enjoyed this week, a Bordeaux blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc – showing its deep French roots – with crazy graphite, green notes, while also showing with pride its own terroir and climate – with lovely ripe and black fruit. The wine is a true expression of French grapes in a Mediterranean climate – Bravo Dalton! The other blend is a SMV blend of 82% Syrah 12% Mourvedre and 6% Viognier. Each of these red blends used wines that were fermented individually for 12 months in French Oak and then blended and aged an additional two months in oak before bottling. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend I enjoyed some lovely wines from Israel and California. The first wine is the 2010 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc and the second was the 2009 Adir Cabernet Sauvignon, Ben Zimra. The third wine was the 2010 Gvaot Pinot Noir that I loved and tasted at the Kosher Wine Society Tasting – New Wines and Vintage Experience, and the fourth wine which I also tasted at the KWS tasting was the 2007 Hevron Heights Merlot, Pardess.
The only wine in this lineup that disappointing me was the 2009 Adir Cabernet! I had the chance to taste this wine in Israel last year, and when I tasted it now it showed itself in a vastly different manner. Where before the wine was rich and layered, now the wine was still green but felt unbalanced and not all there. Again, it could be an issue of transportation or storage, but I bought the wine at a great store – called Liquors Galore. It has a fantastic selection and the prices are solid for wines that are on sale. For all other wines, shop and compare, but their selection is very impressive, and it is local if you live in Flatbush, NY.
Again, I believe the issue here is transportation and maybe the wine is a funk or quiet period, but in the end, it is a wine I could not recommend to others. The other wine I bought there was the 2010 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, which was awesome and bright, ripe and clean, while showing nice minerality, slate, and crispness. Read the rest of this entry
If you look at the kosher wineries in California, the majority exist here in Northern California. Down south you have the famous Herzog Winery in Oxnard, CA, and a pair of wineries that I call ADS (Agua Dulce & Shirah), for the Agua Dulce Winery and Shirah Winery, both housed in the Agua Dolce Winery. While this is great, Northern California one-ups them with Four gates Winery, Hagafen Winery, Covenant Winery, and the Brobdingnagian Winery. Of course you can actually combine all the California kosher wineries (except for Herzog) into Herzog’s parking lot (a nod to Disneyland and Disney World).
Well the adventure started late last week, when Elliot (Eli) and Michael (Yoav) both visited Benyo and Four gates Winery without me – go figure! However, on Monday I met both Elliot and Michael at my house and we started driving our way north. For this fabulous adventure our chariot of choice was a lovely Buick La Sabre, which before you start laughing, is a crazy and sick car to drive and drive-in. This car was appointed in soft leather, all kinds of toys and warning systems and a great navigation system that got us to and from our desired destinations, in comfort and style, and on time.
The first stop was Covenant Winery where we were going to meet Jeff Morgan and Jonathan Hajdu, Winemaker and associate winemaker of Covenant Winery, respectively. When we arrived, Mr. Hajdu greeted us and we had the chance to taste a few barrel samples of some 2011 Brobdingnagian Wines. We started with some lovely black and blue 2011 Brobdingnagian Syrah, with nice spice, root beer, and good vanilla finish. From there we moved on to a taste of the 2011 Brobdingnagian Grenache, which keeps on giving – what a lovely wine indeed! With the 2011 season being so miserable, to get a wine so redolent and ripe is quite impressive! The nose was rich and ripe with more blue and black fruit, but this time more ripe and sweet and yet controlled with good extraction, sweet cherry drop, watermelon, and citrus peel. Then Jonathan let us have a taste of some wonderful 2011 Brobdingnagian Bordeaux Blend, which stood out to me so well because the fruit was as sweet as the Grenache and maybe even more than the Syrah, yet so perfectly controlled with a nice core of red and black fruit, nice graphite and minerality, and along with spice and green notes that really balance this whole wine out – Bravo! Read the rest of this entry
Two months ago, I wrote an article about some scores and notes that the Wine Spectator released in the June 30th edition. The wines were scored by Kim Marcus where he reviewed some 21 wines from Israel and many scored above 85 point.
Well, the beat goes on and Mr. Marcus scored another 8 wines from Israel and all of them scored 85 or higher. These are the wines and the scores:
- 2009 Domaine du Castel ‘C’ Chardonnay – 90
- 2009 Clos de Gat Syrah, Har’el (NOT KOSHER) – 90
- 2009 Clos de Gat Syrah, Sycra (NOT KOSHER) – 90
- 2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Wild – 90
- 2008 Yarden Merlot – 89
- 2010 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – 87
- 2010 Recanati Merlot – 87
- 2011 Recanati Yasmin, Red – 85
So, like last time I have a few comments here. First and foremost – BRAVO! Seriously, this is great! Israel is finally getting the scores that match the quality and wines. In NO way am I saying that the scores before did not fit the facts, I am NOWHERE in the same solar system as Mr. Marcus – so please let me set that straight before we go on here. What I am saying is that Israeli wines are improving – PERIOD! Whether it is the fact that wineries are starting to gain control over their hot climate fruit, or they are improving their processes to keep the fruit and the wine under control and thereby improving quality. Scores from all around the wine world are going up and the wine world is truly starting to take notice of Israel and their wine potential – so again BRAVO to all!
To set things straight, though on a sad note, Daniel Rogov who died on September 6th 2011, passed before he could truly see what seems to be the turning of the tide, in terms of worldwide appreciation for Israel’s wines. It will almost be a year since his passing and there is not a day that goes by, that I do not think about him and the positive impact that he had on, both the kosher and the Israeli, wine world. I am sure he is looking down on this state of affairs and laughing like he always did, and taking it all in with a glass of Cognac in hand.
Secondly, like I stated last times – please do not wonder why these scores may be high or low in comparison to the rest of the world. These wine scores are perfectly in line with what others scored these wines, and there are a few honest surprises for me again.
To start, I posted the Clos de Gat wines – even though they are not kosher, because this was about Israeli wines, and in the words of Richard Shaffer, from Israel Wine Direct, Kosher is NOT a Country – LOVE that line!
Also, I am so happy that Mr. Marcus appreciated the Recanati wines as much as we all do. Like I posted in an earlier piece, Recanati Winery was built on the premise that they could and will create great kosher wines for a reasonable price! In other words solid kosher QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines! The lowest three scoring wines go for less than 12 dollars at most wine stores. Further, the Yarden Merlot goes for 16 dollars, on a bad day, which makes it another solid QPR wine. The top four wines do run in the 40 to 60 dollar range, and two of them are not kosher, but the real surprise of the bunch is the 2009 Domaine du Castel Chardonnay!
The 2009 Domaine du Castel Chardonnay has quite a swirl of controversy around it, given its clear reduction, the last few times I tasted it. Now, I did enjoy it once when I went to Castel Winery itself, but many in the community feel it is not a great wine, and clearly not a wine that shows the best for Castel Chardonnays. Still, it is great to see that the world is happy to ignore the Israel-centric views and score the wine for what they perceive it to be.
My wines notes follow below for the wines that I have tasted:
2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Kerem Ba’al (Wild) – Score: A-
The nose explodes with almost overripe blackberry, dates, prune, raspberry, nice floral notes, roasted meat, and plum. The mouth is rich and layered, with concentrated but accessible fruit, along with a crazy inky structure, and a mouth that is massive and rich with mouth coating tannin, and nice cedar. The finish is long and ripe with nice chocolate, butterscotch notes, heavy spice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and a salty finish. This is clearly a new-world style wine with crazy fruit forward and heavy use of oak, but one that is quite lovely all the same. There will be some that do not like the heavy smoke or the overripe fruit, and that is fine, just know what you are getting into with this wine. Many have given this wine huge scores while I see this one for what it is, which is a crazy unique and lovely wine that is a bit too overdone and overripe for my taste. Drink till 2016.
2010 Recanati Merlot, Diamond Series – Score: B++
The nose starts off floral with nice black cherry, green notes, and black currant. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is softening up with rounding tannin, black plum, green bell pepper, and nice cedar notes. The finish is long and spicy with good spice, black pepper, tobacco, vanilla, and bitter notes on the long finish.
To start please excuse the obvious play on C. W. Lewis titles, as my ode to the wonderful Olympics that have just completed in Great Britain, and for Britain’s handling and medaling throughout the Olympic extravaganza. While, the games were closing down in London, a few of us were gathering for what can only be called the regal revelry in San Diego! No, we were not reveling over the medal haul of the United States or for anything related with the Olympics. Rather, it was a chance date that allowed the four of us to get down to San Diego and enjoy the insane hospitality of Andrew, the purveyor and manager of Liquid Kosher.
I arrived first and was treated to a glass of Pommery Champagne which was light with a beautiful mousse and notes that remind one of a summer orchard filled with perfume of apple, ripe lemon creme, along with a ribbon of peach and spice. This is not mevushal and it belongs side by side my other favorite sparkler, the Drappier that is mevushal. Well, as I was enjoying the atmosphere and Champagne the regal gastronomic revelry began! I could not believe the effort that both Andrew and his wife went through for the three or four guests that appeared. The haute cuisine, that was impeccably implemented, would have made Gordon Ramsay blush! The gourmet menu consisted of seven courses and each one was better, if that was possible, than the next! I started on the Toast of Caramelized Apple and Tarragon, which was a beautiful example of what one can do with bread, butter, and a few herbs! The baguette was toasted with butter and herbs and then topped with caramelized Pink Lady apple and tarragon! What a treat, as the caramelized pink ladies released their liquid gold and flavored the brioche with a mix of sweetness and bright acidity making for a well-balanced treat! The herb and cheese that topped the fruit brought with it salty earthiness that brought together the entire flavor profile. Read the rest of this entry
The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.
Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.
In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.
By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.
Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery. Read the rest of this entry
The Recanati Winery was the realized life-long dream of Lenny (Leon) Recanati, a banker and true oenophile, who got his start in wine from his parents who made their own wine from their backyard vines. The winery’s stated goal from day one was to produce quality wines at reasonable prices – a truly noble mission statement which, as Recanati celebrates its first decade, it has accomplished beyond his wildest expectations. In addition to providing good value, Recanati is another winery from which you can buy any of their offerings and, while not every wine may be to your linking, you never have to worry about a bad wine.
“In order to go into the wine business, you have to have a passion for it. You have to have a love for it. Let’s say there are better businesses to go into, more profitable, more lucrative. Easier ways to make money,” said Recanati.
When Gil Shatsberg started making wine for Amphore Winery he tried to “take all the sunshine we have in Israel and push into the bottle and concentrate everything and shove it into the glass.” The wines were dense, heavy and high in alcohol.
“They were too big,” he explained. “I realized that when I couldn’t finish my own wine, that it was too heavy.”
Now he aims for wines that are more elegant with less alcohol.
“Wines with finesse that are tasty and fruity and you drink the vineyard and the sunshine in their elegance,” he said. Read the rest of this entry
Dr. Moises Cohen, owner and head wine maker of Elvi Wines, fell into his current love as part of his thesis defense of his other love - Agricultural Engineering, which he received from the Technion in Haifa. For the next 21 years Moises has used his degree and knowledge to build patented technology that allows vineyards to be remotely monitored on all aspects of the vine’s health and stress. Telemetry ranging from the vine’s overall health to how much water it has consumed and how much it still needs! It turns out that with some really cool technology a vine can tell you all the info you can ever imagine without damaging it in any way. The telemetry data allows the vineyard manager to control the water, fertilizer, and/or vineyard fans to cool or heat the vines.
Moises and his wife, Anne who holds a degree in History of Art and is a Sommelier, has been consulting with wineries, all around the world, to manage their vines and to make wines. In 2003, Moises started Elvi Wines, while continuing to being a wine consultant for wineries across Spain and South America. The duality of seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres allows Moises to help each in their own wine harvest and growing seasons.
Dr. Moises Cohen, the winemaker, is passionate about the terroir, and their winery’s name (Elvi) says it all; an abbreviation as Cohen explains it; EL (elokim or general rules or mother nature, just as you want, as you feel, as you believe) is always above VI (vino, wine). Wine is a mirror image of the vineyard and the wine maker. The more the wine maker manipulates the grapes and the wine, the more it feels and tastes fake. The more he/she lets the grapes and wine change and age naturally, the more the wine will be able to show its true terroir characteristics. All of the Elvi’s wines come from organically maintained vineyards! Further, the wines are brooding with earthy and mineral notes that show the terroir in ways that are quite enjoyable.
This past weekend we had friends and family around the table to enjoy some great food and some pretty good wines. This week there was no wine theme, actually to be more precise, the theme was that there was no theme. The theme was Drink up or let die. I say this as I have far too much history and track record in this area, and it has been my sworn duty going forward that I would embrace and channel the work of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher and attempt to always open that bottle in its time. To meet this need I attempt to create wine themes when there is no pressing wine to get to, otherwise, I drink the wines that are up next.
I use drink by dates of the late Daniel Rogov, Cellar Tracker, and of course, my own personal notes. This week it was time to get to some bottles that I have been worried about. I got to a couple of them, but missed out on the 2005 Ella Valley Pinot Noir, which we last tasted on some 3 years ago. We did get to enjoy some wine that we have not tasted in a couple of years, the 2001 Yarden Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, one of the finest Merlot that Yarden has ever produced, along with the 2006 Recanati Cabernet Franc, both of which have a year or maybe more left on them. Both are drinking lovely now, but if you too wish to live the motto “no good wine will be left to die“, drink it now and you will not be sorry.
I often laugh when people ask me when they should drink a particular bottle. In the kosher wine world more and more wines are being created that are built for cellaring. All that means is that the bottle you buy is not quite ready to drink, and the wine maker and winery have decided to diversify their risk and have you cellar the wine rather than them. For the most part, most wine (kosher or not) is made to be drunk within the year or two. There are reserve wines that are built to age a few years maybe 4 years at most. Then there are the a fore mentioned high-end wines that are truly not enjoyable at all from release, and need time to come into their own/peak.
The Recanati Cabernet Franc is at its true peak and can be left for another year or so, but why? Unless you have more pressing wine to enjoy – drink it now! There is only one sure thing, other than taxes, and that is – that the wine will eventually die. Why not enjoy it now. There is rarely a perfect time to drink a wine. There is just the acceptable and peak time to enjoy the wine and the rest is what you make of it! Read the rest of this entry