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Wine Spectator scores a gaggle of kosher Israeli Wines

In the June 30th edition of the Wine Spectator, Kim Marcus reviewed some 21 wines from Israel and many scored above 85 point. The highest scored wines were:

  1. 2009 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon – 90
  2. 2007 Binyamina Cave – 90
  3. 2009 Yarden Chardonnay – 89
  4. 2008 Yarden Pinot Noir – 89
  5. 2009 Domaine du Castel Petite Castel – 89
  6. 2009 Segal Chardonnay, Special Reserve – 89
  7. 2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 88
  8. 2007 Barkan Merlot, Reserve – 88
  9. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Verdot, Yogev – 88
  10. 2009 Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc Alma – 88
  11. 2009 Segal Merlot, Special Reserve – 87
  12. 2009 Galil Yiron – 87
  13. 2010 Teperberg Meritage – 86
  14. 2007 Binyamina Merlot, Reserve – 85
  15. 2010 Barkan Merlot/Argaman, Classic – 85
  16. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Yogev – 85
  17. 2010 Segal Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, Fusion- 85
  18. 2009 Binyamina Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Yogev – 84
  19. 2010 Barkan Pinot Noir, Classic – 83
  20. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Yogev – 83
  21. 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel, Reserve – 82

Personally, I have a few things to comment here. First of all I am so very happy to see Israel again being taken seriously and having their wines scored, whether for the good or the bad.

Secondly, these scores are VERY much in line with expectations, though there are a few shockers in there as well, more on that soon. The wines that were tasted were not blockbuster superstars, on the contrary these were second tier wines, for the most part, and many of which we have scored in the very same manner. In other words, the reason why these “low” scores are such good news is that they are VERY legitimate scores for the wines reviewed.
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Minute Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Garlic Green beans, and Domaine du Castel Petit Castel

This past week I went spelunking into my freezer and I found two pounds of minute steak, or what the meat world calls chuck blade steak. The steaks are kind of that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meat. It wants to be braised but it also can work with a grill. Say what? Actually, the meat has a large amount of connective tissue with a thick gristle running down the middle. The best way to manage this cut of meat is to grill it after you marinade it for a few hours, or braise it. Well, I had no time to marinade the meat ahead of time, so I coated the meat with paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. I then put them on the grill and used a bit of barbecue sauce as well. Finally, I placed the grilled steaks into a shallow pan, added in some more barbecue sauce into the pan, and then covered it with aluminum foil and placed the meat into a warm oven.

For a side dish, I whipped up two very simple dishes. One was roasted sweet potatoes, potatoes, and onions. The other was garlic green beans with onions and mushrooms. Here are the recipes:

Roasted Potatoes and Onions Recipe

  1. 1 pound of potatoes – cut into large cubes
  2. 1 pound of yams (orange sweet potatoes) – cut into large cubes
  3. 2 sweet onions – cut into large cubes
  4. 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  5. 2 tablespoons of garlic powder and paprika
  6. 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper

Cut up the vegetables into large cubes 1 inch or more cubes. Then place them in a large bowl and fill the bowl with water to cover, and let them sit there for an hour of so. This is VERY important. It helps to accelerate the roasting process. Then pour out the water, and pat the vegetables dry. Next mix the spices together so that they are combined well. Next spread out the vegetable cubes into a large shallow roasting pan and cover with oil and then sprinkle the spice mixture over the vegetables. Then flip the vegetables around and add more spice mixture until coated very well. Finally, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and roast for 30 or so minutes, or until the vegetables start to caramelize.

Garlic Green beans, with mushroom and onions Recipe:

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 large onions coarsely diced
  3. 16 oz. of mushrooms thickly sliced
  4. 7 cloves of garlic
  5. 1 teaspoon of salt, or more to taste
  6. 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

Heat up the oil in a large skillet till it starts to smoke. Then drop in the coarsely diced onions and saute them till nicely browned. Then add in the thickly sliced mushrooms and saute them till they have sweated out half their size. Then add in the garlic till they start to bloom, then add salt and pepper to taste. Finally add in the green beans, and mix everything up, so that the hot vegetables coat the green beans, and take it off the fire when the green beans just start to soften.

The meal was absolutely killer! Sorry if I and tooting my own horn, but the pairings were just perfect. The meat was soft on the indie, yet crispy on the outside, the green beans were nicely wilted yet slightly crisp, and the roasted vegetables were lovely with the meat!

To pair with the meat we went looking for a rich red wine and pulled out a bottle of 2006 Petit Castel. I was really looking forward to a rich wine, but the wine’s lack of core acid made the wine feel flabbier and flat. The mouth was rich, but the date and sweet cedar flavors also turned me off. This is a bottle you really should be drinking up!!

The wine note follows below:

2006 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: B++
The nose on this black colored wine with brown tinge is rich with sweet cedar, chocolate, tobacco, herbs, date, very apparent green beans, ripe plum, blackberry, and currant. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is still rich and concentrated with green notes, ripe fruit from the nose, rich black cherry, mouth coating tannin, and sweet cedar all coming together. The wine is missing the bright acidity of old, which makes it feel a bit underpowered. The finish is long and super spicy, with rich black pepper, herbs in the background, and heavy sweet cedar and vanilla to round it out. DRINK UP!!!

Parve French Onion Soup, Meat Lasagna, Roasted Green Beans, Spinach Kugel, and Many Kosher Red Wines

Some five weeks ago found my wife and I gathered around the table with our dear friends, good food and wine.  Wow, the blog has been in the basement for a bunch of weeks, but hopefully we will get back into the swing of things soon.  So now on to the food!  We wanted to have some friends over that we did not see for sometime, and they brought over a guest from the east coast.  The funny thing is that the guest did not eat certain foods, which foods – the VERY ingredients that we were using to make the courses that would grace our table.  Thank goodness we had other menu items that met her food needs.

Anyway, the meal started with a Parve French Onion Soup.  The core of this recipe came from a cookbook called Spice and Spirit, but the recipe in the cookbook called for too few onions, brown sugar, and no wine!  So instead, I modified the recipe so that it looks more like what is found below.  The recipe used to be a serious pain in the neck, because of the need to thinly slice the onions.  Well that is easy now!  How Because my wife bought me this wonderful contraption called a mandolin.  The device is a God send!  It easily makes quick work of 8-10 onions, which used to make me cry, and not just because of Syn-Propanethial-S-oxide.  With the ability to easily slice onions, recipes like French Onion Soup, vegetable additives for you lox & bagel or burger, become a joy and almost a game, to see how thin and how nicely you can slice the onions! Thank you so much Oxo!  Not only does the mandolin, it was cheap and stores away easily.  The only con is that it does not slice tomatoes so well, and it cannot handle very large items, which should be avoided anyway, as on the average, the larger a vegetable gets, the less flavorful it becomes.  A quick note, if you are sick of peeling and crushing garlic, get some of this stuff!  It tastes great and is always waiting for you in your freezer, as long as you buy some!  Trader Joes has some along with other supermarkets.  Another note, this is an obvious twist on the classic French Onion Soup, but there is no animal product to be found, so no Gruyère cheese.  However, in an attempt to mimic the cheese like consistency, we throw in rice, which when it swells up thickens the soup and gives it that sticky and gelatinous like structure.

Parve French Onion Soup
3 tbsp oil
8-10 thinly sliced white or sweet onions
3 tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried Oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 or more cloves of garlic (frozen is easiest)
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups of red wine
4 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 a cup of brown rice

Put the oil in a Dutch oven and heat it up till the oil starts to shimmer.  Then throw the sliced onions into the pot and sauté them till golden brown.  One they are truly brown, add in the nectar and spices, and sauté for another 10 or so minutes, or until all the liquid is gone.  Toss in the rest of the ingredients (except for the rice), and simmer for 30 or so minutes until the soup reduces by 20% or so.  Then toss in the rice and cook for another 15 or so minutes or until the soup looks and moves semi-gelatinous.

The meal started off with a bottle of the 2006 Ella Valley Ever Red.  A nice bottle, and one that is ready to drink up.  It was followed by my wife’s not-classic (and THANK GOD for that) whole wheat challah.  The challah did not survive past the soup course, which is par for the course, and totally appreciated by the table.  We paired the 2008 Elvi Wines Matiz with the soup.  The extreme acid base of the wine paired nicely with the tomato note high acid) soup.  Normally, when pairing one wants to not fight fire with fire.  However, that rule is only for extreme cases.  For instance, when pairing spicy food with wine, I recommend you use a nice sweet yet acidic wine, like Hagafen White Riesling, which has enough acid and sweetness in harmonious balance to counteract hot peppers.  However, when the flavor in the food is not as extreme as hot pepper or chocolate soufflé sweet, the correct course of action is to fight fire with a bit more or at least the same amount of fire.  So, when enjoying a tomato based food like Tomato soup, that has no animal products in it (that help to balance the flavors), you are left with a tart/acidic soup whose best bet is to balance the flavors with a bit of sugar and starch.  Still, the soup is still acid in nature, and is best paired with an acidic core wine, like almost any estate bottled red from Four Gates Winery (whose wines always have a natural acidity to them), or an Italian  Chianti, or a lovely Tempranillo like the Matiz, which packs more than enough acid and tannins to keep up with the tomato soup.

For the second course we served meat lasagna, parve spinach quiche/kugel, roasted green beans, and a fresh green salad.  The guest could not eat the lasagna or the spinach kugel, but she brought some chicken over for herself before shabbos.  Some of our friends who joined us that evening do not eat meat, so we also made a lovely Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf – recipe below.  To pair with this menu we opened two other bottles, a 2003 Château Labégorce-Zédé and a 2006 Castel Petite Castel, the wine notes are found below.  making the meal was a blast as was the company.

Quinoa Onion Mushroom Pilaf
Sauté onions until golden brown and then sauté mushrooms until they have released most (but not all of their liquid).  The excess liquid will be appreciated by the quinoa.  Throw in salt, garlic, and some basil.  Throw in 2 cups of quinoa, and let the quinoa soak up all the liquid and just start to toast.  Then throw in a cup of white wine and then three cups of water, and let the quinoa cook till fluffy.  Then let cool, and add oil, toasted almonds, and optionally some craisins to boot.

Wines notes follow below (listed in the order they were tasted):

2008 Elvi Wines Rioja Matiz – Score: B+

The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine has raspberry, black cherry, rich plum, stone mineral, oak, herbs, and kirsch. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and mouth coating with black cherry, kirsch, tart cherry, and raspberry. The mid palate is bright with heavy acid and not yet integrated tannins. The finish is spicy and long-lasting with black cherry, coffee, and nice tannins. NOTE: This wine has sediment, not sure why such a young wine has so much sediment, so keep the wine upright for a couple of days and make sure not to pour the wine till the last drop, as the last poor person, may get a slushy or chunky glass of wine.

2006 Ella Valley Cabernet-Merlot Ever Red – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to mahogany colored wine starts with some blackberry that over time blows off, along with ripe raspberry, plum, oak, cherry, crushed spices, tobacco, and smoke. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe with soft caressing tannins that give the wine a fuller mouth, along with ripe raspberry, plum, and cherry. The mid palate is a bit fat though balanced with just enough acid and oak. The finish is long and smoky with ripe red fruit, tobacco, soft tannins, and oak. Drink up as this one is ready if not already on its way down, if only from its color and length of life in the glass.

2003 Château Labégorce-Zédé – Score: A-
The nose of this garnet colored wine is hopping with rich oak, truly lovely ripe and rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe black plum, lovely blueberry, tobacco smoke, herbs, and slight stone minerality. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is super rich and layered with lovely tannins that gives you a full mouth with ripe and rich raspberry, plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, tannin that shows nicely, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is long with oak, tobacco, herbs, mineral, and blueberry. A really lovely wine that is at its peak and worthy of drinking.

2006 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is a beautiful and rich experience with rich tobacco, ripe and rich plum, rich cedar oak, crushed/roasted herbs, blackberry, and chocolate. The mouth of this full-bodied wine has a rich full mouth that has lovely mouth coating tannins, rich oak, ripe plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, integrated tannins, and tobacco. The finish is long and luscious with tobacco, black plum, rich oak, chocolate, and herbs.

Second Day Passover Meals and Wines

To celebrate the end of Passover, we had guests and family over for meals on the last days. We spent the entire Sunday cooking, and while it was crazy work, it was a ton of fun.

Sunday Night Menu (with family):
Chicken soup with matzo balls (my Father-in-law was not feeling well)
Roasted chicken
Carrot kugel (secret recipe) which I LOVE
Cranberry/Pineapple/Orange Relish
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:
2007 Yarden Mount Hermon Red
– Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and blackberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft with raspberry and cranberry. The mid palate is balanced with integrated tannin, acid, and slight concentration, along with a bit of roundness, without extreme oak presence. The finish is long and soft with nice dark fruit, full mouth, and acid. A nice wine that is ready to drink.

Monday Day Menu (Friends and Family):

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Stuffed Vegetables
Vegetable Chunks
Fresh Green Salad

Eggplant Salad Recipe
2 Tablespoon of olive oil
Three onions cubed
1 lb of mushroom cubed
Two Eggplant cubed
1 16 or so ounce can of tomato sauce
Garlic Powder

Sauté the cubed onions in the olive oil, until brown.  Once browned, add the cubed mushrooms and wait for them to wither and brown as well.  Then add the cubed eggplant and wait for them to release their water.  Once the vegetables are soft, add in the tomato sauce, the spices, and wait for the mixture to firm up.

Vegetable Chunks (Feeds 24 or so folks)
4 large sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
6 red potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
4 russet potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
6 zucchini cut into 1 inch wedges
2-3 onions cut into 1 inch wedges
Olive Oil coated roasting pan
Garlic Powder

Place the vegetables in water for 30 or so minutes.  Then drain the water and lay them in a large oiled roasting pan.  After each layer of vegetables cover them with garlic powder and paprika.  It is fine to have at most three layers of vegetables, but two is better.  Roast in oven covered at 350 degrees, for 30 minutes, then mix the vegetables around, cover with spices again, and place back in the oven till just tender, but with a bit of bite still left.

Wine Menu:
2004 Four Gates Chardonnay
– Score: A-
This bottle is quite different from the previous one we had. Instead of intense toasted oak, the wine showed characteristics very much in line with our tasting from 2008, except without the green flavors. The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine is filled with ripe fruit, peach, lemon, melon, butterscotch, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied and very rich Chardonnay is powered by some residual sugar, peach, melon, and citrus flavors. The mid palate is a strong crisp acid core mixed with some sweetness, and nice toasty (but not over the top) oak. The finish is a long crisp and refreshing stroll with toasty wood as a partner, along with butterscotch, and ripe melon. The wine is crisp yet has weight at the same time, a real joy.

2006 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+ to A-
This bottle turned out to be more red than our previous tasting of this wine, but it was still a concentrated mouth which was nice.  The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is filled with raspberry, cranberry, plum, toasty oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is concentrated and focused with raspberry, cranberry, plum, tight and spicy.  The mid palate is bracing with acidity, toasty oak, and still not yet integrated tannins.  The finish is long and toasty with coffee, red berry, spicy oak, vanilla, and spice.  I guess I will chalk this one up to bottle variation.

Monday Night Menu (Family)
Chicken soup with matzo balls (my Father-in-law was not feeling well)
Roasted chicken
Stuffed Vegetables (leftovers)
Carrot kugel (secret recipe) which I LOVE
Cranberry/Pineapple/Orange Relish
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:
Leftovers of FG Chardonnay and Yarden Mount Hermon Red

Tuesday Day Menu (Friends and Family):
Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Stuffed Vegetables
Kielbasa Stew
Vegetable Chunks
Sweet and Sour Brisket
Fresh Green Salad

We normally go with one or at most two dishes, but this time things worked out better for us to make the Kielbasa Stew that we have had pretty good success with recently.  Our guests brought two bottles of wine and they were really great, and they went very well with the dishes we had on the menu.

Wine Menu:
2006 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard
– Score: A-
The nose on this light gold colored wine is hopping with ripe melon, fig, kiwi, apples, sweet oak, honeydew, and floral notes.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is toasty and spicy with oak, peach, melon, and apple.  The mid palate is bracing with core acidity, orange peel, spicy oak, and butter.  The finish is super long with butter, toasty oak, lemon, ripe melon, and good acidity.  Finally, the flavors of oak, butter, and lemony acidity linger forever on the palate after the wine is long gone.

2006 Domaine du Castel, Petit Castel – Score: A-
This wine starts off slow but explodes with a crazy rich nose and mouth as it airs out.  The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine explodes with a rich voluminous oak, rich dark chocolate, plum, jammy cassis, and blackberry.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft, supple, and rich with a full/velvety mouth from lovely soft tannins that still coat the mouth, along with ripe blackberry, cassis, chocolate, and black plum.  The mid palate is filled with oak, integrated tannins, and still good acid.  The finish is super long with chocolate, blackberry, oak, lovely tannins, rich/ripe plum on a bed of chocolate and tobacco.

Passover Seder Wines

This past week, saw us enjoying two wines that we brought, and two wines that others brought to our hosts homes.  Mine were not as good as the others brought, but good to try and drink.  We of course brought these wines to two Passover Seder for the four cups (arba kosos).  We decided this year to not host the passover seder, like we did last year, and so, we went to our friends for the two evening meals.

The notes for the wines we enjoyed can found below:

2004 Recanati Cabernet Franc – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine has cranberry, raspberry, plum, oak, and mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still expressive with red fruit, crushed herbs, and a touch of mint. The mid palate is still bracing with acid, soft tannins, and oak. The finish is still strong with coffee, acid, red fruit, and oak. Drink UP, or use it for a nice cholent for the next few months.

2006 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose of this almost jet black colored wine is packed with rich and spicy oak, blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is super concentrated and super extracted with blackberry, cassis, and oak extraction.  The mid palate is bracing with bright acidity, toasty oak, and still biting tannins, that will smooth out soon.  The finish is very long with bright acidity, toasty oak, and big black fruit.  A nice concentrated Cabernet that will evolve a bit still.

On the second night we enjoyed these wines…

2004 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine was crazy nice with blackberry, chocolate, sweet oak, bright berry, and pepper. The mouth on this very soft medium bodied wine was not as bracing and complex as I remember it to have been. The mouth is soft and almost tannic free, with nice black fruit, black berry and plum. The mid palate is soft and not bracing, with oak, and not much more. The finish is very nice with more black fruit, chocolate, and a bit of oak. Nice, but soft and ready to drink NOW!

2003 Yarden Merlot – Score: A- to A
The nose on this black colored wine screams with black cherry, raspberry, berry, crushed herbs, and rich and toasty oak.  The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is rich with concentrated black cherry, berry, and toasty oak.  The mid palate is acidic with rich oak, and integrating tannins.  The finish is long and rich, with more black fruit, oak, and green notes.  The wine is super fun, extracted, and rich.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Veal Roast, Roasted Root Vegetables, Galil Barbera, Red Fern Chardonnay, Petit Castel, and Goose Bay Viognier

With our family still with us, I thought it would be cool to try a Veal Roast.  The roast was pretty simple, except that I decided to make it complex, which was kind of yummy and complex.  I whipped up a batch of caramelized thinly sliced white onions and browned mushrooms.  My mother-in-law peeled the veal roast apart and laid the onion and mushroom mixture into the cavity.  She then wrapped it and placed the roast’s netting back on it so that the roast stayed together.  We roasted it at 350 until it was done.  The roast was a hit and so were the baked gefilte fish, eggplant mixture, and roasted vegetables, the recipe for the rest of the stuff is here.

Veal roast is a light weight meat and so, I wanted to try it with a nice Viognier.  I have spoken a few times about how much I love the Goose Bay Viognier and I must say that the Viognier is still going strong.  I am so proud of myself for opening it a couple of hours ahead of time, and it could have still used more air – crazy.  It paired crazy well with the Veal roast, but could have been colder.  A friend brought over the Petit Castel, so we popped it open and it too was a joy.  The Red Fern Chardonnay and Galil Barbera wines were opened prior to the meal for a wine tasting, and were enjoyed with the meal.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Goose Bay Viognier – Score: A (no change from previous notes)
The nose of this light yet bright straw colored wine was filled with classic Viognier perfume, grapefruit, apricot and citrus aromas. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is strikingly fruity while also being infused with the perfume quality. The mid palate is strongly acidic and laced with grapefruit, lemon, and green flavors. The finish is acidic in an almost puckering way. I must say, that a nice perfumed nose and mouth while still dry, is great with heavy foods like roasted duck or turkey. But because it is so dry, it fails to stand up to spicy foods.

2006 Galil Mountain Barbera – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby to garnet-colored wine is hot out of the bottle, and has cranberry, cassis, plum, leather and oak.  The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine follows the nose, and is filled with cranberry, cassis, and plum.  The mid palate is mouth coating with soft tannins, bright acidity and nice rich oak.  The finish is long… with oak, leather, and chocolate.  The wine is quite enjoyable, and shows that Barbera can be made successfully in Israel.

2005 Red Fern Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this light straw-colored wine is green with vegetal notes, along with citrus and apple.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is green with bright acidity, citrus and apple.  The mid palate is creamy with oak, while staying crisp with nice acidity.  The finish is medium long, creamy, with custard and acidity.  The folks at Red Fern have done a good job of not trying to do more with the grapes than nature has given them

2004 Petit Castel – Score: A-
This wine was awesome and totally overpowered the poor veal roast.  Still, the wine was awesome.  The nose on this deep and dark garnet colored wine is popping with blackberry, cassis, currant, oak, and chocolate – lots of chocolate.  The mouth of this full bodied wine carries over from the nose with more black fruit and chocolate.  The mouth is full and velvety and complex with layers of fruit and chocolate.  The mid palate is balanced with just enough acidity to keep it all together.  The finish is long with fruit, pepper, and more chocolate.  Quite a nice wine, but drink up as it is at its peak.


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