A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we were guests at a friend’s home, so I brought over a bottle of 2007 Gush Eztion Blessed Valley Red, which I really liked. They also served the 2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir, which continues to impress, and a bottle of the 2006 Yarden Cabernet. The Israeli date/raisin/new world issue was clearly evident in the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle that was purchased from a wine store the day before the dinner. The Yarden was still quite nice but infuriating, as it refused to open for hours and when it did, it was powerful and aggressive and full of date and raisin, a shame. The Blessed Valley red was nice and rich and controlled, but when you drink it after a Four Gates Pinot you again see quickly what acid does to a wine and what the lack of bracing acid feels like.
This was the second time, in recent memory, where had a Four Gates wine next to an Israeli red wine and each time – no matter how nice the Israeli wine is, it pales in comparison to the acid laden Four Gates wine.
Were the wines bad? No! The wines were just outmatched by a more complete wine – but not a wine that I would enjoy over them. It is a complex problem. The Four Gates Pinot is nice, but it is no 2009 Pinot and it is no 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, and nor should it be. Still, the acid in it makes all other nice wines feel lacking. The 2007 Blessed Valley is a fine wine, but it lacks the acid and that shows when considered next to a wine like a estate bottled Four Gates wine. Still, if you bought the 2007 Blessed Valley in America – drink now, it is smooth and rich and ready and going to the other side. Again, this was a bottle that I did not sore in my house – but a bottle I got from the distributor here in California. It should last another year or so, so start drinking now.
The 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was a beast to get open, but once open, as I stated before, raisins kept plopping out of my glass. The wine is crazy big, aggressive, and layered and mad good, but the real issue is the lack of control of baseline Yarden Cabernet wines. For lunch I opened a bottle of the 2008 Galil Barbera, which was quite nice. It opened a bit hot, but calmed down, smoothed out, while still being nice and acidic and capable of handling a bowl of cholent or a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
The wine notes are a bit lighter today as I did not have my wine note bending contraptions at my host’s home
2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: B++
The wine does not taste very different than a few months ago, when I last tasted it and wrote my notes. The menthol, bramble, dusty redwood aromas and flavors are ever evident. The red and black fruit are now really popping with a bracing acidity that could use another year to calm down, but for folks like me – the more acid the better.
2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley Red – Score: B+ to A
The wine is a blend of 77% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. The wine is showing a bit worse for the wear in the US than in Israel. In Israel the wine was rich and popping and highly aggressive. Here, it has smoothed and is in drink now mode. The wine is clearly redolent with tobacco and green notes, along with big black and red fruit. The sweet cedar and smooth integrating tannin is a real joy and one that can handle quite an array of foods. We enjoyed it with brisket and corned beef. The wine is full in body, with blackberry, black cherry fruit and so much more. The finish is long and spicy with mineral and graphite and mouth coating tannin that rise. Not quite the killer it was in Israel, but still quite a lovely wine indeed.
2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is a killer with a killer’s instinct. The wine is rich and layered but needs a few hours to open up. The wine clearly has sweet/Israeli raisin notes, but they are also surrounded by crazy ripe fruit, blackberry, cassis, and searing tannin that almost make your mouth hurt. The wine is popping with good balance of fruit and acid, assaulting layers of concentrated and extracted fruit, and spicy cedar that starts to take over the palate. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, and leather that lingers long with tannin, spice, and roasted herb.
2008 Galil Barbera – Score: B+
The wine starts off hot but after time calms to an almost herbal balm with crazy roasted herb, a rich perfume of dark cherry, light hint of date and raisin, good spice, and toast. The mouth is lovely and rich but controlled with sweet notes, toasty sweet cedar, wrapped up in softening sweet tannin, and plum delight. The finish is long and balanced with good acid, menthol, vanilla, and coffee.
As I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.
I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!
I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!
Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry
I have written often about Four Gates Winery, here in 2008, again for a Shabbaton, and then when I crashed Alice Feiring’s visit to the Four Gates Winery, and then my last writeup – the most complete to date. As always, I state up front that the winemaker, Benyamin Cantz (Benyo) is a good friend of mine and that in the end, the wine talks and scores and notes I give on wines are unbiased, as much as I can be.
I get a bunch of “smack” about being a good friend of Benyo, which is true, still I write what I smell and taste. Clearly, Four Gates Winery is one of those California wineries that is very different. It is different because of a few factors:
- Benyamin is a Vigneron – as explained before, Vigneron is French for wine maker and winery owner, but it also means that it is a person who does it all – wine wise. He manages his vineyard, he manages his cellar, and makes the wine – a nice way to say one-man shop. Is that good? Well, I can say it is awesome because he gets to know his vines and wines, but really it is just a view into the unique man who is himself the physical embodiment of the Four Gates Winery.
- The vines are grown organically and meet the CCOF standards of organic farming. Please do not think that a Vigneron is not a farmer. Remember he grows his grapes and knows his grapes and does so in an ecologically sustainable manner – since he started in 1997. This is NOT a fad for Binyamin – it is part of his way of life.
- His vines are dry farmed (there is that word again) – and for good reason. The Pinot pops because of it, as does the Chardonnay and Merlot. Essentially, dry farming allows for the fruit flavors to concentrate as the vine stresses. Stress, for a vine, is great. Too much stress, like in humans is BAD! Luckily it does not get that hot in the mountains and therefore, the water requirements are lower, keeping the stress constant – but maintainable.
- The climate in the vineyard and winery, as mentioned earlier, is indeed cooler than the city it overlooks and that helps the vines in many ways. The obvious benefit is that the vines need less water than they would elsewhere. It also allows the vines to cool down over night and it allows the vines to stay cool for longer, meaning more ripening time, but in a controlled manner.
- The cooler climate makes for perfect Pinot, Chardonnay, and Merlot and believe it or not Cabernet Sauvignon, which is why the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains is so FANTASTIC! Yes, I am sure you would think that Cabernet in a cooler region would be a disaster, as it would never fully ripen. Well, a not-so well-known fact is that the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. has a bit of Benyamin’s Cabernet Sauvignon in it. WHAT? Yes, Benyamin grows a very small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (I hope he does not kill me – LOL!) His Cabernet Franc also benefits from the cooler weather.
- Finally, what makes this winery unique is Benyamin Cantz himself! On this bullet point, I must pre-warn that I am very biased. To me Benyamin Cantz is one of those people where the expression stands true – good things happen to good people. Sure, he is my friend, but it does not take long to talk with him and feel the same way. He is like a few wine makers I found in Israel, that are humble, with so much to be arrogant about. The wine talks for themselves, but he is a unique man in that his actions may be wrapped up in the winery and vines, but they revolve around his religion, and that is more than most of us can ever say about ourselves. Read the rest of this entry
Two weeks ago, before I left for all of the Royal wine events, I went searching through my cellar for more Petite Sirah wines to make up for the sleeping beauties (at least they were beautiful before) I had to endure two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I posted about my failed attempt to find great Petite Sirah wines. Why? I do not know, these wines used to be great and I doubt they are dead, but rather in deep sleep. So, I tried to open all the Herzog Petite Sirah wines I had to see if they were any better. We did have a Herzog petite Sirah two weeks ago – the newest Herzog Petite Sirah that has been released, the 2010 Princeville PS, and it too was so-so, again I think something was wrong with my bottle or I and the rest of the table had an off day.
So, I tried a different table of people (mostly) and a different set of wines, and these came out better, but not awesome, other than the 2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah P.S. Limited Edition! That was a beast of a wine and lovely. The clear take away here is that these wines need a lot of time in a decanter and only then are they ready to play. Along with PS wines we also enjoyed three older wines from the Four Gates Winery, and a bottle of the 2005 Galil Yiron.
There was talk that the 2005 Yiron was going down hill, and I can say that the wine is fine and going nowhere but it was shocking when tasted side by side the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. The Merlot was bracing with black fruit and acidity, while the Yiron was full of black fruit but flat in terms of acidity, and I think that is what people are concerned about the Yiron. The Yiron is much like many of the older Yarden or Galil wines, they are flabby, oaky/cedar, and black ripe/sweet wines.
It is a continued theme in Israeli wines, the sweet notes and ripe fruit that overpowers the palate and takes away from the other attributes of wines. Having tasted many Israeli wines during my trip to Israel, I have found many wineries who have found a way to calm the sweet or new world notes and show more bright and ripe flavors without overpowering sweetness or fruitiness. The Yiron wines are not one of those, they normally show sweeter notes, and planks of cedar, but they continue to be bold and enjoyable. This one was no different, very enjoyable but the wine’s clear lack of acidity was truly shocking. Read the rest of this entry
Having finally come home from my four week trip to France and Israel, I have tons to write, but more of that soon. For now, I wanted to get my notes in for this weekend’s wines. The dinner was simple and great – all at the same time. The wine was nice, but I also opened a bottle of the 2012 Terrenal Malbec, and it has taken a large step backwards. Gone is the blue and black notes, and now all that is left
2007 Yarden Pinot Noir – Score: B+ to A- (QPR)
This wine is one that is sure to create controversy wherever it is poured. Why? Because the wine does not taste like a Pinot Noir! The wine is rich and lovely and more akin to a Tempranillo or Barbera than it is to a Pinot Noir.
The nose starts off hot but then cools with lovely and expressive black cherry, smoky aromas, cloves, spice, licorice, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and herb. The mouth is medium in weight with a nice and full mouth that coats the mouth with integrated tannin, sweet cedar, along with dark fruit, that is now coming together quite nicely with raspberry, blackberry, and black plum. Over time the wine’s nose shows apricot and peach along with ripe fruit. The finish is long and spicy with black pepper, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, and a hint of date on the finish.
The wine is not a typical Pinot Noir, but please do not take that as an affront – it is a lovely and enjoyable wine. If you are looking for a Pinot Noir styled wine – look elsewhere. If you are looking for a lovely wine that works with hard cheese, chicken soup, and roast beef alike, that will please newbies and wine veterans alike, than this is the wine for you!
2012 Terrenal Malbec – Score: B+ when not a bad bottle
Friends and acquaintances have been having mixed feelings about this wine. Wine that I had stored in my house – tasted more like a blend of lilac, marzipan, black fruit, and dirt. Gone was the root beer, the deep floral notes, and overall nice edges of this wine. However, I then went to the store and picked up a bottle from the shelf and it was exactly like I have it below. I believe the issue was that I stored the bottle in a not so happy place, but I am not sure why the bottle changed into that! The place I stored it was not a hot room! I stored it in the bottom of my pantry and it was cool for this entire month. Not sure – but a new bottle from the store tastes fine – so if it tastes off, return the bottle and get a new one.
This is what the newly bought bottle tastes like, exactly what I tasted the last few times – I really do love that tea, blue, hops, and vanilla flavor that lingers.
WOW! This wine starts off with a crazy attack of floral notes and about nothing else – really it starts of smelling like a lilac, rose, and Jasmine bouquet. However, with a bit of air and time, lovely ribbons of blueberry, black cherry, black pepper, and spice appear. The mouth is smooth and round with nice ripe fruit, almost layered and definitely attention grabbing, with blackcurrant, tea, and spice. The finish is long and almost rich with more blue and black fruit, root beer, vanilla, and nice tannin that coats the mouth along with bitter hops and herb. BRAVO!!
Well what can I say the theme continues with even more wines that I had the chance to taste this past weekend. There were some real winners and some very solid wines, without a dud in the bunch, including nothing short of heaven in a bottle, more on that in the notes below.
For now, I will leave you with a plethora of wines that I hope you can find in the your area and enjoy much like I did this past weekend with my family! Loved the food, tons of Sephardi food with many a treat!
The wines notes follow below:
2009 Tzuba Pinot Noir – Score: B+
Tasting this twice the wine showed a continuous expression of almost pure cherry, with Chica cherry cola, cherry, oak, ripe raspberry, bramble, toast, and espresso. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and tart with good acid, rich currant, medicinal cherry, nice spicy cedar, and nice integrated mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with roasted herb, oriental spice, cherry candy, and cloves.
2007 Katlav Wadi Katlav – Score: A-
This is Katlav’s flagship wine and is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 15% Petite Verdot. This wine starts of very closed and all you smell is crazy deep mineral, almost intense graphite and sulfur, quite nice but not its true self. The wine needs decanting, so go ahead and decant and fear not, unless you wish to wait a year or so more. Once it opens the wine screams with blackberry, black plum, cassis, and rich mineral, almost sulfur in its extreme, along with date and nice spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with nice sweet black fruit, ripe red fruit, sweet raspberry, nice vanilla, and sweet cedar along with mouth coating tannin that lingers long. The mouth is rich, round, and sweet, showing the impact of being in oak for 24 months, but while it does not lack in acid, it lacks the zip that could make this a killer wine. The finish is long with sweet tobacco, black fruit, licorice, cassis, and spice along with mounds of sweet milk chocolate, and rich cinnamon and cloves. The wine is throwing sediment so beware if you decant. Read the rest of this entry
On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!
When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.
The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.
With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.
The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (email@example.com), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry
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
I have been off the blog for a bit of time because of a mix of things – but I have still been on the sauce and I have had the chance to enjoy some nice wines and some real duds as well. One of the clear themes I have found in this time off and while I have been on the road – is that wine is a complex concept for many when faced with a wall of options. The many times that I was in a kosher wine store or kosher wine section on my travels, I watched many a person just become befuddled by the options that faced them. The good news is that there is TONS of kosher wine options now for the mass kosher market. The problem is that many of those options are poor – for those with a slightly advanced palate and/or desire for the good things in life. The bad news is that they cost a lot and there are fewer and fewer QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines in the kosher wine market. For example, while I think that the baseline Herzog wines are fine, they are not QPR winners, because they lack quality. The response I normally hear to that comment is one of two: they taste fine to me or you get what you pay for. Lets break those two down:
Not everyone is a wine snob like me and I am fine with that – but there is still a grade that most can agree on and while the baseline Herzog wines are fine wines – they are not quality wines. The Herzog reserve wines are quality wines to me – but they are more expensive. When I talk with people in the industry, both on the sale side and the wine production side, they comment that it is hard to make a kosher wine that is also reasonably priced. Clearly the high costs of the grapes, production, and all things California make it costly, but this is not a problem in the world of non-kosher wines. Take a gander at the plethora of California options that the Wine Enthusiast scored highly. Clearly the lack of QPR kosher California wines is not tied to the high cost of living in California. Whatever the reason, it is sad to see, but there are other regions where kosher QPR does live well. Another revelation from my time in the aisles, was that some decide on what they will buy based upon the very purpose for why it is being bought. An average wine is quality enough for a guest to a house that sees grape juice and wine as one the same, while a Yarden Katzrin may not be quality enough for one visiting the house of a wine maker or boss. Of course those may be extremes in each direction, but while I stood in the aisle and helped folks find kosher wine – the criteria continued to revolve around – price, purpose, flavor, pairing, and then quality – if ever.
Another interesting criteria that I have heard about – though one that I did not notice or hear when standing in the aisle, is the love affair with wine consumers and labels! It is something that I find myself doing when buying beer – and it is a criteria that some consumers use when faced with the all daunting task of buying wine from a wall of options.
My take away from these experiences, was the continued affirmation that while I believe I am on the pursuit of wine knowledge and experiences, the vast majority see the beverage as a tool or condiment to their own pursuits. This is much the same realization that hit me while I gained knowledge in the world of computers. While I found breaking down and rebuilding of computers to be an honest and well paying pursuit others saw the very kernel of my self-satisfaction as nothing more than madness, as computers were simply a tool to simplify their own pursuits. Surely, this is not a revelation to many – but it is a fact that needs to be repeated to those that drink from the cup of wine plenty. To remind us all – that we are not the norm, and while wineries and wine makers may find solace in what we write and preach – they realize (and so should we) that we are not the saviors or upholders of the common winery – that would be the folks looking blankly in the wine aisle.