This past Hanukkah saw my friends and family gathering around for an evening of cheese, latkes, and wine. The main issue revolves around finding kosher cheese. There are many issues that revolve around cheese for observant Jews, as listed in the link. For some time we observant Jews were left with things like Muenster cheese and American cheese – AHHH!! I am so glad to say that we now have real cheese my kosher friends! For our party we used cheese from many manufacturers. The first one hails from the state of Oregon – Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese. It is a nice cheddar cheese that does not taste like water. The second cheese we had was a lovely and simple Brie from the company called Les Petites Fermieres. The brie was nice and simple and not very complex or stinky, but interesting enough. The interesting part was that we had a chunk of the brie lying around in the refrigerator after the party and man did the brie turn into a nice, soft, stinky, and nutty flavored brie! So if you want the brie to get real interesting – all you need to do is unwrap the package, and leave it lying around in your fridge for a couple of weeks, and man will it turn into what I am used to when I think of brie. The third cheese we had was a simple but fun Les Petites Fermieres Monterey Jack. The Monterey Jack tastes creamy with a mild flavor, and matches well with soft wines. The rest of the cheeses we had on the table were a nice Blue Cheese and a couple of goat cheeses. I was not a huge fan of the Blue Cheese as it wrecked my palate and the goat cheeses were OK, but a bit too mild, to say the least.
For latkes we punted and served potato pancakes from Trader Joe. They were pretty good and that is all one can ask. Finally, we went with many wines – five to be exact. Three disappeared quickly, the Bordeaux was awesome a few hours after the party, and the Italian Zinfandel (Primitivo di Manduria) was quite nice as well, after it finished opening up and smoothing out later that night.
So many thanks for all the folks who came by and the wine notes can be found below:
2007 Château Haut Philippon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is a rich and enveloping nose of loamy soil, cherry, raspberry, cassis, and fig. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is a nice soft wine with an enveloping mouth that is not complex in any way, but after many hours of air, the wine fills out nicely. The tannins are soft but are ever present, along with cassis, and raspberry that mingle nicely. The mid palate is balanced with core acidity and integrating tannins. The finish is long with more cassis and raspberry, rich loamy soil, and soft tannins that linger long on your palate after the wine is gone. The wine fills out with nice mouth coating tannins. This is a nice wine for the price and nice as well because it is Mevushal!
2004 Borgo Reale Primitivo di Manduria - Score: B++
The nose on this light garnet to garnet colored wine is hopping with cherry, cola, raspberry, plum, pepper, mineral, and bramble/earth/dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has integrated tannins, sweet core, ripe fruit, cherry, raspberry, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with core acidity, earth and dirt, along with cola. The finish is a long earthy/dirty finish with red fruit, dirt, and nice intense pepper. A nice Zinfandel wine, that works well. It is not a wine that will fill out, drink up and enjoy.
2005 Hagafen Zinfandel - Score: A-
This wine is now close to its peak and it is opening nicely now, it was the clear winner of the evening. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is black with ripe fruit, blackberry, plum, mounds of chocolate, spice, sweet oak, and vanilla. The mouth on this full bodied wine fills out with mouth coating tannins that are integrating, but still present. The wine shows a rich, black, and full mouth with blackberry, nice tannins, and semi-sweet oak with raisins. The mid palate shows more integrated tannins vanilla, rich and sweet oak, and balanced acidity. The finish is long and supports the wine’s full mouth with more rich oak, vanilla, and bright acid that carries the rich and ripe black fruit, acting like a bow around this lovely package.
2005 Herzog Zinfandel Special Reserve – Score: A-
OK, as an honest human I must admit I hated this wine a year ago! WOW, what a difference a year makes. Man, this wine needs a ton of air, but the wine cleans up really nicely with oxygen. The nose on this light garnet to garnet colored wine has a huge and rich nose that starts with rich oak, ripe Napa fruit, chocolate, plum, raspberry, fig, intense spice, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, classic ripe red berry along with rich mouth coating sweet oak tannins that are now well integrated. The mouth softens with air and becomes rich and enveloping, nice. The mid palate is soft with ever present tannins that are going to stay for a couple of years, more sweet oak, and balancing acidity. The finish is super rich and long with sweet oak, ripe fruit layered on top a few shakes of pepper, along with chocolate that is balanced by nice tannins, and more rich ripe fruit. Get a bottle within the next few months and open it and taste it, and then leave it open for a couple of hours and come back and finish it with a table of friends!
2007 Goose Bay Viognier – Score: A-
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. Personally, this wine felt a bit lighter than it did before, and maybe it is coming up against the wall. So, if you have a few bottles lying around, drink one now and check out where it is for you.
Well we went out Friday night and I brought two bottles with me:
2002 Carmel Mizrachi Cabernet Sauvignon Kerem Ben Zimra – Score: A-
This wine is currently at its peak (or just missed it). The color is a beautiful deep red – purple wine. The nose is filled with dark fruits, strong oak flavors, mint, and hints of vanilla. The mouth on this full bodied wine was super smooth. Wonderfully balanced. The slight amount of tannins were absolutely in perfect harmony with the strong cassis, blackberries, and eucalyptus flavors. It is heavy and velvety in the mouth yet smooth with just the right touch of vanilla. The finish is filled with toasty wood in a light chocolate backdrop
2003 Carmel Mizrachi Syrah Single Vineyard Kosher Kerem Ramat Arad – Score: B+
This bottle was opened some 3 hours in advance and it was still not there when we finally got to drink it later in the evening. It was just throwing off its evening shawl and getting ready to hit the dance floor when we had its last drops. A shame, but I cannot talk to what there were hints of, I can only talk to what we had.
The wine has a deep and brooding purple color. The nose is filled with strong aromas of sweet oak and green grass. The mouth of the medium bodied wine was light on the tannins – though not fully integrated. The fruit was not so prominent but the sweet oak and green flavors almost dominated the mouth. The finish was long with hints of red fruits that were almost too scared to come out.
For lunch – we opened this for ourselves:
2004 Borgo Reale Primitivo di Manduria – Score: B++
For lunch we opened this bottle. At first it showed strong Zinfandel characteristics (of course because it is a Zinfandel wine). There were STRONG notes of mint and rose characteristics. They turned me off so much, that I wanted to toss the wine. Good news – I relented and drank more! The wine opened in the glass and balanced itself out quite nicely. Being used to a California Zin, I expected the pepper or the spice (of which there is none), but in its place is this wonderful smoky flavor. It permeates the wine and gives it a special Aura and uplift. The nose is filled with red fruit, tobacco, and mint. The mouth of the lively and balanced medium – full bodied wine starts with flavors of dates, cherries, raspberries, and finishes with a medium long finish that is wrapped in smoky flavors and has a fat stogie tucked between its teeth.
I know the wine has a lower score then the Carmel Cab 02 and that it has a very funny score of B++ – but I could not shake the fact that it was really good. It did not have the stature of the Carmel Cab, but the Primitivo was so lively, playful, a wine almost daring you to ignore it – without beating you over the head, that I had to denote it in some way. If you can find one – I would recommend it – though drink up – they are meant to be drunk young.
At night we also had the chance to drink a bottle of Baron Herzog Zinfandel Old Vines 2006, that had been open for quite a while. I am not scoring it because I did not drink it in a controlled manner. However, it had many of the characteristics of the Primitivo before it opened up and became playful. I must admit, that I am not a fan of the Baron Herzog Zin since 2003. It has become FAR TOO floral and green. There is less ripe fruit and there is a ton of pepper that throws the whole wine off. I prefer the Zins of old, that were lively, oaky, with just enough pepper to round the wine out, but not take it over. We hope that the next incarnation will return to those Zins of old.