Much of this post was already posted here, where I described my second week in Israel. Many if not all the pictures here (except for the bottle pictures) are all courtesy of Herzberg winery, as Gabriel Geller and I arrived so late that it was pitch dark by the time I meandered my way to the winery. Herzberg Winery is a winery that is owned, run, and operated by a single man – Max Herzberg. It was pouring rain as we made our way to his lovely home – which doubles as his winery and vineyard. Yes, he reminds me of my good friend Benaymin Cantz (from four gates winery), another of those home bound Vigneron who live, breath, and eat winemaking in and around their very abode! I must say that many of my writings are more sentimental to me that rote and that is why it may seem that I do not write often, but I need the emotion and passion to be there before I can pick up my virtual pen and write these postings. It is not an excuse but more a reality and my apologies for having not written more about my Israel trip yet – more will be on the way soon, after passover.
Max Herzberg is a world-famous biotechnologist who has single-handedly created and sold more companies than many of us even know or can keep track of. Max immigrated to Israel from France and quickly became a world-class biotechnologist and a leader in his field and in the corporate world!
However, after getting his fill of running biotechnology departments at universities and running and starting companies, Max decided he would plant a vineyard. One day Max approached his clearly intelligent wife (who happens to be a Tunisian – so that helps a lot of course) and asked if she minded if he planted a few vines? His wife replied, you mean you want to plant the entire field – right? Sure enough, in 2005, by the time Max was done, the entire 3 acre field, right next to his home in Moshav Sitrya was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. It is not clear if this particular location within the Judean Hills is well situated for Malbec, but as Max puts it – time will tell. Max also makes use of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a neighboring vineyard. The first true year for the winery was in 2008, though there was some 300 bottles from the 2007 vintage. The 2012 vintage produced some 4500 bottles – nice realistic and manageable growth. Max does it all; he prunes his vineyard and sulfurs it with a machine, and of course makes the wine. The only thing he does not do is pick the grapes – by himself, he has folks to help with that!
As usual, Geller knows everyone and him and Max hit it off really well. It helps that Geller speaks a perfect French (so jealous), the native tongue of the French born Max Herzberg. It was with this knowledge that we arrived at his home and he showed us around the winery – though by this time it was pitch dark and we were walking around very carefully. We soon made our way to the well-lit tasting room, that is adjacent to the winery and that is where we tasted through the winery’s entire line. A few weeks after we visited, Max had a winery tasting at his winery to show off the new 2009/2010 red wines and from what I can see on his Facebook page – it was a smash! Max is one of those honest, down to earth, humble and talented wine makers that enjoy what he is doing and it shows in his wine and in his passion for his craft. Read the rest of this entry
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
Well this past weekend was quite a busy one, as I was enjoying the Shabbos meal, but also thinking about my quick trip to New York for the Jewish Week tasting. This year the GKWE (Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza) was canceled so the only cross-importer wine tasting was going to be the Jewish Week City Winery tasting, which was on a Sunday afternoon! That meant I either stay in NY for Shabbos (not happening), or I fly out late Saturday night for NY and pray I get there in time – barely did – but that is a different story for another posting.
We enjoyed the usual lemon rosemary roasted chicken, quinoa, and a fresh salad, along with my very last bottle of any Dalton Viognier Again, I have stated before, Dalton is releasing a new 2012 vintage of this lovely wine – when it is ready. The best kosher Viognier out there, are from Midbar Winery, Yatir Winery, and Teperberg Winery, but the most anticipated Viognier release will undoubtedly be the 2012 Dalton Viognier – which will be out and about in a bottle by mid year – so LOOK for it, it will be worth the effort.
Until then I will have to live with my memories of this wine. As a side note the wine was made with wild yeast, which while it sounds sexy is really not something most folks will pickup in the wine. However, who cares, the wine is lovely and anyone who has some of these bottles – it is in drink now mode. Finally, this was a shmitta wine – and though I do not drink them normally – this was bought before my change of heart, and was made legal to drink via a process, but not one that you can use going forward – email me if you care. The wine note follows below:
2008 Dalton Viognier Reserve Kosher – Score: A-
The nose on this gold-colored wine screams of toast, butterscotch, honey, orange blossom, and peach. Overtime the wine’s nose also shows off rich white chocolate and spice. The mouth is bright and balanced with good oak influence but also ripe white and tropical fruit, asparagus, grapefruit, and lemon, all wrapped up in an oily texture and rich mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with caramel, straw, melon, and pineapple. This was the last of my bottles and one that could have lasted a bit more – but is at its peak for sure – so it is in drink-now mode.
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we enjoyed a quiet shabbos dinner with one of my favorite dishes, my wife’s Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken Recipe. Along with the roasted chicken we made some lovely quinoa and fresh green salad.
To pair with the chicken and quinoa I opened a bottle of the 2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast. Six months ago we opened one of our two bottles of this lovely Viognier elixir and it was tasting fantastic then and it is tasting great right now! It is a bottle that I have really loved for sometime and one that Dalton stopped making after the 2009 vintage. As stated here, the great news is that I tasted the new 2012 Viognier and it was awesome and it should be on the market in the next year or so. Until then we must wait and live with whatever Dalton Viognier you may have laying around or get a bottle of the 2009 Yatir Viognier.
Personally, I found the bottle to be great, even though others have said the bottle is dead or dying. It was because of these statements that I must come out and state whole wholeheartedly that “the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”! The wine tasted lovely, it was bright, and rich with lovely summer fruit and I miss it already as it was my last bottle. Yes, I am having serious withdrawal issues, and I only finished drinking it a few hours ago. Till the new Dalton Viogniers come out, I will have to drown my sorrows in a bottle of Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, or Midbar Viognier. The other options; Yarden Viognier is too Yarden (oak), the Galil Viognier was OK (as told here), and the 2009 Goose Bay Viognier is nice but I hope they will be pouring a new vintage at the Kosher Food and Wine Experience and/or at the International Food and Wine Festival.
In the end, other than the Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, Terra, or the Midbar Viognier there really is no other kosher Viognier out there that is in the same league. It makes me so happy that the Dalton Viognier is coming back – so look for it very soon.
The note follows below:
2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold orange haloed colored wine is expressive with honeysuckle, butterscotch, toasty oak, floral notes of jasmine, peach, and apricot, with the honey, toast, lemon, and butterscotch showing itself more expressively over time. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and oily, layered, and textured with cut grass, grapefruit, melon, summer fruit, pineapple, all balanced well by bright citrus and acid, and mouth rounding oak. The finish is super long and spicy with smoky notes, caramel, cinnamon, rich honey, and candied fig.
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.
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
These past two weeks have been what the Jews call the 9 days that are rather famous for the infamous events that have occurred in this specific span of time. Thankfully, once they were passed Herzog Cellars and Royal Wines put on an encore event of the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), this time in the Herzog Winery itself, to celebrate the winery’s 25th year in the industry! What an event and celebration it was! It brought back memories of the old IFWF events that were held in Oxnard, since the inaugural IFWF event in 2008.
Sure there were some 200 or so in attendance, but with the fully expanded setup, including an enclosure in the back that housed the French wine table, dessert table, and room to hunker down, it felt spacious and very comfortable.
In many ways, this event felt like an almost exact replay of the first International Food and Wine Festival. The crowd size was perfect, there was room for you to hunker down and taste wines and there was room for you to huddle up and talk with friends or people of like or dislike opinions.
Besides the layout and crowds, the food was absolutely fantastic, just like in previous events here. Once again, Todd Aarons and Gabe Garcia created wondrous delights that were so wrong in all the right ways! Of course, I came to the food area too late to partake of all of the goodies, but I still got to taste many fantastic culinary treats, including the absolutely stunning puffed chicken nuggets topped with incredibly tasty barbecue sauce.
Unfortunately, I came a bit late to this event because of what I came to call parking lot A and B (405 and 101 respectively). Whenever, I watch the Dodgers or the Angels, I can now understand why the crowds are so empty for the first three innings, because everyone is parked on one or more highways! My guess to why they all leave by the 7th inning is that after the folks get so aggravated waiting in the traffic, they get tired and want to go home. Quite clearly getting to and from any event in LA adds a few hours to the overall time and that is aggravating and tiring. However, like I, once the guests arrived they had to almost physically throw us out. The place did start to peter out in the last hour, but the place was still humming and drinking until the last second. 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
This is the tenth article I am writing on wineries from the Judean Hills wine region of Israel. No matter where you look around the landscape of Israeli wines and wineries you will find story after story of rebirth, renewal, and a fair amount of plain old new! Carmel, Binyamina, Barkan, were all producing mass consumption/bulk wine up until 1o to 15 years ago. Since then, they have seen serious rebirth, still selling almost undrinkable swill for the masses, and also selling high-end, and very respectable wines for us wine aficionados.
Personally, I think it is the correct business structure to have for a growing winery. You need simple bulk wines that have high margins and can be sold anywhere and everywhere. Wines that people buy in the millions, literally. Then you need wines that bolster the lineup, entry-level wine-drinker wines, that can be the bridge to take you from swill to paradise. Think white zinfandel from Herzog Wine Cellars, they sell those bottles by the millions and they are the perfect gateway drug to get you to Chenin Blanc and then maybe to Chardonnay or Black Muscat, and finally to some real dry red wines.
Today the winery we are looking at is the Teperberg winery which was founded in 1870 by the Teperberg family (from where the name of the winery is derived) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, to be accurate it was located in an alleyway of the old city of Jerusalem, and may well have been the first winery in the modern era of Israel. Later in 1964, the winery moved outside of Jerusalem, to the then quiet suburb of Motza (now a thriving community), and took on the name Efrat. The winery, ignoring its many name changes, continues to mostly produce sacramental sweet wines, as that is what its main clientele are looking for. However, in the 1990s Efrat started to create dry red wines, and to be honest they were a disaster. I remember always passing up on them, even when in school, and buying Carmel dry or semi-sweet wines instead. Read the rest of this entry