I will keep this one short, as I want to get to my top wines of the year post. However, my wife and I spent the first part of Saturday night prepping, breaking down, and rolling 60 sushi rolls filled with Hamachi, Salmon, Tuna, and julienned vegetables. All I will say is that there was little to none of it left before the evening was over.
We enjoyed some lovely still and sparkling wines, along with some very not so great wines as well. The wine notes are iffy, as I was not taking serious notes, except for one wine that was the clear winner of the evening.
The wine notes follow below:
NV Yarden Brut – Score: B+ to B++
The first interesting thing to note about this sparkler is that it was produced in 2001 and not produced again, so we are talking about a 10 to 11 year old wine made from equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The nose on this straw to pink colored wine is rich with citrus notes, peach, tart green apples, fresh flowers, and brioche. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is effervescent with a lovely mousse of many small bubbles, creamy and delicate attack of tart green apple, citrus, and acid backbone that is definitely not dead in any way. The finish is long, creamy, and moussy with brioche, toast, tart apples and lemony goodness. Fun stuff that works great with sushi.
2007 Segal Rechasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A–
The nose on this black colored wine is super rich with rich cedar, tobacco, cassis, rich ripe plum, licorice, raspberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and medium bodied wine is mouth coating with lovely tannin, raspberry, rich ripe plum, cassis, integrated tannin, and cedar. The mid palate is rich and lovely with good acid, tobacco, cassis, chocolate, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is long and rich with sweet cedar, tobacco, cassis, ripe plum, chocolate, and tobacco. This is a rich and concentrated wine that has just enough to grab your attention but is also a bit played out with its not so unique flavor profile. Still a fun and rich wine that has two or so years left in its legs.
Baron Herzog Brut Champagne – Score: B-
Sorry this wine did not make the mental cut for me – the flavors do not meld in any way that makes sense to me.
2006 Rotheberg Cellars Pinotage – Score: N/A
DOA, OK but really not that interesting.
Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Yellow Tail Sushi, Yarden Viognier, and some assorted Purim Wines
This past weekend we had a lovely and enjoyable double whammy! A Shabbos on Saturday and the Purim holiday on Sunday. The festivities started with a lovely bowl of Kalamata olive and white bean soup, followed by a bunch of Yellow tail, avocado, cucumber Sushi rolls. The funny thing about sushi rolls is that even if you eat a bunch of them, you end of being hungry. To meet that concern, we eat a bunch of fresh green salad topped with some Italian Vinaigrette. The fish did taste a bit metallic and that was unfortunate, almost to the point where I was not enjoying it that much. We bought the fish at 5 or so PM and ate it at 7:30 PM, so it was really not cool, that the fish was not perfect. Personally, the next time we make sushi rolls and go to the store to buy the fish, I will ask to taste the fish before I buy it. The soup was a killer hit again and one I really think it is a recipe that you MUST find and make a batch.
To pair with these dishes I chose a fun and vibrant white wine; the 2006 Yarden Viognier. It is a lovely wine that is showing more honey notes than earlier and clearly a wine that needs to be drunk up very soon. It is not actually showing age or faults; rather it is showing weaker fruit, more honey, oak, and butterscotch.
On Sunday Purim arrived and with it some chances to taste more wines that were quite nice and some that were OK. I did not take serious notes after a while, but at least some heads up are in order.
2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Kosher (Israel, Golan) - Score: B to B+
This is an OK wine but not one that really grabs you. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine has dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with integrated tannin, blackberry, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, soft tannin, and light hints of oak. The finish is long and spicy with more black fruit, vanilla, and some crushed herbs.
2006 Casa Da Corca Douro Reserva (Portugal, Douro) – Score B+
I drank this wine again recently and the notes are holding well. The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.
N.V. Elvi Wines Adar Brut Cava (Spain) – Score: B+
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2006 Yarden Viognier (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
This wine has lost a step or two and is now on its way down. It does not taste like a lost puppy, but clearly one that is looking for its owner. The nose on this dark gold colored wine is filled with floral notes, along with petrol/gasoline flavors, toast, honey, butterscotch, melon, pear, peach, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily in nature with almost glycerol viscosity, showing rich honey, melon, pear, and peach flavors. The mid palate is nicely balanced with acid, oak, and floral notes. The finish is long and tenacious with more floral characteristics, oak, a hint of butterscotch, and a heavy dose of honeyed mead like flavors and pear.
2006 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (Mevushal) – Score B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is packed with black fruit, blackberry, raspberry, currant, oak, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft, rich, and mouth coating from lovely integrated tannin, along with blackberry, currant, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, rich oak, lovely tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, raspberry, oak, and tobacco. Drink up.
I have a couple of these and will taste them again soon. For now, the wine tasted OK with clear and strong upfront black currant fruit along with cherry, crushed herbs, and raspberry. I hope to taste this again and give more data.
A bunch of wines shared with family, Provocative Plum Chutney, and Roast Shoulder with Festive Vegetables
The start of Succot was surrounded with family in Chicago and I had the chance to cook twice; to boot! I made a rolled shoulder roast with festive vegetables, much like we did at home on Rosh Hashanah for the first meal. For the other meal, my nephew asked me to make our now patented Black Pepper Seared Salmon. To be honest, I was greatly honored to be asked by my nephew, but I am always terrified to cook in my sister-in-law’s house. She is such a wonderful cook and it is intimidating to say the least, but it is a ton of fun to cook with the family. To boot this time, my wife was there to lend a hand, and of course my brother (der Bruder) was there to lend his ever quick wit and helpful advice, including the name of the chutney and his usual fascination with figs! It was a great ball and it came out ok, but it was a truly team effort!
When making the seared cracked peppercorn salmon, we made two changes. One I used more sesame instead of more peppercorns, in order to lower the heat, which helped a bit. Also, we used a peppercorn mixture of white and black, which was easier to crack by beating on it, which is a long story in and of itself. Either way, when searing the salmon, the cracked white pepper gave off this almost rancid smell, that was not so nice. I have never smelled that particular “aroma” before, so maybe this was the first time I seared anything with cracked white pepper on it. Anyway, if anyone knows about this particular issue/subject, I would greatly appreciate it. Once the fish cooled down, the smell was greatly muted, but still gave off a bit of a bad smell, which was the only real stain on this wonderful team effort.
The last time we made this chutney/salmon combo, we used mango as the core sweetness. This time we used peeled black plums, which were very sweet indeed. This time we again started with browned white onions, along with a couple of sweet peppers as the initial base. Then we moved to ripe peeled black plums to boost the sweetness, brightness, and ripeness of the dish. The garlic was a god send, and minced to perfection by my brother’s wife. Some diced figs and the moscato to finish, and we had another hit! The salmon came out great, even though we had no oven to finish in. Again, my brother’s wife came to the rescue, she skinned the fish, and we seared both sides, which added nice color and flavor, and allowed the fish to cook through in the pan. The fish was a lovely fatty salmon; please make sure to never try searing and finishing the salmon, unless it has enough innate fat in it.
Provocative Plum Chutney
2 or 3 sweet onions
2 sweet peppers diced
5 ripe peeled black plums cubed
Few cloves of crushed garlic
5 small dried figs diced
200 ml of moscato
The wines were enjoyed in this order throughout the meals at my family, the notes follow below:
2004 Tzora Neve Ilan - Score: B++
The nose on this garnet leaning towards brown colored wine is hopping with raspberry, blackberry, plum, red fruit, crushed herbs, mint, coffee, oak, and graphite/mineral. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine was nice but lacked concentration or layers. The black fruit and tannin meld over time to become full in the mouth, along with raspberry, blackberry, plum, and slight minerality. The mid palate is balanced and acidic with more tannin, oak, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with oak, plum, black fruit, coffee, and a nice dollop of vanilla that lingers on the palate. The wine is throwing sediment that showed in the glass and on the sides of the bottle.
2005 Monte Olivo Umbria Roso – Score: B to B+
We have tasted this before and each time we like it, but it has hit its high and ready to drink now, as the party is over. The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with dark plum, black cherry, and raspberry to start, but shows black fruit later, with black pepper, loamy dirt, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is nice but it and the rest of the wine fades quickly. It starts with rich black plum, dirt, black cherry, and raspberry. The mid palate is balanced with light complexity of black pepper, acid, oak, and nice tannin. The finish is medium long and spicy with black pepper, tobacco, plum, and vanilla. Drink up, no flaws but fading quickly.
2006 Casa Da Corca Reserve (Douro) – Score: B+ to A-
This wine was the last one we tasted over the weekend and it may well be the best. I was expecting NOTHING when buying this wine. What I got was a fun wine with a bit of complexity and a wine that showed itself like a four gates merlot for a bit of time. That said it is now at its peak and does not last more than a few hours, open it and watch it change in the glass. It is throwing a fair amount of sediment so watch for it. It is not showing age, so the sediment is harmless.
The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.
2006 Rothberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Winemakers Reserve - Score: B- to B
Wow what a true waste of a nice wine. I cannot tell you what made the wine so acidic and off balance in the front. At first I thought it was just very bright fruit, but that was quickly proven incorrect. The fruit was initially asleep but once the fruit came out and then relaxed, the acidic front stayed on, almost to the point of being spoiled or corked. That said, the rest of the wine was very nice, but just from an academic point of view. The mevushal process on this wine is not the suspect, none of the flavors were cooked in any way. The nose on this dark ruby colored wine has blackberry, plum, fig, sweet oak, chocolate, smoky notes, and black pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was a sleep for some time. Once the mouth woke up, it started with a blast of acid and followed through with sweet oak, blackberry, and plum. At one point in time, if the wine had not exhibited the initial blast of acid, I would have sworn it was a bottle of Hagafen Merlot. The mid palate has oak, more acid, chocolate, and integrated tannin. The finish is long with chocolate, black pepper, sweet oak, acid, tobacco, plum, and vanilla. It would have been such a nice wine if not for the crazy acidic front a true shame. Still it is a lighter wine that would have been expected, but would have been nice none the less, given its complexity, but alas the front killed it. The wine is throwing sediment as well, but that was not a flaw in the wine.
This weekend saw us spending a glorious pair of days at our friend’s home. They are as always the consummate hosts, and we truly enjoyed it. The meals were divine and I brought over a few bottles to share. The first is a little known bottle from a company called Tekiah and it was enjoyable. As always the Four Gates Chard was the star. The Rothberg Shiraz was OK, but too simple a wimpy for my tastes.
The wine notes follow below:
Tekiah Reserva Tempranillo 2007 – Score: B
The nose on this ruby colored wine is filled with spice and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium wine is really just cherry and more cherry. The mid palate is a bit spicy with no tannins to be found. The finish is accompanied with spice and a touch of coffee.
Rothberg Cellars Shiraz 2004 – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine was strong with cherry and raspberry notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is still tight and young. It has notes of raspberry and plum. The mid palate is really quite plain. The finish is average long and has nice notes of sweet wood and a hint of spice.
Four Gates Chardonnay 2000 – Score: A
Not much has changed with this one since I last blogged it. I have a few left, but I say it has hit its peak – drink up and be happy.
This past week some friends from out of town came by, as did some from around town. It was a really nice time. Dinner started with a dense black bean soup – from the classic Moosewood Cookbook from Mollie Katzen. It has been modified to protect the innocent, but the core recipe stands strong. Dinner was sweet roasted summer vegetables, succulent hot pepper lemon roasted chicken, and a mushroom and onion Quinoa side dish.
To keep the dinner within reach we stayed with some robust yet tasteful wines. The first was a 2007 Goose Bay Viognier, followed by the 2004 Rothberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and finally the 2004 Tzora Single Vineyard Shoresh (100% Merlot). In case people are not so up on Viognier – I thought I would add would re-post a description and contrast of Viognier and other white wines:
Viognier is a white grape that it is closer in style to a Chardonnay than to a Sauvignon Blanc. All wines can be operated on – but classically these are the styles that the white wines have:
1) The Sauvignon Blanc – can be as clean lined and crisp as a Sancerre and become fat and a bit ugly like in California, and everything in between. Still the classic lines of a Sauvignon Blanc are crisp clean lines, with intense fruit and floral flavors. If picked early there is more green, if picked too late there is more of a fruit bomb which winemakers turn into a fat wine because of all the sugars – or manipulate it by decreasing the alcohol. It is commonly high in acid and is not meant for a long shelf life – though many a Sancerre have lived long lives – mostly because of the crazy acid and mineral characteristics that come from the Terroir.
2) The Chardonnay is the wine that we all know and can have many different lines. It is a grape which by its nature is screaming to be modified. The grape loses its crispness early on as it ripeness but in its place comes the weight, fruit, and body. The more oak that is applied the more toast, espresso, smoke, and spice flavors get introduced. The grape has less acid as it ripeness but gains more fruit. This is the real quandary with Chardonnay – when do you pick it? When it sits on the vine for too long you get a ton of fruit, little or no acid and high alcohol. To counter act that wineries will dealcoholize the wine and add pH as well. Again – Chardonnay is a grape that is screaming to be managed. However, when done correct you can either get nice green and floral wine with less acidity than Sauv Blanc, but still enough to hold the wine up and enough fruit to carry the day. Or you can make it California style and lose the acid but gain nice weight and body (from the fruit, alcohol, and oak) – but pH added still tastes fake to me.
3) The Viognier grape/wine is a different beast. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes and acidity, but it is a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise, it does not give the classic perfume that we get from the Muscat and Riesling grapes. Depending on if the wine maker puts the wine through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness. In the end, the wine is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines and the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner.
Now back to the wines…
The unfortunate part is that my friends are not white wine drinkers – and this kills me! As I am trying to grow my knowledge of wines and trying to be more open minded about white versus red wines – my friends are not following along for the ride! So when I want to pop a white bottle to see what a Sancerre, Chardonnay, Chablis or a Viognier tastes like – I feel like a party pooper on my own table. This is an issue that I hope to find a remedy to soon.
The thing is that to me the Viognier stole the show. At first open it was nice – but the heady perfume that would soon be gracing our olfactory receptors was still closed up in the wines cold embrace. However, as the wine opened up so did the oohs and ahs around the room. They still did not appreciate the white wine, but they were able to discern that this was not just another white. The Rotherberg Cellar was the red winner around the room. It was heady with its own enveloping sensations. The nose was just over the top. The second we opened the bottle till some hours later the nose was still pumping and quite nicely as well. Beyond the nose, the mouth was smooth, full, and round – like a California Cabernet. The oak was NOT over the top, it accented the wine – it did not define it. The ripe fruit was obvious and maybe too obvious – but still a very nice showing. The Shoresh was raw, young and quite tannic. It was a stark contrast to the smooth Viognier and Cabernet. It was not a hit on the table and again – I disagree. The wine is more like a tiger ready to pounce and one that I think has not yet hit its peak. The Rothberg Cellar and Goose Bay are awesome specimens – but are in my eyes – at their peak. When Shoresh reaches its peak – in a year or so, it will have its day in the sun. Finally, I has tasted the Shoresh in Israel at the winery and the wine has made a clear shift from then. It is still as tannic – but I swear I had a double take when I realized that it tasted a lot like a cab – except for the clear and present licorice in the mid palate. The score is a bit lower, but one I am sure will return when it reaches its peak.
Tzora Single Vineyard Shoresh 2004 – Score A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine (100% Merlot) is laden with red berries, mineral aromas, cherry, and wood. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts with tight tannins – though integrating and a strong and slightly complex attack of black cherry, and blackberry. The middle is filled with green, earth, and licorice. The finish is long and woodsy. This has changed since I last tasted it. If tasting blindly – I would have thought this to be a Cabernet Sauvignon. The licorice was a giveaway that it was not a cab – but still the earth, dense fruit, and cab like fruit – makes made do a double take.
Rothberg Cellars Winemakers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this muddied reddish purple wine is crazy and may well be the wine’s best feature. It is an enveloping nose and one that lasts all night. The nose is filled with strong ripe fruit fragrance along with cranberry, pomegranate, and fig aromas. The mouth on this very smooth and full bodied wine is fruit forward with ripe fruit, blackberry and black plum notes. The mid palate is acidic in its core along with soft tannins and a hint of chocolate and tobacco. The finish is long lasting with fig and cranberry.
Beyond the technical details the things that stand out to me when thinking about this wine are:
- its acidic core
- its smooth nature
- its soft and integrated tannins
- the lack of overpowering oak – this wine is assisted to by the oak, it does not define it
- the muddied color and over ripe fruit flavors throw me a bit and lower the score
- the wine is at or just over its peak – drink up and really enjoy. This is not one to lay down for even a few more months.
- The wine felt like it was aged in French oak – no smoke or toasted spice just a nice and round fullness
Goose Bay Viognier 2007 - Score: B+ to A-
This is an awesome and fun white. When we first opened it I was hoping for the perfume to overpower me and take control of my senses. However, the nose did not open up right away, instead the mouth was full of the perfumed fruit while the nose was hiding behind the mask of fruit and oak. The nose would open and so I will say that the notes here are from an hour or two in – with the difference being the deep and almost striking perfumed nose that showed itself later.
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. This in contrast to a previous post, where the acid was overpowering and not well integrated with the wine.
Beyond the technical details – this wine too has some nice take aways for me:
- The wine has oak but again in a supporting role – like it should be
- The wine is acidic to its core and here the acid truly integrates and lends a large assist to the wine
- The wine is perfumed in a way that also balances well with the oak and acid
- Finally, this too is a wine to enjoy now and for a few more months.
No guests this week – taking a breather, so I only opened a single bottle.
Rothberg Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - Score: A-
The nose on this Garnet – purple colored wine is filled with nice fruit, blackberry, cassis, and coffee. The mouth of this medium-full bodied wine is filled with fruit carry over. When I first opened the bottle, the mouth had blackberry, cassis, and a nice finish of coffee and oak. At the mid point of the meal, the wine went French and became insanely mineral and earthy. It overshadowed the fruit and the oak. When it settled more, the wine lost the lovely coffee – but the fruit returned, the mouth was smooth, and the finish was filled with nice spicy oak. A funny wine – but one that I enjoyed a lot over the two meals.
This Purim I drank wine with friends on Thursday night and at Friday lunch. After all that, Shabbos was a nice break from wine. Thursday night I did not take notes. So these are more memory of what I tasted than actual facts.
Rothberg Cellars Pinotage 2004 – This wine exhibits classic Pinotage stylings with a bit of tannin and spicy oak. The nose was flush with cherries and red fruit. The mouth was medium bodied and fruity. The finish was medium long and had a bit of spicy oak. An OK attempt at a Pinotage – I liked the Welnerberg Pinotage 2005 more, but that is my take.
Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese 2005 - This wine is a classic fruit bomb, and a bit too much for my taste. The saving grace was that it had enough oak to dull the fruit but it had a bit more tannin than I was expecting. The tannins actually accentuated the fruit bomb – almost making it worse. To that I will say that this wine has a chance to age a bit more and maybe calm down. The fruit forwardness of the wine is evident from the nose – filled with cherries, cherries, and more cherries. The mouth was medium – full bodied with sour cherry and briar. The finish is very long with more sour cherry.
Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – This wine was a real winner. Huge nose and an awesome specimen. For being a house wine this is a real winner. The wine is reasonably priced to boot. The wine has a wonderful nose of blackberry and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine was fruity but the tannins have yet to integrate, but the mouth coating wine will be better over time for sure. The mouth is filled with blackberries and cassis, the finish is long and loaded with oak and tobacco.
Friday Lunch – with real notes:
Bashan Merlot Eitan 2005 - Score: B+
The nose on this mature garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, old socks, oak, vanilla, and sour cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice integrated tannins, vanilla, black fruit up front and then a medium finish that is filled with a spicy oak finish.
Bashan Cabernet Sauvignon Eitan 2005 – Score: A-
Notes still hold true to my tasting that we had in Israel in the Bashan Winery.
Mount Meroma Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 - Score: B-
This one was definitely passed its time. It is a shame because it was ready to go about 5 years ago. The crazy thing about this wine was 10 minutes after it was opened, it was gone. Nothing left. These notes are right when it was opened and seems to have been from its last gasps of life – if that . The nose on this almost brown colored wine has light aromas of oak and red fruit. The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine has integrated tannins, dirty socks, oak, and raspberry. The finish was almost non-existent, but had hints of vanilla and mint.
Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Napa Valley 2002 - Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was packed with blackberry, cassis, figs, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with well integrated tannins, than the blackberry, cassis, and sweet wood mingle together into a complex blend that is quite intriguing. The finish is medium long with tobacco and sweet oak.