This past weekend my friends and family shared some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon and some great food. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.
Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well know and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors, but they are not going to be massive failures or unfortunate wines. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, of course has been doing a lovely job with their Cabernet Sauvignon, especially by Yarden Winery, Bravdo Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, and others. However, recently two wineries have been selling Cabernet Sauvignon as well. Four Gates Winery first released a 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a few years ago and it sold out quickly. Since then Four Gates has once again released a Cabernet Sauvignon, but this time from the Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Another and even more Cabernet focused winery – is Covenant Winery, which makes killer Napa Cabernet. They started with the 2003 vintage and has been releasing Cabernet in two or three different formats since then.
The saying, all good wine starts in the vineyard is true, but the real saying should be, the price of wines starts in the vineyard! If you own the vines like say, Hagafen or many of the wineries in Israel, than you have a chance to control the quality and the price of the wines. However, if you buy the grapes from growers, than you are at the mercy of their cost structure and what the market can bear. Sure, many wineries get into long-term contracts that assure them consistent pricing and hopefully, some control of how the vines are managed. However, as the contracts come to a close, the pricing will increase, which places pressure on the winery’s ability to keep its margin’s alive. Read the rest of this entry
On the evening of November 5th, we finally got around to making my favorite dish, Tunisian Couscous Au Poulet, whose recipe can be found in this post. When I think about couscous it reminds me of family and friends, as my mother used to make it every Friday Night at our house while I was growing up. Her recipe was a bit more authentic, but I believe I am close enough on the Couscous soup and makoud. Where I have totally taken the liberty to change things up was with the meatballs (boulette).
The thing I love about couscous is the assortment of food and options that the guests have to enjoy. The couscous starts with a chicken/meat/fish/vegetable soup, which has a large assortment of cubed vegetables. The chicken or meat of the soup is used in the makoud (potato kugel), and the couscous itself is fluffy and full of the soup flavor, as it is steamed with the soup. Along with all of that, there are cold pepper and carrot salads, and meatballs. All of these options allow the guests to eat at their own pace and enjoy the plethora of flavors that meld so well together. The contrasts that the display themselves on the palate are a product of the wonderful flavors that each dish on the menu shows. The couscous is soft and fluffy and in perfect contrast with the just firm vegetables. The meatballs are hot and a touch spicy which plays well with the couscous and cold salads. The vegetables are warm and infused with the meat or fowl’s flavor, which carries into the couscous and the rest of the plate.
The official meatball recipe is an artery clogging heart popping display of fried food at its greatest. The meatballs are each topped with a fat slice of potato and then fried in oil until golden brown and finished in the oven. Yes the original recipe sounds and tastes great but I am past the oily flavor, so we have been using a more Italian styled recipe with meatballs braised in tomato sauce. I have been playing for many years with the sauce and the texture of the meatballs. I have tried baking and braising the meatballs, and I keep coming back to braising. In the past few years we have pretty much nailed the tomato sauce that the meatballs braise in, but this week we killed on the meatballs as well. We used a combination of beef, turkey, and mounds of shredded raw vegetables. I was concerned that we put in too many vegetables and that the meatballs would be runny and messed up. Instead they were structurally firm but moist in the mouth and to the fork, while not crumbling to easily as well.
Of course if couscous is on the menu close friends cannot be far behind. Our table was filled with some friends who have been absent for too long and some old standbys. Benyamin Cantz was present and brought some lovely old Four Gates Chardonnay, along with other friends who brought a few Cabernet, but we only got around to one of them, that being a 2006 Yarden Cabernet. The wines were served from lightest to boldest, and there were no duds to be found!
Though the dishes do not call for heavy reds, the meatballs and the flavorful broth and makoud easily stood up to the mixture of reds that we served until the last one, which was an all out beast. The meal started with a pair of 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay and was followed by the only partial dud of the evening – the 2007 Hagafen Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled. We last tasted this wine, almost a year ago, at the winery and it was wonderful, full of floral notes, oak, chocolate, and red fruits. We bought two bottles from the winery and though the wine tasted fine, it lacked the fullness, polish, and finish that we remembered from a year ago. I can only guess that the wine is in some dumb period and will once again display its true potential, when it exists it dark cloud period. The third wine of the evening was the much talked about 2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon, Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard. Mr. Bruce Cohn is the manager for the famous Doobie Brothers, and has been making wine for some 25 or so years. Much has been made of the wine, including a wonderful score of 92 from Daniel Rogov and a lovely write up on the wine and winery as well. For full disclosure, I did not pay for this wine. It was given to me to be tasted and the notes follow below. It was the third rated wine of the evening behind the next two. Those being the 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc and the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon. The final wine of the evening was the 2005 S’forno Monastrell Dulce, while nice, was clearly showing its age in color and palate.
The 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc was not sold here in the US. I imported it during one of my visits to the Israel. I bought them at the winery, and alas, this was my last bottle. This wine is still expressive and explosive and one that is not on its last legs at all. The 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is a pure beast, one displaying bright and powerful fruit, oak, and layers that come at you in waves. The B.R. Cohn is a polar opposite, in many ways, of the Yarden and Ella Valley wines. Where the Ella Valley and Yarden wines are explosive and highly expressive, the B.R. Cohn is more of an elegant wine with its own flair of complexity and expression. In no way is that a back handed compliment to the wine, but just a definition of its character and makeup.
The B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon was made in the Herzog Winery, some 420 miles south of the vineyard. The grapes were trucked down and the wine was pressed, fermented, and aged in the Herzog winery, under the B.R. Cohn label and the supervision of the OU. The thing I find truly fascinating, beyond the fact that Mr. Cohn wanted to make kosher wine, was how he and the winery kept it such a secret until it was released. With more and more connoisseurs looking at wines in the kosher market, it is truly hard to keep a secret. Everyone is looking for the next big or special wine to show off to their friends and family. Notwithstanding, the Herzog and B.R. Cohn wineries did a wonderful job at keeping a lid on this success, and we can only hope for more wines to be coming out of this winery in the future.
On an aside, I also served a bit of the 2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain. As discussed in my other posting, this is a wine that is available at Trader Joes and one that is really catching on in the kosher market. Look for more coming soon on Terrenal and the rest of the wines under the Trader Joes white label.
The wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed. My thanks again to B.R. Cohn Winery for the opportunity to taste the wine and the Allison at Coats Public Relations who was instrumental in procuring us the bottle of wine we so greatly enjoyed:
2007 Hagafen Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled Napa Valley – Score: B+ to A-
This is Hagafen’s second release of a single varietal Cabernet Franc, the other one being the 1996 vintage. This is the second time we are tasting the wine and it did not show nearly as well. The last time we tasted this wine at the winery, almost a year ago, it was showing quite nicely. This time the wine showed weaker with a more shallow finish and less body overall. We got these bottles from the winery, so I am not sure what could be wrong. We really loved the 1996 vintage, but this one was even better, though it has been around 10 years since we last tasted it.
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine showed a bit of floral notes, some crushed herbs, chocolate, along with a bunch of rich and ripe raspberry, black cherry, plum, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied starts off with mouth coating tannins, raspberry, plum, and black cherry. The mid palate is packed with balancing acidity, spicy oak, chocolate, and nice tannins. The finish is medium long and oak with chocolate, vanilla, rich ripe plum, spice, and black fruit.
2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with dirt, raspberry, blackberry, crushed herbs, a hint of chocolate, and black cherry. After some time blueberry also makes an appearance, however at that time the wine is starting to degrade. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is heavy with tannin that lends to a nice but crazy mouth feel, along with blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. The mid palate is bone dry and acidic along with some chocolate and a fair amount of crushed herbs. The finish is long with chocolate, blackberry, black cherry, crushed herbs, and some mineral. After a few hours the tannins soften a bit and turn more mouth coating along with some nice vanilla. However, after a bit more time the wine turns totally tannic and out of balance, so be careful to drink this wine with 3 to 4 hours after opening.
2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon Kosher Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard – Score: A- to A
The nose on this wine starts off closed and not very enjoyable. After quite a few hours the wine becomes very enjoyable and “elegant”. This is not a sledge hammer wine, not an overly complex or layered wine, rather this is a wine that has enjoyable characteristics. The nose on this purple colored wine starts off closed and muted. Over time it opens to display light notes of sweet oak or cedar, raspberry, black plum, eucalyptus, cranberry, tobacco, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is elegant in its attack, again, not one that relies on shock and awe, rather a wine that attacks with ripe raspberry, plum, cranberry, lovely tannins, and a mouth feel that is luscious and attention grabbing. The mid palate is balanced with acid, tobacco, chocolate, cedar, and eucalyptus. This finish is spicy and long with ripe plum and raspberry, tobacco leaves, dark chocolate, licorice, and vanilla.
2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc (Israel, Judean Hills, Ella Valley) – Score: Almost A
The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, plum, sweet oak, tobacco, chocolate, meaty notes, vanilla, and nice mint. The mouth on this medium bodied wine filled out as it got more air. The mouth on this medium bodied is layered with rich oak, cranberry, blackberry, plum, and tannins that calm down as the wine sits in the glass. The mid palate is balanced with a rich mouth, just enough acidity, and not yet integrated tannins. The finish is long and luxurious with a playful amount of spice, tobacco, chocolate, and vanilla that is joined in by rich fruit. This was the winner of our Cabernet Franc lineup once again – unfortunately I do not have any more. This is a wine that still has another year or two under its belt and another winner for this wonderful winery.
2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) -Score: Almost A
This wine is not going to sneak up on you – it is more like a combination of a sledge hammer and a two-by-four hitting you right between your eyes. The nose on this massive, complex, and sledge hammer styled wine explodes with super ripe blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, herbs, rich oak, licorice, plum, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is now showing softly integrating tannins that give the wine a super lovely mouth feel. Please do not let the lovely mouth feel fool your perception of this wine, it is massive, aggressive, and heavily layered wine with rich ripe blackberry, plum, cassis, and dates. The mid palate is inky black fruit, massive sweet oak, dates, and balancing acid. The finish is super long and spicy, with nice spice, cassis, date, oak, chocolate, tobacco, and still gripping tannins.
2005 S’forno Monastrell Dulce (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet to mahogany colored wine is hopping with spicy oak, fig, dried plum, dates, honey, spice, and fair amount of heat (alcohol). The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rounded and accentuated with sweetness and alcohol, but balanced with nice spiciness, along with honey, fig, date, and spice. The mouth is coating and round from the tannin, alcohol, and sweetness. The mid palate is balanced with acid, more spice, date, and dried fruit. The finish is long, spicy, and sweet, that is punctuated at the end with more dried fruit, fig, and honey. This is a nice wine that is a bit over the hill, but still showing enough qualities to make it enjoyable.