The 2018 Kosher rose season is open – part 2

Well, after the first post I stated that I would be doing this rose wine post a few times. The subsequent posts would have the original content, and the newly revised or added rose wines as well. Well, this is part 2, and there will be at least a part 3 or maybe a part 4, such is life. My schedule is insane right now (not complaining in any way), so when I can grab a few moments to update the roses I have had, I take it with both hands!

It is still officially Spring, which means it is Rose time! Rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well, that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 9 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Wine Color

What is a rose wine? Well, simply said, a rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and you get clear to green colored juice. Yes, the white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color is the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red colored is long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature.

Rose wines are the in-between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.

Limited Maceration:

This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.

The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins leach into the rose is – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!

Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the Saignée process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being solely used for making the rose.

Many producers, especially those in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, take a more traditional approach to making rosé. Grapes are grown and selected exclusively for rosé production, as stated above, and then often crushed as whole clusters, and then gently pressed until the juice reaches a desirable pale color.

Most think that Saignee wines would have a higher alcohol level, as the fruit used to make that wine is picked later, but actually, that is not always correct, as winemakers can water back the rose juice and get what they want, at least here in the USA. When you taste the wine, look for the acid, is the acid natural or out of place?

Saignée:

The second approach for how Rose wine is made, is essentially the same as maceration – the only difference is that they do not remove all the juice. In the second method for making Rose wine, the Rose is the afterthought – in DRASTIC contrast to the first approach, where the rose is primary.

Now, many winemakers may take affront to this statement, and one did actually, but that is my opinion. When the juice is removed to fortify the red wine, the rose wine, again IMHO, is an afterthought. That DOES NOT mean, that the winemaker does not take the rose wine seriously. Any decent winemaker that makes a wine, should be doing it with 100% focus. My point is that if the rose was important to you, you would pull the fruit earlier, but hey that is my opinion, and yeah, I am not a winemaker.

So in places like California and Rhone in France, winemakers will pick the grapes when they reach their appropriate phenolics. Then to concentrate the wine, the winemaker will bleed some of the juice – hence the term Saignée in French which means bleed. By removing this juice, after the juice has macerated long enough, the resulting wine is further intensified, because there is less juice lying on the same amount of grape skin surface.

The interesting thing here is that the grapes used to make this kind of rose are normally one with higher Brix, as the grapes are destined for red wine. So, when you bleed the juice out of the must, what is being pulled out is juice at a higher alcohol level than Rose wines made using the first method (as explained above). So what do you do when you have a wine that is too high in alcohol so early in the game – well that is simple you water it down! Now remember this wine is already low on phenolics and color, so if you know that your rose will be high in alcohol when all is said and done, you have lots of options here. You can leave the juice to macerate for longer, yes the juice you finally pull out may well be darker than you desire. However, you will be watering it down, so it is all a question of numbers and winemakers who make these kinds of wines, are used to it and know how to handle it.

Now you ask what is wrong with high alcohol rose? Well, a rose is normally meant to be light and fruity wine, and well watered back roses are less so, but I have also enjoyed a few Saignee wines, like the 2017 Shirah Rose, which 100% shocked me when I found that out!

Blending Method:

Finally, what do you get when you mix some white wine with some red wine – a rose by George a rose! This last method is the least common method for creating still rose wines. That said, it is very common in the world of Champagne and sparkling wines. Next time you enjoy sparkling rose wine, you can almost be sure that it is a blend of Chardonnay (white wine) and either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (red wine).

As stated before, in the pure rose still wine market, there really is very little of this kind of rose being made.

State of kosher rose wines

Types of Rose made:

  1. Red Rose wines: There are truly few examples of this, but they have been made and they are not a rose wine. They are billed as a rose at times, but to me, they are essentially a light red wine, much like a Gamay
  2. Sweet Rose wines: Sweet wines are created because either the winemaker could not get the wine to completely finish primary fermentation or because they stopped it. Sweet rose wines sometimes lack balance because they lack the screaming acid needed to make it all work. That said, sweeter rose wines are the gateway wines to get people to try drier wines. The best of the sweet wines IMHO is the 2017 Dalton estate rose, or Kna’an as it is called in Israel.
  3. Dry rose wines: Dry is not a subjective concept it is measurable in a lab and can be tasted as well. That said, what we as humans can perceive does seem to be subjective. Some of us will think a Sauvignon Blanc is sweet unless it is a Sancerre – you know who you are JR! Dr. Vinny was asked this question here, and essentially we can start perceiving sweetness at 0.5% residual sugar, but as the Doc says, sometimes a bone-dry wine can be perceived as sweet because of its ripeness and/or lack of balancing acidity.
  4. Dark rose wines: Color in any rose or red wine is defined by the amount of maceration the wine goes through, as described above. Some people like that salmon color and some like that darker rose color. The 2017 Recanati Rose (not the Gris de Marselan which is lovely and light colored) is a dark rose – and OK, I guess. There are so many colors in the rose spectrum, and no, the darker roses are not based on what grape is used in the making of the wine, unless it is based on a Teinturier grape – which I have yet to see.

So where does that leave us? To recap IMHO, rose wine is meant to be light, refreshing, tart, and low in alcohol. It can have a varying rose hue, from Gris (gray in French – light color) to Salmon, to rose, and all the way up to dark red. Yes, there have been wineries who tried making heavier rose wines, that were essentially red wines, whom I will not mention and they have all been epic disasters. If you want a red wine – make a Gamay and leave me alone! Rose is about summer, tart and refreshing wine.

White and Rose wine education

Royal Wines has done a great job in bringing in white and roses wines, but I must stress – we need more education! Any wine distributor today can sell a Cabernet Sauvignon in its sleep! Why? Because the kosher wine drinking public is programmed to drink big bold red wines! Nothing light and lithe, only sledgehammers! Now, who am I to disagree with what someone likes – if you like a wine enjoy it! What I would like to see is people finding a way to expand their palate – by doing so they will learn more about wines and maybe they will actually see why they like and dislike a wine more – education is the answer! Now to those who say – why bother, if they like it let them enjoy it? To that answer I say – sure, when u were three years old you liked mud, and you really liked spreading it all over your sister’s new white dress! Should we have let you enjoy it forever?? Of course not!

Now your reply will be, come on we are talking about wine – not personal growth and their humanity! Of course but like everything in this world – we should want to strive and learn more about what makes us happy and why! If you like a Monet painting – you owe it to yourself to learn why? What grabs you when you see 100+-year-old paint on a canvas? So what he painted a haystack – good for him? What makes you want to stare at it for hours? The answer is inside of you – and you need to learn the answer. I hope we can all find the answers to what makes us tick, why we all love some things and why we hate other things. That is called human evolution – it makes us what we are – human! Anyway, I am off my soapbox now, but I hope we can agree that growth is good – no matter the subject.

I beg distributors and wineries to get out and teach! Get out and go to wine stores and pour wines – pour wine to anyone that wants to taste or even to those that do not! Education is the foundation of this industry – and without it, we are doomed to stasis – something that terrifies me!

The temperature to enjoy Rose

Please do yourself a favor and enjoy rose wine at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning if you leave a bottle of wine in your refrigerator and pull it out after half a day of fridge time or more, it will probably be at the refrigerator’s frigid temperature of 37 or so degrees Farenight – which is HORRIBLE for rose. Rose at room temperature of 70 or so degrees is also not fun. It needs to be a bit cold, but not over the top. Please do not think that it needs to be iced down in an ice bucket either, that is for sparkling wines.

Drink the rose at the beginning of the meal

Rose is NOT a long-term drinking animal. It is not meant to be enjoyed for more than a meal. Why? Because as we explained above once it is fully oxygenated, it will go bad – really bad fast. The tart fruit notes and the acid will dissipate faster than air leaves a punctured tire. It is simply the life of Rose, drink it very young and fast. Never stock up on Rose, there is no purpose in that! Go to the store and buy a rose and drink it, if they have none, then no worries drink something else.

White and Rose wine drinking in the kosher wine world

I find that white and rose wines just do not sell to the kosher market. Sadly, they do not see the joy that I and much of Israel now sees. Eight years ago, if you had said that Israel would be making nice white and rose wines and not so many great reds, wine aficionados would have looked at you askance. Well, that is exactly where we are today! Much of what Israel makes in the red wine world, is not very good, especially from the larger wineries. There are the usual suspects that are continuing to impress vintage after vintage, but the vast majority have sold out to the sweet-toothed date drinkers. However, they are creating wonderful white and rose wines! What is more – is that they are selling much of it in ISRAEL! Yes, that is right, Israelis are drinking far more white and rose wine than ever and the craze we are seeing here in the non-kosher world for Rose is happening in the kosher world in Israel!

Now, the rose madness is here for sure, even in the kosher market. This year the wines have arrived earlier and are available as we speak. More will be arriving soon, and some are only available at wineries, like the Hagafen rose, which is nice.  Sadly, my community has not come to appreciate rose or most whites wines. If I open one I would need to drink the bottle on my own, because few in my community drink white wines. The exception is Four Gates Chardonnay, which to be fair is a great wine and it is so rich and intoxicating that it appeals to red wine drinkers.

I really hope that articles like this can start to pique people’s interest. Rose and tart refreshing white wines have so much to offer. They are meant to be lithe and refreshing, but also complex and unique. They go well with so many great summer foods and yet, when summer comes around folks just continue drinking heavy reds or beer. Now, I like beer like most people, but between a lovely rose or beer, I choose rose!

The good news is that kosher wine drinkers are finally getting the message, but they are only buying the stuff over the summer months. Outside of those, NYC/east coast drinkers of kosher wine could care less. Which means white and rose wines from 2014, 2015 and 2016 can still be found all around at shops and stores. DO NOT buy rose wine from any vintage other than 2017! SIMPLE!!

State of affairs with 2017 roses

So where are we in 2018 with Rose wines? Well, as I stated kosher wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark. Why? Because there are MANY wine shops, even on the hallowed grounds of NYC, that still have Rose wines on their shelves, from the 2015 vintage, and even older lying around. Why is that a problem? As stated above, Rose wines are NOT meant for aging. Rose wines should NEVER be sold after their drink by date, which is the summer after the wine’s vintage. So, 2017 wines should be sold out by the summer of 2018 – simple! Sadly, I still see 2015 wines being sold all around! There is simply too much older rose lying around and too much new 2017 Rose wines coming in. The outcome is that someone is going to eat a lot of rose wines, or they will push them on to the unsuspecting public, who really do not understand roses at all.

I BEG the manufacturers to work with the stores and merchants to eat the 2015 and 2016 wines, one way or the other, and get them OFF the shelves. Please DO NOT attempt to put them on sale, they are not wines that should be pushed to consumers, as it only ends up hurting the wineries and the companies selling them. Please remove them and figure out how to handle the loss. No one will be drinking Rose wines for Rosh Hashanah. That means there is a LOT of wine to sell in a very short period of time – PLEASE help yourselves – start selling the 2017 wines already and walk away from the 2015/2016 wines!

One part that is better than last year is that many of the rose wines are here and more coming very soon. I wish they would have all been here in March, but it is MUCH better than last year. Sadly, Netofa is still not here in the USA! Very sad! I went to Netofa on my last trip to Israel, and I will post that soon enough, some really fun wines that are showing beautifully.

Best rose so far in 2018

Well, let’s hold up here for a second. I have not tasted all the roses out there yet. I have tasted LOTS of them, like 30 plus of them so far and the Israeli 2017 roses are all “sweet”. And after a month or more, I have now tasted even more roses, which are added below. Now be careful here, when I say sweet – I mean I perceive sweetness. These roses are ripe, big in the mouth, and leave a perception of sweetness. There are a few roses from Israel that are lithe in nature, with a core focus of acid while being complex, and those are my preferred options so far, from what I have had the chance to enjoy.

So with that said, here are the winners for me so far, with a few more European roses I have yet to taste. The best Israeli roses – in order of preference:

  1. 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado
  2. 2017 Recanati Gris de Marselan
  3. 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose. Nice – best of the “sweet perceived wines”
  4. 2017 Netofa Rose – QPR 
  5. 2017 Carmel Rose, Appellation – QPR winner so far in Israel
  6. 2017 Dalton Kna’an: SHOCK! QPR Nice – SWEET! Great gateway rose

The best California Rose is the just released 2017 Shirah Rose – really fun, and that is followed by the 2017 Hajdu Rose. The 2017 Hajdu is far better than the 2016 and I really enjoyed it, but still, a slight step behind the 2017 Shirah rose.

The best European Rose so far is the 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose – and so far it is the overall QPR winner. Though the 2017 Chateau Roubine, La Vie en Rose is right up there, with the same score, but not as bone dry and tart as the Rothschild. I have the Roubine to taste still, and then we can make the final decision, with the French roses that are here in the USA.

Blind Tasting in Jerusalem

A bit more than a week before Passover, I was in Israel, and I had the chance to hang with my French/American crazy wine friends, AD, MB, JK, AS, AS, AO, MB, and others. The tasting entailed 65+ wines, most of them were rose or white, with a few reds thrown in at the end. It was a long night, and very enjoyable, including some crazy moments, but overall very enjoyable and my many thanks to JK’s office – where the madness took place.

At the event, we tasted over 20 roses. Besides that, I have been tasting roses for the past couple of months now. Like, in the past, some of the wine notes are really light on data some are longer, and some are just one word, like No, or boring.

Overall, as I stated Israeli roses from 2017 are mostly too sweet for me, but many are well balanced and I think will work for others. As stated above, to me at this point I will stick with the European roses from for 2017 until I taste an Israeli rose that makes me take notice, though the Netofa Latour rose is really close, sadly it is not available in the USA. That said, they do ship here from Israel!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

 

2017 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 66% Grenache, almost 33% Nebbiolo, with a bit of Zinfandel. This wine is a Saignee wine, though it does not show that way in style or body – lovely!
This wine is really fun bravo, the color, and style is totally Gris – bravo! The nose is lovely and really mineral with nice acid, showing quince, dried fruit, straw, and earth, so much fun! The mouth is really nice with great acid, and lovely mineral, showing nice tart and juicy strawberry, rich dried cherry, grapefruit, and lovely mineral with great slate and rich citrus and floral notes. The finish is rich and acidic and citrus-driven, with rich mineral. Bravo!!

2017 Timbre Rosé (by La Fenetre), Opening Act – Score: 87 (tasted again)
The wine shows a nice and interesting nose of cherry, watermelon, with hints of blueberry, with some slate. The mouth is sweet, and nice enough with strawberry, it shows zesty fruit, but too much sweetness, but with time the wine has settled a bit and is showing a bit better than last time. The finish is long, sweet, and tart, with floral notes, and rosehip.

2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is actually a bit better than last year’s rose, with the only aspect of last year’s showing cool charcoal that this one does not have. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent, with ripping pink grapefruit, lovely tart strawberry, mineral, and lovely floral notes with lemongrass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows a nice weight, with good fruit focus, showing more fruit than last year, with good acidity, showing sweet but truly tart passion fruit, and a lovely mineral core, with earth, and crazy tart citrus lingering long. The finish is long and tart, with ripping acid, great balance, lovely mineral, and pith lingering long. Lovely!

2017 Amos Winery Rose – Score: No
What can I say this wine is just too strange. It was based upon Muscat and though it had acid, it is one of the many roses from Israel this year that are sweet bombs covered with layers of acid. Not my cup of tea.

2017 Carmel Rose, Appellation – 88 to 89 (QPR)
Another Israeli tropical fruit bomb rose for 2017. The nose is ripe with guava, pineapple, cotton candy, extra ripe strawberry and creme, and candied ripe fig. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ok, it has nice acid, but man is it sweet, with clear residual sugar showing passion fruit, guava, and more tropical notes. The finish is long, it lingers very well, and while it is sweet, it is very well balanced. This is a great entry level rose for those wanting to get to more dry rose. Till then, I would not buy this one again, but nice work on balancing a sweet wine with basic fruit structure and freshness. This may well be the best QPR for under 15 dollars in Israel. The Dalton Kannan is right behind it.

2017 Yatir Rose – Score: 85
The nose on this wine is nice enough but too tropical with intense pineapple, super sweet strawberry with creme, with some mineral, and spice. Well, another year and another rose from Yatir that is pith and fruit and no acid. Sad, really sad. With more time, it open to show a bit more acid, but that is it, flat and boring, still sad.

2017 Bat Shlomo Rose – Score: 87
OK, so the one redeeming fact of this wine is its nose, the rest falls apart quickly. The nose on this wine is lovely, I wish it carried to the mouth, with rich salinely, lovely mineral, and red fruit. The mouth is where things fall apart, yes there is acid, but it is all over the place with far too much sweet fruit and not enough structure and coherence in the mouth. The finish is sweet with mineral and pith, but really what lingers is the sweet fruit, candied quince, peach, guava, and tropical notes with citrus. Sad. Another year of unbalanced rose.

2017 Domaine du Castel Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Malbec, and 20% Cabernet Franc
I tasted this blind at the event and then again at the winery, and the tasting was better at the winery but not overly impressive. The nose is nice, that part is clear, showing nice citrus, strawberry, and ripe plum. The mouth shows acid, with a good fruit structure, but too round and sweet, with a makeup that is missing stuff. The finish is long and round with good pith, nice acid, saline, and citrus.

2017 Netofa Domaine Rose – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely but sweet, with rosehip, ripe strawberry, and grapefruit, with cherry and raspberry. The mouth is medium bodied with great acidity and with lovely currant and quince that works great with dry fruit, that is richly saline and mineral but sweeter, than the Netofa Latour. The finish is sweet and yet nicely balance with mineral, slate, and pith. Nice!

2017 Netofa Latour Rosado – Score: 91
This and the Recanati Gris de Marselan are the only two Israeli roses that I really liked, and are leaner and not tropical or fruit bombs. This wine is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Grenache. The nose on the first ever “reserve” rose from Netofa wine is more refined than the baseline Netofa rose, with rosehip again, but now with quince, raspberry, and strawberry creme. The mouth is not the screaming acid bomb that the Domaine rose is, but this is perfectly balanced with good pith and slate, showing more refinement and elegance with more citrus and grapefruit and less of the sweet currant fruit, with lovely slate and floral notes. The finish is green and red with pith and spice. Love it. Bravo!

2017 Tabor Adama Rose – Score: 89 (QPR)
The nose starts off with lovely gooseberry, followed by big, bright, and juicy strawberry and really lovely cherry. The mouth is sweet, yet well balanced with tart fruit, great acid, bright and tart with great acid, with good balance, and lovely pith. Solid!

2017 Psagot Rose – Score: 88
The nose on this wine starts off really nice, with rosehip, cranberry, really ripe strawberry, green notes, and ripe quince and peach. This wine is nice and round, again another ripe Israeli rose, with OK acid, gooseberry and grapefruit round out the palate with tart fruit and acid. Pith and slate lingers.

2017 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75
The wine is Bubblegum and sweet fruit, boring – sorry.

2017 Shiran Rose, Conductor – Score: NO
I will say this the wine must have been spoiled or something really wrong. That said, not my cup of tea still, sweet and off.

2017 Teperberg Rose, Impression – Score: 88
Nice nose of sweet notes, with rose, currant, and sour cherry. The mouth is round and has dried/tart stone fruit, with enough acid, showing some peach, and quince, grapefruit galore, nice weight.

2017 Shiloh Rose – Score: 75
Nice nose with good fruit, slate, and grapefruit, with citrus and stone fruit. The mouth is where the wine falls apart, sadly it was flat and dead.

2017 Covenant Blue C Rose – Score: 89
This is the second time I have tasted this wine and it is nice. Rosehip and sweet notes are a theme of the 2017 Israeli roses, no idea why, this wine has them in spades, with mineral, cotton candy, sweet candied fruit, watermelon, but balanced nose. The mouth is well balanced with good fruit, grapefruit, dark cherry, slate, and ripe juicy strawberry. Nice!

2017 Dalton Kna’an (AKA Dalton Estate in the USA) Rose – Score:  89 (QPR WINNER)
Ok, first off the SAME wine is sold under two labels. It is marketed in Israel as Kna’an Rose, but here in the USA, it has kept its old Dalton Estate label. The wine is really fun in its nose, nice, with slate and mineral, good fruit, with quince, and dried cranberry. The mouth is well balanced, really nice, fun, but it is RIPE and sweet, literally, there must be some residual sugar in there, showing great balance, with slate, and nice peach, passion fruit, and graphite. Nice! Good overall body. To me, this is the perfect gateway rose to get people into the rose game!

2017 Kerem Ben Zira Rose – Score: 70
No

2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan. Nice rose and sweet wine, fun with candied grapefruit, bubblegum, with sweet strawberry, and guava. The mouth is tart, really acidic, with tropical fruit, hints of floral notes, and more sweet fruit. The finish is long and sweet, but balanced enough.

2017 Galil Rose – Score: 83
Ripe, sweet, and not as fun, boring flat dead.

2017 Gvaot Rose – Score: 88
Even Gvaot could not keep the tropical notes and guava juice madness out of their rose. This wine is like many of the 2017 Israeli roses, nice enough nose with candied fruit, cranberry, watermelon, and stone fruit. The mouth is round, ripe, and tropical in nature, with some mineral, with good balance, nice stone fruit, and pith.

2017 Recanati Rose – Score: 89
This may well have been the darkest colored rose at the tasting. The nose is classic Recanati rose – Cotton candy, candied fruit, raspberry, and sweet strawberry. That said, the extreme sweet notes and all are a good gateway wine for many, it is tart, showing saline, sweet notes galore, with good acid, and candied strawberry, with hints of saline. Nice!

2017 Flam Rose  – Score: 88
Nice nose, mineral, with slate, fewer sweet notes but still ripe, and ripe strawberry. The mouth is round, ripe, with stone fruit galore, no tropical notes, but very ripe with candied fruit galore, balanced, nice enough, with good acid.

2017 Recanati Gris de Marselan – Score: 91
So far only one of the two Israeli roses I have tasted this year that is not a fruit bomb. Nice nose with good funk, flint madness, with good structure, properly made, nice! The mouth is dripping with great acid, balanced, with tart and juicy fruit, balanced but rich and saline based, with ripping mineral, and grapefruit, and dried and tart peach and hints of guava. Bravo!

2017 Kishor Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Grenache. The nose on this wine is ripe and tart with lovely notes of strawberry, gooseberry, hints of raspberry and floral notes with rock and herb. The mouth is weightier than most, with good acid, but the wine shows a hole that fills with time, with saline but showed poorly at the tasting. Maybe a bad bottle, but overall a nice enough wine.

2017 Herzberg Rose – Score: NO
I think this along with the Shiran Rose were DOA, but what we had was not enjoyable at all.

2017 Borgo Reale Rose – Score: 86
Last year this wine was really much better, this year it is very akin to the Israeli roses, a fruit bomb, with not enough acid to bring it all together. In the end, nice enough but lacking the acid.

2017 Hayotzer Rose – Score: 75
Oak on rose, with strawberry and spice, and OK acid, but in the end the wine is out of balance with oak, fruit and not enough acid to bring that oak around.

2017 100 Tropez Rose – Score: 89
This wine is nice enough but for the money, not a wine I would buy. The nose on this wine shows lovely strawberry and floral notes galore with raspberry and citrus. Lovely mouth with nice acidity, great flint, a bit ripe nectarines, and candied fruit and good mineral. Nice enough!

2017 Don Ernesto Hagafen Rose – Score: 89 (mevushal)
The wine is only available at the winery. The wine is like past years, very ripe, and this year the acid shows well but overall the sweet to tropical notes do really start to stick out like a sore thumb. Still, a very nice mevushal rose options. (only available at the winery)

—————- Rose wines added in my second post ——————-

 

2016 Sainte Beatrice Instant B Rose – Score: 84 (I tasted the 2016 and not 2017)
I was supposed to tase the 2017 Instant B, but they sent me the 2016 vintage! Go figure! I only noticed it was the 2016 vintage after I wrote my notes and saw how poor it was. Also, the 2017 vintage of the Instant B is mevushal and this one had no mevushal sign anywhere!
The nose is muted to start but comes out with vigorous movement to show nice dry notes of strawberry creme, with raspberry, and lemon. The mouth on this wine is flat, sadly, not showing the acid punch needed, the fruit is not flabby, but the lack of acid makes the wine feel like it is rose-colored water. The finish is long and has a bit of punch, but overall a disappointment, with nice pith, and grapefruit notes.

2017 Jezreel Rose – Score: 88
This is another rose wine that is using a white wine to add the needed acid punch to a rose. This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is nice enough with bubblegum notes, watermelon, pink notes, with dark plum, and grapefruit. The mouth on this dark colored rose is actually nice, with good acidity, not an overly ripe mouth, showing nice strawberry, with good acid, pomegranate, and fun overall tart notes. This is not a fun, tart, refreshing wine, as much as it is a big bold, rose wine that is well balanced, with good acidity, pith galore, with nice restraint, and balance. Nice! This is the perfect rose wine for date juice lovers, it is a classical sledgehammer of fruity notes that date juice lovers will pick up and enjoy.

2017 Vina Encina Rosado – Score: 89 (mevushal) (QPR)
This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo fruit. This nose on this wine is popping with candied fruit, cotton candy, nice floral notes of rose, big bright and sweet strawberry, raspberry, and mineral. The mouth on this wine is popping with sweet notes but well balanced with tart fruit, gooseberry, tart pink grapefruit, and great acid, with a middle of sweet cherry/currant lifesaver candy. The finish is long and sweet, but again well balanced, tart with more candied lifesaver notes, pith galore, and quince. Nice.

2017 Ramon Cardova Rosado – Score: 90 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Viura. This is the second year that Royal has made a rose from Ramon Cardova and once again they are using white fruit along with the red fruit. The nose on this wine is mineral-based with rosehips and rose water, followed by candied cherry. The mouth on this wine is sweet, and the sweetness shows far more in the mouth than in the nose, with watermelon, sweet pomegranate, hints of sweet quince, with candied grapefruit, and red fruit that gives way to good acidity and sweet fruit focus. The finish is long and sweet, with tart fruit, pith galore, and nice mineral, rock, slate. Nice.

2017 Chateau Roubine, La Vie en Rose – Score: 91 (QPR)
This is the second year that Royal has made the La Vie Rose from Chateau Roubine. The nose is sweeter than last year, with lovely white fruit notes of grapefruit, followed by a cacophony of red fruit notes, strawberry, raspberry, and sweet passion fruit notes. The mouth on this rose is sweet, not as sweet as the Spanish roses, but sweeter than I had hoped, and showing far more mineral, but still not as good as the Rothschild rose, with sweet raspberry, gooseberry, and ripe red fruit, that is well balanced with good acid, nice pith, and fun fruit focus. The finish is long, and tart, with good acidity, lovely mineral, slate, and pith galore.

2017 Covenant Wines, Red C, Rose – Score: 88
Lovely nose of rose hip and gooseberry, ripe fruit, with strawberry notes. The mouth on this wine is ripe and sweet in style, with clear leanings toward cherry and plum lifesaver candies, with lemonade and less acid than I was hoping for. The mouth is round and ripe and nice, balanced enough with fun red fruit and lingering notes of red tea and grapefruit.

2017 Camuna Cellars Rose – Score: 89 to 90
This wine is made by Eli Silins, one of the wine hands at Covenant Winery, and it is made of 100% Barbera fruit. The wine is as natural as you are going to get in the kosher wine world, though it did have a bit of sulfite added to it somewhere in the process, from what I understood. I will say that this wine is unique, it is not a wine that everyone will love, it has a bit of oxidation, which is common with more Natural wines, and it is a more old world style wine with funk and more dry/tart fruit.

Fun notes of yeasty, earthy aromas, hints of oxidation, with tart grapefruit and quince. The mouth of nice and balanced shows really fun acidity and great fruit focus, but also old school, with more herbal/grassy notes, with lovely yeast, tart cherry, pear, and strawberry. The finish is really fun, earthy, and richly mineral focused, with red fruit galore, unique and fun.

2017 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Sangiovese, and Barbera, The nose on this nice wine shows cherry, strawberry, and rich ripe summer fruit with lovely fruity notes, with ripe melon and sweet quince. The mouth on this wine is rich and full, with fun saline, with good balance, not over the top with good acid, nice complexity, with earthy and classic rose notes of strawberry and pink grapefruit. The finish is long and dry with great mineral, slate, and lingering red fruit.

2017 Herzog Lineage Rose – Score: 88 (mevushal)
This wine is a Saignée of the Herzog Lineage Coreograph field blend. The nose on this wine is unique, showing lovely dry fruit notes, mint, with menthol, pink grapefruit, cherry, and ethereal notes, lovely! Sadly, the mouth for me is not at the same level as the nose, with a slight lack of balance, showing very ripe fruit, pomegranate, guava, really ripe plum, and even pineapple, with orange notes, and acid that exists but not in balance. The finish is long and cooked in nature, more like a confiture than a true fruit focused rose.

 

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2015 Shirah Furmint, Alder Springs

I will keep this post short and sweet. First of all Happy Shavuot to all, and if you want a GREAT wine to enjoy cheese or fish with, please open a bottle of the 2015 Shirah Furmint, Alder Springs. Still, one of my favorite Shirah wines, not because it was the best, but rather because it is so FREAKING unique. Much akin in its uniqueness to the 2014 Shirah Gruner Veltliner! That wine is not as alive now as the Furmint is right now. The Furmint has peaked and is really lovely, showing wonderful secondary notes. Pop it and go, and please enjoy it with friends and family! The acid on the Furmint is what is keeping it alive, and giving it a chance to show its real potential. So sad that Shirah never made another!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2015 Shirah Furmint Alder Springs Vineyard – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine has now fully opened and is now showing secondary notes, besides the lovely intense straw, dry grass, with dry apple/pear compote, now we also have more yeast, almond paste, and lovely mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied is still ripping with acid, and showing a lovely weight and viscosity to the mouth, with honeysuckle, peach, sweet yet tart cantaloupe melon, cinnamon, crazy rich mineral, tart fruit, dry grass, and impressive straw, all wrapped in quince magic, and hints of oxidation. The finish is long and layered with hints of oak, almonds, flint galore, with rock, and nice sweet tea. This is very akin to the Dalton Semillon in some ways and in many ways much drier. BRAVO!! Drink by 2019 to 2020.

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac (kosher)

I recently had the chance to sit down and taste this wine in my house. I tasted it twice at KFWE and in the end, it was better in the home, after it had the chance to decant and show its real potential.

The wine is made at Domaines Fabre in the Haut-Médoc AOC. The wine is classified under Cru Bourgeois, which while may not be a top classification, includes 267 estates today! One of my all-time favorites is under the Cru Bourgeois classification, Fourcas Dupre!

The classification has wineries from many regions on the left bank and the vast majority of these wines are Cabernet Sauvignon dominated.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. This is a fun wine, remember that we have not yet seen the big wines of 2016. As I have said many times on this blog, the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux may well be better than the 2015 vintage! For now, the few 2016 reds we have seen from Bordeaux are showing nicely.
The nose on this wine shows very nicely with rich loam, dirt, green notes, followed by bright and big black fruit, with hints of mushroom in the background, lovely mint, and menthol notes abound as well. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun and alive, with screaming acid, that gives way to intense tannin that is soft and yet rich and mouth coating, with great fruit focus, showing blackcurrant, blackberry, with red cherry, and olives, that give way to green notes, mouth scraping mineral, foliage, and tobacco. The finish is long and green, at the start it is a bit too astringent and green to truly enjoy, with time it comes around with nice spice, earth, graphite, sour notes, more red and black fruit, and nice coffee/chocolate mix. Nice! It can be drunk now, but to really appreciate it, I would decant it for a good 3 hours, to cut some of the green and astringent notes. Drink now (with decanting) till 2027.

Seven Kosher Viognier Wines

Viognier (pronounced Vee-Ohn-Yay) is a very special grape and one that must be handled with great care.  The Viognier grape/wine is a special treat. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes, and acidity, but it is also 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 generate the classic perfume that we are used to seeing in Muscat and Riesling wines. The winemaker has many choices with how he/she wants to manage the grapes.  The winemaker can allow the wine to go 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.  With all the choices and difficulties that Viognier wines have, they rarely meet expectations and are, therefore, not one of the current popular white wines.  Finally, Viognier is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines, also the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner. By default, the Viognier grape is lower in acidity than other white varietals, which makes for a wine that is not meant for cellaring, at least not yet in the kosher market.

The most famous of Viognier wines come from Condrieu AOC and though they are highly desired, even there they are not always winners. The climate in Condrieu is colder than much of the Rhone, and its soil is made up of a porous, drainable granite, chalk, mica, and deposits of gneiss. The area is known as the original mother of Viognier and in the AOC, the only legal grape is Viognier.

While I really liked the 2016 Psagot Viognier last year, now it is losing its steam and it acid is falling off, making for a fetter more round wine. Dalton, in the past, threw so much oak at the wine that it was built to last longer. Psagot and Kos Yehuos both do not throw that much oak at the wines and they release them early on. Psagot has a fascinating way to get acidity and perfume. Yaacov Oryah, picks around 80% of the Viognier early, for acid, minerality and low alcohol, and 20% later in the season, for perfume.

I really enjoyed the 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier, it was varietally true, and really lovely. The sad fact was that I could not find it in Israel, the week before Passover, and I tried almost every wine store in and around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem! I had to come to the USA to taste it, and it is a lovely wine indeed!

Still, of all of them, the Kos Yeshuos Viognier is showing a more old world and mineral style than the perfume madness of the Israeli options. It is sad that there are so few options in the world of Viognier. Galil has some, and they are OK but pretty average. Same with the 2016 Yatir Viognier, it was muted to me. The 2016 Dalton Viognier was nice, but it is an oak monster, and that is an acquired taste.

Now I stated that there were 7 Viognier wines here in the title, and while there are 5 varietal Viognier wines, the other two are blends. The first of the blends is the 2017 Shirah Vintage Whites which is a blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay, from the Murmur Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The last of the blends is the 2017 Teperberg Fermitage White, Inspire.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Psagot Viognier, 2017 Psagot Viognier, 2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier

2017 Covenant Israel Viognier, Blue C – Score: 90
Classic viognier notes with crazy rich floral notes, with rich saline, lovely peach, and some oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really fun and showing a lovely oily texture, with rich weight and more fun saline, followed by apricot rolled in the grass, with floral notes. The finish is sweet and ripe and fresh with tart notes of stone fruit, with lemongrass and flint. Bravo!

2017 Psagot Viognier: 89 to 90
This year’s vintage is leaner than last year’s vintage, but also more light in style and focus. The wine starts off very ripe and needs time to come around, give this wine time. The nose starts off with ripe fruit notes of pineapple juice, honeycomb, really ripe, with cloves, allspice, peach marmalade, and apricot, and stone fruit. With time the nose turns to nice mineral notes, backed by peach marmalade, wonderful peach jam, and lovely hay, quince jam. The mouth is more round and fat than I would have hoped, with orange and nectarines, still, it is well structured. With slate, saline, and pith galore. Nice.

2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier – 92 (QPR)
Do not cool this wine too much, it likes 30 min in the fridge and no more.
This wine has evolved over the past 6 months. Gone is the fruity nose and now the nose is pure flint, yeast, smoke, and really fun straw and mineral, with peach and honey in the background. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe for sure, but really well balanced and showing lemongrass, with a rich oily coat that covers the mouth, well focused with rich acidity, nice mineral, great fruit pith, apricots, peach, and lemon, with rock, and grass. The finish is long and acidic, with enough complexity to grab your attention and keep it throughout the finish with lovely white rose tea, sweet spices, notes of fresh lavender, crazy saline lingers super long, with cinnamon, and cloves. Bravo!

2016 Psagot Viognier – Score – 88
So last year this wine was very ripe, now the nose is showing nice funk, with hay, straw, and honeyed notes. last year this wine was an acid bomb, now the wine has lost that rich acidity and now it is well balanced, with good fruit pith, and green notes, and not much else. Sadly, this wine is losing its grip and should be drunken ASAP. DRINK UP!

2017 Teperberg Destitage White, Inspire – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and French Colombard. The nose on this wine is very floral and classically inclined to Viognier with its intense peach bomb notes, with white cherry notes, and sweet Oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is oily and tactile, with a rich weight from the Viognier and Colombard fruit, with sweet Guava and nectarines, followed by with orange notes, The finish is sweet and tart and fun overall, with good acid and floral notes. Nice!

2017 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: 91 (QPR)
Another winner from Shirah with a blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay. The nose on this wine starts off really fun and funky, showing straw and rich mineral, with sweet peach, rich ripe guava, and apricot. The mouth on this wine is really fun, rich, layered, well balanced, oily and textured, and so professionally made, with lovely smoke, oak, with rich apple, dried quince and with fresh focus and lovely weight and viscosity. The finish is crazy and dry, with sweet notes of fig, sweet lemon tea, with intense mineral and lovely pith with a citrus background. Bravo!!

2016 Dalton Viognier, Reserve – Score: 89
The nose is classic Viognier, with peach, too much oak, showing good apricot, sweet rose hips, and a perfume of honeysuckle, and orange blossom. The mouth is medium bodied, with a nice almost oily mouthfeel, showing nice weight, with good notes of summer fruit, with just enough acid, wish there was more, with lovely pear and nectarines. The finish is long and balanced with less acid than before, still too much oak, lovely mineral, slate, and more floral notes. Drink up!

The 2018 Kosher rose season is open

It is officially Spring (though it snowed in Chicago for Passover – so I will hold judgment on that fact for a bit), which means it is Rose time! Rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well, that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 9 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Wine Color

What is a rose wine? Well, simply said, a rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and you get clear to green colored juice. Yes, the white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color is the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red colored is long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature. Read the rest of this entry

The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2018 in all price ranges

As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday.  Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. The Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year, last year’s list was better. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is my list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview WinesGotham WinesSuhag Wine, and of course kosherwine.com and Gary’s store, along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the less than 10 dollar 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, as wonderful as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the 50 dollars and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 (A- of old) or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2016 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2017 Roses that will be released soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below.

For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it. It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses from Arc International. Also, remember that the first cup should be drunk in totality, according to most authorities.

A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is not as long as last year’s list, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, started to show nicely, but now they are falling apart, and the 2016 reds from Israel are flat or worse.

With Terrenal gone and the 2015/2016 Baron Herzog wines not showing really well, sadly, there will be fewer options out there, IMHO.

In the end, these are my picks, they are easy to find and in my opinion, really good. There is also the Jewish Week’s list and Yossie Horwitz (of Yossie’s Corkboard) also comes out with a list.

So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!

Wines below 10 dollars:

2017 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Chateau Les Riganes (mevushal) (QPR KING)

Wines below 15 dollars:

2016 Baron Herzog Chardonnay (QPR)  (mevushal)
2014/2015 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Elvi Winery Rioja Herenza (QPR)
2015 Ramon Cardova Rioja (mevushal) (QPR)
2014 Chateau du Grand Barrail, Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux (sadly only in France)

Wines below 20 dollars:

2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
2015/2016 Yarden Gewurztraminer (2015 is Shmita)
2015 Capcanes Peraj Petita (NOT 2016 that is really NOT a fun wine)
2013/2014 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico (Great QPR)
2016 Psagot Viognier
2013 Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais
2016 Dalton Pinot Gris (QPR)
2017 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
NV Elvi Adar Brut (some are mevushal) (QPR)
2016 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Eva, Blanc (QPR) Read the rest of this entry

KFWE NYC and LA 2018 was ruled by European Wines and American Foie Gras

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! Thankfully, I made NYC and LA. What I can say, is that while not much has changed in regards to overall quality, location, and layout, the shows themselves were not overwhelmingly great this year. Each one had its issues, and in the end to me, it was a tie, with neither wines or food really shining through, other than Heritage’s Foie Gras and The European wines.

As always, the events happen in two parts, the trade and then the public. Public again, had the VIP session, which LA started in 2015, and what has been copied all over the KFWE family since then, and the General admission.

Overall Impressions

To me, while the halls were very nice, trade was really crowded in NYC, like nuts. After the first hour it calmed a bit, and in LA it was really busy throughout the entire trade session. Also, the guests were more demanding and in need of face time with the winemakers and winery representatives, which is really good as wine without context is not as poignant, but it gets in the way of the overall flow of the event. It is a point that needs fixing, but I honestly am not sure how to do it.

Next, let’s start with the positives, the public/general admissions were not moshpits. Which is a huge advance over the past years in NYC, still for many there was not much to taste that was new. THAT was the main issue in my opinion. Again, I have spoken of this many times, but shmita is starting to get really annoying.

I mean that in the manner of how it affects subsequent years. The Shmita overhang is getting in the way of at least two years, given the average release cycle of wineries, maybe even longer for the higher end wines. So, Shmita was the 2015 vintage, meaning we never saw the white and roses wines until the 2016 year. Since the USA does not want shmita wines, 2016 was covered with 2014 wines. The 2017 year was covered by what? Well leftovers of the 2014 vintage, of course. What about this year, 2018? Well, finally, we are starting to see 2016 reds, but not in Israel, they are still on 2015 wines. Royal and other importers have forced Israeli wineries to release the 2016s early, and that is why we saw some Vitkin 2016 red vintages. Still, most of the Israeli wines were old vintages that have still not moved in the USA.

So, what we have is the compounded problem of not having new vintages because of the shmita overhang, and the fact that the older vintages on shelves have not moved. Worse, than that, there were a few misses at both KFWE, like the new 2015 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, which was a no-show.

Overall, to me, the REAL truth, was that the wines were mostly older vintages or wines we had already tasted throughout the year, like the wonderful but not new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. There is no fix to this, wine needs to be sold. Yet, pouring 2014 Roses, that needs to stop. The fact that they were pouring more than a few 2016 roses is already bad enough.

Winners of the shows

The winners were, of course, the 2015 and 2016 wines from Europe. Yes, I dislike date juice, that is not new news, and the Israeli wines were all too old or too ripe, with the exception being Flam, Castel Winery and Carmel Winery on the higher-end wines.

The real saviors of the shows were the European wines. All of the French wines showed as expected, with some ill effects to the mevushal process on 2015 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2015 Chateau Le Crock, and to a lesser degree the 2015 Chateau Greysac. The rest of the French wines showed beautifully, as did the European wines of Elvi Wines, Terra de Seta, and Capcanes Winery. In NYC, it was really fun tasting the 2014 Giscours side by side the 2015 Giscours, showing the elegance and power of the 2015 vintage.

The really impressive and hard to implement fact was that the KFWE LA show – had ALL the wines! Other than Flam’s 2017 Rose, all of Covenant wines, and Hagafen wines (as they self-distribute within Califonia), all the wines were at KFWE LA. The entire French collection was there, even the entire Tabor winery line was there. Though they did not pour the Chateau Leoville Poyferre for trade or General Admission in LA.

The other real winner was Heritage’s, Foie Gras. Enjoying that Foie Gras with some of the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau in NYC was heaven. They even had Foie Gras, not as good as Heritage Farms in the trade and VIP in LA. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Roy’s 2016 Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai

My friend GG sent me an image a month ago of a new wine that he had not yet tried, which is saying something. It was a wine that was selling at Skyview Wines and it was called Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai.

The first question we all had was what is Maison Roy & Fils? A quick Google search quickly found it to be an up and coming Burgundy style Domaine in the heart of the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Domaine Roy

Sadly, there have been very few really good Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This may well be the best one that I have tasted so far. The wine has the stylings of its owners, clean lines, almost clinically so, but with heart and soul, a purpose and focus of home, while being professionally styled and without too much fanfare.

A quick glance at the winery and you will see the same thing. Clear lines, clean, with focus on the home and not much fanfare. The wine follows the lines and while this is the first kosher vintage (we are hoping for me please), the winery has been doing this for three years already.

The winery was started by two men that have winemaking running in the veins and lineage. In 1992 wine critic Robert Parker and his brother-in-law, Michael Etzel partnered with Quebec property developer Robert Roy to create Beaux Frères. Marc Roy and Jared Etzel, both sons of Robert Roy and Michael Etzel, respectively, along with investors (more on that in a bit) created this gorgeous Domaine in 2012. The vineyards came online in 2015 and 2016, but the first wines were sourced from vineyards close to the winery.

The land was purchased in 2012, the vineyards were planted in 2013, and they lie on volcanic soils and basalt rock. There are two vineyards the first one is planted on 13 high-density acres of 10 different Pinot Noir clones and two acres of Chardonnay on its south-facing hillside. This vineyard is called the Iron Filbert Vineyard. The other vineyard which came online in 2016, is called Quartz Acorn Vineyard, it is planted in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Here there are 22 acres of high-density Pinot Noir and 2 acres of Chardonnay. The soil is slightly quartz-based, with sedimentary soils that are surrounded by Savanah Oaks, which explain the vineyard’s name.

The beautiful winery is surrounded by the Iron Filbert Vineyard. Sadly, I have yet to visit the winery, but from the pictures, it is a sight to see. Jared is the winemaker and Marc is the founder working with a slightly hands-off approach.

Vineyards

Wine starts on the vine and finishes in the winery. This is a philosophy that Domaine Roy takes very seriously. Though the fruit used for this wine was sourced from vineyards not owned by Domaine Roy, the fruit is still of equal importance, and it shows in the wine. Shai was made from fruit sourced from the La Colina, Dundee Hills AVA. The Shai Pinot Noir uses the Maison Roy name, just like the Maison Roy wines of 2013 and 2014, which were also made from grapes sourced outside the vineyards of Domaine Roy, the wine had the same process of native yeasts, open bin fermentors, and oak aging.

The clear leanings of the winery is to let the fruit shine, and just shepherd the fruit towards its purpose, by not influencing it too much with manual intervention. This is not a natural wine, nor is the winery interested in that philosophy, which I have gleaned from the conversations I had with the winery staff.

The winery’s goal beyond letting the vineyards speak is to create a wine showing its purity and transparency at the highest level from their land. The real desire is to concentrate on wines from the Dundee and Carlton AVA regions. The focus is of course on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Read the rest of this entry

Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village – latest 2016 vintage

I recently received the entire line of the new 2016 wines from Jacques Capsouto Vignobles. I have written many times about this winery, that broke onto the kosher wine scene without many knowing anything about them, and shocked us all with really impressive wines starting from the inaugural release.

The 2015 vintage was not kosher in the end, having to do with how or when the grapes were picked, the 2014 and 2016 vintages are perfectly fine and bear the OK kosher symbol.

I have yet to interview Mr. Capsouto personally (though I did talk with him at Sommelier briefly), but there are many good articles out there and I recommend that you read them all – as each has a nugget of information that the other lacks. The first is the oldest of the articles that I enjoyed – maybe the first one written; when the vines were planted. The next one is an article written by the ever wonderful Dorothy Gaiter, written in the Grape Collective. Next, you have the in-depth article by Haaretz – with really good insights. Finally, there is the best article, IMHO, from one of the better kosher wine writers today; Adam Montefiore.

Through all the articles – you get a common story of Jacques Capsouto, an immigrant from Egypt, who built Capsouto Frères with his family, a classic French restaurant in Tribeca – before anyone cared about Tribeca! Throughout the entire journey of Capsouto Freres, he showed his never-ending passion, and drive, but sadly it ended in sorrow after the effects of terrorism and natural disasters destroyed almost half a lifetime of sweat and tears. To me though, there is another story in there, one of love for Israel, wine, and a deep understanding that Rhone varietals have its place in the Galilee!

Rhone Rangers

The Rhone Rangers are a group of California winemakers who in the 80s started an association to promote Rhone varietals in California. They have single-handedly pushed Rhone Valley varietals into the wine buyer’s subconscious. In 2011, Mr. Capsouto planted a subset of the 22 official varietals (9 in total) that make up the Rhone Rangers list of promoted grapesIn doing so, he became Israel’s first and ONLY truly 100% Rhone varietal winery, in other words, Jacques is all-in on the Rhone Valley in the Galilee!

Look around Israel for those betting on the Rhone varietals, there is, of course, Netofa Winery (who planted Rhone and Loire Valley grapes), Recanati Winery (which has access to Bordeaux grapes for the reserve series and Rhone grapes for their Mediterranean Series), Kishor Winery, and Vitkin Winery. Still, no one has staked 1.7 million dollars to start a boutique winery in the Galilee, featuring some of the most obscure grapes to ever grace Israel! The 9 varieties planted are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for the reds and Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for the whites. Carignan is nothing new in Israel, I just posted an article about Carignan wines from Israel. Cinsault is not one I know of in Israel, or anywhere else in the kosher wine world. Grenache is slowly making its way around the country and has been in Israel for some time now. Same with Mourvedre and Syrah of course. Clairette and Grenache Blanc are new to Israel, though Vitkin also has Grenache Blanc. While Marsanne and Roussanne are in the Golan and other places as well. Read the rest of this entry

The good and the ugly state of kosher wine in South Africa and Chicago

Well, we are back home, thank God for that! I really enjoyed my time in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, and then Kruger), but while the Jews of South Africa are truly wonderful, the life there is less than so.

In case South Africa is a new thing to you, let me start with the simple fact that there are 54 or 55 countries in the African continent! South Africa may well be the most Southern of them, but it is just ONE country in Africa and only one country of many in what is called Southern Africa.

In the end, the trip was marred by things being stolen from our luggage and the overall sense of hope but desolation that seems to be a default in Johannesburg and in many of the shantytowns (AKA townships) that are scattered throughout South Africa.

The clear separation of the haves and have-nots was tough to see. Not because I am in ANY WAY blind to it here in our country, but more because it is as in your face as it is in places like India or China.

Though what made us happy was the reason we came to South Africa, to dance at the wedding of Josh And Chana, and it was a really lovely event indeed! I have written a few times now about Josh Rynderman, a good friend, and a wonderful up and coming, kosher winemaker.

Aside from the wine at the wedding (the 2017 Backsberg Chardonnay and the NV Backsberg Sparkling wine), I can honestly say that the wines of South Africa are not fit for print! Throw on to that the selection they do have of kosher wines, outside of what is made in South Africa and well yeah, there was no real option for Shabbat – total failure!

I walked into three different places and the wine selection was horrible in all of them. Mostly a combination of ancient and poorly stored undrinkable Israeli wines and some newer South African wines that are really not fun at all.

State of Jews in South Africa

Although the Jewish community peaked in the 1970s (at around 120,000[1]), about 70,000 mostly nominally Orthodox, remain in South Africa. A proportion is secular, or have converted to Christianity. Despite low intermarriage rates (around 7%),[1] approximately 1,800 Jews emigrate every year, mainly to IsraelAustraliaCanada and the United States. The Jewish community in South Africa is currently the largest in Africa, and, although shrinking due to emigration, it remains one of the most nominally Orthodox communities in the world, although there is a significantly growing Progressive community, especially in Cape Town. The current Orthodox Chief RabbiWarren Goldstein (2008), has been widely credited for initiating a “Bill of Responsibilities” which the government has incorporated in the national school curriculum. The Chief Rabbi has also pushed for community-run projects to combat crime in the country.

The community has become more observant and in Johannesburg, the largest center of Jewish life with 66,000 Jews, there is a high number and density of kosher restaurants and religious centers.

Having spent a Shabbat in Johannesburg, and many days in Cape Town, I can attest to the words taken from the history of Jews in South Africa – Wikipedia post. Read the rest of this entry

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