2020 Or de la Castinelle Rose is the first WINNER Rose of the 2021 rose season – Bravo!

OK, as I stated before, this season for rose wine is far worse than last year, and last year was far worse than previous years, you get the point! Last season it took about two months and we finally had a QPR (Quality to price Ratio) WINNER, this year, we are into the third month and honestly, things were looking bleak! I know, I owe you more bleak rose wine reviews, that are coming next, but I had to jump the line here and post this one, this is fun! A nice rose and at a good price point. As always, this one is not yet available online – but I hope it will soon be available for us west coasters and Midwesterners. Until then, the 2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato or the 2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino will keep you happy. Enjoy

As always, disclaimers are required. Yes, I received this wine and yes I liked it! The wine is made in Domaine de Cantarelle, a well known Domaine that was purchased by a large conglomerate called Cap Wine Enterprises in 2017 and there was a kosher run of it in 2019, but I never got to taste it as it never made its way to the USA, and France has been cut -off from us here in the USA. I think this looks like a kosher run of the 2020 Domaine de Cantarelle Madam, but I am not sure of that.

My many thanks to Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Or de la Castinelle Rose – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, and 15% Syrah. Finally, there is a rose wine in the USA that I want to buy and drink! Bravo! The nose on this lovely wine is ripe, well balanced, but super bright, acidic, and with nice minerality, showing notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, strawberries and crème, with saline, rock, and green notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine shows a nice weight, with gripping acidity, nice fruit focus of grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry, and hints of orange, with mineral galore, and lovely green notes. This is refreshing, bright, tart, and just what I want in a rose. The finish is super long, tart, with great acidity, more lemon, gooseberry, pomelo, and slate lingering long, with orange blossom, and more Meyer lemon! Bravo! Drink now!! (tasted April 2021)

Three nice Italian wines from Cantina Giuliano, including a QPR WINNER

I recently had the chance to taste three wines from Cantina Giuliano one of the few kosher wineries in Europe, along with Terra di Seta, and Elvi Wines. In the past, I have found the Cantina Giuliano wines to be nice but not wines I would buy. Last year I liked the rose enough to buy some and drink them right away. However, this year, Eli & Lara Gauthier have made some nice wines and I hope this goes up from here!

I was able to taste the 2020 rose and Vermentino along with the 2019 Merlot, all of them are sourced from Tuscany. The Rose was lovely but the Vermentino was fun, while the Merlot is a GREAT find and one that is a wonderful quaff.

My many thanks to Eli & Lara Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano and Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This feels like what I always wanted from a Vermentino, acid, fruit, crazy mineral, and more mineral, just lovely! The nose on this wine starts off a bit strange, let it air out, with 20 minutes or so, the nose turns into mineral and fruit heaven, with notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, lime, and stone fruit, with intense mineral, flint, and smoke, really fun! The mouth on this mineral-laden and acid core wine is lovely, showing intense mineral, acidity, with lovely saline, olives, peach, apple, and searing acidity – wow! The finish is long, green, fun, with intensity, refreshing, saline, Meyer lemon/lime, and olives. Bravo! (tasted March 2021)

2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is lovely, not as epic or as minerally laden as the 2019 but a lovely rose, in a vintage where there are so very few Rose I would drink. The nose on this wine is lovely, bright fruit, tart, with bright aromas of red fruit, strawberry, and crème, bright passion fruit, citrus, with lovely orange blossom, and orange rind notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has a nice weight, shows a good fruit focus, with nice strawberry, tart, and juicy raspberry, bracing acidity, well-balanced, refreshing, showing saline, olives, and a nice mineral focus. The finish is long, green, mineral, slate, and tart, refreshing, and fun! Nice! Drink now! (tasted March 2021)

2019 Cantina Giuliano In Campagna Merlot – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
While this is not a WINNER from a QPR score, it is a winner from the fact that is a nice wine for under 20 dollars, Italy continues to impress at this price point! The nose on this Merlot is lovely, floral, with notes of lavender, toast, earth, nice loam, red and black fruit, paraffin notes, and roasted herb. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is layered with nice red and black fruit, showing dark raspberry, strawberry, plum, dark cherry, smoke, with lovely dirt, loam, earth, and nice acid to bring this wine together, with mouth-draping tannin, and foliage. The finish is long, with green notes, showing red fruit, herbs, more smoke, wax, meaty notes, all backed by crazy acid, nice tannin, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2025. (tasted April 2021)

Herzog Wine Cellars continues to impress with red wines from 2018, 2019, and now the 2020 vintages

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!

The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)

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A wonderful, unique, and exciting tasting of white and Orange wines with EIGHT QPR WINNERS and a few serious duds

This past week I was tasting through the rose wines to get them tasted in time before Passover. This is a super short post – really just hey like, looks at these QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines – and please ignore rose wine for 2021, there is nothing to see there, in that kosher wine segment.

I want to highlight some of the great white and orange wines – that I had over the past tastings – with the last tasting Friday before Shabbat – just a great way to rid my mind and taste buds of the roses I had to suffer through to get to these wines!

A total aside, partial happy rant – THANK YOU! Thank you all for finally getting rid of corks and using DIAM or amalgamated corks – thank you all very much! Keep up the great work, on all wines in the simple wine category – please!! I am talking to you Ramon Cardova Albarino! Please everyone use DIAM or some amalgamated cork – thanks – I am done with my rant!

As always, nothing I post here gets me anything from those who make the wines. If they send me wines or if I buy them, if I like it I will say so, if I dislike it – I will say so, look at all those roses I did not like. Enough said I need to remind people of this every so often.

Michael Kaye makes a few wines and the one he sent me was the 2019 Kaye Dry Muscat and what a wine it is! It needs a bit of time to open, and it has a drop of reduction, but that is almost like the Tel Qasser in style, meaning the reduction is additive, not subtractive! What a wine it is, with time the acid appears and the wine is incredibly layered and expressive – get some! His website is not up yet but email him at michaelkaye@fastmail.com or find him on Facebook and messenger him there, again Michael Kaye is his name.

Shiran wines made a lovely 2020 Riesling, the price is insane, but it is a solid wine and that makes me happy. All we need to do now is find a way to make the price meet the value.

The QPR superstar of the past, the Ramon Cardova Albarino, fell off a bit with the 2019 vintage. Still a nice wine, but it lacks the punch and richness of the 2018 vintage. Still a QPR WINNER and a wine to enjoy.

In comparison, Yaffo made a lovely white wine from 2020 that is a QPR WINNER and one that you should find at kosherwine.com

Talking about kosherwine.com, they brought in more of the 2018 Binyamina Orange Wine, it is a wine that needs to be handled with care – the wine starts closed, but with an hour or so, it opens nicely, but then it falls off a bit after many hours. So, I would open, give it time, and finish it. Just a PSA.

The 2019 Vitkin Gewurztraminer has the same issue, it threads the needle as well. It needs time to show its great style, but then it loses a bit of the finish. So, the theme continues here. Open it, give it some air, then finish it and enjoy! To have created anything good in that horrible 2019 vintage from Israel is EPIC! Still, the best 2019 from Israel is the 2019 Netofa Latour white – just WOW!

The same issue appeared with the 2020 Matar Sauvignon-Blanc and Semillon, a lovely wine another QPR WINNER, but it too threads the needle, so I recommend that you open, wait a bit, and then finish it.

Finally, the 2018 Netofa Tel Qasser white is INSANE it is that simple, just 100% INSANE! Best wine of the tasting, followed by the Kaye (from a style and profile, and score). The Tel Qasser white is classic Roussanne and one you would love to sit and watch evolve. This wine can be enjoyed now or in 6 years or anywhere in between. Yes, I have the window for it starting in 2 years, but with a decant you can enjoy this wine now as well.

PSA: I fear that while 2019 Israeli white and rose wine vintage was a total disaster, with a few outliers, 2020 is looking much better. Still, they do not feel like wines that will last long, so open and enjoy them!

PSA 2 – I have now had two wines from the winery called La Foret Blanche (the rose and now the white), they were both oxidized bottles of mess. I would be careful before buying. Try it somewhere else or ask if you can return it before buying.

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The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and once again I am underwhelmed – scene 1

It is not yet summer and here in NorCal it feels like more like a wet winter, this year has started cold and has stayed cold throughout the country, other than in Arizona and Florida, AKA, baseball Spring Training! Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have also visited France, sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is scene 1, more roses are coming in, but we have seen a large number already, and yes, like last year, they are underwhelming, at BEST!

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 22 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.

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The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2021 in all price ranges

Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people who have received the Covid Vaccine to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and maybe even a Passover together. Last year, I was extremely tentative about writing this yearly post, but I am happy that many found it useful and enjoyable, even in those extremely early bleak times. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!

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 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 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. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is 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, normally, happen 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, Liquid Kosher, onlinekosherwine.comkosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), 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 13 of so dollar 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, red, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines 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 are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. 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 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 2019 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Sadly, so far, the 2020 roses I have tasted, are also a waste of your money! The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them 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 here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain 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 Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!

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.

NOTE! This year all 4 cups are NOT a D’oraysa, but rather a rabbinic requirement. Therefore, you can stay at 3.5 ounces. The only day you will need to go to the 4.42-ounce sized cup would be Shabbat night.

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The start of 2020 roses and whites and six QPR WINNERS

I am going to keep this post real short. I am catching up on some wines that I have tasted over the past month or more. Sadly, most of these are a mess or just good enough. Thankfully, there were six QPR (Quality to Price) Winners. That included the 2017 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi Vineyards. I have said this a few times, Rieslings need time! 2017 is no different. It needed time to come around and now it is a solid QPR WINNER.

Roses are slowly trickling in and on kosher wine sites, you can see as many as 20 2020 roses. Sadly, it takes time for them to get to me, so I will start my usual procession of rose wines in a subsequent post, as they get to me here in California. So far, like 2019, they are a mess, and they feel like a total waste of my money.

In the end, the QPR WINNERS are no surprise! The 2020 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc is a solid wine and one that has lovely control and acidity. Having a wine like this with all that mother nature threw at California in 2020, I say Bravo to Covenant Winery! There are two Netofa Latour QPR WINNERS and OMG they are absolute ROCK stars. Please do me a favor and GET THEM! They will move fast! The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva is another absolute Rock Star! Finally, the last QPR WINNER was the new vintage of the Flechas Gran Malbec a lovely wine that is not ready yet but will be nice when it is.

There were a few wines that were not winners:

  1. The much-ballyhooed 2018 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib. I had it and it was a mess to mess. It was ripe from the start and while that ripeness did calm a bit it never really came around and for the most part, it was just OK.
  2. I was not a fan of any of the Carmel Mediterranean Vats wines. The 2019 Mediterranean 2 Vats white wine was ok, but it felt to me like it has RS (Residual Sugar) and that does not fly with me at all.
  3. The 2017 Marciano Terra Gratia was shockingly ripe and is probably the most elegant Date-juice driven wine I have ever tasted. I could be convinced, at gunpoint, to enjoy that wine, based solely on its elegance.
  4. The 2018 Dalton Petite Sirah was nice enough, but for the price, and the overall quality, it was a miss for me.
  5. Sadly, the 2018 Koenig wines continue to not impress, other than the lovely Riesling
  6. I tasted a large number of Victor Wines and none of them were any good.

While these other wines were not WINNERS they were quite enjoyable:

  1. I got to taste the new 2018 Dampt Freres Bourgogne. It is a much better version than the 2017 vintage. Sadly, the wine will probably sell for a price that does not let it be a QPR WINNER. I hope future wines will be priced lower. The sad truth is that there are few good QPR WINNER wines in the simple red wine category. It is a very hard nut to crack both in regards to making good wine and keeping it at the QPR price for that category, which is 20 or so dollars, at this moment.
  2. There were two nice 2019 Vitkin Wines the 2019 Vitkin Pinot Noir and the 2019 Vitkin Israeli Journey. These wines are solid, both a 90 score, but the prices are still too high for such wines. They are both simple reds and they price above the 20 dollar price range for simple red wines. They punch MUCH higher in regards to quality. The median score for simple reds is 87, at this moment. Again, getting a red wine to score WINNER in the simple red wine category is really tough!
  3. The Twin Sun white and Rose wines have been doing a great job, which is no surprise, as the Weiss Brothers know how to make great white and Rose wines. The 2018 Twin Suns Chardonnay-Viognier is a nice wine and at a very good price! Nice!
  4. The famous Matar Sparkling wine was nice enough, but it is not nearly as good as the Yarden Sparkling wines and it is more expensive. The bottle is nice!
  5. I had the chance to taste the 2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre again, under less than perfect conditions, NO NOT the KFWV bottle, and I have revised notes, but the score stays the same.

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

2020 Rose Wines

2020 Flam Rose – Score: 89+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice, with floral notes, with strawberry, flint, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acid, nice mouthfeel, with a good fruit-focus, nice strawberry, currants, and good grapefruit. (tasted January 2021)

2020 1848 2nd Generation Rose – Score: 84 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice enough with notes of rosehip, floral notes, citrus, and mineral The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acidity, and not much else, with more citrus, grapefruit, currants, and strawberry. The finish is long, acidic, and more currants and flowers. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Herzog Lineage Rose (M) – Score: 80 (QPR: NA)
Sadly, this is off-dry, it has sweet notes and not my thing. The nose on this wine has a Muscat feel, with floral notes, pineapple, cooked cabbage, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has no acid, is sweet, ripe, guava, melon, and no citrus, no acid, tropical, and not much else. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Shiloh Rose (M) – Score: 73 (QPR: NA)
The nose on this wine is tropical and ripe, with hints of mineral, and citrus. The mouth on this wine is where it all goes bad, sweet, unbalanced, bitter, a mess. (tasted January 2021)

Wines ordered in score order

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is one of the most balanced versions of the Riserva in a very long time. The Riserva is normally undrinkable for a few years, this one is far more accessible than any previous version – WOW! The nose on this wine is incredible, with mushroom, truffle, soy sauce, tar, with floral notes of violets, and earth, smoke, and rich dark fruit, WOW! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, tannic, gripping, earthy, smoky, and fruity, with lovely tart cherry, currant, plum, and ripe blackberry, with rich earth, loam, mushroom, intense saline, black olives, with intense acid, and mouth-drying and draping aggressive tannin, wow! The finish is long, black, green, and earthy, with umami, soy sauce again, with incredible floral notes, leather, tobacco, tar, and richness, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)

2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien – Score: 93+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose is beautiful and well-controlled with crazy pencil shavings, rich black, and blue fruit, followed by tar, earth, smoke, and licorice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is closed to start with layers upon layers of currants, dark cherry, blackberry, with mouth draping tannin, crazy mineral, pencil shavings galore, with plush elegance that is plush, mouth-coating, yet the ripeness in the background is ripe and scary, but hedonistic and voluptuous, with layers of tar, earth, licorice, bell pepper, and loads of tannin galore, showing elegance and plushness, with clear hedonistic leanings and graphite/acid core that makes it all work. The finish is long, black, green, and tannic, with plush fruit and smoke, with tobacco, chocolate-covered coffee bean, and earth galore. Bravo!! Drink from 2028 until 2037 (tasted February 2021)

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Two more 2018 French wines with a perennial QPR WINNER

I had the opportunity to taste two more 2018 French wines, and true to form, they are ripe. Look, 2018 is going to be one of those vintages that will try me greatly. As stated before, it reminds me of what little we had in 2003, with the 2003 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and 2009, with the 2009 Smith Haute Lafitte. You will have wines like the 2018 Chateau Cantenac brown, which is a stunning wine, and one that will outlive everything else from this vintage that I have tasted so far. Then you have wines 2018 Chateau Montviel and the 2018 Chateau Clarke which scare me to no end. Clearly, they are ripe, and they may well improve and come together with time, but at this moment I am not stocking them.

Recently, I tasted two more of the Royal Wine 2018 French reds and one of them was a clear WINNER, in both QPR and in quality, at this time. They are the 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc, which received the QPR WINNER moniker and the 2018 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux, which while nice, really scares me, again the theme, and for the price makes little sense, at least at this moment in time. As I stated in my previous post on the 2018 French vintage, the ripe fruit in the Bordeaux mix is Merlot, it is also a large percentage of the wines on the right bank and even on the Left Bank, it is used in large enough proportions.

In closing, the Chateau Fourcas Dupre is beautiful, yes it is ripe, but it is far more balanced than other 2018 Bordeaux’s and should be a no-brainer purchase for all of you. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 44% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with 10% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is ripe, scary ripe, but under a blanket of dirt, earth, smoke, more ripe fruit, mushroom, forest floor, and earth, wow! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, elegant, but ripe, but the ripeness is balanced well by the acidity, with incredible dirt, along with floral notes, blackberry, currant, plum, and rich salinity, with dark chocolate, smoke, and rich loam, acid galore, and smoke. The finish is long, green, black, and mineral-driven, with loads of scrapping graphite, dirt, and foliage, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)

2018 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux – Score: 92 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. This wine is terrifying, another 2018 ripe wine, but this one is a tight rope across the twin towers, as they are sadly burning and falling to the ground, ripe, and downright scary. Only time will tell where this wine goes. The nose on this wine is really ripe, smoky, and earthy, with crazy fruit, dense black fruit, roasted meat, mint, sage, and cloves. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, richly extracted, good acidity, layered, and deeply concentrated with dark plum compote, fig, smoked blackberry, crazy ripeness, with rich umami, depth, and downright scary ripeness, with earth, and a denseness that may be too much for me. The finish is ripe, the acidity is there but it cannot balance this much fruit, the fruit is so dense and ripe it gets as close to being ripe bomb while still being good, with heat, smoke, leather, bay leaf, and rich salinity. Nice but wow! Drink from 2028 until 2035. (tasted January 2021)

The KFWE/KFWV 2021 results are in – the glass is half-empty, sadly.

Last year’s KFWE NYC/L.A. result post never made it to the blog. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed with the madness and I barely got the Passover post up, as you can read, I even put in a disclaimer, in case people thought it was crass. Still, people replied that it was appreciated and I appreciated those comments. On a total aside, as I stated elsewhere, L.A. was the clear winner in 2020. NYC was a zoo, for both trade and public tastings. L.A., as usual, was a true joy, I know some have issues with the venue, but for me, the Cali weather, cigar bar, great wines, and classic old-Hollywood vibe, give me a break – hands-down winner!

So, after a full year+ under the pandemic cloud, we were all dreaming of another KFWE and sadly, that was never going to happen, as was obvious. The way I see it, for me and my family here in California, we will not get vaccinated until July, at the earliest. Life for us will not be “going back to normal” for a long time!

So, with the pandemic still clearly hanging over our heads, Royal Wine decided to go the virtual route and to ship certain wines, from their large portfolio, in small bottles. I discussed this in my KFWV post.

Much like I stated in my year/decade in review, I will go with the result of glass-half-empty. I will jump right to my thoughts on the event, both the pros and the cons.

Cons

  1. The poor and frozen weather that KFWE has skirted past in previous years came to haunt this year’s iteration, sadly. Packages were frozen, broken, lost in the chaos of one of the worst weather storms in a long time. More were delayed or never delivered. Some were delivered on the day of KFWV and some were after. In the end, the weather was an issue and this was not something Royal could have worked around. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you do not.
  2. The lack of variety in the wines was an issue. Remember the idea was to “replicate”, to some extent, KFWE. The inability to get a choice of wine sets was a miss, from a marketing perspective, with the MOST glaring issue (#5) this would still have not helped. I understand that this was already a crazy undertaking, of logistics and overhead, and trying to do multiple lists would have been insane. I get that, but if this needs to evolve, it will be needed.
  3. The price for the “event” did not include food, recipes are nice, but you had to pay for the food as well. Maybe having some food delivered in NYC or Florida would have been a better option.
  4. The labels on the bottles were wrong, vintage-wise. This is an issue as anyone tasting the 2017 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal) thinking it was the 2018 non-Mevushal will seriously not buy the 2018 vintage!! This ties into the next and main issue, which is all about very serious unintended consequences, IMHO.
  5. Yes, I know this is burying the lede, as this is the main issue, the wines were a disaster. The wines were no representation, at all, of the wine in the original bottle. The transfer mechanism failed Royal. The wines devolved in the little bottles as the wine was already subjected to oxygen during the bottling. It did not matter that they filled the wine in the little bottles to the top, it did not fix the issue caused a few days earlier. The damage had already been done and now the wine was devolving over days! The answer may not be simple, but it is the ONLY way to make this work, and that is to transfer these wines under a vacuum. Anything less will get you what you had this past week.

    Please do not say, oh why is it different than when they open the wine at KFWE and pour – it is also not like the original bottle at home? Give me a break! These wines traveled for DAYS in this state – it does not get better once oxygen has been introduced – IT ONLY gets worse.

    The outcome was a multi-fold problem:
    1. The wines had NO RELATIONSHIP to what I tasted from the original bottles, all of them! I had tasted all of these wines, other than the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, over a few months. This is sad, as remember these wines are being sent as an example of what Royal and the wineries have to offer – what I tasted had no relationship to what I had tasted in the past for these very same wines.
    2. Worse, was that they did not taste good at all. The only wine, “I enjoyed” tasting was Guiraud Sauternes, as that is much harder to kill. The overall process truly ruined the wines and made them not very good, enjoyable, or interesting to buy!
    3. That last part is very important! The main reason to have put on this event/show was to help sell wine! Sadly, this event caused many to not buy the very wines they were sent. If you asked me would I buy the 2017 Giscours, after tasting the small wine format representation that was sent to me? The answer would be NEVER. Not only did I feel that way, but others told me they had buyers come into their store and say I tasted that in the KFWV and I do not want to buy it! Unintended consequences, for sure, but very serious ones!
    4. IMHO, this may have been good marketing, but the implementation of the wine bottles has already turned people off from buying THOSE VERY WINES, which is the OPPOSITE of what the KFWE is all about!
  6. Another side-issue, but very much akin, is that I had at least three corked wines. YES! Remember how much I rail about cork every year in my year/decade in review! Well, it is real and I scream about it for a reason! Now throw in thousands of bottles and the basic math will tell you that there will be lots of corked wine! Lots! So, no one checked the wines as they were being transferred. I get it, that would be a lot of work, again, this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
    Now throw in a vacuum environment and you have a real tough job! The answer is an automated system that dispenses the wine from the vacuum, allowing a person to check the wine, and then continue the transfer or reject it. If you have enough spouts and enough people to check, this can be handled within reason. Otherwise, you are bound to have lots of unhappy customers.
  7. This issue was a BIG one and was why I went with the glass-half-empty score. You cannot charge people and then send them less than what they expect – you just cannot! Sadly, this issue was the undoing of the KFWV, IMHO.
  8. The wines came in boxes that had numbers – but those numbers meant nothing. Not sure what they added.
  9. After the event had started, I heard emails were sent out, to some people, as I never got them. Those emails seemed to explain or say what wines were in what boxes and what numbers, but I never got this email, and nor did many others.
  10. The box that the wines were delivered in had no padding and most of my boxes were almost open. Overall, the idea was nice, almost design-forward, in nature, but not safe, which when it comes to wine is what matters.
  11. The recipes that were printed had typos and mistakes – again – just a bit too last minute – things that they can tighten up for future events

PROS:

  1. The effort was herculean – I get that
  2. The logistics were crazy – I get that also. However, those logistics were part of the cause of the main detraction to the entire event, which again is an issue that needs to be fixed.
  3. The effort was impressive, and the overall show was quite nice and fun, especially if you are virtually hanging out with a bunch of crazy friends.
  4. The overall look and appeal were a solid marketing effort.
  5. But this was worse than even last year’s NYC Trade tasting where I was punched in the face by elbows a few times – I hope you understand how much this was a good try but sadly, not even a base hit.
  6. There is a LOT that can be fixed and changed to make these a real future of tasting – but the MAIN ISSUE must be dealt with FIRST – the wine HAS to be managed in a vacuum and MUST taste the same as the original wine or it is a failure, there is no way around this.
  7. The winemaker videos did show passion but as the chef videos – they were out of place and disjointed. Non-Jewish winemakers saying enjoy the wine with shellfish, kosher chefs saying they have no idea what they are pouring but this recipe goes well with wine/beer/spirits! Again, nice idea, just poor overall oversight/approach/execution.
  8. I would say, that I buried the lede again, and the best part of the entire event, was the production work! Gabriel Geller, my good friend, I hope still, after forgetting this part of the event, Jay Buchsbaum, and Erik Segelbaum (a top up and coming Sommelier, who happens to be Jewish and loves wine, of course). The three of them traded off here and there and the tasting videos were fluid, entertaining, and very informative! The best part is that they and the chefs can be seen at your leisure on the KFWE website! The wealth of information shared was truly impressive and I am sorry for leaving this part out in my original post, apologies!

In closing, I wanted to go glass half-full and if this was just about having fun and NOT about wine AT ALL, then yes, I would have scored it as such. However, in the end, people wanted wine and these wines were a mess, once you throw that in, the party/fun was not a success, sadly.

2020 kosher wine year and decade in review – glass half empty

As I am want to do, it is another year on the Gregorian calendar and I have already posted the wines of the year and the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines of the year. Now it is time for the year and decade in review. I had to wait until now, to talk about the decade in review, because there is a clear disagreement on when the new decade begins, so I went with the non-computer science approach (0-based systems), which is not what most people believe. To this point I quote Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag:

Dilemmas over marking time have been going on for years. In the late 1990s, the Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag famously compiled a 57-page research document titled The Battle of the Centuries, in which she called out people who celebrate any era before its time.

“When the encyclopedia of human folly comes to be written, a page must be reserved for the minor imbecility of the battle of the centuries — the clamorous dispute as to when a century ends,” Freitag wrote. Noting that there was no “year 0” in history, she said, “In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1.”

To bolster her argument, Freitag, who was then a senior science specialist in the library’s Science and Technology Division, cited historical records that showed similar disputes had erupted when calendars were turned to 1900.

But even Freitag acknowledged that she was swimming against the tide of popular opinion.

It may seem obvious to many, but there was never a year 0, so let’s go with the obvious fact that the decade has finally passed us and we can discuss it in regards to all things kosher wine. IMHO, I will go with the glass half empty metaphor, as no matter how hard I try, there is no real way to look at this past decade in a glass-half-full approach – give the utter disregard from much of the world for anything approaching wine I would buy.

Where are we now??

Well, that is pretty simple, IMHO, we are WORSE than we were last year, and that was worse than we were in the years before. Essentially, we are continuing the slide down, maybe even at a faster rate, with a slight caveat to the positive on high-end white wines. That would be my summation – hence the glass-half-empty reference.

COVID and what it has done to the kosher wine industry

I could not talk about 2020 in a review, or the decade in a review, without at least mentioning Covid! The clear impact of the Virus on our lives is not wine, or food, or any other material impact. What truly has changed are the people we have lost, friends or family that have been sick or passed, and jobs and families crushed by this pandemic. Those things are REAL and those real things are truly very sad and are hard to move on from.

Yes, we have lost freedom of movement, we have been locked away from our friends and family, but it all pales in comparison to the true loss of life, income, and time. Many, if not all of them, have been lost forever, and that is the true loss and suffering.

Still, there is a need/desire to talk about how COVID changed the wine industry – over the past 12 months. As such, I wrote a post – some 7 months back, and I am shocked and saddened by how much it has not changed at all over these past many months. There were some missing points so let us hit them:

  1. There will be no in-person KFWE or any other tasting this year, sadly. To that point, Royal Wine has made a KFWV this year and I hope you can listen in at least and maybe join in with the tasting as well!
  2. As I stated in the post the online stores have come through. But even more so than that were the local stores that supported the communities and I can only repeat, support your local wine merchants if you have them! Sadly, our merchants, here in NorCal, while they exist, do not quite have what I am looking for, but they are trying – so kudos to them for that! However, those of you on the east coast – BUY LOCAL! Come on, folks! Your local store is there, you have the same taxes, buy local, and make sure they feel the love!
  3. Restaurants may finally be coming back, but wine sales are still very low to zero, and again, why do we need Mevushal?? I pray the biggest outcome of all of this madness is the production of dual labels M and not). I know it is a pipe dream, like a real Shmitta game plan – dream on. IMHO, Mevushal will take a hard hit soon, people will see it for what it is, a sham on the kosher wine market. If a wine needs to be Mevushal then go buy a beer and move on!
  4. The lack of travel and access to wineries is a real issue here. I would have already have been in France twice since my last year in review and Israel, at least once. The lack of access to wines impacts my ability to properly score and grade, but thankfully the UPS/FedEx of the worlds have been doing a yeoman’s job and they do truly deserve a cheer every time they drive by! Please show them the love (from a distance) that they deserve!
  5. Finally, to repeat – the lack of KFWE or any other tasting this year, or even marketing of wines in-person, will further complicate the lack of wine education in this industry and I fear it will sadly slow or hurt the sales of many wineries.

My yearly blog disclaimer about me and wine

I try to get this disclaimer into every year of my posts – but this year – for reasons I do not know, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my posts. So let me be 100% clear here:

  1. I NEVER HAVE AND NEVER WILL receive a penny for ANYTHING I write on this blog – PERIOD!
  2. I do not advertise and I do not receive money for advertisements. I PAY WordPress.com to NOT advertise on my blog. Again, there will never be ads or money on this blog.
  3. The next most prevalent question is: do I get a kickback for anything I recommend?? LOL! People do not know me well to be asking that question! NEVER! I write what I think – almost literally at times, so NO!
  4. Next question – do I receive an item of value for my posts? NEVER.
  5. The only thing I receive, having nothing to do with my posts is access to tastings or wine to taste. Also, I have received passes to KFWE, or this year, the KFWV. The coupon codes are not affiliated links or deals for me! Again, I get no money from this blog – I hope this starts to come across soon!
  6. Am I receiving money or any other item of value from Royal or an affiliate for the use of the ‘MUSINGS’ discount code? Again NO! NEVER!
  7. Do I spend money on my notes or wines? I promise you there are VERY few people in the kosher wine world who spend more money than I do on wines that I DESPISE! Very few! There are loads of people who spend more money than I do on wine – I am not a Macher! But I buy the majority of the wines I taste and post on. In the past year that has changed a bit, but no, I buy most of the wines and it sickens me to spend so much money on wines I would never drink or even cook with! Sadly, that is what I like to do. So, sure if the importer will help me and send me samples, great! I will still post my notes and scores based 100% on the way I see and taste the wine. NOTHING else goes into my scoring.
  8. Finally, I have people in the industry that I call friends. When I taste those wines I always disclaim those as well.

So, that wraps up my yearly post on how I, my blog, or my life is ever gaining anything from the world of wine! I hope that is clear. I do not do any business in wine, I do not sell any wine, I do not transfer wines, I am not a middleman for people who buy wines. I do not in any manner, way, or form, work in the world of wine – period!

Finally, I do help Elvi Wines, at times, to pour wine, at a KFWE or the such, and act as their US contact for the USDA. I have again, never received compensation for those pouring’s. My travel costs are sometimes reimbursed, but that is the totality of my relationship, financially speaking, with Elvi Wines or any other winery or wine business. I am a software architect by trade and that is where I make my money. Be well!

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