Tzora Vineyards Winery continues to impress

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, I was talking about – Domaine du Castel Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of them on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the second of those three – that one being Tzora Vineyards Winery.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run byDoron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

As we arrived that morning, Eran Pick was busy crushing the last of his red grapes – the Petit Verdot. The last grape that Tzora takes in is the late harvest Gewurztraminer that is used in the making of the lovely Or wine – that is “frozen” late harvest Gewurztraminer.

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 whites, as well. Sadly, as stated, Mr. Pick was busy with the last of harvest, but we still had the chance to taste the wines with him, as he came to talk to us for a few minutes, and he even threw a few barrel/tank tastings in as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has the dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus two extra older library wines, and some early barrel tastings, but I did not post those as barrels are for Eran to work with, I normally only write notes of bottled wines. Last time we were at the winery was in March, and we tasted many great wines – and we did taste a few of those wines again, along with the now bottled 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, and some library wines.

The tasting consisted of the newly released 2016 whites along with two library wines and the now bottled 2015 Misty Hills. It was great to taste the 2013 Shoresh white, it is a wine I had not tasted in some time. The wine showed how much it can change is so short a time. The last time I tasted it was already past its oaky start, showing crazy acid and lovely brioche. Now, the wine is balancing out very well, showing a balance between oak, fruit, and mouth texture – impressive. It is so vastly different than the 2016 vintage which shows far less oak. I asked Mr. Pick when he was so kind to join us, and he agreed that indeed there is less oak showing on the 2016 Shoresh white, but he said rest assured it is there and may well come out with time. The other library wine was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh Red. It was beautiful and showing very well. Read the rest of this entry

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A Shabbat in Jerusalem with epic old world wines

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house, and the first of the three wineries we visited on Friday – Domaine du Castel Winery. However before we get back to the other two wineries we visited on Friday, I wanted to post about the wines we enjoyed over the Shabbat that followed.

I will leave the story for another day, but I can say that Jerusalem was smoking hot Friday and Shabbat (chamsin-like), but thankfully dry. I spat throughout the tastings on Friday, where we went to Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, and the afore-posted Castel Winery. However, some of the group were less careful about spitting and combine that with the searing heat that did not cool till almost midnight – and that made for a viscous 1-2 punch that slowed some folks at the dinner table on Shabbat. However, come Shabbat day all were active and wine was flowing like bonkers. I brought over two wines, as I was asked to drink and forget Israeli wines, please, which is all I could have access to!

However, I was able to find the lovely 2016 La Vie Roubine rose and a total pass of a wine, the 2016 1848 White blend, flat and unimaginative, and the fantastic NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer, so I was 2 for 3, which is a very high batting average, but not a good wine present average. Though the NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer hopefully makes up for it.

Friday Night

The walk to dinner was preceded by a quick davening in a Sephardic shul that brought back memories of my youth when I spend Shabbosim in Jerusalem. Old and young mingling and davening with their own expressions and intonations, but all still together in spirit and fervor, a real joy. Of course, the other great part is that there was no schlepping of any sort! Gotta love praying in Jerusalem! There was a class by some Rabbi, but I remember none of it, I think that is clear enough.

As we made our way up to our host, the heat was receding a bit, but that is like saying it is easier to walk through torrential rain than a hail storm. It was tough, and it was straight uphill, a small fact that everyone felt free to not disclose to me ahead of time, very nice! To be fair I was not the one schlepping the 8 bottles of wine up that hill, those were strapped to the back of the “not so with us” participant, who courageously powered up the hill, weaving here and fro but upwards all the same! I had to stop once and when we arrived at our host’s home, I was literally blanched and unable to stand – the heat, the hike uphill, it took a toll on me and I must have drunk a gallon of water until I was human again.

Finally, we were ready for kiddush, at least most of us, and that was done on grape juice! Like what! Grape juice! Then I realized – this may be the home of a Frenchman, but it is also home to a few kids who drink grape juice first and then wine. The smallest of the three drinks wine just fine, but the other two enjoy tasting it. The house itself is quite lovely and the fact that it is still standing, notwithstanding the three young terrorists that live within its walls, is a testimony to the building skills of the masons and builders of Jerusalem!

I will skip the food as I was not really tracking what I was eating, not because it was not great, but more because I was greatly enamored by the wines in front of me and the need to sleep ASAP, it had been a long day at that point. Read the rest of this entry

A vertical tasting of Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon – Betchart Vineyard

2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, 2010 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, 2011 and 2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard.jpg

Over Succoth, we had the chance to taste through the currently released vintages of Four Gates Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard. This wine started off with a blast in 2012 when its first vintage was released, though I really missed the drink-by window in that tasting.

Since then I have had it a few times and it was time to taste the entire line of wines that have been released now over the past 4 years. You can also see that there are another three wines that are yet unreleased and notes for those will have to wait until the wines are released.

This Cabernet is green but also red, black, and blue and the notes evolve as the wine ages, but its core stays true, green and red fruit with black fruit in the background and blue only showing in its youth.

My many thanks to JR for hosting us in their beautiful succah. Also a shout out to Josh Rynderman and his bride to be for being there with us at the tasting, and of course to Benyo for bringing the wines and sharing his knowledge with us as always. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 95
The fruit for this lovely old-world Cabernet comes from Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I have been able to watch this wine progress from pressing to bottling, and it has gone from a rich red fruit wine to a hybrid rich old-world wine with big red fruit along with some lovely black fruit.

The wine has evolved a bit from my last tasting. Still, this is a unique Cabernet that is rich, extracted, balanced, yet oak influenced in a lovely manner, this is not just a big black new-world Cabernet, it has strong old world leaning with a deeply rooted new world style!

The nose on this purple to black colored wine, with blue streaks through it is screaming with cloves, graphite, kirsch cherry, raspberry, blackberry, red fruit, tobacco, mint, and anise. The mouth on the full-bodied brute of a wine is super rich, extracted, layered, and concentrated, with nice black and red forest berry, ribbons of blueberry, plum, currant, eucalyptus, and green bell pepper, all wrapped up in a cedar box filled with spice and still big round and mouth coating tannin that makes for a rich and spicy mouthfeel. The finish is long, lovely, smoke, with rich extraction, intense tar, and spicy with more tannin, chocolate, tobacco, cinnamon, red fruit, black pepper, and a nice hit of vanilla. The chocolate, oak, tar, smoke, herbs, red fruit, and vanilla linger long. The wine is starting to open but still needs time.

With time, the wine opens to a beautifully robed wine, filled with mushroom, hints of barnyard, with nice black fruit, all gone now giving way to secondary notes, rich roasted animal, tar, and lovely earth. The mouth stays the same with fruit still strong, earth and dirt, nice balance. Great saline and lovely black fruit, no blue fruit left, with extraction gone but nice acid and good fruit structure, plush, and really fun. I would start drinking it within the year and then finish it by 2021. BRAVO!!

2010 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 92
This is the second year of Benyo’s ridge mountain fruit and it continues with another rock-solid wine. It is not the 2009 vintage with its deep and rich fruit, but seriously who cares this rocks! The nose on this wine is redolent with lovely green notes, forest floor, garrigue, crazy bramble, earth, roasted herb, and eucalyptus, all hallmarks of this cab for many years now. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine attacks with layers of concentrated fruit, followed by red/black fruit, cranberry, dark cherry, blackberry, along with mouth coating tannin, candied dried fruits, and spicy oak. The finish is long and herbal, with spice, cloves, deep-rooted earth, tobacco, chocolate, and dried basil/oregano. Drink from 2018 to 2022.

2011 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 93
This wine is the blackest of the bunch by far and a very rich wine as well. The nose on this wine is lovely with mineral, spice, graphite, anise, licorice, blackberry, plum, lovely barnyard, and rich green notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is dark, brooding, black, and extracted, with layer upon layer of rich fruit, rich saline, black olives, blackberry, crushed herb, great foliage, cloves, and intense graphite and mineral. The finish is long and herbal with intense layers of spice, black pepper, and black fruit with dill and intense forest floor. Very nice! Drink from 2018 to 2024.

2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 94
If the 2011 vintage was black and ripe, the 2012 vintage is even more black, and these last two vintages do contradict my statement at the start that these wines are mostly green and red with black fruit underpinnings. The wines are getting bigger and bolder and yet all are perfectly well controlled with crazy acid and green notes and mineral.
The nose is opening now with bright fruit, showing great acid, but also sweet with jammy red fruit, raspberry jam, vegetal notes, but now also showing mushroom, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is inky perfect the perfect balance between the Merlot wines, plush and rich, nicely extracted but controlled, with a bit less dill, with lovely sweet tannin, balanced nicely with searing acid, black plum, sweet herb, mounds of ripe cassis, blackberry, sweet fruit jam, mouth coating and drying tannin, and blackcurrant, with great finesse and control. The finish is long with great balance, sweet chocolate, sweet basil, lovely earth, mineral, graphite, and sweet tobacco. BRAVO!! Drink from 2020 to 2026.

 

The latest buzz Pet-Nat falls flat for me – literally

There are so many new hot trends in winemaking. Whether it is Natural wines, native yeasts, cement tanks or eggs, or now the newest fad – Pet-Nat. They all have roots to the overpowering Millennial generation’s need to have only the freshest and most natural product, farm to table mindset. The less the wine is manipulated – the happier they and the wine world that feeds them seems.

Do not get me wrong, like all huge fads – they all need a focus, and if you say natural wine – the next name must be Alice Feiring, a single-minded and manically focused woman of fierce focus and passion for all things natural wine, and I mean all of that with the utmost respect. I had a tasting of Four gates wines with her and it was an afternoon to remember for sure!

Pet-Nat (short for Pétillant-Naturel – Natural Sparkling) is one of those wines that is not 100% rooted in the newest Natural wine fad, but it is as natural as you will get. The wine is as simple as it gets, but also very hard to get right, and even when you do, it can be a complete flop.

The wine is essentially a naturally sparkling wine because it finishes its initial fermentation in the bottle. Simple as that. There is not extra dosage or any sort, no human manufactured bubbles, nope this is just the wine itself speaking to you from the bottle.

It is all the buzz now in the media, it is the hottest hipster drink, it is not expensive, and is easy drinking and it is meant to be enjoyed quickly and soon after bottling. There are none of the pretentious aspects of wine notes or aromas or flavors here – it is meant to be a simple alcoholic bubbly joy that works with nice appetizers or as an aperitif itself.

Another big push going on in Israel is the desire to have a wine that is native to Israel being made and produced locally. There are projects now around these four locally grown and historical grapes; Dabuki, Marawi, Bittuni, and Jandali. Recanati Winery makes wines from both the Marawi and Bittuni grapes, both sourced from the Judean Hills. Gvaot Winery made a 2016 Jandali grape – sadly I missed it when I was at the winery this past trip.

The Dabuki grape is another of these local grapes and one that was used in the making of the 2016 Jezreel Natural, a Pet-Nat wine. The first thing you think when you see the bottle is, WOW these people know how to market! Remember, that there are thousands of kosher wines now on the market and most people have no idea which wine is good or bad, they rely 100% on the storekeeper or their friends. So, when trying to pick a bottle from a wall of wines – they use their imagination and it, for the most part, takes them to either the most expensive bottle, the one with the coolest label, the one that has a very good kosher supervision (yeah that is an actual criterion), or one they have heard of before!

This wine wins on the price (cheap), marketing label, and supervision (good enough for me anyway). Where it fails is on what matters most – the wine. This wine was a complete disaster, what can I say, the bubbles were nice to start but died after 30 min or so, which to be fair is what you get from a Pet-Nat wine. But the worse part was that the nose and mouth were offensive. The nose was pure cabbage soup and the mouth was cabbage pr cheese, could not figure that out. The bubbles were nice enough while they were there.

This is a wine that will sell for now on pure marketing and cool factor, I wonder if people buy it again though, I would not. My many thanks to AD for getting me a bottle. The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Jezreel Petillant Natural – Score: 75
WOW, that nose is extremely off-putting, it smells like cooked cabbage, and green banana, with slightly toasty notes. The mouth is light in body with good enough bubbles, a nice acid with sweet green apple, more cabbage (or is it cheese), and tart quince. The finish starts off short but fills out with tart apple. If you can get past the cheese and cabbage it could be drinkable. Drink UP and drink fast after opening if you want to try it, the bubbles disappear quickly like most Pet-Nat wines.

Domaine du Castel Winery latest releases

 

2016 Domaine du Castel Rose, 2016 LaVie Blanc du Castel, 2014 & 2016 Blanc du Castel C, 2015 & 2016 lave Rouge du Castel, 2012 & 2015 & 2016 Petit Castel, 2015 & 2016 Grand Vin du CastelAs I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house. The actual winery visit to Domaine du Castel Winery came before the 2nd tasting, but as I stated already, I wanted to cover the tastings first.

Shmita Effect

This was my latest visit to Domaine du Castel Winery, and as I have stated many times already, the reds were still from the 2015 vintage, with a couple of reds being released now from the 2016 vintage. The 2015 vintage was tough as I explained here, it was one of the worst Shmita years that I can remember, but I do not remember was the 1994 vintage in Israel was like. The 2001 and 2008 vintages were epic years for Israel, while the 2015 vintage was not quite the same.

More than the poor quality of the 2015 vintage is the 2015 Shmita overhang – forcing wineries to sell all their wines locally, as most locales like the USA and others do not buy the 2015 wines.

Castel grows and expands facilities

We arrived a bit early and hung around walking around the new winery that Castel put up a year ago, in Yad HaShmona, after a 23-year run in Ramat Raziel. The winery is stunning plain and simple. The winery is stunning and the tasting room is gorgeous, with massive logs, exposed beams, making for a cozy ski chalet feel. The barrel room below the winery is even more beautiful than the one they had in Ramat Raziel, and again is an ode to the barrel room of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac. With a beautiful hearth, fireplace and of course wines all around you. The tasting room a perfect melding of the beautiful mountain and hills surrounding it that are visible from the massive windows

This is not my first visit to the winery, but my last full-scale post of the winery is old, so it needed a refresh. Besides the expansion of facilities, the winery also expanded its wines as well. This all came together in 2015 when the new winery and new wines were brought together. The winery in Ramat Raziel is still in operation, but it will slowly be phased out over time. Until then it continues to be a dual winery arrangement.

With the expanded facilities the winery scaled up from 140K bottles in 2014 to 250K bottles in 2016. With that large change in bottles came three new wines, two that are already released and one new one that is or will be soon released. The two known wines are the La Vie wines, with a white and a red. They are meant to be easier drinking wines, wines that do not need waiting like the Petit Castel requires some vintages.

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Kosher Wine Tasting in – take 2

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe. Last we left off, we had just had a kosher wine tasting at DD house. Instead of posting about the next three wineries we visited, which I will post soon, I wanted to post the other wine tasting, which was also at DD’s house. That man is a gluten for punishment!

There were some winners, a lovely bottle of Carignan from Carmel (another QPR winner), the 2013 Dalton Semillon, Single Vineyard Elkosh – still going nice, but getting close to drink-up. For this tasting, I brought a bottle of the fantastic 2014 Hagafen Riesling, IMHO, every tasting needs a Riesling! Sadly, that was about it. The 2014 Yaacov Oryah Alpha Omega was nice as well. The shockers were once again the pushed nature of the Mia Luce reds. We had all the Mia Luce reds, from 2012, 2014, and 2015 and they did not show well. The last 2012 Mia Luce from the other tasting was corked, so they brought another one, and this was not corked but man was it pushed and overripe at this point. I am not sure – Carignan is not a wine that I am finding can last long in Israel. At least so far from the wines I have tried, either the Recanati Carignan or the Mia Luce Carignan (sourced from the same vineyards).

I did have a horizontal of many Carignan last year, and Mia Luce was the clear winner. They were older bottles and they were lovely, maybe these were bad bottles as well, I do not know. I will be tasting my older ones to double-check soon.

My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest, after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Midbar Unoaked Chardonnay: Score: 84
Nice sweet nose of candied melon, peach, dried apple, and straw. The mouth is medium bodied with too much sweetness and not enough balance, with not enough acid, good enough fruit, but no focus, showing more stone fruit, sweet quince, nice grapefruit, with good sweet spices, and herb. The finish is long and spicy with peach, with tart and sweet quince lingering long.

2016 Har Bracha Gewurtztraminer: Score: 75
Wow, this is a sweet and dried fruit disaster, with tons of notes of oxidation and no joy – sorry. Very sweet pass, tropical, and insane melon/guava, dry flower madness, no balance.

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Kosher wine tastings in Jerusalem

The next wines that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, came after I had finished tasting wonderful wines from the ever capable Yaacov Oryah (head winemaker at Psagot Winery) at one of the newest hip kosher wine bars in Jerusalem – the Red and White Wine bar – kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street).

After going to see the Kotel (following the tasting at the Red and White bar), I made my way to where I was staying. It was not far from where we would be having the next two tastings, at our friend’s home DD. While, our host was fantastic, the wines were not so much. Much of that was a shocker to us all, because the wines we brought were not lightweights, they just did not show well at all.

There were some winners, a bottle of the epic Von Hovel kosher Riesling – that we will talk more about in a later post, but for now – the notes were very similar and the wine was insane. It was intoxicating (in its flavors) as much as it was intense, showing mineral, sweet notes, and acidity all at the same time.

The real winner of the night to me (other than the epic Von Hovel) was the 4 Vats red which was really nice and a solid QPR wine.

My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Yaacov Oryah Light from Darkness (Blanc de Noir) – Score: A-
This is a white wine made from Yaacov Oryah’s Rhone varietal vineyard, using Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. The juice of the grapes was pressed out of the grapes with no skin contact. The juice of red grapes is clear until it is left to macerate with its red skins.
Really a fun and unique wine never had such a wine showing red fruit notes in a white wine, showing grapefruit, sour cherry, rich mineral, yeasty notes with lovely minerality, green olives, and saline. The mouth is well integrated with lovely acid, rich peach, lemon and grapefruit with tart citrus, dried orange and more saline and slate galore, with nice pith on the long finish. Bravo! Drink by 2018.

2015 Matar Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine was lovely, showing ripe grapefruit, flint, spice, kiwi, and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has just enough acidity, showing nice focus with slate, saline, and nice peach, with pink grapefruit, yellow pear, and lovely acid. Drink UP!

2014 Von Hovel Hutte Oberemmel Riesling, Mosel, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- to A
This was my initial notes for this wonderful wine, without knowing I would taste this very wine in the Von Hovel winery and bring a few home! Stay tuned for that post soon.
A nice Riesling wine, great funk, with rich petrol, honeysuckle monster, with great spice, with heather, lavender, with yellow apple, and yellow plum. The mouth is rich and layered and rich acidity that is insane, with layers of rich blossom honey, and layers of never ending oily texture that is dripping with acid and white peach, lovely funk that gives way to minerality and intense lovely saline, with the sweet notes showing instead of the ripping acid/slate that the 14 Nik showed. Bravo!

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Tasting of Royal’s 2015 French wines in France

As I stated recently in my original post about my most recent trip to Israel, France, and Germany, I had the opportunity to sit with Menahem Israelievitch and taste through all of Royal France’s new 2015 wines in France. So, I am going to take a break from my Israel wine trip posts and skip to the France portion (chronologically speaking) to post my notes on the French wines that are slowly making their way to the market now.

2015 Royal Europe French wines

Last year I was given the opportunity to taste these wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux. Since then, some have changed, with some improving, and some not so much. The wines were only recently bottled and I am sure they will change more now, and of course, as the wines evolve and age they will change in very different ways along the way, mostly for the positive.

In my last post about the most recent French wines that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

The interesting changes this year for these wines is that more of them will be coming to the USA in mevushal format. Will that be an issue? You will see below that there are two notes for the 2015 Chateau La Crock – one was tasted from the non-mevushal 750ml bottle and one was from a 375ml mevushal bottle. Clearly, they are not an apple to apple comparison, as bottle format affects the aging of wine, as I described here. However, these wines were only recently bottled and as such, it was far more of an apple to apple comparison than it may seem at first blush. The mevushal wine was clearly different, but it did not taste flawed, it was just further aged than the non-mevushal bottle. We have found so far from history, that Royal wines know how to do mevushal well already. The perfect proof of that is the wonderful 2010 Rothschild Medoc wine that was luscious and beautiful and mevushal.

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition wine that wine was mevushal and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, but one of the byproducts of the mevushal process is to make them more accessible earlier. So, when the mevushal wines come to the USA, I will taste them and post the notes – then you can make your own opinions after that.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. Which should be obvious, but just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here, at least based upon the 2014 wines I tasted in France and in Here in the USA.

Tasting

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 20 wines. The only wine missing was the 2015 Rothschild Haut Medoc. It was a lovely wine from the barrel and it was a shame that it was not available in time. The real shame is that I will not get to taste that wine for a long time still. Why? Because of what I explained already in my previous post of French wines and Bordeaux. The 2013 vintage was a mess and there is still far too much of the 2013 vintage left for them to start selling the 2014 vintage here in the USA. So before we see the 2015 vintage, the 2014 vintage would need to be sold out. That is two full vintages that need to disappear before I will get to taste the 2015 vintage. The 2014 vintage, which I tasted last year was lovely, and it has very little to do in comparison to the half bottles of 2014 that are available here in the USA. The 750ml version of the 2014 vintage was lovely, the half bottles of the 2014 vintage that is available here in the USA, felt flat and hollow.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. As in Israel, the wineries all around Europe were deep in the throes of harvest and it was really very kind of Mr. Israelievitch to make them available in the first place, and secondly, to make time to taste the wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 92 (mevushal)
Finally! A reasonably (not cheap but reasonable) priced white wine that is more mineral than fruit focused – nice! The nose on this wine is lovely, with green apples, ripe melon, green notes, with nice mineral and lovely herbs galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely, it is really well balanced, showing lovely mineral, nice grapefruit, nice acid that is citrus in nature, as it gives way to a lovely round and yet tart mouth with yellow plum and good herb. The finish is long and really tart, lovely citrus pith, with lemon fraiche, lemongrass, with slate, saline, tart fruit, and nice floral notes lingering long. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2015 Ramon Cordova Rioja – Score: 88 (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is ripe, very ripe, with ripe blueberry, nice red berry, garrigue, menthol, green notes, roasted notes, and lovely herb. The mouth is medium bodied and round with good sweet oak, sweet dill, tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, that gives way to mouth coating tannin, good spice, mounds of earth, sweet raspberry, mineral, and nice graphite. I just wish it had more acid. The finish is long and salty, with rich saline, nice spice, pepper, and mineral that lingers extremely long. Nice. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

Red and White Wine Bar of Jerusalem and Yaacov Oryah Winery

The next wines that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, are made by the ever capable Yaacov Oryah (head winemaker at Psagot Winery) and we tasted his wines at one of the newest hip kosher wine bars in Jerusalem – the Red and White Wine bar – kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street).

I was traveling to Jerusalem after visiting Gvaot Winery and I was talking with Yaacov Oryah about where we could meet to taste his wines. We were supposed to meet in Psagot Winery, where he is the winemaker, but things came up at the winery and there was no open space that was available for us to sit and hang. I was traveling to Jerusalem anyway, and I recommended that we meet somewhere in Jerusalem, and Yaacov suggested that we should meet at the Red and White wine bar.

Now, I had never heard of this wine bar, and that is shame on me because Sarah Levi had already covered the bar in this lovely piece in early April 2017. The wine bar is one of those few bars that is very particular about what wines are served on their menu. They have top flight wines from Castel, Flam, Gvaot, Adir, Psagot, Matar, and Yaacov Oryah. Of course, not everyone is on the same page as I am, so they have wines from other Israeli wineries, but the majority are wines I would drink! They also have great food, his menu consists of omelets, cheese, and butter (from Naomi Farm in the Golan), great bread, fresh pasta, and fish dishes. However, do not forget the great dessert options as well!
The overall feel of the bar is old school, but equally current, with a bartender that understands food, service, and wine are all intertwined into a single vision that is focused on people first, wine and food second. The bartender is the owner, sommelier, coffee bean roaster, the cheesemonger – Mark Arnold Jam. If you ever get the chance to sit down for an hour in this lovely place you will quickly find that his last name equates well to his musical tastes. Mark gets the vision and he is a one-man show that weaves poetry, music, an old school vibe, and great food and wine knowledge into the ideal renaissance man at your service!

Red and White Bar - behind the bar

I arrived after parking my car in the Mamilla parking lot and making my way across the street and walked into the bar, and I immediately walked over to the two wine dispensing machines and the wine fridge. The bar has a huge fridge in the back of the bar and it was stacked with lots of great wine. The bar also has two dispensing machines each stacked with eight wines, at reasonable prices and backed by Mark’s great wine knowledge.

Once I finished perusing the wines, Yaacov arrived with boxes of his wines to taste and it was off to the races. We sat down at the bar and I tasted through the wines as I peppered Mark with questions, and though he is the classic Renesaince man, he is very humble and really wanted to let the bar and the atmosphere speak for itself. About halfway through tasting the wines, I started to nibble at the bread and butter and they were both very nice. The cheese looked good, but I stuck with the bread and once we were finished I tasted some of them and they were all very impressive, but I was in a rush after that and needed to get to the Kotel and then to the wine tasting at DD’s house – which will be the focus of the next post.

My many thanks to Yaacov Oryah for allowing me to taste all the current wines and to Mark for letting us spend some time in his lovely wine bar! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Psagot blanc de blanc – Score: NA
This wine is still a few years from release, but already it is showing great potential. The wine needs more time on the lees to come together, but it is tart, bright, and starting to get some complexity. The nose on this wine is lovely with rock, limestone, with rich saline and green apple. The mouth shows nice acid, great minerality, lemon fraiche, with gooseberry, kiwi, and lychee, all wrapped in nice small mousse bubbles. Nice.

2009 Yaacov Oryah Emek Hatzayidim (Hunter Valley) Semillon – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is lovely, with rich honeysuckle, dry straw, grapefruit, and lovely minerality. The mouth on this wine shows a rich and acidic core, with white peach, rich lemon Fraiche, crazy rich slate, mineral, dry straw and dry kiwi all wrapped in an incredible fruit focus that is really all about the perfect balance of acid, mineral, saline, and slate. The finish is long and tart with green apple, yellow/pink grapefruit, and green notes, tart notes lingering long. Bravo. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

Gvaot Winery’s latest releases

The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Gvaot Winery. It has been too long since my last post on a visit to Gvaot winery – so I made it my priority on this trip to Israel, to get to Gvaot Winery and visit with Shivi Drori, the head winemaker. As was common throughout my trip, each of the wineries was in the middle of harvest, so my many thanks to Mr. Drori for finding the time to sit down with me and taste through his wines.

Gvaot Winery is one of the few wineries that did not produce their wine lineup in 2015, this past Shmita. They made some whites, but not many at all, and they did them under the Otzar Beit Din, which was unique for anyone who made wine this past Shmita. As discussed in past posts, most of the Israeli wineries this past Shmita, that made wine did so using Heter Mechira, citing issues with the beit din, costs, and restrictions that did not work for them.

Like many of the wineries in Israel, Gvaot has changed over their labels. Gone is the Herodian wine line, as it was confusing to some. The Gofna and Masada wine lines stay.

So, what that now means is that there will be three wine lines, the Gvaot Winery line, which has the whites, rose (when made), a Cabernet, a Merlot, and the two dances wines that are blends, Dances in White (a blend of Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer) and vineyard dance, a red blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and sometimes other fruit. Then there is the Gofna label that has the Chard/Cabernet blend, the Petite Verdot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Pinot Noir, and the new Wind and Sun port-like wine. Finally, there is the Masada line which always has the flagship wine of the winery, and in the past also had the beautiful Pinot Noir.

Just walking outside the winery takes you to another place altogether. The landscape is beautiful, the winery is surrounded by vineyards and mountains in the distance stretch on forever. It is truly one of the few wineries in Israel that could place the words “estate-bottled” on their labels if it were allowed in Israel.

The prices in Israel have come down a bit, but they are still too steep for me ever to apply the QPR label upon the winery’s wines. That said the wines are very good and some are well worth finding.

There will be a rose again in 2017, from the looks of it. The winery produced 40K bottles in 2016 and looks to be bottling 50K in 2017. My many thanks again to Shivi Drori and the rest of the winery for putting up with me in the middle of harvest. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine is a unique blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon juice that was not allowed to sit on its skins, leaving it clear. The wine was aged in barrels for 8 months.
The nose on this wine is lovely and smokey showing lovely flint, with orange and nectarines, nuts and butter. The mouth is creamy and balanced with lovely spice, nice nutmeg with good weight, with lovely creamy notes and almost oily texture, showing green and yellow apple, peach and rich mineral. The finish is long and spicy, showing creamy and tart at the same time, with great sophistication and rich fruit, all balanced well with mineral, acid, nice citrus zest. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

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