Kosher Wine Events for 2017

kfwelaWith the start of 2017 and the completion of another successful Miami KFWE 2016, the new wine tasting season is upon us. As I post every year, we all need to educate ourselves in what makes us happy in the kosher wine world. The best way to do that is to attend RCC tastings (that happen monthly), or attend one of the many kosher wine events that happen in and around the Passover wine-buying season.

This year is no different as in the past, thankfully I have the dates for all the events. The first and IMHO, the best KFWE in the books is the Tzur tasting in Tel Aviv. The Miami event was actually quite nice, but it happens in December of the previous year and in this case, it happened already on December 14th at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood.

Though to be 100% truthful the first event (after the Miami one), is the KFWE in Paris which will happen on 1/31/17 at the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts Paris – Marceau. After that wake up the next morning and hop on the Eurostar and you will be whisked to London where you can still get tickets to the VIP session at the KFWE Europe, which will be taking place at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, London on February 1st, 2017.

A returning theme throughout the KFWE family is the classic approach of steal what works best! The KFWE system is basically a brotherly rivalry between the cities – with London/NYC/LA being the three official ones, and Miami/Israel/Paris being less so. Still, when one idea works for one of the siblings – you can be sure it will be copied. In this case, I am talking about the VIP session. I exalted the idea in my post about the KFWE in LA, and the year before, and this past year LA crushed it again with tons of room for the main public event, by renting out the entire Peterson Automotive Museum, though the food was lacking this past year. The VIP room/experience is 100% On like Donkey Kong! The question is now, who will come up with the next big idea?

After the London event, you can hop on a plane and fly to Israel for the Tzur (now officially part of the KFWE family) tasting on Monday, February 6th in the evening. Then hop on a plane and fly to the Granddaddy of them all – the original KFWE NYC use coupon code KWSE18 for $18 off.

The event at Chelsea Piers is taking place on Monday, February 13th, 2017. Sadly, the VIP session has already been sold-out, and the 25 off coupon code has expired. The non-VIP session is available, and the Chelsea Piers location will make for a far more enjoyable and manageable experience, just like last year.

Then hop on another plane and make your way to warm Los Angeles! The KWFE LA last year was the hands down winner for its epic VIP session, and the VIP session is back and I would advise all to jump on them before they sell out! The LA event is returning to the gorgeous Petersen Automotive Museum and is taking place on Wednesday, February 15th, 2017, at 6 PM. Order tickets here NOW and use coupon code: “eatupdrinkup” (without the quotes) to get a 10% discount off the rack rate of the NON-VIP rate session. The larger space allowed for an expanded VIP session and lots of room for the public tasting.

After that – you would think you should be exhausted and ready for a break and I am sure you will need it and it will be well deserved. However, the following weekend, it is time to go to The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting on Sunday, February 19th at 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at The Grapevine Wines & Spirits, in Wesley Hills, New York! When you are there say hello to Yehoshua Werth, he is the wine man at the Grapevine!

Finally, you get a month off, and then there is the Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, taking place on March 20th, at the City Winery, in NYC. More details to come as they are available.

Well, there you have it! I will post again once I have purchase links for the Jewish Week event.

If I were you – I would recommend you buy the tickets of the KFWE that apply to you ASAP and then go to the events with the mind of enjoying yourself, but also with the mind of learning! These events are the best opportunity to see what wines you like, love, crave, and most importantly hate!

2015 and 2016 – are Royal years indeed in Bordeaux

Bordeaux, the cradle of the modern wine revolution, for both the kosher and nonkosher worlds, is a beautiful realization of the past and present coming together to build a fabulous future. The world of true kosher wine, started before Hagafen, before Herzog, though maybe not before Carmel, who made a beautiful kosher wine in 1901 and then again in 1976, one that I tasted, but one that is now a shadow of its former self. Still, before Carmel’s rebirth, there were kosher wines being made in the 1970s, and those were the first kosher wines, that were not sacramental wines. Koenig was making kosher wines in the 1960s, and there were kosher Bordeaux wines being made in the 1970s as well.

The story of Carmel starts with a wonderful man, whose philanthropic desires led to the largest outside investment into the former Palestine in the 19th century, and his history is deeply intertwined in the world of kosher wine, since the 80s. Winemaking in Israel had enjoyed a long and successful run in biblical times. Wine presses used thousands of years ago are still visible today. However, during the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 A.C., many vineyards were destroyed, and the remaining vines were destroyed during the period of Muslim rule that began in 636 C.E. The Muslim rule led to a 1,200-year halt in local wine production. Wine production returned to Israel in 1882, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild funded the creation of vineyards and a few wineries – one of which we know today as Carmel. However, after the massive success of Carmel’s Cabernet Rishon (#1) (where it won a Gold Medal) at the Paris World Fair of 1900, Carmel winery went into a long and deep slumber. It re-awoke for a brief moment in 1976, and then again in 1979 when the Carmel Special Reserve wines again made history.  The shocking fact is that the Baron spent less money in France to buy Lafite (4.4 Million Francs), than he invested in Israel, a shocking 11 Million Francs. His shocking generosity was not lost, even if Carmel did fade for almost a century, it was his rallying cry to not forget our brethren, who threw caution to the wind to rebuild Israel, that helped bring focus to their need and was the first true power behind the future land of Israel! In many ways, he was one of the founding father’s of present day Israel.

Kosher Wine

Seeing how close Bordeaux touches the life of all kosher wine drinkers, one has to stop and ponder what if? What if Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild had simply made Lafite kosher instead of investing in Carmel? Does that question offend you? I hope it does! If you track the sheer amount of money that has been invested into Carmel, it is staggering! Mind blowing! Is this post about Carmel? Of course not! What I am offering is a clear reminder that kosher wine, is a three-legged stool of complexity. Please look at my post about the myriad and complex web of kosher winemaking requirements to refresh yourself. But as a reminder, the main three-legged stool, is Religious Jews touching the wine, kosher for Passover ingredients, and the hardest one of them all, the one that should be clear, but one that is often forgotten, these two restrictions, and all of the other ones, start from the very beginning. Meaning that if you walk up to a winery and taste their wine and like it – that means the EARLIEST you can make a kosher version of that wine is next year (unless you taste an earlier vintage and it is still before harvest).

I have spoken about this subject before, really, when talking about Flam, and others that have moved from the non-kosher market to the kosher market in Israel. The issue here is that it is a minimum of a three-year investment for good reds before you see the money. If it involves vineyards, then that is a minimum investment of 6 years for good reds in Israel! You could make them inside of four years, outside of Israel, but really? Who would want wine from a two-year-old vine? Not many! Throughout my time in Bordeaux, the terroir was a common theme, an obvious one of course, but one that shows itself more in wine than in the conversations. Why? Well, most people already know that the land of Bordeaux is hallowed ground for great wines. People make yearly pilgrimages to the storied En Primeur, where the likes of Robert Parker used to cast his shadow, and where Neal Martin till does, along with many of the top Negociants who come to set up shop for the three-day event.

Kosher Bordeaux Wine – the state of affairs

A side topic about the state of kosher Bordeaux wine. People often wonder why there is not a kosher vintage of the most famous chateau every year? Why did we miss out on the famous 2009 Leoville Poyferre? Why is there no 2009 Malartic? Sadly, the answer is that as much as French kosher wine is growing in popularity, it is not that popular.

The issue lies around the cost to make these wines, the knowledge that people have of them, along with the fact that they are well, old world! Also, there is the supply and demand vector that I will keep throwing in along the way.

So let’s start with the last and go backward, old world wines are what I crave, and many of the wine nuts I know. However, it is NOT what the wine drinkers crave in the kosher wine market. OK, cue broken record, ok it is on, the kosher red wine palate is punch drunk on sweet overripe wines, wines that I abhor. Look at the average kosher wine tasting event, one that has french wines, and you will see that the table fills up quickly, and then is empty as the night progresses. Why? Because French wines are a curiosity to the kosher wine palate, and not much more. Now that is a gross oversimplification, yes I agree. Still, it is far closer to the truth than many are making it out to be. Read the rest of this entry

2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – first exported kosher Mosel Riesling

2014-nik-weis-selection-gefen-hashalom-rieslingThis wine is incredible, really in almost every way that I can describe it. It is a beautiful old world Riesling, its acid is intense, its mineral and saline come at you in waves, and forget about the impressive fruit structure. Yes, the wine is German, and yes I still enjoyed it. I would be the first to admit that I buy nothing German in my home, no German cars, or even shavers. The only German thing I have in my home, I am ashamed to admit was a sink, but that is a story for another day.

But here I am talking about wine, a food item that does not really make me think German as much as it does make me think how wonderful it is. Please do not get me wrong, German anything to a Jew is going to be a touchy subject, I get that, but I wanted to set the stage here first, that I am a Jew that is very much behind the no forgetting camp.

With all that said, yes I bought the wine, a case actually. The wine is incredible, and well worth buying more. That said, it is the first one to come to the USA, and if you try to search for it on Google, you will find NADA! Nothing at all. The closest thing you will find is GG’s wine notes on the wine. That is it!

Why? Well, because it is German, and Jews do not commonly buy German items, and also because the marketing behind it is really not very good! That said, of my friends that I told about this wine, none of them have told me they do not want to buy it. I did ask importers about the wine, and they told me, no thanks – we will stay away from Germany for now. The funny thing is that they are happy to import Alsace wines, a wine region that is separated from Germany by a river. Strasbourg, a major Jewish city, and the capital of Alsace, is a bus ride away from Germany. Still, Germany is Germany to importers, and with that, I will close this subject down.

Now, to the subject of where can I get this wine – well I bought my case from Gary at Taste Wine Company. His number is 212-461-1708. Please give him a call and get wine from him. He is a great guy and he is on the right side of my blog, “Favorite Wine Sites”, because he a friend and also a great person to buy wine from!

In the end, this wine is a true joy and if it is still available I would recommend buying it if it does not offend your Jewishness.

The wine note follows below:

2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
What a wine! This is the first kosher “dry” German Riesling from Mosel that I know about and it is a major hit. This is old world, with a great sweet body. The nose on this wine is insane, showing intense orange blossom, absolutely insane flint and smoke, followed by peach, honeysuckle, lovely green apple, and honeyed notes, with a bit of time the incredible petrol comes through beautifully. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is in your face from the get-go, with impressive floral notes, wrapped in an incredibly oily texture, followed by orange, nectarines, impressive mineral, saline galore, sweet notes, with guava, kumquat, mad ripe and racy grapefruit, and pineapple. The finish is long and really well balanced with ripping acid, great flint and sweet spices on the long and lingering finish. BRAVO!!! Drink now till 2023. I really want to watch this age.

Partial Four Gates Frere Robaire Vertical

Over Succoth, we enjoyed a dinner by friends, and Benyo of Four Gates Winery was kind enough to bring over a partial vertical of Frere Robaire. The wine was first released in 2006, when it was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet. It then went on a 4-year hiatus, when it was released again, but this time it was majority Cabernet Sauvignon from the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard, and fleshed out with a bit of Merlot. From then, it has been released in 2011, 2012, and will be released in the 2013 vintage as well. The 2006 is mostly Cabernet Franc, but the percentages change with the years, based on what best works together. The 2010 was mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 and the 2012 are mostly Merlot in makeup, with differing amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. They all have 1% of Cabernet Franc. The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert.

We tasted them all, other than the original 2006, and what I can say is that they taste far different from when you first open them, in comparison to when they have been given time to really show their potential. Originally, we thought the best wine was the 2011, followed by the 2010, and then the 2012, with the 2013 being the least favorite of the four. Of course, this is all in comparison to each other. The wines have changed little from release, even the 2010. You can find my notes for the 2010 and 2011 here. The 2012 was reviewed earlier this year, and the 2013 is not yet released – and truly far too young to appreciate, so it makes sense that the wine has really not yet come together to see its true potential.

The Frere Robaire is a blend made to truly live up Aristotle’s axiom; “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In many ways, I find it reaches that lofty goal, because the sums are made up of wonderful parts, but the whole is another world. What I love about these wines are that they are new-world, but they have so many components that are more old-world than new-world.

The 2012 is a great example of this. Once the wine is given time to open and really show its inner sense, what comes out is an old-world soul, much akin to a 2005 Chateau Malartic. The wine shows its minerality, rich essence, and focus, but also richness from its dark fruit. Really impressive.

The wine notes can be found below – enjoy!

2010 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A-
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.
Once the wine is open, the nose shows a redolence of menthol, eucalyptus, mint, blackberry, ripe cherry, garrigue, with lovely spice, mushroom, hints of barnyard, green notes galore, and foliage.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with intense and epic menthol, showing lovely layers and complexity, it is lush and expressive, with rich extraction, lovely ripe black and red fruit, currant, raspberry, and great spice, cloves, and herb. The finish is long, green and spicy, with classic Four Gates acid balance, chocolate, leather, tar, roasted herb, and black fruit. Bravo! Best enjoyed 2017 – 2022

2011 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- to A
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 72% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.
Once the wine is open, it shows a nose of red fruit, with a dollop of dark plum, with ripe raspberry, strawberry, rich spice,and green notes. This is sheer elegance in comparison to the 2010, with insane layers of ripe but very fruit, with red fruit the gives way to blackberry, dark cherry, mushroom, forest floor, nice herb, and Oriental spice. The finish is long and herbal with chocolate, leather, tar, followed by more mouth coating tannin, dill, with butterscotch lingering. Bravo!! Best enjoyed 2018 – 2024

2012 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- to A
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 66% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.

Once the wine is open, it shows a nose green, with ripe red fruit, herb, garrigue, followed by tar, earth, rich loam, with nice spice and black fruit in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is sheer and utter elegance, layered and rich, with spice, mushroom, green notes, lightly extracted, showing beautiful control, with a focus that is perfectly balanced between fruit, mineral, and terroir, one that makes me think of French wines, Chateau Malartic coming to mind. The finish is long and elegant, with blackberry, mouth draping tannin, rich green foliage, tar, mushroom, and earth, giving way to chocolate, red and black fruit, showing elegance and focus with years left in the tank. Drink 2019 – 2026

Assorted wines I enjoyed over the past few weeks

Well, I hope I get into the flow of weekly posts, or even more often. For now, I am behind on wine posts from Yom Tov and other get-togethers. So, here is a list of wines I have recently tasted. Some I enjoyed and well, some not. There are a few shmita wines here, so be careful, as always I highlight them as shmita of course.

2007 Elvi Utiel-Requena Makor – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 85% Bobal and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is rich with lovely umami, soy sauce, ripe plum, rich earth, loam, mushroom, raspberry, and black cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and impressively structured for such an old wine, showing really nice acidity, still integrated tannin, with an inky mouthfeel of velvet and texture with crazy mushroom, earth, barnyard, dark concentrated fruit, blackberry, ripe fruit, perfectly balanced with ripe currant, dark red forest berry, and green notes. The finish is long and tart with more dirt, and barnyard, showing still gripping tannin, and nice ripe and rich fruit. The oak does not show strongly in the mouth but it’s influence is felt nicely. BRAVO!!

2014 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage – Score: A- (Good QPR)
This is a lovely black fruit Syrah, with hints of blue fruit in the background. The nose on this wine is lovely, with roasted meat, rich licorice, with blueberry notes in the background, along with earth, loam, mineral, and spice galore! The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced and well-focused, with a mineral core, followed by sweet boysenberry that comes alive with time, followed by blackberry, spiced plum, and rich loam, that is wrapped in spicy oak, rich mouth coating tannin, and fig. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, chocolate, lovely charcoal, and bitter almond notes that give the wine its edge. The sweet fruit shows quickly and really is a nice wine, I hope it turns more French with time. It is ready now and will be at peak in two years. Drink till 2021.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita Red – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This is a blend of all the varietals that Psagot bought/used for the Shmita year of 2015. The white shmita blend was really nice, while this was good enough. It is very green.
The nose on this wine is cranberry, cherry, and asparagus salad. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, but nothing spectacular, other than the very impressive mouth coating tannin. Other than that, it feels like a second label French wine, with lots of press juice, very harsh and not balanced, with black and red fruit. The finish is long and green, with good acid, and mounds of herb and foliage.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita White – B+ to A-
This is one of the nicer Shmita white wines, it is a blend of all the white varietals that Psagot has under control. The nose is redolent with Mango, lychee, floral notes, honeysuckle, and lovely bright citrus notes. The mouth is medium bodied with good acid, nice balance, all wrapped in straw, cut grass, mint, green notes, with lovely grapefruit, peach, and pineapple. The finish is long with nice acid, mineral, and spice. Nice!! Read the rest of this entry

The French Connection – kosher wine style

2002-2007-four-gates-chardonnay-2013-garrus-rose-bonnet-ponson-champagne-2007-hajdu-syrah-2007-yatir-forest-2001-barrail-de-zede-2005-elvi-el26-2009-cabernet-sauvignon-franc-2007-barkan-merlot

I must be honest, it has been too long, that is all on me. I have been taking notes for four months, but I have been very slow to post, so I am sorry. With my Mea Culpe aside, here are my notes on three wine tastings I did revolving around kosher French wines.

I recently came back from NYC where I was privy to enjoy many great French wines, with a few Cali and Israeli thrown in for diversity. The focus of the trip was a party with my friends, but without my knowledge, it turned into an insane French wine tasting fest – that I truly must thank those involved, IC, and JS.

The first tasting was insane, we tasted 22 wines from France, California, and two token Israeli wines (both of which were so overshadowed by the french and Cali that it is almost a waste of virtual ink to talk about them in comparison). The French were epic, the few California (Four gates and Hajdu) were great, the lone Spanish was lovely, and as for the previously stated two Israeli wines, one was date juice, and the other was OK.

Shortly after landing I made my way to EL (thank you my man!), and then later to the home where the event was taking place, to help with setting up, and “unofficially”, to start tasting what was open! The hilarious part was we got to taste things that were not even on the menu, including a wine I had only tasted once before, the 2009 Capcanes Peraj Habib, a wine that Jay Miller (of Wine Advocate) had called/scored the best kosher wine, at that point, in 2011.

So, the first two wines we tasted were both epic, the 2009 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, and some 2001 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. These were both normal format wines, but as you continue to read through this post, many of the wines I tasted were in either magnum (1.5L double a normal bottle), double magnum (3L four times a normal bottle), and a Jeroboam to boot! Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wine notes from two dinners with friends

2015-contessa-annalisa-collection-minutolo-gavi-di-gavi-goose-bay-sauvignon-blanc-2013-landsman-pinot-noir-narrow-bridge-la-fenetre-2010-shirah-coalition-2010-cha%cc%82teau-trigant-2011-tura-m

Over the past few weeks, we have had a couple of Friday night dinners and as such, I wanted to catch up quickly with just the wine notes. Three of the wines were brought by friends, while the rest were mine. All of them are from California, and they are highlighted below in that manner.

My many thanks to AG and LG, we will miss you both as you move to the east coast, and thanks for sharing the 2 with us – a lovely wine! Also, thanks to NB and AB for sharing the 2013 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations four, very nice wine. Finally, thanks to Benyo for bringing the only 2013 Pinot Noir that I had yet to taste from California, the 2013 Narrow Bridge Pinot Noir. It is made by Joshua Klapper, who also makes the kosher 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, which we also opened side by side the Narrow Bridge. They are both made in Santa Maria, CA and are handled by the Weiss brothers and Rabbi Hillel. While both 2013 Pinot Noir (the La Fenetre and the Narrow Bridge) were nice, and almost identical twins, sharing commonalities like sourced fruit and winemaker, the Narrow Bridge surprised me! I thought it showed more acid and accentuated the green notes more than the fruitier La Fenetre. Sadly, the 2006 Falesco Montiano was corked, made me cry!

I also tasted two wines from the new 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection, which are being sold on Kosherwine.com. They are the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi and the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Minutolo. These two wines are both a first in the kosher wine market. They are nice wines but lacked a true character that I craved, though air helped them a bit.

Well, there you go, I will be posting soon on a bunch of French wines, but for now, these wine notes will have to do. My many thanks to friends who shared our table with us.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
I have said this before – we need the I LOVE Button for some of these special wines, and this one is in that camp, the first Coalition and wow what a GREAT wine still!!

This wine is a blend of 45% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, and 25% Petit Verdot. The crazy part is that after 6 years this wine has changed and not at all. The wine has changed from its early days when the finish was shallow. But it has changed little in the past 4 years. The unique qualities of the Touriga come screaming in the nose with another crazy Shirah special blend. Once again, the red, white and blue nose of Shirah wines come from this unique and crazy blend! The label’s unique styling, styled after the constitution – is perfect for a wine whose essence is red, white, and blue.
The nose starts off with ripe and screaming blueberry, boysenberry, followed by loamy earth, herb, dirt, peach, apricot, pomegranate, lychee, and citrus fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered with extracted red, white, black, and blue fruit, black cherry, plum, raspberry, peach, ripe apricot jam, rich tannin, boysenberry, watermelon, root beer, and lovely oak. The finish is balanced and rich with great acid, more tannins on the rise, more white and red fruit, chocolate, insane and crazy spices, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and so much more that it could fill a spice cabinet, finishing off with freshly baked raspberry jam pie. WOW BRAVO!!!

Read the rest of this entry

Scoring on kosher wine musings explained

how-to-judge-03The world of wine has started to look askance at wine scores and I understand why. How can you truly score something that is subjective? As those who read this blog know, I have come to love old world wines more than some new world ones, that is a subjective point of view. So, if I score a wine B, but it has no flaw other than being very ripe to me, is that truly fair? I have stated already many times, that I was moving this way, and for those who like reds from Israel in particular, they should find some other folks who share their opinions.

With that said, I have been harbouring desires to move to a true point system, and after much thought and discussions with a few people, I have decided to stay the course with letter scores. But, I want to make them far clearer and define the criteria around them. The reason why I wanted to move to a point system was that I was finding the letter scoring limiting and that there are clear differences between a 91 and a 93 point wine. That said, in the grand scheme of things, it really does not matter. I used to score wines A- (and a bit) or A- (plus) or A- (and more), all of these were my attempt to differentiate a 90 (A-) from a 91 or a 92 or a 93. In the end, I either go with a number score or I stick with the letter scores. So, since I have decided on the letter scoring – I will do away with the fine grain attempts I made with letter scoring and stick to the more coarse grain letter scoring overall.

So here is my version of the scoring system (a take on the 100 point scale).

C : Flawed and not recommended at all

B : Light flaws but find something else preferably

B+ : This starts to be a wine I would drink, but I would not go out of my way to find and buy

B+ to A-: I would drink this and if the price was good I may go and buy it as well

A-: These are wines I like and do stock in my home

A- to A: These are top of the line wines to me that are truly special

A: These wines are as close to Classic as I could see

A+: I have had one of these in my life – the 99 Giraud, and that was more an experiential score than a real 100 point score, but these will be far and few between.

In the end, there will be far more A- wines out there, from here on out. Instead of having 91 or 92 or 93 wines out there, there will be lots of just A- wines. To get to A- to A (a 94 or so, that will require a very unique wine indeed.

 

Capsouto Winery – Israel’s only all-in kosher Rhone Ranger

I wrote last year about Capsouto Winery, and I really enjoyed them. This year, the 2015 vintage is nice, but overall, I think the 2015 vintage caught up to them. The 2015 vintage is a Shmita vintage, and as such some do not drink it, but being that the wine was made through Heter mechira, it makes it easier – especially if you are a Sephardic Jew, but as always ask you local area Rabbi.

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

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

Rhone Rangers

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

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

Still, no one has bet the farm on Rhone varietals – NO ONE! Everyone has hedged with either Bordeaux, or in the case of Netofa, Loire Valley’s Chenin Blanc. Netofa is the closest to Capsouto in their brazenness and chutzpah and BRAVO for them both!! Here are two gentlemen, Messrs Capsouto and Miodownick who have built lives in separate worlds but who have chosen their next project to plant Rhone grapes in the north – very interesting! Read the rest of this entry

The state of aged carignan wine from Israel and many others

2015 Don Ernesto Clarinet, 2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, 2012 Matar Petit Verdot, 2010 2012 Bro.Deux, 2005 Four Gates Syrah, 2012 Trio Carignan, 2012 Mia Luce Carignan, 2012 Recanati Carignan, 2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley, 2012 Shirah Whites

I have been offline for a month because of many reasons – the chief among them being that we were away for a trip through South Dakota and Montana. South Dakota was a bore, but Montana and Glacier National park are impressive, worth the insane drive.

Now on to wine, before I left we had a dinner with friends and I opened the remnants of what I had in the world of kosher Carignan (yeah there is a new one from Hajdu, I know). As of now, there really is just four main wineries in Israel making good to great Carignan. The list in order of ageability by far is Mia Luce, followed by Trio, then Recanati, and finally Jezreel Winery. Now before, you scream at me, yes, Recanati makes a lovely Carignan – but after three years it is date juice. Many of my friends love them, date and all, good for them! To me and the folks at the table that night – it was the least drunken wine of the night! The Mia Luce was slow to come around – but it was lovely. The Trio was epic from the start till the last drop. Yotam Sharon was the winemaker at Trio till 2013 and the wines he made during his short time there are indeed impressive.

The Jezreel Carignan is nice, but not in the same league as the first three – but once the Recanati turns to date juice, it is indeed better. We tasted the three Carignan from 2012 and yes – the Recanati is not fun any longer, neither was the 2011 Mia Luce (but that was a one vintage issue for Kobi). The saddest part of all of this to me is that Mia Luce is no longer making Carignan wines. The 2012 was the last available Carignan on the market. The 2013 was pre sold and by 2014 – he has gone to Syrah. Trio is now in another winemaker’s hand and it is not the same quality – maybe that will improve. The Recanati, as I have said turns too quickly – the 2009, 2010, the 11, and the 12 are all date juice. Great quality wines – structure wise, professional in nature, but still – they turn too quickly.

So, IMHO Carignan is in a perilous state if you like them aged. Otherwise, continue to enjoy the Recanati Carignan and drink it within two years – three at most. The 2014 Recanati Carignan is epic, sadly the 2015 (shmita) is not as good, and not one I would invest in.

YG reminded me correctly, that I had forgotten the 2013 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, which is 100% Carignan. It is not from Israel, and I was talking about Israel alone, but sure it is good to remind people that the capcanes is epic, and is a better option than the rest but it is also almost double the price, though the price on the Recanati Carignan has gone up a bunch as well, in the past few years – which is very sad. Also, there is the epic 2013 Elvi Clos Mesorah which is 50% Carignan. Also a top-tier wine. I have added the two scores below to be complete.

Read the rest of this entry

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