Kosher wine tasting at the Cask in LA featuring Celler de Capcanes and Shiloh Winery Wines

This past week my friend and I drove down to Los Angeles, CA to taste kosher wines at the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF). The night before the IFWF we called The Cask, a new wine store on Pico, in Los Angeles, and they said they were having a wine tasting. I guess in my life, you can never taste too much wine! Though to get to the Cask, I had to drive for 1 hour to go 4 miles! My goodness, LA is really a nasty place to drive around during rush hour!

The Cask is not the first wine store in LA, but it is the first kosher-only wine store in Los Angeles, catering to the Jewish crowd that geographically surrounds it from all sides. There have been kosher wine stores before in LA, but a store that sells only kosher wine does take serious courage in this economy.

The Cask, the brain child of Michael Bernstein and Sivan Vardi (Sivan has since moved on), opened quietly, and just in time for Passover 2011. It had its red carpet grand opening in June 2011, with a real red carpet for people to show off their love for wine and haute couture. Interestingly, while neither partner has been part of the retail wine business before, the event I was at was well attended and went off without any hitch, from what I could see.

The front of the store, looks like any other wine store you may find yourself in on an early Friday afternoon looking for some wine to go with you cholent and roast chicken. However, the layout is still quite nice and the prices are competitive, from the quick check that I did Thursday night. However, the website is the weakest link. It is missing the social touch that is sorely needed to be competitive in this market, something that Sivan seemed to be doing before she left in September of last year. The prices are not on the site and the daily deals still show a wine from last September.

Clearly, the Cask is not trying to copy or do battle with some dude in his basement who cobbles up a kosher online wine store. Rather the Cask is all about the local touch of a high-end store where you taste and experience the wine with winemakers or wine professionals. Sure, maybe LA doesn’t need another place to go and buy kosher wine, though the Cask fills that admirably. What LA craves is the ability to walk into an establishment that has 200 or more wines and not be bewildered by the selection. The hope of the store is to educate the kosher drinking public about the hundreds of options available, and let them decide which wines best suit their palate or cuisine.

I was so excited when Michael answered the phone, on Tuesday night, and told me about the wine tasting. It would be an opportunity for me to get some quality time with Jurgen Wagner of Capcanes (one of the best kosher wines on the market) and Mayer Chomer, CEO of Shiloh Winery. Capcanes has been making true world-class kosher wine since 1998 in Spain’s Monstat wine region, 100 miles southwest of Barcelona and 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The Shiloh Winery has been making kosher wine in Israel’s Judean Hills since 2005, when Chomer established it in the city of Shiloh.

I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Jurgen at past IFWF events but I had never yet met Chomer, so it was quite a treat to say the least. It is this kind of immersive experience, food, great wine, and knowledgeable interaction that Bernstein is looking for. The opportunity to learn about the wines from the very people who make it and distribute it – that is what makes the Cask such a unique and required destination when shopping for wine in LA.

Observing from afar, I could not help but notice the many people who came and went from the event, even Jurgen and Chomer commented on it as well. The crowd was young and educated, enjoying the wine and food, while showing interest in learning about what they like and dislike. Many of them were clearly repeat customers and friends as the camaraderie between the customers and Bernstein were filled with tidbits about the wine and conversation about past tastings.

Clearly all kosher wine purveyors make their money during these times – think of it like the Black Friday for kosher wine. Some online kosher wine vendors actually have a countdown clock for how much longer you can buy wine for Passover, depending upon where you live. However, the tastings do not start and end with the weeks around Passover. The tasting room can be rented out by anyone who has a passion for good food and wine and it is truly one of the differentiating factors that The Cask has over other brick and mortar stores selling kosher wine in the LA area.

My many thanks to Michael Bernstein and his staff for hosting the event with Royal Wine’s Gary Landsman and Seth. Along with both Jurgen Wagner and Mayer Chomer for taking the time to talk about their wines. The wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed:

2009 Shiloh Shor Barbera (Mevushal) – Score: B+ to A-
Barbera is one of those wines that can be massive or a medium bodied. It is a fruit that likes the Mediterranean environment and heat that wineries in Israel struggle with. I would not be surprised if we see more wineries in Israel using this varietal in more wines. Galil makes a lovely wine with this varietal as does a few boutique wineries in Israel. The nose on this light purple colored wine is filled with espresso coffee, currant, raspberry, crushed herb, prune, light hints of oak, chocolate, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and spicy with red candied fruit, high alcohol, mouth coating tannin, nice yet restrained oak, and herb all coming into a mouth that feels coated. The finish is long and spicy with vanilla, red fruit, light leather, spice, prune, and chocolate.

2007 Shiloh Petite Syrah, Secret Reserve (90% PS and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: A-
As many of you know I have a strong affinity to Petite Sirah, the spelling above and on the bottle is not misspelled, that is what Shiloh uses. PS is one of those varietals that is complicated by the confusion around the name and the grape style, but it has nothing to do with Syrah. Rather it is a separate varietal that is also called Durif. The grape has been successful in Israel, with Carmel and others doing a bang-up job by letting the vines grow old and thereby limiting the vine’s vigorous yields.
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine starts off with burnt and toasted oak, raspberry, high alcohol, ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, nice chocolate, and bright fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is spicy with heavy spice, lots of black pepper, cloves, heavy mouth coating tannin, and oak that creates a massive and grabbing mouthfeel. The finish on this spice monster starts off with huge black pepper, cinnamon, sweet oak, still not integrated tannin, date, chocolate, leather, and vanilla. A nice effort for this under appreciated varietal and one that is worth finding.

2006 Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon, Secret Reserve – Score: A-
This wine is a nice diversion from the almost repetitive ripe black fruit and heavy oak Israeli Cabernet out there. This one is unique and lovely and one that is concentrated and flavorful. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is lovely with nice candied fruit, ripe raspberry, black plum, light chocolate, alcohol, cranberry, and heavy spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine cannot help but hit you with a full on salvo of spice, concentrated and focused ripe and candied red fruit, integrating tannin, nice oak, that comes together into a lovely mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with more candied fruit, integrated tannin, chocolate, spice, and vanilla.

2008 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A-
I know this is Capcanes’s entry level wine, but personally this wine is better than many wines I drink year round! This is a rich and lovely wine that as always needs time to get its parts all working together at the same time, and the 2008 vintage is there now! It is a wine that has enough body to keep your attention while also being balanced enough to enjoy throughout the meal, with light and heavy foods.

The nose on this garnet colored wine is expressive with toasty oak, espresso coffee, almost burnt notes, raspberry, cranberry, nice spice, and herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is lovely with mouth coating tannins that are just starting to integrate nicely, along with toasty oak and coffee, and red fruit that gives the wine a larger than life mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with bright fruit, nice spice, vanilla, coffee, and date.

2007 Capcanes Flor de Flor – Score: A- to A
This is a wine that only recently became kosher, a cuvee of the winery’s Cabrida wine. The wine is made entirely from old vine Grenache that are said to be 80 to 1110 years old. I have now had this wine four times, and this is the second time I have really liked this wine. The nose on this garnet colored wine is explosive with rich espresso coffee, roasted meat, heavy burnt toast, raspberry, candied cranberry, plum, nice spice, heavy chocolate, vanilla. The mouth on this rich and layered wine starts with a nice concentration of of red candied fruit, still heavy mouth coating tannin, and spice that all leads into a mouth that makes you stand up and take notice. The finish is long and spicy with more spice, not yet integrated tannin, herb, chocolate, espresso, tobacco, and vanilla. This is a rich and extracted wine that really needs another year or so to let all of its components settle down into a wine that is a bit more accessible.

2008 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera – Score: A- to A
The nose on this garnet to black colored wine is screaming with blackberry, cassis, black plum, chocolate, mocha, rich toasty burnt cedar, candied raspberry, and spice – what a nose! The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered with black fruit, still not integrated mouth coating tannin, toasty cedar, and concentrated fruit, that comes together in a lovely and spicy manner. The wine is nice and balanced, but still coming together in all its parts. The finish is super long and spicy, with more nice toasty cedar, chocolate, black fruit, and a hint of black olives. The toasty cedar, plum, blackberry, and chocolate linger nicely.

Posted on February 21, 2012, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on ATA MOTEK.

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