Some of the best Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon and delicious Sausage Stew

This past weekend my friends and family shared some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon and some great food. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.

Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well know and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors, but they are not going to be massive failures or unfortunate wines. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, of course has been doing a lovely job with their Cabernet Sauvignon, especially by Yarden Winery, Bravdo Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, and others. However, recently two wineries have been selling Cabernet Sauvignon as well. Four Gates Winery first released a 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a few years ago and it sold out quickly. Since then Four Gates has once again released a Cabernet Sauvignon, but this time from the Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Another and even more Cabernet focused winery – is Covenant Winery, which makes killer Napa Cabernet. They started with the 2003 vintage and has been releasing Cabernet in two or three different formats since then.

The saying, all good wine starts in the vineyard is true, but the real saying should be, the price of wines starts in the vineyard! If you own the vines like say, Hagafen or many of the wineries in Israel, than you have a chance to control the quality and the price of the wines. However, if you buy the grapes from growers, than you are at the mercy of their cost structure and what the market can bear. Sure, many wineries get into long-term contracts that assure them consistent pricing and hopefully, some control of how the vines are managed. However, as the contracts come to a close, the pricing will increase, which places pressure on the winery’s ability to keep its margin’s alive.

Grapes in the Napa Valley have been increasing, though last year the crop tonnage went down, the prices increased slightly. The same can be said for other highly sought-after wine regions. However, there is still tons of bulk quality grapes out there that get turned into pure swill, but that can be said for any variety and/or region. In the end, Cabernet will always be the starting grape fro most wineries and the starting grape for most vineyards, because there is a consistent market for the grape and the wine, be it kosher or not.

Many wineries have built their portfolio is a logical manner, starting with mass amounts of average and drinkable wines, for the masses, and then slowly adding layers of more expensive wine to add to their cachet. This was how Hagafen started and now it has three lines of wines, and continues to grow with more and more labels and quality wine. Herzog did the same, starting in 1985 with their baseline wines, and then adding in the reserve wines as years went on, and now they have what could best be described as four levels of wines; Baron wine line (base), Reserve wines, Special Edition and Single Vineyard wines, and then the top line Generation 8 wines. Israel wineries have done the same, slowly building with baseline wines and growing from there. However, Jeff Morgan, the head winemaker at Covenant Winery, did things a different way, he started with the high-end wine and slowly built backwards. In 2003, Covenant Winery had their maiden voyage into the wine world by releasing a wonderful wine, the 2003 Covenant Cabernet! He went straight out with the flagship wine, with zero ground cover – amazing and very gutsy. The wine, is still lovely, and is one that we will enjoy again very soon. It was not till 2006 that Mr. Morgan added some ground cover with his 2006 Covenant Red C! Another smash hit and one that we tasted, not long ago, and still liked very much.

So, with that in mind I put together another wine tasting that I hoped would showcase the ability and range of Cabernet Sauvignon in the kosher market. We had one of the best ever Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2001 Yarden El-Rom Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that the late Daniel Rogov, called Israel’s best Cabernet. We had another winner from Yarden, the 2003 Yarden Cabernet, its second line Cabernet and a wine that is consistently good and reasonably priced. We had a bottle of the 2005 Four Gates Napa Cabernet, and we had two bottles from Covenant Winery, the 2004 Covenant Cabernet, that Jeff brought over for the winemaker dinner, and the 2008 Covenant Red C that a friend brought over. Finally, we had a bottle of the 2008 Herzog Single Vineyard Trestle Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, whose grapes were sourced from the B.R. Cohn winery, which made a bottle of its own Cabernet at the Herzog Winery, this bottle was also brought over by a friend.

The 2008 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Trestle Glen, Sonoma County is Herzog’s second Single Vineyard wine from the 2008 vintage. It is also Herzog’s second year for its Single Vineyard wines. The wine is using the same grapes as the 2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon was, and is clearly as elegant as its younger and cheaper brother. However, it received a bit more oak than the B.R. Cohn wine did, and had shows more extraction than its younger brother does.

So there you have it the lineup actually did do what I was hoping for. It opened conversation, it showed the range of red to green to black flavors, from leathers and chocolate, to green notes and graphite, and everything else in between. It was a wonderful evening of Cabernet and great food, and one everyone seemed to enjoy.

For dinner we made some lovely black bean soup, along with a bunch of sausage stew, and spinach kugel. As always, the sausage stew is great because of two main reasons. First, you eat everything and there are no parts that you need to remove or eat around, such as bones or nasty cartilage. Also, it can be made for vegetarians – which ROCKS!

The wine notes follow below. Many thanks to the guests that brought over wines, including Benyamin from Four Gates Winery, who brought over a bottle of his 2009 Chardonnay, which has turned the corner and is now tasting very Chardonnay like, and not as Viognier like as before. He also brought over a bottle of his 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, if you have some – DRINK UP!!!

2005 Four Gates Cabernet, Napa Valley – Score: B+ to A-
This was the first Cabernet Sauvignon ever released by the Four Gates Winery. This is a wine I have not tasted in more than a year, and it has lost a slight step in that time. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, and spice.  The wine fills your mouth with concentrated fruit, black cherry, herbs, nice sweet cedar, surprising acidity, and light tannin that comes together nicely. The finish is long with earthy notes and good fruit. This wine needs to be drunk up and one that is still quite enjoyable.

2009 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The Chardonnay is back!!! Congratulations to Benyamin this wine that clearly was tasting more like Viognier than Chardonnay has turned the corner and is now showing beautiful tropical fruit, combined with a very luscious and full mouth that still starts off with honeyed notes, but parts way for the more classical butterscotch and spice that appears with time in the glass. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, mineral, bright citrus, melon, and a hint of herbs.

2004 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon (Larkmead Vineyard) – Score: A- to A
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is refined and elegant rich ripe blackberry, cassis, blackcurrant, and classic Covenant Black cherry. The wine is a classic green and graphite monster, with lovely bell pepper notes, red fruit, graphite, and loamy dirt, that melds well with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that brings the wine together into a still vibrant and attention grabbing mouth. The finish is super long and rich with chocolate, tobacco, nice spice, cloves, leather, ripe plum, and good vanilla. Drink Now.

2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose is filled with crazy black cherry, blackcurrant, and blackberry fruits that are super ripe and sweet, along with heavy oriental spice, licorice, cloves, and good mineral. The mouth is full with heavy date flavors from the super ripe black fruit, along with mounds of sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that makes for a rich and spicy mouth that is still seductive and attention grabbing. The mouth clams over time with less date and ripe fruit and more mineral and balance. The finish is long and spicy with crazy menthol, eucalyptus, and mint that does calm down over time and make way for chocolate and hints of vanilla on the long linger. Drink now till 2016.

2008 Covenant Red C Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine starts off very closed and was clearly one of the wine of the evening, along with the Herzog, that needed time to express its tannins and dark fruit that lie underneath. If you are looking to enjoy this wine in the future, I recommend opening this two hours or more before and then enjoying it open in front of your eyes.

The nose starts off with crazy tobacco, black cherry, blackberry, plum, and blackcurrant. The mouth is medium to full in body, with a round and full mouth filled with attention grabbing and mouth coating tannin, lovely sweet cedar, and good fruit that makes for a lovely mouth. The finish is long and filled with chocolate, licorice, loamy dirt, good green notes, all backed with vanilla, and hints of mineral. The wine is made predominantly from grapes grown at the Young Family Vineyard in Napa Valley, just south of St. Helena, along with press wine from the flagship Covenant Cabernet. Open ahead of time and drink now till 2016.

2008 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Trestle Glen, Sonoma County – Score: A- to A
The wine needs time to open, but once it opens it shows a beautiful classic cold weather red and green Bordeaux nose with expressive graphite, mint, bell pepper, eucalyptus, licorice, currant, and cherry. The mouth is medium to full bodied with lovely blackberry, plum, and red fruit, that mingles well with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that makes for unique mouth that is more refined and elegant than it is ripe and explosive. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, tobacco, hints of chocolate, and vanilla. The wine is truly elegant with lovely tobacco, graphite, green notes, red fruit, and vanilla. Enjoy this till 2015 or so.

2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom – Score: A
The notes on this wine have not changed drastically, the tannin is still kicking, the mouth equally as rich, and the heat has dissipated. This is one of the best wines I have tasted from Israel. The wine is still a bit closed, so an hour or two of air time would be of great help! Also, where the 2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was heavy with date, this is a wine that shows elegance and power, it shows ripe fruit that is not so ripe that date and cooked fruit comes to mind.

The nose on this wine is filled with heavy layers of blackberry, cassis, raspberry, currant, dark cherry, and plum. The mouth on this wine is complex and multi layered. This is no simple wine, it hits you in waves. The mouth on this full bodied wine has begun to soften, but that only means that the tannins are not so in your face, while still being integrated while adding even more opulence to this rich and mouth coating wine, filled with sweet and almost jam-like black and red fruit (but not cloyingly so) , sweet cedar, and eucalyptus that comes at you over and over with intensity and elegance. The finish is crazy long and is filled with lovely spice, cloves, herbs, chocolate, tobacco, and rich dirt, with slight vegetal notes. This is really quite a fine wineand one that still needs a single hour or so of air before being ready to enjoy, but one that should be consumed by 2015 or so.

Posted on March 18, 2012, in Food and drink, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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