Kosher Wine Society Tasting – New Wines and Vintage Experience

This past week I had the chance to taste some wines at an event put on by the Kosher Wine Society. Before we get to the main event, quick question, what does kosher wine and fashion models have in common? More on that in a moment!

The Kosher Wine Society (KWS for those in the know) was started in 2005 when Aron Ritter could not find real events to attend that centered on one of his true passions, kosher wine! Remember, this was a point in time, when Lance Armstrong could still wear a yellow jersey! Further, the only kosher wine event, at that time, in the United States, was the Gotham Wine Extravaganza!

So, the KWS was born, and slowly but surely it has grown into a membership that spans a large cross-section of the New York social scene. Thursday evening was no different, when I arrived early to see what was going down at the 4th annual New Wines for the New Year tasting. I strolled in and went straight to work photographing what I could, though I did not bring my camera thinking my cell phone camera would be enough – bad idea, so I am sorry if the pictures are underwhelming. That is totally on me and not the event. The event itself was top-notch and well worth the 50 bucks I spent, if there was an issue with the event, it would be with some of the wines that did not meet my expectations, showing 2009 and 2010 to be difficult years – for different reasons.

The event was hosted in the Solarium room at the Roger Smith Hotel, where you had the opportunity to enjoy some 80+ wines, ranging from Argentinian wines to United States wines, and everything else in between, including many Israeli wines and a few Italian wines to boot. There were also a few real shining stars, including a real winner from the Gvaot Winery and a few new Brobdingnagian wines as well! I did not have time to taste the Brob wines again, but from the responses I heard, they were well received!

The event felt professional in almost every way, from the moment I walked in, the wine purveyors were almost all setup and getting into pouring mode. The food (cheese, fruit, and crackers) were being set out and the lighting was being set for the intimate soiree that was soon to start. OH! My teaser question about models and kosher wine – simple! The hotel seemed to be one of the off circuit locations for FASHION WEEK!! Yep! Turns out it was Fashion Week in NYC (I cannot help but think of Ugly Betty when I hear Fashion Week)!!! Thank goodness it did not affect the event in any way that I know of, as I was upstairs as soon as the elevator door opened.

From what I could tell between sniffing, swirling, tasting, and spitting, there must have been some 70 or so folks there that night. I started with the whites that were at the tasting, and the best of the whites was the 2010 Hevron Heights Chardonnay, Elone Mamre and the 2011 Odem Mountain Rose, Volcanic. Both are B++ and/or A- wines – nicely done. The Elone Mamre was a bit over oaked, but really quite rich and lovely and one that given time, will calm down into a keeper. Drink that in a year. The 2010 Recanati Special Reserve White was really not that great, OK, but not an A wine.

The Recanati Mediterranean Series of wines, which happen to be some of the most expensive Recanati wines, did not show well at all. For more on Recanati wines check out my previous blog posting here. At this tasting the 2010 wines did not show well at all, thankfully the 2010 wines did show well at the event we attended on Monday night, but more on that on a separate blog posting.

No matter how hard I tried, I could still could not find a way to like and appreciate the Kadesh Barnea wines. Yes, they are soft and accessible, but they are also far too ripe and fruity for my tastes, in other words, far too new world for me. However, there are many people who I think would really appreciate these wines. They are free of tannin, heavy oak, and bone dry feelings. To be honest, if I pull myself away from my oenophile leanings, these wines are perfectly acceptable wines. However, as my palate and interests have moved, so has my ability to recommend such wines. In the end, if you are interested in wines that are sweet and white or red, then this wine may well be a great bridge or gateway drug to pulling you to the proverbial dark side. If however, your tastes are more cultured which appeal to dry and slightly tannic wines, than these may well not be that appealing.

Instead, I really appreciated the other wines at that table, the wines from Gush Etzion. I was excited to taste these wines, as the last time I enjoyed them was a year ago, and many were shmitta wines in Israel, at last year’s sommelier wine event. The clear winner was the 2009 Gush Etzion lone oak Syrah, with the 2009 Gush Etzion Cabernet Sauvignon as a close runner-up. The River Wine importer table did have a blend, the 2007 Blessed Valley, which I liked far more a year ago – in Israel.

On an aside, Yossie Horowitz, believes this may well be an issue of importing or storage. A few years ago at the IFWF in the days of Oxnard, the French wines were clearly being imported or stored improperly, as the very expensive French wines were literally corked or had turned into pure volatile acid – not the fault of the French winery as much as how it came from there to here.

Well since I am on a rant and an aside, let me rail on all things Israel and the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Throughout the tasting on Thursday and on the following Monday night, the 2009 wines showed either overly green or overly fruity/New world/sweet/over ripe, AKA, not fun. This is NOT a blanket statement on all things 2009 and 2010, this is a simple statement that before you plunk down your hard-earned bucks on a 2009 or 2010 vintage from your favorite winery or label, PLEASE – PLEASE taste the wine ahead of time. The 2009 vintage was a bit hot while the 2010 and 2011 vintages ran into issues that did not allow the grapes to come to a happy place. Seriously, I have almost no qualms with plunking down money on known commodities like Four Gates Merlot, Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, etc. Still, for wines in the 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages, try the wines ahead of time! If you like them – great! If not, bail! If you cannot try them, than either read notes from other people you respect or buy a bottle – and find out for yourself, before you buy the case of wine that will die in your hands.

OK, now that I have finished by rant, let’s get back to the evening. At this point, I had tasted some 15 or so wines, and none were a home run. There were many nice singles and doubles, and maybe a double that was stretched into a triple. However, I was there for the top line goods and I was still waiting for something to truly wake up my taste buds.

At this point I found my way to Royal Wines table – which was displaying a lovely mix of wines – that were from all over the world! I started with the new 2009 Carmel wines and here is where I found three overly ripe, but still nice wines. I would go for the 2009 Carmel Cabernet, but the Kayoumi Shiraz and Shaal Merlot were not for me, showing fruit that was just too ripe for my palate. There was a corked bottle at the table, so no need to discuss that, and there was a LOVELY bottle of the 2009 Shiloh Legend! WOW, I really lose wines – and to think I picked them up for a song thanks to a crazy misprint by – THANKS! The Shiloh Legend is another example of fun blends that Israel has put together that really show well. The 2009 Shiloh is a blend of Shiraz and Petite Syrah, with some Petite Verdot and Merlot thrown in to compliment. Again, these varietals have little history of complimenting each other, like a Bordeaux blend may have. Still, Australia has been having fun with mixing Bordeaux and Rhone varietals together, and this is not different. Also, the legends sold in the US are mevushal wines – though the effect has not yet hit this wine in particular.

A lovely wine that was also mevushal from France was the 2010 Tour Seran – a classical graphite and mineral driven wine with a bit of overripe fruit, but seeming controlled.

I then realized that there was food at this event – the food was the lovely fruit dishes along with some great smelling cheeses. The cheeses were brought by the cheese guy– a passionate man who cares as deeply about his cheese as a cow cares about eating. I love the story around Brent Delman and his deep knowledge and passion around all things cheese. His web page says – he specializes in small production, high-end, artisanal cheeses – particularly of the organic, kosher and low-fat varieties. When I had the chance to taste his wines, I found that he specializes in all things tasting down right AWESOME! The cheeses shipped in from Sicily and all over the world – are kosher and awesome! It was truly a rare treat to taste some of his cheeses and something I recommend everyone try, check out his page on where you can find his cheeses.

I then moved to the next table and was greeted with my clear winner of the night – the 2010 Gvaot Pinot Noir, Gofna! This is one seriously yummy wine that almost matches the flavors and joy of a Four Gate Pinot Noir. The wine is redolent with toast, cherry, floral notes, and espresso. The mouth is a velvet pleasure of coffee, tannin, raspberry, and cherry, along with a spice driven finish. The wine is not long for cellaring – but one that should be found, bought, and consumed within the next year or so! Enjoy – I did!

The other Gvaot wines were nice – but not up to the level of the Pinot Noir. The other wines were from the Herodion series from Gvaot and they showed well, just not with the passion of the Pinot Noir.

Finally, I moved over to the table commanded by the ever present unflappable Ruti Schvarcz who works for Happy Hearts Wine, the kosher wine importer, which happens to import Bravdo/Karmei Yosef Winery, Odem Mountain Winery, and Mount Hevron, along with many others. Since I tasted through all the WONDERFUL Bravdo wines – at the Gotham Wine Tasting earlier this year in NY, I had the opportunity to taste through a bunch of the Mount Hevron wines.

OK, you know me as a serious disciple of Daniel Rogov, who passed away just over a year ago, but if there was one thing that came through his notes, it was his dislike for wines from the Hevron Heights winery. I will not speak ill of a man I greatly respected and one who I spoke with directly on this very subject. In the end – he did not like his wines, expecting for two wines in his late years, those being the Elon Mamre and Isaac’s Ram.

In the end, I finally had the chance to relax and taste through some of the wines that Michel Murciano created, the owner of Hevron Heights Winery. The first wine I highly enjoyed was the 2007 Hevron Heights Makhpelah, a wine bursting with lovely but controlled sweet notes, graphite, and green notes. The mouth explodes with searing tannin, lightly sweet fruit, mouth coating tannin, along with layers of concentrated ripe plum, raspberry, and cassis. The finish is long and spicy with awesome extraction, chocolate, tobacco, sweet cedar, and vanilla. The love fest continued with the 2009 Or Haganuz Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and then continued with the 2007 Hevron Heights Merlot, Pardess, and culminated with a sip of the 2007 Hevron Heights Armageddon!  For full disclosure, I was not a huge fan of the Tempranillo or the Judean Hills Chardonnay – but that is a slight nitpick. These were fine wines with maybe the only issue being their higher cost, but that is a question that only you can answer.

So, many thanks to all the importers who poured and shared their wines with all of us. Many thanks to Aron and his clan who drive and make KWS a hugely successful reality, and many thanks to the rest of you who showed up and make such events a feasible reality.

Posted on September 13, 2012, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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