Dalton Alma Bordeuax Blend and sulfite free Four Gates Merlot

This past week my wife had a hunkering for risotto and the recipe is so simple that after gathering the required ingredients, I was more than happy to oblige. The risotto recipe that I used was from my blog posting in March of last year, however, in this case I roasted both the sweet potatoes and the mushrooms in the oven.

The roasted sweet potatoes really does change the flavor profile of the risotto and the roasted mushrooms bring out a further meaty and earthy flavor than just the risotto alone. That comes from the famous umami savory taste which is backed by the Glutamates. The combination of roasted flavors and the Glutamate packed mushrooms – adds a totally different dimension in flavor to plain risotto. Normally, the way to fill out the boring and plain flavored risotto rice (arborio rice) – is to finish the dish with cream, cheese, and/or pesto, along with some nice condiment or flavor addition like mushrooms or asparagus. However, because we do not eat milk and meat together and I want to enjoy my risotto with chicken, we cannot finish the dish with cheese or cream. So that leaves us with finding other ways to pump up the flavor volume with non-dairy ingredients.

Of course when it comes to chicken, I love my wife’s lemon rosemary roasted chicken, because the recipe calls for slow and low cooking which makes for tangy and “fall off the bone” moist perfect chicken. Normally I use the chicken sauce on rice and quinoa, but with risotto, I leave the sauce for another time.

To pair with this chicken I continued my Pinot Noir adventure and opened a lovely bottle of the 2009 Galil Mountain Winery Pinot Noir – which I liked a lot and wrote up in the previous posting on QPR.

We also were invited to the Rabbi’s house and I brought a bottle of the 2009 Dalton Alma Bordeaux blend. Dalton now releases three different Alma blends. One is the white blend, which does not excite me that much, along with two red blends. One is the one I enjoyed this week, a Bordeaux blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc – showing its deep French roots – with crazy graphite, green notes, while also showing with pride its own terroir and climate – with lovely ripe and black fruit. The wine is a true expression of French grapes in a Mediterranean climate – Bravo Dalton! The other blend is a SMV blend of 82% Syrah 12% Mourvedre and 6% Viognier. Each of these red blends used wines that were fermented individually for 12 months in French Oak and then blended and aged an additional two months in oak before bottling.

When at the Rabbi – Benyamin Cantz from the Four Gates Winery was also there and the Rabbi pulled out a very special wine indeed! The wine is rare beast and one that is highlighted in Alice Feiring’s new book: Naked Wine, where it is called the 2007 Rabbi Levine wine, yes that is me in the background and in the blog posting. Benyamin and his lovely Four Gates is highlighted at the end of the book, which was the background for why Feiring visited Benyamin’s place and why I crashed the event. Here is my blog posting on the epic event.

The 2007 Rabbi Levine Merlot is a wine made without sulfites, as Rabbi Levine (our local area Rabbi in San Jose is allergic to sulfites). I have spoken often about the wine-sulfite issue here and here (in relation to Harkham’s quasi -organic wines) and the world of natural wines, of which Feiring is one of the wine making technique’s most outspoken advocates (in a good way). The reason why the wine is such a rare bird is because winemakers are afraid of making wine without SO2. SO2 is a safe and simple additive that binds to the wine and keeps out the bad wine based bugs (things that act on and in the wine) while also adding a “salt like” lift to wines. When I had the chance to taste through Harkham’s wines (at a tasting in the Cask in LA), Richard Harkham (the wine maker) poured the natural wines first and then poured the SO2 spiked wines. It gave me a truly rare chance to see what SO2 does to wine and the opportunity to taste the only true kosher natural wines – that I know of (organic fields and no additives of any sort – no yeast, SO2, or other terrifying modifications). The So2 really acts as salt does in food – it exaggerates the flavors what lies beneath it and helps to accentuate the good qualities that lie there as well. The funny thing is that when I tasted the Harkham wines in LA (yes I still remember them), some were under acidified – and could have used a bit of acid burst, but they also tasted honest and true to their fruit. The Four Gates Merlot, may have been missing SO2 – but I would not have known it – outside from the fact that the wine was softened at such a young age. As I noted here, the sulfured wine is drinkable for at least another 4 years, and will probably be hitting its stride late next year. This wine could probably last another year or two – but it is at its peak now and is tasting beautifully!

To me, the wine was full out fresh and sick (in a great way of course)! The wine was tart, ripe, rich, and down right silky smooth with still gripping tannin. Instead of needing hours to even get close to the Merlot, the lack of sulfites helped round the wine and let it age quicker in the bottle – thereby making the wine far more accessible and approachable. Once again, a killer wine for Four Gates and a shame that there is no real kosher mass market winery willing to put its neck on the line and make a sulfite free wine.

A point I forgot to raise in my last blog posting on QPR, relating to my travails in wine aisles, was the need for people in the kosher wine world to have sulfite free wines. I friend of the family, that I have known since I was a kid happened to meet up with me in a wine aisle in Chicago, and told me about her husband who is a wine lover, and is stuck to drinking the Kedem “wine” that has no sulfites. Our Rabbi drinks that as well – and let me tell you – IT IS NOT WINE! It may be fermented grape juice – but that is its total value – other than the fact that it lacks sulfites. I told this to Benyo this past week, that he really does have a unique and captive audience – as he could totally own this truly small niche market. He will not make a killing selling wine to 10 or 20 people, but he would be making a few people happy – and if you know Benyo that is all the reason they need.

The wine noets follow below – many thanks to my wife for her great chicken and a repeated thanks to the Rabbi and Benyo for the opportunity to watch this sulfite free wine evolve:

2009 Dalton Cabernet-Merlot Alma – Score: B+ to A- (QPR)
This is a wine I have tasted four times and one that continues to impress. I had a taste of this wine at the winery before the final blend was created, again at the Gotham wine tasting once the blend was complete but before bottling, and then twice or thrice from a fresh bottle. Each time the wine impresses with its classic French style, it is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc.

The wine was very slow to open, needing some 3 to 4 hours to get into full gear. It started with leather and tobacco, but then slowly moved into more classical aromas of blackberry, plum, massive aromas of herb, bell pepper, tobacco, and graphite. The mouth is full and plush with softening tannin that give way to layers of dark black cherry, black fruit, red plum, along with lovely cedar, and mouth coating tannin that have started to come together quite nicely. The finish is long and green with charcoal, chocolate, bitter black licorice, blackberry, and spice that make for a truly unique a French style Bordeaux with Israeli stripes and stars. Bravo Dalton for taking a complex wine and keeping it true to its roots while still allowing for cultural and artistic license!

2007 Four Gates Merlot Kosher – Score: A-
This version of the 2007 vintage was special as it was bottled without sulfates. This wine was affectionately called the Rabbi Levine Merlot, as the rabbi of our community, Rabbi Levine, is allergic to sulfites, so Benyamin Cantz, of Four Gates Winery, made a small batch of Merlot without sulfites. Sulfites are simply a wine preservative that 5% of the population are allergic to. With that said, a red wine has its own sulfites that exist naturally in their skins, so even a wine that has no sulfites added – has sulfites. These sulfites though do not bother the allergic because they are bound to the wine and are not free radicals. In either way, the amount of sulfites found naturally in wine are too low to create issues and so wines created with no added sulfites, and whose grapes are sourced from organic fields – can be called organic on the label. Since these wines from Four Gates are a special run, the labels does not say organic, even though his vineyard is 100% organic – why? Because the USDA requires no added sulfites to allow for a Organic label. Enough about sulfites – on to the wine.

The nose explodes with ripe and luscious blackberry, ripe black plum, and beautiful ripe raspberry, along with lovely crushed herb, graphite, and mineral. The mouth on this sulfite free bottle, is still all there with softening tannin, lovely toasty oak, bold blackberry, along with layers of ripe red and black fruit that has come together to create a lovely mouth coating experience. The finish is long and ripe with jammy fruit, licorice, more tannin, coffee, jam, and vanilla that keep going on and on and on. The wine is starting to throw sediment so be careful when you pour.

Posted on October 24, 2012, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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