A wine lover in a land of sobriety – what is a oenophile to do?

This past Jewish Holiday press left me away from home for much of the time – whether at friends or family and that enabled me to enjoy many a wine, some that I bought, some that I enjoyed at other people’s homes, and some that I enjoyed or did not enjoy at synagogue.

The Jewish holidays following the high holidays – are meant to be ones filled with joy, food, and wine, yet I happen to always be separated from the very people who really understand my madness. Do not get me wrong I love my family – but they really are not oenophiles – and that leaves me at a major disadvantage – when my main objective is to drink and enjoy as much wine as possible in a very short period of time! Sure, they sip at the glass and are happy to drink it – but the joyous side of the High Holidays to Sukkot religious gauntlet is meant to be a relief valve, a way to thank the lord for all the good and for another year to do his bidding. So, how do Jews celebrate? Why with prayer, food, and wine of course. I know I am a bit over the top when it comes to wine and food – but I crave the interactions with others around the table, a table filled with joy and food, and also some wine chatter.

So I was faced with the classic dilemma of a lone wine fanatic attempting to enjoy wine amongst those who find wine to be a tool rather than a purpose. Do I buy and enjoy by myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink half at night and the other half the next day – and continue this through the meals – or should I dial it back a touch because, it is just myself and the expensive wine does not always taste as good the next day?

Like all things – I decided the best rule of thumb in these situations is to do both! I bought some good wine and some nicer wine, but no crazy wines, which in hindsight was a great idea, as I really got sick and could not enjoy them anyway. The first night we drank a bottle of 2010 Galil Mountain Winery Barbera, which I wrote up about on a previous post about QPR, and it was OK, but not a QPR winner. We also tried a bottle of 2010 Joseph Mellot Sancerre. Sancerre white is the archetype Sauvignon Blanc for many. Many believe that Sancerre best defines the truest form of Sauvignon Blanc. However, some are now pointing to New Zealand and California for what they have done with the grape. Unfortunately, while the classic Sancerre is meant to be bone dry, with intense fruit expressions and mineral to boot, this bottle was so-so at best. It lacked the bone gnawing dry palate that I crave in a Sancerre, balanced perfectly with nice bright fruit and good acidity. Instead, this Sancerre was green, tart, and without fresh fruit, making it for a very passable wine to quaff, but not much more.

On an aside, there is a growing demand out there for truly bone gnawing dry wine with fresh fruit and bright acidity. The closest I have found to that is another kosher Sancerre from Bokobsa, but the 2007 vintage is slowly dying. The need exists, but the answer unfortunately is lacking for now. Please do not get me wrong there are MANY lovely kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines on the market – but they all have varying degrees of residual sugar, making them feel flabby, which to many is as annoying as nails against a chalkboard.

We also had the chance to taste a lovely wine that has been getting its due praise; the 2010 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon (along with the more expensive reserve label). Like many nice Israeli wines, this wine was expensive, at around 35 bucks, but the price was right at the top of the QPR threshold, so it deservedly garners a QPR label (Quality to Price Ratio). Finally, we had a ghastly 2010 Binyamina Chardonnay (unoaked), which has not improved since the last time we had it, I disliked it then and it has only gotten worse. By the way, the 2011 vintage is once again lovely, ripe, and attention grabbing so look for that vintage to be available here in the US soon! Finally, we had a bottle of the 2010 Yarden Chardonnay, from the Odem vineyard and I was disappointing by this one as well. It was still far better than the unoaked Binyamina, but it was not up to the level that I have come to expect from Yarden’s Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. The wine showed far too much oak, it was not integrated almost unbalanced, with the oak overshadowing whatever fruit existing in the wine. Maybe the wine will get better, but for now I was unimpressed.

When I returned home the wine chatter and lovers were far more plentiful, and I really did enjoy some lovely wines and had the chance to discuss and be surprised by a few of them. Still, the new found interaction is always bittersweet for me, because it comes at the cost of having to leave many friends and family behind in the land of sobriety, but I have unfortunately learned that this is the cost of being an oenophile.

We were invited to a friend on Friday night and I brought a bottle of French wine that I was interested in trying. It was far from the solid double that I was hoping for; it was more like a bloop single at best (sorry the San Francisco Giants have got my baseball juices going). The next day we enjoyed some real fun wine experiences. I brought over a bottle of the 2007 Shiloh Shor Cabernet Sauvignon that was nice, but was clearly less ripe and concentrated than the last time we enjoyed it, I think this wine has entered drink up mode. The real winner was a surprise wine; the 2005 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve. I was shocked by the life that was still within the black labeled wine; it was ripe and controlled with good structure and mouth feel. We also enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 Herzog Petite Sirah, Prince Vineyard, which I had the chance to enjoy at its debut, during the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in August at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard. The wine continues to show lovely violet, blueberry ribbons, and ripe black fruit, while also being a light to medium weight that allows the wine to work throughout most meals.

The next day, I brought a bottle of the 2009 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron to a friend’s Sukkah, which was accepted well by almost everyone at the table. The folks who like smoother and less tannic wines – did not like it, but the rest of the gang and I really enjoyed it. The meal started off with a bottle of 2010 Pacifica Pinot Noir, Evan’s Collection, which did not show itself well at all, much like the first time we tasted it at the IFWF in Los Angeles, CA. We also enjoyed a lovely bottle of the 2010 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley that was brought by one of the guests. I recently tasted the wine at the Hagafen Winery, but when I did I did not perceive the ribbon of blueberry that showed itself so nicely in the Sukkah, quite a nice wine, but not a QPR winner given its price.

The following day I brought two bottles to our friend’s Sukkah, one was the 2009 Ramon Cardova Rioja and the other was the 2010 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – which was great, because it was one of the last true hot days in the Bay Area – perfect weather for Sauvignon Blanc. The 2009 Ramon Cardova Rioja was OK – which is what I have come to expect from that wine, while the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was really nice and ripe and showing well still, as good as the last time I had it.

Well there you go – the list of wines and where I enjoyed them. Many of them are available now and are well worth tracking down, while some are better off being left on the store shelf. The wine notes follow below:

Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A- (QPR)
The nose explodes with black cherry, blackberry, rich black currant liquor, along with nice spice and herb. The mouth is rich, full, and layered, with concentrated black fruit, black forest berries, cassis, nice cedar that is balanced with good integrated tannin, all that makes for lovely rich and mouth coating black fruit joy. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, allspice, baker’s spice, along with chocolate covered vanilla, and tobacco. This is a lovely Cabernet which is a great example of controlled fruit, with not a date or raisin to be found. The price for this wine can vary from store to store, so keep a watch for sales and try this lovely wine.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw-colored wine screams quince, slate, mineral, saline, and spice. The medium bodied wine is searing and unbalanced, with lemon zest, grapefruit, melon, and tropical fruit. The finish feels like you licked a salt lick and then some limestone rocks. This unbalanced wine is more tart and sour than refreshing.

2010 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Vineyard – Score: B++
The nose explodes with a bit too much oak, more than past years. The real joy of this wine in the past was its controlled use of oak versus the insanely over oaked Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay (in my opinion), and even less visible oak than the baseline Yarden Chardonnay. However, this vintage was lacking in that because the fruit was so underwhelming that all you had was oak. It is possible that this wine is in a dumb period, but for now, it is scored for where it is.

The nose starts with a heavy hand of spiced wood, followed by lovely floral notes of rose and violet, lemon, pear, and butterscotch. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with lemony goodness, along with brioche notes, baked apple, more spicy wood, grapefruit, and lemon fraiche. The finish is balanced with mineral notes, spice, cloves, lemon zest, followed by vanilla, and fig.

2009 Château Le Bourdieu – Score: B to B+
The nose starts off closed with black cherry, blackberry, clear and present dirt, graphite, terroir, and lots of crushed herb. The mouth is medium in body, with a nice mouth feel, but not one that comes together in any real manner, the fruit is there but not concentrated or layered, all in all the tannins are nice, the black plum, and oak are nice, but the mouth overall was a let down. The finish is long and spicy with more herbs, vanilla, a hint of cola, and tobacco. I guess the proper way to classify this wine is as a nice quaffer.

2007 Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon Shor – Score: B+
The nose on this Cabernet runs true to its varietal with nice black cherry, blackberry, anise, graphite, chocolate, raspberry, and spice. The mouth is rich with black fruit, lovely cedar, layers of fruit, along with integrated tannins that make for a lovely mouth feel. The finish is mouth coating with ripe fruit, plum, spice, chocolate covered tobacco leaves, vanilla, and olives. We enjoyed this wine more the last time we tasted it, I would drink this wine up pretty soon if you have any left.

2005 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve – Score: B+ to A-
I enjoyed this wine at a friend of mine’s house and it outright shocked me. The wine was more than just kicking around, it was really enjoyable! The wine screamed of rich and ripe black cherry, black plum, ripe and expressive blackberry, along with lots of mineral, and spice. The mouth is plush, soft and layered with nice black fruit, cassis, and raspberry, along with lovely cedar, along with dusty tannin, that all come together in a shockingly lovely soft and supple mouth feel. The finish is long and spicy with lovely tobacco, vanilla, and herb. Bravo!

2010 Pacifica Pinot Noir Evan’s Collection – Score: B
This is a wine that I had the chance to taste at a friend’s house and one that we did not love when we tasted it at the this year’s International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) in LA. This bottle was ready to drink the second we opened the bottle. The wine is filled with lovely espresso coffee, heavy toast, raspberry, rich Kirsche cherry, and mineral. The lightweight mouth takes a complete 180 degree from the lovely nose, though the wine is fruit forward it is unbalanced, and has nothing to grab your attention, with currant, almost no oak or coffee to be found, along with soft dusty tannin. The finish is spicy, with nice cinnamon, and plum. This is an interesting wine but not one that has much left in its tank.

2010 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine is ripe with lovely black plum, ribbons of blueberry, green notes, bell pepper, tobacco, and pomegranate. The medium bodied wine is rich and layered with nice mouth coating tannin, cedar, cassis, along with blackcurrant, all coming together into a rich experience. The finish is long and spicy with good acid, menthol, herb, nice chocolate, and vanilla.

2009 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot.. The nose on this wine is slow to open, so give this bottle at least two hours of air to open. It was the clear winner of the night but it was also the most aggressive wine with tannin that was also the most aggressive wine with tannin that was far from integrated and a mouth that was still working itself out. The wine is very closed and should hit its stride in mid to late 2013, until then decant before drinking.

The wine finally opens and explodes with ripe but controlled black cherry, blackcurrant, and a distinct blackberry liquor aroma, along with herb, and vanilla. The mouth is aggressive with layers of black fruit, raspberry, fig, integrating tannin, and cedar. A wine that has yet to come together and one that needs another year or so to show its best face. The finish is long and spicy with baking spices, tobacco, and chocolate. A lovely wine that needs time to come together.

2010 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++ (QPR)
The wine is a kosher version of the Spencer Hill wine group out of New Zealand. The wine is a perfect accompaniment to the end of a hot summer day, or as a lovely aperitif given its deep mineral and acid backbone. The wine is expressive with bright lemon, gooseberry, freshly mowed grass, ripe grapefruit, and spice. The wine is round and super tart, while also being mouth filling with sweet ripe fruit and tropical accents. The finish is long and mineral with good complexity to keep your attention while also being nicely balanced with herb and bitter lemon zest wrapping a sweet tropical fruit – Bravo!

Posted on October 28, 2012, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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