2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great.

My plan was very different, since I was recently in Israel and had the opportunity to taste many of these wines there, I was focused on the wines that were not in Israel, or those that I missed. The other part of my plan was based upon the fact that I was doing a two part Royal affair, by visiting the KFWE and the IFWF. Coming to both allowed me to taste the wine and the food and it allowed me to concentrate on the wines I really wanted to taste and some that I never get to, because I am always running out of time.

The idea is consistent with the IFWF, which we have been visiting and posting about for years. The event was held in the beautiful Pier 60, that is at the back of the piers and is a single floor room with tons of open space, quite impressive. Actually, according to the specs, the space is 20,000 square feet of unobstructed views! 20,000 square feet without a single column, supporting wall, or anything else to get in your face! The entire room is wrapped by floor to ceiling walls of glass, allowing for 180 degrees of harbor and Manhattan views!

However, to be honest who cares about the views outside, it looked like the city and all of its inhabitants were wrapped in a sheath of down coats, given the temperature outside. Inside, however was an entirely different story! The room was filled with tables and wine makers showing off some 200+ wines from around the world. The fact that these wines were kosher was truly unimportant, at least to many of the people I watched when tasting wines. You see, as I taste wine, my brain needs time to take in the information and pattern match, which is a painless and boring task. The rest of my restless brain activity is filled with taking in the sites and sounds from the room and those who are around me. Most folks think I am crazy taking detailed notes, but at the trade tastings, it is normal, and spittoons are a required necessity.

As you look around during the trade tasting, I did not notice much food, as that was not on my to-do list for the trade tasting. The trade tasting was all about getting to as many wines as possible and then enjoying the press and public tasting. This year (like in previous years), the press was given an hour of earlier access, than the public. So all-in there was 8 or so hours of semi-uninterrupted (an hour+ break trade and press tasting) potential wine tasting. Mind you, there may not be a limit to the number of good wines that were there to taste, but your mind and taste buds have distinct limits! On the average, you can do 100 wines technically, in a detailed and complete fashion, but something is going to give. Either your brain, your taste buds, or your strength to suck on another glass of wine. At a certain point in time, the wine becomes a license for madness. Of course, I spit the entire evening, until a certain point anyway, but after that point I was a wet rag and useless in terms of clear and comprehensible wine notes.

When it comes to long and detailed wine tastings, it is all about pacing yourself and about technologies to help keep your mouth clean and in tip-top shape. You need two things to keep your palate ready for the next glass of madness. A toothbrush and some plain and unflavored starch. My approach was to brush my teeth every 15 or so glasses of wine and cheerios (or rice if you are Yossie Horowitz). I have used cooked rice before, but I was in no place to buy or make cooked rice, so I went with the safe and simple fallback of cheerios. Yes, they are sweet and they have sugar, which does not do a great job of cleansing your palate, and no you do not eat them, you chew them and than spit them out. The idea here is to remove the wine from your palate and your teeth, with starch and brushing respectively.

Anyway, back to the story, the plan for the first four hours was to taste, taste, and taste wine, while cleaning and preening my teeth and palate (sorry could not help myself). There were moments where I was happily paused from my single-minded pursuit by friends and acquaintances, however; overall it was a massive success. Again, I was focusing on wines that I did not yet taste and on wines that I knew or thought would not be at the IFWF. Going to both events calmed my mind and actually allowed me to taste more wins than had I not been thinking about food. Knowing I had a second chance relaxed my mind and really opened me up to the potential of tasting with no concerns and in full freedom.

With that handled, I wanted to state that though many of the wines that I tasted were just there or OK, it is because the far better option were already tasted in Israel, previous NY visits, and/or in my weekly drinking stints. So, if I rail on some wines, know that I really liked most of the wines there, but sure, there were many wines I did not love. Why? Because Israel continues to have a sweet tooth problem – simple as that. Some of the wines are far too sweet with overripe fruit, coming from their Mediterranean climate. I asked many wine makers about this and they all told me that they either wait for the grapes to fully mature and rid their green and vegetable flavored cloaks and get overripe fruit, or they take the fruit in early and you have green flavored fruit. It is a very hard decision to make and one that is compounded by the Jewish Holidays that revolve around the classic wine picking times in the Northern Hemisphere. Since you cannot pick the grapes during the Jewish holidays, you have to make a more complicated decision, pick now knowing it may be a bit green and tart, or let it ride and pick after the holidays, with the chance of picking raisins. So in no way am I criticizing the wineries and their wine making style, it is just the roll of the dice and the honest truth that Israel is in a hot climate and one that is unforgiving to grape growers and wine makers.

The great things is that wineries in Israel are getting the picture and are finding ways to control the overripe flavors while still getting ripe and sweet notes. It is a VERY fine balance and on that amazes me every time a winery pulls it off. When they do not – it shows very easily and makes the wine not so enjoyable to me. Finally, the clear winners of the KFWE and IFWF were:

Flam, Tulip, Covenant, Psagot, Capcanes, Netofa, Castel, Clos Mesorah, Elvi Wines, Drappier/Laurent Perrier, Yatir, and Herzog Wines. There were some clear lagers, and there were some very nice single wines at some of the lagging wineries. I hope I can explain and point those out as we progress here.

Covenant Winery Table

Well, since it was all about the wine and since I was not in the mood for food, I started the day at the Covenant table, home of Jeff Morgan (the winemaker), Jodie Morgan (his wife and a lovely person I embarrassingly did not recognize for a second or two or..), and home to Jonathan Hajdu, Covenant’s associate winemaker. I really do need to do my write-up on Covenant, but that is for a different time. The wines were at the Covenant table were hopping! They had a new 2012 Sauvignon Blanc that is so bracing that it is a true joy. This is in no way as crazy as the 2012 Teperberg Squeezed Citrus Juice (AKA Terra Sauvignon Blanc), that is insane, but this is close, clean, mineral, slate, steel, and bright clean fruit, one of the top 10 white wines between IFWF and KFWE. The 2010 Covenant Chardonnay was being poured, which is a shame as the 2011 Covenant Chard is now available, and we did not get a chance to taste it!! PLEASE do not take that in the wrong way – really liked the Chard, just a shame, turns out the bottles were not quite ready. The 2010 Chardonnay continues to shine and another of the top 10 whites. The next was the Red C, a wine that really needs time to come into its own and right now is a bit too closed and not agreeable to me, I will try it again in a few months. Though, according to Jeff’s most recent email, there is almost none left! So, grab a few bottles and try them over the next three years. The next bottle was one of the top 20 red wines of the two shows (you see why I start with Covenant!!!); the 2010 Covenant – WOW what a wine – the clear winner by far. Now, on the side, my man Jonathan was pouring a vertical of Covenant’s older wines; 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010. The 2010 was the riper and richer winner to me, but the 2003 and 2005 show the age-ability of these wines. The 2003 Cabernet continues to blow my mind, after having tasted it some 4 times now, and each time I am blown away. Thanks to Jeff, Jodie and Jonathan for sharing your liquid gold with me!

Cordova and Alexander Winery Table

The next table was the Alexander Winery and Cardova wine table. I will say this, the Yoram Shalom, winemaker and owner of Alexander Winery, is not shy with oak or ripe fruit, and as such I was not a huge fan. I must say how shocked I was with the wines at this table. The last time I had some of the higher end Alexander Winery wines – they were killer. For example last year the 2007 Alexander The Great, Amarolo was killer. Well this time that and the 2007 Alexander the Great, Amarolo tasted tired and overly sweet. At the tasting was another of these very expensive wines, 150 dollars at retail, being the 2007 Alexander the Great, Grand Reserva. Unfortunately, this wine smelled more liked aged cheese than aged wine. It too was also overly sweet with ripe black and red fruit, with years of oak, and clear impact from it. Still, there was the 2009 Alexander Cabernet Franc that was really lovely and clearly the best bottle on the table. At the IFWF we got the chance to taste the 2007 Alexander the Great, Amarolo, from a magnum bottle, and it was lovely – truly lovely! So, either the normal sized bottle that I tasted at the KFWE was flawed or it is falling apart and the magnum showed perfectly, potentially because of its larger format and ageability.

The Cardova wines are normally just OK wines, but I liked the new Cardova wine; the 2011 Ramon Cardova, Granacha, Rioja, definitely, one of the best QPR surprises of the show.

Barkan Winery Table

The Barkan Winery was not one of those tables that shocked me for what it was not. The Segal Dovev Argaman showed why Argaman never made it big in the wine world. The Segal Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon was nice and the Segal Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered was FILTHY as usual. The 2010 Barkan Pinotage, Reserve was solid though not the 2007 Barkan Pinotage, Superieur. The 2010 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve was solid as always. The 2009 Barkan Altitude wines were OK but a clear step back from the 2007 altitudes and the 2008 altitudes, the two most recent vintages. The reason? The 2009 altitude wines share a thread of commonality with 2009 Israeli red wines – a ravenous appetite for sweet tooth/new-world styling. The final wines on the table were new vintages of the Assemblage wines. The 2010 Eitan, 2010 Tzafit, and 2010 Reichan. The Assemblage wines were introduced in 2010 with the 2008 vintages. They then released a 2009 line and now a 2010 line. We wrote up the 2008/2009 line here, when talking about Barkan. As stated there, the 2009 Tzafit was the first release for the Tzafit label (there was no 2008 Tzafit), but it was still a shmitta wine! The 2008 vintage was the most recent shmitta year in Israel, but the 2009 Tzafit has 5% of 2008 wine blended in! The sad truth is that I had the entire line of 2009 Assemblage wines in Israel, and other than the Tzafit, the 2009 line is not that wonderful, again far too overripe and light and no complexity.

Royal decided that since the 2009 line cannot be brought here in totality, because the Tzafit is a shmitta wine, they wanted to showcase the entire Assemblage portfolio – within a single vintage, so they skipped to the 2010 wines. The sad truth is that they are not that great. The Eitan was the best of the group, overripe still, but at least not overpowering so. The Tzafit is lovely, but somewhat provincial, lacking attention-grabbing complexity. The 2010 Reichan was the clear third wheel here, with far too much over the top sweetness. If I had to choose an Assemblage, I would go with the Reichan, not withstanding its deficiencies, in my opinion.

There was a bottle of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur, and the wine lives up to the name in so many ways. This is an unctuous, ripe, rich, and layered wine. Bravo for the unfiltered and this wine, with the under appreciated Cab reserve bringing up the rear. The altitude wines and the Assemblage wines this year did not grab my attention (like they did last year), again in my opinion.

Tulip and Flam Wineries

As listed above, the Flam and Tulip table had the best wines per ratio from any of the other tables at the event. There was only a single wine from Tulip that I found a bit too over the top. Otherwise, all the other wines were wines that I would be proud and excited to have on my table, a thing I intend to do over the coming holidays. I say this not as an affront to any of the other wineries, but the sheer density of good to great wines in comparison to whatever else a winery may have on the table is shocking. There was wine on the Tulip table that I did not love, the entire Flam table was awesome. In other words, they were the top producers at the show that I tasted.

I already wrote about the Flam Winery before here and again recently here, yeah I guess you can call me a groupie! The tulip winery is a very different beast, a winery that was built in and around a city of disabled individuals and one that takes its advocacy for disabled citizens of Israel quite seriously. I wrote initially about the winery here, but I will take a bit more time to talk about them now, in this space.

Until 2010, Roy Itzhaki, the CEO of Tulip winery would often say that he was the biggest non-kosher winery in Israel. But, not entirely by his own choice. The issue other than having supervision, in this case was the fact that many of the inhabitants of Kfar Tikvah (City of Hope), which is a city for teaching its inhabitants skills to interact with the world around them, work at the winery. Kosher supervision has some issues around disabled people working around wine, for many technical and complicated reasons. That said, in 2010, after YEARS of working hard to make his dual desires a reality, Itzhaki finally succeeded in convincing a kosher supervision that he can make things work. The kosher supervision world is one that is not too fast to take on hard challenges and changes. Still, Itzhaki did not give up and after 20 organizations came and left, they all said the same thing, fire the disabled employees or we cannot help you. Finally, according Deborah Raub, from JNS.org, in an article on Tulip Winery, Itzhaki ran into a Rabbi Chazkal and things changed very quickly. Itzhaki was not going to undermine the very reason for his winery’s existence in Kfar Tikvah, nor was he going to undermine the work and conviction he showed by hiring 30 of its inhabitants to work in his winery. Still, the real reality of business was staring him in the face. He could not continue to produce wine at the scale he was at and not sell them in a kosher wine store, supermarket, or abroad. He had to find a way out of the conundrum, and the rest of the story is the kind of thing that makes me proud of being a Jew!

Rabbi Chazkal looked at the situation and realized that this was too unique a story and Itzhaki was truly building his winery, its reputation, and advocacy, for altruistic reasons, not for a gimmick or a nice sales pitch. So, Rabbi Chaski advised he come and meet Rabbi Shmuel Vozner with him. As Raub describes, Rabbi Shmuel Vozner is a Rabbi with hardline leanings, but as the story shows, he is also filled with the kind of intelligence and Chachma that makes me so proud to be Jewish. Vozner listened carefully to Itzhaki and said something that none of his 20 predecessors had: “There is a conflict between the mitzvah of halakha and the mitzvah of employing these people. It is such an important mitzvah that you are doing with these people, let’s find a way.”

Reading the story, it was clear that Rabbi Chazkal and Rabbi Vozner were the Chachamim here. Rabbi Chazkal knew that every supervisory organization was not going to take a chance and go out on the limb. Rather they would use the classic hacksaw approach to pruning a rose, way over the top. What was required here was a very precision and tactical approach, something that had not been done before, and something that no organization would do on its own, Rabbi Chazkal knew that the only real answer is to go to a man that had the strength of conviction and Torah and knowledge, that NO ONE would doubt, and let Itzhaki prove his conviction to the man and than if it is meant to be, it will happen.

As Raub continues in her wonderfully written article, Rabbi Chazkal returned to the winery and with great precision, protocol, and care, and came up with an approach that would allow for the winery to continue to employ the inhabitants of Kfar Tikvah, as the real separation of wine from those who are not religious (as many of the disabled employees are not), is the only real concern. So 75% of the work can continue to be done by the disabled of Kfar Tikvah while the parts where the wine is in direct contact of the worker, would be done by religious employees.

As stated before, I visited Tulip Winery during my most recent trip to Israel, and I met with the lovely and talented Or Ben-Avi. She is the marketing manager and tasting room manager and the person who runs Tulip’s very successful fan page. I recommend you “Like it” and maybe you will become the winery’s fan of the week! Anyway, when I was there I got a chance to taste all the wines from the Tulip Winery, including many of the reserve wines that were not yet released. That is why I was so excited to see them at the wine tasting. The wines are all awesome excepting for the sweet toothed 2010 Tulip Cabernet Sauvignon, reserve, which was a bit too far over the top for me. The shocking thing is that VERY same wine, tasted no more than two months ago, tasted drastically different than I tasted at the winery. The rest of the wines tasted exactly like I remember and the notes I have, but the Cab reserve in Israel did not have a sweet tooth and was richer and more controlled, a phenomenon and issue I have been seeing with imported Israeli wines – a shame.

When I met with Or, I asked her about the winery’s name and what was its etymology? Ben-Avi explained that Itzhaki’s mother likes tulips, and the flower is so lovely, and she thought the word would be far better than the Itzhaki winery! Wow, only a mother can be so honest and helpful in a single sentence. The 10-year-old winery has been growing slowly, and since 2010 they have almost doubled in size from 100K to 200K bottles! Roy grew up in a wine infatuated family, makes me feel right at home, taking trips all over the world and turning vacations into wine trips all at the same time. Itzhaki grew up with the wine mentality and after going to a wine show, he decided that he was going to strike out on his own, but only if he could integrate it into the working society of Kfar Tikvah, as he grew up not far from the location and was taken by their honesty and hard work.

Itzhaki was busy when I was at the winery, so it was great catching up with him in NY for a bit, though he did swing by the table as I was leaving when I was in Israel. He explained to me that the winery was built with three clear objectives: get the best technology, winemaker, and vineyards to make the best wine, QPR (Quality to price ratio), and to employ as many of the Kfar Tikvah residents as possible. The winery sources its grapes from vineyards it has all around Israel. They get grapes from Tzuba and Matta in the Judean Hills. They get grapes from Kfar Yuval, Alma, Kerem Ben Zimra, and Tzivon in the North. The Tzivon winery is organic. Overall they have 200 dunam of vineyards throughout Israel, in some of the most prized and cherished locations within the Israeli wine regions.

The lovely visitor center and winery was a cow shed in 2003 when the winery was established. From there, the winery grew slowly until 2010 when the winery went kosher and doubled output. Well, I will tell you that the wines speak for themselves and that they were wonderful, to say the least. The 2011 Tulip Just Merlot was a very solid wine, sourcing its grapes from Tzuba. The 2011 Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit better and more complex and concentrated and a clear A- wine, and worthy of the QPR stamp of approval. The 2010 Tulip Mostly Cab Franc was wonderful, sourced from the prized vineyards around matta, in the Judean Hills. The 2010 Tulip Mostly Shiraz was awesome and rich, blue, and black and red all over, a truly lovely wine. The 2010 Tulip Cab Reserve in America was overripe and over the top, but in Israel was lovely, controlled and rich, who knows. The 2010 Syrah reserve was the crazy clear WOW wine and a wine that is going to be around for a long time. To me they were all solid wines in Israel, but in the US, try a bottle of the Cabernet Reserve before you double down. The only bad part was that the white Tulip wines did not make it to the US this time. They all stayed in Israel and it is as shame as I really like those wines – maybe a reason to return to Israel…

The Flam wines were absolutely stunning! Not a wine in the bunch that I would say not to double down on, with the only comment being, double down on the blanc and rose, but drink up within the year. The 2011 Blanc was clearly more concentrated and filled with more tart and dried out fruit than ripe and sweet white fruit, a real joy. The 2012 Flam Rose was awesome and one of the real rose winners of the tasting – get some. The 2011 Classico continues to be a solid B++ wine, but hard to love at the prices here in the US. The Cab reserve, the Merlot reserve, and the Syrah reserve are all Filthy, sick, and A- to A wines – BRAVO!!! Loved the wines at the winery when we visited, as posted here, and loved them all at the wine tasting!!

In closing the table shows the true power of the Israeli wine industry. The family owned and run wineries are small-ish, controlled and building wines that continue to excel – a formula that I hope they will stay with and continue to enthrall us with their products!

1848 Winery

 

The last time I enjoyed these wines I had them at the IFWF last year, the vintages there were 2006 and 2007, while this year the vintages were 2009 and 2010, along with an interesting 2011 white wine. In the end, the results here were much the same, sweet tooth wines all over the place, a real shame as the 2006 and 2007 wines, from last year, were LOVELY! There was only one lovely wine here and the rest were just OK at best. According to the winery’s page: The winery was established in 1848 by the family’s ancestor, Reb Avraham Shor, who immigrated to Palestine from White Russia in 1834 and settled in Tzfat. He moved from there to Tiberias, and later to Jerusalem. He established the winery here within the Old City, close to the Western Wall. During the 1929 riots, the winery moved from the Old City to the Beit Yisrael neighborhood, and it expanded after the establishment of the State of Israel and transferred to the Tel Arza neighborhood. In 1958 the winery relocated to Givat Shaul, and in 1970 it merged with the Carmia-Mikve Yisrael Winery. As the production capacity rose, the winery gradually transferred up until 1978 to its current location in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, and is managed by the descendants of the founder. All the winery’s products are kosher lemehadrin. The winery produces around 2 million bottles annually, and visitors can be given explanations on the winery’s activity.

The labels have changed drastically in the new vintages and the meanings are a bit obscure. The 2nd generation is the low level label, the 5th generation label is the next step up, the 7th generation label is the reserve line, and then there is still the special reserve which has no number – from what I could tell. The idea is that since there have been many generations since the winery has started – they are trying to market the fact that they may well be the oldest winery in Israel.

While the labels are confusing – they look nice but to me the wines were almost all far too sweet and uncontrolled. Again, nothing new here, sweet raisin, date, almost prune, sad. Gabriel Geller liked many of these wines, but I could not get behind them in any way. There were a few that were nice and one that was lovely, but nothing to write home here. Sad! The 2006 and 2007 wines were BOTH very nice and lovely, here one nice and one lovely and the rest Ok to barely OK.

The 2011 5th Generation White blend (70% Chardonnay, 24% Chenin Blanc, 6% Semillon) felt disjointed and all over the place to me. This blend is not a common one, but one that is showing up in parts in other places. Still, I could not get behind it a B to B+ wine. The nose showed nice fruit but non-coherently. The mouth was OK but not my thing. The 2010 1848 Merlot, 2nd Generation was more tar and earth than fruit, again not for me. The 2010 1848 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2nd Generation was actually very much OK almost nice, not over the top sweet and with a hint of blue. The 2010 1848 Merlot/Cabernet blend was not for me way too far over the top and new world. The 2010 1848 Shiraz, 5th generation was the first nice wine on the list, blue, controlled ripe mouth, nicely done. The next nice wine was the 2010 1848 Cabernet Franc, 5th Generation – was straight up nice to lovely with light hints of animal, mounds of dirt, green notes, searing tannin, and roasted herbs – nicely done, all within a controlled palate. The 2009 1848 Cabernet/Merlot blend was nice but way too far over the top, the complexity and concentration is what makes it a B+ to A- wines, but not one that I would enjoy, but clearly a wine that many would enjoy. The 2009 1848 Special Reserve wine was unscoreable for me, the sweet notes dominate the wine to the point of rampant uncontrolled sweetness, rotting the tooth to the core, sorry not for me.

Harkham Winery

Anyone who follows my blog knows I am a fan of Harkham Winery, and that the wine that was displayed at the Royal wine event was actually tasted by the Royal Wine representatives, at the same time as I enjoyed them – last year in the summer time, in LA, at the Cask Harkham Winery tasting. At that event Richard (the wine maker) Harkham was there and he poured many of his un-sulfured wines along with a shocking new sulfured wine – the 2010 Harkham Shiraz (it was called Select in 2012 and there was no label). The wine scored and tasted exactly as it did 8 months ago and it is a real treat – please go out and find it. The animal is in your face, the charcoal is controlled but very much alive, and the black and red fruit is everywhere with a brooding and rich body – BRAVO Richard my friend, you continue to teach me and impress me!!! Also, you still owe me a bottle of the Rose and Nouveau and I am going to hold you to it my man!!! One of the most surprising wines to many people, but to me a surprise because of its availability, not its flavor which I knew was quite lovely. One of the most enjoyable surprises of the evening.

Capcanes Winery Table

As stated above, the Capcanes table was another screaming hit and had some great wines that were both on the table and behind it. Normally, all the wines were on the table closed, and the opened ones were behind the table, where only the pourer can handle them. Here, there were just two opened bottles and no unopened bottles – because these wines were not yet released. There were two entirely new wines from Capcanes and that was really fun, along with three new vintages and a magnum of an old vintage.

At the KFWE I did not like the 2012 Capcanes Rose, which is a Saignée (meaning juice was siphoned off from a red wine after a few hours of being in contact with the red grape skins) of the Peraj Petita so much. However, at the IFWF, where I tasted it again, the fruit showed much better and the acid was close to bracing, quite a nice wine, and one worth finding, though I think the Elvi Wines Rose (2011 Elvi Rosado). The 2011 Peraj Petita is quite nice a solid B+ to A- wine. The 2010 Peraj Habib is a very solid A- wine – but again, not a wine that blows me away like the Clos Mesorah – interesting really. The top two kosher Spanish wines are the Elvi and the Capcanes wines. In two of the cases I would prefer the 2010 Clos Mesorah over the 2010 Capcanes Peraj Habib, but the prices are a bit higher for the Clos Mesorah. The 2008 Magnum Peraj Habib was indeed lovely and rich and layered. The 2011 Flor de Flor was a bit of a step back from the 2010 Flor de Flor – but still a very nice A- wine. The Flor screams of charcoal, mineral, earthy notes, and red fruit. The clear winner of the table was the Capcanes 2012 Carignan – a sick and layered and CRAZY rich and unctuous wine – a wine well worth hunting for. The two new wines should be here in April or May, not in time for Passover. Not a dud to be found on this table – quite a winning table indeed!

Cave and Binyamina Table

This table held some really cool opportunities and some shocking misses. The first cool thing was the opportunity to taste the 2009 Cave mevushal right next to the non-mevushal Cave. The mevushal tasted cooked and stewed while the non-mevushal wine was quite nice, so I cannot say more than that. The top-level wineries are doing mevushal the right way, early – though the Shiloh wines are also done at bottling. The rule of old has been that the later you do the mevushal process the worse the impact on the wine. Shiloh may have found away around it, but they are not sharing anything about it with anyone. The 2009 non-mevushal Cave is a real winner of a wine, a wine that has concentrated, layered fruit, with big bold tannin and body, but controlled, no overly sweet or raisin notes – BRAVO! The 2007 Diamond was a shocker – it is losing it way – drink up my friends FAST! The body is slipping, while the tannins are still gripping, not as fun as it has been in the past. The 2009 Diamond is not in the same league as the 2007 was, again far too much date, raisin, and dried fruit. I would be interested to hear what others thought of it, but to me the overly sweet notes dominated the palate. 2009 Odem Syrah was equally not on par with the fantastic and sick 2006 vintage. The wine is also out of balance and overly sweet notes control the wine, but it has some fruit showing through – not my cup of tea. The 2009 Onyx Chardonnay is an OK to almost nice wine (B+) but not one worth the price, in my opinion. The Binyamina 2009 reserve wines were also a letdown for me. The clear winner of the Binyamina 2009 reserve wines was the Zinfandel, and though it showed clear sweet notes, it also was nice with spice and fruit. The Cabernet was way too overly sweet for me, while the Carignan reserve was controlled but not very exciting or expressive.

Hagafen table

I have spoken and blogged often about the Hagafen Winery, the original kosher winery in the entire world! As I described in my post on the winery, there were kosher wines being made before 1979, some by Carmel, some by Kedem, but for the most part – all of those wines were sacramental in nature. There were two wines made by Carmel, before its rebirth, that were spectacular; the #1 in 1900, and the 1976 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve. Though the wines were lovely, the winery predominantly made wine for the unsophisticated. What set Hagafen apart is that he created an entire winery for the sole purpose of creating top-flight kosher wines! He created a concept that had no proven consumer base – he went to the edge of a cliff and proudly declared that he had great Napa wines for sale that happened to be kosher. He found that there was an eager populace and has been growing the winery since then. I had the chance to taste through most of his wines before, at the winery, but at the show he released some new wines, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – quite lovely, deep and brooding a solid A- wine. The much anticipated 2007 Late Disgorged Brut Cuvee Sparkling wine – a solid A- sparkler – lovely, creamy, rich, and mousse filled – BRAVO! The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, was a bit sweet and there are some that will not like it, but to me it was a solid B+ Sauvignon Blanc, what was missing was the bracing acidity. The 2009 Cabernet Franc is filthy and lovely and a must buy. The other interesting wine was the dry White Riesling from the Rancho Wieruszowski Vineyard. Hagafen makes many white Riesling wines, but this one is very dry, not fully dry, but as dry as Ernie will let it get. This is another contentious wine, but to me, it is more than dry enough to call it a dry White Riesling wine. I liked it fine, scoring it A-, with great acid, slate, sweet Meyer lemon, and so much fruit that it screams for spicy food or great pasta dishes or grilled fish.

Elvi Wines Table

As I said when talking about the Capcanes table, the Clos Mesorah is a special and truly killer wine, with its only Achilles heel – being its high price. The 2009 Herenza Reserve takes last years killer wine, the Herenza Crianza and takes it to the next level, again a bit high on the price, but a SOLID A- and a bit more. The 2011 Ness Rosa is solid as well, an easy A- wine and maybe the best Rose at the tasting, but it may not make it to the USA, as not enough was produced. The new Elvi Cava is a very solid sparkler and one that initially I did not love, but after tasting it a couple of more times, came to truly appreciate with more red fruit than I am used to and very aggressive bubbles – and it is MEVUSHAL BABY!! The Invita did not do it for me this time around, it was OK, but did not grab my attention, I will have to taste it again and see. The new Ness Blanco was nice and OK, but the blend did not grab me as it has in the past, I think many of the white blends at the show did not show well – maybe it was me. The 2010 Mati was solid as it always is and very dependable. The 2008 Crianza continues to be a solid A- wine – with a very solid QPR rating at 24 bucks, while the Reserva was sick. The Clos Mesorah tied for best Spanish wine at the tasting with the 2012 Capcanes Carignan – two deep and rich wines – both great and very expensive – but neither will make you complain about quality you get. The 2007 Adar continues to be one of the best QPR wines out of Spain, with its deep notes and very reasonable price, along with the Mati, and the Crianza. Bravo again to the Elvi wine group!

I did taste other wines – but I will simply say they were not fun. I found the Soreka wines to be really way too sweet and not professionally built, again in my opinion. The new Pacifica wines were not winners. The Pinot continues to not impress, while the new 2011 Cab/Merlot blend from Washington was overly sweet with dried fruit, but I think some will like its spicy complexity, over the top oak, butterscotch, and charcoal. Maybe with time the wine will settle down. The 2010 Walla Walla Cabernet was more on target to me, with a lovely green expressive nose, but the mouth showed unfortunate fruit and a lack of complexity to me.

Please be careful here. There were MANY tables filled with great wines, but I saved them for LA’s IFWF. There was a table full of Herzog and Goose Bay wines that many of which made me stand up and say WOW! So, those are coming next. There were two French wines that were great as usual, the Pontet Canet, the 2010 Fleur de Perigord was nice and mevushal, 2007 Chateau Fourcas Dupre Medoc was OK, 2005 Chateau LeCrock was a letdown, 2005 Chateau Leoville Poyferre was lovely, 2005 Chateau Malartic Lagaviere was really nice, the 2004 Chateau Montviel from Pomerol was also lovely. To me the 2010 Chateau La Clare was bad, the 2010 Chateau Rollan de By was bad, and the 2010 Chateau Tour Seran was so-so. The most famous of the misses, to me, was the famous 2002 Chateau Valandraud, but again it could have been me.

Best dishes of the event

To me the entire eating event was more a race to get some than a sit down and relish affair, which was all on me and not the event. From there it was to the food and to taste from what many of the best kosher restaurants in New York came to share with us all. So I will list the best dishes – if that is OK:

  1. MASSIVE hunks of meat at the Pomegranate kiosk. I mean massive. I had plates of hunks of corned beef and pastrami
  2. et-al’s lamb bacon wrap was awesome as was the beef carpacio
  3. etc’s mole pablano was very nice!
  4. frinchie’s sweets were nice and REALLY sweet – all you need is a bit. They ship and the stuff was great!
  5. Gemstone’s smoked veal belly was nice along with the polenta
  6. Skipped anything that said cholent – LOL!!!,
  7. Skipped glatt-a-la-carte,
  8. Gotham burger, it was OK
  9. Hakodesh BBQ smoked beef brisket was nice
  10. Missed the heavenly table 😦
  11. Jack’s facon sandwich at Jack’s was OK – nothing great
  12. Le Marias was ok
  13. Miami Beach Chocolates – WERE AWESOME!!! Rich, silky smooth and all parve!!!
  14. Pardess – the clear and BEST table/restaurant without question, the stuffed beef Carpaccio were killer and the very best – BRAVO
  15. Missed TRG – the kobe sliders were nice from what I hear
  16. Missed wolf and lamb
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Posted on February 20, 2013, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Semi Sweet Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

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