An evening of Kosher Pinot Noir and Grenache

2012 Hajdu GrenacheOn a shabbos, a few weeks ago, we enjoyed a lovely evening of Pinot Noir and grenache wines. It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel is one of those countries that is starting to really come into its own with Pinot Noir. Israel may still trail France in the number of kosher Pinot Noir wines produced, but in sheer quality it may have it beat.

Say to many that Israel can create Pinot Noir and you will get many people, including wine makers in Israel itself, that rankle at the thought. The temperature is so darn hot there, that in one day the Pinot can go from a lovely grape with a bit more time needed, to a raisin. There is so little leeway with Pinot Noir, that making it in Israel is a nightmare. Still, many have succeeded, and maybe no one more than the INCREDIBLE 2008 Yarden PN! I was shocked! Just shocked. I would NEVER have said it was an Israeli PN.

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not heaven forbid on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines, NO NOT because of sideways! I loved the wine long before that horrific cult movie hit the theaters. I love PN for what it stands for – complexity through things other than fruit! A well made Pinot Noir, in my humble opinion, needs to be of medium body, medium fruit structure, accompanied by mounds of dirt, mushroom, barnyard, and earthy goodness. The ultimate aspect of a great PN is the secondary flavors, not the fruit, not cherry cola, and for the LOVE OF GOD not OAK! It is all about the secondary and old age notes that come with time and love.

Sadly, look at that list. Four Gates has had no Pinot Noir in a few years, though some are coming. Same goes for Ella Valley, though more is coming. I truly LOVE Gvaot PN, but they are more Cab and rich in nature then a pure ethereal wine, though very impressive, though the 2010 Gvaot PN is close. The 2004 La Tour is indeed a safe bet, rather than its 2003 sibling which was a disaster. Each bottle of the 2003 was hit or miss, enjoy that at 200+ a pop! The landsman 2011 PN was SICK! The 2012 was OK, I really hope the next ones will be as good as the 2011. The Eagle’s Landing wines are gone. The Makom is a nice wine and very reminiscent of a lovely Pinot in style and complexity.

So, where are we? Clearly that is a VERY short list. Some like the 2009 and 2010 Galil PN, and I will try those soon. But seriously, that is a short list. Heck there are HUNDREDS of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, even many Cabernet Franc options. But say Pinot and numbers dwindle in the blink of an eye. Further, many of the options here are vintage based. For the true Pinot lover, Four Gates, Ella Valley, Makom, and Landsman (sometimes) are the goto options. Sadly, only the last two are pumping out wines consistently.

This concept was recently discussed on the Israeli and kosher wine forum, the forum that was run by the late Daniel Rogov. The conversation revolved around what is Pinot Noir, what is a French Burgundy, and why are there so few good options in the kosher wine world.

So, there we are – I hope we understand the dearth of options that exist in the kosher Pinot Noir landscape. With that in mind, I thought it was high time to have a Pinot Noir tasting, along with the fact that a guest who came to our house said he liked Pinot Noir and Grenache! In a way, it was the perfect wine combo! Grenache is called the “Pinot noir of the Rhone Valley” for its finicky growing style as well, so the combo was chosen.

Now if good kosher Pinot Noir is a pain to find – forget about Grenache!! Here is the list – the TOTAL list that I would drink:

  1. Hajdu Winery (many epic wins including 2007 and 2010 and 2012)
  2. Capcanes Winery
  3. Ramon Cardova
  4. Vignobles David (VDR)
  5. Elvi Winery
  6. Shirah Winery
  7. Dalton GMS 2012 – that is out in israel – awesome wine!

That is it! To be truly fair, only the first three are made of 100% Grenache wine. The rest of the winery list uses grenache in their wines, some even do it to 50%, like Shirah Winery, but only the first two can call their wines Grenache. Capcanes makes a killer flor del flor from 85 to 100 year old vines. While Hajdu has been making Grenache and Grenache Blanc now for many years. If there was ONE Grenache expert – it would have to be Hajdu, though that flor del flor is truly a fantastic wine as well.

The interesting thing about the tasting was the fact that many really liked the GS but the second they had the Hajdu Grenache – everyone realized this was a GREAT wine, blind or not. The funny thing was that when I had it a few months ago – it was not in the same place. This wine has really come into its own in the past 5 or so months – it is really impressive.

So, with that background – we set to make a dinner for friends that could showcase these wines. We also decided that the tasting would be blind, though I knew the labels already. In the end, I was shocked by some wines, as I had not tasted them in years. Most notably, the NV Four gates Cuvee D, which was much misaligned by many, and thankfully I have more!

For dinner we started with the herb encrusted gefilte fish, followed by meatballs, roasted vegetables, rice pilaf, and a fresh green salad. The first wine was a majority Grenache Rosat (AKA Rose) wine from Capcanes, which was really nice with good acidity, mineral, saline, and bitter notes. That was followed by the Pinot and then Grenache wines.

The wine notes follow below in the order that they were enjoyed:

2013 Capcanes Peraj Petita Rosat – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is a blend of 60% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Merlot that was made using the Saignée method. The nose starts with strawberry and raspberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows nice acid, good balancing bitterness, with cherry, kiwi, and a bit of tannin. The finish is long and spicy with nutmeg, saline, and pepper – NICE!

2011 Hagafen Pinot Noir Napa Valley – Score: B to B+
The nose is ripe with raspberry, strawberry, and dark cherry, with dirt and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with candied Kirsch cherry notes, nice acid, and garrigue with tart and bitter notes along with coffee trailing.

2010 Goose Bay Pinot Noir – Score: B
Sadly this wine is over the hill with bricking color and toasty notes, lots of nice dirt, but the lack of fruit and much of anything else really detracts from the wine.

2012 Makom Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir and a far more conventional wine that the rose of blanc. The grapes were sourced from a vineyard called Jenner that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, on the true and authentic Sonoma coast. The nose on this wine shows classical pinot notes with a southern twang, starting with intense candied strawberry, dark cherry, dirt, and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine hits you with layers of dark red fruit, plum, followed by intense spice, that flows into a mouth coating tannin blanket, along with hints of toast, and cloves. The finish is long and well spiced with mocha chocolate, coffee, toffee, smoky notes, all wrapped up in cinnamon, cloves, and all spice – BRAVO!

NV Four Gates Pinot Noir Cuvée D – Score: A-
The nose on this wine surprised many. It was drunk blind and was one of the top Pinot wine winners, along with the 2009 Four Gates Pinot, which was the best for me. The nose starts with crazy cherry notes, along with strawberry, lovely dirt, cloves, coffee, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with layers of blackberry, plum, red fruit, bracing acid, sweet cedar, and herb. The finish is long and spicy with eucalyptus, licorice, nice spice, and rich vanilla – YUM!

2009 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is rich with proto-barnyard notes, lovely loamy dirt, and dark fruit that many at the table, along with rich toast and spice. When tasting blind many thought this was a syrah. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with layers of black concentrated fruit, plum, blackberry, dark cherry, and sweet cedar, along with searing tannin and softening attack. The finish is long and dark with rich blackcurrant, hints of zinberry, and lovely spice and coffee – BRAVO!!!

2010 Shirah Counter Punch, Vogelzang Vineyard – Score: A-
The wine is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah, but from different vineyards than the 1-2 punch. The nose on this wine is really intoxicating and has now come together. The nose starts with white peach, followed by pomegranate, ripe raspberry jam, crazy blue fruit, and earth. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with nice watermelon, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, ripe blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and ripe with sweet mocha chocolate, leather, nice rich mouth coating tannin, root beer, black tea, black pepper, and licorice. VERY NICE!

2012 Hajdu Grenache, Eagle Point Ranch – Score: A- (and a bit more)
I must be honest here, I was not a huge fan of this wine when it was first released, however, with time this wine has opened far more, showing its true inner beauty. This is NOT the 07-famed Grenache, which was a blockbuster wine, this is more a wine that lives up to the idiom; “Grenache is the Pinot Noir of the Rhone Valley”. Initially the wine opens to what can only be described as a cherry aroma perfume – deeply aromatic and lovely with earthy notes, spice, and watermelon. The mouth drives with rich layers of red fruit, blue notes, deep earthy concentration, crazy and awesome mouth coating tannin, lovely spice, and cinnamon. The finish is long and spicy with saline, mineral, nutmeg, cloves, mad spice, and black pepper. BRAVO!!!

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Posted on October 7, 2014, in Food and drink, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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