KFWE LA – a star is born in Hollywood

W_entranceIt was early on a beautiful winter day in LA when I made my way to the hall at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA – where the IFWF was being held this year. OOPS! I meant KFWE LA! Yes, the IFWF changed its name to the KFWE and it turned really Hollywood hip as it made its way down the sunset strip to the W Hotel, home to stars and socialites alike, and now I hope home to the newest kosher wine event star – the KFWELA!

If it seems like I have unbridled praise for this event, you would be correct. Recently, someone told me that my style of writing did not work for them; as they state it – your combination of unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm, surety of mind, and lapidary form of expression can be grating to me. Though he says it is on him – who knows.

If this or other posts are grating, I totally understand and thankfully no one is forced to read my articles – as I have said in the past, I write them mostly for myself – kind of like my own wine diary.

Anyway, this post will be filled with “unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm and surety of mind“. By the way, if one is not sure of what they think – why write it? I write the way I speak – with assurance and knowledge, if I do not know an answer – I am happy to say I have no idea.

Anyway, this event will be engraved in my mind with lapidary precision because it was epic. Still, I am getting ahead of myself – so let us rewind here for a second.

This “year” there were 6 shows in the KFWE portfolio. It all started last year late 2014 in Miami where Royal in combination with WIZO, kicked off the KFWE season with a great warmup event! I say that because while the event went off without a hitch, and there were MANY great wines at the event, the food was a bit underwhelming to say the least. Still, it was here where we first tasted all the new French wines;

  • the new 2012 Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré, a second label for the famous winery, which uses its youngest vines to make this wine.The wine is lovely and well worth the cost, but not at the same level as the epic 11 Moulin Riche
  • the new 2012 Château Le Crock, which was OK.
  • the epic 2011 Chateau Haut Condissas Medoc, a truly lovely wine.
  • the new 2012 Chateau Giscours, the best NEW kosher wine at the tasting.
  • the new 2012 Domaine l’Or de Line Chateauneuf Du Pape, a very nice wine.
  • finally, the second best new wine of the tasting – the 2012 Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It too is a second label wine, but was quite a winner in my book.

The food not withstanding, the event was solid and the wines showed very well under the warm Miami day/evening.

Pierre and Olivier CuvelierThe next event was in Israel, and if I had to say it was probably the best run event from beginning to end, of the ones I attended. I am talking about the 2015 Zur tasting in Tel Aviv. The event was not crowded at all, the food was very good, and the wines were only the best of what they wanted to show. So, to some extent it was kind of like the all-star show – in the beginning of the season. They did have a limited supply of wines, but of the wines they poured, they were all top performers (excluding a table or two). On top of that, Mr. Olivier Cuvelier – the man that runs the family owned Chateau Léoville Poyferré, was there and talking about his wines. He is a delightful man, one who is passionate about his wines but also mindful of the man who brought him fame in the kosher wine world – Pierre Miodownick. Of course, he has received world wide acclaim for his non kosher wines, which is well deserved, but Pierre was working with him in the 90s – before Léoville Poyferré was all over the wine mags.

Almost all the wines there showed well! There were repeat performances of almost of the 12 French wines, that Pierre makes (that we had in Miami). Their were also all the new 12 wines from Herzog, which I think showed beautifully and were very solid to great. Finally, there was the new 2013 Flechas Gran Malbec, that is really worth buying!

The table full of epic French kosher wines was worth the trip all in itself! The food, wines, view (the 49th floor of the Azrieli building in Tel Aviv shows panoramic views), and hosts made for a very lovely evening in Tel Aviv.

KFWE NYC 2015The next event was a few days later in London, which I could not make. The next week was the KFWE NYC and while they moved to a new location, it was even more crowded than last year. The wines were very nice, some of which were brand new, while others were repeats from last year. The shockers that were at NYC and not in LA were the 2014 blanc de Pinot Noir rose from Goose Bay – a crazy good wine with mad QPR, if you can find any. Good enough to be up there with a few of the best ever. The 14 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc was epic as well. The biggest star of last minute additions was the Matar Winery – the new kosher wines from Pelter Winery. GG and I went to the winery, in Israel, and we tasted the new 14 and older reds, I will make a separate post for those wines. For now suffice it to say, that they are some of the most – NON-Israeli wines to ever come out of Israel! The best new Israeli wine at the NYC event, outside of the Matar wines had to be the new 2011 Carmel Kayoumi Cabernet Sauvignon. It was controlled, rich, layered, and very nice! Another Israeli winery that is making great wines, that are not over oaked or over ripe, would be the Tzuba Winery.  Their Tzuba Pinot Noir and Metsuda were both very nice. The new 2010 Noble from Flam was at the Miami show, but it was not showing well there. Here in NYC it showed as well as it did at the winery – very impressive wine. Of course, the rest of the Flam table was epic. The Netofa table was lovely, including some older Tinto and Latour wines. Yair brought a bottle of the 2013 Netofa latour white, and I said here, the 13 and 14 wines from Netofa are their best yet. People were oohing and aahing about the incredible 13 Netofa Latour white – and it is well deserved! The Castel table rarely disappoints, and the 2014 Rose that they brought a bottle of along with the Petite Castel and Grand Vin were all lovely. The rose is more floral than mineral, but a lovely wine that will sell out quickly this year, as it has done in the past two vintages.

Having been to the Tulip winery, a few weeks back, I breezed through all the wines at the table to check them out, and the travel had not seemed to hurt them too much. The White Franc and the Cabernet Franc continue to impress, along with the Just Cab and the Mostly Shiraz.

As always, the Spanish table is a winner, and this year was different! The 2013 Clos Mesorah was fantastic, along with the new Elvi Herenza Semi, a great Rioja for a very good price. The Capcanes wines were all last year’s wines, but they were showing beautifully and are showing well.

Besides the Matar wines, the other BRAND new winery was the 12 Brilliance Cabernet Sauvignon from Padis Winery, and it was very Napa. The Padis winery makes non kosher wines form their 15 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and they have been receiving high acclaim for many years. Recently, Steve, the owner of Pads Vineyards, decided he wanted to drink wines with his Jewish wine buddies, and so he made a barrel of kosher wine, on the side and it was well received. With that impetus, he made the 2012 Brilliance Cabernet Sauvignon, with the help of his friend Ernie Weir, the winemaker of Hagafen Winery. The wine is named brilliance, a play on the fact that Padis made his name and success on the heels of his successful Jewelry businesses. They made more in this past season, 2014, and you will be seeing the grapes showing up in the Herzog winery soon enough, more on that when it comes out.

There will be those who love the 2012 Brilliance, and in that case – it is now available for 70 or so dollars. For me, it is a fine wine, no flaws, no date juice or the like, but it lacked the acid that I crave to make it a rich and unctuous wine. It is a solid B+ to A- wine and one that will and should appeal to many in the kosher market.

Keeping with the Cali theme, the Covenant wines continue to be lovely, though they were pouring last years wines. Still, the 2011 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc were great examples of lovely wines in the hands of experts.

Another pair of interesting wines that were at the NYC event were the 2012 Lafon Tavel Rose and the 2011 Or Haganuz Elima Blend. They are both “organic” in nature – meaning they had little to no sulfites added, but they will of course have sulfites, as all red wine has natural sulfites from the grape skins. I asked for more information on the Tavel and when I get it I will post again. The Elima 2011 was a very solid wine and not one for long keeping, but it may be an option for those with sulfite issues.

Once the evening starting and the place filled up I headed out early, but not before I tried some great food from Les Marais, Mike’s Bistro, Prime Grill, Bedford (they had a crazy good selection), and of course Sushi Tokyo. I then made my way out and went back to my hotel to get ready for my trip to LA, the next day. The trip was fine, but wow is LA traffic as bad as the movies make it out to be!. In the middle of the day, 2 or so PM, the highways leading out of LAX are packed. Go figure!

KFWE entrance

The next day, the trade event started and we made our way to the Great Room, where the event was taking place, and I had a chance to taste through some older vintages, and all of the mevushal wines that I could find. The winners on the mevushal front were the Herzog 12 and 13 vintages, which are improving every year, the goosebay wines, the Hagafen whites (tasted in NYC), the 12 Padis Brilliance, and the Alfasi Malbec/Syrah, Reserve – nice wine! The new 2012 Pacifica Pinot Noir is very nice, though I wish it had a drop more acid. Also, the bubbly section was mostly mevushal, with the very good Elvi Cava and the Drappier wines. The Cardova Granacha has turned for me, and is not showing like it did in the past. The new Rioja and Crianza are both mevushal and very solid option for those looking for a wedding wine. Of the Shiloh wines, I would stick with the new Merlot Reserve and the Cabernet Franc, along with the legend. The rest were a bit over the top, sweet fruit wise, for me. It is sad, because the mevushal wines in Israel were lovely, so it is NOT the process. Maybe it is the storage or the transport, but the wines did not show well at all.

The new 2012 Weinstock Cellar Select wines continue to be some of my go to mevushal wines. The Cabernet Franc was very nice as was the Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

2015 KFEW LA eventThe best Italian wine there continues to be the 2009 Chianti Classico from Terra di Seta, a lovely 100% kosher winery in Tuscany! The Reserva is nice, but it is a bit more fruit forward than I like.

Other French wines that blew me away were the 2010 Fourcas Dupre, the 2009 Chateau Tertre Daugay, St Emilion, Grand Cru, the 2013 Bokobsa Chablis, and the 2012 Bokobsa Sancerre. The Tabor wines were lovely, Tabor continues to excel with their whites and their reds. However, the new Adama II wines were not my kind of wine, both here and in Israel, again they were too fruit forward for me. The 2010 Limited Cabernet Sauvignon was quite lovely!

Surprisingly, they did not have the Binyamina Late harvest Gewurztraminer at the KFWE NYC, so I tasted it here and it continues to be one of the best QPR sweet white wines out there.

In the end, many of the wines showed well, the event space was lovely, and the food was very good. This year. for the trade and for the main event, the general admission tickets were served food from some of Los Angeles’ premier kosher restaurants, following the well accepted practiuces of the KFWE platform. Ditmas was all over the place, along with Meshuga Sushi, and Pats and others. Tierra Sur did serve food for general admission, but the VIP food was off the charts. To me the sushi was spot on, as was Ditmas, and La Gondola, and of course Tierra Sur.

With all the shows almost in the bag, to me, KFWE did not start till it ended! The VIP show at this year’s KFWE LA was so hugely epic that to many there – this was one of the best events they had been to in a long time. Let me start by saying that many people were there from NYC, they skipped the NYC show – as they disliked the crowds. Others had been to the show before, but wanted place to either sit down or be free to move about. The VIP allowed for all of this and much more. The busiest place in the VIP section was on the deck – where there were 50+ folks smoking cigars, drinking hand make drinks, and overall reveling in the madness that was the best KFWE and the crazy good weather!

Sure, the Zur event was hugely professional, but if you take into account JUST the VIP, there was no contest, the KFWE LA VIP was the hands down winner of all the KFWE shows. Yes, I did leave out the London event, but it was pretty busy from what I hear, but highly civilized, from what people told me. Think NYC, but with lines! WOW! No pushing, no shoving, no side shows, just patient folks with centuries of culture – keeping them all in line. The other event was the event in Minnesota, in the dead of winter – it was a very generous and philanthropic gift by the Herzog family, which was well attended by 400+ people, but it was not the KFWE LA VIP. What can I say – BRAVO!

Now, to be fair, balanced reporting here (hysterical), the general admission part of the event was a bit crowded, nothing near the NYC event, but for LA standards, it was a bit tight. Still, I went back there two times to help friends and to taste stuff on my own, and I was able to move about without too much effort. Also, while the VIP was lovely, it was not like ALL the wines were there! The vast majority of the wines were in the main hall, however, the VIP section was pouring some great high end wines, like the 2010 Flam Noble, the 2011 Cave Old Vine Cab and others. It was also pouring some older Herzog wines, like the 2012 Chalk Hill Cab, the 2004 Alex Cab – which was dynamite! Actually, except for one wine at the VIP tasting (not one of the above listed wines of course), I loved everything they poured.

VIP Plate of Carved meatsFood wise, there was no KFWE that touched the VIP session. There was food everywhere you looked. There were waiters walking around with lovely tuna sashimi and other goodies. Still, the epic food, the stuff that everyone was oohing and aahing about was slabs of perfectly cooked meat in the food room. The lamb was cooked to perfection, it was sweet, soft, and melted in your mouth! The veal roulade was equally impressive, but the beef wellington, was the star! The meat was cooked perfectly, the puff pastry was not an add-on to the dish, and the spinach and mustard inside was a perfect balance to the rich and unctuous meat. There were guys getting plates of the stuff and telling me how they needed more – it was truly classic Tierra Sur food served in its most hedonistic and raw form – which to me, seemed to serve the foodies just fine!

Hand Rolled Cigars for smoking on the patioThe patio started really slow, which was great because I wanted to relax and get some drinks in me. I had been tasting so much wine for so long, it was time to drink some liquor already! There were two open bars, serving mixed drinks and Tequila and God only knows what other elixirs. I stuck with the margaritas and straight up tequila. Others were puffing their minds out – on hand rolled cigars and drinking whatever was in sight! There was XO and other spirits in the main VIP room, but if you wanted to enjoy them with your cigar you had to do a bit of shuttling back and forth, which of course including more food – while u were up already!

Finally, after an hour or more, my friends showed up – they did not factor in LA traffic, which is akin to saying they came late because they forget to breathe and watch out for killer handbag Chihuahuas! No, there were none of those annoying creatures at the event – thank god, but they were all over LA! Anyway, I made my way back to the main hall, and made sure they tasted most of the wines listed above, the wines were also on my blog! I posted them an hour before the main event – after the trade event ended.

Once they were tasted wines, I tasted a few more wines myself – many French of course and then I made my way back to the patio to enjoy some more hand made drinks. It turns out, that while I was helping my buds, the VIP section kept pouring better and older wines – I missed those, and that was the genius of the VIP! There was never a dull moment, you always had all the food and wine and drink you could handle. There was all the room you could use, and you were surrounded by like minded individuals, each at their own level of sobriety!

Friends of mine brought their clients and they were not only impressed by the event, they were impressed by the selection of kosher food and wine and spirits. To me that is the point of the KFWE, it is to continuously push the envelope in what kosher can mean to the food and wine culinary world. The more that KFWE and other shows prove that kosher is not a four letter word, the more the wines and the food will get their well deserved due.

The genius behind the KFWE and the VIP was a combination of many things. First was the change of venue, making teh event at the hip W really added to the environment and experience. Next, was the great selection of wines and local restaurants that served great food and wines. Finally, the VIP session was an extension to the normal KFWE routine/recipe. Beyond everything I already stated, the VIP was just that – VIP! It riffed off all the popular and successful events that the Oxnard Winery does all year round. Special menus for the club members, the hand rolled cigar night, the spirits night, and the hand mixed drinks. All of these ideas were brought to bear on a single night to showcase – exactly what LA has to offer the kosher wine and spirit world. Hitting that theme hard and implementing it to perfection was what made the VIP session such a monster hit. The weather, food, wine, room, focus, and overall good feeling made for a wonderful experience.

To say that KFWE ended on a high note would be an understatement and it would not be demeaning it! The KFWE LA CRUSHED it, with the VIP and was solid all around. I personally emailed Joseph Herzog and David Whittemore, the master minds behind the entire KFWE LA event, after the show. I wished them a well deserved Kudos for the effort required to put this show together. They humbly replied back that this was a group effort, but accepted the the good tidings on behalf of the entire group.

Like I said before, for me, the KFWE shows started where it ended. Still, I will continue to go to as many as possible, because I love meeting the folks, tasting the wines, and making sure to get the word out on each and every event to my readers!

Posted on February 20, 2015, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Semi Sweet Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

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