California kosher wine living for 2015

As you all can see I hope, I have been trying to place some focus on the kosher wines from around the world, Israel, France, and my most recent post of the top whites, rose, and bubblies. But to a certain extent, I have been leaving my roots behind, California kosher wines. So this week, I thought I would just work on the notes that I have for all the kosher wines that I have tasted this past year that have been in California, both north, central, and south.

Of course, the list is well known, staring in Napa, that would be Hagafen Winery, and Covenant Winery (though not officially in Napa any longer, it sources the majority of its fruit from Napa) and Hajdu Winery (both are made now in Berkeley, CA). Next is Four Gates Winery, followed by Shirah Winery and La Fenetre, and then finally Herzog Winery, and the 2010 wines from Agua Dolce (AKA Craig Winchell).

To be honest some of these wines are all sold out already, as I slept on the job, but hey I will post them anyway, also it is good to keep track of the wines you have in the cellar.

California kosher Wines

Before I go to the notes, I wanted to talk about California wines for a bit. California wines, for the most part, are sweet wines. Please note the term “sweet” but not date! They are controlled and ripe, but round and full powered. Sadly, there were one or two occasions where the wine had a mind of its own, one Shirah wine and one Agua Dolce wines, that come to immediate memory. But otherwise, they are on the whole very round, ripe, and in your face. There are also, non sweet wines from California, almost old world in nature, like the Covenant wines – for the most part, along with the higher end Herzog wines that are not quite old world – but are indeed mineral or dry fruit based. Four Gates wines are starting to get a bit more ripe, but for the most part continue to show old world style wines, based on the intense acid and lovely mineral notes.

So, how does this compare to Israel and other locals? Well, Spain continues to make great wines for reasonable prices; except for a few Capcanes wines whose prices have went higher after Royal took over distribution. Still, Spanish kosher wines continue to be one of the best places for consistently good, unique, and balanced wines. California to me is the dark horse, sure some of the prices are higher, especially Four Gates, which has been raising prices over the past few years, but California kosher wines continue to be a great place to find wines that are balanced and not overly fruit forward.

As stated, of the list of previously described kosher wines in Cali, and listed below as well, I must say that Covenant, Four Gates, and Herzog are producing new world wines with a clear old world bent. The rest are creating lovely and extremely good new world wines – while showing control with only a couple of exceptions.

In comparison to Israel, I must say that Cali and Spain have Israel beat, for someone like myself. The proof to my statement is in my cellar, over the past year I have moved away from Israel and over to Spain and Cali, with the obvious exception to the wonderful whites/rose/bubbly coming from Israel, and the few red producers that are making great wines. The hope, as I continue to say, is that more wineries follow them and create better wines in Israel, till then I will be shifting hard to France, Spain, Cali, and only the very top Israeli wineries.

So, what makes Cali wines better to me than Israeli wines? Simple, control and balance. California wines, kosher or not, are ripe, the heat demands it, still, it is how those grapes are managed afterwards. I have been able to be part of the wine making at some wineries, and it is a real education to watch wines evolve, simply because the juice is not where the work ends. Once the red grapes are crushed there are two more stages in the wine’s development that define the wine; Fermentation(s) and barrel/tank aging. I am skipping bottle aging, not because it is not important, but because few wineries really do that here in California. The exceptions are Four Gates Winery (that keeps its Merlot some 3-5 years in bottle before releasing), and some of Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines as well.

Oak Usage

Issues that occur in the fermentation(s) stage are not unique to Cali, in any manner, but California has been seeing a fair amount of stuck fermentations in both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations recently. More importantly though is that once the first fermentation is complete the red wines enter the next stage of wine management; barrel aging (unless there is a prolonged cold soak – like Shirah and a few other Wineries do).

It is in the barrel aging where Cali is unique, in its usage of American Oak – which gives wines here those green basil and dill notes, along with coconut/extreme vanilla notes. When people think of Zinfandel, they think Cali and the classic sweet notes that American oak gives those wines. Again, this is really only prominent in the lower level wines of most wineries, kosher or not, but the sweet noted American Oak nuances can be found in more wines – than just those baseline wines. I always ask what barrels were used to make the wine, sometimes I am told a mix or pure American, but when I am told the oak used was all French or Hungarian, I listen but verify!

To me, there is a large usage of American oak, lending towards notes of sweet vanilla and sweet dill. This may turn some off, but to me it is all about balance. The sweet notes from American oak may be pronounced, but American oak also gives you something that French oak gives, but in a far slower manner, and that is heft and weight, and lovely tannin management. French oak is often tight grained, meaning it gives off its benefits, in a slow and gradual manner, while American oak – in a generalization of course, is very akin to the inhabitants, upon whose country they grow – loud and in your face! I find this fact very fascinating, Europeans – again generalization, are more reserved and slow to open up – and their oak acts with wine in the same manner. It eventually adds the weight – nuanced with rich undertones, while American oak adds weight, sweet notes – more quickly and more pronounced than its ilk across the pond.

With that said, American oak is used the world around, they are sold by US and European cooperages, in a myriad of configurations, that would blow your mid. Some buy French oak barrels with American oak heads, with heavy/medium/light toast and on and on go the options. It has become so complex that now barrel merchants are not describing the barrels any longer, but rather they sell the barrels based upon your desired outcome. Say you want a medium weight Zinfandel with Cali flavors – they will sell you barrels to give you that, whether that includes American oak or not. To me, I find the barrel treatment discussion fascinating and one that is well understood in academia and higher end wineries, but one that is making its way into the lingua franca of wine talk now. More and more people understand that it is less about the amount of time a wine sits in the oak and more about what the winemaker wants out of the wine.

Time in the barrel (new or old), for a long time, to me was a marketing aspect. In Israel, there are wineries that are so proud of their barrel time, that it is part of the label. In California, this is not a trend, but rather a cute marketing ploy by one or two wineries overall (think a wine from Cali with numbers in the name). Thankfully, this is the only real example I know of in Cali and it is not a trend at all here. In Israel, I think the barrel craze is passing, and they are realizing that oak is more of a vehicle than a destination, more of spice than recipe.

Till recent times, wines from California were dominated by American oak, but thankfully in the past five years this has shifted to be less about the cost savings and more about the destination. Lower level wines are showing more nuance, finesse, control, and style – with focus more on the wine than the spice.

When you say Four Gates Winery, I think old world wines in California. Same with Covenant and some higher end Herzog wines. Hagafen is the epitome of Napa Wines, and there is no interest or desire to change that. That is what makes Cali so fascinating. They have succeeded in making world-class wines without compromising on the region’s personality, something that I wish Israel would do more of. Again, a perfect example of this in Israel is Tzora, Netofa, Flam, Recanati’s med series, and Matar to name a few. The potential is there, what is missing is the desire to make them by the wineries.

In California, the wines are built to last. The control allows for it, and the proof is in the bottle. The 1996 and 1997 Four Gates Merlot and Pinot are mind blowing wines, along with the 2007 and younger Hajdu wines. Covenant Winery has also been proving this year after year with their landmark Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon wines. They have patented the ability to create a soft, accessible, and enjoyable wine at release, but also one that can age and change with time. Finally, Herzog has been proving itself with its reserve and Eagles landing wines, showing they too can age with style.

Bottle Aging

It is this point that I lament, I feel for those that jump the gun and drink their Cali wines right out of the gate. These wines are built to last, same with Herzog’s reserve Cabernets and Hagafen’s older reds. The white wines are no different, they may start out a bit sweeter than their red counterparts, but with time they mellow and show beauty that one would not have expected with age.

Take the Four Gates 1997 Chardonnay we tasted a couple of weeks ago – the wine was insane and drunk too fast, but it is an example of whites that are built to last and whose proof is in the glass. Another example is the 2003 and 2004 vintages of Covenant Winery’s world-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Upon release they show the depth of flavor in these Cabernet wines, but they also show what a bit of age can do for these wines. When they were released there were no notes of sweetness or old world style, just lots of cherry, spice, and garrigue. With age the wines have become intoxicating and beyond memorable. The difference here being that the wines were built for age and they had the even hand of Jeff Morgan controlling them. The same can be said for Four Gates Winery and Benyo Cantz. The fruit is colder climate fruit, coming from Santa Cruz, but it is also all about control, and Benyo has that in spades, along with acid core wines that allow the wines to age with a lovely balance for a long time. With age, the wines show very old world, with barnyard, earth, leather, and lovely fruit showing through.

Wine Clubs

Before I move on to the notes, I really wanted to hit on the wine club mantra of California wineries. California was built on the backs of wine clubs, and I mean that quite seriously. Look back to the early days of the original California wine club – Wine of the Month Club. Mind you this club was a mix of US and International wines. Another famous wine club, whose writing is far more colorful than mine, is Kermit Lynch who also started a famous wine club – but his was more of a newsletter, selling the wines he brought back from France and then the rest of the world, as a negociant.

Wether the club is a monthly shipment, or quarterly, or more like Kermit’s which is a newsletter hawking the wines he imports, clubs are all around you. The main appeal to a club is the preselection aspect, meaning that someone has worked through all the chaff in the world of wines, and given their speciality (France, Cali, QPR, red, white, rose, sweet, etc.) they have found – what they hope – is the cream of the crop for you to enjoy. The wines arrive to your home, eliminating the hassle, the awkward silence when you walk into a store with a few walls of wine, and the perceived embarrassment from not knowing what the perfect wine is for your palate. Of course, they all start off that way, but with time you start to find yourself moving from club to club given the changes in your palate and desires.

Like a wine maker told me in jest, when he is faced with a difficult wine to sell, there is always the wine club. Wine clubs have for a long time been centered on that fact along with the less insidious reasoning of – getting your winery’s name out there. The more wine clubs have continued the more they look like France’s futures, with cult wineries like screaming eagle and the sort selling out before they are even made. Those are not officially wine clubs, those are the core wines of the winery being sold in the future. More and more Israel is starting to get into the futures game, with Flam and now Recanati selling their top line wines in a future format. The idea there is to sell the wines ahead of time, even before the customer has tasted it – in return for lower prices but sure sales for the winery. It is a classic win-win, until it is not a win – like Bordeaux futures in 2011, they did nots ell, and those who did buy were not very happy. So where is the world of wine clubs nowadays? They lie in one of three camps:

  1. Selling the winery’s core wines for a nice discount, along with fun facts of the winery, and simplicity in terms of not needing to leave your home for the wines. In the kosher wine world this is exactly what the base line clubs of Hagafen and Herzog are all about. They send you wines you could get at the store, but with a nice discount for being a customer, and every so often you are thrown in a nice bonus, like a cool wine or cutting board, but the wines always come at a cost, albeit a discounted one.
  2. A special set of wines that are only available as part of the wine club. This would include Covenant’s Landsman club and Herzog’s Eagle Landings. Here again the wines are given at a discount, depending upon the size of your quarterly order. For Herzog this is only in their higher level club, while with Covenant there is only one club, but size matters, in terms of the discounts. On an aside, I am sure many will state that the same could be said for Hagafen’s Prix club, but that is not 100% true as I can buy those Prix wines at the winery, while the same can not be said for Covenant or Herzog, unless you beg profusely, and then maybe they will help you for past vintages if you join going forward (a few note worthy Landsman and Eagle Landing wines are listed below – pay special attention to both’s Pinot offerings).
  3. Finally, there is the hybrid approach – used by both Herzog in one of their club offerings and Hagafen, being that there are special winery only wines made for the club and the tasting room. If you are in the club you will get the wines, otherwise, go to the winery and you better hope you are not too late, before they are all sold out of these small batch wines.

Personally, I find wine clubs to be useful for those who do not live next to a winery. As a Cali resident, most wineries are within reach and as such unless they are selling something I cannot otherwise achieve I go with the simple approach. Why you ask? Well, in a word consistency. I have been, off and on, on almost every wine club and in some the wines are hit and miss, to the extent that I have left a few. What can I do, I love the unique wines but I do not love being stuck with 6 wines that I do not like! Still, to me Herzog’s Eagle’s Landing club is a no brainer. The wines have been consistent and very enjoyable. After that, I would go with the Landsman, but 2012 was a really hard year for them. Honest and blunt, they made a few friends bail, which is a shame because the 2013 Pinot was awesome as was the 2013 Syrah, maybe their best wine to date, other than the epic 2011 Pinot. So, where does that put Hagafen? Well, to me Hagafen has always been a winery in my backyard and one that I can drive to twice or three times a year and where I can pick up what I need. Does that mean others should do the same? Well, no, Prix wines from Hagafen need time, they need tome to settle and show their best, harkening back to my previous statement about bottle aging – step away from the bottle and drink some award winning Don Ernesto Rose or dry riesling and leave the prix bottles alone in the wine cave!

Wine Notes per Winery

So, when you start tasting these Cali wines, think about the barrels, the fruit, and the wine maker and see if you can pull out the American oak versus the French or Hungarian. Also, see if you see old world or new and whether the wines are built for a year or a decade.

I will not go through all the back stories as I have already done them on the links above. Instead I will just post the wine notes for the wineries and their wines for the past two years each.

Many are still available especially if you ask nicely!

The wine notes follow below:

Four Gates Winery

A quick note, as always, I state that Benyo is a good friend, but as I always tell people, if I do not like a wine I will tell him. Proof positive were his Ayala wines this year. The CF was OK, the Zin is really nice, and the rest are not for me. They are OK wines, but hey that is what happens when you let the darn deer in the house! Thank god, so far this year the deer are not in the vineyard!

2011 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- (and a bit more)
Of the three cabs released so far from the ridge mountains, this one is in third place, but still a wonderful wine. However, knowing what is coming – there are many superstars to follow. The nose is filled with mineral, spice, graphite, lovely barnyard, and rich green notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is dark, brooding, black, and extracted, with blackberry, crushed herb, cloves, and intense graphite and mineral. The finish is long and herbal with intense layers of spice, black pepper, and black fruit with dill and intense forest floor. Very nice!

2011 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- to A
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend made up primarily of Merlot and fleshed out with some Cabernet Sauvignon. In comparison to the 2011 cab, which was a slight step back, the 2011 FR is a freak, from its clear Merlot leanings! It may well be the best or a close second to the best of the frere robaire wines.

The nose on this lovely wine is rich with dark plum, ripe strawberry, along with crushed herb, forest floor, and ripe raspberry. Lovely medium to full bodied wine with layers of refined fruit, rich complexity, showing spicy oak with still searing tannin, along with crazy intensity, and extraction, followed by dark fruit, blackberry, intense oriental spices and forest floor. The finish is long and green with nice spice, more mouth coating tannin, green notes, barnyard, and dill, with butterscotch and tea lingering. Bravo!!

2009 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- (and so much more)
WOW! There were a few Merlot for sale and this was the craziest of them all. This is a classic Benyo Merlot nose, richly redolent with great blue and black fruit, blueberry, blackberry, oriental spice, crazy rich roasted herb, sweet oak and pomegranate. The mouth on this full bodied wine comes at you in waves of saline, mineral, butterscotch, black fruit, green notes, all wrapped in rich layers of tannin, concentrated fruit and spice. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate, spice, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. BRAVO!!!

2011 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- (and a bit more)
The funny side story here is that 4G released two Merlot this year and both are richly blue in nature! The nose on this lovely wine starts off with blueberry but that blows off, then shows a perfume of barnyard, violet, mineral, tart strawberry, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine, is perfectly balanced with saline, mineral, great fruit structure, filled out with black plum, raspberry, blackberry, herb, all wrapped in a nice inky structure. The finish is long, rich, and packed with vanilla, sweet dill, sweet herb, sweet spice, nutmeg, and sweet tea. BRAVO!

2010 Four Gates Winery Chardonnay – Score: A- (plus more)
What a lovely perfumed nose of spicy oak, pineapple, peach, fluffy vanilla bean, floral notes, spice, slate, and mineral. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and unctuous, with an almost oily texture that coats the mouth with lovely heft, and layers of concentrated summer fruit, cloves, kiwi, guava, spicy oak, and nectarine. The finish is long with roasted almond, marzipan, rich toast, hints, brioche, allspice, citrus, and sweet summer fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2011 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this light gold wine is redolent with bright notes, peach, fresh baked apple jam, and cobbler, along with baking spices and toast. The mouth on this full bodied wine is a beast – to be nice, it is a burly beast that truly needs a few years to calm down. The mouth is rich and layered with searing acid and oak, followed by quince and green plum pie that keeps coming at you in layers of fruit, acid, and toast while keeping well balanced and concentrated. The finish is long and super spicy with nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves, with white chocolate, herbs, summer fruits, and spicy oak on the long finish. BRAVO! Maybe one of his best, but only time will tell. This wine will be best from 2015 to 2021.

2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
This is a classic CF from Benyo, with rich earth notes, herb, green notes are abundant, along with eucalyptus, floral notes, and bell pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with red fruit, lovely spice, followed by sweet cedar, mouth coating tannin, forest floor, raspberry, cherry, and bramble. The finish is long and spicy with green notes, chocolate, tobacco, and mushroom notes that linger long. Lovely!

2010 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- (plus a bit more)
This is the second year of Benyo’s ridge mountain fruit and it continues with another rock solid wine. It is not the 2009, but seriously who cares this rocks! The nose on this wine is redolent with lovely green notes, forest floor, garrique, crazy bramble, earth, roasted herb, and eucalyptus, all hallmarks of this cab for many years now. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine attacks with layers of concentrated fruit, followed by red/black fruit, cranberry, dark cherry, blackberry, along with mouth coating tannin, candied dried fruits, and spicy oak. The finish is long and herbal, with spice, cloves, deep rooted earth, tobacco, chocolate, and dried basil/oregano.

2010 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- (and more)
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend made up primarily of Cabernet and fleshed out with some Merlot. The nose on this lovely wine is filled and redolent with bramble, cherry, crushed herb, rich chocolate, eucalyptus, along with rich loamy dirt. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is still far too tight and needs two or more years to start showing itself. The mouth is rich and layered a core of concentrated black fruit, blackberry, currant, but wrapped up in sweet tannin layer and cedar. The wines shows lovely layering and complexity, while showing classic Four Gates acid and balance. The finish is long and tannic with dark fruit, tobacco, and herb. BRAVO!

2008 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
The nose on this richly purple colored wine explodes with deep dark and brooding black fruit, blackberry, black plum, and forest berries that are perfectly ripe and bursting with aromas. The mouth is plush and opulent with layers of black fruit that meld into a harmonious whole along with rich cedar and lovely mouth coating tannin to make for an insane experience. The finish is long with lovely sweet cedar, chocolate, leafy tobacco, and vanilla, and a hint of salt and citrus zest on the long and luxurious finish.

If I did not know better I would have sworn this was an Israeli Cabernet. The texture, the lovely fruit ripeness, and the cedar wood all scream Israeli. However, the wine is from Four Gates and I would recommend allowing this wine some time to open up and acclimate to its new environment. In many ways this wine reminds me of a bull in a china store, the mouth is massive and the free-handed use of oak is a new one for Benyamin, but one that works well on this wine.

2007 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A- to A
This wine, in stark contrast to the 2008 Merlot, is what I would call elegant and constrained, while still being rich and lovely. In many ways this wine reminds me of the Carmel Mediterranean, though with a bit more Merlot styling. The nose starts of stunted and under a haze of funk, but after some time the nose is rich and expressive with dark cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, along with richly roasted herb and graphite. The mouth is perfectly balanced and rich from beginning to end, with lovely layers upon layers of concentrated red and black fruit mingling well with sweet cedar, and tannin that have yet to integrate. The finish is long and spicy with good tobacco, chocolate, cedar, loamy dirt, bell pepper, and menthol, all leading to leather and spellbinding finish.

In many ways this wine reminds me of a giant wielding a sledgehammer while daintily tiptoeing around in a china store wearing ballerina shoes. The finesse and power of the wine really does show that Merlot, when handled correctly, can yield magnificent outcomes.

2012 Four Gates Zinfandel, Ayala – Score: B++
The nose on this wine shows blue fruit, crazy sweet strawberry, exotic nose with oriental spices, summer fruit, citrus and green notes. This wine has red, white, and blue fruit, with spice, bakers chocolate, nutmeg, all spice, showing raspberry, peach, blueberry, Zinnberry, and more citrus. The finish is long and blue with root beer, watermelon, spice, vanilla and herb. Nice tannin and green notes and citrus linger long with root beer.

2012 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Ayala – Score B+
The nose on this wine starts off with interesting notes of barnyard, mushroom, green notes, followed by spice and lovely foliage and forest floor. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows good spice, with nice fruit structure, raspberry, dark cherry, along with nice mouth coating tannin and roasted herb. The finish is long and herbal, with more intense spices, eucalyptus, menthol, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.

Hagafen Winery

Hagafen winery has so many labels it is mind numbing to keep track of. So, while I attempted to take good notes, some are less detailed than others. I have visited the winery three times in the past year and more, and while I have many of the notes, some of the wines are not for sale any longer.

2012 Hagafen brut cuvee – Score: b+ to A- (mevushal)
This nose is lovely with yeast, and spice, nice peach, green Apple brioche and spice. Lovely medium body with great acid, great brioche, small bubble mousse, pear and citrus with apple pie and spice lingering. The finish is long and tart, with good acid, lemon friache and fig.

2013 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix, Reserve, Oak Knoll District – Score: A- (mevushal)
What can I say, for reasons I do not understand myself, Hagafen Chard never did it for me. This one is very nice to very solid. The nose on this light gold colored wine is lovely with quinine, quince, sweet oak and peach pie. The mouth on this medium body is refined with great control, nice sweet cedar, lovely brioche, baked quince pie, guava, pear, with spice and mounds of fresh baked goods. The finish is long and fresh, with nice balancing acid, along with great cloves spices more baked goods, lovely nutmeg spice and herb. Very Nice!

2014 Don Ernesto Rose, Beret – Score: A- (QPR) (mevushal)
This lovely rose is made from 100% Syrah. The name Beret completes the bracha line, “Beret Prix Hagafen” (tongue firmly planted in cheek of course – but hey this is Ernie we are talking about). The nose on this beautiful salmon colored wine is redolent with great cherry, raspberry, strawberry, along with lovely floral notes and sweet fruit. The mouth on this lovely medium body starts with great spice, currant, grapefruit, citrus, and cloves. The finish is very long and spicy with great mineral, saline, intense acid, tart fruit, crazy grapefruit and lemon linger long on a spicy and saline finish. BRAVO!!

2014 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc – Score: A- (Mad QPR) (mevushal)
I tasted this wine twice recently, and the first time was right after bottling, and the wine was in clear shock. The next time was a few weeks later and the wine was insane! The acid, mineral, and tart citrus fruit was exploding! Lovely!

The nose on this insane SB is redolent with mad citrus, mineral, peach, along with lovely floral notes, honeyed grapefruit, rose hips and violet. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is so crazy, it is pure lemon/lime citrus acid – insane! The mouth continues with ripe summer fruit, nectarine, clementine orange, and white jasmine. The finish is long, acidic, bracing and refreshing with melon, and hints of saline and slate. BRAVO!!

2014 Hagafen White Riesling Dry, Rancho Wieruszowski – Score: A- (QPR) (mevushal)
It is another hit for this lovely bone dry riesling. Ernie has been making them for three years now, with the 2012 being the inaugural release.
The nose on this lovely wine starts off with crazy melon, guava, mounds of tropical fruit, peach and apricot but kiwi and honey notes dominate. The mouth on this medium plus body wine has a nice almost viscous, but clearly mouth filling mouthfeel, with nice acidity, litchi, crazy mineral, saline, and great tart fruit. The finish is long and refreshing, crisp and intense, with nice mineral, slate and spice that lingers long. BRAVO!

2013 Hagafen White Riesling, Devoto Vineyard, Lake County – Score: A- (mevushal)
Depending on the year and release and the stock, there can be as many as 5 different rieslings sold by Ernie and Hagafen Wineries. There is the dry wine that started in 2012, and then there are varying degrees of residual sugar wines, including a couple of Prix wines and the three wines that come in the Hagafen label. This wine is a 2% residual sugar wine and it works great with sushi and asian dishes.
The nose on this wine is rich, honeyed, and sweet, with citrus, grapefruit, kiwi, litchi, and sweet honey. The mouth is rich with spice and sweet honey, it is controlled, clearly sweet but the bracing acid really helps keep the wine in balance, with crazy peach, tropical fruit, light tannin, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is long and refreshing with ripping acid, guava fruit, and nice mineral. Bravo!

2013 Hagafen Chardonnay – Score: A- (mevushal)
I have not always been a fan of Hagafen Chard, but this one is well balanced and really nice. The wine was aged for 6 months in oak. The nose on this wine shows lovely spice, green apple, pineapple, honeycomb, and grapefruit. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is lovely and round with a rich mouth, showing nice brioche, melon, peach, apricot, tropical fruit, and ripping acid with cloves and sweet spices. The finish is long, and sweet with crazy spices, nice tart fruit, with lemon zest, and lovely sweet herb, basil and mint.

2013 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix – Score: A- (mevushal)
This lovely wine is a balance between fruit and oak, with lovely acid balancing out the whole package. The nose on this lovely redolent nose is crazy beautiful with sweet oak, sweet and tart fruit notes, honeydew and honeysuckle, with saline and grapefruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is richer in the mouth than the non-fume Sauvignon Blanc, with lovely bracing acid with good balance, lovely saline, mad mineral, slate, green apple pie, along with pineapple, rich fruit of melon, and spice, with earth and nectarines and tangerine. The finish is long and mineral based with sweet herb and tart fruit and orangina.

2012 Don Ernesto Collage – Score: NA (mevushal)
The wine is a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, and while the blend is awesome and is being made by Shirah and Recanati, this one is a bit too old, from what I tasted twice. The nose shows lovely fruit and floral notes, but the body was oxidized. It may have been my two bottles, or the wine may have hit the end of the road.

2012 Hagafen Chardonnay – Score: B++ (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is rich and smokey with oak notes, peach, brioche and good fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows good cedar, summer fruit, oak influence, with rich brioche, fresh baked Apple pie, mango, kiwi, and good spice. The finish is long and spicy with nutmeg, cloves, and more oak.

2013 Hagafen Pinot Noir – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is filled with notes of coffee, toast, raspberry, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, but lacks that complexity, with good spice, nice red jammy fruit, juicy currant, sweet strawberry, ripe raspberry, cedar, and nice spice. The finish is long and spicy with sweet herbs, nice fresh fruit and dirt.

2012 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Coombsville – Score: A- (and more) (mevushal)
It is great to once again have a lovely Pinot from the house of Hagafen winery! The nose on this lovely wine shows redolent notes of espresso, intense vanilla, cherry notes, with hints of oxidation. The wine is medium in body with great sweet cedar, nice fruit structure, lovely extraction, with dark chocolate, ripe tart and juicy raspberry, black currant, lovely cranberry, intense spice and great layers. Lovely long and sweet vanilla chocolate finish with pomegranate, butter scotch, searing tannin and layers of concentrated fruit. The wine lingers long with great spice, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. BRAVO!!

2013 Don Ernesto Clarinet – Score: B+ (mevushal)
This is a nice enough 100% Tempranillo wine. The nose on this wine shows lovely spice, with nice coffee and dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is intense with spice, cherry, and raspberry with sweet oak, nice tannin, and cloves. The finish is long with good body, spice, and attack. Nice!

2012 Hagafen Merlot – Score: A- (and more) (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine is far closer to old world than new world, with lovely notes of licorice, sweet herb, earth, loamy dirt, and green notes. The mouth on this wine is medium to full body with great structure and spice, layered with herb, awesome blackberry, juicy raspberry, tart fruit, great acid, sweet but nicely reserved, with tannin and spice. The finish is long and spicy, with a richly tannic finish, showing great bell pepper, cedar, vanilla, chocolate, and anise. Bravo!

2011 Hagafen Cabernet Franc – Score: A-  (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine shows a franc that is Cali in nature, but with a vein or two of old school, with sweet oak, green notes, herb, foliage, and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows a rich wine, with fruit structure, with concentrated fruit attack, great tannin, juicy raspberry, black plum, great cedar, and spice. The finish is long and cedar sweet, with great black fruit, vanilla, nice spices, cloves, and great green herb, mint and dill. Bravo!!

2009 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Prix – Score: A- (mevushal)
Lovely nose of red fruit, sweet cedar, anise and sweet fruit. Lovely medium bodied wine with great spice, vanilla, plum, blackberry, and juicy fruit, tart and layered with great tannin, intense concentration, with chocolate, great dirty, spice, and sweet herb.

2012 Hagafen Syrah – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The nose on this nice wine shows roasted meat, fresh ripe fruit, licorice, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows nice tart fruit, with great body, soft integrating tannin, along with black fruit, plum, blackberry, raspberry, and earth. The finish is long and tart with earth, chocolate, black pepper, and vanilla.

2009 Hagafen Syrah, Prix – Score: B to B+ (mevushal)
This is one of those over ripe, date driven wines that I do not expect from California wineries, but sadly do occur from time to time. The nose on this crazy ripe wine, shows intense chocolate and spice. The mouth on this medium boded wine is sweet with blackberry, fruit forward attack, sweet cherry, raspberry, sweet spice, and cedar. The finish is long and sweet/spicy, with chocolate, ripe jammy notes, date, plum liquor, and roasted animal notes.

2012 Don Ernesto Crescendo – Score: B to B+ (mevushal)
The wine has calmed down in the past year and it is now showing more blue fruit and less mineral. The nose on this undocumented blend shows lovely blue notes, rich spice, blueberry, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows good concentration, lovely tannin, with plum and chocolate and sweet spice. The finish is long with hints of the mineral now gone, with pencil shavings, vanilla, and garrigue.

2011 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: B+ (mevushal)
Sadly, this is a wine that went from a solid A- wine quickly to B+ and then a bit lower. Maybe I have three bad bottles or maybe it is in a crazy funk, but to me this wine has been taking steps backwards.
The nose on this purple colored wine is rich with perfume of blackberry, lovely black fruit, hints of blueberry, nice anise, and dirt. The medium body is tinged with mad acid and mineral, along with a lovely mouth coating tannin that gives the wine body, along with great acid and mad graphite, cassis, CRAZY kirsch black cherry, and green foliage. The finish is long and green with bright fruit, leather, chocolate, vanilla, and lovely sweet dill and tobacco leaves. However, with an hour or so of air the wine broke down even faster than last time, so drink up.

2012 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A- (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine is ripe with dark fruit, black and red fruit in your face, with mad blackberry and anise. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe, round, rich and layered with pencil, sweet plum, cassis, with currant, candied fruit and sweet herb showing a crazy ripe fruit structure, along with mad mouth draping tannin and tobacco. The finish is long with sweet herb, dill and spices, with chocolate, roasted herb, and leather lingering long, BRAVO!

2010 Hagafen Merlot, Prix – Score: A- (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine is rich with char, toast, along with green notes, with plum and blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is round and plush with green notes, raspberry, cranberry, with searing tannin, great structure, balanced with nice acid, lovely crushed herb, roasted spices, sweet currant, with milk chocolate, sweet dill and tobacco. The finish is long, sweet, yet balanced finish, with dill, and chocolate, with mineral lingering long. Bravo!

2009 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, Prix – Score: B++ to A- (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is pushed a bit more than the Hagafen 2012, showing sweet notes and anise, mint, black pepper, and ripe black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe and round mouth with chocolate, spice, eucalyptus, sweet dill, cassis, cherry, raspberry, and searing tannin, with sweet fruit and spices. The wine is wrapped in a crazy fruit structure, mad tobacco, and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long, with sweet herb, nice acid, with lingering tannin, and roasted herb.

2008 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, Prix – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
The wine is improving with time, the nose on this purple to black colored wine shows a lovely nose of anise, chocolate, blackberry, dark ripe fruit, and dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts off with a crazy tannic mouth with layers of spice, chocolate, lovely spice, cassis, chocolate, vanilla, and layers and layers of cloves, with rich extraction, and great refined tannin. The finish is long and lovely, with leather, graphite, spice and herb goodness. BRAVO!

2004 Hagafen Melange, Prix – Score: A- to A (and more) (mevushal)
What can I say, this wine is mesmerizing, it is soft and intense at the same time with structure and finesse, with power and elegance. WOW! The nose on this wine is sick with layers of black and red fruit, what a crazy perfume of sweet notes, chocolate covered cherry and sweet plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you in layers of sweet concentrated fruit, plum, sweet cedar, chocolate, intense tannin, layers of fruit, tannin, and oak all working in perfect harmony with balancing acid and sheer perfection in a glass. The finish is long and sweet and perfectly balanced with chocolate, cinnamon, spice. Crazy! What a wine!!! Double Bravo!!!

2005 Hagafen Melange, Prix – Score: A- to A (and more) (mevushal)
The nose on this Bordeaux blend is insane and lovely with a rich elegant nose showing crazy mineral, menthol, pencil, and herb. WOW What a lovely wine with crazy fruit structure, with still searing tannin, rich fruit with blackberry, and insane acid, that balanced with chocolate, cassis, and raspberry with layers upon layers BRAVO! The finish is long and sweet, yet tart and acidic with lingering tannin, mad spice, chocolate, sweet dill, roasted herb, oregano, and mint.

2007 Hagafen Melange, Prix – Score: A- (and much more) (mevushal)
What can I say, this is an epic wine, refined and elegant and it is mevushal – crazy! The 2004 vintage was and is legendary, and though each vintage may be a bit behind it, they never disappoint! The nose on this wine shows lovely sweet notes, plum, raspberry, crazy mineral, spice and licorice. The mouth on this Bordeaux blend wine is full bodied, with intense tannin, mad fruit structure, mouth coating tannin, crazy stuff, with layers of intense concentrated fruit, rich extraction, along with crazy attack of fruit, with plum, blackberry, cassis, and intense spice. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate, coffee, wild leather, and tobacco and a hint of brown sugar. BRAVO!

2009 Hagafen Melange, Prix – Score: A- (and much more) (mevushal)
What can I say, this is an epic wine, refined and elegant and it is mevushal – crazy! The 2004 vintage was and is legendary, and though each vintage may be a bit behind it, they never disappoint! The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with spice, ripe plum, cassis, crazy anise and dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied Bordeaux blend wine shows lovely finesse, sweet cedar, lovely dark chocolate, with vanilla, dill, crazy mouth coating tannin, all enveloped in an elegant mouth, followed by layers of plum, cherry, and black currant. The finish is long and spicy with more chocolate, dill, expressive layers of spice, nutmeg, and leather followed by vanilla and butterscotch. Long and luscious, and joy. BRAVO!!!!!

2007 Hagafen Riesling, Prix – Score: A- (mevushal)
This wine is crazy petrol city, with peach, guava, honeysuckle, floral notes, and peach/summer fruit compote. The mouth on this lovely wine shows well with its weight, honey layers, wicked acid, lovely citrus, pink grapefruit, sweet notes linger, with Kumquat, nectar, and nectarines. The finish is long and spicy, with good acid, saline, nice tart fruit lingers with spice.

2009 Hagafen Riesling, Prix – Score: A- (mevushal)
Wow what a lovely petrol and soap nose, with crazy melon, guava, pineapple, lovely floral notes, and ripping tart fruit. What a lovely round mouth, showing its 6% residual sugar mouth, showing impressive balance, with crazy acid, banana, ripe and tart lemon pie, sweet notes abound with honey, honeysuckle, orange blossom, citrus, honeydew melon, all wrapped in a crazy viscous and sweet mouth, wow. The finish is long and spicy with great tart and sweet notes, white chocolate, candied tart fruit, slate, and mineral. Bravo!!

2009 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest – Score: A- (mevushal)
This is a sweeter vintage than past ones with mad sweet notes, intense petrol, crazy floral notes, mineral, along with candied grass, and straw, interesting. Wow what a mouth with intense sweet notes, banana, pineapple, honey, honey coated grapefruit, orange and lingering sweet melon and guava. The finish shows sweet viscous and acid notes, with mineral and slate. Nice!

Covenant Winery

I must say that I have been behind on writing up about Covenant Winery. They are truly one of the best long term track record Cabernet wine makers out there, along with Herzog. The wines that they make, are mostly not mevushal (other than 4 wines) and have a lovely consistent character to them. They did change vineyards for the cab from Larkmead to more Rudd fruit, but it consistently has a lovely bramble and herb note to them.

2014 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc – Score: A-
What can I say, Covenant continues to impress with their white fruit wines. The acid and the balance are always there. The nose on this lovely and classical Sauvignon Blanc is ripe yet tart and citrusy with crazy grapefruit, lemon, followed by tropical notes of kiwi, guava, and cats pee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lightly viscous but still bracing with mad acidity, tropical notes, gooseberry, nectarine, and lovely fresh cut grass. The finish si long and balanced with more tart notes, acid, slate, mineral, and light citrus pith. BRAVO!

2011 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan – Score: A-
I will repeat myself, I messed up when I posted the white wines, I missed the Covenant wines and I will fix that today. This Chard does not disappoint and continues on with a long tradition of viscous and lovely Chardonnay wines. This is the first year that Jeff used fruit from a new vineyard, for him, called Mount Scopos, on the Sonoma Mountains. The nose on this light gold colored wine is ripe and acidic with crazy mineral, peach cobbler, rich perfumed oak notes, and great spice. The mouth on this full bodied and viscous wine, shows a buttery and creamy bent with with a lovely control on the oak usage, with clear butterscotch, nutmeg, white chocolate, all layered in with apricot, melon, yellow apple, and more spice. The finish is long and spicy with oak tannin, great balancing ripping acid, citrus, and cloves – BRAVO!

2011 Covenant Red C, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: A-
Bravo! What a lovely nose and the wine is really kicking, which surprised me very much. The nose on this wine is lovely and aromatic with crazy gooseberry, cats pee, grapefruit, and floral notes, lovely! The mouth is still crazy, mouth puckering with insane acid, mad lemon friache, lemon citrus, with wet grass, hay,  dirt, and dried apricot. The finish is long and acidic with nice spice, crazy lemon citrus, pith, and intense lemon acid core. BRAVO! This is a ripping acid wine, lovely!

2013 Covenant Red C – Score: A-
With this vintage, Jeff Morgan and Jonathan Hajdu have made this wine more than just a cab blend, but it is now a multi varietal blend of two grapes, Cab and new varietal. Fruit wise the color and complexity has changed with this new blend, it has gone from a red and black fruit wine to a black and blue wine, there is still press from the Covenant along with the new grape. The two grapes were co-fermented. The nose on this lovely wine is dirty and black, with herb, spice, and earth. The mouth on this wine is big and aggressive, less elegant than the bigger and more expensive brother, but part of that is from the press, the mouth is followed by layers of ripe blackberry, plum, garrigue, bramble, cedar box, white pepper, roasted meat, cloves, and sweet spices. The finish is long and in your face, with great control, lovely acid, but with a serious sense of intensity, inky structure, blueberry, black forest fruit, and coffee. BRAVO!

2012 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A- to A
This is clearly their best wine to date, and much of it comes from Rudd. The nose on this wine is insane and captivating, with mineral, black fruit, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft yet crazy intense, with multiple layers of  rich mineral and concentrated blackberry, cassis, saline, graphite, and rich fruit. The mouth is both supple, concentrated and yet richly layered and extracted at the same time, with crazy extraction that does not give up, dark cherry, and sweet oak. The finish is long and rich with intense spice, nutmeg, leather, crazy lingering tannin, chocolate and dark brooding fruit. The wine with time shows no sign of age and continues to impress with its richness and its salinity – while holding true to its Napa name – BRAVO!!!

2012 Covenant Syrah, Landsman – Score: A-
The second you pour this wine you hold your breath from the depth of its dark, impenetrable purple color. The wine is more a Rhone wine that a Cali Syrah, with deep rooted mineral, freshly turned earth, slate, rock, and graphite that seems to scream #2 pencil. This turns some wine lovers away, as they want fruit forward wines, but to me this wine screams control, depth, and style.

So, now this wine opens far faster than before. There was no need to decant this wine. With time the wine showed fresh licorice, fresh tilled earth, freshly smoked game, and fresh black and blue fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with concentrated blackberry, boysenberry, lovely extraction, sweet cedar, and rich mouth coating tannin that linger long. The finish is long with great mineral, graphite, salty notes, crazy sweet spices, nutmeg, along with watermelon, root beer, intense smoking tobacco, and oriental spices – BRAVO!

2013 Covenant Zinfandel, Landsman – Score: B++
The nose on this wine starts off with lovely rich mineral, loamy dirt, roasted animal notes, and more dirt. The mouth is well spiced, and light to medium bodied with sweet fruit that blows off, to show cherry, strawberry, nice zinberry, blue fruit, good tannin, acid, and nutmeg. The finish is long and spicy with watermelon and black pepper. Sadly, this wine lacks the presence to cut through most food, though the rich acid and mineral is nice.

After the wine was open for a day – it really did open and become more complex and less sweet. The blue notes receded and the spices and complexity rose – with more earth, acid, mineral, and spice, nice.

2013 Covenant Pinot Noir, Landsman – Score: A- (and more)
Lovely nose with crazy strawberry perfume, and sweet cherry and sweet wood. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with spice and coffee with layers of fruit and nutmeg, candied kirshe cherry, blackberry, really nice tannin. The finish is long and spicy with cherry and black currant and rich dirt and mineral. With time the nose opens further with a perfume of earth, dirt, intense mineral, saline, and hints of barnyard. The mouth is still layered and concentrated with sweet white chocolate and sweet spices – BRAVO!!

2014 Covenant Mensch White – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
This is a mevushal wine that is closed and not fun to start, but with time shows nice tropical and stone fruit. This wine is 85% Roussanne and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is tropical with guava, citrus, wet grass, straw, hay, and nectarine, and citrus. The mouth on this lovely wine is ripping with good acid, pith, grapefruit, orange blossom, floral notes, with sweet oak, and mineral, with sweet herb, and spice. The finish is long with slate and spice and mad pith.

2014 Covenant Tribe Chardonnay – Score: B+ (mevushal)
Nice sweet and tart nose with citrus, nectarines, orange blossom, yellow apple and brioche. Lovely acidic mouth with marzipan, grapefruit, orange notes, lovely tart lemon and peach notes, with nutty quince and saline. All running into a finish of sweet spices and herb.

Hajdu Winery

My post on the Hajdu wines was epic enough, so there is no need to recap the past. Most recently, Hajdu has added in a few new varietals that I hope will be seeing the light of day soon enough, till then I can say that they look and taste very promising. Still, Hajdu currently continues to focus on the Rhone varieties; Grenache, Petite Sirah, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, and a lone Bordeaux blend as the flagship wine for now. To me, the Bordeaux wine is lovely, but the Grenache and PS are the stars of the lineup. There really are few kosher wineries that have the quality that those two varietals continue to show year after year, under the hands of Hajdu.

2014 Hajdu Grenache Rose – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine is a lovely rose made from 100% Grenache grapes. This wine is nice, but does not approach the mad Provence style Rose of 2013, that wine was pure saline and mineral, this one has far more fruit though it is well balanced.
The nose on this lovely pink wine shows crazy dragon fruit, notes of almond, and rose hips. The mouth on this medium bodied wine hits you with crazy mineral, along with nice spice, saline, dried herb and nutmeg, cloves, with dried cherry, raspberry, candied grapefruit, and intense spice with great slate. The finish is long and spicy with kiwi and lovely Meyer lemon. BRAVO!!

2014 Makom Grenache Blanc – Score: A- (QPR)
The nose on this lovely wine picks up from where the lovely 13 left off, with ripe melon, grapefruit, kiwi, litchi, and sweet herb. The mouth on this wine is ripe and round, with great acid, mineral, lovely peach, and mad sweet citrus. The finish is long with bracing acid, showing lovely pith, spice, lots of dried straw lingers long with mineral and cut grass. Lovely!

2013 Hajdu Grenache – Score: A- (and more) (QPR)
The 2013 is a far bigger and broader wine than the 2012 was, but as I go back to the 2012 I find it filling out and really showing promise as well. The nose on this lovely wine shows crazy blueberry, boysenberry, and black fruit, with lovely cherry, spice, and floral notes. The mouth on this full-bodied beast is rich, extracted, and layered with crazy roasted meat, mad loamy dirt, with great spice, anise, leather, and dark cherry. The finish is long and spicy, with great blue and black fruit, raspberry and juicy strawberry, with litchi and mad spice. Lovely rich extracted layers root beer and spice linger long on the palate when the wine is gone. BRAVO!!

2013 Hajdu Syrah – Score: A- (and then some)
The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with blue and black fruit, with mad spice and anise, and rich sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with rich layers of black and blue fruit with butterscotch, rich roasted meat, earth, crazy spice, plum, blackberry, and raspberry all wrapped in intense tannins and layers of spice. The wine is currently showing layers upon layers of rich extraction and mad tannins that need time to settle down. The finish is long and extracted with more blue and black fruit, with cloves, leather, and watermelon. Bravo! This wine is a beast and needs time to come together.

2013 Hajdu Petite Sirah – Score: A- (and more)
Yet another lovely black and blue wine from Hajdu this year, the colors and flavors of cool climate Rhone in Cali! I must stress, that we have spoken about PS in the past, and to me there is no long lasting PS other than Hajdu’s. The rest are OK for a few years and then fall off a crazy cliff. Why? I do not know, but this is one of the reasons many think it is more of a blending grape than a varietal grape.
The nose on this wine is truly blue, with a rich black nose, roasted animal, intense fruit and lovely floral notes. This wine too is richly extracted with an intensity that only Hajdu can create, followed by layers of concentrated blue and black fruit, along with impressive milk chocolate, butterscotch, saline, intense mineral, all balanced with good bracing acid, blackberry, plum, boysenberry, great strawberry, all wrapped in sweet herb, and lovely spice. The finish is long and rich with coffee, vanilla, leather, sweet dill and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Hossfeld Napa – Score: A- (and more)
This is the second year for this lovely wine, and it continues to impress. The 2011 was Howell mountain, this year is the impressive Hossfeld hills of Napa Valley. The percentages of the Bordeaux blend are not told, but the wine is impressive and who cares anyway! The nose on this lovely wine shows off red and black fruit, with great sweet herb and lovely coffee. The mouth on this full bodied wine is elegant and refined, but also aggressive and so Cali, with mad sweet dill, smoking tobacco, along with lovely layers upon layers of rich black and elegant fruit, blackberry, plum, currant, balanced perfectly with rich acid and lovely spice. The finish is long, green, and tart, with forest berry, foliage, crazy searing tannin, rich sweet oak, spice, green notes, chocolate and leather. Impressive!

2011 Makom Carignan – Score: A-
The nose on the Carignan wine is rich with toast notes and bushels of red fruit, ripe fruit, hints of blue fruit, roasted herb, and nice baking spices. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is screaming with lovely acid, ripe fruit, blackcurrant, cranberry, and sweet boysenberry, all wrapped up with lovely mouth coating tannin and sweet oak. This wine is not slowing down at all, the tannins are searing, the acid is pumping, and the wine structure continues to impress! The finish is long and tart with ripe blackberry, watermelon, and lovely layers of spice, white pepper, sweet vanilla, lingering tart red and black fruit, and sweet tannin – lovely! This wine is doing fine and has another 2+ years left in the tank.

Shirah Winery

As you all know by now, I am a huge fan of the Shirah Winery and was one of the first to ever post about the Wiess brothers! I have always been proud that I buy and note every wine that these blending geniuses (AKA Madmen) create. This year they went off the reservation and created so many labels (13 that I can count so far – more yet to be released later this year) that I could not keep track or buy or get them all. With that said, I have notes of most of them. They are more ripe this year, but to be fair a few of them were tasted in a not so beneficial atmosphere.

I must say that Shirah wines all start off hot and sweet and with time, they calm and show their true inner spirit. It is only after a day of bottle air that you get to the mineral core with acid and that intoxicating perfume aromas that are the hallmark of Shirah wines.

So, yes I will try to get to the rest of the wines soon, but till then here are what I have, and I am still missing; 2013 Shirah Mourvedre, Hat Hamoriah, and 2013 Shirah Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist. I hope to taste these soon enough, in a week or two.

The rest of this year’s wines are below:

2014 Shirah Gruner Veltliner, John Sebastiano Vineyard – Score: A- (QPR)
This is a lovely wine that comes from the Weiss brothers, AKA Shirah Winery, and it is so not Cali it is wonderful!!!! This may become my goto white when I am in the mood for cold fruit and mineral. The nose on this wine starts with cold summer fruit, along with mounds of mineral and dirt. With time, the nose turns to vanilla, smoke, and flint along with floral notes of rose hip. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with Alsace style approach, mineral, slate, rock, dirt, and some very cold fruit, mad quince bomb with some pepper/spice/smoke, along with green apple as well, herb and hints of nectarine. The finish is long and dirty with lovely dark fruit pith, more floral notes, straw/hay, and hints of sweet fig. Lovely and Bravo!

2014 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (QPR)
This is the Weiss Brother’s third vintage of Vintage Whites and it may well be their best, fighting for best place between the 12 and this 14 vintage. This wine is a three way Rhone white varietal blend with 70% Viognier, 12.5% Marsanne, and 12.5% Roussanne. This blend again, is very reminiscent of the Recanati White RSR, though that one is aged in oak and it shows, while this one is fresh, bright, and lovely! Anyway – this is clearly a viognier wine, being 75% of the product, but the Roussanne is felt with the earth, clay, and garrigue. The nose on this lovely wine is richly perfumed with rich honeyed notes, along with ripe melon, pineapple, honeysuckle, fresh tart peach, flint, and ripe white plums. The mouth on this full bodied and oily textured wine is pure heaven, with a lovely good and expressive conflagration of sweet summer fruit from the Viognier fruit, including ripe apricot, violet, and Asian pear, with equally clear expressions of Roussanne showing in the orange pith, straw, slate, and mineral notes. The finish is long, tart, sweet, and bitter – all at the same time, with acid, nectarine, orange pith and almond notes lingering long in the background. BRAVO guys BRAVO!!! I want to note that there lacks the the ripping acid that I crave, but acid is clearly present and appreciated, but yes I could do with more. Still, the the pith and mineral make up for it!!!

2014 Shirah Rose – Score: A- (QPR)
This is the second rose from the famous Wiess Brothers, AKA Shirah Winery. The last one was one of the best rose I ever had (along with Hajdu 13 Rose), so sure this wine has a huge legacy to uphold, sadly it falls short, but it is still a lovely wine in its own right. The nose on this wine is ripe and rich with bubblegum to start, along with life savers candy, mad citrus, grapefruit, and flint/rock. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and acidic and lovely, with layers of dark and blue fruit, that are caressed by a rich core of zinberry notes, boysenberry, kiwi, followed by lovely tart pomegranate and bitter plum. The finish is long with nice spices, more tart fruit, crazy citrus pith, with zinberry/raspberry/blueberry lingering on the long tart and pith finish. Very Nice.

2012 Shirah Syrah Power to the People – Score: A-
This wine is the second vintage of this famous wine. The 2009 vintage was the winery’s inaugural release for their officially named winery – Shirah (now we can stop using the term Weiss brothers). It was a blend of 49% McGinley Vineyard grapes and 49% Thompson Vineyard grapes, both in Santa Barbara County and both cool weather vineyards. The 2009 wine was a blend of the two vineyard’s Syrah grapes and 2% Viognier grape.

This wine is very different, there is no Viognier to be found and it is a blend of 30% Syrah from Thompson, 35% Syrah from Stolpman Vineyard, and 35% Petite Sirah also from Stolpman Vineyard.

Like the 2009 vintage the label is very unique and shocking. The 2009 was faux black felt, this one is made of faux leather and it is a serious pain in the neck to take a picture of!

This wine opened tighter than a steal trap, two venturi passes later, still nothing! With LOTS of time and decanting the wine opens to a lovely blue and cherry notes with serious heat, that does dissipate over time, warm spices, root beer, and floral notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely and rich, soft and plush, with mouth coating tannin, showing sweet cedar, sweet fruit, along with layers of ripe strawberry, blackberry, dark plum, blue fruit, wrapped in lovely roasted animal and a plush fruit structure. The finish is long with good acid, leather, tobacco, mineral, graphite, and sweet spices. This is a lovely sweet and ripe wine that shows awesome control and finesse – BRAVO!!!

2012 Shirah Syrah, White Hawk – Score: A- (and much more)
I must say that this Syrah may well be Shirah wine’s best one to date. The wine is a co-fermentation of Syrah & Viognier (2%). The nose is intense with crazy roasted animal, blue fruit, graphite, insane summer fruit notes, peach, apricot, with earth and dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is crazy sick with layers of spice, silky smooth yet with rich extraction, one of the Weiss brothers richest and most supple expressions yet. It shows black fruit, mineral and blueberry and boysenberry, with layers of rich blue and black fruit. Long and mineral rich finish with dark chocolate, slate, smoking tobacco, insane blue fruit, wicked charcoal, root beer, watermelon, and sweet spices. The wine is so intense and layered with spices that do not stop – what a joy – BRAVO!!!

2013 Shirah Syrah – Score: A- (QPR)
What can I say, this is what I dream of when you say Syrah. No, this is not big, aggressive, full bodied (though this is mostly), sweet and in your face. This is old school! The wine has fruit and body, but what shines is the mineral, saline, acid, earth, dirt. All the stuff that says Rhone while being in Cali!

The nose on this wine is epic, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, hints of zinberry, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and all spice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!

2013 Shirah Counter Punch – Score: B+ to A- (need to retaste)
This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah. The nose on this wine is filled with hints of peach along with crazy blue fruit and sweet herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe but controlled with juicy blueberry, ripe raspberry, sweet strawberry, candied plum, along with sweet spices, nice smooth mouthfeel, and tart fruit abounds. The finish is long with sweet chocolate, cinnamon, more spice.

2012 Shirah Bro.Deux – Score: A- (and a bit)
This is a lovely wine and one that is a bit better than the epic NV (AKA 2010) Bro.Duex. The wine starts off with a nice mineral nose with black fruit. The wine shows a nice medium body with fleshy fruit and layers of green and red fruit and black berry and currant. With sweet cedar and spice. The finish is long and acidic with graphite and slate and crazy mouth coating tannin with nice sweet notes and spice, tobacco and chocolate. Over time, the nose opens to lovely ripe and fleshy strawberry, sweet spices, and blue notes. On the mouth the tannins come out and the fruit does as well, with blackberry, blackcurrant, concentrated fruit, lovely extraction and good fruit structure. The acid is true and good. Bravo!

2013 Shirah Bro.Duex – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grown exclusively in the Happy Canyon AVA. The nose on this lovely wine is ripe but controlled with lovely green notes, along with black and red fruit, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is all about the fruit structure, with nice tannin, lovely acid, and fruit galore. Showing nicely with cherry, strawberry, blackberry, roasted herb, and lovely sweet oak. The finish is long and very herbal, with more sweet fruit, cinnamon, sweet dill, crazy mouth coating tannin, sweet tobacco, sweet plum, cedar, chocolate, and lovely leather on the long rise.

2013 Shirah Pinot Noir, JSV – Score: A- (need to retaste)
First off this wine is 100% Pinot and it was aged in 100% French, but 25% of that wine was aged in one of my favorite barrels of all time; Meyrieux barrels and it is a lovely scent indeed! The nose that it gives off is sweet and herbal and it sounds perfect for Pinot Noir, though I have only seen it on Chardonnay until now.

The nose on this wine is redolent with sweet herb, bramble, sweet fruit, dark plum, cherry, and lovely spice! The mouth on this medium bodied wine needs time, LOTS of time, I tried it out of the bottle and that was a mistake, it needs air galore, like most Weiss brother wines, for it to show it real mettle. The mouth is ripe for sure, with nice green notes, loamy dirt, plush/viscous mouth feel, along with hints of sweet raspberry, lovely sweet dill, strawberry, nuances of peach, with hints of blue fruit in the background, all wrapped in sweet tannin and sweet oak. The finish is long and herbal with mint, basil, sweet vanilla, rich toasty notes, and roasted coffee.

2013 Shirah Syrah, The Saint & Barbarian – Score: A-
WOW what a nose, this is a 100% Syrah wine sourced from two locations in the Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, one hot and one cooler. The wine’s nose and mouth ying yangs between cooler fruit and hotter fruit adjectives. The nose is crazy with mad burnt toast, insane roasted animal, smoke, blue fruit, ripe almost jammy raspberry, and sweet spices. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is ripe and rich and nicely extracted with heady sweet spices, cinnamon, blueberry, dark and dry currant, followed by mounds of herb, sweet kiwi, intense charcoal, more earth, floral notes, searing tannin, cedar, and crazy spices. The finish is long with more mineral, earth, almost saline, great acid, mad leather, charcoal, and dried garrigue. Nice!

2013 Shirah Aglianico – Score: A- to A
This wine needs a ton of time to open, it starts off very closed but with 10 hours it will be good. The nose on this wine is crazy with floral notes, ripe blue fruit, raspberry, and juicy strawberry with mad perfume of dirt and sweet spices. This is another Shirah monster wine, another wine from the Weiss brothers that live up to the heritage of crazy big, bold, aggressive Cali wines. SO AWESOME! The mouth on this full bodied wine is a purple/black colored wine with ripe blackberry, crazy acid, followed by mouth scarping tannin and mineral, with graphite followed by layers of juicy boysenberry, strawberry, with sweet tannin, sweet spices, apricots, and juicy fruit that does not stop. The finish is long and mineral with tannin that does not end, with graphite, nutmeg, sweet spices, and sweet basil. WOW What a wine, BRAVO guys!!!

La Fenetre Winery

I have already written a fair amount of the La Fenetre story here. Josh is a great guy and it is great that more wineries are trying to bring kosher wines to the market. The wines are made in the same crush facility that houses Shirah Winery. Here are the wines I have tasted so far:

2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, Riverbench Vineyard – Score: A-
This kosher wine is very ripe, maybe over ripe to my palate to start, with heat. With time the wine settles down and the ripe fruit calms to a lovely Pinot nose, but with rich fruit and mineral.

The nose on this wine is crazy ripe and mineral with lovely Kirshe cherry, mad strawberry jam, intense ripping coffee grounds, and mad toast – lovely! The mouth on this medium bodied, is packed with dirt, mineral, rich red berry, crazy sweet spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, with rich toast and spiced plum. The mouth is silky smooth, spicy, and juicy with mad acid! The finish is long with great acid, more mad coffee, and juicy red fruits and sweet spices – NICE!!!

This wine is far too young right now and needs time, or decant for 6 hours and wait for the heat to die down.

2012 La Fenetre Red Blend – Score: B++
A lovely Bordeaux nose with red fruit, black forest berries, lovely herb, and Sweet cedar. The mouth on this full bodied is a bit tropical with almost sweet summer fruit, almost papaya, with ripe raspberry, Dragon fruit, and soft tannin with nice blueberry and lovely sheets of sweet fruit. The finish is long and sweet and nice with layers of fruit and sweet spices.

2011 La Fenetre Merlot, Mesa Verde Vineyard – Score: B+ to A-
The nose is very Bordeaux like, with a bit of black cherry, but dominated by bramble, dirt, slight heat, licorice, mineral, orange rind, and black plum. The mouth is a lovely medium bodied wine which was aged for 16 months in French oak barrels, showing good concentration of blackberry and black cherry, a slight hint of blueberry (but that blows off), along with a shocking saline flavor profile (that eventually also goes away), graphite, searing eucalyptus, roasted herbs, nice tannin structure, along with good green foliage. The finish is long and green with good spice, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, baker’s chocolate, raspberry, and what seemed like tar to me.

Agua Dolce

What can I say, when I think of Craig Winchell, I have great memories of his epic Gan Eden Cabernet wines. They were my first real touchstone in terms of world class wines, that happen to be kosher. So when I heard that Craig was back at making wine I was excited, and much of that is already stated here and here (sadly Smokin is gone). So, though the wines from Agua Dolce are fine enough, they do not meet the same standard that I came to expect from Craig, but to be fair his hands are clearly tied at AD. The water table is low at the winery, and the vineyards are in the middle of a quasi-dessert. Still, the Cabernet is nice and I hope to retaste them again soon, to see if I am still in the same ball park.

2010 Agua Dulce Winery Syrah – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this purple black colored wine also starts off with overripe fruit, but that calms with time. The nose is rich with roasted meat, ripe blueberry, smoky notes, along with mounds of black pepper, licorice, and nice mineral. The mouth is round and filling with rich mouth coating tannins that cost and linger long, along with lovely concentrated blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, and blue fruit, all coming together with the nice tannin and sweet oak. The finish is long and spicy with graphite, bell pepper, chocolate, more black pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, and dirt.

2010 Agua Dulce Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B++
The wine starts off a bit new world for me and sweet, but that calms over time and becomes more balanced with ripe fruit, but not cloyingly so. The nose on this dark purple colored wine is filled with candied fruit, nice oak, toast, chocolate, blackberry, rich black pepper, cassis, black plum, graphite, and tons of bell pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with large mouth coating tannin, lots of black fruit, lovely oak, along with a fair amount of green notes, that truly add complexity to this wine, along with nice extraction that comes together into a rich and lasting mouth. The finish is long and spicy with more lingering black fruit, chocolate, graphite, and more green notes.

2010 Agua Dulce Winery Zinfandel – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark purple colored wine explodes with heat, rich root beer, boysenberry, nicely smoked meat, and great spice. In many ways the nose is the clear star of the wine. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off so nicely with layers of dark and rich jammy fruit, blackberry, strawberry, sweet oak, and lovely mouth coating tannin, but the heat, and sweet date flavors fill in the mid palate and make it a wine that demands rich food, and even still the wine just tastes overripe. The finish is long with more spice, but it is overshadowed by the heat and date, along with hints of surprising green notes, olives, rich and freshly ground pepper, chocolate, and more spice.

Herzog Winery

Wow, I saved the longest for last! I am actually not sure which is longer, label-wise, Hagafen (there are more wines than what I published above) or Herzog. If you add in the whole Juenesse line, I think Herzog has more labels, but yeah – those wines are not on this list!

Herzog/Royal wine started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Austria in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. When he came to NY he was penniless, and he went to work for a company called Royal Wine Company, as the truck driver, salesman, and winemaker! Royal had little money to pay Mr. Herzog, so they gave him a slim salary and stock. This persisted, until soon he became the majority stockholder, and in 1958 bought the company.

He renamed it to Kedem Winery, which harkens backwards and forwards if you play with the Hebrew meanings of the word. Mr. Herzog never forgot his past and was always looking forward to what could be created – wine wise in the USA. It was at this point that innovation took over. You see in the 50s there were many kosher wine makers in NYC and they all produced sweet sacramental wines. Royal was doing the same before and after Mr. Herzog appeared. However, the issue with concord grapes was that they do not have juice in them, they are jelly centered and it takes a fair amount of knowledge and ability to produce wine from them. So, it took time, and a fair amount of heartache, but they produced wine till they came upon their ultimate innovation, grape juice!

We take it for granted now, but in the 50s everyone drank wine, kids and adults alike on the shabbos table. So, when it was created it was a run away smash, and one that quickly cemented Royal as the go to kosher winery in NYC. It was in the early 1970s that Royal expanded to other grapes, but they were still making sweet sacramental – in varying degrees of alcohol and without adding sugar, which was one of their earlier innovations.

Finally, in the early 1980s, before Pierre started working for them or selling to them, Royal decided to make a set of moves that would cement them in the kosher wine industry as the official 800-pound Gorilla. They correctly gauged the market reaction and tripled down in a very intelligent and successful manner. What are we talking about? They decided to make special kosher runs from world-renowned wineries the world around. Before, Pierre was in the picture, Mr. Herzog and his family decided to make kosher wine runs in Italy and France and brought the wine to the US. Sadly, these new non-sacramental dry wines sat dormant in the warehouse, nothing sold. Finally, an article ran in the NYTimes and they sold the pallet. Soon after, they realized there was a huge market untapped, and they further bet down. They started in France’s second growth chateaus, then moving to Italy, Spain, and then Israel, before stretching to almost every major wine region around the world.

By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint into the world of high end wines. After that they moved to Santa Maria, hired the now head wine maker, Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), while all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers), and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005.

Before I go through the entire list of wines from Herzog, a few thoughts. One, WOW what a change they have gone through in the past 4 years. Herzog is really spending money in the place that counts – the vineyards and the grapes. They bought their first vineyard in Clarksville and they are really putting a concerted effort in procuring and improving the quality of their grapes overall. This does not come cheap, but if you are going to spend money, the vines are the place to do it.

Sure, everyone loves Teirra Sur and the Herzog Winery and rightfully so, they are world-class institutions. However, once you are done building and getting used to the new digs, the next phase has to be the vineyards! However, it was not a step function approach. Until Joe Hurliman (head winemaker) and Joseph Herzog (CEO of Herzog Winery) could buy the vineyard, they started with contracts with vineyards around California, like most wineries do. The contracts allow them to maintain the control on how the vines are kept, without buying the vineyard. However, in 2006 they started a new line of wines with special grapes from highly acclaimed vineyards. It all started in 2006 with the insane 2006 To Kalon Cabernet, which was not marketed under the Single Vineyard moniker, but it was 100% To Kalon grapes. In 2007 they used the official Single Vineyard moniker for the “first” SV wine; 2007 Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon, Haystack Peak Vineyard, Single Vineyard. This was the first year that the tear sheet label was used and it has continued since then with hit after hit. The Clone Six line, a specialization of the Cabernet grapes grown in the Werneke vineyard that are of that clone, also started in 2007. Further the Gen 8 wines were being made for sometime already, as were the Special Reserve and Special Edition wines.

With that kind of focus on quality, to be fair it could be understood how the rest of the wines were not really up to par with other entry-level wines from wineries around the world creating great QPR wines; like Dalton, Recanati, Elvi Winery, and others. But slowly, starting in 2010 things have changed. To be fair, 2010 and 2011 were tough years. The real change is clearly evident in the 2012 vintage. This is where fruit from higher end vineyards started making their way into the lower level Herzog baseline wines, and what an improvement! First of all, the Weinstock Cellar Select, are perennial QPR winners on my yearly lists and starting this year, the 2012 Cab appeared on my 2015 list.

Sure, there are still wines being made at Herzog that I cannot “appreciate” like the White Zin and the Juenesse line, but hey those are great entry level wines for people who only drink sweet wines. They are the gateway drugs to the noble dry varieties that we all appreciate. Further, while they may dominate the wine portfolio of Herzog, the way I look at it, this is a business and while we appreciate the high-end products, the low end products are used to pay for the bills and are thankfully slowly improving in their own rights. The real innovation is in the wine club where Mr. Hurliman has more elbow room to play and innovate. Look to the wonderful Eagles Landing Zin and Sauvignon Blanc for a better appreciation for what I am talking about.

When I think of wine clubs, I cannot help but remember the line I heard from a winemaker or two (NOT on this list of wineries from Cali) that when faced with some not so perfect wines, would retort with his saying – well that is what wine clubs are for. Wine clubs for Herzog is really not that approach at all. Further, it allows for wine aficionados to get access to wines that would never be created for the grand open public market, as they may not sell as well, given the more focused vertical that they are appealing to (AKA wine freaks).

So, here is the list of wines that I have really appreciated this past year from Herzog. Also, please never forget that Herzog also has a wine club, and just as the Landsman wines above were on the list for Covenant, there Eagle’s Landing wines from the Herzog Wine club:

Herzog Lineup

2012 Herzog Syrah, Single Vineyard, Reserve, Paso Robles – Score: A- (mevushal)
This wine returns the Syrah grape to the Herzog Reserve line and Herzog has hit a home run with this vintage. The nose on this lovely wine, is rich and blue with sweet fruit, plum, and hints of bubblegum that blow off after time, with mad floral expressions and violet. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with lovely spices, concentrated fruit, white chocolate, with Asian spices, butterscotch, blueberry, boysenberry, plum, blackberry, all wrapped in lovely mouth coating tannin, ripping acid, and sweet notes. The finish is long and spicy with great earthy notes, charcoal, with more sweet fruit, sweet dill, tobacco, coffee, roasted animal notes, white pepper, and oriental spices. Lovely!!

2012 Eagles Landing Syrah, Paso Robles – Score: A- (and more) (NOT mevushal)

WOW! Tasting this wine side by side the 2012 Herzog Single Vineyard Paso Syrah and what a wonderful play on approaches! The Herzog Syrah is a bruising wine with power and fruit while the Eagles Landing Syrah shows lovely finesse and elegance, while still landing quite a punch – impressive!

The nose on this wine is elegance in a glass of red wine, with spice, lovely white pepper perfume, followed by raspberry and plum jam, with hints of white fruit and lovely spice. The mouth on this full bodied and ripe wine, shows beautiful finesse, with wicked acid, lovely purple fruit jam, with blueberry and boysenberry, all wrapped in mouth coating tannin, followed by dried cranberry, sweet spices, with leather, violet, mad juicy strawberry, lovely mineral, dried earth, and dirty elegance. The finish is long with wicked balance, sweet tannin, and lovely spice lingering.

2013 Herzog Chardonnay – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is lovely with sweet notes, oak, nice peach, tropical notes, with nectarine, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has clear sweetness with residual sugar, nice enough acid to compensate, with hints of orange, lovely lemon, sweet kiwi, and guava. The finish is long and sweet with a tart finish, nice spice, and lingering acid.

2011 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Reserve – Score: B++ (mevushal)
What can I say, 2011 was a tough year for sure. The nose on this wine is a green monster with mounds of foliage, herb, and cranberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with a solid fruit structure, showing blackberry, plum, along with good concentration of raspberry, nice spice, and green notes, all wrapped in tannin and sweet oak. The finish is long and green with lovely leafy tobacco, herb, and nice sweet fruit.

2010 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The nose on this wine shows nice plum, sweet tobacco, candied fruit, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows more sweet fruit, but the structure and fruit are a not balanced with sweetness showing through too much. The wine is nice enough, but lacks complexity, but does have lots of fruit forward fruit.

2011 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Basin Vineyard, Single Vineyard, Reserve – Score: A- (NOT mevushal)
This wine is one that needs a fair amount of time to open and come around, but with time the green notes calm and show more fruit. The nose on this lovely wine is a mineral monster with green notes, deeply rooted mineral, great herb, and smoke. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered and mineral core, with acid backbone, wrapped in luscious mouth coating tannin, great earthy structure, spice, raspberry, blackcurrant, cassis, with sweet cedar, and nice fruit structure. The finish is long and mineral based, with great acid, spice, plum, crazy tobacco, sweet oregano, cinnamon, and more nice tannin linger. Bravo!!

2010 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Chalk Hill – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
The nose on this wine shows sweet notes, dark plum, and lovely pencil shavings. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich with more plum, raspberry, spice, good tannin, along with hints of date, pushed to the limit of sweet notes. The finish is long with nice spice, blueberry notes, sweet spices, nutmeg, tobacco and sweet herbs linger long on the palate.

2012 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles – Score: A- (mevushal) (QPR)
There are some that think the green notes on this wine are a bit too much, but I do not mind it that much. The nose on this lovely wine shows blueberry, blackberry, rich spice, and sweet herbs. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine has a first attack of green notes, herb, foliage, followed by lovely mineral, heavy notes of cloves, followed by sweet plum, currant, all wrapped in good fruit structure, nice tannin, and hints of peach. The finish is long and spicy with nice sweet oak, spice, cloves, nutmeg, tobacco,, and more green foliage.

2011 Baron Herzog Zinfandel – Score: B+ (mevushal)
This wine is a classic go to wine when I need a mevushal wine at a reasonable price, but in the past year I use the cab instead. The nose on this wine shows lovely blueberry, strawberry, along with crazy spice, and white pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe with spice, deep commanding zinberry, with layers of spice, crushed herb, and cloves. The finish is long and spicy with ripe raspberry and spice lingering.

2010 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Reserve – Score: A- (mevushal)
This is another of the go to higher end mevushal wines out there. The nose on this wine is classic, with chocolate, herb, and lovely mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not as complex as previous vintages, 2010 and 2011 were tougher years, with more vanilla covered chocolate, plum, blackcurrant, blackberry, wrapped in nice acid and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and buttery and plush with good acid, spice, tobacco, and sweet cedar.

2011 Herzog Chardonnay, Russian River, Special Reserve – Score: B++ (mevushal)
The nose on this wine shows quince, dried fruit, guava, and green apple. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is sweet and oaken with spice, sweet herb, nice apple pie, brioche, and butterscotch. The finish is long with sweet fruit, sweet cedar, butterscotch, and nice sweet herb, sweet oregano.

2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select – Score: A- (Mevushal)
This is not the same wine as the 2011 vintage which was crazy and great, this vintage started off closed and disjointed, but is now showing far better. The nose on this wine is mad green with red fruit notes, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with green notes, well balanced with good acid, raspberry, plum, earth, more bell pepper, crazy sweet dill, mouth coating tannin, and green foliage. The finish is long with nice enough acid, forest floor, nice butterscotch, good sweet tobacco, cedar, with tannin adding weight.

2011 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select – Score: B to B+ (Mevushal)
This is another tough 2011 wine with green notes and not enough complexity. The nose on this wine is green and red, with green notes of foliage in the forefront, with tart raspberry, cranberry, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is red all over with green ribbons, showing raspberry, currant, plum, more green notes, along with sweet tobacco, sweet cedar, and nice tannin. The finish is long and green with hints of mineral, chocolate, vanilla, spice, and nutmeg.

2012 Herzog White Riesling, Late Harvest, Reserve – Score: B++ to A- (mevushal)
This is one late harvest wine from Herzog that is cohesive and really there in all the right places! The nose on this sweet wine shows its sweet notes with honey, lovely grapefruit, guava, and melon. The mouth on this full bodied wine is viscous and rich, with hints of tannin, lovely bracing acid, showing an almost oily texture, along with nectarine, guava, and apricot. The finish is long and round with good balancing acid, sweetness galore, mineral, and slate. Very Nice!

2013 Herzog Chenin Blanc – Score: B+ (Mevushal)
This is one of those nice goto white wines that are mevushal and simple, yet has enough acid to make it a fun summer wine. The nose on this wine has clear residual sugar, with grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple, white peach, and green apple. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is round and ripe with a good acid backbone, along with sweet notes, melon, apricot, and sweet herb. The finish is long and tart with light pith and light spice.

2012 Weinstock Alicante Bouschet – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The first vintage of this wine was a tannin bomb, this is now sweet, and it like PS is a classic blending grape for its color and tannin. The nose on this wine is ripe with plum, raspberry, and crazy sweet notes. The mouth on this wine is a bit more calm, tannin wise than previous vintages, with butterscotch, sweet cedar, crazy sweet dill, more red berry, and softening tannin. The finish is long and green with sweet chocolate, tobacco, and green notes.

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation #3 – Score: B++ to A- (mevushal)
Originally when this came out I was not a fan, but with time this has become a real winner. This is a cabernet blend with grapes sourced from three locations in California; Paso Robles, Napa Valley, and Santa Ynez. The label is made to the shape of the California coast line. The nose on this wine is red with dark cherry, green notes, and herb. The mouth on this light medium bodied wine is nice with crazy dill, good spices, dried herb, all balanced with lovely acid and searing mouth coating tannin, with a lovely mouthfeel that wraps currant, pomegranate, and nice rose hips. The finish is long and spicy with sweet cedar, sweet tobacco, nutmeg, and butterscotch – very nice!

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation #4 – Score: A- (mevushal)
This is a cabernet blend with grapes sourced from three locations in California; Paso Robles, Napa Valley, and Santa Ynez (like #3), and Alexander Valley. The label is made to the shape of the California coast line. The nose on #4 is blacker than #3 with nice dark plum and herbs. The mouth on this nice medium bodied wine shows from the extra cab, with blackberry making an appearance, along with sweet plum, ripe fruit but controlled along with good acid, all wrapped in mouth draping tannin, sweet dill, and herb. The finish is long with sweet basil, dill, leather, spice, and sweet milk chocolate.

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation #5 – Score: A- (mevushal)
This is the third of the three variation blends that come from 5 different locations in California; Paso Robles, Napa Valley, and Santa Ynez, Alexander Valley (like #4), and Chalk Hill. The label is made to the shape of the California coast line. The nose on this wine shows lovely green notes, with rich mineral, nice herb, foliage, and raspberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with good layers, chocolate, dark cherry, with green ribbons that run through it all, with nice balancing acid, blackberry, dark cherry, all wrapped in sweet oak and sweet dill. Long and green finish with great tobacco, sweet basil, crazy acid, tray fruit, that lingers long with green notes and nutmeg, NICE!!

2013 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, Santa Rita – Score: A- (and more) (NOT mevushal)
Its BACK! Sadly one year was lost to a freak agriculture accident, where yellow jackets attacked the vineyard, so e have had to wait since 2010 for another lovely Pinot from Santa Rita Hills.

The nose on this lovely wine is really beautiful and ethereal, with dark cherry, raspberry, and nice plum. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really beautiful with currant showing a beautiful and luscious body, with Oriental spice, pomegranate, cinnamon, with lovely screaming acid, ripping mineral, dried herb, cherry cola, along with mounds of black pepper, and spicy oak. This mouth is complex, layered, and yet elegant, lovely! The finish is long and spicy with coffee, toast, burnt oak, spices, with roasted herb, cloves, and sage. BRAVO!!!

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Reserve – Score: A- (mevushal)
The 2010 was green and lovely while the 2011 was a tough year. This vintage is lovely with green notes that are controlled while showing red and black notes as well. The nose on this lovely wine is ripe with green notes, crazy dill, pine needles, menthol, plum, and chocolate. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine starts with green notes, tart fruit, with plum, crazy acid, cranberry, juicy strawberry, all wrapped in mouth coating tannin, herb, sweet tobacco, and green notes. The finish is long and herbal with tart green notes, spice, mineral, herb, vanilla, and chocolate. Bravo!!!

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Reserve – Score: B+ (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine is green with foliage, spice, plum, dirt, and mineral. The mouth on this wine is sadly all over the place with but yet nice with green notes, sweet tobacco, currant, plum, and herb. The finish is nice with acid, sweet dill and roasted herb.

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Special Edition – Score: A- (and more) (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is dark and brooding and elegant with dark fruit, green notes, earth, mad mineral, spice, and lovely roasted herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely with rich extraction, layers upon layers of concentrated fruit, with lovely elegance and fruit structure, with chocolate, sweet spices, blackberry, plum, and sweet dill. The finish is long and tart with sweet notes, leather, oriental spices, herb, mad graphite, crazy mineral that is all over the wine, all balanced with lovely acid and tobacco. Bravo!!!

2010 Herzog Zinfandel, Z3 – Score: B+ (mevushal)
This is the third Zinfandel that Herzog makes for the wine club and wine tasting room. The nose on this wine is redolent with Zinberry – the classic fruit that describes Zinfandel – that is part strawberry nd part blueberry, with green notes, blueberry, and ripe red fruit. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine hits you with layers of blue and black fruit, blackberry, plum, with sweet notes, dragon fruit, and sweet spices, all wrapped in mouth coating  and searing tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet brown sugar, hickory, sweet dill, nutmeg, leather, intense black pepper, and spices.

2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Princeville, Clarksburg – Score: A- (mevushal)
This vintage is back! The last vintage from this new vineyard was 2010 and that was initially lovely and then it fell off, much like many PS wines. PS is a grape, in my opinion, that is rarely a long term cellaring wine, it is built to enjoy not to last, other than maybe Hajdu – but I digress. The nose on this lovely wine shows floral notes, with blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, and sweets pieces. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine, shows mouth drying and coating tannin, with blue and black fruit, leather, mineral, and lovely saline, with pomegranate, and dark bitter chocolate. The finish is long and layered with concentrated fruit, with crazy saline, mad mineral, graphite, along with root beer, black pepper, cloves, with drying tannin and spices. BRAVO!!!

2012 Padis Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Brilliance, Napa Valley – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
This is a wine from Steve Padis and winery who bought 14 acres of land and in 2007 made his first barrel of wine. In 2012 he decided to make his first kosher wine in the Herzog Winery. The grapes are grown in the famed Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley, overlooking rolling hills and valleys. The Brilliance name comes from Steve’s first passion, diamonds and precious gems. He has three stores in San Francisco and is an hour drive from his winery.
The wine was made in Herzog Winery for now, but will soon start being made in his winery. At that time, we hope to see if Steve will make kosher runs of all of his wines – hint hint…

The nose on this classic Napa Cab is bursting with fruit, ripe and in your face, with earthy and dirty notes, followed by rich black fruit, mineral, toast, and lovely roasted animal notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is plush and layered with a lovely texture, sweet cedar, blackberry, cassis, pushed to the brink in terms of fruit forward and sweet, with balance of herb, mouth coating tannin, and earth. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate, leather, butterscotch, vanilla, sweet dill, tobacco notes, and nutmeg.

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel/Syrah – Score: A- (mevushal)
The nose on this crazy wine blend is a wine that I have loved for sometime, but one that is not released every year. The nose perfectly balanced – black and blue with green notes, along with crazy milk chocolate. The mouth on this full bodied wine is well balanced in the mouth as well, with lovely acid, spice, vry nice fruit structure, showing blueberry ribbons, dark kirsch cherry, blackberry, candied peach, and sweet notes. The finish is long and spice with sweet cedar, sweet dill, all wrapped in mouth coating tannin, herb, and vanilla. Very Nice!

2012 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Special Reserve, Dry Creek – Score: A- (and more) (NOT Mevushal)
Wow what a wine, of course this is a wine that needs lots of time to open and is far too young to appreciate right now. Give this wine two years and then it may start to enter its drinking window. This is the 6th year of Joe Hurliman’s Single Vineyard Cabernet portfolio.
This is a wonderful and well controlled Sonoma County Cabernet, showing a careful hand and rich mineral. The nose on this wonderful wine is rich and dirty, with earth, mineral, black fruit, and spice. The mouth on this insane full bodied wine is super extracted with mad fruit structure, showing a rich body, with blackberry, intense roasted herb, spice, cinnamon, sweet dill, sweet tobacco, and wonderful balancing acid. The finish is long and spicy with green notes, ribbons of vanilla, backed with lovely leather, chocolate, with lingering mineral and crushed herb. What a wonderful wine! Control, finesse, elegance, and power all wrapped in a brilliant wine – BRAVO!!!

2014 Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Inez – Score: A- (and a bit) (mevushal)
WOW! This is a lovely old school take on the new world Cali fume blanc, bone dry, with lovely oak influences. The wine is another classic balance call by a winery, make the wine acidic and madly insane for a few wine freaks – like myself, or balance it extremely well and make it easily accessible to all, I am truly impressed by their choice! The nose on this lovely wine is classic with lovely gooseberry and cat pee, while also being fruity with a sweet nose, floral notes, peach and apricot. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is added to by the nice oak influence, giving it a more viscous texture, along with good sweet fruit, lovely spice, with nectarine, lovely and almost bracing acid, with grapefruit, hints of tangerine, and spice. The finish is long and sweet with lovely pith, honeysuckle, and sweet oak – BRAVO!!

2014 Baron Herzog Viognier/Checnin Blanc – Score: B+ (mevushal)
Nice sweet notes of guava, and sweet peach, honeysuckle, and honey from the 14% Viognier and nice dry straw from the 86% Chenin Blanc that balances the wine nicely. The mouth is a bit sweet, but once again this is an entry level wine, and it is still impressive in its balance, but built for the masses who enjoy a bit of a sweetness in thru wines. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows slightly more heft from the residual sugar, but still balanced with good acid, along with tropical fruit, kiwi, showing sweet notes, earth, and orange blossom. The finish is balanced with nice acid, but spicy and good fruit acidity, and nice tartness that lingers long.

2013 Herzog Viognier/Checnin Blanc, Reserve, Single Vineyard, Prince Vineyard – Score: A- (and more) (mevushal)
Wow! While the Baron version of this approach is for the masses, this wine is a bit more “advanced”, showing complexity and unique notes that make for a lovely experience. Personally, this wine screams more winter than summer, but either way there is a healthy dose of summer in it, and it is a wonderful replacement for the usual Cali Chard.

The nose on this wine is intoxicating with smoke, flint, along with sweet barrel notes, white chocolate, and fig. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine shows the barrel age, with clean sweet oak, crazy bone dry fruit structure, but showing impressive complexity and vibrancy, with rich spice, white pepper, and well balanced all around with sweet round fruit, tart fruit notes, with the peach from the viognier, mad spice from the oak, and the dry green and grass notes from Chenin. The finish is tart and lovely with pith peeking out from behind the fruit and dry notes – BRAVO!!!

2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Rose – Score: A- (mevushal)
So, yes this rose is built using the saignee (bleeding) approach, and it shows in the mouth, but the acid balances it well. Please beware, this wine’s structure will initially make you think twice if there is any acid in this wine, GIVE IT TIME! With time the wine opens to show a lovely balance with ripe fruit, acid, and green notes.

The nose on this Cabernet Sauvignon blend (75% Rutherford Cab and 25% Spring Mountain Cab) shows crazy ripe red and white fruit, cherry, strawberry, rose hips, with flint and smoke and tart white fruit like peach and litchi. The mouth on this medium bodied wine grows on you, so give it time! When it opens, the mouth shows well with nice weight, with good acid (not ripping but very well balanced) with crazy spice, good peach, sweet herb, and apricot. The finish is long and beguiling with its ripeness, yet green and tart notes, very good acid, sweet summer fruit, and nice pith. BRAVO!

2012 Eagles Landing Zinfandel, Paso, Templeton Pass – Score: A- (and more) (mevushal)
It is back!!! Yes Yes we have a kosher Zinfandel winner! WOW! The last killer Zinfandel was either the new 2013 Dalton Zin or the older Landsman and Four Gates Zins. This is the clear and unambiguous winner, it shows mad elegance, wicked acid, mineral, saline, and yes NO Zinberry!! Bravo guys – a true showcase for what a Zinfandel can be! Joe Hurliman said, Zin was one of his loves, and its hows here when he has full control without the concern of pleasing the masses.

The nose on this insane wine starts with ripe and trat fruit, with fresh tilled earth, sweet notes, with ripe raspberry, sour red cherry, with dirt and light dusting of sand. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not about the knock out punch, but rather about control, essence of the fruit, and complexity, with the perfect balance of tart fruit, crazy juicy strawberry, ripe blueberry, ripping acid, all wrapped in hints of sweet oak, and lovely mouth coating tannins. The finish is super long and lingering with intense bakers chocolate, juicy fruit, tart notes, and sweet spices – IMPRESSIVE and LOVELY!

2011 Herzog Petit Verdot, Reserve, Napa Valley – Score: A- (mevushal)
This is the first release of PV from the folks at Herzog and I hope this rookie blast continues in subsequent vintages! The nose on this 100% PV wine hits you over the head with a two-by-four of roasted meat, tilled earth, soy sauce, and tamari. The mouth on this elegant medium bodied wine, have wonderful acid, ripe strawberry, blackberry, more lovely dirt, boysenberry, with green notes, herb, dill, all wrapped in mouth coating velvet tannin. The finish is long and green with balance and more herb. Lovely!

2011 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Trestle Glen, Single Vineyard, Sonoma Valley – Score: A- (and a bit) (NOT mevushal)
No you are not confused – yes there are two Single Vineyard wines for 2011. Just like it was in 2008, when the first Trestle Glen SV Cabernet was added to the portfolio, along with the luscious 2008 Oak Knoll Cabernet. This time it was added to the new 2011 SV; the Basin Vineyard wine.

This wine is a tale of elegance, in a year where fruit was tough to get ripe and yet keep dry and not moldy! This is the same fruit that B.R. Cohn sold but with more barrel age and a different approach on it.

The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with dark chocolate, ripe blackberry, and green notes with lovely charcoal and olives. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off with crazy acid, rich chocolate, and sweet dill, followed by layers of concentrated raspberry, cassis, black plum, along with mouth coating tannin, mineral, spices, black pepper, and with crazy dirt, and roasted herb. The finish is long and green, with lovely leather, basil, and sweet oregano. BRAVO!!

2010 Herzog One Plus XII Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A- (NOT mevushal)
The second incarnation is back and this time it is the 2010 vintage, sitting in oak for ONLY 46 months and limited to just 13 barrels, and once again just for club members. The nose on this lovely wine is less oaky than the 2007 vintage, but still showing oak smoke, wicked spice, with chocolate, crazy white pepper, and cloves. The mouth on this full bodied bruising wine, is insanely searing with crazy mouth coating tannin that has yet to integrate, followed by layers upon layers of concentrated and sweet/ripe black fruit, blackberry, currant, with chocolate, balanced with nice acid, roasted dill and herb, and hints of roasted meat. The finish is long with burnt notes, vanilla, spices, and black pepper. Nice!!

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Posted on July 6, 2015, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

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