Elvi Wines – Winery Visit to see Moises and Anne Cohen in Montsant Spain
It always starts the same way, a blank page, you can look at it as a blank slate/canvas, or you can look at it as yet another post that feels at time like you are bearing your soul and feelings for all to ponder. Still, when it comes to writing about stuff you love, the fear of a blank page turns into a flowing river of text, the hard part is cutting it down to something manageable!
When it comes to Elvi Winery – I can only let my fingers do the talking, much like Moises Cohen’s wines do for themselves. It was our first day in Barcelona, and it saw my wife and I making our way to Clos Mesorah, a lovely vineyard 2 hours out of Barcelona, by train. Of course, things do not always go as planned, Moises the epitome of a host sent us detailed instructions for how we are to get from BCN to his lovely home. Sadly, time and luck were not on our side, two times on our travels to the lush vineyards of Montsant, we ran into Murph. First the train from BCN to the main train station of Barcelona was just pulling out as we walked from the ticket handler, a minute faster and we were on that one. Well, then the next domino fell, the next train would get us to the train station after the first of two trains to Clos Mesorah was pulling out, of course! So, a minute delay cost us two plus hours, such is life when traveling in a country that is foreign and complex like Spain.
But I am digressing, if anyone has read this blog before, you will know my appreciation for all things Spanish, when it comes to wine. To me they are the best kept secret in the world of kosher wine. Sure, Royal Wines has jacked the prices up on Capcanes – ever since taking over the distribution in the US from Solomon Wines. The prices are almost double for the Peraj Habib and Flor du Flor, and they almost double the Clos Mesorah prices in the US, as well. Still, if you go for the lower priced wines, there is nothing close in terms of QPR, and that is what makes kosher Spanish wines so special.
The best part of Spanish wines is that over ripe and unbalanced flavors do not find their way into the kosher Spanish offerings. Do not get me wrong, they are new-world wines of course, but they are balanced and controlled, something I think Israel could emulate, if they wanted to move to the next level.
After the two hour delay and the two hour ride, we came to the train stop that is a stone’s throw away from Clos Mesorah. Moises was so kind to get us from the train and within a few minutes we were comfortably ensconced in the lovely guest house. After a quick change of clothes and some air, we were ready for whatever Moises and Anne had in plan. Humorously, my French is average at best, but what can I do, I love to keep working on it, or maybe killing people slowly with it, but Mr. Cohen was more than happy to oblige. Mrs, Cohen, speaks more languages than I can remember, but she respectfully put up with my “French”. I state this because as we were tasting through the line of wines, the discussion of flavors and structure can at times be lost in translation, especially when the words are not in the common day-to-day vocabulary.
As the evening was still quite lovely, we met at the veranda that wraps their lovely home, surrounded by the vines of Clos Mesorah. The scents of the evening were more redolent than the bottle of bubbly Adar that sat in ice before us. The area seemed to be alive with aromas, but without the ability to see what surrounded us, other than the now picked vines, it was impossible to see the abundance of herbs, fruit trees, and vegetable plants that were no more than a stone throw away, but only time and light would expose those wonders.
I could reset the story of Elvi Wines, how it started and its background story, but you could get all of that from reading my long form post on the winery and the first release of the 2009 Clos Mesorah. In this post I was hoping to talk more about the new wines that are coming and the overall impact that I believe Elvi Wines has had on the kosher wine market in the past 5 years. Of course, the addition of the first 2009 Clos Mesorah was lovely, but as stated before, the price being charged here in the US pushes it out of most people’s budget – which is a shame in and of itself. However, the real gems are in the next level down the label line. Sure, there is the equally insanely priced Herenza Reserva, a wine that reminds me of pure umami, mineral, and dirt in a glass. While two home run wines like those in a single winery’s portfolio would make Elvi the envy of any winemaker in the kosher wine world, that is not how and where I think Elvi has placed their stamp on the kosher wine scene.
To me the underserved area, is the 25 and under price range, one that is filled with pure vinified date juice, unbalanced and down right horrible wines that makes me cringe every time I go into a wine store selling kosher wines. Inevitably a wine salesperson will push me to one of the many brands that I cannot even look at without becoming ill. Like when I was in Gibraltar in October, Deli Express is a wonderful store, filled with all the food and nosh you could want for a shabbos (except for bread which is down the street at the bakery). Sadly, when I looked at the wine options, there were none, except for Elvi and some Capcanes. Now Gibraltar is one of the larger Jewish communities in “Spain” (yes I am using that liberally), but if they had only Spanish wines then I would have nothing to talk about here. Instead, the other options were so painful that I would feel horrible for them (as I do the inhabitants of Glasgow who have only GREAT fire water to enjoy), if not for the Spanish wines. Still, to me I was ecstatic! I had three Elvi wines to choose from, and I went with the bubbly adar and the Herenza Crianza – TWO incredible QPR wines.
I point this out because in the end the Clos Mesorah, Flor de Flor, and even the Peraj Habib are great wines, but they are not the average person’s cornflakes wine, they are once a year wines for many – if that. The real sweet spot, the place where Elvi (and to some extent Capcanes) is changing the market, is in the 25 dollar and less price range. Sure, that is still an expensive wine for everyday drinking, but for a shabbos or a Rosh Chodesh, that is accessible by a far larger swath of kosher wine consumers. Look at the options that Elvi has in that price range, and the wines that I have listed on my 25 and less kosher wine for 2015. There is the awesome Herenza Crainza, then there is the Herenza Semi, followed by the Adar bubbly, Vina Encina rose, and the InVita. That is an impressive list of wines, sure there are two whites on that list, but in Spain and Israel (yes they are now available in Israel), and most of the Mediterranean countries that surround the Iberian Peninsula, white wines are not the “five-letter word”, that the rest of kosher wine consumer in the US thinks it is. I must say that things are looking up in terms of kosher wine consumers and white wine, still there is a reason why Bokobsa only makes their INSANELY AWESOME Sancerre twice in the last decade 2007 and 2012, because even in France, and even GREAT white wine simply does not sell to the kosher wine market – something that continues to baffle me.
Personally, I think it follows the theme that I have been hammering on in the past year, the recalibrating of the kosher wine drinker’s palate. For now, IMHO, they are sold on wines that slam them up against the wall and goes all Mike Tyson on their senses. Sadly, white wines are far more elegant and less of the right hook/left hook combination that they are craving. I hope and continue to pray that this will change – with time. As I have said, California wine consumers went through this transformation, and they are now safely on the other side, pulling the wineries along with them – kicking and screaming. Parker’s influence is waning, the millennium generations’s influence is growing – and what do they want – YOU GUESSED IT! Reasonably priced wine (they do have thousands of dollars in college debt) that does not taste like what their parents enjoyed – they want unique wines that are not run-of-the-mill, but still enjoyable and different – just like them.
To me, that is what Elvi Wines is – they make wines that you cannot replicate in any other location, they do not make YACSC (Yet Another Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay). That would be sacrilege! Sure, Cabernet is a DO legal fruit, but almost no one makes a pure Cab in Spain – why? It is not a region where Cabernet is king. In Bordeaux, Cabernet makes sense, the terroir and the climate make Cabernet sing (most years). In Spain, the climate is too warm for a pure Cab to be unique and self-defining. It still has the body and fruit when grown in Spain, but the rest of what makes a wine – terroir, acid, structure, mineral, spice, and on and on – come from other fruit in Spain. Like Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and of course Tempranillo – the Cabernet of Spain.
Now, I know what some of you are asking – what happened to the InVIta and the Ness Blanco – two of my favorite white wines on the kosher market, good news they are still being made in Spain! Sadly, the InVita does not move on shelves like it does in Europe, but Mr. Cohen did sound like it may make a return to the US shelves this year – though that is all in the hands of Royal Wines, so start petitioning your local area Royal Wine salesman, talk to the Herzog’s at this year’s Kosher Food and Wine Experience, and ask for more white wines – especially from Spain!!!
The fascinating fact is that with so many labels, Elvi only makes 100K bottles, not including the Sangria (a easy drinking cocktail made with wine, spices, herbs, and some fizzz of some sort). The vast majority of them are QPR winners and the others are very solid to great. The winery makes wines all over the vast swath of Spain, making wines in the north, center, and south of Spain. Each DO brings with it a special take/angle of an identical varietal, much like how Cabernet is drastically different throughout areas of California. Tempranillo is used by Mr. Cohen throughout his lower level of wines, and even in his high end Herenza. In the rest of his blends, the classic warm climate varietals, listed above, make their presence known.
As we we enjoyed the Adar bubbly, the discussion did not devolve to 100% wine as my wife was there, and I did not want the entire evening to be wine related. Still, as we spoke more, I was impressed by the passion that the Cohens have for their wine and their brand. Of course any winemaker must love what they do, otherwise they will lose their minds! Still, Moises has a way of talking about wine without selling it. There are so many winemakers out there that talk more about themselves and their brand then they talk about the wines they make. The Cohens are not like that, they are humble and passionate, and very articulate, while having much to be not humble about. We did talk about how Elvi Winery is doing in the USA and why I find it so hard to find many of their wines. To me it is a true shame, they have one of the best combination of QPR wines in the kosher world and yet they are hard and elusive to track down. Much of that is marketing and I hope they do more of it in the USA, more wine shop tastings and education, but at the same time the labels were a bit disjointed and hard to understand. So, the Cohens have cleaned it all up. They now have the very good entry level Encina wines, followed by the Rioja Herenza wines, then the EL26, the two Adar red and white bubbly wines, and the Clos Mesorah. The Invita and the Ness Blanco are still not well understood in the portfolio overall, but that is a real conundrum. Without going into the murky aspects of Spanish DO – essentially varietal controlled appellations – where only certain varietals could be grown in their respective regions, there is little that can be done about how to market these wines. Either Moises simply removes the entire history and culture of Spanish wines by renaming the lines to Encina, Herenza, and Clos Meorah. The problem there is that the USA is only 25% of his sales, and the rest goes to Europe and abroad that cares deeply for the wine regions and viticultural impacts of each of the DO regions. To lose the region specific labels like; EL26 Priorat, Invita, Ness Blanco and such, would be a problem for those that care about them. The other option is two have two sets of labels – but that is a complete disaster to keep track of. Still, the many labels are confusing to the US consumer, and that is a real issue that Moises is figuring through. The more streamlined labels are working, The Herenza and Clos Mesorah labels are flying off the store shelves, the other ones – well they are selling great in Europe, but no so much in the USA. The 2011 InVita is still for sale in the USA! I tasted the 2014 when I was at the winery! Yes, whites do not move in the USA, but still, things are clearly not working for some labels, which is a real shame, and one that I hope will be rectified quickly, as the wines are too good to be such a real pain to find and enjoy!
On an aside, beyond the label complexity that we described above, the real headache is to manage all these wines, in all the areas. Mr. Cohen cannot make his Priorat wine in La Mancha, or his La Mancha wines in Priorat! He has to make his wines in each and every location around Spain! That means to make his 11 labels (Clos Mesorah, Adar red, three Herenza, EL 26, Cava, InVita, and three Vina Encina), he needs to have space in 6 wineries across Spain; Montsant, Priorat, Ribera del Júcar (where he also makes the Encina wines from La Mancha), Cava, Rioja, and Alella). The complexity of keeping up on those wines and keeping them all kosher across the vast expanse of Spain – is pretty impressive!
The tasting moved to the winery, a beautiful building built in 2014, which has a tasting area, a beautiful barrel room, and space for all the tanks and machinery needed to make the Clos Mesorah wines. The tasting table was filled with all the wines that the Cohens make and one by one we tasted through all the wines, in the order that the Cohens find better shows off their wines, reds first and then the whites. The ripping acid in their whites are better highlighted after the reds, so we started with the Encina line. The Encina wines come from the La Mancha DO, and they highlight ripe and dark fruit, characteristics that made their way into the racy and saline driven Saignée (wine bleed) Encina rose that they make. The Encina red reminded me more of Touriga Nacional than Tempranillo, but still the wine was ripe and alive with good acid, but one that was pushed a bit too far for me. The rose was really lovely, racy, acidic, tart, with good body and fruit structure, impressive.
From there we moved to the spectacular Herenza line that Elvi makes; the only true kosher Rioja wines that I drink. The Elvi Herenza Semi (AKA Mati) – is lovely and for 12 bucks a great wine that is enjoyable with BBQ and roasted chicken. The next one, the Herenza Crianza is a KILLER QPR wine, one that is a basis to my wine cellar, both for holding and for monthly drinking. We then moved to the flagship; the 2013 Clos Mesorah, one of those wines that just puts a smile on my face whenever I get to enjoy one. Clos Mesorah is one of those blends that defines Spain to me, it is unique, changing, and always deeply rooted in it roots, both figuratively and characteristic wise. The wine is rooted in the Spanish history, the wine is a blend with hundreds of years of history and sourced from vines that are more than 100 years old. The vines that source this fantastic wine surrounds the very winery we were tasting in. We were drinking the wine in its very home that it was birthed from, a home that with history and culture that goes beyond the 12 years that the Cohens have owned the estate. The wine’s flavors evoke images of a searing sunset over a pure blue ocean, with tinges of dark black in the future, surrounded by the very herbs and slate that the vines grow in and around, with truffle shaped clouds overhead. What can I say, whenever I taste this wine, it evokes images that I can actually say I saw and experienced in the very country that birthed this wine. A country whose very climate and viticulture made this wine a reality. To me the wine defines Spain, it defines Elvi Wines, and it defines what Moises sees for his winery, a wine that evokes the history and culture of Spain, a wine that screams new world, with a foot in the past, a time where control, terroir and balance meant something.
If the Clos Mesorah is the balanced, black and blue, and All-Spanish-Athlete (in tongue and cheek), then the Herenza Reserva is the perfect example of hedonism in the kosher wine world. What can I say, this wine is intense, it is pure umami in a glass, mushroom, roasted meat, soy sauce, and coffee/chocolate of course! It is the perfect wine to enjoy with chocolate mole!! The Herenza Reserva is insane, it is a wine that is so intoxicating it cannot be described well with words alone, we can try, but whatever we say it will be missing something, and all of this from a wine that is 100% Rioja! Love It!
The next two wines we enjoyed were a step behind the two massive reds, they feel to me to be pushed a bit more than the perfectly balanced crown jewels. The 2008 Adar is a blend of Petite Verdot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is dark, brooding, and inky black, with bright and ripe blue fruit, but it lacks the perfect balance I crave. The 2008 EL 26 is clearly better, but it too is a bit too ripe and fruit forward than I like my wines, but this is a wine that is better enjoyed with food, like the crazy cheeses we enjoyed later in that evening.
It was after these red blockbusters that we got to enjoy the ripping acid white I crave. The 2014 Invita is a blend of 60% Pansa Blanca and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The crazy intense tart fruit, ripping acid, minerality, and bright but not over the top fruit, is the white wine that we all need to be asking for more of. This wine is perfect with cheese, meat, even steak! Yes, steak! Why? The acid, I enjoyed that white with deeply stinky cheeses that night and it was laughing at the cheese, taunting the cheese by screaming back “is that all you got”? What can I say, a wine with good acid, bright fruit, and mineral can truly be enjoyed with almost anything you throw at it, and that is what the InVita is all about! I really hope we get to see current vintages of this lovely white wine in the USA soon.
After enjoying the tasting, it was time for drinking these wines along with some awesome food that Anne made and some great cheeses to boot! We started our dinner with two soups, one was a tomato gazpacho – delicious with the rose and Invita, followed by another soup, but sadly I do not remember what it was – my bad! Next we tasted a perfectly executed tortilla de patatas – essentially the classic comfort food of Barcelona! The dish can be found at any tapas bar in Spain, but they could never taste like this (and I know because the one we had at Maccabi – was nice but nowhere near as good as Anne’s). That was paired with lovely olives that come from their own trees, and a slate of cheeses that I honestly never saw before, but each and everyone was absolutely delicious!
After enjoying the food, wine, and their fantastic company, we made our way to the guest house and fell asleep in no time! The next morning, a quick shower, shave and davening was followed by a lovely breakfast. Then we made our way to the crazy hills, slopes, and mountains of Priorat. Clos Mesorah is inside the Montsant DO, and is 10 minutes away from the Priorat DOC. So, within minutes we were out of Montsant, and making our way to Porrera, a small town inside the smaller Priorat DOC. From there we jumped into another truck and we were wondering why we were playing musical cars. That all changed when we realized where we were going, literally up a mountain side, where the Grenache grapes are sourced for the lovely EL26 wine. The vines grow in, around, and through rock, actually they grow in between vertical slices of Llicorella. The mountain side is so steep that I thought the truck would go backwards. Once we got to what I could describe as a “not vertical” spot, we got out and tried to climb to see the vines, but the mountainside slope was so inane, that I needed the guide to take me to the path to the vines. I must say, the shocking aspect I got out of that visit was the thought of having to pick these vines – insane! It reminded me of pictures I see vineyards growing on the sloped mountain sides of Porto!
After that Moises and Anne gave us the best and must sees of Barcelona, and then it was time to say goodbye to the Cohens and their incredible hospitality. What can I say more than – BRAVO!!! Thanks so much for the wonderful experiences, food, wine, and your incredible kindness. Next time – Rioja! I love the Herenza wines and I would love to see where they come from! That will have to wait for another trip, one that I will look forward to with great anticipation!
The wine notes from the tasting follow below:
N.V. Elvi Wines Cava, Brut, Adar – Score: A- (CRAZY QPR) (mevushal)
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. Please make sure to be getting the new bottling, which is the mevushal bottling – which is newer. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, light char and smokey notes, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; that are clean and well made that mingle well with green apple, Asian pear, brioche and bracing acidity. The finish is long and tart with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. BRAVO!
2014 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Rose – Score: A- (QPR) (mevushal)
This lovely salmon colored rose is made of 100% Tempranillo Saignee and it reflects its redder brother, by showing ripe and tart fruit, but it adds white fruit and crazy intense acid. The nose on this wine is redolent and intense with raspberry, dark cherry, litchi, peach and floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine first hits you with intense searing acid, followed by lovely mineral, saline, and then follows with ripe kumquat, nectarines, grapefruit, and dirt. The finish is long and tart with bitter notes, earth and grapefruit and candied pomegranate. Bravo!
2014 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Tinto – Score: B+ (Mevushal)
This wine is made of 100% Tempranillo and while the wine is nice, I think it is a bit too far out there for me. The nose on this wine is cry nice with lovely dirty, earth, roasted animal notes, dark cherry, and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is mouth coating with blackcurrant, blackberry, along with hints of coffee, loamy dirt, pomegranate, and Mocha. The finish is long and earthy, with nice spice and herb.
2013 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Semi – Score: B+ to A- (QPR)
This wine shows a lovely nose of dill, earth, dirt, rich herbs, with cherry and bramble. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is pushed but controlled with crazy acid, nice tannin, intense cherry, and sweet notes of blackberry, licorice, intense chocolate, and dense coffee. The finish is long, with hints of white summer fruit, citrus, more dirt, followed by vanilla, earth, and very nice mineral.
2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Crianza – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is what I dream of when I say that GREAT kosher wine can be made at a reasonable price! The nose on this lovely wine is filled with crazy dirt, mineral, along with floral notes, rose hip, and roasted herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is lovely and layered with crazy green olives, mad saline, that is followed with lovely roasted animal notes, balanced well with intense acid, mouth coating tannin, and layers of concentrated blackberry, currant, and rich spices. The finish is long and meaty, with toasty notes, chocolate, graphite, and pomegranate. BRAVO!!
2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!
2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce, chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!
2008 Elvi Wines Adar – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is a blend of 35% Petite Verdot, 28% Syrah, and 37% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is filled with roasted animal, crazy graphite, earth, black and blue fruit, and charcoal. The mouth on this full bodied wine is a beast, it attacks with layers and waves of dirt, blackcurrant, date, ripe dark fruit, blackberry, blueberry, all wrapped in a cocoon of sweet cedar, dark chocolate, and herb. The finish is long and concentrated with dark cherry, sweet fruit, crazy still searing tannin, nutmeg, sweet spices, and more chocolate.
2008 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Merlot. The nose on this wine is redolent with crazy roasted animal, dark fruit, tilled earth, and mad mineral. The mouth on this wine is insane, it is a beast to say the least, with crazy acid, candied fruit, fig, intense saline, along with layer after layer of rich chocolate, earth, spice, blackberry, spiced plum, blueberry, mad black fruit, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy and rich with lovely mineral, saline, chunks of roasted meat, tobacco, leather, and more black fruit and searing tannin lingering. The wine is showing sweet fruit leanings, but the wine is a blockbuster.
2014 Elvi Wines InvIta – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Pansa Blanca (the fruit used in Cava) and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is as dry a wine as you will find on the kosher market, with maybe a Sancerre beating it by a hair – if that! The nose on this lovely and intoxicating wine is ripe with apple, litchi, Asian pear, peach, grapefruit, and crazy tart fruit aromas that make my mouth water thinking about what I am to taste next. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows weight from a lovely viscous and plush fruit structure, with apple blossom, lemon zest, quince, lovely straw and grass, all coming together into a insane acid attack, with mineral and saline – impressive! The finish is long, racy, and tart with gooseberry and dried fruit, with hints of bitter almond and lemon pith. A truly unique wine, showing slightly more tropical than in past vintages. BRAVO!!!
Posted on November 25, 2015, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged Adar, Cava, el26, Elviwines, Herenza Crianza, Herenza Reserva, Herenza Semi, InVita, Rioja, Rosat, Rose, Tinto, Vina Encina. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.