The star of KFWE shines brightest in LA!

Photo by David Zaitz.

Photo by David Zaitz from Wikipedia

In case anyone has read this blog for the past month, I have trumpeted the upcoming KFWE events in both NYC and LA. The NYC event went off without a hitch, a truly improved version over the past few years, and I had much hope for the LA event, as last year – it was the star of the shows.

Last year – David Whittemore, Marketing Director at Herzog Wine Cellars, and Joseph Herzog, CEO of Herzog Winery made the leap from the Hyatt Regency to the swanky Hollywood W – and by doing so they raised the stakes and added the VIP, the best overall VIP I have been to so far, food and wine wise anyway! But that was so 2015! In 2016, they had to double down – and they went with the newly rebuilt and classic/classy Los Angeles experience – the Petersen Automobile Museum!

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The Petersen, as it is known around LA, has just completed a $125 million restoration and expansion of its building, and if you look at it from outside, all I can think of is a classic chrome car with blazing red tail lights – which is all you see from the speed demon, as it leaves you in its dust! The upper deck (AKA Penthouse), is where the VIP session was this year, and where the trade session was earlier in the day. The overhead aluminum red streaks that crown this massive beauty, instill in me an idea of a red streaking roller-coaster, but beyond that – I can only stand in awe of the madness and sheer beauty that it bestows upon this chrome Hollywood stalwart.

The streaks are chrome on the outside and red on the inside, mimicking the colors of some of the chrome wheeled beauties that lie within.

But before we get carried away with discussions about cars and architecture, especially the latter which has driven many in LA into a full out throttling of this renovated beauty. This article is about Herzog Winery, the KFWE series, and Royal Wines.

To be honest this event was not the best VIP – wine wise, so far in the KFWE series – that honor stays with last year’s KFWE VIP at the W, with a very honorable runner-up going to this year’s KFWE in NYC. The best KFWE VIP – food wise, is still last year’s KFWE LA at the W as well. In other words, last year’s KFWE LA still holds the VIP crown.

But that would be like looking at a beautiful hall through the lens of a peephole. This year’s KFWE LA was and is the best KFWE ever – period – done! Why? Simple, because as lovely as the VIP was last year and this year, KFWE is about education and it is really hard to learn anything with someone’s elbow two inches from your face! This year saw the largest number of attendees at a KFWE LA (AKA IFWF of old) event – breaking the 1K mark at 1200, and the largest VIP session at 275.

Last year, the W was lovely, but throw in a bunch people at general admission, and it was a lovely but tight fit, I will leave the visual analogies to you. So, this year – they upped their game – BIG TIME! As I roamed the general admission floors – YES FLOORS, I saw crowds of people around the food (more on that in a bit) and acres of space for people to stand, sit, walk, and enjoy the beautiful cars and great wines! You see, Herzog pulled off the ultimate experience! They laid out food and wine across three floors, all paired with gorgeous cars – a perfect setup!

First of all let’s start with the three floors part! Yes, three floors of food and wine, the first two floors were all the wineries and restaurants, the third floor was just for car viewing, occasional promotional movie filming (yes that happens in LA), and OH yes – even more acres of freaking room! You see, in the end, KFWE LA is everything that NYC can never be! For so many reasons, of which we will not post here, KFWE NYC has a limited supply of venues where it can hold its events, and the weather is not very accommodating to an outdoor option, both of those are not issues in LA! Add in a brand new venue that is still trying to brush off its scathing revues and its over the top perception, and you have a perfect opportunity to jump in and grab an opportunity by its horns!

Everywhere I went – there were happy people, sure the food lines were a bit long, especially in the VIP Penthouse floor. In the end, the ample room, the insane ambiance, the very good wines, and the wonderful weather – all added up to the best overall KFWE so far! The top floor was truly beautiful, just like last year – there was tons of space, a beautiful LA skyline and weather, and some very nice wines. The barrel samples of the new Brilliance wines – being produced at Herzog and Hagafen wineries, was a nice touch. Still, the only detraction from this year’s VIP session, was two-fold. A lack of roving food purveyors – like last year, the very long lines for Tierra Sur food, and while the wines being poured were nice, they were not last year’s wonderful library wines. I guess I was so spoiled from last year’s VIP event – that I expected it all to stay the same but get bigger! Instead, it seems that some of the aspects were shifted for more space and ambiance. The Mixologists were back as were the fantastic cigar rollers!

Cigar Bar at VIP with stunning background

Now to be fair, I guess you cannot have your cake and eat it too! The larger venue and crowd made for a situation where the wines and food of last year could not be replicated in the more expansive Petersen. In comparing the trade-offs, I really loved the Petersen, I think the larger venue made for a situation where general admission and VIP had all the room, chairs, and sofas that they could dream of! Throw in the ambiance and setting and it is the best overall KFWE for sure. Add to that a great list of wines and wineries representing in General admission (more on that in a bit), and you had the perfect setup for learning about lots of very good wineries. Furthermore, the VIP was lovely, it just did not quite reach the apex of last year, and if that sacrifice was needed to balance out the overall KFWE experience – then it was a WIN WIN for sure! Only a few of us really cared – other than the long line for the food, I saw no one else complaining and in the end – that is what matters!

This year, there seemed to be more wines available than at any previous IFWF/KFWE in LA. Excluding Elvi, which was only represented by the lovely Clos Mesorah, most other wineries were either fully or partially represented. Netofa was represented with all the wines, other than the whites. Same for Tabor, Castel, Flam, and Matar. Add in a few new wines from Herzog that were not at the KFWE NYC, and I think this was the best KFWE in LA ever, in terms of the number of wines available to taste. Of course, add in the ambiance, the perfect weather, the freaking beautiful museum, and like I said this was the best KFWE of all time.

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Now, we cannot talk about this KFWE without talking a bit more about the museum! The cars far outstrip what my camera could capture or behold. What can I say, this was a stunning location! The ample room and the insane multi-wheeled art, made for an event that can only be classically defined as Los Angeles. This is the kind of thing you see on the big screen, people having drinks and food surrounded by multi-million dollar pieces of art. While, these were not created by Monet or Pollack, some are one-off items that are not available anywhere else, including one that was crowdsourced to be created just for the reopening – that included Jay Leno’s help!

Now as stated above, as much as I loved the insanity of the building’s outside and overall architecture, to call this building a lighting rod would be an understatement. Just Google petersen museum reaction and you will see pages of opinions about this very striking building. But from the inside and even the penthouse – the building looks like a modern art museum, with lots of wheeled art all over the place. The second you step outside, well then you can start to have a discussion – for sure. Still, as long as you remain within, I really cannot see what the uproar is about – and once you get past the chrome facade – I think the building and its art is fantastic.

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The best part about the renovation was the ability to turn the museum into an evening affair without much effort. The cars are all supported on movable platforms, so in less than an hour – the museum can go from a car centric focus to a wine focused event! That is pretty cool! I watched as the floor was transformed in no time, with cars moving and tables being set up. The subsonic transformation was so fast and efficient, that even the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe would have been jealous!

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The other wonderful fact about this event was that there were two sets of folks to help you around. There were Museum staff to help you with finding and appreciating the art, and there were Herzog folks all over the place to help you find the floor which housed the wine and food you had a particular hunkering for! All together the event went off without a hitch! No major faux pas, not many broken glasses either. Overall, I always say that Sommelier gets rowdier as the evening gets long. NYC KFWE is a mix, but the focus there, by the majority of the people, is the food, and far less about the wine, which is a shame. In LA, the KFWE is more posh, more LA event to be seen (though lots of being seen goes on in NYC as well). The environment accommodates that kind of soiree feeling and as such, the number of dropped glasses is at a minimum in LA.

Getting back to the theme of wine, I must say, Herzog has really pushed the envelope – in all the right ways! I am being rather inclusive when I say “Herzog” in this situation. If you look at the Goose Bay, Pacifica, and Herzog table – there were ZERO duds, other than the older Pacifica wines. The new pacifica Pinot Noir, the new Goose Bay wines – were all GREAT examples of wines that are all mevushal (except for the Pacifica PN) and all shining very well!!

The new 2013 and 2014 wines from Herzog were a screaming home run! Sure the whites have too much residual sugar for my taste buds, but that is not a flaw! That is a feature! Many folks like the wine that way. I loved the 2014 Baron Chardonnay, with the new labels. Loved the 2013 Baron Pinot Noir. Loved the 2014 Baron Cab. Overall, the new reds were very nice, other than the Zin. Same for the higher end wines, all the new variations, the new variation Cabernet with French and American oak, and the rest of the 2013 higher end reds. The 2013 Cabernet, Alexander Valley and the 2013 Chalk Hill Special Edition – were both the best for a very long time, and that is saying a lot! These wines are really starting to get into the upper echelons of the kosher wine world, add in the fact that they are also mevushal (both), and that makes them much more impressive!

The 2013 Ink Ranch, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – may well be the best Single Vineyard wine from Herzog since the 08 monsters. This is an elegant beauty – that needs time to come together and one that will be worth the wait, but one showing nicely now as well!

Really, those tables as a whole, other than the Jeunesse wines are wines that I would enjoy! The 2014 Baron Chenin Blanc has a nose that is beyond intoxicating! The mouth is sweet, with residual sugar, but the acid works and it makes for a fine wine for those that like their whites on the sweet side! Same for the 2014 Pinot Grigio as well.

To me the best mevushal option below 15 dollars is now the 2013 Baron Pinot Noir and the 2014 Baron Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are not your average kiddush fair – they are really nice and wines that show that you can create oaked wines in California – for under 15 dollars! Personally, that was my happiest moment of the event, sure I loved the VIP, but finally finding a sub 15 dollar pair of mevushal wines that I would serve on my Shabbos table – was what I was hoping for sometime! The 2014 Baron Chard is also very nice. Those three wines are all under 15 dollars and are all mevushal and are all winners to me! BRAVO guys!!! I am so happy to see that Herzog is not just about the 40 dollar wines any longer (the 13 Chard and Cab are also very nice too)!

My many thanks to the Herzog family for putting on quite the show, last week! Beyond it being the best so far, the two combined (NYC and LA) are showing that they can each grow from each other’s challenges and rise to even greater heights! Here is to yet another spectacular year of KFWE events next year and for many years to come!

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Posted on March 9, 2016, in Food and drink, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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