A lineup of Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon from around the world
This past weekend my friends came over and we enjoyed some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon together, five were mine and two were brought by the guests. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.
Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well-known and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, was dominated by Yarden in the past, but since 2008, they have lost their way and as I have stated before, this is not by accident – this is on purpose. Personally, I was irate when tasting two of Yarden’s masterpieces – the 2001 and 2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom. They were so impressive and of course they were two of the best vintages and Shmita wines as well, but since the 2008 vintage they have purposely turned their great fruit into pure date juice! I am so saddened by their actions, but my only option now is to look elsewhere and so I have with Flam Winery, Adir Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, Tabor Winery Limited Edition, French wines, and California wines. The French and Castel are not producing pure Cabernet Sauvignon wines, but that is OK! They are wines which have a majority of Cabernet and are of the ilk of the left bank wines of France – which are classically Cabernet based wines. Just looking at California Wineries, I would be hard pressed to not find everything I am looking for in a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Covenant Winery has been crushing it for the past 11 years when it comes to their epic Cabernet Sauvignon, and do not forget their Lot 70 Cabernet Sauvignon – which started in 2008 and has been getting better and better each year!
Herzog Winery has also been killing it in terms of Cabernet Sauvignon – involving a huge range of options. Starting at their incredibly well priced and QPR Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, which has really been showing great potential from 2012 and on. The next price range is the Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet that is really nice, and one that we had this shabbos. It started off slow, but with time, it filled out and was quite nice. After that there are the new range of Variations that are both very nice and well – thought provoking, which is exactly what Herzog is looking for. After them there is the ever consistent and reliable Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve from Alexander Valley. This wine is rarely off kilter and the 2013 is so on that it is very impressive. From there the prices start to rise and there is a large selection of options. There is the very consistent and impressive Chalk Hill Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there is the never miss and beyond consistent Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon starring from the INSANE 2006 Tokalon masterpiece. Since then they have been hitting home run after home run, a truly impressive run given that each and every year – the vineyard is different! The Clone 6 have been hit or miss, but always enjoyable none the less. Finally, there have been the very special and unique Herzog XII line, which started with 2007 barrels aged for 6 years and then with a follow on 2010 vintage.
To be fair, I forgot about the B.R. Cohn wines from 2008, 2011, and 2013 in my last California wine post, but they do make OK wines. Sadly, the price is just too high for the wine quality.
Hagafen has been releasing kosher Cabernet for more than 30 years and the track record they have is indeed impressive.
Four Gates Winery released a single Napa Cabernet Sauvignon in 2005 and then found some great grapes near the famed Ridge vineyards and has been releasing fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon since 2009.
Shirah Winery is primarily known for their blends and Rhone varietals, but they do make two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. One is the Bro.Deux wine which is lovely! The other is a great mevushal wine they make for the Twin Suns label. It is a really impressive wine for the price and the fact that it is mevushal.
Finally, there is Hajdu Winery – that is making great Cabernet wines – under the Proprietary Red label! It may not be 100% Cabernet, but it is a lovely wine!
Now, I did say Finally – but well there are other California Cabernet Sauvignons that are being made by famous wineries, but well, they are not really sold to the public. There are many names for these wines – but they are made as special runs from famed houses and as of now, they require special membership to get bottles.
The saying, all good wine starts in the vineyard is true, but the real saying should be, the price of wines starts in the vineyard! If you own the vines like say, Hagafen or many of the wineries in Israel, than you have a chance to control the quality and the price of the wines. However, if you buy the grapes from growers, than you are at the mercy of their cost structure and what the market can bear. Sure, many wineries get into long-term contracts that assure them consistent pricing and hopefully, some control of how the vines are managed. However, as the contracts come to a close, the pricing will increase, which places pressure on the winery’s ability to keep its margins alive.
Grapes in the Napa Valley have been increasing, though last year the crop tonnage went down, the prices increased slightly. The same can be said for other highly sought-after wine regions. However, there is still tons of bulk quality grapes out there that get turned into pure swill, but that can be said for any variety and/or region. In the end, Cabernet will always be the starting grape from most wineries and the starting grape for most vineyards, because there is a consistent market for the grape and the wine, be it kosher or not.
As a humorous story – I was tending to Elvi’s table at KFWE earlier this year in NYC, and almost every person came and asked if we had a Cabernet Sauvignon? The answer was we had a blend with Cabernet in it, but a pure Cabernet is not a very Spanish wine. Spain makes wines that make use of Cabernet, but they do not really make pure Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Sadly, it is a simple fact – red wine sells better than white to kosher wine drinkers. Furthermore, Cabernet is the best selling red wine to kosher wine consumers.
Many wineries have built their portfolio is a logical manner, starting with mass amounts of average and drinkable wines, for the masses, and then slowly adding layers of more expensive wine to add to their cachet. This was how Hagafen started and now it has three lines of wines, and continues to grow with more and more labels and quality wine. Herzog did the same, starting in 1985 with their baseline wines, and then adding in the reserve wines as years went on, and now they have what could best be described as four levels of wines; Baron wine line (base), Reserve wines, Special Edition and Single Vineyard wines, and then the top line Generation 8 wines. Israeli wineries have done the same, slowly building with baseline wines and growing from there. However, Jeff Morgan, the head winemaker at Covenant Winery, did things a different way, he started with the high-end wine and slowly built backwards. In 2003, Covenant Winery had their maiden voyage into the wine world by releasing a wonderful wine, the 2003 Covenant Cabernet! He went straight out with the flagship wine, with zero ground cover – amazing and very gutsy. It was not till 2006 that Mr. Morgan added some ground cover with his 2006 Covenant Red C! Another smash hit and one that we tasted, not long ago, and still liked very much.
So, with that in mind I put together another wine tasting that I hoped would showcase the ability and range of Cabernet Sauvignon in the kosher market. The dinner started with the afore mentioned Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select. It started off very slowly and with time it really open and filled out. So, if you enjoy another of them open it and hour or two in advance.
After that we had two Recanati wines. The first was the 2012 Recanati Cabernet Reserve, a nice wine that shows far better from bottle in Israel than the USA label. That said, with time the wine did come around, but it showed far riper than I was looking for to start. We then opened a bottle of the 2007 Recanati Special Reserve. This was another one of my last bottle wines and it was showing its age with a bit of sweetness to it. The wine was still lovely but it is in clear DRINK NOW time.
After them we had one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2001 Yarden El-Rom Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that the late Daniel Rogov, called Israel’s best Cabernet, sadly it was my last bottle. We had another winner from Yarden, the 2008 Yarden Cabernet El Rom as well, a wine that I enjoyed two times last year. Those are the last Yarden reds I have bought. The 2001 was still somewhat closed at the time of opening, personally, if you have any of them – open the wine an hour or more in advance and enjoy. The 2008 El Rom needs to be decanted for an hour – it would have shown far better.
From there we went to France to taste a fantastic 2005 Chateau Malartic! The wine is not 100% Cabernet, but neither was the last bottle either and who cares! The wine needed more air and as much as I tried to open it, using three passes of Venturi, it did not show its glory until it was open for many hours. This is another wine that could have used a few hours of decanting to open. Finally, we enjoyed the 2013 Hajdu Princess Pauline. It is a special run wine that Hajdu made for a client, and it tasted much like the 2013 Proprietary Red, with maybe some Carignan and Syrah thrown into it. Sadly, the exact composition is not known.
So there you have it the lineup actually did do what I was hoping for. It opened conversation, it showed the range of red to green to black flavors, from leathers and chocolate, to green notes and graphite, and everything else in between. It was a wonderful evening of Cabernet and great food, and one everyone seemed to enjoy.
For dinner we made some lovely herb encrusted Gefilte fish, along with a bunch of sausage stew, and simple fresh green salad. As always, the sausage stew is great because of two main reasons. First, you eat everything and there are no parts that you need to remove or eat around, such as bones or nasty cartilage. Also, it can be made for vegetarians – which ROCKS! You can make the exact recipe up until the cook the meat part. So, I created two pots – both which were parve until the last step. In one pot I threw in the sausage I got from Heshy Fried of Epic Bites, and in the parve pot I threw in the Tofurkey Sausages and I was set.
The wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed. Many thanks to the guests that brought over wines, including Heshy who brought over the Hajdu Paulina and Josh who brought the Weinstock Cabernet:
2012 Weinstock Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is green with notes of red berries and black notes in the background. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off very hollow, but with air and time – it fill out nicely. The mouth is rich with sweet dill, nice mouth coating tannin, good acidity, nice graphite, mineral, dirt, cherry, raspberry, black plum, herb, bell pepper, and nice tannin. The finish is long and green, with more foliage, tobacco, dark chocolate, and sweet cedar, and smoke.
2012 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, David Vineyard – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is ripe with blackberry, plum, licorice, really nice smoke, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is layered with mouth coating tannin, sweet vanilla, tobacco, and crazy mad dill, that flows into sweet notes of dark fruit, cassis, plush round mouth, and nice mineral. The finish is long and black with good acidity and balance, nice balance of fruit to mineral, with graphite, more sweet oak, chocolate, mint, basil, and crushed herb.
2007 Recanati Special Reserve – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. This is a lovely wine but it does not reach the epic status of the 2006 RSR. The nose on this wine shows lovely barnyard, rich earth, dirt, and lovely red and black fruit. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with good green notes, blackberry, dark cherry, raspberry, all wrapped in sweet plum, sweet cedar, mouth coating and elegant tannins and more barnyard. The finish is long with hints of green olives, Oriental spices, and roasted herb with leather and smoking tobacco. Drink up the wine is showing date and sweet prune as it sits in the glass.
2005 Château Malartic-Lagravière – Score: A- (and then some)
WOW what a rich and smoky wine. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is smoking with an almost smoke screen like aroma, over a sea of intense dry and candied raspberry, ripe blackberry, rich charcoal, cassis, mint, and plum. The mouth on this blockbuster full bodied wine is intense, structured, richly layered, with crazy mineral, rich loam, dirt, mushroom, showing hints of barnyard, and concentrated with lovely and still massive mouth drying tannin, rich fruit, zesty strawberry, toast, cedar, and smoky oak. The finish is super long, spicy, and concentrated with bright fruit, acid, fat cigar tobacco, charcoal, mint, mineral that goes on and on, along with a slug of rich mocha. This is a rich and layered wine that is well worth seeking out and one that will reward your perseverance for another 6 or 7 years at least!
2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom – Score: A- to A
What a wine, what a lovely wine this is! The nose starts off a bit funky and with time shows barnyard and some reduction, but blessedly that blows off to show a nose of rich and expressive mineral, lovely barnyard (minus reduction), spice, black and red fruit, green notes, and lovely leafy tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, expressive, with insane fruit structure, impressive mushroom and barnyard, silky rich tannin that linger insanely long, along with rich earthy notes, graphite, and layers of concentrated blackberry, cassis, and currant all coming together into a symphony of fruit, tannin, and mineral. The finish is long and earthy, with rich mineral, spice, oak, and tobacco that lingers long with leather, chocolate, and earth finishing the long rise. BRAVO!!!! This was my last bottle and what a joy it was! Drink now at peak for another year!
2013 Hajdu Princess Paulina – Score: A- to A
The nose starts off closed with ripe fruit of blackberry, plum, dark berry, licorice, mint, and menthol. With time, the nose opens to a blue sky with truffles and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is luscious, rich, layered, perfectly controlled, with great spice, black fruit, dark cherry, mad sweet dill, tobacco, showing nice extraction, a lovely plush and mouth coating mouthfeel, all wrapped is searing tannin, and sweet oak. The finish is long and sweet with great acid, chocolate, with great cherry, cloves, tar, earth, and sweet spices. With time the finish is dominated by blueberry, plum, and citrus notes! BRAVO!!! INSANE! This wine has a decade at least!
2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom Vineyard – Score: A- to A
The last time I had this wine at home, it was very closed, that is still the case. But given 24 hours it has opened nicely! The nose on this lovely wine, after 24 hours, finally shows life with great mushroom and loamy dirt notes, just like its 8 year older brother, the 2001 El Rom. The continues with dark fruit, with rich chocolate, sweet raspberry, and dark plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe, and richly extracted with layers upon layers of mad dark fruit, blackberry, followed by dirt, some sweet notes, hints of blueberry, lovely sweet spices, along with intense mouth coating tannin that have yet to start to integrate. The finish is long and sweet with blue and black fruit, lovely rich supple leather, licorice, and dried tobacco. Bravo!!!!!
Posted on April 12, 2016, in Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select, Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, El Rom, Hajdu Wines, Princess Paulina, Recanati Winery, Reserve, RSR, Special Reserve, Weinstock, Yarden Winery. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.