KFWE NYC 2017 – gets even better, but could use some tinkering

dsuKFWE NYC Skyline from Pier 60

Well, another KFWE NYC just finished on Monday night, and while it went off without a hitch, there were some aspects I hope they can improve for next year. Still, to me they made many attempts to move the “Must See” kosher wine event of the year, in NYC anyway, in the correct direction. I will break them down below, but for now, the takeaway about Monday night’s affair, was that it was an improvement over last year – overall.

The VIP session was back, a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event, but so far none have topped that event, even the VIP session at LA last year, at the beautiful Petersen Automobile Museum.

The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. While last year trade was a zoo quickly, that was not the case this year. Still, after two hours the trade became so crowded, it eclipsed last year’s zoo. It felt like two busloads of humans were deposited in front of Pier 60 with two hours to kill. Still, if most of those folks were really trade, I would be happy. In the end, I find the trade group, to be about 60% hardcore buyers, journalists, and trade folk. The rest is folks who know folks, but they are all ambassadors of wine in NYC and around, so in that vein, they are all of value to Royal.

To me the trade part of the show, is about getting the press talking about kosher wine and not using the M word ever again in a kosher wine article! Seriously, I was interviewed for an upcoming article in a press piece and I said, I would be unwilling to answer questions until she promised to me that she would NOT use the M word/company ANYWHERE in the piece. That word is 1990, come on, it is 2017 already! Kosher wine has eclipsed my dreams in many ways, let alone that crap wine. If you still have no idea what I mean, then LMGTFY.

As always, I have spoken how Royal Wines is the 900 pound gorilla – and it has the ability to crowd the market and push out its competitors as it flexes its muscles. Still, we need exactly what happened on Monday. The place was filled with reporters, wine buyers, and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world. In that sense – it was a large success!

Wines at KFWE NYC

So, on to the wines. First of all, thankfully my friend Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines was here in person this year, sadly without his lovely family, so I was happy to hang with him when I was not busy tasting wines. That said, this year is what we call the shmita transition year, and it is painful for Royal, and the kosher wine industry as a whole. You see this is the year after shmita in Israel. The 2015 vintage from Israel, was shmita, so many US religious Jews will not drink them. What that means is that there is an entire year of no wine. Though, as I have spoken of a few times, 2015 was a bad year for whites, while reds are starting to emerge as the stars of 2015, if they used fruit that was pulled early in the vintage.

So, without an entire vintage available to Royal, and other importers of Israeli wines, there were fewer “new” wines this year than in past years of KFWE. There were lots of repeats for people like me, who taste most of Israel’s wines within the year of release. I tasted them again to see how they have developed, and for the most part, they are fine. However, there were older vintages of whites being poured that was really not a good thing for the wineries, as they were not showing well, and it made them look bad. Sadly, they had no other choice, without the option to pour 2015, and with 2016 wines still not in bottle or just bottled, it makes for a very awkward period in the wine calendar – hence the name “shmita transition year“.

Also, before I go into my disappointments, once more I will beat the dead horse. Kosher wines are moving riper and unbalanced, for the most part, in ways that I cannot start to like. That said, this is my opinion, many others at the event were more than happy to enjoy overripe or unbalanced and disjointed wines, as long as they were bombastic, insanely tannic, or pure oak juice. Look at the latest scores from the “wine critics”, in the WS and WA, and the winners, outside of Tzora are wines I cannot even speak about in terms of drinkability, let alone admiration. So, when I state what I liked and disliked, it is through the prism of my palate – which desires, balanced, controlled wines that are more about the wine than the adjectives.

Here were my disappointments first – and then I will list my winners of the event:

  1. As I stated in previous posts, Yatir seems to be veering off field, the wines were over ripe to me, nothing is changing there sadly.
  2. There were few mevushal wine options that I could find, that were even remotely drinkable, and that was a real letdown. Gone are the days of the Alfassi and the such thaty were nice. One nice exception to that was the 2014 Cardova Rioja, yellow label. It was mevushal and nice.
  3. UVA Montepulciano D’Abruzzo – was there again and it has not improved.
  4. Bartenura/Ovadia – I did taste through these – and the majority of them are not worth the effort, though I did find the Ovadia Chianti to be drinkable, and it is mevushal. It will not be on my passover list, but a wine that could be useful in a pinch.
  5. OK, last year was the 2013 Bord-pocalypse, thank god we are passed that. If you read my article on 2015/2016 French wines, you will know how in love I am with where Bordeaux is right now.
  6. So, now to the first controversial opinion, the top 2014 French wines did NOT taste as good as they did in France, at the Bokobsa tasting. I am not sure what the problem is. These wines are not bottle shocked, they have been here since December. Still, they are great wines and of course BUY THEM now. The 2015 and 2016 vintages are going haywire crazy, in terms of costs, as I stated in the Bordeaux post.
  7. They did not pour the 2016 Roubine Rose, even though it is here in the USA!
  8. Psagot reds were painful, which hurts me, as they used to be great wines. The hope now lies in the hands of Yaacov Oryah, who is the new winemaker at Psagot.
  9. I tried all the red Montefiore, sadly none of them did it for me, other than the new Aria.
  10. Same goes for all the Or Haganuz wines. All the wines were crazy painful, and I did not get to taste the new Elima, which is the only mass market kosher wine that has no added sulfites.
  11. I tried – I really tried, to like the Shiloh wines, but none of the wines were very interesting. The 2009 Secret, which is mevushal here was the best option at that table, but that is not saying much.
  12. I tasted through the Teperberg wines, and none were wines that I would recommend, though the 2013 Chardonnay, Essence was nice.
  13. There was a new Winery at the event, Nadiv Winery, from the lower Judean Hills, close to Arad, and sadly the wines were all oak and overripe juice. But they seem to have been appreciated by the sweet tongue crowds.
  14. Finally, Jezreel is a new winery for Royal, and while I liked their 2013 Carignan, the 2014 wines were not showing well at all. I feel they were hurt the worst by the Shmita transition issue.

Winners – and must taste at KFWE LA:

  1. Ok, we must start with the best and most shocking wines (in a great way of course) of the event. The two new wines from Pierre Miodownick (who has started making new wines in France all on his own), the 2nd ever 1er Grand Cru Classe Sauternes (first growth) ever made in kosher, the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau. The first one was Giraud, but that was last made more than 15 years ago. Along with the epic 2014 Chateau Soutard, which is a lovely Saint-Emilion Grand Cru!
  2. Next the fantastic (but not showing and insanely as in Paris) 2014 Bordeaux wines from Royal Europe and Bokobsa. They are:
    1.  There was even the 2015 Hauteville here (and a very nice wine overall), but it is stunted now and crazy closed.
    2. The 2015 Domaine Fontlaure Rose, Cotes de Provence, a nice enough rose
    3. 2014 Domaine de Boissan Gigondas
    4. 2014 Chateau Leoville Poyferre ‘Pavillon de Poyferre’
    5. 2014 Chateau Royaumont Lalande De Pomerol
    6. 2014 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac
    7. 2014 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere
    8. 2014 Chateau Giscours
  3. The new bottlings of Laurent Perrier Rose and white. They ran out of the rose bubbly very quickly
  4. The lovely wines of Elvi Wines and Capcanes were both on display, almost side-by-side, flanking the Ramon Cardova Rioja wines, and they continue to prove that great old-world style kosher wines are being made in places outside of France.
  5. Goose Bay whites continue to impress (Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Fume Blanc 2014, Pinot Grigio 2014, and Chard 2014 in order of appreciation)
  6. Pacifica Pinot Noir 2012 still solid
  7. The new Goose Bay 2014 Pinot Noir, very solid
  8. The Drappier Champagnes continue to impress
  9. Koenig Riesling was lovely as always
  10. The Matar wines are also in the Shmita Transition issue. The whites were from 2014 (they are still pouring 2015 whites in Israel), which were still very nice. The reds are all new and the 2014 CB was really pushed. I tasted the 2013 CB at the winery, and it was pushed but nice. This 2014 CB was different, but some will still like it. The Stratus was also nice.
  11. Hagafen was there (will not be at KFWE LA) and the 2016 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc is INSANE! QPR winner for sure! The Late Disgorged Brut was also lovely.
  12. Covenant was awesome as always (also not at KFWE LA). I liked the 2016 Rose very much, along with the new 2015 Covenant Cabernet (yes it is a pure Cab again in 2015), though the two cabs (Lot 70 and Covenant) were pushed more than in previous years, IMHO.
  13. 2013 Carmel Chardonnay, Admon, the 2011 Limited Edition, and the 2012 Carmel Sumaka Cabernet were very nice wines, just like they tasted in Israel.
  14. Tabor was of course pouring and they too are being affected by the Shmita Transition issue. Some of the wines I posted in my article on the winery, showed well indeed! Of the wines poured, the newest is the 2016 Adama Sauvignon Blanc. It returns as a stunning QPR wine and is a MUST TASTE. Same goes for the lovely Zohar, please taste it, yes it is white! Sadly, the 2012 red Adama wines are not my cup of tea, and neither are the Adama II reds. However, PLEASE taste the Limited edition and Special Edition – both are lovely QPR Cabernet Sauvignon wines!
  15. Flam Winery continues to impress try them out!
  16. Of course all the Elvi wines rocked – and you know I am honest about them. The 2008 EL26 and Adar red are not my cup of tea, but yesterday they had the 2007 Adar red and that wine is a mushroom/dirt/fruit paradise!!! The Herenza Rioja wines are fantastic, and of course the Clos Mesorah is fantastic! Still, the Vina Encina rose from 2015 has been tired since late last year.
  17. Capcanes was the next table over and all of their wines were impressive as well! They had a new Carignan and Peraj Ha’abib, check them out. The 2014 vintage for Capcanes , like Elvi make for spectacular wines.
  18. Terra di Seta – had two new wines this time, the Assai 2011 and the 2013 Chianti Classico. Both are lovely wines, but the Chianti Classico is a QPR winner.
  19. Finally, Herzog crushed it with sme lovely new 2014 wines. IMHO, the 2014 vintage may well be their best yet, in the past 7 years at least. The 2013 was a huge move forward and the 2014 eclipses it all. Bravo! The best wine, other than the French and Spanish were the two 2014 Werneke Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Clone Six taking the cake. Do not forget the 2014 Herzog Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or the new 2014 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, Herzog likes to make Cabs!

This past year, I made it my business to come to a lot of tables and taste the wines. Most of the Israeli were not my cup of tea, but I have already made that part clear. The winners, were nice, enough said! These are wineries I did not get the chance to taste:

  • 1848 (past times were not interesting)
  • Alexander
  • Barkan
  • Binyamina
  • Baron Herzog (will taste those in KFWE LA)
  • Binyamina
  • Domaine du Castel (tasted many times in Israel)
  • Gamla
  • Montefiore (tasted at Sommelier)
  • Segal’s
  • Tulip
  • The Cave

Weather Timing

In case you do not live in NYC, like me, you would not have known or cared that NYC was whacked last week with a foot of snow on Thursday the 9th! Two days later and KFWE would have been hurting bad. Three days later, and it is pretty much off. Already the weather was a mess, with winds howling at god-forsaken speeds. Thank God they did NOT go with the yacht this year, that would have been a real mess. The winds churned the sea around Pier 60 into a Mix-o-matic at high speed, was pretty to look at from inside the Pier!

Thursday is no less impressive – timing wise. If you live on the east coast, you could care less, but us west coasters have been HAMMERED with rain all winter long. Even LA has been pelted with storms. Another big-one is coming this weekend, but Wednesday the temperatures are 75 to 80 degrees! Thursday afternoon starts the next storm!

The Mother has looked kindly KFWE and I look forward to many more years of kind relationships with the good Mother!

The KFWE Trade Event

The Trade was solid this year all around, except for the incredible crowding that occurred halfway through the afternoon. I spoke about the concern and issue and I hope they can fix that somehow. One way to do it, which I admit would be a pain, would be to make use of the food service space, that is used primarily for the public part. During trade it is empty. The lack of space was evident, and the only solution I know is to limit the people (bad idea – that is the antithesis of what we need), or spread the tables out a bit and then move them back when the public food service shows up. Yes, it would mean more headaches, in terms of logistics, but it would be a huge boost in terms of being to actually taste the wines, talk with the winemakers or owners, and get a feel for the winery and the wines, which is what trade is all about!

So, other than the space issue, the overall trade event was dead on. The wines were all there, and there was quite good food as well. Pomegranate was displaying tons of great food, including a killer Duck Cassoulet, Herb crusted rib eye, insane Duck pastrami, Chili cured brick steak, and smoked veal belly – TOP NOTCH! Which is nothing new to me, as the Executive Chef of Pomegranate is the man himself – Isaac Bernstein, the man of 30 course dinners!

There was also nice food from both Wandering Que and Silverleaf Caterers.

VIP and Public Admission

Last year the VIP session was on the Hornblower Yacht, which while being well-appointed, would have been an epic disaster this year. As described above, the winds were turning the bay into Kale Salad – not a good thing when u are on a boat, moored or not. Again, thankfully, they moved the VIP session to the next Pier building, Pier 59. There was more than enough room – actually ample room for the sold out VIP session – that was not the problem. Before I jump into the tinkering that could make it epic, let’s talk about the VIP room.

The VIP session was held in the Current room at Pier 59, adjacent to Pier 60, where the public event is held every year. The room had food served almost exclusively by Réserve Cut, and the wines poured were top of the line options from every table at the event, including one exclusive wine – the 2013 Terra Gracia. The wine was a special run made by a few people, Royal picked up its distribution and displayed it publicly for the first time at KFWE NYC.

Between the food, wine, and ample space – the VIP room should have been a homerun. Instead it was a solid double and could have been more, with some more precision, which I am sure will occur in the coming years. My issues were:

  1. Mother giveth and taketh. She allowed the event to go off without a major hitch, but walking 5 minutes or so from Pier 60 to 59, even if it is covered, in the cold and crazy wind, was a bit much
  2. The room’s coloring and lighting was well, unique 🙂 It was lit in a shade of red that would have made most blush, but none the less appealing, but overall dark.
  3. The wines were well-chosen, with a large bottle of 2010 Capcanes as well that was unique to the event. Sadly, the layout of the wine tables was too compacted into one corner, when it should have been more evenly distributed around the room to make for less congestion around the wine area.
  4. Finally, the food, well that was not very good. The cake may have been good, there seemed to have been some in the corner that no one went to. But the real food, the reserve cut meat, fish, and soup, were well not imaginative or enjoyable.

Now, with all of this said, one may have thought it was more of a failure than an idea that needs fine tuning. That is where you would be 100% wrong! Look, VIP is a new idea anyway, it stems from the LA event in 2015, and since then everyone, including LA, has been trying to catch up to it again.

The event could use some fine tuning. It has all the makings for a great location to host the VIP session. It has the room, potential, and aside from the walk, everything is there to make it work. Finally, while the main food was truly uninspired, the sliders that went around and the fish tacos that went around were actually QUITE GOOD! That along with the lovely wines poured, aside from the Terra Gracia, a wine I found to be over oaked and overripe, were quite impressive. Now sadly, the original LA VIP and last year’s VIP in NYC were great on the back of CRAZY library and hard to find wines that were shared with all. LA’s original VIP event also had epic food from Tierra Sur Restaurant, which is what made the IFWF event, at the winery and then at the Hyatt so special, IMHO!

Last year, at the KFWE NYC VIP boat, they poured the epic 2009 and 2011 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib from a Jeroboam bottle.They also poured the FAMOUS 2006 ToKalon. Along with a vertical of 2004/20066/20077 of the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. Then they had a few bottles of the 2009 Covenant Lot 70, the best Lot 70 at that time, and the 2004 Alexander Valley Herzog Cab. On top of there was 2002 Chateau Valandraud. That is quite a lovely lineup! The LA event in 2015, the first VIP, had the best food at any KFWE so far, hands down (even better than Zur tastings in Tel Aviv), as the food came from the Tierra Sur. Throw in crazy library wines coming out one after the other, and it was hands down the best VIP.

So, does that mean it can never be matched? No, really what is needed more than anything is an expectation for what we will get from VIP. What are people paying an extra 100 dollars or so for? Better wine? More access? Better food? Earlier availability? In the end, it is all about defining and setting the buyer’s expectation and setting straight what is VIP.

Meanwhile, back in the main hall, the event was actually quite a hit! The VIP allowed early access and people took advantage of it right way. The room filled quickly, but not even close to capacity. The funny part was that the food section was thumping early, while the wine tables were actually EMPTY! There were countless tables without any guests! Where were all the guests? Well, it turns out they were queuing outside waiting to get in for the public tasting time, AKA general admission. But something was clearly wrong, because public admission came and went and the place was pretty much empty for a sold-out event! I heard later that the ticket process was not 100% efficient and would be another good thing to streamline next year.

Anyway, as the humans entered the place did start to fill, but it did not become a pushing affair, it was quite well-managed and overall, I think another good event. In the end, the wines were very good at the public session, the food was average, with return of the solid dishes from Pomegranate, Wandering Que Beef Brisket sliders, and Silverleaf Caterers. Add in a nice Veal/bacon dish from Meat, Judd’s Memphis Kitchen’s wood smoked brisket, and Bedford Kitchen’s rubbed prime rib.

In the end, this was the 11th KFWE in NYC!  Each one has been building on the next, with more and more ideas and concepts. I look forward to seeing the arch of expectations set high as the industry needs all it can get!

Posted on February 15, 2017, in Israel, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Factually, want to point out that Guiraud is a 1er grand cru classe Sauternes, and it was first. Also Sauternes rather than Sauterne, would be the proper nomenclature. I didn’t read the entire post, but these mistakes jumped out at me early on.

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