KFWE LA 2017 – the star of the show continues to grow

kfwe-los-angeles-sign

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! I had never missed one of those yet, but such is life. Thankfully, I made Paris, NYC, and LA. What I can say, is that not much has changed, the star of the shows is still LA, and this year it got even better.

As always, the event happens in two parts, like in NYC, the trade and then the public. Public again, had the VIP session, which LA started in 2015, and what has been copied all over the KFWE family since then, and the General admission.

Overall Impressions

Of course, the event stayed in the beautiful Petersen Museum, sadly there is construction on its metal side (for a tram), but it is still gorgeous. So, I will cut to the chase – this was the best KFWE hands down – congratulations to Herzog and Royal, really impressive.

Now, why do I say that – well that will take a little longer to explain than a single sentence! First of all, the setting was killer, that is not new, it is really an LA destination kind of party, and it is exactly what we should expect from an LA-based event.

Second, they fixed all the issues from last year. Last year, the food was poorly placed in the general admission floors, that was fixed, and the food this year was better as well. The lack of full wine selection from NYC was fixed, for the most part. NYC had the new Vitkin Winery wines while LA did not. Also, LA did not have the two California wineries, Covenant and Hagafen, which makes sense as Royal does not distribute those wines in LA, the wineries take care of west coast operations themselves. There were also one or two other no-shows, but they were wineries I would not waste virtual ink over, so no loss, all good!

This means that they had every French, Herzog, Spanish, New Zealand, and topline Israeli wines at this event. Finally, LA has been removed from the wine doghouse, that has plagued previous KFWE LA events. This is huge! I stress this because, outside of very few wines, LA had it all. Weather, wine, food, ambiance, setting, everything! There really was nothing lacking from the 2017 KFWE LA, I was really impressed.

Finally, the booths were far better laid out this year, they made use of all three floors, and the wineries and food had ample room and space to ply their products to the happy customers. Overall, the execution this year was 100% spot on!

Picture perfect Weather

Photo by David Zaitz.

Photo by David Zaitz from Wikipedia

Once again, God looked kindly down on the KFWE this year in LA as well. While the KFWE in NYC was sandwiched between an ugly snowstorm and another system after it, it was cold but clear skies on Monday. The same could be said for LA’s event. The weather was brilliant, and it too was sandwiched between two large rain systems that came and went, leaving LA’s sky clean of smog.

The weather was perfect at 70 degrees, more on the logistics of that below, but it gave KFWE LA the ability to truly showcase its colors in terms of what a KFWE in LA can really be! When u think of LA, you think weather, beaches, and well Hollywood. Hollywood was the showcase of the first post-Hyatt event, the event that birthed the VIP session. That I am sure was probably too much Hollywood for Royal, so they looked elsewhere, what else screams California while being posh, elegant, and well California? The Petersen is that place! During the day, it is California, with a rooftop capable of hosting hundreds of trades people. When the sun sets, it magically turns into Hollywood, which is a 15-minute drive away (preferably in the batmobile or the Lighting McQueen car).

lightening-mcqueen

Trade tasting

During the trade tasting, when the wines were set up in a non-optimal manner, the team moved quickly, before trade actually started and made sure that wineries were not placed in direct sunlight. Sadly, Matar was left out in the sun, but they kept all their wines on ice, and it was fine. The weather was almost spring-like, 70 degrees and clear skies. While that is great beach weather, it is not so much great wine weather. Since the trade is held on the rooftop, while the other floors setup for the public tasting, this can make for Doctor Seuss-like logistical nightmares. The team fixed it quickly and that was learned from last year.

In the end, to me where last year’s event was lovely, with issues, this year’s event worked to rid the event of all issues, with impressive precision to boot. In the end, Herzog was the star of the event, both in trade and public. Whether it was the fantastic Tierra Sur food or the wines from Herzog, it was a great showing for California!

Where NYC showcased the Cali wines, along with Herzog’s wines, in LA, Herzog had the chance to show its impressive colors. They took the opportunity to show its depth in terms of wines and persona. I must say, that their wine club may well be the best one out there, though there are quite a few to choose from throughout California.

They showcased two of the best California Pinot Noirs out there, (though Four Gate Winery’s Pinot is better by a hair), the 2013 and 2015 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir. The 2013 vintage is impressive, old-world in style from a new-world region. The 2015 vintage while nice, is a step behind, as it is more new-world than I like, but with time it will come around. The ample space allowed Herzog to show that it is far from a two trick pony (Jeunesse and Reserve cabs). The entire range of wines they showed included the simple Barons all the way to Generation 8 wines and everything else in between. However, they did not stop there, they also showcased their club wines, including the lovely 2015 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir and the 2014 Eagle’s Landing Syrah, along with the Fledgling, which was too new-world for me. Sure, they make a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, they are not stupid, the market wants Cab, Cab, Cab, and more cab, in every price range possible, and preferably mevushal if you can as well!

That is not shot at Herzog, it is a shot at the NY kosher wine palate, it is all about bombastic wines, and ONLY Cabernet. If the wine is a blend, it MUST have Cabernet, or they will drink something else. This is NOT an exaggeration, truly! The NY palate has yet to move from the fruit forward, oak bomb, fruit juice that is Israeli or absurd California Cabernet wines. Herzog is far more respectful of the king of the noble grapes, and their 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone Six, Werneke Vineyards wine may well be the best one they made in 2014!

My point is that when there is a market, you make wine for it and hope to sell what you have. So, the number of Cabernet wines is not a penchant that Herzog has as much as the NY palate. Joe Hurliman has more flexibility within the wine club space, and that is where is can experiment and move further afield, like the 2013 Pinot Noir and old-world style Zinfandel.

Overall, Herzog made the most of the opportunity to showcase their new 2014 wines and their Eagle’s Landing wines, while also serving up some impressive Tierra Sur dishes as well. The ones I liked the most, were the Fennel Beef and Porcini Veal Meatball, Korean Fried Chicken, beautiful looking lamb (not a lamb fan but many said it was very good), and Braised short rib.

VIP Session

So, once again LA had their VIP session. In the end, I think we will never experience the original VIP session again. To be fair, that event was a one-and-done thing. It was too perfect and the setting was too crazy, to ever top it again.

The number of library wines, the food, the environment, it was crazy. The original in 2015, was great until people figured out a loophole to get into VIP and then it became a zoo and not as fun. Still, the first half of that VIP will live in infamy. As long as we have 2015, we are fine for a long time.

The VIP had the crazy good cigar bar again, and this time he had a buddy helping him! Sadly, they did away with the Drinkologist and the drinks bar, and in its place, they had two bars that poured drinks from the Royal spirits portfolio. They also had some insane Tomintoul spirits, including a 37-year-old Scotch, but as I have said often, I do not drink Whiskey much, if ever.

Food at the LA VIP was very impressive, almost as good as the 2015 VIP. Tierra Sur mostly served all the food, and the food lines were a thing of the past. Meshuga handled the sushi. The 2016 KFWE LA was a disaster food-wise, both VIP and General. The food itself was fine to very good, but the lines were horrible. This year LA crushed it all the way out of the ballpark, mammoth blast! No lines anywhere and the food lived up to the exacting expectations of Tierra Sur!

The menu below was as good as it sounds!

  • Duck Breast
    • Duck Breast / Mushroom & Hazelnut Farro / Huckleberry Gel / Kale Sprout / Hazelnut Dust
  • Stuffed Lamb
    • Herb Stuffed Lamb Loin / Pea, Carrot & Sunchoke Hash / Lemon Mustard Sauce / Balsamic Reduction
  • Fried Sweetbreads
    • Fried Sweetbreads / Orange Sweet & Sour Glaze / Radish / Haricot Verts / Blood Orange / Micro Tarragon & Chervil / Black Garlic Sauce
  • Mushroom Pizza
    • Tomato Truffle Sauce / Chanterelle Mushrooms / Cashew Nut Cheese / Arugula Pesto / Merlot Gastric
  • Beef Trio
    • Glazed Short Rib – Sous Vide Rib Eye – Fried Brisket / Asian Sauce Flight / Fresh Wasabi / Pickled Ginger / Steamed Rice / Furikake

Dessert

  • Nitrogen Ice Cream
    • Frozen Late Harvest Zinfandel – Orange Muscat – Champaign
  • Lemon Zeppole
    • Fried Lemon Zest Zeppole / Lemoncello Whip Cream / Lemon Curd / Powdered Sugar / Micro Mint

What does VIP mean to you?

Though I want to take this moment to repeat my previous question to Royal/KFWE, what are the expectations of the VIP event? What are you selling? Is it the early entrance to the public tasting? Special ambiance? Special food? Special wines? In the original 2015 LA VIP, it was yes to all of those questions. Since then, in NYC or LA, that has not been the case.

I think it would be great to set expectations of what you are selling with the VIP, that way no one will be overly unhappy or undersold.

IMHO, the VIP – at least from what KFWE has been implementing since 2015, seems to be focused on special ambiance, curated wines from the entire Royal Wines portfolio, and special food.

Sadly, NYC has missed on the food part so far, and the ambiance this past year, but they had a nicely curated list of wines till they ran out of the super good stuff quickly. In LA, the wine list was nice, with a different vintage of the Terra Gratia Wine from the Marciano Winery in Saint Helena, CA. In NY, they poured the 2013 vintage, while in LA they poured the 2014 vintage. The 2014 vintage is far superior in almost every way, and even the winemaker, who was at the tasting said so. He said he made the 2014 vintage more controlled and mineral-driven than the 2013 vintage, which was far more fruit driven. Food wise, KFWE LA VIP killed it, and the ambiance is hard to beat, if even possible. Throw in the perfect weather, and really it is hard to honestly pick at this year’s LA VIP.

All I would do is highlight what VIP means and then execute again like they did this year, and this thing can have real legs. Bravo!

General Admission Tasting

Yes, VIP was a lovely event, and it sold out, but to me, the real winner of KFWE LA was the main event, General Admission. Why? Because they crushed it. First of all, and most importantly to me, they presented every wine at KFWE LA General Admission, other than the 2014 Terra Gratia. Everyone who bought a general admission ticket had the opportunity to taste all the wines they wanted, without half of the crush that the NYC event has. The amount of room that LA has is insane. We are talking about an entire museum! Sure there are cars around, but they get moved around so that there is more than ample space. When I walked the event, everyone had the opportunity to eat, taste, and talk with the winemakers without feeling like they jumped into a mosh pit. Add in ample seating and in many ways, I enjoyed General Admission more than VIP, excepting for the lack of cigars, or the ability to smoke one from VIP – but don’t tell my wife, please (she knows do not worry)!

Being serious for a moment, I started this post saying this was the best KFWE of 2017, and that the LA VIP was a very close second to the original VIP. But what really needs to be focused on is General Admission, the execution should be highlighted and copied, just like the original VIP was copied in all subsequent KFWE instantiations.

It is really not easy to have hundreds of people moving around with a single idea on their mind, FOOD! Whether that food was solid or liquid, people who attended the KFWE LA event had all the space they wanted. My friends who bought VIP tickets all said, they loved the General Admission and hope it is this good every year going forward.

The Tierra Sur food won the day again, but there were many food tables/vendors and most of them looked like they had little to no food left when the event was over. The Tierra Sur dishes were the same as we were served during trade, which is really impressive to be able to pull off. Keeping all the high-end food going for an entire day, is not easy work.

Still, the thing that got me at the end was how well they fixed all the issues of last year. It is not common to go to an event two years in a row and see such change and yet no change at all. The venue and ambiance were always the biggest assets of KFWE LA. Throw in perfect execution, which is so very hard, and you have the best KFWE of the year.

Finally, as stated above, all the wines from the Royal portfolio were here in LA. Minus Vitkin and a couple of Israeli wines that were not missed, and the other California wineries, it was all here. All the wines were here, from France, Spain, New Zealand, and all the Herzog wines as well, were at General Admission for all to enjoy! This has not been the case in the past, and it was one of the main reasons why I started to go to the NYC event. I really hope that going forward we will finally have the ability to buy all of the Royal Wine’s Portfolio in LA and Norcal!

My thanks to the entire Royal Wines company and especially to the Herzog team for hitting it out of the ballpark this year. I hope to continue to enjoy the event this much for many years to come!

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Posted on March 1, 2017, in Food and drink, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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