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Some Four Gates & Brobdingnagian wines that continue to shine in their age

This past Purim, Benyamin Cantz from Four Gates wine swung by the home with other guys from the shul, and we tasted a few older wines. This is not the first time we have been spoiled by Benyo and his wonderful wines. The last time we enjoyed his wines was last year Purim, but this one included even older wines. We had a couple of his older wines a few years ago with Andrew from Blue Smoke at Benyo’s place.

I have posted about two large tastings with friends at Four Gates where we enjoyed some well-aged wines, here in 2014 and then again in 2015. In those cases, just like recently, the wines all showed beautifully, though one showed more new-world in style than other vintages. The first and oldest that I enjoyed was the 1996 vintage Merlot, long before Benyamin used monikers like La Rochelle, M.S.C., or Cuvee D 🙂

Yes, you are now thinking, wait the first vintage of Four Gates was 1997, no? Yes, you are correct, however, Benyamin also made an entire vintage in 1996, however, because of liquor licensing reasons, he was not allowed to sell, but we sure enjoyed MANY of them for years!

Of the recently tasted Four Gates Merlot wines, the 1997 vintage shows a very old world style. While the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon shows a very new world style. The ageless 2005 Syrah is now at its end, and it showed mid-world in style and was a true joy! Finally, we opened a 2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot. To pair with his 2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot, I opened a 2010 Brognagian Petit Verdot, a wine made by Jonathan Hajdu, the first Petit Verdot he made, just like the Four Gates was also Benyo’s first Petit Verdot in 2010. The Brobdingnagian was slightly riper and fruit-forward than the Four Gates, but both were quite enjoyable, with the Four Gates taking home the medal.

I must say that as annoyed as I am from how few people age their wines, and how early they drink young wines, I have been seeing a new desire for well-aged wines. In my article on Bordeaux, I wrote about how to build a successful cellar, and recently, I have been enjoying some wonderfully aged Four Gates wines.

As I stated in that article, Four Gates has been blessed with land and climate that gives Benyamin Cantz grapes that are dripping with acid and terroir. The grapes he sources from his vineyard, that he personally tends to, are; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

My many thanks to Benyo for sharing his wines and allowing me to truly enjoy what age can do for a wine that has the potential to improve from long cellaring.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

1997 Four Gates Merlot – Score: 95+
First of all OMG are you kidding me!!!!! This wine is purple in color and now fully integrated and perfectly balanced and mouth coating with black and red fresh fruit! Wow, this wine is killing!!! This bottle was brought by Benyo, and it shows how awesome his wines age!

This wine’s color is not bricking – after 22 years!! The nose is redolent with black and red fruit, graphite, blackberry, raspberry, with absurd barnyard, lovely mushroom, rich loamy earth, along with lovely oak influence. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered and rich with lovely mouth coating tannin, followed by concentration of black fruit, dark cherry, cranberry, lovely green notes, sweet herb, and garrigue, with barnyard notes, all rising with sweet oak and tannin. The finish is long with tons of good mineral, ripe fruit, chocolate, vanilla, depth of flavor, and calming acid to bring this entire wine together. The fact that the wine continues to coat my mouth and linger long after it is gone blows me away. Throw in its age and I am further blown away. This wine is still drinking beautifully! Drink until 2024.

2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: 90
This wine is a fruity, really new world in style, this is the Cab to which Benyo added acid. The nose on this wine is over the top but really well controlled, with rich fruit, ripe blackberry, raspberry, with loads of anise, tar, and earth. The mouth on this full bodied wine is too ripe for me, over the top, it is showing sweeter than in the past, with loads of blackberry, rich sweet tannin, sweet cedar, and oak, with loads of sweet fruit notes, and spice. The finish is long, sweet, with notes of sweet cherry saver candy, tobacco galore, with nice spice, crazy fruit structure, loads of leather, and earth. Drink up!!!

2005 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: 91
The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe, with lovely roasted animal, blueberry, with loads of black fruit, and slight oxidation. The mouth on this wine is starting to show its age, with nice dirt, blue and black fruit, with loads of tar, lovely acid, and mouth coating tannin, that is still feeling well, but the wine is losing its speed. The finish is long, black and blue, with dirt, and tobacco galore, with anise, and root beer. drink NOW!!!!

2010 Brobdignagian Petit Verdot – Score: 91
This wine is 9 years old and it looks young. There is no bricking, beautiful dark red, showing nicely. The nose is lovely, showing nice ripe red fruit, juicy blue fruit, with licorice, lemongrass, animal fat, with hints of black fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is ripe, but beautifully controlled, with great draping mouthfeel, with lovely searing tannin, good acidity, with blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, with hints of juicy and yet tart blueberry, with a great fruit focus, and layers of lovely fruit and concentration. The finish is long, juicy, controlled, and tart fruit, with green notes, lovely mint, oregano, sweet baking spices, dark chocolate, and roasted herbs. Bravo!!! Drink by 2020.

2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: 93+
This wine is 9 years old and it looks young. There is no bricking, beautiful dark red, showing nicely. The nose is lovely, showing nice ripe blue and red fruit but more elegant than the brob, which is more of a sweet hammer, showing green notes, earth, and hints of mushroom, with red fruit, licorice, lovely floral notes, with smokey notes of roasted game, and lovely sweet garrigue. The mouth on this full bodied wine has evolved beautifully, showing still sweet herb, black pepper, but super balanced with great acidity, along with layers of concentrated blackberry, strawberry, and boysenberry all wrapped in rich earth, and toasted oak, with a plush and mouth draping velvet – so good! The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco, and sweet herb. LOVELY!!! Drink until 2022.

Hajdu Winery (AKA Brobdingnagian Winery) continues to prove he has more than just a cool name

1978828_10153902224780507_1359934116_nIf you follow my blog at all, you will find references to Brobdignagian, Brobdingnagian, and Hajdu all over – go ahead and search! Anyway, with the number of times that I have been writing about Hajdu, and Covenant (where he is associate winemaker), I realized it was due time to talk about one of California’s best and still hidden kosher wineries.

I met Jonathan quite a few years back, but even before that I “met” him through the Weiss Brothers (AKA Shirah Winery) and Benyamin (Four Gates Winery). Hajdu is one of those consummate winemakers that has continuously, through the years, shown his mettle and amazing palate. However, before we get ahead of ourselves we need to step back and weave in the background story of Hajdu. Hajdu fell into the world of wine when he was studying archeology at University at Albany-SUNY in NY. It was there, when bored with studies of things buried deep in the ground, dating back thousands of years ago, that he found the wonderful elixir called wine in local area wine bars. This was in the late 1990s, and I find it amazing that wine bars existed in a college town so many years ago!

Well soon after school, Hajdu went to study in Yeshiva in Israel, and it was there that he met a woman, and followed her to Melbourne Australia, which turned out to be a great place to study viticulture at the Swinburne University, and to work on a few vineyards in the Yarra Valley. Things did not work out on the dating front, so Hajdu returned to New York, and one thing led to another and a friend told him about a job at Copain Custom Crush Llc in 2003. It was a great job for so many reasons, the main one being that there Hajdu honed his winemaking skills, till now he was a viticulturist, and he learned the skill of working on many small lots and crushes inside a very large wine facility, something that would come in very handy in the coming years at Covenant, but again we are getting ahead of the story.

In late 2003 Herzog was in need of more skilled hands, so Hajdu signed on – and it was at this point that one has to see the hand of God here. First of all, it was here that the Shirah/Weiss boys would eventually meet up with Hajdu, along with Jack Levin, who was part of the initial Shirah creations. This group (Levin was not yet there in 2005) was the group that created the first Shirah wine – 2005 Shirah Syrah with fruit from Alamo Creek. For the next two years they worked together at Herzog and it was that time, in my opinion, that the desire and yearn to build great wines from both Shirah and Hajdu was created.

While, Hajdu was at Herzog winery another very important coincidence occurred, it was there that Hajdu met Jeff Morgan, co-owner and winemaker of Covenant Winery. At that time, Covenant was making their 2003 through 2006 vintages in Herzog’s winery in Santa Maria, CA where the winery existed before it moved to Oxnard. It was then that Hajdu worked with Jeff on the 2003, 2004 vintages of Covenant wines in Santa Maria (where Herzog was before Oxnard) and then 2005 in Oxnard as well.

In 2006 Hajdu had a yearning to return to Israel, so he picked up and went to work in Carmel winery after talking with Sam Saroka, then the head winemaker at Carmel Winery, Saroka is now the head winemaker of Mony Winery. After a year in Israel, Hajdu returned without any real plans but in search of more than just a wine job but also a person who would eventually become his wife. However, when he first arrived in NY, he tried to line things up, but one thing did not lead to another and plans kept falling through, which was for the best in so many ways! It was in NY, late 2007 that he met his to-be wife and where he re-caught the bug and passion to create his own wines – under the Brobdingnagian label. Read the rest of this entry

Top Grenache wines available now

Well, I just posted by Pinot Noir post, and as I have stated before, Grenache is the Pinot Noir of the Rhone Valley.

So, there we are – I hope we understand the dearth of options that exist in the kosher Pinot Noir landscape. With that in mind, I thought it was high time to have a Pinot Noir tasting, along with the fact that a guest who came to our house said he liked Pinot Noir and Grenache! In a way, it was the perfect wine combo! Grenache is called the “Pinot noir of the Rhone Valley” for its finicky growing style as well, so the combo was chosen.

Now if good kosher Pinot Noir is a pain to find – forget about Grenache!! Here is the list – the TOTAL list that I know of (whether I would or would not drink them):

  1. Hajdu Winery (much epic Grenache including 2007, 2010, and 2012, 2014)
  2. Capcanes Winery
  3. Ramon Cardova (undrinkable)
  4. Galil Winery (last I had was OK)
  5. Shirah Winery
  6. Vitkin Winery
  7. Dalton Estate (Last I had was really sweet)
  8. Kos Yeshuous (only in 2016)

After those – the rest are blends, including the lovely Elvi, Netofa, and onwards:

  1. Vignobles David (The last Vignobles I had were not fun, I hope to taste them again soon) – he has many wines with Grenache in them, in varying degrees of percentages.
  2. Elvi Winery (Great wines indeed)
  3. Netofa Winery (they recently added Grenache to their famous SM wines).
  4. Capsouto Winery (they too only have 30% or so from Grenache)
  5. Capcanes Winery (yes again because they make the famous Peraj Ha’Abib with Grenache as part of the blend)
  6. Yaacov Oryah Wines (he makes a Blanc de Noir from Grenache and a few GSM as well). Sadly, I have not tasted his new wines. I hope to be doing that soon.

Sadly, in the world of white – there are only TWO full Granche Blanc wines:

  1. Hajdu Winery (much epic Grenache including 2007, 2010, and 2012, 2014)
  2. Vitkin Winery

Also, like the Noir, there is a winery that uses the Grenache Blanc in a blend:

  1. Capsouto Winery (they use 60% of it or so in the Eva)
  2. Vignobles David (The last Vignobles I had were not fun, I hope to taste them again soon and new ones as well) – he has a wine or two with Grenache Blanc in them, in varying degrees of percentages.
  3. Shirah Winery made a Vintage White in 2016 that was mostly Grenache Blanc, but this year, they went back to using Viognier as the major varietal in this white blend.

Read the rest of this entry

A Horizontal of 2013 Pinot Noirs and other top Pinot Noir to buy now

A few weeks ago, Benaymin Cantz from Four Gates Winery and friends came over for a Friday night dinner, and I thought it was a good time to open my 2013 Pinot Noirs that I have been saving. I must say, in hindsight, I should have done it earlier, as some of the wines were already past their time or DOA.

My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. Overall, the night was fine, it was just not at the level I had hoped for. Thankfully, Benyo brought two extra wines, and they made the night super special! They were, a 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir and a 2005 Four gates Merlot. M.S.C.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Even if the 2013 Pinot was DOA, I have had good success with Gvaot Pinot Noir. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty.

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals

This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.

It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.

Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.

A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications: 

(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character.  There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy.  Read the rest of this entry

Wines I enjoyed over Passover 2017

Well, I have been off for too long, that is for sure. First Passover, then travels to Japan and more work. Finally home for a bit, Passover was great as it was enjoyed with family and that is what makes the holidays so great!

I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly good to great, except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it was clearly not stored well. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were solid wines.

I also had the opportunity to enjoy some wines with friends at EZ’s house, with BC and CG. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed 6 wines – the best of which was the 2012 Domain Netofa Latour Red, followed by 2010 Hajdu Grenache, 2011 Netofa Red, the 2004 Chateau Montviel (which is in drink up mode at this point), and the 2011 Hajdu Grenache. Many thanks to EZ and his wife for hosting us so graciously.

The wines are listed below – and I hope you had a great Passover as well:

2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
I found this wine to be showing better than the Hajdu PS, at least for now. Lovely blueberry jam and crazy black plum, with mounds of fresh vanilla, sweet cedar, with lovely floral notes, and sweet spices. Lovely full body wine with still searing tannin and lovely acid showing rich extraction and crazy spices with boysenberry and blackberry with rich sweet spices and elegance at the same time, along with ribbons of charcoal, and mineral. The finish is long and jammy, with rich leather, and mounds of mineral and black tea, with sweet tobacco, and sweet fruit lingering long. Drink by 2020.

2012 Hajdu Petite Sirah, Brobdingnagian – Score: A-
This wine was really a wine I was looking forward to tasting again, and it is either in a real funk, or it has taken a step back from its earlier stature. The wine opened quickly, it was not as closed as in the past, showing ripe blackberry, blueberry, and lovely dirt, and earth, with root beer galore and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, but lacking the impressive extraction of old, with rich layers of blue and dark fruit, sweet oak, and tannin that does not let up. The finish is long with layers of dark fruit, leather, spice, Swiss mocha, boysenberry, and nice tart, and sweet fruit. This wine is on target, but lacking the complexity of old. Drink by  2021.

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
Same as last time, deep, mineral, and attack that is almost hedonistic.

NV Gamla/Gilgal Hashmura Brut – Score: A- (crazy QPR)
This is the new vintage (which is now out of stock in most places). The way to know it is the most recent vintage is to check if the wine says extra dry – otherwise, it is a previous vintage and not as fun, the wine is mostly 2011 grapes. The nose on this bubbly is sick with lovely quince, apple cider, with straw and tart citrus. The mouth is full and an attack force of small mousse bubbles, followed by yeast and rich undertones, followed by layers of pear and madly refreshing with crazy acid and pith, and more bubbles that do not give up. The finish is long with dried fruit, nice dry mouthfeel, that flows into nice dried herb, and rich white tea. BRAVO!!!!

Read the rest of this entry

The French Connection – kosher wine style

2002-2007-four-gates-chardonnay-2013-garrus-rose-bonnet-ponson-champagne-2007-hajdu-syrah-2007-yatir-forest-2001-barrail-de-zede-2005-elvi-el26-2009-cabernet-sauvignon-franc-2007-barkan-merlot

I must be honest, it has been too long, that is all on me. I have been taking notes for four months, but I have been very slow to post, so I am sorry. With my Mea Culpe aside, here are my notes on three wine tastings I did revolving around kosher French wines.

I recently came back from NYC where I was privy to enjoy many great French wines, with a few Cali and Israeli thrown in for diversity. The focus of the trip was a party with my friends, but without my knowledge, it turned into an insane French wine tasting fest – that I truly must thank those involved, IC, and JS.

The first tasting was insane, we tasted 22 wines from France, California, and two token Israeli wines (both of which were so overshadowed by the french and Cali that it is almost a waste of virtual ink to talk about them in comparison). The French were epic, the few California (Four gates and Hajdu) were great, the lone Spanish was lovely, and as for the previously stated two Israeli wines, one was date juice, and the other was OK.

Shortly after landing I made my way to EL (thank you my man!), and then later to the home where the event was taking place, to help with setting up, and “unofficially”, to start tasting what was open! The hilarious part was we got to taste things that were not even on the menu, including a wine I had only tasted once before, the 2009 Capcanes Peraj Habib, a wine that Jay Miller (of Wine Advocate) had called/scored the best kosher wine, at that point, in 2011.

So, the first two wines we tasted were both epic, the 2009 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, and some 2001 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. These were both normal format wines, but as you continue to read through this post, many of the wines I tasted were in either magnum (1.5L double a normal bottle), double magnum (3L four times a normal bottle), and a Jeroboam to boot! Read the rest of this entry

Elk’s fantastic Northern California birthday party

2012 Dalton Semillon, Elkosh Vineyard, 2011 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Howell Mountain Napa Valley, 2013 Four gates SyrahMy friend EH was in the area and it was also his birthday, so a bunch of winemakers were so kind to grace my home for Elk and they all came bearing gifts, that were enjoyed by all. Sadly, as much as I want to extol about the epic wines we enjoyed, I cannot do that as many of the wines are not yet released, and I was sworn to secrecy until their official grand unveiling.

I did not even plan the whole thing, that was all Elk, all I did was supply a place, some wines and food. The rest was handled by Elk, and as a host I did even less, as Josh Rynderman, handled all the food prep on the grill. All I really did was make Risotto, and help opening some of the wines.

After that, it was really all the winemakers who made the party what it was. They gathered to wish Elk a happy birthday and have a good time tasting great Cali wines! I was the only one who added in a few Israeli wines, but they were well accepted – overall. Still, given the set of Cali wines that were poured (both unreleased and released) – they crushed the Israeli wines by far.

Sadly, I did not get any pictures, and I barely got the notes down before they were either finished or taken home by the folks at the party.

So, I will keep this short and sweet – these are the notes for the wines we can talk about. Also, my many thanks to Gabriel Weiss from Shirah Winery, Jonathan Hajdu from Hajdu Winery, and Benyo from Four Gates Winery for sharing wines with the attendees. Finally thanks to Josh Rynderman for manning the grill.

The wine notes follow with what I can talk about:

2013 Shirah Syrah Santa Barbara County – Score: A- (and a bit)
The last two times I had this wine it was showing far more old school than now. The wine is showing more Cali than in the past and while it still has the saline and dirt, the riper Cali notes are starting to show through.
The nose on this wine is lovely, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, root beer, charcoal, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and allspice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!

2011 Tabor Merlot Adama, Bazelet – Score: B+ to A-
GG said this wine was turning fast, and while I did not have a bad bottle, I could see that after a day the wine was really too ripe. To me this wine has a year left and then it is over – so drink up!!
The wine is riper than the 2010, which to me was a masterpiece indeed. The 2011 is riper and more fruity, but it is not a date bomb or anything like the stuff I dislike and rail against. 2011 was a very cold year, and wineries had to leave the fruit on the vine longer, making for a wine that could be seen as out of balance. Still, the ripeness does calm with time, and earthy notes do show with dark fruit and spice. This is still a solid QPR wine and for 18 or so dollars it is a no brainer.
The nose on this wine is rich with dark fruit, blackberry, loamy dirt, mineral, and more barnyard than in the past. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows rich acid, nice tannin and good fruit structure with nice extraction, graphite, black fruit, raspberry, currant, and sweet oak, with tobacco taking front stage now. The finish is long and earthy, with roasted herb, fresh coffee, tobacco, more green notes, green tea, graphite and more barnyard lingering. Showing better!

2015 Shirah Rose – Score: A- (plus)
75% Grenache and 25% Tannat. Lovely floral notes, cotton candy, and rich cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is classic Shirah wine, with candied cherry, candied raspberry, and cherry 7up, with rich intense notes, great acid, rich currant, mineral, and great dried fruit. The finish is long and lasting with lovely dried quince, dried grapefruit, and great acid and herb. Bravo!!!

2015 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (plus)
Another classic hit from the Weiss brothers, this time the Shirah Whites, is really Shirah Vintage White, as it is 100% Viognier! What an intoxicating nose, ripe and juicy peach, honeysuckle, white flower, dried honeydew melon, and rich spices. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is viscous and rich, layered with awesome white pepper, spice, cloves, but showcasing its ripe summer stone fruit, with apricot and peach giving way to dried Asian Pear and green tea. The finish is long and spicy with bitter almond notes, along with orange, pith, and lovely spices. BRAVO!!

2011 Mia Luce Rosso – Score: B+ to A-
I had this wine at the winery and it was far too pushed. This wine after two hours of air is better, with nice nose of brett, barnyard, and lovely dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows lovely earth, blackberry, dirt, coating the mouth with rich mineral, earth, rich sweet oak, and too much sweet notes. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, searing acid and tannin, with green notes, foliage, tobacco, dried meat, and lovely dirt. Nice!

2013 Shirah Tannat – Score: A- (and a bit)
This wine needs time to open, maybe two hours. The nose on this wine is lovely, with rich fruit, yes it has notes of raisin, but get past it, the nose is all it is, with blackberry, cherry, and dark cassis. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is crazy, yes ripe, but rich, with layers of dark fruit, blackcurrant, rich intense graphite, charcoal, with layers of chocolate and herb, and nice spices. The finish is long and earthy, deep mineral, dirt, hints of forest, with chocolate, leather, and lovely spice. BRAVO!!!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The nose on this ink black colored wine is filled with blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, black currant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!! Read the rest of this entry

Vitkin, Tzora, and Flam Winery tastings along with 2015 rosé and whites from Israel

KotelWell, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.

EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.

Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.

Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!

Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.

Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.

Shmita 2015

A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!

Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Rose wine options for 2016 – as the weather heats up

Rose wine in the non kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Still, Gary Wartels of Skyview Wines told me recently that there is an uptick in interest, especially in the newly released Vitkin Rose 2015. I need to get back to that wine and other shmita wines, but first we need to talk about what Rose is and why the current craze in the non kosher market is just an uptick in the kosher.

Wine Color

Well simply said, rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and out comes clear to green colored juice. Yes, white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay of course is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such they are sold with different hues from the start. With age – the wine patenas even more and the gold moves to auburn.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellow-ish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color are the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red, are long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature.

Rose wines are the in between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.

Maceration:

This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.

The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins also leach are – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!

Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed, because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the saignee process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being used solely for making rose. Read the rest of this entry

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