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Ella Valley Syrah and Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon- oldies but goodies

2006 and 2007 Ella Valley SyrahThis past week we were enjoying some steak for shabbos, so I reached for for two wines that I thought would go well with a hunk of meat. I have been talking a bit about the state of israeli wines and their over ripe wine drunken stupor. Yes, I have clearly moved from the sweet, bold, 2×4 wines of old, but the good news is that there are wines from before 2009 that continue to age well and show well.

So, it was time to see how the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was showing. I also wanted to see where the 2010 Herzog Petite Sirah, Prince Vineyard. Last week, the Herzog PS2 was DOA. I stated there that PS is one of those finicky wines, they can be big, burly, and in your face one day and DEAD the next. We have spoken about Durif before, yes the official name of Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is a moniker/marketing scheme name that was used in the US, as Durif made no sense, and also because some thought it was related to the Syrah grape, at least until UC Davis disproved that. We have had two vertical tastings of PS, here and here, and each time we find it not an overly complex wine, but one that is very enjoyable. With the release of Recanati’s PS and Hajdu’s PS, along with Ella Valley as well, I have found that you can find complex in the world of PS.

The grape was always a blending grape adding mad tannin, color, and mineral (in some cases) to a blend. However, it is a soft and accessible wine if created for the mass market, like Dalton and other do. Still, I would not hold on to these wines for too long, even the complex one, because you are just asking for trouble. They tend to fall off the cliff very quickly, depending on the grape quality, vintage, and length of time held. That said, after 5 to 6 years for the top line wines, at least the kosher ones, I would drink them up.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Yarden was sweet, that is undeniable, but its complexity, structure, and overall balance made for a wine that was truly enjoyable. The Ella Valley Syrah were beyond enjoyable! Not a sense of sweet notes at all, the 2007 even had barnyard on it. Sure, it was breaking down, but it was luscious and rich, while the 2006 was beautiful, extracted, blue and black and crazy earth. If you have either – drink NOW! Enjoy! The wines this week were all winners – I hope you enjoyed great wines as well.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A-
This wine is at peak so drink NOW! The nose on this dark purple colored wine has ZERO bricking – but has brown halos, with rich tar, licorice, spice, sweet wood, and roasted herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is massive, rich, concentrated, and richly extracted, showing lovely blackberry, plum, dark tart cherry, along with crazy roasted herb, sweet cedar, and lovely tannin that are well integrated. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, hints of barnyard, black pepper, citrus pith, and tart black fruit on the long linger. This wine was ready to go out of the bottle and what a joy! Bravo to Doron!

2006 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this garnet colored wine is rich with crazy roasted animal, tar, mad charcoal, blueberry, and lovely just smoked dark chocolate. The full bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted with lovely mouth coating tannins that are still gripping, along with anise, blackberry, mint, and with crazy earth, literally like eating a fist full of dirt, and dark cherry that carries the mouth, with layers of Mediterranean herbs and sweet spices. The finish is long and charcoal and chocolate, with mounds of dirt, great acid, licorice, and mad spice. What a joy! This wine is at peak and has at least another year or two in its tank – BRAVO DORON!!!!!

2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is not going to sneak up on you – it is more like a combination of a sledge hammer and a two-by-four hitting you right between your eyes. The nose on this massive, complex styled wine explodes with super ripe blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, herbs, rich oak, licorice, plum, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is now showing softly integrating tannins that give the wine a super lovely mouth feel, along with clear sweet fruit, ripe sweet black plum, but tart fruit as well that balances out the date notes. The dates give way to sweet cedar and good acid. The finish is super long and spicy, with nice spice, cassis, date, oak, chocolate, tobacco, and still gripping tannins.

2010 Herzog Petite Sirah Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
The wine is at its peak and is really ready to drink. It still needs a bit of air, but I do not see this wine lasting for another year in this state. The nose started off nicely with good floral and violet notes, along with blueberry ribbons, smoky aromas, mint, green notes of bell pepper. The mouth is medium in body with layers of concentrated strawberry notes, dark cherry, and spiced plum, all wrapped up in a cedar box with lovely mouth coating tannin and anise. The finish is long with smokey notes, vanilla, white pepper, oriental spice, licorice, and mineral. The wine was in slumber before, but now it is ready to go. Air it for an hour an enjoy.

Ella Valley Winery – final day of my snowbound Jerusalem Trip

Well if you have been following the saga of my snowbound trip to Israel, you would know that this was closing out quickly at this point as the snow has stopped by Sunday, and the roads were open. So, on the Monday after the fateful snowstorm, Mendel and I made our way to Ella Valley Winery.

Other than the obvious lack of snow down in the Ella Valley, or the roads leading to it, the most obvious telltale sign of the tectonic shift that the Ella Valley Winery is going through was the lack of noise, as we entered the winery grounds. Now, I do not mean visitors, as David Perlmutter and a slightly rambunctious crowd that he was ferrying around were in the house. No, I mean the birds; in many ways recently Ella Valley has gone to the birds, metaphorically and in some ways – physically (but with lots of hope for its quick and successful return).

As I have stated the many times that I have visited the winery, I loved this winery for its makeup, its people, and its wine styling, all of which seemed to flow in a common theme, clean lined with respect to the product and people. As I stated here, Danny Valero, the winery’s original general manager, had a deep love for wine, technology, and birds, yes real multi-colored feathered friends that quacked and made a racket, but inevitably added to the ambiance and uniqueness that was Ella Valley Winery.

IMG_0109Sadly, one by one, they all fell off. No, not the birds (though they are also gone), rather the people that originally made the winery so special. The winery was started in the 1990s, and released its first vintage in 2002. Within the time following its founding, the winery grew to great prominence, because of the principles upon which it was built, build great wines that happen to be kosher, showcasing the qualities of Israeli fruit. Of all the wineries in Israel, in recent memory, Ella Valley came out of the shoot with all guns blazing. They never had a ramp up time, they came out as a four star winery, in the late Daniel Rogov’s books from the start almost, and never relinquished that status.

Read the rest of this entry

Ella Valley Merlot and a not so good kosher Malbec

This past week we enjoyed some lovely wine from the Ella Valley Winery, which is going through some changes right now. This wine dates back to 2005 when Doron Rav Hon was the head winemaker and the this wine shows his classic Burgundian styling. Of course Merlot is not made in Burgundy, but the restraint and depth of fruit shows the style that he became famous for when he was making wine there.

The other wine was another kosher, baseline Malbec, and I guess you get what you pay for. The 2012 Don Mendoza Malbec is a wine that does little to stem the tide of public opinion around kosher wine. The wine is boring, bland, and within minutes just falls apart in your mouth. You get what you pay for, I recommend you not even try this wine and look elsewhere.

Truly it is sad, because when you type Malbec into Google, you quickly find that it was Argentina that turned the world onto single varietal Malbec. The 2009 Flechas Malbec from Rothschild in Argentina is a nice enough wine, but it can be a bit extreme. If you must buy an Argentinian Malbec, that is your best option by far, even if the 2011 vintage is not as good as the 2009. But this wine, is not even in that league.

Like I posted here about the Kosher Malbec options out there, stick with either the Yarden Malbec, the Tishbi Malbec, or the BEST option, in my opinion the Teperberg Malbec.

The wine notes follow below:

2005 Ella Valley Merlot – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this wine, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, is old and mature but not over the hill at all! The nose is rich with dark fruit, candied raspberry, cherry, with insane barnyard funk coming out, along with rich loamy dirt, earthy notes, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with lovely funk and mushroom, with good blackberry, forest floor, all wrapped up in a cocoon of green leafy notes, sweet cedar, and mouth drenching tannin. The finish is long and spicy with lovely leafy tobacco, salty notes, rich mineral, graphite, chocolate, and rich dark fruit and leathery notes – BRAVO! The wine is drink up mode and it is throwing sediment – but enjoy!

2012 Don Mendoza Malbec Reserve – Score: C
This wine is mevushal and it shows. The wine shows a simple, not complex, or even very good wine with basic fruit, but a wine that is all over the place. The wine starts off nice, with spicy notes and fruit, but that falls apart very quickly and falls flat to the floor, with stinky socks. Sad, as I was hoping for a better showing from a Argentinian Malbec!

2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice and Lamb and Dates Meatballs

I have had the distinct joy of visiting the Ella Valley Winery a few times in the past few years and each time I enjoy a bottle of Ella Valley wine I remember the first time I tasted a bottle of the stuff – at a restaurant!

Yes indeed, the first time I heard of Ella Valley Winery was at a restaurant where they were serving the 2002 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice! The wine was being sold at the restaurant – the new defunct Rafael’s that existed in Berkeley, CA for many years, until its unfortunate closing in July 2007. Whenever I went there with friends I always ordered the same wine, as it was rich, layered and awesome! I finally convinced some wine stores to stock it as well and it was then available to others and me in 2005.

Since then Ella Valley has done a better job marketing the wine to the kosher wine world and blessedly I do not need to convince wine stores to stock the wine – they do it on their own, based solely on the wine’s merits. Read the rest of this entry

Ella Valley Winery – the beautiful high tech winery of the Judean Hills

Whenever we get the opportunity to go to Ella Valley Winery, we take advantage of it with extreme gusto. This was my fourth trip to Ella Valley Winery, with my two previous ones described here and here. It was a crisp and cool morning on February 2nd, 2011, when my two friends and I made our way down to the winery. The winery is situated in the Kibbutz Netiv Halamed-Heh, in a valley surrounded by rolling hills and sheer cliffs. The road to the kibbutz is not as harrowing as it may look, but if you try to take in the beautiful scenery; the craggy rock faced hills, the steep inclines, and the sheer rock walls that surround you, while attempting to drive your car down the meandering and serpentine curves that make up Highway 38, well that makes for some harrowing experiences on both sides of the road. Highway 38 is the road that weaves you down from the higher Jerusalem elevation to the valley some 12 miles down below.

As we have said often, everything about this winery is beautiful in both presence and product. In 1997 the idea of a winery was just that, an idea, however, the desire was real and they chose the perfect person to get the project rolling. Danny Valero, the winery’s general manager, directed the project, using technology he brought back from Napa Valley, where he cut his teeth on the maddening complexity of the wine business. The exact location that his findings brought him to was in fact a nexus of the past and the future, bound by the love of wine and religion. The valley of Ella was where David beat Goliath and was where the winery unearthed an ancient winepress dating back to the beginning of the Common Era, and where they excavated remnants of a settlement dating from the Second Temple period – Hurvat Itry. In 1998 the Aderet vineyard was planted using advanced techniques borrowed from the Napa Valley. The vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon and Muscat grapes. In 2001, the winery was constructed in the Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Heh, with both Udi Kaplan who manages the winery and the winery’s head wine maker, Doron Rav Hon.

As I have stated in the past postings, I first heard about Ella Valley Wines when I went to dinner at a now defunct kosher restaurant in Berkley, CA. I called the winery and they told me who imported the wine. At first the importers were not a well know commodity, but they have now switched to a different partner who does a fine job in importing almost all the wines in the Ella Valley wine portfolio.

As the three of us drove up to the winery, I once again remembered why I love this winery so much – clean lines and fruit. This winery is truly unique in the wines they make; the wines are expressive, fruit clean, and almost always concentrated or at least fruit true. I use many adjectives to explain this winery because to me this winery allows the fruit to truly express itself. The fruit is visible in the wine, the wine has clean lines, meaning that the wine does not lose itself with tannin and overpowering oak. Instead the wines expression is clean with bright fruit and clean balance. These are not wines that people call feminine or elegant, instead these are wines that straddle both the masculine and the feminine and instead concentrate on the wine, its fruit, and its balance. There is another winery who that this almost as well – Tzora Winery, a winery we will be writing about in the not too distant future.

The winery, the vineyards, the tasting room, the vats, the oak barrels, everything about this winery screams beauty. As you approach the winery, the first things you see is the beautiful rock with the winery’s name emblazoned on it. Quickly that image flees from your memory as you are hit by a cacophony of Mr. Valero’s pets! He is an avid collector of rare and beautiful colored birds, which are fond of making a racket to gain them your attention, which they all believe are their self ordained birthright. Of course, once you enter the beautiful wine tasting room, the clacking dims to a mute as your attention is once again diverted to the task at hand, admiring the winery’s handiwork – its wine. Read the rest of this entry

Hameshubach Midbar, Ella Valley Cabernet Vineyard Choice, Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard

This past weekend we had friends and family over for a lovely Friday Night meal. The meal started off with a warm bowl of Roasted Butternut squash soup and a bottle of the 2007 Hameshubach Midbar, Gold Series. The wine was looking a bit brown, but the flavor profile is exactly what I remembered it to be when I tasted it in March. Clearly a bottle to drink now. The soup tasted quite nicely, rich and sweet, with a twang of bitterness to compliment the flavors, from the orange rind. Benyamin Cantz (Benyo) from Four Gates Winery was there as well and brought over a 15 year old Champagne. The Champagne tasted nice, with tight bubbles, deep core acidity, some toasted almonds, and a hint of citrus fruit.

At the same time we opened a bottle of the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard that came from the Herzog Club. We opened it then to give it time to air out while we started on other wines. We then opened my last bottle of the 2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and that was a wise choice. The wine’s color was fine, along with its nose and mouth, still it was at its peak and starting to lose some of its complexity, so it is a good time to drink this up.

We then served Mushroom and Crookneck Zucchini Risotto, a plate of salami and turkey pastrami, along with braised roast beef, spinach kugel (parve souffle), and a fresh green salad. The Ella Valley Cabernet paired wonderfully with the roast and salami, while the risotto’s creaminess and mushroom earthiness added a certain level of balance to the palate of the food. We then poured the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, and to be honest I was not initially impressed at all. It was OK, but it was more of a medium bodied wine with a finish that was lacking. Still, I kept some around, and the next day it tasted much better. This wine is the press wine of its monster of a brother, the 2006 Herzog Generation VIII Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley. It bigger brother is a massive wine with broad shoulders, a mouth feel that is rich and opulent, rich black fruit, and a finish that goes on forever. Its younger brother is far less massive and its finish is a bit lacking. The Generation VIII is free run wine, while this is press wine. Now, press wine is not bad wine, but what it has in tannin (in spades) and sometimes in color, it lacks in true fruit and depth. This is not to say they are bad wines just different. Many wineries will blend the two, the free run and the press wine. To make up for some of its issues, Herzog aged the wine in oak for 42 months, which may sound crazy, but oak does add lovely characteristics and helps this wine out immensely.

Truly this dichotomy reminds me of the 2006 Covenant Red C and the 2006 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Red C is a far more medium bodied wine than is the Covenant Cabernet. You see the 2006 Red C is also pure press wine, while the 2006 Covenant Cabernet is pure free run.

I will say that the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard is a nice wine, but I find it also reminds me of the styling’s of the 2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon Kosher Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard, lighter in body, more finesse and elegance than sheer power, but I believe still lacking.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Hameshubach Midbar, Gold Series (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petite Verdot) – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet to mahogany colored wine explodes with rich raspberry, ripe blackberry, ripe black plum, mounds of rich chocolate, cedar, smoky notes, tobacco, and fig. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and exploding with dark and brooding blackberry and black plum along with tar like flavors. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, acid, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is super rich and long with black fruit, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, tar like flavors, and vanilla. This wine is clearly at or beyond its peak, drink up!!!

2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A- to A
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is hopping with rich ripe cherry, blackberry, cassis, figs, crushed herbs, smoky notes, and lovely rich oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and structured with ripe blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and loamy dirt. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, loamy dirt, crushed herbs, and chocolate. The finish is super long with sweet oak, ripe blackberry, chocolate, smokiness, roasted meats, crushed herbs, and dirt. Drink this up – it is time.

2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine is rich with chocolate, blackberry, raspberry, crushed herbs, rich cedar oak, vanilla, and licorice, a lovely and elegant nose. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has raspberry, red fruit, spicy notes, blackberry, and nice tannin. The mid palate is balanced with acid, integrated tannin, spicy oak, vanilla, and chocolate. The finish is not so long with chocolate, vanilla, spicy oak, smoky notes, and licorice. I thought the lack of a solid finish and it understated mouth structure was a lacking, but what it lacks in those things it does make up a bit with its elegance.

 

Friends, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and a lovely 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

On the last Wednesday night of 2009, my friends from out of the country swung by the house for dinner.  So we made one of our favorite dishes to share for them, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.  It is an awesome dish that we have made many times before, and thank goodness this time was no exception.  To pair with the Puttanesca we made fresh green salad and some nice whole wheat penne.  As usual I am not content enough with making the watery puttanesca sauce; instead I add 32 ounces of the ground soy meat to thicken up the sauce.  It adds texture, heft, and a bit of flavor to the sauce, which is all good for me, but of course it flies in the face of tradition.  I understand that, but what can I do.  The recipe I use can be found here.

To match these salty and earthy flavors, I pulled out a bottle of 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The mouth on this wine is packed, complex, and mouth coating.  It is a real joy, and I wonder if some underscore this one.  The wine note follows below:

2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (non V.C.) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is popping with rich and ripe blackberry, plum, cassis, meaty notes, a bit of heat out of the bottle, chocolate, and a nice side of spice. The mouth on this full bodied and complex wine is extracted and mouth coating yet yielding tannins. The mouth is layered with blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mid palate is hopping with balanced acidity, oak, licorice, and more extraction, along with not yet integrated tannins. The finish is long and smoky with spice, licorice, and chocolate, all on a plush mouth that lies under and over a lush field of spicy oak and black fruit. This wine should be tasted immediately upon opening, but will show it best face with an hour or two of air.

Ella Valley Winery Visit and Wine Tasting

Ella Valley SignOn a lovely Friday in August 2009, a friend and I were weaving through route 395 as it winds through the lush Judean Hills, and then descends into the valley of Route 38, which junctions into Route 375.  After driving Route 375 for a few miles, we find the turn off for Netiv HaLamed-Heh, where the Ella Valley Winery is situated.  This was our third trip to the winery.  Our previous visit was very generously hosted by Udi Kaplan.  The winery was founded in 1996 when the Adert Vineyard was first planted.  Soon after, in 2001, the winery was constructed using state of the art wine making technology, that would allow Ella Valley to compete with the world’s best wineries.  The winery was built from the bottom up with a desire to craft the world’s best wines, while keeping to a strict adherence of the kosher certification requirements.  The winery started production with the 2002 vintage, when they produced some 100,000+ bottles of wine, to high praise and acclaim.  Since then, they have succeeded with their vision and are continuing to produce more than 200,000 bottles of top quality wines, even for their non reserve lines (named Vineyard Choice).

Ella Valley Steel VatsThe winery is managed by Uri Kaplan, who runs the day-to-day operations of the winery, while the wine making duties are left to the capable hands of French trained Doron Rav Hon.  Doron has been part of the winery since its inception, and his handiwork is all over the wine itself.  The wine’s signature flavors are clear with every sip.  There is no overripe fruit, clobbering oak, or under ripe green characteristics, that dominate many of the wines in Israel and the world alike now a days.  Instead, Doron’s wines are all well balanced wines that do take advantage of the sun and valley’s cool nights.  He uses French oak predominately, which allows for a more subtle wine expression, and thereby giving the grapes a chance to show their true quality, without screaming it from the rooftop.  When talking with critics and wine experts alike about Ella Valley, the word that comes up is consistency and elegance.  The reds and whites alike are consistently elegant, while keeping to winery’s credo – of traditional elegance with a twist modernization.

So when we drove up to the winery, we were not surprised to find that very credo staring us in the face.  The winery’s lovely traditional structure and facade, was quietly wrapping its modern inner workings.  We were super honored to meet with Doron himself, and he was kind to show us around the winery before, sitting down to a superb wine tasting.  The conversation was varied and fascinating; from discussions around kashrut to Doron’s wine making philosophy.  The wine tasting was equally varied from an Unoaked Chardonnay all the way to a blockbuster Merlot and everything else in between.  If you had to point to a single varietal that defines Ella Valley – it would have to be Merlot.  From 2002 and on, Ella Valley’s Merlot(s) have been the top scoring and most sinewy yet refined wines in their portfolio.  Nothing about our wine tasting changed that perspective, except for the fact that they continue to show exactness and gentle prodding on all of the wines in their fine portfolio. Read the rest of this entry

Mushroom/Squash/Sweet Potato Risotto, and 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay

After two weeks of French food it was time to return to my roots – Italy and its fresh herbal flavors.  There is no dish and flavor that epitomizes Italy more than Risotto, and after some richer French food, we went with some creamy delight that was highlighted by herbs and Farmer’s Market vegetables.  We started with four stalks of cleaned leeks, and two pounds of Shiitake that were sautéed until browned.  I then removed the onions and mushrooms and used the same pot to soften the sweet potato and yellow crookneck squash.  We then removed the soften vegetables; added back the onions and mushrooms (yeah would have been far easier to cook in a second pot – lesson learned – maybe next time I will just roast them).  I added back a bit of olive oil, and two cups of Arborio rice, and made sure that the grains were well coated with the oil.

An aside, there is a HUGE difference between sweet potato and yams.  Many think they are the same, and I cannot but stress how foolish this line of thinking is.  The Sweet Potato nomenclature is really broken!  Sweet Potato is a firm potato that cooks and stays firm.  Yams are a soft potato that cooks soft and is better used in sweet potato pie.  So the next time you go to the supermarket and want to add some sweet flavor to your dish, figure out ahead of time, if you are looking for a firm or soft sweet flavor.  Yams are going to go soft after some time, while the “sweet potato” will stay firm like a red or yellow potato.  OK – back to risotto.

Wait – one more aside, in case you are wondering why we want two starches – Arborio rice – the king of starchy rice and sweet potato, the answer is because we wanted to 🙂  Simply put, we had a sweet tooth and we wanted risotto, so sweet potato it was.  OK – this time, no more tangents.

OK, after the rice, leek, and mushrooms were properly coated, we started the risotto dance.  Yep, it is a dance that requires you to lead most of the time, but still give the partner a chance to shine.  You place a cup of hot water/broth in and then let the rice soak in the liquid.  Back and forth you go, until the rice starts to become slightly mushy and creamy.  It is truly imperative that you have a pot of just boiling chicken broth hot on the stove.  This allows for the rice to not be cooled down and then heated up (if you were to ad in cold soup).  The ironic aspect is that you start with a cup of wine, and that is NOT boiling, but it is room temperature, and the pot is boiling hot and the rice is well coated, so that is why the first wet liquid in a risotto recipe is commonly white wine.  After the wine is soaked up, we ladled in a cup of broth, waited for the rice to soak it up, and then to start the process again.  The interesting and complicated part of the recipe is when to throw in the additives.  You see the onions and/or leeks are an imperative part of any risotto recipe and are the base of all risotto recipes that I have seen.  We threw in mushrooms because we like them, and they do not get in the way of the rice cooking/creaming process.  But, the real question is when do you throw in additives – like our sweet potatoes and squash?  Some have it going in early – but that is a disaster because it does not give the rice a chance to set up.  Some have them added after the third cup, but we added it at the very end, right when folks would add Parmesan cheese – which is not my style.  I was really happy with the outcome, though one more aside (yes I lied); it is hard to make risotto for Friday Night dinner.  Since the risotto needs to be reheated for Friday Night, it is hard to remake the perfect creaminess you get when it is just made.  We did a solid job, but would love to find a way to perfect it.

4 stalks of leeks halved and sliced up thinly
2lb of mushrooms sliced
Salt to wilt leeks and mushrooms
2 yellow sweet potato
12 small yellow crookneck squash
Thyme
Basil
Rosemary
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of wine
4 or more cups of broth

Once we finished the risotto, I looked around for a wine to match, and settled on a 2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay.  The wine was oaked and as it opened, it felt overoaked – almost Californian, but without the weight or sugar to hold it up.  The wine turned green as it opened, the oak and green flavors overpower the mouth, but still a nice Chardonnay.  This is definitely a wine that should be drunk soon and enjoyed with a nice fat fish, creamy sauce linguine (thinking Italian!), or light cheeses.  By the way, this wine may not be a huge winner, but its better siblings – the Ella Valley Vineyard Choice Chardonnay (both Oaked and UnOaked) are huge winners.

The wine note follows below:

2005 Ella Valley Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine starts off with sweet oak, lemon, green apple, almond, vanilla, and eucalyptus.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is more bright than rich, glycerol and oily, with apple, pear, and slight bitterness.  The mid palate is bright with bracing acidity, a bit unbalanced with green notes.  The finish is long with mint, summer fruit, tart lemon, with toast and vanilla.  As the wine open more, the fruit fades a bit, the heavy oak comes to the top, and the acidity and bitterness are a bit off.

Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Roasted Chicken, Brown Rice, and Lindemans Raspberry Lambic

Well this past weekend was a wonderful learning experience for me.  We had a quiet dinner of roasted chicken, accompanied by a nice brown rice pilaf and a fresh green salad.  I thought a nice wine to match that would be a bright wine, and went fishing around the wine cellar for a Sauvignon Blanc.  I pulled out a 2007 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and what a surprise I had.  To start the cork was sopping wet and almost to its end, though no leaks.  I warn ALL readers to check this vintage, as the cork was not damaged or poor quality, it just looks like that cork was soaked.  Of course cork is differs from bottle to bottle, but just take a look at your Ella Valley SB and check.  I have never had a problem from any of their other wines, so this could have been nothing more than bad luck, but it is always safe to check.

Upon opening the bottle, I was greeted by a horrific smell, and almost barnyard or pee smell.  Yes, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, was made famous by British wine critic Oz Clarke, when he stated that The Sauvignon Blanc tasted like: “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush”.  Still, I do not associate that flavor with Sauvignon Blanc wines from Israel, but once I poured the wine the reason for the “odor” was clear.  When I poured the wine, I greeted with bubbles in the wine and a clear flavor and nose of yeast.  I am almost sure that the wine (at least for my bottle) went through ML (MaloLactic Fermentation) in my bottle, and so bubbles formed from the ML fermentation.  I can only guess that my batch was not successfully filtered to rid the wine of any left over malic acid.  The process of ML in a bottle, can create odors and bubbles, as the malic acid is “chowed down on” by Malolactic bacteria that are ubiquitous in the environment (you’re probably breathing some in right now).  Once all of these wondrous additions blew off the wine became more than acceptable, but the overall presentation was lacking – to say the least.  Again, check your bottles and enjoy!

For a special treat above and beyond some wine, I opened a bottle of Lindemans Raspberry Lambic.  It can be purchased at most local area alcohol shops.  My friend explained to me that Lambic beers are meant to be sour, and when I tasted this particular beverage, I understood that to mean – tart, but not sour.  In many ways, the beer tasted like a tart and refreshing raspberry version of a Sauvignon Blanc.  Of course, after more thought I realized that it was a totally fallacy.  What I was tasting was the extreme brightness, but the beer was so sweet and almost cloyingly tart, that nobody would compare the beer to any wine.  Moreover, folks at the table, thought the beer was spoiled or had gone to vinegar, but once I explained it was just sour beer, they liked it.  I guess I found it refreshing after a while, but it is more enjoyable (at least to start) accompanied by some chocolate dessert.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B – B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine was very weird initially. First came a nasty and funky pee smell that was a byproduct of the wine’s ML transformation in the bottle.  Once that blew off the wine turned somewhat hot – wild!  Luckily they both blew off within an hour of opening the bottle.  Soon enough the nose turned to lychee, fresh cut grass, lemon, and grapefruit. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine was refreshing but not rich, complex, or concentrated, and initially had bubbles in the glass. The mouth starts with lemon, lychee, and a fair amount of vegetal flavors. The mid palate is packed with bright acidity that flows into a nice finish of tart lemon and thick grass. The wine was not overwhelming and was a bit more green that I was expecting, but nice none the less, albeit the presentation.

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