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Sadly, when I tasted through the horizontal of the Rieslings last week, I had yet to receive the new 2015 Nik Weis Riesling. This Riesling is not the same as the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling. The 2014 Riesling was a SAARFEILSER, which comes from a St. Urbans-Hof vineyard at the Mosel tributary Saar. This vineyard is one of the closest vineyards to the river itself. The SAARFEILSER vineyard has a southern exposure, that allows for the sunlight to reflect off the water, which makes it one of the warmer vineyards in Nik Weis’s portfolio. Last year’s Saarfeilser
Last year’s Saarfeilser wine was made pretty dry, and considerably drier than this year’s Wiltinger style wine. The Wiltinger wines are made sweeter, and more fruit forward, though they have a lower alcohol content. Why? Well, the higher the ABV (alcohol content) the lower the residual sugar. This wine comes in at 9.5% ABV, while last year’s Saarfeilser came in at 12% ABV.
Once again, the world of kosher German wines is very small indeed. Also, I have only had these two, and from what all my friends who know German Rieslings, these wines are what we are meant to hold all other wines to, not the other way around. Sadly, my palate desires drier wines, and as such, the 2015 vintage is not a wine I go gaga for.
As I noted in the notes, this wine is still a year away from being ready, if you must enjoy it now, open it two or three hours before drinking time. Also, I would not drink this wine at cellar temp, I would go more with room temperature, as the colder it gets, the more muted is its nose. Truly, if there is one con to this wine, it is its muted and stifled nose. The mouth is well balanced and truly clean. The wine I compare it to, the 2015 Hagafen Riesling with 2% residual sugar, is far more tropical than this wine which is clean and old-style in nature. Still, The Hagafen is richer and more acidic to handle its rich sweetness. The Wiltinger is acidic, no question (once you allow the wine to air out, otherwise from opening it tasted flat), but while it has racy acid, I would crave a drop more.
I bought my bottles from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (212) 461-1708.
The 2015 vintage is meant to be one of the best in a long time in Mosel and Saar areas (Saar is a sub-region of Mosel). I am thinking of putting a few of these aside along with the 2015 Hagafen 2% and watch them age alongside each other.
My wine note follows below:
2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
WARNING! This wine needs time, LOTS of it, please do NOT jump to any conclusion about this wine before you have had it open for at least 6 hours and not overly chilled either., the cold mutes the already non-redolent nose.
When you first open this wine, this wine is a complete letdown, but as stated let this puppy open! Still, to a dry wine freak like me, it is a letdown from the 2014 vintage. So, where is it actually? It is sweet, no way around that, but it is very balanced and well integrated. The 2015 Hagafen 2% Riesling is also sweet, but the acid is more in your face and balanced, but it is also far more tropical, while this wine is not tropical in any way.
What is shocking is that this wine has a 9.5% ABV! While the wine has lots of RS, its profile shows clean and lean, which makes for an interesting wine, just not sure how interesting it will really be long term. Right now, I would prefer the Hagafen, but this wine has lots of potential, and its lean markings can make for a fun wine a few years from now.
The nose on this wine is dry, it is in NO way tropical like the Hagafen and other sweet Rieslings, which is very different than its mouth, the aromas are not redolent, like the 2014 vintage, it shows yellow apple, stone fruit, with flint, honeysuckle flowers, and other floral notes. The mouth takes time to open, but with time it does come around, it shows like a wine with 2% RS or more, showing nice integrated acidity, with crazy honeyed fruit, impressive citrus blossom, with sweet-tart lemon, almost like a limoncello, with peach, apricot, nice mineral, slate, with a viscous mouthfeel from the abundant residual sugar, but a wine that is clean, and really focused.
Now, will this wine appeal to many? I think so. The wine freaks who crave the dry 2014 vintage, will like that better. The people who like sweeter wines will find this wine well balanced and all-around a very enjoyable wine to taste and drink, with a plethora of food combinations, from fish, cheese, Asian and spicy dishes, and roasted fowl or fish. Nice!
This wine is incredible, really in almost every way that I can describe it. It is a beautiful old world Riesling, its acid is intense, its mineral and saline come at you in waves, and forget about the impressive fruit structure. Yes, the wine is German, and yes I still enjoyed it. I would be the first to admit that I buy nothing German in my home, no German cars, or even shavers. The only German thing I have in my home, I am ashamed to admit was a sink, but that is a story for another day.
But here I am talking about wine, a food item that does not really make me think German as much as it does make me think how wonderful it is. Please do not get me wrong, German anything to a Jew is going to be a touchy subject, I get that, but I wanted to set the stage here first, that I am a Jew that is very much behind the no forgetting camp.
With all that said, yes I bought the wine, a case actually. The wine is incredible, and well worth buying more. That said, it is the first one to come to the USA, and if you try to search for it on Google, you will find NADA! Nothing at all. The closest thing you will find is GG’s wine notes on the wine. That is it!
Why? Well, because it is German, and Jews do not commonly buy German items, and also because the marketing behind it is really not very good! That said, of my friends that I told about this wine, none of them have told me they do not want to buy it. I did ask importers about the wine, and they told me, no thanks – we will stay away from Germany for now. The funny thing is that they are happy to import Alsace wines, a wine region that is separated from Germany by a river. Strasbourg, a major Jewish city, and the capital of Alsace, is a bus ride away from Germany. Still, Germany is Germany to importers, and with that, I will close this subject down.
Now, to the subject of where can I get this wine – well I bought my case from Gary at Taste Wine Company. His number is 212-461-1708. Please give him a call and get wine from him. He is a great guy and he is on the right side of my blog, “Favorite Wine Sites”, because he a friend and also a great person to buy wine from!
In the end, this wine is a true joy and if it is still available I would recommend buying it if it does not offend your Jewishness.
The wine note follows below:
2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
What a wine! This is the first kosher “dry” German Riesling from Mosel that I know about and it is a major hit. This is old world, with a great sweet body. The nose on this wine is insane, showing intense orange blossom, absolutely insane flint and smoke, followed by peach, honeysuckle, lovely green apple, and honeyed notes, with a bit of time the incredible petrol comes through beautifully. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is in your face from the get-go, with impressive floral notes, wrapped in an incredibly oily texture, followed by orange, nectarines, impressive mineral, saline galore, sweet notes, with guava, kumquat, mad ripe and racy grapefruit, and pineapple. The finish is long and really well balanced with ripping acid, great flint and sweet spices on the long and lingering finish. BRAVO!!! Drink now till 2023. I really want to watch this age.
After having a quiet set of days at my friend’s homes and at our house, without any guests, it was time to open the wine spigots and see what we could get going. It has been too long since we enjoyed some Shirah Wines – wines from the now famous Weiss Brothers. The winery is in Southern California, but the wines are now very easy to buy, as they are being sold in NY and Chicago, (distributed by River Wines – thanks Ami!!) The wines are also online at Kosherwine.com (where you can get some of the now sold-out 2010 Coalition), Gotham Wines, and SkyViewWine.com.
It almost seemed like Shirah Wine became famous after my original post about the Weiss brothers (all I did was give them their due and rightful respect – their wine did the rest!). They are two wine hell bent (in the right way) brothers who went out on a ledge, and almost went over it, to make great kosher wine and spirits! Throughout all the crazy tribulations they continued and believed in themselves, a truly rare and awesome trait – if I say so myself. You have to have a very strong internal compass and self-belief to build a wine when all seems to be going against you. I really do have great respect for the two of them, but that does not bias my feelings about their wines – they just happen to make damn good wines!
The first time we tasted their wines, was indeed at the now famous Benyamin Cantz (Benyo of Four Gates Winery) and Rabbi Naftali Citron Shabbaton, where they shared with us the just bottled 1-2 punch and Syraph. Since then we re-tasted the 2008 Syraph again along with the 2009 Power to the People and it was truly a joy tasting them side by side the much heralded and hot Israeli Ortal Syrah from Yarden, which to me felt underwhelming in comparison!
The Weiss brothers, is not just a saying or moniker, they are actually brothers! They consist of Shimon Weiss (the hands and crazy good palate of the pair) and Gabriel Weiss (newly married with a family) is the winemaker. However, they really are the “brothers”, nothing gets done without the two of them. I recently visited the Agua Dolce Winery, where the Shirah Winery is currently stationed, on the way home from the 2013 IFWF, and Shimon was going to Israel in the next few days. To get ready for his departure, they had to get everything bottled and ready to go for the Passover sales. Why? Because the bottling line, labeling, and the entire complex minutia that goes into bottling a wine after the wine is made, was being handled by Shimon at that time. That included bottling the new 2011 Coalition and the new 2010 Single V. Thompson, Syrah/Mourvedre, both of which I tasted and blogged about at the 2013 Jewish Week City Winery tasting.
It all started in 2004 when Gabriel moved from the east coast to the other side of the country to work for Herzog Winery. He worked as a cellar rat (person who moves around wine, cleans out barrels and tanks, etc.) there for almost a year before the opportunity to make wine almost literally fell into his lap! The 2005 season was a bumper crop and in November, the vineyard, from where they sourced the grapes, still had grapes on the vines! The vineyard owner told Gabe to come on by and harvest all the Syrah grapes he wanted – free of charge! So, in 2005 Gabe made the first ever Shirah wine, a wine label that would go dormant for three years, but not forgotten! The wine was made with a bunch of friends in a garage! Now that is what I call Garagiste wine! Read the rest of this entry
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and this will be the last post about Israeli wineries for this trip anyway! Last we left off, I was talking about – Tzora Vineyards Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of the kosher wines from the Judean Hills Quartet on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the first of those three that we visited that day – that one being Flam Winery. This will be my last post from my trip to Israel, the next ones will be about my epic tasting in France and Riesling wines from Mosel. Also, a side note, the winery that brings us the wonderful Rieslings and Sylvaner – Nik Weiss, is a sister winery to Flam Winery. Actually, Gilad brought out a bottle of the 2015 Nik Weiss Riesling and we told him that we had issues initially with the wine, but now understand that these wines take years to come around (flavor and fruit characteristic wise) and that he should save his next bottle for a few years from now.
Judean Hills Quartet
I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!
If you look at the four wineries in the quartet, three of them have used Judean Hills grapes since the very beginning, Domaine du Castel Winery, Tzora Vineyards, and Sephora Winery. Both Castel and Tzora built their name and reputation and essence upon the terroir of the Judean Hills. Flam has always been using Judean Hills fruit in its wines, but the reserve wines have been sourced from the Upper Galilee (Ben Zimra and Dishon). That is changing now, the winery has planted 100 dunams on the beautiful slopes near Ein Kerem and the first wine from the Judean Hills is the 2015 Merlot Reserve.
Once they complete the move from the Galilee to the Judean Hills for their reserve wines as well, the majority of its red wines will be sourced from the Judean Hills. At this time, the Rose, Blanc, and Classico are all sourced from the Judean Hills, with the most of the reserve wines being sourced from the Upper Galilee.
We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus the not yet released but already bottled 2013 Flam Noble – the winery’s flagship wine. We were met by both Gilad and Golan Flam, and later for a bit by Israel as well. Golan, the winemaker, and Gilad who runs the winery were very kind to meet with us as was visible from the previous posts of this trip, it was harvest time, and Golan had to run to tend to the grapes. We did get a chance to watch some of the winemaking activities and then it was off to taste the currently released wines.
The wines once again show the professionalism and passion that is Flam Winery. As the first post I ever wrote about the winery shows, this is a family run winery and that focuses as much of its efforts in the vineyards as they do in the winery itself.
My thanks to Gilad, Golan, and Israel Flam, and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Flam Blanc – Score: B+
This wine tasted better than the last time we had it, with tart and crisp fruit, showing nice pith, lovely grapefruit, and green apple galore. The mouth is crisp and alive and tart with good balance and nice fruit and good spice, but lacks anything to grab you. The finish is long and rich and crisp, very refreshing.
2015 Flam Classico – Score: B+
The wine shows a bit too much oak now, nice enough, but a bit too much oak with crazy chocolate and elegance with more of the reserve fruit going into the Classico in 2015. The nose shows herb sweet dill, and good earth, and red fruit. The mouth is medium bodied and dark cherry, rich roasted herb, nice round and spicy with great sweet but controlled fruit and menthol and green notes abound. The extra syrah is showing with hints of blue notes but really nice with foliage and tobacco galore, but lacking complexity of previous vintages and a bit too much oak.
2015 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A-
This is the first vintage being sourced from the Judean hills. The nose on this wine shows a very rich oaky nose with red fruit and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered but lacking the acid, but really impressed by what the be vineyards will bring. The mouth shows mouth coating tannin with elegance, dark raspberry, with hints of dark currant, mineral, foliage, dirt, and loam galore, with great potential. The finish is long and elegant with chocolate, tobacco, and ripe fruit lingers long.
2015 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
Nice nose of bright mineral, rich earth and really ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and plush with green notes and really accessible showing nice tannin and plush blackberry and foliage. The finish is long and green and soft with mineral and tobacco and loam.
2015 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with perfumed boysenberry, with less herb and more floral and blue fruit instead. The mouth is rich and full bodied and really accessible with a plush and a bit less pushed than the other two reserve wines, with nice extraction, good sweet fruit, controlled with green notes again and foliage that is wrapped in plush but firm tannin and great spice. The finish is long and sweet and really impressive with leather galore and tobacco that is backed by tar and roasted animal.
2013 Flam Noble – Score: A-
Really lovely old world nose with nice mineral, rich black and elegant fruit with great roasted herb. The mouth is full bodied, plush, not overly tannic with nice elegance and good complexity that is ripe and round and yet balanced with chocolate and nice graphite and mineral. The finish is long and green with tobacco, sweet dill, rich extraction that shows searing tannin that lingers and ripe black fruit with juicy tart raspberry, and fun blue notes in the background, with ripe fruit lingering long.
Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.
To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.
I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.
The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage
Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.
Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.
In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there, I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.
Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.
My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry
It was time to taste all the Rieslings that I had been gathering up for some time. The problem was that I had no time to do it, given all the events I was traveling to, along with some personal needs as well. So, I finally found a day that would work, a week ago Thursday night and we gathered to taste them all.
So let me start with why Riesling and what is Riesling? First, this grape has many names, White Riesling, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, and others are real names of the Noble grape, while Emerald Riesling or Welsch Riesling – not so much!
Riesling is old, like ancient, it is documented to exist in Mosel dating back to the early 1400s! It is one of the Noble Six grapes that define wine history, but that is all marketing hooey IMHO. In terms of kosher wines, this variety did not really become special until recently, with Hagafen and Carmel doing wonderful jobs with the grape.
Riesling wines can be made in so many ways. The most common are sweet wines, like the impressive Hagafen Rieslings, that Ernie Weir makes every year, or the less impressive Giersberger Riesling, or the even less impressive Gilgal Riesling. These wines all have some amount of RS (Residual Sugar), whether they are called off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, they all need a very important component to make them work – ACID! They desperately need acid to balance the sweet notes. Hagafen is the only off-dry Riesling I have ever liked, that I remember anyway.
It is sad, but while Jews do not seem to enjoy white wines, they do drink sweeter wines, and if there was a bit more acid to balance it out, I think they would show better. That said, I brought this subject up to many a winemaker, and the response was all the same. People like it simpler to drink, so spiking the wine with acid would not sell as well, IE, customers like sweet alcoholic water. Acid tends to discourage gulping or whatever to these people do. Truly sad.
I am finding that Riesling is quickly becoming my favorite white wines. The dry wines from Hagafen, Nik, and Carmel bring a smile to my face. They are rich, layered, oily and balanced, with good acid that makes them enjoyable during almost any part of the meal. That is what makes acid work so well. Food dishes, wine, even dessert, all need some amount of acid to balance out the palate.
There are many other white wines out there for sure, look at my list of whites from 2015. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are all noble grapes, and they are all lovely when done correctly. Still, Riesling has something going for it, that none of the other white varietals have, funk!
When the wine is done correctly, and then aged for even a year, the wine starts to display notes of petrol and oil. Some may find that offensive, but to me, it is yet another aspect of how I love mineral based wines. The great thing is that these wines come from all around the world! You can find kosher Riesling from California, France, Germany, and Israel!
Well, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.
I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.
On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).
My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!
OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!
2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!
2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!
2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!
2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry
As you all can see I hope, I have been trying to place some focus on the kosher wines from around the world, Israel, France, and my most recent post of the top whites, rose, and bubblies. But to a certain extent, I have been leaving my roots behind, California kosher wines. So this week, I thought I would just work on the notes that I have for all the kosher wines that I have tasted this past year that have been in California, both north, central, and south.
Of course, the list is well known, staring in Napa, that would be Hagafen Winery, and Covenant Winery (though not officially in Napa any longer, it sources the majority of its fruit from Napa) and Hajdu Winery (both are made now in Berkeley, CA). Next is Four Gates Winery, followed by Shirah Winery and La Fenetre, and then finally Herzog Winery, and the 2010 wines from Agua Dolce (AKA Craig Winchell).
To be honest some of these wines are all sold out already, as I slept on the job, but hey I will post them anyway, also it is good to keep track of the wines you have in the cellar.
California kosher Wines
Before I go to the notes, I wanted to talk about California wines for a bit. California wines, for the most part, are sweet wines. Please note the term “sweet” but not date! They are controlled and ripe, but round and full powered. Sadly, there were one or two occasions where the wine had a mind of its own, one Shirah wine and one Agua Dolce wines, that come to immediate memory. But otherwise, they are on the whole very round, ripe, and in your face. There are also, non sweet wines from California, almost old world in nature, like the Covenant wines – for the most part, along with the higher end Herzog wines that are not quite old world – but are indeed mineral or dry fruit based. Four Gates wines are starting to get a bit more ripe, but for the most part continue to show old world style wines, based on the intense acid and lovely mineral notes.
So, how does this compare to Israel and other locals? Well, Spain continues to make great wines for reasonable prices; except for a few Capcanes wines whose prices have went higher after Royal took over distribution. Still, Spanish kosher wines continue to be one of the best places for consistently good, unique, and balanced wines. California to me is the dark horse, sure some of the prices are higher, especially Four Gates, which has been raising prices over the past few years, but California kosher wines continue to be a great place to find wines that are balanced and not overly fruit forward.
As stated, of the list of previously described kosher wines in Cali, and listed below as well, I must say that Covenant, Four Gates, and Herzog are producing new world wines with a clear old world bent. The rest are creating lovely and extremely good new world wines – while showing control with only a couple of exceptions.
In comparison to Israel, I must say that Cali and Spain have Israel beat, for someone like myself. The proof to my statement is in my cellar, over the past year I have moved away from Israel and over to Spain and Cali, with the obvious exception to the wonderful whites/rose/bubbly coming from Israel, and the few red producers that are making great wines. The hope, as I continue to say, is that more wineries follow them and create better wines in Israel, till then I will be shifting hard to France, Spain, Cali, and only the very top Israeli wineries.
So, what makes Cali wines better to me than Israeli wines? Simple, control and balance. California wines, kosher or not, are ripe, the heat demands it, still, it is how those grapes are managed afterwards. I have been able to be part of the wine making at some wineries, and it is a real education to watch wines evolve, simply because the juice is not where the work ends. Once the red grapes are crushed there are two more stages in the wine’s development that define the wine; Fermentation(s) and barrel/tank aging. I am skipping bottle aging, not because it is not important, but because few wineries really do that here in California. The exceptions are Four Gates Winery (that keeps its Merlot some 3-5 years in bottle before releasing), and some of Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines as well.
Issues that occur in the fermentation(s) stage are not unique to Cali, in any manner, but California has been seeing a fair amount of stuck fermentations in both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations recently. More importantly though is that once the first fermentation is complete the red wines enter the next stage of wine management; barrel aging (unless there is a prolonged cold soak – like Shirah and a few other Wineries do).
It is in the barrel aging where Cali is unique, in its usage of American Oak – which gives wines here those green basil and dill notes, along with coconut/extreme vanilla notes. When people think of Zinfandel, they think Cali and the classic sweet notes that American oak gives those wines. Again, this is really only prominent in the lower level wines of most wineries, kosher or not, but the sweet noted American Oak nuances can be found in more wines – than just those baseline wines. I always ask what barrels were used to make the wine, sometimes I am told a mix or pure American, but when I am told the oak used was all French or Hungarian, I listen but verify! Read the rest of this entry
I have previously posted about our tasting and dinner last year with Pierre Miodownick and the Netofa Winery. They are two entities that are deeply intertwined with each other essentially Netofa is Pierre. The humorous aspect is that when I think of Pierre, I think of France, Bordeaux, Champagne, maybe Burgundy, but I do not think about Rhone! According to GG, Pierre did make a Rhone wine in the past, a Crozes-Hermitage, but I never tasted it. In a special way, Netofa is Pierre’s entry, on a large scale, into the Rhone and Iberian wine regions of the world, and like most things he makes, they are fantastic!
Once again, it was GG and I making our way to Pierre’s house for a tasting of all the new Netofa wines and to see his beautiful new tasting room that was recently constructed. The wines are still being made at Or Haganuz, all done by Pierre himself. The tasting room however, is located in the same area as he lives, and it was an easy drive from the tasting room to his house for dinner and a chance to drink the wines at our leisure.
We made our way to the new tasting room in Netofa and after parking, we walked up the long set of semi-circles stairs to the tasting room. The door to the room is a massive sliding door of vertical planks, very akin to a barn, but in a lovely and tasteful manner. The room is beautifully appointed and upholstered with wine bottles all over the two walls. The other walls are the sliding door entrance and the glass wall with a door to the storage room.
The middle of the room is dominated by this massive squared- off horseshoe shaped table, with a lovely leather appointed chair in the middle. Pierre was very kind to have setup the tasting of all the new and some older wines with glasses all setup for us for the 4 types of wine we were going to be tasting; rose, white, red, and port. Really he had 6 glasses setup for us, but I use 1 glass for all my tastings unless it was the side-by-side tastings we had of the new and previous vintages.
When you look at Netofa’s wines, you have to wonder – why is a French Bordeaux expert making Rhone wines? So, being myself, I asked him. Mr. Miodownick explained quite simply that what he felt grew best near Mount Tabor, where his vineyards are, was Rhone varietals. Now, to be honest the winery has more than just Rhone varietals, it has Chenin Blanc and Iberian grapes as well. Still, the red wines are all Rhone varietals, ignoring the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional that go into the Tinto and the ports. So, I guess my naming Pierre a Rhone Ranger is a bit off-kilter, given the diversity of his varietals. Maybe, Mediterranean Terroir would have been better, but that did not sound as good as Rhone Ranger!
Now, I did not come up with Rhone Ranger of course, that was done by the founding members of the association in 1980. The most famous of them may be Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Still, the kosher wine world is finding that Rhone varietals work well in warm climates. Look at Elvi Wines and Capcanes – they both grow a fair amount of Rhine varietals, with different names. Grenache becomes Grenacha and so on. In California, you do not need to look further than Hajdu and Shirah wineries, where their wine portfolios are predominately made up of Rhone varietals. Still, Mr. Miodownick does grow grapes that originated from the Loire Valley and from Portugal, so the Rhone Ranger moniker may be a bit stretched, but I do love those SM wines! The white wines are all Chenin Blanc – a very unique wine for Israel, as the wine’s character is less about tart and refreshing fruit; but rather a younger brother of the Chardonnay grape, meaning it has elegance, power, and yet it also has that Rhone style straw and earth and dirt that we all crave.
The red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo (an Iberian varietal), Touriga Nacional (native to Portugal), and there are hints of Grenache lurking!!! The whites are the afore mentioned Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. I would love to taste Grenache Blanc or Viognier from Pierre – but so far that is not in the books. But you cannot blame a Viognier lover for trying! The Roussanne and Grenache are two newly planted vines, so they will not become available till 2017.
As we looked at the glasses in front of us, on the squared-off table, I could not help but stare at the bottles standing on the mirrored walls, and the glass that surrounded us. Yes, each bottle is standing up and resting on a curved platform that is mounted to the wall. It is quite a sight; behind the mounts and the bottles is a wall of moire mirrors that were custom built for the winery. The mirrors affect is to not really reflect as much as give make the room feel bigger and cozier, which they clearly got correct! The mirrored walls add an immense amount of class to the already classically elegant room. The wall of standing wines are also in a squared off horseshoe shape, and in the center is a wine dispensing machine that filled the bottles with innate gas as the wine is dispensed. This allows the wines in the machine to essentially never oxidize while they continue to dispense wine, until of course the bottle is empty or the innate gas empties out – the latter is not recommended! Behind the table is a wall of bottles in cubbyholes, very akin to a wine cellar, stretching the entire length of the tasting room. The wine wall makes the room feel like you are in a cellar and again, like the mirrored walls, really looks cool!! Read the rest of this entry
Well, 2014 has come and gone and my top wines of the past year were too many to limit to 10. Now these wines comprise a list of wines I enjoyed over the year. Some were released in 2014 and many were released a long time ago. Either way these are wines that made an impression upon me and that is the only characteristic that I used to define this list.
Some of these wines may not score a solid A, but they deserve to be here because of their trail blazing characteristics Take for instance – the 2012 Recanati Marselan. It is the only kosher Marselan and it is very good. The 2013 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, one of the best whites to come out of Israel along with the 2012 Tzora Shoresh White, a wine that I believe is better than the 2013 Shoresh white, were both on my list last year, so they are not on it this year. The 2013 Tzora Shoresh is on this year’s list and if you have not gotten any – you are making a huge mistake. I had both in 2014, and even though I liked the 2012 a bit more, the 2013 is an epic white wine, in its own right. The best rose, hands down, was the 2013 Hajdu Pinot Gris rose. It is tied for best ever kosher rose with the 2012 Shirah rose, but that was already enjoyed in 2013. The next white wine was the epic 2013 Dalton Viognier, a wine that is worthy, once again, of the Dalton reserve label. It beats the 2012 hands down, and reclaims the title as the best kosher Viognier that is available in the US or Israel. There may be a French Viognier that is available there, but I do not know of them. The final non red wine was the 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay, which while never released officially, it was an awesome wine indeed! I tasted while tasting an entire vertical of all of Benyamin’s Chardonnay wines and this was the best of the bunch. Many others were solid A- and maybe a bit more wines, but the 1996 was a A- to A wine that was truly epic.
The rest of the wines are red, and there are many special wines there including the fantastic 2012 Recanati wild Carignan and Syrah/Viognier wines. BRAVO! There were many more French wines, but they will have to fall till next year, when I get a chance to sit down and enjoy them over a long meal. The 2012 Chateau Giscours, the 2012 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferré, and the 2012 Roches de Yon Figeac are lovely wines and may well get on the list next year. In the end, California, France, and Spain continue to be my sweet spot. There are a few exceptional wines from Israel, like the epic and insane 2000 Yarden Katzrin and others. Along with current releases from Tzora Winery, Recanati Winery, and Yatir Winery. In the end, Israel will improve by having 2009, 2010, and 2011 in their rear view mirror, all the while enjoying the new 2012, 2013, and from what I hear 2014 vintages.
The wine notes follow below:
Wines of Spain
2012 Capcanes Peraj Habib (Crazy QPR) – Score: A- to A
Before I talk about this epic wine, I must sadly say that one of the wines that was on my list last year – the 2012 Capcanes Carignan – never made it into its own bottle. Sadly, it was not deemed worthy of a leading role. Thankfully, it found its place here, in this fantastic 2012 Peraj Habib! The wine blend for 2012 is not far off from 2011, consisting of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from very old vines.
The nose on this dark and impenetrable purple colored wine is redolent with roasted animal, intense black fruit, and mounds of dirt and mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with an intensely inky structure, filled with layers of of rich concentrated fruit, ripe freshly squeezed black berries, cassis, plum, along with tart fruit, spice, and mouth coating tannins that may well make some people think that this is the best Capcanes Peraj Habib ever made. The finish is long and purely mineral based to start, like sucking on a salt and graphite stick, as it recedes, you sense the incredible balancing acid, which is then immediately replaced with richly roasted coffee, sweet and herbal spices, more black fruit, a sense of animal fats, leather, hints of tobacco, and finally followed by bitter notes on the long finish. BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry