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State of the kosher wine industry – circa 2017

Kotel - 2017.jpg

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted, mostly because work is really keeping me busy, thankfully. So, Shana tova to you all, and a Gmar Chatima Tova. So, in a span of fewer than two weeks, in early September, I flew to Israel to taste the wines I had missed this year. I then flew to France to do a tasting of Royal’s French wines from the 2015 vintage and then I attempted to taste as much French wine as I could get my hands on.

The State of Israeli wine

Besides having the opportunity to visit many wineries in Israel, I had many wine tastings of Israeli wines and I can now say sadly that 2016 was not the year we had all hoped for and that Israel wines as a whole are improving, but are not yet at the stage where I can really just buy them and hold them.

The 2015 vintage is one I have described and posted about a few times now, it was not a great year unless you took super care to be careful with it and harvested early, like Tzora’s 2015 wines. The 2015 reserve reds are slowly being released throughout the country and they have no real appeal to me. Yes, as a person I know is wont to say, wine is not coca cola (or beer for that matter), we get what we are given. I agree wine is vintage based, that is for sure, but so far the wines are really not showing well across the board.

Thankfully, though I say 2015 was not a huge winner for reds, roses, or whites, 2016 was a better year for the whites and roses, as I have posted here many times throughout the past few months. It is too early to say if the vintage will be kind to the reds as well. The 2015 Shmita still has a large overhang over Israeli wines, and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later! We are enjoying the 2016 vintage here in the USA, but in Israel, those wines are not yet released. Why? Because there is too much 2015 that is not sold outside of Israel and that is a lot of wine to sell in a country that drinks 5 liters a person, and that is on a non-shmita year! In shmita years where the Haredi do not drink shmita wines, that is a lot of wine to sell.

Still, the 2016 wines are slowly appearing, the most recent release was the 2016 Carmel Riesling Kayoumi vineyards, and it is nice, but not anything like the 2014 vintage – one of their best ever.

Overall, the 2016 vintage did not impress in regards to it being a savior from the failed 2015 vintage. While there are a few gems from the 2016 vintage, Psagot whites, Tzora whites and so on, it is not a blanket endorsement vintage like 2014 was for Israeli whites. Overall, while I continue to strongly believe that Israel is the top region for white and rose kosher wines, the past two years have made me pause and take notice to regions outside of Israel that are also helping to shape kosher non-red wine landscape.

In regards to red wines from Israel, what can I say, not much has changed on that front at all. The wines continue to be either very fruit forward or outright prune/date juice. Throughout the blind tastings we had, it was painful to drink many of the wines, and none of those wines were cheap or what Israel calls “Supermarket wines” (the baseline plonk of wineries that sell well to the unknowing).

No, these were wines that should have shown far better but did not, simple as that. In the mix of tastings were also many older vintages that were scary to taste three years or two years after release. The wines have fallen from where they were a few years ago. Again, the issue at hand is the out of balance wines that are either flawed or just too ripe for the wine to bear.

I was talking with a few winemakers in Israel on this trip, and one told me that watering back the wines are officially not legal in Israel. California is the “watering-back” capital of the world, as this economist article so well points out. Bordeaux 100% disallows the use of water in wines, well – because it never gets hot enough there to need to water back wine! Israel, which gets hotter than California, though this year felt crazy hot to me in Cali, is not allowed to water back – “officially”. Read the rest of this entry

2015 and 2016 – are Royal years indeed in Bordeaux

Bordeaux, the cradle of the modern wine revolution, for both the kosher and nonkosher worlds, is a beautiful realization of the past and present coming together to build a fabulous future. The world of true kosher wine, started before Hagafen, before Herzog, though maybe not before Carmel, who made a beautiful kosher wine in 1901 and then again in 1976, one that I tasted, but one that is now a shadow of its former self. Still, before Carmel’s rebirth, there were kosher wines being made in the 1970s, and those were the first kosher wines, that were not sacramental wines. Koenig was making kosher wines in the 1960s, and there were kosher Bordeaux wines being made in the 1970s as well.

The story of Carmel starts with a wonderful man, whose philanthropic desires led to the largest outside investment into the former Palestine in the 19th century, and his history is deeply intertwined in the world of kosher wine, since the 80s. Winemaking in Israel had enjoyed a long and successful run in biblical times. Wine presses used thousands of years ago are still visible today. However, during the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 A.C., many vineyards were destroyed, and the remaining vines were destroyed during the period of Muslim rule that began in 636 C.E. The Muslim rule led to a 1,200-year halt in local wine production. Wine production returned to Israel in 1882, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild funded the creation of vineyards and a few wineries – one of which we know today as Carmel. However, after the massive success of Carmel’s Cabernet Rishon (#1) (where it won a Gold Medal) at the Paris World Fair of 1900, Carmel winery went into a long and deep slumber. It re-awoke for a brief moment in 1976, and then again in 1979 when the Carmel Special Reserve wines again made history.  The shocking fact is that the Baron spent less money in France to buy Lafite (4.4 Million Francs), than he invested in Israel, a shocking 11 Million Francs. His shocking generosity was not lost, even if Carmel did fade for almost a century, it was his rallying cry to not forget our brethren, who threw caution to the wind to rebuild Israel, that helped bring focus to their need and was the first true power behind the future land of Israel! In many ways, he was one of the founding father’s of present day Israel.

Kosher Wine

Seeing how close Bordeaux touches the life of all kosher wine drinkers, one has to stop and ponder what if? What if Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild had simply made Lafite kosher instead of investing in Carmel? Does that question offend you? I hope it does! If you track the sheer amount of money that has been invested into Carmel, it is staggering! Mind blowing! Is this post about Carmel? Of course not! What I am offering is a clear reminder that kosher wine, is a three-legged stool of complexity. Please look at my post about the myriad and complex web of kosher winemaking requirements to refresh yourself. But as a reminder, the main three-legged stool, is Religious Jews touching the wine, kosher for Passover ingredients, and the hardest one of them all, the one that should be clear, but one that is often forgotten, these two restrictions, and all of the other ones, start from the very beginning. Meaning that if you walk up to a winery and taste their wine and like it – that means the EARLIEST you can make a kosher version of that wine is next year (unless you taste an earlier vintage and it is still before harvest).

I have spoken about this subject before, really, when talking about Flam, and others that have moved from the non-kosher market to the kosher market in Israel. The issue here is that it is a minimum of a three-year investment for good reds before you see the money. If it involves vineyards, then that is a minimum investment of 6 years for good reds in Israel! You could make them inside of four years, outside of Israel, but really? Who would want wine from a two-year-old vine? Not many! Throughout my time in Bordeaux, the terroir was a common theme, an obvious one of course, but one that shows itself more in wine than in the conversations. Why? Well, most people already know that the land of Bordeaux is hallowed ground for great wines. People make yearly pilgrimages to the storied En Primeur, where the likes of Robert Parker used to cast his shadow, and where Neal Martin till does, along with many of the top Negociants who come to set up shop for the three-day event.

Kosher Bordeaux Wine – the state of affairs

A side topic about the state of kosher Bordeaux wine. People often wonder why there is not a kosher vintage of the most famous chateau every year? Why did we miss out on the famous 2009 Leoville Poyferre? Why is there no 2009 Malartic? Sadly, the answer is that as much as French kosher wine is growing in popularity, it is not that popular.

The issue lies around the cost to make these wines, the knowledge that people have of them, along with the fact that they are well, old world! Also, there is the supply and demand vector that I will keep throwing in along the way.

So let’s start with the last and go backward, old world wines are what I crave, and many of the wine nuts I know. However, it is NOT what the wine drinkers crave in the kosher wine market. OK, cue broken record, ok it is on, the kosher red wine palate is punch drunk on sweet overripe wines, wines that I abhor. Look at the average kosher wine tasting event, one that has french wines, and you will see that the table fills up quickly, and then is empty as the night progresses. Why? Because French wines are a curiosity to the kosher wine palate, and not much more. Now that is a gross oversimplification, yes I agree. Still, it is far closer to the truth than many are making it out to be. Read the rest of this entry

Back to the Future – the kosher French wines available today

Well, I hope all of you enjoyed the Passover respite (some see it as a stressful time, I see it purely as a joyous time, and yes I do a lot of cleaning as well). This post I wanted to talk about the kosher French wines that I have tasted recently.

Now I must stress that these are the wines that I have tasted, not ALL the wines that are available. There are hundreds of kosher French wines, and the vast majority of them never make it to the USA. With that said, I really LOVE the new crop of 2011 and 2012 wines that have made their way to the US and around the world. But before we jump into the nitty gritty and the tastings we need to take a step back and talk about French wines for a second.

Let us start with some very basic concepts around France and its wines. To start it is one of the oldest wine making locations in the world. Sure, Israel, may well be the oldest, but it stopped making wine for a very long time – till around the 1870s or so. Even then, they did not start making real world class wines till the 1980s (ignoring the 1901 and 1970 successes of Carmel).

France is once again the largest wine producer in the world, as of 2014, and most of it is quality wine. It is hard to find another country that makes so many good wines, so many vastly different wines – each from their own terroir – with such a long and storied history. The wines I will be talking about today are mostly from Bordeaux, the home of the “noble grapes of the world” – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc (not on the official noble list), and Sauvignon Blanc. To be fair there are other noble grapes not in Bordeaux, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy. Riesling – mostly from Alsace and Sauvignon Blanc again from Upper Loire. Toss in Syrah and Grenache from the Rhone and that comprises the wines that I am noting today.

I did not write Pinot Noir notes – I did that recently here and you can read my French wine notes there.

I have written often about the wines of the Rhone – because many of my favorite wines from California (Shirah and Hajdu) make most of their wines that comprise the region called Rhone. Those would be Syrah (as noted previously), Grenache, and Petite Sirah (not really Rhone at all, but the Rhone Rangers love it). With some Grenache Blanc and Viognier thrown in.

In case you have not yet realized it, but I have pretty much listed many of my own favorite varietals, and they all come from France. Truly France is the cradle of the wine world. Sadly, there was little to no kosher options in the 1980s, even though France itself was producing 10s of millions of cases of wine at that time.

Of course of all the varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to grab all the headlines. Rightfully so to some, but to many the wines of the Rhone and Burgundy are of more interest. So, how does all of this work? France long ago decided to control what varietals would be planted and within the regions of its country that would produce the best wines possible. It is a foreign thought to many still, even here in the USA. Terroir defines France. Essentially the 300 or so appellations d’origine contrôlee (AOC) within the country are so designed and controlled to allow for creating the best wines possible. Planting Syrah in Bordeaux can be done – but why? Syrah requires far more heat and sun that Bordeaux can dish out – so Syrah was defined as a southern grape location – AKA Rhone, where it can flourish in all of its glory. Read the rest of this entry

2015 KFWE-LA (AKA IFWF) returns to Los Angeles on Feb 11th

KFWE2015-FB2Once again Herzog is putting on its massive food and wine festival on February 11th, 2015 starting at 6PM. The festival is a great place to get to taste some of those wines that are either beyond your price budget, or hard to find wines, or ones that you pass by on the shelves because you just have no idea how good they are. They will be pouring more than 200 bottles of wines, so be sure to get there early, before the crowds show up. There will be a few new faces this year, with a couple of new wine makers showing up, and a few surprises (think new kosher wineries), from what I hear.For instance the new Titora Winery, located in Modi’in, Israel. It is the newest boutique winery whose products are imported and distributed by Royal Wine Corp.

Of course, there is also the food TO DIE for, from Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant, Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a 40 mile radius, and his staff of insanely competent chefs! So please be sure to BUY your tickets here (coupon code is on the link). The wineries pouring will include; Flam Winery (newly Kosher), Tulip (also newly kosher), many wonderful French brands, Alfasi, Barkan, Baron Rothschild, Bartenura, Binyamina, Bokobsa, Capçanes, Carmel, Chateau Leoville Poyferré, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Malartic La Graviere, Elvi Wines, Domaine du Castel, Domaine Netofa, Drappier, Flechas de los Andes, Gamla, Goose Bay, Harkham, Herzog Selection, Herzog Wine Cellars, Louis Royer, Morad, Pacifica, Psagot, Shiloh, Tomintoul, Walders, Weinstock Cellars & MORE! OVER 200+ WINES WILL BE POURED!

Also, there will be all the new 2011 and 2012 French wines, many of which are absolutely amazing!

KFWE2015-EH1Please note that the event is returning to Los Angeles again! The event this year will returning to Los Angeles for its fourth year!! You can once again drink and eat to your heart’s content, and then crash at one of the many rooms in the lovely Hollywood W Hollywood 6250 Hollywood Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90028.

So, by now you have realized a few things. One there is a new name to the event, KFWE LA. It carries over the KFWE family name from London and NY and removes the older name of IFWF. The second important fact is that the event has moved from the beautiful and iconic Hyatt Regency hotel to the W in Hollywood. Finally, there are now two levels of tickets, the VIP and the general admission. This is all new, and sounds fantastic.

VIP ticket holders enjoy a private lounge featuring fine spirits from Scotland, Russia, Israel, United Kingdom and Mexico. Also in the VIP Lounge, the chefs of Tierra Sur offer gourmet delicacies exclusive to VIP attendees; as well as hand rolled specialty cigars.

These ideas carry unique theme event dinners that happen at the Herzog Winery in association with Tierra Sur Restaurant. The events can range from beer night, to whiskey tasting, to cigar night, and many others, check them out here. General admission gets you in at 6PM but does not include the whiskies, special food, private lounge area, or cigars.

Last year the event was a smash in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The massive permanent tent is well-appointed, warm, and lovely to behold. Last year the event was a hit because the space was great and the smoke aromas from the chef’s smoker was outside of the event hall. This year the hall in the W is even larger, and when you throw in the private lounge – you get lots of space, great food and wine, and then cigars and whiskey! Again, do not worry about missing out of the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant fare! Chef Garcia will be there with the rest of the crew and they will be serving up much of what they make and serve at the restaurant.

Yes Yes, I left the best for last. Herzog is giving out a coupon out for 20% off the ticket price – use the coupon winemusings.

Every year we go and every year we are so excited because it gives us a chance to taste the wines and to see what to buy for the upcoming holidays. So grab you mouse and start clicking and we look forward to seeing you all the 2015 Herzog KFWE LA.

A dinner with Pierre Miodownick of Netofa Winery, the most prolific of the kosher winemaker’s Noble Family

1987 Chateau Les Forges Meuersault and PierreOn a warm Sunday night in January, GG and I were driving towards the home of Pierre Miodownick, to taste through the new Netofa wines and to enjoy an exciting dinner with Pierre, his lovely wife, and Yair Teboulle Netofa’s CEO. The evening started by setting our stuff in one of Pierre’s bedrooms, as we were staying overnight in their lovely home. After that, we joined Pierre and Yair for a tasting of each and every new wine that is available from Netofa, along with some that are not yet available and a few oldies as well. On top of that, as we got closer to dinner we enjoyed two wines that Pierre made from France, but ones that were created some 24 years apart from each! But we are jumping ahead of the story, so lets start at the tasting.

photo 1When you enter the home of Mr. Miodownick, you cannot help but be in awe of the achievements that this man has single handily created in the last 32 years. He started his life’s work, in 1982, he along with a man named Lionel Gallula (hence the M&G on his older vins negociants bottles) by going to wineries and making kosher wines inside of non-kosher wineries, mostly in the Languedoc region to start. Then in 1986, they approached Rothschild, and a few other French wineries mostly in the area of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Fast forward two years, in 1988, Royal realized they needed to expand their wine portfolio to include things other than their syrup based wines, and their then fledgling Herzog Winery. So, they reached out to Pierre and they soon joined forces. In my opinion, this was the single most important action Royal has taken in the past 20 years, a genius move that has allowed Royal to become the powerhouse that it is today. Pierre was the visionary, he was the one that realized that if he wanted to expand his kosher winery reach to more European wine regions than just Bordeaux and Burgundy, he would have been hard pressed to do it all on his own. But with the strength, long arm, and pocketbook of Royal behind him, Pierre would be able to expand the wine regions where kosher wine exists today – like Italy, Portugal, Spain, and other regions in France.

IMG_0612From the outside, being a flying winemaker may look glorious and impressive, but it is a seriously hard job. Pierre is more often on the road than he is at home, but he tries to be home for most weekends. In the end, to me he is part of the noble family of kosher winemakers, those that have been there from the start, the forefathers, if you may. They are; Pierre, Israel Flam, Shimshon Welner, and Peter Stern, who have all left an indelible impression on the kosher wine world for 25 or more years. Israel Flam was the first UC Davis trained wine maker in Israel and the wine maker of Carmel’s famous 1976 and 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, and is now involved in his children’s eponymous winery. Shimshon Welner is a man we have spoken about a few times in the past, here. Peter Stern was the winemaking genius, early on, behind Yarden Winery and Herzog Winery, before Victor Schoenfeld and Joe Hurliman took over respectively, and is again being used by Royal and Carmel.

Pierre and his Netofa winesStill, of the four, Pierre may not have been the first, but he has been the most prolific of the group by a long stretch, over these past 32 years. To me, he is the head of the noble kosher winemaker family, and he is the Godfather of the noble family of all things kosher wine! It is his unique ability to happily build quietly without fanfare or accolades, though he deserves them. Rather he is a quiet, honest, hard working man that has worked to get to where he is today. He has made more wine than almost any other kosher winemaker in the world! That is no small feat. Did he do each and every wine by his old hands, in the old days of 1982 – yes! Now, he has teams that help him, but so do other head winemakers. So, in the end, to me he has the largest reach in the kosher wine world than any other person that I know of, which makes it so very impressive.

Read the rest of this entry

2014 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival (IFWF) returns to Los Angeles

logoOnce again Herzog is putting on its massive food and wine festival on February 26th, 2014 starting at 6PM. The festival is a great place to get to taste some of those wines that are either beyond your price budget, or hard to find wines, or ones that you pass by on the shelves because you just have no idea how good they are. They will be pouring more than 200 bottles of wines, so be sure to get there early, before the crowds show up. There will be a few new faces this year, with a couple of new wine makers showing up, and a few surprises (think new kosher wineries), from what I hear. Of course, there is also the food TO DIE for, from Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant, Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a 40 mile radius, and his staff of insanely competent chefs! So please be sure to BUY your tickets here (coupon code is on the link). The wineries pouring will include; Flam Winery (newly Kosher), Tulip (also newly kosher), many wonderful French brands, Alfasi, Barkan, Baron Rothschild, Bartenura, Binyamina, Bokobsa, Capçanes, Carmel, Casa de Corça, Chateau Leoville Poyferré, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Malartic La Graviere, Elvi Wines, Domaine du Castel, Domaine Netofa, Drappier, Flechas de los Andes, Gamla, Goose Bay, Harkham, Herzog Selection, Herzog Wine Cellars, Louis Royer, Morad, Pacifica, Psagot, Shiloh, Tomintoul, Walders, Weinstock Cellars & MORE! OVER 200+ WINES WILL BE POURED!

Tickets are going fast so grab one or more while you can. Like last year they will be pouring wine and spirits – from around the world. Last year they poured cognac and scotch, and the display/table was “well attended”.

Please note that the event is returning to Los Angeles again! The event this year will returning to Los Angeles for its third year!! You can once again drink and eat to your heart’s content, and then crash at one of the many rooms in the lovely Hyatt Regency Century Plaza! Herzog is working out a deal with the Hyatt and will hopefully have great deals for staying there on the website soon.

Last year the event was a smash in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The massive permanent tent is well-appointed, warm, and lovely to behold. Last year the event was a hit because the space was great and the smoke aromas from the chef’s smoker was outside of the event hall. In the end the event went off quite well and I look forward to seeing you all there again this year! Again, do not worry about missing out of the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant fare! Chef Garcia will be there with the rest of the crew and they will be serving up much of what they make and serve at the restaurant.

Yes, Yes I left the best for last. Herzog is giving out a coupon out for 25 dollars off the ticket price – use the coupon MUSINGS.

Every year we go and every year we are so excited because it gives us a chance to taste the wines and to see what to buy for the upcoming holidays. So grab you mouse and start clicking and we look forward to seeing you all the 2014 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival.

2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry

2013 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival returns to Los Angeles

2013 International Food and Wine FestivalOnce again Herzog is putting on its massive food and wine festival on February 6th, 2013 starting at 6PM. The festival is a great place to get to taste some of those wines that are either beyond your price budget, or hard to find wines, or ones that you pass by on the shelves because you just have no idea how good they are. They will be pouring more than 200 bottles of wines, so be sure to get there early, before the crowds show up. There will be a few new faces this year, with a couple of new wine makers showing up, and a few surprises (think new kosher wineries), from what I hear. Of course, there is also the food TO DIE for, from Mr. Aarons and his staff of insanely competent chefs! So please be sure to BUY your tickets here (coupon code below). The wineries pouring will include; Flam Winery (newly Kosher), Tulip (also newly kosher), many wonderful French brands, Alfasi, Barkan, Baron Rothschild, Bartenura, Binyamina, Bokobsa, Capçanes, Carmel, Casa de Corça, Chateau Leoville Poyferré, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Malartic La Graviere, Elvi Wines, Domaine du Castel, Domaine Netofa, Drappier, Flechas de los Andes, Gamla, Goose Bay, Harkham, Herzog Selection, Herzog Wine Cellars, Louis Royer, Morad, Pacifica, Psagot, Shiloh, Tomintoul, Walders, Weinstock Cellars & MORE! OVER 200+ WINES WILL BE POURED!

Tickets are going fast so grab one or more while you can. Like last year they will be pouring wine and spirits – from around the world. Last year they poured cognac and scotch, and the display/table was “well attended”.

Here are my notes from lat year’s event!

Please note that the event is returning to Los Angeles again! The event this year will returning to Los Angeles for its second year!! You can once again drink and eat to your heart’s content, and then crash at one of the many rooms in the lovely Hyatt Regency Century Plaza! Herzog is working out a deal with the Hyatt and will hopefully have great deals for staying there on the website soon.

Herzog International Food and Wine FestivalLast year the event was a smash in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The massive permanent tent is well-appointed, warm, and lovely to behold. Last year the event was a hit because the space was great and the smoke aromas from Todd’s smoker was outside of the event hall. In the end the event went off quite well and I look forward to seeing you all there again this year! Again, do not worry about missing out of the wonderful Tierra Sur Restaurant fare! Todd will be there with the rest of the crew and they will be serving up much of what they make and serve at the restaurant.

Yes, Yes I left the best for last. Herzog is giving out a coupon out for 25 dollars off the ticket price – use the coupon WINEMUSINGS.

Every year we go and every year we are so excited because it gives us a chance to taste the wines and to see what to buy for the upcoming holidays. So grab you mouse and start clicking and we look forward to seeing you all the 2013 Herzog International Food & Wine Festival.

IFWF - Picture_1This is a copy of the blog posting from Herzog’s web site:

You are invited to join Herzog Wine Cellars in celebrating the latest imported wines and nationally recognized cuisine at the 2013 International Food & Wine Festival! This is THE EVENT for experiencing a massive selection of imported wines and unbelievable cuisine prepared on site by the chefs of Tierra Sur.

Last year, the IFWF event featured more than 225 different wines from nearly every major wine producing country around the world. This year we are bringing even more wines to Los Angeles from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and the United States:

Alfasi – Barkan – Baron Rothschild – Bartenura – Binyamina – Bokobsa – Capçanes – Carmel – Casa de Corça – Chateau Leoville Poyferré – Chateau Pontet Canet – Chateau Malartic La Graviere – Elvi – Domaine du Castel – Domaine Netofa – Drappier – Flechas de los Andes – Gamla – Goose Bay – Harkham – Herzog Selection – Herzog Wine Cellars – Louis Royer – Morad – Pacifica – Psagot – Shiloh – Tomintoul – Walders – Weinstock Cellars & MORE!

Taste the very latest bottling from these producers and meet the winemakers behind them – all in one place, for one day only!

In addition to the impressive line up of wines and spirits, attendees will be treated to a mouth-watering selection of gourmet delicacies prepared by Chef Gabriel Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant, Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a 40 mile radius! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to sample flavors from around the world and satisfy your taste for elegance!

Israel wineries I visited in the north and the state of Israeli kosher Wines

I just returned from a long and wonderful trip to Israel where I visited a total of 36 wineries in less than three weeks. To be fair, I was set to visit more, but let us just say that a family member, who will go nameless, slowed me down just a wee bit – LOL!!! All the same, it was great visiting the wineries, meeting the wine makers and owners, and getting a far deeper feel for all things wine in the land of Israel!

Yes, I brought back many bottles, and I had friends and family who helped me schlep in even more bottles. In all some 30+ bottles or so made it back to the diaspora, and I will be enjoying them in due time. Many of them are NOT available here in America and some were just too good to pass up on.

So, let us start with the facts – there are five wine regions in the land of Israel, and I visited wineries in all of them. According to Yossie’s Israel winery page that is a mash up of Google maps and his winery data, there are some 70+ kosher wineries. The kosher wineries are bunched up in the Judean Hills, Shomron, Samson, and the Galilee. There are wineries in the other wine region; the Negev, but other than Yatir, which is really the southern tip of the Judean Hills, there is no winery that I wanted to visit in the Negev (dessert – southern wine region of Israel).

I started my wine adventure in the north and went to every kosher winery that would let me visit. One of the first things I realized about wineries in Israel is that it is a business. To me, wine and wineries are like candy and big candy store. To top it off – they are kosher and in a land I love. So, when I visit a winery, I want to know everything about it and why it exists. Others see me as a pain or as a lack of dollars and cents and as such, are not so receptive to my interests. That is fair, and as such, if I was received well I will state it and if not, or I got to taste a single wine or less, I will simply state what I tasted and move on.

The first day, I dropped my stuff off at friends in the north and drove up to Tabor Winery. Tabor Winery ha recently been bought up by the Coca-Cola company of Israel, and as such has seen a fair amount of investment in both vineyards and winery facilities. Tabor Winery-smallThey have some of the coolest high-tech gear out there, though a few others do rival them, including Yarden (which I did not visit this time), Yatir Winery (visited and loved it!), Shiloh Winery, and of course Carmel and Binyamina (because their size allows for more toys). I was really shocked there and then by the cold blue fruit that exists if you look for it. By cold blue fruit I mean that wines (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet – YES CAB, Petite Verdot, and Petite Sirah) exhibit blueberry, boysenberry, and other blue colored fruit when controlled in a cold enough climate. They had some lovely wines there, though no WOW wines (wines that get an A- to A or higher score). Still, a very nice and wonderful winery well worth the visit, if you can handle the drive all the way up there.

Now before you laugh at one winery in a day, driving north from Jerusalem, even with highway 6, is a large haul and in the pouring rain, I rest my case. While driving my way up there – I noticed another aspect that I have not spoken about in the past – Israeli drivers. I think it was my nephew who brought this to my attention; they drive cars like they have no tomorrow, without hesitation, and without fear – almost like war. Drivers in Israel are more than happy to pass you going uphill, on a curve, in the pouring rain! In no way was this a singular or rare occurrence! If you drive in Israel and you blink or hesitate, you may well find yourself forced onto the other side of oncoming traffic by a public transit bus! I am not kidding – and in a not so hospitable location to boot! My point is, if you wish to drive in Israel, and to get to all the wineries in and about Israel, a car is required (or a tour guide), my best advice is pray a lot, and be very careful. Also, get full coverage on your rental car. Read the rest of this entry

Yitzchok Bernstein and Jonathan Hajdu excellent 27 course tour de force

On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!

When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.

The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.

With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.

The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (jonathan@hajduwines.com), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry

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