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Lovely California, French, and Israeli Merlots that prove Miles Raymond wrong

This past weekend we had a few friends over for a lovely Friday night dinner, and I decided it was time to drink some great kosher Merlot wines. To be honest, to me Merlot is one of those wines that rarely find the sweet spot, it either boring, nondescript, or overly green. However, there are still many great Merlot wines out there. Of course this was Miles point in the now famous, but to me disgusting movie called Sideways. I felt that the subject matter was so poorly projected that I always feel sick when I think of that movie. Still, the debased yet highly quoted cult movie had a huge impact on the Merlot and Pinot Noir sales in the US. It was the average Merlot’s nondescript attributes that so viscerally turned the protagonist off of the grape variety. Clearly, as I have described many times, here most recently, and more in depth here, that his prized Cheval Blanc was made up of the very varieties he so deeply despised and dissed in the movie, being 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

A fair amount of the problem starts in the vineyard, as always wine is 90% vineyard management, 5% winemaker, and 5% science/luck (those number can be moved around a bit but not much). Some of the very best Merlot wines out there are French. For instance one of the famous kosher French Merlot wines out there are the 2005 and 2006 DRC – Domain Roses Camille. They hail from the Merlot dominated Pomerol wine region of Bordeaux. The DRC is mostly Merlot with a bit of Cabernet Franc thrown in, while the non kosher and world-famous Petrus – is mostly all Merlot with a bit of Franc thrown in some years.

There are two other French Pomerol kosher wines, the Chateau Montviel and the Chateau Royaumont. I recently tasted the two of them, and I loved the 2003 Chateau Montviel, while the 2011 Chateau Royaumont was nice enough, but at that price, a B+ wine is not worth the effort for me.

France has cool summers and some years are great while some are not so much. However, in other regions where heat is the not the issue, it is about elevation and the land that makes the grapes sing. For instance, to me, the best dollar for dollar kosher Merlot wine out there has to be Four Gates Merlot. The DRC is fantastic as is the Montviel, but the DRC is vastly more expensive and the Montiel is harder to find. That said, outside of Santa Cruz County, the next best option is Israel, and that is like saying the best place to play golf in the world would be in the middle of the Sahara Dessert!

With the high temperatures that Israel has, one legitimately has to ask – what were they thinking of planting Merlot there? The answer “Location, Location, Location” does not only apply to real estate prices, it matters in the world on vineyards as well. When it comes to grapes, it is all about the vineyard, its location, its soil, and most importantly; its elevation. Read the rest of this entry

Israel and its wineries continue to impress even during a state of war

Old City from rooftopSo last week saw me flying out to Israel last minute to show my support for my Rabbi who lost his mother and to show my support for a country that is under fire. Having just returned, I wanted to reflect back on my feelings and state of mind (as a person who loves Israel), and to help others understand the state of mind of the people living in a country so deeply rooted in its history.

Let me start by saying that I do not normally speak politics on this blog and I am not trying to project anything here. This posting is like all my posts – my personal diary on what I tasted, felt, and heard during my week in a country at war. Please understand the settings. First this trip happened during the three weeks and nine days, two sets of the saddest days in our history, which culminates on Tisha B’Av (the day of the destruction of our holy temple) – which is in a few days.

Jewish history is not a linear timeline, it is rather a spiral staircase where each day reappears a year later. The days starting in the three weeks are not days of joy, because those very days are littered with historical fact after historical fact proving the days are bad for Jews and Gentiles alike. I do not like to travel in the three weeks, it always turns out badly, broken cameras, cars breaking down, insane traffic out of nowhere. Essentially, it is like living with Murph on steroids!

But, family and friends are not just a convenience for when things are going well, they are a part of your life no matter when and where you are. So, when I heard my Rabbi’s mother passed, I decided it was time to visit the Holy Land – no matter the circumstances. I will not bore you with the last minute planning and miles tickets that popped open out of nowhere, because of the war – essentially it was Murphy’s Law tempered with good luck – an interesting combination to say the least.

Before, I made it to Israel, I heard the news and I heard the stories and friends told me it is dangerous, it is not a good time to go – my response was – THIS IS THE EXACT TIME TO GO! This is the time to show our support for a land that is littered with history of our forefathers and their fore-parents! This is a place that is imbued with our physical lives and memories – to a point that one cannot turn away when sorrow is near.

Max Funeral 2The trip was uneventful, thankfully Murph was a no show! I arrived into Israel a few minutes early – thanks to good winds and tidings, and I got my car and drove to the shiva house, where my Rabbi was “sitting” for 7 days. It was here where I started to take in the atmosphere that is Israel, to be around people who were there for the correct reasons – in this case – to console a family that was part of the larger Bnai Brak area for more than 50 years! My Rabbi told me stories of when he was young and he could open his windows and see the ocean, that is not the case any longer. Bnai Brak has grown and expanded to fill the entire area around Ramat Gan and its surroundings and no matter where you go in Bnai Brak, The Chazon Ish is almost everywhere. He passed away before my Rabbi was born, but he told me stories of how he had classes in the Chazon Ish’s house, and played in his backyard.

The environment may have been one of sorrow, but the mood was one of hope and transition. Clearly, there were times where the people coming to console the mourners had to run to shelter when the sirens went off, a warning of potentially impending attacks. Thankfully, though Bnai Brak and Tel Aviv have been attacked countless times by missiles, the Iron Dome has done its job in protecting its inhabitants.

After spending many hours, I made my way to Jerusalem, where I was staying and meet some friends and went to sleep. The next day, was truly one of my more sad days in a long time. I was not in the mood of going to wineries, I wanted to visit my Rabbi again, but things did not work out – as it turned out that Israel had started its offensive into the Gaza Strip, and in the fray, a fellow American citizen, Max Steinberg, had sadly fallen. He would be one of many more, that bravely gave of their soul for a country yearning for life – a truly sad twist of fate.

Max FuneralHe was being buried a few miles from where I was staying so I and some 30,000 other people, from many different walks of life, made their way to Herzl Memorial Cemetery to pay our last respects to a fellow Country man – who paid the highest cost for a country he felt deserved his time and immense talents. The ceremony was moving in both English and Hebrew, no dry eyes were present that day, all the people I saw, were deeply moved and were there till the last minute to pay tribute to a person who loved the country as much as they all did, and did so till his last dying breath.

Sadly, another soldier passed as well, Dmitri Levitas, and he was also buried in Mount Herzl a few hours later. Going to two funerals in a day, reminded of my last trip to Israel, where right before I left, hours before my plane trip home, I sadly went to two funerals, less than 24 hours apart, of friends and family, both buried in the Bet Shemesh cemetery. I was not expecting my last visit’s sorrows to engulf me again, but that is the three weeks, that is the cycle of time which we cannot control, and that is what living is all about. I was truly down at that point to say the least, but again, it was the people in this country, hard nosed people, people who live in a land filled with grief and hope, that saw me through it all. One never really is alone in Israel, you may think no one knows you or no one sees you, but that could not be farther from the truth. Read the rest of this entry

Some nice older and amazing newer kosher Israeli wines

2013 Yarden Sauvignon BlancWhen one speaks about Israeli wine – the name Yarden is sure to be one of the first wineries that are spoken of. Why? Because simply stated they are the defacto standard for quality in Israel. That was at least until the past few years, when the red wines took a very clear and strategic direction towards more ripe and classic new world styled wines. Why? Well, as I wrote here in my year in review, the kosher wine public is still a few years behind the wine learning curve, and they crave wine that is as subtle as a two-by-four between the eyes. Why? Well, to be blunt, starters do not have the capacity to appreciate the more subtle aspects of old world wines. That takes training and in the words of the late Daniel Rogov – the best way to appreciate and learn more about wine – is to drink more wine. Until that point, we will all have to wait for the majority of the kosher wine buying public to learn the joy of subtlety and stop craving sweets, and live with the result of that fact – meaning sweet and overripe wines. Thankfully, there are wineries that are still interested in creating well-rounded and all around enjoyable wines – like Tzora, Recanati, Netofa, Yatir, Castel, Dalton, Flam, Four Gates, and many others.

That said, Yarden is still the clear king of white and bubbly wines in Israel. First of all, there are few wineries with more than three quality labels of white wine. Many are still just producing one white wine. Tabor is one of those wineries that is showing it QPR value and clearly coming out from under the haze of Coca Cola and its perceived wine quality, in their situation “perception is NOT reality”.

Proof of this can be found in the bottle. Tabor Adama Roussanne, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc are examples of GREAT QPR wines, though only the Sauvignon Blanc is available here in the US.

The Yarden 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may very well be the best kosher Sauvignon on the market and maybe ever made. yes, that is high praise for a white wine, but ignoring the sweeter side of Sauvignon Blanc (AKA late harvest or Sauterne) this is one of the best or the best kosher version of a dry blanc that I have tasted yet. Along with that the Yarden Gewurtz and Yarden Chardonnay – both Odem and non are great this year. Finally, the Viognier and the entire line of bubbly wines are absolutely crushing it! Even the Gamla Blanc is very nice. Essentially, while Yarden may have had some missteps or may want more ripe red new world fruit, the whites still are showing why Yarden is king of the kosher bubbly and white wines. The only real competitor in the kosher market to the vast array of Yarden’s whites would be Hagafen’s vast array of white wines and rose wines. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Winery continues to shine as one of the very best wineries in Israel

Tzora Winery 4If one says terroir and Israel at the same time, many would snicker and laugh, but when it comes to Tzora Winery they continue to impress. I have written a few times about the Tzora Winery, it is a winery that proves that even in Israel, and even in 2010 and 2011 GREAT and controlled wines can be created.

This winery tasting was not a tasting like the previous ones on the trip, you see, we were not “officially” invited to this one. We arrived for the tail end of Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau (from Domaine Roses Camille Winery) wine tasting day. Previously to Tzora, they had gone to Flam Winery and Castel Winery, two wineries we had been to a few days earlier.

So, when we heard they were going to Tzora as well, we asked them both at the DRC tasting if we could piggy back on the tasting, and they agreed. Of course, in hindsight, in all of the enthusiasm and excitement of the DRC tasting, we forgot to ask Eran and the Tzora Winery if they were OK with it! You see, if you have been keeping up with the blog, we had braved the snow and all, and made our way to the Scala Restaurant, in the David Citadel hotel. We enjoyed the DRC wines with Messrs.’ Ranson and Bardeau. However, at the end of the tasting they were discussing where they were going the next day. We had Ella Valley on the books, but nothing else after that. Since Tzora Winery is a stone throw away Ella Valley Winery, we asked if we could piggyback and they said sure. Well, what we forgot to do was follow-up with Tzora Winery the next day. We deeply apologized for being so unprofessional, but Eran Pick, the head winemaker at Tzora Winery, and consummate professional, was so kind and was easy-going about the whole affair, and so we joined the tasting in mid run.

Four Tzora wines we tasted at the wineryIf you want the true history and write-up on the Tzora Winery – please go here and read it all the way through – what a winery. To me the Tzora winery is one of the five best wineries in Israel, and Mr. Pick is one of Israel’s best winemakers.

We arrived and they were working their way through the white wines, and what wines they were. The wines showed richness, layers, and ripeness all in perfect control of both fruit and oak. Sure there is oak on the wines, but the oak does not dominate and nor does the fruit feel overripe. Instead, the wines show a harmony of fruit, oak, extraction, and expression – quite unique for Israel. The 2011 and 2010 vintages have been hit and miss in the Judean Hills, where most of the wines are sourced for all of Tzora’s wines. However, these wines were neither overly sweet, uncontrolled, or just unbalanced, like many of the 2010 and 2011 wines from the Judean Hills, with a few exceptions (Flam, Tzuba, Castel, Teperberg, and Yatir).

Eran Pick, Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau tasting at Tzora WineryThis is not the first visit we have made to Tzora Winery, we have had a few, and most recently a few months before this visit. However, at that visit, the wines, or me, were having a bad day, and I did not think it would be correct to write about them. Even then, the wines were not out of kilter or uncontrolled, but rather they were showing lighter and with less expression.

This time, the wines, or I, or both were in the zone! The 2012 Tzora Neve Ilan was showing like a classic Burgundian Chardonnay and was killing it. Bardeau was raving about it but the one he loved the most of the two whites was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh White, a 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine which was aged in oak for 7 months and was tasting rich, layered, but tart and ripe all at the same time – wonderful. Read the rest of this entry

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

Teperberg Winery Tasting – just outside of snowed in Jerusalem

Teperberg Tasting with all the wines and Fricassee a person can dream for!As I have stated before, these postings are from my previous trip to Israel, where Jerusalem and mush of the north was snowed in with many feet of snow. Picking up from where we left off, the Sabbath was snowed in and cold, but at least we had power. The next day, my brother drove the car to the hotel and from there – the careful but madman driver – known as Mendel made his way to both GG and me and using Waze we were off to highway 1. The road itself was open, as was clear by the crowd sourcing cars driving up and down the road on the Waze map. However, there were parts of the road that were packed to the gills, because these were car drivers – driving to har menuchot (Jerusalem’s cemetery which has a massive parking lot) to pick up their abandoned cars! Yup, on Friday, these folks could not make it into Jerusalem, as their car was stuck, and they could not get back to where they came from, so they left their cars and were bussed out by the Army using mechanized solider transport vehicles, that can drive through snow or up a hill, for that matter.

Well, as we drove by that horde of cars, our minds were all single focused on getting to Teperberg Winery, one of the best unheralded wineries in Israel. As I wrote about in previous posts, here and here, ever since the U.C. Davis trained senior winemaker Shiki Rauchberger joined the winery, they have been producing wines destined to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. With the addition of Olivier Fratty and tons of new high-end equipment, the winery is poised to make the next leap into the upper echelon of Israeli kosher wine producers.

When we arrived after driving through the snow covered mountains, the roads cleared as we dropped in elevations, and the mountains became hills, and their color turned from white to green. Not too far down the highway, we turned off for the road leading to Bet Shemesh, and from there another turn and we quickly found out way to Kibbutz Tzora (where the Tzora Winery can be found), which is across the street from the Teperberg Winery, and down the street from Mony Winery.

We arrived almost on time, and Shiki and Olivier were there to greet us and lead us to a room where we would be having the tasting. Shiki told us that they are drawing up plans for a visitor’s center where they can have official tastings, and exhibits where the winemakers and the guests can interact in a more intimate environment. The exact date for this building to be completed is still unknown, as it has yet to even start, but it is on the books to be started soon. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Roses Camille Wine Tasting in Snowy Jerusalem

Wine Tasting panel for the DRC DinnerPicking up from where we left off – Jerusalem was a snow covered wonderland and we had just come back from visiting Teperberg Winery, and it was now time to find our way back to the Scala Restaurant, the David Citadel’s upper scale restaurant. We were there to meet with Nicolas Daniel Ranson and Christophe Bardeau, the co-owner and the winemaker of Domaine Roses Camille in Pomerol, Bordeaux (who is a co-owner as well). To be very honest, this posting is very late, like much of the posts I need to get up, but hey, better late than not at all.

I must also ask forgiveness for having never worked out the time to talk over the phone and post my notes in a more complete posting as this on Christophe and the winery. There were many attempts and for one reason or another, we kept getting our lines crossed. Blessedly, the time finally arrived when we could all sit around a table and enjoy some wine and talk about the winery and the wine they make.

In case you have all been sleeping in a cave or under a rock, for the past 5 years, DRC (Domaine Roses Camille), as it is known in the kosher world, exploded onto the scene, when out of nowhere, the Late Daniel Rogov, scored the 2005 Domaine Roses Camille a 95, and called it the best kosher Bordeaux wine ever. This was then followed by a tasting of the 2006 vintage, which received a score of 93, and DRC was on the map, in the minds of each and every serious kosher wine buyer.

So, you may ask who and what is DRC and how did we all miss them for so many years, well that is simple – they are the textbook story of a garagiste winery. In Israel, the term used is boutique winery, in France they call it a garagiste, because many of these tiny wineries start in a garage – much like Silicon Valley started. Read the rest of this entry

My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Snow days

Well, if you have taken the time to read my last post about my trip to Israel, you would think that life may be wet – but very much wonderful, well that was day 1! Thursday morning I awake, and the rumors were that it was going to snow in the afternoon. My sister said do not go out and my Rabbi even was worrying about it. Well, I woke up and it was still raining, but not a snowflake in sky, which I just guessed was an over worried sister. Well, at 7 AM it was pouring rain, by 7:30 AM there were snowflakes, and by 8 AM there was a real inch of snow on the ground, which means Jerusalem was shutting down, and my winery dreams for the day were over.

You see, in Jerusalem, a few inches of snow is like a foot of snow in New York! My nephew works for the police, and by 8 AM he was all suited up and ready to go. Schools were confused, and they were asking kids to come in any way! By 9 AM, all of Jerusalem had shutdown, the stores were not opening, and schools had come to their senses and told the kids to stay home!

At this point there were a few inches on the ground and it was not letting up! What started to dawn on me was my greatest nightmare, my brother was just landing at Ben Gurion airport and he was not going to make it into the city! You see, the big disconnect here was that only Jerusalem, the surrounding elevated areas (Psagot, Beit El, Ramat Ruziel, etc.) and the north were affected by this, everywhere else it was life as usual. Once again, only the higher elevations were cold enough to have snow! By Sunday, when we were able to drive down to Teperberg Winery (more on that in the next post), halfway down Highway 1 – there was no more snow! I really wonder if someone stood at a certain point on highway 1, could they have had snow on one hand and rain on the other? Yeah I am that nerdy!

According to Haaretz: Vehicles are seen stranded in snow at the entrance of Jerusalem on December 13, 2013 following a snowstorm.

Thankfully, my brother grabbed the only thing that was going north at that time, the rakevet (AKA train). When he tried to go to the taxis at the airport, they all said they were not going to Jerusalem, so the only option left was the train. By the time he got on the train, it was standing room only, he was totally shocked! By the time he made it to Jerusalem, by 3PM or so, the first round of snow was just starting to melt and subside and the roads were clearing up. If we had made a run for it earlier in the day, and we had gone to Ella Valley, our car would have been stuck down there – as the highway did not open up again till Sunday! Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2021 new releases

Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge shows the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

The new wines

New in 2021 will be the 2018 Four Gates Negrette, a unique wine that was nice. Also, a Petit Verdot from Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2017, in Santa Cruz but not from the Four Gates vineyards.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is a bit better than last year. First, you have the 2016 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by an N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, and two 2019 Chardonnay wines, both under the Four gates label.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.

Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for the wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.

The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if I beg for lower prices.

Now Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities.  His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.

Lastly, the fact that he sold out his year’s stock of wine in 7 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that.

So, I am done with the discussion, and I hope you all got some of the wines. Sadly, all the wines we tasted were shiners, so there are no pictures.

The notes speak for themselves. This year I liked all the options for sale, in comparison to previous vintages. However, I did not get to taste one of the Chardonnay that was for sale (2019 Four Gates Chardonnay). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2019 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Riche, Estate Bottled, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely, a classic Benyo Chard, rich melon, green apple, smoke, toast, creme Brulee, kiwi, citrus, and pie. The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, toast, and it feels sweeter than normal, yet still showing wonderfully controlled fruit, lovely creme brulee, citrus rind, rich baked apple/melon pie, with lemon and mineral. The finish is long, sweet, spicy, cloves, cinnamon, and toast. Nice! Drink from 2023 until 2028.

2018 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely with big, bold, and rich notes of boysenberry, dark currants, with loads of violets, very feminine, with rich baking spices, cumin, dirt, paraffin, and loam, very nice. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is elegant, showing more of the feminine nose, with more blueberry, black plum, nice spices, good salinity, a lovely mouthfeel, and nice green notes that give way to more blue and black fruit. The finish is long, green, with more violet, floral notes, nice spices, and good oak. Nice Drink until 2025.

Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2020 new releases

Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge shows the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and from the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

The new wines

This year we have the return of 2017 Petit Sirah, along with a new 2017 Malbec, and blend called Mazal, it is Non-Vintage. There is the return of the 2018 Chardonnay but in a far drier format. Along with a new entry a 2015 Ayala Claret wine.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last year, is really impressive. First, you have the return of the 2016 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, followed by the 2016 Four Gates Pinot Noir, 2015 Four Gates Merlot, 2015 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, and the 2014 Four Gates Frere Robaire. Read the rest of this entry

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