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Four Gates Shabbos, Willm Riesling, and Tal Ronen’s fantastic vegan paella

On June 4th, 2010 we found ourselves being driven to Benyo’s Four Gates Winery for shabbos by friends of ours.  I brought a bottle of wine with me, and we did have it for Shabbos day, but before that we went through a bunch of wines that are either not yet for sale, or ones that should have been sold long ago.  Before shabbos started Benyo went into his cellar and looked for bottles that he was unsure about, and it was great trying them all, but no wine notes available – sorry.

Benyo was super gracious as always, and made tons of food and served tons of wine and it was really a nice enjoyable shabbos.  I did bring a bottle of white wine with me – a bottle of 2008 Willm Riesling.  Willm is a winery in the famous Alsace area of France.  Alsace wine is famous for its oily, petrol, and perfumed wines, and there have been few of them that are kosher out there.  I have had Abarbanel Alsace wines and none of the Herzog Alsace wines.  The Willm wines, and there are many of them, are nice, so I recommend trying them out.  The wine note follows below.

After Shabbos our friends drove us back and we were faced with a not so usual problem, we had nothing to eat for the week.  You see, we make a large amount of food for shabbos, and normally eat it for supper the rest of the week, or most of it anyway.  However, because we spent a lovely shabbos at Benyo’s we had no leftovers.  So I used it as an opportunity to finally make a recipe from Tal Ronen’s awesome cookbook – The Conscious Cook.  All of his recipes are long and complicated, but the flavors are fantastic!  The recipe we chose is called “paella with ‘sausage’, nori-dusted oyster mushrooms, and wine braised artichoke hearts.  The recipe requires many pans, lots of time, and crazy amount of prep work.  But in the end, the flavors and texture were so good, maybe some of the best stuff I ever made, and my wife loved the stuff as well.  Two notes about the book, the book is a cookbook for vegan minded folks, and so one would think it is 100% kosher.  Unfortunately not, besides the wines that he recommends that are not kosher, the gardein product, take on “garden proteins”, is not kosher.  Also, the vegetables and salad he uses are kosher of course, but please be very careful to check them all well for bugs.  That is a reason why we skipped many of the wonderful recipes, because besides the crazy amount of work for each recipe, we were not ready to clean the ruffage as well 🙂

2008 Willm Riesling (France, Alsace, Alsace AOC) – Score: B++
The nose on this light straw to light gold with green shimmers colored wine is screaming and perfumed with musk, jasmine like perfume, ripe melon, pear, orange rind, peach, and mineral notes. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is screaming with bright tart lemon, melon, oily structure, and pear. The mouth is oily with a perfume that balances the fruit forward wine and makes it a joy to just drink or enjoy with food. The finish is long and tart with lemon, mineral notes, ripe melon, and orange rind. This wine can be enjoyed well with spicy food, fish dishes, and light pastas. Truly a fun wine that stands up to spicy and/or medium heavy dishes.

Willm Gewurztraminer, ElviWines Matiz Rioja, Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This past week saw us eating at our brother’s house and we brought over a few bottles of wine.  The dinner started with a sweet and sour Salmon, so we complimented it with the newly released 2008 Willm Gewurztraminer.  On an aside, this is the very first time that one of the famous houses of Alsace has released a kosher wine, super cool!  The wine’s crazy alcohol content is some 16% – and I think it was higher!  The mouth is super rich, with lychee, apple, and honeyed flavors, and DRY!  Forget about that sweet and cloying like wines that some of you folks drink for Kiddush or desert.  Nope this is a classic Alsace Gewurztraminer, which is dry and honeyed and can stand up to sour and/or spicy foods.  In many ways it tastes like a Viognier, except without a drop of sweet oak or sweet flavors.  That said, the sweetness comes along in a weird way because of extremely high alcohol and not because of a heavy perfume and/or residual sugars.

After the bottle disappeared between the meal occupants, my sister-in-law brought out a bevy of main courses – four of them I think, along with an abundance of side dishes.  The main courses consisted of a beauty roast,  potatoes and meatballs, pepper steak, and shoulder roast.  The side dishes were large and varied, along with some nice kibbeh and Moroccan cigars. My sister-in-law made a ton of food, and many others, brought over food, and it was a crazy feast.

We had a two wines to pair with the rich meat dishes and both of them were nice, but the clear winner was the 2003 Ella Valley Cabernet.  The other wine was the 2008 Elvi Wines Matiz Rioja.  The Matiz was awesome out of the gate with rich chocolate and tobacco on the nose and mouth, but that petered out quickly and what we were left with was a slightly boring wine, to be honest.  The EV Cab on the other hand was a multi layered and complex wine that was just awesome.  Really a nice showing for the winery, and it is not even the acclaimed Vineyard Choice.

Thank you my brother and family, and I hope to share many more happy occasions.  The food and the ambiance were killer!  The wine notes follow below:

2008 Willm Gewurztraminer – Score: B – B+
The nose on this rich golden yellow color, is hot from its 16% alcohol, along with honeycomb, jasmine, lemon, lychee, and a touch of mineral.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is viscous and tastes somewhat sweet while not being so (an offshoot of the alcohol).  It follows with a Muscat like flavor that helps to pick up the rest of the mouth that consists of honeydew, apple, and orange juice.  The mid palate is light on acidity and bitter from mineral flavors.  The finish is medium long with a strong honey presence and some bitterness that trails out of the mid palate.  This is an OK wine, but it lacks balance, crispness, and is a bit too bitter.

2008 ElviWines Matiz Rioja – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet, 100% Tempranillo wine, starts right out of the bottle with a powerful nose of chocolate and tobacco.  As the wine opens up, the chocolate and tobacco give way to cherry and raspberry notes.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is smooth and concentrated, with cherry and raspberry fruit that follow the nose.  The mid palate is bright enough to balance out the wine while sharing space with a hint of tannins that are integrating nicely.  The finish is long with a return of the cherry fruit, acidity, on a bed tobacco leaves and chocolate candy.

2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is hopping with blackberry, cassis, plum, sweet oak, and roasted herbs.  The mouth of this brooding, complex, and multi layered wine is really nice with black fruit that comes at you in layers after layers of blackberry and plum.  The mid palate flows nicely from the layers of fruit with oak, bracing acidity, and integrating tannins.  The finish is extra long with black fruit from the mouth, along with hints of sweet oak, tobacco, and spice.

Riesling – is finally getting its due in the kosher market

If you have read my blog before, you know I love all things Pinot, Cabernet Franc, and Riesling. Yeah, the less loved grapes. Pinot is too loved in too many ways in the Non-Kosher market, and that sideways buzz is not dying down.

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 Grape

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, though the German wines are off-dry, but, they are on a different level.

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 for 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 last year. 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!

Riesling wines in the Kosher market

France has been making kosher Riesling since the 1960s, with Koenig and later with others. They are made in the region of France called Alsace, which is a five-hour drive east of Paris, on the Eastern Border of France, where it abuts up to Germany. Alsace has been making Riesling for almost as long as Germany, with documented proof of Riesling wine starting in 1477, when it was spelled Rissling.

Sadly, until 2008 or so, we only had sweet Rieslings here in the USA and Israel. Starting in 2008, Willm Riesling was brought to the USA, and it was an instant hit. It lasted a good many years, but then it died. It showed bracing acidity, awesome mineral, and good fruit. Still, that never reached the level of the 2014 Nik Weis wine or even the 2014 Hagafen Riesling, both of which we tasted this past week again, and both are as close to a 95 score without getting it.

In 2010 Carmel’s Kayoumi Riesling was pretty close to bone dry, and that really started the dry Riesling train going. We hit the next plateau with the 2012 Hagafen Riesling dry, it was their first dry Riesling and it was sensational. Then we hit the next plateau with the release of the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling. There was the 2015 Riesling, which is not bone dry like the 2014 vintage, more like the 2% Hagafen Rieslings with well-integrated acid, it was OK, but it needs lots of time to better integrate. Finally, there was the epic Von Hovel Rieslings, which are on the top of the mountain, in regards to the best kosher Rieslings made so far, even if they are slightly off-dry! Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Riesling Horizontal Tasting

2012-and-2014-carmel-riesling-kayoumi-2014-koening-riesling-2012-abarbanel-riesling-batch-66-2014-and-2015-tabor-shahar-riesling-adama-ii-2014-hagafen-dry-riesling-2016-hagafen-dry-riesling-201

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 Grape

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!

Read the rest of this entry

The Kosher French wine predicament and the 2010 Château Bellerives Dubois

There were many great sales this past Passover, including some obvious barnburner sales at varietal.us, that I did not take part of. However, I did get the chance to pick up a plethora of low-cost kosher and mevushal French Wines, from real French chateaus. While, my palate has no real partiality, I am always ready to enjoy a good low-priced wine that is mevushal, no matter its origin. Why? Because, so many of my friends ask me about good kosher mevushal options, for their restaurants and synagogue events.

I just posted an article on the clear QPR leader in Israel, Recanati Winery. What I would love to find is another such winery or importer that brings in quality, reasonably priced wines that may or may not be mevushal. Reasonably priced kosher French wine is like a blue moon, excluding wineries like Viognobles David, and maybe a Willm wine or two. To be honest that is a sad state of affairs! There are so many solid options under 25 dollars from around the world, mevushal or not, but once you place the word French in the search query, the options do not drop off so much as does the quality!

There are many options for kosher French wines under 25 dollars, the problem is that the quality of those wines, are so poor that they just sit there on store shelves. Many of them hail from the portfolio of Royal Wines, and bless them for trying, but the quality is still too low. When you move the number up to 50 or so dollars, now you find some very nice options, but that is like moving from first to third in a single bound – not always an option for many of the folks out there. Mind you, one of the very best sparkling wines out there, which happens to also be mevushal, Drappier Champagne, goes for about 47 or so dollars, and is well worth the cost.

Read the rest of this entry

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