Author Archives: winemusings
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Nineteen QPR WINNERS – May 2023
First off, this is not the largest roundup I have written – there is a larger one from October 2021. Sadly, that one only had 6 QPR WINNER. This post has 19! Also, we have a shockingly high number/percentage of EVEN QPR score wines, 26 to be exact. Either the price or the quality pushed them to this level. So, without further ado, the 62 wines I tasted over the past few months.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been four months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post differs though, this is the first time I have seen so few N.A. or POOR/BAD QPR scores! This is not because things are getting better as much as I am selectively picking wines to taste recently. Still, many of these notes are from KFWE in Los Angeles, so it does represent a proper distribution, IMHO. We have 19 WINNER scores and a few GOOD/GREAT scores. A shockingly large number of EVEN scores, which could have snuck into POOR/BAD, and only 8 POOR/BAD.
Thoughts on the wines
Harkham is back!!!
My interest and love for all things Harkham is well known. I loved discovering the Aziza in Australia, some 13 years ago! I missed Richie that day, but I made up for that many times afterward. I thought the two Shiraz, imported by Kosherwine.com, were solid entries into the Kosher US market. The 2021 vintage was tough in Australia and these wines show Richie’s drive and passion! Looking forward to even more stuff!!
Missed Bordeaux Wines
Between my Royal Wine tasting and the rest of the wines that Avi and I tasted, we covered most of the 2020 vintage in Paris, in Nov 2022. However, we missed the 2020 Chateau Fayat and the 2020 Chateau Meyney. That has now been rectified. The Fayat is an AWESOME WINNER, while the Meyney may come around, otherwise, it is still a solid wine.
Michael Kaye continues to strive to make wines that are unique while also interesting. Some are hits and some are close but either way, he continues to impress. Hopefully, as he scales up production, the cool and refreshing wines will continue to roll! His website is up and running – Invei WInes.
My dear friend Josh Rynderman continues to pump out great wines. The rose and Emunah are prime examples. I liked the rose, it is refreshing and puts a smile on my face. The Emunah is nice, not as balanced as in the past, but a solid next play. I hear more fun stuff is coming soon. Looking forward!
A couple of weeks ago, I was at Covenant Winery to taste the Hajdu wines with my friend Elk. Elk eventually showed up, but either way, it was great hanging out with Jonathan Hajdu and seeing Elk, eventually! The wines that I tasted were all balanced, refreshing, and enjoyable. The rose and Pinot Blanc were lovely wines. The reds were balanced as well.
I tasted these wines at the KFWE in Los Angeles and also some were sent to my home to taste. Overall, I was shocked by how good the 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer were. Balanced, tart, and refreshing, and for the price! WOW! The 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley is a hit as always, on even vintages. 2019 was not bad, but not this good!
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 19 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 19 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2020 Chateau Fayat, Pomerol – Stunning wine! Enough said
- 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Special Reserve – Great wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, CA – Big and bold wine, but balanced
- 2020 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe – This wine scares me but it may eventually come around
- 2020 Terra Di Seta Guiduccio, Toscana – Same with this one, it scares me but should come around
- 2020 Elvi Wines El26, Priorat – Big, bold, but far more balanced than others here
- 2021 Hajdu Menagarie, California – Nice wine
- 2021 Harkham Hark Angel Shiraz – Harkham is back in the States! Lovely wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Barbera, Sierra Foothills – Nice, tart, and balanced wine
- 2020 Hagafen Rose, Brut, Napa Valley, CA – Nice bubbles!
- 2022 Invei Gewurztraminer, Dry, Clarksburg, CA – Huge ABV but you do not feel it – loved it!
- 2020 Chateau D’Arveyers, Bordeaux Superieur – Great Mevushal Winner!
- 2022 ESSA Liv & Luv Rose, Durbanville – Not bracing with acidity, but balanced and refreshing.
- 2021 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Galilee – A nice Sauv Blanc – enjoy!
- 2021 Baron Herzog Gewurztraminer, California (M) – Impressed by this wine, refreshing
- 2022 Hajdu Pinot Blanc, Anderson Valley, CA – Floral and joyous
- 2022 Hajdu Rose, California – Nice, and refreshing
- 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio, California (M) – Another impressive Herzog Baron that is tart and refreshing
- 2022 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio, South Island (M) – One of their best Pinot Grigio, tart and refreshing
A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – April 2023
In contrast to my previous post on M&M imports, this follow-up post was only a couple of months apart! This post is meant to catch up with the wines that I missed in my last post. I finally got to taste the non-mevushal version of the lovely 2021 Arneis! Along with the other Sicilian and the Reserve Brunello! I also got to taste the new 2018 Falesco wines. So, yeah a few more Italian wines that I missed in the last post to round out the M&M wines that are produced under their label. Of course, they also import Les Vins de IDS into the USA, but those wines can be found under my IDS tasting.
It is also a pleasure to taste the wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. The BIG news is that now his wines are available on kosherwine.com! I really hope this helps to spread the good word about the work that Ralph and his team do!
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 3 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Three out of six WINNERS is another incredible value-based lineup. Unlike the previous posts’ WINNER, these wines fall in the middle of the pack in regards to pricing for their category.
I finally got to taste the non-mevushal version of the Arneis and it is superior in all things I desire. Acidity, minerality, and verve. In the end, this is a clear QPR WINNER!
The 2016 Tassi Brunello is a fantastic wine and while I liked the 2016 Brunello, Riserva, the outcome for me was that I will appreciate the non-Riserva more. I am sure that in a decade I might think otherwise, but for now, I like the comparable calm and balance that the non-Riserva shows, at this moment.
Famiglia Cotarella (AKA Falesco)
The 2018 Falescos feel far more in balance than the 2014 vintage. The 2018 Falesco Marciliano is the one that tickles my 2006 memories, while the Montiano is close but not quite there. I did not try the 375 ml of the 2018 Marciliano, but I intend to do so soon. I guess is that it will show the notes I describe earlier than it took the 750 to arrive at.
I got to taste the other two Sicilian wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Nero D’Avola. I think this is the first kosher Nero D’Avola. This is cool and while I liked it again, the issue was balance. It has enough but I crave the texture and tension and that was where it was lacking. The Cabernet Sauvignon is just a big wine and one that I think many will appreciate.
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, like last time, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below, listed in the order I tasted them – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis, Terre Alfieri – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The 3rd kosher vintage now comes in mevushal and non-mevushal formats. This was the tasting for the non-mevushal. PSA – This wine needs to be CHILLED – LIKE Champagne chilled, PLEASE! The nose of this wine shows entirely differently than with the mevushal, what hits you first is the incredible brightness, minerality, smoke, dense flint, and sheer precision. The perfume of minerality takes my breath away, with nicely ripe peach, almond, intense flint, violet, and sweet ripe pear. The mouth is medium-bodied wine is incredible, with intense acidity, rich and unctuous mouthfeel, pear, nectarine, peach, nutmeg, and lemon/lime. The finish is long, tart, ripe, spicy, and driven by its mineral core, with lovely fruit, and rich spices. The wine shows refreshing, elegant, complex, and tart all at the same time. BRAVO! Drink until 2025. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Franci Riserva, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 94 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is incredible, ripe, balanced, and mineral-driven, but equally floral, with dense underbrush, mushroom, violet, blue flowers, stone, and rock, all wrapped in red and black fruit, intoxicating and refreshing. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is shockingly accessible at this point, which is different from the Tassi 2016, with grippy yet mouth-draping tannin, showing a ripeness I was not expecting, with sour cherry, raspberry, black plum, citrus, intense acidity, and elegance that belies its youth but also tells a story of its future. What a lovely wine, plush, dense, elegant, smoky, and concentrated without being an overbearing beast. Really impressive! The finish is long, tart, screaming with minerality, scraping graphite, earth, loam, mushroom, intense acidity, and a sense that this wine is ready but also still holding back. Drink until 2032. Bravo!!! (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
2019 Feudi del Pisciotto Cabernet Sauvignon, Terre Siciliane – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
I wanted to love this one as much as I loved the Merlot it is close but it is still too ripe for me. Still, this is a professional wine and one that many will appreciate. The nose of this wine starts ripe and while it slows down a bit the wine stays ripe behind the scene, with blackberry, anise, candied raspberry, boysenberry, sweet vanilla, roasted herb, and smoke. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, dense, concentrated, and smoky, with blackberry, candied raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, sweet profile, nice acidity, some refreshing mint, menthol, anise, and sweet roasted herb. The finish is long, ripe, smoky, herbal, and concentrated, with mouth-draping tannin, sweet herbs, vanilla, leather, milk chocolate, and graphite. If I had not known better I would have said Napa Cab, but instead, it is Sicilian! Drink from 2024 until 2028. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2019 Feudi del Pisciotto Nero D’Avola, Terre Siciliane – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
This is the first Nero D’Avola that I know of that has been made kosher. Very cool. The nose of this wine starts ripe and rife with oak, with some time that calms to show a nose of ripe black and blue fruit, floral notes of violet and rose, intense smoke, mineral, graphite, smoked Arbol chili, bay leaf, sweet cedar, tar, and grilled meat. In many ways, this feels like a Syrah mixed with a Cabernet, very unique. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is bold, intense, layered, and complex, yet too ripe for me, still, a unique wine showing blackberry, dark cherry, dark plum, boysenberry, roasted mint, menthol, floral notes, intense sweet cedar, ripe and concentrated fruit that gives way to extraction, sweet mouth-draping tannin, lovely acidity, almost refreshing, but still a bit too ripe. Nice! The finish is long, dense, and ripe, with more green notes, hot chili, smoked meat, roasted herb, loam, dust, ripe black/red fruit, and smoked chocolate lingers long. Interesting. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2018 Famiglia Cotarella (Falesco) Marciliano, Rosso Umbria – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This Cabernet starts ripe, but you can see it has potential, and it needs time to come around. The nose of this wine, as it opens, is ripe with mushroom, blue and black fruit, smoke, loam, earth, lovely minerality, iron shaving, tar, licorice, and rich smoke. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, and concentrated, with lovely acidity, blackberry, boysenberry, dark cherry, candied blackcurrant and raspberry, mushroom, loam, rich dirt, loads of mineral, graphite, elegant mouth-draping tannin, and intense smoke. The finish is long, dirty, ripe, refreshing, acidic, balanced, and just lovely, the minerality, earth, and smoke balance the fruit until it calms, with leather, and smoking tobacco, just lovely! Drink from 2028 until 2034. (tasted April 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.3%)
2018 Famiglia Cotarella (Falesco) Montiano, Lazio – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This merlot also starts ripe, with lovely herbal notes, and roasted blue and black fruit, with smoke, sweet cedar, tobacco, lovely mushroom, rosehip/violet, roasted animal, loam, dirt, and intense bramble, lovely! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe but well-balanced, with lovely acidity, loam, mushroom, blackberry, plum, ripe raspberry, roasted animal, sweet spices, dirt, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long dark and brooding, but balanced, with mushroom galore, concentrated, and elegant, deep graphite, smoking tobacco, crushed/roasted herb, cloves, cinnamon, minerality, lovely! The wine really will need time, the window is insane on this wine, let this wine come to you, please! Drink from 2030 until 2036. (tasted April 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.3%)
Covenant Wines’ latest releases, five more QPR WINNER – April 2023
Well, it has been 6 months since my last Covenant Winery post and more than a month since I got the wines and tasted them, my apologies, but I am seriously behind on posts. To be fair, the weather is STUNNING now in NorCal, the rains are finally gone and that means lots of time to climb mountains and see gorgeous wildflowers, so yeah, posts have taken a backseat – apologies there. So, now on to the show!
I received the new Covenant wines in mid-march and I tasted them over a week. My initial knee-jerk reaction is that Covenant continues to show a solid focus on acidity, balance, and fruit.
Fun White Wines
The first wines I enjoyed were the new 2022 whites and rose and they were all QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNERS, outside of the Tribe wines. I must be honest of the seven wines I was sent five were QPR WINNER and the Tribe was not. I know it is important to have Mevushal wines, but sadly, these did not hit the spot.
The Viognier is a wine made to make up for the lack of a 2022 white or rose wine from Israel, as 2022 is Shmita. The Rose and the Viognier were lovely, while the Sauvignon Blanc was another hit, a consistent wine indeed for Covenant.
The wine that really got my attention was the 2022 Mensch Zinfandel, it opened a bit slowly, but once it did, the wine was lovely, ripe, yet balanced, the way a Zinfandel should be! The 2021 Covenant Cabernet, is another hit, not as awesome as the 2020 vintage, but still another solid showing for this storied label.
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Zoe, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for sending me the lovely wines to taste. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2022 Covenant Red C Viognier, Lodi, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is varietally true, with fresh and clean aromas, tart peach, fresh cumquat, lychee, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, complex, and captivating, not too fussy, refreshing, and relaxing, with incredible acidity, tart, and fresh almost plush mouthfeel, peach, apricot, lychee, tart limoncello, cumquat, and ripe yellow plum. LOVELY! The finish is long, tart, refreshing, and complex, Bravo! Drink now! (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely with lychee, gooseberry, orange blossom, orange notes, and some flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, but it starts a bit austere – give the wine time, with bracing acidity, a lovely mouthfeel, lemon/lime notes, nice gooseberry, precision, good fruit focus, and more refreshing acidity. The finish is long, tart, and green, with lemongrass, flint, orange zest, and lovely lemon notes lingering long. Nice! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2022 Covenant Red C Rose, California – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows more Syrah/Zin-like characteristics than anything else, a very nice balanced and bright nose, with tart strawberry, raspberry, smoke, and juicy plum. Nice. This is not the classic floral or orange-based rose, this is far redder in its makeup. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, again, this starts a bit closed, give it some time, showing incredible acidity, and freshness, with a refreshing profile, and fruit focus, and now the mouth shows more than just the red fruit from the nose, along with peach, juicy orange notes, and hints of orange blossom that linger long. The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with some tannin, smoke, and nice red and orange notes lingering long in a tart bed of acidity. Nice!! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Tribe Chardonnay, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine shows its flaws a bit, it smells correct, but a bit muddled, with cooked/bruised apple, peach, apple blossom, and slight oxidation/reductive notes, like browning apple peel. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, it has good acidity, but the muddled apple and peach do not get elevated and while the mouthfeel is fresh from the acidity and cleanliness, the fruit is where the wine feels a bit behind. The finish is long, fruity, and balanced. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.8%)
2022 Covenant Mensch Zinfandel, Lodi, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows me what a good Zinfandel can be, controlled, blue and red, none of that Zinberry (AKA a blend of Blackcurrant and boysenberry), instead you get refreshing and bright red and blue fruit, not pushed, but still spicy, herbal, and yes, fruity! This is Zinfandel! The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is where it loses that step, the mouth shows good acidity, and lovely focus, but the fruit is a bit too ripe for my tastes, still, very meaty, herbal, fruity, smoky, and spicy with juicy boysenberry, tart strawberry, ripe plum, and hints of black fruit, with mouth draping tannin. A solid wine and one that works well with some nice meaty and fatty BBQ ribs. After some time the wine opens and the heat calms to show a lovely, juicy Zinfandel. The finish is ripe, tart, and fruity, with great spice, smoke, roasted animal, and a dense presence. I always wonder if it is me or the wine! These kinds of wine make me wonder more. This one is right on the edge, one side is a fruit bomb and the other is a lovely fruity, balanced Zinfandel. Either way, this wine is a balanced, fruit-focused wine that will be enjoyed by many with my intense ailments! Drink by 2025. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.4%)
2022 Covenant The Tribe Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is ripe and not my cup of tea, it shows less about Cabernet Sauvignon and more about an early-released wine. The nose and mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine are less ripe than it is just not fully finished before being bottled, showing fermentation notes, hints of banana, black fruit, blueberry, and nice acidity, but sadly that cannot bring this all together, still, it has nice acid, mouthfeel, and tannin. The finish is long, ripe, intensely fruity, and out of balance for my taste buds. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
2021 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
It may be me, but is this the first year that the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon used an amalgamated cork? Just wondering – I drove for this for so long, just wondering. At the start, the wine shows riper than I was expecting and used to from Covenant Cab, but with time it calms, as expected. The nose of this wine is ripe, dense, and fruity, with ripe black and purple fruit, dense smoke, tar, anise, chili pepper, white pepper, iron shavings, and nice minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is on the edge of balance or anarchy. On one side, is an elegant bold wine showing dense fruit, with fruit focus, herbal notes, tart/sharp chili pepper, blackberry, boysenberry, smoke, roasted herbs, anise, and a dense yet elegant mouth-draping tannin. On the other side is a wine that thankfully calms and becomes what I expect. The finish is long, fruity, ripe, dense, herbal, smoky, spicy, and mineral-driven, with lovely iron, graphite, intense and elegant mouth-draping tannin, juicy boysenberry, blackberry, Asian spice, and anise lingering long. Lovely! Drink from 2026 until 2034. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.8%)
A unique tasting of Kosherwine.com exclusive wines – nice options that range outside of my QPR because of their small production
As always, I am happy to taste wines that are sent to me or that I buy, I do not normally call them out, per se, unless they are at a tasting, like with Royal, IDS, M&M, and others. This is one of those examples, where Kosherwine.com (KW) sent me 24 wines to taste. I have also added some that I bought, exclusive to KW, the Slight of Hand, and Doubleback wines. There were also, the Harkham wines that KW started to bring in, I also bought those, but I just have not had the time to taste those yet. I remember well my time in Australia when I was one of the first people to post about the incredible Harkham Azziza Shiraz! WOW! So much fun! Even more enjoyable was hanging out with Richie at the tasting in L.A., I truly hope KW will start to import the Semillon as well soon!
Kosherwine.com’s Exclusive wines
I have spoken about exclusive wines, exclusive wine clubs, and the sort in the past. While I have no issue with them, per se, they do tend to drive up pricing. They do not drive up the price because the exclusive merchant makes a bigger cut, the prices go up because of smaller production and exclusivity.
When you make lots of small wine runs or work with small producers that are OK with exclusivity, it tends to lead to higher prices because of how the product is made. Whether it is wineries in Israel like Shiran, Ghito, Mia Luce, or Slight of Hand from Washington State. They are all small wineries with small productions or one-off runs and that leads to higher prices.
In the end, the way I define QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), still revolves around price! So, whether the price is higher because of small production, single runs, or exclusivity, the end goal for QPR is to get a wine that meets the quality and the price of its competitors.
You will see some nice wines below, wines that I would drink, but given the pricing, I could not put the QPR WINNER tag on them. Nonetheless, if you remove the exclusive thing and just stick to the fact that these are a bunch of wines that are nice to well, Israeli reds, the tasting was fun! In the end, that is what matters.
Top Scoring wines
If I was a betting man, and I am not, I would wager that most people will find the Ghito whites to be highly enjoyable. I only had two of them to taste the Uphaz and the Soreqa, but I may well get some other 2021 whites to try.
The Mia Luce white was also quite enjoyable, along with the Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay.
For red wines, the Doublback was quite nice, it had green notes that threw me but overall a very nice wine.
Seven 90 or 90+ scored wines
There were also seven 90 or 90+ scored wines. These included another Ghito white, the Shiran Chardonnay, Mia Luce Syrah, a pair of Domaine Herzberg red blends, along with a Sheldrake sweet wine, and the 2019 Slight of Hand Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Magic.
Overall not a bad lineup of good wines, the prices, as described above keep the QPR scores lower than I would have liked. Still, there are options here for those that want to try new wines, new blends, or unique stories. In the end, KW has done its homework, I hope that as they work on the overall product line, they can maybe also work with their partners to get the prices down.
My sincerest thanks to Dovid Riven for sharing their wonderful wines with me. The wines are listed in the order I tasted them. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Festa d’Estate Pinot Grigio, Provinicia di Pavia (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is correct with green grass, straw, quince, yellow apple, and herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels stunted, less vibrant than it should be, the apple is bruised, the pear is browning, the fruit is not crisp, and a bit sweet, and there is good acidity, but it is just not refreshing, with some citrus, and herb. The finish is long, balanced, and with good acidity. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Shiran Winery Chardonnay, Gush Etzion – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is the best part of this wine with some muted fruit, not as crisp as I would hope, apple blossom, muddled red apple, muddled pear, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels all over the place, it has acidity but feels hollow in the middle, with red apple, pear, some citrus, and flint. The finish is long, not as refreshing as it should be as the muddled fruit detracts from the overall effect. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Yaffo Image White, Judean Hills – Score: 88 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine feels muted with more muddled apple and pear, peach, some smoke, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced, it feels almost refreshing, with good acidity, but the fruit is where things take a step back, the muddled peach, pear, and apple, are nice enough, but what I want is crisp and refreshingly tart fruit and I feel this is a bit lacking there. The finish is long, balanced, and fruity, with pith, flint, and some smoke. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Mia Luce Blanc, Galilee – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The 2020 vintage in Israel was tough, this wine has fresh fruit, the issue is there is very little of it, which is shocking for me to say about an Israeli wine! The nose of this wine is fresh and bright with tart green apples, flint, hay, funk, tart pink quince, and peach. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine has a lovely weight, even a bit elegant, with refreshing and fresh fruit, and lovely acidity, I wish there was more fruit, with peach, yellow apple, quince, nice funk, and lovely flint. The finish is long, refreshing, and almost oily, with nice acidity, and some elegance. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay, Singe Vineyard, Yaacov’s Playground, Judean Hills – Score: 91(QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a bit closed to start it needs a few hours to fully open up. The nose of this wine is fresh and refreshing with good apple, pear, grapefruit, citrus blossom, a hint of wood, and tart pink quince. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine has lovely acidity, with a lovely mouthfeel, good citrus, quince, lemon/lime, and a nice mouthfeel, crème Fraiche, sweet oak, and nicely refreshing! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with loads of citrus, oak, and sweet spices lingering long. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2023 in all price ranges
As I have stated many times in the past, this list started from folks asking me to come up with a cumulative list. Sadly, this year there were just the KFWE events and then there were two events in NJ, on a Saturday night before the clock moved. I have no idea why it was at that time, but hey whatever works!
A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over-sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top-line wines – what I call Top-Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. Sadly, the 2016 Yarden sparkling wines are so horrible they will not be on this list! Sad facts of life! At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events, normally, happen a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, Liquid Kosher, onlinekosherwine.com, kosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).
Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 13 of so dollar 2021 Baron Herzog Gewurztraminer, the slightly more expensive 2018 Elvi Herenza Crianza, the 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida Malbec, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.
Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top-Flight wine, and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top-Flight wines are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2020 Chateau Clement-Pichon, as nice as it may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.
Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2021 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Sadly, there are very few 2022 roses this year, as 2022 is a Shmitta year in Israel. The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.
Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)
Finally, it is the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Netofa wine. This is explained more below. As has been my approach over these past many years, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!
For the main course, I am happy to open a Top-Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it.
It does not fulfill Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses by Libby’s. Also, remember that you should drink the entirety of the cups, which is why I recommend the smaller cups. If you cannot, some allow the idea of drinking the majority of the cup, but that is not the best approach. Finally, the LAST CUP, should be drunk in totality, as that is the ONLY cup upon which you say an “After Bracha (Blessing)”, and as such you must have drunk at least 3.3 ounces to say the last blessing.
NOTE: Again, I make nothing from these Amazon links, they do not have sponsor links or whatever. I do not have that and never will. These are just suggestions – buy what you want. They are only there for ideas.
Four Cup Options
Like much of what I do on this blog, I was recently asked to come up with some 4 cup options for people. I am not big on pounding good wines for the 4 cups. My Rabbi mixes wine and grape juice and pounds that. No rabbi says you must use the best wines for the 4 cups. I know that sounds horrible, but honestly, the point of the 4 cups is to drink wine in their Halachic format, not to drink great wines slowly, in their non-Halachic format. The priority is drinking red wine quickly and according to the proper shiur (assigned minimum liquid intake). Still, while I will be doing my 4 cups on the Yarden Rose Brut, I have a list of other options here. ALL OF THESE wines are available here in the USA and are at/below 13.5% ABV:
All White wines (non Top-Flight Wines) – Sauvignon Blanc:
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc
- 2022 La Maison Bleue Sauvignon Blanc
- 2021 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc
- 2019 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly Fume
All White Wines (non Top-Flight Wines) – Various:
- 2017/2018 Netofa Tel Qassar White
- 2015 Von Hovel Saar Riesling Kabinett
- 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc
All White Wines (Top-Flight Wines):
- 2019/2020 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere
- 2020 Domaine Aegerter Meursault
- 2019/2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault
- 2020 Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux
All Sparkling Wines:
- N.V. Drappier Carte d’Or
- N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee
- N.V. Bonnet-Ponson Champagne, Extra-Brut
- N.V. Drappier Brut Nature, Zero Dosage
All Red wines (non Top-Flight wines):
- 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione
- 2019 Rocca di Frassinello, Le Sughere di Frassinello
- 2016 Elvi Wines Herenza, Reserva
- 2020 Vignobles Mayard Le Hurlevent, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
All TOP Red Bordeaux’s:
- 2019 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
- 2019/2020 Chateau Pontet-Canet Grand Cru Classe en 1855
- 2020 Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2nd Grand Cru Classe du Medoc en 1855 (if not able to find)
- 2014 Domaine Roses Camille Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2020 Chateau Lascombes Grand Cru Classe en 1855 (if not able to find)
- 2020 Château Angelus Carillon de l’Angélus
All TOP Red Burgundy’s:
- 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru
- 2020 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru, Les Grands Epenots
- 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots
- 2020 Domaine de Montille Volnay, 1er Cru Les Brouillards
- 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Volnay, Lous Luret
- 2019/2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey-Chambertin
A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – Feb 2023
It has been almost a year since my last “A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – release post” and a week or so from the post about the three gorgeous Burgundies from Honest Grapes and M&M Importers. So, I was really excited to write this post about even more wonderful wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. These are almost all the Italian options; some can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while all of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ. Sadly, I missed the new 2016 Brunello Riserva and the other 2 Sicilian wines. I hope to get a chance to taste those soon. There is also a Chianti Classico Riserva but that is still not here in the USA yet.
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 6 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Six out of ten WINNERS is just an incredible value-based lineup. Still, the prices are on the upper end of the QPR scale but the wines themselves are quite impressive.
I had tasted the Barbera before last year and the Mevushal Arneis in January of this year. Both of these wines were solid though I really want to taste the non-mevushal version of the 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis. A QPR score of WINNER and a GOOD is impressive.
The Barbera is a fun, refreshing, and enjoyable wine that will probably not become something more than it is right now but one never knows!
The biggest name on this list and the most expensive was the 2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino. I was ready for an over-the-top, bombastic beast of a wine, a trait that seems to be the calling card of the 2017 Brunello vintage. I was shocked when I opened the wine, first, the color threw me, and then the nose. The color of the wine, a characteristic I rarely talk about, was already bricking, but that seems to be par for the course with Brunello wines. Next, the nose was shocking, it smelled like a flower shop, filled with violets, geraniums, and very floral. Over the next two weeks I let this wine talk to me, yes, I wrote two weeks! The wine never went over the hill, it was rock solid, and it improved all the way to the finish line. Even two weeks later, the wine was not running out of steam, this is a wine that is built to go for a decade-plus, easily. Over time, the wine lost some of the floral notes and became more of what I expect from a Brunello, though it never went too ripe and never lost its precision, the only real issue I had was it felt more like a very nice Chianti than a Brunello. The tannin structure told you this was no Chianti, but the weight was clearly affected by whatever the winemaker did to counteract the screaming hot 2017 climate.
The star of these four wines, to me, is the stunning 2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino. The wine went up in price but it still is on the upper edge of WINNER, by a hair, and while the price is high the wine is incredible! It has this umami and cedar notes that just blow you away! The wine’s complexity, and structure. control and elegance show well and the wine is equally built to last.
I had the Super Tuscan, the 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana twice and it showed far better this time. From the time of opening till it was done some 5 days later the wine never lost a step and shined throughout. The Sangiovese fruit shows more at the start while the Merlot makes its presence felt more later in the glass. I found the wine overall to be very nice and balanced with good acidity but overall lacked a step on the Aqua Bona.
Finally, the Pinot Noir was nice enough, it showed varietally correct, but there was not enough there to interest me.
I regret not getting the 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico when it was out and available. That wine is lovely, and ethereal while being so Chianti, in all the right ways! The 2020 vintage is no slouch and it shows beautifully! A clear WINNER!
The pricing of this wine is higher than a Chianti Classico from Terra di Seta, but it is distinctly different! TDS is a wine that is sinuous, ripe, rich, and layered. The two Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico, both 2019 and 2020, is more ethereal. They are clearly built to last and while I gave them a drinking window of 9 years or so, I am sure they can last longer, but I do not yet have enough history with the wine to go farther.
I was not expecting a lot after having tasted some other 2020 Chianti wines but this wine shined beautifully! This is a wine to lie down for a bit but if you must enjoy one now, I would decant this two hours in advance. Bravo!
There are two Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines and I liked one of them and it scored a QPR score of WINNER while the other’s style was not my cup of tea.
The 2018 Valle Reale San Calisto, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a beautiful wine and for the price, it is an obvious QPR WINNER. The balance, elegance, and structure all hit me while the acidity brings all that fruit and mouthfeel to bear. It is one of those wines that is uniquely Italian. The fruit, tertiary notes, leather, and smoke, were all unique in a single bottle but the telling characteristic was the bracing acidity, cherry notes, and ripeness. The bottle just screams Italian and is one that can be enjoyed now but only with a few hours of decanting. This would benefit a few years of bottle aging before diving in.
The 2018 Valle Reale Vigneto Sant’Eusanio, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was a wine that was just too ripe for me. Eventually, the ripeness did calm but there was nothing there to find at that point. This is a wine that the new-world crowd would like and one that can maybe be a gateway wine to helping them appreciate old-world wines.
Finally, I tasted the kosher Sicilian Merlot. This was a lovely wine that does start a bit ripe but with time it really shows its colors and shows balance with bold fruit and lovely minerality and acidity. This is a wine that you cannot judge at the opening! If you MUST open this now, I would say to decant this for some 5 hours and then pour it back into the bottle. Double decanting and 5 hours of air may shake the true colors loose but I am not promising anything. Time will let this wine be free!
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, bright, tart, and very expressive, with notes of bramble, dirt, loam, graphite, bright red sour cherry, dark red berry, rosehip, rose petals, rich and very expressive toasted cedar, sandalwood, mushroom, and more minerality. Lovely!! The nose is so expressive from the opening and only gets better with time, impressive! The umami-centric nose is incredible with soy sauce, mushroom, and cedar notes that really take your breath away.
The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, and precise, with good fruit focus, nice dark cherry, raspberry, tart plum, scraping minerality, loam, dirt, rose petals, and lovely mushroom. With time it opens to a rich toasted cedar expression and it overtakes the mouth with beautiful fruit, intense mushroom, forest floor, plush body, and intense dirt and minerality. Lovely! With even more time the lovely cedar calms down and the ripe fruit, intense acidity, mushroom, and smoke linger long on this full-bodied wine.
The finish is long, tart, bright, and layered, with rich minerality, intense graphite, lovely soy sauce, umami notes, loam, lovely truffle, and mushroom, loam, and dirt linger long. BRAVO! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
I rarely talk about color but this wine is brick red. The nose of this wine is a flower pot, with screaming and intense violets, rosehip, dirt, loam, tar, mint, and underbrush, with little to no red fruit on the nose, crazy! With time, the nose evolves to show lovely French oak, rich loam, dark red cherry, licorice, roasted herb, mint, garrigue, and sweet spice, lovely!
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with more rose, violet, and green notes, dirt, loam, and smoke, the mouth is precise and velvety, with tart plum. The real fun is the tart red berry profile, and dark sour cherry, backed by intense acidity, mineral notes, and smoke. The texture, mouthfeel, and puckering tannin structure keep getting more and more complex with time, it is still not 2016, but it has the potential to still be quite lovely, however, this needs loads of time. With even more time, the floral notes move to the background, and the puckering acidity and tannin take over, the plushness of the mouthfeel emerges and this wine is lovely!
The finish is long, tart, green, and smokey, with more flowers, nice mouth-draping tannin, licorice, and lovely acidity. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
Three beautiful Burgundy wines from Domaine de Montille, M&M Importers, and Honest Grapes
Now that I finally got my KFWE post completed I can get back to posting about many wines I have been enjoying recently. However, none of the wines are as good as these three 2020 Burgundies from Domaine de Montille.
The three beauties are the 2020 Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux, 2020 Domaine de Montille Volnay, 1er Cru Les Brouillards, and the 2020 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru, Les Grands Epenots.
Domaine de Montille
Domaine de Montille is a family-owned winery located in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, France. The estate was founded in 1750 and has been passed down through many generations of the Montille family. Today, the estate is run by the siblings Etienne and Alix de Montille. Etienne concentrates his time on the 37 acres of red fruit scattered about Burgundy while Alix concentrates on the stunning Château de Puligny-Montrachet and other white wines under their négociant label called “Maison Deux Montille Soeur et Frere”. Together Alix makes some 12,000 cases of white wine including 7,000 from the Puligny-Montrachet vineyards. After 2017, they folded the Château de Puligny-Montrachet brand under the Domaine’s name.
The Domaine dates back to 1730, and slowly they grew their vineyards to encompass some 85 acres of land, by the late 19th century. Sadly, piece by piece the family sold off vineyards to keep living their lifestyle. The family slowly divorced themselves from the Domaine and used it as a piggybank. Sadly, by the time Hubert de Montille took over in 1947, at the young age of 17, all that was left was 7 acres!
Hubert de Montille
Domaine de Montille is known for three time periods, as of now anyway. The first/original one, which grew the Domaine and then almost destroyed it. The next period is affectionally known as the “Hubert era”. In this period, from the 40s until 2001 Hubert made the penultimate decision to make his own wines! Until then, the family had been selling their vineyards and grapes to négociants. Starting with the harvest of 1947 Hubert decided that the quality was too good to keep selling the grapes. It was time to believe in the terroir and make a name in Burgundy using his own grapes!
Hubert’s period was known as an era of wines that were tightly wound, rich, and built to last. Sadly, the winery was not allowing for ends to meet, at the start, so he followed in the family’s footsteps and became a lawyer. Throughout that period he split his time between law and wine, and he excelled at both! The last year he sold grapes to négociants was 1961. The de Montille name started to grow through the decades with vintage after vintage quality wines that were built for the long haul.
As a youngster, Etienne was not a fan of the stodgy Domaine. It was located in the family plot in Volnay and as a child, in the 70s, few people saw the allure of Volnay. As a youngster, there was nothing there to keep him entertained when all his classmates were elsewhere. By the tender age of 18 Etienne was already on his way to the United States of America to escape the vineyards and winery. Though wine was not far away and as he slowly started working at different wineries in California his father’s success and their name kept coming up in conversations.
Eventually, Etienne made it back to the winery for the 1983 harvest and stayed in the region for 3 years while he studied law and winemaking in Dijon. After that, he took different jobs and eventually met his wife at one of them. They had a child but the marriage did not last. Throughout it all, Etienne kept close to the winery and studied under his father’s watchful eyes, notwithstanding his studies at Dijon. In 1995 Etienne became co-manger of the Domaine and brought de Montille to the next stage of its evolution!
Etienne and Organic/Biodynamic Farming
Organic winemaking was not a thing of the 40 or 70s, but it was slowly becoming a thing in the 90s and when Etienne brought it up to Hubert, though it was not his style, he agreed. Thinking it was time and a good thing for the vines.
Another thing that Etienne started to change was the overall wine profile. The early years were lean, but robust wine, low in alcohol, but also very tight and not so enjoyable for the first 20 years! Etienne was hoping to change that a bit and move from the “Hubert Era’s” tight wines to some more accessible wines. Etienne strived to make the wines more open to the consumer from the start, he minimized the extraction time, moved towards whole-cluster fermentations, and limited pump-overs. By 1998 the Domaine started its third and current era, though not officially named so, the “Etienne Era”.
Hubert slowly grew his Domaine from a Volnay-focused vineyard to other regions, by buying small parcels bit by bit in Volnay and Pommard. However, in 1993, they bought “Les Cailleret” 1er Cru de Puligny-Montrachet. Their first white wine vineyard and the ranks of their vines have grown more and more over the years.
In 2001, Etienne started working for Chateau de Puligny Montrachet, a vaunted Chardonnay-based vineyard and Chateau and one that was a mere 5 miles from their family’s estate. From that point, Etienne has been in Burgundy full-time and has not looked back. The biggest addition came when he teamed up with Domaine Dujac to buy part of the 35 acres that the Thomas-Moillard estate was selling. As part of the deal, Hubert and Etienne came away with vineyards in Vosne-Romanee Les Malconsorts, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos du Roi, Beaune Grèves, and more
Alix joins the family business
From an early age, Alix was a classically-trained pianist and Hubert wanted her to go into law to help him with his firm. However, after sitting in on a nasty murder case, she quickly realized that the law was not for her! She worked in some of the greatest restaurants in the world, and she is in a few movies as well, including Back to Burgundy and Haute Cuisine. However, the allure of wine would eventually pull Alix back into the fold. In 1998, Alix started working for a négociant named Alex Gambal. A few years later she joined the large négociant called Ropiteau Freres and she exerted control over how the relationship was to be between the growers and the négociant, which was a new style for that time.
Soon after, she joined Etienne at the winery, when they bought the acclaimed estate of Château de Puligny-Montrachet, and now Alix handles the white wines for Domaine de Montille. She also runs Maison de Montille with her brother and all together they make some 12,000 cases of white wine a year.
Domaine de Montille has been recognized for its exceptional wines, with numerous high scores from wine critics and inclusion in top wine guides. The estate’s wines are highly sought after by collectors and Burgundy enthusiasts.
It took me a bit of time to get my hands on these wines but with the help of M&M Importers, I was able to taste the three wines in my home, this past month. The wines are just incredible, they were made with the help of Honest Grapes in the U.K. The last kosher Puligny Montrachet was in 2004 so I was psyched to taste this and the two 1er Cru red wines. The wines did not disappoint and while their price may be a bit steep their value is in line with what I would expect for wines of this quality.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Domaine de Montille Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru – Score: 93+ (QPR: GREAT)
The last kosher Puligny Montrachet was in 2004, so this was so much fun! This wine is not like any other Chardonnay you will have, outside of maybe another kosher Puligny Montrachet. It is not a Cali Chard, for sure, it is not a Meursault, and it is not a Chablis. It is truly unique and lovely. This wine is NOT ready, it may seem so, but it needs another 5 years before you think about touching it, AT LEAST! The nose of this wine is beautiful, tart, and precise, with lovely lanolin, and an elegance that takes time to evolve, ripe Meyer lemon, lime, almonds, honeysuckle, chamomile, lavender, roasted almonds, beautiful sweet oak, and lovely minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is an acid bomb, a true carpet bombing of acidity, with intense lemon/lime Fraiche, lovely honeyed almond pie, peach, freshly baked butter-infused apple pie, roasted and smoked duck, roasted pear and apricot, honeysuckle, smoked almond, toast, sweet oak, scraping minerality, and elegance. The finish is long, tart, and acidic to the core, with peach, saline, roasted apricot, and more scraping minerality, flint, rock, wow! Drink from 2027 until 2032. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Domaine de Montille Volnay, 1er Cru Les Brouillards, Volnay 1er Cru – Score: 93+ (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is a fruit beast, rich, ripe, aggressive, but incredibly controlled, with big ripe, and bright boysenberry, blackberry, smoke, heritage rose petals, earth, loam, smoked meat, and incredible minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, with lovely acidity, lanolin, and mouth-draping tannin, with blackcurrant, blackberry, juicy raspberry, and boysenberry, ripe, precise, and truly focused, with intense minerality, sweet oak, iron shavings, rose notes, coffee, and rich smoke. The finish is long, ripe, dense, and beautiful, with more boysenberry, minerality that jumps out at you, graphite, iron rock, iron shavings, rock, smoke, and lovely milk-covered coffee beans. Just a lovely expression of Volnay! Drink from 2027 until 2035. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru, Les Grands Epenots, Pommard 1er Cru – Score: 95 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is ripe but a bit more balanced than the Volnay with ripe black and red fruit, and hints of blue fruit in the background, with even more minerality, sweet spices, brighter fruit, freshly baked boysenberry pie, sweet oak, rose, and violet, just incredible, a truly controlled fruit and mineral beast. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, dark, brooding, controlled, and elegant, I am running out of words to express beauty, with a rich acid core, followed by rich minerality, my mouth salivates as I taste it, incredible, with black oolong tea, dense blackberry, plum, tamarind, blackcurrant, dark cherry somewhere back there, and mouth-draping tannin, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, elegant, concentrated, and smokey with coffee, dark chocolate, tea, sweet spices, anise, cloves, tannin, and minerality. WOW!! Drink from 2028 until 2036. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
And the winner of KFWE 2023 (at least so far) goes to the Big Apple
Before we get to judging I need to restate the obvious, Royal Wines is the 800-pound Gorilla of the kosher wine market. The interesting fact is that some might say that the KFWE events are self-motivated and self-aggrandizing, and while this may be true, they are also the leading system for kosher wine self-education that we have! Also, Royal is the only company I know making a large-scale wine tasting before the Passover run. I hear there may be one in March, time will tell. Until then, Royal stepped up, even if it was self-motivated, any motivation that sells/promotes kosher wine is a WIN-WIN for all kosher wine buyers. Finally, making these events on the backend of what is now the COVID-19 wave, shows we have finally returned and that kosher wine will once again have a voice that it desperately needs, no matter the motives. So, BRAVO Royal, and now to the scoring!
One more aside, and I repeat this concept down below, It is great to want wine education and to have events that promote wines but what is even better is TALKING about wine, kosher wines. Two years ago, I dropped the ball, sure the 2021 Virtual-KFWE was a logistical mistake, and I covered that but I missed highlighting the best part of the Virtual-KFWE and something I think Royal should continue, in different ways going forward. True wine, region, and winery education! The Virtual-KFWE included guided wine tastings with Jay Buchsbaum, Erik Segelbaum, and Gabriel Geller. The videos were worth the price of admission! I continue to state this as I missed stating that in my post, and I missed seeing the forest from the trees.
With that said, Royal should go back to this, but I think on a smaller scale, think real bottles of wine, as part of a wine club, that promotes different regions, and different wineries, while promoting Royal Wines and having personal guided tastings with folks like in the virtual KFWE. Just a thought! OK, now, I mean it, on to the scoring!!
KFWE 2023 Scoring
Before I go further, I wanted to define to you my criteria for grading a wine tasting:
- The Venue, of course, its ambiance, and setup
- The wine selection
- The wine glasses
- The number of humans at the tasting
- the food served
- Finally, the reactions of the participants, though for me that is less important to me, as I judge the tasting based more upon the body language of the participants than what they say.
Now, some of these variables are subjective, rather than just objective. Take for example #1, the venue, it is highly subjective though also somewhat objective. Pier 60 is a nice place, but in comparison, the Petersen museum of the past was far more beautiful, but it had its issues as well. Sometimes too much space is actually not a good thing. The Hollywood Palladium, showed its age and issues, this year and left L.A. a bit behind the Eightball. Now, again, this is subjective, some people hate cars. They hated how big the Petersen was, and how spread-out the food and wine were. I loved the Petersen, loved the cars, and while the food and wine were spread out and difficult to find, the roominess and vast space to sit and enjoy art and wine at the same time, was truly impressive. Further, NYC needs a place to sit down, I think the VIP in both places were great for room to sit and relax but the general admission in LA was far better in its use of the space in the middle of the area, allowing for many couches and places to sit and relax.
The App is dead, long live the app!
Thankfully, this has been put to pasture and that is where it belongs. There were too many hoops to jump through from the logistics to the actual content and info. Nice idea, poor implementation. Until it is 100% rock solid – leave it off the menu as it adds more headaches than value to the customer.
Mother Nature took kindly to KFWE in NYC and LA (well mostly)
A quick footnote here, before we dive into the highly contested and dispassionate discussion around which KFWE is the best KFWE, we need to thank the good mother! Mother nature really threw us a pair of bones this year! Yes, I know that flying from NYC to LA was a bit torturous for some, and yes, I missed my upgrade by one, but come on, it was that or we get 0-degree weather and KFWE NYC would have looked more like a Flatbush Shtiebel during the summer, AKA empty!
The weather in L.A. was just divine! Clear skies, 70+ degrees, the only issue I had was that this was all inside. The Petersen of old would have hosted the trade and VIP on the massive rooftop deck, sunshine, and clear skies, I know there were issues with it, but I think that is where the KFWE L.A. needs to return. NYC’s weather was a warm 40 degrees and for February in NYC I will take that all day! It made going between Pier 60 (General Admission) and the VIP much more comfortable.
Venue (Pier 60 versus Hollywood Palladium)
The NYC KFWE was once again housed in Pier 60, while the VIP room was once again in the Current, Pier 60’s newest event space located next door near Pier 59 at Chelsea Piers. The walk over there was fine as the weather was quite acceptable for February.
The main two issues I had with KFWE NYC were a lacking of seating and a lack of a trade tasting. I find that at public tastings like KFWE, I can never get any real notes down. Further, the lack of a trade does not let us folks get a feel for what is being poured, overall. Still, trade is not what NYC is about and I get that.
KFWE LA had ample seating in both General Admission (GA) and VIP, and they had a trade tasting that allowed me to taste the Herzog wines, and a few others, in a professional manner.
Now, let us get to space, NYC GA had ample space because they had pourers that were well-trained, quick, and precise. They moved the tasters as well, via verbal queues, such that the folks behind those at the table were served quickly. Overall, it was the best showing at a KFWE in a long time. The professionalism showed by these pourers was top-notch.Read the rest of this entry
A tasting of Taieb JP Marchand Burgundies, a massive Domaine Roses Camille vertical, two Taieb Bordeaux verticals, and more!
I am sorry for the long title, I really could not succinctly summarize the tasting I had last week with Neal and Andrew Breskin in not-so-sunny San Diego. Neal and I flew in from different parts of the country on a no so warm Monday morning, I picked up Neal at the airport, and we made our way to Andrew Breskin’s home, the proprietor and founder of Liquid Kosher.
I had been bugging Andrew that it was time to meet again for a tasting of the new 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies. I had tasted them with Avi Davidowitz in Paris, but as I said in that post, I was hoping to taste them again with the opportunity to see if they evolve with a bit of time, after opening. While I liked them in Paris, I was wondering if they would evolve with a bit more time. As stated in that post, we both flew home the next day and we did not have the chance to see them evolve over a day or so.
Thankfully, my calendar worked out, and we arrived on the day of Rosh Chodesh Shevat. The morning started with me picking up some breakfast at this lovely, but expensive bakery in La Jolla called Parisien Gourmandises. Before I continue with the story, please visit this place, when/if you are in the San Diego area. I do not like to say I am a picky eater, however, my opinions of food/food establishments, when traveling can be a bit coarse. I have recently been in Florida and Paris for different wine tastings and this bakery had better croissants and flaky dough pastries than either the bakeries in Paris or the wonderful bakery in Fort Lauderdale called Moran Patisserie Bakery. The people, food, and overall ambiance are really impressive, and aside from the actual location (a small room inside a potpourri store – you have to be there to understand), the food is worth the price of admission. Now on to the rest of the story!
I then picked up Neal at the airport, as stated above, and 20 minutes later we were ensconced under the shade of lemon trees and tasting wonderful wines.
The schedule was open-ended and after a lovely cup of coffee and Parisien Gourmandises pastries, we were ready to settle down for a day of wine tasting.
We started the tasting with two Champagne, one of them was simple enough and lacking in bubbles while the other one was nice and very accessible. The first one was N.V. Louis de Vignezac, Cuvee Special, Brut and the second was N.V. Champagne Charles de Ponthieu.
After those two aperitifs, it was time for some Burgundy! We started with the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault followed by the 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault. Having the opportunity to taste the two of them side-by-side was quite a treat! I had not tasted the 2019 Meursault in 2 years. I had it with Andrew and Gabriel Geller later in 2021 as well, but I have less of a memory of that time.
We then started in on all of the 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand red Burgundies and they were an exact match to the wines I had in Paris in late November 2022. They are all lovely wines with a floral approach. Even the 2017 and 2019 Gevrey Chambertin that we had later that night followed that approach. The Gevrey has more weight but overall their approach is more for the ethereal Pinot Noir than the full-bodied one.
Once we had tasted the Pinot Noir we had the opportunity to taste some soon-to-be-released Domaine Roses Camille wines, including 2016, 2017, and 2018 vintages. To be fair, I am never a fan, interested in tasting unreleased wines as they may change before being bottled. Thankfully, the 2016 and 2017 vintages are already bottled, while 2018 was a tank sample.
All the Domaine Roses Camille wines were exceptional but as I stated before I wanted the opportunity to taste them again the following day. So after our initial tasting of the wines, Andrew got some plastic Ziplock bags and bagged me some 30 ml of each wine and labeled each bag to boot! This assured me two things, I will have wine to taste the next day, as the wines were open for the dinner that was fast approaching, and I knew what each wine was, the following day!
The bags worked like a charm, Andrew placed them in a box and moved them to the garage where they stayed until the following morning – bravo my man!
Dinner – AKA SoCal RCC Jan 2023
After all the wines were tasted and bagged it was time to focus on dinner. Andrew had already started on the beautiful ribs and was getting the rib roast prepared. It was about that time that I looked at the rib fat/sauce and I started skimming off the obvious fat and then worked on cooking it down a bit and thickening it with some simple starch slurry.
After that, Andrew started cooking some nice Gnocchi and then pan-seared them. I helped a bit with this and the potatoes. I laugh because there is this Italian chef who lives in Australia (Vincenzo Prosperi of Vincenzos Plate) that loves to rant about other chefs who do things that are not exactly Italian! LOL, he tore apart some chefs for doing this very thing, but honestly, I found them very enjoyable!
Soon after Neal and I finished helping here and there the guests started to arrive. The first was Elan Adivi, who works with Jeff’s Sausage and he came armed with a basket full of sausage, charcuterie, and rectangle pie crusts. He made some pretty good pizzas and he topped them with the only green things that graced any of our plates, some arugula, though to be honest, no one went hungry that night!
The evening started with some lovely sushi and the Champagnes we tasted earlier along with some 2019 La Chablisienne, which was a nice enough Mevushal Chablis.
After the Sushi, it was red meat and wine all the way, which is the only way an RCC should be! The Ribs and the Rib Roast were just awesome, and my sauce reduction was not bad either! The Pizzas turned out quite nicely, as well. There was also some very interesting beef jerky, but I did not catch where they were sourced from, I think Andrew had them flown in from Holy Jerky in Five Towns, the stuff was solid!
First I tried the Burgundies again, as well I wanted to see if they had evolved over a few hours, but nothing had changed much. Next, I enjoyed tasting the three Gevrey Chambertin from Jean-Philippe Marchand. Much like the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault I had not tasted the 2017 or 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey Chambertin for many a year.
Of the three, at their current place, I would still go for the new 2021 Gevrey, which is quite surprising to me but also makes me happy to see that there were some good wines from the 2021 vintage.
I then tasted the two mini-verticals of Chateau Castelbruck, Margaux, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere. We had 2018, 2019, and 2020 vintages of the Chateau Castelbruck, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere. The two wine verticals had not evolved very far from what I had over the past three years. Some wines evolve over a short period, and while these did change slightly from previous tastings, the evolution was more about which fruit emerged ahead of another rather than moving into a drinking window or showing tertiary notes.
Domaine Roses Camille Vertical
Unlike the smaller Chateau Castelbruck, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere verticals the Domaine Roses Camille was larger and therefore one that showed a more obvious effect in the years past.
Each of 2011, 2012, and 2014 vintages had clearly evolved with the 2011 vintage almost entering a drinking window. The younger wine (2015) followed the same script as the Taieb Bordeaux and did not change much, if anything, at this point. The even younger wines were all new to me so they may have evolved since being bottled but I would not know.
It was great getting to taste these wines all side by side and seeing the impact of a season on the same vineyard. AKA, Horizontal tasting 101!
After the DRC work, I tried the famous 1997 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux, it had clearly passed its prime but it was nice enough indeed! If you have any still, drink NOW!! I also tried some Montelobos Mezcal Pechuga – it was smoked with kosher Turkey Breast!!! LOL!! Yeah, it was fun! There were some 1999 and 2001 Chateau Guiraud passed around but I missed them and that is fine, I know them well.
It was great hanging out with Shimon Weiss from Shirah Winery and Alex Rubin (a winemaker helping the guys), and I first met Alex on my way to Josh’s wedding in the plane jetway! Life is such a small world! If any of this sounds familiar, in some manner, you have a great memory! Indeed, in August of 2012 found me, along with the aforementioned Shimon Weiss, and Jonathan Hajdu with the same awesome hosts getting together for an awesome event! It was a lunch to truly remember!
Noon, the next day, I crashed at Andrew’s place, once again, and I tasted through the Burgundies from the plastic bags some had indeed evolved and improved, but none took a step backward.
Once I was done tasting through the wines I bid my adieu and made my way to the airport! The sad fact is that if you have no status you get what you pay for! I was done a few hours before my flight home, but I flew down using Southwest and I have no status with them, so changing a ticket the day of, would have cost me an arm and leg, so I sat in the terminal and waited for my plane. Of course, the plane was eventually delayed, but my plane was so empty they had to distribute us across the plane – so yeah, I was fine! It is all about perspective – right?
My thanks to Andrew and Shauna Breskin for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and everyone else who crashed their home for more than 24 hours! Also, I used many of Andrew’s lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!! The notes speak for themselves.
The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
N.V. Louis de Vignezac Cuvee Special, Brut, Champagne – Score: 89 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is very yeasty, with baked goods, lemon/lime, and green apple. The mouth o this medium-bodied wine is ok but uni-dimensional, with nice minerals, green/yellow apple, and lime, but not much more than the acid and the fruit to grab you. The mousse is ok, not bracing and not attacking, but the acidity is great. The finish is long, and tart, with pear, apple, and lime. Drink now. (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
N.V. Champagne Charles de Ponthieu, Champagne – Score: 91 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is screaming with bright fruit, rich minerality, slate, rock, baked goods, pear, and apple. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fresh, with great fruit focus, a lovely small bubble mousse, pear, apple, lime, baked apple pie, and lovely yeast, with floral notes. The finish is long, fruity, balanced, tart, lovely, refreshing, and focused. Nice! Drink now! (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
2019 La Chablisienne Chablis, Cuvee Casher, Chablis (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is nice enough with nice minerality, smoke, and saline, pear, and apple. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ok, a bit cooked, funky, and fruity, with apple, pear, and lemon/lime. The finish is long, cooked, and flinty, nice! Drink UP! (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
Four Gates Winery’s January 2023 new releases
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz 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 the care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.
I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines which 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.
One new wine
This year we have the return of Petit Verdot is from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2019, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. There is a new Cabernet Franc, all the way from Santa Barbara County, not a location I normally associate with Cabernet Franc, but it is a REAL WINNER, in all ways!
That ends the list of wines I call – not Four Gates wines. I state this because the Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is also not from the Four Gates vineyard, but for all intent and purpose, of what I care about, the quality is as good or better than the Four Gates vineyard and it has proven itself as such for more than a decade!
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, though this year’s crop feels riper than the 2017s, still, the Cabernet and Merlot are incredibly beautiful wines. There are two Chardonnay and they are both sold under the Four Gates label, there is no Ayala this year. Next, you have the 2019 Pinot Noir, a bit riper than I like it but a solid wine. Then you have the 2018 Merlot and the 2018 Merlot, La Rochelle, both are beautiful wines! The true star of this release is the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, a shockingly ripe but true wine, the fruit is clean, expressive, and true to its nature, a lovely and very unique wine. Finally, there is the 2018 Frère Robaire, which while nice, is a step back from what I expect from a Frère Robaire.
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 about 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 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 you beg for lower prices.
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.
This year, the prices reached their highest Zenith, and it took some 30 minutes to fully sell out. The lower-priced wines sold out in the usual 8 or so minutes while the Cabernet and Merlot and Frère Robaire were the last to go. Still, the crazy prices people paid for the Auction wines that just finished selling this past Sunday show the intense demand for Four Gates wines.
My thanks to Michel and Sima Rynderman for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and Benyo crashing their home and keeping them both up far later than we should have!! Also, Michel’s awesome Apple phone was used to take lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!!
The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy the Malbec in case anyone is asking. The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Rishon, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a very unique wine from Four Gates. This is a Chardonnay that was picked early, hence the “Cuvee Rishon” name. It is very different than previous vintages – very cool! The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich gooseberry, guava, melon, and Asian Pear, very fun, with rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is not in line with the nose, with a lovely mouthfeel, great acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, nectarines, green/yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices, and more saline. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 91.5 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich guava, melon, Asian Pear, honeydew, rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is more in line with the nose, with a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Cuvee Rishon, nice acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, lemon/pomelo, yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2020 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is what Petit Verdot should smell and taste like, clean lines, not over the top, and well-balanced. The nose of this wine is lovely, with bright fruit, smoke, herbs, lovely baking spices, roasted animal, soy sauce, lovely violet, rosehip, and nice black, red, and blue fruit. Nice! The mouth of this medium to full-bodied wine is layered, and lovely, with ripe boysenberry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, and ripe plum, all wrapped in sweet tannin, cedar, smoke, and intense acid, well balanced, with gripping tannin, and nice fruit focus. Bravo! The finish is long, bright, tart, ripe, and balanced, with more smoke, leather, roasted meat, and great fruit. Drink until 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2020 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is too ripe for me but this will hit the spot for those that like this style. The nose of this wine changes quickly and turns very fruity, too ripe, with zinberry, ripe blackcurrant, leather, meat, smoke, tar, and over-the-top fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is too ripe for me, almost fig-like, with dried fig, blackcurrant, smoke, dried plum, and mouth-draping tannin with nice sweet oak. The finish is long, ripe, over-the-top, and smoky. Drink by 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15.2%)
2020 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is sourced from Santa Barbara County and it shows. The nose of this wine starts with nice bell pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, gravel, hints of jalapeno, and nice red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied-plus is ripe, with nice ripe strawberry, raspberry, plum, and hints of elderberry, with a bit too much green notes, nice acidity, good fruit focus, nice acidity, refreshing, with good mouth-draping tannin, and some elegance, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, and fruity, with good acidity, nice leather, vanilla, and good red/blue fruit. Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)