Author Archives: winemusings
When I first saw Kishor Winery in 2014 and Sommelier, I loved their whites, but what one really remembers the second you say Kishor Winery must be its winemaker; Richard Davies – a gregarious man with a smile that matches his easy-going South African accent. Davies was there when the vines went down, in 2010, three years before he came to Kishor.
But I am getting ahead of myself, before we get to the winery let’s talk about Kishorit! As their website says:
Kibbutz Kishor was founded by the Shomer Hatza’ir youth movement in the late 1970s. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to settle the isolated, rocky mountain-ridge, the kibbutz was abandoned. In 1997, after lengthy negotiations with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Kibbutz movement, Kishorit was founded on the land of the former Kibbutz Kishor.
Today, Kibbutz Kishor is experiencing a complete revival as nearly 80 mainstream kibbutz members have begun to build their homes alongside the Kishorit members. The members of the rejuvenated Kibbutz Kishor and the members of Kishorit will enjoy a fully integrated community, with private residential areas and shared public spaces, celebrations, work, social activities and communal life. Kishor and Kishorit are championing a revolutionary model of rehabilitation and inclusion of people with special needs into the community.
The idea for the integrated community stems from the holistic vision of Kishorit’s founders. We believe in a supportive, integrated community that provides for the separate, individual and unique needs of each group, but encourages inclusion wherever and whenever it is possible and beneficial.
I drove to the winery to meet Davies and his marketing agent – Yair Una. I can personally say that the kibbutz is quite lovely, with tree-lined lanes and idyllic homes surrounded by large swaths of open expanses and parks. Davies arrived in 2007 and went to work in the orchards, but when the UJA came knocking and promised to fund an agricultural expansion – they jumped all over it. The vines went in two phases, 2007 and 2010. The first planting in 2007 was Bordeaux grapes, but in 2010 they expanded to include Rhone varietals that make up much of the winners in the past few years. Throughout it all Davies has been part of the winery, and when it was time to make wine – he took over as winemaker, while continuing to manage the vines.
Still, the man is smart enough to ask for good council, and thankfully that is readily available in Israel now – wine consultants that have been helping many a winery. In this case, the consultant Davies uses is one of the country’s best; Itay Lahat. He also helps at Gush Etzion where they are making great white wines, and Tura Winery to name a few. The whites at Gush Etzion and at Kishor show the deft hand of Lahat, where bright fruit and pith are a common adjectives to their wines. Read the rest of this entry
Rose wine in the non kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well that is simple – no one will drink it!!
Still, Gary Wartels of Skyview Wines told me recently that there is an uptick in interest, especially in the newly released Vitkin Rose 2015. I need to get back to that wine and other shmita wines, but first we need to talk about what Rose is and why the current craze in the non kosher market is just an uptick in the kosher.
Well simply said, rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and out comes clear to green colored juice. Yes, white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.
White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay of course is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such they are sold with different hues from the start. With age – the wine patenas even more and the gold moves to auburn.
The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellow-ish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).
Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.
The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color are the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red, are long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature.
Rose wines are the in between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.
Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.
This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.
The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins also leach are – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!
Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed, because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the saignee process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being used solely for making rose. Read the rest of this entry
Well I am back from Israel again, this trip was all about Passover and not wine trips. It was beautiful in Jerusalem for Passover, other than two scorching hot days. Other than them, the days were temperate, and really quite enjoyable.
Food wise, my in-laws did most of the cooking, but for me, it was cheese and matzah for almost every meal, along with lunches on Yom Tov. Dinners were meatballs, brisket, and fish (not in that order).
Overall, the wines were fantastic in the second round of options – better than the first round which included a dud. Sadly, the wines I enjoyed are not available here in the SUA yet – and may not even get here. Many of them are Royal’s and they are not embracing the white/rose wine revolution that is taking over Israel as much as I would have hoped. Which means I will need to hand import a few more of these beauties.
A special thanks to SB and DF for hosting us for a dinner. We brought over the two rose and we enjoyed them along with some great food and two lovely wines, which I sadly have no notes for. One was the 2011 Tzora Misty Hills – a great wine for sure. The other was the 2010 Recanati Cabernet Franc Reserve. The wine is still kicking nicely and has another year or two left in the tank.
We did not get to the 2014 Matar Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon wine – I had it at the winery and will post it here – but I did not taste it over Passover.
So, without further ado – here are the wine notes:
Well – the wines keep coming and as you saw on my Passover wine post – there were many 2015 and 2014 options from Terrenal on the list. I have been posting about Terrenal wines for a long time now. Mostly because they are solid wines at a reasonable price (AKA QPR) and they prove that you can make solid kosher wines under 10 dollars.
Sure, they come from countries where labor and land are far more reasonably priced, but who cares?? Herzog has proven that you can create really impressive wines in CALIFORNIA for less than 10 bucks!
In the end, the more options we have for less than 10 or 15 dollars the more hope we have of really creating wines that the world loves – that happen to be kosher!
Well, the new Terrenal wines are in, at your local area Trader Joe stores. They are the 2015 Terrenal Malbec from Argentina, the 2015 Terrenal Tempranillo from Yecla Spain, and the 2015 Terrenal Seleccionado. Sadly, the name has not changed to reserve – which we would all understand and find easier. Though, KUDOS to the TJ folks, they have already learnt the names and know their products, so even if you cannot spell it or pronounce it – they will find it for you and happily sell it – if it is in stock!
Talking about in stock – the 2014 Terrenal Chardonnay from Chile is sold out and the 2015 has yet to reach the stores. The wine is on the boats, but there is no clear ETA yet. The hope is that it comes soon! The 2014 was on my QPR list and I hope the 2015 will be there as well!
The Banero also seems to be out of stock here on the west coast – though I am not sure what the stock is like elsewhere.
So, without further ado – here are the new wines and the notes!
2015 Terrenal Seleccionado – Score: A- (QPR) (not mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell (AKA Mourvedre). It turns out that Monastrell is quite a successful grape in Spain, actually Monastrell is the 5th most popular varietal in Spain in terms of acreage planted.
This is the second vintage of this highly successful and wonderful QPR wine. The previous vintage was starting to show its heat, but this vintage has yet to show any heat – so far. The nose on this lovely wine shows rich and dense earth, along with loam, followed by black fruit, roasted herb, and red forest berry. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is plush and rich, with nice mouth coating tannin, toasty notes, lovely acid, blackberry, more rich earth, lovely graphite, plum, mineral, and green notes, all wrapped in a cocoon of searing but plush tannin. The finish is long and dark, with nice espresso beans, dark cherry, intensely roasted herb, menthol, and great black pepper. BRAVO!!
2015 Terrenal Tempranillo Yecla – Score: B+ to A-
The 2015 Cab from Yecla is a great PQR and the Tempranillo is not far behind with a lovely QPR non mevushal wine. It improves on the 2014 vintage.
While this wine does hail from Spain, it is not a Rioja by place or style. It is far more blue and earthy than black/red and dusty. The nose on this wine is vibrant with black cherry, strawberry, blue fruit, and earthy aromas. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a nice wine indeed, with great acid and tannin, showing spicy fruit, blackberry, ripe boysenberry, nice round and appealing and capable of handling many a food. The finish is spicy and long with nice spice, along with a dollop of vanilla, great root beer, and more spiced blue fruit. Nice!!
2015 Terrenal Malbec I.P. Mendoza – Score: B
Sadly, this wine returns to its far too floral roots and while the wine is nice, the rose hips that dominate the nose and body are not for me.
The nose is a flower bed, with nice red fruit, earth, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with soft mouth coating tannin, with hints of cooked fruit, but overall the floral and cherry and cranberry dominate. The finish is long and spicy, with great cloves and black pepper
Well, if you can believe it, the first days of passover are over and we have been enjoying lots of wines. The best part of the first days was that they were all enjoyed with family – which is the best way to enjoy the Holidays!
I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly great – except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it is not one I will buy more of. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were a huge hit.
We enjoyed matzah ball soup, brisket (yes an obvious choice), and potato kugel for the two evenings. For the lunches we went with simple cheese and matzah! What a joy it is – I look forward to eating hand shmura matzah with cheese every year!
The wines were lovely, starting with two rose wines that are available in Israel; the 2015 Carmel 2 Vats and the 2015 Tabor Rose. The 2015 Tabor rose is only a slight step behind the 2014, and that is saying a lot for the shmita year of 2015, which was not a home run for many wineries. That said, the 2015 whites and rose are showing well, which to me solidifies what I have heard and seen so far – which is that wines whose fruit were picked early, before the heat waves and the sand storms had a fine year, but they are still not equal to the epic 2014 vintage.
Following those two lovely wines was the letdown wine – the 2012 Tabor Merlot, Adama. Tabor is clearly the QPR winner in Israel with Recanati, Netofa, and Dalton. Sadly, this vintage was pushed with a 14.4% alcohol, which is high for Tabor’s Merlot. It is too ripe for me, no there are no dates, but the wine lacks in its previous perfect balance and earthiness. The next wine we had was the epic 2013 Domaine du Netofa Latour red. The wine was perfect for the 4 cups, as the wine is low in alcohol and big in flavor! Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend my friends came over and we enjoyed some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon together, five were mine and two were brought by the guests. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.
Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well-known and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, was dominated by Yarden in the past, but since 2008, they have lost their way and as I have stated before, this is not by accident – this is on purpose. Personally, I was irate when tasting two of Yarden’s masterpieces – the 2001 and 2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom. They were so impressive and of course they were two of the best vintages and Shmita wines as well, but since the 2008 vintage they have purposely turned their great fruit into pure date juice! I am so saddened by their actions, but my only option now is to look elsewhere and so I have with Flam Winery, Adir Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, Tabor Winery Limited Edition, French wines, and California wines. The French and Castel are not producing pure Cabernet Sauvignon wines, but that is OK! They are wines which have a majority of Cabernet and are of the ilk of the left bank wines of France – which are classically Cabernet based wines. Just looking at California Wineries, I would be hard pressed to not find everything I am looking for in a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Covenant Winery has been crushing it for the past 11 years when it comes to their epic Cabernet Sauvignon, and do not forget their Lot 70 Cabernet Sauvignon – which started in 2008 and has been getting better and better each year!
Herzog Winery has also been killing it in terms of Cabernet Sauvignon – involving a huge range of options. Starting at their incredibly well priced and QPR Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, which has really been showing great potential from 2012 and on. The next price range is the Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet that is really nice, and one that we had this shabbos. It started off slow, but with time, it filled out and was quite nice. After that there are the new range of Variations that are both very nice and well – thought provoking, which is exactly what Herzog is looking for. After them there is the ever consistent and reliable Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve from Alexander Valley. This wine is rarely off kilter and the 2013 is so on that it is very impressive. From there the prices start to rise and there is a large selection of options. There is the very consistent and impressive Chalk Hill Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there is the never miss and beyond consistent Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon starring from the INSANE 2006 Tokalon masterpiece. Since then they have been hitting home run after home run, a truly impressive run given that each and every year – the vineyard is different! The Clone 6 have been hit or miss, but always enjoyable none the less. Finally, there have been the very special and unique Herzog XII line, which started with 2007 barrels aged for 6 years and then with a follow on 2010 vintage.
To be fair, I forgot about the B.R. Cohn wines from 2008, 2011, and 2013 in my last California wine post, but they do make OK wines. Sadly, the price is just too high for the wine quality. Read the rest of this entry
As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone – with the last one having happened in NY, at the City Winery. The event showcased many great wines, and was a very good event! The Jewish Week and their kosher wine list for Passover is nice, but you will not find many of them on this list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is a of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.
So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. 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 over ripe, 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 2010 Yarden Brut Rose, another smash sparkling wine, that happens to be one of the best wines I tasted at sommelier. At the same time the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines, are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is 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 happened 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, Gotham, and all the other wine stores I have listed on the right hand side (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 24 dollar Capcanes Peraj petita, or the Herenza Crianza, or the Tabor Merlot, Adama, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that 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, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollar and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines, but you can be always look at the blog and if a wine you want is not on the list, by my omission, but scored an A- or higher, it was probably a good bet to have been on this list.
Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far too hard for me. I rather decide to drink simple wines like the Tabor Via bubbly red, non mevushal wine. It is simple to chug, tasty, and perfectly fulfills the custom. For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace.
A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is far longer, for a few reasons. One, I was far more careful and I tried to include all wines I tasted that were A- or maybe a drop below, AKA 90 point wines. Also, I have gotten to taste more wines as every year passes. Still, I am sure I missed a few. When I taste them – I will post them! Finally, there are more better wines this year. Many from Israel but France has finally stepped up with new vintages, along with Spain killing it as always, whites from Israel, and Cali really showing strong this year as well. I want to stress those lines again – this year is one of the best years for kosher wine – maybe the best. Why? Because more kosher wine is being made than ever before, and the wines are improving. Thankfully, new wineries like Kishor, Shiran, and others are popping up in Israel and are finally toeing the line! Recanati is fully inline now, and Dalton is also toeing the line with their higher end wines and their new lower end wines. What can I say, Israel has always been the white and sparkling wine mecca, but now some smaller and more concerned wineries are moving the needle on reds as well. Enough said on this – just keep looking for good news as I get to actually blog about this good news – notes and story wise. Till then, just follow the list! Read the rest of this entry
If you have never heard of Shmita – I doubt you live in Israel. Last year, like many past Shmita years, was very complex for haredi Jews in Israel, as they were not allowed to consume fruits from Israel. Every 7 years, the land needs to lie fallow, and in doing so farmers are without income for the year. The Torah describes that when the Jews are following the laws and abiding by his commands, God will give double or more in the 6th year for the 7th year and the 8th – till food is once again harvested.
Nowadays, that promise is not working, so what happens to the farmers that still want to leave their land fallow? Well, the Israeli government supported some, while other organizations from around the world collected funds to support these courageous farmers. Once such organization; Keren Hashviis, collected some 22+ million dollars. According to this article from vosizneias, Keren Hashviis said that in total 33,000 hectares of land, or 81,500 acres, were left fallow this shmita year, and some 3,500 farmers ceased their work. However, according to the ministries of Agriculture and Religious Services, approximately 200 farms totally ceased agricultural work during the shmita year, or made use of another alternative, while 4,656 farms signed up to the heter mechira system. The article goes on to explain the discrepancy – but what is very clear to me is that this past year was one of the more concerted efforts by Israel and its religious Haredi Jews to move Israel towards truly leaving its lands fallow.
In terms of kosher wineries, there were not many that followed the Shmita concept to its fullest. Interestingly, Vitkin Winery chose 2015 to turn kosher – now that is not an easy plan to work out, though to Vitkin, like many wineries in Israel nothing changed for them by going kosher, and whomever was buying their wines before would not know or care that they were now kosher! Read the rest of this entry
In case anyone has read this blog for the past month, I have trumpeted the upcoming KFWE events in both NYC and LA. The NYC event went off without a hitch, a truly improved version over the past few years, and I had much hope for the LA event, as last year – it was the star of the shows.
Last year – David Whittemore, Marketing Director at Herzog Wine Cellars, and Joseph Herzog, CEO of Herzog Winery made the leap from the Hyatt Regency to the swanky Hollywood W – and by doing so they raised the stakes and added the VIP, the best overall VIP I have been to so far, food and wine wise anyway! But that was so 2015! In 2016, they had to double down – and they went with the newly rebuilt and classic/classy Los Angeles experience – the Petersen Automobile Museum!
The Petersen, as it is known around LA, has just completed a $125 million restoration and expansion of its building, and if you look at it from outside, all I can think of is a classic chrome car with blazing red tail lights – which is all you see from the speed demon, as it leaves you in its dust! The upper deck (AKA Penthouse), is where the VIP session was this year, and where the trade session was earlier in the day. The overhead aluminum red streaks that crown this massive beauty, instill in me an idea of a red streaking roller-coaster, but beyond that – I can only stand in awe of the madness and sheer beauty that it bestows upon this chrome Hollywood stalwart.
The streaks are chrome on the outside and red on the inside, mimicking the colors of some of the chrome wheeled beauties that lie within. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we had the distinct pleasure and honor of hosting Yaacov Oryah and friends for meals at our house. It was great to finally return the favor to YC and his lovely wife, from the epic dinner he threw for me, my wife, and my brother, two years ago. Anyone who has read this blog knows who Yaacov Oryah is – he was the winemaker of Asif Winery, which turned into Midbar Winery, and is now the new winemaker at Psagot Winery.
It was a true joy spending a shabbat with one of Israel’s answers to date juice. Yaacov Oryah, may well be the new winemaker at Psagot Winery, but he is also the winemaker for his winery – Yaacov Oryah Winery. Remember, Oryah was the winemaker and partner of Asif Winery – but when that did not work out he still had his vineyards and he still needed a place to make wines. Oryah is like Tabor Winery , Netofa Winery, Recanati Winery, Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, Domaine du Castel, Matar, Tura, Adir Winery, and others – Israeli wineries who pick early and understand balance is more important than imperfect wines that have perfect phenolic qualities.
Sadly, the list may not be long, but they are the answer to Israel’s overripe red wine problem. They are proof that it can be done, even at millions bottles! I hope others will follow. From what I saw on my latest trip to Israel, change is afoot, especially at the smaller producers.
Yaacov Oryah Winery
In 2011 Mr Oryah, was faced with a problem, Asif was essentially gone, Midbar had yet to come to life, and so the grapes needed a home – hence was the creation of Yaacov Oryah – private winery and winemaker! It is the age-old story – Necessity is the mother of all invention! The grapes had a need and Oryah was the answer. What was created was a lovely pair of Rioja style wines – with Tempranillo being the major component. Read the rest of this entry