Category Archives: Food and drink
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in May, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa of Sieva/Bokobsa Wines. They were so kind to host me and let me taste the lovely wines. I was also joined by Mr. Benjamin Kukurudz, sales manager at Sieva, sadly Mendy Asseraf was onsite at a winery that day. Also, for some reason, I forgot to take pictures, but thankfully, Clarisse did.
So, like my trip last year, I kept in my hotel room for much of the trip. Clarisse was so friendly to set up the tasting so on a bright summer-like morning, I made my way to the Sieva offices, just outside of Paris. Sadly, Alexandre did not join me on this tasting, nor would we meet up again until Friday of that week. Thankfully, he had time on Friday and tasted most of the wines I bought – more on that in posts to come.
Late last year, I enjoyed some lovely wines at the offices, and that was in the throws of the COVID madness. Thankfully, this year both Royal and Bokobosa brought back their events, in June 2022. From the images, I see on my Facebook feed, it looked nice. Mabruk and Mazel Tov guys! Sadly, I knew I was not going to be able to come back in June, so Clarisse and her family were so nice to let me crash in May.
The pricing of these wines is mostly cheaper in France than they are here in the USA, as such, some of the wines have better QPR scores in France. Also, many of these wines will not come to the USA, but overall I continue to be impressed by the quality of the wines and how Bokobsa’s selection and quality have grown from year to year.
In regards to the wines tasted, the two sparkling wines, a Vouvray and the Champagne Demoiselle Vranken were both very nice. The 2019 Chateau Cantelaudette, Cuvee Prestige showed better this time.
My thanks to Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa and the rest of the Sieva/Bokobsa team for hosting me and letting us taste the wonderful wines. 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 Selection Bokobsa Chardonnay, Vin de France (M) – Score: 89.5 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a simple but very nice quaff, a wine that shows well and is easy to enjoy while also refreshing. The nose of this wine is a bit stunted but shows well with green apple, pear, herb, and flint. The mouth of this wine is nice, simple, but a nice quaff, with good acidity, flint, a nice mouthfeel, with pear, green apple, citrus, and herb. The finish is long, green, enjoyable, and refreshing, with flint, and nice minerality. Nice! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2019 Domaine Patrice Bailly Pouilly Fume, La Fontaine des Plumes, Pouilly-Fume – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this lovely Pouilly Fume is ripe and well balanced with smoke, flint, blossom, citrus, minerality, rock, lime, and lemon Fraiche, with lovely herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, tart, and refreshing, with lemon/lime, pomelo, citrus, green apple, quince, hay, smoke, and straw, showing a lovely mouthfeel, precision, and quite nice. The finish is long, green, and mineral-based, with flint, herb, and great fruit and mineral focus, lovely! Drink by 2023. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13.5%)
Well, this is getting up later than I wished, but that is life. Life, shul, and so much more, got in the way. All good, just wine, and my blog had to be put on the back-burner for a bit. Thankfully, I am ready to post more often now.
So, we return to the story, I landed in Paris, bought lots of wines, and had even more wines shipped to my hotel, and other hotels as well! Long story, not for the blog. Was hilarious walking into a hotel and asking for a package from the concierge while he realizes you are not a guest – think of them as a local Post Office!!
But let us start with the roses and whites I enjoyed in the company of Menahem Israelievitch. These wines are almost all here, except for the three Burgundies that will get here eventually. My guess is that just like all shipping around the world is waiting on boats, or containers, at least they are getting what does arrive here off the boats quickly now.
At the tasting, we enjoyed many lovely wines, and you can read the notes below, I want to point out a few thoughts on them.
- The non-Mevushal versions of the roses I have had so far from Royal are much better. Mevushal does not work well for roses, at least from how Royal Europe is doing it.
- The 2021 vintage is OK, at least for non-mevushal roses, better than previous vintages, other than the original Roubine release.
- Royal has come back with some high-end Pinot Noir from Burgundy and they are showing well now but will improve with time for sure.
- As I explained in my previous post, the timing of my visit, along with supply chain issues meant that I was not able to taste all the wines that will be available soon from Royal. We are missing the oak-influenced, higher-end Chateau Roubine Inspire and Lion & Dragon wines. Along with all the 2021 white wines I missed. I hope to taste them when they come here to the USA.
In closing, all of these wines will get here eventually, other than the non-mevushal versions of the wines I have already posted here. I cannot say that for the vast majority of wines I will be posting over the next weeks. So many wines made in France either live and die in France and Europe, as a whole or are made JUST for Israel. This new phenomenon started with Shaked, and others have joined in. Either way, lots of French wine is not sold in France and lots of French wine never leaves the country – just the fascinating life of French wine. Most of it is made by very small producers or ones with horrible distribution, and as such, they are very difficult to find. Thankfully, as I stated all of these wines and a few of the Bokobsa wines, a post coming soon, should be available in the USA.
My thanks to Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for hosting me and letting us taste the wonderful wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here. The wine notes are in the order the wines were tasted:
2021 Chateau Roubine R De Roubine Rose, Provence (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is almost flat while the mouth is a bit expressive with good pith and fruit but again it is missing acidity. Raspberry, strawberry, and flint, with loads of pith and not much else, drink now! (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA & Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
As stated I was in Paris in May, and the first tasting I had on the trip was at the offices of Les Vin IDS. I know I said I was done with asides but this one is about wine. Remember that my QPR standard means Quality to Price Ratio! Well, the price fluctuates with currency. Most of us do not think about it but it does! We are all feeling it now with inflation but a very nice aside, at least if you are using US Dollars in Europe is that the US Dollar has almost reached parity with the Euro, and that made for a wonderful trip!
All my purchases were discounted by the Euro and that made the QPR scores a bit better but overall I stayed with either the Euro or the US dollar prices (AKA US prices). More on that below.
So, with that aside, let us get to the IDS tasting.
The tasting was a two-part wine event. The first part featured IDS wines while the second part featured wines that Ben Sitruk of Wine Symphony. This included wines from Ari Cohen’s new wine business Bakus, wines from Domaine Roses Camille, and some wines from Cantina Giuliano and the Toscana from Terra di Seta. This post will focus on the Le Vins IDS and the next post will follow up with the other wines.
Le Vin IDS Wines
As I stated in my Paris trip preamble post, the timing for the trip was not great. This year because of so many supply chain issues June or late June would have been better, but there was no way I was going to go to France at that time for so many reasons.
Even last year, in November 2021, the timing was nice but I missed tasting many of the IDS wines that had to wait until this trip, by maybe 1 month at most. Still, I enjoyed the tasting for many reasons as will become apparent quickly.
It turned out that Alexandre Kassel was going to be in Paris at the same time I was there so we had some shared tastings. This was one of them and it was great to hang with him. It had been far too long since I had hung out with Alexandre, mostly because of COVID and my not being in Israel for such a long time.
As soon as we entered the office we were graced with blind tasting bags on the bottles. I thought this is great! I love tasting wine blind, Alexander and I used to do that all the time when we tasted wines in Israel. So, it felt so correct to be doing it again. In the end, as you will see, there were two wines on the list that we were not expecting as we had them a few times so it helped to add some amount of doubt to what we “knew” when entering the room.
As is customary, I ask Ben to open the windows to air out the room, as soon as I enter, as the smell of tobacco ash is always insufferable. I understand France is one of the few advanced nations in the world where smoking is still a thing. I have never tolerated it, the smell makes me retch, so Ben is always so kind to air out the room before we begin tasting his wonderful wines.
Once that was done I took in the room and I realized the tasting was going to be blind, as the bottles were in bags and this brought a broad smile to my face. I love blind tastings. The two roses and two white wines were not tasted blind, I guess because there was not enough variation, but the reds were all going to be blind.
White and Roses
The first 4 wines we tasted were the current whites and roses from Les Vin IDS. These wines were not tasted blind. One of them is a favorite of mine, the 2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent – a lovely white Bordeaux which started a bit slow for me in 2019 but it has blossomed recently and I love it!
That was followed by the latest vintage of the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cru Classe. This is a wine made from Vermentino and I like it. Some find the oak a bit too much but it did not bother me as much. Next was the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Rose, Cru Classe, a lovely Rose, but like last year, a slight step behind the bigger brother, the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe. The 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe is the best rose I have tasted so far and it is lovely. Still, for the price, it is all a matter of QPR.
The next 5 wines were tasted blind and were tasted in the order they are found below. The entire list below is in the order the wines were tasted. As I will start to reveal slowly, I have changed how I take notes. Many have seen it but to keep it simple I use Google forms, which also has a spreadsheet behind it, which means my notes will be searchable, but more on that at a different time.
The point of me telling you all this is that I normally know the wines when I post them. This time, I named the wines based on the color of the bag. Later, at reveal time (thankfully no explosions), I updated the forms with the real names and the ABV and such. It also meant that the pictures were not great, my apologies, but they show what matters and in the end, that is all that matters.
Also, by the time the tasting was over it was very clear who had won the 2019 big red war, at least up until this point, more on that below. So, let us get to the tasting.
The first wine was the green bag and it was nice enough but nothing that blew me away. It did not show in a very special manner and I thought it was the Le Benjamin, but the 2019 Le Benjamin was not as good as this wine. I wrote the notes, but I never thought it was a Valendraud. It turned out this wine was the 2011 Virginie de Valendraud, which I did not remember ever tasting, but indeed I had it some five-plus years ago. The notes are not that far apart, I would drink this in the next few years.
The next wine was in the red bag and now things were looking up the wine was a clear step up, the fruitiness was calmer, and it was also clearly a younger wine, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was tasting. It turned out the wine was the 2019 L’Esprit de Chevalier. It is a blend 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. I do not remember anything else screaming out beyond what I wrote in the notes. It was a bit stunted in the nose and floral but otherwise, nice young wine with potential was my takeaway. This is yet another wine from the Pessac-Legonan region, we seem to be having a fair number of them in the kosher wine market. This is the 2nd wine from the famous Domaine de Chevalier.
The next wine was in the yellow/orange wine bottle and with one sniff things were looking up once again. Again, from the nose and taste, this was a step up but not a wine that rang any bell for me. It felt tart, bright, and elegant, but also dense and ripe, all at the same time. Quite a lovely experience, I hoped this was NOT the Smith Haut Lafitte while tasting this as it was a nice wine but not what I was expecting from the 2019 vintage of SHL. Sure enough, we were rewarded with the next wine to prove that it was not the Smith. Overall, the wine was lovely, and in France, this is very close to a WINNER (still a GREAT QPR score, but very close), while here in the USA, the pricing moves it too far out of the WINNER range. the wine is the 2019 Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux.Read the rest of this entry
I love the comments I get when I make posts like this. The comments commonly/mostly come from Parisians or ex-pats living elsewhere, telling me that the blog’s name is kosher WINE musings, not kosher travel musings!
So, with that disclaimer aside, yes, I was in Paris earlier this month and I thought I would lay down my thoughts here.
Travel from the USA
Memorial Day is around the corner and as such many of you will be traveling. I have been traveling strong this year for business and personal interests and so I thought I would add in some of my thoughts on domestic and international travel.
To start, I am a person who is the pure antithesis of Elk, well most of us are in so many ways, but in regards to travel, I am adamant to be at the airport at least 1+ hours before takeoff. If you remember June 2021’s post you can see why I am of that mindset.
The good news is that most countries now allow travel for the U.S./European/Canadian vaccinated, and even some without, as well, without prior testing. Still, I like to use this site – it is hosted by TravelDoc and is one of the best overall sites to help you understand your COVID requirements before traveling to a country. Ignore the Air France part, it does not matter what airline you use.
The airports I use, San Jose and San Francisco, for the most part, are calm. You can use Clear or TSA Pre to get around some lines. In Newark and Chicago, the lines were not great but again, Clear and TSA pre help.
Flights are packed, status almost means nothing, and unless you pay your way, I have yet to get any good upgrades. Of course, upgrades are always a YMMV concept, even during the slowest of times.
Finally, overall, flights are hit and miss, so please plan for failure! I mean it! Plan for flights getting canceled and leave room on your itinerary for the sad truth about today’s travel reality, AKA disaster. The hope is you will be fine and then you have more time to spend with friends and family.
Paris May 2022
If you remember my trials and tribulations during my trip to Paris more than a year ago, a few days after they opened their border to many of us from around the world. The rules before, during, and on my return to Paris were as fluid as an oil slick and just as messy. So, I was wondering what things would be like a year later. The flight to Paris required a mask even though it was a US carrier. The flight back did not. Either way, I wore mine most of the time as I got my bout of COVID from my return trip from Kilimanjaro, so I was all in on not repeating that feat.
When I arrived masks were not a requirement, even in my hotel, which was nice, though almost everyone wore one. The traffic on the roads is still a complete disaster, much like in June 2021 and November 2021. The metro was a true joy, they were rarely packed, except for one day and while Paris was full of tourists it felt quiet. The foot traffic was amble but open and if there is any one thing you should do while in Paris, it is walking! The city was built to walk, throw in the architectural beauty, and the ample kosher food options, and one has to wonder why it is not a location overrun with Jewish tourists?? I am not complaining. Of course, I do not like to visit Paris during its peak days, June or July. Anyone visiting Paris in August is a screaming idiot for so many reasons! The shoulders are when you visit Paris and I also would never visit during the off-time as it is bitterly cold and not my cup of tea.
During my time there, half the time was mask-on in the Metro and half the time was mask-off. I wore mine almost always but during the rather hotter days, it was nice to be able to take a break here and there, especially with all the windows open on the 6 line, which is old and not air-conditioned.
My wine tastings
OK, now to the wine, I hear you O! As always, my trips to Paris can never happen without the immense help I get from Ari Cohen, who now is in the “wine business”. More on that later!
My first tasting was with Le Vins IDS and Ben Sitruk from Wine Symphony. We tasted many wines and we did them blind which was quite fun. I will stop there and hope you read it when it posts. Ari’s wines were there along with some other Domaine Roses Camille wines!
Next, I once again tasted the latest from Taieb Wines with the gracious Yoni Taieb sending me the wines to my hotel room! Yoni and his family may not produce Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, like Les Vin IDS, or Chateau Pontet Canet like Royal Wines, but what I keep repeating over and over again is that they create one of the largest numbers of QPR WINNER wines for Europe and even the USA, some of the times. More on that in the post, but overall, the wines keep on hitting and that is what matters!
I had a tasting with Menachem Israelievitch from Royal Wines Europe where we tasted his new 2020 Burgundies and some of the 2021 roses. Sadly, with all the supply chain issues, labels, bottles, and corks, everything is delayed. So, the bottling of many wines did not happen yet. Also, some wines are still in the barrels, like the higher-end Chateau Roubine roses, Lion and Dragon. So, we will have to wait for those to come to the USA before I get a chance to taste them, unlike last year.
Finally, I tasted some 25 other wines and once again the majority of them were painful but I did find some QPR WINNER diamonds in the rough.
I did a get a few days to visit with my family and get a chance to see a bit of Paris as well! Now on to the wines!!!
I started tasting some of these wines in January and February of this year and at the start, some of them were nice to GREAT. Since then it has been downhill for almost all of the options. As you peruse this list you will see there is a SINGLE QPR WINNER, JUST ONE! That is worse than last year when we had two WINNER roses!
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses went into overdrive with options and thankfully this year it is slowing down! Some lovely roses are not on this list and while they will not be QPR WINNER they are quite nice. I will be posting those wines when I post my Paris wine tastings. Still, IMHO, who cares, as I have stated a few times, why are we looking at 35-dollar or more roses when we have better scoring whites!
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.
While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has risen a fair amount from last year, some are at 40 to 45 dollars – for a rose! So far, it is around 29 bucks – that is NUTS!
As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.
Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!
Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based on price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 29 dollars (that is 7 dollars more than last year – like I said crazy inflation) – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.Read the rest of this entry
A side note before we get to the QPR list. I just returned, B”H, from Paris and I know many are interested in my notes from the trip, along with all the roses that are NOT on this list. So, for full disclosure, I will be posting the rose list next and then I will be getting to the wines I enjoyed and suffered in Paris. The good news, there are lots of wonderful wines from the Paris tastings and many will be making their way here. Sadly, the rose list is not that interesting at all. Now on to the QPR list, which will catch me up to almost all the wines before my Paris trip, other than the roses.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been a few 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 garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
I had the fortune of going to Hagafen Wine Cellars with Neal and Elk and the 2018 and 2019 vintages continue to impress. The prices are a bit high but with the price of land and fruit in Napa Valley, the fires, the lack of water, and so much more, the price is what it is. Still, the two QPR winner wines were lovely as were the vast majority of all the wines we enjoyed.
I also had the chance to go to Marciano Estates Winery and the wines showed beautifully there as well. The same can be said about Marciano, in regards to the pricing, both at the price and the reasons for them, so read the notes and make up your minds.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
- 2018 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Napa Valley, CA
- 2020 Domaine du Castel Blanc du Castel, Judean Hills
- 2020 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas
- 2021 Baron Edmund de Rothschild Rimapere, Marlborough
- 2021 Matar Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Galilee
- 2021 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc, Judean Hills
- 2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, CA
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2018 Hagafen Syrah, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Malbec, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Carmel Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Single Vineyards, Galilee
- 2021 Dalton Chardonnay, Unoaked, Galilee
- 2020 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Chablis
- 2021 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee
- 2020 Matar Chardonnay, Galilee
- 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage, Vintage, Crozes Hermitage
- 2019 Koenig Riesling, Alsace
- 2019 Matar Stratus, Galilee
- 2021 Or Haganuz Blanc, Galille
Well folks it has been too long since my last post, Passover, life, lots of work, anyway, I have a lot of notes to post, so look for them to be coming very soon., For now, I need to post the lovely wines I received from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers. These are all Italian options and some of them can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while most of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ.
The simpler wines have a new label, gone is the Botteotto brand and now we have the wines under the original winery’s brands. A few of these wines are Mevushal and while I have my issues with the need for Mevushal in our lives today, it seemed to have little to no effect on the wines themselves.
Also, I finally had the chance to taste the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Franci, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino, for a second time. I had it in France last year, and while I liked the wine it did not blow me away, as I was expecting. I am happy I had the chance as I felt the wine did not show well in pairs. Sure enough, the wine was indeed better and the revised score and notes can be found below.
The wine list is another example of why Italy is a wonderful wine region to find QPR stars. This entire list is either GOOD to WINNER. No duds. Overall another great list from M &M Importers.
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 Cristallo Pinot Grigio, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is fun, it is simple but fun, refreshing, funky, and enjoyable.
The nose of this wine is funky, with notes of straw, rosebud, rose petals, green apple, slate, white flowers, and more hay!
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, simple, refreshing, well-balanced, with lovely acidity, nice weight, good fruit focus, orange notes, nectarine, tart lemon/lime, and citrus, but what sticks with you is the refreshing weight and salinity.
The finish is long, green, tart, balanced with good acidity, hay, straw, violet, and long lingering tart green fruit with minerality. Lovely! Drink now. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
2020 Illuminare Dry Moscato, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine reminds me of the other dry Muscat wine I know of on the market – Michael Kaye’s lovely wine. Michael’s wine is fruitier, this wine is lean, very floral, but also shows tart/dry tropical notes, really very different but also similar and equally fascinating.
The nose of this wine is intoxicating, it pulls you in and grabs you, showing tart and dry pineapple, intense jasmine, white flowers, tart green and yellow mango, lychee, smoke, flint, and more floral notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, showing lovely saline, refreshing, tart, with great acidity, sweet Mandarin orange, pineapple, sweet pear, Meyer lemon, honeyed notes, and lovely honeysuckle.
The finish is long, tart, green, yet nicely ripe, very floral, with good saline, minerality, and more fruit. Bravo! Drink Now (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
So much has changed in our lives, so much has been forced upon us, for the good and the bad, and so much has been lost over these past two years. I still remember having to call my brother and tell him I cannot come to his son’s wedding, as California had just shut down the state. I missed that and so much more. We lost so many to this pandemic, but thankfully, we are slowly coming out from under the cloud that has clouded our lives for too long.
There is no way to talk about any KFWE, unfortunately, without talking about COVID. The 2020 KFWE in NYC ran right into COVID, I have many stories about the flights I had from the KFWE in Paris and London before the KFWE in NYC and L.A. Stories like, many people being taken off the planes, in advance of disembarkment of the overall plane and many other such stories. This was in the early days of COVID, and no one knew what we were facing.
Today, we are far better equipped, both humanly and emotionally to see the damage that this pandemic has done and to see how the Jewish community as a whole coped with the tragedy. To say KFWE was one of those things that we lost would be to undermine the horrible loss we all went through, in so many ways. However, like all liberties that we lose for reasons outside of our control, eventually, we come to a list of things we lost. Whether those are trivial, futile, or important is all relevant and belongs on a scale. Still, KFWE and other wine shows that are the backbone of kosher wine education were lost for a good two years and, as such, it would be impossible to start a post, discussing the return of KFWE, without highlighting that, and understanding the subsequent return of KFWE within that overall perspective.
KFWE 2022 NJ
So, everyone in the kosher wine world knows about KFWE (they even have a website), laugh track inserted here. It is the largest kosher wine and food event in the world. It started in NYC, then Herzog came with the IFWF, then KFWE, London/Europe, Israel jumped aboard, Miami, not in that order, but those are the players. Royal wine is the largest importer and producer of kosher wine, a fact I bring up very often in my year in review posts. I never posted my 2020 NYC/Cali KFWE posts, I did not feel it was the time or appropriate, too much death, too much horror, too much bad for me to post about KFWE. Still, it would not be fair to ignore it all, and now that we have gotten past what we have lived through, I think a few lines about each would be appropriate.
Simply said, the 2020 NYC event was probably the most crowded and over the top east coast KFWE ever. It met its desired outcome but at the cost of anyone getting to taste wine, even at the “trade” portion that was before the public, though to be honest, it did not feel like that either way.
I liked the 2020 KFWE L.A., again, and I know some did not like the hall, but to me, it is more about not liking the Cali vibe than it is not liking the hall, again, my take! The 2020 Califonia KFWE excelled in so many ways. It was the first year where all the wines, or almost all of them, that were poured in NYC, were in L.A. The food was leaps and bounds better than the NYC event and we had great weather to smoke cigars on the rooftop, which sadly did not happen in 2018 because of rain. So, that is my take on 2020.Read the rest of this entry
Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, from under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and a safe Passover together. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!
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. 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 2019 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Blanc (White), or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, 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 2019 Chateau Canteloup, as nice as it is 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 2020 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Thankfully, so far, the few 2021 Roses I have had are not nearly as poor as the 2020 crop or Rose wines. 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. This year, 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!Read the rest of this entry
If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.
Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.
The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.
Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.
More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.
Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)