Category Archives: Kosher Dessert Wine

The best kosher wines for Passover 2017 at all price ranges

wall of wineAs many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday.  Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. The Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is nice, but you will not find many of their favorites 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 my list 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 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 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 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 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 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 Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, and all 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 less than 20 dollar Capcanes Peraj Petita, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, 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 dollars 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. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored an A- 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 2015 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard earned money. Wait for the 2016 Roses that will be released soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

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. 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 the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses from Arc International. Also, remember that the first cup should be drunk in totality, according to most authorities.

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 not as long as last year’s lost, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, are showing well from the best wineries, but that list is short.  Read the rest of this entry

KFWE LA 2017 – the star of the show continues to grow

kfwe-los-angeles-sign

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! I had never missed one of those yet, but such is life. Thankfully, I made Paris, NYC, and LA. What I can say, is that not much has changed, the star of the shows is still LA, and this year it got even better.

As always, the event happens in two parts, like in NYC, the trade and then the public. Public again, had the VIP session, which LA started in 2015, and what has been copied all over the KFWE family since then, and the General admission.

Overall Impressions

Of course, the event stayed in the beautiful Petersen Museum, sadly there is construction on its metal side (for a tram), but it is still gorgeous. So, I will cut to the chase – this was the best KFWE hands down – congratulations to Herzog and Royal, really impressive.

Now, why do I say that – well that will take a little longer to explain than a single sentence! First of all, the setting was killer, that is not new, it is really an LA destination kind of party, and it is exactly what we should expect from an LA-based event.

Second, they fixed all the issues from last year. Last year, the food was poorly placed in the general admission floors, that was fixed, and the food this year was better as well. The lack of full wine selection from NYC was fixed, for the most part. NYC had the new Vitkin Winery wines while LA did not. Also, LA did not have the two California wineries, Covenant and Hagafen, which makes sense as Royal does not distribute those wines in LA, the wineries take care of west coast operations themselves. There were also one or two other no-shows, but they were wineries I would not waste virtual ink over, so no loss, all good!

This means that they had every French, Herzog, Spanish, New Zealand, and topline Israeli wines at this event. Finally, LA has been removed from the wine doghouse, that has plagued previous KFWE LA events. This is huge! I stress this because, outside of very few wines, LA had it all. Weather, wine, food, ambiance, setting, everything! There really was nothing lacking from the 2017 KFWE LA, I was really impressed.

Finally, the booths were far better laid out this year, they made use of all three floors, and the wineries and food had ample room and space to ply their products to the happy customers. Overall, the execution this year was 100% spot on!

Picture perfect Weather

Photo by David Zaitz.

Photo by David Zaitz from Wikipedia

Once again, God looked kindly down on the KFWE this year in LA as well. While the KFWE in NYC was sandwiched between an ugly snowstorm and another system after it, it was cold but clear skies on Monday. The same could be said for LA’s event. The weather was brilliant, and it too was sandwiched between two large rain systems that came and went, leaving LA’s sky clean of smog.

The weather was perfect at 70 degrees, more on the logistics of that below, but it gave KFWE LA the ability to truly showcase its colors in terms of what a KFWE in LA can really be! When u think of LA, you think weather, beaches, and well Hollywood. Hollywood was the showcase of the first post-Hyatt event, the event that birthed the VIP session. That I am sure was probably too much Hollywood for Royal, so they looked elsewhere, what else screams California while being posh, elegant, and well California? The Petersen is that place! During the day, it is California, with a rooftop capable of hosting hundreds of trades people. When the sun sets, it magically turns into Hollywood, which is a 15-minute drive away (preferably in the batmobile or the Lighting McQueen car).

lightening-mcqueen

Trade tasting

During the trade tasting, when the wines were set up in a non-optimal manner, the team moved quickly, before trade actually started and made sure that wineries were not placed in direct sunlight. Sadly, Matar was left out in the sun, but they kept all their wines on ice, and it was fine. The weather was almost spring-like, 70 degrees and clear skies. While that is great beach weather, it is not so much great wine weather. Since the trade is held on the rooftop, while the other floors setup for the public tasting, this can make for Doctor Seuss-like logistical nightmares. The team fixed it quickly and that was learned from last year. Read the rest of this entry

The KFWE LA 2017 cheat sheet

kfwe-2017-la-petersen-museum

KFWE Miami in 2016, Paris, London, Israel, and NYC are now done. What is left is the 2017 KFWE LA returning for the second time to the beautiful Petersen Automotive Museum today, Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 at 1PM for the trade portion and then again at 6PM for the Public portion. The VIP is sold out already, but you can still get the General Admission tickets here, and use the coupon code: “eatupdrinkup” (without the quotes) to get a 10% discount off the rack rate of the general admission tickets.

My post on last year’s event can be found here. The museum is beautiful, the setting is stunning, and the weather today is looking to be 100% perfect, unless your GG and all you want is 65 degrees all day!

So, first stop is to the app store and get your KFWE App. This is the link for the Apple iOS app, and this is the link for the Google Android app. I wish they had a search function on the app, so that you could search for say, the best wine at the event, the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau, to see which table it is on! Sadly, that is not an option, so I will list here the best wines and the tables they are on, and you can use that to find the wines I found to be some of the best, and cannot miss, options.

My list follows below – enjoy!

  • Table 1: Goose Bay:
    1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
    2. 2014 Fume Blanc
    3. 2012 Pacifica Pinot Noir
    4. 2014 Goose Bay Pinot Noir
  • Table 3: Capcanes:
    1. Everything!
  • Table 5: Flam:
    1. Everything, though the rose really was not showing as well as I hoped
  • Table 5: Terra de Seta:
    1. Classico and Assai
  • Table 6: Elvi Wines:
    1. Everything
  • Table 14: Domaine du Castel:
    1. Everything
  • Table 15: Tabor:
    1. 2014 Tabor Adama II Zohar
    2. 2012 Tabor Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon
    3. 2012 Tabor Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon
    4. 2016 Tabor Adama Sauvignon Blanc
    5. Any white wine you may like from the Mount Tabor series
  • Table 17: Matar:
    1. Everything
  • Table 18: Rothschild:
    1. Champagne
    2. 2016 Rose (2015 has faded already)
    3. 2014 Chateau Malmaison
  • Table 18: Koenig
    1. 2014 Riesling
  • Table 19: Wines of France:
    1. 2014 Chateau Leoville Poyferre ‘Pavillon de Poyferre’
    2. 2014 Chateau Royaumont Lalande De Pomerol
    3. 2014 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac
    4. 2014 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere
    5. 2014 Chateau Giscours
    6. 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau
    7. 2014 Chateau Soutard
  • Table 19: Laurent Perrier:
    1. Champagne Rose
    2. Champagne Brut
  • Table 20: Bokobsa:
    1. 2015 Hauteville – it tasted stunted in NYC but lovely in Paris.
    2. The 2015 Domaine Fontlaure Rose, Cotes de Provence, a nice enough rose
    3. 2014 Domaine de Boissan Gigondas
  • Table 20: Drappier:
    1. DRINK IT ALL!
  • Table 31: Eagle’s Landing:
    1. Super excited that Herzog is finally showing you all the wines they make for the club. Taste them all – I look forward to trying them too!
    2. The 2013 Pinot Noir – BEG FOR IT!
    3. The 2015 Pinot Noir – lovely!
  • Table 33 and 34: Herzog Cellars:
    1. Guys you have to try the 2014 wines, they are all impressive. Yes Herzog makes a ton of wine, try them and enjoy!
    2. 2014 Herzog Clone 6 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
    3. 2014 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
    4. 2014 Herzog Single Vineyard Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
    5. 2014 Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
    6. Variations from 2014
    7. 2014 Malbec
    8. 2012 Petite Sirah

My top kosher 25 wines of 2016

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2016. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the ebst wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

I posted this about my scores – and what they mean, so I hope these are useful to you. OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I hope you enjoy!

2014 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine is fruit forward with dark candied raspberry, blackberry, and spiced boysenberry, with root beer and earth, showing spice, anise, and cranberry. The mouth is beautiful and controlled, with great mouth coating tannin, sheer elegance, with great sweet and focused fruit, lovely extraction, showing ripe and tart strawberry, raspberry, and boysenberry all mixed together into a compote, with black fruit and earth. The finish is ridiculous, some of the best of the evening, with sweet fruit and ripe structure, yet balanced and focused, with coffee, leather, and sweet spices, nutmeg, and mineral galore, with scraping graphite, BRAVO!!

2014 Capcanes Peraj Habib – Score A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Carignan. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine shows nicely, with chocolate and oak, along with crazy red fruit, roasted animal, toast, graphite, and lovely smoke, with floral notes galore. What a lovely wine, full bodied with great extraction, ripping acid and great crazy tannin that gives way to blueberry, blackberry, lovely cherry, and insane fruit focus that is backed by intense graphite, and mineral, scraping mineral, with mouth drying tannin all coming together into a far more accessible wine than any year before. The wine is really young but accessible, with insane fruit and mineral all coming together. The finish is long and epic, with leather, and rich extraction lingering with coffee and sweet spices coming together beautifully. Bravo!

2013 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Solomon lot 70 – Score: A- to A
Really lovely but pushed nose, with ripe black fruit, tar galore, with garrigue, earth, and rich blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, showing an impressive attack with rich focus of blueberry, intense gripping tannin, spicy oak, sweet dill galore, with massive almost tactile mouth showing black fruit focus, with impressive inky structure that gives way to black and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with green notes, foliage, good dirt, all wrapped with dark chocolate, leather, tobacco heaven, more green notes, and rich Asian spices.

2014 Elvi Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This wines a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan from vines that are 105 years old, and 15% Syrah. Wow what a California Syrah nose, with intense root beer, watermelon, crazy how this smells like Shirah Syrah, with blueberry, and boysenberry, and spiced plum punch. The mouth on this full bodied wine wow, the mouth is full bodied, extracted, and crazy rich, with layers of extraction and concentrated fruit, showing searing tannin, ripping acid, that gives way to black and blue fruit, blackberry, plum, with crazy chocolate and coffee coming together to show mouth drying tannin, with earth, spice, cloves, black pepper, and spicy, with heady spice and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet spice and fruit that gives way to chocolate, roasted meat, and graphite. Really impressive wine bravo!

2010 ELvi Wines Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
Wow what a glass of umami, pure hedonism, bravo! The nose on this wine is pure joy, with root beer, blueberry, roasted meat, black pepper, mushroom, dirt, smoke, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more accessible than the 09, with sweet fruit, earth, dirt, sweet blue fruit, crazy candied and juicy blue fruit, that gives way to cherry, candied and spiced raspberry, with mouth coating and drying tannin, rich juicy and concentrated fruit, with insane focus and attack. The finish is long and juicy, with sweet fruit, nutmeg, sweet baking spices, milk chocolate, smoke, and crazy spices, anise and licorice. Bravo!

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The best kosher wines for Passover 2016 at all price ranges

wall of wineAs 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

KFWE NYC 2016 – a return to the norm with a VIP expierance

20160229_182508Well in case you were tracking my posts leading up the 2016 KFWE NYC event, I was slightly critical of last year’s NYC event while I loved the LA event – which was in the W Hotel. This year, the NYC KFWE (which happened last night) was quite the event – as it returned to Pier 60, and had a VIP session to boot.

The VIP session was a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event and the 2016 LA KFWE event (tomorrow night), looks to be even more insane!

The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. Within 30 minutes the place was crowded, which is really good news. Trade is all about getting press about what kosher wine is and where it is heading. Yes, I have spoken many times about the fact that Royal Wines is the 900 pound gorilla – and it has the ability to crowd the market and push out its competitors as it flexes its muscles. Still, we need exactly what happened yesterday. The place was filled with reporters and wine buyers and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world.

People still think kosher wine is nasty stuff (just search kosher wine on twitter), and this video and others are exactly what we need to spread the word that kosher wine has grown up, and continues improving every year! The reason for that – kosher wine consumers are growing by leaps and bounds and they want better food and better wine! Just look at the numbers; CBS2 reports that the kosher wine business is now doing $28 million a year and sales and growing.

Now personally, that number is pure bunk, it is far higher. Last year there were millions of bottles of Bartenura Blue Bottle sold, some report 5M other more like 9M. At 12 dollars a pop – the 28 million dollar number is either embarrassed or obliterated – all together. Add to that the roughly 1M bottles of wine produced by Herzog Winery at a blended average of 15 dollars a pop (the majority of their wines are less but they have many more expensive wines as well) – and that adds another 15M to the pot. Next add in the 13M dollars in Israeli exported wine sold in the USA (according to 2011 numbers which pale in comparison to 2015 numbers) – and you start to see how absurd that number of 28M really is. Where the number comes from is beyond me. Finally, we cannot ignore the amount of wine made in Europe and South America or here in the USA from the kosher California wineries (ignoring Herzog of course as that was cited earlier).

Now worldwide consumption of kosher wine is another entirely DIFFERENT number of course! Kosher wine produced in Israel (the vast majority of all the wine produced in Israel overall) – clocks in at 170M – again using a very old and conservative number (though part of that number is in the Israeli export number citied above).

IMHO, a VERY conservative number would be 250M of kosher worldwide consumption. In the USA that number is closer to 90M (again very conservative numbers)!

With those kinds of numbers, it is only a matter of time until companies, other than Royal start to take notice, and then it will get really interesting! Till then, we will need to keep pushing events like last night and tomorrow night (in LA)! These kinds of events shine the spotlight on this growing wine segment and one worthy of other company’s attention as well!

Personally, I was there to help my friend – Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines. Sadly, Moises was busy with family issues and as much as I was asked what wine I liked the most (most annoying part of the event – and more on that in a bit), I was asked where is Moises? Read the rest of this entry

Some great kosher Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot

I have been flying far too much for business reasons this past year, and this past week is a perfect example of the madness. I flew 20 hours of plane time in a day, and I never left the country. Sure, part of that was mileage running, but the first part was business. So, that left me very little time to cook before some of my favorite guests, what I call the “gang” was coming over for a Friday night meal.

To fix that I made all the food the day before I left, froze it and unfroze it on Friday and served it Friday night. Do not fear, there were no leftovers. The wine selection was meant to be 2013 Cali Pinot Noir, but thanks to the generosity of many of the gang, that was thrown for a loop, and I am very thankful for that, as I got to taste some epic wines indeed.

So, instead of just 2013 Cali, we started with a very nice 2007 Gush Etzion Spring Red, brought by AS and that was followed by a wine that I loved very much the last time I had it, the 2014 Eagle’s Landing Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly, something went VERY wrong, since we tasted it in the summer at the winery. Gone was the ripping acid and saline, in its place is more tropical fruit, banana and sweet notes. Sadly, I was not the only one to say this, as others I respect told me this very same thing a few weeks ago. I was shocked and argued vehemently that this was just not true. Sadly, once I tasted the wine that was shipped directly from the winery as part of the wine club, my friend’s allegations were brought to the forefront. This was a real shame and one that left me wanting information – if it was available.

After that we started with a run of Pinot Noir wines, starting with 2012 Makom Pinot Noir, which was as good as it was last week! That was followed by the 2009 Four Gates Pinot Noir – which is hedonistic and rich in so many ways, a wine that was not appreciated at release, but one I held onto. This bottle in particular was brought by its creator – Benyamin Cantz and it was just lovely! The next wine was the 2011 Gvaot Gofna Pinot Noir, and what can I say at the meal it was DEAD! DOA was all I could say, I triple aerated it and nothing helped. THANKFULLY, I saved a bit and after 24 hours the wine was alive and beautiful. In hindsight I should have just read my own notes about this wine – and I would have seen that the wine was closed and sleeping a year ago, sadly it has yet to waken. Give this wine another year or decant it for 12 hours – which I think is absurd! Buy the wine and wait – you will be happy for it.

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Kosher wine and food madness – New York style

2004 Ella Valley RR, 2007 Carmel Shitaz Kayoumi Single Vineyard, 2007 Ella Valley Cab Vineyard Choice, 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Malartic LagraviereBack In March I had the opportunity to spend some time in NYC and hang with some friends. It was three days of wine tasting in foodie heaven and I wanted to post about the wines and the food, because some of it was just spectacular! It all started on a Monday night after the very average City Winery event, I made my way to SB and DF’s home and continued the wine tasting there. Sadly, I seemed to have misplaced my notes for two of the wines; namely the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and the 2004 Ella Valley RR, Vineyard’s Choice. The RR, if I remember correctly was all over the place and on the other side already in puppy heaven. The 2007 VC Cab was rocking, with rich layers and lovely barnyard, but for some reason I do not have the notes, no idea why! Of what I do remember the 2007 Cab VC was very old world in style with barnyard and lovely dirt and mushroom notes, with blackberry and plum, lovely! The 2007 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz started off OK, but went all over the place quickly and went into blackcurrant madness and lost all balance, sadly. The 2004 Castel C was DOA, not fun at all. In the end, the first night was ruled by the epic 2007 Hagafen Late disgorged Brut and the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice.

After that, it was off to bed, as we had a long day ahead. I woke up pretty much on time the next day, and we were off to see a wine store in the area, where I picked up a few bottles for the next few nights festivities and then it was back to the house to enjoy bubbly and some insane meat along with two wicked red wines; the 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan. Both were insane, but the Malartic is an entirely different world wine, with filthy layers of fruit, tannin, and barnyard – madness!!! Still, the 2005 Yatir Cabernet (their first varietal cab) was really impressive and had no flaws.

The next day I jumped on a bus and made my way to Brooklyn where I hung out with friends of ours, and for dinner I made my way to YC’s house, where a crazy dinner was being setup. By the time I arrived, YC and YB were going mano-a-mano, side by side, with varying types beef tartare, and rib roasts, while YB handled the burgers exclusively. Humorously, looking back at the dinner it really turned out to be an entire night of uncooked fish and beef tartare – really! When I arrived I was famished so we ordered in a LOT of Sushi for the guests who were already arriving, while the two cavemen “prepared” the meat, there really was no cooking going on here! Once we had inhaled the sushi (or most of it) and were accepting of a time-out, I ripped through a few of the white and bubbly wines described below, for note purposes only (they were not that enjoyable) and then we were ready for the serious food, cooked or not! On a total aside, the sushi came from an establishment called Five day sushi! Now, I am not into marketing, seriously, but who the heck came up with that name?? Do you think anyone who looks at that name, would care that fish were created on the fifth day of creation?? NOT ME!! All people looking at that name, for the most part, will think they sell sushi that is five days old, how safe or appetizing do they think that sounds?? With that said, the sushi was great, albeit the horrific name.

The meat evening started with two courses – one made each by YC and YB – of beef tartare, YC’s was more Dijon mustardy and spice, while YB’s had smoked tongue rilletes, oil, and lots of herb – if I remember correctly. From there they went to rib eye two ways, which was essentially raw meat with a  slight sear – LOL!!! Actually, YB brought this sick looking chunk of meat and that went on the girl for about 30 seconds, maybe a drop more! The inside was still moving and blue while the outside was well seared, as I said raw meat night! Next, there were burgers, of which I cannot remember, but again it was well seared raw beef patties, really beef tartare but in a ufo shape! Finally, YC brought out a huge chunk of rib eye meat (AKA roast) and I grabbed the bone, and finally there was actual cooked meat! However, to be honest, by then I was cooked, I was not spitting much and the raw meat was fermenting in my stomach and I was out for the count.

While the food was lovely, and equally beautiful to look at, the true stars of the evening were the wines. I started with a bottle of Rambam Prosecco, which was drinkable, I spat that one! The next was another white wine, a bottle of 2012 Giersberger Riesling, and it was nice enough, clearly the best of the lineup they bring to the US, but a B+ at best. Next we moved to the 2007 Yarden Pinot Noir, and while it is nice, it is nowhere near the epic 2008 PN. The 2007 was a solid B+ wine that is in drink up mode. Next was the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc, which is a lovely wine, but it is starting to show a bit more ripe than I remember last, and while it is not flawed it did not show well that night. That was followed by two wines that are clearly lightning rods for me. I posted before about the two new Lewis Pasco wines, and while they are clearly ripe, some do not think they are over the top. To me, they have power but they are unbalanced and not wines I would stock up on. The 2012 – project #1 is going sweet, so watch out. The Liquidity 2012 is sadly over the top, and when I had it in 2013, from barrel, at sommelier it was beautiful. When I had it in 2014, from bottle, at sommelier – I posted that I thought they were over the top. I wanted to get a bottle here in the USA and get a chance to sit down with them and taste them over a dinner or more, and sadly after doing so, my opinion of them is worse than it was in Israel. Yes, I am in the minority, and I have no issue with that. I find them rich and extracted and unctuous, but also too ripe, unbalanced, and date like. I understand this will not be accepted well by many, but these are my notes, for my tracking, and do with them as you see fit. Read the rest of this entry

Covenant Winery Israel – the next step in a spiritual and physical Journey

2013 Covenant IsraelWhen I think of Covenant Winery, what leaps to mind for me, is Jeff and Jodie Morgan, Jonathan Hajdu – Covenant’s top-notch associate winemaker, and their world-class kosher Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavan Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sure, they also make a lovely and unique Red C wine, rose, and Landsman series of wines, but that is what comes first to mind.

When I first met Jeff and Jodie, it was at Herzog Winery, in 2006 where Jonathan Hajdu and they were pouring their wines at the first ever Herzog IFWF on the west coast. Since then I have made it my business to go to the winery at least once a year and meet with the Morgans and to taste their wines. I state that very specifically, as I have found that wines do follow their creators, and the open and accessible Covenant wines that also age to perfection, intrigued me and I wondered what their creators were like.

If you have had the opportunity to meet with Jeff and Jodie Morgan you will find two people who are passionate about their Jewish roots, though more traditional in nature than Orthodox, but still two people on a spiritual journey with their wines as their guides. From the start they decided that their wines would be kosher, and that they would be creating wines that were mimeographs of themselves, whether they realized that – or not.

To be honest, this article is a long time coming, a post that I think is more about my relationship with the Morgan’s, Mr. Hajdu, and their wines, and less about their story. The now famous story about Lessie Rudd and his grapes, his apprehension to letting the Morgan’s use his grapes, as he feared that they and their kosher process would ruin them, has been written about over and over. Humorously, the fact that the story is in every post about Covenant wines, and that the story is so well-known and repeated, is once again a representation of the wine and Jeff – both are wonderfully gregarious while also being quiet but confidently capable of spinning a tale of what they both have to offer.

Sure, when you meet the Morgans, and trust if you come to the KWFE in NYC – you will meet them, you will find two lovely, affable, and equally impressive humans that have honed their skills, with care and effort. However, it takes a bit more to see beyond the initial blustery interface, and to get deeper into what they see in the future. Yes, they are always looking forward to what the winery can become, but it is far more interesting to get to the story behind the tales, the story of a couple who are equally passionate about their tradition and history as they are about their impressive with their skills and craft.

As always, I am as straightforward as they come, there is really little left to read between the lines on my blog, though some think there is always another story. To me, Covenant Winery is a world-class winery, one that has the best track record, in my opinion across all California wineries (other than maybe Four Gates Merlot) of hitting a home run with every vintage of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Were they all A- to A, not always, but they never were less than a classic 91 score and I am hardly the only person with that opinion. Look at Wine Advocate and you will know where this winery stands in the mind of Robert Parker and his minions. Read the rest of this entry

Top kosher Rose, White, and Sparkling wines that I have tasted in 2015

20150507_233523(0)I have recently returned from another trip to Israel, and my main interest was tasting as many white and Rose 2013 and 2014 wines as I could possibly do do, in my short time in the Holy land. So, to meet that need I went to some 16 wineries and had two blind tasting of 26 wines each. The first tasting consisted of JUST white, rose, and bubbly and some sweet as well. The second was a bit more lenient and including some reds, which I will talk about on another posting.

I want to take a moment to talk about the state of reds in Israel. I was hoping that with the release of some 2013 vintages things would be improving, sadly they have not! As you know, I have posted often about the issues that Israel faces in the kosher wine world. The red wines continue to be the same old stuff, unbalanced, fruit bombs with ripe fruit and no real unique characteristics at all. Even the super star wineries are slowing following the lead Yarden and making wines that cater to the single minded public – over the top, in your face, and lacking in balance and unique. Really, the true sad aspect of red wines in Israel today is more than just the lack of unique terroir, it is that they almost all taste the same. Cabernet wines are all the same, as are Merlot, and the famous Israeli blends.

Even the great wineries are slowly moving towards the mean, with wines that are more fruit bombs then they are varietally true. The 2009 Yatir Petite Verdot was a shocker, I had it a few months ago and now it is showing true fruit bomb characteristics. Same can be said for some of the new 2012 Teperberg wines.

Still, the 2011 wines from Teperberg are rocking as are many of the Yatir wines, though I picked on the PV. My point is that wineries are moving in the direction that meets the need for larger quantities. There are still star wines at Teperberg, including the lovely new Malbec and Chardonnay wines. Same for Yatir which continues to be in the top wineries of Israel, in my opinion. Still, when one sees the stars moving in that direction, I can only hope that it stops before it spreads.

The saving grace of Israel wine overall, at this time, is the white, rose, and bubbly wines that they are producing! Think about what I just said, 6 years ago, Yarden was creating superstar wines, having just released, at that time, the 2008 wines and the reds were killing it. The whites were sad, and only a few rose were even in production. That all changed with a sudden shift in the production of far more rose and whites to the point where no matter how hard I tried, I could not taste all the whites and rose that Israel produced this year – good or bad. That would have been a very easy task in years past, but this year, even after making a concerted effort, I hope I covered the majority. I missed Psagot’s great new whites and Rose, produced under the caring hands/eyes of Yaacov Oryah, from acclaimed Midbar fame.

To me, the stars of Israel are the whites and rose. They are everywhere. Every winery feels forced now to create wines for the hot Israeli climate, and it makes perfect sense. The wines for the most part are crisp and light and refreshing, some with more complexity than others. The varieties are growing, including some fascinating blends from the likes of Mia Luce and Tzuba Winery.

Sure, there are lovely to superstar reds, from wineries like Matar, Netofa, Yatir, Flam, Castel, Tzora, GvaotRecanati, Dalton, Teperberg, Tura, Carmel Winery (Israeli labels), Ella Valley (for the Franc), and some others. Read the rest of this entry

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