Category Archives: Kosher Dessert Wine

Tzora Vineyards Winery latest release – November 2018

My posts on the wines and wineries I visited in Israel continue with my visit to Tzora Vineyards Winery. I have posted many times about Tzora Vineyards and as always I am impressed by the winery, it continues to push back against the tide of date juice. When I got to Israel I made it my business to get to the winery and drove poor Eran Pick nuts. He and the winery were so kind as to make time for us on a short Friday, and I really wanted to thank them for that.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel WineryFlam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 reds and the 2017 whites, as well. Sadly, Mr. Pick was busy elsewhere but the winery made time for us, and it was a real treat as always. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has a dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, OM, AD, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines.

The tasting consisted of the current 2017 whites, the 2016 reds, along with a brand new 2017 Judean Hills, red, and the now bottled 2016 Misty Hills, and the 2017 Or dessert wine.

My thanks to Mr. Eran Pick and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Tzora Judean Hills, White – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is lovely, definitely one of my top white wines of 2017. The nose on this wine starts with rich vanilla that gives way to sweet green Apple, lovely grapefruit with bright fruit and classic cleanliness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has great acid with Asian pear, rich lemongrass, and a great tart freshness. The finish is long and bright, with great tart fruit, lovely slate, and mineral. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2018 in all price ranges

As 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 really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year, last year’s list was better. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – 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 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 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 WinesGotham WinesSuhag Wine, and of course kosherwine.com and Gary’s store, 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 less than 10 dollar 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, 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 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, as wonderful as it is may or may not be, can 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 a 90 (A- of old) 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 2016 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2017 Roses that will be released soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it 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 there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time 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 Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below.

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 list, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, started to show nicely, but now they are falling apart, and the 2016 reds from Israel are flat or worse.

With Terrenal gone and the 2015/2016 Baron Herzog wines not showing really well, sadly, there will be fewer options out there, IMHO.

In the end, these are my picks, they are easy to find and in my opinion, really good. There is also the Jewish Week’s list and Yossie Horwitz (of Yossie’s Corkboard) also comes out with a list.

So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!

Wines below 10 dollars:

2017 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Chateau Les Riganes (mevushal) (QPR KING)

Wines below 15 dollars:

2016 Baron Herzog Chardonnay (QPR)  (mevushal)
2014/2015 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Elvi Winery Rioja Herenza (QPR)
2015 Ramon Cardova Rioja (mevushal) (QPR)
2014 Chateau du Grand Barrail, Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux (sadly only in France)

Wines below 20 dollars:

2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
2015/2016 Yarden Gewurztraminer (2015 is Shmita)
2015 Capcanes Peraj Petita (NOT 2016 that is really NOT a fun wine)
2013/2014 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico (Great QPR)
2016 Psagot Viognier
2013 Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais
2016 Dalton Pinot Gris (QPR)
2017 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
NV Elvi Adar Brut (some are mevushal) (QPR)
2016 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Eva, Blanc (QPR) Read the rest of this entry

KFWE NYC and LA 2018 was ruled by European Wines and American Foie Gras

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! Thankfully, I made NYC and LA. What I can say, is that while not much has changed in regards to overall quality, location, and layout, the shows themselves were not overwhelmingly great this year. Each one had its issues, and in the end to me, it was a tie, with neither wines or food really shining through, other than Heritage’s Foie Gras and The European wines.

As always, the events happen in two parts, 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

To me, while the halls were very nice, trade was really crowded in NYC, like nuts. After the first hour it calmed a bit, and in LA it was really busy throughout the entire trade session. Also, the guests were more demanding and in need of face time with the winemakers and winery representatives, which is really good as wine without context is not as poignant, but it gets in the way of the overall flow of the event. It is a point that needs fixing, but I honestly am not sure how to do it.

Next, let’s start with the positives, the public/general admissions were not moshpits. Which is a huge advance over the past years in NYC, still for many there was not much to taste that was new. THAT was the main issue in my opinion. Again, I have spoken of this many times, but shmita is starting to get really annoying.

I mean that in the manner of how it affects subsequent years. The Shmita overhang is getting in the way of at least two years, given the average release cycle of wineries, maybe even longer for the higher end wines. So, Shmita was the 2015 vintage, meaning we never saw the white and roses wines until the 2016 year. Since the USA does not want shmita wines, 2016 was covered with 2014 wines. The 2017 year was covered by what? Well leftovers of the 2014 vintage, of course. What about this year, 2018? Well, finally, we are starting to see 2016 reds, but not in Israel, they are still on 2015 wines. Royal and other importers have forced Israeli wineries to release the 2016s early, and that is why we saw some Vitkin 2016 red vintages. Still, most of the Israeli wines were old vintages that have still not moved in the USA.

So, what we have is the compounded problem of not having new vintages because of the shmita overhang, and the fact that the older vintages on shelves have not moved. Worse, than that, there were a few misses at both KFWE, like the new 2015 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, which was a no-show.

Overall, to me, the REAL truth, was that the wines were mostly older vintages or wines we had already tasted throughout the year, like the wonderful but not new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. There is no fix to this, wine needs to be sold. Yet, pouring 2014 Roses, that needs to stop. The fact that they were pouring more than a few 2016 roses is already bad enough.

Winners of the shows

The winners were, of course, the 2015 and 2016 wines from Europe. Yes, I dislike date juice, that is not new news, and the Israeli wines were all too old or too ripe, with the exception being Flam, Castel Winery and Carmel Winery on the higher-end wines.

The real saviors of the shows were the European wines. All of the French wines showed as expected, with some ill effects to the mevushal process on 2015 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2015 Chateau Le Crock, and to a lesser degree the 2015 Chateau Greysac. The rest of the French wines showed beautifully, as did the European wines of Elvi Wines, Terra de Seta, and Capcanes Winery. In NYC, it was really fun tasting the 2014 Giscours side by side the 2015 Giscours, showing the elegance and power of the 2015 vintage.

The really impressive and hard to implement fact was that the KFWE LA show – had ALL the wines! Other than Flam’s 2017 Rose, all of Covenant wines, and Hagafen wines (as they self-distribute within Califonia), all the wines were at KFWE LA. The entire French collection was there, even the entire Tabor winery line was there. Though they did not pour the Chateau Leoville Poyferre for trade or General Admission in LA.

The other real winner was Heritage’s, Foie Gras. Enjoying that Foie Gras with some of the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau in NYC was heaven. They even had Foie Gras, not as good as Heritage Farms in the trade and VIP in LA. Read the rest of this entry

A wine tasting of some incredible 2014 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended with a classic run for the border to Weingut Von Hovel. After we returned from visiting Von Hovel we had a wine tasting. It included some new 2016 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 vintage and earlier.

As I posted here and here, I have been trying to get to all of the 2014 French wines and as many of the 2015 vintages that are released. With this last tasting, I have been able to get to most of the top 2014 kosher French wines that I know of. The two top 2014 kosher Bordeaux wines that I have been able to taste are the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement and the 2014 Smith Haut Lafitte (which I tasted here at this tasting). Right after those superstars come the 2014 Chateau Giscours, 2014 Chateau Malartic, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, the 2014 Chateau Soutard, and the 2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau. In regards to Sauternes, the two winners are the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau, 1er Cru Classe, and the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe.

I had not been able to taste the Smith Haut Lafitte or the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe, until this tasting and they were not a letdown in any manner. WOW, they were worth the trip and worth stocking up where and if possible.

If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait – email Nathan Grandjean about how to get them: Contact@yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will soon have the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe as well.

We continued tasting these wines for more than a day, it was only after a long time that the great 2014 wines really opened up. Also, we tasted the Von Hovels throughout this time as well (I did not post the scores here again, as they are in their own post).

The rest of the wines at the tasting were either horrible, passable, or nice enough. My many thanks to JK, Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 LI BI Rose, Cotes du Rhone – Score: 88
The wine is a rose made of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Lovely nose of grapefruit, floral notes, with green apple, gooseberry, with nectarines, and good mineral. The mouth is nice enough, the acid is medium in nature, and while it is well balanced it is unidimensional, with good lemon, peach, and nice acid that does rise after a bit. The finish is long and floral with good saline, mineral, slate, and good spice. Drink up!

2016 Le Mourre de L’isle, White – Score: 87
The wine is a blend of 40% Roussanne, 30 Viognier, and 30% Grenache Blanc. Lovely nose of peach, and honeysuckle, floral notes, with green apple, and spice. The mouth is slow to open, with peach notes, good acid and balance, with again little complexity but nice acid, with peach, grapefruit, and crazy floral notes. The finish is long with mineral and sweet spices, cinnamon, and cloves. Drink by 2018.
Read the rest of this entry

Domaine du Castel Winery latest releases

 

2016 Domaine du Castel Rose, 2016 LaVie Blanc du Castel, 2014 & 2016 Blanc du Castel C, 2015 & 2016 lave Rouge du Castel, 2012 & 2015 & 2016 Petit Castel, 2015 & 2016 Grand Vin du CastelAs I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house. The actual winery visit to Domaine du Castel Winery came before the 2nd tasting, but as I stated already, I wanted to cover the tastings first.

Shmita Effect

This was my latest visit to Domaine du Castel Winery, and as I have stated many times already, the reds were still from the 2015 vintage, with a couple of reds being released now from the 2016 vintage. The 2015 vintage was tough as I explained here, it was one of the worst Shmita years that I can remember, but I do not remember was the 1994 vintage in Israel was like. The 2001 and 2008 vintages were epic years for Israel, while the 2015 vintage was not quite the same.

More than the poor quality of the 2015 vintage is the 2015 Shmita overhang – forcing wineries to sell all their wines locally, as most locales like the USA and others do not buy the 2015 wines.

Castel grows and expands facilities

We arrived a bit early and hung around walking around the new winery that Castel put up a year ago, in Yad HaShmona, after a 23-year run in Ramat Raziel. The winery is stunning plain and simple. The winery is stunning and the tasting room is gorgeous, with massive logs, exposed beams, making for a cozy ski chalet feel. The barrel room below the winery is even more beautiful than the one they had in Ramat Raziel, and again is an ode to the barrel room of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac. With a beautiful hearth, fireplace and of course wines all around you. The tasting room a perfect melding of the beautiful mountain and hills surrounding it that are visible from the massive windows

This is not my first visit to the winery, but my last full-scale post of the winery is old, so it needed a refresh. Besides the expansion of facilities, the winery also expanded its wines as well. This all came together in 2015 when the new winery and new wines were brought together. The winery in Ramat Raziel is still in operation, but it will slowly be phased out over time. Until then it continues to be a dual winery arrangement.

With the expanded facilities the winery scaled up from 140K bottles in 2014 to 250K bottles in 2016. With that large change in bottles came three new wines, two that are already released and one new one that is or will be soon released. The two known wines are the La Vie wines, with a white and a red. They are meant to be easier drinking wines, wines that do not need waiting like the Petit Castel requires some vintages.

Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery’s latest releases and the 1988 Chateau Piada Sauterne

To me, Netofa Winery (or is it Domaine Netofa), is one of the quintessential wineries of Israel! They along with Tzora Winery prove that you can make old world style wines in the new world climate of Israel.

As always, it is a joy and honor to hang with Pierre Miodownick, the winemaker of Netofa’s wines and many wines currently being made in France, under other labels. I have written often about Domaine Netofa Winery, it is a winery I try to visit two times a year, once at the beginning of the year, and then again later in the year.

So what has changed since I was there earlier this year? Well, we have already spoken about the fact that they did not make wines in 2015, the last Shmita year in Israel. So, that meant there were no new wines on the market from them last year, which was probably a blessing given how poorly most of them came out.

However, since then, Domaine Netofa Winery has been very busy. First of all, they added two new varietals (Grenache and Roussanne) and like almost every single winery in Israel, they have changed their labels for the better, IMHO, and they have added an entirely new wine line as well with these new varietals. The Grenache really helped the rose, it allowed the rose to last the entire summer this year, and the rose was really nice! The Roussanne is a fun wine and it allows the winery to add another white wine to its list of winners. The only con is that the prices have been set a bit high for this new wine line, called Tel Qasser, after the name of the hill upon which Domaine Netofa Winery’s vineyards are planted.

 

We arrived at Pierre’s house and he was very gracious to open all the wines that are for sale now from Domaine Netofa Winery along with a real treat, a bottle of the 1988 Chateau Piada Sauterne!

So – Domaine Netofa Winery now has these labels and wine lines:

  1. Domain Netofa – this is where the original Domaine Netofa Winery wines live, the original Domaine Netofa White from Chenin Blanc grapes. Along with the Domaine Netofa Red, from Syrah, Mourvedre, and the new Grenache – a real GSM! It also has the rose wine that is now made from those same three grapes, the Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
  2. Latour Netofa – this is where the red and white original Latour wines live. The Red is still made from Syrah and Mourvedre (but the 2016 vintage may well also be a GSM), oak aged, as is the white which is 100% Chenin Blanc, which is also oak aged. The new change is that the Tinto has been moved into this level as well. The Tinto is a blend of two Spanish grapes – Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo.
  3. Tel Qasser – this is a new wine line altogether and it contains two new wines – the 2016 Tel Qasser red and white. The white is made of 100% oak aged Roussanne (but not barrel fermented – just aged), while the red is made of a blend of Grenache and Syrah, also oak aged.
  4. Dor – Currently it holds the Syrah wine from 2013 but there is talk of more wines coming under this label, in the coming years.

Altogether, there are now 9 dry wines in the Domaine Netofa Winery family. There is the 2013 and now recently released 2016 Dor, which is a 100% Syrah wine, that is on its own line, and you can find notes for the 2013 Dor here. There is also the fantastic Ruby Port and the 2010 LBV. The Ruby will move to non-vintage going forward, the 2012 vintage will be the last ruby to have a vintage. You can find my notes on those port wines here.

On a total aside, but an important one – we have lost a year without Netofa wines in the USA. I do not know the official reason why, there are many speculations, but I asked Pierre the reason, and he said, the wines will be available in the USA in 2018. So, though this kind of business really bugs me, especially for such a QPR and solid winery, the wines will again be in the USA next year, and that is all we can ask for in the end.

Pierre Miodownick

I have written before about what Pierre Miodownick has done for kosher wine and about Netofa Winery. The interesting fact beyond his epic work in creating kosher French wines, for over 30 years now, that we all crave today, is his love for Rhone and Spanish varietals. If you look at the varietals he has in the vineyards, there is no Cab, no Merlot, no Chardonnay. Nope, all he has is, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache (a new varietal for Netofa), Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional, along with two whites, Chenin Blanc and the newly added Roussanne.

Both of the newly added varietals (the Roussanne and Grenache) are both Rhone varietals as well. It is yet further proof for me, that the real future of Israel is not Cab, Cab Franc, or merlot, but well managed and early picked Mediterranian varietals. Netofa winery picks their grapes long before most do and the wine shines for it!

1988 Chateau Piada

When the tasting was over Pierre poured this golden elixir out of a beautiful decanter and it was pure heaven, it was the 1988 Chateau Piada. This was Pierre Miodownick’s second Sauterne from the QRP kosher Sauterne superstar – Chateau Piada. I was really excited to taste this wine for a few reasons. First of all, I never had tasted this wine. Second, I never tasted a Sauterne this old, I really wanted to know if a kosher Sauterne can hold out this long. Lastly, come on this is a 29-year-old wine!

Sadly, the wine was slightly corked, and the cork itself almost disintegrated, but in the end, the wine was very impressive indeed, and the main thing I got out of this is that kosher wine can last 29 years if it is a Sauterne!

Bravo to you Pierre Miodownick! The wine was lovely and I am always in awe of the groundbreaking work you and your team did to bring kosher French wine to the masses before they even knew they wanted it! Read the rest of this entry

The French are coming the French are coming

By now it should no surprise to you at all that I really like old world wines and controlled new world wines, like California, Spain, and some top wineries in Israel. The wines from Italy, like Terra de Seta’s wines, are all old world in style, though they have a couple of new world wines as well, and they are a bit too much for me.

So, I thought it was time to update the notes on all the 2014 and 2015 French wines that are here in the USA. Yes, the 2014 wines have been here for some time, but I am shocked to see that they did not sell out yet like the 2014 Chateau Montviel, which flew off the shelves and essentially disappeared within a month. Much akin to the 2013 Chateau Piada Sauterne, that also disappeared within a month or so, a great wine with a very good price tag. Of course, both of them were made in too small of a run, which we can all complain about to Royal. However, as I stated earlier, in my post of the 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux wines, Royal will do whatever it needs to never see a wall of wine sitting in its warehouse again, even if that means we all lose out. The saying, “Less is more”, is a perfect ideal by which Royal runs its French wine business. Please do not get me wrong, we are all indebted to the Royal wine company and its Royal Europe division for making us wines we all adore. That said, they made a small run of the two aforementioned wines and having less, while painful for the consumers, is more for Royal, as the memories of 2003 and on, where walls of wine sat unsold, is one that will not be forgotten anytime soon.

I have already posted about some of the whites and the Sparkling wines from France, and I will add the two 2014 Sauterne that I enjoyed below.

So, that sets us up for the state of French wine in the USA, the 2014s are all here including the 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, which is made by IDS, and I will leave it at that. However, the 2015 wines from France, are already starting to arrive on our shores. The 2015 wines from Royal, that I tasted last year in Bordeaux from the barrel and posted on here, will be here in bottle format, before the end of the Gregorian calendar year. As I stated in my post, the prices will shock you, the Grand Vin from Leoville Poyferre will top the $200 range retail, and they will be priced alongside older vintages of Leoville that are being sold in NYC and soon on Kosherwine.com. That will be fun to watch.

The 2014 vintage in comparison is actually very reasonably priced, and while it is not the monster 2015 vintage, it is still a very good vintage and one that will not give you the heartache and sticker shock that the 2015 vintage will give you. The superstar wines of the 2014 vintage are still very reasonably priced, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Malartic, Chateau Soutard, Chateau Marsac Seguineau (in France only sadly). Along with the very good 2014 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre, and Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru. The latter two wines are wines that should be laddered into your wine list as they will drink earlier and not last as long. That gives you wines that will be ready soon and help to keep you away from the Grand Vin wines which need a TON of time. Of course, you should buy as much of the 2015 Fourcas Dupe that you can find when it arrives along with the other QPR shocker – the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat – which I think will be priced at the same range as the Fourcas Dupre. But remember, the Fourcas from 2015 will be priced a good 15 to 25% higher than in previous vintages and maybe the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat will be priced at the higher tier as well.

Recently, I have been tasting other 2014 superstars, and a new one is here now, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe – a lovely wine that we tasted side by side the 2014 Chateau Soutard, two wines that are very different in style but which are located very near to each other. They are both A- to A wines and the Christophe is actually cheaper than the Chateau Soutard.

We also enjoyed a fair number of new 2015 wines and some are downright awesome and some are nice, but their costs are already getting out of hand. Like the 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape. It is a very nice wine, but for 75 dollars retail, it is not worth it. A lovely wine that is super bright and tart and very nice, but is you kidding me! Trust me when I say, this is JUST THE START, of a bunch of wines that may well price themselves out of the market – which would be scary, given the sheer number of 2015 wines made!. What if these 2015 wines are just very nice – why would I pay 75 dollars for that? It is a very important question that will be answered over time. Sure, people will take a shot on one of them here and there, to see what it tastes like. However, soon enough the word gets around and then what? Will it sit there? Only time will tell.

The prices went up, and the costs of producing them as I explained in my Bordeaux post has either stayed the same or gone up as well. So, what happens if the importers do not have enough money to keep them on the market? Only time will tell!

There is another 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape, the other one has the label of Cuvee Anais of Condorcet – but I did not find it the day I bought its “cheaper” little brother. The Cuvee Anais of Condorcet is meant to be a bolder wine while the Domaine Condorcet is the lower label.

Below please find all the 2014 and 2015 red wines that I have tasted so far. Some of them are not easy if at all available, like the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement, but they are worth the search.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Available in France Only

2015 Chateau Le Caillou, Pomerol – Score: A- (will be here eventually)
WOW! This wine was released early, like 6 months early, this was not a barrel sample wine. Lovely nose of mineral and black currant with crazy mushroom and dirt. Nice medium body, with enough complexity, though nice but a drop hollow, with good fruit focus and nice acid, showing great mineral and terroir, with dark cherry and draping tannin. The finish is long and green with foliage and coffee, nice saline and acid, and earth. Drink by 2021.

2015 Chateau Pouyanne Red – Score: B+
Very interesting nose, almost tropical, juicy tart red guava notes, with strawberry, showing dark fruit, with accessible notes of cherry and sweet fruit notes. Nice medium body with a simple attack, but nice tannin and extraction, with earth and mushroom and green notes. Drink now.

2014 Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild – Score: A- (will be here eventually)
This wine is a lovely fruit and herb driven wine, very spicy, with cloves and all-spice, showing black fruit and herb. Very different mouth with spice, but you can see where this wine will look like the older brothers with time, showing a full body with crazy spice and searing tannin, a mineral core of graphite, and spice with great acid balance, black and red fruit with time showing a draping tannin velvet. The finish is long and herb, with chocolate, leather, tar, and smoke.

2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau, Margaux – Score: A- to A
Lovely rich black fruit, so young with crazy mineral, saline, with mushroom and hints of barnyard, with crazy elegance and green note that are in your face, more than I expected, but epic elegance. The mouth is layered and extracted and crazy good and rich acid, with blackberry, ripe currant, with layers of elegance and complexity, showing draping tannin that dries the mouth, rich and epic, mineral takes center stage with spice galore, wow. Long and crazy dry finish, ripping acid, mounds of mineral, rich leather, tobacco leaf, espresso, and rich saline, with lots of foliage lingering long. Bravo! Drink 2020 till 2030. Read the rest of this entry

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
%d bloggers like this: