Category Archives: Kosher French 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

Kosher Beaujolais wines

Beaujolais Nouveau, if you have never heard of this wine, that is because you do not live in France and because we have not had a kosher one for two years or so. It is a wine made from the Gamay fruit and one that is quick to be released.

Now there is another wine from the same region, Beaujolais. The Nouveau style wine uses Carbonic Maceration that makes the wine feel sloppy, but gives you really fruity notes, along with weird notes and flavors of fermentation and an incomplete wine. Having made wine myself, with the help of Josh Rynderman, allowed me to watch the entire process of wine making, and it showed me the must/fermentation notes that I am seeing in the Nouveau. Having watched the wine process from end-to-end, I can say that it took time for the wine to leave its pure fruit and must/fermentation state. My Pinot was still smelling like that into December. This Nouveau is bottled 6-8 weeks after harvest!

Now the manner that the Nouveau is produced should normally allow for early release, using a technique called Carbonic Maceration. Carbonic maceration ferments most of the juice while it is still inside the grape. The result is a wine with lighter tannins and fruity wine.

Tasting the two wines was interesting. I will say that it is great that kosherwine.com went out and created a kosher Beaujolais Nouveau! Sadly, it is not a wine for my tastes. The other Beaujolais was very nice, but the 2012 vintage is already starting to fall apart, so drink that up now! There is a new 2013 vintage that I hope to taste soon.

My tasting notes are below:

2016 Duc De Pagny Beaujolais Nouveau – Score: B to B+
Yes, this is a simple wine, like Beaujolais is supposed to be, but it is not my style of wine. The nose is tart with raspberry, esters of grape and fermentation, and overall simple aromas. The mouth is tart and has just enough fruit and tannin to make it work, with strawberry notes, banana, and sour cherry. The acid plays with red fruit, a bit of earth, nice spice, and more fermentation notes.

2012 Beaujolais Cotes de Brouilly – Score: B+ to A- (QPR)
Sadly, this wine is falling apart quickly. Do not open and let rest, this is a wine that is fragile now, so open and drink it within the hour.
Nice earthy nose with good spice, cherry, with dried raspberry, tobacco, and loam. Nice medium body with a simple body but firm attack, still showing great acid, though there is a slight hollow that is growing now with the wine falling off, but showing nice fruit that gives way to nice extraction, boysenberry, graphite, mineral, and great spice. The finish is nice with cloves, smoke, and earth that mingles well with great acid and cherry fruit, dark plum, and more spice. Drink UP!

Kosher Riesling Horizontal Tasting

2012-and-2014-carmel-riesling-kayoumi-2014-koening-riesling-2012-abarbanel-riesling-batch-66-2014-and-2015-tabor-shahar-riesling-adama-ii-2014-hagafen-dry-riesling-2016-hagafen-dry-riesling-201

It was time to taste all the Rieslings that I had been gathering up for some time. The problem was that I had no time to do it, given all the events I was traveling to, along with some personal needs as well. So, I finally found a day that would work, a week ago Thursday night and we gathered to taste them all.

So let me start with why Riesling and what is Riesling? First, this grape has many names, White Riesling, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, and others are real names of the Noble grape, while Emerald Riesling or Welsch Riesling – not so much!

Riesling Grape

Riesling is old, like ancient, it is documented to exist in Mosel dating back to the early 1400s! It is one of the Noble Six grapes that define wine history, but that is all marketing hooey IMHO. In terms of kosher wines, this variety did not really become special until recently, with Hagafen and Carmel doing wonderful jobs with the grape.

Riesling wines can be made in so many ways. The most common are sweet wines, like the impressive Hagafen Rieslings, that Ernie Weir makes every year, or the less impressive Giersberger Riesling, or the even less impressive Gilgal Riesling. These wines all have some amount of RS (Residual Sugar), whether they are called off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, they all need a very important component to make them work – ACID! They desperately need acid to balance the sweet notes. Hagafen is the only off-dry Riesling I have ever liked, that I remember anyway.

It is sad, but while Jews do not seem to enjoy white wines, they do drink sweeter wines, and if there was a bit more acid to balance it out, I think they would show better. That said, I brought this subject up to many a winemaker, and the response was all the same. People like it simpler to drink, so spiking the wine with acid would not sell as well, IE, customers like sweet alcoholic water. Acid tends to discourage gulping or whatever to these people do. Truly sad.

I am finding that Riesling is quickly becoming my favorite white wines. The dry wines from Hagafen, Nik, and Carmel bring a smile to my face. They are rich, layered, oily and balanced, with good acid that makes them enjoyable during almost any part of the meal. That is what makes acid work so well. Food dishes, wine, even dessert, all need some amount of acid to balance out the palate.

There are many other white wines out there for sure, look at my list of whites from 2015. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are all noble grapes, and they are all lovely when done correctly. Still, Riesling has something going for it, that none of the other white varietals have, funk!

When the wine is done correctly, and then aged for even a year, the wine starts to display notes of petrol and oil. Some may find that offensive, but to me, it is yet another aspect of how I love mineral based wines. The great thing is that these wines come from all around the world! You can find kosher Riesling from California, France, Germany, and Israel!

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

KFWE NYC 2017 – gets even better, but could use some tinkering

dsuKFWE NYC Skyline from Pier 60

Well, another KFWE NYC just finished on Monday night, and while it went off without a hitch, there were some aspects I hope they can improve for next year. Still, to me they made many attempts to move the “Must See” kosher wine event of the year, in NYC anyway, in the correct direction. I will break them down below, but for now, the takeaway about Monday night’s affair, was that it was an improvement over last year – overall.

The VIP session was back, a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event, but so far none have topped that event, even the VIP session at LA last year, at the beautiful Petersen Automobile Museum.

The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. While last year trade was a zoo quickly, that was not the case this year. Still, after two hours the trade became so crowded, it eclipsed last year’s zoo. It felt like two busloads of humans were deposited in front of Pier 60 with two hours to kill. Still, if most of those folks were really trade, I would be happy. In the end, I find the trade group, to be about 60% hardcore buyers, journalists, and trade folk. The rest is folks who know folks, but they are all ambassadors of wine in NYC and around, so in that vein, they are all of value to Royal.

To me the trade part of the show, is about getting the press talking about kosher wine and not using the M word ever again in a kosher wine article! Seriously, I was interviewed for an upcoming article in a press piece and I said, I would be unwilling to answer questions until she promised to me that she would NOT use the M word/company ANYWHERE in the piece. That word is 1990, come on, it is 2017 already! Kosher wine has eclipsed my dreams in many ways, let alone that crap wine. If you still have no idea what I mean, then LMGTFY.

As always, I have spoken how 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 on Monday. The place was filled with reporters, wine buyers, and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world. In that sense – it was a large success!

Wines at KFWE NYC

So, on to the wines. First of all, thankfully my friend Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines was here in person this year, sadly without his lovely family, so I was happy to hang with him when I was not busy tasting wines. That said, this year is what we call the shmita transition year, and it is painful for Royal, and the kosher wine industry as a whole. You see this is the year after shmita in Israel. The 2015 vintage from Israel, was shmita, so many US religious Jews will not drink them. What that means is that there is an entire year of no wine. Though, as I have spoken of a few times, 2015 was a bad year for whites, while reds are starting to emerge as the stars of 2015, if they used fruit that was pulled early in the vintage. Read the rest of this entry

2017 Bokobsa Wine Tasting in Paris

mbokobsa-tasting-in-parisWell, if you read my previously posted notes of my one day at Sommelier in Israel, you may be wondering why I am posting about Paris France? The apropos answer to that question can be summed up with this beautiful pasuk from Psalms “Shomer petaim Hashem,” literally “God protects the foolish,”.

So, let’s start from the beginning. As I posted here, about the coming wine events of 2017, there were many options for you to get out and taste great wines almost across the globe. Well, this year I finally wanted to put more focus on France, so I was in Bordeaux later last year, and now I wanted to get to Paris again to taste through the new 2014 wines. My desire was to get to one day at Sommelier, and the Bokobsa wine tasting in Paris, but skip the epic Zur wine tasting this year, the first time since its inception 😦

Thankfully the plans worked out, and for that I thank God and my wife. Last year I was in Israel a total of 6 times, including a stop over in Bordeaux, where I tasted some of the best wines from the 2015/2016 vintage, thanks to Royal Europe. So, this year, we had to keep the number of round trips to Israel to a more reasonable number, and staying home a bit more was also on the table. That meant doing crazy things to get an elephant of activity, squeezed into a thimble sized amount of time. A total of five days, including travel both ways, to squeeze in a trip to Israel, a Monday in Israel for Sommelier, then a day trip to paris for the Bokobsa tasting (Tuesday), returning at 4AM on Wednesday back to Israel. Then going north to visit 5 wineries (Kishor, Matar, Adir, Lueria, and then Netofa part 1 of 2017). Then return back to sleep (preferably not in the car while driving). Get up Thursday, drive to a bris, then to my beloved sister (GREAT hanging with her), then to Tzora, Flam, and then flying home. So yeah, I have lots of posts coming soon, but for now, this is about Paris and France’s wines!

It started Saturday night, with a dash out the door to catch the 8PM direct flight to Israel. Thank God the plane was not packed and I arrived in time. We landed in Israel, and found my way to the hotel, where I would stay for two days. The next day was Sommelier, then dinner with friends, and then a half attempted night’s sleep. Then Tuesday, go to the airport and take the El Al flight to paris France for the Bokobsa tasting at the Intercontinental Hotel. By the way, charging 8 Euro at the hotel bar, for a cup of coffee is crazy, just an aside! Read the rest of this entry

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!

Read the rest of this entry

A birthday party long in the makings

Well, this past weekend I had a long-delayed birthday party at home, with friends and great wines. In honor of my birthday, I made the classic Tunisian Friday night dinner, but without all the classic trimmings; Couscous with boulettes.

This was one of my better couscous for a few reasons. First of all, the axiom – more is better, is truly meant to describe how much chicken you should throw into a chicken soup recipe. Second, I threw in a bunch of onions, zucchini, and ground up – oven roasted – mushrooms into the meatball recipe. Sadly, the makoud was lacking, because I refused to douse it with oil and eggs. The age old Tunisian cooking rule holds very true to makoud, if the dish does not look like an oil spill, you have done it all wrong. In this case, the lack of 12 eggs and an easy hand on the oil made for more of a potato mash than a souffle.

With that, the rest was up to me and Benyo, from Four Gates Winery to handle the rest of the wine duties. ER and HK brought apple cobbler dessert, while SR and JR brought some dessert that was hijacked by Rochel for later consumption. Fear not, they both know the drill, some things that are dessert based, never make it to the table, they are essentially Teruma to the goddess of the house. Read the rest of this entry

2015 and 2016 – are Royal years indeed in Bordeaux

Bordeaux, the cradle of the modern wine revolution, for both the kosher and nonkosher worlds, is a beautiful realization of the past and present coming together to build a fabulous future. The world of true kosher wine, started before Hagafen, before Herzog, though maybe not before Carmel, who made a beautiful kosher wine in 1901 and then again in 1976, one that I tasted, but one that is now a shadow of its former self. Still, before Carmel’s rebirth, there were kosher wines being made in the 1970s, and those were the first kosher wines, that were not sacramental wines. Koenig was making kosher wines in the 1960s, and there were kosher Bordeaux wines being made in the 1970s as well.

The story of Carmel starts with a wonderful man, whose philanthropic desires led to the largest outside investment into the former Palestine in the 19th century, and his history is deeply intertwined in the world of kosher wine, since the 80s. Winemaking in Israel had enjoyed a long and successful run in biblical times. Wine presses used thousands of years ago are still visible today. However, during the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 A.C., many vineyards were destroyed, and the remaining vines were destroyed during the period of Muslim rule that began in 636 C.E. The Muslim rule led to a 1,200-year halt in local wine production. Wine production returned to Israel in 1882, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild funded the creation of vineyards and a few wineries – one of which we know today as Carmel. However, after the massive success of Carmel’s Cabernet Rishon (#1) (where it won a Gold Medal) at the Paris World Fair of 1900, Carmel winery went into a long and deep slumber. It re-awoke for a brief moment in 1976, and then again in 1979 when the Carmel Special Reserve wines again made history.  The shocking fact is that the Baron spent less money in France to buy Lafite (4.4 Million Francs), than he invested in Israel, a shocking 11 Million Francs. His shocking generosity was not lost, even if Carmel did fade for almost a century, it was his rallying cry to not forget our brethren, who threw caution to the wind to rebuild Israel, that helped bring focus to their need and was the first true power behind the future land of Israel! In many ways, he was one of the founding father’s of present day Israel.

Kosher Wine

Seeing how close Bordeaux touches the life of all kosher wine drinkers, one has to stop and ponder what if? What if Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild had simply made Lafite kosher instead of investing in Carmel? Does that question offend you? I hope it does! If you track the sheer amount of money that has been invested into Carmel, it is staggering! Mind blowing! Is this post about Carmel? Of course not! What I am offering is a clear reminder that kosher wine, is a three-legged stool of complexity. Please look at my post about the myriad and complex web of kosher winemaking requirements to refresh yourself. But as a reminder, the main three-legged stool, is Religious Jews touching the wine, kosher for Passover ingredients, and the hardest one of them all, the one that should be clear, but one that is often forgotten, these two restrictions, and all of the other ones, start from the very beginning. Meaning that if you walk up to a winery and taste their wine and like it – that means the EARLIEST you can make a kosher version of that wine is next year (unless you taste an earlier vintage and it is still before harvest).

I have spoken about this subject before, really, when talking about Flam, and others that have moved from the non-kosher market to the kosher market in Israel. The issue here is that it is a minimum of a three-year investment for good reds before you see the money. If it involves vineyards, then that is a minimum investment of 6 years for good reds in Israel! You could make them inside of four years, outside of Israel, but really? Who would want wine from a two-year-old vine? Not many! Throughout my time in Bordeaux, the terroir was a common theme, an obvious one of course, but one that shows itself more in wine than in the conversations. Why? Well, most people already know that the land of Bordeaux is hallowed ground for great wines. People make yearly pilgrimages to the storied En Primeur, where the likes of Robert Parker used to cast his shadow, and where Neal Martin till does, along with many of the top Negociants who come to set up shop for the three-day event.

Kosher Bordeaux Wine – the state of affairs

A side topic about the state of kosher Bordeaux wine. People often wonder why there is not a kosher vintage of the most famous chateau every year? Why did we miss out on the famous 2009 Leoville Poyferre? Why is there no 2009 Malartic? Sadly, the answer is that as much as French kosher wine is growing in popularity, it is not that popular.

The issue lies around the cost to make these wines, the knowledge that people have of them, along with the fact that they are well, old world! Also, there is the supply and demand vector that I will keep throwing in along the way.

So let’s start with the last and go backward, old world wines are what I crave, and many of the wine nuts I know. However, it is NOT what the wine drinkers crave in the kosher wine market. OK, cue broken record, ok it is on, the kosher red wine palate is punch drunk on sweet overripe wines, wines that I abhor. Look at the average kosher wine tasting event, one that has french wines, and you will see that the table fills up quickly, and then is empty as the night progresses. Why? Because French wines are a curiosity to the kosher wine palate, and not much more. Now that is a gross oversimplification, yes I agree. Still, it is far closer to the truth than many are making it out to be. Read the rest of this entry

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