Category Archives: Kosher Red Wine

A tasting of M & M Importers’ latest imports – March 2022

Well folks it has been too long since my last post, Passover, life, lots of work, anyway, I have a lot of notes to post, so look for them to be coming very soon., For now, I need to post the lovely wines I received from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers. These are all Italian options and some of them can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while most of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ.

The simpler wines have a new label, gone is the Botteotto brand and now we have the wines under the original winery’s brands. A few of these wines are Mevushal and while I have my issues with the need for Mevushal in our lives today, it seemed to have little to no effect on the wines themselves.

Also, I finally had the chance to taste the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Franci, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino, for a second time. I had it in France last year, and while I liked the wine it did not blow me away, as I was expecting. I am happy I had the chance as I felt the wine did not show well in pairs. Sure enough, the wine was indeed better and the revised score and notes can be found below.

The wine list is another example of why Italy is a wonderful wine region to find QPR stars. This entire list is either GOOD to WINNER. No duds. Overall another great list from M &M Importers.

My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Cristallo Pinot Grigio, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is fun, it is simple but fun, refreshing, funky, and enjoyable.
The nose of this wine is funky, with notes of straw, rosebud, rose petals, green apple, slate, white flowers, and more hay!
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, simple, refreshing, well-balanced, with lovely acidity, nice weight, good fruit focus, orange notes, nectarine, tart lemon/lime, and citrus, but what sticks with you is the refreshing weight and salinity.
The finish is long, green, tart, balanced with good acidity, hay, straw, violet, and long lingering tart green fruit with minerality. Lovely! Drink now. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

2020 Illuminare Dry Moscato, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine reminds me of the other dry Muscat wine I know of on the market – Michael Kaye’s lovely wine. Michael’s wine is fruitier, this wine is lean, very floral, but also shows tart/dry tropical notes, really very different but also similar and equally fascinating.
The nose of this wine is intoxicating, it pulls you in and grabs you, showing tart and dry pineapple, intense jasmine, white flowers, tart green and yellow mango, lychee, smoke, flint, and more floral notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, showing lovely saline, refreshing, tart, with great acidity, sweet Mandarin orange, pineapple, sweet pear, Meyer lemon, honeyed notes, and lovely honeysuckle.
The finish is long, tart, green, yet nicely ripe, very floral, with good saline, minerality, and more fruit. Bravo! Drink Now (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

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The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2022 in all price ranges

Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, from under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and a safe Passover together. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!

A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top-Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events, normally, happen a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview WinesGotham WinesSuhag WineLiquid Kosheronlinekosherwine.comkosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 13 of so dollar 2019 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Blanc (White), or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top-Flight wine, and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top-Flight wines are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Canteloup, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2020 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Thankfully, so far, the few 2021 Roses I have had are not nearly as poor as the 2020 crop or Rose wines. The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it is the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!

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The top 10 Kosher Mevushal wines of 2021

If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.

Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.

The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.

Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.

More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.

Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)

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The official Inaugural South African ESSA Wine Company release – Feb 2022

WOW, another year has come and gone with madness circling and surrounding us, but there are a few very talented folks who brave it all and continue to impress year after year.

We have been blessed with another vintage in South Africa, I think it is still in the midst of harvest, depending on the varietals. However, it means that it is a year past harvest from 2021! Josh Rynderman, the Dual-Hemisphere winemaker of Kos Yeshuos Winery and ESSA Wine Co., was kind enough to let me taste a few of the wines last year, but with my mind locked on getting up a mountain and then getting down alive, I forgot to post the notes! Then I see the official release of what we all knew for some time, that Royal wine was distributing ESSA wines, and man, I have to get to posting on these notes!!!!

To see more about the story and life of Kos Yeshuos and the Ryndermans, you can read my post here about last year’s wines, and this post about the wines made under ESSA Wine Co. Thankfully, the ESSA wines are all here in the USA, at this point, and they should be for sale on KosherWine.com, any day now, and they are available at most shops on the east coast.

By the way, it is cool to see wines from the VERY first vintage of ESSA wines with the 2018 Malbec, and then the 2019 vintage with the Cabernet Franc, the 2020 and 2021 vintages with the Emunah blend, and the white Altria, respectively. So cool to see the full gamut of effort on display for all to see! Bravo brother! much more success! Three QPR (Quality to Price ratio) WINNER wines from 4 vintages – WOW! The Malbec came in as GOOD, a very solid showing.

As you know Josh is a friend, and as always I make sure to disclaim things like that before posting my notes, like with Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. So, with that, my many thanks to Josh for sharing his wines with me, and yes, I have tasted them again, today, and I miss you, buddy, it has only been a few months since Josh returned to South Africa to do this year’s harvest, but his presence is missed from NorCal. Looking forward to your return for NorCal’s harvest in July/August 2022!

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

2021 ESSA Altira, Cape South Coast – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose opens to Semillon-dominated aromas with lovely honeysuckle, yellow flowers, yellow plums, green/yellow apple, tart gooseberry, lovely mineral, flint, and rich straw/hay. This mouth on this medium-bodied wine is INSANE, the acidity is off the charts, with rich saline, flint, smoke, followed by layers, yes layers, of ripe melon, sweet gooseberry, lovely tart orange, passion fruit, lovely mouthfeel, almost a bit oily, with rich Asian Pear, rich lemongrass, ripe yellow grapefruit, and a precision and focus that is really incredible. The finish is long, green mineral-driven, and tart, with still incredible acidity, perfectly balanced, with flint, white chalk, green olives, and smoke galore. Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)

2020 ESSA Emunah, Hemel en Aarde Ridge – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a red Bordelaise blend. The nose on this wine is a lovely red, dark cherry, dark red fruit, earth, mushroom, smoke, tar, loam, wet earth, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice and approachable but one that will gain from age, with rich mushroom, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, nice bell pepper, with lovely mouth-coating tannin, rich currants, hints of black plum, with charcoal, lovely garrigue, and earth. The finish is long green, earthy, with garrigue, charcoal, roasted meat, smoke, Cuban cigar, and nice leather. Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

——————————- reposted here from 2020 and 2019 tasting ———————————

2019 ESSA Cabernet Franc (French Barrels) – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is oaky to start with loads of heat, with a few minutes that blow off, to show lovely earth, forest floor, and dirt, with dark currant, green notes, foliage, green tea, and lovely red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is still quite young, with loads of screaming tannin, lovely acidity, and oak, with loads of sweet dill, spice, and nice control overall, with 13.8% ABV, showing green notes of asparagus/cucumber with cranberry, dried raspberry, and tart fruit, and lovely floral notes of rosehip, still showing oak, hints of smoke, mushroom, and sweet strawberry. An elegant wine with great control. The finish is long, green, dark, and yet tart, with a great balance from the acid and the fruit, with lovely sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, and earth, with graphite, and more mushroom lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted Sept 2020)

2018 Essa Wine Co. Malbec – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The color of this wine is incredibly dark, almost purely black. The nose on this wine is dense, black, and truly fruity, with incredible roasted meat, black and blue fruit, and red fruit lurking somewhere, with black olives, and the smoke monster coming out in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and starts off a bit scary, with time this calms down very well, mostly because of the incredible acidity and tart juicy fruit, showing lovely juicy strawberry, boysenberry, with blackberry, and plum, backed by layers of brooding dark fruit, with nice earth/loam, smoke, and roasted animal. The finish is long, ripe, with strawberry juicy fruity, with mineral galore, graphite giving way to layers of smoke, with crazy tobacco, tar, and asphalt. Nice! Drink until 2024.

The top 25 QPR Kosher wine WINNERS of 2021

This past year I wanted to drive home the need for QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines. So I set out to create what I thought a QPR metric should be! Gone were arbitrary price ranges and such. Instead, I let the market define what the QPR price range should be. I did this by grouping the wines by their type (white, red, rose, sparkling, and dessert) and then further refined the grouping by age-ability within the white and red wines. This gave me the following groups:

  • Drink “soon” White Wine (Simple whites)
  • Rose Wine (always drink soon)
  • Drink “soon” Red Wine (Simple reds)
  • Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years)
  • High-end Red wines (11 and more years)
  • High-end White wines (7 and more years)
  • Sparkling Wine (No need here for extra differentiation)
  • Dessert Wine

I then made the mistake of trying to create an Orange wine range/group – that was a HUGE mistake. Again, the wines themselves were not the issue, the issue revolved around trying to group such a small sample set into its group. They will go into their respective white wine category, next year.

Throughout the year, I posted many QPR posts, for almost all of the main categories. I will continue down this road until I find a better way to categorize and track wines that are QPR WINNERS. Talk about WINNERS, that secondary QPR score was a 2.1 revision to my QPR scoring, and that is explained in this post. All the wines listed here are QPR WINNERS from my tastings in 2021.

This year, the list came to a total of 25 names, and none had to dip below 91 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Shoutout to a GREAT wine that is just sitting around!

I am sorry to get on my soapbox before we get to the top QPR wines of 2021. But I have to ask what is wrong with the 2018 Vitkin Grenache Blanc??? Yes, it is a bit expensive, but it is also one of the best white wine on the market currently, hailing from Israel. It is incredible – funky, acidic, rich, and expressive – please folks – try the bottle and then once you find out how awesome it is, buy some!! As always, I get nothing for promoting/suggesting a wine, NOTHING, I am simply reminding folks – great wines still hail from Israel!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 Red QPR kosher WINNER

The 2017 Clos Mesorah is lovely! It is available in the USA and elsewhere. I tasted the 2018 and 2019 as well, and they are lovely, but I will taste them again on the release here in the USA.

2017 Clos Mesorah, Montsant – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, lovely green olives, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, showing a bit more acid than even 2019, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted November 2021) (in Montsant, Spain) (ABV = 14.5%)

The 2021 White QPR kosher WINNERS

These two wines were available before but I fear the 2019 Netofa Latour, White is sold out, and the 2020 vintage is not as good as the 2019 vintage. The 2018 Tel Qasser, White is lovely and available.

2019 Netofa Latour, White – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, incredible, refined oak, with a refined approach to the fruit, straw, earth, pear, white apple, and smoke, with creme brulee, awesome! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is truly impressive, with layers of acidity, elegance, sweet oak, with oak tannin, but the creme brulee and smoke are beautiful, with green notes, pear, tart guava, and sweet apple brioche, wow! The finish is long, green, tart, with sweet fruit, mineral, slate, and more freshly baked goods. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted January 2021)

2018 Netofa Tel Qasser, White – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The 2018 vintage shows far more of the classic Roussanne reductive aspects than 2017 does today, but it is also far richer, deeper in intensity, and approachable, but I would let this lie. The nose on this wine, like 2017 starts closed, yes, it is open, but please there is so much more here, it is just covered in marzipan, almonds, walnuts, oak, smoke, orange, orange blossom, with rich salinity, big bold and bright fruit hiding, and lovely spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, just WOW, and that is with 10 minutes of air, this wine will improve with a couple of years, but I do see how approachable this wine can feel, and if you want to go ahead, but it will be better in a few years, with layers upon layers of smoke, ripe controlled fruit, with ripe peach, apricot, melon, incredible nutty notes, lovely tannin, green olives, wrapped in an unctuous and oily mouthfeel that feels like being wrapped in a sushi roll of oak, smoke, fruit, and nori – WOW! The finish is so long, I AM VERY HAPPY it was my last wine of the tasting, this is crazy, so incredible, with lingering notes that last forever of almonds, walnuts, nuts, smoke, grip, orange blossom, orange, tannin, acid, rock, hay, and more acid, incredible! BRAVO!! BRAVO to the master! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2021)

Rest of the top QPR Winners (in no particular order)

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2021, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines of the year awards

Like last year, 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 a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower-scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a new one – “Best Mevushal wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

The Mevushal wine of the year is something I personally dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so this will be the first year where we do it.

This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth me spending my money on. So, no I have not tasted as many Israeli wines as I have in the past, but overall, this is the largest number, for me. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction.
IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time.

IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time. No, I do not just mean, the lovely 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet, but overall, the scores garnered this year are on keel with my top wines of 2017, which included the best wines from 2014 and 2015 vintages. Nothing has come close since that list, until this past year – so that really excites me as there are still a few wines from the 2019 vintage that I have yet to taste.

As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly. The 2019 vintage may have as many once we taste them all, but for now, the 2014 vintage across all wine producers has created a far more complete and consistent product than any of the years, up until 2019.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing than adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – similar to 2017. To highlight the last point, I scored 109 wines with a 92 or higher, and 66 of those were given the QPR score of WINNER (or WINNER in FRANCE).

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2019 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2019 Chateau Malartic and the 2019 Château Gazin Rocquencourt (NON-Mevushal), and the new 2020 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 kosher wine of the year – is new!

This is a new wine for the kosher wine market and it sits a bit above where I would like it, price-wise, but it is the best wine for a price that is still comfortable for the value. It is one of the rare wines that score a GREAT QPR – when priced above 100 dollars. Still, it fits right there to make it GREAT. There were so many to choose from this year – I am so happy to restate, but in the end, this award goes to a reasonably priced wine that garnered the highest score. The 2014 and 2015 Domain Roses Camille was an option, but the price pushed out of the competition. There was the 2017 Elvi Clos Mesorah, at a far better price than the LaGrange, but again, the LaGrange fit right in that space, barely above the Clos (quality-wise), and within the range of QPR. There was the 2018 Malartic and the 2017 Leoville, but they, like the DRC, were priced out. Finally, there was the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, but that wine is almost impossible to find, sadly!

If there was a single QPR WINNER that blew me away – it would be the 2012 Château Cru Ducasse – in France, I can see no reason not to buy as much of this as humanly possible! Either way – the new Chateau LaGrange is a wonderful wine and one that is worthy of the 2021 wine of the year!

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting

This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!

This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.

I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!

The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.

Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.

The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.

I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.

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

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

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Four Gates Winery’s January 2022 new releases

I was not going to post these notes but I received too many requests – so OK, here you go!.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

No new wines

This year there are no new wines, there is a red blend, but that is a blend of existing red fruit that Benyo owns. The Petit Verdot is from Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2017, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. The Chardonnay is under the Ayala label, and I did not get good notes on it to post them.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is less ripe than last year. First, you have the 2018 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, N.V. Four Gates Red Blend, which is a blend of his fruits, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., last year we had the non-M.S.C., the 2017 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2016 Four Gates Fraire Robaire, which was a no-show last year.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.

Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for the wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.

The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if I beg for lower prices.

Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities.  His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.

Lastly, the fact that he sold out his year’s stock of wine in 9 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that. This year’s sale lasted 2 minutes longer but there were more wines to sell. Benyo and I did have conversations on how to get the tech better, there are clear issues, hopefully, next year it will be better, but no promises there, and I am not involved!!

So, I am done with the discussion, and I hope you all got some of the wines. Sadly, all the wines we tasted were shiners, so there are no pictures.

The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy Malbec or Petit Verdot, in case anyone is asking. I did not get to taste the Chardonnay in the best manner, so there are no notes for it. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz, CA – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This vintage is a bit more balanced than in the past with nice blue and black fruit, nice herb, root beer, good smoke, and a nice overall approach. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good fruit, saline, smoke, good acidity, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, with hints of raspberry, earth, and smoke. The finish is long, acidic, with mouth-draping tannin, good fruit focus, and nice earth. Drink by 2026. (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.20%)

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Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – November 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!

As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.

Marmorieres Wines

I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.

White wines from all over France

For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!

Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines

I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.

Rhone Wines

We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.

Various Bordeaux Wines

This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!

German Weingut Gehring Wines

These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.

Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.

Thoughts on this tasting

Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!

Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.

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

Chevalier Wines

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)

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Paris tasting of Moise Taieb wines – November 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Yoni Taieb and the rest of Taieb wines for sending the wines to us to taste. In the past, I have made my way to Taieb’s office, once by myself and once with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered.

As stated, in my previous post, we kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Still, we were ready to take the train down to the offices, but things could not line up and so Mr. Taieb was very kind, to once again, send the wines to our hotel. We then stayed in the hotel room and tasted through them.

As always, you can get these wines and much more from Taieb’s online website. They ship within Europe and to London. Sadly, they are all sold out of the incredible 2019 Burgundies that I enjoyed tasting at Andrew Breskin’s house. Andrew has some of them still for sale, like the lovely 2017 Domaine Chantal Lescure and the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand wines – lovely!! Get them while they last!

Tasting in the hotel room

The most hilarious part of our trip was life in the hotel. Everything in Paris is masked and distanced. We had cases, upon cases of wines coming to us at the hotel, differently than last time, as this time, they all came to the hotel. Still, we thankfully had loads of room as we had the top floor suite and the space was ridiculous.

In the end, it was a wonderful outcome, short of not seeing the Taiebs, again. We had time to taste the wines at our pace, room for all the wines to sit and breathe. As stated, we missed hanging out with Mr. Taieb, and I hope he and his lovely family are doing well!

NOTE: A few of the wines seemed to be a bit off, the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, 2019 Domaine de Grava, and 2019 Château De L’Anglais. I will not post my notes here as I need to taste them again when I go back to France or if I can get them here in the USA. There were a few Champagne as well, but none of them stood out enough for me to post them here. Finally, we have very few photos of these, apologies.

QPR WINNING Wine Distributor

Since the first time I was lucky to sit down and taste through the Taieb Wine portfolio, I kept commenting to Yoni, how there were so many good QPR wines, for those that live within Europe and London, and even a few for the USA as well! Now, how does this happen? Well, let us talk about Taieb’s wine portfolio. They have an exclusive relationship with Laurent Perrier for producing kosher Champagne, and that is great. While they do not make wines like Chateau Smith Haut LafiteChateau Malartic, or Chateau Leoville Poyferre, they do produce and distribute wines, within Europe that are of very high quality at reasonable prices, AKA, QPR WINNERS.

Let us continue with the fact that Taieb makes some of the very best Burgundy wines on the market and has been doing so for more than 10 years now! However, those wines, while wonderful, are not as much QPR as they quality/score stars! In Bordeaux, Taieb has gone a different route by consistently producing wines, within Bordeaux, that punch well above their weight and many that shock you for the price they are selling at. They may not top out at 95 in scores, like Domaine Chantal LescureDomaine D’Ardhuy (almost), or J.P. Marchand, but they do choose the wineries they work with inside of Bordeaux, incredibly well, to create QPR WINNERS at a very impressive rate!

In the end, that is what differentiates Taieb from the other Kosher wine producers. Sure, Royal Wines does a great job with QPR while also having the quality superstars that are hard to fit in the QPR bucket. In my last tasting with Bokobsa, they showed high quality and good prices, in France, for a fair number of wines. Still, when I think of QPR options, within Europe, I think of Taieb’s portfolio! I am consistently shocked at why the folks in London do not buy Taieb wines by the cases – given the wonderful prices, the easy shipping, and the favorable exchange rate. The real Achilles Heel of Taieb Wines, IMHO, is the lack of great distribution and equally solid pricing in the USA.

Until then, you can follow what I wrote up in this post, and try to piece together some of these wines in the USA, if you can! Thankfully, we have Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, helping to drive Burgundy excellence in the USA, and most recently bringing in some of the better Bordeaux wines, as well. Further, three of these wines, posted below, are QPR WINNER, even in the USA. We need more of this!!!

In Closing

Again, the theme of very solid Taieb wines being very hard to find in the USA is a consistent issue to me. Thankfully, some of these wines are being brought in by Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, so I hope to taste at least some of these again in the USA soon.
My many thanks to Yoni Taieb and all at Moise Taieb Wines & Spirits for taking the time to send me the wines to my hotel. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Baron David, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER (France))
The nose on this wine shows very much like previous vintages, with good clean lines, green notes, red fruit, herb, forest floor, foliage, and loam. The mouth of this medium-plus wine is tannic, balanced, acidic, and green, with herbal notes, foliage, bell pepper, raspberry, dark cherry, roasted mint, basil, and tarragon, with a backbone that is based in fruit and acid and nice minerality. The finish is long, green, tannic, with scraping minerality, graphite, clay, and nice loam. Nice!! Drink until 2024. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 14%)

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