Category Archives: Kosher Red Wine

Sulfites, Cilantro, and Or Haganuz Elima, a no sulfite added wine – revised

This is not the first time I have posted about Or Haganuz and its sulfite-free Cabernet wine. They have been making this wine for many years now, I remember as early back as 2009, maybe earlier.

We have spoken before about sulfites when I posted an article, about the then ONLY Kosher Sulfite Free wine that I knew of. The Bashan Winery is a lovely small winery in the Galilee that only produces sulfite-free wine.

So what are Sulfites? They are nothing more than a preservative for wine. They were added into wine staring in the last century or so. Before then people got along fine without using them – why? Because sulfites occur naturally in wine. The extra sulfites one may add allow for the wine to stay on the shelf or in the cellar longer. So most winemakers that bottle organic wine will say that white wines should be drunk within the year and within the day of opening it. Red wines have a bit more life to them – 5 years or so, as sulfites are far more prevalent in red wines.

Many wineries have wines made from organically grown grapes – this is a trend that many wineries are trying to push, in ways as part of the whole natural wine story. Also, because organic grapes are more than just a selling point, it because organic grapes are good for the vines, the vine workers, and ultimately, the customer.

When we talk about sulfite-free wine, it does not always mean organic wine! In the USA, the rules are VERY simple, you CANNOT add any preservatives in ANY manner – as described here, (sorry the data is in a PDF) on the USDA website if you wish to put the word Organic on the wine label. An organic wine means ZERO SO2 was added to the wine at any time in the processing of the wine. The wine will still have sulfites unless they were fined out because sulfites occur naturally in the grape skins. Also, the wine must be made from organic grapes and many other requirements. The U.S. differs in what it defines as “organic” wine from the EU or other countries. In the E.U. they can call a wine organic, as long as:

  • These include: maximum sulfite content set at 100 mg per liter for red wine (150 mg/l for conventional)
  • 150mg/l for white/rosé (200 mg/l for conventional),
  • with a 30mg/l differential where the residual sugar content is more than 2g per liter.

Please note – that this is not additive sulfite count/numbers, but rather that TOTAL amount of sulfites allowed in the wines. Again, sulfites occur naturally in grape skins, so if you macerate your wine for 2 months (or something long like that anyway), you will get a fair amount of sulfite in your wine without ever adding any actual SO2 into your wine, manually. Also, sulfite is a naturally occurring byproduct of the fermentation process.

So why all the buzz around sulfites in wine? Because some people are supposedly allergic to the sulfites. What is the percentage of people with this ailment? The USDA describes it as 1/100 as stated here, far fewer people than the percentage of folks who think Cilantro is the Devil’s spawn (I am one of them by the way, Cilantro hater, not Sulfite hater).

So, when my local Rabbi, who says he is allergic to Sulfites asked me to look at options, I told him the only kosher mass-produced “no sulfite added” option out there is the Or Haganuz Elima.

So, when I had the opportunity to taste the recent vintage, I was happy to do so, so that I could decide for myself if this wine was drinkable or not. When I tasted it I was shocked, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was Or Haganuz, come on, their wines are undrinkable by default. They are classically built Israeli wines, oak monsters, with unbearable tannin structure, and date juice drove. So, when I tasted the Elima, I was shocked that it was a well-balanced wine, with good fruit focus, and to boot, it had no added sulfites. Now, from the structure of the wine, I can tell they macerated this wine for a good amount of time. How long, I have no idea, but they “added” sulfites by extracting all the sulfites they could from the grape skins as they could. Now, I am no doctor or professor, but well before reading the back label of the bottle, I could tell you this wine was macerated for a long period of time. Sure, enough the back label says exactly what I had surmised from my palate, that they had used a method of winemaking developed by Dr. Arkady Papikian (a consulting winemaker in Israel), which used a long maceration process and then a long and cold fermentation. Both of which, as stated above create natural sulfites. I have no idea if naturally occurring sulfites cause people with allergies, fewer issues, but my Rabbi, who says he is allergic to sulfites has no issues with this particular wine.

Please NOTE – this is NOT an organic wine, it does not use the word organic, nor does it advertise as such. It simply states that they did not add in sulfites to this wine, at least in an unnatural manner anyway.

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

2016 Or Haganuz Elima – Score: 90 (no added sulfites)
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc.
The wine is a classical new world wine, very ripe, and concentrated, still the lack of sulfites do not affect it to me. This wine has no added sulfites – but a sulfite-free red wine does not exist, as all red wines have naturally occurring sulfites.
The nose on this wine is ripe, with nice green notes, garrigue, and good notes of earth and spice, with anise galore, menthol, some black fruit, and hints of red berries. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered, a wine that will sell well for those that like wine like this, it is well balanced with good acidity, tobacco galore, with rich smokey meats, blackberry, cassis, and ripe juicy dark plums, all wrapped in good tannin and a nice fruit structure. The finish is long and green, with foliage, sweet dill, and nice green and red fruit on the long linger. Nice! As the wine opens the chocolate emerges.

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Top Grenache wines available now

Well, I just posted by Pinot Noir post, and as I have stated before, Grenache is the Pinot Noir of the Rhone Valley.

So, there we are – I hope we understand the dearth of options that exist in the kosher Pinot Noir landscape. With that in mind, I thought it was high time to have a Pinot Noir tasting, along with the fact that a guest who came to our house said he liked Pinot Noir and Grenache! In a way, it was the perfect wine combo! Grenache is called the “Pinot noir of the Rhone Valley” for its finicky growing style as well, so the combo was chosen.

Now if good kosher Pinot Noir is a pain to find – forget about Grenache!! Here is the list – the TOTAL list that I know of (whether I would or would not drink them):

  1. Hajdu Winery (much epic Grenache including 2007, 2010, and 2012, 2014)
  2. Capcanes Winery
  3. Ramon Cardova (undrinkable)
  4. Galil Winery (last I had was OK)
  5. Shirah Winery
  6. Vitkin Winery
  7. Dalton Estate (Last I had was really sweet)
  8. Kos Yeshuous (only in 2016)

After those – the rest are blends, including the lovely Elvi, Netofa, and onwards:

  1. Vignobles David (The last Vignobles I had were not fun, I hope to taste them again soon) – he has many wines with Grenache in them, in varying degrees of percentages.
  2. Elvi Winery (Great wines indeed)
  3. Netofa Winery (they recently added Grenache to their famous SM wines).
  4. Capsouto Winery (they too only have 30% or so from Grenache)
  5. Capcanes Winery (yes again because they make the famous Peraj Ha’Abib with Grenache as part of the blend)
  6. Yaacov Oryah Wines (he makes a Blanc de Noir from Grenache and a few GSM as well). Sadly, I have not tasted his new wines. I hope to be doing that soon.

Sadly, in the world of white – there are only TWO full Granche Blanc wines:

  1. Hajdu Winery (much epic Grenache including 2007, 2010, and 2012, 2014)
  2. Vitkin Winery

Also, like the Noir, there is a winery that uses the Grenache Blanc in a blend:

  1. Capsouto Winery (they use 60% of it or so in the Eva)
  2. Vignobles David (The last Vignobles I had were not fun, I hope to taste them again soon and new ones as well) – he has a wine or two with Grenache Blanc in them, in varying degrees of percentages.
  3. Shirah Winery made a Vintage White in 2016 that was mostly Grenache Blanc, but this year, they went back to using Viognier as the major varietal in this white blend.

Read the rest of this entry

A Horizontal of 2013 Pinot Noirs and other top Pinot Noir to buy now

A few weeks ago, Benaymin Cantz from Four Gates Winery and friends came over for a Friday night dinner, and I thought it was a good time to open my 2013 Pinot Noirs that I have been saving. I must say, in hindsight, I should have done it earlier, as some of the wines were already past their time or DOA.

My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. Overall, the night was fine, it was just not at the level I had hoped for. Thankfully, Benyo brought two extra wines, and they made the night super special! They were, a 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir and a 2005 Four gates Merlot. M.S.C.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Even if the 2013 Pinot was DOA, I have had good success with Gvaot Pinot Noir. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty.

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

Read the rest of this entry

2017 Herzog Rose of Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve, Clarksburg

When I was in Oxnard, tailing along with Gabriel Geller to taste the new wines from Herzog Winery, late in 2017 (a couple of months after the harvest), we met with Joe Hurliman and Joe Herzog. As they were showing us around, I saw my old friend Josh Goodman standing next to a barrel. Josh used to live in San Jose, CA early in his career with Herzog, when the winery was situated in San Martin, CA.

Herzog Cellars started in 1985 and it was located in the old San Martin Winery. Josh and Jordana were members of our shul for close to two years. It was heady years in those days, lots of young and hip folks. Wine and food was center of what was our shul at that time, and it was fun hanging with Josh in those days.

Sadly, in 1998, Herzog moved the winery to CWS in Santa Maria, and they hired the now head winemaker, Joe Hurliman. I would see Josh every year at either the IFWF or the KFWE first in Los Angeles, in varied locations.

Josh was hovering over that barrel and its contents, like a mother hen over its fledglings, and personally, I saw that love in the wine. It was a Rose from Pinot Noir, and Joe and Josh would continue to perfect that wine until it was worthy of the tasting room reserve label.

I really enjoyed the wine, I must say and it showed quite well for me. The weight and the oak were clearly perceived, but they were in balance and control, and I found those characteristics to be more enjoyable than I would have expected in a rose.

Clearly, this is not a quaffing rose, it is more an appetizer rose, and one that can be enjoyed with a slightly larger range of food options.

Bravo to Josh and the Herzog winery. In my opinion, and in regards to my notes, this is ts best rose from Herzog for me this year.

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

2017 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve, Clarksburg – Score: 90
This wine is fun, it has done so much right with things that could go so wrong. Sadly, I have been asked to taste horrible oak driven roses, or acid-free disasters, or dark roses that make me wonder why the word rose is on the bottle.
This wine has so many things that may make me wonder if I was being punished yet again, but thankfully this wine is truly fun, yes it has oak, but in lovely control, followed by a darker than normal color for a rose but hey not everyone loves Gris, finally the wine is well balanced with fruit, and it is not a tropical fruit bomb – bravo!
The nose on this wine shows lovely smoky oak notes, with lemongrass, ripe strawberry, with hints of passion fruit, and lovely summer fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really fun, it shows a great acid core, followed by more oak, nice salinity, pink grapefruit, that gives way to flint, smoke, and green notes. The finish is long, sweet, with hints of oak, rich vanilla, and lovely tart fruit that lingers long, with flint. Lovely – Bravo! Drink Now.

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac (kosher)

I recently had the chance to sit down and taste this wine in my house. I tasted it twice at KFWE and in the end, it was better in the home, after it had the chance to decant and show its real potential.

The wine is made at Domaines Fabre in the Haut-Médoc AOC. The wine is classified under Cru Bourgeois, which while may not be a top classification, includes 267 estates today! One of my all-time favorites is under the Cru Bourgeois classification, Fourcas Dupre!

The classification has wineries from many regions on the left bank and the vast majority of these wines are Cabernet Sauvignon dominated.

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

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. This is a fun wine, remember that we have not yet seen the big wines of 2016. As I have said many times on this blog, the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux may well be better than the 2015 vintage! For now, the few 2016 reds we have seen from Bordeaux are showing nicely.
The nose on this wine shows very nicely with rich loam, dirt, green notes, followed by bright and big black fruit, with hints of mushroom in the background, lovely mint, and menthol notes abound as well. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun and alive, with screaming acid, that gives way to intense tannin that is soft and yet rich and mouth coating, with great fruit focus, showing blackcurrant, blackberry, with red cherry, and olives, that give way to green notes, mouth scraping mineral, foliage, and tobacco. The finish is long and green, at the start it is a bit too astringent and green to truly enjoy, with time it comes around with nice spice, earth, graphite, sour notes, more red and black fruit, and nice coffee/chocolate mix. Nice! It can be drunk now, but to really appreciate it, I would decant it for a good 3 hours, to cut some of the green and astringent notes. Drink now (with decanting) till 2027.

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

As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday.  Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. The Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year, last year’s list was better. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is my list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

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

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the less than 10 dollar 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, as wonderful as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the 50 dollars and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 (A- of old) or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2016 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2017 Roses that will be released soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below.

For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it. It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses from Arc International. Also, remember that the first cup should be drunk in totality, according to most authorities.

A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is not as long as last year’s list, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, started to show nicely, but now they are falling apart, and the 2016 reds from Israel are flat or worse.

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

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

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

Wines below 10 dollars:

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

Wines below 15 dollars:

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

Wines below 20 dollars:

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

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

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

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

Overall Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

Winners of the shows

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

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

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

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

Domaine Roy’s 2016 Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai

My friend GG sent me an image a month ago of a new wine that he had not yet tried, which is saying something. It was a wine that was selling at Skyview Wines and it was called Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai.

The first question we all had was what is Maison Roy & Fils? A quick Google search quickly found it to be an up and coming Burgundy style Domaine in the heart of the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Domaine Roy

Sadly, there have been very few really good Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This may well be the best one that I have tasted so far. The wine has the stylings of its owners, clean lines, almost clinically so, but with heart and soul, a purpose and focus of home, while being professionally styled and without too much fanfare.

A quick glance at the winery and you will see the same thing. Clear lines, clean, with focus on the home and not much fanfare. The wine follows the lines and while this is the first kosher vintage (we are hoping for me please), the winery has been doing this for three years already.

The winery was started by two men that have winemaking running in the veins and lineage. In 1992 wine critic Robert Parker and his brother-in-law, Michael Etzel partnered with Quebec property developer Robert Roy to create Beaux Frères. Marc Roy and Jared Etzel, both sons of Robert Roy and Michael Etzel, respectively, along with investors (more on that in a bit) created this gorgeous Domaine in 2012. The vineyards came online in 2015 and 2016, but the first wines were sourced from vineyards close to the winery.

The land was purchased in 2012, the vineyards were planted in 2013, and they lie on volcanic soils and basalt rock. There are two vineyards the first one is planted on 13 high-density acres of 10 different Pinot Noir clones and two acres of Chardonnay on its south-facing hillside. This vineyard is called the Iron Filbert Vineyard. The other vineyard which came online in 2016, is called Quartz Acorn Vineyard, it is planted in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Here there are 22 acres of high-density Pinot Noir and 2 acres of Chardonnay. The soil is slightly quartz-based, with sedimentary soils that are surrounded by Savanah Oaks, which explain the vineyard’s name.

The beautiful winery is surrounded by the Iron Filbert Vineyard. Sadly, I have yet to visit the winery, but from the pictures, it is a sight to see. Jared is the winemaker and Marc is the founder working with a slightly hands-off approach.

Vineyards

Wine starts on the vine and finishes in the winery. This is a philosophy that Domaine Roy takes very seriously. Though the fruit used for this wine was sourced from vineyards not owned by Domaine Roy, the fruit is still of equal importance, and it shows in the wine. Shai was made from fruit sourced from the La Colina, Dundee Hills AVA. The Shai Pinot Noir uses the Maison Roy name, just like the Maison Roy wines of 2013 and 2014, which were also made from grapes sourced outside the vineyards of Domaine Roy, the wine had the same process of native yeasts, open bin fermentors, and oak aging.

The clear leanings of the winery is to let the fruit shine, and just shepherd the fruit towards its purpose, by not influencing it too much with manual intervention. This is not a natural wine, nor is the winery interested in that philosophy, which I have gleaned from the conversations I had with the winery staff.

The winery’s goal beyond letting the vineyards speak is to create a wine showing its purity and transparency at the highest level from their land. The real desire is to concentrate on wines from the Dundee and Carlton AVA regions. The focus is of course on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Read the rest of this entry

Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village – latest 2016 vintage

I recently received the entire line of the new 2016 wines from Jacques Capsouto Vignobles. I have written many times about this winery, that broke onto the kosher wine scene without many knowing anything about them, and shocked us all with really impressive wines starting from the inaugural release.

The 2015 vintage was not kosher in the end, having to do with how or when the grapes were picked, the 2014 and 2016 vintages are perfectly fine and bear the OK kosher symbol.

I have yet to interview Mr. Capsouto personally (though I did talk with him at Sommelier briefly), but there are many good articles out there and I recommend that you read them all – as each has a nugget of information that the other lacks. The first is the oldest of the articles that I enjoyed – maybe the first one written; when the vines were planted. The next one is an article written by the ever wonderful Dorothy Gaiter, written in the Grape Collective. Next, you have the in-depth article by Haaretz – with really good insights. Finally, there is the best article, IMHO, from one of the better kosher wine writers today; Adam Montefiore.

Through all the articles – you get a common story of Jacques Capsouto, an immigrant from Egypt, who built Capsouto Frères with his family, a classic French restaurant in Tribeca – before anyone cared about Tribeca! Throughout the entire journey of Capsouto Freres, he showed his never-ending passion, and drive, but sadly it ended in sorrow after the effects of terrorism and natural disasters destroyed almost half a lifetime of sweat and tears. To me though, there is another story in there, one of love for Israel, wine, and a deep understanding that Rhone varietals have its place in the Galilee!

Rhone Rangers

The Rhone Rangers are a group of California winemakers who in the 80s started an association to promote Rhone varietals in California. They have single-handedly pushed Rhone Valley varietals into the wine buyer’s subconscious. In 2011, Mr. Capsouto planted a subset of the 22 official varietals (9 in total) that make up the Rhone Rangers list of promoted grapesIn doing so, he became Israel’s first and ONLY truly 100% Rhone varietal winery, in other words, Jacques is all-in on the Rhone Valley in the Galilee!

Look around Israel for those betting on the Rhone varietals, there is, of course, Netofa Winery (who planted Rhone and Loire Valley grapes), Recanati Winery (which has access to Bordeaux grapes for the reserve series and Rhone grapes for their Mediterranean Series), Kishor Winery, and Vitkin Winery. Still, no one has staked 1.7 million dollars to start a boutique winery in the Galilee, featuring some of the most obscure grapes to ever grace Israel! The 9 varieties planted are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for the reds and Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for the whites. Carignan is nothing new in Israel, I just posted an article about Carignan wines from Israel. Cinsault is not one I know of in Israel, or anywhere else in the kosher wine world. Grenache is slowly making its way around the country and has been in Israel for some time now. Same with Mourvedre and Syrah of course. Clairette and Grenache Blanc are new to Israel, though Vitkin also has Grenache Blanc. While Marsanne and Roussanne are in the Golan and other places as well. Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2017 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

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 best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

This year I am adding the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go 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. This year, it is not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Des Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted it, or the 2015 Hajdu Proprietary Red. 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 – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! 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 all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2017 kosher wine of the year!

This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

The 2017 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.

Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017

2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034

2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035

2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry

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