Category Archives: Kosher Red Wine
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!
The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.
I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)
It is not yet summer and here in NorCal it feels like more like a wet winter, this year has started cold and has stayed cold throughout the country, other than in Arizona and Florida, AKA, baseball Spring Training! Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have also visited France, sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is scene 1, more roses are coming in, but we have seen a large number already, and yes, like last year, they are underwhelming, at BEST!
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.
While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.
As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.
Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!
Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 22 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.
Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.
Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.Read the rest of this entry
Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people who have received the Covid Vaccine to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and maybe even a Passover together. Last year, I was extremely tentative about writing this yearly post, but I am happy that many found it useful and enjoyable, even in those extremely early bleak times. 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 Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, Liquid Kosher, onlinekosherwine.com, kosherwine.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 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, red, 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 Riganes Bordeaux, 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 2019 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Sadly, so far, the 2020 roses I have tasted, are also a waste of your money! 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 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!
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.
NOTE! This year all 4 cups are NOT a D’oraysa, but rather a rabbinic requirement. Therefore, you can stay at 3.5 ounces. The only day you will need to go to the 4.42-ounce sized cup would be Shabbat night.Read the rest of this entry
I am going to keep this post real short. I am catching up on some wines that I have tasted over the past month or more. Sadly, most of these are a mess or just good enough. Thankfully, there were six QPR (Quality to Price) Winners. That included the 2017 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi Vineyards. I have said this a few times, Rieslings need time! 2017 is no different. It needed time to come around and now it is a solid QPR WINNER.
Roses are slowly trickling in and on kosher wine sites, you can see as many as 20 2020 roses. Sadly, it takes time for them to get to me, so I will start my usual procession of rose wines in a subsequent post, as they get to me here in California. So far, like 2019, they are a mess, and they feel like a total waste of my money.
In the end, the QPR WINNERS are no surprise! The 2020 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc is a solid wine and one that has lovely control and acidity. Having a wine like this with all that mother nature threw at California in 2020, I say Bravo to Covenant Winery! There are two Netofa Latour QPR WINNERS and OMG they are absolute ROCK stars. Please do me a favor and GET THEM! They will move fast! The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva is another absolute Rock Star! Finally, the last QPR WINNER was the new vintage of the Flechas Gran Malbec a lovely wine that is not ready yet but will be nice when it is.
There were a few wines that were not winners:
- The much-ballyhooed 2018 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib. I had it and it was a mess to mess. It was ripe from the start and while that ripeness did calm a bit it never really came around and for the most part, it was just OK.
- I was not a fan of any of the Carmel Mediterranean Vats wines. The 2019 Mediterranean 2 Vats white wine was ok, but it felt to me like it has RS (Residual Sugar) and that does not fly with me at all.
- The 2017 Marciano Terra Gratia was shockingly ripe and is probably the most elegant Date-juice driven wine I have ever tasted. I could be convinced, at gunpoint, to enjoy that wine, based solely on its elegance.
- The 2018 Dalton Petite Sirah was nice enough, but for the price, and the overall quality, it was a miss for me.
- Sadly, the 2018 Koenig wines continue to not impress, other than the lovely Riesling
- I tasted a large number of Victor Wines and none of them were any good.
While these other wines were not WINNERS they were quite enjoyable:
- I got to taste the new 2018 Dampt Freres Bourgogne. It is a much better version than the 2017 vintage. Sadly, the wine will probably sell for a price that does not let it be a QPR WINNER. I hope future wines will be priced lower. The sad truth is that there are few good QPR WINNER wines in the simple red wine category. It is a very hard nut to crack both in regards to making good wine and keeping it at the QPR price for that category, which is 20 or so dollars, at this moment.
- There were two nice 2019 Vitkin Wines the 2019 Vitkin Pinot Noir and the 2019 Vitkin Israeli Journey. These wines are solid, both a 90 score, but the prices are still too high for such wines. They are both simple reds and they price above the 20 dollar price range for simple red wines. They punch MUCH higher in regards to quality. The median score for simple reds is 87, at this moment. Again, getting a red wine to score WINNER in the simple red wine category is really tough!
- The Twin Sun white and Rose wines have been doing a great job, which is no surprise, as the Weiss Brothers know how to make great white and Rose wines. The 2018 Twin Suns Chardonnay-Viognier is a nice wine and at a very good price! Nice!
- The famous Matar Sparkling wine was nice enough, but it is not nearly as good as the Yarden Sparkling wines and it is more expensive. The bottle is nice!
- I had the chance to taste the 2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre again, under less than perfect conditions, NO NOT the KFWV bottle, and I have revised notes, but the score stays the same.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2020 Rose Wines
2020 Flam Rose – Score: 89+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice, with floral notes, with strawberry, flint, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acid, nice mouthfeel, with a good fruit-focus, nice strawberry, currants, and good grapefruit. (tasted January 2021)
2020 1848 2nd Generation Rose – Score: 84 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice enough with notes of rosehip, floral notes, citrus, and mineral The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acidity, and not much else, with more citrus, grapefruit, currants, and strawberry. The finish is long, acidic, and more currants and flowers. (tasted January 2021)
2020 Herzog Lineage Rose (M) – Score: 80 (QPR: NA)
Sadly, this is off-dry, it has sweet notes and not my thing. The nose on this wine has a Muscat feel, with floral notes, pineapple, cooked cabbage, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has no acid, is sweet, ripe, guava, melon, and no citrus, no acid, tropical, and not much else. (tasted January 2021)
2020 Shiloh Rose (M) – Score: 73 (QPR: NA)
The nose on this wine is tropical and ripe, with hints of mineral, and citrus. The mouth on this wine is where it all goes bad, sweet, unbalanced, bitter, a mess. (tasted January 2021)
Wines ordered in score order
2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is one of the most balanced versions of the Riserva in a very long time. The Riserva is normally undrinkable for a few years, this one is far more accessible than any previous version – WOW! The nose on this wine is incredible, with mushroom, truffle, soy sauce, tar, with floral notes of violets, and earth, smoke, and rich dark fruit, WOW! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, tannic, gripping, earthy, smoky, and fruity, with lovely tart cherry, currant, plum, and ripe blackberry, with rich earth, loam, mushroom, intense saline, black olives, with intense acid, and mouth-drying and draping aggressive tannin, wow! The finish is long, black, green, and earthy, with umami, soy sauce again, with incredible floral notes, leather, tobacco, tar, and richness, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)
2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien – Score: 93+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose is beautiful and well-controlled with crazy pencil shavings, rich black, and blue fruit, followed by tar, earth, smoke, and licorice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is closed to start with layers upon layers of currants, dark cherry, blackberry, with mouth draping tannin, crazy mineral, pencil shavings galore, with plush elegance that is plush, mouth-coating, yet the ripeness in the background is ripe and scary, but hedonistic and voluptuous, with layers of tar, earth, licorice, bell pepper, and loads of tannin galore, showing elegance and plushness, with clear hedonistic leanings and graphite/acid core that makes it all work. The finish is long, black, green, and tannic, with plush fruit and smoke, with tobacco, chocolate-covered coffee bean, and earth galore. Bravo!! Drink from 2028 until 2037 (tasted February 2021)
I had the opportunity to taste two more 2018 French wines, and true to form, they are ripe. Look, 2018 is going to be one of those vintages that will try me greatly. As stated before, it reminds me of what little we had in 2003, with the 2003 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and 2009, with the 2009 Smith Haute Lafitte. You will have wines like the 2018 Chateau Cantenac brown, which is a stunning wine, and one that will outlive everything else from this vintage that I have tasted so far. Then you have wines 2018 Chateau Montviel and the 2018 Chateau Clarke which scare me to no end. Clearly, they are ripe, and they may well improve and come together with time, but at this moment I am not stocking them.
Recently, I tasted two more of the Royal Wine 2018 French reds and one of them was a clear WINNER, in both QPR and in quality, at this time. They are the 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc, which received the QPR WINNER moniker and the 2018 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux, which while nice, really scares me, again the theme, and for the price makes little sense, at least at this moment in time. As I stated in my previous post on the 2018 French vintage, the ripe fruit in the Bordeaux mix is Merlot, it is also a large percentage of the wines on the right bank and even on the Left Bank, it is used in large enough proportions.
In closing, the Chateau Fourcas Dupre is beautiful, yes it is ripe, but it is far more balanced than other 2018 Bordeaux’s and should be a no-brainer purchase for all of you. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 44% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with 10% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is ripe, scary ripe, but under a blanket of dirt, earth, smoke, more ripe fruit, mushroom, forest floor, and earth, wow! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, elegant, but ripe, but the ripeness is balanced well by the acidity, with incredible dirt, along with floral notes, blackberry, currant, plum, and rich salinity, with dark chocolate, smoke, and rich loam, acid galore, and smoke. The finish is long, green, black, and mineral-driven, with loads of scrapping graphite, dirt, and foliage, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)
2018 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux – Score: 92 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. This wine is terrifying, another 2018 ripe wine, but this one is a tight rope across the twin towers, as they are sadly burning and falling to the ground, ripe, and downright scary. Only time will tell where this wine goes. The nose on this wine is really ripe, smoky, and earthy, with crazy fruit, dense black fruit, roasted meat, mint, sage, and cloves. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, richly extracted, good acidity, layered, and deeply concentrated with dark plum compote, fig, smoked blackberry, crazy ripeness, with rich umami, depth, and downright scary ripeness, with earth, and a denseness that may be too much for me. The finish is ripe, the acidity is there but it cannot balance this much fruit, the fruit is so dense and ripe it gets as close to being ripe bomb while still being good, with heat, smoke, leather, bay leaf, and rich salinity. Nice but wow! Drink from 2028 until 2035. (tasted January 2021)
As I am want to do, it is another year on the Gregorian calendar and I have already posted the wines of the year and the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines of the year. Now it is time for the year and decade in review. I had to wait until now, to talk about the decade in review, because there is a clear disagreement on when the new decade begins, so I went with the non-computer science approach (0-based systems), which is not what most people believe. To this point I quote Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag:
Dilemmas over marking time have been going on for years. In the late 1990s, the Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag famously compiled a 57-page research document titled The Battle of the Centuries, in which she called out people who celebrate any era before its time.
“When the encyclopedia of human folly comes to be written, a page must be reserved for the minor imbecility of the battle of the centuries — the clamorous dispute as to when a century ends,” Freitag wrote. Noting that there was no “year 0” in history, she said, “In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1.”
To bolster her argument, Freitag, who was then a senior science specialist in the library’s Science and Technology Division, cited historical records that showed similar disputes had erupted when calendars were turned to 1900.
But even Freitag acknowledged that she was swimming against the tide of popular opinion.
It may seem obvious to many, but there was never a year 0, so let’s go with the obvious fact that the decade has finally passed us and we can discuss it in regards to all things kosher wine. IMHO, I will go with the glass half empty metaphor, as no matter how hard I try, there is no real way to look at this past decade in a glass-half-full approach – give the utter disregard from much of the world for anything approaching wine I would buy.
Where are we now??
Well, that is pretty simple, IMHO, we are WORSE than we were last year, and that was worse than we were in the years before. Essentially, we are continuing the slide down, maybe even at a faster rate, with a slight caveat to the positive on high-end white wines. That would be my summation – hence the glass-half-empty reference.
COVID and what it has done to the kosher wine industry
I could not talk about 2020 in a review, or the decade in a review, without at least mentioning Covid! The clear impact of the Virus on our lives is not wine, or food, or any other material impact. What truly has changed are the people we have lost, friends or family that have been sick or passed, and jobs and families crushed by this pandemic. Those things are REAL and those real things are truly very sad and are hard to move on from.
Yes, we have lost freedom of movement, we have been locked away from our friends and family, but it all pales in comparison to the true loss of life, income, and time. Many, if not all of them, have been lost forever, and that is the true loss and suffering.
Still, there is a need/desire to talk about how COVID changed the wine industry – over the past 12 months. As such, I wrote a post – some 7 months back, and I am shocked and saddened by how much it has not changed at all over these past many months. There were some missing points so let us hit them:
- There will be no in-person KFWE or any other tasting this year, sadly. To that point, Royal Wine has made a KFWV this year and I hope you can listen in at least and maybe join in with the tasting as well!
- As I stated in the post the online stores have come through. But even more so than that were the local stores that supported the communities and I can only repeat, support your local wine merchants if you have them! Sadly, our merchants, here in NorCal, while they exist, do not quite have what I am looking for, but they are trying – so kudos to them for that! However, those of you on the east coast – BUY LOCAL! Come on, folks! Your local store is there, you have the same taxes, buy local, and make sure they feel the love!
- Restaurants may finally be coming back, but wine sales are still very low to zero, and again, why do we need Mevushal?? I pray the biggest outcome of all of this madness is the production of dual labels M and not). I know it is a pipe dream, like a real Shmitta game plan – dream on. IMHO, Mevushal will take a hard hit soon, people will see it for what it is, a sham on the kosher wine market. If a wine needs to be Mevushal then go buy a beer and move on!
- The lack of travel and access to wineries is a real issue here. I would have already have been in France twice since my last year in review and Israel, at least once. The lack of access to wines impacts my ability to properly score and grade, but thankfully the UPS/FedEx of the worlds have been doing a yeoman’s job and they do truly deserve a cheer every time they drive by! Please show them the love (from a distance) that they deserve!
- Finally, to repeat – the lack of KFWE or any other tasting this year, or even marketing of wines in-person, will further complicate the lack of wine education in this industry and I fear it will sadly slow or hurt the sales of many wineries.
My yearly blog disclaimer about me and wine
I try to get this disclaimer into every year of my posts – but this year – for reasons I do not know, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my posts. So let me be 100% clear here:
- I NEVER HAVE AND NEVER WILL receive a penny for ANYTHING I write on this blog – PERIOD!
- I do not advertise and I do not receive money for advertisements. I PAY WordPress.com to NOT advertise on my blog. Again, there will never be ads or money on this blog.
- The next most prevalent question is: do I get a kickback for anything I recommend?? LOL! People do not know me well to be asking that question! NEVER! I write what I think – almost literally at times, so NO!
- Next question – do I receive an item of value for my posts? NEVER.
- The only thing I receive, having nothing to do with my posts is access to tastings or wine to taste. Also, I have received passes to KFWE, or this year, the KFWV. The coupon codes are not affiliated links or deals for me! Again, I get no money from this blog – I hope this starts to come across soon!
- Am I receiving money or any other item of value from Royal or an affiliate for the use of the ‘MUSINGS’ discount code? Again NO! NEVER!
- Do I spend money on my notes or wines? I promise you there are VERY few people in the kosher wine world who spend more money than I do on wines that I DESPISE! Very few! There are loads of people who spend more money than I do on wine – I am not a Macher! But I buy the majority of the wines I taste and post on. In the past year that has changed a bit, but no, I buy most of the wines and it sickens me to spend so much money on wines I would never drink or even cook with! Sadly, that is what I like to do. So, sure if the importer will help me and send me samples, great! I will still post my notes and scores based 100% on the way I see and taste the wine. NOTHING else goes into my scoring.
- Finally, I have people in the industry that I call friends. When I taste those wines I always disclaim those as well.
So, that wraps up my yearly post on how I, my blog, or my life is ever gaining anything from the world of wine! I hope that is clear. I do not do any business in wine, I do not sell any wine, I do not transfer wines, I am not a middleman for people who buy wines. I do not in any manner, way, or form, work in the world of wine – period!
Finally, I do help Elvi Wines, at times, to pour wine, at a KFWE or the such, and act as their US contact for the USDA. I have again, never received compensation for those pouring’s. My travel costs are sometimes reimbursed, but that is the totality of my relationship, financially speaking, with Elvi Wines or any other winery or wine business. I am a software architect by trade and that is where I make my money. Be well!
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 the 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 2020.
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 TWO GREAT wines that are just sitting around!
I am sorry to get on my soapbox before we get to the top QPR wines of 2020. But I have to ask what is wrong with Les Roches de Yon-Figeac? What is wrong with Albarino?
The 2016 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is sitting around and no one is buying it! WHY??? It sits around and there is no real better option, IMHO, at this price point, currently. Yet, the wines sit! The crazy part is that the 2016 Les Roches is lovely, but 2017 is even better!!! The 2016 vintage has been here in the USA for years already! The price is perfect, 36 or 37 dollars for an impressive wine that can be enjoyed now, if you decant it well or age for 12 more years!
What about the Albarino wines? There is the cheap but wonderful 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, along with the 2018 Herzog Albarino, Special Reserve, at 2x the price. They are wonderful wines and they too sit on the sidelines! Horrible Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines sellout but these far better white options sit around. It is great that some of you have been enjoying Riesling, Grenache Blanc, and other varieties, but COME ON FOLKS – try other white wines – PLEASE!!
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 2020 White QPR kosher WINNERS
The Dampt Grand Cru from 2018 was the white wine of the year and the 2017 Dampt is the white Co-QPR white wine of the year. The other Co-QPR white wine of the year is the lovely 2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei. It is almost as unique as the 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria, which was crazy cool. These wines are worth the effort to find them, IMHO!
2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
WOW! this is Arneis fruit, but to me, it is Sauvignon Blanc all the way, but where it departs from classic SB is the pear and almond which should tell you that something is either very wrong or this is not SB, which in case, is the latter, this is not Sauvignon Blanc! If anything this is more a perfect blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, incredible!
PSA – This wine needs to be CHILLED – LIKE Champagne chilled, PLEASE!
The nose on this wine is truly redolent and super-expressive, if this is lost on you, please do not buy the wine, leave it for others who can appreciate it! This wine does indeed have notes of gooseberry, and cat pee, and lovely green notes, but it also has loads of floral notes, showing violet, rose, salted almond, chamomile, white flowers, and sweet ripe pear, and grapefruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied white wine is INCREDIBLE, nuts, with layers upon layers of incredible fruit, sure it has a drop of RS, but who cares! The mouth is layered with ripe pear, peach, apricot, ripe pomelo, with incredible honeysuckle, followed by honey, honeyed and spiced Citron, and incredible mineral, slate, spice, nutmeg, freshly-cut grass, straw, hay, and lovely roasted almond on the super longer lingering finish – WOW!! This is fun! Drink until 2024. (tasted August 2020)
2017 Dampt Freres Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Lechet – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
OK, so, 2017 is the year for Chablis, and of what I had from Dampt Freres, two years ago, a few showed quite well. Those were Petit and a more minor vineyard. This wine is the 2017 Premier Cru and what a wine it is! My goodness, this is what Chardonnay, unoaked of course, ie meant to smell and taste like. It is pure mineral and fruit, with loads of dirt, smoke, and flint – a true joy – BRAVO!!!
The nose on this lovely wine is purely mineral notes, sure there is apple, peach, apricot, and some other white fruit, but who cares, what shines here is the mineral attack, shist, rock, flint, along with lovely white flowers, almonds, and hints of mushroom – I WANT THIS! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, layers upon layers, come at you, with non-stop attack of mineral, fruit, earth, rich spices, and more mineral. The apricot, peach, yellow and green apple from the nose are present, as are hints of lychee, lovely Meyer lemon, and a tiny amount of crazy Kafir lime leaves and juice – WOW! The finish is so long, with incredible minerality, showing flint, rock, shist, and lovely straw, that brings the entire wine together – wow! A true joy – get this!! Drink until 2025. (tasted December 2020)
My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the best Wine 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 categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White 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.
This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced, and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is. 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.
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 then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.
The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 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 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 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.
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 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26
Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!
So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!
2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)
UPDATED: I added the 2016 Clos Lavaud wine note below. Great WINNER!
Last week I had the chance to taste through the new kosher 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand red and white Burgundies. Yes, you heard me correctly, white and red! There is a new white Burgundy from Meursault, we have not had one since 2004 and sadly, that wine is long dead. However, we did have a lovely Meursault, in 2014, with Pierre Miodownick, and that wine was really fun! There were Pinot Noir Burgundies from 2019, along with a few Bourdeaux wines as well, from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille.
I will keep this to a minimum, a simple post about the wines I tasted. If you want more on Taieb Wines – read the family history here. However, before I fast-forward to the notes please understand the enormity of what is going on here – kosher white wine has finally arrived, with this new 2019 Meursault, the 2018 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc, the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc (not yet released), and the 2019 Chateau Malartic, Blanc! We have finally hit the escape velocity from the kosher wine world’s sole fascination with Cabernet Sauvignon!
The 2019 Pinot Noirs were from Jean-Philippe Marchand. I loved the 2017 Jean-Philippe Pinot Noirs, wines I bought and purchased already. IMHO, the 2019 vintage is far more reminiscent of what is expected from a Burgundy. The 2019 wines are lither than the 2017s were. They show more floral characteristics than their 2017 brethren. Overall, I was highly impressed. Beware, sadly there is no Lescure for 2018, 2019, or 2020 – SO SAD!
The Bordeaux wines came from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille, and I think they all showed very well with a WINNER and some very solid options as well! Much to all of this should be soon available with Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher, so keep a lookout for these wines from him. They will, of course, also be available in France from Taieb’s website, and Domaine Roses Camille’s European distribution, which I do not know much about. Though, I am sure the usual websites and stores in Paris and Belgium will have the wines.
NOTE: I need to taste the 2016 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol again before I can post my final score on it. I added the Clos Lavaud below. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
The 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies
2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault– Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is lovely, it is a closed to start, with lovely sweet oak, yellow apple, with lovely candied pear, cardamom, with hints of lemon, spice, and herbs, wow! The waxy and oily approach to this wine is unique. With time the wine opens and WOW, the nose explodes with sweet toasted oak, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and more floral notes, honeysuckle, honey, lemon/lime, melon, and lovely herbaceous notes. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is lovely, layered, rich, with sweet oak, Meyer lemon, apple tart, sweet fig, creme brulee, honey, crazy acidity, lovely mouth-coating tannin, smoke, crazy minerality, and lovely flint, rock, and smoked duck, with brioche, lemon/lime, and sweet yellow plum. The finish is long, sweet, tart, ripe, and well-balanced, with flint and toast. PLEASE, many of you will be motivated to drink this up as it is an awesome wine, but control yourselves please, this wine needs time! Drink from 2023 until 2028, maybe longer. (tasted Jan 2021)
Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he 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 shows 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.
The new wines
New in 2021 will be the 2018 Four Gates Negrette, a unique wine that was nice. Also, a Petit Verdot 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 rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is a bit better than last year. First, you have the 2016 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by an N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, and two 2019 Chardonnay wines, both under the Four gates label.
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 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.
Now 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 7 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that.
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. This year I liked all the options for sale, in comparison to previous vintages. However, I did not get to taste one of the Chardonnay that was for sale (2019 Four Gates Chardonnay). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2019 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Riche, Estate Bottled, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely, a classic Benyo Chard, rich melon, green apple, smoke, toast, creme Brulee, kiwi, citrus, and pie. The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, toast, and it feels sweeter than normal, yet still showing wonderfully controlled fruit, lovely creme brulee, citrus rind, rich baked apple/melon pie, with lemon and mineral. The finish is long, sweet, spicy, cloves, cinnamon, and toast. Nice! Drink from 2023 until 2028.
2018 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely with big, bold, and rich notes of boysenberry, dark currants, with loads of violets, very feminine, with rich baking spices, cumin, dirt, paraffin, and loam, very nice. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is elegant, showing more of the feminine nose, with more blueberry, black plum, nice spices, good salinity, a lovely mouthfeel, and nice green notes that give way to more blue and black fruit. The finish is long, green, with more violet, floral notes, nice spices, and good oak. Nice Drink until 2025.