Category Archives: Kosher Red Wine

2019 kosher wine year in review, Taxes, Tariffs, and more

Well, it is another Gregorian year and though there have been many new things going on in the world of the kosher wine world, with European Wine Tariffs maybe being the biggest of them. Still, maybe even bigger, is that for ONCE we have finally had some movement on my yearly and unchanged list of issues in the kosher wine industry. Maybe someone is listening.

First, let us do a quick recap of last year’s issues and the state of them, and then a few new things to think about as well!

Economics

We have too much wine out there for the official kosher wine buying populace. How do I know this? Because the amount of wine being dumped on the non-kosher market for a pittance in countries that no one visits is absurd! Wine is being dumped all over the place, and it is not going to get better anytime soon. Why? Because wineries are still popping up all over the place, and they are making really average wine at best!

Which brings me to the same issue, but in more detail. We have lots of horrible wine out there. Yes, I know I am a broken record, get over it. The kosher wine market in Israel and California needs to get better at making wines for a decent price. But I would be happy with just good wine – for a not decent price.

Again, besides the price, the overall quality of the wines is just not acceptable. The good news is we have lots of wine, but sadly the quality is not there. We need to raise the quality and then work on lowering the price.

State after 2019 of the Economics of kosher wine

Nothing has changed here. Israel is even worse than it was in 2017. Red wines from Israel were undrinkable last year, (with maybe one exception), and the white wines were boring for the vast majority, including roses. Truly, the 2018 vintage for Israel was a major bust, other than the few good wineries.

I will say that Herzog has stepped up its game. While 2015 Herzog Cabernets were boring, 2016 Herzogs were really nice. Four Gates is always the same – mostly great wines with a mix of a few misses. Shirah Winery and Hajdu Winery have both moved to the darker side, with riper and more fruit-forward wines that are not as unique as they used to be, making them less interesting to me. Thankfully, Shirah made some great white wines last year that was nice! Hagafen Winery continues to make the lovely Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and sparkling wines, but all the red wines are a waste of time. Covenant Winery has been making Cabernet Sauvignon for 17 years now, and Chardonnay for 12 years and they are consistently on my list of top best wines for Passover, the hits keep coming! Still, overall even within California, there is a lot of work to be done in regard to improving the quality and the prices.

Personally, California is backsliding, mostly because Shirah and Hajdu have not been making the same level of red wines as they have in the past. Throw in Hagafen’s total disregard for anything red and well all you have left is a few nice Herzog Cabernets, Four Gates, and Covenant Cabernets as well. Though, Kos Yeshuos is helping.

Europe is mostly a push. There are tons of bad wines coming from France, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere. In the past few years, I have been saying France needs no help, but that is not true! France is pumping out loads of useless garbage, we are just blessed with having the famous French wines that are really nice. Look at the disastrous tasting I had with Nathan Grandjean and Avi Davidowitz last year, and you can see that France is also not doing great, and those were handpicked wines!

Italy could use better options outside of Terra de Seta! Sadly, Capcanes has gone to the dark side as well. There is a new winemaker, and so far the wines are clearly riper, and less balanced than previous vintages. 2015, 2016. 2017, and 2018 vintages all show a wine style that is in your face and so foreign to what Capcanes was until 2015. A truly huge loss for the kosher wine market, IMHO. Thankfully, we have Elvi Wines, which is showing far more control and I am waiting to taste the new wines. Personally, Terra Di Seta may well be the best winery out of Europe. They have consistently delivered quality wines, at incredibly reasonable prices. Bravo guys!!!! Read the rest of this entry

The last round of winners and some more losers for 2019

So, I tasted a bunch of these at the KFWE in Miami and I spent my entire time there tasting through wines that made me cry. I mean they were so painful, all I could write was NO. Some I wrote nice and some I wrote good stuff. Overall, the Israeli wines were undrinkable and so painful that I had to go back to the French table just to clean my palate. It continues to make me sad to see such potential thrown out to meet the absolute lowest common denominator – fruity, loud, and brash wines.

Sadly, Cellar Capcanes continues its downward spiral. The 2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita is not very good at all. Far better than 2017 or 2016, but that is not saying much. So sad, to see such a storied franchise being thrown away for what I can only guess is the need for a new winemaker to make her mark.

Domaine Netofa continues to crush it and thank goodness it is selling well here in the USA, so that means I can stop schlepping Netofa from Israel! The 2015 Chateau Tour Seran was also lovely while the Chateau Rollan de By was OK, while the 2015 Chateau Haut Condissas showed far better than it did in France. The 2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection was nice but it was less of a WOW than the 2017 vintage, at least so far anyway.

At the tasting, the 2017 whites and 2018 roses were all dead, please stop buying them. Heck, even many of the simpler 2018 whites were painful.

So, here are my last notes before the year-end roundup and best of posts that I will hopefully post soon! These wines are a mix of wines I tasted at the KFWE Miami and other wines I tasted over the past month or so since my return from France. I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 87
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is ripe really ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of dark brooding fruit, floral notes, and herb, and heather. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is sweet, ripe, and date-like, with dark cherry, sweet candied raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, and sweet notes galore. The toast, earth, sweet fruit, and smoke finish long. Move on.

2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 89 (Mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is far better than the not-Mevushal version. This wine is actually showing less ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of red fruit, floral notes, and herb, and oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is much less sweet, with dark cherry, sweet raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The finish is long, slightly green, smoky, and herbal, with toast and red fruit. Very interesting how the mevushal is less ripe, go figure. Drink now.

2018 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 92+ (Super QPR)
Wow, what a lovely wine, this wine is 100% Chenin Blanc aged 10 months in oak barrels. The nose on this wine is pure heaven, but it is slow to open, once it does, the wine is lovely with loads of floral notes, yellow flowers, orange blossom, rosehip, and lovely white fruit, pear, peach, and smoke/toast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, clear and present, with layers of sweet and dry fruit, with candied and toasted almonds, hazelnuts, with hay and straw, followed by floral notes, tart melon, lemongrass, citrus galore, yellow apple, quince, baked apple, and dry grass and earth, lovely! The finish is long, dry, tart, and butterscotch-laden, with toast, smoke, ginger, and marzipan, Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2025.

2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection – Score: 90 (QPR)
This is a drier wine than the 2017 vintage but it lacks the petrol level and funk of 2017, still a nice wine.The nose on this wine is almost dry, with lovely notes of floral notes and loads of melon, sweet fruits, and stone fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice with lovely pith, hints of saline, with hints of petrol, dry flowers, with lovely peach, guava, and loads of citrus and mineral. The finish is long, dry, with hints of sweet notes, funk, and pith that is fun. Nice. Drink by 2022. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2020 new releases

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 from 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

This year we have the return of 2017 Petit Sirah, along with a new 2017 Malbec, and blend called Mazal, it is Non-Vintage. There is the return of the 2018 Chardonnay but in a far drier format. Along with a new entry a 2015 Ayala Claret wine.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last year, is really impressive. First, you have the return of the 2016 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, followed by the 2016 Four Gates Pinot Noir, 2015 Four Gates Merlot, 2015 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, and the 2014 Four Gates Frere Robaire. Read the rest of this entry

Two more wines for the road, and some 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau

Well, after the trip to Taieb’s offices to taste the wines, I made my way back to Paris and then eventually home. Before I left Paris to return home I bought two wines I had not seen before. One was an IDS wine that started off slow but came around and another was what can only be called the absolute Poster Child for all that is wrong in the kosher wine world today. The IDS made 2016 Chateau la Tour de By is ripe to start but it came around nicely with time. The 2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc is what is wrong with Kosher wine today. I first thought this wine was not actually made at a Chateau or winery with any history or past wines. That is not true, the wine is made at Chateau Maison Blanche, but it does not use the Chateau moniker which makes me wonder. In the end, whether this is a run of fruit or a real wine, it was not good, flat, boring, no acid, no life, all that was good about that wine was on the outside (bottle and label), the inside was empty. If that was not bad enough, to add insult to injury, or salt to the wound, this wine sells for 40 euro in France! Like what! This just screams more about what I have a real issue within the world of kosher French wine, and overall in the kosher wine industry. The prices are out of control and most of the time, the wine does not live up to those prices. Sure, we have wonderful QPR options but P in QPR keeps going up to meet with the Q and there lies in the problem!

The day before I returned home, I was invited to a party hosted by ED from the French wine group on Facebook, thanks to EK for hooking me up. There was a tasting of some Falesco wines, and they were on par with what I have had before. Many thanks to ED for hosting! At the tasting, EK brought a bottle of 2005 late disgorged Yarden Blanc de Blanc and I was 100% SHOCKED at how flat and dead it was. Either something was VERY wrong with that bottle, or it is further proof that Brut Nature sparkling wines are not built to last. That wine was Late Disgorged two years or so and it was 100% flat. Read more about my discussion on Brut Nature wines and the issues with them. Also, my post on the LD 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc, Brut that I had earlier this year.

Finally, we tasted some of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau wines. There were two on the table, one was the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny and the other was the 2019 Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau rose or something like that. Anyway, the Duc de Pagny was 100% disgusting, it was bubble gum flavored banana juice, it was worse than Manischewitz. The Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau was not a wine I would buy but it was not nearly as offensive, which is a compliment in regards to Beaujolais Nouveau.

I brought the two bottles to the tasting and sadly they did not show well there, though the Tour de By did turn around the next day.

ED was the consummate host, he had a table full of food, sandwiches, and charcuterie, but I was so full from the food over Shabbat that I was not in the need of any more food. That said, there was this hunk of cote de boeuf and a crazy cake that I tasted a drop of each.

My many thanks to ED and EK and the entire group of French wine lovers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau la Tour de By, Medoc – Score: 91
Wow, this wine is hot showing really ripe and bold with brooding black fruit, with loads of chocolate, oak, spice, and really ripe fruit, with hints of green notes and herb. With time the nose cools down showing fruit without all the crazy heat, with loads of them and black fruit, with spice, smoke, tar, and earth, lovely. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and black with hints of raspberry, loads of blackberry, smoke, rich and dense and plush mouthfeel with incredible extraction and earth galore, with a whole in the middle, that gets hidden over time with a lovely tannin structure. The finish on this wine is rich and layered and smoky with milk chocolate, leather, and loads of sweet spices, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Nice! Drink until 2026.

2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc – Score: NA
Flat and flabby wine. Showing nothing but fruit and no balance. Sad.

2005 Yarden Blanc de blanc, late disgorged, Brut Nature – Score: NA
Flat and dead barely any bubbles and the acidity was lost. I hope it was a bad bottle. I fear it could the issue with Brut nature wines. Yarden’s late disgorged wines are brut nature in implementation.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau rose, Taieb – Score: Not bad
Not bad for a Beaujolais Nouveau but not a wine I buy.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny – Score: NA
Disgusting bubble gum and banana juice. Horrible.

Taieb continues to excel at making solid wines for reasonable prices in France

After our miraculous escape from the hotel which brought vivid memories of one of my favorite songs of all time – Hotel California, highlighted by the most famous line in that song: ”Relax said the night man, we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”. If you were there, the dude almost said those words as we were running for the door, anyway, on to more happy thoughts.

We escaped “Hotel California” and made our way to the train station in Lyon for our trip to Roanne. This train is the common man’s train, and it allowed us an interesting glimpse into the melting pot of France’s middle class. The trains from Paris or Strasbourg were TGV trains and though they can be bought on the cheap, they are for folks moving between large cities. This train was a commuter train, the only real way to get from Lyon to Roanne.

This trip to Taieb wines was far less insane than the trip earlier this year from London, that trip was too crazy to even believe. This one was far simpler, other than the Hotel California issue. That said, overall it took two trains and an automobile to get Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and me from Strasbourg to Roanne. Yoni Taieb from Taieb Wines was so kind as to pick us up from the Roanne train station and take us to the offices.

Sadly, there had been a death in the family so George Taieb, Yoni Taieb’s father, could not join us, but Yoni was so nice to facilitate the tasting.

Kosher wine pricing again

If you look at the kosher wine producers/facilitators in France, Taieb comes out far ahead in regards to their pricing and quality. I love that we have kosher Chateau Leoville Poyferre or Smith Haut Lafitte, but those prices are crazy, absolutely bonkers, especially when you see their non-kosher pricing (showing at double the price). Again, I have spoken about pricing many times, and no matter how often I talk about it, it is still crazy to me, that we pay such high prices for kosher wine.

There are two issues here. One is that the big-name wines are super expensive and this issue continues to disallow others from enjoying such wines, given the price tag. Secondly, the lower stature wines, ones that are still fun to enjoy and QPR wines, are far and few between, when you look at the sub-20 dollar bracket. Look at Kosherwine.com and tell me how many sub-20 dollar QPR wines exist? In red, there is THREE, 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux, the 2018 Elvi Herenza Rioja, and the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon. THREE wines I would buy for under 20 dollars and two fo them are Mevushal! Under 10 dollars there are none.

In France, under 10 Euros, there are MANY! There lies in the issue. Obviously, to get a wine from France to here takes hands and hands cost money, but Taieb had four wines that I would buy under 10 Euros. If they were brought here, they would probably cost 20 dollars. Overall, this is the issue. The second you add hands into the picture it gets too expensive. Royal Wines makes the wines, imports the wines, and sells them to distributors. So, within all that, you have cut out many hands that would otherwise raise the cost structures. If Taieb exported the lovely 2018 Baron David, Bordeaux, which costs 9 or so Euros and even less when on sale, and the importer added his costs, this wine would probably sell for 23 dollars. This is what is so broken with the system. Of course, I have no issue with people making a living! That is not the discussion here. The issue I have is that there are MANY sub-10 dollar wines from France in the USA and some are quite nice, even scored a 90 by Wine Spectator. That is just one example. I do not get it. Are we saying that these wines, yes it is sold by Costco and Trader Joe’s, so their margins may be a bit thinner? But do they not make money? Does the importer not make money? The winery? The Distributor in the USA? The non-kosher market for sub-10 dollar wines follows the same system as kosher wines. So, please where is the money going? The kosher supervision on wines like this are a total joke, maybe 20 cents a bottle, so please move on from that. Why is it so hard to import this Baron David and make it work for everyone? Why is it not that difficult for the non-kosher market? There lies in my question!

Anyway, in France, these wines are a wonderful buy and I hope those that live there get a chance to taste them, as they are 100% worth the money!

So, to repeat the Taieb wines in the USA are hard to find, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. It is a shame as they make some very solid QPR (for France pricing) wines. You can find some of the wines here but most of them are just in France. With that said, Saratoga Wine Exchange, out of NY, seems to stock almost all of the wines, I have no idea why as they are not a kosher wine or near a large Jewish community. Still, that is only for the few wines that are imported here in the first place. Vive la France for QPR kosher wines!

Taieb Wines

Yoni Taieb and the wines

Taieb started making kosher spirits 50 years ago and since then he has added kosher wine to the company. Many of the Bordeaux wines that he now makes have been in production for decades. Taieb is famous for the Phenix Anisette, a liquor made from Anis.

Recently, I have been loving the wines coming from Taieb, because they are making some really great Burgundy wines, including maybe the best Burgs to be made kosher in quite some time, the epic Domaine Lescure and the 2012 Domaine d’Ardhuy Gevrey-Chambertin, which may well be the best Burgundy in some time, though I find the 2014 Domaine Lescure to be as good.

Taieb has been spoiling us with great Burgundy wines and the only reason why we know about them is because of Nathan Grandjean and Andrew Breskin. Sadly, distribution of these and many of the lovely Bordeaux wines from Taieb have no distribution here in the USA, without Breskin. Victor Wines officially imports Taieb Wines, but the wines rarely show on shelves, I really hope this will be fixed soon, as the Taieb wines I had in France were wonderful.

Sadly, Domaine d’Ardhuy stopped doing kosher wines with Taieb, after the 2015 vintage. The Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, it had a hiccup with the 2016 vintage, but the 2017 vintage is lovely as well!

The line of kosher wines that Taieb produces includes entry-level wines for restaurants and weddings. It then has a myriad of wines at the next level, from lovely a Sancerre wine to Brouilly wines. The next level includes some very solid Bordeaux wines and Burgundy wines as well. Read the rest of this entry

Wines we enjoyed in Lyon on our way to Taieb

After tasting the wines in Strasbourg with Nathan Grandjean, for a second time, we made our way to the Strasbourg train station in rapid haste, with very little time to spare, not a common theme for me when it comes to traveling. I do not believe in the EH mode of travel – that is for sure! Luckily, Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I made our train with a few minutes to spare. This train would take us on a slightly diagonal path from Strasbourg to the Lyon, Southeast of Paris near the Italy and Switzerland borders. The train does not run very commonly in this direction so it was going to be ugly if we missed it. The other option, which is surprisingly not faster, would have been to go back to Paris and then from partis to Lyon. This is a direct train and a bit closer, and it would not require a switch of the station within Paris to boot! That would have been really “fun” – Yikes, B”H the crazy Uber driver got us there.

Overall, Uber had serious issues with me and my phone, but that is a story for another day. The train rise took 5+ hours and once we arrived in Lyon, we made our way to Arié Elkaim’s wine shop, MesVinsCacher, where we bought some wines. The most humorous part of that visit was that we arrived at 5:30 PM and the street was deserted. There was literally not a light to be seen on the street from any storefront. I was sure I had given the Uber driver the incorrect address. Thankfully, I called the number to the wine shop and Arie replies and says he will be right down! Like what? Down from where? Anyway, B”H, they are doing a full remodel of the wine store and we came when they were not yet complete. Thankfully, they had the wines we wanted to taste and then Arie nicely drove us to dinner.

Restaurants in Lyon do not come well regarded, at least from what my friends tell me. The place Arie took us to was a restaurant called 43 Comptoir, and the food was solid enough. It is not epic, or gastronomic in any way, but solid food worked fine for us two. The Foie Gras was nice and the burger was well made for a French restaurant, where beef is really not the thing to enjoy in France. USA beef far exceeds the French beef, but you cannot beat the Foie Gras and the lamb is really nice as well.

After that, we made our way to our hotel and calling where we slept that night – a hotel, well that is kind of like saying World War II was a mistaken-exchange of friendly fire. WOW, that place was super strange on so many levels. I could literally write another 10,000 words about that “home”. Suffice it to say, we will never return there and yeah, maybe the streets would have been a better option. I have no idea what happened, but Lyon was SOLD OUT the one night we needed to sleep there. Getting all the way to where Taieb’s offices are is not a simple task. I laid that out in my post from earlier this year. Thankfully, it did not require planes, but there were indeed 4 trains and two automobiles. We decided to break the task up into parts and stop just short of Roanne, where Taieb’s offices are. The issue was finding a hotel near the train station in Lyon. Sadly they were all sold out. Next time we are sticking with the Marriott, I do not care how much it costs!!!

Anyway, we tasted these four wines at the hotel and at the restaurant during dinner. We tasted them again the next morning and that is a wrap. Lyon is over, and the next post will have us going to Roanne to taste the latest wines with Yoni Taieb at Taieb’s Offices. A little disclaimer – I really like what Taieb is doing. They are making nice to great wines for prices that are really reasonable to a bit expensive. More on this overall on the next post, until then – enjoy the notes on these four wines and be sure to stick with the Marriott in Lyon!!!!

My many thanks to Arie for opening the door and best of luck with your store. Also, thanks for the ride to the restaurant and the restaurant suggestion. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 La Chene de Margot (AKA Chateau Bellerive Dubois) Blanc, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux – Score: 90 (Mevushal)
I wanted Avi to try this wine so we bought it and while the lovely zip of acidity was lacking in the bottle we bought it was alive and well when we tasted the VERY same wine at Taieb’s offices. This one was still nice. Showing much like I remember from my previous posts about it, except for the lower acidity level. This wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
The nose on this wine is still the star,  showing fresh cut grass, gooseberry, lime, lemon, and lovely fruit, and herb. The mouth on this wine is classic cool climate fruit, with slightly less zip in the acidity, with a still lovely mouth structure, showing lovely lime drops, starfruit, and crazy citrus, with dry orange, mineral, saline, and pink grapefruit. The finish is long and tart, with green apple, rich fruit pith, and fun tart fruit notes throughout. Bravo! Drink before 2020.

2015 Chateau Haut Condissas, Prestige, Medoc – Score: 92 to 93
This wine is mushroom cloud heaven, the nose is far less open than previous vintages with crazy mushroom, smoke, crazy mineral, with black and red fruit galore, showing mint, oregano, Menthol, and roasted herbs, with brightness all over the nose. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe but controlled with red and green notes, showing screaming tannin, with mouth-drying structure, backed by ripe blackberry, menthol, green notes galore, with loads of fruit, menthol, and graphite, backed by cassis, and currants. The finish is long, green, ripe, and slightly over the top, not perfectly balanced, with milk chocolate, earth, and smoke, with tobacco, cedar, tannin, and menthol lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2022 until 2027.

2015 Clos des Menuts, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 89
The nose on this wine is ripe, 2015 is proving to be a ripe year, with loads of black and red fruit, with dark roots, showing lovely barnyard, mineral, licorice, and cedarwood. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, like dark brooding black fruit ripe, not date juice, but did I say ripe? This is ripe, with blackberry, dark plum, with lovely mineral, green notes galore, with too much ripeness for me, showing milk chocolate, with a bit of finesse, with not enough complexity to grab my attention, showing graphite, hints of salinity, and loads of mouth coating tannin. The finish is long, green, ripe, and round, with tannin and earth, with more milk chocolate, tobacco, and spice. Nice! Drink from 2022 until 2027.

2015 Chateau Cheval Brun, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 92 to 93
The nose on this wine is red, really red fruit, with bright fruit, showing hints of black fruit in the background, with barnyard, forest floor, and licorice, and floral notes of Violet, and nutmeg showing elegance on the nose. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is far better than the Menuts, it is less black and not nearly as ripe, with lovely green notes, lovely raspberry, dark cherry, currants, with layers upon layers of fruit, tannin, smoke, and tar, with screaming acidity, mouth coating tannin, with dark chocolate covering forest floor, dry tobacco, and lovely saline, olives, and loads of mineral. The finish is long, green, with foliage, tobacco, earth, loam, roasted herbs, and graphite lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030.

A wine tasting of some great and sadly poor to uninspired 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to France, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2017 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train, and I was once again joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and we made our way to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines, but once again it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.

2018 French wines to the rescue

Now, I need to get on my soapbox for two major topics, the first is how AWESOME the 2018 vintage is showing right now. At this tasting and again with Yoni Taieb of Taieb Wines, the 2018 vintage shows itself incredibly well wit the simple entry-level wines of Bordeaux. It takes them from tinny and boring wines to rich and well-balanced wines, that sell for 8 euros or less! This is something that we will never get in the USA! Sadly, the only wine that comes close to this is the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux and maybe the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur, but I think this wine will be above the 10 dollar price of the Chateau Les Riganes.

On the trip to France, two things came up often, when I was speaking French with the natives, something I was not able to do as much with Avi around, as Avi still needs to learn French! One, and this really shocked me, was how common French folk think California is dangerous when I would tell them where I am from, because of all the media of the horrific shootings we have had in our state. Besides that, the Jews I spoke to, especially the ones who drink kosher wine, complain bitterly about the cost of French wines! The more I look at this issue the more it makes me wonder, why are the wines so expensive? Yes, there is a cost for kosher supervision, but that cost does not explain the double or triple pricing of the non-kosher cost. That question is even more exaggerated in France, where there is no three-legged-stool in regards to wine distribution. Yes, France has Negociants, but for the lower level wines that is a practice that is going the way of the dodo bird.

The truth is that what is needed are reasonably priced wines. Avi Davidowitz, on his Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog scores wines partially based upon price. I do not agree for many reasons, which we discussed over our trip, but it does NOT diminish the overarching issue which is 100% true, kosher wine prices have gotten 100% OUT OF CONTROL. Sorry, this is insane and before someone tells me it is the Chateau’s fault for having such high En Primeur pricing, the kosher wine prices are shockingly higher. This really needs to be rebooted, IMHO, but sadly, it will stay the same until we get into a serious crunch or glut, whichever occurs first. Yes, we are blessed with some QPR wines, and I always post about them, but overall, the grand cru wines are getting out of control.

That is why I am so happy with the 2018 simple wines from Bordeaux. Sadly they will not come to the USA under those prices, but for those in France, there are serious options.

2015 and 2016 Magrez wines are a total failure, IMHO

Last year, I wrote that this post was coming, but I had to taste the 2015 and 2016 Pape Clement first before I could make my feelings clear. At this point, I have tasted the 2015 Magrez reds 5 times and the 2016 whites 2 times. I am 100% comfortable with saying they have all taken a seriously far step backward from the epic 2014 vintage. The 2014 Magrez were world-class wines and wines I have bought happily. However, I can not say the same for any of the 2015 or 2016 kosher Magrez wines I have tasted to date. I was very disappointed when I tasted the kosher 2015 Pape Clement, and I was shocked by the results of the 2015 Tour Carnet, Fombrouge, and others. The 2016 Pape Clement is better than the 2015 vintage, but it is not worth the bottle it is in. The whites have all also lost a few serious steps from the 2014 vintage. Personally, I will not be buying any of the 2015 or 2016 Magrez wines I tasted, other than the Pape Clement wines I tasted that I bought En Primeur.

Now, with that aside, I can clearly state that the wines are not undrinkable, they are not date juice, they are not unprofessionally made, they are simply boring, lackluster, and flat, with little to grab your attention. They are simply not wines worthy of the price or their names, sadly, they are what they are.

I miss Weingut Von Hovel and the Gefen-Hashalom wines

Two years ago Nathan Grandjean and I made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again year after year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018, and now I just heard there was none made in 2019 either. I am really so sad, those wineries have so much potential, but I guess Gefen Hashalom (“Vine of Peace”) felt they had too much inventory already. I am really not sure what they have that is not sold? All the Nik Weis wines are sold, from what I know, Gary got the rest of the 2016 wines. Von Hovel did not make any wines after the 2015 vintage, and they have nothing left either. I really hope they make wines in 2020.

Wine Tasting at Nathan Grandjean

After last year’s solid tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2015 French wines that I know of. The 2016/2017/2018 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now fully released the 2015 wines. Two days after this tasting we would be tasting Taieb wines, but we wanted to taste the 2017 Domaine Lescure Pommard, so that was on the list.

After last year’s tasting of a few Magrez 2015 wines and my other tastings of them at two wine events, I wanted the chance to taste them YET AGAIN, with both of the Pape Clement and the new 2016 Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes. So, I had Nathan get all the 2015 and 2016 Magrez wines that are available and we tasted them over two days. Thankfully, we also had a couple of wonderful wines and some duds.

Finally, we tasted all of Nathan Grandjean’s Les Vins de Vienne wines from both the 2017 vintage and the 2018 whites. He had some tank samples of the 2018 reds, but honestly, they were not ready for me to write proper notes on. Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of Royal’s 2017 and some 2018 French wines in France

This is my third year tasting wines with Menahem Israelievitch in Paris and it is the first one that is not related to my visit to Bordeaux three years ago, almost to the date of this tasting (give or take two weeks). Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of the 2015 and 2016 wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

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While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage is not like that at all. The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, though this is a massive simplification and generalization of the 2017 vintage, was overall less ripe than the 2015/16 vintages and maybe even in some cases a drop less than the 2014 vintage. The 2017 vintage flowered early and then the frost came, which killed off a fair amount of the fruit from the vines (Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such the flowers are an all-or-nothing situation in regards to yield). Quality itself is not affected by the early frost which froze the flowers, while the rest of the season was mostly OK, except for the late rains that diluted some of the acidity, again this is an overall generalization, with varying degrees of difference between the Chateaus.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2017 vintage will be, the 2017 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Greysac, 2017 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2017 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2017 Chateau Le Crock, 2017 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, along with the whites wines, the 2018 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2018 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc.

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. This year I was not alone in my tasting, I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 30 wines. There was one missing wine, the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur and two of the wines were bad, I did taste them later in the week and they are listed here as if I tasted them at the tasting.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.

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

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 93 (QPR madness) (Mevushal)
This wine is made with native yeasts and as little manipulation as possible. The nose on this wine is beautiful with orange blossom, yellow apple, and rosehip, with lemon curd, and yeasty and creamy notes. This is so much better than the 2016 or 2017 vintage, this is so much fun! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy fun, intense acidity, incredible salinity, piercing, almost painful, with lovely layers of lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and quince. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, mostly creamy, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Bravo!! Drink until 2023 maybe 2024.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is closed, but it shows lovely notes of mineral, slate, blossom water, and loads of citrus, with apple, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, and impressive, with a rich oily mouthfeel, showing a lovely weight, with yellow apple, tart citrus, Asian Pear, and beautiful acidity that is well integrated with a strong mineral core, showing Orange pith, with tart citrus and slate and yellow plum, with saline, and more earth and hints of nectarines and orange. Lovely! Drink from 2020 to 2024 may be longer. Read the rest of this entry

My latest round of both new and old winners and some more losers for 2019

After my long hiatus, I am happy to say that this post brings me current to wines I want folks to know about, both good and bad. Thankfully for you, it does not include at least 45 roses, white, and red wines that were so horrible that I see no value in posting their NA scores here.

However, two wines that need warning are the 2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin
and any wine from Capcanes Cellars made from 2015 and on, other than the 2015 Capcanes Pinot Noir and the lovely 2015 Capcanes Samso Carignan. To me, this is truly sad Capcanes was a rockstar and a perennial goto and QPR wine, other than there roses. Now, they have soldout to Parker’s view of wine and I cannot fathom for even a second what they gain from this. Their wines sold perfectly well so sales cannot be the reason. Yes, there is a new winemaker, Anna Rovira, who recently won the prestigious female winemaker of the year for the 2019 award from Selection magazine! Congratulations! She replaced the longtime winemaker of Capcanes Angel Teixidó. Sadly, from my perspective, the wines are far riper than they used to be, they also show less acid and less balance. They are wines that I no longer buy, the last Capcanes I bought was from the 2014 vintage. With that said, I hope this shift is a byproduct of some rough years and that the 2017 vintage will return to its old self, one can always hope!

On another aside, please folks – STOP drinking 2017 whites and 2018 roses – they are dead! I have had loads of 2018 roses recently, they are dead or on the way down from jumping off the cliff. Sure, there are whites that are still young from the 2017 vintage, like full-bodied Chardonnays or white Bordeaux, other than Lacussade. Sadly, many of the 2018 whites are on their way down as well. The 2018 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc is already losing its acid and so many others as well. Please be careful, taste before stocking up. The simple whites are like roses, drink them by fall.

On the good news side, the 2017 vintage from Bordeaux is so far so good! The much scorned 2017 vintage from Bordeaux so far is holding up very well. I really liked the 2017 Chateau Mayne Gouyon, which is simple and mevushal, and very tasty. The 2017 Chateau Moulin Riche was lovely, maybe even better than the 2016 vintage. I hear the 2017 Chateau La Crock and the 2017 Chateau Royaumont are also showing very well, all-around great news for the much pooh-poohed 2017 vintage.

Finally, bravo goes to Herzog Wine Cellars, they continue to impress with their number one grape – Cabernet Sauvignon. They are predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon heavy, which makes sense given the current kosher wine market. When you go to KFWE and other wine events, just listen to people, their number one desire is the best Cabernet Sauvignon on the table or just whatever wine you have that is Cabernet Sauvignon-based. It is both sad and totally hilarious at times. So, sure Herzog goes where the money is. The accolades, at least from me, anyway, is for the raising of the bar and for the sincere effort that they put into making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Bravo!

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Chateau Haut Condissas – Score: 91
This wine is ripe, and really oaky, with nice mineral, green notes galore, but front and center is mounds of dark fruit, sweet oak galore, and lovely garrigue. The mouth is lovely, and rich, with medium-bodied structure, showing with lovely sweet fruit, earth galore, and lovely extraction, that gives way to green notes, layers of sweet but balanced fruit, with blackberry, cassis, dark raspberry, and rich forest floor. The finish is long and mineral-based, with intense tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, and sweet fruit that gives way to dill, earth, forest floor, mushroom, and sweet oak. Drink from 2023 until 2028

2013 Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac – Score: 91
To me, the 2013 Moulin Riche and 2013 3 De Valandraud were two of the best wines from the poor 2013 Bordeaux vintage, though this one always held potential.
This wine has evolved now to show even more tertiary notes than when I had this two years ago. The nose on this wine is lovely but still stunted, with clear and lovely notes of mushroom, dirt, and loam, followed by ripe fruit, showing red and black, with floral notes of heather and English lavender, with foliage and sweet notes. The mouth is nice on this medium-bodied wine but it is thinner than the younger 2015 (which is a superstar), with a balanced mouth, showing nice acidity, followed by cherry, raspberry, blackberry, with more foliage and forest floor, lovely garrigue, graphite, sweet tobacco, sweet dill, nice mineral, and mushroom. The finish is long, tart, yet very fruity, with great balance and attack, though showing little complexity, more like a dirty and green/garrigue/foliage and herb-infused fruit-forward wine, with mineral, acidity, and nice mouth-coating tannin bringing it all together. Drink by 2024. Read the rest of this entry

Another QPR star from Royal – 2018 Chateau Les Riganes

One more for the list! Menachem Israelievitch and Royal Wines have been successful in the past few years in making or importing some very good QPR wines. The 2018 Chateau Les Riganes is solid, not a superstar like the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva (which is now back in stock so GO BUY), but this is a solid wine at a 1/3 the price! Sadly, the other cheap Bordeaux that is nice at times, the Chateau Trijet is a hard pass for the 2018 vintage.

This is the 5th vintage of Riganes, it started in 2014 and has been made every year since. Sadly, the 2015 and 2017 are hard passes as well. It seems like Chateau Les Riganes is only good in even years. We will see how the 2019 vintage goes next year.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux – Score: 90 (QPR)
Thankfully, the 2018 vintage continues the strong steak of QPR status for this wine, minus the 2015 and 2017 vintages which were a hard dud. Essentially, stick with the even vintages! The 2014/2016/2018 vintages have all rocked. With that said, these are NOT wines for aging. If the 2014 and 2016 wines have taught us anything – it is that Chateau Riganes is a two-year wine from the vintage, meaning drink before 2021.
The nose on this wine is heaven, pure heaven, red fruit, berries, dirt, loam, forest floor, tobacco, and herbs galore. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is lovely, not layered, not complex, but who cares, this wine costs 12 dollars!!! The mouth has a nice presence, with good enough fruit structure, showing nice mouth coating tannin, with lovely controlled notes of blackberry, plum, cherry, raspberry, and cassis, with ok acidity, backed by loads of earth, smoke, and lovely lingering tannin. The finish is a medium to long with green notes galore, foliage, and more tannin, tobacco, and lovely graphite. The previous vintages of Chateau Riganes have taught me to not hold these long, so, drink these before the start of 2021. Enjoy!

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