Category Archives: Kosher Semi Sweet Wine
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Shlomo Corcos (Guter Wein) and Yoel Kassabi from YayinKosher. They were so kind to host me and allow me to taste the lovely wines. I was also joined by Ari Cohen.
So, returning to the trip, as stated in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such I kept to myself, where possible. However, Messrs Corcos and Kassabi were super busy the entire week and the only time they had was a lovely Friday morning, so we met to taste through the wines then. Corcos has been the mashgiach behind many wines, including Falesco and some IDS wines, along with his own Guter Wein wines.
It was a short tasting, but there were some interesting and unique wines. Including a lovely and very unique 2013 Falesco Innocence, Blanco, a wine I would love to drink every day, sadly, it is not available here in the USA. All of the wines I tasted are available on Mr. Kassabi website YayinKosher. We also tasted the incredible QPR WINNER, for France, of 2012 Plaisir de Siaurac – which sells for 12 euros! Sure, it is a drink now wine, but how often can you get a lovely QPR WINNER, aged to perfection, ready to drink, and dirty/filthy as all-get-out! Just lovely and crazy great price!
There were also three very unique Bulgarian wines. Along with another lovely Italian Verdeto. Along with a few new Bordeaux wines that we did not get the chance to taste the last time we had a tasting with Messrs Corcos and Kassabi. The 2016 Chateau Saint Eugene Martillac, QPR WINNER 2016 Chateau Haut-Bacalan, and the lovely 2018 Chateau Kirwan Grand Cru Classe.
In regards to whether these wines will be available in the USA, I suppose that would matter on import and other such issues. For now, they are all in France/Europe.
My many thanks to Messrs Corcos and Kassabi for setting up the meeting, sharing the wines with us, and for taking time out of their incredibly busy schedule to meet with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2013 Falesco Innocence, Blanco, Umbria – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Semillon. The nose on this wine is lovely with sweet oak, crazy funk, rich straw, hay, and lovely smoke, with fresh bright apple, quince, and mineral, wow! The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, ripe, but acidic, with great fruit focus, showing funk, mineral, saline, earth, dirt, sweet melon, apple, quince, and crazy funk, wow! The finish is lovely, bright, tart, with lemon/lime, smoke, graphite, hay, and sweet spices. WOW!!! Drink until 2024. WOW! (tasted June 2021)
There are a few lovely old and pretty good Hungarian sweet wines from the old days, the last time I had them, they were nice, now they are dead. However, there are some new ones out, recently released which have yet to get to the USA. I tasted them by Andrew Breskin’s house – the founder of Liquid Kosher, along with Gabriel Geller, and he was tasting them to understand their potential here in the USA.
For full disclosure, these wines do not have an OU or OK, or such, they have off-brand supervision. I checked into it and I found it OK for ME, you need to do your research before trying them, IMHO.
There are a total of 5 of these new Hungarian wines, four of them are off-dry to sweet and one is a stunning dry wine, which in the USA will not garner a WINNER as the costs to get them here will evade the QPR price. However, the dry Furmint is awesome and exactly what I crave in a dry white wine.
Of the 4 off-dry to sweet sweet wines I tasted three of them, and I would only buy one of them. The five wines are:
- 2019 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Dry Furmint (Dry)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Furmint Tokaji Félédes (Semi-Sweet) (NOT TASTED Yet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Late Harvest (Semi-Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Szamorodni Édes (Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos (Sweet)
The wines have not yet been imported in by Liquid Kosher, but they are available in Europe, my buddy Ari got some, and they are priced perfectly well for the European market. The Dry Furmint is a screaming WINNER there along with the 5 Puttonyos. The other two that I tasted are reasonable, for the price paid in Europe, but not worth the trouble. I have not yet tasted the Feledes.
The 5 Puttonyos is nice now, but I think it will evolve, even more, it has the fruit and the acidity to go to the next level. The Dry Furmint will be good for a year or so, but why wait – the wine is beautiful as it is – right now!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2019 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Furmint Reserve, Dry Tokaji – Score: 91.5 (QPR: EVEN – USA, WINNER – EUR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with beautiful floral notes of lemon blossom, honeydew, honeyed notes of Meyer lemon, wax, straw, lavender, and flint, lovely! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing straw, Meyer lemon, green apple, incredible acidity, lovely tannin, ginger, with weight and density, showing rich saline, mineral, straw, and peppercorn. The finish is long, spicy, tart, with white pepper, ginger, smoke, flint, and mineral, wow! Bravo! Drink until 2023 (maybe more). (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos – Score: 92.5 (QPR: GREAT – USA, WINNER – EUR)
While I think this wine is nice enough it is not as good as the previous vintages and it hits the point but this is missing a few steps. The nose on this wine is nice showing rich funk, brown sugar, sweet notes, guava, candied peach, apricot, candied ginger, lemon, and lemon zest. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is nice, with good enough acidity, lovely funk, good mouthfeel, plush, rich, concentrated, unctuous, with more citrus, lemon, mineral, and clay, nice and while I like it the wine lacks the punch, but still very nice, with intense pith, zest, funk, and acid lingering long. Very nice – Drink until 2030. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaj, Late Harvest Furmint – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
This wine is fascinating as it has common notes to the dry younger wine. The nose on this is nice is off-dry, with wax, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, sweet brown sugar, good enough acidity, and while I like it I want more acid. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Szamorodni – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
Szamorodni, which takes its name from the Polish word ‘Samorodno’ meaning ‘as it comes’, is made from whole bunches that combine the treasured noble rot grapes and the healthy ones.
The nose on this wine starts with hints of funk with good saline, but after a few minutes, it explodes with pure funk, lovely socks, peach, guava, candied apricot, and Meyer lemon. It does show a nice blend of funk and fruit, but it has issues in the middle that may calm over time. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich, layered, but still showing a hollow with nice ripe and candied fruit, with good acidity, after a few minutes, and nice enough fruit, but it lacks the punch I crave. The finish is long and sweet with more acid, saline, mineral, slate, and lots of tannin and wax. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
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
Well, it is official, 2020 continues to take, and though my annoyances are minor in comparison to the pain others are feeling, it still has impacted my routine, which I guess is the story of 2020. For the past three years, I have been tasting Royal’s latest wines with the man in France for Royal, Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, this year, no matter how much I planned and tried, it is a no go. So, for the first time, in a long time, the tasting will be here in Cali and it will only be a small part of the 2018 and 2019 wines, such is life.
So, no there will not be a picture with all the wines, and some of the wines from last year are still not here right now! But, I will post here what I did taste so far, and my overall feeling of the 2018 and 2019 vintages.
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.
While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, and the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, the 2018 vintage makes the 2015 ripeness look tame! Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, but for the most part, go with it!
I see no reason to repeat what Decanter did – so please read this and I will repeat a few highlights below.
For a start, the drought came later in 2018,’ says Marchal, pointing out that early July saw less rain in 2016. ‘But when it came in 2018, it was more abrupt, with the green growth stopping across the whole region at pretty much the same time’. He sees it closer to 2009, but with more density to the fruit. … and high alcohols!
Alcohols will be highest on cooler soils that needed a long time to ripen, so the Côtes, the Satellites, and the cooler parts of St-Emilion have alcohols at 14.5-15%abv and more. I heard of one Cabernet Franc coming in at 16.5%abv, but that is an exception. In earlier-ripening areas, such as Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol, alcohols are likely to be more balanced at 13.5% or 14%abv, as they will have reached full phenolic ripeness earlier.
‘Pessac-Léognan did the best perhaps because it’s an early ripening site,’ said Marie-Laurence Porte of Enosens, ‘so they were able to get grapes in before over-concentration. If you had to wait for phenolic ripeness, that is where things could get difficult’.
The final averages per grape, according to Fabien Faget of Enosens, are Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%abv, Sémillon 12.5%abv, Merlot 14.5%abv, and Cabernet Sauvignon 14%abv’.
The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels, a fact I wonder about more and more. Look, if you are going to force Mevushal wine down our throats, why not import BOTH? If you look at the numbers for wines like we will taste in the post, the majority of the buyers are not restaurants or caterers. Sorry! No matter how much Royal Wines wants to fool itself into thinking. Throw in COVID and FORGET about this INSANITY, please! I beg of you!
There is no denying that it affects the wine, it does. I have tasted the Chateau Le Crock side by side, the Mevushal, and non-Mevushal and while I feel that Royal does a good job with the boiling, it is still affected. If you want to have Mevushal wines in the USA, then bring them BOTH in! Royal does this for Capcanes Peraj Petita and the undrinkable Edom and others in Israel. So what Royal is saying is – that could not sell the Chateau Le Crock numbers that they import into the USA without boiling it? Why else would they feel forced to boil it and import it if not otherwise? To me, it makes me sad, and in a way, it disrespects what Royal is trying to do to its French wine portfolio, IMHO. They should, at minimum, import both! Allow for the caterers and restaurants (like anyone needs that nowadays – HUH???) to have the Mevushal version and sell the non-mevushal version to us, as you do with Edom and Petita. There I have stated my peace, I am 100% sure I will be ignored – but I have tried!
The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019 vintage will be, the 2018 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Greysac, 2018 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2018 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2018 Chateau Le Crock, 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, Red, 2018 Chateau Genlaire, along with the whites wines, the 2019 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2019 Les Marronniers, Chablis, and the 2019 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 of. 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 – yes! 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 affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.
The “other” wines not here yet or I have not had
There is the just-released 2018 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux (will post that when I get it), along with these yet unreleased wines. The 2019 Chateau Gazin Blanc (2018 was/is INCREDIBLE), 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2018 Château Meyney Saint Estèphe, 2018 Chateau Giscours, 2018 Chateau Lascombes, 2018 Chatyeau Tertre, and 2018 Chateau Royaumont.
I understand this is a sub-optimal situation and blog post. It does not cover Royal’s 2018/2019 European wine portfolio. Still, it covers what has been released (or very close to it), here in the USA, and hopefully, it will help you. One day soon, I hope and pray, things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and we will all travel around again. Until then, this is the best I can do. Stay safe!
Final comments, disclaimer, and warnings
First, there are a TON of QPR winners but there are also a LOT of good wines that I will be buying. Please NOTE vintages. The 20016 Haut Condissas is a disaster while the 2017 vintage is fantastic! So, please be careful!
These wines are widely available in the USA, so support your local wine stores folks – they need your help! If you live in a wine-drinking desert, like California, support the online/shipping folks on the side of this blog. They are folks I buy from (as always – I NEVER get a bonus/kickback for your purchases – NOT MY STYLE)!
Sadly, there was no plane trip, no hotels, no restaurants, nothing. So, no trip to talk about – just the wines and my lovely home! Stay safe all and here are the wines I have had so far. I have also posted many scores of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines which are still for sale here in the USA. My many thanks to Royal Wine for their help in procuring some of these wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
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
I have written before about Vitkin last year, and this year (2018 production), makes it the third year of kosher production for the winery! Yes, as stated last during the 2015 vintage, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.
The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, and I arrived during the start of post-production work on the 2018 vintage for reds and some of the special whites, that we will talk more about later on.
The winery does not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).
Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted this year, the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, with the Grenache Blanc and The Gewurtztraminer adding the Collector’s Edition moniker.
The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2018 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2017/2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, the 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Vitkin Petite Sirah, old vines, Collector’s Edition, and the 2016 Vitkin Carignan, old vines, Collector’s Edition.
There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that more than 55% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry
This is not the first time I have been asked to post this list, and shocker, it will have very little Israeli wine on it. So, if you want to concentrate on Israeli wines at KFWE NYC and LA, you can stop reading right now. Domaine du Castel will be on the list, as will Carmel’s Riesling, one Vitkin, one Tabor, and one Or Haganuz, and that is about it for Israeli wines on this list.
Next, yes download the app, there is an app for KFWE, at least for NYC anyway, the data for the L.A. show is not yet in the app, but it should be up soon, according to my main man in Herzog, David Whittemore, the Marketing, and Public Relations Director at Herzog Cellars Winery. Now, totally separately as a software architect that has built world-class systems around the world, this app really sucks. It is slow, illogical in how the application moves, does not keep state, has loads of wrong data (wines and vintages), and for the most part, not a very good looking application. With all the caveats aside, the tables and the wines on those tables are defined, and therefore, I will list the wines to enjoy based upon that information!
So, let us keep this simple – here are the tables and the wines I say are “cannot miss” or make sure to taste.
- Skip 2013 Bordeaux wines – if any exist
- Skip most whites, unless written here, from before 2015/2016
- Skip all roses unless from 2018
- Taste what you can, the list below is what I liked, but you may like other wines. Learn, explore, and enjoy!!!!
- Finally, the app is horrible but even worse is the data. Many wines and vintages in the app are wrong. So check the wines yourself and follow the guide, in regards to vintages above.
- 2016 Chateau Clarke Baron Edmund de Rothschild
- 2016 Chateau Malmaison (QPR)
- 2016 Chateau Hauteville
- 2016 Chateau Lamothe Cissac (QPR)
- 2015 Chateau le Cailou
- 2017 Domaine Jean-Pierre Baily Pouilly Fume (QPR)
- 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis
- 2015 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Samso
- 2014 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Garnacha
Carmel Winery Table:
- 2014 Carmel Kayoumi Vineyard White Riesling (QPR)
With the new year, I wanted to repeat my rules of engagement with wine. Also, with the continued plethora of people writing about wine and selling them as well, I decided to remind my readers, I DO NOT shill. I do not take money or free wines. I pay for my wines and I write about them, no matter what others think. I do go to wine tastings and yes, at that time I do not pay for the wines, but neither does anyone else at the wine tasting. So, yes, I bought these wines from kosherwine.com and I am posting my notes about them. I am also adding my notes about a few wines that I tasted at YC’s house when he had a few Kosherwine.com wines as well. Those notes and the tasting can be found here, and I will post them at the end, just for completeness.
Many of these wines are produced by Louis Blanc, a producer that makes lower level wines at very reasonable prices. Sadly, when they get here, the prices are somewhat elevated. Depending on the location you can find the Brouilly below for 10 euro or so, but here in the USA, it goes for 23 dollars or so. Figure in the shipping, the extra hand (AKA extra person/company) in the mix and you get the price you get. Still, some of the wines are nice enough to buy, IMHO.
Sadly, the best reasonably priced French Bordeaux wine, that I have tasted so far, that costs, in France some 11 euro, would be the 2014 Chateau Grand Barrail, Prestige, Red. It is far better than any of these wines listed here, other than the crazy good 2016 Chateau Guimberteau, Lalande de Pomerol, but that is 4x the price!
I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2012 Louis Blanc La Gravelle Chinon, Cuvee Terroir – Score: 90 (QPR)
This wine has changed since the last time I had it. It is showing far better than the clearly bad bottle I had in Israel. This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine starts off a bit funky, with time it opens to show lovely barnyard, mushroom, with a rich garden of green notes, earthy, foliage bomb, with crazy raspberry, red fruit, showing loads of floral and tart notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and layered, and restrained, with nice elegance, showing green notes, soft tannin, and bell pepper, lovely with lovely balancing acid! The finish is long and green, with hints of leather, tobacco, and rosemary. Nice! Drink now through 2019!
2012 Louis Blanc Duc de Serteil Coteaux Bourguignons – Score: 86
This wine is a blend of 60% Gamay and 40% Pinot Noir. The nose on this wine is a bit closed, but with air, it opens to cherry notes, Kirshe, with olives, green notes, herbs, and strawberry, with currant, and foliage. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a bit too simple, it shows great acidity, with nice enough notes, but the metallic notes and soft tannins make it a bit too simple. The finish is average and nice enough, with more herb, and cherry red notes. Drink UP!
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 2014 Four Gates Petit Sirah that I enjoyed over the past Shabbat. It has lasting power. Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.
The new wines
This year we have the 2016 Syrah and the 2016 Petit Sirah, along with the classics. There is a new off-dry 2017 Rishona, along with an Ayala 2017 Chardonnay, and the always constant, and epic 2017 Four Gates Chardonnay.
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last years, is really impressive. You have a 2014 Four Gates Merlot, 2014 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., the 2014 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, and the 2014 Four Gates Frere Robaire.
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 tell you that the prices will go, even is I beg for lower prices. Read the rest of this entry
Another year and another disappointment for Israeli wines overall. I have recently returned from a quick trip to Israel to be at the last of three JK and LK’s weddings that they have thrown this year for their boys. This was the oldest son, and a young man I saw grow up before my eyes, much akin to his younger twin brothers, which as stated above, also got married this year.
This trip we tried to concentrate on reds and whites, I am done with Rose wines for the year. Much to my chagrin, the 2016 reds are a dud at best. The only 2016 red Israeli wine that I would buy, and have bought, are the 2016 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin and the 2016 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel. I will be honest, it was a shocker. Tzora’s 2016 wines and even Domaine de Netofa’s 2016 reds were ripe, riper than I would invest in. I have yet to taste the 2016 Domaine du Netofa Latour Red, I hope to taste that on my next trip to Israel.
Sadly, the 2017 whites were not much better, they all had a serious lack of complexity and acid. Sure, winemakers can and do add tartaric acid to their wines, but clearly, the wine was not showing that in ways that impressed me or others who tasted many of these wines blind.
Now, to be fair, there were some 2017 whites that did show well, and they are listed in a previous post here. With that said, the best 2017 white so far this year, that I have tasted came from Yaacov Oryah. His 2017 whites blew me away, and in 2018, he took all his red grapes and only made white and orange wines, and YES finally even a Rose wine from them! Talk about betting on anything other than red wines! Looking forward to tasting them next year! I will post the 2017 whites in my next post.
Red Wine for the masses
I know this post will offend people, and that is really not the point of the post. The point of me stating that I could care less for Israeli red wines at this point is to show the sad progression of the date juice crisis.
Look, this is nothing new, since 2009 for most Israeli wineries, and especially following the 2011 vintage (for the rest of them), Israeli wineries changed their style of winemaking to please the masses. Take Teperberg as a perfect example. Their 2011 wines were awesome, old-world in so many ways, but in 2012, they went the opposite direction and have been selling their wines in mass, to the masses, by changing their winemaking style, and yeah their labels, but everyone changed their labels. They went to a far more fruit-forward and ripe wine, one that I cannot begin to appreciate, but one that sells fantastically here in the USA, and in the end, that is really all a massive winery like Teperberg cares about.
I do not mean that in an offensive way at all. Wineries are a business and if they are not able to sell the millions of bottles that they make with a certain style of wine than they have to change the product.
That is what most of Israel’s wineries did. They changed to fruitier and riper wines and they have been succeeding so far with that approach. What that means for me, is that I will continue to concentrate on Europe and America, in terms of the wines I buy.
Too Much Wine
Besides the mass of date juice bottles that now exists on the shelves across the wine shelves in Israel, Europe, and the United States, there is just too much of it. There are new wineries popping up every year, more and more of these boutique Israeli wineries, that have no way to differentiate themselves from the next, other than more years in oak and more fruit and tannin, and of course more exclusivity and higher prices, like that would ever make me want to buy a wine! But I assure you, for the masses, it is like a moth to the flame.
The wines all taste the same. I went to a wine tasting a couple of months ago in NY, and the wines were all horrible date juice, but they were the same date juice, nothing that differentiated them from the next wine over. Not a single unique aspect.
Israel will face the issue soon if it is not already facing it now. I ask the winemakers and they say they are selling all the wines perfectly well. But when I talk to shop owners the story I get is very different. Wines are not moving and they sit on the shelves, the prices are too high, they are no different than the wine on the shelf over, and they all look the same.
At least a few wineries are trying to make something other than Cabernet Sauvignon, but sadly those do not sell well. There is a reason why Herzog Winery has some 20+ Cabernet Sauvignon wines! YES! 20 plus, closer to 25 or more I think. Same with Yarden and other wineries in Israel, where the focus continues to be on Cabernet.
Vitkin, Domaine du Netofa, Recanati, Capsouto, Covenant Winery Israel, Tzora Winery, and others are trying to change the ONENESS that plagues Israeli wineries, but they too have been hitting resistance. Why? Because as much as they and others talk about the need for more options outside of Cabernet, and how the ecology and terroir of Israel are more suited to Rhone or Spanish varietals, the truth is that Israeli and American palates only understand Cabernet Sauvignon. That is the sad truth. It takes a lot of money and perseverance to try to push a rock up the hill or change the palates of the kosher wine masses. So far, the date juice palates are pummeling the old-world palates. There is no real way to hide from this simple and true fact, and while I guess I could care less, I wonder when this will all come back to roost on the Israeli wineries.
As I have stated many times, red wines have at least a 2+ year cost from crush until the release and then the next red wine vintage’s release. If the public starts to move or change their desires, wineries will be left holding the bag, a very expensive bag. Until then, the wine is selling, even if they are all the same stuff. Even among the red non-Cabernet Sauvignon wineries, the wines when tasted blind really do taste the same. There is little to no uniqueness. It is just really ripe dry red wine, some showing some finesse, but for the most part, sledgehammer wines that meet the least common denominator requirement of ripe and round wines that can be consumed ASAP.
Again, I know I will receive lots of hate mail, I understand, that is fine with me. I am simply stating things as I see it. Sadly, there are others as well that have the same issues, in varying degrees, and the sad truth is that Israel does not have the desire today, to make a wine that is as good as some of the wines from California, let alone Europe. They have proven in the past that they CAN make wines that are as good as California’s kosher options, but almost all of them have sold out to what is selling today, at the cost of the lowest common denominator consumer, who are seemingly holding them all hostage.
I hope the 2017 vintage of red wines will turn things around but I highly doubt it. Sadly, the 2015 and 2016 Capcanes reds have also joined this very fruit forward winemaking approach. The 2015 Peraj Ha’abib was not a wine I bought much of if any, outside of the few I needed for three tastings. The 2016 vintage, here so far is mevushal and is a disaster. The 2016 and 2017 Peraj Petita, NOT mevushal, are not fun to horrible wines. The earlier vintages continue to show well, and time will tell for the newer vintages, the Carignan and Grenache wines, we have yet to see the 2015 vintages of those wines. The 2015 Capcances Pinot Noir was and is still very nice and 2016 is not yet available here in the USA.
The Blind Wine Tastings
There were two separate wine tastings, one at JK’s office and one at AD’s house in Beit Shemesh. My many thanks to both of these guys for putting up with me, and my many thanks to the gang of guys who joined us and brought wines, and were able to put up with me during the tastings. Those would be AD, JK, AO, OM, AK, and NA. Again, my many thanks and the wines were brought by both me and the other guests. The wines were all tasted blind with silver foil wrapping the bottles.