Category Archives: Kosher Semi Sweet Wine
Ok, let’s start with the obvious, I have been so busy this year that I have had zero time to work on these posts. So, ahead of the High Holiday Crescendo, I wanted to post a quick note about the 2017 vintage and my hopes for a great new year, filled with joy, success, health, and lots of great wine to all.
So far the 2017 vintage has been much akin to the 2016 vintage – last year. The 2017 roses have been a letdown overall, much akin to the 2016 vintage of roses that were a letdown after the epic 2015 vintage. Sure, we have a few rose winners, like the lovely 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose, and the nice 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose, and 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado.
Still, the whites have been a real letdown, much akin to what happened in the 2016 vintages. We have not had a GREAT vintage out of Israel since the INSANELY good 2014 vintage.
So, Israel has been a letdown white wine-wise and rose overall these past few years. But there are some winners as usual. I have yet to taste the 2017 Tzora wines. The Netofa whites are lovely, along with the fun and very enjoyable 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier. There is also some nice Dalton Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The true savior is once again, the old-world region. France has a few great whites! Yes, I said whites! Throw in California, and we have enough whites, just not a bounty.
I hope you enjoy these great white wines in your Succah and with your family. Wishing you all a healthy year signed and delivered!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Chateau Lacausade Saint-Martin, Vieilles Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink by 2021.
2017 Chateau Guiraud ‘G’, Sec – Score: 92
Finally, a French white I can really appreciate! This is really fun, the wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, showing notes of pure funk, wax, green notes, with cucumber, mineral, old-world notes, showing honeysuckle, and floral notes, with green apple, quince, lovely straw, and rich minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, with more funk, nice complexity, with rich salinity, followed by rich dry and tart Asian pear, with nice gooseberry, and graphite. The finish is long and green, with lemongrass, stone, rock, with more wax and flint. Bravo! Drink by 2021.
2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 92
WOW! This wine has quite the nose, screaming with fresh orange blossom, ripe yellow grapefruit, with hints of nectarines, cat pee, and lovely citrus. The mouth on this unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is dry, bone dry, not quite a Sancerre, but impressive, with lovely weight, and great fruit focus with a crazy core of acid that keeps going long after the wine is gone, followed by rich mineral, slate, saline galore, and a lovely core of lie and lemon that mingle well and play with each other. The finish is long, crazy long, with more mineral, floral notes, lovely bitter notes of citrus pith, and just fun, tart citrus that lingers forever. BRAVO!!! Drink till 2021 Read the rest of this entry
Well, I have finally caught up on my main wine themes throughout these past few weeks – but I also realized that I had missed a few wines here and there, and so I am creating a catch-all post to track these last few wines that have slipped through the cracks.
They are a hodgepodge of wines that I have tasted, but people were asking for the notes – so the easiest way to get them all up is to put them here in one post
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
This is fun, a really lovely nose, with white pepper, hints of funk, with good sweet notes, mounds of crazy honeysuckle, honey, showing pineapple, mango, and nice grapefruit, and lemon sorbet. The mouth on this medium bodied is where things go slightly off course, this wine is not as dry as I had hoped, with good acidity, but too much sweet notes, with good balance, showing more of crazy floral jasmine notes, with blossom as well, giving way to sweet citrus, and tropical fruit. The finish is long and tart, crazy acid, with slate, rich sweet notes, and tart fruit. This is more of a very good dessert wine to me than a “dry wine”, but a fun one either way. Drink Now.
2014 Saporta Rioja – Score: B+ to A-
We also tried to taste the Saporta Crianza, but it was corked 😦
This is a lovely wine, with a nose of bright fruit, fresh and vibrant, with good notes of coffee, tar, earth galore, dark cherry, vanilla, and nice spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well made, with good acid, very nice dried and almost candied fruit, with herbs galore, mint, rosemary, and sage, with nice earth, dried raspberry, and more cherry. The finish is long and acidic with a good core of mineral, spice, nutmeg, and tobacco. Nice! Drink by 2019.
2001 Herzog Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- (not mevushal)
Lovely wine, I am shocked it is still alive, with crazy white and black pepper, with lovely roasted meat, with mushroom, and truffles. The mouth is layered and quite alive, with good acid, still nice tannin, rich and still richly layered, impressive and attacking with great focus, with lovely juicy fruit, showing green notes of tobacco, menthol, and herb. The finish is long and green with crazy spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, with lovely herbal notes, and tar galore. Bravo!! Drink up!
2014 Hajdu Counoise, Eaglepoint Ranch – Score: B+
The nose starts off hot, with lovely pepper, warm spices, lots of sweet oak, sweet dill, with hickory notes, roasted meat, and black fruit abounds. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is deeply extracted with more of the sweet oak, lots of rich searing tannin, that gives way to blackberry, blueberry, hints of peach, and white fruit, followed by raspberry, and crazy heady spice. The finish on this lovely wine is spice first and tobacco second, with nice mineral, earth, leather, and rich black tea. Nice Drink by 2019
2010 Damien Gachot-Monot Bourgogne – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must admit I was expecting more old world notes to start from this wine, it starts off more Cali in style than Burgundy, but as it opens it literally transforms within 10 minutes to a classically old world wine, insane, with clear sweet notes of dill, herb, and dried cherry, to start, but with time that changes to rich loam, dirt, earth, with mounds of saline, mineral, and lovely sweet juicy raspberry, dried red fruit, and lovely spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is clearly sweet, and Cali in style to start, but with time, it opens to classical Burgundy, old-world notes of hints of sweet notes, but far more balanced, with mushroom, hints of barnyard, candied life saver, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, that flows into smokey oak, charcoal, and lovely tilled earth. The finish is super long, richly balanced with impressive acid, with more smoke and mushroom lingering long, with almost hints of smoked meat, spiced plum, and candied fruit. A fun experience and a crazy good price! Drink by 2019
2014 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts off fruitier and more accessible than previous vintages, showing a more new world in style. With more time that changes a bit and straddles the two worlds, with nice roasted meat, mounds of smoke, mineral, hints of mushroom, dirt, and tar, with sweet spices, and lovely blue fruit. The mouth on this lovely wine is still very controlled even with its new world leanings, but it is clearly fruitier than previous vintages, with mounds of blueberry, boysenberry, wrapped in searing and draping tannins, that give way to dark cherry, dried herb, menthol, and forest berry that are cocooned by sweet oak, and balanced by lovely acid and dirt. The finish is long and searing still with more tannin, but well balanced with green notes of tobacco, foliage, mushroom, and mounds of mineral, graphite, and black olives. A very fun wine indeed! Drink by 2020
2014 Shirah One-Two Punch – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, with black and blue fruit, showing cherry, blueberry, and lovely earthy and spicy, cloves, all spice, really impressive and fun, with coffee and vanilla. Lovely medium body with great spice, with great acid and focus, showing nice blueberry and raspberry and spicy oak with coffee and candied currant. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, and dill with smoke and candied fruit. Drink by 2020.
Well in case you were tracking my posts leading up the 2016 KFWE NYC event, I was slightly critical of last year’s NYC event while I loved the LA event – which was in the W Hotel. This year, the NYC KFWE (which happened last night) was quite the event – as it returned to Pier 60, and had a VIP session to boot.
The VIP session was a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event and the 2016 LA KFWE event (tomorrow night), looks to be even more insane!
The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. Within 30 minutes the place was crowded, which is really good news. Trade is all about getting press about what kosher wine is and where it is heading. Yes, I have spoken many times about the fact that Royal Wines is the 900 pound gorilla – and it has the ability to crowd the market and push out its competitors as it flexes its muscles. Still, we need exactly what happened yesterday. The place was filled with reporters and wine buyers and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world.
People still think kosher wine is nasty stuff (just search kosher wine on twitter), and this video and others are exactly what we need to spread the word that kosher wine has grown up, and continues improving every year! The reason for that – kosher wine consumers are growing by leaps and bounds and they want better food and better wine! Just look at the numbers; CBS2 reports that the kosher wine business is now doing $28 million a year and sales and growing.
Now personally, that number is pure bunk, it is far higher. Last year there were millions of bottles of Bartenura Blue Bottle sold, some report 5M other more like 9M. At 12 dollars a pop – the 28 million dollar number is either embarrassed or obliterated – all together. Add to that the roughly 1M bottles of wine produced by Herzog Winery at a blended average of 15 dollars a pop (the majority of their wines are less but they have many more expensive wines as well) – and that adds another 15M to the pot. Next add in the 13M dollars in Israeli exported wine sold in the USA (according to 2011 numbers which pale in comparison to 2015 numbers) – and you start to see how absurd that number of 28M really is. Where the number comes from is beyond me. Finally, we cannot ignore the amount of wine made in Europe and South America or here in the USA from the kosher California wineries (ignoring Herzog of course as that was cited earlier).
Now worldwide consumption of kosher wine is another entirely DIFFERENT number of course! Kosher wine produced in Israel (the vast majority of all the wine produced in Israel overall) – clocks in at 170M – again using a very old and conservative number (though part of that number is in the Israeli export number citied above).
IMHO, a VERY conservative number would be 250M of kosher worldwide consumption. In the USA that number is closer to 90M (again very conservative numbers)!
With those kinds of numbers, it is only a matter of time until companies, other than Royal start to take notice, and then it will get really interesting! Till then, we will need to keep pushing events like last night and tomorrow night (in LA)! These kinds of events shine the spotlight on this growing wine segment and one worthy of other company’s attention as well!
Personally, I was there to help my friend – Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines. Sadly, Moises was busy with family issues and as much as I was asked what wine I liked the most (most annoying part of the event – and more on that in a bit), I was asked where is Moises? Read the rest of this entry
When I think of Covenant Winery, what leaps to mind for me, is Jeff and Jodie Morgan, Jonathan Hajdu – Covenant’s top-notch associate winemaker, and their world-class kosher Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavan Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sure, they also make a lovely and unique Red C wine, rose, and Landsman series of wines, but that is what comes first to mind.
When I first met Jeff and Jodie, it was at Herzog Winery, in 2006 where Jonathan Hajdu and they were pouring their wines at the first ever Herzog IFWF on the west coast. Since then I have made it my business to go to the winery at least once a year and meet with the Morgans and to taste their wines. I state that very specifically, as I have found that wines do follow their creators, and the open and accessible Covenant wines that also age to perfection, intrigued me and I wondered what their creators were like.
If you have had the opportunity to meet with Jeff and Jodie Morgan you will find two people who are passionate about their Jewish roots, though more traditional in nature than Orthodox, but still two people on a spiritual journey with their wines as their guides. From the start they decided that their wines would be kosher, and that they would be creating wines that were mimeographs of themselves, whether they realized that – or not.
To be honest, this article is a long time coming, a post that I think is more about my relationship with the Morgan’s, Mr. Hajdu, and their wines, and less about their story. The now famous story about Lessie Rudd and his grapes, his apprehension to letting the Morgan’s use his grapes, as he feared that they and their kosher process would ruin them, has been written about over and over. Humorously, the fact that the story is in every post about Covenant wines, and that the story is so well-known and repeated, is once again a representation of the wine and Jeff – both are wonderfully gregarious while also being quiet but confidently capable of spinning a tale of what they both have to offer.
Sure, when you meet the Morgans, and trust if you come to the KWFE in NYC – you will meet them, you will find two lovely, affable, and equally impressive humans that have honed their skills, with care and effort. However, it takes a bit more to see beyond the initial blustery interface, and to get deeper into what they see in the future. Yes, they are always looking forward to what the winery can become, but it is far more interesting to get to the story behind the tales, the story of a couple who are equally passionate about their tradition and history as they are about their impressive with their skills and craft.
As always, I am as straightforward as they come, there is really little left to read between the lines on my blog, though some think there is always another story. To me, Covenant Winery is a world-class winery, one that has the best track record, in my opinion across all California wineries (other than maybe Four Gates Merlot) of hitting a home run with every vintage of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Were they all A- to A, not always, but they never were less than a classic 91 score and I am hardly the only person with that opinion. Look at Wine Advocate and you will know where this winery stands in the mind of Robert Parker and his minions. Read the rest of this entry
I have recently returned from another trip to Israel, and my main interest was tasting as many white and Rose 2013 and 2014 wines as I could possibly do do, in my short time in the Holy land. So, to meet that need I went to some 16 wineries and had two blind tasting of 26 wines each. The first tasting consisted of JUST white, rose, and bubbly and some sweet as well. The second was a bit more lenient and including some reds, which I will talk about on another posting.
I want to take a moment to talk about the state of reds in Israel. I was hoping that with the release of some 2013 vintages things would be improving, sadly they have not! As you know, I have posted often about the issues that Israel faces in the kosher wine world. The red wines continue to be the same old stuff, unbalanced, fruit bombs with ripe fruit and no real unique characteristics at all. Even the super star wineries are slowing following the lead Yarden and making wines that cater to the single minded public – over the top, in your face, and lacking in balance and unique. Really, the true sad aspect of red wines in Israel today is more than just the lack of unique terroir, it is that they almost all taste the same. Cabernet wines are all the same, as are Merlot, and the famous Israeli blends.
Even the great wineries are slowly moving towards the mean, with wines that are more fruit bombs then they are varietally true. The 2009 Yatir Petite Verdot was a shocker, I had it a few months ago and now it is showing true fruit bomb characteristics. Same can be said for some of the new 2012 Teperberg wines.
Still, the 2011 wines from Teperberg are rocking as are many of the Yatir wines, though I picked on the PV. My point is that wineries are moving in the direction that meets the need for larger quantities. There are still star wines at Teperberg, including the lovely new Malbec and Chardonnay wines. Same for Yatir which continues to be in the top wineries of Israel, in my opinion. Still, when one sees the stars moving in that direction, I can only hope that it stops before it spreads.
The saving grace of Israel wine overall, at this time, is the white, rose, and bubbly wines that they are producing! Think about what I just said, 6 years ago, Yarden was creating superstar wines, having just released, at that time, the 2008 wines and the reds were killing it. The whites were sad, and only a few rose were even in production. That all changed with a sudden shift in the production of far more rose and whites to the point where no matter how hard I tried, I could not taste all the whites and rose that Israel produced this year – good or bad. That would have been a very easy task in years past, but this year, even after making a concerted effort, I hope I covered the majority. I missed Psagot’s great new whites and Rose, produced under the caring hands/eyes of Yaacov Oryah, from acclaimed Midbar fame.
To me, the stars of Israel are the whites and rose. They are everywhere. Every winery feels forced now to create wines for the hot Israeli climate, and it makes perfect sense. The wines for the most part are crisp and light and refreshing, some with more complexity than others. The varieties are growing, including some fascinating blends from the likes of Mia Luce and Tzuba Winery.
Sure, there are lovely to superstar reds, from wineries like Matar, Netofa, Yatir, Flam, Castel, Tzora, Gvaot, Recanati, Dalton, Teperberg, Tura, Carmel Winery (Israeli labels), Ella Valley (for the Franc), and some others. Read the rest of this entry
As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone – with one last one happening in NY, at the City Winery event held in agreement with the Jewish Week and their kosher wine list for Passover (the link is discounted by Yossie’s corkboard). Not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but the list of wines that were chosen for winners this year, are fine and many that I really like, but I hope you all love the wines I have listed here too. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier – I was asked again for a,list of my top wines, so here it goes! This is a of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.
So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered over ripe, 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 Sauvignon Blanc, another smash dirt cheap Sauvignon Blanc wine, that happens to be one of the best kosher white wines I tasted at sommelier. At the same time the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines, are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview, Gotham, and all the other wine stores I have listed on the right hand side (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 24 dollar Lewis Pasco Project #2 wine – a very nice wine, and though not as insane as the #1 it is a great wine that is easily enjoyable now and sells for a great price. The same goes for the Vignobles David Reserve or the Capcanes Peraj petita, and many others.
Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollar and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines, but you can be always look at the blog and if a wine you want is not on the list, by my omission, but scored an A- or higher, it was probably a good bet to have been on this list.
Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far to hard for me. I rather decide to drink simple wines like the Tabor Via bubbly red, non mevushal wine. It is simple to chug, tasty, and perfectly fulfills the custom. For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace.
A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is far longer, for a few reasons. One, I was far more careful and I tried to include all wines I tasted that were A- or maybe a drop below, AKA 90 point wines. Also, I have gotten to taste more wines as every year passes. Still, I am sure I missed a few. When I taste them – I will post them! Finally, there are more better wines this year. Many from Israel but France has finally stepped up with new vintages, along with Spain killing it as always, whites from Israel, and Cali really showing strong this year as well.
So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!
Wines below 20 dollars:
2012/2013/2014 Domaine Netofa White
2014 Domaine Netofa Rose (QPR) (the 2013 is dying)
2012/2013 Domaine Netofa Red
2012 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Vineyard
2011/2012 Weinstock Petite Sirah, cellar select (mad QPR) (mevushal)
2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select (mad QPR) (mevushal)
2012/2013 Capcanes peraj petita (mevushal & non mevushal) (QPR)
2013/2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Adama
2014 Tabor Rose (QPR) EPIC!
2013 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2013 Goose Bay Fume Blanc (QPR) (mevushal)
2012 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR) (mevushal)
2011/12 Dalton Alma, Cabernet and Merlot
2011/12 Dalton Petite Sirah (QPR)
2011/2012 Le Mourre De Lisle Cotes du Rhone(mevushal) (QPR)
2010 Chateau d’Arveyres (QPR) (mevushal)
2013 Beit El Cabernet Sauvignon
2013/14 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2014 Hagafen beret rose (mevushal)
2011 Elvi Rioja Mati (AKA Herenza Rioja)
NV Elvi Adar Brut (mevushal) (QPR)
2014 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Gush Etzion Spring River (five white grapes)
2013 Twin Suns Cabernet Sauvignon (mevushal)
2009 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico
2012 Alfasi Malbec/Syrah, reserve (mevushal) – do NOT laugh solid!
2013 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal)
2011/12 Teperberg Malbec, Terra
It was early on a beautiful winter day in LA when I made my way to the hall at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA – where the IFWF was being held this year. OOPS! I meant KFWE LA! Yes, the IFWF changed its name to the KFWE and it turned really Hollywood hip as it made its way down the sunset strip to the W Hotel, home to stars and socialites alike, and now I hope home to the newest kosher wine event star – the KFWELA!
If it seems like I have unbridled praise for this event, you would be correct. Recently, someone told me that my style of writing did not work for them; as they state it – your combination of unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm, surety of mind, and lapidary form of expression can be grating to me. Though he says it is on him – who knows.
If this or other posts are grating, I totally understand and thankfully no one is forced to read my articles – as I have said in the past, I write them mostly for myself – kind of like my own wine diary.
Anyway, this post will be filled with “unbridled pull-no-punches enthusiasm and surety of mind“. By the way, if one is not sure of what they think – why write it? I write the way I speak – with assurance and knowledge, if I do not know an answer – I am happy to say I have no idea.
Anyway, this event will be engraved in my mind with lapidary precision because it was epic. Still, I am getting ahead of myself – so let us rewind here for a second.
This “year” there were 6 shows in the KFWE portfolio. It all started last year late 2014 in Miami where Royal in combination with WIZO, kicked off the KFWE season with a great warmup event! I say that because while the event went off without a hitch, and there were MANY great wines at the event, the food was a bit underwhelming to say the least. Still, it was here where we first tasted all the new French wines;
- the new 2012 Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré, a second label for the famous winery, which uses its youngest vines to make this wine.The wine is lovely and well worth the cost, but not at the same level as the epic 11 Moulin Riche
- the new 2012 Château Le Crock, which was OK.
- the epic 2011 Chateau Haut Condissas Medoc, a truly lovely wine.
- the new 2012 Chateau Giscours, the best NEW kosher wine at the tasting.
- the new 2012 Domaine l’Or de Line Chateauneuf Du Pape, a very nice wine.
- finally, the second best new wine of the tasting – the 2012 Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It too is a second label wine, but was quite a winner in my book.
The food not withstanding, the event was solid and the wines showed very well under the warm Miami day/evening.
The next event was in Israel, and if I had to say it was probably the best run event from beginning to end, of the ones I attended. I am talking about the 2015 Zur tasting in Tel Aviv. The event was not crowded at all, the food was very good, and the wines were only the best of what they wanted to show. So, to some extent it was kind of like the all-star show – in the beginning of the season. They did have a limited supply of wines, but of the wines they poured, they were all top performers (excluding a table or two). On top of that, Mr. Olivier Cuvelier – the man that runs the family owned Chateau Léoville Poyferré, was there and talking about his wines. He is a delightful man, one who is passionate about his wines but also mindful of the man who brought him fame in the kosher wine world – Pierre Miodownick. Of course, he has received world wide acclaim for his non kosher wines, which is well deserved, but Pierre was working with him in the 90s – before Léoville Poyferré was all over the wine mags. Read the rest of this entry
A recent discussion over Twitter with a few people left me wondering why I had not already covered this topic in some sort of detail; namely – the best kosher white and sparkling wines out there. To be honest, the list of good to very good kosher red wines would be a very long one, which in and of itself is GREAT news. The list of A- to A or better red wines is rather short, and that should indeed be the next article to compose (but I am so very behind on other topics). However, the kosher market for top-line white wines is a market that was deeply intertwined in a catch-22. There were few really top-line kosher white wines while at the same time there were few takers for a really great or very good kosher white wine. Why? I have no idea! Why would you not want a great white wine for the hot summers in Israel, Europe, and the US?
For the longest time, Israelis were happy drinking beer on a hot summer day and the idea of a wine was very foreign indeed. Americans like white wine, but the kosher wine market does not! The kosher wine market for the longest time was dominated by big bold red wines and about not much else. If you were starting a winery, you were required to have the French Noble reds and not much else. A Cabernet, a Merlot, a blend of the two, and maybe a Syrah/Shiraz. Thank goodness with time that has changed. Israeli wine consumers are drastically changing their tastes, and producers are getting the message that the US kosher wine consumer has become more sophisticated as well. They are both craving both sweet and dry, with varying opinions of what dry is, white/rose/sparkling wines for the summer and even all times of the year! This desire is pushing producers to start creating truly very good white kosher wines and it is a godsend – in my humble opinion.
The next clear change has been the realization that Chardonnay is NOT the only white grape out there! There are now many white kosher wines that are not of original descent from Burgundy (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) or even Bordeaux (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc), and yet doing wonderfully in the market. Viognier, Roussanne, White Riesling (AKA Johannisberg Riesling), Gewürztraminer (both “dry” and sweet/late harvest), Greanache Blanc, Chenin Blanc, maybe a Grigio (on a very good day), and of course the a fore mentioned Noble French white grapes as well.
Ten years ago, five years ago – these ideas were beyond foreign. To be fair, Ernie Weir and the Hagafen Winery have been on the forefront of this push along with the Herzog Winery, Royal Wines (the largest importer of Israeli wines), and others. Weir, to his credit has been producing white wines (beyond the Noble whites) for many years now, and blessedly he never gave up on us! Yarden was creating Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in 1986, and thankfully helped push the desire to add in Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and other white varietals. Indeed, many companies, winemakers, and of course consumers have all been part of this new revolution in kosher white wines.
Now, there are many great white kosher wines out there, but unfortunately, many have stayed in Israel, and are not being shipped out here. Why? Because as the Israeli public has awoken to their desire for good sweet and dry white wines, for their Mediterranean climate, they are screaming for the wines, and that leaves nothing to export. The sad thing is that winemaking is a very slow process in many ways. By the time a wine fad or trend has been realized, it takes at least two years to meet that need from a winery perspective. First you need to figure out where to get these grapes or worse, you need to plant the vines – which in that case it is a five-year process, taking into account Orlah (not picking fruit for the first four years) and the year of production. Let alone convincing the owners and partners that it is a good idea. Then powering up the marketing and distribution – making and selling wine is not an easy task! It is for this reason, that I am amazed at the speed of which wineries added a fair amount of good white wines to their portfolios. Sure, white wine, for the most part, can be released quickly, but as explained it is getting to that point that takes the most work. Read the rest of this entry
A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry