Category Archives: Kosher White Wine
To me, Netofa Winery (or is it Domaine Netofa), is one of the quintessential wineries of Israel! They along with Tzora Winery prove that you can make old world style wines in the new world climate of Israel.
As always, it is a joy and honor to hang with Pierre Miodownick, the winemaker of Netofa’s wines and many wines currently being made in France, under other labels. I have written often about Domaine Netofa Winery, it is a winery I try to visit two times a year, once at the beginning of the year, and then again later in the year.
So what has changed since I was there earlier this year? Well, we have already spoken about the fact that they did not make wines in 2015, the last Shmita year in Israel. So, that meant there were no new wines on the market from them last year, which was probably a blessing given how poorly most of them came out.
However, since then, Domaine Netofa Winery has been very busy. First of all, they added two new varietals (Grenache and Roussanne) and like almost every single winery in Israel, they have changed their labels for the better, IMHO, and they have added an entirely new wine line as well with these new varietals. The Grenache really helped the rose, it allowed the rose to last the entire summer this year, and the rose was really nice! The Roussanne is a fun wine and it allows the winery to add another white wine to its list of winners. The only con is that the prices have been set a bit high for this new wine line, called Tel Qasser, after the name of the hill upon which Domaine Netofa Winery’s vineyards are planted.
We arrived at Pierre’s house and he was very gracious to open all the wines that are for sale now from Domaine Netofa Winery along with a real treat, a bottle of the 1988 Chateau Piada Sauterne!
So – Domaine Netofa Winery now has these labels and wine lines:
- Domain Netofa – this is where the original Domaine Netofa Winery wines live, the original Domaine Netofa White from Chenin Blanc grapes. Along with the Domaine Netofa Red, from Syrah, Mourvedre, and the new Grenache – a real GSM! It also has the rose wine that is now made from those same three grapes, the Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
- Latour Netofa – this is where the red and white original Latour wines live. The Red is still made from Syrah and Mourvedre (but the 2016 vintage may well also be a GSM), oak aged, as is the white which is 100% Chenin Blanc, which is also oak aged. The new change is that the Tinto has been moved into this level as well. The Tinto is a blend of two Spanish grapes – Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo.
- Tel Qasser – this is a new wine line altogether and it contains two new wines – the 2016 Tel Qasser red and white. The white is made of 100% oak aged Roussanne (but not barrel fermented – just aged), while the red is made of a blend of Grenache and Syrah, also oak aged.
- Dor – Currently it holds the Syrah wine from 2013 but there is talk of more wines coming under this label, in the coming years.
Altogether, there are now 9 dry wines in the Domaine Netofa Winery family. There is the 2013 and now recently released 2016 Dor, which is a 100% Syrah wine, that is on its own line, and you can find notes for the 2013 Dor here. There is also the fantastic Ruby Port and the 2010 LBV. The Ruby will move to non-vintage going forward, the 2012 vintage will be the last ruby to have a vintage. You can find my notes on those port wines here.
On a total aside, but an important one – we have lost a year without Netofa wines in the USA. I do not know the official reason why, there are many speculations, but I asked Pierre the reason, and he said, the wines will be available in the USA in 2018. So, though this kind of business really bugs me, especially for such a QPR and solid winery, the wines will again be in the USA next year, and that is all we can ask for in the end.
I have written before about what Pierre Miodownick has done for kosher wine and about Netofa Winery. The interesting fact beyond his epic work in creating kosher French wines, for over 30 years now, that we all crave today, is his love for Rhone and Spanish varietals. If you look at the varietals he has in the vineyards, there is no Cab, no Merlot, no Chardonnay. Nope, all he has is, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache (a new varietal for Netofa), Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional, along with two whites, Chenin Blanc and the newly added Roussanne.
Both of the newly added varietals (the Roussanne and Grenache) are both Rhone varietals as well. It is yet further proof for me, that the real future of Israel is not Cab, Cab Franc, or merlot, but well managed and early picked Mediterranian varietals. Netofa winery picks their grapes long before most do and the wine shines for it!
1988 Chateau Piada
When the tasting was over Pierre poured this golden elixir out of a beautiful decanter and it was pure heaven, it was the 1988 Chateau Piada. This was Pierre Miodownick’s second Sauterne from the QRP kosher Sauterne superstar – Chateau Piada. I was really excited to taste this wine for a few reasons. First of all, I never had tasted this wine. Second, I never tasted a Sauterne this old, I really wanted to know if a kosher Sauterne can hold out this long. Lastly, come on this is a 29-year-old wine!
Sadly, the wine was slightly corked, and the cork itself almost disintegrated, but in the end, the wine was very impressive indeed, and the main thing I got out of this is that kosher wine can last 29 years if it is a Sauterne!
Bravo to you Pierre Miodownick! The wine was lovely and I am always in awe of the groundbreaking work you and your team did to bring kosher French wine to the masses before they even knew they wanted it! Read the rest of this entry
The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Matar by Pelter winery. I have been to the winery a few times over the past years and my posts can be found here, and they continue to impress with their red and whites wines alike. Though I must say, that the red wines have become riper with time. Time will tell if this is a blip or a conscious desire.
There is not much more to say here. Their white and rose wines from 2015 were nice, but nowhere near the level of their 2014 wines. The good news is the 2016 white wines are far closer to the 2014 vintage. Sadly, the 2015 reds are not showing like Matar wines normally do, but again 2015 was a really bad year. They are not date juice, but the 2015 reds, like the Merlot and the Petite Verdot, are just riper than usual and are showing a bit unbalanced.
My many thanks to the winery, and especially Gal Yaniv, the winery’s CEO for going out of his way to help us in many ways – my many thanks, sir! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Matar Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon – Score: A-
Another lovely vintage of this wine. The nose is ripe with gooseberry, green apple, crazy grapefruit, fresh cut grass, and kiwi. The mouth is great, ripping acid, with a super focus along with lovely spice, rich ripe melon, and lovely cloves, with slate and rich citrus pith. The finish is long and green and it is pure acid, bravo with cinnamon and slate. Bravo!!
2016 Matar Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is a lovely chard nose with green apple, a bit of gooseberry, citrus, pear, with herb and lovely foliage and green notes. A nice medium mouth with crazy acid, great fruit focus, with intense citrus pith, lovely tart mouth-filling fruit that gives way to crazy pith, slate, and lemon Fraiche. The finish is long and tart, with good mineral, slate, rock and fruit pith lingering long. Nice!
2016 Matar Chenin Blanc – Score: A-
This may well be their best Chenin Blanc ever, the wine is very close in style to Netofa’s Chenin Blanc, it is far drier than previous vintages and is showing purity and original style.
The nose is very different than previous vintages with great Chenin funk, with honeysuckle, straw, rich floral notes and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lean, rich and yet focused with old world style, great mineral, rich saline, lovely straw, earth, all balanced with epic acid, and great dry yellow melon and pear. The finish is long and mineral-focused, with lovely flint, smoke, earth, slate, backed by crazy saline, acid, and tart fruit. Bravo!
Well after my last couple of posts, this one returns to wines and wineries I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe. The next winery was Tabor winery and many thanks to Justin for meeting with us and sharing his knowledge and wines.
The winery’s tasting room has undergone a radical renovation and I really like what they have done with it! The labels have also undergone a continuous facelift, over the past few years, and I think these are here to stay – as they are now. The special wines – which they called Adama II in the past has been renamed the Premium line. There are two new wines, the Tannat and Marselan, and they are under a new line, the Single Vineyard line.
We also have once again changed the flagship wine’s name! It started with Mescha, then it was changed to 1/10000 or whatever the bottle count was that year. Then it was renamed Limited Edition, and now it has been changed to Malkiya. I really hope this will be the last name change – we can only hope!
So at this point, the wine lines stand at:
- Har (Mount Tabor) – these are the baseline wines
- Adama – these are the wines we all love and the QPR superstars live here, like Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Rose, and the Cab and Merlot
- Premium Wines – these used to be called Adama II and they hold all the wines, like Sufa, Ram, Zohar, and others
- Single Vineyard (like everyone is doing a single vineyard line now) – this is where the two new Tannat and Marselan wines live
- Malkiya – this is the new name for the 1/10000
Sadly, I missed out tasting the Tabor Roussanne, Adama, which was a shame as the wine I hear is very nice, and there are very few Roussanne available in the kosher market, other than Covenant Winery’s Mensch, Hagafen Winery’s Don Ernesto, and Netofa Winery’s new Roussanne wine (more on that soon).
My many thanks to Justin and the winery for putting up with us during a harvest week. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2015 Tabor Riesling, Shahar – Score: A- (Shmita) Sold only in Israel
This wine is more fun, in some ways than the 2014 vintage. It is more steely, leaner, with far drier and less tropical fruit. This is a lovely wine showing a very earthy side, with flint, rich fruit, petrol, crazy dry peach, with a soap/lavender aroma. The mouth is rich, layered, funky, richer than the 14, rich and yet really bright and showing great pith with great lovely acid, followed by bright summer fruits, no tropical fruit, with lovely Meyer lemon, orange and tangerine pith, and citrus galore. Really nice, floral and funky. Bravo!
Well, Yom Tov is now over, and the Jewish Holiday fall season is over. I will keep this very short, I tasted lots of wines and not all of them are themed or per winery, so here they are. Some were really good, like the impressive but not widely available Kos Yeshuos wines from Josh Rynderman, who continues to impress me and whose wines truly belie his youth.
Besides Josh’s fun wines, I tasted the Gachot Manot Pinot Noir wines from the 2010 vintage. Of the four I have now tasted, the only ones I would buy now is the 1er cru if you can find it. The plain Bourgogne is in drink now mode, it has a year left at most in the tank. The other two wines, the Cote de Nuits-Villages and the Gevrey are really not that interesting and are in serious drink up mode.
Sadly, the 2012 Pacifica Pinot Noir dropped off the cliff, it is in serious drink NOW mode, or you will be left with water. There is a new 2016 vintage, I hope to taste it very soon.
Also, bravo to Menahem Israelievitch and the Royal Europe group. They have created two QPR wines that are nice. The best of the bunch by far is the 2016 Chateau Riganes. It is very cheap, at less than 10 dollars on kosherwine.com, and it is mevushal!! Finally! Finally! We are starting to see real wines in the kosher market that are not jacked up. The Chateau Trijet is nice as well, but more fruit forward than I would like.
Finally, I had the chance to taste the 2016 Capcanes Rosat and it did not crack the top roses of 2017, which is a shame. The new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a real winner and a QPR winner to boot!
We were in a huge rush so my notes are shorter than usual. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
Kos Yeshuos Wines
2016 Kos Yeshuos Grenache, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 90 to 91
The nose is really fun and feminine, with vibrant fruit, juicy strawberry, hints of blueberry, with intensely floral notes showing rose hip and nice sweet baking spices. The mouth on medium bodied is fun, vibrant, and zesty, and with a great backing of good acid that makes it a fun food wine, with good fruit focus showing tart cherry, with a good tannin that carries the wine, with lovely strawberry, and cinnamon at the start that gives way to cloves, allspice, and then great almond pith. The finish is long and spicy, with earth, really fun saline, floral notes, and a backbone of acid that really carries this wine well. Nice! Drink till 2020.
2016 Kos Yeshuos Syrah, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 92
What a lovely Cali nose, a real joy, controlled, fruity, big and bold and really meaty, with really great boysenberry, blueberry, roasted meat, backed by nice floral notes (not weak Australian style – but really rich and floral), with mounds of chocolate, lovely graphite, mineral, and sweet oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered and inky, a real joy, wow, this is a wine that belies Josh’s young career as a winemaker, a wine with great control and finesse, a true food Syrah (not because it is undrinkable without food, it has ZERO date or sweet issues), but this wine is a beast, it cannot be enjoyed on its own, unless u are a glutton for punishment, showing rich cassis, blackberry, followed by blue fruit galore, juicy and ripe, yet not over the top, wrapped in spicy and sweet oak, with rich ribbons of mineral, earth, and great baking spices to bring it all together. The finish is long and mineral based, with great graphite, rich saline, green and black olives, along with hints of other umami to come, but meaty, blue, mineral, and black lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2018 to 2023. Not available anymore – I think sold out. Read the rest of this entry
As I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Recanati Winery was the second winery I visited. Kobi Arviv, who is now the head winemaker at Recanati Winery. He is also the head winemaker at his own winery, Mia Luce Winery, and had been the associate winemaker at Recanati Winery, until June this year.
I have posted in the past about Recanati Winery, and the only real change since that post is that Kobi is now the new head winemaker and that their wines had moved riper in the past few years, my hope is that they return to the control they showed in 2010 and 2011. Since then, it seems they have moved to riper wines, like the rest of Israel.
The wines have stayed the same for the most part, with slight changes to the makeup of some of them. The biggest change overall is to the labels and some new fun and easy drinking reds and whites have been added in.
- Yasmin/Jonathan – these are the entry-level labels, that are also mevushal
- Upper Galilee Series – these used to be the diamond series or the baseline series. Not much has changed here other than the labels, though they have been a bit riper these past few years.
- Then the roses along with this new French Blend wine. The roses have become dryer and are lovely, but the French blend is too sweet for me.
- Specials – these are fun and well-made wines that are made for either restaurants or the Derech Hayayin stores in Israel.
- Single Vineyard Wines (Also called Reserve Wines) – this is the largest change of them all – labels wise. Here they have moved the Med series under the single vineyard label concept, though the labels themselves have not really changed. Actually, the reserve wines of old have folded under the Med series and now all the wines show the vines from which the wine was made. This is where the new Marawi wine lives.
- Flagship wines – what used to be called Special Reserve wines are now flagship wines. It consists of the red and white Special reserve wines.
While the number of labels may have expanded and their look changed, the essence of the winery which was the thrust of my previous post has not changed at all. The winery’s main focus is quality, and for most people, that continues to be the winery’s rallying cry. The prices of the single vineyard wines have gone up, which to me is a real problem because another of Recanati’s rallying cries was price control, and to me, they have lost control of that one, at least here in the USA. I think that issue is a combination of Palm Bay making hay while the sun shines (Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and others), and Recanati moving its prices up a bit as well. Read the rest of this entry
As I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and I finally got the chance to taste the entire kosher line. Asaf Paz, is the head winemaker there now, after spending so much time helping at Vitkin for years, he is finally at home in his family’s winery for good I hope.
I have written before about Vitkin in passing last year when I tasted his 2015 wines, the first year he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last year, 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. We arrived during the crush for Grenache, so it was fun to see how the tanks are situated in the winery. They do 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 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, sadly there was no 2016 Riesling. The 2016 Gewurztraminer and Grenache Blanc, have the added collector’s edition moniker on them. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red and the 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, 2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, 2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2015 Vitkin Carignan. The 2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir is the only red with the collector’s edition moniker.
There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that 50% 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
By now it should no surprise to you at all that I really like old world wines and controlled new world wines, like California, Spain, and some top wineries in Israel. The wines from Italy, like Terra de Seta’s wines, are all old world in style, though they have a couple of new world wines as well, and they are a bit too much for me.
So, I thought it was time to update the notes on all the 2014 and 2015 French wines that are now here in the USA. Yes, the 2014 wines have been here for some time, but I am shocked to see that they did not sell out yet like the 2014 Chateau Montviel, which flew off the shelves and essentially disappeared within a month. Much akin to the 2013 Chateau Piada Sauterne, that also disappeared within a month or so, a great wine with a very good price tag. Of course, both of them were made in too small of a run, which we can all complain about to Royal. However, as I stated earlier, in my post of the 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux wines, Royal will do whatever it needs to never see a wall of wine sitting in its warehouse again, even if that means we all lose out. The saying, “Less is more”, is a perfect ideal by which Royal runs its French wine business. Please do not get me wrong, we are all indebted to the Royal wine company and its Royal Europe division for making us wines we all adore. That said, they made a small run of the two afore mentioned wines and having less, while painful for the consumers, is more for Royal, as the memories of 2003 and on, where walls of wine sat unsold, is one that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
I have already posted about some of the whites and the Sparkling wines from France, and I will add the two 2014 Sauterne that I enjoyed below.
So, that sets us up for the state of French wine in the USA, the 2014s are all here including the 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, which is made by IDS, and I will leave it at that. However, the 2015 wines from France, are already starting to arrive on our shores. The 2015 wines from Royal, that I tasted last year in Bordeaux from the barrel and posted on here, will be here in bottle format, before the end of the Gregorian calendar year. As I stated in my post, the prices will shock you, the Grand Vin from Leoville Poyferre will top the $200 range retail, and they will be priced alongside older vintages of Leoville that are being sold in NYC and soon on Kosherwine.com. That will be fun to watch.
The 2014 vintage in comparison is actually very reasonably priced, and while it is not the monster 2015 vintage, it is still a very good vintage and one that will not give you the heartache and sticker shock that the 2015 vintage will give you. The superstar wines of the 2014 vintage are still very reasonably priced, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Malartic, Chateau Soutard, Chateau Marsac Seguineau (in France only sadly). Along with the very good 2014 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre, and Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru. The latter two wines are wines that should be laddered into your wine list as they will drink earlier and not last as long. That gives you wines that will be ready soon and help to keep you away from the Grand Vin wines which need a TON of time. Of course, you should buy as much of the 2015 Fourcas Dupe that you can find when it arrives along with the other QPR shocker – the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat – which I think will be priced at the same range as the Fourcas Dupre. But remember, the Fourcas from 2015 will be priced a good 15 to 25% higher than in previous vintages and maybe the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat will be priced at the higher tier as well.
Recently, I have been tasting other 2014 super stars, and a new one is here now, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe – a lovely wine that we tasted side by side the 2014 Chateau Soutard, two wines that are very different in style but which are located very near to each other. They are both A- to A wines and the Christophe is actually cheaper than the Chateau Soutard.
We also enjoyed a fair number of new 2015 wines and some are down right awesome and some are nice, but their costs are already getting out of hand. Like the 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape. It is a very nice wine, but for 75 dollars retail, it is not worth it. A lovely wine that is super bright and tart and very nice, but is you kidding me! Trust me when I say, this is JUST THE START, of a bunch of wines that may well price themselves out of the market – which would be scary, given the sheer number of 2015 wines made!. What if these 2015 wines are just very nice – why would I pay 75 dollars for that? It is a very important question that will be answered over time. Sure, people will take a shot on one of them here and there, to see what it tastes like. However, soon enough the word gets around and then what? Will it sit there? Only time will tell.
The prices went up, and the costs of producing them as I explained on my Bordeaux post has either stayed the same or gone up as well. So, what happens if the importers do not have enough money to keep them on the market? Only time will tell!
There is another 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape, the other one has the label of Cuvee Anais of Condorcet – but I did not find it the day I bought its “cheaper” little brother. The Cuvee Anais of Condorcet is meant to be a bolder wine while the Domaine Condorcet is the lower label.
Below please find all the 2014 and 2015 red wines that I have tasted so far. Some of them are not easy if at all available, like the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement, but they are worth the search.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
Available in France Only
2015 Chateau Le Caillou, Pomerol – Score: A-
WOW! This wine was released early, like 6 months early, this was not a barrel sample wine. Lovely nose of mineral and black currant with crazy mushroom and dirt. Nice medium body, with enough complexity, though nice but a drop hollow, with good fruit focus and nice acid, showing great mineral and terroir, with dark cherry and draping tannin. The finish is long and green with foliage and coffee, nice saline and acid, and earth. Drink by 2021.
2015 Chateau Pouyanne Red – Score: B+
Very interesting nose, almost tropical, juicy tart red guava notes, with strawberry, showing dark fruit, with accessible notes of cherry and sweet fruit notes. Nice medium body with a simple attack, but nice tannin and extraction, with earth and mushroom and green notes. Drink now.
2014 Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild – Score: A- (will be here eventually)
This wine is a lovely fruit and herb driven wine, very spicy, with cloves and all-spice, showing black fruit and herb. Very different mouth with spice, but you can see where this wine will look like the older brothers with time, showing a full body with crazy spice and searing tannin, a mineral core of graphite, and spice with great acid balance, black and red fruit with time showing a draping tannin velvet. The finish is long and herb, with chocolate, leather, tar, and smoke.
2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau, Margaux – Score: A- to A
Lovely rich black fruit, so young with crazy mineral, saline, with mushroom and hints of barnyard, with crazy elegance and green note that are in your face, more than I expected, but epic elegance. The mouth is layered and extracted and crazy good and rich acid, with blackberry, ripe currant, with layers of elegance and complexity, showing draping tannin that dries the mouth, rich and epic, mineral takes center stage with spice galore, wow. Long and crazy dry finish, ripping acid, mounds of mineral, rich leather, tobacco leaf, espresso, and rich saline, with lots of foliage lingering long. Bravo! Drink 2020 till 2030. Read the rest of this entry
Whether you call it Silvaner or Sylvaner it is the same thing, but most probably the wine in question comes from different regions. The wine I was given from the distributors of Gefen Hashalom wines is a Silvaner, while the wines named Sylvaner most often come from the Alsace region of France, but also now from a growing number of regions from around the world.
According to Wikipedia:
Sylvaner is an ancient variety that has long been grown in Central Europe, in Transylvania. DNA fingerprinting has revealed it to be a cross between Traminer and the “hunnic” variety Österreichisch-Weiß (meaning “Austrian White”). As a result, it is now thought to have originated in Austrian Empire (Transylvania).
It is thought that the grape came to Germany after the Thirty Years War as there is a record of Sylvaner from Austria being planted at County of Castell in Franconia on 5 April 1659. So Germany celebrated the 350th anniversary of Silvaner in 2009. Its name has been taken to be associated with either Latin silva (meaning woods) or saevum (meaning wild), and before modern ampelography it was sometimes assumed that this variety had a close relationship with wild vines. Before DNA typing, some assumed an origin in Transylvania based on its name.
The most interesting part about this grape is that it was planted like wild fire throughout Germany after the second world war. It was the most grown grape throughout Germany and it reminds me of many of the top grapes of California, Israel, and other regions around the world that were not noble in nature – they over run the region and outlive their welcome. The next thing that happens is that they are either eradicated totally, much akin to the Carignan in Israel, or Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Carignan in California. Or the fruit is managed in a way that makes them less fruitful, more expressive, and more enjoyable overall to be made into wine.
Silvaner is another example of this story, a grape that was over planted after the war and has dwindled down from the 30% of vines in Germany to just under 6% today. It shines best in the region where our wine hails from, Franconia (Frankenland), where the chalky Muschelkalk terroir helps to produce some of the highest rated Silvaner in the country.
The second fascinating part of this story is the bottle the wine comes in, the Bocksbeutel. Which is a type of wine bottle with the form of a flattened ellipsoid.
But like all stories that tug at the heart and imagination, there are cons. The main con to this story is that this grape is well plain and neutral. It has great acid, that is not the issue, but what it truly lacks is a sense of life and expression. The best way to make this grape special is to grow it in the region whose terroir is chalk and rock/stone. Those underpinnings come through in the wine, but it still lacks the huge pull that we all love.
It is that love hates aspect of this wine that will make it a very interesting wine to taste blind. Sure, the shape of the bottle would give it away, so maybe pour it into another normal bottle and pour that blind and see what reactions you get. The wine is super earthy, mineral bound and does in many ways mimic Sauvignon Blanc. It was the closest varietal that we could compare the wine to in terms of its notes, but what it lacked was the rich complexity we all love from wines today.
In the end, I think this is another wine from the guys at Gefen Hashalom that may well be interesting in a few months. Give it time. Also, this wine really felt like it was in a funk, almost in a dumb period that finally came out of its shell – three days after opening, which of course is not an option for most people. For now, I would say, that it may have been shopping shock or basic bottle shock and that it has hopefully settled down now and should be more accessible when it becomes available soon.
Now you will ask me, where can I buy this wine to try it? Good question. I got mine early, and it will hopefully be selling in and around you soon.
My many thanks to Kevin and hopefully you will taste this wine soon and tell me your opinion on it:
2016 Hans Wirsching Silvaner, Gefen Hashalom – Score: B+ to A-
The nose is solid, really toasty but controlled, with great citrus, with really lovely floral notes, showing lovely green notes, and lovely slate. The mouth starts off a bit slow, it needs time to open up, give it time. The mouth on this wine starts off really sharp, with lovely acid, mineral, saline, and dry fig, with intense dried and focused grapefruit, that gives way to slate and lovely mineral. Sadly, the finish does open up with time, but it is a bit hollow.
With time most of the flaws fall off. Now when I say with time, I am talking three days! After the three days, all of those flaws were gone. The acid was back all the way through the mouth and through to the finish. The nose turned into a Viognier styled wine – with luscious peach, apricot, and lovely floral notes, jasmine, and nice slate. The mouth is round for sure, that did not change, but the acid coming through was impressive, with good notes of tea, grapefruit, lovely mineral, rock/wet slate, and spice.
Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.
To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.
I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.
The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage
Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.
Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.
In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there, I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.
Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.
My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry
As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday. Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. The Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is nice, but you will not find many of their favorites on this list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is my list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.
So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered 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 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, and all the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).
Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the less than 20 dollar Capcanes Peraj Petita, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.
Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollars and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored an A- 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 2015 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard earned money. Wait for the 2016 Roses that will be released soon.
Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)
Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far too 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. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it. It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses from Arc International. Also, remember that the first cup should be drunk in totality, according to most authorities.
A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is not as long as last year’s lost, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, are showing well from the best wineries, but that list is short. Read the rest of this entry