Category Archives: Kosher White Wine

Gruner, Verdicchio, and Malvasia some uncommon grapes make fine wine and two Benyo Oldies

This past Shabbat I wanted to start opening some wines now that the summer season was a couple of days away (from this past Shabbat). So I opened a brand new 2018 Shirah Gruner Veltliner, along with an awesome 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria, another very reasonably priced import by M&M, and finally the 2018 Camuna White, High Vibes.

What fascinated me was that Malvasia is really not a grape we get to taste too often in the kosher market, in the dry format. We have had the Michael Kaye Malvasia, which was essentially dry, with a bit of RS. However, the 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria and the 2018 Camuna White, High Vibes are dry wines, though the High Vibes is really tropical and ripe. In the end, it is awesome to get some more unique wines and grapes, especially in the white wine arena!

Thank goodness Shirah is back with an exceptional 2018 Gruner Veltliner! The last one was the epic 2015 Shirah Gruner Veltliner. They have changed the bottle, but the style is really the same, tight, neat, clean, with minimal work, showing bright and really refreshing.

The 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria is a unique wine, one that was made in very small quantity and is a super QPR wine. This wine is a blend of 70% Verdicchio, 30% Malvasia. This is a wine that was produced by Ricardo Cotarella, winemaker of Falesco, for his own personal usage and usually not commercially available, yet this one is and for the first time kosher. The wine is unique, old world, and truly wonderful.

Overall, the wines were fun and quite enjoyable. It is truly great to see the kosher wine world opening up to white wines of variety and complexity, and not just another Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

We also opened two oldies from Four Gates Winery and they were as always showing wonderfully, though one of them was initially corked. I did the cellophane wrap trick and it mostly worked. Though the flaw was only recognizable on the nose but not at all on the palate.

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

2018 Shirah Gruner Veltliner, Tasting Room – Score: 91
WOW! Yes, it is back!! Lovely! This is how white wines should be, light, crisp, though this wine has a serious presence as well, with an oily and weighty feeling to boot! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing classic notes of hay, straw, with fresh cut white flowers, citrus, lemongrass, more mineral, with hints of melon, and loam. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is present, it shows a weight that is lovely and almost oily, with a beautiful texture, showing great acidity, lovely with nectarines, pink grapefruit, and hints of orange. The finish is long, green, with passionfruit, more citrus, hay, lemongrass, and floral notes lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2021.

2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria – Score: 92 to 93
This wine is a blend of 70% Verdicchio, 30% Malvasia. WOW!!! This is a wine that was produced by Ricardo Cotarella for his own usage and usually not commercially available, yet this one is and for the first time kosher. What a wine, the nose on this thing is out of this world, so old school and old-world it is crazy. The nose is incredibly redolent with loads of peach, rich herb, mint, oregano, along with freshly peeled almond, walnut shells, with crazy wildflowers, white flowers, honeysuckle, and loads of hay and straw. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is beyond unique, it is layered, rich, and oily, almost unctuous, with sweet peach, apricot, ginger, pepper, cloves, and white cinnamon, with rich orange, mandarin, nectarines, all wrapped in a cocoon of funk, mineral, sweet yellow plum, and loads of roasted herb. The finish is long, green, sweet, herbal, oily, with saline, honey, almonds, and sweet notes lingering forever long. Bravo!!! Bravo!!! Drink now! It was still nice a day later, but it had lost its verve and tension, so drink up now to enjoy the wine at its max.

2018 Camuna White, High Vibes – Score: 88 to 89
This wine is a blend of 54% Malvasia Bianca and 46% Chardonnay. The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet, with notes of honeysuckle, floral notes, followed by pineapple, guava, and melon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has an oily texture that has loads of fruit, showing citrus, pith, with orange, yellow grapefruit, sweet spices, sweet notes, that come together under mineral, chalk, and more almond/grapefruit pith. The finish is short, green, and sweet, with good acidity, but the finish and the overly sweet notes take this down a bit for me. Drink now!

2006 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: 92 to 93
Lovely wine, but slightly corked, with rich plum, blackberry, earthy, green, and foliage, with sweet dill, oak, and loads of herb, with lovely spices. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe, sweeter than most, with loads of blackberry, plum, round, with layers of acidity, mouth coating tannin, and rich draping mouthfeel, with mushroom, earth, loam, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is long, green, and tobacco-laden, with leather, chocolate, tar, and rich roasted herbs. Nice! Drink until 2022.

2003 Four Gates Merlot – Score: 93
This wine was undrinkable for years given its absurd acidity, now this wine is screaming, it is 15+ years old and it is as young as the day it was released, color wise. The nose on this wine is beautiful with rich plum, cherry, dark milk chocolate, mocha, with coffee notes, tar, and rich mineral galore, followed by mushrooms, and more earth. The mouth on this full bodied wine is beautiful, with layers of chocolate, tannin, fruit, and nice complexity that shows raspberry, cherry, plum, menthol galore, mint, oregano, and rich saline. The finish is long, green, with loads of more tobacco, plum, and rich mineral, graphite, and hints of barnyard under the foliage and forest floor! Bravo! Drink until 2022.

Tzora Vineyards Winery latest release – April 2019

My posts on the wines and wineries I visited in Israel for Passover continue with my visit to Tzora Vineyards Winery. I have posted many times about Tzora Vineyards and as always I am impressed by the winery, it continues to push back against the tide of date juice. Even before I got to Israel I was texting with Eran Pick, the head winemaker, and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards Winery. Once again, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, joined me on Monday, and I really have to thank Mr. Pick for allowing us to come while work was being done in the cellar.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel WineryFlam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on well balanced new-world style wines, while Israeli wineries continue to create fruit-forward crazed wines that lack balance and something to call their own.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, 2017 red and the 2018 whites, as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation. Read the rest of this entry

Vitkin Winery visit – April 2019

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

My recent visit with Yaacov Oryah and the white and orange wine factory

Anyone who has enjoyed an old white wine from Yaacov Oryah’s mind and hands can understand my choice of title. As long as you were not born in this century, of course (OMG, do not bring up the abomination that was the remake).

Yaacov Oryah has had many wineries that he has worked for, made wines for others, and/or consulted with. The official list that I know of is Asif Winery, Midbar Winery, Yaakov Oryah, Ella Valley, and now Psagot, where he is the head winemaker.

For the longest time, as long as I have known the man when we first met at Midar Winery in 2013, I have been struck by his passion, drive, and single-mindedness in creating great white wines in Israel.

Yes, Mr. Oryah can make fine red wines, like the 2011 Yaacov Oryah Iberian Dream, Gran Reserva, and Reserva, the Claro wines he makes for a restaurant called Claro, and others. Still, what I really crave and admire are the white and orange wines.

I have already spoken at length about Mr. Oryah here so I will concentrate on the 2019 releases. Also, if you think that the names of Yaacov Oryah wines are a bit whimsical, then good for you! You are starting to get a glimpse into the operation that is Yaacov Oryah Winery, a blend of whimsical genius, alchemy, great winemaking, and downright unique color all wrapped into a unique lineup of wines that define Mr. Oryah himself.

Orange wine factory

Mr. Oryah keeps saying that the white wines on the market today are a stripped down version of what a white wine should be. Sure, Europe has superstar white wines that can last decades, but that requires unique soil, fruit, terroir, and of course, history. In Israel, where the only thing that really sells well is date juice, that kind of wine is a dream. Still, Mr. Oryah thinks that he can create wines that are still quite unique indeed.

I have had the 2009 Midbar Semillon, and though the tasting in 2016 did not show well, that wine continues to blow me away in tasting after tasting. A Semillon that is 10 years old, and may now finally be reaching its limits. It is not a white wine covered in oak makeup, it is a wine that is pure and truly professional. It is what Mr. Oryah thinks can be done in Israel with white varietals. Yet, each and every year he makes more and more crazy wines. Each one is a data point for a growing list of wines that he sees as potential suitors for the wines he dreams of building.

Until he creates the perfect wine, the wines and data points he is building along the way, are getting better and better. The map and path he is building are not pointing towards another mass produced winery. The data points point towards a more precise and surgically built winery. Where plots or even rows of vines may well define the data point for his dream wine.

Factory of the future

When I heard that Mr. Oryah was creating 10 Orange wines (only 9 are publically available, the other is for a restaurant), four white wines (the varietal Semillon is for a later date), and one rose wine, I thought – I need to taste these!

So, Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and I made our way to the only real place to taste wine in Jerusalem, the Red and White Wine Bar. Yes, I have spoken about Mark and the bar before. It is still kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street). Mark is still the ever present and mindful host, and while we tasted through 20+ wines, Mark was there with us through every wine, with food, heady music, with an uncanny ability to feel the room and timing throughout it all. I really feel horrible that I never had the time to go back to the bar and hang with Mark for an evening and watch him ply his trade, teaching the world about the world of Kosher Wine while serving great food and playing really fun music. Hopefully, next time!

I have spoken about orange wines in the past. Orange wine is simply the process of leaving white grapes to ferment on their skins, like red wine. To Mr. Oryah it is the truest expression of a white varietal and one that Israel can use now to create great white wines, while it searches for more data points on the path for Israel’s white varietals of the future. He calls the wine line Alpha Omega (AO) because it is greek for A to Z, to represent that this wine has it all, skin, pulp, and seed, not juice white juice, like most white wines are made.

The skins add more than just a bit of color, they add a huge amount of natural phenolics, along with tannin (yes tannin in white wine), and then it adds a few extracurricular notes, that some could find challenging. Notes that are defined as nuts and other aspects of reduction or oxidation. The point though is that the Alpha Omega line is a showcase of control and experimentation. Many of the wines show the proper and incredible next step beyond white wines we all know. The rich and layered complexity that skins add without some of the extracurricular notes. Some of the wines show those notes and many will find them wonderful, like myself, but in all, it is a show of control, experimentation, and more dots on the plot to a richer future. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery – 2019 winery visit

For the first time in a long time, my post on Netofa winery is not months after I visited! I went with Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and as always Pierre Miodownick, head winemaker of Domaine Netofa Winery was beyond gracious with his time and his wines.

I have already posted my feelings about the 2017 whites and the 2016 reds in my previous post on the Domaine Netofa Winery in December 2018. I have also already posted some of the 2018 whites and rose wines as part of a large blind tasting after the winery visitDomaine Netofa is a winery I have posted about often, and it may well be a winery I post the most of on my blog, besides Tzora Vineyards. That kind of tells you what I think about those two wineries. Pierre Miodownick is the head winemaker at Netofa, and he has been there since the winery’s inaugural 2009 vintage.

Thankfully, the winery is still one of the last bastions of normalcy, when it comes to white and red wines in Israel, along with a few others. I have found Netofa’s white and rose wines from the 2018 vintage to be quite lovely and unique. The red wines are solid with only the red Tel Qasser from 2016 being a wine I still cannot bring myself to love.

Sadly, the availability of these wines continues to be an issue here in the USA. I really wish Netofa could find an importer already and get us some fun Israeli red and white wines to enjoy here in the USA. Until then, you need to go to Israel to buy and enjoy them.

Yes, I know the rumors, I know. However, until their wines are in the USA and in my house I will reserve my optimism. That is in no way a judgment on Netofa, but more of a hope and a way to not jinx the return of one of the best kosher wineries in Israel from returning to our shores.

Wines to come:

  1. There will be a 10-year Tawny port released soon from the 2010 vintage.
  2. There will be a 2018 wine based upon Mourvedre, with a bit of Syrah. Look for it in a year or so.

My many thanks to Mr. Miodownick and the winery for letting me come by and enjoy the wines with him! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Domaine Netofa, White – 90 to 91
I have had this wine 4 times now. Some shows like pineapple juice and others show beautiful like this one here. What can I do, I think this wine has a deep-rooted tropical backbone, but the mineral up front is so good that it hides the backbone.
The nose on this wine shows a lovely nose of straight up hay, mineral, and fruit, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine is crazy good, with a clear ripe backbone, yet steely tart and bright with crazy saline and herb, with mineral galore, with crazy apple, and rich quince, with an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more hay, and lovely freshness and minerality! Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2017 Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Read the rest of this entry

Israeli White and Rose wines along with a few others thrown in

As the weather starts to warm up, it is time to start enjoying the white and rose wines that come from Israel. With that said, there is a lot of buzz recently that 2018 is the new year for white and rose Israeli wines, well I can personally attest that the noise is a red herring and a gross over exaggeration.

Are there a few more wines that work in 2018 than in 2017, 2016, or 2015? Yes, but the 2018 vintage is NOTHING like the epic 2014 vintage for Israeli white and rose wines. Still, I am happy to say that there are a few wines that I have enjoyed and I am posting them here.

I had a large tasting with the Israeli/French/American wine tasting group in Jerusalem, and there were a few winners. I am posting here wines that I tasted with them, along with a few that I have tasted before and after the event. Also, since we had many wines, we did not write long notes for wines I disliked and some wines I liked elsewhere are either missing notes or I cannot find them, but I do my best to describe those as well.

Thanks to Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and the rest of the French wine group on Facebook for helping with the tasting, and a big shout out to Joel and his company for letting us have the tasting at his office.

Finally, as always! PLEASE only drink 2018 roses and finish them by October 2018 or so. Also, if you wish to read how rose wine is made, please read this post from last year. Same can be said for many of these simple white wines, other than where I give an actual drinking window.

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

2018 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 90
The nose on this wine is pure gooseberry, slate, mineral, lemon, and cat pee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, dry, and very good, with floral notes, of orange blossom, and lovely control with good acidity, fruit focus, and lovely passion fruit. The finish is long, green, and slate, with good salinity, and blossom. Nice!

2018 Segal Chardonnay, Wild Fermentation – Score: 80
The nose on this wine is boring and closed, with bits of peach, orange blossom, and not much else. The front and middle of this wine are flat as a crepe, with hints of hay and slate, with a bit of acidity on the end.

2018 Shiran Semillon – Score: NA
The nose is 100% apple juice, and not much else. The mouth is offensive. Candied quince with lemon juice, all over the place and nasty.

2018 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 90
This is a nice wine, yay, it is a nice SB, nice gooseberry, passion fruit, and citrus. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, really acidic, well balanced, with good fruit structure, with nice weight and structure, showing peach, hints apricot, and nice hay, and orange blossom, and orange pith, with good structure and balance. Nice! Pith, acidity, salinity, and nice ripe but balanced fruit linger long.

2018 Flam Blanc – Score: 86
The nose on this wine is boring, flat, no life, with hints of orange, blossom, and not much else. The mouth on this wine is pure lemon/lime/orange juice, and not much else, very little complexity, but nice acidity. Nice enough.

2018 Ramat Negev Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 70
This is another bummer wine, big pass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is acidic quince juice. Boring, move on.

2018 Vitkin Gewurztraminer – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is dry and lovely pineapple, with ripe melon, and green notes and lychee galore, with funk and hints of soap, incredible aromas, white pepper, smoke, flint, and redolence. The mouth on this wine is lovely, with grapefruit, citrus, lovely pith, with apple, pith galore, followed by complexity and bitter notes of melon, yellow Apple, lovely weight, slight tannin, with sweet notes honeysuckle, sweet pineapple, and balance. The finish is long and green and sweet and mineral balanced. Bravo! Drink by 2021. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher New Zealand wines

Here is a funny fact, go to New Zeland, like we did earlier this year, and you have less of a chance to taste a current New Zealand Kosher wine than if you were on the east coast. Do not even start me on elsewhere in the USA, there are still 2014 Goose Bay wines at shops still. I have no idea why people continue to push old wines when it comes at the detriment of the customer and the shop! Yes, the wine store is a business, but pushing bad wine is not good business either. Someone needs to eat that cost, a theme I keep hammering again and again.

Anyway, in New Zealand, there is 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc and not much else, and that was in Auckland, which has the largest Jewish community. Sad. They also had the 2016 O’Dwyers Sauvignon Blanc, but that is on its way down. The 2016 Goose Bay, is slowing down, but still drinkable in a tight pinch.

The first week we were there we got by on grape juice and beer, the beer in New Zealand is great! The last week we were there, Goose Bay was able to send us the latest vintages they have and I am really in their debt, as another Shabbat of grape juice was really asking too much!

In the end, there are just two real players in the New Zealand scene. There is Goose Bay, a winery that is a sub-brand of the much larger Spencer Hill winery. It is a winery you can visit in the south island, but sadly we had far too much to see and too little time to do it, while we were in New Zealand. There is also O’dwyers Creek winery, a crush facility that makes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. It is the only kosher single estate-grown wine, from New Zealand’s world-renowned Marlborough region

For me, Spring and summer have always included Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Recently, the O’dwyers has been a wonderful addition to my summer white wines. Both O’dwyers and Goose Bay make their wines mevushal and they are both massive QPR wines. I find they have both done a very good job at bringing kosher wine to the public at a very high quality while being reasonably priced!

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

2018 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio – Score: 88
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. Lovely gooseberry, bright fruit, citrus galore, with apples, citrus flowers, and mineral. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is fun, nice acid, with Asian pear, apple, and lovely hints of orange, with loads of grapefruit, lemon and green notes with a refreshing bright makeup. The finish is long, green, and tart, with lemongrass, slate, and citrus galore. Nice. Drink now

2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir Rose – Score: 88
The nose on this wine is very cherry driven, and while it has a good body and mouthfeel, the residual sugar on it is a bit too much for me. The wine overall is nicely made as always, and the acidity is nice, but it feels a bit too round for me.

2017 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. I do not have full notes on this wine, but I truly enjoyed it, it showed a lovely gooseberry, citrus nose, and mouth, with very good acid and mouthfeel, with salinity and mineral notes, and orange pith on the finish. Nice! Drink now!

2018 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose is classic, with gooseberry, passion fruit, cat pee, and straw with mineral. The mouth on this wine holistic, while the group was nice but lacked this complexity and overall acid structure. The mouth on this wine is crazy fun, really bright, with rich gooseberry, citrus, grapefruit galore, with incredible bright fruit structure, that blends well with the fruit powerful not not out of place, with layers of acid, tart ripe tropical fruit, with impressive lemonade and pink grapefruit candy that gives way to tart lemon, fun. The finish is long, green, and crazy tart, with slate, flint and really fun. Bravo! Drink this year.

2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small batch – Score: 90
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose is less ripe and more controlled, with lovely classical cherry notes, with raspberry, earth, and lovely Smokey and toasty notes. The mouth on this wine is ripe, with a nice balance showing rich red fruit, cranberry, cherry, ripe but balanced with great acid and tart fruit that gives way to chocolate and coffee galore with toast and a nice mouth coating tannin structure. Nice. Drink by 2020.

2017 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose on this wine is beautiful, with classic cat pee, gooseberry, passion fruit, and really green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is great, classic, lovely, with screaming tart fruit, tart citrus, more guava, passion fruit, and pear. The finish is long and green and lovely and tart.

2014 O’dwyers Creek Pinot Noir, Limited Release – Score: NA
This wine was OK a few years ago, not a wine I would buy, but nice enough. Its main issue back then was the mevushal process ruined it IMHO. If you have it, drink up. Otherwise, wait for the 2018 Pinot Noir that is on the way to the USA.

The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2019 in all price ranges

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. Last year’s Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – 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 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 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 of course kosherwine.com and Gary’s store, 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 less than 10 dollars 2017 Chateau Trijet Bordeaux, 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 2017 Chateau Trijet Bordeaux, as nice as it is may or may not be, can 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 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, 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 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 2017 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2018 Roses that will be released 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 there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time 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 Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine. It is Israeli, not mevushal, “red”, and 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! The first night for ALL Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora should have a cup with at least 4.42 fluid ounces, as it falls on the Sabbath, and that is a Torah law, so you need to drink the Torah size Revi’it. The rest of the cups throughout the first day or the second day for those in the Diaspora will be Rabbinic, and so they will only require 3.3 fluid ounces.

It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses by TableTop King. Also, remember that you should drink the entirety of the cups, which is why I recommend the smaller cups. If you cannot, some allow the idea of drinking the majority of the cup, but that is not the best approach. Finally, the LAST CUP, should be drunk in totality, as that is the ONLY cup upon which you say an “After Bracha (Blessing)”, and as such you must have drunk at least 3.3 ounces to say the last blessing.

Read the rest of this entry

Les Vins de Vienne and Pliny the Elder – kosher style

When Nathan Grandjean from Yavine.fr told me that he was making wines from a winery called Les Vins de Vienne I went blank. Come on we all have dreams of Lafite Rothschild or Cheval Blanc being made kosher, but who is Les Vins de Vienne was all I could think of. I wanted to ask him if he meant he was making Austrian wine, but that would have been Vienna, not Vienne, one vowel makes a big difference. In this case, Les Vins de Vienne is a winery in the Rhone region, and they are quite famous for what they have achieved indeed!

Les Vins de Vienne

Pliny the Elder, no not the beer, the Roman author, saw the future and present 2000 years ago in the Rhone Valley. He said that there was a very successful vineyard, during his time, that was near the town of Seyssuel, on the east side of the river, and north of the city called Vienne. he said that the Romans greatly enjoyed the wines, they tasted of tar, and apparently, there were three types of Seyssuel wines called Sotanum, Taburnum, and Heluicum. Well, that answers the Vienne question, but where do the name and story come from?

Well 2000 years after Pliny wrote his statement, winemaker Pierre Gaillard found this successful vineyard, deserted. Sadly, the vineyard was destroyed by Phylloxera some 100 years before Pierre showed up. But remembering what Pliny had said he took samples and found that the makeup of the vineyard was perfect for wine and would indeed be a great location.

The problem though was the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée)! You see, the west side of the river, opposite Seyssuel, in the Rhone, had an appellation, Cote Rotie, but sadly that only covers the western side of the river, not the eastern side, where Pierre was looking to revive Pliny the Great’s vision of old.

So, Pierre called two men he knew and asked if they would join in on making Pliny the Great’s vision a reality? The men he knew of were, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard. They were the first to bring the Seyssuel winegrowing area back to life.

They started in 1996 with 10 acres where they planted Syrah along with some Viognier. In 1998 the first wine from Seyssuel came to life and it was called Sotanum in homage to Pliny and the Romans of the past. Then came Taburnum in 2000, a Viognier. Finally, in 2004 the dream of rebuilding Pliny’s vision came into full reality with the release of Heluicum, a second red wine from Seyssuel.

Since then, some 100 acres have been planted in an area that has no official region recognition, yet it humorously it may have some of the greatest recognition of all the wines in the Rhone Valley, with thousands of years of proof that it deserves more love from the AOC! Since 1996, and the 100 acres, Seyssuel has been proving its worth, but as I stated above the AOC is where the money is. Here is a GREAT research post from the folks at GuildSomm on the work and issues with an AOC being bestowed on Seyssuel. Like which AOC would you choose? How long does it take, and who actually bestows the coveted AOC upon regions? A great read!

Growth and Kosher

Well, 21 years after the first vintage was released, the name of the cooperative – Les Vins de Vienne should really be changed to Les Vins de Rhone, because even though they make wines from near Seyssuel, the vast majority of their wines now come from all over the Rhone. They now make more than 460,000 bottles of wine per year, and source their grapes from as north of the Northern Rhone as you can get, which is Seyssuel, to the bottom of the Southern Rhone, namely Cotes-Du-Rhone.

The 2017 vintage was the first one that was made kosher and while I think these are exceedingly young wines, they are very Cali in nature. They seem very ripe and control is really not a requirement from Les Vins de Vienne. Just looking at the wines, you can see they let the fruit speak for themselves. The Crozes-Hermitage was probably the only red wine where the winemakers took action and made the wine with whole clusters, to allow the stems to add tannin, structure, and most importantly green and balancing notes to the very ripe and Cali-like fruit structure of these wines. Read the rest of this entry

Taieb Wine Tasting in France, after four trains, two planes, and two automobiles

The night of the KFWE London tasting, right after I left the tasting, I took the tube to the airport. I slept there overnight and at 7 AM I took a plane to Lyon France to start my journey to meet up with the Taieb wines and to taste through their current offerings.

If you remember the story, I had gone from California to Paris, on to London, for the Blue smoke dinner and then the KFWE London tasting. It was after the tasting that I took the train to the airport. I had heard many things about the Taieb wines and it was time to actually taste through the wines myself.

I had to take a plane to Lyon, two trains, and then a car ride to get there, but I think it was worth it, as I had the chance to taste through wines that are rarely seen or tasted here in the USA. It was the same for the way back, so yeah I could have starred in two movies!

Let me get one thing aside right now. Not all the wines are easy to find here in the USA, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. As you will see Taieb makes some very solid QPR (for France pricing) wines. You can find some of the wines here but most of them are just in France. With that said, Saratoga Wine Exchange, out of NY, seems to stock almost all of the wines, I have no idea why as they are not a kosher wine or near a large Jewish community.

Taieb Wines

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

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

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

Sadly, Domaine d’Ardhuy stopped doing kosher wines with Taieb, after the 2015 vintage, and while Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, the 2016 vintage had some issues. The bottle I had at home showed aspects of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), while the bottle I had at the winery had no issues. Others have said they had off bottles as well, though when the wine is good it is great, so I am torn.

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

Overall, I was very impressed with the lineup of wines and I really dream of being able to have these wines more accessible here in the USA. For now, Liquid Kosher has the wonderful 2015 Domaine Lescure and the very nice 2015 Domaine d’Ardhuy Aloxe Corton.

Jean-Philippe Marchand

In 2017 there was a new wine line from Burgundy, the Jean-Pierre Marchand wines. With the loss of Domaine d’Ardhuy from the kosher ranks, following the 2015 vintage, the Taieb’s went out and made the Jean-Philippe Marchand wines. The baseline Bourgogne is really solid for the price, while the upper line wines are nice as well, but as with all things Burgundy they come at a price. Truly Burgundy’s Achilles heel, especially in kosher, is the price. Also, the upper-level wines from Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Nuits-Saint-Georges are not available here in the USA. Read the rest of this entry

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