Category Archives: Wine Tasting
Three beautiful Burgundy wines from Domaine de Montille, M&M Importers, and Honest Grapes
Now that I finally got my KFWE post completed I can get back to posting about many wines I have been enjoying recently. However, none of the wines are as good as these three 2020 Burgundies from Domaine de Montille.
The three beauties are the 2020 Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux, 2020 Domaine de Montille Volnay, 1er Cru Les Brouillards, and the 2020 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru, Les Grands Epenots.
Domaine de Montille
Domaine de Montille is a family-owned winery located in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, France. The estate was founded in 1750 and has been passed down through many generations of the Montille family. Today, the estate is run by the siblings Etienne and Alix de Montille. Etienne concentrates his time on the 37 acres of red fruit scattered about Burgundy while Alix concentrates on the stunning Château de Puligny-Montrachet and other white wines under their négociant label called “Maison Deux Montille Soeur et Frere”. Together Alix makes some 12,000 cases of white wine including 7,000 from the Puligny-Montrachet vineyards. After 2017, they folded the Château de Puligny-Montrachet brand under the Domaine’s name.
The Domaine dates back to 1730, and slowly they grew their vineyards to encompass some 85 acres of land, by the late 19th century. Sadly, piece by piece the family sold off vineyards to keep living their lifestyle. The family slowly divorced themselves from the Domaine and used it as a piggybank. Sadly, by the time Hubert de Montille took over in 1947, at the young age of 17, all that was left was 7 acres!
Hubert de Montille
Domaine de Montille is known for three time periods, as of now anyway. The first/original one, which grew the Domaine and then almost destroyed it. The next period is affectionally known as the “Hubert era”. In this period, from the 40s until 2001 Hubert made the penultimate decision to make his own wines! Until then, the family had been selling their vineyards and grapes to négociants. Starting with the harvest of 1947 Hubert decided that the quality was too good to keep selling the grapes. It was time to believe in the terroir and make a name in Burgundy using his own grapes!
Hubert’s period was known as an era of wines that were tightly wound, rich, and built to last. Sadly, the winery was not allowing for ends to meet, at the start, so he followed in the family’s footsteps and became a lawyer. Throughout that period he split his time between law and wine, and he excelled at both! The last year he sold grapes to négociants was 1961. The de Montille name started to grow through the decades with vintage after vintage quality wines that were built for the long haul.
As a youngster, Etienne was not a fan of the stodgy Domaine. It was located in the family plot in Volnay and as a child, in the 70s, few people saw the allure of Volnay. As a youngster, there was nothing there to keep him entertained when all his classmates were elsewhere. By the tender age of 18 Etienne was already on his way to the United States of America to escape the vineyards and winery. Though wine was not far away and as he slowly started working at different wineries in California his father’s success and their name kept coming up in conversations.
Eventually, Etienne made it back to the winery for the 1983 harvest and stayed in the region for 3 years while he studied law and winemaking in Dijon. After that, he took different jobs and eventually met his wife at one of them. They had a child but the marriage did not last. Throughout it all, Etienne kept close to the winery and studied under his father’s watchful eyes, notwithstanding his studies at Dijon. In 1995 Etienne became co-manger of the Domaine and brought de Montille to the next stage of its evolution!
Etienne and Organic/Biodynamic Farming
Organic winemaking was not a thing of the 40 or 70s, but it was slowly becoming a thing in the 90s and when Etienne brought it up to Hubert, though it was not his style, he agreed. Thinking it was time and a good thing for the vines.
Another thing that Etienne started to change was the overall wine profile. The early years were lean, but robust wine, low in alcohol, but also very tight and not so enjoyable for the first 20 years! Etienne was hoping to change that a bit and move from the “Hubert Era’s” tight wines to some more accessible wines. Etienne strived to make the wines more open to the consumer from the start, he minimized the extraction time, moved towards whole-cluster fermentations, and limited pump-overs. By 1998 the Domaine started its third and current era, though not officially named so, the “Etienne Era”.
Hubert slowly grew his Domaine from a Volnay-focused vineyard to other regions, by buying small parcels bit by bit in Volnay and Pommard. However, in 1993, they bought “Les Cailleret” 1er Cru de Puligny-Montrachet. Their first white wine vineyard and the ranks of their vines have grown more and more over the years.
In 2001, Etienne started working for Chateau de Puligny Montrachet, a vaunted Chardonnay-based vineyard and Chateau and one that was a mere 5 miles from their family’s estate. From that point, Etienne has been in Burgundy full-time and has not looked back. The biggest addition came when he teamed up with Domaine Dujac to buy part of the 35 acres that the Thomas-Moillard estate was selling. As part of the deal, Hubert and Etienne came away with vineyards in Vosne-Romanee Les Malconsorts, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos du Roi, Beaune Grèves, and more
Alix joins the family business
From an early age, Alix was a classically-trained pianist and Hubert wanted her to go into law to help him with his firm. However, after sitting in on a nasty murder case, she quickly realized that the law was not for her! She worked in some of the greatest restaurants in the world, and she is in a few movies as well, including Back to Burgundy and Haute Cuisine. However, the allure of wine would eventually pull Alix back into the fold. In 1998, Alix started working for a négociant named Alex Gambal. A few years later she joined the large négociant called Ropiteau Freres and she exerted control over how the relationship was to be between the growers and the négociant, which was a new style for that time.
Soon after, she joined Etienne at the winery, when they bought the acclaimed estate of Château de Puligny-Montrachet, and now Alix handles the white wines for Domaine de Montille. She also runs Maison de Montille with her brother and all together they make some 12,000 cases of white wine a year.
Domaine de Montille has been recognized for its exceptional wines, with numerous high scores from wine critics and inclusion in top wine guides. The estate’s wines are highly sought after by collectors and Burgundy enthusiasts.
It took me a bit of time to get my hands on these wines but with the help of M&M Importers, I was able to taste the three wines in my home, this past month. The wines are just incredible, they were made with the help of Honest Grapes in the U.K. The last kosher Puligny Montrachet was in 2004 so I was psyched to taste this and the two 1er Cru red wines. The wines did not disappoint and while their price may be a bit steep their value is in line with what I would expect for wines of this quality.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Domaine de Montille Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chalumeaux, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru – Score: 93+ (QPR: GREAT)
The last kosher Puligny Montrachet was in 2004, so this was so much fun! This wine is not like any other Chardonnay you will have, outside of maybe another kosher Puligny Montrachet. It is not a Cali Chard, for sure, it is not a Meursault, and it is not a Chablis. It is truly unique and lovely. This wine is NOT ready, it may seem so, but it needs another 5 years before you think about touching it, AT LEAST! The nose of this wine is beautiful, tart, and precise, with lovely lanolin, and an elegance that takes time to evolve, ripe Meyer lemon, lime, almonds, honeysuckle, chamomile, lavender, roasted almonds, beautiful sweet oak, and lovely minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is an acid bomb, a true carpet bombing of acidity, with intense lemon/lime Fraiche, lovely honeyed almond pie, peach, freshly baked butter-infused apple pie, roasted and smoked duck, roasted pear and apricot, honeysuckle, smoked almond, toast, sweet oak, scraping minerality, and elegance. The finish is long, tart, and acidic to the core, with peach, saline, roasted apricot, and more scraping minerality, flint, rock, wow! Drink from 2027 until 2032. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Domaine de Montille Volnay, 1er Cru Les Brouillards, Volnay 1er Cru – Score: 93+ (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is a fruit beast, rich, ripe, aggressive, but incredibly controlled, with big ripe, and bright boysenberry, blackberry, smoke, heritage rose petals, earth, loam, smoked meat, and incredible minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, with lovely acidity, lanolin, and mouth-draping tannin, with blackcurrant, blackberry, juicy raspberry, and boysenberry, ripe, precise, and truly focused, with intense minerality, sweet oak, iron shavings, rose notes, coffee, and rich smoke. The finish is long, ripe, dense, and beautiful, with more boysenberry, minerality that jumps out at you, graphite, iron rock, iron shavings, rock, smoke, and lovely milk-covered coffee beans. Just a lovely expression of Volnay! Drink from 2027 until 2035. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru, Les Grands Epenots, Pommard 1er Cru – Score: 95 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is ripe but a bit more balanced than the Volnay with ripe black and red fruit, and hints of blue fruit in the background, with even more minerality, sweet spices, brighter fruit, freshly baked boysenberry pie, sweet oak, rose, and violet, just incredible, a truly controlled fruit and mineral beast. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, dark, brooding, controlled, and elegant, I am running out of words to express beauty, with a rich acid core, followed by rich minerality, my mouth salivates as I taste it, incredible, with black oolong tea, dense blackberry, plum, tamarind, blackcurrant, dark cherry somewhere back there, and mouth-draping tannin, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, elegant, concentrated, and smokey with coffee, dark chocolate, tea, sweet spices, anise, cloves, tannin, and minerality. WOW!! Drink from 2028 until 2036. (tasted January 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
And the winner of KFWE 2023 (at least so far) goes to the Big Apple
Before we get to judging I need to restate the obvious, Royal Wines is the 800-pound Gorilla of the kosher wine market. The interesting fact is that some might say that the KFWE events are self-motivated and self-aggrandizing, and while this may be true, they are also the leading system for kosher wine self-education that we have! Also, Royal is the only company I know making a large-scale wine tasting before the Passover run. I hear there may be one in March, time will tell. Until then, Royal stepped up, even if it was self-motivated, any motivation that sells/promotes kosher wine is a WIN-WIN for all kosher wine buyers. Finally, making these events on the backend of what is now the COVID-19 wave, shows we have finally returned and that kosher wine will once again have a voice that it desperately needs, no matter the motives. So, BRAVO Royal, and now to the scoring!
One more aside, and I repeat this concept down below, It is great to want wine education and to have events that promote wines but what is even better is TALKING about wine, kosher wines. Two years ago, I dropped the ball, sure the 2021 Virtual-KFWE was a logistical mistake, and I covered that but I missed highlighting the best part of the Virtual-KFWE and something I think Royal should continue, in different ways going forward. True wine, region, and winery education! The Virtual-KFWE included guided wine tastings with Jay Buchsbaum, Erik Segelbaum, and Gabriel Geller. The videos were worth the price of admission! I continue to state this as I missed stating that in my post, and I missed seeing the forest from the trees.
With that said, Royal should go back to this, but I think on a smaller scale, think real bottles of wine, as part of a wine club, that promotes different regions, and different wineries, while promoting Royal Wines and having personal guided tastings with folks like in the virtual KFWE. Just a thought! OK, now, I mean it, on to the scoring!!
KFWE 2023 Scoring
Before I go further, I wanted to define to you my criteria for grading a wine tasting:
- The Venue, of course, its ambiance, and setup
- The wine selection
- The wine glasses
- The number of humans at the tasting
- the food served
- Finally, the reactions of the participants, though for me that is less important to me, as I judge the tasting based more upon the body language of the participants than what they say.
Now, some of these variables are subjective, rather than just objective. Take for example #1, the venue, it is highly subjective though also somewhat objective. Pier 60 is a nice place, but in comparison, the Petersen museum of the past was far more beautiful, but it had its issues as well. Sometimes too much space is actually not a good thing. The Hollywood Palladium, showed its age and issues, this year and left L.A. a bit behind the Eightball. Now, again, this is subjective, some people hate cars. They hated how big the Petersen was, and how spread-out the food and wine were. I loved the Petersen, loved the cars, and while the food and wine were spread out and difficult to find, the roominess and vast space to sit and enjoy art and wine at the same time, was truly impressive. Further, NYC needs a place to sit down, I think the VIP in both places were great for room to sit and relax but the general admission in LA was far better in its use of the space in the middle of the area, allowing for many couches and places to sit and relax.
The App is dead, long live the app!
Thankfully, this has been put to pasture and that is where it belongs. There were too many hoops to jump through from the logistics to the actual content and info. Nice idea, poor implementation. Until it is 100% rock solid – leave it off the menu as it adds more headaches than value to the customer.
Mother Nature took kindly to KFWE in NYC and LA (well mostly)
A quick footnote here, before we dive into the highly contested and dispassionate discussion around which KFWE is the best KFWE, we need to thank the good mother! Mother nature really threw us a pair of bones this year! Yes, I know that flying from NYC to LA was a bit torturous for some, and yes, I missed my upgrade by one, but come on, it was that or we get 0-degree weather and KFWE NYC would have looked more like a Flatbush Shtiebel during the summer, AKA empty!
The weather in L.A. was just divine! Clear skies, 70+ degrees, the only issue I had was that this was all inside. The Petersen of old would have hosted the trade and VIP on the massive rooftop deck, sunshine, and clear skies, I know there were issues with it, but I think that is where the KFWE L.A. needs to return. NYC’s weather was a warm 40 degrees and for February in NYC I will take that all day! It made going between Pier 60 (General Admission) and the VIP much more comfortable.
Venue (Pier 60 versus Hollywood Palladium)
The NYC KFWE was once again housed in Pier 60, while the VIP room was once again in the Current, Pier 60’s newest event space located next door near Pier 59 at Chelsea Piers. The walk over there was fine as the weather was quite acceptable for February.
The main two issues I had with KFWE NYC were a lacking of seating and a lack of a trade tasting. I find that at public tastings like KFWE, I can never get any real notes down. Further, the lack of a trade does not let us folks get a feel for what is being poured, overall. Still, trade is not what NYC is about and I get that.
KFWE LA had ample seating in both General Admission (GA) and VIP, and they had a trade tasting that allowed me to taste the Herzog wines, and a few others, in a professional manner.
Now, let us get to space, NYC GA had ample space because they had pourers that were well-trained, quick, and precise. They moved the tasters as well, via verbal queues, such that the folks behind those at the table were served quickly. Overall, it was the best showing at a KFWE in a long time. The professionalism showed by these pourers was top-notch.Read the rest of this entry
A tasting of Taieb JP Marchand Burgundies, a massive Domaine Roses Camille vertical, two Taieb Bordeaux verticals, and more!
I am sorry for the long title, I really could not succinctly summarize the tasting I had last week with Neal and Andrew Breskin in not-so-sunny San Diego. Neal and I flew in from different parts of the country on a no so warm Monday morning, I picked up Neal at the airport, and we made our way to Andrew Breskin’s home, the proprietor and founder of Liquid Kosher.
I had been bugging Andrew that it was time to meet again for a tasting of the new 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies. I had tasted them with Avi Davidowitz in Paris, but as I said in that post, I was hoping to taste them again with the opportunity to see if they evolve with a bit of time, after opening. While I liked them in Paris, I was wondering if they would evolve with a bit more time. As stated in that post, we both flew home the next day and we did not have the chance to see them evolve over a day or so.
Thankfully, my calendar worked out, and we arrived on the day of Rosh Chodesh Shevat. The morning started with me picking up some breakfast at this lovely, but expensive bakery in La Jolla called Parisien Gourmandises. Before I continue with the story, please visit this place, when/if you are in the San Diego area. I do not like to say I am a picky eater, however, my opinions of food/food establishments, when traveling can be a bit coarse. I have recently been in Florida and Paris for different wine tastings and this bakery had better croissants and flaky dough pastries than either the bakeries in Paris or the wonderful bakery in Fort Lauderdale called Moran Patisserie Bakery. The people, food, and overall ambiance are really impressive, and aside from the actual location (a small room inside a potpourri store – you have to be there to understand), the food is worth the price of admission. Now on to the rest of the story!
I then picked up Neal at the airport, as stated above, and 20 minutes later we were ensconced under the shade of lemon trees and tasting wonderful wines.
The schedule was open-ended and after a lovely cup of coffee and Parisien Gourmandises pastries, we were ready to settle down for a day of wine tasting.
We started the tasting with two Champagne, one of them was simple enough and lacking in bubbles while the other one was nice and very accessible. The first one was N.V. Louis de Vignezac, Cuvee Special, Brut and the second was N.V. Champagne Charles de Ponthieu.
After those two aperitifs, it was time for some Burgundy! We started with the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault followed by the 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault. Having the opportunity to taste the two of them side-by-side was quite a treat! I had not tasted the 2019 Meursault in 2 years. I had it with Andrew and Gabriel Geller later in 2021 as well, but I have less of a memory of that time.
We then started in on all of the 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand red Burgundies and they were an exact match to the wines I had in Paris in late November 2022. They are all lovely wines with a floral approach. Even the 2017 and 2019 Gevrey Chambertin that we had later that night followed that approach. The Gevrey has more weight but overall their approach is more for the ethereal Pinot Noir than the full-bodied one.
Once we had tasted the Pinot Noir we had the opportunity to taste some soon-to-be-released Domaine Roses Camille wines, including 2016, 2017, and 2018 vintages. To be fair, I am never a fan, interested in tasting unreleased wines as they may change before being bottled. Thankfully, the 2016 and 2017 vintages are already bottled, while 2018 was a tank sample.
All the Domaine Roses Camille wines were exceptional but as I stated before I wanted the opportunity to taste them again the following day. So after our initial tasting of the wines, Andrew got some plastic Ziplock bags and bagged me some 30 ml of each wine and labeled each bag to boot! This assured me two things, I will have wine to taste the next day, as the wines were open for the dinner that was fast approaching, and I knew what each wine was, the following day!
The bags worked like a charm, Andrew placed them in a box and moved them to the garage where they stayed until the following morning – bravo my man!
Dinner – AKA SoCal RCC Jan 2023
After all the wines were tasted and bagged it was time to focus on dinner. Andrew had already started on the beautiful ribs and was getting the rib roast prepared. It was about that time that I looked at the rib fat/sauce and I started skimming off the obvious fat and then worked on cooking it down a bit and thickening it with some simple starch slurry.
After that, Andrew started cooking some nice Gnocchi and then pan-seared them. I helped a bit with this and the potatoes. I laugh because there is this Italian chef who lives in Australia (Vincenzo Prosperi of Vincenzos Plate) that loves to rant about other chefs who do things that are not exactly Italian! LOL, he tore apart some chefs for doing this very thing, but honestly, I found them very enjoyable!
Soon after Neal and I finished helping here and there the guests started to arrive. The first was Elan Adivi, who works with Jeff’s Sausage and he came armed with a basket full of sausage, charcuterie, and rectangle pie crusts. He made some pretty good pizzas and he topped them with the only green things that graced any of our plates, some arugula, though to be honest, no one went hungry that night!
The evening started with some lovely sushi and the Champagnes we tasted earlier along with some 2019 La Chablisienne, which was a nice enough Mevushal Chablis.
After the Sushi, it was red meat and wine all the way, which is the only way an RCC should be! The Ribs and the Rib Roast were just awesome, and my sauce reduction was not bad either! The Pizzas turned out quite nicely, as well. There was also some very interesting beef jerky, but I did not catch where they were sourced from, I think Andrew had them flown in from Holy Jerky in Five Towns, the stuff was solid!
First I tried the Burgundies again, as well I wanted to see if they had evolved over a few hours, but nothing had changed much. Next, I enjoyed tasting the three Gevrey Chambertin from Jean-Philippe Marchand. Much like the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault I had not tasted the 2017 or 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey Chambertin for many a year.
Of the three, at their current place, I would still go for the new 2021 Gevrey, which is quite surprising to me but also makes me happy to see that there were some good wines from the 2021 vintage.
I then tasted the two mini-verticals of Chateau Castelbruck, Margaux, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere. We had 2018, 2019, and 2020 vintages of the Chateau Castelbruck, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere. The two wine verticals had not evolved very far from what I had over the past three years. Some wines evolve over a short period, and while these did change slightly from previous tastings, the evolution was more about which fruit emerged ahead of another rather than moving into a drinking window or showing tertiary notes.
Domaine Roses Camille Vertical
Unlike the smaller Chateau Castelbruck, and Chateau Haut-Breton Larigaudiere verticals the Domaine Roses Camille was larger and therefore one that showed a more obvious effect in the years past.
Each of 2011, 2012, and 2014 vintages had clearly evolved with the 2011 vintage almost entering a drinking window. The younger wine (2015) followed the same script as the Taieb Bordeaux and did not change much, if anything, at this point. The even younger wines were all new to me so they may have evolved since being bottled but I would not know.
It was great getting to taste these wines all side by side and seeing the impact of a season on the same vineyard. AKA, Horizontal tasting 101!
After the DRC work, I tried the famous 1997 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux, it had clearly passed its prime but it was nice enough indeed! If you have any still, drink NOW!! I also tried some Montelobos Mezcal Pechuga – it was smoked with kosher Turkey Breast!!! LOL!! Yeah, it was fun! There were some 1999 and 2001 Chateau Guiraud passed around but I missed them and that is fine, I know them well.
It was great hanging out with Shimon Weiss from Shirah Winery and Alex Rubin (a winemaker helping the guys), and I first met Alex on my way to Josh’s wedding in the plane jetway! Life is such a small world! If any of this sounds familiar, in some manner, you have a great memory! Indeed, in August of 2012 found me, along with the aforementioned Shimon Weiss, and Jonathan Hajdu with the same awesome hosts getting together for an awesome event! It was a lunch to truly remember!
Noon, the next day, I crashed at Andrew’s place, once again, and I tasted through the Burgundies from the plastic bags some had indeed evolved and improved, but none took a step backward.
Once I was done tasting through the wines I bid my adieu and made my way to the airport! The sad fact is that if you have no status you get what you pay for! I was done a few hours before my flight home, but I flew down using Southwest and I have no status with them, so changing a ticket the day of, would have cost me an arm and leg, so I sat in the terminal and waited for my plane. Of course, the plane was eventually delayed, but my plane was so empty they had to distribute us across the plane – so yeah, I was fine! It is all about perspective – right?
My thanks to Andrew and Shauna Breskin for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and everyone else who crashed their home for more than 24 hours! Also, I used many of Andrew’s lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!! The notes speak for themselves.
The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
N.V. Louis de Vignezac Cuvee Special, Brut, Champagne – Score: 89 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is very yeasty, with baked goods, lemon/lime, and green apple. The mouth o this medium-bodied wine is ok but uni-dimensional, with nice minerals, green/yellow apple, and lime, but not much more than the acid and the fruit to grab you. The mousse is ok, not bracing and not attacking, but the acidity is great. The finish is long, and tart, with pear, apple, and lime. Drink now. (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
N.V. Champagne Charles de Ponthieu, Champagne – Score: 91 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is screaming with bright fruit, rich minerality, slate, rock, baked goods, pear, and apple. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fresh, with great fruit focus, a lovely small bubble mousse, pear, apple, lime, baked apple pie, and lovely yeast, with floral notes. The finish is long, fruity, balanced, tart, lovely, refreshing, and focused. Nice! Drink now! (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
2019 La Chablisienne Chablis, Cuvee Casher, Chablis (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is nice enough with nice minerality, smoke, and saline, pear, and apple. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ok, a bit cooked, funky, and fruity, with apple, pear, and lemon/lime. The finish is long, cooked, and flinty, nice! Drink UP! (tasted January 2023) (in San Diego, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
Four Gates Winery’s January 2023 new releases
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.
I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.
Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.
Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes
It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of the care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.
I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines which are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.
One new wine
This year we have the return of Petit Verdot is from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2019, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. There is a new Cabernet Franc, all the way from Santa Barbara County, not a location I normally associate with Cabernet Franc, but it is a REAL WINNER, in all ways!
That ends the list of wines I call – not Four Gates wines. I state this because the Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is also not from the Four Gates vineyard, but for all intent and purpose, of what I care about, the quality is as good or better than the Four Gates vineyard and it has proven itself as such for more than a decade!
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, though this year’s crop feels riper than the 2017s, still, the Cabernet and Merlot are incredibly beautiful wines. There are two Chardonnay and they are both sold under the Four Gates label, there is no Ayala this year. Next, you have the 2019 Pinot Noir, a bit riper than I like it but a solid wine. Then you have the 2018 Merlot and the 2018 Merlot, La Rochelle, both are beautiful wines! The true star of this release is the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, a shockingly ripe but true wine, the fruit is clean, expressive, and true to its nature, a lovely and very unique wine. Finally, there is the 2018 Frère Robaire, which while nice, is a step back from what I expect from a Frère Robaire.
Prices and Quantities
I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.
Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.
The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if you beg for lower prices.
Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities. His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.
This year, the prices reached their highest Zenith, and it took some 30 minutes to fully sell out. The lower-priced wines sold out in the usual 8 or so minutes while the Cabernet and Merlot and Frère Robaire were the last to go. Still, the crazy prices people paid for the Auction wines that just finished selling this past Sunday show the intense demand for Four Gates wines.
My thanks to Michel and Sima Rynderman for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and Benyo crashing their home and keeping them both up far later than we should have!! Also, Michel’s awesome Apple phone was used to take lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!!
The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy the Malbec in case anyone is asking. The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Rishon, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a very unique wine from Four Gates. This is a Chardonnay that was picked early, hence the “Cuvee Rishon” name. It is very different than previous vintages – very cool! The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich gooseberry, guava, melon, and Asian Pear, very fun, with rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is not in line with the nose, with a lovely mouthfeel, great acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, nectarines, green/yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices, and more saline. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 91.5 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich guava, melon, Asian Pear, honeydew, rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is more in line with the nose, with a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Cuvee Rishon, nice acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, lemon/pomelo, yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2020 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is what Petit Verdot should smell and taste like, clean lines, not over the top, and well-balanced. The nose of this wine is lovely, with bright fruit, smoke, herbs, lovely baking spices, roasted animal, soy sauce, lovely violet, rosehip, and nice black, red, and blue fruit. Nice! The mouth of this medium to full-bodied wine is layered, and lovely, with ripe boysenberry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, and ripe plum, all wrapped in sweet tannin, cedar, smoke, and intense acid, well balanced, with gripping tannin, and nice fruit focus. Bravo! The finish is long, bright, tart, ripe, and balanced, with more smoke, leather, roasted meat, and great fruit. Drink until 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2020 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is too ripe for me but this will hit the spot for those that like this style. The nose of this wine changes quickly and turns very fruity, too ripe, with zinberry, ripe blackcurrant, leather, meat, smoke, tar, and over-the-top fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is too ripe for me, almost fig-like, with dried fig, blackcurrant, smoke, dried plum, and mouth-draping tannin with nice sweet oak. The finish is long, ripe, over-the-top, and smoky. Drink by 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15.2%)
2020 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is sourced from Santa Barbara County and it shows. The nose of this wine starts with nice bell pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, gravel, hints of jalapeno, and nice red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied-plus is ripe, with nice ripe strawberry, raspberry, plum, and hints of elderberry, with a bit too much green notes, nice acidity, good fruit focus, nice acidity, refreshing, with good mouth-draping tannin, and some elegance, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, and fruity, with good acidity, nice leather, vanilla, and good red/blue fruit. Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies from Taieb Wines
Over the past month or so I have been posting my wine notes from my trip to Paris in November 2022. The tastings were all done with my buddy Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. On the last day we were there we had the chance to taste the newly bottled 2021 JP Marchand Burgundies from Taieb Wines. I continue to hope that on our next trip to Paris, Avi and I will once again make our way down to the Lyon, France area. Of course, without the “hotel” memories/baggage of the last trip! That was the eventful evening that led me to state these lines; After that, we made our way to our hotel and called where we slept that night – a hotel, well that is kind of like saying World War II was a mistaken exchange of friendly fire. WOW, that place was super strange on so many levels. Next time we finally get down to the Lyon area, where the Taieb offices are, we will make sure to stay at a normal hotel!
Back to the wines! As I have stated in my many posts so far I am not a huge fan of the 2020 or 2021 vintages so far. I have not had all the 2020 wines and obviously, we have only scratched the surface of the 2021 vintage. These wines did have their moments and some were quite nice but in the end, the 2021 vintage will be a tough go for almost all winemakers.
For the 2021 vintage Taieb once again made Meursault along with seven red Burgundies. There are no 1er or Grand Cru wines this vintage from Jean-Philippe Marchand and Taieb wines. I guess that the 2021 vintage was already so small in size that to have gotten those grapes would have been impossible. The Meursault was exceptional as was the Gevrey-Chambertin, and there were a few other solid wines as well. The main issue was that some of the wines were nice but not complex, sadly, they were scored from what we tasted that night. I attribute this to the 2021 vintage which was a complicated and difficult one for sure.
I want to stress that these wines were NOT tasted blind, in comparison to the other, non-organized wine tastings where all the wines were tasted blind over a couple of days. Sadly, there was just no time for that to happen. However, I will be tasting these wines in a few weeks and I will repost my notes again.
I will keep this to a minimum, a simple post about the wines I tasted. If you want more on Taieb Wines – read the family history here.
Hopefully, these wines will be brought in by Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, again I hope to taste at least some of these, a second time, in the USA soon. My many thanks to Yoni Taieb and all at Moise Taieb Wines & Spirits for taking the time to send me the wines to my hotel. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault, Meursault – Score: 93+ (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is intense, funky, and dirty, with rich salinity, smoke, hay, honeyed melon, toasty oak, hazelnuts, and lemongrass. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is intense, dense, rich, and layered, truly incredible, with layers of acidity, butterscotch, toast, melon, apple, lime, hay/grass, with minerality, flint/slate, with such an unctuous and rich mouthfeel, almost oily, with a weightiness and freshness that is truly incredible. The finish is long, tart, and rich, not as ripe as 2019, but lovely with more lemon/lime Fraiche, flint, rock, saline, and honeyed notes. Lovely! PLEASE, many of you will be motivated to drink this up as it is an awesome wine, but control yourselves please, this wine needs time! Drink until 2029, maybe longer. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is evolving, changing with air and time, with more floral notes, showing rosehip, and violet, with roasted herbs, green notes, red fruit, and foliage. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, with dried floral notes, cherry, smoke, earth, mushroom, and smoke, with soft tannins, menthol, and green notes. The finish is long, green, sweet, floral, and herbal, with graphite, and smoke. Bravo! Drink until 2026. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Hautes-Cotes de Beaune – Score: 91+ (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is lovely, far more restrained than the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, with lovely mushroom, loam, dirt, smoke, red fruit, rich funk, and nice umami. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, layered, and concentrated, with bracing acidity, lovely salinity, dark cherry, and raspberry fruit, all balanced and wrapped with elegant tannin, more rosehip, lavender, tart notes, and sweet fruit. The finish is long, tart, and balanced, with menthol, roasted herbs, loam, and smoke. Drink by 2028. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Nuits-Saint-George, Aux Herbues, Nuits-Saint-George – Score: 88 (QPR: BAD)
the nose of this wine starts with earthy notes, smoke, and funk, a bit of heat, with lovely cherry, dark raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, coffee, violets, and foliage, with menthol. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and hot, with ripe fruit, bramble, jammy pomegranate, and cranberry, with more tannin, candied fruit, roasted herb, wrapped in sweet currants, and a dense rich mouthfeel. The finish is ripe, with sweet fruit, more acidity, sweet oak, milk chocolate, sweet licorice, and candied strawberry. Drink by 2030. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Volnay, Sous Luret, Volnay – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is far more constrained and controlled with lovely mushrooms, dark cherry, smoked meat, violet, lavender, coffee bean, earth, and mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is truly layered, rich, and smoky, with dark Kirche cherry, currant, dirt, bright scream acidity, with a nice tannin structure, followed by more floral notes, and tart fruit. The finish is long, tart, green, ripe, and smoky, with tart cherry, nice tannin, and floral notes lingering long, with mushroom and loam lingering as well. Nice! Drink by 2030. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Aloxe Corton, Sous Chaillots, Aloxe Corton – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is funky, with mushrooms, flowers, red fruit, herbal notes, and smoke. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and floral, with cranberry, cherry, and currants, all wrapped in violets and rosehip, with nice tannin. The finish is long, tart, and candied, with almost pomegranates, and loads of floral notes that are sweet from the candied fruit, mushroom, and earth. Overall, the red fruit, dense floral notes, and acidity are what carry this wine. Drink until 2030. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Pommard, Le Dome, Pommard – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is oaky, with nice mushrooms, ripe red fruit, herbs, and dirt. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is once again a flower pot with nice red fruit, cherry, and raspberry, not as candied as others, with nice acidity, and tannin. The finish is long, floral, herbal, and fruity, with lavender and smoke. Drink by 2029. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey-Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin – Score: 93 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is balanced with good mushrooms, bright and ripe red fruit, cola, umami, funk, and dirty sock funk, that gives way to soy sauce, and earth. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, balanced, and nice, with rich salinity, nice tannin structure, lovely dark cherry, ripe strawberry, rich extraction, dense fruit, and mouthfeel, smoked meat, elegant, yet ripe, with a lovely plush and rich mouthfeel, lovely! The finish is long, red, ripe, and extracted with lovely fruit, menthol, garrigue, mushrooms, smoke, and more roasted animal, lovely! Drink by 2031. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
Paris tasting of Royal’s 2020 and other French wines – November 2022
The second organized wine tasting that Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I went to, during our last trip to Paris, in November 2022 was with with Menahem Israelievitch in his lovely home.
In June I made my way to Paris and I posted the Royal wines I tasted, they were mostly white, rose, and a few red wines as well. For the past many years, I have been tasting the new releases from Royal wines with Menahem Israelievitch. Two years ago, because of COVID, I tasted the 2018 vintage in my house. Thankfully, those days are over and things have mostly returned to normal.
Vintage-wise, I think 2020 is like a blend of 2016 and 2017. I say that because some of the wines are riper than I like and some are green like we saw in many 2017 wines. You will see here that some of the wines are overripe and some are very green, while others are in between. There are still WINNERS, but they are not as many big-hit WINNERS. Meaning, even the WINNERs are not getting big scores. It is just one of those vintages. I have very little hope for the 2021 vintage and even 2020 is not a vintage I will fully stock up on.
We were spoiled last year with the 2019 vintage for two reasons. First of all, the 2019 vintage was on par, if not a drop better than the 2014 vintage, which had the largest number of 95+ scored wines in a vintage, that was until 2019. 2019 eclipsed the 2014 vintage with higher scores and it had lower prices. No, not lower than the 2014 prices, but lower than the 2018 prices were. Now, the 2020 wines are not as good as the 2019 and they are all higher in price.
The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.
In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.
NOTE: Mr. Israelievitch did not have the 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc nor the 2021 Chateau Roubine Rose, Inspire. Such is life! I tasted the Edmond at home and posted it here, sadly I have yet to taste the 2021 Roubine Inspire.
Mevushal Wine Push
The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made in a Mevushal manner and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and just ages the wine rather than ruining it. Sadly, that trend has been failing in recent years, especially when it involves white and rose wines. More and more the mevushal white and rose wines have shown a huge difference between the two variations, mostly in regards to acidity. I have no idea why the flash affects the acidity but it has been clear to me and the worst/saddest example was the 2019 Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc. The non-mevushal version is stunning while the mevushal version was not.
So, once again, as I have been doing for YEARS, I will again ask Royal to treat their own, personally made French wines, with the same courtesy that they show Binyamina, Psagot, Capcanes, Shiloh, and others. Why are you OK with importing BOTH the mevushal and non-mevushal versions of wines that are not worthy of the glass they are in but are more than happy to throw a blind eye to wines you personally produce? The French wines deserve better and again, I AM ASKING for you to import BOTH the mevushal and non-mevushal versions as you do for so many other brands.
The Mevushal wines from France for the 2019/2020/2021 vintages will be the
- 2020/2021 Les Marrionniers Chablis, Chablis
- 2020 Les Roches De Yon Figeac (this is the first time for the RYF)
- 2020/2021 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux
- 2020/2021 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur
- 2019/2020 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
- 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc
- 2019 Chateau Greysac, Medoc
- 2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux
- 2019/2020 Chateau de Parsac
- 2020/2021 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc
- 2019/2020 Chateau Mayne Guyon
- 2019 Chateau Tour Seran
Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! Same with the Chateau Le Crock, over the past few years. So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below? The answer is yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. To me personally, it is very clear, if Royal had their way they would make the Pontet Canet Mevushal! Nothing to Royal is sacred and this will not stop with the list above, it will grow, proof is Chevalier and Gazin were made mevushal in 2019. There were rumors that they were going to make the 2020 Pavillon mevushal, thankfully that turned out to be a false alarm, for now.
Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.
The 2020 Pricing and access
I posted my 2019 notes, from the tasting we had last year, when most of the wines were already in the USA and pricing was well known. The prices are now known for the 2020 vintages as well and they are higher than the 2019 wines, of course, and they are higher than the 2018 wines as well!
The 2020 Chateau Pontet Canet and the 2020 Chateau Leoville Poyferre will be higher than they have ever been, though probably not as high as the 2020 Château Angelus Carillon de l’Angélus. Chateau Giscour is also going up in price as is the Chateau Malartic Blanc, so yeah, higher!
In terms of access – sure enough, all the Pontet Canet sold-out in one day from Royal and each store is being given tiny allocations. This leaves us begging for wine and paying 300+ a bottle at the door! Classic madness and FOMO. Such is life!
Tasting in Paris
It is always a joy and honor to do our yearly tasting with Menahem Israelievitch. His care, love, and true joy in sharing the wines he creates for Royal Wines, even with folks like us, is a true testament to his professionalism.
My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. It was truly an inopportune time for Mr. Israelievitch and his family to have the tasting and I truly thank him and his family and wish them only happiness and success in the coming years.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Chateau Roubine Rose, Lion & Dragon, Cotes de Provence – Score: 91 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this rose is classic with strawberry and creme, rich salinity, peach, orange blossom, and lovely smoke. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is nicer than the previous vintage, the second vintage here is showing better than 2020, and has more balance as well, with good acidity, nice fruit focus, less oak influence, with nice peach, apricot, strawberry, good salinity, nice minerality, and smoke. The finish is long, smoky, tart, and refreshing, with good acidity and salinity, and flint. Nice! Drink now. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
IDS tasting of current releases in Paris – Nov 2022
The third organized wine tasting that Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I went to, during our last trip to Paris, in November 2022 was with IDS. IDS is officially called Les Vins IDS and IDS, stands for International Distribution Service. On a lovely Wednesday afternoon, Avi and I jumped in an Uber and went to see Ben Uzan at IDS’s offices.
The tasting was a two-part wine event. The first part featured IDS wines while the second part featured wines that Ben Sitruk of Wine Symphony brought for us to taste. Those included two wines, one lovely Riserva from Terra di Seta and a nice enough Chateau Moutinot, Saint-Estephe.
Le Vin IDS Wines
As I stated in my previous Paris trip preamble post, the timing for the trip was not great. So, these wines were the ones I missed in May and this trip was also too early for the 2021 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Burgundies.
There were too few wines to do any of these blindly, as we did in May, with Alexander, but that did not mean there were not lovely wines to enjoy! We started with a very unique 2021 Tokaj-Hetszolo Sarga Muskotaly, Takaji. I will leave the notes to describe it better than words here.
Next, we had the 2021 Tour du Barail Bordeaux Superieur which is a solid wine for the poor 2021 vintage. That was followed by the QPR WINNER 2020 Chateau du Bosquay, which we had the last tasting, but I asked for it as I forgot Avi had already tasted it.
Next came two CRUSHING QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER wines for those who live in the France area. The 2020 Chateau Labegorce and the 2020 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe. Both of them were exceptional and for the price, in France, they merit the QPR WINNER standard!
My notes of the 2015 Chateau Labegorce and the 2017 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe, are not the same as the 2020 Chateau Labegorce and Chateau Lafon-Rochet, but the structures of both them reminded me of those vintages. To me the 2020 vintage is a conundrum, it is not the green 2021 vintage, but it also does not have the precision of the 2019 vintage or the power of the 2015/2018 vintage. The 2017 vintage at times reminds me of the 2020 vintage, with certain wines, while with others the 2020 vintage can be as good as 2019. This will be fully showcased when I do the post of the Royal wines, but for now, understand, that the 2020 vintage will at times leave you breathless and at times leave you wondering.
In the end, the two wines are clear QPR WINNERs in France, and even outside of it they are MUST-HAVE wines for one’s cellar.
As is customary, I ask Ben to open the windows to air out the room, as soon as I enter, as the smell of tobacco ash is always insufferable. I understand France is one of the few advanced nations in the world where smoking is still a thing. I have never tolerated it, the smell makes me retch, so Ben is always so kind to air out the room before we begin tasting his wonderful wines.
My many thanks to Ben Uzan for setting up the meeting, sharing his wines with us, and taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Tokaj-Hetszolo Sarga Muskotaly, Tokaji – Score: 91 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is ripe, and tropical, with ripe mango, lychee, guava, tart pineapple, orange blossom, gooseberry, and passion fruit, very unique. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice with nice sweet and ripe fruit, more controlled and drier than in the nose, with intense acidity, dry mango, very floral with orange blossom, violet, elderberry, nice honeyed orange, and green notes. The finish is long, green, tart, and fruity, with great acidity, mango, pineapple, and waxy notes.
To be clear this is not a dry wine but it is also not a dessert wine, it fits in between, and it is off-dry. It would accompany dishes in the main meal as well if they are spicy or they are rich like cream sauces. Drink by 2024. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)
The 2022-2023 kosher wine-tasting event season is upon us. Updated with time and discount codes for KFWE!
The times for both the KFWE LA and NYC shows are updated below with coupons as well! Enjoy!
When most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine-tasting season. Yes, it is a once-a-year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine-tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is crazy!
Of course, we cannot talk about a wine-tasting season without discussing the white elephant in the room, which is the sad fact that we have not had these for almost two full years! BRAVO to KFWE NYC which had one earlier this year in NJ. Here is my write-up on that KFWE. Also, there was the highly innovative and well-run virtual KFWE of 2021, which had horrible logistical issues, but the idea and the extremely informative live feed were truly impressive! I may have been a bit too harsh in my critique, yeah I can be a bit overhanded at times, sure the operational component was lacking, and the most important portion of the event was a mess, but the preparation, innovation, thought process, and drive along with the live informative feed really should have been given more credit than I did, Mea culpa, such is life.
So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! The first tasting is the first of the KFWE family events, KFWE Miami. With such a slow season, more on that in a bit, it is nice to see that Miami is now officially on the main KFWE page. In the past, it started to call itself, Kosher Food & Wine Miami, but not KFWE. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what were already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official. The last one in Miami, in 2019, was one of the first KFWE Miami where it was not in Chanukah. I quipped that I thought it was a requirement. This year, they pulled out all stops and made it on Thursday night! Like what??? Yup, the geniuses in Miami think calendars are not for everyone!
KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience
KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine-tasting event, that would be the now-defunct Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best KFWE, with the first-ever VIP session, which was copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, at the world-famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one. According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor, a mezzanine, and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have an even larger number of wines and food options. I was sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for two years, in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, the 2019 and 2020 KFWE L.A. at the Palladium were freaking EPIC and I expect more greatness!
As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education, and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are tons of wineries that they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.
Cross distributor tastings
At this moment I know of no cross-distributor wine events this wine-tasting season. To be honest I am not sure why. COVID ushered in what a decade could not into the kosher wine-buying public, a lushness that would make a double-fisted drinking goy blush! Kosher wine, alcohol, and spirits are THROUGH the roof! Why would you not want to bank on that and have a kosher wine event with more than just Royal??? If there was ever a time and place for more kosher wine education it is now!
Besides the Royal wine events – AKA KFWE, there are events in Israel, namely Sommelier, the only wine event in Israel publicizing Israel’s diverse wine culture. That happens every year in and around the month of January, as stated earlier exact dates for any of these events are only locked down a few months in advance and the date changes every year.
Israel wines may be going off the deep end, in terms of date juice and all, but Sommelier continues to do a wonderful job of keeping a continuous focus on Israel and its potential in the wine world. Bravo to them!
There is also the Bokobsa event in Paris, which I went to in 2020, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France. They had one this year, in 2022, along with the KFWE London, but I was not able to make it to either of them. Unfortunately, I hear there will be no Bokobsa tasting this coming year after they had one in 2022.
Royal wine imports many Bokobsa wines into the USA, but Bokobsa itself makes kosher wines (like the fantastic 2007 and 2012 Sancerre Chavignol, the lovely 2017/2018/2019 Fume Blanc, and the unimported 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Premier Cru. I was just in Paris last month and I tasted the new 2021 Anthony Girard Sancerre, L’indiscrete, it is AWESOME and I hope Royal imports it. Bokobsa imports wines into France as well, and they are Royal’s distributors in France. The whole kosher wine import game is what drives these events. These are importers/winemakers that need to sell products and advertise what they are selling, so these events are a win-win for us all!
Besides, Sommelier, there were a couple of wine events that happen closer to Passover, in the past years, that were not about a single importer but rather about kosher wine options overall. These events were not as deep as the Royal or Bokobsa wine events, which showcased almost every single wine these importers make/import. Rather, they were a curated and diverse set of wines that spanned multiple importers and distributors. This gave wine purveyors like Yarden, Allied, Red Garden, M&M, and others the chance to showcase what wines they were selling and what is available.
Sadly, at this point/moment in time, there are no such events on the calendar! The wonderful Grapevine Wines & Spirits Grand Kosher Wine Tasting, sadly, was called off in 2020 and after 7 years of that event, they called it quits.
The Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, which was held for 11 years in a row, quite a feat in the kosher wine world, outside of KFWE, sadly came to an end in 2020 as well. Again, I hope someone steps up and creates a proper wine event to allow kosher wine purveyors the opportunity to showcase their wines, outside of Royal wines.
Wine events happening all the time
So there you have a brief history of the wine events that are coming up. There are also a few one-off events going on in NYC (nothing happens in LA or Norcal other than KFWE). Keep an eye open for them!
I will keep updating this page – so bookmark it and I will try my best to keep it up to date!
Kosher wine-tasting events this season – in chronological order:
Name: KFWE Miami – SOLD OUT!Time: 7 PM to 10 PM (6 PM VIP access)
When: December 8th, 2022
Where: JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura, FL 33180
Link to signup or for more information: http://www.kosherfoodandwinemiami.com/
Name: KFWE NYC
When: Monday, February 6th, 2023
Time: 3 PM – 9 PM EST (No Trade show in NYC)
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/472878581567/?discount=MUSINGS (With COUPON)
Link for more information: https://kfwe.com
Name: KFWE LA
When: February 8th, 2023
Time: Trade: 1 PM to 4 PM and 6 PM to 9:30 PM
Where: Hollywood Palladium (6215 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028)|
Link to signup: https://www.universe.com/embed2/events/63757cfa16de3c0027e2f259?state=%7B%22currentDiscountCode%22%3A%7B%22code%22%3A%22MUSINGS%22%7D%7D (With COUPON)
Link for more information: https://kfwe.com
When: February 14th and 15th, 2023
Time: 11:30 AM to 5 PM Trade and 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM Public
Where: Heichal HaTarbut
Huberman St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Link to more information: http://www.sommelier.co.il/sommelier/
Name: KFWE Tel Aviv
Name: KFWE London
Link to signup or for more information: https://www.kfwelondon.com/
Blind tasting in Paris (Part #1) – Nov 2022
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. The sheer number of boxes in our room was insane, somewhere nearly 120 bottles of wine came to our hotel or to Ari Cohen’s home. The poor bellman pushing that cart laden with wine boxes was a site to see.
We were in Paris for a week and during that time Avi and I had three organized tastings with Bokobsa, Royal Wine, and IDS. We also tasted some 80+ wines in the hotel room, blindly, in 5 rounds, each time following the methodology defined below. This post will showcase the wines we had in rounds 1 and 2.
Blind Tasting Methodology
Thankfully, my posts can stop referencing COVID and focus on wine. So, let us get to the process. This time I wanted to break up the normal approach, or taste wines from the distributor or wine producers and instead taste the wines blind in their respective groups. The methodology was simple, bag all the wines, hand them to Avi who wrote a number/letter, and then line them up for the tasting. Then we taste them in numerical/alphabetical order and write the notes. After the first pass, we taste the wines again to see if they have changed. Then we show the wines and write the names down. We did find a few anomalies in the system. First, the more closed wines needed time to open and those were tasted again later. If there were flaws at the start those stayed in the notes, at least for me, and if there were issues after they were also written.
White wines and Sparkling Wines (First Round)
There were a few shockers, in this round, the shockers were all for the bad! Sadly, this round and the subsequent one with simple red wines were underwhelming to deeply disappointing. There were TWO WINNERs in the first TWO rounds and they were repeat WINNERs from previous tastings I had with Avi last year in November 2021 and with Nathan Grandjean in 2017. I have also included a wine I tasted TWICE over the past month or so, the 2016 Yarden Rose, Brut, it is underwhelming, much akin to its brother the 2016 Yarden Blanc de Blancs. Both are underwhelming and very sad as this is the first time that I ever had a Yarden Sparkling wine I did not like on release. Very sad indeed! If you want sparkling wines stick to Drappier, Laurent Perrier, Gilgal, and others.
The other disappointing wine was the highly anticipated 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, sadly it did not live up to expectations. At the start it was horrible flat peach juice, if you read my original blind tasting – it went like this, “This wine is cooked peach juice, flat and useless. Drink never.” Literally. The wine evolved over three days! The same thing could be said for the 2020 Chateau Olivier red and the famous 2020 Carillon d’Angelus Saint-Emilion. Though the reds wines were less flat and more closed tightly.
Other than the lone WINNER and the disappointing 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, there were no wines that were very interesting at all. There were a few new ones, like the 2020 Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Peray, Les Bialeres, disappointing, and lacked acidity and balance. The 2021 Casa E.di Mirafiore Roero Arneis DOCG was also a dud, both white and red. Overall, nothing very good here, but hey my pain is your gain!
2020 Vintage versus 2021 Vintage in Bordeaux
I will repeat what I wrote previously, as this post will showcase far more 2021 wines from Bordeaux. So far, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux includes very few big names because they are still in the barrels. Or should be! So, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux is all simpler and of lower starting quality. Still, what is apparent, from this sample size, is that 2021 will be a very hard year. The 2020 vintage, by contrast, is hit and miss, and so far, while the hits have been solid, there are no home runs, and we have tasted most of the wines we expect to rave about from the 2020 vintage. There will be one 95-scoring wine, ONE, from all the wines we tasted on this trip. I expect even fewer exceptional wines from the 2021 vintage and I personally, will be buying far fewer of the 2020 or 2021 wines. Finally, the wine notes from the 2020 vintage should be witness to the fact that while the 2020 wines are OK to good, they are far more accessible than previous vintages. The glaring exception to that will be highlighted in a subsequent post.Read the rest of this entry