Category Archives: Wine Tasting
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.
I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.
Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. This year is a re-release of the 2014 Petite Sirah and 2014 Zinfandel in a blended format called – MPSZ. Of course, it includes the 2014 Mourvedre, which is also being released a single varietal under the Ayala label.
Another wine this year under the Ayala label is the NV Chardonnay, it is a nice wine that did not go through malolactic fermentation, so while it has creamy notes, the rich butter and butterscotch notes of previous chardonnays will not be found here.
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last years, is really impressive. You have a 2014 Four Gates Pinot Noir, an NV Four Gates Cabernet Franc (a blend of the 2014 & 2015 vintages), the 2013 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, the 2013 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, and the 2013 Four Gates Frere Robaire.
The notes speak for themselves. These are the wines I liked, there are two other wines that will be sold, but I am not a fan of them, I am sure others will be. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
NV Ayala Chardonnay – Score: 90
Lovely nose of ripe melon, lovely lemon curd, with green and yellow apple, and spice galore. The mouth on this lovely medium to full-bodied wine is nice and richly acidic, with a creamy mouth, showing lovely green notes, sweet dill, with butter notes, lovely sweet and ripe fruit, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is tart, refreshing, lively, with acid madness, showing a style of sweet and tart fruit, and nice complexity. Drink by 2025
2014 Four Gates MPSZ – Score: 91
This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Petit Sirah, and Zinfandel. This is a fun classic Cali wine, floral, sweet, spices galore, with sweet oak, and lovely red and blue fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun with raspberry, plum, ripe juicy strawberry, blueberry, all wrapped in nice tannin, with nice mineral, spice, and zesty fruit. The finish is long and rich, with sweet notes, black olives, and cinnamon. Drink by 2021
2014 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: 92 to 93
This nose is a classic Four Gates Pinot, with chicken cherry cola, sweet raspberry, lovely spices, menthol, herb, and rich spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, elegant, lovely, with green notes, lovely foliage, sweet oak, with sweet cherry, raspberry galore, and crazy Benyo acid, with smoke, vanilla, hints of mushroom (which will show more with age), earth, and loam. The finish is long and green, richly acidic, menthol galore, herb, coffee, loads of tart red fruit, and more smoke. Bravo!!! Drink from 2019 to 2027
NV Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: 93
This is a blend of 2014 and 2015 vintages. This wine is a classic Benyo special, what a wine, this is crazy fun, what a rich floral, raspberry nose, with violets, rich tart fruit, with cherry, chocolate, mushroom, and foliage galore. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is really fun, rich, layered, with a real mouthfeel that gives way to mushroom, rich tilled earth, with red fruit, plum, raspberry, vanilla, and lovely focus, that gives way to great acid and sweet forest floor. The finish is long and green, with bell pepper, foliage, with vanilla, leather, and heather. Bravo!!! Drink 2020 to 2027
2013 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: 94
The nose on this wine is plum heaven, with crazy truffle, mushroom, and rich tart raspberry, followed by black fruit, and rich dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is crazy, rich, layered, with layer after layer of concentrated fruit, nice extraction, and intense acidic, with tannin galore, perfectly balanced, with sweet red raspberry, plum, sweet currant, black forest berry, and dark cherry. The finish is long and green, with foliage, mushroom, vanilla, sweet oak, spice, with menthol, mineral, graphite, sweet red fruit, and acid plays well together. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 to 2030.
2013 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 94
Lovely nose of earth, dirt, green notes, caraway seeds, coffee grinds, with black fruit hiding behind good bright notes, and mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine, is rich and layered, showing lovely extraction, rich blackberry, blackcurrant, with impressive fruit structure, showing elegance and attack, with great focus and spice, spicy oak wrapped in earth and mouth coating and expressive tannin, with so much tar that it feels like road work in the mouth, and green notes galore. The finish is long and green with focus and power, showing dark chocolate, foliage, with scraping mineral, graphite, and mounds of earth lingering long. BRAVO! Drink from 2021 to 2031.
2013 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: 94
Another stunning wine, come on, this wine will and always reminds me of Chateau Malartic, and depending on how long you age it, the Malartic vintage compares well. The nose on this wine is lovely, as it opens, it is ripe to start with loads of fruit, mounds of finesse, and sweet oak, with rich mineral, herb, black fruit, with a bit of red in the background, and lovely graphite, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe and opens slowly with rich layers upon layers of sweet fruit, followed by earth, tilled loam, with green notes galore, sweet blackberry, plum, with concentration and rich extraction that gives way to layers of mouth coating tannin, vanilla, and spice. The finish is long and earthy, with foliage, green notes, anise, earth, leather, rich sweet milk chocolate, mushroom, and loads of forest floor. Drink from 2021 to 2030.
When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended with a classic run for the border to Weingut Von Hovel. After we returned from visiting Von Hovel we had a wine tasting. It included some new 2016 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 vintage and earlier.
As I posted here and here, I have been trying to get to all of the 2014 French wines and as many of the 2015 vintages that are released. With this last tasting, I have been able to get to most of the top 2014 kosher French wines that I know of. The two top 2014 kosher Bordeaux wines that I have been able to taste are the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement and the 2014 Smith Haut Lafite (which I tasted here at this tasting). Right after those superstars come the 2014 Chateau Giscours, 2014 Chateau Malartic, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, the 2014 Chateau Soutard, and the 2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau. In regards to Sauternes, the two winners are the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau, 1er Cru Classe, and the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe.
I had not been able to taste the Smith Haut Lafite or the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe, until this tasting and they were not a letdown in any manner. WOW, they were worth the trip and worth stocking up where and if possible.
If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait – email Nathan Grandjean about how to get them: Contact@yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will soon have the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe as well.
We continued tasting these wines for more than a day, it was only after a long time that the great 2014 wines really opened up. Also, we tasted the Von Hovels throughout this time as well (I did not post the scores here again, as they are in their own post).
The rest of the wines at the tasting were either horrible, passable, or nice enough. My many thanks to JK, Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 LI BI Rose, Cotes du Rhone – Score: 88
The wine is a rose made of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Lovely nose of grapefruit, floral notes, with green apple, gooseberry, with nectarines, and good mineral. The mouth is nice enough, the acid is medium in nature, and while it is well balanced it is unidimensional, with good lemon, peach, and nice acid that does rise after a bit. The finish is long and floral with good saline, mineral, slate, and good spice. Drink up!
2016 Le Mourre de L’isle, White – Score: 87
The wine is a blend of 40% Roussanne, 30 Viognier, and 30% Grenache Blanc. Lovely nose of peach, and honeysuckle, floral notes, with green apple, and spice. The mouth is slow to open, with peach notes, good acid and balance, with again little complexity but nice acid, with peach, grapefruit, and crazy floral notes. The finish is long with mineral and sweet spices, cinnamon, and cloves. Drink by 2018.
Read the rest of this entry
When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended with the Flam Winery, my last post on the Israeli wineries that I visited that trip. Well, after that Friday, we had the shabbos post, and then another tasting (those tastings were not very successful), after that I made my way to the airport for a trip to France.
When I arrived in France I had the epic tasting of all of the Royal French wines, minus one 2015 Rothschild Haut Medoc. The next day, I get on a train and I head towards Alsace, to meet up with Nathan Grandjean and JK. JK was in Alsace for some wedding, and I was coming originally to have a tasting with Nathan on wines I had missed so far. However, the best part of those horrible tastings in Jerusalem, this one and this one, were the Rieslings. In the first one, the epic Riesling was brought by AS, and the second tasting’s Riesling I brought to the party.
I have already posted before about my love for Riesling when we did a horizontal of what we could find. However, up until that first tasting in Jerusalem, there were VERY few humans that had tasted the epic Von Hovel Rieslings.
The story behind this kosher German wine reimagination – is a group of four people and three wineries – called Gefen Hashalom (“Vine of Peace”). It started with Dr. Mark Indig and Benz Botmann who were interested in making kosher German wines. They approached Nik Weis – a sister winery to Flam Winery of Israel, as I explained here, during a twin city wine event, and the outcome was the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling, that all of us raved about and wrote about already last year. However, there was another partner – Max von Kunow, the owner of the Weingut von Hövel in Oberemmel in the Saar. that made kosher Rieslings as well in 2014 and 2015.
The shocking part of this kosher reimagination of wines in Germany was that the wines were made by top-notch wineries of Mosel. The wineries (Nik Weis and Von Hovel) are world-class wineries in Mosel and for the partnership to have been created with these extraordinary wineries is the true blessing of Gefen Hashalom, IMHO.
There is a third winery that is part of the partnership, Hans Wirsching, which made the very nice Silvaner.
Between these three wineries are hundreds of years and multiple generations upon generations of history in winemaking within their own families and that history is evident when you taste the Rieslings – they are expressive and truly unique.
The three German wineries have sister wineries in Israel. As explained previously, Flam is Nik Weis’s Sister winery, Bazelet Hagolan is Von Hovel’s sister winery, and Weingut Hans Wirsching’s sister/twin winery is Kishor Winery!
Also, another very fascinating aspect is that both Nik Weis and Von Hovel made kosher wines from the Saar region. Now, Von Hovel’s vineyards are indeed all in the Saar region, but Nik Weis has regions in Mosel as well, but so far the three vintages we have had (2014, 2015, and 2016) they have all been sourced from Saar, even the new 2016 vintage that used a more expensive vineyard, Ockfener Bockstein, was still from the Saar wine region.
The Saar region, which as I will explain below is freezing cold, and for the wines to attain their fruit and acidity requires nerves of steel, deep prayer, and sheer endless hope. The prayers are normally rewarded with wines that are extremely low in alcohol and high in acidity but are picked as late as November at times, if that is possible, or sometimes it never reaches peak ripeness.
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 not set, 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 totally crazy!
So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! The first tasting that kicks off the season happens in Miami, and it has finally been “officially” added to the KFWE calendar. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what was already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official.
KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine
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.
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 80+% of them. Sure, there are hundreds of wineries 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 is 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
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 is 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 this past year, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines is represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France.
Royal wine imports many Bokobsa wines into the USA, but Bokobsa itself makes kosher wines (like the fantastic 2007 and 2012 Sancerre Chavignol, though I wish they made a new one already), and imports wines into France as well. The whole kosher wine import game is what drives these events. These are importers/winemakers that need to sell product and they need to advertise what they are selling, so these events are a win-win for us all!
Besides, Sommelier, there are a couple of wine events that happen closer to Passover that is not about a single importer but rather about kosher wine options overall. These events are not as deep as the Royal or Bokobsa wine events, which will showcase almost every single wine these importers make/import. Rather, it is a curated and diverse set of wines that span across multiple importers and distributors. So, Yarden, Rashbi, and others are at these events and it gives the chance to taste other wines outside of the deep vertical shows like KFWE.
One of them is The Grapevine Wines & Spirits Kosher Grand Tasting, it is a very nice event that normally in the middle of the kosher wine tasting event season, they will be hosting their 6th event in 2018. The last event of the season is always the biggest of this style, the Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, they are in their 9th year (this coming 2018).
Another event that sadly has stopped was the Kosher Wine Society’s wine tasting which was also one of those cross distributor wine tasting event, but that has gone away with the KWS founder, Aaron Ritter, getting married and I guess being too busy to pull it off any longer. As much as I may miss the event, I am super happy for him and his family!
Wine events happening all the time
So there you have a quick 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), like the upcoming Shirah event on December 3rd and the 2017 Long ISLAND kosher Wine EXPO that just completed on November 7th. Keep an eye open for them!
Kosher wine tasting events this season – in chronological order:
Name: Bon & Oak Tour De France – a pre-Miami KFWE event showcasing Royal’s new 2015/2016 kosher French wines
When: December 11th, 2017
Time: 7 PM to 11 PM
Where: 26 Bridge
26 Bridge St
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
Link to signup or for more information: http://www.bonandoak.com/event/tour-de-france-kosher-french-wine-and-culinary-experience – use the code KOSHERWINE15 for a 15% discount!
Name: KFWE Miami
When: December 13th, 2017
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM (6 PM VIP access)
Where: Turnberry Isle Miami
19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura, FL 33180
Link to signup or for more information: http://www.kosherfoodandwinemiami.com/
When: January 15th and 16th, 2018
Time: 1 PM to 6 PM Trade and 6:30 PM to 10 PM public
Where: Heichal HaTarbut
Huberman St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Link to more information: http://www.sommelier.co.il/sommelier/
Sign up link: https://events.eventact.com/runreg2/event/RegForm.aspx?Event=29365&Company=61&Form=24639&Account=0&lang=he&hc&login=383773245964
Name: KFWE Tel Aviv
When: January 29th, 2018
Where: Tel Aviv, Israel
Link to signup or for more information: http://thekfwe.com/
Name: Bokobsa tasting of Grand Cru Cachers
When: January 30th, 2018
Time: 4 PM to 5:30 PM Trade and Public 5:30 PM till 9:30 PM
Where: Intercontinental Paris – Avenue Marceau
64 avenue Marceau, 75008 Paris, France
Link to signup or for more information: https://www.weezevent.com/degustation-de-vins-11
Name: KFWE London
When: January 31st, 2018
Time: 3:30 PN for trade and 6:30 PM for public
Where: Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX, United Kingdom
Link to signup or for more information: http://thekfwe.com/ (choose London – then buy ticket)
Name: KFWE NYC
When: February 5th, 2018
Time: 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM EST (VIP is 5:30 PM)
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup or for more information: http://thekfwe.com/ (choose New York – then buy ticket)
Name: KFWE LA
When: February 7th, 2018
Time: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST (VIP is 6 PM)
Where: Petersen Automotive Museum
Link to signup or for more information: http://thekfwe.com/ (choose Los Angeles – then buy ticket)
Name: The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting
When: February 18th, 2018
Time: 6 PM – 9 PM
Where: The Grapevine Wines & Spirits
455 Route 306 Wesley Hills, New York
Link to signup or for more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/331269254056948/
Name: Grand Wine Tasting and Kosher Wine Guide
When: March 12, 2018
Time: 5:00 PM for premium tasting, 6 PM to 9 PM for general admission
Where: City Winery NYC
155 Varick St, New York, NY 10013
Link to signup or for more information: http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/discount-tickets-grand-wine-tasting/ (discounted tickets from this link)
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and this will be the last post about Israeli wineries for this trip anyway! Last we left off, I was talking about – Tzora Vineyards Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of the kosher wines from the Judean Hills Quartet on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the first of those three that we visited that day – that one being Flam Winery. This will be my last post from my trip to Israel, the next ones will be about my epic tasting in France and Riesling wines from Mosel. Also, a side note, the winery that brings us the wonderful Rieslings and Sylvaner – Nik Weiss, is a sister winery to Flam Winery. Actually, Gilad brought out a bottle of the 2015 Nik Weiss Riesling and we told him that we had issues initially with the wine, but now understand that these wines take years to come around (flavor and fruit characteristic wise) and that he should save his next bottle for a few years from now.
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 Winery, Flam 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!!
If you look at the four wineries in the quartet, three of them have used Judean Hills grapes since the very beginning, Domaine du Castel Winery, Tzora Vineyards, and Sephora Winery. Both Castel and Tzora built their name and reputation and essence upon the terroir of the Judean Hills. Flam has always been using Judean Hills fruit in its wines, but the reserve wines have been sourced from the Upper Galilee (Ben Zimra and Dishon). That is changing now, the winery has planted 100 dunams on the beautiful slopes near Ein Kerem and the first wine from the Judean Hills is the 2015 Merlot Reserve.
Once they complete the move from the Galilee to the Judean Hills for their reserve wines as well, the majority of its red wines will be sourced from the Judean Hills. At this time, the Rose, Blanc, and Classico are all sourced from the Judean Hills, with the most of the reserve wines being sourced from the Upper Galilee.
We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus the not yet released but already bottled 2013 Flam Noble – the winery’s flagship wine. We were met by both Gilad and Golan Flam, and later for a bit by Israel as well. Golan, the winemaker, and Gilad who runs the winery were very kind to meet with us as was visible from the previous posts of this trip, it was harvest time, and Golan had to run to tend to the grapes. We did get a chance to watch some of the winemaking activities and then it was off to taste the currently released wines.
The wines once again show the professionalism and passion that is Flam Winery. As the first post I ever wrote about the winery shows, this is a family run winery and that focuses as much of its efforts in the vineyards as they do in the winery itself.
My thanks to Gilad, Golan, and Israel Flam, and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Flam Blanc – Score: B+
This wine tasted better than the last time we had it, with tart and crisp fruit, showing nice pith, lovely grapefruit, and green apple galore. The mouth is crisp and alive and tart with good balance and nice fruit and good spice, but lacks anything to grab you. The finish is long and rich and crisp, very refreshing.
2015 Flam Classico – Score: B+
The wine shows a bit too much oak now, nice enough, but a bit too much oak with crazy chocolate and elegance with more of the reserve fruit going into the Classico in 2015. The nose shows herb sweet dill, and good earth, and red fruit. The mouth is medium bodied and dark cherry, rich roasted herb, nice round and spicy with great sweet but controlled fruit and menthol and green notes abound. The extra syrah is showing with hints of blue notes but really nice with foliage and tobacco galore, but lacking complexity of previous vintages and a bit too much oak.
2015 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A-
This is the first vintage being sourced from the Judean hills. The nose on this wine shows a very rich oaky nose with red fruit and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered but lacking the acid, but really impressed by what the be vineyards will bring. The mouth shows mouth coating tannin with elegance, dark raspberry, with hints of dark currant, mineral, foliage, dirt, and loam galore, with great potential. The finish is long and elegant with chocolate, tobacco, and ripe fruit lingers long.
2015 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
Nice nose of bright mineral, rich earth and really ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and plush with green notes and really accessible showing nice tannin and plush blackberry and foliage. The finish is long and green and soft with mineral and tobacco and loam.
2015 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with perfumed boysenberry, with less herb and more floral and blue fruit instead. The mouth is rich and full bodied and really accessible with a plush and a bit less pushed than the other two reserve wines, with nice extraction, good sweet fruit, controlled with green notes again and foliage that is wrapped in plush but firm tannin and great spice. The finish is long and sweet and really impressive with leather galore and tobacco that is backed by tar and roasted animal.
2013 Flam Noble – Score: A-
Really lovely old world nose with nice mineral, rich black and elegant fruit with great roasted herb. The mouth is full bodied, plush, not overly tannic with nice elegance and good complexity that is ripe and round and yet balanced with chocolate and nice graphite and mineral. The finish is long and green with tobacco, sweet dill, rich extraction that shows searing tannin that lingers and ripe black fruit with juicy tart raspberry, and fun blue notes in the background, with ripe fruit lingering long.
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, I was talking about – Domaine du Castel Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of them on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the second of those three – that one being Tzora Vineyards Winery.
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 Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run byDoron 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
As we arrived that morning, Eran Pick was busy crushing the last of his red grapes – the Petit Verdot. The last grape that Tzora takes in is the late harvest Gewurztraminer that is used in the making of the lovely Or wine – that is “frozen” late harvest Gewurztraminer.
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 old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.
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, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 whites, as well. Sadly, as stated, Mr. Pick was busy with the last of harvest, but we still had the chance to taste the wines with him, as he came to talk to us for a few minutes, and he even threw a few barrel/tank tastings in 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 email@example.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.
As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has the dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.
We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus two extra older library wines, and some early barrel tastings, but I did not post those as barrels are for Eran to work with, I normally only write notes of bottled wines. Last time we were at the winery was in March, and we tasted many great wines – and we did taste a few of those wines again, along with the now bottled 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, and some library wines.
The tasting consisted of the newly released 2016 whites along with two library wines and the now bottled 2015 Misty Hills. It was great to taste the 2013 Shoresh white, it is a wine I had not tasted in some time. The wine showed how much it can change is so short a time. The last time I tasted it was already past its oaky start, showing crazy acid and lovely brioche. Now, the wine is balancing out very well, showing a balance between oak, fruit, and mouth texture – impressive. It is so vastly different than the 2016 vintage which shows far less oak. I asked Mr. Pick when he was so kind to join us, and he agreed that indeed there is less oak showing on the 2016 Shoresh white, but he said rest assured it is there and may well come out with time. The other library wine was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh Red. It was beautiful and showing very well. Read the rest of this entry
Over Succoth, we had the chance to taste through the currently released vintages of Four Gates Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard. This wine started off with a blast in 2012 when its first vintage was released, though I really missed the drink-by window in that tasting.
Since then I have had it a few times and it was time to taste the entire line of wines that have been released now over the past 4 years. You can also see that there are another three wines that are yet unreleased and notes for those will have to wait until the wines are released.
This Cabernet is green but also red, black, and blue and the notes evolve as the wine ages, but its core stays true, green and red fruit with black fruit in the background and blue only showing in its youth.
My many thanks to JR for hosting us in their beautiful succah. Also a shout out to Josh Rynderman and his bride to be for being there with us at the tasting, and of course to Benyo for bringing the wines and sharing his knowledge with us as always. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 95
The fruit for this lovely old-world Cabernet comes from Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I have been able to watch this wine progress from pressing to bottling, and it has gone from a rich red fruit wine to a hybrid rich old-world wine with big red fruit along with some lovely black fruit.
The wine has evolved a bit from my last tasting. Still, this is a unique Cabernet that is rich, extracted, balanced, yet oak influenced in a lovely manner, this is not just a big black new-world Cabernet, it has strong old world leaning with a deeply rooted new world style!
The nose on this purple to black colored wine, with blue streaks through it is screaming with cloves, graphite, kirsch cherry, raspberry, blackberry, red fruit, tobacco, mint, and anise. The mouth on the full-bodied brute of a wine is super rich, extracted, layered, and concentrated, with nice black and red forest berry, ribbons of blueberry, plum, currant, eucalyptus, and green bell pepper, all wrapped up in a cedar box filled with spice and still big round and mouth coating tannin that makes for a rich and spicy mouthfeel. The finish is long, lovely, smoke, with rich extraction, intense tar, and spicy with more tannin, chocolate, tobacco, cinnamon, red fruit, black pepper, and a nice hit of vanilla. The chocolate, oak, tar, smoke, herbs, red fruit, and vanilla linger long. The wine is starting to open but still needs time.
With time, the wine opens to a beautifully robed wine, filled with mushroom, hints of barnyard, with nice black fruit, all gone now giving way to secondary notes, rich roasted animal, tar, and lovely earth. The mouth stays the same with fruit still strong, earth and dirt, nice balance. Great saline and lovely black fruit, no blue fruit left, with extraction gone but nice acid and good fruit structure, plush, and really fun. I would start drinking it within the year and then finish it by 2021. BRAVO!!
2010 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 92
This is the second year of Benyo’s ridge mountain fruit and it continues with another rock-solid wine. It is not the 2009 vintage with its deep and rich fruit, but seriously who cares this rocks! The nose on this wine is redolent with lovely green notes, forest floor, garrigue, crazy bramble, earth, roasted herb, and eucalyptus, all hallmarks of this cab for many years now. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine attacks with layers of concentrated fruit, followed by red/black fruit, cranberry, dark cherry, blackberry, along with mouth coating tannin, candied dried fruits, and spicy oak. The finish is long and herbal, with spice, cloves, deep-rooted earth, tobacco, chocolate, and dried basil/oregano. Drink from 2018 to 2022.
2011 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 93
This wine is the blackest of the bunch by far and a very rich wine as well. The nose on this wine is lovely with mineral, spice, graphite, anise, licorice, blackberry, plum, lovely barnyard, and rich green notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is dark, brooding, black, and extracted, with layer upon layer of rich fruit, rich saline, black olives, blackberry, crushed herb, great foliage, cloves, and intense graphite and mineral. The finish is long and herbal with intense layers of spice, black pepper, and black fruit with dill and intense forest floor. Very nice! Drink from 2018 to 2024.
2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 94
If the 2011 vintage was black and ripe, the 2012 vintage is even more black, and these last two vintages do contradict my statement at the start that these wines are mostly green and red with black fruit underpinnings. The wines are getting bigger and bolder and yet all are perfectly well controlled with crazy acid and green notes and mineral.
The nose is opening now with bright fruit, showing great acid, but also sweet with jammy red fruit, raspberry jam, vegetal notes, but now also showing mushroom, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is inky perfect the perfect balance between the Merlot wines, plush and rich, nicely extracted but controlled, with a bit less dill, with lovely sweet tannin, balanced nicely with searing acid, black plum, sweet herb, mounds of ripe cassis, blackberry, sweet fruit jam, mouth coating and drying tannin, and blackcurrant, with great finesse and control. The finish is long with great balance, sweet chocolate, sweet basil, lovely earth, mineral, graphite, and sweet tobacco. BRAVO!! Drink from 2020 to 2026.
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe. Last we left off, we had just had a kosher wine tasting at DD house. Instead of posting about the next three wineries we visited, which I will post soon, I wanted to post the other wine tasting, which was also at DD’s house. That man is a gluten for punishment!
There were some winners, a lovely bottle of Carignan from Carmel (another QPR winner), the 2013 Dalton Semillon, Single Vineyard Elkosh – still going nice, but getting close to drink-up. For this tasting, I brought a bottle of the fantastic 2014 Hagafen Riesling, IMHO, every tasting needs a Riesling! Sadly, that was about it. The 2014 Yaacov Oryah Alpha Omega was nice as well. The shockers were once again the pushed nature of the Mia Luce reds. We had all the Mia Luce reds, from 2012, 2014, and 2015 and they did not show well. The last 2012 Mia Luce from the other tasting was corked, so they brought another one, and this was not corked but man was it pushed and overripe at this point. I am not sure – Carignan is not a wine that I am finding can last long in Israel. At least so far from the wines I have tried, either the Recanati Carignan or the Mia Luce Carignan (sourced from the same vineyards).
I did have a horizontal of many Carignan last year, and Mia Luce was the clear winner. They were older bottles and they were lovely, maybe these were bad bottles as well, I do not know. I will be tasting my older ones to double-check soon.
My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest, after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Midbar Unoaked Chardonnay: Score: 84
Nice sweet nose of candied melon, peach, dried apple, and straw. The mouth is medium bodied with too much sweetness and not enough balance, with not enough acid, good enough fruit, but no focus, showing more stone fruit, sweet quince, nice grapefruit, with good sweet spices, and herb. The finish is long and spicy with peach, with tart and sweet quince lingering long.
2016 Har Bracha Gewurtztraminer: Score: 75
Wow, this is a sweet and dried fruit disaster, with tons of notes of oxidation and no joy – sorry. Very sweet pass, tropical, and insane melon/guava, dry flower madness, no balance.
The next wines that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, came after I had finished tasting wonderful wines from the ever capable Yaacov Oryah (head winemaker at Psagot Winery) at one of the newest hip kosher wine bars in Jerusalem – the Red and White Wine bar – kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street).
After going to see the Kotel (following the tasting at the Red and White bar), I made my way to where I was staying. It was not far from where we would be having the next two tastings, at our friend’s home DD. While, our host was fantastic, the wines were not so much. Much of that was a shocker to us all, because the wines we brought were not lightweights, they just did not show well at all.
There were some winners, a bottle of the epic Von Hovel kosher Riesling – that we will talk more about in a later post, but for now – the notes were very similar and the wine was insane. It was intoxicating (in its flavors) as much as it was intense, showing mineral, sweet notes, and acidity all at the same time.
The real winner of the night to me (other than the epic Von Hovel) was the 4 Vats red which was really nice and a solid QPR wine.
My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Yaacov Oryah Light from Darkness (Blanc de Noir) – Score: A-
This is a white wine made from Yaacov Oryah’s Rhone varietal vineyard, using Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. The juice of the grapes was pressed out of the grapes with no skin contact. The juice of red grapes is clear until it is left to macerate with its red skins.
Really a fun and unique wine never had such a wine showing red fruit notes in a white wine, showing grapefruit, sour cherry, rich mineral, yeasty notes with lovely minerality, green olives, and saline. The mouth is well integrated with lovely acid, rich peach, lemon and grapefruit with tart citrus, dried orange and more saline and slate galore, with nice pith on the long finish. Bravo! Drink by 2018.
2015 Matar Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine was lovely, showing ripe grapefruit, flint, spice, kiwi, and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has just enough acidity, showing nice focus with slate, saline, and nice peach, with pink grapefruit, yellow pear, and lovely acid. Drink UP!
2014 Von Hovel Hutte Oberemmel Riesling, Mosel, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- to A
This was my initial notes for this wonderful wine, without knowing I would taste this very wine in the Von Hovel winery and bring a few home! Stay tuned for that post soon.
A nice Riesling wine, great funk, with rich petrol, honeysuckle monster, with great spice, with heather, lavender, with yellow apple, and yellow plum. The mouth is rich and layered and rich acidity that is insane, with layers of rich blossom honey, and layers of never ending oily texture that is dripping with acid and white peach, lovely funk that gives way to minerality and intense lovely saline, with the sweet notes showing instead of the ripping acid/slate that the 14 Nik showed. Bravo!
As I stated recently in my original post about my most recent trip to Israel, France, and Germany, I had the opportunity to sit with Menahem Israelievitch and taste through all of Royal France’s new 2015 wines in France. So, I am going to take a break from my Israel wine trip posts and skip to the France portion (chronologically speaking) to post my notes on the French wines that are slowly making their way to the market now.
2015 Royal Europe French wines
Last year I was given the opportunity to taste these wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux. Since then, some have changed, with some improving, and some not so much. The wines were only recently bottled and I am sure they will change more now, and of course, as the wines evolve and age they will change in very different ways along the way, mostly for the positive.
In my last post about the most recent French wines 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.
The interesting changes this year for these wines is that more of them will be coming to the USA in mevushal format. Will that be an issue? You will see below that there are two notes for the 2015 Chateau La Crock – one was tasted from the non-mevushal 750ml bottle and one was from a 375ml mevushal bottle. Clearly, they are not an apple to apple comparison, as bottle format affects the aging of wine, as I described here. However, these wines were only recently bottled and as such, it was far more of an apple to apple comparison than it may seem at first blush. The mevushal wine was clearly different, but it did not taste flawed, it was just further aged than the non-mevushal bottle. We have found so far from history, that Royal wines know how to do mevushal well already. The perfect proof of that is the wonderful 2010 Rothschild Medoc wine that was luscious and beautiful and mevushal.
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 wine that wine was mevushal and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, but one of the byproducts of the mevushal process is to make them more accessible earlier. So, when the mevushal wines come to the USA, I will taste them and post the notes – then you can make your own opinions after that.
Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. Which should be obvious, but just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here, at least based upon the 2014 wines I tasted in France and in Here in the USA.
I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 20 wines. The only wine missing was the 2015 Rothschild Haut Medoc. It was a lovely wine from the barrel and it was a shame that it was not available in time. The real shame is that I will not get to taste that wine for a long time still. Why? Because of what I explained already in my previous post of French wines and Bordeaux. The 2013 vintage was a mess and there is still far too much of the 2013 vintage left for them to start selling the 2014 vintage here in the USA. So before we see the 2015 vintage, the 2014 vintage would need to be sold out. That is two full vintages that need to disappear before I will get to taste the 2015 vintage. The 2014 vintage, which I tasted last year was lovely, and it has very little to do in comparison to the half bottles of 2014 that are available here in the USA. The 750ml version of the 2014 vintage was lovely, the half bottles of the 2014 vintage that is available here in the USA, felt flat and hollow.
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. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. As in Israel, the wineries all around Europe were deep in the throes of harvest and it was really very kind of Mr. Israelievitch to make them available in the first place, and secondly, to make time to taste the wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 92 (mevushal)
Finally! A reasonably (not cheap but reasonable) priced white wine that is more mineral than fruit focused – nice! The nose on this wine is lovely, with green apples, ripe melon, green notes, with nice mineral and lovely herbs galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely, it is really well balanced, showing lovely mineral, nice grapefruit, nice acid that is citrus in nature, as it gives way to a lovely round and yet tart mouth with yellow plum and good herb. The finish is long and really tart, lovely citrus pith, with lemon fraiche, lemongrass, with slate, saline, tart fruit, and nice floral notes lingering long. Bravo! Drink by 2021.
2015 Ramon Cordova Rioja – Score: 88 (mevushal)
The nose on this wine is ripe, very ripe, with ripe blueberry, nice red berry, garrigue, menthol, green notes, roasted notes, and lovely herb. The mouth is medium bodied and round with good sweet oak, sweet dill, tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, that gives way to mouth coating tannin, good spice, mounds of earth, sweet raspberry, mineral, and nice graphite. I just wish it had more acid. The finish is long and salty, with rich saline, nice spice, pepper, and mineral that lingers extremely long. Nice. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry