Category Archives: Wine Tasting

The 2019-2020 kosher wine tasting event season is upon us!

KFWE19-heading-la

Disclaimer – the 2020 KFWE logos are not out yet – sorry.
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 totally crazy!

Now last year I forgot to add in the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo until it was too late. They are now the start of the wine tasting season, and this year looks even better!

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! As stated above, the first tasting is the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo, followed by the KFWE Miami, and as of last year, 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. The TRUE shocker this year is that KFWE Miami will not be held during Hannukah! Here I thought it was an actual requirement from the folks down under in Miami, I guess I must be mistaken!

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 ever KFWE, with the first-ever VIP session, which has been copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year I hope 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 including 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 even a larger number of wines and food options. Last year I was sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for two years, 2016 and 2017. However, the 2018 KFWE L.A. at the Palladium was 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

The Long Island Kosher Wine Expo is actually the first of many cross-distributor wine events, and as stated above will kickoff the wine tasting season. It will showcase many wineries that do not come to other shows, like Jonathan Jadu’s wines, and a few other boutique Israeli wineries, along with many other wineries and wines from around the world!

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 last year, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France. Read the rest of this entry

2015 Terra di Seta Riserva, Chianti Classico – QPR superstar of Italy, 2016 Chateau Royaumont, and others

This past Shabbat I enjoyed the latest release from Terra di Seta, the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva (PLEASE STOP spelling it Reserve), and yes it was sold out, but now it is back in stock, but I would buy ASAP as you cannot keep these darn wines in stock. I have a new idea for Terra di Seta, produce double the quantity going forward because we can never get enough of any of it!

Since I was finally trying the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva I thought I would taste it side by side with other Italian wines. Sadly, none of them came close to the TDS’s quality. Two of them tasted like oxidized date juice while the 2018 Cantina Giuliano Chianti may well be the first wine from this winery that I would buy, it was close anyway. I also tried an Israeli wine that GG (Gabriel Geller) kvelled about and sadly I cannot join him in his praise.

Finally, I once again opened a bottle of the 2016 Chateau Royaumont and WOW is it fun, it is a bit ripe but it really is well balanced.

What can I say, Royal Wines keep on killing it with QPR options that are top-notch! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

 

 

2016 Chateau Royaumont – Score: 92 (QPR Star)
This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. This is perfume heaven, this is what I want from Merlot, bright fruit, ripeness that is under control, with rich minerality, and lovely earth. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe, bright, controlled, Merlot perfume, with the green and tart notes of the Cabernet Franc, bringing this nose altogether, with dark plum, graphite, earth, and loads of black fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has it all, the ripeness is there, get over it, but it is so beautifully balanced, with great acid, loads of mouth draping, elegant, and coating tannin, followed by blackberry, dark plum, rich mineral, lovely earth, tart, and juicy strawberry, with green notes, forest floor, and foliage/garrigue. The finish is long, green, ripe, balanced, with tart juicy fruit, elegance, lovely mushroom, smoke, and hints of tar. WOW! Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta, Riserva, Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, showing floral notes, dried mint, oregano, with more herbs, mushroom heaven, forest floor, and earth, with red and black fruit galore, wow. The mouth on the beautiful full-bodied wine is what I want from all wines, a clear game plan, fruit-focus, rich acidity, clear fruit, and an overall mouthfeel that is draping, elegant, and yet breathtaking, with so much acid it will take your breath away, with blackberry, dark cherry, cassis, and hints of currants and raspberry, with loads of more mushrooms, all backed by gripping tannin that is a bit harsh to start, with smoke, and bramble. The finish is long, green, earthy, mineral-driven, and acid backed, with crazy tobacco, herb central, and coffee all working together, with green notes that linger forever. Bravo!!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry

Latest releases from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher

I have had to travel to San Diego for business this year and thankfully on one of those trips I was able to connect with Andrew and hangout. Mr. Breskin is the founder of Liquid Kosher a wine curator and importer for a wide array of kosher wines, from French wines (like the famous Domaine Rose Camille to Israeli favorites). Andrew invited over a group of wine lovers and made a feast for the eyes and stomach with a wonderful array of food and wines, beautifully presented. It was great to hang with Andrew, which I normally get to do only once a year at KFWE Los Angeles.

Andrew has been the goto guy for access to French wines that are not imported into the United States by Royal or the other larger kosher wine importers. Andrew has brought us Burdungdies like Domaine Chantal Lescure, Domaine d’Ardhuy, along with the famous Domaine Roses Camille, which have been top scorers for many years now.

I had a few of these wines in France last year and they did not show as well as the last two times I have had them here in the USA. Maybe it was a bad wine in France, who knows. I recently related the current crop of wines from Liquid kosher and I found them to be lovely wines, which are almost ready now and which will also last for many more years.

One of the most exciting new arrivals into Breskin’s portfolio are the wines from Yaacov Oryah. I am so happy to see them here in the USA, I did not know that Andrew had imported them until he poured a couple of them at the dinner that night. I, of course, placed an order for them that week. Yaacov Oryah’s wines are beyond unique and they are wines that are lovely now but also have time to evolve.

To me, the shocker of the group is the 2015 Clos Lavaud – Lalande de Pomerol. To call a 45 dollar wine a QPR is a bit of a stretch, but to me, it is a no-brainer QPR wine. It is wonderful and a wine that you should stock up on for the price and the quality.

Many thanks to Andrew Breskin and his wife for hosting us and for sharing his time, home, and wines with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Chateau Marquisat De Binet, Cuvee Abel – Score: 91
This wine is 100% Merlot. The nose on this wine is black, with loads of vanilla, with black and red fruit notes followed by lovely garrigue, green foliage, with nice mineral, sage, bright cranberry, and a mound of roasted herbs. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is gripping, with mouth-coating/drying tannin, that gives way to screaming acid and lovely blackcurrant, plum, rich blackberry, with loads of tart and juicy raspberry, cranberry, and lovely loam, graphite, all wrapped in an elegant and gripping mouthfeel. The finish is crazy, with more gripping tannin, rich tart and juicy red and black fruit, more lovely green notes, foliage, with mushroom, and herb, with licorice and coffee lingering long. Nice! Drink until 2021.

2014 Echo de Roses Camille, Pomerol – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is not as fruit-forward as what I had last year in France, showing a nose of lovely red and black fruit, mint, and Oregano galore, tar, with forest floor, and earth. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is lovely, showing a mouth that is lovely with core acidity, rich and layered, elegant and expressive fruit, blackberry, cranberry, tart pomegranate, and lovely tart and juicy red fruit of tart cherry, well balanced with freshly tilled loam that is wrapped in a mouth-coating tannin structure and layers of riper fruit that show with time and air, with salinity, more tactile tannin, and loads of mineral. The finish is long, red, green, and filled with mushroom, loam, tilled earth, and forest floor, with tobacco, and milk chocolate. Nice! Drink from 2020 until 2026.

2012 Domaine Roses Camille, Pomerol – Score: 93 to 94
Sheer elegance in a glass, this wine is almost there but still not ready. The nose is rich and earthy, with now loads of mushrooms, followed by red and green fruit, with hints of black in the background, with loads of sweet and ripe fruit, sweet dill, cedar, and rich dirt and deep fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is riper than I would have wished for, but it is beautifully layered with incredibly concentrated dark fruit, with lovely extraction, showing candied strawberry, along with nice dirt, spice, more cedar, and rich layers of green foliage and ripe and juicy cassis, black cherry – that gives way to mineral, pencil, and great focus all underpinned by some nice acid, but I would have loved more acid, the other two wines that I tasted beside the big brother showed more acidity, and more mineral, all wrapped in elegant and mouth-draping tannin that is plush and elegant. The finish is long and green, with sweet notes of juicy and tart fruit, with more great acid, cocoa, tar, charcoal, and tobacco, wrapped in leather and spice. Bravo! Drink from 2020 till 2029. Read the rest of this entry

Kos Yeshuos and ESSA Wine Co. creating wines in each Hemisphere

Before the Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) Josh Rynderman from Kos Yeshuos wines and his wife who owns ESSA Wine Co. swung by to taste the new wines from their inaugural vintage from the Southern Hemisphere. Josh and Chana Rynderman are dear friends and as I posted here, we went to their wedding in South Africa.

I have written a couple of times now about Kos Yeshuos and the wines that Josh has made here in Califonia. The wines they brought over were the new 2018 wines from South Africa and the 2018 wines from California.

The two 2018 white wines had changed some from the last official tasting last year, with the Califonia Kid showing incredibly well and the Viognier losing some of its flint madness and turning into a wonderful glass of true peach-driven wine.

The new wines were the red wines that will be made available under the name of ESSA Wine Co. For the 2018 vintage, they made three red wines in South Africa. They are almost all Bordeaux grapes, excepting for the small amount of Cinsault in the red blend. That said, they are not made in the Bordeaux style, these wines are far more New-World in style, but still well controlled and impressive for their first wines from South Africa.

There is no real name yet for the red blend, that is made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cinsault. The wine starts off quite austere in style, but that blows off and becomes a truly New-World wine in style. It should be ready in a couple of months and will last for a couple of years. The wine is the ripest of the batch and while I liked the wine it is not built to last. The bigger brother, in terms of style and elegance, is the 2018 Essa Wine Co. Collaborative, a mix of fruit from ESSA Wine Co. and Alex Rubin’s winery, that is unnamed as of this point. It is a beautiful wine that shows just how wonderful New-World wines can be the incredible potential of what can be made in South Africa!

Finally, there is the beast of the group, the 2018 Malbec. This wine is a true beast, ripe but with wonderful acidity to make it all come together. Yes, it is a new-world wine, however, I still enjoyed it much like I enjoy Cali New-world wines. It is ripe, but the blue and black fruit meld together wonderfully, with juicy fruit, acidity, smoke, and loads of animal. A truly enjoyable new-world wine.

Now, before you ask, when will these wines be available here in the USA, I have no idea. This is the issue with posting about wines that are not generally available. Still, to me this is the chicken and egg problem, folks need to know they exist and hopefully, a desire for them to be here will create enough of a market for them to be brought here. So, I am trying to help make that a reality. Still, as stated above, Josh is a good friend, so my notes should always be understood with that in mind.

I hope they make their way to our hemisphere. Until then, get some of the California Kid which I have enjoyed recently and is showing beautifully now.

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

Kos Yeshuos and ESSA Wine Co. 2018 wines.jpg

2018 Kos Yeshuos California Kid – Score: 91 to 92
Ok, so this is the fifth time I have had this wine and it really ready to go. Also, the sweeter side of the wine has moved to a drier side, the orange and nectarines are gone, with more passion fruit, and citrus galore lingering.
This wine is a blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The nose on this wine starts to show like a 100% Sauvignon Blanc, showing crazy gooseberry, fresh-cut grass, cat pee, with herbal notes, and nice peach in the background, lemongrass, and really fun and bright citrus notes, with loads of green notes, with peaches and creme in the background! The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is rich and acidic, with a lovely acid core, followed by more peach, grapefruit, and more lovely gooseberry, with salinity that is off the charts, now the orange and nectarines are gone, and now what we have is more lemongrass, more saline, and hints of melon. The finish is long, green, tiny hint of orange, and tart. Bravo!!! Drink by 2021 Read the rest of this entry

A tasting of M & M Importers latest imports

I was in NYC for a few days and I had the opportunity to have dinner with Dr. Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers, one of M’s in M & M (I just think Ralph secretly loved M&Ms as a child, but hey).

The current lineup of wines is the following:

NON-IDS Wines
2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria (tasted in past)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Marciliano, Umbria (note below)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio (note below)
2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval, Bordeaux Superieur (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Haut Brisson, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2018 Valle Reale Botteotto Montepulciano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (not yet tasted)

IDS Wines
2015 Chateau Labegorce, Margaux (tasted in past)
2015 Virginie de Valandraud, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Leydet-Valentin, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (not yet tasted)
2011 Chateau de Valois, Pomerol (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Pommard, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Gevrey-Chambertin, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, Médoc (note below)
2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux (note below)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Rose (tasted in past)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Blanc (tasted in past)

While the IDS portfolio is impressive, I find the Italian wines more impressive, Italy is where I truly believe Kosher wine can shine. Of course, the French wines from IDS and those that M&M have imported are very impressive and really shows the power and potential of France for kosher wines.

The focus of the tasting were the 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines. They were all very impressive, the wines are super young now and have a long way to go. Still, as much I really liked them, they are a step behind the current kosher star of Burgundy Domaine Lescure. I have put in my order for all three 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines and I hope to watch them evolve. For now, do not waste your money tasting them, store them away and start opening them up 6 years from now. Still, the best wine at the tasting was the 2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, it is a rich, racy, and in-your-face Medoc wine that should be a sure buy by all.

My many thanks to Ralph and his partner for sharing their wines with us, the wine notes follow below:

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

2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of 70% Semillon and  30% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose on this wine is lovely, with flint, rock, gooseberry, citrus, and green notes, with orange blossom, yellow fruit, and earth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine comes at you in layers of fruit, with a nice integrated acid, showing green notes, tart with asparagus, yellow plum, dry straw, with mineral, lovely smoke, tart fruit, rock, and grapefruit and lemon/lime. The finish is long, green, with orange notes, and mineral that lingers long forever. Drink by 2023. Read the rest of this entry

Four solid red wines from Bordeaux, Italy, and California, with two QPR

The good news wine parade continues with four more solid QPR red wines. This time they are from Bordeaux, Chianti, and California. The last post had a bunch of obscure white varietals, check it out if you missed that one. This post’s varietals are some of the most well knows red varietals on planet earth, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and the less famous Petit Verdot.

Well, there you have it. The top QPR of the four wines is sadly sold out already in the USA, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. Some stores will probably still have bottles of it. The other QPR wine is the 2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval and it should be widely available on the east coast at a reasonable price. The other two wines are nice enough but given the prices, I cannot give them the QPR moniker.

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

 

 

2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval – Score: 90+ (QPR)
Another QPR winner from M & M Importers. This is a well-made wine, a wine that out of the box is lovely, but with time opens to a really fun wine indeed. The nose on this wine shows a bit of age though it has legs on it, with dark to black currant, cherry, smoke, tar, and nicely tilled earth, with garrigue, and herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, a bit ripe, with more of the notes from the nose, with plum, dark cherry, nice smoke, mushroom, loads of graphite and roasted herbs, mint, oregano, and nice sweet tobacco, all wrapped in sweet mouth-coating tannin and an overall nice balance. The finish is long, green, and ripe, with more sweet herbs, blackcurrant, sweet dill, and black fruit, lingering long with mineral and green notes. Drink by 2021.

2016 Chateau Hautville, Saint-Estephe – Score: 91
This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine starts off really chunky and green, but with time, the wine turns smoother and rounder with lovely tannin and extraction. In previous vintages this wine was OK, but nothing great, this vintage is truly another step up and makes it a 90+ wine. This wine needs a good 6 to 8 hours in an open bottle or maybe 5 hours in a decanter. After the wine fully opens the nose on this wine is redolent with dark cherry, black fruit, followed by lovely loam, earth, with green notes galore, tobacco, foliage, and hints of the forest floor. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted with good complexity, showing nice earth, blackberry, cassis, with loads of mineral, graphite, tar, all balanced well with mouth draping tannin, great acidity, and rich saline. The finish is long, green, earthy, and black, with raspberry notes on the finish, with more tobacco, mineral, and earth. Bravo! Drink from 2021 until 2027.

2016 Shirah Bro-Deux, Red – Score: 89
The nose on this wine is ripe, the ABV says 13.7, but wow, this is a candied ripe wine. The more I sit with it, the more I realize that the sweetness I am perceiving is not fruit sweetness or ripeness but rather oak, the oak is so pervasive that it adds a sweetness to it that makes it unbalanced.
The nose on this wine shows bright and yet ripe, with sweet and candied black and red fruit, followed by a Cali-style juicy Cherry candy, that is wrapped in mint, oregano, and some smoke. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered, ripe, and sweet, with ripe blackberry, plum, and hints of strawberry, that give way to layers of oak and tannin that linger long, with sweet notes of blue fruit in the background, all wrapped in sweet oak, and herbs. The finish is long, sweet, green, and herbaceous, with sweet Tobacco, and mineral lingering long, with sweet fruit. Nice. Drink by 2023.

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is pure joy, as always, it starts off a bit sweet, do not worry, all is fine. The nose is filled with classic Chianti notes, of dark cherry, raspberry, loads of herb, followed by smoke, roasted herb, and white pepper. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is packed with layers of concentrated fruit, loads of baby fat that will relax with time, the layers of fruit gives way to black plum, saline, black olives, with lovely loam, tilled earth, and rich mushroom, that gives way to mouth coating and still searing tannin, lovely acid, so classic to Chianti, and incredible unctuousness, that is balanced well with more roasted herb, oregano, mint, and garrigue galore, green dill, and a big fat Cuban cigar. Bravo!! Drink until 2025.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2019 Kosher rose season is open but I am underwhelmed at best

It is not yet summer and here in NorCal, it feels more like winter with these strange May storms with thunder and hail. Sorry, but in NorCal, we do not get thunder, it is very strange indeed! Anyway, enough with my meteorologist fanboy moment, the weather was not conducive for my last tasting here in San Jose with a group of folks, but Rose was on the docket so rose it was.

Rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well, that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 60+ kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 10 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Also, I want to bring up a topic I rarely talk about – price! Yeah, I hear you, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, please quiet down, gloating does not suit you – (smiley face inserted here). The prices of Rose wines have gotten out of control. QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) has become nonexistent, essentially here in the USA, for the kosher rose market. Finally, I am sorry, but I really feel that wineries were either horribly hampered in some way with the 2018 rose vintage, or honestly, they just threw in the towel, The 2018 vintage is the worst one in the last 10 years. We have hit Peak Rose, we really have. Peak X is when X becomes so default within the construct of our lives, and the quality and quantity of X peaks. Clearly, calling peak kosher rose is a subjective call, but look around. The roses of 2018 feel commodity at best, they feel rushed, no real care, rhyme, or reason. They feel like we have peaked. They are nowhere near 2017, and 2017 was nowhere near 2016, and so on. I am sure next year may be another peak rose, and to be honest, many have called for Peak Oil and Peak TV, so maybe I am just projecting what I see around me, but this year’s crop of roses feel half-hearted pure cash cows, and really without love behind them.

As always, I will be chastised for my opinions, my pronouncements, and I am fine with that. This is wakeup post, there may be ONE or two roses I would buy, but respectfully, given the prices, I would rather buy, the 2018 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 O’dwyers Sauvignon Blanc, the 2018 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and so on. Throw in the 2018 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc and the 2018 Or Haganuz Amuka Blanc Blend, and really who cares about a rose?

I was thinking about going with the title: 2018 kosher roses, thanks, but who cares? Because that is how I feel. This vintage is a massive letdown, prices are too high, quality has hit rock bottom, and overall professionalism, IMHO, has gone along with the quality. Wineries have been getting away with less and less quality for years, raising prices, and this is the worst I have seen in the rose market overall. So, yeah, who cares?

Wine Color

What is rose wine? Well, simply said, a rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes, squeeze them, and you get clear to green colored juice. Yes, the white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Vineyards Winery latest release – April 2019

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

Judean Hills Quartet

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

Tzora Vineyards Winery

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

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

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

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

Vitkin Winery visit – April 2019

I have written before about Vitkin last year, and this year (2018 production), makes it the third year of kosher production for the winery! Yes, as stated last during the 2015 vintage, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.

The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, and I arrived during the start of post-production work on the 2018 vintage for reds and some of the special whites, that we will talk more about later on.

The winery does not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).

Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted this year, the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, with the Grenache Blanc and The Gewurtztraminer adding the Collector’s Edition moniker.

The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2018 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2017/2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, the 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Vitkin Petite Sirah, old vines, Collector’s Edition, and the 2016 Vitkin Carignan, old vines, Collector’s Edition.

There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that more than 55% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry

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