Category Archives: Wine Tasting
Last week, California was overrun by a nasty heatwave, besides breaking records and driving me and everyone else crazy, it meant my entire week was open as mountain climbing was off the table. That left lots of time to go see Jeff Morgan (founding winemaker and co-owner of Covenant Wines) and family (Jodie and Zoe), literally, and Jon Hajdu at Covenant Wines. They were already taking in fruit for the 2022 harvest and it was extremely kind of them to carve up some time for me during this busy time of year.
I remember well the time I was in Canada with Jeff for a vertical tasting of all the Covenant Cabernet, at that time, it was a wonderful experience and tasting! I have said many times, that Covenant Winery is one of the original California wineries that makes solid wines, especially in the Cabernet Sauvignon space. I found some of the wines taken a step back in recent years. The white wines were always enjoyable, like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Lavan white, but that changed recently from what I see in this tasting.
I was at the winery in March for a local RCC (Rosh Chodesh Club) and I got to taste one of the wines but it was not a setting to write notes and appreciate wines. I do remember the wines we had and one wine, in particular, did not show nearly as nicely as it did at our tasting last week. So, I am happy for many reasons to have driven up to Berkeley, CA to taste the 7 wines. All of them were quite enjoyable.
First, we tasted the Covenant Solomon Blanc a new white wine on the Covenant label and the only white wine on the Covenant Solomon level. The 2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc was the wine I tasted back in March and it showed far superior last week. It finally came out of its shell and had fully integrated with the sweet oak, it was a lovely wine indeed! The 2021 vintage, which was newly bottled was a drop better, showing a bit more acidity and an overall complex mouthfeel that did remind me of the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc. Both showed lovely gooseberry and ripe fruit but also bracing acidity and controlled yet lovely oak, very well made.
After the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines, we moved to another white wine the 2021 Covenant Lavan, Chardonnay. I am being honest here, I have been falling into the new version of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It is new but old, the same old same old, fat, blubbery, overoaked, under-acidified, flat wines. ABC was a thing in 1995 when the MY Times wrote a piece on it and it is coming back with a vengeance again. Much akin to the date juice fiasco in the kosher wine market, Chardonnay is also moving to its old roots and they are being made into oak-driven apple juice that is honestly boring and uninteresting. Thankfully, we have been saved by the two incredible Burgundy Chardonnays for the Meursault region, by Taieb Wines, and by IDS. Those wines are clean and correct, they speak to the place and the time they were made. So, when I had the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines it further solidified my belief in what I desire, clean and well-made ABC wines. With that as a disclaimer, the 2021 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay, was properly made. It was well balanced and showed a fruit focus that would make an ABC drinker, like myself, enjoy and drink the wine.
Five Red Wines
After the three white wines, we moved the line along to 5 red wines. In some ways, white wine is harder to make than red wine. White wine has fewer places to hide as a winemaker though I am far harsher, as a wine taster, in the land of red wine, simply because I am sick and tired of lazy winemaking or worse, purposeful and mindful winemaking that removes the grapes from their natural state of being and place to make fruit juice that is sweetened by whatever actions the winemaker has in his/her arsenal that week. Wineries will tell you it sells better but to me, that is just selling out and I have no time or interest in tasting wines like that. So, when I see 5 red wines, I am thinking, like I always do, even in Europe, I hope there is a desire here to let the fruit talk. Sure enough, the team has pulled the winery along into an impressive place where you can find some lovely wines and even some that garner the QPR WINNER score along with quality scores that make me want to buy and drink the wines. Bravo!
The first wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from under the Landsman label. The 2021 Landsman Pinot Noir had just been bottled and it showed no bottle shock. The lines on this wine were clean, with red juicy fruit, floral, earthy, and smoky. No baby fat, just clean lines, and good fruit. Nice! Another WINNER from the Carneros wine region in Sonoma County. Carneros has the moderating influence of the San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay, which keeps Carneros cool and windy, but not too cold. We then moved to two Syrah followed by two Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship wines of the winery.
The first Syrah was the 2020 Landsman Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Robert Rae Vineyards. This was a new one for me, I was unaware that Syrah grew well in the Santa Rita wine region. Of course, I love the Santa Rita Pinot Noir from the Herzog Reserve line and their more exclusive Eagle’s landing wine lines. So, when I tasted the Landsman Syrah from 2020, I was not surprised to find it more of an old-world style wine than the next wine we would be tasting. The Landsman Syrah reminded me of the Shirah Syrah from 2013, a dirty, earthy, smoky, meaty animal that was more old-world than new from Santa Barbara County. This wine is comparable if not a bit better, here the fruit is more controlled, yet very present, focused, and precise, I bought what was left – one bottle, maybe Jeff or Sagie can scrounge another one or two up. Either way, lovely wine!
Finally, we tasted a new wine on the Covenant label, the 2020 Covenant Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. This is one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Barbara County, very difficult to get into and even tougher to keep. In 2020 some folks were too worried about smoke damage and bailed on their allocations. Covenant found out about the availability and jumped on it, there is no smoke taint on this wine, it is smoky, but from the lovely french oak used to age the wine. A lovely wine, one that is balanced, but a bit too new-world for my taste. This is a perfect example of how new-world wine can be made to its place and its fruit without turning it into an abomination. Here the team took beautiful fruit and let the fruit speak to its true nature, lovely! Hopefully, there will be more of this wine being made, it shows great potential.
Two big yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon wines
The tasting ended with two lovely Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley, the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. I claimed, in a previous post, that the crown for the best red 2019 kosher wine had been given to Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, with the disclaimer that I had yet to taste the Four Gates or Domain Roses Camille wines yet. I should have added that I had also not yet tasted the 2019 Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. The Solomon, as nice as it was, did not eclipse the Chateau Smith Haut Lafite or the Chateau Pontet Canet, but it is indeed up there on the list of top wines of 2019.
The two Cabernet wines were quite lovely though the Solomon was a step above the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Solomon was so elegant, powerful, and yet precise, with great fruit focus and control, quite a lovely wine that deserves your attention and a place in your wine cellar for many years from now! I say that, but Mr. Morgan will tell you it is just lovely now as well, and while I wholeheartedly agree with him, get a few and enjoy one now, if you must, and then enjoy the rest later!
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Jonathan Hajdu, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for setting up the meeting, sharing their wines with me, and taking time out of their busy harvest schedule to meet with me. 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:
2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is from the Moaveni Vineyard, in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County.
The nose of this wine is a perfect blend of sweet oak and sweet fruit, showing lovely peach, apricot, bright fruit, green apple, sweet orange marmalade, orange blossom, sweet melon, and sweet Asian pear. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is incredibly fun, with screaming acidity, lovely minerality, and so refreshing, with lovely sweet oak, lovely green apple, orange marmalade, yellow Asian pear, peach, apricot, and cloves. The finish is long, tart, and balanced, with sweet fruit, incredible balance, loam, flint, and lovely sweet smoke and orange peel. Drink by 2027. (tasted September 2022) (in Berkeley, CA) (ABV = 13.90%)
The past 10 days have been sheer hell in California and I should have posted these wines already as mountains are not an option to climb in these temps. These 11 wines are not QPR WINNER wines, they all fell short for many differing reasons, but the ultimate issue continues to revolve around a lack of balance and a lack of acidity. Even the vaulted Pacifica Riesling, a wine I have liked over many iterations fell short with the 2021 release, which was unfortunate.
If there was a wine to kvell about I would happily do it but sadly there is none among these 11. Please look forward to my next post – that one will have a wonderful list of QPR WINNER and all 91+ wines, coming from a winery we all know well here in California.
Sadly, this was the new full release of the 2021 Chateau Riganes, with the usual white, rose, and blend. This year they added single varietal bottles, of Malbec and Cabernet Franc. IMHO, this was the least interesting release of these wines in some years.
2021 Zion Rose, Imperial, Israel (M) – Score: 86 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is made of Grenache and is off-dry. The nose of this wine is nice, it shows sweet notes, and clear RS, with raspberry, jasmine, peach, guava, cherry, and sweet fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied rose is sweet, with balancing acidity, ripe fruit, sweet cherry, raspberry, guava, peach, and nice honey. The finish is long, sweet, but balanced with fruit, and not much else. (tasted August 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
Like much of my posts I am a bit behind, I received these wines in June 2022 and sadly, it took until this week to post them. The truth is that the notes are written quickly, but the delay is caused by the amount of time spent writing the post, with all the metadata in and around the post and the images.
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, the story and background around Herzog Wine Cellars is truly imperative to better appreciate what they have accomplished these many years! One large change since the last post would be the hiring of David Galzignato as Director of Winemaking and Operations. Joe Hurliman is now Winemaker Emeritus. As always I have incredible respect and appreciation for what both Joseph Herzog and Joe Hurliman have done for Herzog Wine Cellars. Their vision, drive, and continued passion for improving the wines and the winery are truly incredible and one that we should all aspire to learn from.
In shortened story form Herzog Wine Cellars is a fascinating story. It started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. He worked for a small winery in NY, and by 1958 he became the majority owner of it. In deference to his grandfather, they called it Royal Wines, as he was given the title Baron in Czechoslovakia. By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint in the world of high-end wines. After that, they moved to Santa Maria, hired Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers) and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full-time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005, and three years later it started hosting the International Food and Wine Festival. In my last post about this year’s KFWE I threw down a gauntlet, I wonder if anyone read/saw it, I think it is time for Herzog Wine Cellars to bring back IFWF, in the summer for a throwback! Time is ticking – the ball is in your court guys!
Now to the wines. The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. The 2018 vintage was far better, but still not as good as the 2016 or 2014 vintages. We were all interested in the full 2019 vintage to see if Herzog could break the odd-year curse that has hung over them since the nice 2013 vintage. I guess I will have to say, the answer is maybe. There are clear QPR WINNER wines, but they do not shine as bright as in the even years of 2014, 2016, or 2018. They are riper and less focused, and while they show minerality, it feels/seems secondary to the larger picture.
Generally, when we look at Herzog, and their success for a year, we use the big three, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Clone Six. However, there is also the burgeoning Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the lovely Edna Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, from both Eagle’s Landing and the Reserve line. There are the second-level wines from the Variations collection, which also weigh in a bit on a successful year for Herzog, IMHO, but the main wines drive the success ratio the most.
Still, Herzog is never resting on their laurels, in the past they were driving hard with a yearly Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to add to the Cabernet Sauvignon rotation. However, in 2016, they paused the Single Vineyard Program. The good news is that starting in 2021 the Single Vineyard program is back online! After that, they started sourcing Stag’s Leap fruit in 2018 and then expanded the Special Edition line with Oakville and Rutherford.
One final statement around two wines in the lineup. One is Choreograph, it is a wine that has been around for a long time, started in 2016, the earlier name Camouflage started in 2014. It is a serious sleeper in the Mevushal Lineage line. In the first few years, the wine tasted like the makeup of the wine a hodgepodge of grapes, one of the classic issues with large field blends. The larger the number of fruit the harder it is for them to all get together and make the wine work. However, in 2020 and 2021, whatever Herzog is doing, they have been hitting a home run for the price. This is the absolute PERFECT BBQ wine, IMHO. Mevushal, served cool, with meat, chicken, or even fish, all will work if grilled or smoked, just a perfect wine with great acidity and balance.
The other sleeper is the Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is either at max or close to the max price, at least for now, though everything was high, price-wise in 2021 and the Napa fruit prices may max out in 2022. They are not pretty! Many a winery has dropped serious money into Lake County, look at Andy Beckstoffer, AKA, Mr. Tokalon. He bought into Lake County in 1997 and continues to invest. This line has been showing great promise from the start and every year the wine improves or keeps the previous vintage’s quality. Bravo! It is not at the quality yet of Alexander Valley Cabernet, but it quickly making its way into that quality level.
Finally, this is more of a PSA, please cool your red wines in the fridge, for say thirty minutes before enjoying them, if they are at, what we call room temperature. If the room is at 75 degrees Farenheight, 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator will help to bring the red wine temperature down to what it should be enjoyed at, which is 60 degrees, or so.
There will be no 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, but interestingly, there will be a 2020 vintage, as it was picked just before the fires. There will also be a bit of 2020 Alexander Valley and Rutherford. Overall, 2019 turned out to be the best odd-numbered year in a long time, and while it does not rise to the quality of 2014/2016/2018 it is a solid showing for a not-so-good vintage.
The wine notes listed below shows seven wines that garnered the QPR (Quality to Price) WINNER score. That is a lovely list of wines the majority of them are 2020 or 2021 wines. There are two 2019 QPR WINNER wines, and they are the ususal suspects, the Alexander Valley and the Warnecke Vineyard.
I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well all of you! 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 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is more restrained than other Sauvignon Blanc out there, it is less ripe, it is dirtier, with mineral, floral notes, violet, rose, lemon, lime, yellow plum, and dryer sheet notes. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, refreshing, tart, acidic, and enjoyable, with green notes, lemon, lime, wet grass, mint, lemongrass, saline, hints of passion fruit, and otherwise, green notes, herbs, spices, flint, and rich mineral. The finish is long, green, spicy, and flinty, with saline, smoke, roasted herb, grass, and hay. BRAVO! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
I started tasting some of these wines in January and February of this year and at the start, some of them were nice to GREAT. Then the rest of the wines were average to poor. I posted my first round of roses here, in May. Then I posted many posts with roses in each of them from my time in Paris. We have found another WINNER in the USA and one more in Europe, and the best Rose so far, as well. However, I have still not tasted many roses from France, which is unfortunate, as it is already August! They are released in Europe but none of them are here still, such is life! Still, this post has all the roses I have tasted so far this year, some 53 roses in total.
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses went into overdrive with options and thankfully this year it is slowing down! Some lovely roses are not on this list and while they will not be QPR WINNER they are quite nice. I will be posting those wines when I post my Paris wine tastings. Still, IMHO, who cares, as I have stated a few times, why are we looking at 35-dollar or more roses when we have better scoring whites wines?
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.
While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has risen a fair amount from last year, some are at 40 to 45 dollars – for a rose! So far, it is around 29 bucks – that is NUTS!
As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.
Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!
Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based on price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 29 dollars (that is 7 dollars more than last year – like I said crazy inflation) – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.
Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.
Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is one Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would drink, but I would not buy!
The French roses are OK, but nothing to scream about. I still remember fondly the 2015 Chateau Roubine, I tasted it with Pierre and others in Israel, what a wine! I bought lots of that wine in 2016. Last year, I bought no roses, other than for tastings.
The weather in the USA is now getting hot and that unfortunately does not allow me to ship wines from the usual suspects, like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com. So, while I have tasted many roses, I wish I could order more and get up to date, but sadly, the shipping options are truly slim for now.
So, if you know all about rose and how it is made, skip all the information and go to the wines to enjoy for this year, of the wines I have tasted so far. If you do not know much about rose wine, read on. In a nutshell, 2021 roses are a waste of time. Please spend your money on white wines instead. They exist for a better price, and value, and garner better scores. IF YOU MUST have a rose wine stick to the few that I state below in my Best roses section, right above the wine scores.
Kosher Rose pricing
I want to bring up a topic I have been hammering on in my past posts, 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. They are now median priced at 29 dollars with some crazy outliers like 45 or 50 dollars, for a rose! The worst offenders are from Israel followed by the U.S.A. Interestingly, Europe is not the high-priced leader, though that will change once the new Roubines arrive here in the USA, they are already released in Europe.Read the rest of this entry
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in May, without Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, his lame excuse involved something about marrying off his first child, or something like that, whatever! He was missed but yeah, Mazel Tov!
I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. All these wines were tasted in my room. Also, as tested before, because of supply chain issues and frankly because there were still too many 2020 wines around, there were very few 2021 wines available for me to buy online or in stores and taste. What I could find, at that time, in May, I bought and I am posting here now.
White & Roses
After tasting roses from Taieb and Royal I had a few more that I found around town. The clear winners here were the 2021 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Cotes de Provence, and the 2021 Chateau Maime Rose, Collection, Cotes de Provence. The 2020 Koenig Riesling is nice and a good rebound for the winery.
Two red wines from Tek Wines
I was sent a few wines from Tek Wine but the two best wines were ones I bought from MesVinCacher, the 2015 Chateau Tour de Bossuet, and the 2015 Chateau La petite Duchesse. The two wines tasted too similar to be different, but try them yourself. The other wines are simple.
Two Israeli wines
As I stated in my IDS Post, Alexandre was in Paris at the same time as I was and he brought along a nice wine from Israel, the 2021 Peer Winery Ayala, another wine with the name Ayala! Anyway, it was nice enough, with good acidity, but a bit short. The other was the 2021 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc, which is too simple to be interesting.
A Magrez wine that works
The 2019 Chateau Pape Clement is the closest thing we have had to a good Magrez wine since the epic 2014 vintage. The wine is nice but the oak and fruit are overpowering and while I liked it to start after a bit of time it felt a bit flabby and oak-driven.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group had too many poor wines, the nice surprise was a wine from the Ministers of Wine, the 2018 Chateau des Places, Graves. There was also, a non-mevushal Victor 2019 Chateau Guimberteau Graves de Laborde, Cuvee Prestige, Lalande de Pomerol. The rest, were poor.
One Italian Wine
The Aglianico that I had in paris really did not show well and I hope to taste it again soon, maybe here in the USA. But I have posted it here as a baseline.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, none of these wines are available in the USA, other than a couple of the roses. The rest will maybe get to the USA eventually or never. If they do get to the USA, by the time you throw in the extra costs, they will not be QPR WINNER.
2020 Koenig Riesling, Alsace (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
After the mess that was the Pinot Blanc, I was worried the Riesling would also be oxidized, thankfully, that is not the case! The nose of this wine is what I love in lovely Riesling wines, minerality, fruit, honeysuckle, honeyed yellow fruit, and nice petrol. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, bright, tart, and refreshing, with great intense acidity, gooseberry, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, petrol, funk, tart yellow fruit, and lovely green apple, Nice!!! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing, showing tension, intense minerality, slate, smoke, flint, petrol, crazy acidity, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2023. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in May, without Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, his lame excuse involved something about marrying off his first child, or something like that, whatever! He was missed but yeah, Mazel Tov!
I must start by thanking Yoni Taieb and the rest of Taieb wines for sending the wines to me to taste. In the past, I have made my way to Taieb’s office, once by myself and once with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered.
As stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as I kept to myself, where possible. Mr. Taieb was very kind, to once again, send the wines to the hotel. I then stayed in the hotel room and tasted through them.
As always, you can get these wines and much more from Taieb’s online website. They ship within Europe and to London. Sadly, they are all sold out of the incredible 2019 Burgundies that I enjoyed tasting at Andrew Breskin’s house. The website is selling the 2017 Domaine Chantal Lescure and they will soon have new 2021 J.P. Marchand Burgundies! Thankfully, Andrew has some of them for sale, like the lovely 2017 Domaine Chantal Lescure and the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand wines – lovely!! Get them while they last!
Tasting in the hotel room
As stated in my Paris Post, Paris was alive, not overcrowded at that time, and masks were pretty much unseen unless you were on the metro. Many in the hotel still wore them but for the most part, it was a non-event. The hotel was great and I was able to taste all the wines that were sent to me or that I bought! Thankfully, I was once again upgraded and the room had all the space I needed.
In the end, it was a wonderful outcome, short of not seeing the Taiebs, again. I had time to taste the wines at my pace, room for all the wines to sit and breathe. As stated, I missed hanging out with Mr. Taieb, and I hope he and his lovely family are doing well!
QPR WINNING Wine Distributor
Since the first time I was lucky to sit down and taste through the Taieb Wine portfolio, I kept commenting to Yoni, about how there were so many good QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines, for those that live in Europe and London, and even a few for the USA as well! Now, how does this happen? Well, let us talk about Taieb’s wine portfolio. They have an exclusive relationship with Laurent Perrier for producing kosher Champagne, which is great. While they do not make wines like Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, Chateau Malartic, or Chateau Leoville Poyferre, they do produce and distribute wines, within Europe that are of very high quality at reasonable prices, AKA, QPR WINNERS.
Let us continue with the fact that Taieb makes some of the very best Burgundy wines on the market and has been doing so for more than 10 years now! However, those wines, while wonderful, are not as much QPR as they are quality/score stars! In Bordeaux, Taieb has gone a different route by consistently producing wines, within Bordeaux, that punch well above their weight and many that shock you for the price they are selling at. They may not top out at 95 in scores, like Domaine Chantal Lescure, Domaine D’Ardhuy (almost), or J.P. Marchand, but they do choose the wineries they work with inside of Bordeaux, incredibly well, to create QPR WINNERS at a very impressive rate!
In the end, that is what differentiates Taieb from the other Kosher wine producers. Sure, Royal Wines does a great job with QPR while also having quality superstars that are hard to fit in the QPR bucket. In my last tasting with Bokobsa, they showed high quality and good prices, in France, for a fair number of wines. Still, when I think of QPR options, within Europe, I think of Taieb’s portfolio! I am consistently shocked at why the folks in London do not buy Taieb wines by the cases – given the wonderful prices, the easy shipping, and the favorable exchange rate. The real Achilles Heel of Taieb Wines, IMHO, is the lack of great distribution and equally solid pricing in the USA.
A total aside, I enjoyed my trip to Paris in May, I got to spend time with family and went to a few lovely restaurants. At one of them, I got some lovely foie gras two ways with a wonderful bottle of 2018 Chateau de Mole! The price for the 1/2 bottle was 28 euros a steal for the wine and the ability to enjoy a lovely, non-mevushal wine, at a wonderful restaurant, that is living!
I am not sure how many of these wines will make it to the USA. The roses will not come but a few of the reds will be brought in by Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, helping to drive Burgundy excellence in the USA, and most recently bringing in some of the better Bordeaux wines, as well. In the end, most of these wines will either not be here or be impossible to find. Still, the two QPR WINNER and some of the QPR GREAT wines will probably be here soon!
Again, the theme of excellent Taieb wines being very hard to find in the USA is a consistent issue to me. Thankfully, some of these wines are being brought in by Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, so I hope to taste at least some of these again 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:
2018 Pavillon Mougneau, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 85 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is a bit too green for me with notes of foliage, a bit tinny, with loam, smoke, and red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice enough, less tinny and green than others like it, with enough fruit, raspberry, dark cherry, screaming acid, gripping tannin, nice minerality, scraping graphite, and good spice. The finish is long, green, and earthy with more graphite, foliage, jalapenos, and dry mint. Drink until 2024. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13.5%)
New wines from Chateau Serilhan, Bakus, Domaine Roses Camille, Cantina Giuliano, and TDS Toscana tasted at IDS’ offices – May 2022
As stated I was in Paris in May, and the first tasting I had on the trip was at the offices of Les Vin IDS. I know I said I was done with asides but this one is about wine. Remember that my QPR standard means Quality to Price Ratio! Well, the price fluctuates with currency. Most of us do not think about it but it does! We are all feeling it now with inflation but a very nice aside, at least if you are using US Dollars in Europe is that the US Dollar has almost reached parity with the Euro, and that made for a wonderful trip!
All my purchases were discounted by the Euro and that made the QPR scores a bit better but overall I stayed with either the Euro or the US dollar prices (AKA US prices). More on that below.
So, with that aside, let us get to the second part of the IDS tasting.
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 to taste. This included wines from Ari Cohen’s new wine business Bakus, wines from Chateau Serilhan (M. Marcelis), wines from Domaine Roses Camille, some wines from Cantina Giuliano, and the Toscana from Terra di Seta. The first post focused on the Le Vins IDS and this post will cover the rest of those wines. I will start talking about the wines in the order they were tasted.
When I heard that Ari Cohen started to make some kosher wines I looked forward to the moment I got to taste them. They are from Spain and while I adore Elvi Wines, my last post was on their new wines, most of what we get from Spain has not been enjoyable. The wines tend to be overly oaked or overly ripe and not as balanced as I desire. They do work for folks who like that style but for me, they were too unbalanced to work.
They had potential, the wines were made from the Montsant region and one was from the Toro region. The varietals were varied blends, including Tempranillo, Carignan, Grenache, Macabeo, and Grenache Blanc. In the end, the wines were a bit too oak driven and too ripe for my taste.
I was having this conversation over Whatsapp with a few folks and it is truly bewildering how Spain continues to give us fewer kosher options that are enjoyable, while Italy is just blowing the doors off. An interesting thought to think about, thankfully, we still have Elvi Wines.
Whenever you sell Chianti you are going to be putting yourself under a microscope, as eventually, you will be compared to the original winery of the year, Terra di Seta. Cantina Giuliano has come a long way from the first time I tasted them many years ago. They are still not getting QPR WINNER scores, for their red wines, but they are getting closer.
The white and rose wines were OK, this year they were not as good as previous vintages, but still nice enough. The red wines were a OK as well, just not great, IMHO.
I loved the 2012 vintage of these wines and I was looking forward to tasting the 2014 and 2015 vintages. Thankfully, they are now released and they are equally enjoyable, though the 2015 Cru Ducasse does not live up to the lofty expectations I had for it after the incredible 2012 vintage blew me away. These wines are not officially here in the USA, but I hear they may make an entrance soon. The 2014 vintage was not available when I was there but I hope to taste it soon.
Domaine Roses Camille
I got the chance to taste the two new DRC wines both in San Jose and in Paris, a few weeks apart and they were absolutely the same, which is good! DRC continues to be one of the true stalwarts of Pomerol and shows the power of the right bank! The 2016 Echo de Roses Camille and the 2018 Clos Lavaud both showed very well and they both are QPR superstars!Read the rest of this entry
When I was in Paris I asked Moises Cohen, from Elvi Wines to ship the new 2021 wines to my hotel. I have written many times about Elvi Wines, including giving them the Winery of the year award for 2021. Moises was so very kind to send them, but then I moved hotels, crazy story for another time. Thankfully, I was not far from the hotel and I rolled in twice to get my wines. As I hinted in my previous post, it was humorous to ask the Concierge for my boxes when I was not a hotel guest. He understood the situation and was more than happy to help.
As I stated in my year in review when I gave Elvi Wines the winery of the Year award, Elvi is not just about big expensive wines. The majority of their wines garner QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) scores regularly. Even the most expensive wines, other than the Sublim, are all in the QPR range.
These four wines are a great example of how diverse and yet wonderful Elvi Wines is. As I posted, in one of my earliest posts on Elvi Wines, more than ten years ago, Mr. Cohen wanted the winery to “sojourn” all around Spain to develop a range of wines, from local grapes, that reflect their respective terroir. The logo on the bottle draws from this inspiration, a Mediterranean boat, with which they can travel across Spain, to harvest and bottle the best of what Spain has to offer. The winery consults with many vineyards and wineries, which allows them to select from many wineries all around Spain where they can make the best wine for the value.
The four wines summer wines hail from regions as diverse as Alella, La Mancha, and Rioja! Three very different regions of Spain, all separated by hundreds of miles in each direction. Still, with all the work required to make this dream a reality, the wines show their terroir and the quality that Elvi Wines has come to be synonymous with. A true joy.
This year, the Cohens have made wine from a new kosher varietal, at least for me, Xarello! I am not an idiot, I know Xarello is used in Cava production, but this is the first still version of Xarello that I have seen made kosher. It is funky, fun, and a true treat! I hope it comes to the USA soon! The main issue with these wines is that they are not available here in the USA yet, other than maybe the 2021 Herenza rose. Which I think is in stock now at Royal.
As usual, the 2021 version of Herenza White is lovely, and one wine that will last a bit longer than the other three. The blend of Pansa Blanca and Sauvignon Blanc just screams with brightness and refreshing notes. Not as funky as the Xarello but also a wine with a richer mouthfeel and lovely minerality. The two roses are solid to nice.
I hope they will come soon and be for sale, these wines are not for long holding, other than the Herenza white, as such I hope they are for sale soon here in the USA.
Many thanks to Moises and Anne for sharing their wonderful wines with me and shipping them to Paris! 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 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Blanco, Alella (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is one of the first ever kosher Xarello kosher wines that I know of. The nose of this wine is fun, with loads of saline, lime blossom, ginger, peach, and smoke, fun! The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is refreshing and very tart with impressive texture, and funk. almond paste, Kaffir lime, smoke, peach, ginger, and more lime, lovely, tart, and flinty – refreshing and lovely! The finish is long, green, herbal, flinty, and fun! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Rosado , La Mancha (M) – Score: 88.5 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this rose is riper than I like but it is also a bit funky and dirty. The mouth of this medium-bodied rose, shows good acidity, funk, strawberry, raspberry, flint, and orange flavors, but it is a bit simple and rustic, with a nice pith. The finish is long, rustic, and pithy. Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2021 Elvi Wines Herenza White, Alella – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 60% Pansa Blanca & 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose of this lovely wine is screaming with gooseberry, lychee, pink grapefruit, orange blossom, and nice minerality. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine shows lovely acidity, lovely precision, good fruit focus with more acidity, minerality, saline, gooseberry, lovely tension, honeyed citrus, lemon/lime, and minerality. The finish is long, green, tart, and mineral-focused, with great saline, slate, flint, and sweet/tart fruit. Lovely! Drink until 2024. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Elvi Wines Herenza, Rose, Rioja – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine shows nice red fruit, with orange blossom, citrus, and smoke. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acidity, mouth-filling, with fruit focus, strawberry, raspberry, blossom, and more good minerality. Quite refreshing and enjoyable. The finish is long, tart, and mineral-driven, with rock, flint, saline, Orangina, and slate. Enjoy! Drink now! (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in May, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa of Sieva/Bokobsa Wines. They were so kind to host me and let me taste the lovely wines. I was also joined by Mr. Benjamin Kukurudz, sales manager at Sieva, sadly Mendy Asseraf was onsite at a winery that day. Also, for some reason, I forgot to take pictures, but thankfully, Clarisse did.
So, like my trip last year, I kept in my hotel room for much of the trip. Clarisse was so friendly to set up the tasting so on a bright summer-like morning, I made my way to the Sieva offices, just outside of Paris. Sadly, Alexandre did not join me on this tasting, nor would we meet up again until Friday of that week. Thankfully, he had time on Friday and tasted most of the wines I bought – more on that in posts to come.
Late last year, I enjoyed some lovely wines at the offices, and that was in the throws of the COVID madness. Thankfully, this year both Royal and Bokobosa brought back their events, in June 2022. From the images, I see on my Facebook feed, it looked nice. Mabruk and Mazel Tov guys! Sadly, I knew I was not going to be able to come back in June, so Clarisse and her family were so nice to let me crash in May.
The pricing of these wines is mostly cheaper in France than they are here in the USA, as such, some of the wines have better QPR scores in France. Also, many of these wines will not come to the USA, but overall I continue to be impressed by the quality of the wines and how Bokobsa’s selection and quality have grown from year to year.
In regards to the wines tasted, the two sparkling wines, a Vouvray and the Champagne Demoiselle Vranken were both very nice. The 2019 Chateau Cantelaudette, Cuvee Prestige showed better this time.
My thanks to Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa and the rest of the Sieva/Bokobsa team for hosting me and letting us taste the wonderful wines. 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 Selection Bokobsa Chardonnay, Vin de France (M) – Score: 89.5 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a simple but very nice quaff, a wine that shows well and is easy to enjoy while also refreshing. The nose of this wine is a bit stunted but shows well with green apple, pear, herb, and flint. The mouth of this wine is nice, simple, but a nice quaff, with good acidity, flint, a nice mouthfeel, with pear, green apple, citrus, and herb. The finish is long, green, enjoyable, and refreshing, with flint, and nice minerality. Nice! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2019 Domaine Patrice Bailly Pouilly Fume, La Fontaine des Plumes, Pouilly-Fume – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this lovely Pouilly Fume is ripe and well balanced with smoke, flint, blossom, citrus, minerality, rock, lime, and lemon Fraiche, with lovely herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, tart, and refreshing, with lemon/lime, pomelo, citrus, green apple, quince, hay, smoke, and straw, showing a lovely mouthfeel, precision, and quite nice. The finish is long, green, and mineral-based, with flint, herb, and great fruit and mineral focus, lovely! Drink by 2023. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13.5%)
Well, this is getting up later than I wished, but that is life. Life, shul, and so much more, got in the way. All good, just wine, and my blog had to be put on the back-burner for a bit. Thankfully, I am ready to post more often now.
So, we return to the story, I landed in Paris, bought lots of wines, and had even more wines shipped to my hotel, and other hotels as well! Long story, not for the blog. Was hilarious walking into a hotel and asking for a package from the concierge while he realizes you are not a guest – think of them as a local Post Office!!
But let us start with the roses and whites I enjoyed in the company of Menahem Israelievitch. These wines are almost all here, except for the three Burgundies that will get here eventually. My guess is that just like all shipping around the world is waiting on boats, or containers, at least they are getting what does arrive here off the boats quickly now.
At the tasting, we enjoyed many lovely wines, and you can read the notes below, I want to point out a few thoughts on them.
- The non-Mevushal versions of the roses I have had so far from Royal are much better. Mevushal does not work well for roses, at least from how Royal Europe is doing it.
- The 2021 vintage is OK, at least for non-mevushal roses, better than previous vintages, other than the original Roubine release.
- Royal has come back with some high-end Pinot Noir from Burgundy and they are showing well now but will improve with time for sure.
- As I explained in my previous post, the timing of my visit, along with supply chain issues meant that I was not able to taste all the wines that will be available soon from Royal. We are missing the oak-influenced, higher-end Chateau Roubine Inspire and Lion & Dragon wines. Along with all the 2021 white wines I missed. I hope to taste them when they come here to the USA.
In closing, all of these wines will get here eventually, other than the non-mevushal versions of the wines I have already posted here. I cannot say that for the vast majority of wines I will be posting over the next weeks. So many wines made in France either live and die in France and Europe, as a whole or are made JUST for Israel. This new phenomenon started with Shaked, and others have joined in. Either way, lots of French wine is not sold in France and lots of French wine never leaves the country – just the fascinating life of French wine. Most of it is made by very small producers or ones with horrible distribution, and as such, they are very difficult to find. Thankfully, as I stated all of these wines and a few of the Bokobsa wines, a post coming soon, should be available in the USA.
My thanks to Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for hosting me and letting us taste the wonderful wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here. The wine notes are in the order the wines were tasted:
2021 Chateau Roubine R De Roubine Rose, Provence (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is almost flat while the mouth is a bit expressive with good pith and fruit but again it is missing acidity. Raspberry, strawberry, and flint, with loads of pith and not much else, drink now! (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA & Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)