Category Archives: Wine Tasting

My tasting of Bokobsa/Sieva wines – May 2022

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. Henri Molko, sales manager at Sieva, sadly Benjamin Kukurudz 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%)

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Paris tasting of Royal 2021 Roses with some very special 2020 Reds as well – May 2022

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%)

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IDS tasting of current releases in Paris – 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 IDS tasting.

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. This included wines from Ari Cohen’s new wine business Bakus, wines from Domaine Roses Camille, and some wines from Cantina Giuliano and the Toscana from Terra di Seta. This post will focus on the Le Vins IDS and the next post will follow up with the other wines.

Le Vin IDS Wines

As I stated in my Paris trip preamble post, the timing for the trip was not great. This year because of so many supply chain issues June or late June would have been better, but there was no way I was going to go to France at that time for so many reasons.

Even last year, in November 2021, the timing was nice but I missed tasting many of the IDS wines that had to wait until this trip, by maybe 1 month at most. Still, I enjoyed the tasting for many reasons as will become apparent quickly.

It turned out that Alexandre Kassel was going to be in Paris at the same time I was there so we had some shared tastings. This was one of them and it was great to hang with him. It had been far too long since I had hung out with Alexandre, mostly because of COVID and my not being in Israel for such a long time.

As soon as we entered the office we were graced with blind tasting bags on the bottles. I thought this is great! I love tasting wine blind, Alexander and I used to do that all the time when we tasted wines in Israel. So, it felt so correct to be doing it again. In the end, as you will see, there were two wines on the list that we were not expecting as we had them a few times so it helped to add some amount of doubt to what we “knew” when entering the room.

Tasting

As is customary, I ask Ben to open the windows to air out the room, as soon as I enter, as the smell of tobacco ash is always insufferable. I understand France is one of the few advanced nations in the world where smoking is still a thing. I have never tolerated it, the smell makes me retch, so Ben is always so kind to air out the room before we begin tasting his wonderful wines.

Once that was done I took in the room and I realized the tasting was going to be blind, as the bottles were in bags and this brought a broad smile to my face. I love blind tastings. The two roses and two white wines were not tasted blind, I guess because there was not enough variation, but the reds were all going to be blind.

White and Roses

The first 4 wines we tasted were the current whites and roses from Les Vin IDS. These wines were not tasted blind. One of them is a favorite of mine, the 2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent – a lovely white Bordeaux which started a bit slow for me in 2019 but it has blossomed recently and I love it!

That was followed by the latest vintage of the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cru Classe. This is a wine made from Vermentino and I like it. Some find the oak a bit too much but it did not bother me as much. Next was the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Rose, Cru Classe, a lovely Rose, but like last year, a slight step behind the bigger brother, the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe. The 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe is the best rose I have tasted so far and it is lovely. Still, for the price, it is all a matter of QPR.

Red Wines

The next 5 wines were tasted blind and were tasted in the order they are found below. The entire list below is in the order the wines were tasted. As I will start to reveal slowly, I have changed how I take notes. Many have seen it but to keep it simple I use Google forms, which also has a spreadsheet behind it, which means my notes will be searchable, but more on that at a different time.

The point of me telling you all this is that I normally know the wines when I post them. This time, I named the wines based on the color of the bag. Later, at reveal time (thankfully no explosions), I updated the forms with the real names and the ABV and such. It also meant that the pictures were not great, my apologies, but they show what matters and in the end, that is all that matters.

Also, by the time the tasting was over it was very clear who had won the 2019 big red war, at least up until this point, more on that below. So, let us get to the tasting.

The first wine was the green bag and it was nice enough but nothing that blew me away. It did not show in a very special manner and I thought it was the Le Benjamin, but the 2019 Le Benjamin was not as good as this wine. I wrote the notes, but I never thought it was a Valendraud. It turned out this wine was the 2011 Virginie de Valendraud, which I did not remember ever tasting, but indeed I had it some five-plus years ago. The notes are not that far apart, I would drink this in the next few years.

The next wine was in the red bag and now things were looking up the wine was a clear step up, the fruitiness was calmer, and it was also clearly a younger wine, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was tasting. It turned out the wine was the 2019 L’Esprit de Chevalier. It is a blend 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. I do not remember anything else screaming out beyond what I wrote in the notes. It was a bit stunted in the nose and floral but otherwise, nice young wine with potential was my takeaway. This is yet another wine from the Pessac-Legonan region, we seem to be having a fair number of them in the kosher wine market. This is the 2nd wine from the famous Domaine de Chevalier.

The next wine was in the yellow/orange wine bottle and with one sniff things were looking up once again. Again, from the nose and taste, this was a step up but not a wine that rang any bell for me. It felt tart, bright, and elegant, but also dense and ripe, all at the same time. Quite a lovely experience, I hoped this was NOT the Smith Haut Lafitte while tasting this as it was a nice wine but not what I was expecting from the 2019 vintage of SHL. Sure enough, we were rewarded with the next wine to prove that it was not the Smith. Overall, the wine was lovely, and in France, this is very close to a WINNER (still a GREAT QPR score, but very close), while here in the USA, the pricing moves it too far out of the WINNER range. the wine is the 2019 Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux.

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The return of KFWE NYC (AKA NJ) – March 2022

So much has changed in our lives, so much has been forced upon us, for the good and the bad, and so much has been lost over these past two years. I still remember having to call my brother and tell him I cannot come to his son’s wedding, as California had just shut down the state. I missed that and so much more. We lost so many to this pandemic, but thankfully, we are slowly coming out from under the cloud that has clouded our lives for too long.

There is no way to talk about any KFWE, unfortunately, without talking about COVID. The 2020 KFWE in NYC ran right into COVID, I have many stories about the flights I had from the KFWE in Paris and London before the KFWE in NYC and L.A. Stories like, many people being taken off the planes, in advance of disembarkment of the overall plane and many other such stories. This was in the early days of COVID, and no one knew what we were facing.

Today, we are far better equipped, both humanly and emotionally to see the damage that this pandemic has done and to see how the Jewish community as a whole coped with the tragedy. To say KFWE was one of those things that we lost would be to undermine the horrible loss we all went through, in so many ways. However, like all liberties that we lose for reasons outside of our control, eventually, we come to a list of things we lost. Whether those are trivial, futile, or important is all relevant and belongs on a scale. Still, KFWE and other wine shows that are the backbone of kosher wine education were lost for a good two years and, as such, it would be impossible to start a post, discussing the return of KFWE, without highlighting that, and understanding the subsequent return of KFWE within that overall perspective.

KFWE 2022 NJ

So, everyone in the kosher wine world knows about KFWE (they even have a website), laugh track inserted here. It is the largest kosher wine and food event in the world. It started in NYC, then Herzog came with the IFWF, then KFWE, London/Europe, Israel jumped aboard, Miami, not in that order, but those are the players. Royal wine is the largest importer and producer of kosher wine, a fact I bring up very often in my year in review posts. I never posted my 2020 NYC/Cali KFWE posts, I did not feel it was the time or appropriate, too much death, too much horror, too much bad for me to post about KFWE. Still, it would not be fair to ignore it all, and now that we have gotten past what we have lived through, I think a few lines about each would be appropriate.

Simply said, the 2020 NYC event was probably the most crowded and over the top east coast KFWE ever. It met its desired outcome but at the cost of anyone getting to taste wine, even at the “trade” portion that was before the public, though to be honest, it did not feel like that either way.

I liked the 2020 KFWE L.A., again, and I know some did not like the hall, but to me, it is more about not liking the Cali vibe than it is not liking the hall, again, my take! The 2020 Califonia KFWE excelled in so many ways. It was the first year where all the wines, or almost all of them, that were poured in NYC, were in L.A. The food was leaps and bounds better than the NYC event and we had great weather to smoke cigars on the rooftop, which sadly did not happen in 2018 because of rain. So, that is my take on 2020.

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The official Inaugural South African ESSA Wine Company release – Feb 2022

WOW, another year has come and gone with madness circling and surrounding us, but there are a few very talented folks who brave it all and continue to impress year after year.

We have been blessed with another vintage in South Africa, I think it is still in the midst of harvest, depending on the varietals. However, it means that it is a year past harvest from 2021! Josh Rynderman, the Dual-Hemisphere winemaker of Kos Yeshuos Winery and ESSA Wine Co., was kind enough to let me taste a few of the wines last year, but with my mind locked on getting up a mountain and then getting down alive, I forgot to post the notes! Then I see the official release of what we all knew for some time, that Royal wine was distributing ESSA wines, and man, I have to get to posting on these notes!!!!

To see more about the story and life of Kos Yeshuos and the Ryndermans, you can read my post here about last year’s wines, and this post about the wines made under ESSA Wine Co. Thankfully, the ESSA wines are all here in the USA, at this point, and they should be for sale on KosherWine.com, any day now, and they are available at most shops on the east coast.

By the way, it is cool to see wines from the VERY first vintage of ESSA wines with the 2018 Malbec, and then the 2019 vintage with the Cabernet Franc, the 2020 and 2021 vintages with the Emunah blend, and the white Altria, respectively. So cool to see the full gamut of effort on display for all to see! Bravo brother! much more success! Three QPR (Quality to Price ratio) WINNER wines from 4 vintages – WOW! The Malbec came in as GOOD, a very solid showing.

As you know Josh is a friend, and as always I make sure to disclaim things like that before posting my notes, like with Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. So, with that, my many thanks to Josh for sharing his wines with me, and yes, I have tasted them again, today, and I miss you, buddy, it has only been a few months since Josh returned to South Africa to do this year’s harvest, but his presence is missed from NorCal. Looking forward to your return for NorCal’s harvest in July/August 2022!

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 ESSA Altira, Cape South Coast – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose opens to Semillon-dominated aromas with lovely honeysuckle, yellow flowers, yellow plums, green/yellow apple, tart gooseberry, lovely mineral, flint, and rich straw/hay. This mouth on this medium-bodied wine is INSANE, the acidity is off the charts, with rich saline, flint, smoke, followed by layers, yes layers, of ripe melon, sweet gooseberry, lovely tart orange, passion fruit, lovely mouthfeel, almost a bit oily, with rich Asian Pear, rich lemongrass, ripe yellow grapefruit, and a precision and focus that is really incredible. The finish is long, green mineral-driven, and tart, with still incredible acidity, perfectly balanced, with flint, white chalk, green olives, and smoke galore. Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)

2020 ESSA Emunah, Hemel en Aarde Ridge – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a red Bordelaise blend. The nose on this wine is a lovely red, dark cherry, dark red fruit, earth, mushroom, smoke, tar, loam, wet earth, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice and approachable but one that will gain from age, with rich mushroom, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, nice bell pepper, with lovely mouth-coating tannin, rich currants, hints of black plum, with charcoal, lovely garrigue, and earth. The finish is long green, earthy, with garrigue, charcoal, roasted meat, smoke, Cuban cigar, and nice leather. Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

——————————- reposted here from 2020 and 2019 tasting ———————————

2019 ESSA Cabernet Franc (French Barrels) – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is oaky to start with loads of heat, with a few minutes that blow off, to show lovely earth, forest floor, and dirt, with dark currant, green notes, foliage, green tea, and lovely red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is still quite young, with loads of screaming tannin, lovely acidity, and oak, with loads of sweet dill, spice, and nice control overall, with 13.8% ABV, showing green notes of asparagus/cucumber with cranberry, dried raspberry, and tart fruit, and lovely floral notes of rosehip, still showing oak, hints of smoke, mushroom, and sweet strawberry. An elegant wine with great control. The finish is long, green, dark, and yet tart, with a great balance from the acid and the fruit, with lovely sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, and earth, with graphite, and more mushroom lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted Sept 2020)

2018 Essa Wine Co. Malbec – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The color of this wine is incredibly dark, almost purely black. The nose on this wine is dense, black, and truly fruity, with incredible roasted meat, black and blue fruit, and red fruit lurking somewhere, with black olives, and the smoke monster coming out in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and starts off a bit scary, with time this calms down very well, mostly because of the incredible acidity and tart juicy fruit, showing lovely juicy strawberry, boysenberry, with blackberry, and plum, backed by layers of brooding dark fruit, with nice earth/loam, smoke, and roasted animal. The finish is long, ripe, with strawberry juicy fruity, with mineral galore, graphite giving way to layers of smoke, with crazy tobacco, tar, and asphalt. Nice! Drink until 2024.

A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting

This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!

This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.

I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!

The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.

Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.

The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.

I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.

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

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

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Four Gates Winery’s January 2022 new releases

I was not going to post these notes but I received too many requests – so OK, here you go!.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

No new wines

This year there are no new wines, there is a red blend, but that is a blend of existing red fruit that Benyo owns. The Petit Verdot is from Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2017, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. The Chardonnay is under the Ayala label, and I did not get good notes on it to post them.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is less ripe than last year. First, you have the 2018 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, N.V. Four Gates Red Blend, which is a blend of his fruits, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., last year we had the non-M.S.C., the 2017 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2016 Four Gates Fraire Robaire, which was a no-show last year.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.

Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for the wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.

The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if I beg for lower prices.

Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities.  His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.

Lastly, the fact that he sold out his year’s stock of wine in 9 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that. This year’s sale lasted 2 minutes longer but there were more wines to sell. Benyo and I did have conversations on how to get the tech better, there are clear issues, hopefully, next year it will be better, but no promises there, and I am not involved!!

So, I am done with the discussion, and I hope you all got some of the wines. Sadly, all the wines we tasted were shiners, so there are no pictures.

The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy Malbec or Petit Verdot, in case anyone is asking. I did not get to taste the Chardonnay in the best manner, so there are no notes for it. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz, CA – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This vintage is a bit more balanced than in the past with nice blue and black fruit, nice herb, root beer, good smoke, and a nice overall approach. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good fruit, saline, smoke, good acidity, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, with hints of raspberry, earth, and smoke. The finish is long, acidic, with mouth-draping tannin, good fruit focus, and nice earth. Drink by 2026. (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.20%)

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Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – November 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!

As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.

Marmorieres Wines

I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.

White wines from all over France

For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!

Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines

I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.

Rhone Wines

We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.

Various Bordeaux Wines

This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!

German Weingut Gehring Wines

These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.

Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.

Thoughts on this tasting

Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!

Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.

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

Chevalier Wines

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)

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Paris tasting of Moise Taieb wines – November 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, 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 Yoni Taieb and the rest of Taieb wines for sending the wines to us 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, we kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Still, we were ready to take the train down to the offices, but things could not line up and so Mr. Taieb was very kind, to once again, send the wines to our hotel. We 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. Andrew has some of them still 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

The most hilarious part of our trip was life in the hotel. Everything in Paris is masked and distanced. We had cases, upon cases of wines coming to us at the hotel, differently than last time, as this time, they all came to the hotel. Still, we thankfully had loads of room as we had the top floor suite and the space was ridiculous.

In the end, it was a wonderful outcome, short of not seeing the Taiebs, again. We had time to taste the wines at our pace, room for all the wines to sit and breathe. As stated, we missed hanging out with Mr. Taieb, and I hope he and his lovely family are doing well!

NOTE: A few of the wines seemed to be a bit off, the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, 2019 Domaine de Grava, and 2019 Château De L’Anglais. I will not post my notes here as I need to taste them again when I go back to France or if I can get them here in the USA. There were a few Champagne as well, but none of them stood out enough for me to post them here. Finally, we have very few photos of these, apologies.

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, how there were so many good QPR wines, for those that live within 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, and that is great. While they do not make wines like Chateau Smith Haut LafiteChateau 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 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 LescureDomaine 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 the 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.

Until then, you can follow what I wrote up in this post, and try to piece together some of these wines in the USA, if you can! Thankfully, we have 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. Further, three of these wines, posted below, are QPR WINNER, even in the USA. We need more of this!!!

In Closing

Again, the theme of very solid 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:

2020 Baron David, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER (France))
The nose on this wine shows very much like previous vintages, with good clean lines, green notes, red fruit, herb, forest floor, foliage, and loam. The mouth of this medium-plus wine is tannic, balanced, acidic, and green, with herbal notes, foliage, bell pepper, raspberry, dark cherry, roasted mint, basil, and tarragon, with a backbone that is based in fruit and acid and nice minerality. The finish is long, green, tannic, with scraping minerality, graphite, clay, and nice loam. Nice!! Drink until 2024. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 14%)

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IDS Tasting of 2020 Domaine Aegerter Burgundy wines – November 2021

The first organized wine tastings that Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I went to, during our last trip to Paris, in November 2021 was with IDS. IDS is officially called Les Vins IDS and IDS, stands for International Distribution Service. On a lovely Monday morning, Avi and I jumped in an Uber and made our way to go see Ben Uzan at IDS’s offices.

I have written about IDS in the past, and in 2018 they started working with a new Burgundy producer called Domaine Aegerter. I have written about the previous vintages in these posts.

The Tasting

As stated, Avi and I made our way to the offices, and there laid out on the table were nine Domaine Aegerter wines from the 2020 vintage, along with one bottle of 2020 Chateau du Bosquay, Bordeaux Superieur, a perennial QPR WINNER for France. Sadly, with the economics of French kosher wine, it would not be worth importing it to the USA, but that is a discussion for another post.

In 2018 there were no Premier Cru from Domaine Aegerter, in 2019 there was one Premier Cru and a Grand Cru! In 2020, they made 4 Premier Cru, but no Grand Cru, as there was simply not enough fruit to go around. The 2020 vintage report for Burgundy was not as sad as previous vintages, or 20201, which was a disaster. There were few stories of frost destroying vine buds, except for in Chablis, but even that was not horrible. Overall, 2020 was a hot and dry season in Burgundy. There were some losses from the high heat but overall, it looked to be another successful vintage.

Nine wines from Burgundy is quite an impressive lineup, add in that they are from the same vintage, and wow, that is a lot of labels for one year. There is one Meursault and 8 red Burgundies, really impressive.

Throughout the tasting, I could not help but sense that the red wines felt overly acidic, like VA. VA (Volatile Acidity) is a common aspect of wines. It is defined as a flaw but many find it adds to the wine’s acidic profile. As stated in the Wine Spectator:

In small measures—most wines have less than 400 mg/L of acetic acid; the human threshold for detecting it is about 600 to 900 mg/L—volatile acidity imparts a racy, balsamic edge to a wine. It’s also likely to be present anytime you see “high-toned” fruit flavors in a tasting note. It can offer a tangy edge that works well with dishes that could use a little oomph, say pasta with red sauces. It stretches the flavors, and some vintners encourage a touch of VA to do just that. (WS, 2017)

Overall, the wines showed differently than in previous vintages, which is of course common. They were richly floral, again common for Burgundy. The clear winner of the tasting was the incredible Meursault, which showed very differently than the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault. The 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault is riper and shows more of the oak influence while the 2020 Domaine Aegerter Meursault is more refined, at this time, and shows more mineral and control, overall. Just lovely!

We also tasted the 2018 Chateau Trianon, a wine I tasted with Ari Cohen in June, also at the IDS office, and the lovely 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cotes de Provence. My notes for them are identical to what I wrote in June. IDS will be distributing the kosher Chateau Trianon wines in Europe. Until now, the kosher wines were only available from the winery. Now, they should have a better distribution within Europe, I hope, as they are lovely wines indeed.

My many thanks to Ben Uzan for setting up the meeting, sharing his wines with us, and for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Domaine Aegerter Meursault, Meursault – Score: 94 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is pure funk, almonds, walnuts, peach, nectarines, orange blossom, honeysuckle, rich floral notes, straw, mineral, spice, and rich oolong tea. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is bombastic, wow, unique, special, just wow! The screaming acid, hay, straw, jasmine, white flower, with yellow plum, green apple, Asian pear, with rich saline, mineral, smoke, straw, and rich flint, WOW! The mouth is dense, oily, structured, and just lovely! The finish is long, green, hay, earth, smoke, lemongrass, with a plushness, oily, sweet oak, intense cloves, and rich green notes, wow! Drink from 2025 until 2032. (tasted November 2021)

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