Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Three nice Italian wines from Cantina Giuliano, including a QPR WINNER

I recently had the chance to taste three wines from Cantina Giuliano one of the few kosher wineries in Europe, along with Terra di Seta, and Elvi Wines. In the past, I have found the Cantina Giuliano wines to be nice but not wines I would buy. Last year I liked the rose enough to buy some and drink them right away. However, this year, Eli & Lara Gauthier have made some nice wines and I hope this goes up from here!

I was able to taste the 2020 rose and Vermentino along with the 2019 Merlot, all of them are sourced from Tuscany. The Rose was lovely but the Vermentino was fun, while the Merlot is a GREAT find and one that is a wonderful quaff.

My many thanks to Eli & Lara Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano and Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This feels like what I always wanted from a Vermentino, acid, fruit, crazy mineral, and more mineral, just lovely! The nose on this wine starts off a bit strange, let it air out, with 20 minutes or so, the nose turns into mineral and fruit heaven, with notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, lime, and stone fruit, with intense mineral, flint, and smoke, really fun! The mouth on this mineral-laden and acid core wine is lovely, showing intense mineral, acidity, with lovely saline, olives, peach, apple, and searing acidity – wow! The finish is long, green, fun, with intensity, refreshing, saline, Meyer lemon/lime, and olives. Bravo! (tasted March 2021)

2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is lovely, not as epic or as minerally laden as the 2019 but a lovely rose, in a vintage where there are so very few Rose I would drink. The nose on this wine is lovely, bright fruit, tart, with bright aromas of red fruit, strawberry, and crème, bright passion fruit, citrus, with lovely orange blossom, and orange rind notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has a nice weight, shows a good fruit focus, with nice strawberry, tart, and juicy raspberry, bracing acidity, well-balanced, refreshing, showing saline, olives, and a nice mineral focus. The finish is long, green, mineral, slate, and tart, refreshing, and fun! Nice! Drink now! (tasted March 2021)

2019 Cantina Giuliano In Campagna Merlot – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
While this is not a WINNER from a QPR score, it is a winner from the fact that is a nice wine for under 20 dollars, Italy continues to impress at this price point! The nose on this Merlot is lovely, floral, with notes of lavender, toast, earth, nice loam, red and black fruit, paraffin notes, and roasted herb. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is layered with nice red and black fruit, showing dark raspberry, strawberry, plum, dark cherry, smoke, with lovely dirt, loam, earth, and nice acid to bring this wine together, with mouth-draping tannin, and foliage. The finish is long, with green notes, showing red fruit, herbs, more smoke, wax, meaty notes, all backed by crazy acid, nice tannin, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2025. (tasted April 2021)

Herzog Wine Cellars continues to impress with red wines from 2018, 2019, and now the 2020 vintages

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!

The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.

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 to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)

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A wonderful, unique, and exciting tasting of white and Orange wines with EIGHT QPR WINNERS and a few serious duds

This past week I was tasting through the rose wines to get them tasted in time before Passover. This is a super short post – really just hey like, looks at these QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines – and please ignore rose wine for 2021, there is nothing to see there, in that kosher wine segment.

I want to highlight some of the great white and orange wines – that I had over the past tastings – with the last tasting Friday before Shabbat – just a great way to rid my mind and taste buds of the roses I had to suffer through to get to these wines!

A total aside, partial happy rant – THANK YOU! Thank you all for finally getting rid of corks and using DIAM or amalgamated corks – thank you all very much! Keep up the great work, on all wines in the simple wine category – please!! I am talking to you Ramon Cardova Albarino! Please everyone use DIAM or some amalgamated cork – thanks – I am done with my rant!

As always, nothing I post here gets me anything from those who make the wines. If they send me wines or if I buy them, if I like it I will say so, if I dislike it – I will say so, look at all those roses I did not like. Enough said I need to remind people of this every so often.

Michael Kaye makes a few wines and the one he sent me was the 2019 Kaye Dry Muscat and what a wine it is! It needs a bit of time to open, and it has a drop of reduction, but that is almost like the Tel Qasser in style, meaning the reduction is additive, not subtractive! What a wine it is, with time the acid appears and the wine is incredibly layered and expressive – get some! His website is not up yet but email him at michaelkaye@fastmail.com or find him on Facebook and messenger him there, again Michael Kaye is his name.

Shiran wines made a lovely 2020 Riesling, the price is insane, but it is a solid wine and that makes me happy. All we need to do now is find a way to make the price meet the value.

The QPR superstar of the past, the Ramon Cardova Albarino, fell off a bit with the 2019 vintage. Still a nice wine, but it lacks the punch and richness of the 2018 vintage. Still a QPR WINNER and a wine to enjoy.

In comparison, Yaffo made a lovely white wine from 2020 that is a QPR WINNER and one that you should find at kosherwine.com

Talking about kosherwine.com, they brought in more of the 2018 Binyamina Orange Wine, it is a wine that needs to be handled with care – the wine starts closed, but with an hour or so, it opens nicely, but then it falls off a bit after many hours. So, I would open, give it time, and finish it. Just a PSA.

The 2019 Vitkin Gewurztraminer has the same issue, it threads the needle as well. It needs time to show its great style, but then it loses a bit of the finish. So, the theme continues here. Open it, give it some air, then finish it and enjoy! To have created anything good in that horrible 2019 vintage from Israel is EPIC! Still, the best 2019 from Israel is the 2019 Netofa Latour white – just WOW!

The same issue appeared with the 2020 Matar Sauvignon-Blanc and Semillon, a lovely wine another QPR WINNER, but it too threads the needle, so I recommend that you open, wait a bit, and then finish it.

Finally, the 2018 Netofa Tel Qasser white is INSANE it is that simple, just 100% INSANE! Best wine of the tasting, followed by the Kaye (from a style and profile, and score). The Tel Qasser white is classic Roussanne and one you would love to sit and watch evolve. This wine can be enjoyed now or in 6 years or anywhere in between. Yes, I have the window for it starting in 2 years, but with a decant you can enjoy this wine now as well.

PSA: I fear that while 2019 Israeli white and rose wine vintage was a total disaster, with a few outliers, 2020 is looking much better. Still, they do not feel like wines that will last long, so open and enjoy them!

PSA 2 – I have now had two wines from the winery called La Foret Blanche (the rose and now the white), they were both oxidized bottles of mess. I would be careful before buying. Try it somewhere else or ask if you can return it before buying.

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The KFWE/KFWV 2021 results are in – the glass is half-empty, sadly.

Last year’s KFWE NYC/L.A. result post never made it to the blog. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed with the madness and I barely got the Passover post up, as you can read, I even put in a disclaimer, in case people thought it was crass. Still, people replied that it was appreciated and I appreciated those comments. On a total aside, as I stated elsewhere, L.A. was the clear winner in 2020. NYC was a zoo, for both trade and public tastings. L.A., as usual, was a true joy, I know some have issues with the venue, but for me, the Cali weather, cigar bar, great wines, and classic old-Hollywood vibe, give me a break – hands-down winner!

So, after a full year+ under the pandemic cloud, we were all dreaming of another KFWE and sadly, that was never going to happen, as was obvious. The way I see it, for me and my family here in California, we will not get vaccinated until July, at the earliest. Life for us will not be “going back to normal” for a long time!

So, with the pandemic still clearly hanging over our heads, Royal Wine decided to go the virtual route and to ship certain wines, from their large portfolio, in small bottles. I discussed this in my KFWV post.

Much like I stated in my year/decade in review, I will go with the result of glass-half-empty. I will jump right to my thoughts on the event, both the pros and the cons.

Cons

  1. The poor and frozen weather that KFWE has skirted past in previous years came to haunt this year’s iteration, sadly. Packages were frozen, broken, lost in the chaos of one of the worst weather storms in a long time. More were delayed or never delivered. Some were delivered on the day of KFWV and some were after. In the end, the weather was an issue and this was not something Royal could have worked around. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you do not.
  2. The lack of variety in the wines was an issue. Remember the idea was to “replicate”, to some extent, KFWE. The inability to get a choice of wine sets was a miss, from a marketing perspective, with the MOST glaring issue (#5) this would still have not helped. I understand that this was already a crazy undertaking, of logistics and overhead, and trying to do multiple lists would have been insane. I get that, but if this needs to evolve, it will be needed.
  3. The price for the “event” did not include food, recipes are nice, but you had to pay for the food as well. Maybe having some food delivered in NYC or Florida would have been a better option.
  4. The labels on the bottles were wrong, vintage-wise. This is an issue as anyone tasting the 2017 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal) thinking it was the 2018 non-Mevushal will seriously not buy the 2018 vintage!! This ties into the next and main issue, which is all about very serious unintended consequences, IMHO.
  5. Yes, I know this is burying the lede, as this is the main issue, the wines were a disaster. The wines were no representation, at all, of the wine in the original bottle. The transfer mechanism failed Royal. The wines devolved in the little bottles as the wine was already subjected to oxygen during the bottling. It did not matter that they filled the wine in the little bottles to the top, it did not fix the issue caused a few days earlier. The damage had already been done and now the wine was devolving over days! The answer may not be simple, but it is the ONLY way to make this work, and that is to transfer these wines under a vacuum. Anything less will get you what you had this past week.

    Please do not say, oh why is it different than when they open the wine at KFWE and pour – it is also not like the original bottle at home? Give me a break! These wines traveled for DAYS in this state – it does not get better once oxygen has been introduced – IT ONLY gets worse.

    The outcome was a multi-fold problem:
    1. The wines had NO RELATIONSHIP to what I tasted from the original bottles, all of them! I had tasted all of these wines, other than the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, over a few months. This is sad, as remember these wines are being sent as an example of what Royal and the wineries have to offer – what I tasted had no relationship to what I had tasted in the past for these very same wines.
    2. Worse, was that they did not taste good at all. The only wine, “I enjoyed” tasting was Guiraud Sauternes, as that is much harder to kill. The overall process truly ruined the wines and made them not very good, enjoyable, or interesting to buy!
    3. That last part is very important! The main reason to have put on this event/show was to help sell wine! Sadly, this event caused many to not buy the very wines they were sent. If you asked me would I buy the 2017 Giscours, after tasting the small wine format representation that was sent to me? The answer would be NEVER. Not only did I feel that way, but others told me they had buyers come into their store and say I tasted that in the KFWV and I do not want to buy it! Unintended consequences, for sure, but very serious ones!
    4. IMHO, this may have been good marketing, but the implementation of the wine bottles has already turned people off from buying THOSE VERY WINES, which is the OPPOSITE of what the KFWE is all about!
  6. Another side-issue, but very much akin, is that I had at least three corked wines. YES! Remember how much I rail about cork every year in my year/decade in review! Well, it is real and I scream about it for a reason! Now throw in thousands of bottles and the basic math will tell you that there will be lots of corked wine! Lots! So, no one checked the wines as they were being transferred. I get it, that would be a lot of work, again, this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
    Now throw in a vacuum environment and you have a real tough job! The answer is an automated system that dispenses the wine from the vacuum, allowing a person to check the wine, and then continue the transfer or reject it. If you have enough spouts and enough people to check, this can be handled within reason. Otherwise, you are bound to have lots of unhappy customers.
  7. This issue was a BIG one and was why I went with the glass-half-empty score. You cannot charge people and then send them less than what they expect – you just cannot! Sadly, this issue was the undoing of the KFWV, IMHO.
  8. The wines came in boxes that had numbers – but those numbers meant nothing. Not sure what they added.
  9. After the event had started, I heard emails were sent out, to some people, as I never got them. Those emails seemed to explain or say what wines were in what boxes and what numbers, but I never got this email, and nor did many others.
  10. The box that the wines were delivered in had no padding and most of my boxes were almost open. Overall, the idea was nice, almost design-forward, in nature, but not safe, which when it comes to wine is what matters.
  11. The recipes that were printed had typos and mistakes – again – just a bit too last minute – things that they can tighten up for future events

PROS:

  1. The effort was herculean – I get that
  2. The logistics were crazy – I get that also. However, those logistics were part of the cause of the main detraction to the entire event, which again is an issue that needs to be fixed.
  3. The effort was impressive, and the overall show was quite nice and fun, especially if you are virtually hanging out with a bunch of crazy friends.
  4. The overall look and appeal were a solid marketing effort.
  5. But this was worse than even last year’s NYC Trade tasting where I was punched in the face by elbows a few times – I hope you understand how much this was a good try but sadly, not even a base hit.
  6. There is a LOT that can be fixed and changed to make these a real future of tasting – but the MAIN ISSUE must be dealt with FIRST – the wine HAS to be managed in a vacuum and MUST taste the same as the original wine or it is a failure, there is no way around this.
  7. The winemaker videos did show passion but as the chef videos – they were out of place and disjointed. Non-Jewish winemakers saying enjoy the wine with shellfish, kosher chefs saying they have no idea what they are pouring but this recipe goes well with wine/beer/spirits! Again, nice idea, just poor overall oversight/approach/execution.
  8. I would say, that I buried the lede again, and the best part of the entire event, was the production work! Gabriel Geller, my good friend, I hope still, after forgetting this part of the event, Jay Buchsbaum, and Erik Segelbaum (a top up and coming Sommelier, who happens to be Jewish and loves wine, of course). The three of them traded off here and there and the tasting videos were fluid, entertaining, and very informative! The best part is that they and the chefs can be seen at your leisure on the KFWE website! The wealth of information shared was truly impressive and I am sorry for leaving this part out in my original post, apologies!

In closing, I wanted to go glass half-full and if this was just about having fun and NOT about wine AT ALL, then yes, I would have scored it as such. However, in the end, people wanted wine and these wines were a mess, once you throw that in, the party/fun was not a success, sadly.

KFWE (KFWV) 2021 – a virtual tasting extravaganza – coupon code included

Well, you know it, we all still living under state or county quarantines, with limited to no ability to get around and taste wine together. I still cannot believe how close last year’s KFWE was to be shutdown. Two weeks after the KFWE L.A., which was the best of the USA, yes, I still owe a writeup on that, cities were in lockdown or very close to it.

Well, not much has changed over the last 10 months. We are finally getting closer to vaccines, but they are still a long way off for the majority of this country. So, we have all seen tasting and cooking shows online. I thought for sure that KFWE would go virtual this year – and I was right! However, I never thought through the logistics it would take to make this happen!

So, this is what Royal explained the KFWE would be like this year! To bring the feeling of KFWE to your home, we’re offering for sale a limited amount of wine-tasting kits, which will include a carefully curated offering of 25 wines in 100ml bottles (enough for 2-3 sample pours) and a tasting guide featuring detailed information on the wines. Enjoy wines from Israel, France, Spain, California, Italy, and Argentina, in an evening hosted by Jay Buchsbaum, Gabriel Geller, and Erik Segelbaum, Food & Wine Magazine Sommelier of the year 2019, who will guide you through tastings!

Just think about it for a moment, how exactly does one get 100 ML bottles made? Thankfully, no human is involved! The 750 ml bottle is inserted into a machine and the machine pours the wine into smaller bottles, all in an environment that does not deter from the wine and the wine experience – when you open it 2 weeks from now! That is a TON of work!

Add to that the menus and chefs that you will cook along with and this is going to be fun! I have been cooking like crazy before Covid turned our lives upside down. But where I live, there are no restaurants, so I started cooking all sorts of Asian dishes, from Korean to Thai. Well, now we will be able to take our cooking chops to the next level with chef lead menus to make dishes that will wow your family for sure!

Again, here is Royal’s take on the food side of the event! Throughout the night, we’ll be featuring cook-a-long demos! Simply download the detailed recipe cards with shopping lists and prep instructions so you can cook along with the chefs, friends, and family in real-time! Featured will be Chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur, Kosher.com Personalities, and celebrity chef and James Beard Award Winner Michael Solomonov, owner of various restaurants in Philadelphia with a focus on Israeli cuisine and more!

Looking at this from the outside looking in, I love it. The wine selection is nice, but yes, I wish there were more European wines. Still, there are a lot of awesome wines and some I have never had! The Terra di Seta Riserva and the Herzog Generation IX Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, and others. All in you are looking at 25 bottles that you can share with your family. The best part of it to me is that I will get a chance to taste the wines in an environment that is far more conducive to tasting. No more feeling like a bug smashed on the windshield, you have all the room you want in your home, and the opportunity to enjoy it in a quieter and more amiable wine tasting environment. Throw on top of that the 4+ bottles of wines and the recipes and this is going to a lot of fun.

So, here is the game plan for the 2021 KFWV.

1.           Sip and cook along with the official KFWV 2021 Tasting Kit that includes samples of each of the wines being tasted (25 100mL bottles, enough for 2-3 sample pours), a tasting guide, recipe cards, and shopping lists so you can sip and cook all night long!  Kits are $250 + processing fees and include shipping where available (please note, we cannot ship internationally or to PO boxes, and you or someone over 21 must be available to receive the delivery).  To ensure delivery in time for the event, the last day to order wine kits is February 8, 2021.  Kits will begin shipping the week of February 8, 2021.

2.           Watch the live stream of KFWV 2021 for FREE! Simply register to receive a viewing link for the February 21st event.  Leading up to the event, we’ll provide the wines being served along with the recipes and shopping lists online so you can cook along and put your own tasting kit together with as many or as few wines as you like!

Kits are available for purchase at www.kfwe.com, and Kosher Wine Musings followers save $25 off the kit price with code MUSINGS. Don’t delay, kits are limited, and once they’re sold out, they’re gone.

Sign up now – and make sure to use my code MUSINGS to get the 10% off. I hope to see all of you online – enjoy, stay safe, and be well! The place to put the code is on the main page above the KFWV wine tasting kit.

Stay safe, be well, and enjoy!

2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies and new Domaine Roses Camille vintages

UPDATED: I added the 2016 Clos Lavaud wine note below. Great WINNER!

Last week I had the chance to taste through the new kosher 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand red and white Burgundies. Yes, you heard me correctly, white and red! There is a new white Burgundy from Meursault, we have not had one since 2004 and sadly, that wine is long dead. However, we did have a lovely Meursault, in 2014, with Pierre Miodownick, and that wine was really fun! There were Pinot Noir Burgundies from 2019, along with a few Bourdeaux wines as well, from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille.

I will keep this to a minimum, a simple post about the wines I tasted. If you want more on Taieb Wines – read the family history here. However, before I fast-forward to the notes please understand the enormity of what is going on here – kosher white wine has finally arrived, with this new 2019 Meursault, the 2018 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc, the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc (not yet released), and the 2019 Chateau Malartic, Blanc! We have finally hit the escape velocity from the kosher wine world’s sole fascination with Cabernet Sauvignon!

The 2019 Pinot Noirs were from Jean-Philippe Marchand. I loved the 2017 Jean-Philippe Pinot Noirs, wines I bought and purchased already. IMHO, the 2019 vintage is far more reminiscent of what is expected from a Burgundy. The 2019 wines are lither than the 2017s were. They show more floral characteristics than their 2017 brethren. Overall, I was highly impressed. Beware, sadly there is no Lescure for 2018, 2019, or 2020 – SO SAD!

The Bordeaux wines came from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille, and I think they all showed very well with a WINNER and some very solid options as well! Much to all of this should be soon available with Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher, so keep a lookout for these wines from him. They will, of course, also be available in France from Taieb’s website, and Domaine Roses Camille’s European distribution, which I do not know much about. Though, I am sure the usual websites and stores in Paris and Belgium will have the wines.

NOTE: I need to taste the 2016 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol again before I can post my final score on it. I added the Clos Lavaud below. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies

2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault– Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is lovely, it is a closed to start, with lovely sweet oak, yellow apple, with lovely candied pear, cardamom, with hints of lemon, spice, and herbs, wow! The waxy and oily approach to this wine is unique.  With time the wine opens and WOW, the nose explodes with sweet toasted oak, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and more floral notes, honeysuckle, honey, lemon/lime, melon, and lovely herbaceous notes. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is lovely, layered, rich, with sweet oak, Meyer lemon, apple tart, sweet fig, creme brulee, honey, crazy acidity, lovely mouth-coating tannin, smoke, crazy minerality, and lovely flint, rock, and smoked duck, with brioche, lemon/lime, and sweet yellow plum. The finish is long, sweet, tart, ripe, and well-balanced, with flint and toast. PLEASE, many of you will be motivated to drink this up as it is an awesome wine, but control yourselves please, this wine needs time! Drink from 2023 until 2028, maybe longer. (tasted Jan 2021)

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Four Gates Winery’s January 2021 new releases

Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.

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

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

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. 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 shows 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.

The new wines

New in 2021 will be the 2018 Four Gates Negrette, a unique wine that was nice. Also, a Petit Verdot 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 rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is a bit better than last year. First, you have the 2016 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by an N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, and two 2019 Chardonnay wines, both under the Four gates label.

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 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.

Now 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 7 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that.

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. This year I liked all the options for sale, in comparison to previous vintages. However, I did not get to taste one of the Chardonnay that was for sale (2019 Four Gates Chardonnay). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2019 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Riche, Estate Bottled, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely, a classic Benyo Chard, rich melon, green apple, smoke, toast, creme Brulee, kiwi, citrus, and pie. The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, toast, and it feels sweeter than normal, yet still showing wonderfully controlled fruit, lovely creme brulee, citrus rind, rich baked apple/melon pie, with lemon and mineral. The finish is long, sweet, spicy, cloves, cinnamon, and toast. Nice! Drink from 2023 until 2028.

2018 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is lovely with big, bold, and rich notes of boysenberry, dark currants, with loads of violets, very feminine, with rich baking spices, cumin, dirt, paraffin, and loam, very nice. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is elegant, showing more of the feminine nose, with more blueberry, black plum, nice spices, good salinity, a lovely mouthfeel, and nice green notes that give way to more blue and black fruit. The finish is long, green, with more violet, floral notes, nice spices, and good oak. Nice Drink until 2025.

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Herzog Wine cellar’s 2018 lineup is sensational – beyond just the Cabernet Sauvignons

Herzog Wine Cellars (which now go by herzogwine.com not herzogwinecellars.com, no idea why they dropped that and emails bounce all over the place, a better idea would have been simple web/MX record routing/forwarding – but enough tech talk) has been in the wine business, in California, since 1984. The days of San Martin, when I met Josh Goodman and his wife (PSA – be careful with how you pronounce her name) when they were in the San Jose Jewish community. In those days, San Jose was the closest thing to a community for them, that was close enough to San Martin, for them to live a Jewish life and work as cellar rat/master at Herzog Wine cellars. With time, the Herzog moved to Santa Maria, which was closer to the L.A. area and then they finally moved to the location they are today, in Oxnard, in 2005.

In the start, the head winemaker was Peter Stern, mostly as a part-time winemaker. In 1998, Joe Hurliman joined as the full-time winemaker at Herzog Wine and they have not looked back, thankfully! In that time, Joseph Herzog took over running the winery and Tierra Sur, the wonderful restaurant attached to the winery. Soon after moving into the Oxnard winery/facility, Herzog undertook multiple manners to interact with their customers. The first approach was the winery’s tasting room, which is still highly pivotal in attracting all members and customers into tasting Herzog wines. They also started with many wine clubs, with the most influential one being Eagle’s Landing. It has become the area where Mr. Hurliman can truly experiment, at smaller scales, than even the Special Edition series and craft wines that he would love to see become mainstream. Things like Santa Rita Pinot Noir, Templeton Pass Zinfandel (we need more of that kind of Zin being made!!), and Paso Robles Syrah. These are not new to the kosher world as much as they are good to see at the scale and care that Herzog can bring to these varietals and wines.

One cannot talk about Herzog without talking about a few very poignant points:

  1. Mevushal
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Vineyards
  4. Ageability
  5. L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Mevushal Program

Herzog did not invent the Mevushal methodology in the new era of kosher wine, which was done by Hagafen Winery, but Herzog has been equal or slightly better than Hagafen as time has progressed. When you ask who does the best with Mevushal in wines – the answer is Hagafen and Herzog, there is no one else in their league. Royal Wines Europe does a nice job as well, but they are two peas in the same pod. Rollan de By does a very good job as well.

The next question you will consistently get is – does the Mevushal process hurt wine? The answer is complex and like everything in this world, it depends. It depends on the process you use, the varietals you “boil”, and for how long you do the process, and at what temperature. Long ago, people have stopped boiling wine – they moved to Flash pasteurization or Flash Detente, both in the kosher wine world and outside of it. The length of time and the temperature of the flash is one that is hotly debated in the Rabbinic kosher world, which is why you will see many put the temperature the wine was flashed at, on the wine bottle itself. Few wineries will flash Pinot Noir or Grenache as these wines are delicate and will not gain from the flash process. Herzog does flash their Lineage Pinot and it is not a wine for long holding so that works with what they are shooting for. Hagafen, flashes everything and as such, they do flash the Pinot and Pinot Prix, but IMHO it has been hurting the wines in recent vintages. Doing the Mevushal process to Cabernet Sauvignon is one that works and may well be the most prevalent of the varietals out there that go through the Mevushal process.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This leads us to the standing joke, in regards to Herzog Wine Cellars, that Herzog makes more Cabernet Sauvignon, in a single vintage, than almost any winery makes wine, across all labels. They are the Cab Kings like Oryah is the Orange wine Factory. My last count was 27 Cabernet sauvignons across all labels, which is a crazy number, but to be fair, they know what their customers want. No matter the price, style, makeup, or focus of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Herzog has a Cab for you and that has been their motto for as long as they have been at Oxnard, and maybe even a bit before in Santa Maria.

Vineyards

Herzog has done a very good job in both managing leases/relationships with vineyards – dating back to the early days of the 1990s. Chalk Hill and Alex Reserve are both examples of vineyards they have managed to lease and continue to do so for decades. This is not anything new in any way, but it was for kosher California wines in the 1990s. Hagafen Winery has had vineyards that they have leased or owned for long stretches’ of time as well. It is just a very impressive thing to have done back then.

They have quietly been buying vineyards all around California. It started in 2010 when they were forced to buy the land or lose their longtime relationship with Clarksburg grapes. Then in 2017, they bought 2 plots of land in lake County. Then in 2018, they bought the Herzog Ridge Vineyard in Napa Valley. The new 2018/2019 Forebearer wines (listed below) are from that vineyard.

Ageability

There are not many wineries today, in the kosher market, that have wines dating backing to 1996 that still blow my mind. yes, I continue to have my mind blown by 1997 Four Gates Merlot or Pinot Noir, and Yarden made some wines back then that were pretty good as well. However, to have made wine continuously, minus a few years here and there, I would have to say, the only ones that come to mind are Capcanes (until 2015), Herzog, and Four Gates. That is quite an impressive feat and one that helps me to buy their wines on an almost yearly basis.

L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Tierra Sur was a smash hit years before IFWF came to Los Angeles in 2008. Todd Aarons was running the ship and he could well have been the first kosher Chef-Driven restaurant, at least in the USA. There were a few in Paris in the late 1990s that were quite the thing. Still, Chef Aarons brought that flair, focus on ingredients, and presentation to a far-flung location, outside of L.A., but within driving distance, that made Tierra Sur world-famous for kosher and non-kosher consumers alike.

The IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), the west coast’s KFWE was Herzog’s way of showing off the food over the wine. The 2007 KFWE, and many after it, was more focused on the wine and good for them! What Herzog has done for so long with the IFWF or the KFWE is to showcase what Los Angeles has over the east coast, at least at that time for sure, which was the weather and great food!

2018 Wines

Now on to the wines! The 2017 vintage was not kind to much of California and sadly it affected Herzog wines as well. I did like the 2017 Lineage Chardonnay and the 2017 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, with the Clone Six showing some elegance from under the issues of the vintage. All of that is in the past and the 2018 vintage is another winner. These wines are rich and layered and truly a joy – I would not sit long on the sidelines, I would buy these ASAP before they all go away. So to those that ask me – why did you not warn me – you have been warned!

In the end, this vintage is a WINNER across the board. The Forebearers are nice wines but they are relatively expensive, in comparison to other Herzog options, from 2018. The Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage, Reserve, even the Baron Herzog line have great deals and lovely wines. Overall, if I was standing in front of Joe Hurliman at KFWE, I would have said what I am oft to say – Bravo my good sir – BRAVO!

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 to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 and 2019 Forebearers Wines

2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Forebearers, Napa Valley (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is very slow to open, this wine needs time, so give it the respect it deserves. The nose on this wine is lovely, not one of those “Brilliance” fruit bombs, this is a lovely earthy, anise filled joy, with smoke, tar, fruit galore, but well-controlled, with loam, candied ginger, and more fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is oaky, it starts off with a clear focus of oak, and has a bit of a hole, but with time, as I said, this needs it, the hold fills in well, with a rich coat of mouth-draping tannin, earth, sweet dill, oak, blackberry, dark cherry, hints of plum, and currants, all wrapped in tannin and oak, very nice. The finish is plush, and tart, with good acidity, earth, more dill, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, and anise. Really nice, a wine to get and store away. Bravo!
With loads of time, this wine really starts to shine and I highly underestimated it, this wine is super young and needs time. I would wait 3 years to play with this again. Let this beast lie. Drink from 2024 until 2028 maybe longer. (tasted Nov 2020)

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Kos Yeshuos Winery’s new U.S. release for 2021, and 2019 South African ESSA Wine Co. wines

WOW, I cannot believe I just wrote that number, but yes, we made it through 2020, and I hope all of you are safe and well. The prize for reaching 2021 is more wine, and Josh Rynderman, the Dual-Hemisphere winemaker of Kos Yeshuos Winery and ESSA Wine Co., swung by last week and we tasted his new release for 2021, the 2020 Kos Yeshuos Viognier. Sadly, this year, there are no cool marketing/moniker-driven wine names. Other than the Wylder Side Orange Viognier, but that is a super-small production promotional item.

Sadly, 2020 was a horrible year for many, in the wine world and outside of it. Sadly, because of fires, smoke, crazy heat waves, and God knows what else, Kos Yeshuos only made the Viognier, but it is a really good wine!

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. Sadly, the ESSA Wine Co. wines are still not available here in the USA, but they are nice!! We tasted the ESAA Wine Co. wines in September 2020, and the wine notes are also below.

Well, 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 coming by with the new wines to taste, safe travels, and best of luck on the 2021 Harvest in South Africa! Remember to bring me more of those wonderful South African reds when you are back in July/August 2021!

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

2020 Kos Yeshuos Viognier – Score: 92 (QPR: EVEN)
The notes are on a bottle that was bottled less than 2 weeks ago. To start the nose opens to smell very much like the 2018 California Kid, which was Viognier/Sauvignon Blanc, this vintage is 100% Viognier. The nose starts with bright peach, pear, citrus, gooseberry, fresh hay, cardamom, jasmine, and flint galore. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, layered, and rich, with waves of acidity that are almost overcoming, but they are tempered by the smoke, flint, peach, citrus galore, ripe pomelo, with an almost oily texture, followed by waxy notes, with lovely weight, ripe apricot, yellow pear, and more hay. The finish is long, green, with hints of foliage, more tart and juicy yellow fruit, gooseberry, honeydew, and loads of flint, smoke, and green notes. Bravo! Drink until 2023. (tasted Dec 2020)

2020 Kos Yeshuos Wylder Side Orange – Score: 92
This wine is a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay made in an Orange style. This wine starts closed with apple notes and not much else. With a few hours of decanting the nose opens to what I expect from an Orange Viognier, with notes of almonds, candied peach, apricot, cardamom, sweet rosehip, sweet jasmine, with creme brulee, and fresh apple compote. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, the acid hits you first, but that is quickly overcome by waves of sweet tannin, followed by an oily texture that coats the mouth with sweet apricot, peach, oak, and notes of smoke and toast. The finish is long, toasty, smoke, flint, mineral, roasted walnuts, and more tannin that lingers forever. Bravo!! Drink until 2024. (tasted Dec 2020)

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A lineup of the available 2018 kosher Pinot Noirs from around the world

In the past few months, there have been many releases of Pinot Noir from the 2018 vintage. For the most part, there are no real winners here, QPR and otherwise, except for two – the Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir (though the Eagle’s Landing is the only QPR WINNER).

The tasting included all the wines I could find though I left out two, the 2018 Barkan Pinot Noir and the 2018 Tura Pinot Noir. Both of them are Mevushal, and they do a HORRIBLE job on Mevushal, so I did not want to waste my money. My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. I also seemed to have missed tasting the 2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, as well.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist them in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah than Burgundy – fruit-forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Yes, Vitkin does a nice enough job, but Gvaot does a better one. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty. Sadly, 2018 was not a great year for Four Gates and what I had was not great, it was never officially bottled, but we have 2019 coming soon!

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines, NO NOT because of sideways! I loved the wine long before that horrific cult movie hit the theaters. I love PN for what it stands for – complexity through things other than fruit! A well made Pinot Noir, in my humble opinion, needs to be of medium body, medium fruit structure, accompanied by mounds of dirt, mushroom, barnyard, and earthy goodness. The ultimate aspect of a great PN is the secondary flavors, not the fruit, not cherry cola, and for the LOVE OF GOD not OAK! It is all about the secondary and old age notes that come with time and love.

Sadly, look at that list. Four Gates is tough to get in quantity. The Gvaot Pinot is available, but they are more Cab and rich than a pure ethereal wine, though very impressive. The Eagle’s Landing 2013 vintage is still available at the winery, and the 2016/2018 vintages rocked! The real winners are the French options, but they are NOT cheap.

So, where are we? Some like the Galil Pinot and other such structured wines, but to me, they are just bad Cabernet in a Pinot’s clothing. This is a shortlist. Heck, there are HUNDREDS of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, even many Cabernet Franc options. But say Pinot and numbers dwindle in the blink of an eye. Further, many of the options here are vintage based. For the true Pinot lover, Four Gates and France are your sure bets. Sadly, only the last one is pumping out wines consistently.

PSA: What is wrong with you all?? The Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir has consistently been a high-rated wine and one that lasts for a very long time, improving along the way with great panache. Yet, you can still buy the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wonderful wine!! I bought a bunch of 2013 from Herzog. I get NOTHING to tell you this other than pleasure. BUY the wine and enjoy one bottle now and save the others for a rainy day in 2026. Buy this now!!

Sadly, there were no surprises here, the 2018 Gvaot was nice, the Eagle’s Landing was great, and the Herzog Reserve Pinot (a return after many years of non-production) was also very nice. That is about it. The 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Burgundies were tasted previously (the notes added here for completeness).

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

2018 Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
Let me start by saying buy this wine, buy lots of this wine, I mean a LOT! OK, now this wine is a bigger and richer version of the 2013 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, in other words, this wine is a beast, a winner, and yes – get this wine! My only comment is that this wine is not a classically styled Pinot Noir. This wine is full-bodied and not so much about cherry and raspberry and more about blackberry and spice, I would not have initially guessed this was a Pinot Noir, still this a wonderful wine. My only real complaint is the strangely small cork used as its closure, when the Cabernet Franc has a much longer cork, just not sure why. Anyway, I do not care about corks, as long as they last long enough to meet the drinking window.
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, coffee and chocolate, and fruit madness, with dirt, mushroom, loam, and spice, all wrapped in dark and brooding fruit, showing control, spice, earth, and sheer umami notes, wow!! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is wow! the mouth starts very softly, almost like a leopard crouching before it pounces upon its prey, this wine is beautifully structured to last, and so well made it is almost difficult to get all the thoughts out of my head, layers of fruit, acid, tannin, salinity (that is incredible), black olives, with epic fruit structure and concentration, with clear and bold and jammy blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, with intense saline, forest floor, searing acidity, and layers of dark jammy brooding but well-controlled fruit. With time the cherry and raspberry fall behind the intense black and intense brooding fruit. The finish is equally impressive with layers of chocolate, coffee, leather, spices, nutmeg, cloves, rich earth, lovely smoking tobacco leaves, sweet and jammy fruit, all wrapped in mineral, spice, and earth. Bravo!!! Drink from 2024 until 2033 or longer.

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