Category Archives: Israeli Wine

The 2018 Kosher rose season is open – part 3

Well, after the first post I stated that I would be doing this rose wine post a few times. The subsequent posts would have the original content, and the newly revised or added rose wines as well. Well, this is part 3, and I hope this is the last one! My schedule was insane, but it is now slowing down, thankfully, so I hope to be adding more posts as well!

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

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 9 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Wine Color

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

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color is the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red colored is long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature. Read the rest of this entry

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Top kosher 2017 white wines from around the world

Ok, let’s start with the obvious, I have been so busy this year that I have had zero time to work on these posts. So, ahead of the High Holiday Crescendo, I wanted to post a quick note about the 2017 vintage and my hopes for a great new year, filled with joy, success, health, and lots of great wine to all.

2017 Vintage

So far the 2017 vintage has been much akin to the 2016 vintage – last year. The 2017 roses have been a letdown overall, much akin to the 2016 vintage of roses that were a letdown after the epic 2015 vintage. Sure, we have a few rose winners, like the lovely 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose, and the nice 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose, and 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado.

Still, the whites have been a real letdown, much akin to what happened in the 2016 vintages. We have not had a GREAT vintage out of Israel since the INSANELY good 2014 vintage.

So, Israel has been a letdown white wine-wise and rose overall these past few years. But there are some winners as usual. I have yet to taste the 2017 Tzora wines. The Netofa whites are lovely, along with the fun and very enjoyable 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier. There is also some nice Dalton Sauvignon Blanc wines.

The true savior is once again, the old-world region. France has a few great whites! Yes, I said whites! Throw in California, and we have enough whites, just not a bounty.

I hope you enjoy these great white wines in your Succah and with your family. Wishing you all a healthy year signed and delivered!

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

2017 Chateau Lacausade Saint-Martin, Vieilles Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink by 2021.

2017 Chateau Guiraud ‘G’, Sec – Score: 92
Finally, a French white I can really appreciate! This is really fun, the wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, showing notes of pure funk, wax, green notes, with cucumber, mineral, old-world notes, showing honeysuckle, and floral notes, with green apple, quince, lovely straw, and rich minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, with more funk, nice complexity, with rich salinity, followed by rich dry and tart Asian pear, with nice gooseberry, and graphite. The finish is long and green, with lemongrass, stone, rock, with more wax and flint. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 92
WOW! This wine has quite the nose, screaming with fresh orange blossom, ripe yellow grapefruit, with hints of nectarines, cat pee, and lovely citrus. The mouth on this unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is dry, bone dry, not quite a Sancerre, but impressive, with lovely weight, and great fruit focus with a crazy core of acid that keeps going long after the wine is gone, followed by rich mineral, slate, saline galore, and a lovely core of lie and lemon that mingle well and play with each other. The finish is long, crazy long, with more mineral, floral notes, lovely bitter notes of citrus pith, and just fun, tart citrus that lingers forever. BRAVO!!! Drink till 2021 Read the rest of this entry

The 2018 Kosher rose season is open – part 2

Well, after the first post I stated that I would be doing this rose wine post a few times. The subsequent posts would have the original content, and the newly revised or added rose wines as well. Well, this is part 2, and there will be at least a part 3 or maybe a part 4, such is life. My schedule is insane right now (not complaining in any way), so when I can grab a few moments to update the roses I have had, I take it with both hands!

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

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 9 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Wine Color

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

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color is the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red colored is long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature. Read the rest of this entry

Seven Kosher Viognier Wines

Viognier (pronounced Vee-Ohn-Yay) is a very special grape and one that must be handled with great care.  The Viognier grape/wine is a special treat. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes, and acidity, but it is also a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise; it does not generate the classic perfume that we are used to seeing in Muscat and Riesling wines. The winemaker has many choices with how he/she wants to manage the grapes.  The winemaker can allow the wine to go through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness.  With all the choices and difficulties that Viognier wines have, they rarely meet expectations and are, therefore, not one of the current popular white wines.  Finally, Viognier is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines, also the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner. By default, the Viognier grape is lower in acidity than other white varietals, which makes for a wine that is not meant for cellaring, at least not yet in the kosher market.

The most famous of Viognier wines come from Condrieu AOC and though they are highly desired, even there they are not always winners. The climate in Condrieu is colder than much of the Rhone, and its soil is made up of a porous, drainable granite, chalk, mica, and deposits of gneiss. The area is known as the original mother of Viognier and in the AOC, the only legal grape is Viognier.

While I really liked the 2016 Psagot Viognier last year, now it is losing its steam and it acid is falling off, making for a fetter more round wine. Dalton, in the past, threw so much oak at the wine that it was built to last longer. Psagot and Kos Yehuos both do not throw that much oak at the wines and they release them early on. Psagot has a fascinating way to get acidity and perfume. Yaacov Oryah, picks around 80% of the Viognier early, for acid, minerality and low alcohol, and 20% later in the season, for perfume.

I really enjoyed the 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier, it was varietally true, and really lovely. The sad fact was that I could not find it in Israel, the week before Passover, and I tried almost every wine store in and around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem! I had to come to the USA to taste it, and it is a lovely wine indeed!

Still, of all of them, the Kos Yeshuos Viognier is showing a more old world and mineral style than the perfume madness of the Israeli options. It is sad that there are so few options in the world of Viognier. Galil has some, and they are OK but pretty average. Same with the 2016 Yatir Viognier, it was muted to me. The 2016 Dalton Viognier was nice, but it is an oak monster, and that is an acquired taste.

Now I stated that there were 7 Viognier wines here in the title, and while there are 5 varietal Viognier wines, the other two are blends. The first of the blends is the 2017 Shirah Vintage Whites which is a blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay, from the Murmur Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The last of the blends is the 2017 Teperberg Fermitage White, Inspire.

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

2016 Psagot Viognier, 2017 Psagot Viognier, 2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier

2017 Covenant Israel Viognier, Blue C – Score: 90
Classic viognier notes with crazy rich floral notes, with rich saline, lovely peach, and some oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really fun and showing a lovely oily texture, with rich weight and more fun saline, followed by apricot rolled in the grass, with floral notes. The finish is sweet and ripe and fresh with tart notes of stone fruit, with lemongrass and flint. Bravo!

2017 Psagot Viognier: 89 to 90
This year’s vintage is leaner than last year’s vintage, but also more light in style and focus. The wine starts off very ripe and needs time to come around, give this wine time. The nose starts off with ripe fruit notes of pineapple juice, honeycomb, really ripe, with cloves, allspice, peach marmalade, and apricot, and stone fruit. With time the nose turns to nice mineral notes, backed by peach marmalade, wonderful peach jam, and lovely hay, quince jam. The mouth is more round and fat than I would have hoped, with orange and nectarines, still, it is well structured. With slate, saline, and pith galore. Nice.

2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier – 92 (QPR)
Do not cool this wine too much, it likes 30 min in the fridge and no more.
This wine has evolved over the past 6 months. Gone is the fruity nose and now the nose is pure flint, yeast, smoke, and really fun straw and mineral, with peach and honey in the background. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe for sure, but really well balanced and showing lemongrass, with a rich oily coat that covers the mouth, well focused with rich acidity, nice mineral, great fruit pith, apricots, peach, and lemon, with rock, and grass. The finish is long and acidic, with enough complexity to grab your attention and keep it throughout the finish with lovely white rose tea, sweet spices, notes of fresh lavender, crazy saline lingers super long, with cinnamon, and cloves. Bravo!

2016 Psagot Viognier – Score – 88
So last year this wine was very ripe, now the nose is showing nice funk, with hay, straw, and honeyed notes. last year this wine was an acid bomb, now the wine has lost that rich acidity and now it is well balanced, with good fruit pith, and green notes, and not much else. Sadly, this wine is losing its grip and should be drunken ASAP. DRINK UP!

2017 Teperberg Destitage White, Inspire – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and French Colombard. The nose on this wine is very floral and classically inclined to Viognier with its intense peach bomb notes, with white cherry notes, and sweet Oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is oily and tactile, with a rich weight from the Viognier and Colombard fruit, with sweet Guava and nectarines, followed by with orange notes, The finish is sweet and tart and fun overall, with good acid and floral notes. Nice!

2017 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: 91 (QPR)
Another winner from Shirah with a blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay. The nose on this wine starts off really fun and funky, showing straw and rich mineral, with sweet peach, rich ripe guava, and apricot. The mouth on this wine is really fun, rich, layered, well balanced, oily and textured, and so professionally made, with lovely smoke, oak, with rich apple, dried quince and with fresh focus and lovely weight and viscosity. The finish is crazy and dry, with sweet notes of fig, sweet lemon tea, with intense mineral and lovely pith with a citrus background. Bravo!!

2016 Dalton Viognier, Reserve – Score: 89
The nose is classic Viognier, with peach, too much oak, showing good apricot, sweet rose hips, and a perfume of honeysuckle, and orange blossom. The mouth is medium bodied, with a nice almost oily mouthfeel, showing nice weight, with good notes of summer fruit, with just enough acid, wish there was more, with lovely pear and nectarines. The finish is long and balanced with less acid than before, still too much oak, lovely mineral, slate, and more floral notes. Drink up!

The 2018 Kosher rose season is open

It is officially Spring (though it snowed in Chicago for Passover – so I will hold judgment on that fact for a bit), which means it is Rose time! Rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well, that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 9 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it all?

Wine Color

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

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color is the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red colored is long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature. Read the rest of this entry

The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2018 in all price ranges

As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday.  Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. The Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year, last year’s list was better. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is my list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview WinesGotham WinesSuhag Wine, and of course kosherwine.com and Gary’s store, along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the less than 10 dollar 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2016 Chateau Les Riganes Bordeaux, as wonderful as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the 50 dollars and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 (A- of old) or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2016 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2017 Roses that will be released soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below.

For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it. It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses from Arc International. Also, remember that the first cup should be drunk in totality, according to most authorities.

A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is not as long as last year’s list, because 2015 in Israel was a total disaster, outside of a few winners. The reds from 2015 in Israel, started to show nicely, but now they are falling apart, and the 2016 reds from Israel are flat or worse.

With Terrenal gone and the 2015/2016 Baron Herzog wines not showing really well, sadly, there will be fewer options out there, IMHO.

In the end, these are my picks, they are easy to find and in my opinion, really good. There is also the Jewish Week’s list and Yossie Horwitz (of Yossie’s Corkboard) also comes out with a list.

So there you have it – enjoy good kosher wine for a reasonable price and enjoy the Passover holiday for what it should be, which is enjoying time and our heritage with our families! Happy Passover to you all. Post what wine you will be enjoying, I would love to hear from you guys on what you will be drinking throughout the holiday!

Wines below 10 dollars:

2017 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Chateau Les Riganes (mevushal) (QPR KING)

Wines below 15 dollars:

2016 Baron Herzog Chardonnay (QPR)  (mevushal)
2014/2015 Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso (QPR)  (mevushal)
2016 Elvi Winery Rioja Herenza (QPR)
2015 Ramon Cardova Rioja (mevushal) (QPR)
2014 Chateau du Grand Barrail, Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux (sadly only in France)

Wines below 20 dollars:

2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
2015/2016 Yarden Gewurztraminer (2015 is Shmita)
2015 Capcanes Peraj Petita (NOT 2016 that is really NOT a fun wine)
2013/2014 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico (Great QPR)
2016 Psagot Viognier
2013 Cote de Brouilly Beaujolais
2016 Dalton Pinot Gris (QPR)
2017 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (mevushal) (QPR)
NV Elvi Adar Brut (some are mevushal) (QPR)
2016 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Eva, Blanc (QPR) Read the rest of this entry

KFWE NYC and LA 2018 was ruled by European Wines and American Foie Gras

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! Thankfully, I made NYC and LA. What I can say, is that while not much has changed in regards to overall quality, location, and layout, the shows themselves were not overwhelmingly great this year. Each one had its issues, and in the end to me, it was a tie, with neither wines or food really shining through, other than Heritage’s Foie Gras and The European wines.

As always, the events happen in two parts, the trade and then the public. Public again, had the VIP session, which LA started in 2015, and what has been copied all over the KFWE family since then, and the General admission.

Overall Impressions

To me, while the halls were very nice, trade was really crowded in NYC, like nuts. After the first hour it calmed a bit, and in LA it was really busy throughout the entire trade session. Also, the guests were more demanding and in need of face time with the winemakers and winery representatives, which is really good as wine without context is not as poignant, but it gets in the way of the overall flow of the event. It is a point that needs fixing, but I honestly am not sure how to do it.

Next, let’s start with the positives, the public/general admissions were not moshpits. Which is a huge advance over the past years in NYC, still for many there was not much to taste that was new. THAT was the main issue in my opinion. Again, I have spoken of this many times, but shmita is starting to get really annoying.

I mean that in the manner of how it affects subsequent years. The Shmita overhang is getting in the way of at least two years, given the average release cycle of wineries, maybe even longer for the higher end wines. So, Shmita was the 2015 vintage, meaning we never saw the white and roses wines until the 2016 year. Since the USA does not want shmita wines, 2016 was covered with 2014 wines. The 2017 year was covered by what? Well leftovers of the 2014 vintage, of course. What about this year, 2018? Well, finally, we are starting to see 2016 reds, but not in Israel, they are still on 2015 wines. Royal and other importers have forced Israeli wineries to release the 2016s early, and that is why we saw some Vitkin 2016 red vintages. Still, most of the Israeli wines were old vintages that have still not moved in the USA.

So, what we have is the compounded problem of not having new vintages because of the shmita overhang, and the fact that the older vintages on shelves have not moved. Worse, than that, there were a few misses at both KFWE, like the new 2015 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, which was a no-show.

Overall, to me, the REAL truth, was that the wines were mostly older vintages or wines we had already tasted throughout the year, like the wonderful but not new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. There is no fix to this, wine needs to be sold. Yet, pouring 2014 Roses, that needs to stop. The fact that they were pouring more than a few 2016 roses is already bad enough.

Winners of the shows

The winners were, of course, the 2015 and 2016 wines from Europe. Yes, I dislike date juice, that is not new news, and the Israeli wines were all too old or too ripe, with the exception being Flam, Castel Winery and Carmel Winery on the higher-end wines.

The real saviors of the shows were the European wines. All of the French wines showed as expected, with some ill effects to the mevushal process on 2015 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2015 Chateau Le Crock, and to a lesser degree the 2015 Chateau Greysac. The rest of the French wines showed beautifully, as did the European wines of Elvi Wines, Terra de Seta, and Capcanes Winery. In NYC, it was really fun tasting the 2014 Giscours side by side the 2015 Giscours, showing the elegance and power of the 2015 vintage.

The really impressive and hard to implement fact was that the KFWE LA show – had ALL the wines! Other than Flam’s 2017 Rose, all of Covenant wines, and Hagafen wines (as they self-distribute within Califonia), all the wines were at KFWE LA. The entire French collection was there, even the entire Tabor winery line was there. Though they did not pour the Chateau Leoville Poyferre for trade or General Admission in LA.

The other real winner was Heritage’s, Foie Gras. Enjoying that Foie Gras with some of the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau in NYC was heaven. They even had Foie Gras, not as good as Heritage Farms in the trade and VIP in LA. Read the rest of this entry

Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village – latest 2016 vintage

I recently received the entire line of the new 2016 wines from Jacques Capsouto Vignobles. I have written many times about this winery, that broke onto the kosher wine scene without many knowing anything about them, and shocked us all with really impressive wines starting from the inaugural release.

The 2015 vintage was not kosher in the end, having to do with how or when the grapes were picked, the 2014 and 2016 vintages are perfectly fine and bear the OK kosher symbol.

I have yet to interview Mr. Capsouto personally (though I did talk with him at Sommelier briefly), but there are many good articles out there and I recommend that you read them all – as each has a nugget of information that the other lacks. The first is the oldest of the articles that I enjoyed – maybe the first one written; when the vines were planted. The next one is an article written by the ever wonderful Dorothy Gaiter, written in the Grape Collective. Next, you have the in-depth article by Haaretz – with really good insights. Finally, there is the best article, IMHO, from one of the better kosher wine writers today; Adam Montefiore.

Through all the articles – you get a common story of Jacques Capsouto, an immigrant from Egypt, who built Capsouto Frères with his family, a classic French restaurant in Tribeca – before anyone cared about Tribeca! Throughout the entire journey of Capsouto Freres, he showed his never-ending passion, and drive, but sadly it ended in sorrow after the effects of terrorism and natural disasters destroyed almost half a lifetime of sweat and tears. To me though, there is another story in there, one of love for Israel, wine, and a deep understanding that Rhone varietals have its place in the Galilee!

Rhone Rangers

The Rhone Rangers are a group of California winemakers who in the 80s started an association to promote Rhone varietals in California. They have single-handedly pushed Rhone Valley varietals into the wine buyer’s subconscious. In 2011, Mr. Capsouto planted a subset of the 22 official varietals (9 in total) that make up the Rhone Rangers list of promoted grapesIn doing so, he became Israel’s first and ONLY truly 100% Rhone varietal winery, in other words, Jacques is all-in on the Rhone Valley in the Galilee!

Look around Israel for those betting on the Rhone varietals, there is, of course, Netofa Winery (who planted Rhone and Loire Valley grapes), Recanati Winery (which has access to Bordeaux grapes for the reserve series and Rhone grapes for their Mediterranean Series), Kishor Winery, and Vitkin Winery. Still, no one has staked 1.7 million dollars to start a boutique winery in the Galilee, featuring some of the most obscure grapes to ever grace Israel! The 9 varieties planted are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for the reds and Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for the whites. Carignan is nothing new in Israel, I just posted an article about Carignan wines from Israel. Cinsault is not one I know of in Israel, or anywhere else in the kosher wine world. Grenache is slowly making its way around the country and has been in Israel for some time now. Same with Mourvedre and Syrah of course. Clairette and Grenache Blanc are new to Israel, though Vitkin also has Grenache Blanc. While Marsanne and Roussanne are in the Golan and other places as well. Read the rest of this entry

2017 kosher wine year in review

Well, it is another Gregorian year and though there have been many new things going on in the world of the kosher wine world, they are all small in comparison to the larger fact that not much has changed. I truly mean NOT A SINGLE thing I brought up in last year’s set of issues has changed – NOT ONE!!

In many ways, they are getting worse, and one of those issues where I was personally promised a fix from the man in charge – well let us just say that nothing changed yet – maybe there is still hope (think LA). But let us start at the beginning and get to my issues next. So here is what I thought about 2017, in terms of kosher wine overall.

First, let us do a quick recap of last years issues and the state of them, and then a few new things to think about as well!

Economics

We have too much wine out there for the official kosher wine buying populace. How do I know this? Because the amount of wine being dumped on the non-kosher market for a pittance in countries that no one visits is absurd! Wine is being dumped all over the place, and it is not going to get better anytime soon. Why? Because wineries are still popping up all over the place, and they are making really average wine at best!

Which brings me to the same issue, but in more detail. We have lots of horrible wine out there. Yes, I know I am a broken record, get over it. The kosher wine market in Israel and California needs to get better at making wines for a decent price. But I would be happy with just good wine – for a not decent price.

Again, besides the price, the overall quality of the wines are just not acceptable. The good news is we have lots of wine, but sadly the quality is not there. We need to raise the quality and then work on lowering the price.

State after 2017 of the Economics of kosher wine

Nothing has changed here. Israel is even worse than it was in 2016. At least at the beginning of 2017, we had some 2014 whites that were still ok. Now, they are all dead. The Matar, Tabor wines are all oak juice or flat as a pancake. The 2015 wines are a total and absolute disaster. There was ONE wine I would buy again from 2015 in Israel, and that is the 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, which was on my list of top 25 wines of 2017.

I will say that Herzog has stepped up its game. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley – my 2017 wine of the year, was lovely and reasonably priced for such a good wine. Quality at Herzog is rising, Four Gates is always the same – mostly great wines with a mix of a few misses. Shirah Winery had a few wines on both the QPR wines of 2017 and the interesting wines of 2017. Hagafen Winery continues to make the lovely Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and sparkling wines. Look at Hajdu’s Italian wines – they are really fun and very well made! Covenant Winery has been making Cabernet Sauvignon for 14 years now, and Chardonnay for 9 years and they are consistently on my list of top best wines for Passover, the hits keep coming! Still, overall even within California, there is a lot of work to be done in regards to improving the quality and the prices.

So, yes California is improving, but that is about it! France does not need “improving”. Italy could use better options outside of Terra de Seta! Spain is rocking with Capcanes and Elvi Wines.

The issue though is that there are THOUSANDS of bottles and they are all undrinkable and horrible wines. I am not trying to be Politically Correct, why should I? I do not make wine (other than a few gallons of Pinot Noir to learn the process – hands-on style), I do not sell wine, I will never make money from wine – in any form or manner. I have no issue, desire, or need – THANK GOD!!!

What I do need is to make clear that the state of where we are is not healthy. We have far too much wine that no one wants. Go to stores, go online, there are hundreds of labels of wine from 2010, 2012, 2013. Old labels of old wines that no one wants. What are these poor stores to do? They have no choice! They have to buy the wines – why? because that is the game! The more you buy the stuff that does not move, the more access you get to the stuff that everyone really wants! You rub my back, I rub your back, AKA old mafia style. Nothing new, I am not spilling state secrets here. The issue is that whether we like it or not, stores are the lifeblood and they are being forced by importers and distributors to move stuff that no one wants.

Look at what I said about how many HORRIBLE Rose wines we had – they are still on store shelves! What are they going to do with that stuff?? There are still 2013 Netofa roses in some stores!!

If the wines stink, they sit on shelves, so when I want a new vintage of the hot new Rose, I cannot buy it! Why? Because the store still has previous vintages, what is he supposed to do – eat it? Why should he? I am not in the business, but this much I know – old labels of dead wine stuck on the internet and physical wine stores – IS BAD FOR BUSINESS! PLEASE fix this! Move the stock – kill the stock – I do not care!

Finally, remember that the wine business is a fickle mistress. It is a long-term game – one that needs to be managed and maintained. Names and reputations can be lost overnight when the buying public realize that what they have been enjoying for so many years is just not there anymore. Worse than that, is that all that wine, three or so years of it – the one being made, the one in the winery, and the one in the channel are all flipped on their head and now you have a real problem on your hand. That day is not here in any way. However, seeing where the public is slowly moving, that day is not as far as you would expect. The public is learning – white wine is MOVING! things are changing, and if wineries continue to build wines for the past – they will be left with a ton of inventory that no one wants. You heard it here first! Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2017 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

This year I am adding the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. This year, it is not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Des Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted it, or the 2015 Hajdu Proprietary Red. There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2017 kosher wine of the year!

This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

The 2017 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.

Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017

2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034

2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035

2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry

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