Category Archives: Israeli Wine
In case anyone has read this blog for the past month, I have trumpeted the upcoming KFWE events in both NYC and LA. The NYC event went off without a hitch, a truly improved version over the past few years, and I had much hope for the LA event, as last year – it was the star of the shows.
Last year – David Whittemore, Marketing Director at Herzog Wine Cellars, and Joseph Herzog, CEO of Herzog Winery made the leap from the Hyatt Regency to the swanky Hollywood W – and by doing so they raised the stakes and added the VIP, the best overall VIP I have been to so far, food and wine wise anyway! But that was so 2015! In 2016, they had to double down – and they went with the newly rebuilt and classic/classy Los Angeles experience – the Petersen Automobile Museum!
The Petersen, as it is known around LA, has just completed a $125 million restoration and expansion of its building, and if you look at it from outside, all I can think of is a classic chrome car with blazing red tail lights – which is all you see from the speed demon, as it leaves you in its dust! The upper deck (AKA Penthouse), is where the VIP session was this year, and where the trade session was earlier in the day. The overhead aluminum red streaks that crown this massive beauty, instill in me an idea of a red streaking roller-coaster, but beyond that – I can only stand in awe of the madness and sheer beauty that it bestows upon this chrome Hollywood stalwart.
The streaks are chrome on the outside and red on the inside, mimicking the colors of some of the chrome wheeled beauties that lie within. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we had the distinct pleasure and honor of hosting Yaacov Oryah and friends for meals at our house. It was great to finally return the favor to YC and his lovely wife, from the epic dinner he threw for me, my wife, and my brother, two years ago. Anyone who has read this blog knows who Yaacov Oryah is – he was the winemaker of Asif Winery, which turned into Midbar Winery, and is now the new winemaker at Psagot Winery.
It was a true joy spending a shabbat with one of Israel’s answers to date juice. Yaacov Oryah, may well be the new winemaker at Psagot Winery, but he is also the winemaker for his winery – Yaacov Oryah Winery. Remember, Oryah was the winemaker and partner of Asif Winery – but when that did not work out he still had his vineyards and he still needed a place to make wines. Oryah is like Tabor Winery , Netofa Winery, Recanati Winery, Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, Domaine du Castel, Matar, Tura, Adir Winery, and others – Israeli wineries who pick early and understand balance is more important than imperfect wines that have perfect phenolic qualities.
Sadly, the list may not be long, but they are the answer to Israel’s overripe red wine problem. They are proof that it can be done, even at millions bottles! I hope others will follow. From what I saw on my latest trip to Israel, change is afoot, especially at the smaller producers.
Yaacov Oryah Winery
In 2011 Mr Oryah, was faced with a problem, Asif was essentially gone, Midbar had yet to come to life, and so the grapes needed a home – hence was the creation of Yaacov Oryah – private winery and winemaker! It is the age-old story – Necessity is the mother of all invention! The grapes had a need and Oryah was the answer. What was created was a lovely pair of Rioja style wines – with Tempranillo being the major component. Read the rest of this entry
Well in case you were tracking my posts leading up the 2016 KFWE NYC event, I was slightly critical of last year’s NYC event while I loved the LA event – which was in the W Hotel. This year, the NYC KFWE (which happened last night) was quite the event – as it returned to Pier 60, and had a VIP session to boot.
The VIP session was a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event and the 2016 LA KFWE event (tomorrow night), looks to be even more insane!
The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. Within 30 minutes the place was crowded, which is really good news. Trade is all about getting press about what kosher wine is and where it is heading. Yes, I have spoken many times about the fact that Royal Wines is the 900 pound gorilla – and it has the ability to crowd the market and push out its competitors as it flexes its muscles. Still, we need exactly what happened yesterday. The place was filled with reporters and wine buyers and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world.
People still think kosher wine is nasty stuff (just search kosher wine on twitter), and this video and others are exactly what we need to spread the word that kosher wine has grown up, and continues improving every year! The reason for that – kosher wine consumers are growing by leaps and bounds and they want better food and better wine! Just look at the numbers; CBS2 reports that the kosher wine business is now doing $28 million a year and sales and growing.
Now personally, that number is pure bunk, it is far higher. Last year there were millions of bottles of Bartenura Blue Bottle sold, some report 5M other more like 9M. At 12 dollars a pop – the 28 million dollar number is either embarrassed or obliterated – all together. Add to that the roughly 1M bottles of wine produced by Herzog Winery at a blended average of 15 dollars a pop (the majority of their wines are less but they have many more expensive wines as well) – and that adds another 15M to the pot. Next add in the 13M dollars in Israeli exported wine sold in the USA (according to 2011 numbers which pale in comparison to 2015 numbers) – and you start to see how absurd that number of 28M really is. Where the number comes from is beyond me. Finally, we cannot ignore the amount of wine made in Europe and South America or here in the USA from the kosher California wineries (ignoring Herzog of course as that was cited earlier).
Now worldwide consumption of kosher wine is another entirely DIFFERENT number of course! Kosher wine produced in Israel (the vast majority of all the wine produced in Israel overall) – clocks in at 170M – again using a very old and conservative number (though part of that number is in the Israeli export number citied above).
IMHO, a VERY conservative number would be 250M of kosher worldwide consumption. In the USA that number is closer to 90M (again very conservative numbers)!
With those kinds of numbers, it is only a matter of time until companies, other than Royal start to take notice, and then it will get really interesting! Till then, we will need to keep pushing events like last night and tomorrow night (in LA)! These kinds of events shine the spotlight on this growing wine segment and one worthy of other company’s attention as well!
Personally, I was there to help my friend – Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines. Sadly, Moises was busy with family issues and as much as I was asked what wine I liked the most (most annoying part of the event – and more on that in a bit), I was asked where is Moises? Read the rest of this entry
When I think of the wineries that have great quality wines for a reasonable price, I think of Tabor Winery today more and more. Of course Recanati continues to impress with their reserve Cab and Merlot and Petite Sirah, and their unheralded but dark horse Chardonnay. Then there is of course Netofa, which is crushing it more and more, if I could ever find a recent vintage in the USA – that is!
Tabor Winery is located in Kfar Tavor, and when you search for the older notes on the wines – the winery itself was not clear how to spell its name in English! Is it Tavor Winery or Tabor Winery. This is not a new issue in Israel, transliterating Hebrew words to English is a royal pain in the bottom, and sometime you get the Arabic twist – where Katzrin is spelled Qatzrin on Google Maps and on the road signs!
Either way, the winery did not just start in 1999, it really started 100 years before that in 1901 when Baron Rothschild – a massive supporter of Israel and a huge philanthropist, in his own right, wished to see Israel settled by Jews again. He came to Israel and spent millions of dollars – in those days – to build Carmel winery in Zichron Yakov. However, what is not so known, is that he also helped settle a small town then called Mes’ha (more on that in a bit) in 1901. The name Mes’ha came from a small neighboring Arab village that was down the road. In 1903, the Zionist leader – Menachem Ussishkin urged them to rename it to something Hebrew and so Kfar Tavor was what it was called, as the village lies beneath the shadow of Mount Tavor (Kfar means village in Hebrew – as at that time the town only harbored some 28 or so families). Read the rest of this entry
In my state of kosher wine industry post – I lamented at the lack of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) options in the kosher wine world. Now that is not to say that the options do not exist, as you can see by the number of QPR options on my top wines for Passover last year. Still, given the sheer number of wines in a kosher wine store (many hundreds) and the number of kosher wines on the open market (many thousands), we are left with a very small minority – sadly.
So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past 6 months. I wanted to catch up with wines I had not had till later last year and place them in a single easy to find place.
My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly I cannot find them at many wine stores. Thankfully, Kosherwine has gotten the Elvi Cava back along with the Gilgal Brut, but they have older vintages or no vintages of the Elvi options. Onlinekosherwine.com, also has many of the older Elvi wines. I have spoken with Moises and he says they exist here somewhere in the USA – only God knows where though!!! Sadly, the exact same can be said for Netofa wines – another QPR superstar! Where are the wines? I taste them at KFWE – but they are not at stores, online or at shops!
I hope to one day write a post about wine cellaring, but till I do, understand that certain wines are made to enjoy early, like Cava, most 2014 white wines, and lighter reds. The richer and tannic reds can use time in the cellar and that is normal. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex note or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – I will point out when an older one will be an issue or a newer vintage would not be on the list (like the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc versus the 2012). The 2012 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc would never be on this list. The 2011 is a fine wine for another year, after that I fear it will turn to date juice.
Also, many of the white/rose/bubbly wines will be repeats from the various posts I made, as most of the 2015 whites and rose are not coming to the USA as they are shmita in Israel. I tried to keep these wines under 30 dollars or so, some are more most are less and that is the point of this list. Of course, that means that for some wineries there will be one or no options, like Matar or Four Gates Winery. Though I could have thrown in the Four Gates Chard – which is a lovely wine, it is still far from my goal to add into this bucket. The same can be said for many more wineries. Also, 2015 Israeli wines are not on this list, actually no 2015 wines are on this list, though Hagafen Winery, has released their 2015, but I have yet to taste them and the 2014 Hagafen wines are the ones on the market anyway. Finally, wines that can only be found in Israel like the epic Tabor Rose of 2014 and the 2014 Reca Gris du Marselan and the yatir rose and the new 2014 Yatir Viognier – and so on. All of these wines are not on this list because they are hard to find, but they are on previous lists I have posted.
So, without further ado – here is my list of kosher QPR winners so far and if you have any more please tell me!! They are listed below without any real order.
2014 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must say this is clearly the best Netofa white so far, and I hope they continue to impress! The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the slopes of Mount Tabor. The nose is redolent with rich and bright quince, straw, mineral, lemongrass, and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and rich mineral bomb, with more hay, spiced quince, now dry fresh cut grass, green apple, Asian pear, along with a crazy dry and insanely tart crab apple. The finish is long – spicy, dirty, and mineral based, with dry fruit, rich ripping acid, cloves, and nutmeg – BRAVO!!!
2013 Domaine Netofa Red – Score: A- (and more) (QPR!)
This wine is a clear step up from the 2012 Netofa Red, that is not putting the 2012 down in any way, it is just that this wine is even better! This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is redolent and packed with mineral, lovely smoke, flint, ripe plum, lovely blueberry, with currants in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is attacks you first with lovely currants, followed by layers of blueberry, floral notes, richer and more extracted than the 2012, with great mineral, dried strawberry, all wrapped in ripping acid, and lovely tannin. The finish is long, extracted, and richly mineral in style, with blackcurrant, draping tannin, while being spiced with cloves, black pepper, sweet her, and hints of pith and lovely acid. BRAVO!!!
2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select – Score: A- (Mevushal) (QPR!)
This is not the same wine as the 2011 vintage, which was crazy and great this vintage started off closed and disjointed, but is now showing far better. The nose on this wine is mad green with red fruit notes, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with green notes, well balanced with good acid, raspberry, plum, earth, more bell pepper, crazy sweet dill, mouth coating tannin, and green foliage. The finish is long with nice enough acid, forest floor, nice butterscotch, good sweet tobacco, cedar, with tannin adding weight. Read the rest of this entry
Sorry for the pause in posts – but I was traveling to Israel and now that I am back I hope to keep the posting back to a regular weekly rate. I travelled to Israel for this year’s sommelier – a wine event held in Israel that is normally attended by many of the upcoming and established wineries in Israel and abroad. I also went all around the country to more than 10 wineries and it helped me to get a very good feel for where the kosher Israel wine industry is now and where it is moving to in the next few years – wine wise anyway.
The event was originally marketed towards smaller and mid-sized wineries and distributors for restaurants, wine shops, and hotels to come and see the wineries that are scattered all over Israel in one place! Over time the event has ebbed and flowed and is now more of an event for smaller wineries to really spend their marketing dollars to garner the biggest bang for their buck. My personal fear is that in the coming years, this will fade, and start to get segregated much like it is in the USA. There are already many city oriented wine events, like the Judean Hills wine event and the Binyamina and Tel Aviv events. Add to that the famous Jerusalem wine event for kosher wines before Passover and I fear that things the Sommelier event will start to move away from a fairly well set of distributed and independent wineries to either a set of wineries run under a few select distributors (like HaKerem, Shaked, The Scottish Company, HaGafen) or worse – to a place where only a couple reign supreme. This will all play out – I fear – to the tune of follow the money. Still, the hope is that the need for small players and some medium ones as well to keep a good and well-lit profile – may mean that the event will stay safely away from the vertical plays going on in the USA.
With all that said, I was very impressed by the event overall this year. It was not over the top and almost drunken like last year, when Tabor was doing Mixology with their beautiful wines! Sadly, the wines were not as impressive as the event was overall. This year the event managers were smart enough to NOT lay down a temporary flooring – THANK GOD! For the past few years that temporary flooring reeked of glue and plastic and made smelling wine an almost impossibility around the winery stalls. It forced me to go to open areas smell the wine and come back and forth and so on until I was done tasting that winery’s wines. This year the lack os such “extra” flooring was a true god send!
Further – the wine event this year saw more kosher wineries than ever and the addition of kosher international wineries to boot! Elvi Wines was showing wines imported by Shaal Rubin, under a large heading of The House of International Kosher Wines. Another great example was Eli Gauthier’s Chianti – which was brought in by Mersch Premium Wines. Also, Bokobsa had a stall showing off some solid QPR wines, with only the Champagne, a Merlot based rose, and the Gigondas scoring high. Overall, ignoring the imports for a second, which is a lot of wine, the majority of the wineries at the event were kosher. Actually, the majority of the wineries, again ignoring imports for a second, were micro small to boutique sized wineries, most of them staffed by the winemaker or owner, kosher, and very passionate and personable folks. Of course there were a few mammoth kosher wineries at the show, including Binyamina. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we had many guests over and we enjoyed a lovely cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Most of them were from Cali – but we had a nice Israeli wine in there as well. The real winner of the blind tasting was the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, but I liked the 2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc more because of the acid. It was clear that certain wines were better appreciated for the depth and power they had, more in your face and full bodied wines.
Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways. While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc. In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”. “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec! We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!
Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety. What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape. Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted. Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel. Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines. Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins. However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.
Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, however, does get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.
Well, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.
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- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.
On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).
My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!
OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!
2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!
2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!
2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!
2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry
As I have been lamenting recently, there really is no way to get kosher wines from small producers that are imported by anyone other than Royal Wines, on the West Coast. One of the best examples of that is the brand new Jacques Capsouto wines that appeared in 2015 on the east coast – imported to the USA from Israel by: Road House Wine – a small but respected wine importer out of New York, of course!
People who read this blog have a few choice words for it, the most common complaint – that it is too long. Well this post will be far shorter – I promise you that. I had the opportunity to taste the two wines and the notes will be found below. However, I did not have the chance to talk or interview the man for this post – Jacques Capsouto, but the story is wonderful, and I could never do it honor as the esteemed and true Israeli Wine promoter could – Adam Montefiore. So please read his article on Jacques Capsouto – it is beautiful, as they all are, and very compelling indeed!
My personal take on Mr. Capsouto is that he is DEAD on with what will work in Israel and what may get by in Israel, grape wise. The Rhone Valley, Spain, and Portugal varietals should be the template for most wineries going forward. Fo this man to create a winery based solely on Rhone varietals is genius and one that I am sure will continue to reap rewards for him going forward.
I hope to meet with the man and visit the winery the next time I am in Israel, till then I hope you work as hard as I did to find these wines and enjoy them for what they are – first-rate product from a new wine producer, who is deeply passionate about his love for Israel and his love for Israeli wine! Also any person who can say these words and put his money behind it – IS MY KIND of man!!! Capsouto is convinced that Israel is a Mediterranean country and as such should plant Mediterranean grape varieties. He also believes Israel should make blends in the Southern Rhone style, “less fruit forward and less like California”. All I can say is AMEN!!!!!
Sadly, I never tasted the 2014 rose till it sold out in NYC. The next rose will be from 2015 Shmitta, which I do not drink. Also, the reserve wine is not yet released – look for it in the spring of this year. As I hope you read Adam’s article, Eva is used in honor of Jacques’ mother, Samuel is used in honor of his grandfather and brother, while Marco is for his father (the unreleased reserve red wine), and Albert is named after his younger brother who passed away for the other unreleased white reserve wine.
Another side note – that I think many will see and one that I will surely ask him when I meet him in the future, is that this direction follows another winery we all love – Netofa Winery. The varietals are all Rhone in style, the unoaked whites and rose are released early, followed by the unoaked reds 6 months later. Then the reserve white and red, both oaked, are released a year later. This is not particular in any way to Pierre and Netofa Winery, this is the classic release cycle of almost all wineries in the Rhone. Just interesting to see two men building an entire wineries off Rhone varietals and whose styles are very close in nature – but we will have to taste the reserve wines in the future to see how close they hew to each other’s styles.
In closing – I was really impressed by what he has created in his first year, the white wine is insanely good, both quality and cost wise. The red wine is nice, but a bit too floral for me. Still, the ability to take a fair amount of capital and plant it into the ground in the Galilee – with varietals that he believes will work, while almost none of it exists there – is very gutsy! I am not sure of this – but I wonder if he was the first to ever plant Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Counoise in the Galilee!! There is not much Grenache up there either, with Roussanne and Marsanne having been planted already. Bravo to Mr. Capsouto, may you have more successes in the coming years!
My wine notes follow below for the white and red:
2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Blanc – Score: A- (and more) (MAD QPR)
This is the second kosher wine that I know of that is made mostly to all with Grenache Blanc, the other one being the epic Hajdu Grenache Blanc, but double or more the price!
That said, this is one of the best whites coming out of Israel, and that is a VERY long list, given the new trends there. This blend is very unique and clearly the only one that I know of with Clairette, the other grapes have been part of Recanati wines, along with Shirah, Hajdu, and others. Still, by itself – it is one of the most unique and complex blends in the kosher world – hands down!
The blend is 60% Grenache Blanc, 19% Roussanne, 14% Clairette and 7% Marsanne. These are all grapes that have been taken up by the Rhone Rangers, as they are all Rhone varietals (though some of those grapes grow elsewhere in France as well).
This wine needs air, please do not pop it and drink it, you will regret it. It does not need to be decanted, that is absurd, but please open it two hours in advance and you will enjoy it far more, IMHO. The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with straw, floral notes, orange blossom, citrus, and earth. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is fresh, spirited, and live, with nice acid, great mineral, slate, along with green apple, peach, apricot, pear, nectarine, all very restrained if I must, really shocking for an Israeli wine, along with spice, herb, and lovely nutty qualities. The finish is long and salty, with lovely saline, olives, great orange pith, and more refreshing aspects. This is a shocking wine for Israel a crazy QPR and a very unique blend! BRAVO!!!
2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Samuel Rouge – Score: B to B+
After tasting the very nice (solid QPR) Capsouto Blanc, I had hopes for this next wine, another unique blend for Israel. This wine is unoaked and a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 31% Grenache, 31% Counoise, and 3% Syrah. Wait what??? Yep there are clearly Grenache and Counoise vines in Israel! Like WHAT!!! I had never heard of Counoise until I tasted this wine, and that alone is a sure-fire buy for most people who see this wine because most have never had a wine with that varietal in it, if you drink kosher or NOT! The first two varietals are classically termed GM (Grenache Mourvedre blend), the Syrah three-some is called a GMS. But the GMCS is a new one for me in the kosher wine world!
That said, the other varietals are almost common to us Cali lovers, but still other than Syrah – the other varietals are not exactly commonplace like an internet Kardashian-sighting! So, I had high hopes times two. At first this wine opens to floral mouth that is overpowering, but with time that relaxes and becomes a very nice wine indeed.
The nose on this wine is lovely and one of its clear winners with rich blueberry, boysenberry, rich floral notes, root beer, dirt, and nice roasted animal that I love and commonly associate with Cali GM and classic Australian Shiraz. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is very nice with ripping acid, nice raspberry, plum, blue fruit, floral notes, followed by very nice mouth coating tannin, coffee, and good sweet herb. The finish is long and blue with more floral notes, boysenberry, rose hips, rose water, and tannin, tobacco, and sweet herbs. Very impressive first release and while I would take the Netofa Red side by side with this lovely wine, this is still an impressive wine – VERY NICE!
Well, as I have said many times, I used to work with Dan Kirshe at kosherwine.com, I was one of the writers for his wine club newsletter and I bought most of my wine from them. Since then – the inventory and the website were sold to JWines. The name brand alone for such a coveted domain must have been worth the effort that Dan and his team put into that company for many years, I hope, though I have no idea about that aspect at all.
After a while Dan went a different direction and while I always liked kosherwine.com, my orders went elsewhere, towards the east coast merchants. Over time, the costs for shipping has gone up, as fewer and fewer of the east coast kosher wine merchants – gave free shipping as an option.
In the game of driving down prices as your lone differentiator – it clearly become a zero sum game that no one could win and therefore they have almost all pulled the free shipping sales during the holidays. Where that leaves folks like me, who live on the west coast, is hoping to find the best deal and then eating the shipping, which does not work unless you are buying very high end wines.
Kosherwine.com is one of the very few wine shops online that offer free shipping, but to balance that their prices are higher than other shops. So, if you are looking for wines in the 20 to 30 dollar range – the free shipping on a case becomes of real value, even with their slightly higher prices. As I look through their inventory more, especially in the French and Spanish regions, I find they have a nice selection, though some of them are out of stock and I wish they would stock wines from the smaller importers like Red Garden or Israel Wine Direct.
In the end, KW has a lot going for it, they have a very good selection, albeit without some distributors, they also have free case shipping, and they have sale prices that are often inline with some of the larger merchants. Toss in no sales tax for most of the country as well, and it is a great option for wines that exist in the price range that most of us buy wines at.
With that said, JCommerce (the parent company for JWines and Kosherwine.com) is attempting to move itself past the inevitable drive to the bottom – that many wine stores will face when their only differentiator is price alone. One of their approaches is their set of Library wines, which we tasted at last year’s Jewish Week wine tasting, personally it was the best part of that tasting outside of a few other wines there. The wine tasting itself was a disaster, as it was far too crowded and most of the good wines were not brought by the distributors. The best part, IMHO, of the Jewish Week tasting last year were KosherWine.com’s incredible old wines that they were pouring – it was a real treat!
Another manner in which KW is trying to innovate is with the production of their own wines. Now let me say, that while making your own wine for fun may be hard but rewarding – creating labels and getting import rights are an insane pain in the neck. Now, you can get away with much of the pain if you are not reselling the wines, that is 100% legal by law. However, once you start selling wine – no matter where that wine was produced – it needs to have a label that has been approved by the TTB. Throw in the wine importing and this new project by JCommerce is one that is unique and may well end up as a very good long term play for them.
I was sent four wines to taste, two of them are not involved with this post – so I will skip over them. The other two wines were The Chosen Barrel wines. Of the two of them, I liked one of them and the other was not for my taste buds. With that said, both of them will be liked by the kosher wine consumers that drink riper and new-world Israeli wines. They both showed very good structure, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The Acacia was a bit too new world for me, with clear date leanings, while the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, while being clearly new-world in style, was controlled with nice classic Cab fruit and spice.
I wanted to touch on a quick but not overly discussed fact on the two wines I received. The Cabernet Sauvignon is NOT mevushal while the Acacia blend is mevushal and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The blend is also called Australian Blend – as they were one of the first countries to create this ripe wine blend. With that said, Israel was next to make use of this blend, with Yatir being one of the first to create this blend in the kosher wine world (aside from the kosher Australian wines that were out at that time).
The wines marketing does not revolve around who made the wines or from winery they come from! These wines are kosher of course, as is visibly clear from the bottles. The wine’s web pages describes the process for how these white label wines came to be. In their words: The Chosen Barrel is an innovation in the US Wine Industry. We sampled countless barrels from more than 20 Israeli wineries and when we found The Chosen Barrel, we knew we had to have it all. So we could bring it to you.
When we first approached this project we knew our customers want unparalleled access to the very best of kosher wine. As we toured Israel’s wineries and tasted more than 50 barrels of wine, we found this small batch production of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and barbera grapes. Instantly, we knew. We had found what we had come for. No one else has access to The Chosen Barrel. We purchased it all so we could bring it to you. This exclusive production is yours, and we’re confident you’ll be as excited about it as we are.
The labels talk more about the wines themselves. In the case of the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the back label informs that the wine was aged for 20 months in barrels. The wine was harvested by hand and at night, and when bottles the wine was unfiltered. The same goes for the Acacia blend, excepting for the aging time – which was 15 months in oak barrels.
My many thanks to JCommerce for sending me the wines and the wine notes follow below:
2012 The Chosen Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B++ (NOT Mevushal)
What can I say, this is a very new world wine, very fruit forward and in your face, this is not a wine for tasting – this is a wine to be enjoyed with food and meat. The nose on this wine is classically Israeli, with mounds of tobacco, sweet cedar, mounds of mocha, rich milk chocolate, coconut, and black fruit in the background with herbs. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still young, with searing tannins, along with enough acid to balance out the wine, but very new world and leaning towards dates with lots of oak, blackberry, dark plum, raspberry, nice mineral, dirt, and green notes, bell pepper, and sweet herb. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, all coming together with leather, and sweet fruit.
2012 The Chosen Barrel Acacia – Score: B to B+ (mevushal)
This is another new world wine that is another classic Israeli bent wine. This wine is less balanced than the Cabernet reserve, but with 25% of Syrah it has something to add. The nose on this wine is closed, but with time it shows earth, mushroom, date, cooked fruit, with chocolate, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is sweet with dark plum, sweet blueberry, anise, pepper, with a plush mouth and searing tannin, all wrapped in a fruit forward body structure. The finish is spicy with hints of saline, creme de cocoa, earth, mineral, and nice sweet spices, cinnamon, and sweet herb. The mevushal process feels like it hurt this wine, but many will find this a nice wine with the bold body and bold fruit.