Category Archives: Kosher Wine

A tasting of M & M Importers’ latest imports – March 2022

Well folks it has been too long since my last post, Passover, life, lots of work, anyway, I have a lot of notes to post, so look for them to be coming very soon., For now, I need to post the lovely wines I received from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers. These are all Italian options and some of them can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while most of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ.

The simpler wines have a new label, gone is the Botteotto brand and now we have the wines under the original winery’s brands. A few of these wines are Mevushal and while I have my issues with the need for Mevushal in our lives today, it seemed to have little to no effect on the wines themselves.

Also, I finally had the chance to taste the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Franci, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino, for a second time. I had it in France last year, and while I liked the wine it did not blow me away, as I was expecting. I am happy I had the chance as I felt the wine did not show well in pairs. Sure enough, the wine was indeed better and the revised score and notes can be found below.

The wine list is another example of why Italy is a wonderful wine region to find QPR stars. This entire list is either GOOD to WINNER. No duds. Overall another great list from M &M Importers.

My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Cristallo Pinot Grigio, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is fun, it is simple but fun, refreshing, funky, and enjoyable.
The nose of this wine is funky, with notes of straw, rosebud, rose petals, green apple, slate, white flowers, and more hay!
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, simple, refreshing, well-balanced, with lovely acidity, nice weight, good fruit focus, orange notes, nectarine, tart lemon/lime, and citrus, but what sticks with you is the refreshing weight and salinity.
The finish is long, green, tart, balanced with good acidity, hay, straw, violet, and long lingering tart green fruit with minerality. Lovely! Drink now. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

2020 Illuminare Dry Moscato, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine reminds me of the other dry Muscat wine I know of on the market – Michael Kaye’s lovely wine. Michael’s wine is fruitier, this wine is lean, very floral, but also shows tart/dry tropical notes, really very different but also similar and equally fascinating.
The nose of this wine is intoxicating, it pulls you in and grabs you, showing tart and dry pineapple, intense jasmine, white flowers, tart green and yellow mango, lychee, smoke, flint, and more floral notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, showing lovely saline, refreshing, tart, with great acidity, sweet Mandarin orange, pineapple, sweet pear, Meyer lemon, honeyed notes, and lovely honeysuckle.
The finish is long, tart, green, yet nicely ripe, very floral, with good saline, minerality, and more fruit. Bravo! Drink Now (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

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

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

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

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

KFWE 2022 NJ

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

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

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

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The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2022 in all price ranges

Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, from under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and a safe Passover together. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!

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 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 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. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is 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, normally, happen 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 WineLiquid Kosheronlinekosherwine.comkosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), 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 13 of so dollar 2019 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Blanc (White), or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines 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 are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Canteloup, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. 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 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 2020 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Thankfully, so far, the few 2021 Roses I have had are not nearly as poor as the 2020 crop or Rose wines. The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it is 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 here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain 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 Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!

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The top 10 Kosher Mevushal wines of 2021

If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.

Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.

The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.

Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.

More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.

Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)

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The top 25 QPR Kosher wine WINNERS of 2021

This past year I wanted to drive home the need for QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines. So I set out to create what I thought a QPR metric should be! Gone were arbitrary price ranges and such. Instead, I let the market define what the QPR price range should be. I did this by grouping the wines by their type (white, red, rose, sparkling, and dessert) and then further refined the grouping by age-ability within the white and red wines. This gave me the following groups:

  • Drink “soon” White Wine (Simple whites)
  • Rose Wine (always drink soon)
  • Drink “soon” Red Wine (Simple reds)
  • Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years)
  • High-end Red wines (11 and more years)
  • High-end White wines (7 and more years)
  • Sparkling Wine (No need here for extra differentiation)
  • Dessert Wine

I then made the mistake of trying to create an Orange wine range/group – that was a HUGE mistake. Again, the wines themselves were not the issue, the issue revolved around trying to group such a small sample set into its group. They will go into their respective white wine category, next year.

Throughout the year, I posted many QPR posts, for almost all of the main categories. I will continue down this road until I find a better way to categorize and track wines that are QPR WINNERS. Talk about WINNERS, that secondary QPR score was a 2.1 revision to my QPR scoring, and that is explained in this post. All the wines listed here are QPR WINNERS from my tastings in 2021.

This year, the list came to a total of 25 names, and none had to dip below 91 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Shoutout to a GREAT wine that is just sitting around!

I am sorry to get on my soapbox before we get to the top QPR wines of 2021. But I have to ask what is wrong with the 2018 Vitkin Grenache Blanc??? Yes, it is a bit expensive, but it is also one of the best white wine on the market currently, hailing from Israel. It is incredible – funky, acidic, rich, and expressive – please folks – try the bottle and then once you find out how awesome it is, buy some!! As always, I get nothing for promoting/suggesting a wine, NOTHING, I am simply reminding folks – great wines still hail from Israel!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 Red QPR kosher WINNER

The 2017 Clos Mesorah is lovely! It is available in the USA and elsewhere. I tasted the 2018 and 2019 as well, and they are lovely, but I will taste them again on the release here in the USA.

2017 Clos Mesorah, Montsant – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, lovely green olives, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, showing a bit more acid than even 2019, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted November 2021) (in Montsant, Spain) (ABV = 14.5%)

The 2021 White QPR kosher WINNERS

These two wines were available before but I fear the 2019 Netofa Latour, White is sold out, and the 2020 vintage is not as good as the 2019 vintage. The 2018 Tel Qasser, White is lovely and available.

2019 Netofa Latour, White – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, incredible, refined oak, with a refined approach to the fruit, straw, earth, pear, white apple, and smoke, with creme brulee, awesome! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is truly impressive, with layers of acidity, elegance, sweet oak, with oak tannin, but the creme brulee and smoke are beautiful, with green notes, pear, tart guava, and sweet apple brioche, wow! The finish is long, green, tart, with sweet fruit, mineral, slate, and more freshly baked goods. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted January 2021)

2018 Netofa Tel Qasser, White – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The 2018 vintage shows far more of the classic Roussanne reductive aspects than 2017 does today, but it is also far richer, deeper in intensity, and approachable, but I would let this lie. The nose on this wine, like 2017 starts closed, yes, it is open, but please there is so much more here, it is just covered in marzipan, almonds, walnuts, oak, smoke, orange, orange blossom, with rich salinity, big bold and bright fruit hiding, and lovely spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, just WOW, and that is with 10 minutes of air, this wine will improve with a couple of years, but I do see how approachable this wine can feel, and if you want to go ahead, but it will be better in a few years, with layers upon layers of smoke, ripe controlled fruit, with ripe peach, apricot, melon, incredible nutty notes, lovely tannin, green olives, wrapped in an unctuous and oily mouthfeel that feels like being wrapped in a sushi roll of oak, smoke, fruit, and nori – WOW! The finish is so long, I AM VERY HAPPY it was my last wine of the tasting, this is crazy, so incredible, with lingering notes that last forever of almonds, walnuts, nuts, smoke, grip, orange blossom, orange, tannin, acid, rock, hay, and more acid, incredible! BRAVO!! BRAVO to the master! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2021)

Rest of the top QPR Winners (in no particular order)

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2021, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines of the year awards

Like last year, 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 a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower-scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a new one – “Best Mevushal wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes 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. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

The Mevushal wine of the year is something I personally dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so this will be the first year where we do it.

This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth me spending my money on. So, no I have not tasted as many Israeli wines as I have in the past, but overall, this is the largest number, for me. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction.
IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time.

IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time. No, I do not just mean, the lovely 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet, but overall, the scores garnered this year are on keel with my top wines of 2017, which included the best wines from 2014 and 2015 vintages. Nothing has come close since that list, until this past year – so that really excites me as there are still a few wines from the 2019 vintage that I have yet to taste.

As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly. The 2019 vintage may have as many once we taste them all, but for now, the 2014 vintage across all wine producers has created a far more complete and consistent product than any of the years, up until 2019.

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. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing than adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – similar to 2017. To highlight the last point, I scored 109 wines with a 92 or higher, and 66 of those were given the QPR score of WINNER (or WINNER in FRANCE).

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2019 French wines a bit early! 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, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2019 Chateau Malartic and the 2019 Château Gazin Rocquencourt (NON-Mevushal), and the new 2020 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 kosher wine of the year – is new!

This is a new wine for the kosher wine market and it sits a bit above where I would like it, price-wise, but it is the best wine for a price that is still comfortable for the value. It is one of the rare wines that score a GREAT QPR – when priced above 100 dollars. Still, it fits right there to make it GREAT. There were so many to choose from this year – I am so happy to restate, but in the end, this award goes to a reasonably priced wine that garnered the highest score. The 2014 and 2015 Domain Roses Camille was an option, but the price pushed out of the competition. There was the 2017 Elvi Clos Mesorah, at a far better price than the LaGrange, but again, the LaGrange fit right in that space, barely above the Clos (quality-wise), and within the range of QPR. There was the 2018 Malartic and the 2017 Leoville, but they, like the DRC, were priced out. Finally, there was the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, but that wine is almost impossible to find, sadly!

If there was a single QPR WINNER that blew me away – it would be the 2012 Château Cru Ducasse – in France, I can see no reason not to buy as much of this as humanly possible! Either way – the new Chateau LaGrange is a wonderful wine and one that is worthy of the 2021 wine of the year!

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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Two Kosher Champagnes I have tried recently – Feb 2022

This post will be quick but I also want to talk about sparkling wines. As I have posted a few times, people think of sparkling wines around either the Jewish New Year or the Gregorian New Year. However, Sparkling wine is great all year round! It is one of the few white wines that you can truly enjoy with a steak! It can literally be enjoyed throughout the meal and is one of the very few wines you can enjoy with a salad made with a vinegar vinaigrette. All great reasons to enjoy Sparkling wines more often! When I am in Israel and I go to a restaurant and I want to enjoy some wine and there is no Netofa or Vitkin I always go for Yarden Sparkling wines and am 100% happy no matter what I am enjoying.

I will not go into all the aspects of Sparkling wines and my feelings about all things Brut Nature/Zero Dosage, etc. You can read all about that and much more, like how Champagne is made here in this long post.

Now, on to the new wines at hand. I tasted two Champagnes over the past few weeks – one from Bonnet-Ponson and one from Barons de Rothschild. To be honest I have not been a fan of previous vintages from Barons de Rothschild. I do not know if it is the Mevushal process or the Champagne itself, but it often feels rushed, short, and lacking much in style. This tasted fresh, alive, and enjoyable, all around. Sadly, Rothschild does not use a disgorgement date like others so there is no easy way to see which batch you may be buying.

That leads me to the new Bonnet-Ponson Champagne, Extra-Brut which is very cool! Now, fear not this is not another Zero Dosage wine, we have all lived that and we can move on. This is a lovely, elegant, and refreshing Champagne that has a very fine attack of mousse, while also being quite citrusy and alive. The mouth is full and long and it is underpinned by lovely minerality and fruit. It is not as weighty as previous vintages but what I love the most is the elegance. Note – the wine is fine but there are fewer bubbles in the glass after a minute or so than I normally like. So, beware that I do not think this wine will last very long.

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

N.V. Bonnet-Ponson Champagne, Extra-Brut, Champagne – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
WOW, this is unique, fun, and may well be the perfect balance of what we need in the Champagne kosher market. Look, we have said it over and over, Yarden has the grip on QPR forever until someone removes them from the king of kosher wine bubbles – period! However, as you can see, they are gone from the market, for now. I never place price, availability, or access in a wine quality score, so do not think what I stated affects the score, but in the world of Champagne, this is cool! We have had too many Brut-Nature, Zero-Dosage Champagne wines die on us over the past many years. This Champagne is extra dry, but it still has a sweet dosage, and that should hold it for a few years, I HOPE! Now, to the notes!
The nose on this wine is classic low ABV Champagne, tart citrus, apple, quince, green notes, but now you get to truly enjoy and appreciate the nuance of Champagne, what comes out is the yeast, lovely baked goods, wrapping a bushel of green and yellow stone fruit, floral peony notes, roasted almonds, white pepper, and baked Pear/apple pie. The mouth on this medium-bodied sparkling is layered, tart, acidic, and rich, while not being a beast like Yarden, but far more subtle, a wine geek’s joy, toasted apple, bruised pear, buttered brioche, wrapping Asian pear, with rich saline, great minerality, but what hits you is the tiny mousse bubbles that enrich and enliven the palate, a truly refreshing and joyous mouthful. This is not a wine for those looking for a full-bodied and rich sparkling wine, this is a balanced, well-made, and elegant wine that is mineral-driven, and quite fun! The finish is long, green, tart, and refreshing, with slate, tannin, yeast, and acid lingering long.
Personally, while this wine is a lovely wine it loses its bubbles fairly quickly, so while I love it, I would not hold on to it for too long. Drink until 2024. (tasted February 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)

N.V. Barons de Rothschild Brut Champagne, Champagne (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is the best one I have had yet with tart and bright fruit notes, citrus, lemongrass, baked apple pie, quince, yeast, and lovely minerality. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine brings to mind freshly baked and then toasted quince brioche with grapefruit, yeasty notes, with a lovely small-mousse mouthfeel, all wrapped in a very nice mineral-based and refreshing approach. The finish is long, tart, refreshing and bright, with slate, rock, and tart fruit lingering long. Nice! Drink now. (tasted February 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lovely white wines to enjoy now – Jan 2021 Tasting

DISCLAIMER: I cannot change the titles of posts, a major issue with WordPress, so sorry – DUH it is 2022, again apologies.

Now that I am done with my Paris posts it was time to finally catch up on many wines I have been tasting since I came back from hiking Kilimanjaro, in December. I know it is cold and wet outside, but white wines belong in everyone’s cellar/wine fridge for when you want to enjoy some easy-drinking wine with your soup, salad, or fish. I love to enjoy it with Tahini but to each their own.

So, as in the past, I will keep this post super short, really just a bunch of notes and I hope you enjoy the three QPR (Quality to price ratio) WINNERs as much as I did. It was really fun tasting 2021 wines in 2021! The two Hagafen wines were both unique and enjoyable. The fact that they were released within the same calendar year that they were produced, just makes it more enjoyable.

The Tzora white wines were quite nice, not quite a return to the early Aughts, but still, well-made wines and ones I would buy, if they were not so expensive. I finally had a Binah wine that I almost enjoyed, the Gruner Veltliner, but even that was missing something and not where I hoped it would be.

Goose Bay continues to crush it. Interesting note, they did not produce wine in 2020, because as you know, they are in the Southern Hemisphere. Harvest time there, for white wines, is around March, give or take a week or so. March 2020, no one was allowed to enter New Zealand, and the OU uses outside kosher wine supervisors. So, they could not produce kosher wine in 2020. I read the OU story of the Masgiach that was in Samoa and had to do crazy travel plans just to get back home. O’dwyers Creek, which is also in New Zealand, and uses the OU, as well, used local folks that Zoom’ed with the OU daily and they managed to produce a LOVELY 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. I was surprised to a 2020 O’dwyers Creek, so I reached out to the OU and that is what they told me happened, very cool, IMHO. Finally, because New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, getting the 2021 wines here in December is not as unique as tasting a California 2021 wine. Either way, the wines were all quite enjoyable from New Zealand and Hagafen.

Finally, the two Viniferia wines were quite enjoyable and well priced. The new 2019 vintage of the Chateau Guiraud G, Blanc-Sec, is quite lovely and would be a QPR WINNER, except for its higher than median pricing.

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

2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classically New Zealand in style, cat piss, green notes, gooseberry, passion fruit, fresh-cut grass, and bright fruit all over the place. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing nice flint notes, smoke, rock, saline, gooseberry, lemongrass, guava, lychee, and crazy acid, that comes at you in waves, so much fun! The finish on this wine shows more saline, rock, flint, smoke, mineral, gooseberry, freshly cut grass, and intense acid, so much fun!!! BRAVO!! Drink until 2024. (tasted December 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.50%)

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Four Gates Winery’s January 2022 new releases

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

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

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

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

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

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

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

No new wines

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

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

Prices and Quantities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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