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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.

Rose wines are the in-between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.

Limited Maceration:

This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.

The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins leach into the rose is – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!

Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the Saignée process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being solely used for making the rose.

Many producers, especially those in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, take a more traditional approach to making rosé. Grapes are grown and selected exclusively for rosé production, as stated above, and then often crushed as whole clusters, and then gently pressed until the juice reaches a desirable pale color.

Most think that Saignee wines would have a higher alcohol level, as the fruit used to make that wine is picked later, but actually, that is not always correct, as winemakers can water back the rose juice and get what they want, at least here in the USA. When you taste the wine, look for the acid, is the acid natural or out of place?

Saignée:

The second approach for how Rose wine is made, is essentially the same as maceration – the only difference is that they do not remove all the juice. In the second method for making Rose wine, the Rose is the afterthought – in DRASTIC contrast to the first approach, where the rose is primary.

Now, many winemakers may take affront to this statement, and one did actually, but that is my opinion. When the juice is removed to fortify the red wine, the rose wine, again IMHO, is an afterthought. That DOES NOT mean, that the winemaker does not take the rose wine seriously. Any decent winemaker that makes a wine, should be doing it with 100% focus. My point is that if the rose was important to you, you would pull the fruit earlier, but hey that is my opinion, and yeah, I am not a winemaker.

So in places like California and Rhone in France, winemakers will pick the grapes when they reach their appropriate phenolics. Then to concentrate the wine, the winemaker will bleed some of the juice – hence the term Saignée in French which means bleed. By removing this juice, after the juice has macerated long enough, the resulting wine is further intensified, because there is less juice lying on the same amount of grape skin surface.

The interesting thing here is that the grapes used to make this kind of rose are normally one with higher Brix, as the grapes are destined for red wine. So, when you bleed the juice out of the must, what is being pulled out is juice at a higher alcohol level than Rose wines made using the first method (as explained above). So what do you do when you have a wine that is too high in alcohol so early in the game – well that is simple you water it down! Now remember this wine is already low on phenolics and color, so if you know that your rose will be high in alcohol when all is said and done, you have lots of options here. You can leave the juice to macerate for longer, yes the juice you finally pull out may well be darker than you desire. However, you will be watering it down, so it is all a question of numbers and winemakers who make these kinds of wines, are used to it and know how to handle it.

Now you ask what is wrong with high alcohol rose? Well, a rose is normally meant to be light and fruity wine, and well watered back roses are less so, but I have also enjoyed a few Saignee wines, like the 2017 Shirah Rose, which 100% shocked me when I found that out!

Blending Method:

Finally, what do you get when you mix some white wine with some red wine – a rose by George a rose! This last method is the least common method for creating still rose wines. That said, it is very common in the world of Champagne and sparkling wines. Next time you enjoy sparkling rose wine, you can almost be sure that it is a blend of Chardonnay (white wine) and either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (red wine).

As stated before, in the pure rose still wine market, there really is very little of this kind of rose being made.

State of kosher rose wines

Types of Rose made:

  1. Red Rose wines: There are truly few examples of this, but they have been made and they are not a rose wine. They are billed as a rose at times, but to me, they are essentially a light red wine, much like a Gamay
  2. Sweet Rose wines: Sweet wines are created because either the winemaker could not get the wine to completely finish primary fermentation or because they stopped it. Sweet rose wines sometimes lack balance because they lack the screaming acid needed to make it all work. That said, sweeter rose wines are the gateway wines to get people to try drier wines. The best of the sweet wines IMHO is the 2017 Dalton estate rose, or Kna’an as it is called in Israel.
  3. Dry rose wines: Dry is not a subjective concept it is measurable in a lab and can be tasted as well. That said, what we as humans can perceive does seem to be subjective. Some of us will think a Sauvignon Blanc is sweet unless it is a Sancerre – you know who you are JR! Dr. Vinny was asked this question here, and essentially we can start perceiving sweetness at 0.5% residual sugar, but as the Doc says, sometimes a bone-dry wine can be perceived as sweet because of its ripeness and/or lack of balancing acidity.
  4. Dark rose wines: Color in any rose or red wine is defined by the amount of maceration the wine goes through, as described above. Some people like that salmon color and some like that darker rose color. The 2017 Recanati Rose (not the Gris de Marselan which is lovely and light colored) is a dark rose – and OK, I guess. There are so many colors in the rose spectrum, and no, the darker roses are not based on what grape is used in the making of the wine, unless it is based on a Teinturier grape – which I have yet to see.

So where does that leave us? To recap IMHO, rose wine is meant to be light, refreshing, tart, and low in alcohol. It can have a varying rose hue, from Gris (gray in French – light color) to Salmon, to rose, and all the way up to dark red. Yes, there have been wineries who tried making heavier rose wines, that were essentially red wines, whom I will not mention and they have all been epic disasters. If you want a red wine – make a Gamay and leave me alone! Rose is about summer, tart and refreshing wine.

White and Rose wine education

Royal Wines has done a great job in bringing in white and roses wines, but I must stress – we need more education! Any wine distributor today can sell a Cabernet Sauvignon in its sleep! Why? Because the kosher wine drinking public is programmed to drink big bold red wines! Nothing light and lithe, only sledgehammers! Now, who am I to disagree with what someone likes – if you like a wine enjoy it! What I would like to see is people finding a way to expand their palate – by doing so they will learn more about wines and maybe they will actually see why they like and dislike a wine more – education is the answer! Now to those who say – why bother, if they like it let them enjoy it? To that answer I say – sure, when u were three years old you liked mud, and you really liked spreading it all over your sister’s new white dress! Should we have let you enjoy it forever?? Of course not!

Now your reply will be, come on we are talking about wine – not personal growth and their humanity! Of course but like everything in this world – we should want to strive and learn more about what makes us happy and why! If you like a Monet painting – you owe it to yourself to learn why? What grabs you when you see 100+-year-old paint on a canvas? So what he painted a haystack – good for him? What makes you want to stare at it for hours? The answer is inside of you – and you need to learn the answer. I hope we can all find the answers to what makes us tick, why we all love some things and why we hate other things. That is called human evolution – it makes us what we are – human! Anyway, I am off my soapbox now, but I hope we can agree that growth is good – no matter the subject.

I beg distributors and wineries to get out and teach! Get out and go to wine stores and pour wines – pour wine to anyone that wants to taste or even to those that do not! Education is the foundation of this industry – and without it, we are doomed to stasis – something that terrifies me!

The temperature to enjoy Rose

Please do yourself a favor and enjoy rose wine at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning if you leave a bottle of wine in your refrigerator and pull it out after half a day of fridge time or more, it will probably be at the refrigerator’s frigid temperature of 37 or so degrees Farenight – which is HORRIBLE for rose. Rose at room temperature of 70 or so degrees is also not fun. It needs to be a bit cold, but not over the top. Please do not think that it needs to be iced down in an ice bucket either, that is for sparkling wines.

Drink the rose at the beginning of the meal

Rose is NOT a long-term drinking animal. It is not meant to be enjoyed for more than a meal. Why? Because as we explained above once it is fully oxygenated, it will go bad – really bad fast. The tart fruit notes and the acid will dissipate faster than air leaves a punctured tire. It is simply the life of Rose, drink it very young and fast. Never stock up on Rose, there is no purpose in that! Go to the store and buy a rose and drink it, if they have none, then no worries drink something else.

White and Rose wine drinking in the kosher wine world

I find that white and rose wines just do not sell to the kosher market. Sadly, they do not see the joy that I and much of Israel now sees. Eight years ago, if you had said that Israel would be making nice white and rose wines and not so many great reds, wine aficionados would have looked at you askance. Well, that is exactly where we are today! Much of what Israel makes in the red wine world, is not very good, especially from the larger wineries. There are the usual suspects that are continuing to impress vintage after vintage, but the vast majority have sold out to the sweet-toothed date drinkers. However, they are creating wonderful white and rose wines! What is more – is that they are selling much of it in ISRAEL! Yes, that is right, Israelis are drinking far more white and rose wine than ever and the craze we are seeing here in the non-kosher world for Rose is happening in the kosher world in Israel!

Now, the rose madness is here for sure, even in the kosher market. This year the wines have arrived earlier and are available as we speak. More will be arriving soon, and some are only available at wineries, like the Hagafen rose, which is nice.  Sadly, my community has not come to appreciate rose or most whites wines. If I open one I would need to drink the bottle on my own, because few in my community drink white wines. The exception is Four Gates Chardonnay, which to be fair is a great wine and it is so rich and intoxicating that it appeals to red wine drinkers.

I really hope that articles like this can start to pique people’s interest. Rose and tart refreshing white wines have so much to offer. They are meant to be lithe and refreshing, but also complex and unique. They go well with so many great summer foods and yet, when summer comes around folks just continue drinking heavy reds or beer. Now, I like beer like most people, but between a lovely rose or beer, I choose rose!

The good news is that kosher wine drinkers are finally getting the message, but they are only buying the stuff over the summer months. Outside of those, NYC/east coast drinkers of kosher wine could care less. Which means white and rose wines from 2014, 2015 and 2016 can still be found all around at shops and stores. DO NOT buy rose wine from any vintage other than 2017! SIMPLE!!

State of affairs with 2017 roses

So where are we in 2018 with Rose wines? Well, as I stated kosher wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark. Why? Because there are MANY wine shops, even on the hallowed grounds of NYC, that still have Rose wines on their shelves, from the 2015 vintage, and even older lying around. Why is that a problem? As stated above, Rose wines are NOT meant for aging. Rose wines should NEVER be sold after their drink by date, which is the summer after the wine’s vintage. So, 2017 wines should be sold out by the summer of 2018 – simple! Sadly, I still see 2015 wines being sold all around! There is simply too much older rose lying around and too much new 2017 Rose wines coming in. The outcome is that someone is going to eat a lot of rose wines, or they will push them on to the unsuspecting public, who really do not understand roses at all.

I BEG the manufacturers to work with the stores and merchants to eat the 2015 and 2016 wines, one way or the other, and get them OFF the shelves. Please DO NOT attempt to put them on sale, they are not wines that should be pushed to consumers, as it only ends up hurting the wineries and the companies selling them. Please remove them and figure out how to handle the loss. No one will be drinking Rose wines for Rosh Hashanah. That means there is a LOT of wine to sell in a very short period of time – PLEASE help yourselves – start selling the 2017 wines already and walk away from the 2015/2016 wines!

One part that is better than last year is that many of the rose wines are here and more coming very soon. I wish they would have all been here in March, but it is MUCH better than last year. Sadly, Netofa is still not here in the USA! Very sad! I went to Netofa on my last trip to Israel, and I will post that soon enough, some really fun wines that are showing beautifully.

Best rose so far in 2018

Well, let’s hold up here for a second. I have not tasted all the roses out there yet. I have tasted LOTS of them, like 30 plus of them so far and the Israeli 2017 roses are all “sweet”. And after a month or more, I have now tasted even more roses, which are added below. Now be careful here, when I say sweet – I mean I perceive sweetness. These roses are ripe, big in the mouth, and leave a perception of sweetness. There are a few roses from Israel that are lithe in nature, with a core focus of acid while being complex, and those are my preferred options so far, from what I have had the chance to enjoy.

So with that said, here are the winners for me so far, with a few more European roses I have yet to taste. The best Israeli roses – in order of preference:

  1. 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado
  2. 2017 Recanati Gris de Marselan
  3. 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose. Nice – best of the “sweet perceived wines”
  4. 2017 Netofa Rose – QPR 
  5. 2017 Carmel Rose, Appellation – QPR winner so far in Israel
  6. 2017 Dalton Kna’an: SHOCK! QPR Nice – SWEET! Great gateway rose

The best California Rose is the just released 2017 Shirah Rose – really fun, and that is followed by the 2017 Hajdu Rose. The 2017 Hajdu is far better than the 2016 and I really enjoyed it, but still, a slight step behind the 2017 Shirah rose.

The best European Rose so far is the 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose – and so far it is the overall QPR winner. Though the 2017 Chateau Roubine, La Vie en Rose is right up there, with the same score, but not as bone dry and tart as the Rothschild. I have the Roubine to taste still, and then we can make the final decision, with the French roses that are here in the USA.

Blind Tasting in Jerusalem

A bit more than a week before Passover, I was in Israel, and I had the chance to hang with my French/American crazy wine friends, AD, MB, JK, AS, AS, AO, MB, and others. The tasting entailed 65+ wines, most of them were rose or white, with a few reds thrown in at the end. It was a long night, and very enjoyable, including some crazy moments, but overall very enjoyable and my many thanks to JK’s office – where the madness took place.

At the event, we tasted over 20 roses. Besides that, I have been tasting roses for the past couple of months now. Like, in the past, some of the wine notes are really light on data some are longer, and some are just one word, like No, or boring.

Overall, as I stated Israeli roses from 2017 are mostly too sweet for me, but many are well balanced and I think will work for others. As stated above, to me at this point I will stick with the European roses from for 2017 until I taste an Israeli rose that makes me take notice, though the Netofa Latour rose is really close, sadly it is not available in the USA. That said, they do ship here from Israel!

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

 

2017 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 66% Grenache, almost 33% Nebbiolo, with a bit of Zinfandel. This wine is a Saignee wine, though it does not show that way in style or body – lovely!
This wine is really fun bravo, the color, and style is totally Gris – bravo! The nose is lovely and really mineral with nice acid, showing quince, dried fruit, straw, and earth, so much fun! The mouth is really nice with great acid, and lovely mineral, showing nice tart and juicy strawberry, rich dried cherry, grapefruit, and lovely mineral with great slate and rich citrus and floral notes. The finish is rich and acidic and citrus-driven, with rich mineral. Bravo!!

2017 Timbre Rosé (by La Fenetre), Opening Act – Score: 87 (tasted again)
The wine shows a nice and interesting nose of cherry, watermelon, with hints of blueberry, with some slate. The mouth is sweet, and nice enough with strawberry, it shows zesty fruit, but too much sweetness, but with time the wine has settled a bit and is showing a bit better than last time. The finish is long, sweet, and tart, with floral notes, and rosehip.

2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is actually a bit better than last year’s rose, with the only aspect of last year’s showing cool charcoal that this one does not have. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent, with ripping pink grapefruit, lovely tart strawberry, mineral, and lovely floral notes with lemongrass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows a nice weight, with good fruit focus, showing more fruit than last year, with good acidity, showing sweet but truly tart passion fruit, and a lovely mineral core, with earth, and crazy tart citrus lingering long. The finish is long and tart, with ripping acid, great balance, lovely mineral, and pith lingering long. Lovely!

2017 Amos Winery Rose – Score: No
What can I say this wine is just too strange. It was based upon Muscat and though it had acid, it is one of the many roses from Israel this year that are sweet bombs covered with layers of acid. Not my cup of tea.

2017 Carmel Rose, Appellation – 88 to 89 (QPR)
Another Israeli tropical fruit bomb rose for 2017. The nose is ripe with guava, pineapple, cotton candy, extra ripe strawberry and creme, and candied ripe fig. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ok, it has nice acid, but man is it sweet, with clear residual sugar showing passion fruit, guava, and more tropical notes. The finish is long, it lingers very well, and while it is sweet, it is very well balanced. This is a great entry level rose for those wanting to get to more dry rose. Till then, I would not buy this one again, but nice work on balancing a sweet wine with basic fruit structure and freshness. This may well be the best QPR for under 15 dollars in Israel. The Dalton Kannan is right behind it.

2017 Yatir Rose – Score: 85
The nose on this wine is nice enough but too tropical with intense pineapple, super sweet strawberry with creme, with some mineral, and spice. Well, another year and another rose from Yatir that is pith and fruit and no acid. Sad, really sad. With more time, it open to show a bit more acid, but that is it, flat and boring, still sad.

2017 Bat Shlomo Rose – Score: 87
OK, so the one redeeming fact of this wine is its nose, the rest falls apart quickly. The nose on this wine is lovely, I wish it carried to the mouth, with rich salinely, lovely mineral, and red fruit. The mouth is where things fall apart, yes there is acid, but it is all over the place with far too much sweet fruit and not enough structure and coherence in the mouth. The finish is sweet with mineral and pith, but really what lingers is the sweet fruit, candied quince, peach, guava, and tropical notes with citrus. Sad. Another year of unbalanced rose.

2017 Domaine du Castel Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Malbec, and 20% Cabernet Franc
I tasted this blind at the event and then again at the winery, and the tasting was better at the winery but not overly impressive. The nose is nice, that part is clear, showing nice citrus, strawberry, and ripe plum. The mouth shows acid, with a good fruit structure, but too round and sweet, with a makeup that is missing stuff. The finish is long and round with good pith, nice acid, saline, and citrus.

2017 Netofa Domaine Rose – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely but sweet, with rosehip, ripe strawberry, and grapefruit, with cherry and raspberry. The mouth is medium bodied with great acidity and with lovely currant and quince that works great with dry fruit, that is richly saline and mineral but sweeter, than the Netofa Latour. The finish is sweet and yet nicely balance with mineral, slate, and pith. Nice!

2017 Netofa Latour Rosado – Score: 91
This and the Recanati Gris de Marselan are the only two Israeli roses that I really liked, and are leaner and not tropical or fruit bombs. This wine is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Grenache. The nose on the first ever “reserve” rose from Netofa wine is more refined than the baseline Netofa rose, with rosehip again, but now with quince, raspberry, and strawberry creme. The mouth is not the screaming acid bomb that the Domaine rose is, but this is perfectly balanced with good pith and slate, showing more refinement and elegance with more citrus and grapefruit and less of the sweet currant fruit, with lovely slate and floral notes. The finish is green and red with pith and spice. Love it. Bravo!

2017 Tabor Adama Rose – Score: 89 (QPR)
The nose starts off with lovely gooseberry, followed by big, bright, and juicy strawberry and really lovely cherry. The mouth is sweet, yet well balanced with tart fruit, great acid, bright and tart with great acid, with good balance, and lovely pith. Solid!

2017 Psagot Rose – Score: 88
The nose on this wine starts off really nice, with rosehip, cranberry, really ripe strawberry, green notes, and ripe quince and peach. This wine is nice and round, again another ripe Israeli rose, with OK acid, gooseberry and grapefruit round out the palate with tart fruit and acid. Pith and slate lingers.

2017 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75
The wine is Bubblegum and sweet fruit, boring – sorry.

2017 Shiran Rose, Conductor – Score: NO
I will say this the wine must have been spoiled or something really wrong. That said, not my cup of tea still, sweet and off.

2017 Teperberg Rose, Impression – Score: 88
Nice nose of sweet notes, with rose, currant, and sour cherry. The mouth is round and has dried/tart stone fruit, with enough acid, showing some peach, and quince, grapefruit galore, nice weight.

2017 Shiloh Rose – Score: 75
Nice nose with good fruit, slate, and grapefruit, with citrus and stone fruit. The mouth is where the wine falls apart, sadly it was flat and dead.

2017 Covenant Blue C Rose – Score: 89
This is the second time I have tasted this wine and it is nice. Rosehip and sweet notes are a theme of the 2017 Israeli roses, no idea why, this wine has them in spades, with mineral, cotton candy, sweet candied fruit, watermelon, but balanced nose. The mouth is well balanced with good fruit, grapefruit, dark cherry, slate, and ripe juicy strawberry. Nice!

2017 Dalton Kna’an (AKA Dalton Estate in the USA) Rose – Score:  89 (QPR WINNER)
Ok, first off the SAME wine is sold under two labels. It is marketed in Israel as Kna’an Rose, but here in the USA, it has kept its old Dalton Estate label. The wine is really fun in its nose, nice, with slate and mineral, good fruit, with quince, and dried cranberry. The mouth is well balanced, really nice, fun, but it is RIPE and sweet, literally, there must be some residual sugar in there, showing great balance, with slate, and nice peach, passion fruit, and graphite. Nice! Good overall body. To me, this is the perfect gateway rose to get people into the rose game!

2017 Kerem Ben Zira Rose – Score: 70
No

2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan. Nice rose and sweet wine, fun with candied grapefruit, bubblegum, with sweet strawberry, and guava. The mouth is tart, really acidic, with tropical fruit, hints of floral notes, and more sweet fruit. The finish is long and sweet, but balanced enough.

2017 Galil Rose – Score: 83
Ripe, sweet, and not as fun, boring flat dead.

2017 Gvaot Rose – Score: 88
Even Gvaot could not keep the tropical notes and guava juice madness out of their rose. This wine is like many of the 2017 Israeli roses, nice enough nose with candied fruit, cranberry, watermelon, and stone fruit. The mouth is round, ripe, and tropical in nature, with some mineral, with good balance, nice stone fruit, and pith.

2017 Recanati Rose – Score: 89
This may well have been the darkest colored rose at the tasting. The nose is classic Recanati rose – Cotton candy, candied fruit, raspberry, and sweet strawberry. That said, the extreme sweet notes and all are a good gateway wine for many, it is tart, showing saline, sweet notes galore, with good acid, and candied strawberry, with hints of saline. Nice!

2017 Flam Rose  – Score: 88
Nice nose, mineral, with slate, fewer sweet notes but still ripe, and ripe strawberry. The mouth is round, ripe, with stone fruit galore, no tropical notes, but very ripe with candied fruit galore, balanced, nice enough, with good acid.

2017 Recanati Gris de Marselan – Score: 91
So far only one of the two Israeli roses I have tasted this year that is not a fruit bomb. Nice nose with good funk, flint madness, with good structure, properly made, nice! The mouth is dripping with great acid, balanced, with tart and juicy fruit, balanced but rich and saline based, with ripping mineral, and grapefruit, and dried and tart peach and hints of guava. Bravo!

2017 Kishor Rose – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Grenache. The nose on this wine is ripe and tart with lovely notes of strawberry, gooseberry, hints of raspberry and floral notes with rock and herb. The mouth is weightier than most, with good acid, but the wine shows a hole that fills with time, with saline but showed poorly at the tasting. Maybe a bad bottle, but overall a nice enough wine.

2017 Herzberg Rose – Score: NO
I think this along with the Shiran Rose were DOA, but what we had was not enjoyable at all.

2017 Borgo Reale Rose – Score: 86
Last year this wine was really much better, this year it is very akin to the Israeli roses, a fruit bomb, with not enough acid to bring it all together. In the end, nice enough but lacking the acid.

2017 Hayotzer Rose – Score: 75
Oak on rose, with strawberry and spice, and OK acid, but in the end the wine is out of balance with oak, fruit and not enough acid to bring that oak around.

2017 100 Tropez Rose – Score: 89
This wine is nice enough but for the money, not a wine I would buy. The nose on this wine shows lovely strawberry and floral notes galore with raspberry and citrus. Lovely mouth with nice acidity, great flint, a bit ripe nectarines, and candied fruit and good mineral. Nice enough!

2017 Don Ernesto Hagafen Rose – Score: 89 (mevushal)
The wine is only available at the winery. The wine is like past years, very ripe, and this year the acid shows well but overall the sweet to tropical notes do really start to stick out like a sore thumb. Still, a very nice mevushal rose options. (only available at the winery)

—————- Rose wines added in my second post ——————-

 

2016 Sainte Beatrice Instant B Rose – Score: 84 (I tasted the 2016 and not 2017)
I was supposed to tase the 2017 Instant B, but they sent me the 2016 vintage! Go figure! I only noticed it was the 2016 vintage after I wrote my notes and saw how poor it was. Also, the 2017 vintage of the Instant B is mevushal and this one had no mevushal sign anywhere!
The nose is muted to start but comes out with vigorous movement to show nice dry notes of strawberry creme, with raspberry, and lemon. The mouth on this wine is flat, sadly, not showing the acid punch needed, the fruit is not flabby, but the lack of acid makes the wine feel like it is rose-colored water. The finish is long and has a bit of punch, but overall a disappointment, with nice pith, and grapefruit notes.

2017 Jezreel Rose – Score: 88
This is another rose wine that is using a white wine to add the needed acid punch to a rose. This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is nice enough with bubblegum notes, watermelon, pink notes, with dark plum, and grapefruit. The mouth on this dark colored rose is actually nice, with good acidity, not an overly ripe mouth, showing nice strawberry, with good acid, pomegranate, and fun overall tart notes. This is not a fun, tart, refreshing wine, as much as it is a big bold, rose wine that is well balanced, with good acidity, pith galore, with nice restraint, and balance. Nice! This is the perfect rose wine for date juice lovers, it is a classical sledgehammer of fruity notes that date juice lovers will pick up and enjoy.

2017 Vina Encina Rosado – Score: 89 (mevushal) (QPR)
This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo fruit. This nose on this wine is popping with candied fruit, cotton candy, nice floral notes of rose, big bright and sweet strawberry, raspberry, and mineral. The mouth on this wine is popping with sweet notes but well balanced with tart fruit, gooseberry, tart pink grapefruit, and great acid, with a middle of sweet cherry/currant lifesaver candy. The finish is long and sweet, but again well balanced, tart with more candied lifesaver notes, pith galore, and quince. Nice.

2017 Ramon Cardova Rosado – Score: 90 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Viura. This is the second year that Royal has made a rose from Ramon Cardova and once again they are using white fruit along with the red fruit. The nose on this wine is mineral-based with rosehips and rose water, followed by candied cherry. The mouth on this wine is sweet, and the sweetness shows far more in the mouth than in the nose, with watermelon, sweet pomegranate, hints of sweet quince, with candied grapefruit, and red fruit that gives way to good acidity and sweet fruit focus. The finish is long and sweet, with tart fruit, pith galore, and nice mineral, rock, slate. Nice.

2017 Chateau Roubine, La Vie en Rose – Score: 91 (QPR)
This is the second year that Royal has made the La Vie Rose from Chateau Roubine. The nose is sweeter than last year, with lovely white fruit notes of grapefruit, followed by a cacophony of red fruit notes, strawberry, raspberry, and sweet passion fruit notes. The mouth on this rose is sweet, not as sweet as the Spanish roses, but sweeter than I had hoped, and showing far more mineral, but still not as good as the Rothschild rose, with sweet raspberry, gooseberry, and ripe red fruit, that is well balanced with good acid, nice pith, and fun fruit focus. The finish is long, and tart, with good acidity, lovely mineral, slate, and pith galore.

2017 Covenant Wines, Red C, Rose – Score: 88
Lovely nose of rose hip and gooseberry, ripe fruit, with strawberry notes. The mouth on this wine is ripe and sweet in style, with clear leanings toward cherry and plum lifesaver candies, with lemonade and less acid than I was hoping for. The mouth is round and ripe and nice, balanced enough with fun red fruit and lingering notes of red tea and grapefruit.

2017 Camuna Cellars Rose – Score: 89 to 90
This wine is made by Eli Silins, one of the wine hands at Covenant Winery, and it is made of 100% Barbera fruit. The wine is as natural as you are going to get in the kosher wine world, though it did have a bit of sulfite added to it somewhere in the process, from what I understood. I will say that this wine is unique, it is not a wine that everyone will love, it has a bit of oxidation, which is common with more Natural wines, and it is a more old world style wine with funk and more dry/tart fruit.

Fun notes of yeasty, earthy aromas, hints of oxidation, with tart grapefruit and quince. The mouth of nice and balanced shows really fun acidity and great fruit focus, but also old school, with more herbal/grassy notes, with lovely yeast, tart cherry, pear, and strawberry. The finish is really fun, earthy, and richly mineral focused, with red fruit galore, unique and fun.

2017 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Sangiovese, and Barbera, The nose on this nice wine shows cherry, strawberry, and rich ripe summer fruit with lovely fruity notes, with ripe melon and sweet quince. The mouth on this wine is rich and full, with fun saline, with good balance, not over the top with good acid, nice complexity, with earthy and classic rose notes of strawberry and pink grapefruit. The finish is long and dry with great mineral, slate, and lingering red fruit.

2017 Herzog Lineage Rose – Score: 88 (mevushal)
This wine is a Saignée of the Herzog Lineage Coreograph field blend. The nose on this wine is unique, showing lovely dry fruit notes, mint, with menthol, pink grapefruit, cherry, and ethereal notes, lovely! Sadly, the mouth for me is not at the same level as the nose, with a slight lack of balance, showing very ripe fruit, pomegranate, guava, really ripe plum, and even pineapple, with orange notes, and acid that exists but not in balance. The finish is long and cooked in nature, more like a confiture than a true fruit focused rose.

 

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2015 Shirah Furmint, Alder Springs

I will keep this post short and sweet. First of all Happy Shavuot to all, and if you want a GREAT wine to enjoy cheese or fish with, please open a bottle of the 2015 Shirah Furmint, Alder Springs. Still, one of my favorite Shirah wines, not because it was the best, but rather because it is so FREAKING unique. Much akin in its uniqueness to the 2014 Shirah Gruner Veltliner! That wine is not as alive now as the Furmint is right now. The Furmint has peaked and is really lovely, showing wonderful secondary notes. Pop it and go, and please enjoy it with friends and family! The acid on the Furmint is what is keeping it alive, and giving it a chance to show its real potential. So sad that Shirah never made another!

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

2015 Shirah Furmint Alder Springs Vineyard – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine has now fully opened and is now showing secondary notes, besides the lovely intense straw, dry grass, with dry apple/pear compote, now we also have more yeast, almond paste, and lovely mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied is still ripping with acid, and showing a lovely weight and viscosity to the mouth, with honeysuckle, peach, sweet yet tart cantaloupe melon, cinnamon, crazy rich mineral, tart fruit, dry grass, and impressive straw, all wrapped in quince magic, and hints of oxidation. The finish is long and layered with hints of oak, almonds, flint galore, with rock, and nice sweet tea. This is very akin to the Dalton Semillon in some ways and in many ways much drier. BRAVO!! Drink by 2019 to 2020.

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!

Kosher Food & Wine Experience 2018 (KFWE) – BUY TICKETS NOW!!!

In case you missed my last post – yeah that was almost three weeks ago, you would know how much I really appreciate wine education. The 2018 KFWE (Kosher Food & Wine Experience) from Royal Wine, is a great example of wine education.

Sadly, I missed the Tel Aviv KFWE (now an official part of the KFWE family), the Paris KFWE (not an official one) – which is happening as we speak in Paris, and the London one that will happen tomorrow night.

I posted about all of these events, along with Sommelier and the USA based events that are cross-distributor.

With that said, no one still comes close to KFWE. The experience is real and though the VIP tickets are already all sold out, the NYC and LA events are still not.

Please read here and here to get an idea of why I love the KFWE events. The NYC event last year showcased a new idea on the VIP session and sadly that is sold out now, but it shows that NYC is really trying to push the envelope along with the LA event.

The NYC event will have hundreds of wines from more than 64 wineries and tons of great food. But to me, it will all be about the incredible 2015 and 2016 French wines that you can honestly not taste anywhere else at one time! If you want to taste ALL the wines that I did in one sitting – then come to this event! There will even be more wines from France that I have not yet tasted, like the 2015 Chateau Fayat from Pierre Miodinick’s new wine group. Along with the Chateau Cantenac Brown, that I tasted in Miami last year. These are all the great French kosher wines of 2015 and 2016 and this is really the only place to taste them all!

Now, that is not to undermine the incredible Spanish wines from Elvi and Capcanes. Along with the Italian wines from Terra de Seta, and so much more! Of course, do NOT forget to taste through all of Herzog’s greats wines! Last year’s wine of the year is already sold out, but there is a new vintage I look forward to tasting soon.

Add in some nice wines from Israel and others from all around the world and you can see why this is a no-brainer and MUST SEE WINE TV for anyone who thinks they like wine!

Every year people scream last minute for tickets – please do not add your name to that list! Please get your tickets ASAP before they sell out!! Use my coupon!

Name: KFWE NYC
When: February 5th, 2018
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM EST (VIP is SOLD OUT)
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://thekfwe.com/ (choose New York – then buy ticket) – USE COUPON CODE raccah

 

 

2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier

This past Shabbos I had the chance to taste the Kos Yeshuos Viognier and it is a very nice California style Viognier. I have already posted about Josh Rynderman – the winemaker of Kos Yeshuos, a person I consider a friend, so that is an honest and fair disclaimer, as I always state as well with Four Gates Winery and Benyomin Cantz.

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

2017 Kos Yeshuos Viognier – score: 91 to 92
Do not cool this wine too much, it likes 30 min in the fridge and no more. Wow, what a nose, very aromatic, classical in its peach punch bowl style, with rich floral notes of jasmine and rose hip, but balanced well with lemongrass, and citrus. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is a classic California Viognier, with a rich oily coat that covers the mouth, well focused with rich acidity, mice mineral, great fruit pith, apricots, peach, and lemon, with hints of lovely pink grapefruit, and sweet fruit galore. 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, cinnamon, and cloves. Bravo!

Flam Winery latest releases

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and this will be the last post about Israeli wineries for this trip anyway! Last we left off, I was talking about – Tzora Vineyards Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of the kosher wines from the Judean Hills Quartet on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the first of those three that we visited that day – that one being Flam Winery. This will be my last post from my trip to Israel, the next ones will be about my epic tasting in France and Riesling wines from Mosel. Also, a side note, the winery that brings us the wonderful Rieslings and Sylvaner – Nik Weiss, is a sister winery to Flam Winery. Actually, Gilad brought out a bottle of the 2015 Nik Weiss Riesling and we told him that we had issues initially with the wine, but now understand that these wines take years to come around (flavor and fruit characteristic wise) and that he should save his next bottle for a few years from now.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel WineryFlam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

If you look at the four wineries in the quartet, three of them have used Judean Hills grapes since the very beginning, Domaine du Castel WineryTzora Vineyards, and Sephora Winery. Both Castel and Tzora built their name and reputation and essence upon the terroir of the Judean Hills. Flam has always been using Judean Hills fruit in its wines, but the reserve wines have been sourced from the Upper Galilee (Ben Zimra and Dishon). That is changing now, the winery has planted 100 dunams on the beautiful slopes near Ein Kerem and the first wine from the Judean Hills is the 2015 Merlot Reserve.

Once they complete the move from the Galilee to the Judean Hills for their reserve wines as well, the majority of its red wines will be sourced from the Judean Hills. At this time, the Rose, Blanc, and Classico are all sourced from the Judean Hills, with the most of the reserve wines being sourced from the Upper Galilee.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus the not yet released but already bottled 2013 Flam Noble – the winery’s flagship wine. We were met by both Gilad and Golan Flam, and later for a bit by Israel as well. Golan, the winemaker, and Gilad who runs the winery were very kind to meet with us as was visible from the previous posts of this trip, it was harvest time, and Golan had to run to tend to the grapes. We did get a chance to watch some of the winemaking activities and then it was off to taste the currently released wines.

The wines once again show the professionalism and passion that is Flam Winery. As the first post I ever wrote about the winery shows, this is a family run winery and that focuses as much of its efforts in the vineyards as they do in the winery itself.

My thanks to Gilad, Golan, and Israel Flam, and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Flam Blanc – Score: B+
This wine tasted better than the last time we had it, with tart and crisp fruit, showing nice pith, lovely grapefruit, and green apple galore. The mouth is crisp and alive and tart with good balance and nice fruit and good spice, but lacks anything to grab you. The finish is long and rich and crisp, very refreshing.

2015 Flam Classico – Score: B+
The wine shows a bit too much oak now,  nice enough, but a bit too much oak with crazy chocolate and elegance with more of the reserve fruit going into the Classico in 2015. The nose shows herb sweet dill, and good earth, and red fruit. The mouth is medium bodied and dark cherry, rich roasted herb, nice round and spicy with great sweet but controlled fruit and menthol and green notes abound. The extra syrah is showing with hints of blue notes but really nice with foliage and tobacco galore, but lacking complexity of previous vintages and a bit too much oak.

2015 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A-
This is the first vintage being sourced from the Judean hills. The nose on this wine shows a very rich oaky nose with red fruit and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered but lacking the acid, but really impressed by what the be vineyards will bring. The mouth shows mouth coating tannin with elegance, dark raspberry, with hints of dark currant, mineral, foliage, dirt, and loam galore, with great potential. The finish is long and elegant with chocolate, tobacco, and ripe fruit lingers long.

2015 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
Nice nose of bright mineral, rich earth and really ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and plush with green notes and really accessible showing nice tannin and plush blackberry and foliage. The finish is long and green and soft with mineral and tobacco and loam.

2015 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with perfumed boysenberry, with less herb and more floral and blue fruit instead. The mouth is rich and full bodied and really accessible with a plush and a bit less pushed than the other two reserve wines, with nice extraction, good sweet fruit, controlled with green notes again and foliage that is wrapped in plush but firm tannin and great spice. The finish is long and sweet and really impressive with leather galore and tobacco that is backed by tar and roasted animal.

2013 Flam Noble – Score: A-
Really lovely old world nose with nice mineral, rich black and elegant fruit with great roasted herb. The mouth is full bodied, plush, not overly tannic with nice elegance and good complexity that is ripe and round and yet balanced with chocolate and nice graphite and mineral. The finish is long and green with tobacco, sweet dill, rich extraction that shows searing tannin that lingers and ripe black fruit with juicy tart raspberry, and fun blue notes in the background, with ripe fruit lingering long.

 

Tzora Vineyards Winery continues to impress

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, I was talking about – Domaine du Castel Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of them on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the second of those three – that one being Tzora Vineyards Winery.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run byDoron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

As we arrived that morning, Eran Pick was busy crushing the last of his red grapes – the Petit Verdot. The last grape that Tzora takes in is the late harvest Gewurztraminer that is used in the making of the lovely Or wine – that is “frozen” late harvest Gewurztraminer.

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 whites, as well. Sadly, as stated, Mr. Pick was busy with the last of harvest, but we still had the chance to taste the wines with him, as he came to talk to us for a few minutes, and he even threw a few barrel/tank tastings in as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has the dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus two extra older library wines, and some early barrel tastings, but I did not post those as barrels are for Eran to work with, I normally only write notes of bottled wines. Last time we were at the winery was in March, and we tasted many great wines – and we did taste a few of those wines again, along with the now bottled 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, and some library wines.

The tasting consisted of the newly released 2016 whites along with two library wines and the now bottled 2015 Misty Hills. It was great to taste the 2013 Shoresh white, it is a wine I had not tasted in some time. The wine showed how much it can change is so short a time. The last time I tasted it was already past its oaky start, showing crazy acid and lovely brioche. Now, the wine is balancing out very well, showing a balance between oak, fruit, and mouth texture – impressive. It is so vastly different than the 2016 vintage which shows far less oak. I asked Mr. Pick when he was so kind to join us, and he agreed that indeed there is less oak showing on the 2016 Shoresh white, but he said rest assured it is there and may well come out with time. The other library wine was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh Red. It was beautiful and showing very well. Read the rest of this entry

Gvaot Winery’s latest releases

The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Gvaot Winery. It has been too long since my last post on a visit to Gvaot winery – so I made it my priority on this trip to Israel, to get to Gvaot Winery and visit with Shivi Drori, the head winemaker. As was common throughout my trip, each of the wineries was in the middle of harvest, so my many thanks to Mr. Drori for finding the time to sit down with me and taste through his wines.

Gvaot Winery is one of the few wineries that did not produce their wine lineup in 2015, this past Shmita. They made some whites, but not many at all, and they did them under the Otzar Beit Din, which was unique for anyone who made wine this past Shmita. As discussed in past posts, most of the Israeli wineries this past Shmita, that made wine did so using Heter Mechira, citing issues with the beit din, costs, and restrictions that did not work for them.

Like many of the wineries in Israel, Gvaot has changed over their labels. Gone is the Herodian wine line, as it was confusing to some. The Gofna and Masada wine lines stay.

So, what that now means is that there will be three wine lines, the Gvaot Winery line, which has the whites, rose (when made), a Cabernet, a Merlot, and the two dances wines that are blends, Dances in White (a blend of Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer) and vineyard dance, a red blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and sometimes other fruit. Then there is the Gofna label that has the Chard/Cabernet blend, the Petite Verdot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Pinot Noir, and the new Wind and Sun port-like wine. Finally, there is the Masada line which always has the flagship wine of the winery, and in the past also had the beautiful Pinot Noir.

Just walking outside the winery takes you to another place altogether. The landscape is beautiful, the winery is surrounded by vineyards and mountains in the distance stretch on forever. It is truly one of the few wineries in Israel that could place the words “estate-bottled” on their labels if it were allowed in Israel.

The prices in Israel have come down a bit, but they are still too steep for me ever to apply the QPR label upon the winery’s wines. That said the wines are very good and some are well worth finding.

There will be a rose again in 2017, from the looks of it. The winery produced 40K bottles in 2016 and looks to be bottling 50K in 2017. My many thanks again to Shivi Drori and the rest of the winery for putting up with me in the middle of harvest. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine is a unique blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon juice that was not allowed to sit on its skins, leaving it clear. The wine was aged in barrels for 8 months.
The nose on this wine is lovely and smokey showing lovely flint, with orange and nectarines, nuts and butter. The mouth is creamy and balanced with lovely spice, nice nutmeg with good weight, with lovely creamy notes and almost oily texture, showing green and yellow apple, peach and rich mineral. The finish is long and spicy, showing creamy and tart at the same time, with great sophistication and rich fruit, all balanced well with mineral, acid, nice citrus zest. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

Vitkin Winery’s latest releases

2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, 2016 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Vitkin Gewurztraminer, 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey pink, 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Vitkin Grenache, Vitkin Cabernet Franc, VAs I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and I finally got the chance to taste the entire kosher line. Asaf Paz, is the head winemaker there now, after spending so much time helping at Vitkin for years, he is finally at home in his family’s winery for good I hope.

I have written before about Vitkin in passing last year when I tasted his 2015 wines, the first year he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last year, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.

The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. We arrived during the crush for Grenache, so it was fun to see how the tanks are situated in the winery. They do not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).

Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, sadly there was no 2016 Riesling. The 2016 Gewurztraminer and Grenache Blanc, have the added collector’s edition moniker on them. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red and the 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, 2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, 2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2015 Vitkin Carignan. The 2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir is the only red with the collector’s edition moniker.

There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that 50% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses, and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wines tasted these past few weeks

Well, I have finally caught up on my main wine themes throughout these past few weeks – but I also realized that I had missed a few wines here and there, and so I am creating a catch-all post to track these last few wines that have slipped through the cracks.

They are a hodgepodge of wines that I have tasted, but people were asking for the notes – so the easiest way to get them all up is to put them here in one post

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

This is fun, a really lovely nose, with white pepper, hints of funk, with good sweet notes, mounds of crazy honeysuckle, honey, showing pineapple, mango, and nice grapefruit, and lemon sorbet. The mouth on this medium bodied is where things go slightly off course, this wine is not as dry as I had hoped, with good acidity, but too much sweet notes, with good balance, showing more of crazy floral jasmine notes, with blossom as well, giving way to sweet citrus, and tropical fruit. The finish is long and tart, crazy acid, with slate, rich sweet notes, and tart fruit. This is more of a very good dessert wine to me than a “dry wine”, but a fun one either way. Drink Now.

2014 Saporta Rioja – Score: B+ to A-
We also tried to taste the Saporta Crianza, but it was corked 😦
This is a lovely wine, with a nose of bright fruit, fresh and vibrant, with good notes of coffee, tar, earth galore, dark cherry, vanilla, and nice spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well made, with good acid, very nice dried and almost candied fruit, with herbs galore, mint, rosemary, and sage, with nice earth, dried raspberry, and more cherry. The finish is long and acidic with a good core of mineral, spice, nutmeg, and tobacco. Nice! Drink by 2019.

2001 Herzog Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- (not mevushal)
Lovely wine, I am shocked it is still alive, with crazy white and black pepper, with lovely roasted meat, with mushroom, and truffles. The mouth is layered and quite alive, with good acid, still nice tannin, rich and still richly layered, impressive and attacking with great focus, with lovely juicy fruit, showing green notes of tobacco, menthol, and herb. The finish is long and green with crazy spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, with lovely herbal notes, and tar galore. Bravo!! Drink up!

2014 Hajdu Counoise, Eaglepoint Ranch – Score: B+
The nose starts off hot, with lovely pepper, warm spices, lots of sweet oak, sweet dill, with hickory notes, roasted meat, and black fruit abounds. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is deeply extracted with more of the sweet oak, lots of rich searing tannin, that gives way to blackberry, blueberry, hints of peach, and white fruit, followed by raspberry, and crazy heady spice. The finish on this lovely wine is spice first and tobacco second, with nice mineral, earth, leather, and rich black tea. Nice Drink by 2019

2010 Damien Gachot-Monot Bourgogne – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must admit I was expecting more old world notes to start from this wine, it starts off more Cali in style than Burgundy, but as it opens it literally transforms within 10 minutes to a classically old world wine, insane, with clear sweet notes of dill, herb, and dried cherry, to start, but with time that changes to rich loam, dirt, earth, with mounds of saline, mineral, and lovely sweet juicy raspberry, dried red fruit, and lovely spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is clearly sweet, and Cali in style to start, but with time, it opens to classical Burgundy, old-world notes of hints of sweet notes, but far more balanced, with mushroom, hints of barnyard, candied life saver, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, that flows into smokey oak, charcoal, and lovely tilled earth. The finish is super long, richly balanced with impressive acid, with more smoke and mushroom lingering long, with almost hints of smoked meat, spiced plum, and candied fruit. A fun experience and a crazy good price! Drink by 2019

2014 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts off fruitier and more accessible than previous vintages, showing a more new world in style. With more time that changes a bit and straddles the two worlds, with nice roasted meat, mounds of smoke, mineral, hints of mushroom, dirt, and tar, with sweet spices, and lovely blue fruit. The mouth on this lovely wine is still very controlled even with its new world leanings, but it is clearly fruitier than previous vintages, with mounds of blueberry, boysenberry, wrapped in searing and draping tannins, that give way to dark cherry, dried herb, menthol, and forest berry that are cocooned by sweet oak, and balanced by lovely acid and dirt. The finish is long and searing still with more tannin, but well balanced with green notes of tobacco, foliage, mushroom, and mounds of mineral, graphite, and black olives. A very fun wine indeed! Drink by 2020

2014 Shirah One-Two Punch – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, with black and blue fruit, showing cherry, blueberry, and lovely earthy and spicy, cloves, all spice, really impressive and fun, with coffee and vanilla. Lovely medium body with great spice, with great acid and focus, showing nice blueberry and raspberry and spicy oak with coffee and candied currant. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, and dill with smoke and candied fruit. Drink by 2020.

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