Category Archives: Wine Industry

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

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

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

Overall Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

Winners of the shows

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

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

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

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

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The good and the ugly state of kosher wine in South Africa and Chicago

Well, we are back home, thank God for that! I really enjoyed my time in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, and then Kruger), but while the Jews of South Africa are truly wonderful, the life there is less than so.

In case South Africa is a new thing to you, let me start with the simple fact that there are 54 or 55 countries in the African continent! South Africa may well be the most Southern of them, but it is just ONE country in Africa and only one country of many in what is called Southern Africa.

In the end, the trip was marred by things being stolen from our luggage and the overall sense of hope but desolation that seems to be a default in Johannesburg and in many of the shantytowns (AKA townships) that are scattered throughout South Africa.

The clear separation of the haves and have-nots was tough to see. Not because I am in ANY WAY blind to it here in our country, but more because it is as in your face as it is in places like India or China.

Though what made us happy was the reason we came to South Africa, to dance at the wedding of Josh And Chana, and it was a really lovely event indeed! I have written a few times now about Josh Rynderman, a good friend, and a wonderful up and coming, kosher winemaker.

Aside from the wine at the wedding (the 2017 Backsberg Chardonnay and the NV Backsberg Sparkling wine), I can honestly say that the wines of South Africa are not fit for print! Throw on to that the selection they do have of kosher wines, outside of what is made in South Africa and well yeah, there was no real option for Shabbat – total failure!

I walked into three different places and the wine selection was horrible in all of them. Mostly a combination of ancient and poorly stored undrinkable Israeli wines and some newer South African wines that are really not fun at all.

State of Jews in South Africa

Although the Jewish community peaked in the 1970s (at around 120,000[1]), about 70,000 mostly nominally Orthodox, remain in South Africa. A proportion is secular, or have converted to Christianity. Despite low intermarriage rates (around 7%),[1] approximately 1,800 Jews emigrate every year, mainly to IsraelAustraliaCanada and the United States. The Jewish community in South Africa is currently the largest in Africa, and, although shrinking due to emigration, it remains one of the most nominally Orthodox communities in the world, although there is a significantly growing Progressive community, especially in Cape Town. The current Orthodox Chief RabbiWarren Goldstein (2008), has been widely credited for initiating a “Bill of Responsibilities” which the government has incorporated in the national school curriculum. The Chief Rabbi has also pushed for community-run projects to combat crime in the country.

The community has become more observant and in Johannesburg, the largest center of Jewish life with 66,000 Jews, there is a high number and density of kosher restaurants and religious centers.

Having spent a Shabbat in Johannesburg, and many days in Cape Town, I can attest to the words taken from the history of Jews in South Africa – Wikipedia post. Read the rest of this entry

2017 kosher wine year in review

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

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

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

Economics

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

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

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

State after 2017 of the Economics of kosher wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kosher Wine bars in Jerusalem

I am not sure what is in the air, but at least 5 people asked me about kosher wine bars in Jerusalem this past week, like really?? OK, when asked I can help. However, this is not a post about the actual venues – I have only been to two of them, and only one of them in the past 6 months. So, here is a list of the wine bars in Jerusalem – I hope you all enjoy! Send them my regards, especially to Mark Arnold Jam from Red and White wine bar, I hope he has some great jazz going the night you visit, he is really one entertaining cat!

PLEASE This is not my final version of all possible wine bars, please post whatever I have missed – this is not an ego trip, this is all about helping my friends – and that is all about family! So, if you have other wonderful options, post below in the comments!

The thing that blows my mind is that two years ago – all we had was the Mamilla Winery, and that is open only 4 hours a day “officially”, I was there for more hours a few years ago. Sy=till, in the last year or more, 4 new wine bars have popped up and BRAVO to them all! Even if I have yet to visit them, it is all about the same thing I pound on and on about – education! The more people taste the more they will learn!

Thanks!

The wine bars follow below:

The Mamaila Winery:

Come on, this name is far less offensive (in English anyway) than the Wine Temple! Come on – this is Jerusalem! Have we forgotten what the REAL temple really was?? Of course, this is NOT a winery! But it has a nice list of wines from around Israel – and that is what a wine bar in Israel should be all about!
Anyway, I listed this one first because it is the first kosher wine bar in Jerusalem, as far as I know of! I posted about it here and I have yet to return, maybe the next trip! Man, I have been begging my wife to hang here for a day or two (at the beautiful Mamilla Hotel of course!), I  have struck out so far – maybe in the future! Until then, you never know what you may run into when you swing by – I saw a BMW M3 with gull wings – come on!

Contact info:

Address: 11 King Solomon Street, Jerusalem (inside Mamilla Hotel)
Hours: 5 P.M. – 8 P.M.
Tel: 972-2-5482230

Red and White Wine Bar

Of the five wine bars that I list here, this is the one I have personally been to recently, a fact I really hope to rectify on my next trip unless I am too tired from running around to all the wineries in Israel like the last trip. I know I kid, I kid…

Anyway, Mark Arnold Jam is a great host and he will make sure you and your friends are well taken care of! The wines he has are almost all great, and that is saying a lot for me! He has Yaacov Oryah’s wines, Netofas, Tzora, Castel, and of course, some not so great ones, but hey – this is Israel and not everyone needs to be as crazy as I am!

Send him my best and enjoy – the menu at the bar is milk based an idea that seems to be not only simple but also very well accepted – let the food be a part of the conversation, with the wine being a very good partner.

Contact info:

Address: Shlomo ha-Melekh St 8, Jerusalem
Hours: Open today · 8:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M.
Phone: +972 2-645-1212

Corky- Experience Wine

I have yet to visit Corky, something I hope to rectify on my next visit. It is also a dairy restaurant with lots of Israeli wine options. The cheese options are also very good from what I read.

Contact Info:

Address: Azza 18, Jerusalem, Israel
Hours: 6:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M.
Call +972 2-940-8038

The Wine Bar

This is another wine bar I have yet to visit – but it is situated in the hotel that also contains the best restaurant in Jerusalem, hands down – Le Regence! Please make it your business to visit the restaurant with either your best friends or on your anniversary – it is not cheap – but the food is second to none in Jerusalem!

Now, to get back to the main storyline here – the Wine Bar at King David hotel is also a dairy food-focused bar with a classic Israeli focused wine list, one that needs to be improved from what I have seen online so far – again another bar that needs a visit!

Contact Info:

Address: 23 King David St., Jerusalem
Hours:  5 P.M.. to 12:30 A.M.
Call +972 2 620-8784

The Wine Temple – מרכז לתרבות יין

Sorry to harp on this again, but really! Wine Temple! Anyway, this is the newest of all the wine bars out there and my good friend, Moises Cohen was just there to show off his wonderful line of Elvi Wines!

The bar space looks stunning! Really lovely, but a temple, OK OK, I will stop now. I reached out to the wine bar to find out more about what its menu is like, but so far no response, but I also did not give them much time. I have yet to be there, so maybe next time!

Contact Info:

Address: Emek Refaim 8, Jerusalem, Israel
Hours:  11 A.M. to 11 P.M.
Call +972 2-992-9999

Mike’s Place

In closing – there is a famous bar – Mike’s Place, NO it is not a wine bar, it is a food bar and now one of its locations, is now kosher! A great place to hang out and watch American football (PLEASE do not waste your time watching the bears) and drink some bear and eat some pretty good beer pub food. Just a shout out as this looks cool!

Scoring on kosher wine musings explained – revised (2.0)

how-to-judge-03

Well, I give up. No, I am not giving up on scoring, not at all. Rather, on the contrary, it is time to move to a point system for the very reason I was worried about. In the end of my previous post about my scoring system – I remarked these words:

In the end, there will be far more A- wines out there, from here on out. Instead of having 91 or 92 or 93 wines out there, there will be lots of just A- wines. To get to A- to A (a 94 or so, that will require a very unique wine indeed.

My prophetic words were in the first sentence of that paragraph – there are too many A- wines. Now, I am not complaining about an A- wine, we need more of them! What I am complaining about is that a 90 scored wine is not the same as a 93 to 94 scored wine – not at all! Sure, even in the default 100 based scoring system, there is a difference between 90 to 94 and 95 to 100 (AKA, there is an A-, A- to A, and A tiers). Great! But there is also a very clear difference between the wines inside of the A- tier, otherwise, they would score all the wines 94 and be done with it, which is clearly not the case!

In the end, I have moved from a less clear on valuation (A–, A- and more, A- plus, B++, etc.) to a clear valuation in my first real iteration of defining my scoring system. From there I have evolved to the freedom of full scores. Like I said in my previous post, I harbored the desire to go to a full point system, but I feared the emails and hate. There is already too much hate around scores – but to me, the scores are just a way to tier wines. I just want a better way to tier them. I did this mostly because I had received enough pushback from many telling me that there were too many B+ or A- wines and all of those wines in those tiers were not alike.

So yes, I will get hate – lots of hate, I know, this has been a move that was a long time coming. For now, there will be a mix of letter scores and numbers, but not within the same article/post. I will decide when are where I will use numbers and/or letters. Either way, the levels have not changed, the criteria have not changed, all that changes, in some cases, will be that I am finally free to score a wine in its true value, instead of being stuck with a tier.

So here is my version of the scoring system (a take on the 100 point scale).

  • C (79 and down): Flawed and not recommended at all
  • B (80 to 84): Light flaws but find something else preferably
  • B+ (85 to 88): This starts to be a wine I would drink, but I would not go out of my way to find and buy
  • B+ to A- (89 to 90): I would drink this and if the price was good I may go and buy it as well
  • A- (91 to 93 or 94): These are wines I like and do stock in my home
  • A- to A (94 to 98): These are top of the line wines to me that are truly special
  • A (99 to 100): These wines are as close to Classic as I could see
  • A+ (this really does not exist): I have had one of these in my life – the 99 Giraud, and that was more an experiential score than a real 100 point score, but these will be far and few between.

QPR

Separately, I get all this flak around QPR – Quality to Price ratio. Meaning a wine that is priced well for its quality. You can have a very expensive wine that is worth every penny, like the 2014 Chateau Giscours or Malartic, but they are not a QPR wine. Why? Simply said I have an issue with expensive wines, meaning wines over 50 dollars. Do I love some of them? Very much so!

So, the real essence of the argument lies around QPR and if a wine is a CRAZY QPR, or a QPR, or some other adjective. Some have used the statement – It’s like being pregnant, you are or you aren’t

I will admit that QPR also needs a leveling – but I am not there right now. So, get over it and we will move on. If you want the latest version of QPR – this post has them, though a year old.

State of the kosher wine industry – circa 2017

Kotel - 2017.jpg

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted, mostly because work is really keeping me busy, thankfully. So, Shana tova to you all, and a Gmar Chatima Tova. So, in a span of fewer than two weeks, in early September, I flew to Israel to taste the wines I had missed this year. I then flew to France to do a tasting of Royal’s French wines from the 2015 vintage and then I attempted to taste as much French wine as I could get my hands on.

The State of Israeli wine

Besides having the opportunity to visit many wineries in Israel, I had many wine tastings of Israeli wines and I can now say sadly that 2016 was not the year we had all hoped for and that Israel wines as a whole are improving, but are not yet at the stage where I can really just buy them and hold them.

The 2015 vintage is one I have described and posted about a few times now, it was not a great year unless you took super care to be careful with it and harvested early, like Tzora’s 2015 wines. The 2015 reserve reds are slowly being released throughout the country and they have no real appeal to me. Yes, as a person I know is wont to say, wine is not coca cola (or beer for that matter), we get what we are given. I agree wine is vintage based, that is for sure, but so far the wines are really not showing well across the board.

Thankfully, though I say 2015 was not a huge winner for reds, roses, or whites, 2016 was a better year for the whites and roses, as I have posted here many times throughout the past few months. It is too early to say if the vintage will be kind to the reds as well. The 2015 Shmita still has a large overhang over Israeli wines, and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later! We are enjoying the 2016 vintage here in the USA, but in Israel, those wines are not yet released. Why? Because there is too much 2015 that is not sold outside of Israel and that is a lot of wine to sell in a country that drinks 5 liters a person, and that is on a non-shmita year! In shmita years where the Haredi do not drink shmita wines, that is a lot of wine to sell.

Still, the 2016 wines are slowly appearing, the most recent release was the 2016 Carmel Riesling Kayoumi vineyards, and it is nice, but not anything like the 2014 vintage – one of their best ever.

Overall, the 2016 vintage did not impress in regards to it being a savior from the failed 2015 vintage. While there are a few gems from the 2016 vintage, Psagot whites, Tzora whites and so on, it is not a blanket endorsement vintage like 2014 was for Israeli whites. Overall, while I continue to strongly believe that Israel is the top region for white and rose kosher wines, the past two years have made me pause and take notice to regions outside of Israel that are also helping to shape kosher non-red wine landscape.

In regards to red wines from Israel, what can I say, not much has changed on that front at all. The wines continue to be either very fruit forward or outright prune/date juice. Throughout the blind tastings we had, it was painful to drink many of the wines, and none of those wines were cheap or what Israel calls “Supermarket wines” (the baseline plonk of wineries that sell well to the unknowing).

No, these were wines that should have shown far better but did not, simple as that. In the mix of tastings were also many older vintages that were scary to taste three years or two years after release. The wines have fallen from where they were a few years ago. Again, the issue at hand is the out of balance wines that are either flawed or just too ripe for the wine to bear.

I was talking with a few winemakers in Israel on this trip, and one told me that watering back the wines are officially not legal in Israel. California is the “watering-back” capital of the world, as this economist article so well points out. Bordeaux 100% disallows the use of water in wines, well – because it never gets hot enough there to need to water back wine! Israel, which gets hotter than California, though this year felt crazy hot to me in Cali, is not allowed to water back – “officially”. Read the rest of this entry

The sad removal of Terrenal wines from Trader Joe’s

trader-joes-front

As many of you know, I had been touting Terrenal wines for some time, at least until last year. My last post on the state of Terrenal wines was from May of 2016, more than a year ago. Sadly, by that time, we had long not seen the wonderful Chardonnay from Chile in more than two years.

We never saw the 2016 wines and even the few 2015 wines they did sell for the past half a year, was running out of the channel, again at least here in Northern Califonia. The wonderful Banero Prosecco was also long gone from the Northern California supply channel.

The east coast supply channel was far fuller and the wines were available there, sadly I never got to see that. The wines on the west coast sold in a heartbeat. If there was a lack of sales on the west coast, from what I saw, that would totally be because of lack of supply. Whenever there was supply in my local stores, they sold out with a month. I am a very frequent visitor to TJ, I go there at least twice a week for my normal food shopping, and when I am there I always check the Terrenal supply. I have always chatted with the managers and the local buyers and they have consistently told me there was no wine in the channel, or there was very little supply to be found.

So, I was shocked when I heard this week that Trader Joe’s would no longer carry Terrenal wines. There are is a group on Facebook, along with others, where people are posting thoughts, anger, frustration, and maybe some ideas as to why this happened.

The interesting fact is that while Terrenal wine will no longer be carried by Trader Joe’s Sara Bee, a very good Moscato wine will still be carried. Now I point this out because Trader Joe’s sells the famous blue bottle, AKA The Bartenua Moscato that comes in the lovely blue bottle (sadly for me the only redeeming factor that exists for that wine). Now, the interesting fact here is that while Moscato is still selling very well in this country, and around the world, I wonder why Trader Joe’s stopped selling Terrenal but keeps selling Sara Bee, which is made by the Terrenal wine makers?

A person on the Kosher Trader Joe’s Facebook group posted a reply that was more informative than the canned responses that I saw from many other posters. This is the text from the reply that she received – for why they had removed Terrenal wines from their stores:

The Terrenal Wines were discontinued based on lack of sales, nationwide. The fact is, because our stores have such limited shelf space, if an item does not meet a minimum sales volume, we will discontinue it in order to bring in something new in that we hope our customers will love (we would like to carry every item; it is just, sadly, not a possibility).

Please know that we greatly appreciate this feedback – we are customers, too, and there are items I miss as well. We will share your comments with our buyers and also keep an eye out for requests like yours. From time to time, with future review, if there is enough customer demand to bring back a discontinued item and we are able to do so, we will certainly consider giving it another run.

At present, we carry these kosher wines:

BARON HERZOG KOSHER CABERNET
BARON HERZOG KOSHER CHARDONNAY.
BARON HERZOG KOSHER MERLOT.
BARTENURA KOSHER MOSCATO
SARA BEE MOSCATO – KOSHER

Best regards,
XXXXXXX

Customer Relations
Trader Joe’s

After reading this, I contacted the makers of Terrenal wines, and their reply was that the wines were selling perfectly well, much like I had seen from my perspective on the west coast.

The worse fact of this is that we have now gone from wine selling for 3.99 or 4.99 a bottle to wine selling for 9.99 and up (for reds options) at Trader Joes. I am surprised that Trader Joe’s, a company that prides itself on the customer first, and price point battles, would just exit the segment and leave us back where we were four to five years ago, with wines double or more of what we had before. I get it that kosher wine, is a tiny segment of their business, but it is an item that pulls buyers into the store for other kosher food that Trader Joe’s has been more and more vocal about for some time now.

That said, there was a clear lack of wines in the channel for a year, either it was a lack of interest here on the west coast, or a lack of supply to meet the demand. However, from what I saw here, there was no lack of interest, the store managers tell me that people keep complaining about the lack of Terrenal, even when it was being stocked by Trader Joe’s. So, I have a real problem understanding this reply from Trader Joe’s Customer Relationship team. I have personally also emailed the company and I hope to hear more on that soon.

For now, the sad fact is that the wines are not going to be carried any longer by Trader Joe’s. The hope is that the wines will find a USA distributor and once again we will have very reasonably priced kosher wines in the USA.

 

KFWE LA 2017 – the star of the show continues to grow

kfwe-los-angeles-sign

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! I had never missed one of those yet, but such is life. Thankfully, I made Paris, NYC, and LA. What I can say, is that not much has changed, the star of the shows is still LA, and this year it got even better.

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

Overall Impressions

Of course, the event stayed in the beautiful Petersen Museum, sadly there is construction on its metal side (for a tram), but it is still gorgeous. So, I will cut to the chase – this was the best KFWE hands down – congratulations to Herzog and Royal, really impressive.

Now, why do I say that – well that will take a little longer to explain than a single sentence! First of all, the setting was killer, that is not new, it is really an LA destination kind of party, and it is exactly what we should expect from an LA-based event.

Second, they fixed all the issues from last year. Last year, the food was poorly placed in the general admission floors, that was fixed, and the food this year was better as well. The lack of full wine selection from NYC was fixed, for the most part. NYC had the new Vitkin Winery wines while LA did not. Also, LA did not have the two California wineries, Covenant and Hagafen, which makes sense as Royal does not distribute those wines in LA, the wineries take care of west coast operations themselves. There were also one or two other no-shows, but they were wineries I would not waste virtual ink over, so no loss, all good!

This means that they had every French, Herzog, Spanish, New Zealand, and topline Israeli wines at this event. Finally, LA has been removed from the wine doghouse, that has plagued previous KFWE LA events. This is huge! I stress this because, outside of very few wines, LA had it all. Weather, wine, food, ambiance, setting, everything! There really was nothing lacking from the 2017 KFWE LA, I was really impressed.

Finally, the booths were far better laid out this year, they made use of all three floors, and the wineries and food had ample room and space to ply their products to the happy customers. Overall, the execution this year was 100% spot on!

Picture perfect Weather

Photo by David Zaitz.

Photo by David Zaitz from Wikipedia

Once again, God looked kindly down on the KFWE this year in LA as well. While the KFWE in NYC was sandwiched between an ugly snowstorm and another system after it, it was cold but clear skies on Monday. The same could be said for LA’s event. The weather was brilliant, and it too was sandwiched between two large rain systems that came and went, leaving LA’s sky clean of smog.

The weather was perfect at 70 degrees, more on the logistics of that below, but it gave KFWE LA the ability to truly showcase its colors in terms of what a KFWE in LA can really be! When u think of LA, you think weather, beaches, and well Hollywood. Hollywood was the showcase of the first post-Hyatt event, the event that birthed the VIP session. That I am sure was probably too much Hollywood for Royal, so they looked elsewhere, what else screams California while being posh, elegant, and well California? The Petersen is that place! During the day, it is California, with a rooftop capable of hosting hundreds of trades people. When the sun sets, it magically turns into Hollywood, which is a 15-minute drive away (preferably in the batmobile or the Lighting McQueen car).

lightening-mcqueen

Trade tasting

During the trade tasting, when the wines were set up in a non-optimal manner, the team moved quickly, before trade actually started and made sure that wineries were not placed in direct sunlight. Sadly, Matar was left out in the sun, but they kept all their wines on ice, and it was fine. The weather was almost spring-like, 70 degrees and clear skies. While that is great beach weather, it is not so much great wine weather. Since the trade is held on the rooftop, while the other floors setup for the public tasting, this can make for Doctor Seuss-like logistical nightmares. The team fixed it quickly and that was learned from last year. Read the rest of this entry

2017 Bokobsa Wine Tasting in Paris

mbokobsa-tasting-in-parisWell, if you read my previously posted notes of my one day at Sommelier in Israel, you may be wondering why I am posting about Paris France? The apropos answer to that question can be summed up with this beautiful pasuk from Psalms “Shomer petaim Hashem,” literally “God protects the foolish,”.

So, let’s start from the beginning. As I posted here, about the coming wine events of 2017, there were many options for you to get out and taste great wines almost across the globe. Well, this year I finally wanted to put more focus on France, so I was in Bordeaux later last year, and now I wanted to get to Paris again to taste through the new 2014 wines. My desire was to get to one day at Sommelier, and the Bokobsa wine tasting in Paris, but skip the epic Zur wine tasting this year, the first time since its inception 😦

Thankfully the plans worked out, and for that I thank God and my wife. Last year I was in Israel a total of 6 times, including a stop over in Bordeaux, where I tasted some of the best wines from the 2015/2016 vintage, thanks to Royal Europe. So, this year, we had to keep the number of round trips to Israel to a more reasonable number, and staying home a bit more was also on the table. That meant doing crazy things to get an elephant of activity, squeezed into a thimble sized amount of time. A total of five days, including travel both ways, to squeeze in a trip to Israel, a Monday in Israel for Sommelier, then a day trip to paris for the Bokobsa tasting (Tuesday), returning at 4AM on Wednesday back to Israel. Then going north to visit 5 wineries (Kishor, Matar, Adir, Lueria, and then Netofa part 1 of 2017). Then return back to sleep (preferably not in the car while driving). Get up Thursday, drive to a bris, then to my beloved sister (GREAT hanging with her), then to Tzora, Flam, and then flying home. So yeah, I have lots of posts coming soon, but for now, this is about Paris and France’s wines!

It started Saturday night, with a dash out the door to catch the 8PM direct flight to Israel. Thank God the plane was not packed and I arrived in time. We landed in Israel, and found my way to the hotel, where I would stay for two days. The next day was Sommelier, then dinner with friends, and then a half attempted night’s sleep. Then Tuesday, go to the airport and take the El Al flight to paris France for the Bokobsa tasting at the Intercontinental Hotel. By the way, charging 8 Euro at the hotel bar, for a cup of coffee is crazy, just an aside! Read the rest of this entry

2016 kosher wine Year in Review

Well, it is another Gregorian year and though there has been many new things going on in the world of the kosher wine world, they are all small in comparison to the larger fact that not much has changed.

Sadly, my issues from 2015 have not changed and in some ways they are getting worse. But lets start at the beginning and get to my issues next. So here is what I thought about 2016, in terms of kosher wine overall.

Economics

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

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

The economics of kosher wine continues to be a serious issue. When I get excited by a SINGLE very good kosher wine that exists below the 10 dollar range (other than maybe Baron Herzog Cabernet and Chardonnay which retail for more) – you know we have issues. Here is a list of non-kosher wines from Wine Spectator and from Wine Enthusiast. They show hundreds of options while we have THREE max, why? I have heard all the answers – and trust me the kosher supervision is not the reason!

I do not need to harp over the number of horrible and undrinkable – let alone unspeakable wines that exist in the kosher wine aisles that are not worthy of the glass they reside in. They all cost more than 10 dollars. In the end, the issue cannot be denied and it needs to be fixed. Quality exists (more below) at higher prices, but what is needed is lower prices and higher quality. You can always create great wines at 100 dollars – that is really not a hard thing to do, even if it looks that way sometimes. Great grapes from Napa, Montsant, or even places like Ben Zimra and others locations in the Upper Galilee, can be had for less than 6K a ton. Napa is the highest cost, with Montsant and Galilee costing less. Still, even at that cost – you get 50 cases at 100 bucks a pop = which comes out to 60K. Sure there are costs, including humans, and space, and the such. My point being the cost of making great wine is not hard. The real head knocker is making very good wine at lower costs.

That is where Terrenal has made a living at making very good wines, not great, not A rated, but very good wines at low-cost. The sad fact is that unless there are great sales or just really cheap wine stores, the list of kosher wines under 20 dollars are even still limited, and that is what is really hurting the kosher wine world in my opinion.

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

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