Category Archives: Wine Industry

Go east young man – for the KFWE Summer event of the season!

KFWE NYC Summer Event
Well you know how much I love all things Cali, especially Northern Cali (AKA Napa, Sonoma, Yosemite, and on and on). However, when California flies east for the day – that is when we should be joining them – and it is for a great cause as well!

Herzog Winery, is having a summer event in NYC, they will be bringing all of their great wines and they will be bringing their signature restaurant – Tierra Sur for a single night! I can honestly say, that Tierra Sur is the best restaurant in LA and maybe all of the USA, the food is fabulous and the chef is top rate!

Head Chef Gabriel Garcias, will be coming east as well with his entire team and you are invited to enjoy much of his menu on the east coast! Finally, you east coast guys will get to taste what we have raved about for years!

The event will be held Monday July 18, 2016 at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. The address is: Pier 61 Chelsea Piers, NY, NY. The event will be held from 6:30pm – 9:30pm.

In case that sounds familiar – well that is because the KFWE NYC in February, returned to Pier 60, which is next door to this summer event. The event will be as good packed as the Pre-Passover event was, but this time all Tierra Sur! The menu will consist of modern and inspired New American fare with California flair.

The Herzog winery, not to be outdone by Chef Garcias – will be serving 30+ wines from the winery’s private collection, along with limited edition wines reserved for the wine club, and some surprises! But Herzog winery would not be the same without its head winemaker – Joe Hurliman, so he is coming east as well! It is a great opportunity to talk shop/wine with Joe, he is a very amiable and a very knowledgeable person, who is always happy to talk about Herzog Winery and what it means to the kosher and non-kosher wine market.

Now, for all the spirit heads, no problem, the event had you covered with a bar featuring signature cocktails, Tomintoul Whisky, Boondocks American Whiskey, Ron Abuelo Rums, Los Arango Tequila and LVOV Premium Vodka!

purchase-tickets

So, with all the food, wine, drink, and talk that you can handle – why have you not already bought tickets! OOPS, right, you need the link, no problemo! Click here, or on the button to the left of this paragraph! Do yourself a favor and make sure to attend this wonderful showcase event – where you will have a chance to enjoy the world of California food and wine, while supporting a great cause like Renewal!

The best kosher wines for Passover 2016 at all price ranges

wall of wineAs many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone – with the last one having happened in NY, at the City Winery.  The event showcased many great wines, and was a very good event! The Jewish Week and their kosher wine list for Passover is nice, but you will not find many of them on this list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is a of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.

So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered over ripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list you can find a 2010 Yarden Brut Rose, another smash sparkling wine, that happens to be one of the best wines I tasted at sommelier. At the same time the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines, are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

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

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 24 dollar Capcanes Peraj petita, or the Herenza Crianza, or the Tabor Merlot, Adama, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the Peraj Petita, as wonderful as it is may or may not compare to another wine on the 50 dollar and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted it, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines, but you can be always look at the blog and if a wine you want is not on the list, by my omission, but scored an A- or higher, it was probably a good bet to have been on this list.

Finally, it is our custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines is far too hard for me. I rather decide to drink simple wines like the Tabor Via bubbly red, non mevushal wine. It is simple to chug, tasty, and perfectly fulfills the custom. For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace.

A few more comments here. I hope I have gotten all the wines that I have tasted here, but I almost posted this a few times, and then only at the end did I remember I forgot a few. Also, this year’s list is far longer, for a few reasons. One, I was far more careful and I tried to include all wines I tasted that were A- or maybe a drop below, AKA 90 point wines. Also, I have gotten to taste more wines as every year passes. Still, I am sure I missed a few. When I taste them – I will post them! Finally, there are more better wines this year. Many from Israel but France has finally stepped up with new vintages, along with Spain killing it as always, whites from Israel, and Cali really showing strong this year as well. I want to stress those lines again – this year is one of the best years for kosher wine – maybe the best. Why? Because more kosher wine is being made than ever before, and the wines are improving. Thankfully, new wineries like Kishor, Shiran, and others are popping up in Israel and are finally toeing the line! Recanati is fully inline now, and Dalton is also toeing the line with their higher end wines and their new lower end wines. What can I say, Israel has always been the white and sparkling wine mecca, but now some smaller and more concerned wineries are moving the needle on reds as well. Enough said on this – just keep looking for good news as I get to actually blog about this good news – notes and story wise. Till then, just follow the list! Read the rest of this entry

KFWE NYC 2016 – a return to the norm with a VIP expierance

20160229_182508Well in case you were tracking my posts leading up the 2016 KFWE NYC event, I was slightly critical of last year’s NYC event while I loved the LA event – which was in the W Hotel. This year, the NYC KFWE (which happened last night) was quite the event – as it returned to Pier 60, and had a VIP session to boot.

The VIP session was a nod to the epic VIP session of LA’s 2015 event and the 2016 LA KFWE event (tomorrow night), looks to be even more insane!

The doors opened for trade yesterday at Noon and closed at 4PM. Within 30 minutes the place was crowded, which is really good news. Trade is all about getting press about what kosher wine is and where it is heading. Yes, I have spoken many times about the fact that Royal Wines is the 900 pound gorilla – and it has the ability to crowd the market and push out its competitors as it flexes its muscles. Still, we need exactly what happened yesterday. The place was filled with reporters and wine buyers and critics tasting wines and being educated about the current state of affairs of the kosher wine world.

People still think kosher wine is nasty stuff (just search kosher wine on twitter), and this video and others are exactly what we need to spread the word that kosher wine has grown up, and continues improving every year! The reason for that – kosher wine consumers are growing by leaps and bounds and they want better food and better wine! Just look at the numbers; CBS2 reports that the kosher wine business is now doing $28 million a year and sales and growing.

Now personally, that number is pure bunk, it is far higher. Last year there were millions of bottles of Bartenura Blue Bottle sold, some report 5M other more like 9M. At 12 dollars a pop – the 28 million dollar number is either embarrassed or obliterated – all together. Add to that the roughly 1M bottles of wine produced by Herzog Winery at a blended average of 15 dollars a pop (the majority of their wines are less but they have many more expensive wines as well) – and that adds another 15M to the pot. Next add in the 13M dollars in Israeli exported wine sold in the USA (according to 2011 numbers which pale in comparison to 2015 numbers) – and you start to see how absurd that number of 28M really is. Where the number comes from is beyond me. Finally, we cannot ignore the amount of wine made in Europe and South America or here in the USA from the kosher California wineries (ignoring Herzog of course as that was cited earlier).

Now worldwide consumption of kosher wine is another entirely DIFFERENT number of course! Kosher wine produced in Israel (the vast majority of all the wine produced in Israel overall) – clocks in at 170M – again using a very old and conservative number (though part of that number is in the Israeli export number citied above).

IMHO, a VERY conservative number would be 250M of kosher worldwide consumption. In the USA that number is closer to 90M (again very conservative numbers)!

With those kinds of numbers, it is only a matter of time until companies, other than Royal start to take notice, and then it will get really interesting! Till then, we will need to keep pushing events like last night and tomorrow night (in LA)! These kinds of events shine the spotlight on this growing wine segment and one worthy of other company’s attention as well!

Personally, I was there to help my friend – Moises Cohen and Elvi Wines. Sadly, Moises was busy with family issues and as much as I was asked what wine I liked the most (most annoying part of the event – and more on that in a bit), I was asked where is Moises? Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine events for 2016 – revised

kfwelaWell if you were tracking my earlier post, the Paris event was last night (the 15th) and the London event just finished, and from what Pierre tells me it was the best one so far! The Paris one had barrel tastings of the 2014 Giscours and a special new kosher first – a bottle (really barrel tasting) of Armagnac!!

Chateau de Gensac ArmagnaArmagnac was one of the first regions to make distilled spirits in France, in the early days it was used for therapeutic reasons. Though many now a days – think the same way – best way to close out a night of drinking! I hope to get more info on the Chateau de Gensac Armagnac – when it is released.

The image of the bottle, looks awesome and is another reason for why each of these KFWE events have their own thing. Paris’s Bokobsa event is all about the French wines that are sold in France, some of which Royal does not import into the USA. It also has different wines than the US or the Israel events. Why? Because Royal has contracts with other wineries for Europe than it does with the US! So Bravdo Winery is imported to Europe through Royal as is Dalton Winery as well (at least to London anyway). In the USA – River imports Bravdo and Allied imports Dalton.

With those two events completed – the next ones on the book are the Zur KFWE tasting in Tel Aviv on February 22nd. Then comes the epic grand daddy of them all – KFWE NYC, which will be hosting its 10th anniversary of the original bash that started in 2007! The 10th anniversary event will be returning to its earlier roots, Pier 60, after a failed attempt to move it to a different venue last year. The event will be at Pier 60 on Monday the 29th starting at 5:30PM if you bought the VIP tickets before they sold out or 6:30 for everyone else! Again general admission tickets can be bought here for the 2016 KFWE NYC and use the promo code CORKBOARD18.

Sadly, the VIP session has already been sold-out, and the older coupon code has expired. The non-VIP session is available and hopefully its return the Chelsea Piers will make for a far more enjoyable and manageable experience than last year. Also, on an aside – KUDOS to London and NYC KFWE pages for adding the links to each others events! Cross advertising that I recommended in my earlier post was finally implemented!

Next stop – warm and sunny Los Angeles! The KWFE LA last year was the hands down winner for its epic VIP session, and the VIP session is back and I would tell everyone to jump on them before they sell out! Order tickets here NOW and use my coupon code of MUSINGS to get a 15% discount off the rack rate! This year they moved the event from the W Hotel to a larger and more swanky place to capture the true LA experience! It is being held at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It is a lovely scene and one that will have space to expand the VIP session to have even more madness – see rooftop pic below!

Roof Top VIP Section

After that – you would think you should be exhausted and ready for a break and I am sure you will need it and it will be well deserved. However, soon afterwards it is time to go to The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting on March 6th from 5:30 PM to 8:30PM at The Grapevine Wines & Spirits, in Wesley Hills, New York! When you are there, say hello to Yehoshua Werth, he is the wine man at the Grapevine!

Next up is the Jewish Week event. Now I was hard on the event last year, and justifiably so. Last year the event was far too overcrowded, oversold, and the wines that were poured were not all winners. So, I will be honest, I was surprised when Rich Waloff, Associate Publisher of Jewish Week emailed me and told me they were going to fix it all this year. Kudos to the team for stepping up and trying to rectify the issues. So, this year they will be limiting the entries, raising the prices and creating their own VIP session! Long live the VIP Session.

The date is Monday March 28th at 5PM for the VIP Session and 6PM for the main session. The event closes at 9PM. The link to buy tickets is here. I hope the event does return to its earlier roots, of being a boutique cross wine distributor event where quality and price is a premium!

Finally, there is another event that will be happening, and NO – it is not the Kosher Wine Extravaganza (though I am holding out hope that Costas will still have one this year)! No, this is another Los Angeles wine event being held at the Majestic in Downtown LA on Sunday March 20th. There is a VIP session (of course – the VIP session is the theme this year) starting at 4PM and general admission starts at 5PM. The event is showcasing Israeli wines and acclaimed chefs to promote a non for profit organization – called Meir Panim that is fighting poverty in Israel. IWPA will be involved with their wines and many highly acclaimed chefs will be there to support the cause. COME ON Los Angeles show up and show you care about good kosher food and wine!

If I were you – I would recommend you buy the tickets of the KFWE that apply to you ASAP and then go to the events with the mind of enjoying yourself, but also with the mind of learning! These events are the best opportunity to see what wines you like, love, crave, and most importantly hate!

State of the Israeli Wine Industry and shmita 2015 was not a vintage to remember

somm2Sorry for the pause in posts – but I was traveling to Israel and now that I am back I hope to keep the posting back to a regular weekly rate. I travelled to Israel for this year’s sommelier – a wine event held in Israel that is normally attended by many of the upcoming and established wineries in Israel and abroad. I also went all around the country to more than 10 wineries and it helped me to get a very good feel for where the kosher Israel wine industry is now and where it is moving to in the next few years – wine wise anyway.

Sommelier

The event was originally marketed towards smaller and mid-sized wineries and distributors for restaurants, wine shops, and hotels to come and see the wineries that are scattered all over Israel in one place! Over time the event has ebbed and flowed and is now more of an event for smaller wineries to really spend their marketing dollars to garner the biggest bang for their buck. My personal fear is that in the coming years, this will fade, and start to get segregated much like it is in the USA. There are already many city oriented wine events, like the Judean Hills wine event and the Binyamina and Tel Aviv events. Add to that the famous Jerusalem wine event for kosher wines before Passover and I fear that things the Sommelier event will start to move away from a fairly well set of distributed and independent wineries to either a set of wineries run under a few select distributors (like HaKerem, Shaked, The Scottish Company, HaGafen) or worse – to a place where only a couple reign supreme. This will all play out – I fear – to the tune of follow the money. Still, the hope is that the need for small players and some medium ones as well to keep a good and well-lit profile – may mean that the event will stay safely away from the vertical plays going on in the USA.

With all that said, I was very impressed by the event overall this year. It was not over the top and almost drunken like last year, when Tabor was doing Mixology with their beautiful wines! Sadly, the wines were not as impressive as the event was overall. This year the event managers were smart enough to NOT lay down a temporary flooring – THANK GOD! For the past few years that temporary flooring reeked of glue and plastic and made smelling wine an almost impossibility around the winery stalls. It forced me to go to open areas smell the wine and come back and forth and so on until I was done tasting that winery’s wines. This year the lack os such “extra” flooring was a true god send!

Further – the wine event this year saw more kosher wineries than ever and the addition of kosher international wineries to boot! Elvi Wines was showing wines imported by Shaal Rubin, under a large heading of The House of International Kosher Wines. Another great example was Eli Gauthier’s Chianti – which was brought in by Mersch Premium Wines. Also, Bokobsa had a stall showing off some solid QPR wines, with only the Champagne, a Merlot based rose, and the Gigondas scoring high. Overall, ignoring the imports for a second, which is a lot of wine, the majority of the wineries at the event were kosher. Actually, the majority of the wineries, again ignoring imports for a second, were micro small to boutique sized wineries, most of them staffed by the winemaker or owner, kosher, and very passionate and personable folks. Of course there were a few mammoth kosher wineries at the show, including Binyamina. Read the rest of this entry

My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine events for 2016

kfwelaAs I posted in my year in review, we all need to educate ourselves in what makes you happy in the kosher wine world. The best way to do that is to attend RCC tastings (that happen monthly), or one of the many kosher wine events that happen in and around the Passover wine buying season.

This year is no different as in the past, thankfully I have the dates for almost all the events – the only one missing, for now, is the Jewish Week wine event that happens every year at the City Winery in NYC. I hope they do something about it though, as last year was a disaster. It was so overcrowded – it made the KFWE NYC look like a playground during class hours!

Anyway, the KFWE NYC listened – thank God, and they are returning to Chelsea Piers, but we will get to that in a bit.

The first and IMHO, the best KFWE in the books is the Tzur tasting in Tel Aviv. The Miami event was actually quite nice, but it happens in December of the previous year and in this case it happened already on December 15th at the Turnberry Isle Hotel, in Aventura Fl.

Though to be 100% truthful the first event (after the Miami one), is the KFWE in Paris which will happen on February 15th. After that wake up the next morning and hop on the Eurostar and you will be whisked to London where you can still get tickets to the VIP session at the KFWE Europe, which will be taking place at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London, W1.

A new theme throughout the KFWE family is the classic approach of steal what works best! The KFWE system is basically a brotherly rivalry between the cities – with London/NYC/LA being the three official ones, and Miami/Israel/Paris being less so. Still, when one idea works for one of the siblings – you can be sure it will be copied with each others personal tastes. In this case I am talking about the VIP session. I exalted the idea in my post about the KFWE in LA, and while I was in awe of the VIP room, the other area in LA needed more space. So, they too will be moving, but the VIP room/experience is 100% On like Donkey Kong!

Another fascinating aspect of this year’s official KFWE tastings is that there is no love lost between the siblings. By that I mean, there is no cross promotion of any kind between the London, NYC, or LA events! I wonder why that is the case? It is not like these are zero-sum options! People who live in NYC will go there, though many go to the LA event as it has been far more hospitable in previous years than the over crowded NYC event. Still, why not cross promote? It is free advertising!

So, the London event is on the 16th and then you hop on a plane and fly to Israel for the Tzur (not so much called KFWE) tasting on Monday February 22nd in the evening. Then hop on a plane and fly to the Granddaddy of them all – the original KFWE NYC and use the promo code CORKBOARD18.

Sadly, the VIP session has already been sold-out, and the older coupon code has expired. The non-VIP session is available and hopefully its return the Chelsea Piers will make for a far more enjoyable and manageable experience than last year.

Then hop on another plane and make your way to warm Los Angeles! The KWFE LA last year was the hands down winner for its epic VIP session, and the VIP session is back and I would make advise all to jump on them before they sell out! Order tickets here NOW and use my coupon code of MUSINGS to get a 15% discount off the rack rate! This year they moved the event from the hotel to a much larger and more swanky LA experience location! It is being held at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It is a lovely location and one that will have space to expand the VIP session to have even more madness – so look for that!

After that – you would think you should be exhausted and ready for a break and I am sure you will need it and it will be well deserved. However, soon afterwards it is time to go to The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting on March 6th at 5:30 PM to 8:30PM at The Grapevine Wines & Spirits, in Wesley Hills, New York! When your there say hello to Yehoshua Werth, he is the wine man at the Grapevine!

UPDATE: The Jewish Week’s Grand Wine Tasting at the City Winery is on March 28, from 5:30 to 8:30.

Well there you have it! I will post again once I have purchase links for the Jewish Week event. The event I am hoping will come back is the Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza! It took off a year again last year and I hope it will be back for good this year!

If I were you – I would recommend you buy the tickets of the KFWE that apply to you ASAP and then go to the events with the mind of enjoying yourself, but also with the mind of learning! These events are the best opportunity to see what wines you like, love, crave, and most importantly hate!

Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village – kosher wines

As I have been lamenting recently, there really is no way to get kosher wines from small producers that are imported by anyone other than Royal Wines, on the West Coast. One of the best examples of that is the brand new Jacques Capsouto wines that appeared in 2015 on the east coast – imported to the USA from Israel by: Road House Wine – a small but respected wine importer out of New York, of course!

People who read this blog have a few choice words for it, the most common complaint – that it is too long. Well this post will be far shorter – I promise you that. I had the opportunity to taste the two wines and the notes will be found below. However, I did not have the chance to talk or interview the man for this post – Jacques Capsouto, but the story is wonderful, and I could never do it honor as the esteemed and true Israeli Wine promoter could – Adam Montefiore. So please read his article on Jacques Capsouto – it is beautiful, as they all are, and very compelling indeed!

My personal take on Mr. Capsouto is that he is DEAD on with what will work in Israel and what may get by in Israel, grape wise. The Rhone Valley, Spain, and Portugal varietals should be the template for most wineries going forward. Fo this man to create a winery based solely on Rhone varietals is genius and one that I am sure will continue to reap rewards for him going forward.

I hope to meet with the man and visit the winery the next time I am in Israel, till then I hope you work as hard as I did to find these wines and enjoy them for what they are – first-rate product from a new wine producer, who is deeply passionate about his love for Israel and his love for Israeli wine! Also any person who can say these words and put his money behind it – IS MY KIND of man!!! Capsouto is convinced that Israel is a Mediterranean country and as such should plant Mediterranean grape varieties. He also believes Israel should make blends in the Southern Rhone style, “less fruit forward and less like California”. All I can say is AMEN!!!!!

Sadly, I never tasted the 2014 rose till it sold out in NYC. The next rose will be from 2015 Shmitta, which I do not drink. Also, the reserve wine is not yet released – look for it in the spring of this year. As I hope you read Adam’s article, Eva is used in honor of Jacques’ mother, Samuel is used in honor of his grandfather and brother, while Marco is for his father (the unreleased reserve red wine), and Albert is named after his younger brother who passed away for the other unreleased white reserve wine.

Another side note – that I think many will see and one that I will surely ask him when I meet him in the future, is that this direction follows another winery we all love – Netofa Winery. The varietals are all Rhone in style, the unoaked whites and rose are released early, followed by the unoaked reds 6 months later. Then the reserve white and red, both oaked, are released a year later. This is not particular in any way to Pierre and Netofa Winery, this is the classic release cycle of almost all wineries in the Rhone. Just interesting to see two men building an entire wineries off Rhone varietals and whose styles are very close in nature – but we will have to taste the reserve wines in the future to see how close they hew to each other’s styles.

In closing – I was really impressed by what he has created in his first year, the white wine is insanely good, both quality and cost wise. The red wine is nice, but a bit too floral for me. Still, the ability to take a fair amount of capital and plant it into the ground in the Galilee – with varietals that he believes will work, while almost none of it exists there – is very gutsy! I am not sure of this – but I wonder if he was the first to ever plant Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Counoise in the Galilee!! There is not much Grenache up there either, with Roussanne and Marsanne having been planted already. Bravo to Mr. Capsouto, may you have more successes in the coming years!

My wine notes follow below for the white and red:

2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Blanc – Score: A- (and more) (MAD QPR)
This is the second kosher wine that I know of that is made mostly to all with Grenache Blanc, the other one being the epic Hajdu Grenache Blanc, but double or more the price!

That said, this is one of the best whites coming out of Israel, and that is a VERY long list, given the new trends there. This blend is very unique and clearly the only one that I know of with Clairette, the other grapes have been part of Recanati wines, along with Shirah, Hajdu, and others. Still, by itself – it is one of the most unique and complex blends in the kosher world – hands down!

The blend is 60% Grenache Blanc, 19% Roussanne, 14% Clairette and 7% Marsanne. These are all grapes that have been taken up by the Rhone Rangers, as they are all Rhone varietals (though some of those grapes grow elsewhere in France as well).

This wine needs air, please do not pop it and drink it, you will regret it. It does not need to be decanted, that is absurd, but please open it two hours in advance and you will enjoy it far more, IMHO. The nose on this lovely wine is redolent with straw, floral notes, orange blossom, citrus, and earth. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is fresh, spirited, and live, with nice acid, great mineral, slate, along with green apple, peach, apricot, pear, nectarine, all very restrained if I must, really shocking for an Israeli wine, along with spice, herb, and lovely nutty qualities. The finish is long and salty, with lovely saline, olives, great orange pith, and more refreshing aspects. This is a shocking wine for Israel a crazy QPR and a very unique blend! BRAVO!!!

2014 Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Samuel Rouge – Score: B to B+
After tasting the very nice (solid QPR) Capsouto Blanc, I had hopes for this next wine, another unique blend for Israel. This wine is unoaked and a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 31% Grenache, 31% Counoise, and 3% Syrah. Wait what??? Yep there are clearly Grenache and Counoise vines in Israel! Like WHAT!!! I had never heard of Counoise until I tasted this wine, and that alone is a sure-fire buy for most people who see this wine because most have never had a wine with that varietal in it, if you drink kosher or NOT! The first two varietals are classically termed GM (Grenache Mourvedre blend), the Syrah three-some is called a GMS. But the GMCS is a new one for me in the kosher wine world!

That said, the other varietals are almost common to us Cali lovers, but still other than Syrah – the other varietals are not exactly commonplace like an internet Kardashian-sighting! So, I had high hopes times two. At first this wine opens to floral mouth that is overpowering, but with time that relaxes and becomes a very nice wine indeed.

The nose on this wine is lovely and one of its clear winners with rich blueberry, boysenberry, rich floral notes, root beer, dirt, and nice roasted animal that I love and commonly associate with Cali GM and classic Australian Shiraz. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is very nice with ripping acid, nice raspberry, plum, blue fruit, floral notes, followed by very nice mouth coating tannin, coffee, and good sweet herb. The finish is long and blue with more floral notes, boysenberry, rose hips, rose water, and tannin, tobacco, and sweet herbs. Very impressive first release and while I would take the Netofa Red side by side with this lovely wine, this is still an impressive wine – VERY NICE!

The Chosen Barrel – an interesting approach for KosherWine.com

Well, as I have said many times, I used to work with Dan Kirshe at kosherwine.com, I was one of the writers for his wine club newsletter and I bought most of my wine from them. Since then – the inventory and the website were sold to JWines. The name brand alone for such a coveted domain must have been worth the effort that Dan and his team put into that company for many years, I hope, though I have no idea about that aspect at all.

After a while Dan went a different direction and while I always liked kosherwine.com, my orders went elsewhere, towards the east coast merchants. Over time, the costs for shipping has gone up, as fewer and fewer of the east coast kosher wine merchants – gave free shipping as an option.

In the game of driving down prices as your lone differentiator – it clearly become a zero sum game that no one could win and therefore they have almost all pulled the free shipping sales during the holidays. Where that leaves folks like me, who live on the west coast, is hoping to find the best deal and then eating the shipping, which does not work unless you are buying very high end wines.

Kosherwine.com is one of the very few wine shops online that offer free shipping, but to balance that their prices are higher than other shops. So, if you are looking for wines in the 20 to 30 dollar range – the free shipping on a case becomes of real value, even with their slightly higher prices. As I look through their inventory more, especially in the French and Spanish regions, I find they have a nice selection, though some of them are out of stock and I wish they would stock wines from the smaller importers like Red Garden or Israel Wine Direct.

In the end, KW has a lot going for it, they have a very good selection, albeit without some distributors, they also have free case shipping, and they have sale prices that are often inline with some of the larger merchants. Toss in no sales tax for most of the country as well, and it is a great option for wines that exist in the price range that most of us buy wines at.

With that said, JCommerce (the parent company for JWines and Kosherwine.com) is attempting to move itself past the inevitable drive to the bottom – that many wine stores will face when their only differentiator is price alone. One of their approaches is their set of Library wines, which we tasted at last year’s Jewish Week wine tasting, personally it was the best part of that tasting outside of a few other wines there. The wine tasting itself was a disaster, as it was far too crowded and most of the good wines were not brought by the distributors. The best part, IMHO, of the Jewish Week tasting last year were KosherWine.com’s incredible old wines that they were pouring – it was a real treat!

Another manner in which KW is trying to innovate is with the production of their own wines. Now let me say, that while making your own wine for fun may be hard but rewarding – creating labels and getting import rights are an insane pain in the neck. Now, you can get away with much of the pain if you are not reselling the wines, that is 100% legal by law. However, once you start selling wine – no matter where that wine was produced – it needs to have a label that has been approved by the TTB. Throw in the wine importing and this new project by JCommerce is one that is unique and may well end up as a very good long term play for them.

I was sent four wines to taste, two of them are not involved with this post – so I will skip over them. The other two wines were The Chosen Barrel wines. Of the two of them, I liked one of them and the other was not for my taste buds. With that said, both of them will be liked by the kosher wine consumers that drink riper and new-world Israeli wines. They both showed very good structure, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The Acacia was a bit too new world for me, with clear date leanings, while the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, while being clearly new-world in style, was controlled with nice classic Cab fruit and spice.

I wanted to touch on a quick but not overly discussed fact on the two wines I received. The Cabernet Sauvignon is NOT mevushal while the Acacia blend is mevushal and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The blend is also called Australian Blend – as they were one of the first countries to create this ripe wine blend. With that said, Israel was next to make use of this blend, with Yatir being one of the first to create this blend in the kosher wine world (aside from the kosher Australian wines that were out at that time).

The wines marketing does not revolve around who made the wines or from winery they come from! These wines are kosher of course, as is visibly clear from the bottles. The wine’s web pages describes the process for how these white label wines came to be. In their words: The Chosen Barrel is an innovation in the US Wine Industry. We sampled countless barrels from more than 20 Israeli wineries and when we found The Chosen Barrel, we knew we had to have it all. So we could bring it to you.

When we first approached this project we knew our customers want unparalleled access to the very best of kosher wine. As we toured Israel’s wineries and tasted more than 50 barrels of wine, we found this small batch production of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and barbera grapes. Instantly, we knew. We had found what we had come for. No one else has access to The Chosen Barrel. We purchased it all so we could bring it to you. This exclusive production is yours, and we’re confident you’ll be as excited about it as we are.

The labels talk more about the wines themselves. In the case of the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the back label informs that the wine was aged for 20 months in barrels. The wine was harvested by hand and at night, and when bottles the wine was unfiltered. The same goes for the Acacia blend, excepting for the aging time – which was 15 months in oak barrels.

My many thanks to JCommerce for sending me the wines and the wine notes follow below:

2012 The Chosen Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B++ (NOT Mevushal)
What can I say, this is a very new world wine, very fruit forward and in your face, this is not a wine for tasting – this is a wine to be enjoyed with food and meat. The nose on this wine is classically Israeli, with mounds of tobacco, sweet cedar, mounds of mocha, rich milk chocolate, coconut, and black fruit in the background with herbs. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still young, with searing tannins, along with enough acid to balance out the wine, but very new world and leaning towards dates with lots of oak, blackberry, dark plum, raspberry, nice mineral, dirt, and green notes, bell pepper, and sweet herb. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, all coming together with leather, and sweet fruit.

2012 The Chosen Barrel Acacia – Score: B to B+ (mevushal)
This is another new world wine that is another classic Israeli bent wine. This wine is less balanced than the Cabernet reserve, but with 25% of Syrah it has something to add. The nose on this wine is closed, but with time it shows earth, mushroom, date, cooked fruit, with chocolate, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is sweet with dark plum, sweet blueberry, anise, pepper, with a plush mouth and searing tannin, all wrapped in a fruit forward body structure. The finish is spicy with hints of saline, creme de cocoa, earth, mineral, and nice sweet spices, cinnamon, and sweet herb. The mevushal process feels like it hurt this wine, but many will find this a nice wine with the bold body and bold fruit.

My kosher wine 2015 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 2014 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 2015, in terms of kosher wine overall.

Economics

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.

Quality

Which takes us to the next subject – QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). I scream when there is a new good wine that is worthy of the QPR moniker. Elvi Wines is a perfect example of a winery made to build QPR wines. Same goes for Netofa Winery, Yarden/Gilgal Whites, Tabor white and rose, Capcanes, Terrenal, Volcanus, Goose Bay whites, Tura, some French wines here and there, and a few others. In terms of pure quality, ignoring price, then the list grows to most of Cali, most of Israel’s whites and rose, and for a few red from Israel’s superstars; including wineries like Matar, YatirFlam, Castel, Tzora, GvaotRecanati, Dalton, Teperberg, Tura, Carmel Winery (Israeli labels), Ella Valley (for the Franc), Adir, and some others.

Yes, my list of top wines for Passover continues to expand, but so do the number of wines available – and there is the rub. While the list continues to expand from 100 to 120, the number of wines available are in thousands – and there lies the issue. The percentages are not in the favor of the average guy on the street. I listed lots of wineries above, but in Israel alone, there are some 200+ kosher wineries, with more popping up weekly! Read the rest of this entry

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