Category Archives: Wine Industry

The 2022-2023 kosher wine-tasting event season is upon us. Updated with time and discount codes for KFWE!

UPDATE:

The times for both the KFWE LA and NYC shows are updated below with coupons as well! Enjoy!

When most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine-tasting season. Yes, it is a once-a-year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine-tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is crazy!

Of course, we cannot talk about a wine-tasting season without discussing the white elephant in the room, which is the sad fact that we have not had these for almost two full years! BRAVO to KFWE NYC which had one earlier this year in NJ. Here is my write-up on that KFWE. Also, there was the highly innovative and well-run virtual KFWE of 2021, which had horrible logistical issues, but the idea and the extremely informative live feed were truly impressive! I may have been a bit too harsh in my critique, yeah I can be a bit overhanded at times, sure the operational component was lacking, and the most important portion of the event was a mess, but the preparation, innovation, thought process, and drive along with the live informative feed really should have been given more credit than I did, Mea culpa, such is life.

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! The first tasting is the first of the KFWE family events, KFWE Miami. With such a slow season, more on that in a bit, it is nice to see that Miami is now officially on the main KFWE page. In the past, it started to call itself, Kosher Food & Wine Miami, but not KFWE. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what were already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official. The last one in Miami, in 2019, was one of the first KFWE Miami where it was not in Chanukah. I quipped that I thought it was a requirement. This year, they pulled out all stops and made it on Thursday night! Like what??? Yup, the geniuses in Miami think calendars are not for everyone!

KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience

KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine-tasting event, that would be the now-defunct  Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best KFWE, with the first-ever VIP session, which was copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, at the world-famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one.  According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor, a mezzanine, and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have an even larger number of wines and food options. I was sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for two years, in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, the 2019 and 2020 KFWE L.A. at the Palladium were freaking EPIC and I expect more greatness!

As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education, and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are tons of wineries that they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.

Cross distributor tastings

At this moment I know of no cross-distributor wine events this wine-tasting season. To be honest I am not sure why. COVID ushered in what a decade could not into the kosher wine-buying public, a lushness that would make a double-fisted drinking goy blush! Kosher wine, alcohol, and spirits are THROUGH the roof! Why would you not want to bank on that and have a kosher wine event with more than just Royal??? If there was ever a time and place for more kosher wine education it is now!

Besides the Royal wine events – AKA KFWE, there are events in Israel, namely Sommelier, the only wine event in Israel publicizing Israel’s diverse wine culture. That happens every year in and around the month of January, as stated earlier exact dates for any of these events are only locked down a few months in advance and the date changes every year.

Israel wines may be going off the deep end, in terms of date juice and all, but Sommelier continues to do a wonderful job of keeping a continuous focus on Israel and its potential in the wine world. Bravo to them!

There is also the Bokobsa event in Paris, which I went to in 2020, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France. They had one this year, in 2022, along with the KFWE London, but I was not able to make it to either of them. Unfortunately, I hear there will be no Bokobsa tasting this coming year after they had one in 2022.

Royal wine imports many Bokobsa wines into the USA, but Bokobsa itself makes kosher wines (like the fantastic 2007 and 2012 Sancerre Chavignol, the lovely 2017/2018/2019 Fume Blanc, and the unimported 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Premier Cru. I was just in Paris last month and I tasted the new 2021 Anthony Girard Sancerre, L’indiscrete, it is AWESOME and I hope Royal imports it. Bokobsa imports wines into France as well, and they are Royal’s distributors in France. The whole kosher wine import game is what drives these events. These are importers/winemakers that need to sell products and advertise what they are selling, so these events are a win-win for us all!

Besides, Sommelier, there were a couple of wine events that happen closer to Passover, in the past years, that were not about a single importer but rather about kosher wine options overall. These events were not as deep as the Royal or Bokobsa wine events, which showcased almost every single wine these importers make/import. Rather, they were a curated and diverse set of wines that spanned multiple importers and distributors. This gave wine purveyors like Yarden, Allied, Red Garden, M&M, and others the chance to showcase what wines they were selling and what is available.

Sadly, at this point/moment in time, there are no such events on the calendar! The wonderful Grapevine Wines & Spirits Grand Kosher Wine Tasting, sadly, was called off in 2020 and after 7 years of that event, they called it quits.

The Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, which was held for 11 years in a row, quite a feat in the kosher wine world, outside of KFWE, sadly came to an end in 2020 as well. Again, I hope someone steps up and creates a proper wine event to allow kosher wine purveyors the opportunity to showcase their wines, outside of Royal wines.

Wine events happening all the time

So there you have a brief history of the wine events that are coming up. There are also a few one-off events going on in NYC (nothing happens in LA or Norcal other than KFWE). Keep an eye open for them!

I will keep updating this page – so bookmark it and I will try my best to keep it up to date!

Kosher wine-tasting events this season – in chronological order:

Name: KFWE Miami – SOLD OUT!
When: December 8th, 2022
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM (6 PM VIP access)
Where: JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura, FL 33180
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://www.kosherfoodandwinemiami.com/

Name: KFWE NYC
When: Monday, February 6th, 2023
Time: 3 PM – 9 PM EST (No Trade show in NYC)
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/472878581567/?discount=MUSINGS (With COUPON)
Link for more information: https://kfwe.com

Name: KFWE LA
When: February 8th, 2023
Time:  Trade: 1 PM to 4 PM and 6 PM to 9:30 PM
Where: Hollywood Palladium (6215 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028)|
Link to signup: https://www.universe.com/embed2/events/63757cfa16de3c0027e2f259?state=%7B%22currentDiscountCode%22%3A%7B%22code%22%3A%22MUSINGS%22%7D%7D (With COUPON)
Link for more information: https://kfwe.com

Name: Sommelier
When: February 14th and 15th, 2023
Time: 11:30 AM to 5 PM Trade and 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM Public
Where: Heichal HaTarbut
Huberman St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Link to more informationhttp://www.sommelier.co.il/sommelier/

Name: KFWE Tel Aviv
When: TBA
Time: TBA
Where: TBA

Name: KFWE London
When: TBA
Time: TBA
Where: TBA
Link to signup or for more informationhttps://www.kfwelondon.com/

The 2022-2023 kosher wine-tasting event season is upon us!

When most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine-tasting season. Yes, it is a once-a-year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine-tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is crazy!

Of course, we cannot talk about a wine-tasting season without discussing the white elephant in the room, which is the sad fact that we have not had these for almost two full years! BRAVO to KFWE NYC which had one earlier this year in NJ. Here is my write-up on that KFWE. Also, there was the highly innovative and well-run virtual KFWE of 2021, which had horrible logistical issues, but the idea and the extremely informative live feed were truly impressive! I may have been a bit too harsh in my critique, yeah I can be a bit overhanded at times, sure the operational component was lacking, and the most important portion of the event was a mess, but the preparation, innovation, thought process, and drive along with the live informative feed really should have been given more credit than I did, Mea culpa, such is life.

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! The first tasting is the first of the KFWE family events, KFWE Miami. With such a slow season, more on that in a bit, it is nice to see that Miami is now officially on the main KFWE page. In the past, it started to call itself, Kosher Food & Wine Miami, but not KFWE. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what were already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official. The last one in Miami, in 2019, was one of the first KFWE Miami where it was not in Chanukah. I quipped that I thought it was a requirement. This year, they pulled out all stops and made it on Thursday night! Like what??? Yup, the geniuses in Miami think calendars are not for everyone!

KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience

KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine-tasting event, that would be the now-defunct  Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best KFWE, with the first-ever VIP session, which was copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, at the world-famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one.  According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor including a mezzanine and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have an even larger number of wines and food options. I was sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for two years, in 2016 and 2017. However, the 2018 and 2019 KFWE L.A. at the Palladium were freaking EPIC and I expect more greatness!

As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education, and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are tons of wineries that they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.

Cross distributor tastings

At this moment I know of no cross-distributor wine events this wine-tasting season. To be honest I am not sure why. COVID ushered in what a decade could not into the kosher wine-buying public, a lushness that would make a double-fisted drinking goy blush! Kosher wine, alcohol, and spirits are THROUGH the roof! Why would you not want to bank on that and have a kosher wine event with more than just Royal??? If there was ever a time and place for more kosher wine education it is now!

Besides the Royal wine events – AKA KFWE, there are events in Israel, namely Sommelier, the only wine event in Israel publicizing Israel’s diverse wine culture. That happens every year in and around the month of January, as stated earlier exact dates for any of these events are only locked down a few months in advance and the date changes every year.

Israel wines may be going off the deep end, in terms of date juice and all, but Sommelier continues to do a wonderful job of keeping a continuous focus on Israel and its potential in the wine world. Bravo to them!

There is also the Bokobsa event in Paris, which I went to in 2020, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France. They had one this year, in 2022, along with the KFWE London, but I was not able to make it to either of them. Unfortunately, I hear there will be no Bokobsa tasting this coming year after they had one in 2022.

Royal wine imports many Bokobsa wines into the USA, but Bokobsa itself makes kosher wines (like the fantastic 2007 and 2012 Sancerre Chavignol, the lovely 2017/2018/2019 Fume Blanc, and the unimported 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Premier Cru. I was just in Paris last month and I tasted the new 2021 Anthony Girard Sancerre, L’indiscrete, it is AWESOME and I hope Royal imports it. Bokobsa imports wines into France as well, and they are Royal’s distributors in France. The whole kosher wine import game is what drives these events. These are importers/winemakers that need to sell products and they need to advertise what they are selling, so these events are a win-win for us all!

Besides, Sommelier, there are a couple of wine events that happen closer to Passover that are not about a single importer but rather about kosher wine options overall. These events are not as deep as the Royal or Bokobsa wine events, which will showcase almost every single wine these importers make/import. Rather, they are a curated and diverse set of wines that span multiple importers and distributors. This gives wine purveyors like Yarden, Rashbi, M&M, and others the chance to showcase what wines they are selling and what is available.

Sadly, at this point/moment in time, there are no such events on the calendar! The wonderful Grapevine Wines & Spirits Grand Kosher Wine Tasting, sadly, was called off in 2020 and after 7 years of that event, they called it quits.

The Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, which was held for 11 years in a row, quite a feat in the kosher wine world, outside of KFWE, sadly came to an end in 2020 as well. Again, I hope someone steps up and creates a proper wine event to allow kosher wine purveyors the opportunity to showcase their wines, outside of Royal wines.

Wine events happening all the time

So there you have a quick history of the wine events that are coming up. There are also a few one-off events going on in NYC (nothing happens in LA or Norcal other than KFWE). Keep an eye open for them!

I will keep updating this page – so bookmark it and I will try my best to keep it up to date!

Kosher wine-tasting events this season – in chronological order:

Name: KFWE Miami – SOLD OUT!
When: December 8th, 2022
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM (6 PM VIP access)
Where: JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura, FL 33180
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://www.kosherfoodandwinemiami.com/

Name: KFWE NYC
When: February 6th, 2023
Time: TBA
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://kfwe.com/ 

Name: KFWE LA
When: February 8th, 2023
Time:  TBA
Where: Hollywood Palladium (6215 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028)|
Link to signup or for more informationhttps://kfwe.com

Name: Sommelier
When: February 14th and 15th, 2023
Time: 11:30 AM to 5 PM Trade and 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM Public
Where: Heichal HaTarbut
Huberman St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Link to more informationhttp://www.sommelier.co.il/sommelier/

Name: KFWE Tel Aviv
When: TBA
Time: TBA
Where: TBA

Name: KFWE London
When: TBA
Time: TBA
Where: TBA
Link to signup or for more informationhttps://www.kfwelondon.com/

My trip to Paris – May 2022

I love the comments I get when I make posts like this. The comments commonly/mostly come from Parisians or ex-pats living elsewhere, telling me that the blog’s name is kosher WINE musings, not kosher travel musings!

So, with that disclaimer aside, yes, I was in Paris earlier this month and I thought I would lay down my thoughts here.

Travel from the USA

Memorial Day is around the corner and as such many of you will be traveling. I have been traveling strong this year for business and personal interests and so I thought I would add in some of my thoughts on domestic and international travel.

To start, I am a person who is the pure antithesis of Elk, well most of us are in so many ways, but in regards to travel, I am adamant to be at the airport at least 1+ hours before takeoff. If you remember June 2021’s post you can see why I am of that mindset.

The good news is that most countries now allow travel for the U.S./European/Canadian vaccinated, and even some without, as well, without prior testing. Still, I like to use this site – it is hosted by TravelDoc and is one of the best overall sites to help you understand your COVID requirements before traveling to a country. Ignore the Air France part, it does not matter what airline you use.

The airports I use, San Jose and San Francisco, for the most part, are calm. You can use Clear or TSA Pre to get around some lines. In Newark and Chicago, the lines were not great but again, Clear and TSA pre help.

Flights are packed, status almost means nothing, and unless you pay your way, I have yet to get any good upgrades. Of course, upgrades are always a YMMV concept, even during the slowest of times.

Finally, overall, flights are hit and miss, so please plan for failure! I mean it! Plan for flights getting canceled and leave room on your itinerary for the sad truth about today’s travel reality, AKA disaster. The hope is you will be fine and then you have more time to spend with friends and family.

Paris May 2022

If you remember my trials and tribulations during my trip to Paris more than a year ago, a few days after they opened their border to many of us from around the world. The rules before, during, and on my return to Paris were as fluid as an oil slick and just as messy. So, I was wondering what things would be like a year later. The flight to Paris required a mask even though it was a US carrier. The flight back did not. Either way, I wore mine most of the time as I got my bout of COVID from my return trip from Kilimanjaro, so I was all in on not repeating that feat.

When I arrived masks were not a requirement, even in my hotel, which was nice, though almost everyone wore one. The traffic on the roads is still a complete disaster, much like in June 2021 and November 2021. The metro was a true joy, they were rarely packed, except for one day and while Paris was full of tourists it felt quiet. The foot traffic was amble but open and if there is any one thing you should do while in Paris, it is walking! The city was built to walk, throw in the architectural beauty, and the ample kosher food options, and one has to wonder why it is not a location overrun with Jewish tourists?? I am not complaining. Of course, I do not like to visit Paris during its peak days, June or July. Anyone visiting Paris in August is a screaming idiot for so many reasons! The shoulders are when you visit Paris and I also would never visit during the off-time as it is bitterly cold and not my cup of tea.

During my time there, half the time was mask-on in the Metro and half the time was mask-off. I wore mine almost always but during the rather hotter days, it was nice to be able to take a break here and there, especially with all the windows open on the 6 line, which is old and not air-conditioned.

My wine tastings

OK, now to the wine, I hear you O! As always, my trips to Paris can never happen without the immense help I get from Ari Cohen, who now is in the “wine business”. More on that later!

My first tasting was with Le Vins IDS and Ben Sitruk from Wine Symphony. We tasted many wines and we did them blind which was quite fun. I will stop there and hope you read it when it posts. Ari’s wines were there along with some other Domaine Roses Camille wines!

Next, I once again tasted the latest from Taieb Wines with the gracious Yoni Taieb sending me the wines to my hotel room! Yoni and his family may not produce Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, like Les Vin IDS, or Chateau Pontet Canet like Royal Wines, but what I keep repeating over and over again is that they create one of the largest numbers of QPR WINNER wines for Europe and even the USA, some of the times. More on that in the post, but overall, the wines keep on hitting and that is what matters!

Moises Cohen, from Elvi Wines, also sent me the new 2021 wines to taste and they were also WINNERS – nothing shocking from the latest 2021 Winery of the Year.

I had a tasting with Menachem Israelievitch from Royal Wines Europe where we tasted his new 2020 Burgundies and some of the 2021 roses. Sadly, with all the supply chain issues, labels, bottles, and corks, everything is delayed. So, the bottling of many wines did not happen yet. Also, some wines are still in the barrels, like the higher-end Chateau Roubine roses, Lion and Dragon. So, we will have to wait for those to come to the USA before I get a chance to taste them, unlike last year.

Finally, I tasted some 25 other wines and once again the majority of them were painful but I did find some QPR WINNER diamonds in the rough.

I did a get a few days to visit with my family and get a chance to see a bit of Paris as well! Now on to the wines!!!

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

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

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

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

KFWE 2022 NJ

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry

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

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

A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top-Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events, normally, happen a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview WinesGotham WinesSuhag WineLiquid Kosheronlinekosherwine.comkosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 13 of so dollar 2019 Elvi Wines Vina Encina Blanc (White), or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top-Flight wine, and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top-Flight wines are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Canteloup, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2020 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Thankfully, so far, the few 2021 Roses I have had are not nearly as poor as the 2020 crop or Rose wines. The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it is the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!

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The best/top kosher wines for Passover 2021 in all price ranges

Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people who have received the Covid Vaccine to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and maybe even a Passover together. Last year, I was extremely tentative about writing this yearly post, but I am happy that many found it useful and enjoyable, even in those extremely early bleak times. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!

A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top-Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).

Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events, normally, happen a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview WinesGotham WinesSuhag Wine, Liquid Kosher, onlinekosherwine.comkosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).

Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 13 of so dollar 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, red, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.

Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top-Flight wine, and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top-Flight wines are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.

Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2019 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Sadly, so far, the 2020 roses I have tasted, are also a waste of your money! The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.

Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)

Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!

For the main course, I am happy to open a Top-Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it.

NOTE! This year all 4 cups are NOT a D’oraysa, but rather a rabbinic requirement. Therefore, you can stay at 3.5 ounces. The only day you will need to go to the 4.42-ounce sized cup would be Shabbat night.

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The KFWE/KFWV 2021 results are in – the glass is half-empty, sadly.

Last year’s KFWE NYC/L.A. result post never made it to the blog. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed with the madness and I barely got the Passover post up, as you can read, I even put in a disclaimer, in case people thought it was crass. Still, people replied that it was appreciated and I appreciated those comments. On a total aside, as I stated elsewhere, L.A. was the clear winner in 2020. NYC was a zoo, for both trade and public tastings. L.A., as usual, was a true joy, I know some have issues with the venue, but for me, the Cali weather, cigar bar, great wines, and classic old-Hollywood vibe, give me a break – hands-down winner!

So, after a full year+ under the pandemic cloud, we were all dreaming of another KFWE and sadly, that was never going to happen, as was obvious. The way I see it, for me and my family here in California, we will not get vaccinated until July, at the earliest. Life for us will not be “going back to normal” for a long time!

So, with the pandemic still clearly hanging over our heads, Royal Wine decided to go the virtual route and to ship certain wines, from their large portfolio, in small bottles. I discussed this in my KFWV post.

Much like I stated in my year/decade in review, I will go with the result of glass-half-empty. I will jump right to my thoughts on the event, both the pros and the cons.

Cons

  1. The poor and frozen weather that KFWE has skirted past in previous years came to haunt this year’s iteration, sadly. Packages were frozen, broken, lost in the chaos of one of the worst weather storms in a long time. More were delayed or never delivered. Some were delivered on the day of KFWV and some were after. In the end, the weather was an issue and this was not something Royal could have worked around. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you do not.
  2. The lack of variety in the wines was an issue. Remember the idea was to “replicate”, to some extent, KFWE. The inability to get a choice of wine sets was a miss, from a marketing perspective, with the MOST glaring issue (#5) this would still have not helped. I understand that this was already a crazy undertaking, of logistics and overhead, and trying to do multiple lists would have been insane. I get that, but if this needs to evolve, it will be needed.
  3. The price for the “event” did not include food, recipes are nice, but you had to pay for the food as well. Maybe having some food delivered in NYC or Florida would have been a better option.
  4. The labels on the bottles were wrong, vintage-wise. This is an issue as anyone tasting the 2017 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal) thinking it was the 2018 non-Mevushal will seriously not buy the 2018 vintage!! This ties into the next and main issue, which is all about very serious unintended consequences, IMHO.
  5. Yes, I know this is burying the lede, as this is the main issue, the wines were a disaster. The wines were no representation, at all, of the wine in the original bottle. The transfer mechanism failed Royal. The wines devolved in the little bottles as the wine was already subjected to oxygen during the bottling. It did not matter that they filled the wine in the little bottles to the top, it did not fix the issue caused a few days earlier. The damage had already been done and now the wine was devolving over days! The answer may not be simple, but it is the ONLY way to make this work, and that is to transfer these wines under a vacuum. Anything less will get you what you had this past week.

    Please do not say, oh why is it different than when they open the wine at KFWE and pour – it is also not like the original bottle at home? Give me a break! These wines traveled for DAYS in this state – it does not get better once oxygen has been introduced – IT ONLY gets worse.

    The outcome was a multi-fold problem:
    1. The wines had NO RELATIONSHIP to what I tasted from the original bottles, all of them! I had tasted all of these wines, other than the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, over a few months. This is sad, as remember these wines are being sent as an example of what Royal and the wineries have to offer – what I tasted had no relationship to what I had tasted in the past for these very same wines.
    2. Worse, was that they did not taste good at all. The only wine, “I enjoyed” tasting was Guiraud Sauternes, as that is much harder to kill. The overall process truly ruined the wines and made them not very good, enjoyable, or interesting to buy!
    3. That last part is very important! The main reason to have put on this event/show was to help sell wine! Sadly, this event caused many to not buy the very wines they were sent. If you asked me would I buy the 2017 Giscours, after tasting the small wine format representation that was sent to me? The answer would be NEVER. Not only did I feel that way, but others told me they had buyers come into their store and say I tasted that in the KFWV and I do not want to buy it! Unintended consequences, for sure, but very serious ones!
    4. IMHO, this may have been good marketing, but the implementation of the wine bottles has already turned people off from buying THOSE VERY WINES, which is the OPPOSITE of what the KFWE is all about!
  6. Another side-issue, but very much akin, is that I had at least three corked wines. YES! Remember how much I rail about cork every year in my year/decade in review! Well, it is real and I scream about it for a reason! Now throw in thousands of bottles and the basic math will tell you that there will be lots of corked wine! Lots! So, no one checked the wines as they were being transferred. I get it, that would be a lot of work, again, this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
    Now throw in a vacuum environment and you have a real tough job! The answer is an automated system that dispenses the wine from the vacuum, allowing a person to check the wine, and then continue the transfer or reject it. If you have enough spouts and enough people to check, this can be handled within reason. Otherwise, you are bound to have lots of unhappy customers.
  7. This issue was a BIG one and was why I went with the glass-half-empty score. You cannot charge people and then send them less than what they expect – you just cannot! Sadly, this issue was the undoing of the KFWV, IMHO.
  8. The wines came in boxes that had numbers – but those numbers meant nothing. Not sure what they added.
  9. After the event had started, I heard emails were sent out, to some people, as I never got them. Those emails seemed to explain or say what wines were in what boxes and what numbers, but I never got this email, and nor did many others.
  10. The box that the wines were delivered in had no padding and most of my boxes were almost open. Overall, the idea was nice, almost design-forward, in nature, but not safe, which when it comes to wine is what matters.
  11. The recipes that were printed had typos and mistakes – again – just a bit too last minute – things that they can tighten up for future events

PROS:

  1. The effort was herculean – I get that
  2. The logistics were crazy – I get that also. However, those logistics were part of the cause of the main detraction to the entire event, which again is an issue that needs to be fixed.
  3. The effort was impressive, and the overall show was quite nice and fun, especially if you are virtually hanging out with a bunch of crazy friends.
  4. The overall look and appeal were a solid marketing effort.
  5. But this was worse than even last year’s NYC Trade tasting where I was punched in the face by elbows a few times – I hope you understand how much this was a good try but sadly, not even a base hit.
  6. There is a LOT that can be fixed and changed to make these a real future of tasting – but the MAIN ISSUE must be dealt with FIRST – the wine HAS to be managed in a vacuum and MUST taste the same as the original wine or it is a failure, there is no way around this.
  7. The winemaker videos did show passion but as the chef videos – they were out of place and disjointed. Non-Jewish winemakers saying enjoy the wine with shellfish, kosher chefs saying they have no idea what they are pouring but this recipe goes well with wine/beer/spirits! Again, nice idea, just poor overall oversight/approach/execution.
  8. I would say, that I buried the lede again, and the best part of the entire event, was the production work! Gabriel Geller, my good friend, I hope still, after forgetting this part of the event, Jay Buchsbaum, and Erik Segelbaum (a top up and coming Sommelier, who happens to be Jewish and loves wine, of course). The three of them traded off here and there and the tasting videos were fluid, entertaining, and very informative! The best part is that they and the chefs can be seen at your leisure on the KFWE website! The wealth of information shared was truly impressive and I am sorry for leaving this part out in my original post, apologies!

In closing, I wanted to go glass half-full and if this was just about having fun and NOT about wine AT ALL, then yes, I would have scored it as such. However, in the end, people wanted wine and these wines were a mess, once you throw that in, the party/fun was not a success, sadly.

2020 kosher wine year and decade in review – glass half empty

As I am want to do, it is another year on the Gregorian calendar and I have already posted the wines of the year and the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines of the year. Now it is time for the year and decade in review. I had to wait until now, to talk about the decade in review, because there is a clear disagreement on when the new decade begins, so I went with the non-computer science approach (0-based systems), which is not what most people believe. To this point I quote Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag:

Dilemmas over marking time have been going on for years. In the late 1990s, the Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag famously compiled a 57-page research document titled The Battle of the Centuries, in which she called out people who celebrate any era before its time.

“When the encyclopedia of human folly comes to be written, a page must be reserved for the minor imbecility of the battle of the centuries — the clamorous dispute as to when a century ends,” Freitag wrote. Noting that there was no “year 0” in history, she said, “In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1.”

To bolster her argument, Freitag, who was then a senior science specialist in the library’s Science and Technology Division, cited historical records that showed similar disputes had erupted when calendars were turned to 1900.

But even Freitag acknowledged that she was swimming against the tide of popular opinion.

It may seem obvious to many, but there was never a year 0, so let’s go with the obvious fact that the decade has finally passed us and we can discuss it in regards to all things kosher wine. IMHO, I will go with the glass half empty metaphor, as no matter how hard I try, there is no real way to look at this past decade in a glass-half-full approach – give the utter disregard from much of the world for anything approaching wine I would buy.

Where are we now??

Well, that is pretty simple, IMHO, we are WORSE than we were last year, and that was worse than we were in the years before. Essentially, we are continuing the slide down, maybe even at a faster rate, with a slight caveat to the positive on high-end white wines. That would be my summation – hence the glass-half-empty reference.

COVID and what it has done to the kosher wine industry

I could not talk about 2020 in a review, or the decade in a review, without at least mentioning Covid! The clear impact of the Virus on our lives is not wine, or food, or any other material impact. What truly has changed are the people we have lost, friends or family that have been sick or passed, and jobs and families crushed by this pandemic. Those things are REAL and those real things are truly very sad and are hard to move on from.

Yes, we have lost freedom of movement, we have been locked away from our friends and family, but it all pales in comparison to the true loss of life, income, and time. Many, if not all of them, have been lost forever, and that is the true loss and suffering.

Still, there is a need/desire to talk about how COVID changed the wine industry – over the past 12 months. As such, I wrote a post – some 7 months back, and I am shocked and saddened by how much it has not changed at all over these past many months. There were some missing points so let us hit them:

  1. There will be no in-person KFWE or any other tasting this year, sadly. To that point, Royal Wine has made a KFWV this year and I hope you can listen in at least and maybe join in with the tasting as well!
  2. As I stated in the post the online stores have come through. But even more so than that were the local stores that supported the communities and I can only repeat, support your local wine merchants if you have them! Sadly, our merchants, here in NorCal, while they exist, do not quite have what I am looking for, but they are trying – so kudos to them for that! However, those of you on the east coast – BUY LOCAL! Come on, folks! Your local store is there, you have the same taxes, buy local, and make sure they feel the love!
  3. Restaurants may finally be coming back, but wine sales are still very low to zero, and again, why do we need Mevushal?? I pray the biggest outcome of all of this madness is the production of dual labels M and not). I know it is a pipe dream, like a real Shmitta game plan – dream on. IMHO, Mevushal will take a hard hit soon, people will see it for what it is, a sham on the kosher wine market. If a wine needs to be Mevushal then go buy a beer and move on!
  4. The lack of travel and access to wineries is a real issue here. I would have already have been in France twice since my last year in review and Israel, at least once. The lack of access to wines impacts my ability to properly score and grade, but thankfully the UPS/FedEx of the worlds have been doing a yeoman’s job and they do truly deserve a cheer every time they drive by! Please show them the love (from a distance) that they deserve!
  5. Finally, to repeat – the lack of KFWE or any other tasting this year, or even marketing of wines in-person, will further complicate the lack of wine education in this industry and I fear it will sadly slow or hurt the sales of many wineries.

My yearly blog disclaimer about me and wine

I try to get this disclaimer into every year of my posts – but this year – for reasons I do not know, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my posts. So let me be 100% clear here:

  1. I NEVER HAVE AND NEVER WILL receive a penny for ANYTHING I write on this blog – PERIOD!
  2. I do not advertise and I do not receive money for advertisements. I PAY WordPress.com to NOT advertise on my blog. Again, there will never be ads or money on this blog.
  3. The next most prevalent question is: do I get a kickback for anything I recommend?? LOL! People do not know me well to be asking that question! NEVER! I write what I think – almost literally at times, so NO!
  4. Next question – do I receive an item of value for my posts? NEVER.
  5. The only thing I receive, having nothing to do with my posts is access to tastings or wine to taste. Also, I have received passes to KFWE, or this year, the KFWV. The coupon codes are not affiliated links or deals for me! Again, I get no money from this blog – I hope this starts to come across soon!
  6. Am I receiving money or any other item of value from Royal or an affiliate for the use of the ‘MUSINGS’ discount code? Again NO! NEVER!
  7. Do I spend money on my notes or wines? I promise you there are VERY few people in the kosher wine world who spend more money than I do on wines that I DESPISE! Very few! There are loads of people who spend more money than I do on wine – I am not a Macher! But I buy the majority of the wines I taste and post on. In the past year that has changed a bit, but no, I buy most of the wines and it sickens me to spend so much money on wines I would never drink or even cook with! Sadly, that is what I like to do. So, sure if the importer will help me and send me samples, great! I will still post my notes and scores based 100% on the way I see and taste the wine. NOTHING else goes into my scoring.
  8. Finally, I have people in the industry that I call friends. When I taste those wines I always disclaim those as well.

So, that wraps up my yearly post on how I, my blog, or my life is ever gaining anything from the world of wine! I hope that is clear. I do not do any business in wine, I do not sell any wine, I do not transfer wines, I am not a middleman for people who buy wines. I do not in any manner, way, or form, work in the world of wine – period!

Finally, I do help Elvi Wines, at times, to pour wine, at a KFWE or the such, and act as their US contact for the USDA. I have again, never received compensation for those pouring’s. My travel costs are sometimes reimbursed, but that is the totality of my relationship, financially speaking, with Elvi Wines or any other winery or wine business. I am a software architect by trade and that is where I make my money. Be well!

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KFWE (KFWV) 2021 – a virtual tasting extravaganza – coupon code included

Well, you know it, we all still living under state or county quarantines, with limited to no ability to get around and taste wine together. I still cannot believe how close last year’s KFWE was to be shutdown. Two weeks after the KFWE L.A., which was the best of the USA, yes, I still owe a writeup on that, cities were in lockdown or very close to it.

Well, not much has changed over the last 10 months. We are finally getting closer to vaccines, but they are still a long way off for the majority of this country. So, we have all seen tasting and cooking shows online. I thought for sure that KFWE would go virtual this year – and I was right! However, I never thought through the logistics it would take to make this happen!

So, this is what Royal explained the KFWE would be like this year! To bring the feeling of KFWE to your home, we’re offering for sale a limited amount of wine-tasting kits, which will include a carefully curated offering of 25 wines in 100ml bottles (enough for 2-3 sample pours) and a tasting guide featuring detailed information on the wines. Enjoy wines from Israel, France, Spain, California, Italy, and Argentina, in an evening hosted by Jay Buchsbaum, Gabriel Geller, and Erik Segelbaum, Food & Wine Magazine Sommelier of the year 2019, who will guide you through tastings!

Just think about it for a moment, how exactly does one get 100 ML bottles made? Thankfully, no human is involved! The 750 ml bottle is inserted into a machine and the machine pours the wine into smaller bottles, all in an environment that does not deter from the wine and the wine experience – when you open it 2 weeks from now! That is a TON of work!

Add to that the menus and chefs that you will cook along with and this is going to be fun! I have been cooking like crazy before Covid turned our lives upside down. But where I live, there are no restaurants, so I started cooking all sorts of Asian dishes, from Korean to Thai. Well, now we will be able to take our cooking chops to the next level with chef lead menus to make dishes that will wow your family for sure!

Again, here is Royal’s take on the food side of the event! Throughout the night, we’ll be featuring cook-a-long demos! Simply download the detailed recipe cards with shopping lists and prep instructions so you can cook along with the chefs, friends, and family in real-time! Featured will be Chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur, Kosher.com Personalities, and celebrity chef and James Beard Award Winner Michael Solomonov, owner of various restaurants in Philadelphia with a focus on Israeli cuisine and more!

Looking at this from the outside looking in, I love it. The wine selection is nice, but yes, I wish there were more European wines. Still, there are a lot of awesome wines and some I have never had! The Terra di Seta Riserva and the Herzog Generation IX Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, and others. All in you are looking at 25 bottles that you can share with your family. The best part of it to me is that I will get a chance to taste the wines in an environment that is far more conducive to tasting. No more feeling like a bug smashed on the windshield, you have all the room you want in your home, and the opportunity to enjoy it in a quieter and more amiable wine tasting environment. Throw on top of that the 4+ bottles of wines and the recipes and this is going to a lot of fun.

So, here is the game plan for the 2021 KFWV.

1.           Sip and cook along with the official KFWV 2021 Tasting Kit that includes samples of each of the wines being tasted (25 100mL bottles, enough for 2-3 sample pours), a tasting guide, recipe cards, and shopping lists so you can sip and cook all night long!  Kits are $250 + processing fees and include shipping where available (please note, we cannot ship internationally or to PO boxes, and you or someone over 21 must be available to receive the delivery).  To ensure delivery in time for the event, the last day to order wine kits is February 8, 2021.  Kits will begin shipping the week of February 8, 2021.

2.           Watch the live stream of KFWV 2021 for FREE! Simply register to receive a viewing link for the February 21st event.  Leading up to the event, we’ll provide the wines being served along with the recipes and shopping lists online so you can cook along and put your own tasting kit together with as many or as few wines as you like!

Kits are available for purchase at www.kfwe.com, and Kosher Wine Musings followers save $25 off the kit price with code MUSINGS. Don’t delay, kits are limited, and once they’re sold out, they’re gone.

Sign up now – and make sure to use my code MUSINGS to get the 10% off. I hope to see all of you online – enjoy, stay safe, and be well! The place to put the code is on the main page above the KFWV wine tasting kit.

Stay safe, be well, and enjoy!

Two wines with no added sulfites (just do not call them Sulfite-free wines)

OK, so let’s start this whole discussion once again with a massive disclaimer – I am not a food scientist or a chemist, but I know what the USDA says about wines, so let’s go with that!

As with other USDA organic products, organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances). It undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other products throughout its lifecycle (see Five Steps to Organic Certification). And, in addition to being overseen by the USDA National Organic Program, it has to meet the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements.
Before a wine can be sold as organic, both the growing of the grapes and their conversion to the wine must be certified. This includes making sure grapes are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a manner that protects the environment and preserves the soil. Other agricultural ingredients that go into the wine, such as yeast, also have to be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be specifically allowed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances) and can’t exceed 5% of the total product. And, while wine naturally produces some sulfur dioxide (sulfites), they can’t be added to organic wine. Sulfites are commonly added to wines to stop the fermentation process or preserve the flavor profile.
Wines that are sold as “made with organic grapes” have different requirements than organic wine. When a wine is labeled as being made with organic grapes 100% of those grapes used must be certified organic. Yeast and any other agricultural ingredients aren’t required to be organic but have to be produced without excluded methods (like genetic engineering). As for non-agricultural ingredients, these have to be specifically allowed on the National List. Finally, sulfites may be added to wines that carry the “made with organic grapes” label—up to 100 parts per million.

So, that clears things up, scientifically, for the USA! Meaning that for you to say you have an organic wine in the USA on a US wine label, you cannot add sulfites and the grapes must have been grown organically. All good.

Let’s look at other countries – this is where things become a bit murkier. The biggest of them is Europe and they allow the “small” addition of sulfites to organic wine and those rules went into effect in 2012.

In contrast, the new EU rules for “organic wine” allow a maximum of 100 parts per million for red wine (compared to 150 for conventional reds) and 150 parts per million for whites and rosés (compared to 200 for their conventional counterparts). Sweet wines are allotted an extra 30 parts per million as more sulfites are typically needed to prevent residual sugar from fermenting in the bottle. Canada allows up to 100 parts per million in its organic wines.

In saying that, organic wine does contain half the maximum legal limit of sulphur dioxide (220) – a common preservative in wine that is used to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and the main culprit for those shocking hangovers, the next day.
The maximum allowable limit of “pres 220” in Australian wine is 300 parts per million (ppm). For Australian certified organic wine, it’s 150 ppm. To give a little context, most dry wines usually won’t exceed 200 ppm, and dried fruits can contain anywhere between 500 and 3000 ppm. If you are overly sensitive to sulphur, then drinking organic wines can be a “healthier” choice and will usually make the next day’s declarations of a sober future a lot less necessary.

I could find no real laws in regards to Israeli wine production – please send me more info – if you can find – ACTUAL Israeli laws regarding Organic wine production requirements – thanks!

Organic kosher wine options

Now that we have covered the gamut of wine rules and regulations in regards to organic and no-sulfite added wines, by definition, on a label, we can look at the kosher wine options that exist, sadly there are few.

It all started with Four Gates Winery making wine from Organic CCOF grapes, in 1997. After that, we had some wine from Yarden Odem Winery that used Organic grapes as well, but the label kept getting into trouble with the USDA – as there was no way to state “using Organic Grapes” in those days.

We had the first TRULY organic winery in the Bashan Winery until they closed and we had the lovely Harkham wines from Australia, but they are really hard to find here in the USA now, and they would not get the USDA Organic wine label, as they do throw in a sparingly small amount of sulfites. My guess is, they sell perfectly well in Australia, so why bother with shipping.

So, where does that leave us now – actively, outside of Four Gates and Yarden Odem Chardonnay that are not organic wines, but rather a wine made with organic grapes?

We have three options today:

  1. Herzog Wine cellar’s brand new 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf. It is the 1st wine made in the USA that deserves the USDA organic wine label, and widely available now.
  2. Elima from Or Haganuz – was the first no-sulfite added wine that was mass-produced and marketed here in the USA and it is still widely available. It is not made with organic grapes.
  3. Camuna Wines from Camuna Wine Cellars has wines that – though not “officially” organic wine were made in a natural manner and with minimal intervention. Like added sulfites. Sadly, it does not look like they made any new wines recently.

I would suppose the real question what is the market out there for such wines in the kosher wine world? In the non-kosher wine world, the market for natural wines is massive and Alice Feiring and others are the drivers for this change.

Maybe now with two large companies producing Organic kosher wines – the market will grow, time will tell.

Where is the USDA Organic label?

As we have described above – the USDA label requires nothing more than organic grapes and no added sulfites. So, when Herzog released their 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Be-Leaf I was wondering why the label did not have the USDA Organic certification?
Sadly, the requirements to meet the USDA label versus actually getting the label are not in the same ballpark. While, the requirements are not complicated, getting a third party to the winery to observe and validate the requirements and then validating it with the USDA makes for such an arduous task that Herzog chose the CCOF route, the same route that Four Gates uses – for just Organic grapes. Since the CCOF route was taken and they wanted to denote the organic nature of the wine – without the USDA organic label, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) required the label have more additions to make it all good. All in all, a classic example of what is wrong with bureaucracy. Take a simple-ish idea and complicate so horrible that the outcome – is more complicated than where we started! Bravo TTB and USDA!!

Either way, the outcome is more options for the kosher market, notwithstanding the complications and headaches for all!

Wine Notes:

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

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf (M) – Score: 88
This is not the first wine to use organic grapes, Four Gates has used CCOF grapes for as long as it has been around, 1997. As described above, an organic wine means that the wine is, of course, using Organic grapes (CCOF Organic as Herzog is a California winery) and there were no sulfites added at all. As I have posted many times when I talk about the only other no-sulfite-added wine, the Or Haganuz Elima, that all wine has sulfites. All wine has sulfites naturally. Still, Herzog added no sulfites to this wine and as such, it could have garnered the USDA Organic certification if it were not such a huge hassle.
Finally, come on guys, wines like this deserve a DIAM cork, enough already! Heck other wines with bigger price points and “theoretical” lifespans use DIAM, even Château Guiraud uses DIAM cork, for the Grand Vin – come on guys – MOVE ON! 
This is the second time I have had this wine and it is finally calming down. The nose is still very fruity, not overly ripe, but the fruit is very present, with notes of blueberry, black fruit, licorice, red fruit, and more dense fruit that has not had a chance to calm down and integrate. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, it shows lovely boysenberry, dark cherry, cassis, and draping sweet tannin, with nice menthol, mineral, and pencil shavings, with an ever-present ripeness that is not going to go away. The finish is a pith attack, with loads of almond, citrus pith, and sweet/ripe fruit that lingers long with a good minerality and tannin structure that will keep this no-sulfite added wine fine for a couple of years. Drink by 2022.

2018 Or Haganuz Elima – Score: 82
This wine has no added sulfites and it is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is ripe and at 14% ABV, on the label, I think it is a bit higher, with heat and alcoholic aromas, sweet oak, cassis, black fruit, and red fruit in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and uncontrolled, sadly, with clear leanings of overripe fruit, blackberry, candied cherry, overripe currants, and loads of oak and smoke, with nice enough tannin and more oak. The finish is long, sweet, oaky, and sweet, with sweet chewing tobacco galore and a hint of graphite. Drink until 2023.

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